Friday, August 1, 2014

August's Goals

I have to say, I'm pretty happy with where I am this month. I ended July pretty much on top of my goals and I'm proud that I stuck with so many of them. I know they aren't anything of consequence and should probably be things I manage to accomplish without the aid of a list or a reminder, but I really needed a kick in the pants at the end of June. I kind of had to teach myself to be a mom and a wife and a functioning member of society again. It had been so long since I balanced a checkbook or cooked a meal, that I struggled to get back in the swing of things. I'm happy to report that after a month of list making and reminders, I feel like myself again.

So how did I do?

I did work harder and accomplished MUCH more than I did in previous months. Although I didn't read any books of significant literary value, I downloaded a ton of inexpensive (sometimes free!) books from Amazon and read several books a week all month long. I've just started reading If I Stay again since they are making a movie. I loved it and the sequel the first time around. I've got And The Mountains Echoed on tap for the plane next week and I'm hoping to make a last minute run by the bookstore sometime over the weekend. We didn't quite finish reading Little House in the Big Wood with the girls this month, but we're close. Some nights we get a chapter in and some nights they fall asleep before we get that far. Either way, they are loving the story and I'm looking forward to continuing the series as we get back into school and more regular nightly reading schedule. Finances are organized. We opened a new credit card at the beginning of the summer and it pays all of our bills (except mortgage and car payments) and monthly expenses. I've paid everything else off and we are working on a new budget. The points we accumulate by using a card so frequently paid for my plane ticket and will hopefully help us travel a little more economically in the future! I survived a July without soft drinks, ate much better and started running again. I'm not back to running daily, but I hope after another month of several runs a week that I'll feel more like my old self again. We didn't get a ton of "house" work done, but we did start a few projects. We cleaned up outside, started our pea gravel project (we've since changed our minds a bit) and talked about a possible bath and/or kitchen reno. Unfortunately, a tree fell on our house this month, so we have some exterior repairs that now need to be made. 

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Now, on to August!!

1. Continue to treat my body better. Although I'm not promising I won't have a single Dr. Pepper this month, I did prove that I can live without them. I had a few glasses of sweet tea at dinner, but drank water for the majority of the month. I'm much less bloated and feel so much better. I want to continue upping my water intake, increase my mileage and start adding some weights again.

2. Read a few REAL books. In addition to the Khaled Husseini book for next week, I have a few other books by John Green to read and then I'm open to suggestions. Have you read anything great this summer that you would recommend?

3. Eat out less. Not only is it better for us to cook at home, but it's better on our budget. We spend way too much money on food and could be building a better savings account, building a house or traveling more if we were a little bit more careful. I have to stop giving in to my children's cries for Zaxby's and Subway!!

4. Get us all on a better school routine. With two kids in school this year, everyone will need to be more diligent about bed times, homework and sticking with a schedule. We've implemented chore charts and I think by having some structure in our evenings that it will help everybody feel a little better. I want to be better about packing lunches and backpacks before bed, getting dance bags ready over the weekend and laying out everyone's clothes the night before.

5. Resume meal planning. Man that made our life so much easier (and cheaper and healthier, too). I've been so faithful to my planner this month, that I think adding a meal planning section at the bottom of each day will help me stay on track.

6. Implement a cleaning schedule again. I loved Jen's post this week and her chart was so simple, but effective. We've also talked about resurrecting the spreadsheet. As detailed as it was, our house had never been cleaner. Now that we have a new dishwasher, my life has already vastly improved. If I could start doing a load of laundry a day, I think I might feel like a new woman!

7. It's our Anniversary month, so I'm hoping to celebrate like crazy. Not only on our weekend getaway (hooray for grown up vacations!!), but just more quality time in general. We love listening to music while we cook together in the kitchen, we're putting our heads together for a few fun house projects for fall and we have another weekend away planned for opening weekend of football season. I feel like I neglected my marriage so much in June, that I'm really trying to focus on being a more intentional partner and paying more attention to the things I'm saying and doing. We have a pretty amazing relationship, but there is always room for improvement! 

Care to share what you're working on in August?


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bowties & Broccoli, an Un-Recipe

I'm not sure you can call this a "recipe" so much as a bunch of things we always have in our fridge and pantry that look really good together in a bowl?! One night we were debating what to do with grilled chicken and so we made a really good orzo recipe. The next time we wanted it, we only had farfalle in the pantry, so "Bowties and Broccoli" was born. We typically have one grain-heavy meal a week, so this has become our go-to weeknight pasta recipe that makes enough for lunch the next day. We can't convince the girls to eat it since there is "green stuff" involved, but we don't mind since we don't like to share!

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Somehow I managed NOT to get the broccoli in this picture, but you'll need a box of Mini Farfalle, low sodium chicken broth, 3 large boneless chicken breasts, a few small lemons, a log of your favorite goat cheese, 1 large broccoli stalk and spices to taste.

Add almost the entire box of broth (you'll need about a half cup for the broccoli) and the juice of a few lemons to a large pot and bring to a boil. I try to use just enough liquid that I don't have to drain the pasta, but there is enough to reserve in case I need to thin the sauce a little later.

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While the broth is coming to a boil, I trim the chicken and cut it into smaller pieces since it cooks faster. Josh usually cooks it on a grill pan or in the electric skillet. He likes "Slap Ya Mama" seasoning to give the whole dish a little kick, but salt pepper and garlic would work well, too.

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After I throw the pasta in the broth, I cut an entire pack of fresh broccoli into the tiniest florets possible, but you could also use a bag of pre-cut broccoli if you prefer. I use a steam basket to cook it on the stove and I usually add some minced garlic, juice from half a lemon and about 1/2 cup of chicken broth in the boiler. If you don't have a steam basket, you could roast it in the oven or even leave it raw -- it will soften some when we add everything together. I've done that several times when I was in a hurry and it's just as good, the broccoli just has a little more bite.

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One the chicken is cooked all the way through, we chop it up a little smaller so that everything is bite-sized.

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I scoop out what little broth is left after the noodles are done and then add the broccoli, chicken and goat cheese to the noodles. Just stir over medium heat until the goat cheese melts completely. You can add back the reserved broth a little at time until the cheese is nice and smooth, if you need to. The cheese and broth make just enough sauce to coat everything without being too "saucy". Super simple, light and SO good.

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p.s. It's even better for lunch the next day!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Slip N Slide

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A few weeks ago, we made a Sunday afternoon run to Wal-Mart for jigsaw puzzles and a sprinkler. I guess we waited too late, because there wasn't a sprinkler to be found. Instead, we grabbed this deeply discounted Slip 'n Slide. The girls begged for days to play on it, but a few cooler than usual afternoons paired with crazy busy weekends made for some delay in our plans. This past weekend, we had a lazy Sunday afternoon with nothing to do while our sweet daddy was running errands. My kids weren't entirely sure what to do with this thing, so I had the pleasure of diving head first at the ground a few times. Hello, sore abs on Tuesday!

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^^^ We had to add a few suds to our slide to make us go faster! ^^^

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^^^ Obviously she didn't know what she was doing yet -- her hair didn't even get wet?! ^^^

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^^^ That's my favorite picture of the day, right there. How cute are they?! ^^^

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^^^ The required failed family selfie, of course. ^^^

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^^^ Excuse all of the paraphernalia in the driveway -- 
we were scrubbing all kinds of things while we were wearing our bathing suits. ^^^

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^^^ And of course, Lola Belle joined the party. She was super curious about the hose pipe! ^^^

Monday, July 28, 2014

Letters

Dear Slip N Slide, You are just as cool as you were when I was a kid. You left my knees bruised and my belly sore, but I don't regret a single one of those head-first dives. (pictures to come tomorrow)

Dear Dr. Pepper, It's getting easier and easier to avoid you these days. I'm 28 days in and I miss you in theory more than in reality. Yesterday, I grabbed Josh's drink by accident and got a mouth full of too sweet. I can't decide if it was the shock that I didn't like or the actual taste. You know how drinks you love taste terrible when you are expecting something else to come out of the straw? 

Dear iPad, How did we ever live without you? I know we all fight over you after dinner -- I'm sorry about your new found popularity. The girls can never decide between tweener movies and Barbie cartoons. Fortunately, they will get a much needed break on Wednesday when you head off to the Golden State with Josh.

Dear Salads in a Jar, You are still pretty amazing. Easy on the calories AND the pocket book. I discovered this week that the girls leftover Publix chicken fingers made a great addition to your goodness.

Dear Rock House Kitchen, I hate you. No really, I mean that with every fiber of my being. If you had told me ten years ago that you would look virtually the same as you did when we moved in I would have let you have it. Now there is a giant debate on whether or not a face lift would benefit our desire to sell you. I'm a little bittersweet about making you cute just to give you away. I will say that the six hours I spent scrubbing your every surface on Saturday went a long way to making me less ambivalent about how poorly you function.

Dear Dishwasher, All I can say is "It is about time!" You work so much better than your predecessor (even though I've only used you once). The layout of your drawers and baskets are all different, so I'm having to get used to you. It's probably a blessing in disguise that I can't fit quite as much into you as I could before. Maybe just maybe, this will encourage me to wash a little more frequently.

Dear Adults-Only Mexican Dinner that we enjoyed on Saturday night, you were amazing. The fact that I didn't take salt shakers or sugar packets away from anyone, or discourage anyone from eating rice with their fingers or even listen to someone complain about how the cheeseburgers don't come with bacon wasn't lost on me. I had an entire bowl of cheese dip to myself and ate every bite of my meal without sharing. The trips to Home Depot and Dick's Sporting Goods only made you slightly less glamorous.

Dear Colored Copy Paper, You are the only elusive item on my school supply list. The three stores I've been to have been fresh out. Hopefully today, the mad search for pink and mint green paper will come to end.

Dear New Chore Charts, Please help us. Thank you and you're welcome. (I downloaded our chore charts here)


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Woodland Birthday Suite

Kamin knew all along what she wanted for Hudson's first birthday party and it turned out AMAZING. I can't wait for her to share the pictures so that I can post them here for you. It was such a creative birthday party theme and every detail was beautifully done. She sent me invitation inspiration long ago and I've been working a cute paper suite for the party. I hope to have it listed in the Etsy shop soon as an invitation and as a printable party pack! I always feel like a cheater when I find great Illustrations from another designer, but sometimes they are so perfect that it's silly to recreate something yourself. I found the animals at Collective Creation on Etsy and added the other elements myself.

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invitation

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water bottle labels

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food labels

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favor tags

She wanted a chalkboard to greet guests as they came into the party, so I borrowed this one from my mom and used the same graphics from the paper suite to decorate the chalkboard. I loved how it turned out!! I underestimated the size of this thing, though, and it was quite the feat to get it (and my two children) into the car to go to the party. I just knew they would grab it or brush up against it and my two hours of hard work would be gone!

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Everything about the party was wonderful, but I think Sophie's favorite part was playing in the backyard with her bubbles. She has been carrying those things around for DAYS.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Our Rock Fortress

Apparently, the Rock House is a fortress.

On Sunday night, I was laying in the bed reading a book. The girls were finishing up a DVD in the living room before bed and Josh had just hopped in the shower after playing tennis. The dog was snoring next to our bed and everything was pretty quiet. All of a sudden I heard a loud sound and when I hopped out of bed and rounded the corner, the girls were freaking out. By the time I could get to the back of the house, Josh was coming out of the bathroom with shampoo in his hair. Did I mention he was blaring Motley Crue on his iPod? Sophie screamed, "Is it a fire?! Is it a TORNADO?!" followed closely by Ella's declaration that somebody was shooting a gun. Y'all, it was mass chaos and if we hadn't been so freaked out, it probably would have been funny. 

We soon realized that a tree-sized branch fell off one of the huge oak trees in our back yard. With nothing but a flashlight (there was no moon or stars that night and the streetlights are all on the other side of our house) it was hard to tell what exactly happened and the extent of damage sustained. The best we can tell, it hit the top of the roof line, over our kitchen, and rolled down towards the bathroom. That tiny window that you see is inside the shower where Josh was standing. All I can say, is thank God that our walls are solid concrete beneath that rock, because who knows what we would be dealing with otherwise.

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There is no interior damage at all, that we can tell. It would appear the attic will be okay, too, but we haven't been up there just yet. The biggest problem seems to be the lack of internet service for a guy who works from home and a downed corbel on the back wall.

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I went out first thing yesterday morning to see how things looked and it was still a little hazy. I could finally get a real idea of how big the thing was, though!

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It rained pretty heavily for awhile on Friday and again on Sunday morning, but the weather was eerily calm when it happened. There wasn't any wind and it was dry at the time. All we can figure is that the limb was heavy and the wet summer we've had just made it worse. This was the only limb over the house, so at least we can rest assured it won't happen again!

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The good news is the roof looks like it sustained very little damage and it should be relatively easy to fix. The biggest problem will be cleaning up the yard and trying to salvage the landscaping on the back corner of the house. At least most of my Crepe Myrtles are still standing!

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We pretty much laid in bed for hours talking about how insane it was. The sound was so loud and Josh said the bathroom shook when the tree hit. His first thought was that a wall collapsed, but he had no idea how close the impact was to him. To make a long story short, the phrase "I almost just died" is one the girls in my Bible study group throw around frequently after a friend choked on an M&M on the way to the beach last summer (and after I almost ran over Ashley's foot with Josh's truck). It's probably slightly insensitive, but it always gets a good laugh. Josh may or may not have uttered that phrase a few dozen times after we finally calmed down last night. He's pretty confident if we didn't live in a fortress, that we would have suffered some major damage.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Letters

Dear July, How are you almost over already? Here we are three weeks in and I'm not even sure how that happened. 

Dear Essie Nail Polish, I have you in pretty much every color available. I picked up "Play Date" at Publix yesterday afternoon and it did not disappoint. It's the most perfect purple for summer. 

Dear Summer, I can't believe we're thinking about goodbye already. When I was working so much back in June, I was wishing you away so that I could see my people, but now that my life is under control I'm wishing we had more days on the calendar between now and the first day of school. Gone are your lazy days -- the squares on my calendar are filling up fast!

Dear Hudson, HOW ARE YOU A WHOLE YEAR OLD?! Your birthday party was so much fun. Your mom is pretty amazing and she did a great job celebrating your life. We are so lucky to have you as a part of our family and can not get enough of your infectious smile. 

Happy Birthday, Brother Cousin!! #hudsonturnsone #hudsonraywilliams

Dear Dr. Pepper, It's been twenty one days. Twenty. One. The only time I've gone longer without your sweet goodness was for the 40 days of lent a few years ago. I'm trying to get myself back in gear for a fall filled with many miles of running, much better food and stronger muscles. Even though I love you very much and miss you like crazy, we both know this is for the best. You make my pants too small and there is no way you're good for anything except a temporary smile. I wish that I could approach you with moderation, but we both know that will never work. It's so hard to say goodbye to you!

Dear iPhone, You are both my favorite and least favorite thing. I love you for your convenience and for the ability to read books in the dark after Josh is sleeping. I love that you play great music during my morning commute and that I can watch Dawson's Creek on the occasion I take a lunch break. What I don't like, is how you refuse to charge unless I stand on one foot and use the striped cord only and hold my bottom lip just right. Why are you so difficult? I'm seriously thinking about trading you in for a younger model, but unfortunately AT&T would prefer that I wait until November. Grrr.

Dear Football Season, You are almost here. Yes, there was a day when I dreaded your arrival. I hated that you robbed me of my husband for four months. Then I decided maybe I should try to like you so that I could join in the dates you were having together on the weekends. Now I see you for the wonderful time you are. Really, what is better than fall and hot chocolate and 100k people all cheering for the same thing? We have great team colors and don't look ridiculous trying to make purple and yellow look good together (I'm only sort of kidding). I can't wait to spend opening weekend with you in Atlanta this year (and Dallas for the two years after that -- how much fun does that sound?). Now I just need to find the perfect red dress...

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{one of the best football days ever // how awesome is that kitchen?!}

Dear Life Planner, I'm sorry for neglecting you so much this spring. Your blank pages are mocking me. I have been using you religiously since mid-June and already feel so much more in control. I tried to convince myself that there were better planners out there -- less expensive, more thought out, simpler, more beautiful -- but the fact of the matter is, you are exactly what I need. And even better, I found a $10 gift card in my desk drawer last week. Now to decide what next year's calendar should look like.

Dear Kindle Unlimited, Where have you been all my life? I signed up for Oyster several months ago and after paying $9.99 a month and never reading a single book, I unsubscribed. I just read on my Kindle way too much to justify something else. Then, out of nowhere, I discovered for the same price I can download "free" titles to my Kindle. I have already gotten my money's worth of downloads and it's been 48 hours.

Dear Broccoli, Goat Cheese, Lemon Pasta, You are the best dinner I've had in awhile. There is something to be said for a meal that can be cooked in twenty minutes. Why is it that the non-recipe meals, the ones you throw together because it all sounds like it would go together, are the ones we like the best? And why did it take me so long to realize how good broccoli and pasta are together. Match made in heaven.