Friday, August 31, 2012

I am who I am.

Lately I've been seeing a lot of negativity in the blog world. The Mommy Wars have escalated to new high and now there are The Bloggy Wars, or at least, that's what I refer to them as in my head. The "my blog is better than your blog, I have more readers/followers/retweets," outlook.

It is killing me that people are basing their self worth off of those things. And it kills me that some people think I am basing my self worth off of them. I've said it a hundred times and I still mean every word - I could close this blog today and it wouldn't change anything about me.

Do I love that there are people who care about what I post? People who try my recipes? People that have prayed for my kids and this adoption process we are in? YES. 100 percent YES. I have made so many great friends through this process. I interact with so many cool people on twitter nearly every day and I wouldn't have met them if it wasn't for this blog.

But this blog doesn't define me. I don't blog to gain the most readers or hits or any of that. I blog things that interest me. Recipes I really love. Things I like to do. Stuff about my kids that I just don't want to forget, but I'm not crafty enough to scrapbook. Our family vacations. Stuff I learn that I think you might want to learn too.

Do I think it's cool when I hit certain milestones? Yes, I do. The fact that 4 million people have come to this blog amazes me. I think it's awesome. I love that so many of you were here when I needed you, when my son was very sick and fighting for his life. You were here and you prayed for us. Left us words of encouragement. Loved us. I see that number and that is what I think about. To me, that is the heart of the blogging community - people coming together to support one another.

I can't pretend to be someone I'm not, and I never, ever want to. I'm quirky and weird and not your cookie cutter housewife. I love to bake and crochet and stay home. I love to read weird books that not everyone is into. I watch TV shows that people complain about. I love Twilight and Harry Potter and Pretty Little Liars. I am perfectly happy spending all my time with my family and rarely going out. I never put my kids in MDO and I about lost it when we enrolled Brayden in Pre-K, but I knew he needed it so I did it.

I know I don't always say the cool thing, I'm not always part of the most "in" crowds. That's okay with me - it's never been my desire to be the "it" girl. As long as I'm being true to myself, following my own heart and doing what I feel is right, that's what matters to me.

I think our differences are what make us each unique and special. This is who I am. And I never want to be anyone else.

When You Give A Boy Some Ice Cream...

Sorry for the iPhone pics but this was too cute not to share!

Both of my kids were born lactose intolerant. It's not uncommon for them to grow out of it as they age. Now they can both have everything except for straight milk - they still have to drink soy.

Brody is very enthusiastic about his ice cream (in this case, frozen yogurt):

I wish we had a picture of what he looked like afterwards. He was COVERED in chocolate from head to toe. Literally. I guess that's just what happens when you give a boy some ice cream!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

$1,000 Spa Finders Gift Card Giveaway!

Well ladies, we’re finally nearing the end of summer. Finally. That means a lot of things – most of them great for me. Cooler weather, the start of fall, lots of delicious recipes…but one thing that I don’t love is the condition that my hair in.

Did you know that the hot summer weather is one of the main contributing factors to dry, frizzy hair? Our poor hair gets stressed out from the sun exposure, swimming in chlorinated or salt water pools and the hot and humid weather, and what we’re left with is dry, frizzy, straw-like hair. Add to all of that your daily styling routines – teasing, hairspray and flat ironing, anyone? – and we’ve got a big problem on our hands. Dryness, roughness and frizz are all signs of the damage we’ve inflicted on our hair.

So what can we do to repair all of this damage? I’ve got a simple solution for you that won’t change up your routine OR take more time out of your day. All you have to do is try out one of Dove’s new conditioners: Nourishing Oil Care Conditioner, Intensive Repair Conditioner, Daily Moisture Conditioner or Color Repair Conditioner.

My favorite is the Intensive Repair Conditioner. It’s thick and rich and provides a luxurious treatment feel that restores softness and smoothness to my hair. It also adds back the shine that my hair has been lacking and gets the dry fizziness leftover from the summer under control quickly! Best of all, there is NO greasy feel left over on my hair.

So how do they do it? Dove knows that nourishment is the key to repairing dry and damaged hair. Their Fiber Active technology penetrates deep inside the hair strand, helping to rebuild the damaged proteins. Their patented micromoisture serum targets damage, repairing the surface of hair strands by sealing lifted cuticles.

The conditioner that I’ve been using, the Dove Intensive Repair Conditioner, leaves my hair strengthened and resilient to future damage. I definitely recommend that you try it out!

Be sure to read on to learn how you can enter to win a $1,000 Spafinder gift certificate!



You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

a) Follow this link, and provide your email address and your response to the Promotion prompt

b) Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: "#SweepstakesEntry"; and then visit this link to provide your email address and the URL to that Tweet.

c) Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and then visit this link to provide your email address and the URL to that post.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. Winners will have 72 hours to claim the prize, or an alternative winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 9/4/2012 - 9/30/2012

Be sure to visit Dove® to get a coupon for $1.50 off Dove Hair Therapy products.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Our Family Vacation: Lake Tahoe

If you've hung around here for awhile, you've probably noticed that my favorite place on earth is Lake Tahoe. I grew up going there and we still go back with my parents often. That's where I was last week (thanks to my guest posters, Lindsey and Rachel!) and it was Brody's very first time there!

It is so rare that I get a picture of Chris and I and I just love this one, so it's going up first!
We ate at my favorite restaurant, Bridgetender. We go there every time we visit - they have the BEST burgers, fried zucchini and onion rings! So bad for you but OH SO GOOD!

Here's Brody, my dad and I:
Brody was obviously very excited to be visiting his mommy's favorite place!

Bridgetender has a population of VERY friendly squirrels! Brayden and Chris kept feeding them out of their hands:
Emerald Bay is one of our favorite places to take pictures - we were able to get a couple of good family photos!
I took this one of Brayden with my parents when they weren't looking:
Last week was so much fun. I just love Lake Tahoe. It is so relaxing and beautiful and it feels like home. I already can't wait to go back!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

1st Day of School!!

I have a lot to catch up since we were on vacation last week, but before I get to all that, today was Brayden's first day of school!

I can't believe my sweet boy is old enough for preschool. Originally, we weren't going to put him in until he was four but he is ready NOW! Ha! Brayden is very smart and craves education and social interaction, so we decided to put him in for 2 days a week. He has been so, so, SO excited!

Here he is wearing his "Most Likely To Succeed" tee:
Look at Brody's face - he has no idea what is about to happen!
My big boy and I:
Chris and B:

I don't pick him up for a few more hours, but I know he's doing well! I was "Snack Mom" today so I made mini 4 Ingredient Muffins (not 5 because I left out the caramel) for the class.

I also found out that I'm a Homeroom Mom and I'll be planning or helping with the big Christmas party/production and the End of the Year party. Thankfully, I can take Brody to school with me on those days. I'm sure he will love that! Speaking of Brody, he's been a little confused but I think he is really enjoying this one-on-one time with me!

Friday, August 24, 2012

White Chicken Chili

I love chicken chili.

There is a local restaurant here that used to serve it in the winter and I LOVED it. I've been working on recreating it but I didn't want to use heavy cream (I'm trying to tone it down on the cream!). I started out with my regular chicken chili recipe that I came up with when we first got married (that is tomato sauce based) and then decided to use the cream cheese.

I've used lower fat cream cheese to replace heavy cream in a few other recipes with great results which is why I decided to try it out here. The result was delicious.

Edited to add: Reader Melissa entered this recipe into a chili cookoff and won Best Overall! I guess I should call it Award Winning White Chicken Chili now! =)

White Chicken Chili
Source: Jenna Blogs

2 chicken breasts, boiled and shredded
½ cup low sodium chicken broth
12 oz reduced fat cream cheese (a block and a half)
1 can of kidney beans, rinsed
1 can of black beans, rinsed
1 can of white northern beans, rinsed
1 undrained can of mild rotel
1 undrained can of sweet corn kernels
1 minced clove of garlic
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 ½ teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon hot Mexican chili powder

Boil raw chicken breasts in water until cooked, about 30-40 minutes. Shred.

In a dutch oven, mix all ingredients, including chicken, together over medium heat. Cook until everything is hot and well mixed, about 10-15 minutes.

Looking for some other great recipes? Try these!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guest Post: Fall Fashion from Rachel at Suburban Strut

Hi y'all! My name is Rachel! I am a full time working mother of three kids (Claire 8, Owen 6, and Bree 3).

I blog about our family life over at Footballs and Crowns and you will find many pictures and funny stories about our family of five. My newest project is Suburban Strut!

Suburban Strut is a style blog for the everyday mother and woman that wants to look fabulous in her realistic everyday life, even if she is not a size 2 and feels like a hot mess! I love a good fashion blog, but sometimes I feel like I cannot relate and wanted to fill that void for other mamas that feel the same way. The blog is fun and I never take it too seriously. I just want to inspire other women to feel great about themselves and see how beautiful the Lord made them.

I am so excited Jenna asked me to blog for her today. We are going to talk Fall Transition fashion. Right now, so many women are saying "I have no idea what to wear this time of year!". I can help you. The easiest way to start transitioning is to embrace your inner feline and buy some leopard!

Leopard is a great versatile print that goes with almost every color. It is warm and can instantly transition your outfit into Fall. I am not saying to wear a head to toe leopard outfit, but to add it with accessories and such to your current outfits. The easiest two ways to add it is in scarves and flats!

The thing I preach all the time over at Suburban Strut is fashion should be easy and carefree. The key is to look effortless. I am a big believer in versatile pieces that can be switched out with accessories and look like a different outfit every time. Items like cardigans, colored jeans, v-neck solid tees, and solid maxi dresses are at the top of my list. Take these pieces that you were wearing this summer, add a leopard scarf or leopard flats and it will look Fall-ish (made up that word :) ). For example:

You might have worn this outfit this Summer with sandals:

Switch out the necklace for the scarf, add some flats or Toms and instantly you have "Fall" even with the summer colors. The key is to tone down the colors so that they are not "bright". Add a black cardi too if you still want to tone it down.

That is my favorite leopard scarf and it can be found here at F21 for $6.80! Leopard scarves are everywhere though.

You can also start wearing leopard flats with practically everything. They are everywhere as well, but here is a cute pair from Target here!

Try to find a pair with both black and brown so you can wear with everything. I would not recommend wearing leopard flats and a leopard scarf at the same time. Don't try to be too matchy. Add leopard to the colors you are wearing, don't try to match to the leopard. This is easy so don't over complicate it. Like I said, fashion should be effortless, so keep it effortless :). If wearing leopard makes you feel a little self conscious or a bit much, try a solid camel scarf. I wrote all about that very versatile color here on the blog.

Now as I always do on Suburban Strut - here are pics of me wearing leopard lately for example...

The left two pics, I am wearing my leopard scarf and the right two, rocking the flats.

I wrote a post all about my favorite Fall Transition items here if you want to check it out! Leopard is a great start and you will feel chic and stylish immediately!

Hope you hop on over and check out my other posts at Suburban Strut! While you are there, look the top right on the sidebar and you can follow me Instagram, twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest too!

Thanks Jenna!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Timeouts & Sharing

The other day, Brayden was in timeout for something...I don't even remember what now. Brody just couldn't stand it - he had to got sit with him! They even posed for pictures! Sweet brothers.

And this is random and off topic but hopefully helpful. My mom wants to read The Hunger Games trilogy and I have it on my kindle. I thought I had heard that there was a way that I could virtually loan it to her but all of the tutorials that I found said that you had to have Amazon Prime (which I don't even know what that is!).

Thanks to some help from Twitter, I figured out how to do it. Here's what you do in case you were wanting to know:

- Log into Amazon.

- Go to Your Account then Manage My Kindle.

- Find the book you want to loan. I think there are some books that you can't loan, but I was able to loan this one.

- Under Actions, click Loan.

- Fill out the recipients email address and it will send them a link to click.

For this particular book, she will have 14 days to read it. That probably varies too!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies

It's no secret that I LOVE PUMPKIN!!

Need proof? See some of my favorite pumpkin recipes here:

I've got many, many more pumpkin recipes headed you way this fall! I've been busy baking and re-baking them until I get them perfect so that I can share them with you guys! Here's my latest obsession! Note - there is NO OIL, BUTTER or WHITE SUGAR in this recipe!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies

Source: Jenna Blogs

1 15oz can pumpkin puree

2 eggs

1 cup brown sugar

1 ½ cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla and pumpkin. Add brown sugar. Whisk well. Add in salt, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Whisk well. Add in flour all at once, and mix until just incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spray a 9*13 glass pan with cooking spray, or line with foil. Pour batter in, using a spatula to even it out. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Guest Post: Lindsey from A Dollop of My Life

I'm excited to have Lindsey here today, sharing a guest post with you all! Linds is one of my in real life friends that I met through blogging. We both have boys named Brayden and our kids are the same age. She is such a great friend to me and I know you'll love her!

And be sure to check out her blog today by clicking here! I'm guest posting over there today!

Hi Yall! I’m Lindsey (aka Linds) and I’m the blogger behind . I blog about my life as a wife to Drew, and a momma to two boys: Brayden (3.5 yrs) and Connor (21 months). My blog is mostly about our life, but I sometimes sprinkle in recipes and DIY stuff to showcase what I’m working on. Jenna and I met through bloging and are now “real life” friends. It’s always a circus when we’re together, since our boys are the same ages. I’ve loved getting to know Jenna over the past year and a half, and am so excited to be guest posting for her today!

About 4.5 years ago, my family moved away from Arkansas. I was devastated. We are pretty close knit as far as families go, and them moving back down to Baton Rouge meant that when we eventually had children, it wasn’t going to be an easy 3 hour trip to Little Rock to see Gigi and Poppa D. In fact, the trip from Northwest Arkansas to Baton Rouge is a LOOONG 9 hours without kids. With kids it takes about 12 hours. And most of it is through the Delta farmlands. Which means there aren’t many rest stops, and your scenery consists of cotton fields. Ahhhh, yes, it’s as brutal as it sounds. Which is why I proudly hang a gold medal around my neck when I consider the fact that I’ve driven it, not once, but twice, by myself with my children. In case there are others out there in the same boat as us in regards to traveling with kids, I thought I’d share what's made our road trips a little easier with kids.

DVD player. Honestly, I'm not sure how our parents survived traveling without this modern contraption. The DVD player is the cure-all for whining in our house. Which means on the road, it's imperative that we have one. For my sanity's sake, I try to bring enough DVD's so that we're not having to repeat shows. Momma can only take hearing Elmo sing "Elmo's World" so much.

Favorite toys. This one is tricky, because if I ask Brayden to pick out his favorite toy, he'll most likely either pick out (a) some sort of weapon or (b) the largest toy in our playroom. Considering I'd rather not get gunned down by a Nerf gun while driving the two lane highways of the Mississippi Delta, and the fact that our CRV can barely hold all four of us and the exorbitant amount of paraphernalia that preschoolers require to travel, I tend to offer him two suggestions of a favorite toy, and let him "choose" his favorite. Narrowing down choices lessens the possibility of melt downs before our trip even happens. Our car toy bag typically includes a hot wheels, a GI Joe, and some sort of dinosaur figure. Softer toys are better. Being hit by a hotwheel while driving is not fun. Not that I would know anything about that.

Books. We pack at least 3 of their favorite books (per child, so 6 total). I love the little board books that come in sets at Barnes and Noble. These are small and compact, which means they take up the least amount of room. The boys love them!

Magna Doodle. Walmart sells a little travel sized magna doodle for about $3. I will tell you that it's the best $3 I have ever spent. I've also recently seen a travel aquadoodle, which I am sure would be a hit, since our boys LOVE their aquadoodle mat at home!

Snacks. This one is a tricky one because food, cars and kids mixed together can become quite the f5 tornado for our car. I try to pack snacks that aren't really messy. Pretzels, animal crackers, fruit snacks (I usually wait until I know that we're on the verge of imploding to give the fruit snacks)... most of those are relatively mess free. They also each have a cupholder for a sippy cup filled with water.

Ear plugs. If the saying "diamonds are a girls best friend" is really true, then ear plugs are to parents what diamonds are to girls. And I say that out of true love for my children. But let's face it. 12 hours in strapped in a car seat in the Delta means that there's going to be at least several minutes (and we've experienced hours before... that was a LOAD of fun!) of screaming. Sometimes stopping just isn't an option, so these are your best friend. You can still hear your kids, but it takes just enough of the shrill away that you don't feel like losing your mind. Brayden's even asked for them before when Connor just had had enough of traveling- ha! We like the little orange foam kind that you can get in the hunting section of Walmart. I may or may not keep these in the car with me when I'm out and about running errands. If you honk and I don't hear, now you know. I jest I jest... kind of.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Orzo Salad

Here is the Orzo Salad recipe that I promised you last week. I came up with this one for our home study. I also have a traditional pasta salad (my mom's recipe) here!

I really like Orzo and this is a great and FAST recipe! Throw it together for your next potluck, small group dinner or just because.

Orzo Salad

Source: Jenna Blogs

1 box of Orzo pasta, cooked

1 cup cubed Feta cheese

1 cup Italian dressing

½ cup cubed or sliced hard salami

4 ounces black olives, minced

2 heaping tablespoons of tomato pesto (red, not green)

1 can medium artichokes packed in water

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and place in a large bowl. Add dressing and pesto, mixing well. You want the pasta to absorb the wet ingredients while it’s still hot.

Prepare other ingredients: slice salami, mince olives, cube feta and chop artichokes into bite sized pieces. Once pasta is cooled, add ingredients. Stir well, refrigerate. Serve cold.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Home Study Part One

So, the first part of our home study was today!

I promised to blog about the adoption process as thoroughly as I can, and since I personally couldn't find a ton of information on how a home study goes, I'm excited to share about this.

I'm sure that these vary by state, but here the home study is broken up into two parts. Today was the first part and the second part will probably be at the end of this month.

Our social worker, who I will refer to as K, came over at noon. I had spoken with her on the phone and through email several times and I let her know that I was planning to serve lunch here for the three of us. I find that food is a good ice breaker! Ha! So, I made Parmesan Chicken Salad and an Orzo salad that I'll be posting soon. She loved it and we were able to start our conversations over food which is always more relaxing in my opinion!

Basically, we talked about how we met, our dating experience, our wedding and our life up til now. We discussed our kids, their personalities, our families and their support of us with regards to adoption and why we want to adopt. We also discussed our religious background, our friends, what we do with our free time, how much Chris works, what type of work he does, and showed her our new house plans along with pictures of our new home (the framing is almost done!).

That's a lot of ground to cover! K is SO nice and made us both feel very comfortable. We were really able to open up to her and share our thoughts very honestly. After all of that, we took her on a quick tour of our home. It was way less invasive than I expected it to be, honestly. I thought we would go through every drawer and cabinet in our house, but that wasn't the case at all.

Next time, I think we will be going over anything she may have missed, or need more information on as well as doing individual interviews to talk about our childhoods. I'll be sure to share about that as well! Thank you to everyone who sent me tweets, emails, texts and Facebook messages today! We appreciated each and every one!

PS - Look what arrived tonight!! I'm having to order ALL new baby gear because we had given EVERYTHING away!!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Oreo Cake Two Ways!!

Years ago, a lady I worked with made an oreo cake and brought it to potluck day at our office. I kid you not, I've thought about this cake for years. I've never been able to recreate it. I know there were oreos all through the middle of the cake, and that pudding (vanilla, I think) was used.

A few weeks ago I was thinking about this cake, and realized that I could still make a delicious oreo cake, it just wouldn't be that same one. I even tested it out on my family and they all loved it.

From that one random thought, I present to you, Oreo Cake, TWO Ways.

Oreo Cake, Two Ways
Source: Jenna Blogs

You can make this recipe either way - it's nearly the same, except one ingredient. I'll bold that so it stands out for you!

1 Devil's food cake mix - made to box directions (usually, oil, water and eggs!)
Oil (for box cake mix - follow box instructions)
Eggs (for box cake mix - follow box instructions)
8 - 16 oz light cool whip, depending on how much icing you want
4oz box Oreo flavored pudding
2 cups 2% milk
1 8oz package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 box double stuffed oreos
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk

Prepare cake following box instructions.

When cake has 5 minutes left on the timer, prepare oreo pudding by whisking it with the milk.
When cake comes out of the oven, poke holes ALL over it using a fork, then pour pudding over it.

Let cake come down to room temperature, then put in the fridge. Meanwhile, make your frosting. In a food processor, blend 3/4 of the packaged oreos with the cream cheese until the mixture is smooth (see my oreo ball recipe with video instructions here and here.). Gently, fold in as much whipped topping as you like. I used a little over half of my container.

Spread icing over the top of the cooled cake.

Crush remaining oreos in a ziplock bag and then top the cake with them! Enjoy!

For a sweeter, even richer cake, pour the sweetened condensed milk over the hot cake AFTER poking the holes in it but BEFORE the pudding!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

T-shirt Tutorial & Chance to Win!

I was so excited when my friends over at The Chirping Moms asked if they could send my boys some custom made t-shirts! What's even more exciting is that they are sharing a tutorial today on how to make shirts just like these:
Cute little quarterback!
Sweet little running back:
Aren't they precious? Of course, I'm a little partial! These shirts are SO cute and so creative and we love them!

So, in addition to the tutorial on how you can make your own, The Chirping Moms are also going to be giving away a tee for your little one! Head on over there and enter to win!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Our Weekend

We had a very special weekend! Why? My grandparents came into town from Arizona! They were here last for Brody's birthday in November.

The boys LOVE playing with Grandpa:
Look at that smile!!
So sweet:
It was Bonnie's birthday, so we were able to celebrate with her as well! I think I may have been more excited about her gift than anyone - she got an iPad! They haven't had the internet or a computer since they were married, so I've never been able to email them pictures and they have no way to see my blog.

This weekend Bonnie said something about using an iPad, so yesterday, while we were having a BBQ at my house, my Dad ran to the store and bought her and iPad, and Chris set the whole thing up, including their very first email address! I'm so excited to finally be able to email them pictures!
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