Sunday, May 29, 2016

five tricks to a smooth vacation recovery

Over the years we've traveled frequently to visit family or go back home to Omaha for friends' weddings and each time we went out of town we felt we picked up a new little trick to make traveling easier for the next trip. A lot of our tips come from my mom or my sister whom always have some way of making things easier. I love having them just a phone call away as we often bounce ideas off each other and share new tricks. 
Last week Mike and I took the kids on vacation with friends. Although we love going on trips and they can be fun and filled with memories, it can be exhausting going home. Back to the reality of laundry, dishes and dirty house especially after the frantic chaos that tends to happen right before you leave to go out of town. I know we're not the only ones who have tossed last minute items on the counter tops or stairs, left dishes in the sink or forgot about that little load of laundry sitting in the washer. But the worst thing to do after a nice relaxing vacation is to come home to chores, chores and more chores. No one wants to come home and clean their house. No one. 

With summer officially here and so many traveling for fun vacations I wanted to share what we do to prep ourselves for a smooth recovery. There is an easier and much more pleasant way to come home, but does require a little extra planning and time, but it's worth every second. Before leaving on a trip or vacation we always do the following...
1. Strip the beds, wash the sheets and remake the beds. It’s always so comforting to come home to a freshly cleaned and made bed. It’s never fun coming home and seeing a messy bed I know i’m going to have to wash the sheets the next day. Doing it beforehand leaves less laundry for us to do later.
2. Fill the dishwasher and run it. I do one last load of dishes before leaving the house and make sure there are no dishes in the sink and if there are, I do them quickly by hand. I hate dirty dishes and who knows what I’m going to find growing in them after being gone for a few days. 
3. Empty the washer + dryer + turn off the water. This helps us double check both machines to verify they’re empty. Turning the water off is something we’ve always done just in case a hose bursts or something catastrophic happens. We’re at peace knowing we’ve turned off the water source to something that could cause a lot of damage if it were ignored. We definitely don’t want to come home to a flood so we take extra precautions. 
4. Take trash out. None of us wants to come home to a house that smells to the high heavens of garbage. Just take it out and let it do it’s nasty business outside and keep the inside smelling fresh. 
5. Adjust the thermostat. Since we won’t be in the house there’s no point keeping the AC or heat running like it normally would. In warmer months we raise the temperature to 78-80 depending on the humidity and in cooler months we drop it 64 degrees. This would vary depending on one’s location and climate. We recently installed EcoBee3 WiFi Thermostats on both floors. It’s a smart thermostat which learns your daily behavior and adjusts accordingly to what movement it senses. it also comes with remote sensors to place in other rooms in order to monitor temperatures in multiple locations and not just where the thermostat is located in the hallway. This has really helped and we’ve noticed a difference between the rooms located on different sides of the house. No more having one room that becomes stuffy and one that is freezing. We especially love the EcoBee3 because it’s compatible with Apple and allows us to make adjustments in the system from our iPhone while we’re away.

Coming home from a nice, relaxing, usually busy vacation can still leave us exhausted and we often need a day to recover.. We hate having to come home to a major to do list of everyday chores, but by doing these five easy tips makes coming home a breeze. We love knowing we don’t have to worry about dishes, trash or cleaning and we can actually use our recovery day to get back into our routine without the busyness of distractions.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

island getaway

Our sweet friends invited us to stay with them at a beach house they had rented just before high season begins...Umm yes, of course please! We spent our week at Bald Head Island just off the coast of North Carolina. This island is very secluded as homeowners and guests can only get to the island by ferry and there are no cars. Talk about taking a break from the busy everyday life. When the ferry docks we were picked up by tram and taken directly to our beach house. Everyone travels by golf cart which is so much fun! Although, somehow Mike and I got the slow cart and were actually passed by another cart as we were pushing the pedal to the metal. We were laughing hysterically the rest of the drive. 
The island is secluded, however, there are several amenities since some of the homeowners live here year round. Two country clubs, grocery store, hardware store, a few little shops and a handful of restaurants. Kensi and her friend loved the ice cream shop and jumped at the opportunity to indulge in a stacked sugar cone. 
 The island is kind of amazing and we loved the seclusion of everything. We had our choice to one of the clubs on the island and took advantage of the Shoals Club which had a great adult pool, kiddie pool and sand play area. Not to forget a bar and direct beach access which allowed us to walk out during the low tide. It was ankle deep for nearly 1/4 of a mile out and the girls found some great seashells.
Each day left the kids even more exhausted than the last as they took multiple naps, but together they had so much fun in the sun, sand and water. We visited a few of the sites on the island as well; including the original lighthouse built in 1817, the local church and the conservancy. Bald Head Island is know for several different things like the filming location for Weekend at Bernies, but even more impressive is it’s nationally known as a sea turtle nesting location. The kids loved visiting the conservancy and were enthralled learning about sea turtles and other ocean animals. Unfortunately, we weren't able to check out any nests because we’re just outside the the season for it, but we have a good reason to come back. 
It was such a great week and a much needed vacation for all of us, but we're happy to be home. Luckily, the beach house had a washer & dryer and we were able to do all our laundry there. We're slowly recovering from all the fun in the sun with some much needed sleep and coffee and looking forward to enjoying another long weekend together. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

all boy

The last few days our little Finn has been having such a rough time especially in the mornings. Waking up multiple times last night, fighting naps and bedtime, super cranky in the morning accompanied by high pitch screams, freak outs and destroy-mode at its best. I know we’re approaching that two year old mark, but not until the end of the year. We still have time before we should hopefully be hitting those crazy tantrums. 
Maybe he’s teething again.  Maybe he’s not getting enough sleep. Maybe he’s having night terrors. Maybe he’s going through food aversions. Maybe he’s constipated. Maybe he’s hungry. All these things have crossed our minds and left us dumbfounded. Maybe it’s just yet another phase. What we experienced with Kensi is vastly different with Finn. Sometimes we’re at a complete loss as we’re pulling out our hair, looking at each other in disbelief. One thing Mike and I know for sure is boys are so very different from girls. Finn is our wild child. He’s our destroy mode guy. There’s always a trail of Finn wherever we go. This crazy child of ours who somehow finds the one little can of tomato juice in the pantry and runs around with it, trying to pop the top near my new white sofas! But he almost always follows all his crazy up with the best snuggles, kisses and sweet smiles and in that perfectly sweet moment we completely forget what bat-sh*t crazy thing he just did. That is until he’s on to his next adventure. Everyone has told us boys are hard in the beginning, but easier later. So for all those boy moms out there who’s hair is getting thinner by the second, hang on, because we’re right there with you! Hold on to all the sweet moments to help get us through those really tough moments. See...he’s so adorable! So much I could just eat him up!

Until next time.....oh no, he’s freaking out...again.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

favorite healthy snacks

All of us in the house are snackers, but more importantly my babes are major snackers. As soon as we wake up and make our way downstairs for breakfast, I can barely step foot in the kitchen and Finn is scooting the step stool over to the pantry. He opens the door, scoots the stool up to the shelves and climbs up to the snack basket and pulls out whatever he can get his little hands on. Earlier this week we found him climbing the stairs with a spoon in one hand and the entire jar of peanut butter in the other. Sometimes he brings me cookies, nuts, packets of oatmeal or a box of macaroni and cheese and snack cup. He has definitely destroyed the organization of our pantry, but he’s also helped me clean it out and reorganize it. 
There are several different types of things we like to keep on hand for snacking, but knowing how much they love it keeping healthy snacks on hand is a must. We don’t typically stock our pantry with potato chips or fruit snacks only because there are healthier choices and our kids would eat them in a day. We like to stock up on things that are usually multi-grain, high in protein and fiber, but we also keep several things we can grab and go for the car or trips to the park. Just because they’re healthier choices, doesn’t mean they have to be boring.

1. Nuts. Both Kensi and Finn loves snacking on all nuts. I always keep slivered almonds on hand because they’re smaller and easier for Finn to chew, but sometimes he loves to eat the whole nut because it’s what big sis does. To prevent them from becoming a major choking hazard I cut them in half and he’ll happily gobble them up. The babes also love to munch on peanuts and walnuts. Pairing them up with fruit , fresh or dried, is easy and always a winner.

2. Dark Chocolate Covered Bananas. This is an ultimate favorite because the chocolate of course! If I’m  in the making/baking mood we’ll make these together as a fun activity in the morning and enjoy them in the afternoon. Slice up a banana and coat in melted dark chocolate. Place them on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and pop them in the freezer. Lately Ive been keeping a box or two on hand in our freezer from Trader Joes {pictured above}.

3. Fruit. Now that it’s almost summer kensi is so excited to see watermelon back in the grocery stores. One of our favorite ways to enjoy it is on a popsicle stick for easy holding. Pairing it with a drizzle of honey or coconut is a game changer. This can be super messy, but oh so good! Other favorites include dark chocolate dipped strawberries and dipped orange slices. Along with mixed berry salad + whipped cream. We have blackberry and blueberry bushes growing in our yard and it doesn’t take long after they’re ripe for Kensi to go out with a bowl and pick every last one. I can’t wait to see how Finn reacts to the berries this year. Chances are they’ll never make it inside the house!

4. Yogurt Popsicles. These popsicles are awesome on warm days and the kids can even eat them for breakfast. Using a popsicle mold layer in your favorite greek yogurt, granola and fresh fruit. Pop them in the freezer for at least 4 hours. Plus the kids love helping put these together.

Other favorites for on the go include, cheese slices, multigrain crackers, yogurt covered raisins, peanut butter pretzels, KIND bars, 365 Fruit Strips, apple slices with nut butter, veggie sticks with tzatziki dip.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

six months

How Far Along: 6 months
Weight Gained: 12 lbs
Nausea: None
How Am I Feeling: Since eating more red meat I haven’t been as tired.
Maternity Clothes: Still mixing different pieces, but really loving dresses.
Sleep: Sleeping well.
Cravings: Since eating more red meat I’m craving more fish.
Food Aversions: Meal plans are still all over the place.
Movement: Feeling lots of kicks and punches. I just started to feel her first hiccups.
Belly Button In or Out: Out! 
Gender: Girl
Names: Kensi has her own list of girl names. We told her we won’t know the baby’s name until after she’s born.
What I'm Looking Forward To: I can’t wait to enjoy a summer beer in late August.
What's Different With This Pregnancy: I can feel the muscles in my abdomen and tendons stretching more than my first two pregnancies.
What I'm Missing: I’m at the point I have to modify a lot of my exercises from my workouts. It’s difficult because I don’t feel like I’m getting as much out of them, but hopefully it will make losing the baby weight easier and help me get back into better shape after baby girl’s arrival.
How Are We Preparing: Kensi and I are constantly looking for cute outfits!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

feel pretty

On Sunday I took the time to go shopping for new makeup with a friend. It's been such a long time since I've invested in good makeup and actually sat down to have someone try new colors and teach me a few new tricks. In the seven years Mike and I have been married good makeup hasn’t been a priority and I quickly fell into a slump, only buying what was necessary and always keeping costs low by purchasing generic brands over the counter. I finally became fed up when I realized I really didn't know how to do a decent smokey eye and some most of my makeup was over a year old. 
I did what most moms do. I made everything else a priority and put myself last. In doing so I lost much of my confidence. I didn't feel pretty or sexy for my husband. I felt lost in my identity and actually felt guilty when purchasing something for me. By not investing in myself I haven't just lost confidence in my appearance, it has bled into every aspect of who I am. I've lost confidence in who I am as a wife, mother, daughter and friend. Something that can seem so small as makeup has been chipping away at my whole being for years. I wonder if I allowed myself to continue down this road of self destruction, you see me on a makeover episode of Rachael Ray in five or ten years! 

When I walked up to the beauty counter I was scared, nervous and somewhat embarrassed to ask for help. I’m so glad I had my friend there for support. Meagann, my makeup artist, was amazingly patient and helpful. I’ll be honest, I felt like an idiot a few times. Simple things like learning to use a brush to apply foundation and how to layer eye shadow was all news to me. Meagann showed me some awesome products and I ended up purchasing all the basics to replace everything I had at home.

Once Meagann started applying different products to my face she complimented me on what great skin I have. This was a huge compliment for me because growing up I hated washing my face and even in college I struggled washing my face every night. It wasn't until after I was married I realized the importance of taking off my makeup at night. I often struggled with breakouts on my cheeks and had some scarring. When I decided to consciously make in effort to take better care of my skin I kept makeup remover towelettes on my night stand so I had no excuse to not do it. I also learned how to properly take care of breakouts and since I'm a picker I invested in an extractor tool which has made a world of a difference. No more scarring or unsightly wounds! I had to learn to pay attention to what my skin needs and how it's changed with age and my pregnancies. After Kensi was born I began using Philosophy's Purity line of skin care and it has changed and repaired my skin. 

So as I sat down in the makeup chair to have what felt like miracles take place, more than anything was the one compliment from the makeup artist. It raised my self esteem more than she can possibly know. She showed me I didn't need as much makeup as I thought I did, a good sheer powder does everything I need and want it to do. It felt so good to buy makeup that was suitable for my skin and made me feel good. No more buying a blind color I could never test for a true match. It's time to start feeling pretty again and I'm not looking back!

Here’s what I purchased from Sephora:
| Urban Decay Naked Powder Foundation | Urban Decay Naked2 | Tarte Blush Pallet (similar) | Tarte Creamy Matte Lip Paint | Smashbox Makeup Primer |

Sunday, May 15, 2016

nebraska bred girl

At my last doctors appointment I was informed I'm nearly anemic and the prescription given is to eat red meat three times a week, along with tons of dark leafy greens and dairy. I'm to eat with purpose! Mike thinks it's the greatest news ever received.  However, it throws a wrench into my mostly chicken and fish meal plans, but this Nebraksa bred girl can definitely handle it. I am not one to designate certain days of the week to a weekly committed meal such as every Monday is spaghetti sort of thing. I like to mix it up by trying a new recipe each week and having several different cuisines, but since that appointment I’ve been swapping what I usually make with chicken out for ground beef and chuck roasts. A simple swap out and easy fix that still tastes good. In honor of red meat {sorry to anyone who's vegetarian or vegan} I'm sharing a few of our favorite meat dishes. 
Lately, I've been craving Mexican food and I could eat tacos from my favorite local restaurant or Chipotle until the cows come home. That and salsa. Sometimes I just need the chips and salsa. This quote cracks me up and when I really think about it, I think I would just die. 
But to feed my cravings at home we make my dad's salsa and this delicious Beef Carnitas recipe. When this baby is cooking, it takes everything in me to wait until it's done. I love serving it with my chipotle lime rice, slices of avocado, cilantro, cheese and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. They’re a little messy to eat, but I promise every bite it well worth it!

Chipotle Lime Rice
1 cup Long Grain Rice
2 cups Water or Chicken Stock
1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
A pinch of Salt
1 canned Chipotle Pepper, chopped & mashed with sauce
2 Tablespoons Cilantro, chopped
1 Lime, juiced

In a saucepan combine rice, water, butter, salt and chipotle pepper. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Once boiling turn down to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes or until rice is done. Stir in lime juice and cilantro to serve.

A few other favorites my family and I really enjoy have been found on one of my favorite go to food blogs, Damn Delicious. I’ve been following Chungha for a few years now and I have yet to be disappointed by one of her incredible recipes. Her lettuce wraps have several ingredients, but they’re really easy to throw together. And I cannot stress enough about how awesome her fried rice recipes taste.

Lettuce Wraps
{swap the chicken out for beef}
Recipe from Damn Delicious 
Greek Nachos
Recipe from Not Without Salt
  Fried Rice 
{Top any fried rice with a fried egg, you will not be disappointed!!! Swap chicken out for beef}
Recipes from Damn Delicious 
Easy Skillet Spaghetti
{recipe below}

All these recipes are devouring worthy, satisfy preggo cravings and give me the iron I need to keep this baby baking! I love the simplicity of each recipe and the fact they’re quick to toss together and make for great weeknight meals. I hope you and your family take the time to try one or more and please let me know how it turned out in the comments. I love hearing back from our readers!

Easy Skillet Spaghetti
1 lb. Ground Beef
6 oz can Tomato Paste
18 oz Tomato Juice
3 cups Water
2 teaspoons Chili Powder
1 teaspoon Garlic Salt
1 teaspoon Oregano, dried
2 Tablespoons Minced Onion, dried
7 oz Ready Cut Spaghetti
Fresh Basil, chopped

Cook hamburger in a large skillet and drain off excess grease. To the hamburger, add tomato paste, tomato juice, water, chili powder, garlic salt, oregano, onion and ready cut spaghetti. Cover and bring to a boil, simmer 30 minutes stirring occasionally.
 Top with fresh basil and serve.

Monday, May 2, 2016

our weekend in pictures

We started our weekend with a trip to our local berry farm. Our strawberries are in season and this is one of our favorite things to do each year. Kensi really loves picking blueberries was just didn’t understand why they weren’t ready yet. We’ll be making a couple more trips back in the next few months to snag more berries once the blackberries and blueberries are ripe and ready. 

This was Finn’s first year he could walk and help pick. He didn’t do too much picking other than what he snuck and ate. He would pick one or two berries at a time and just walk around eating it while strawberry juice rolled down his chin, between his fingers and onto his shirt. He descretly hid his evidence back in the strawberry plants, making sure no one knew it was him. He thought he was pretty sneaky until it was all he did and had to go back in the stroller. 

We spent our Saturday at soccer practice and decided it was time for Mike to start taking Kensi out on dates. We’ve been discussing this for awhile and we want her to know what she should expect from her future dates {way down the road}, and know how she should be treated, but this also allows some special one on one daddy-daughter time. I helped her get ready for her first date with daddy by picking out a dress and getting her hair done. I even let her wear a little blush and lip gloss. She was beaming waiting for her dad to come pick her up. When Mike came to get her he was super cute and bought her flowers and took her to dinner. When they arrived back home she was a chatter box just bursting at the seams with excitement and shared all the details including ordering her first Shirley Temple and sharing a dessert. They had so much fun and Kensi can’t wait for her next date.

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