Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Coffee Break

When I was in 11th grade I was an extra in my high school's production of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. There's a song in that production called Coffee Break. It was my big number. And when I say big, I mean lots of singing in the background and trying not to trip. I rocked it.

But I didn't understand it at all. I wasn't a coffee drinker at 17 and I'm not a coffee drinker today. When Jarrod and I got married, we registered for a Keurig because it was a way for him to get his one cup of coffee without wasting any.

Because I love my husband, I'm always looking for a deal on awesome coffee. Lucky for him, Seattle's Best Coffee contacted me about getting some free coffee. Of course I jumped at the offer. Seattle's Best Coffee just came out with a K-cup version of their coffee and wanted Jarrod to try it out!
I'm thankful that my husband is reasonable and uses a reusable coffee filter with his Keurig. This means we save money and he can enjoy ground coffee and k-cups. 
This precious bag was sitting (in a box) on my front porch one afternoon and I couldn't have been more excited! (for Jarrod...)

On the outside of the bag was a really sweet tag...
That's our blog banner! How cute is that? A really great touch from Seattle's Best! And a k-cup attached was perfect for Jarrod to test!

Inside the bag were two bags of Seattle's Best ground coffee - Spirited Start and Born in Seattle. Spirited Start is a breakfast blend, which is one of Jarrod's favorites. Born in Seattle is a house blend. I'm not even really sure what that means, so I won't even make any comments. :-) Coffee drinkers, you know what's up. 

While I was taking pictures, this snotty boy was running around. I captured this picture and had to share his beautiful brown eyes. He literally has snot all over his face (thanks to Texas weather changing 40 degrees overnight. Every.other.day.)

Are you a coffee drinker like Jarrod? Do you prefer diet coke like me? Or are you a pure water drinker, like I should be?
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Monday, March 24, 2014

Delicious and healthy Lasagna {vegetarian or paleo options}

I have awesome pictures to accompany this recipe. They show delicious cheese, colorful veggies, and juicy tomatoes. They are stuck on my camera. As soon as I get them off, you'll get to see them! 
The first time I made lasagna for Jarrod I put sausage in the blender. I was a sausage novice and didn't know the difference between buying cooked and uncooked sausage. I was hoping to cook the sausage into the sauce - crumbly and everything. Turns out I bought cooked sausage. No crumbling happening there. So I put it in the food processor and literally made sausage mousse. I mixed it with the sauce and while it was weird and interesting, Jarrod loved it. He still talks about the sausage infused in every bite.

Since then I've made many different types of lasagna, including eggplant lasagna with noodles, eggplant lasagna without noodles, and paleasagna - something we dub veggiesagna. While we were menu planning this week we decided to try something new and incorporate some of my favorite things about each of these recipes into one awesome lasagna.
We had frozen ground beef in the freezer ready to be used, but you can always omit or use turkey or sausage. We normally use turkey but had beef left over from a cookout. 
Delicious and Healthy Lasagna 
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 table spoon of olive oil
  • 1 pound of meat, optional and your choice
  • 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 15 ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 tablespoons of Italian spice blend - or garlic powder, parsley, etc. 
  • 1-2 lbs. of various vegetables - zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, broccoli, etc.
  • Lasagna noodle, optional
  • 1-2 cups of cheese - you can use paleo-approved cheese, shredded cheese, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, or goat cheese
  • 1 head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups of greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
Start a large skillet on medium high and drizzle with olive oil. Add the onion and garlic to the pan. Cook until soft. Once the onions are cooked, you can either remove them and put the meat in the same pan or add the meat to the onions. If you're using meat, cook until cooked thoroughly. Drain grease if necessary. If you've removed the onions, add them back.
If you are using noodles, add in the veggies now. You can cut veggies however you'd like, but the smaller the better. If you aren't using noodles, no need to add the veggies at this point because they will be your noodle separators. Cook the veggies until al dente. 
Add tomatoes, paste, salt, and spices. You can season the sauce to your preference. I typically leave out most of the salt and use garlic salt instead. You can add basil, parsley, oregano, or anything else. Simmer the sauce until you reach the desired thickness. I usually simmer for about an hour or so. 

While the sauce is simmering, mix the chopped cauliflower, egg, and yogurt. This is the ricotta mixture of your lasagna. You can season this with some garlic salt or Italian seasoning. You can also add a little bit of cheese. This is a great place to add a little parmesan! Mix that all up and set it aside.

Now you're ready to assemble your lasagna! 
If you're using vegetables as noodles be sure they are sliced appropriately. Jarrod likes to cut them long and thin with the mandoline. I prefer cutting medallions. If you're using eggplant, they cut nicely into noodles. Zucchini or squash work great when cut into medallions.  
Spread some sauce across the bottom of your pan. I use a 9x13" glass casserole dish. Put your first layer of noodles or veggie noodles on the bottom. Add a thin layer of your yogurt/cauliflower mixture. Add a little cheese and another layer of sauce.

Repeat this process until you've used all your veggies, sauce, and yogurt mixture. Make sure to end with sauce and cheese on the top!

Bake your lasagna for 45-60 minutes at 375* or until the cheese is brown and noodles (veggie or regular) are cooked.
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Friday, March 21, 2014

March Madness Giveaway - there's still time to win!

I announced last week an awesome giveaway for the month of March. I haven't gotten as many entries as I thought, so you still have a really good shot of winning one of these awesome prizes!

What you could win:
1 - $15 giftcard to Amazon.com
1 - $15 giftcard to Starbucks
1 - 5 mL bottle of Purify
2 - Walkin' Sista-ta support t-shirts

There are several ways to earn entries to win, but for them to count, you must record them on rafflecopter below. Come back every day to earn more entries for these great prizes!

  




  a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Debt-Freedom, what now?

I wrote this post shortly after we were debt-free. I was completely overwhelmed and didn't know what being debt-free would feel like. We had cars to repair, seminary to pay for, and couldn't really see beyond that. While we weren't paying money to student loans anymore, we were still paying money to things I wasn't thrilled about! We are now paid up on seminary with grants and scholarships ready for next semester. On top of all of that, we're scheduled to have our emergency fund complete (5-6 months of expenses!) by the first half of April.

In the past 4 years we've paid off almost $116,000. This means that if nothing changes in our financial situation, we could buy a house with cash in less than 4 years. It means we could fully fund a college fund for Wesley and fully-fund Roth IRAs for Jarrod and I. It means we can give additionally to our church, on top of our 10%. When I start to run the numbers and realize I could have college fully-funded for 2 kids (we're not expecting!) in the next 6 years, it's overwhelming. How incredible would that be!

Because of Jarrod's new situation within the church, we are called to itinerate - meaning we can move because of a phone call. This is not likely to happen soon, but will definitely happen in the next few years. It doesn't make sense for us to buy a house right now. I thought we'd be saving for a house right now, but that's not our situation. We're saving for a newer car and by December we're likely to be in the market for a larger, newer vehicle. It's helpful that we drive older cars that aren't worth much because it means we can get a car 3-4 times the value of our current cars!

Since paying off our debt in July we have had a few hiccups. We're not sitting on a fully-funded emergency fund, yet. We aren't saving for retirement until we do that. We have both scheduled for the next 6 weeks or so. It's very exciting, but it's only recently sunk in. Every dollar that comes into our house now is ours. Once our emergency fund is complete, we will have options on how to spend our money. We're already working on future budgets - what will our budget look like when we don't have any debt, have an emergency fund, and are putting money away for retirement and college. It's amazing to have money left over!

I wish I could say that it was a simple transition. It wasn't. It's still happening. I'm still in awe. I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop. I feel lighter and more free. More than anything else, I'm so excited about the future and the incredible things we will be able to do.

What brings you the most freedom? If you could do one thing to bring more freedom to your life, what would you do?
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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Happy Birthday, Courtney

Today is my sister's birthday. I won't tell you how old she is, but she's another year older today than she was yesterday.

I've written about my sister before, but basically she's the coolest. She donated a kidney to someone she doesn't know, she's a good walking partner, a great photographer, and she's a killer awesome aunt.

She's my baby sister, but I admire her as a role model. She's level-headed, thinks before she speaks, and is incredibly smart. She makes good choices and thinks deep thoughts. I'm thankful that she puts up with my crazy.

Take a moment today and wish my sister a happy birthday!
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Friday, March 14, 2014

March Madness Giveaway!

For the next 2 weeks you have the opportunity to win some cool things while also making a big impact! 

This month I'm doing a March Madness giveaway and fundraising opportunity for Susan G. Komen 3-day for the Cure! In an effort to raise the minimum requirement to walk in the 3-day for the Cure ($2,300!) I'm giving you the chance to win a $15 gift card to Amazon.com and Starbucks or a 5 mL bottle of Purify!

If you're new around here, you can read more about my 3-day for the cure journey and why I walk. It is one of the most important things I do each year and I'm incredible blessed to have the opportunity to fundraise and walk again this year. Each year I raise at least $2,300 and walk countless training miles in order to prepare for 60 miles in 3 days. This is the little part that I can do to kick cancer in the face.

You can join me in the fight anytime by making a donation. Large or small, each donation will help to find a cure and support those who are battling. This month making a donation will not only bring me steps closer to my fundraising goal, but it will enter you into a giveaway for some awesome prizes!

What you could win:
1 - $15 giftcard to Amazon.com
1 - $15 giftcard to Starbucks
1 - 5 mL bottle of Purify
2 - Walkin' Sista-ta support t-shirts

There are several ways to earn entries to win, but for them to count, you must record them on rafflecopter below. Come back every day to earn more entries for these great prizes!

  




  a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Monday, March 10, 2014

Decorating for Kids {Gender neutral bedroom}

God willing, we are nearing the end of our pre-foster process and entering into the licensed stage of the game. For us, this means that (again, God willing!) we will be licensed to have little ones up to 5 years of age placed in our home. We are open to babies, toddlers, and kids, sibling groups, and single kiddos. The thought of having more kids absolutely terrifies me, but one thing that gets me excited is decorating another room!

We had a BLAST decorating Wesley's nursery before he was born. If you've been around for a while, you'll remember that we didn't find out if Wesley was a boy or a girl, so the nursery was gender neutral from the start. It was a small challenge, but we had a lot of fun making decorating choices that would work for a little man or a baby girl.

This time around, we have a clean slate. Our guest room used to house Jarrod's office, but at the start of the new semester, we moved his stuff into our bedroom. There are a lot of things that need to move around but for now, I'm dreaming about what that room could be.

Of course bed(s) are completely up in the air. We have no idea if we'll need cribs, bunk beds, or just a single bed. Our plan, if we need another crib, is to move Wesley into a twin bed and move the crib across the hall. But we might need two more beds. Who knows. Either way, I'm picking colors that will go with some of our current furniture and patterns that will work for boys or girls, regardless of age.

1. I love this bed from IKEA. It might become Wesley's bed someday. I love the storage underneath and clean lines. We've decided to skip the toddler bed and go straight to a twin or double bed. We'd likely do the same thing with a foster kiddo. His crib does transition to a toddler bed - just removing the one side - and we'll do that for a while and have that as an option as well.

2. We already have this hemnes dresser and use it as Wesley's changing table. We plan to move it into the room across the hall and getting him a smaller dresser for his closet to create more floor space for playing. It's a fabulous dresser and has worked great as a changing table.

3. I love these paper lanterns as decorations. They are a great way to add color and texture without an added expense. I got the idea and the picture is from this blog. Because we rent and cannot paint, using paper lanterns could be a great way to add color to the walls without painting. Interested in ordering some colored paper lanterns? Check out Oriental Trading!

4. I originally found this fabric when I made the mood board. Since then, I found the same fabric but with a white background that I like a lot more. Either way, I love this fabric for accents - maybe a floor pillow or lampshade.

5. We didn't have a mobile in Wesley's nursery and instead opted for a branch and birds. I don't know that we'll have any babies in the new room, but I love these mobiles just in case. Either way, this might be pretty if it hung over the bed or in the corner.

The colorful chevron fabric in the upper right corner is my inspiration for curtain fabric. There are two narrow windows in the room and they are on opposite corners of the room. Because they aren't close and would only need one panel each, I think a bold fabric like this could work.

The room is large and gets a lot of natural light so I'm hoping that my bold choices will work. We'd likely go with a simple bedspread - thick stripes or polkadots, perhaps - to neutralize all of the crazy colors I've chosen.

What do you think? What would you do if you had to decorate a room that could work for a wide range of children?
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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Healthy Living: Keeping our marriage healthy

I'm not a medical professional. If you are concerned about your health, please speak with your primary care physician. These are just tips in hopes to keep your family as healthy as possible. 

Today we're going to talk about the few things that Jarrod and I do to have a healthy marriage. I saved this one for last because it's the hardest to write. Jarrod and I do not have a perfect marriage. In fact, we are in a very difficult season right now and I feel completely unqualified to write a post about a healthy marriage. However, there are things we've learned that have helped us maintain the most healthy marriage possible.

The biggest thing that we do to invest in our marriage is prayer. We pray together and for each other everyday. We just started a new habit of praying together before we leave the house in the morning. It is a great way to start the day. We also pray before we eat and with Wesley when he goes to bed. It helps keep us focused and help ease tension or irritation.

The next most important element to maintaining a healthy marriage is seeing a professional. Let me first say that I'm a huge proponent for counseling. I've seen a counselor on and off since I was 15 years old - through my parent's divorce and other huge life-altering events. About a year ago when Jarrod took a new job and changed occupations, went back to school, and we moved, I chose to see a marriage counselor. He was someone that I had seen before we were married and I was excited have his help to make our marriage stronger. It took a little convincing to get Jarrod on board but with all of the transitions in our lives I knew that we needed help to make it through. Our counselor is a Christian pastor and a licensed therapist. He's been in practice for more than 30 years. His area of expertise is marriage, but he understands and provides helpful insight on all areas of our life. We have gotten a lot of great ideas from him and enjoy our afternoon dates after spending time in his office.

One such idea is Sunday evening meetings. Each Sunday evening after Wesley goes to bed we sit at the kitchen table with our calendars, budget, and menus. We look at our budget for the month and see how we are tracking. Usually this is just a matter of checking in on everything, making sure nothing has come up, and ensuring that we are still under budget. Sometimes with our jobs we events that come up fairly last minute. We use these meetings to make sure that we have everything covered. We make sure that all of the moving parts of our life are covered. We also go over the menu. Sometimes we've already menu planned for the month and sometimes we use this meeting to menu plan for the week. We will assess what we have, what we need, and who is going to make it. This meeting rarely takes more than 15-20 minutes but saves us a lot of headaches!

Our marriage is in a constant state of work. It's worth it, but it's hard!

What do you do to keep your marriage healthy?
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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Healthy Living: Eating Healthy {Healthy eating on a budget for the whole family}

I'm not a medical professional. If you are concerned about your health, please speak with your primary care physician. These are just tips in hopes to keep your family as healthy as possible. 

Yesterday I wrote about some ways that we keep our toddler healthy. Today I'm going to share some things that Jarrod and I do to keep ourselves healthy. I'm excited to hear the things you have to share about how you keep your family healthy too!

One of the biggest things that we do to stay healthy is eating healthy. We don't eat out and cook exclusively from scratch as much as possible. We try to start our day off on the right foot with a balanced meal. I haven't gotten Jarrod on board yet, but for the past 6 weeks or so, I've started everyday with a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar with a little water. It's terrible. Seriously. It tastes so bad. But it is good for digestion, immunity, and preventing stomach troubles. I've noticed a remarkable difference! For breakfast, it's gluten free cereal with milk and DigestZen for Jarrod and a piece of whole wheat toast and a green smoothie or green juice for me. We are serious about starting the day off right!

In order to have healthy options for lunch and dinner, along with options for our smoothies and juices, we participate in a CSA - community supported agriculture. Every 2 weeks we get local and organic fruits and veggies delivered to a location very close to our house. We pick it up and decide what we're going to do with it! Thankfully, we also receive an e-mail with information about what is in our box and recipes to try. We get lots of greens for our smoothies and have had the chance to try new things like kohlrabi, napa cabbage, and lots of different kinds of greens for salads, saute, and juicing. By participating in the CSA it forces us to use a lot of fruits and veggies during the week. We don't want anything to go bad so we end up using things we aren't familiar with. Our CSA is $30/two weeks, so it is very affordable. We do buy some produce at the grocery store, but it is minimal because we get such great things in our CSA box.

Because our life is very busy, we menu plan weekly. Each Sunday we sit at the kitchen table and plan out our menu for the week, deciding who will be cooking what and when. If we didn't do this, we would likely pick up fast food every night! I usually cook a lot on the weekends - I bake a loaf or two of bread, make a soup or casserole, prepare smoothies, and make Wesley's muffins. Jarrod cooks more during the week - throwing together a weeknight dinner. This schedule allows us to continue to eat healthy while sticking to our budget and our chaotic schedule.

Some of our favorite meals are:

  • Jarrod's barbecue chicken - easy crockpot chicken for salads, baked potatoes, or tacos
  • Paleasagna - We aren't paleo but we adore this meal! We call it veggie-sagna and use mozzarella instead of goat cheese.  
  • Brown Rice Casserole - We make this a lot and it's an awesome way to use leftover turkey or chicken and veggies. You can use yogurt or sour cream and any kind of cheese!  
  • Quinoa mac and cheese - We use parm and lots of veggies but make this one all the time. It's awesome! 
  • Jarrod's Fried Rice - This one is complicated for me, but Jarrod loves to make it and it's delicious, so I'll take it! It's a great way to hide veggies and use up extras in the kitchen! 

How do you eat healthy? What are your favorite healthy recipes?



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