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Family Life: Expectations VS Reality

Before the birth of your first child, how did you imagine life looking? Which expectations lined up with reality? If you’re honest, I’ll bet a fair amount threw you for a loop. This was definitely the case for me. Our family life expectations vs reality are sometimes two different worlds. Especially as a new parent.

You can’t know, in the months leading up to their arrival, who your child will actually be, and how you’ll actually respond to them. They are their own person, with preferences and opinions about the world you’ve spent hours cultivating specifically for them. Our babes do not always agree. Whether we like it or not.

In the nine months since my daughter was born, I’ve eaten my share of crow. Therefore, I write this to expose a glimpse into my truth. Whether you’ve been here and totally relate, are on the cusp of new parenthood, or (like I used to) enjoy a good laugh at parents’ expenses, behold my Family Life: Expectations VS Reality:

 

Expectation: My baby will eat only fresh/organic/no sugar/no additives/low sodium food, prepared with love, from scratch.

Reality: Who has time for that? Seriously? Parenting is a busy job, and sometimes, cubes of cheese is all my daughter will eat. At least she’s not hungry, right?

no vegetables expectations vs reality

 

Expectation: No TV until they are at least 2 years old.

Reality: Sorry, not sorry. My daughter loves Sesame Street. Using Elmo and the gang as entertainment so I can eat/shower/clean/do laundry/pay bills/finally call my mom back/go to the bathroom solo, is a needed reprieve. I play and engage all throughout the day, but Mama needs a goddamn break.

no TV expectations vs reality

 

Expectation: Days will be occupied with reading and educational toys.

Reality: I dreamed up BIG expectations about play time. We built our daughter a little library, sectioned out toys based on her age. Turns out, she could not care less about reading. In fact, books seem to annoy her. And the favorite “toys” are TV remotes and a set of plastic measuring cups. Not sure what exactly those teach, other than “this goes pretty far back in my mouth.”

childs library expectations vs reality

 

Expectation: I will not raise my voice at my kid.

Reality: I think children are born with an uncanny ability to test your patience. Occasionally, I react loudly. I lose my temper because I need her to “just give me a fucking break.” I’m human. To be fair, sometimes I raise my voice for safety. But more than likely, I’m saying “no,” which is my daughter’s least favorite word.

parent losing cool expectations vs reality

 

Expectation: We’ll create a magical nighttime routine to help baby wind down and sleep through the night.

Reality: Bath time, reading, singing songs, all the typical sleepy time routines, rile up my daughter. “Oh, these silly parents. I see where they are going with this, but I WILL FIGHT. YOU CANNOT NOT CONTROL ME. Also, I plan on waking at least every two hours all night long, so best of luck.”

crying baby expectations vs reality

 

Expectation: I’ll be a cool parent.

Reality: My baby is too young for me to embarrass her just yet. But wearing sweatpants in public in your 30s is cool, right? And “Baby on Board” signs? What about memorizing the PBS kid’s show songs?

cool mom expectations vs reality

 

Expectation: Instagram Parenting.

Reality: Whatever social media teaches us about what parenting looks like, the reality is definitely not perfect. Life isn’t one big photoshoot (though photoshoots with my baby are the most fun). I enjoy posting sweet moments, milestones, and funny glimpses into our life. That being said, I’m for sure not pulling out the camera when I’m covered in shit or my daughter is losing her mind because “no you can’t have that, its not for babies.”

fit expectations vs reality

 

Expectation: My house will stay clean and organized.

Reality: Sometimes. This is only sometimes true.

organized house expectations vs reality

 

Expectation: I will take time for myself.

Reality: My personal time is napping with my daughter (or laying down with her when she falls asleep and rewatching “Parks and Recreation” because it’s the greatest show). Driving the long route home from the grocery store to hear the end of that song I love. Reading instead of tackling the dirty dish pile. Personal time is about taking care of yourself, however you define it.

me time expectations vs reality

 

Expectation: I will love my child.

Reality: The love is beyond measurement.

love expectations vs reality

At the end of the day, parenting requires flexibility. Going with the flow, and whatnot. Family life is surprising, glorious, messy, and unpredictable. Laugh off what you can because it’s the most beautiful experiment in which you don’t know all the rules. Embrace the chaos. Learn to love reality not meeting your expectations because family life is so much better than what you imagined.

Lifestyle Recipe

Quick and Easy Vegan Split Pea Soup

vegan split pea soup

These days, meal prep is king. While everyone tries the latest and greatest life hacks for efficiency, few can argue that prepping your week’s meals in advance can save a lot of time and headache. Whether you’re living the single life with three jobs or a stay at home mom, everyone can benefit from prepping some grab-and-go meals to use throughout their week. I’ve done a quite a few one pot recipes in the past to save time on meal prep, but I’d never done a vegan split pea soup until now.

My mom used to cook split pea soup from scratch. I have vivid memories of the aroma of ham and peas wafting through the house to greet me after school. For this recipe, I decided to do a kind of smokey vegan take on mom’s traditional split pea soup. I’ve been craving spicy food like crazy so I implemented some paprika and hot sauce to add some heat to the recipe. I love this vegan split pea soup because it’s really nutritious and high in fiber so it’s filling as a stand-alone entree and can be taken as leftovers for lunch super easily.

Actually, I have this amazing tiny crock pot that I take to work. It holds probably 16 oz. or so and I love it. I just plug it right in when I get to work and by lunch time the contents are hot! I haven’t tried cooking in it but it’s amazing for heating leftovers.

I hope you enjoy this recipe for Vegan Split Pea Soup!

Vegan Split Pea Soup

Print Recipe
Serves: 8 Cooking Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 8 celery stalks, diced
  • 4 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 large onion chopped (yellow or white)
  • 6 cloves of garlic minced (or 2 tbsp, jarred minced)
  • 2 lbs. of split peas (this is usually two bags, don't forget to rinse!)
  • 2 tbsp. paprika (or more to taste)
  • 3 tbsp. of a hot sauce like Tapatio (or more to taste)
  • 7 pints of water (or 14 cups)
  • 8 vegan bouillon cubes
  • *You can substitute a vegetable stock for the water and bouillon cubes if desired
  • Garnish: Paprika, sesame seeds, caramelized onions

Instructions

1

In a large pot sauté your carrots, celery, garlic, and onions until the onions are soft and translucent

2

Add your water and bouillon or vegetable stock, split peas, and any additional starches you intend to use. Bring to a full boil

3

Add your paprika and hot sauce if desired. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally

4

Garnish with paprika and sesame seeds or caramelized onions if desired and serve!

Notes

If you have extra starches laying around you can add potatoes (cubed or diced) and rice or other grains like barley at the same time you add the split peas. This will add more bulk and calories but can extend the use of the recipe if you have a large family or are trying to budget extra for meals.

DIY Lifestyle

Tips for Planning A Wedding On a Budget

wedding on a budget, planning a wedding,

When it comes to planning a wedding, details are king. This fact is even more pronounced when you’re planning a wedding on a budget. Each couple is as unique as the message they want to convey on their wedding day. Regardless of your budget, there are a few things you can do to help take the pressure off the process and streamline your finances. After throwing a wedding for my best friend and beginning to plan my own wedding a short six months later, I learned a lot about what it takes to execute such an important event. I’ll use my friend’s wedding as an example since it was planned in less than a week after her venue had to cancel last minute! Through this process, I learned some of the key tips for planning a wedding on a budget (and a time crunch!)

The first thing you should do when planning a wedding on a budget is sit down with your partner and really think, “what kind of wedding do we want to have?”

This is huuuuge. What kind of people are you? You might like the aesthetic of a NY Museum wedding but if you’re backyard barbecue people then there’s a conflict of interests there. On the contrary, maybe you are a Museum person but most of your guests have small children they’re bringing and the family is on the older side—then lots of stairs or breakable things are out of the question. Will you want the ceremony and reception at the same location? Really narrow down what kind of venue will be appropriate for the size, duration, and vibe of your wedding day.

Next, you should consider your priorities for the wedding.

Here, we really mean for the decor and the party. The ceremony requires very little overall other than the officiant. Maybe for you, a priority is that there’s an open bar and your partner really wants to save money of flowers. To start you should each choose three things that you couldn’t see getting married without i.e. photobooth, arch at the altar, style of chairs, style of centerpieces, passed hors d’oeuvres, etc… Having these “asks” down on paper can really help you prioritize and organize your time, money, and overall efforts towards the things that will have a big impact.

Finally, before you get down to actual planning and selection of vendors, etc, Decide On A Budget.

How much will you each be able to put towards the wedding between now and the big day? How much of that is available now/ upfront  (keep in mind most vendors will have to secure down payments for their services prior to confirming your dates). Set a realistic goal. Add 10% to that for contingencies, or if you’re capped, take 10% off and plan for that so the contingency fund is already handled. Also look at some sample budgets and wedding calculators online that are up to date for the year you’re planning. Even better if it’s regionally inclusive.

Now it’s time to go back to those lists of priorities.

Rank big ticket items from most to least important and then itemize those sections. For example, if the decor is #1 for you then you might choose to rent more expensive items in lieu of entertainment like music or an open bar. When you’re planning a wedding on a budget, some sacrifices will be made, but you wont feel that it’s lacking.

In each section list the things that are most non-negotiable (NN).

So for decor, it might look like this:

  • Arch (NN)
  • Tables with white linens (NN)
  • Aisle (runner or Shepard hooks or…)
  • Chairs (impartial if linens and centerpieces are solid)
  • Stage area (not important to me)

For food it might look like this:

  • Amazing Dessert table (NN)
  • Passed hors d’oeuvres (NN)
  • Buffet style? (Yes)
  • Pizza, tacos, or BBQ? Potluck maybe?

The NN (non-negotiable) items are what you’ll be spending your hard earned dollars on. As a general rule, cast a favor net far and wide months before your big day. Maybe everyone you know owns a 6 ft banquet table! That could save you a TON of money—and you never know until you ask. Perhaps a guest has an antique piece of furniture or a dessert stand you’ve admired? You’d be surprised the lengths your loved ones will go to make your big day successful, even if that means disrupting some of their personal home decor for a weekend.

Planning a wedding on a budget for my friend meant calling in favors left and right! Luckily one of our friends is an Art Director and was able to loot her set dressing and props department for some gorgeous greenery and arches:

© Callie Biggerstaff

Food On A Budget

This would be the time to call in favors from your restaurant and bar friends. Can they get you a catering deal? I was managing a restaurant at the time of my friends’ wedding so it was a great way to supplement the catered things with some dishes that I made myself.

If you are going with an actual venue that’s “inclusive” you might experience some pushback when it comes to using your own caterer. If they give you shit about only being able to use theirs, pull the religion or culture card! I.e. “Oh, actually in our faith/ culture we have to serve certain food…is that going to be a problem?” They’ll be quick to not want to insult you and usually make an exception.

We convinced a local ice cream truck to come by our house around 8pm after we knew the speeches would be done. It was a super unique, cute, and affordable way to serve dessert! We just handled the tab when everyone was done. The bride and groom even got to board the truck for a photo-op inside!

If you do decide to do a brunch the next day, do a picnic! Grab a bunch of pastries from Costco or your local bakery, ingredients from mimosas, and a few flats of eggs. You can use the grill at a park to cook eggs and have a super fun and low-key brunch. This could also be a potluck where part of your bridal party or family is asked to contribute by picking up muffins, croissants, etc… teamwork truly makes the dream work!

Booze On A Budget

For alcohol, you have a big choice to make. Are your guests paying or are you? If they’re paying you might still have to supply everything and essentially “front” the liquor. This is where parents might be able to help by fronting the big bucks for the night. You can always return bottles you don’t use.

Remember that even though everyone loves an open bar, no one will hold it against you if you forgo it. People are soooo accommodating during weddings—you’re basically a celebrity—so milk the good vibes and set it to BYOB or wine only, etc. You call the shots here, no one else! For my friend’s backyard wedding at our house, we set up a super cute DIY drinks table. There were chalkboards with instructions on how to make a “brides drinks” or a “grooms drink” along with plenty of non-alcoholic mixers and some wine.

wedding on a budget

Another idea to save money on booze/ open bar is to cut your wedding short.

It’s trendy and fun to do wedding weekends, but if you have a wedding on a budget it’s a stupid choice. Much better to have an elegant ceremony and 2-3 hour reception than a super long and drawn out thing, especially when some vendor charge by the hour! This way the people that stay for the duration of the weekend are only close friends and family.

Photography On A Budget

EVERYONE knows a professional photographer, right? When planning a wedding on a budget it’s super pragmatic to request that friend to shoot the ceremony! Offer them what you can in terms of money (you could even negotiate to pay them a week or two after the wedding so you have time to financially recoup). More than likely though, they’ll extend their services as a wedding gift, especially if it’s just the ceremony you want to be handled professionally.

In addition, for the reception request that;

1.) Everyone bring one disposable if it’s not in the budget to supply a bunch yourselves or hire an official photographer.

OR

2.) Use a wedding hashtag and group Dropbox for party pics! Using your RSVP software you can schedule an email to everyone the day after the wedding with a Dropbox link for all wedding pics, done and done! Plus candid shots are better anyway.

Officiant On A Budget

It’s getting more and more popular to have a friend officiate, especially for a wedding on a budget. If customs, religion, or culture doesn’t require anything specific of you, it’s a great way to go! Otherwise—if you don’t go the “ordained friend” route—you can spend anywhere from $150-$1000+ on an officiant so it really depends on your expectation. I’ve seen beautiful and simple ceremonies that took no more than ten minutes from the bridal march to the smooch.

Centerpieces On A Budget

Dollarstore anyone? This is the time to get creative! Scour Pinterest for the aesthetic you’re drawn to and make a list isolating the key elements. For my friends’ wedding, I liked old books, candles, and moss (I literally didn’t give her a say because it was such short notice so I surprised her. A HUGE leap of faith on her part!).

Once I’d decided on the look, I knew with those three things I could do a simple and elegant centerpiece. I looted all my local Goodwill stores for old looking books, bought some bagged moss on Amazon, and used some dollar store candle holders. They turned out beautiful!

Again, the key is to really figure out:

1.) what’s most important to you as a couple

2.) what will have the biggest impact for a low cost; A great example of a this would be to use cheap paper lanterns to help light a path. This gives an illusion of a lot of landscaping and thought even though it’s simple.

Another great example would be the uniformity of tables/ etc. I used a white base for all the linens and chairs in both mine and my friends’ wedding to add some elegance. Here’s a photo of my friends:

© Callie Biggerstaff

 

A coordinator/ MC On A Budget

Okay, so your average 30-50 guest backyard wedding might not require a coordinator, but it never hurts! Put that bossy (I mean assertive) family member in charge of the schedule. This can be an MC like a MOH or BM, or an aunt or uncle that means business. You’ll be happy later not having to worry about letting people know the cake is being served or that it’s time for a send-off.

DO A SEND-OFF

Even if you just go to the bar down the street for a breather, and loop back after. It’s nice to have a moment alone! Plus it’ll help expedite getting everyone the fuck out of your parent’s house/ the venue.

Weddings can be stressful as it is. Your relationship will be tested in the months leading up to your wedding. But it won’t break you and it shouldn’t break the bank either. My final word of advice is this (actually a friend of ours suggested this to us while we were in the trenches of planning): Around 2-3 months out, you’re going to be panicking. Your invitations haven’t gone out yet and you feel like a general shit-show. Grab your partner and go out for a beer. Bring a notepad and a couple of pens. Over the next hour, drink and ask each other, “Okay, if the wedding was tomorrow/ this week, what would we do?” Fill in the blanks for food, booze, officiant, music, dessert, traditions—and you’re good! Don’t stress, cuz at the end of the day, you got this!

Xo.

Let me know what I missed or any tips your have for planning a wedding on a budget!

Lifestyle Travel

10 Tips for Traveling Abroad

Tips for traveling abroad

I just returned from a much-needed vacation to Europe. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to move there go back. Now that I’ve returned to the states, I have some tips for traveling abroad that I’d like to share.

Our trip began with my husband and I flying to Paris, where we would spend a few days alone exploring the city and the sights before linking up with his family in Basel, Switzerland. From Basel, we took a river cruise down the Rhine with around 200 other passengers on a small ship. The cruise was packed full of excursions and we were in a new city (or two) each day. I had never been to any of the countries we visited so I tried to soak it all in while sometimes rushing a quick lunch or bite to eat between tours.

Life on the ship was nice, we didn’t have to worry about much. Each stateroom had a US 2 pin power outlet, so, for the most part, we were able to use our various electronics and chargers without hassle.

The trip did have its fair share of trials and learning experiences; Mostly due to the colder weather that I’m no longer used to as an Angeleno. So I began making a list of tips for traveling abroad that I wish I’d known ahead of time!

 

  1. Think about the fashion of the region before you go: More than likely, you’re going to reach your destination and realize your accessories aren’t going to cut it. It’s vacation, there will be pictures. Do a cursory search on Instagram using places or hashtags for the area and decide on what to bring to achieve the look you want.
  2. Note the weather forecast and plan for colder: I knew it was going to be cold in Europe, but I underestimated it. Bring extra layers and one winter jacket if you’re heading to a colder region.
  3. Pack light: Even if you don’t plan to shop, you will. There’s something magical about purchasing things abroad knowing that pretty much no one you know will have it. In the days of H&M and Forever21, it’s nice to buy some unique pieces for your collection. Pack only half a suitcase so you don’t have to purchase (and check) extra luggage on your way home. You can even pack or bring a large empty duffel as your carry-on.
  4. Inquire within your hotel about amenities: Many hotels (and hostels) supply blow dryers and other items within the room. Note what is already provided so you save space in your luggage for other things.
  5. Have a plan: For each city, my husband and I starred different sights, bars, and restaurants we wanted to see on Google maps. That way, when we were walking around aimlessly, we could kind of scout which direction we should head and which things we could scratch off our list on the way. This made it super easy to leisurely explore while not missing out on anything big!
  6. Check a local guide for seasonal events and openings: We lucked out in Amsterdam by arriving on King’s Day (a national holiday). It was a giant party in the streets and so fun, but it could have waylaid us if we hadn’t known ahead of time. Additionally, we were able to go to the Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse for my MIL’s birthday. It’s only open for 2 months a year so the timing was paramount!
  7. Buy a portable phone charger and always take a business card from the hotel you’re staying: These can be solar powered or otherwise but you’ll need it! Whether you need an uber or to pull up the Metro map to find your train, a dead phone can mean losing a whole day’s opportunity to explore. Come prepared. When your phone inevitably dies and you can’t exactly remember how to pronounce the name of your hotel—or what neighborhood it’s in for that matter—having the number and address of the place is a life (and time) saver.
  8. Learn some basic phrases: Even if you botch it, people appreciate the effort of at least trying to initiate the conversation in their national language. Even if it’s only to say “Do you speak English?” it will usually ensure the kindness of the locals.
  9. Make sure you have more than six months on your passport: You’ll thank me later. The US will let you enter until your passport expires, but some countries won’t let you travel (leave) if you have less than six months left. Also, it’s a good practice to always make copies of your passport in case it’s lost or stolen.
  10. Exchange rates are usually cheapest through your credit card: If you’re from the states, you’ll have an option to charge either USD or local currency. Choose local currency and save a little. Check with your credit provider first as rates vary.

I hope you enjoyed my tips for traveling abroad! Let me know anything I missed and what trips you have planned in the comments!

Xo.

Lifestyle Motherhood Recipe

Beginner’s Guide: Simple Cooking Tips from One New Mom’s Kitchen to Yours

Domestic life. I’m a super-newbie to it. I’ve been married nearly two years and my daughter is 6 months old. I didn’t grow up in the kitchen, and never saw my future self with a kid. But here I am; a stay at home mom who loves making food for her family. Today, I bring you a little something I’ve learned: five simple simple cooking tips for us new moms. 

I’m not claiming to be any sort of connoisseur. My food knowledge is still pretty basic. However, I figure I cant be the only former “definitely never getting married or having kids, so who cares if can cook or not” lady out there. While my rockstar of a husband goes out in the world to bring home the bacon, I’ve learned easy and interesting ways to fry it up (not really, I gave up meat, but thats for another day). In this post, I’m sharing my two cents to keep meals healthier and efficient, and to help other newbies feel a little more confident in their kitchen.

Without further ado…

TIP #1 : VEGETABLES!

simple cooking tips

Arguably the most important of my simple cooking tips. This is the veggie haul I brought home from my weekly grocery trip (although to be honest, I’m often there more than once a week). I’ll use all these vegetables in the meals over the next five days. I’m a big fan of plants because they are so healthy for all three of us. Our doctor’s philosophy is “If it’s a plant, its great.” Or something along those lines. Anyway, one of the really great things about vegetables, is how quickly you can prepare them – it can take as little as 10 -15 minutes depending on  your method.simple cooking tips

  • Above, I prepared steamed vegetables two ways: left are plain, washed and cut green beans and carrots (also peeled), and right: a couple lemon slices placed atop, and sprinkled dried oregano to change up the flavor. 2 minutes prep, 10 minutes active cooking time.
  • Share your veggies with your baby once they are at the age to eat solids. You can purée or cook enough to soften for self feeding.
  • Large salads are a fantastic way for mom and dad to up their vegetable intake, and are generally quick to prepare. Throw in some beans (we’re especially fond of garbanzo) or nuts for added protein, sans meat.
  • Make sure your vegetable lot is colorful to ensure your whole family is consuming a variety of nutrients and vitamins!

TIP #2: CROCK POT/ONE POT MEALS

Crock pot Vegetarian Chili

simple cooking tips

One of the really great things about using a slow cooker, is how little effort you need to put in. As simple cooking tips go, nothing beats an easy meal that tastes great. With a crockpot, once you have all the fixings, you throw it in, and leave it. I can park my daughter in her high chair to hang with me in the kitchen, and usually the prep work takes about 15-20 minutes. This chili cooks at least 6 hours, but preferably 8 hours set on low, so all the flavors settle together. Above is this tasty chili I came across. I’ve changed a couple ingredients to suit it better to our tastes:

  • I leave out the turkey, although when I first found this recipe we kept it in – yummy both ways!
  • I soak the beans myself. This saves on cost and cuts down the added preservatives of beans in the can (eventually I’ll use fresh tomatoes for the base as well). With a slow cooker, theoretically you don’t need to soak the beans, you can throw them in dried; but I found the beans were still a little too firm. 
  • To take out some of the spice, because I’m breastfeeding, I replaced the chili powder with paprika and the jalapeño with 1 small can of mild green peppers.
  • Add garlic powder. I also double down on the spices because I find recipes are always too modest with flavor.

Sidebar: I was in a hurry to take pictures of my prep while my daughter was sleeping, and didn’t pay close enough attention to the spices. I accidentally used cinnamon instead of cumin (lolzzz). I just added another doubling of the CORRECT spices and it tasted great. Maybe it will be my “secret” ingredient. Mistakes are learning experiences!

One-Pot Risotto

simple cooking tips

This one-pot butternut squash risotto has become a fan favorite in our house. Its a bit time consuming, so this is definitely a meal I cook when my husband is home so he can hang with the baby. Simple cooking tips aren’t always about total time/effort, but overall efficiency. What’s nice about larger dishes is using the uneaten amount as a side later in the week. More work one day, makes less work the next. Just reheat in the oven (at 250 degrees for about 45 minutes). Plus, with one pot meals, less clean up!

 

The recipe says it serves 4, but consider those liberal servings. One way to get ideas to tailor dishes to your taste, go through the comment section in online recipes. Then, trial and error. Figure out what you like about the meal, and what you don’t.

  • Used olive oil instead of butter
  • Added a medium sized yellow onion which I throw in same time as the squash.
  • Let the squash cook about 10-15 minutes longer to soften it up more than original recipe calls for.
  • Vegetable stock instead of chicken to make vegetarian friendly.
  • Double the amount of sage.

TIP #3: MEAL PLAN 

My simple cooking tips are designed to make life easier, and new moms love that (or at least, I do). When you’re a newbie, it may seem hard to meal plan. “What do I cook, when I’m not very experienced?” Start off with things you already love, and know how to make. Then, you can start building your personal recipe book. I try to prepare one new recipe a week, so I don’t exhaust meals in my rotation. This also teaches me new skills. Practice makes perfect, after all.

simple cooking tips

I’ve learned to use an ingredient one recipe calls for again in another meal. Utilize what you have. An easy way to do that is with garnishes, herbs, and spices (See TIP #4). On Monday, I made this delicious salmon (download the recipe card here). One of the sides prepared for this meal was the steamed vegetables from Tip #1; the extra lemon from topping the salmon, I added to the steaming pot. I used one bunch of sage from the butternut squash risotto on the salmon as well. This helped me use up more of the fresh herb and not let it go to waste. Since I knew I needed something specific for one meal in the week, I planned another meal to use the same ingredients. Meal planning for the win!

TIP #4: INVEST IN SPICES

simple cooking tips

Investing in a spice rack is the beginner’s best friend of simple cooking tips. Depending on what staples you start with, the upfront money shouldn’t be terribly expensive. What you spend first, you save later because dried herbs and spices will go a long way; they can be just as potent a year after opening (you can check freshness by how strongly they still smell). Reduced sodium is another benefit because you won’t need added salt to make your food pop. 

  • Off the bat, dried oregano is an herb to start using. I add it to pretty much everything.
  • In place of chili powder, I use paprika and cumin for flavor. I miss spicy food (Sriracha forgive me), but its not great for my daughter’s sensitive stomach.
  • Garlic powder is great when you don’t have the time to prepare garlic cloves. 
  • Usually, the ratio for dried herbs to fresh is 1:3 (1 teaspoon of dried herbs to 3 teaspoons of fresh).
  • Add dried herbs toward the start of cooking to allow their flavor enough time to open up.

TIP #5: FIGURE OUT YOUR STAPLES  

simple cooking tips

Everyone should get to know their pantry/fridge staples. In general, I’m not a huge fan of grocery shopping. So, when life gets too hectic, this is when simple cooking tips really come in handy. Having go-to items each grocery trip makes the event quick, with less stress. Then on nights I’m not sure what to make, or the day gets away from me, I can whip up a simple one-pot dish by throwing anything I have on hand together (recipe card bottom of post), or use a tried-and-true recipe I (now) know by heart. Usually I’m able to lightly experiment by using a different spice, vegetable, or whatever else I have at my disposal. 

THE MORAL OF MY STORY

My simple cooking tips stem from “aha!” moments in the kitchen. For new moms venturing into cooking, the experience can seem daunting. Jump in, and you’ll soon realize just how easy it can be to learn. Now, I don’t have toddlers or a big family I cook for every night. That’s my eventual goal. Practicing now, ideally, will help me prepare for my first solo Thanksgiving or a random weeknight with many mouths to feed. Like I said at the top, I’m new to all this, but I’ve loved learning, and especially impressing my husband. 

I am generally on my own with an infant while feeding myself during the day, so smoothies and yogurt bowls are a fast, tasty way to add nutrition. There are so many variations of flavors, so mix it up throughout your week. I like to add a handful of spinach to my smoothies for an extra boost of those leafy green vitamins. 

Whether you’re new like me, or a veteran in the kitchen, preparing healthy meals to feed you and your family is necessary for positive energy, in both body and spirit. When we cut down on processed foods, and engage with what we eat, we’re more mindful of what we consume. Never quit eating pizza, eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away, and put love into everything you make.

Happy Cooking! 

What do you think? Are any of these tips helpful? What suggestions can you add to my simple cooking tips?

 

simple cooking tips

Click the image to download and print the recipe card!

 

simple cooking tips

Click the image to download and print the recipe card!

 

DIY Lifestyle

Two Cute Ways to Repurpose Leftover Bunting

repurpose leftover bunting

We all have extra stuff lying around. Some of it is really useful, while some of it just takes up space. Anyone who has thrown a wedding or a big birthday knows that decor is no exception. I was eyeing all my extra stuff from our wedding and my eyes fell on all this extra burlap bunting we never used. There are quite a few tutorials out there on how to turn old wrapping paper and clothes into bunting. However, I couldn’t find many on how to actually repurpose leftover bunting.

I was thinking of various ways to use the bunting by folding it. Maybe a geometric ornament or putting a few together could make a hat or a lantern bag for a flameless candle? Eventually, I landed on an idea for a flat wallet and an air plant/ succulent holder; two cute ways to repurpose leftover bunting into new items and quick DIY projects.

FLAT WALLET

This project is great for a craft night or even for a kids party. You can complete the project by sewing OR even with a hot glue gun. Kids will love seeing how you can transform “junk” decor into something cool, useful, and personalized. Furthermore, with cute themed birthdays, the kids could end up with adorable spiderman wallets at the end of the party from the branded bunting.

I used a few items in the creation on my DIY Flat Wallet:

  • Burlap bunting
  • Scissors
  • Leftover random charms/ beads
  • Round bag making stud
  • Vinyl snap
  • Sewing machine (although you can hand stitch or use a glue gun instead)

Step One:

Collect your supplies. If you have a glue gun you’ll be using, plug it in! This is a quick project.

DIY flat wallet

Step Two:

Fold the bottom of the bunting a little over 1/3 of the way up. Test the triangle flap to make sure it covers the amount of space you want it to and doesn’t overlap the bottom.

DIY flat wallet

Step Three:

Flip the bunting over while keeping it folded. Draw a line to mark where the edges overlap.

leftover bunting

 

Step Four:

Cut the bunting on the lines you marked.

DIY flat wallet

Step Five:

Line up your wallet how it will lay when complete. Line up where you want your snap to be.

DIY flat wallet

Step Six:

Line up your first snap and sew the snap down to the wallet body (not the flap).

DIY flat wallet

Step Seven:

Pin the edge of your wallet for sewing and sew.

DIY flat wallet

Step Eight:

Attach the second snap to the interior of the flap.

DIY flat wallet

Step Nine:

Begin to attached your embellishments/ charms/ decor/ or embroidery to your wallet. Use a needle and thread or a hot glue gun.

DIY flat wallet

Fin!

repurpose leftover bunting

Air Plant/ Succulent Holder

The second cute way to repurpose leftover bunting is to turn it into a cute geometric planter. You can hang it on the wall or put it on a shelf. I used basically the same process for the dimensions as the wallet, the only difference is that instead of cutting the extra from the sides. You bring the edges pictured with the pink markers together and top stitch to create a tiny planter.

I used a few items in the creation on my Air Plant/ Succulent Holder:

  • Burlap bunting
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine (although you can hand stitch or use a glue gun instead)
  • A piece of coral I found on the beach in Bali
  • Neon Green Thread

reuse leftover bunting

 

Once you’re done with the stitching you can add some stitches in a cool color, or add fabric to the front. I even considered using paint or dip dye on mine. Have fun with it!

reuse leftover bunting

reuse leftover bunting

I hope you enjoyed these ideas on how to repurpose leftover bunting!

DIY Lifestyle Motherhood

Building a Nursery: How I Saved on Cost and Space

Building a Nursery

What do babies need? I asked this as my husband and I set upon preparing and building a nursery for our first child.

Car seat, definitely. A crib? Or basinet? The nursery is small. Oh, it turns out we both want to share a bed with the baby, that solves it. High chair, but not for a while, right? When do we start solid food, again? What about a changing table? I think they are unnecessary; he likes the idea of a diaper station. Bottles, pacifiers, toys, socks. We need to get socks.

So, I began compiling lists. You might not think it, but babies need a lot of stuff. Or so we’re told by advertisements and baby stores. Children’s furniture is shockingly expensive, especially considering the size. Tiny people require tiny things, but eventually, all too quickly, they outgrow the tiny things. It seemed absurd to spend hundreds of dollars on any one thing that might last a couple of years or even a couple months. I started researching and asking advice from other parents. What we needed versus what we wanted. What was a life saver, and what we could do without. Slowly, items were being crossed off my lists.

We began making room. As my due date approached, we brought out the gear, clothes, furniture, and all things baby related we’d been collecting. I nested. I cleaned, organized, and folded tiny socks. We bought paint.

I began building a nursery.

Building a Nursery

This is what you see when you first walk in the room. The end result came after several rearrangements, adding/taking away accent pieces and furniture. I’m sure it will continue to evolve as my daughter grows.

  • One of my favorite parts about the nursery is this Alphabet I found on Etsy. I love the illustrations, and the set only cost $32. It was my first purchase specifically in mind for a baby’s room.
  • A friend gifted the fish mobile in the upper left corner.
  • The square floor shelf was pulled from another room because we decided furniture in the nursery looked better white. The colorful shelves were around $3 each on clearance at IKEA. Actually, the shelf came from IKEA, too. We super love IKEA.
  • A friend gifted The Pack ’n Play because her little ones grew too old. We’ve yet to use it for anything other than storage, which is a nice dual purpose. The room is a small space, 10 x 10 feet, so it’s nice to quickly pull her tummy time mat off the floor and out of the way. When I’m carrying around a crying baby, I don’t want to trip on “stuff.”

The Dresser:

Building a NurseryI saved on cost by buying used and fixing up. This is the before/after of the dresser I bought on craigslist for $40. I only have this photo from my Instagram of the “original” blue. It took FOREVER to finish this 3-foot tall dresser. Or felt like forever because I was working in a hot garage at the end of summer while 8 months pregnant. Unfortunately, I never took progress pictures. So I’ll give a description of my work:

  • Sanded down the blue paint (with help from my husband).
  • Painted several coats of white, excepting the back and bottom, and the yellow fronts of the drawers.
  • Painted several coats of the yellow.
  • Taped off the sides of the drawers and painted the black stripes.
  • I found an image online of a cat silhouette, then birds, and I drew onto the dresser. Full disclosure, I just copied a cat image from Google because it’s not like I’m trying to sell this. Then, painted in the black.
  • The knobs were a dollar each from Home Depot.

When I put the shelves back in order, the two smallest with birds didn’t fit. After a week of working on this, usually in a couple 2-3 hour blocks each day, I thought I might die. I cried a lot. After a small breakdown, I swapped drawers, and tada—they fit! Good enough. I spent so much painstaking time getting everything just right during two days of touch-ups using paint dipped q-tips, that I was done. Other than that tiny mistake, I really love it!

Building a Nursery: It’s all in the details.

Building a NurseryIn the photo on the left, I fixed the alphabet to the wall with adhesive photo corners from a local craft store. They didn’t stay stuck, though. After a couple of days, the cards began falling off. So, I got some sticky tac, and they’ve been up without issue since. I really like the finished look of the photo corners, which saved on cost. It gives the illusion of framing, without the expense of actually framing.  

 Building a NurseryTo the right, the 3×3 feet “you are my sunshine” painting. I used the paint we’d purchased for the baby furniture, plus a little orange I found in the garage. The leftover plywood came from my husband building our platform bed. Upcycling is a great way to stay within a budget!

                                                                                     ***

                                       Building a Nursery                 Building a Nursery

The handmade blocks and “Grace’s First Library” are two aspects of the room which came out of our baby shower; therefore costing us nothing. Instead of decorating onesies, I wanted something my daughter could get use out of years down the road. We set up a station with crafts and paint, and guests designed these special toys just for her.

On the shower invitation, I asked that each person brings their favorite children’s book to start her collection. We now have over 40 books, and she’s 5 months old.

Rocking Chair Project:

Building a Nursery

Here, I again did not take progress pictures. I didn’t expect to be sharing any of this with the public, so it never crossed my mind. The chair cost $12 at a local Habitat for Humanity store. We’d been searching for months, so when my husband showed up with that sweet deal, he found me elated. Until I realized he brought me another painting project. I love how it turned out, though, so we both did a good job.

  • My husband took apart the chair and helped me sand. Sanding sucks, even without a huge belly.
  • I painted 3 coats, and it was all tedious. If you look really close, which please don’t, you can see where I got tired of painting and got sloppy toward the bottom. Whatever, it looks way better than the original brown, right?
  • I purchased the cat pillow a couple years ago, and now it fits perfectly with the unintentional animal theme.

The Closet

Building a Nursery

This is the back wall of our nursery. A closet is not particularly eye-catching, but this shows how we utilized room in the small space. We spent a lot of time organizing. Everything has a place, and we do our best to put things where they belong. This is a huge help in keeping the room decluttered.

  • Her diaper bag and stroller hang on designated hooks, which makes it easy to always put them away after each use. Less clutter for the ground.
  • We took the door off the closet to make the area feel more open.
  • Shelves are great for decorating and storage. Above the tiny TV, we have a little family photo section. Plus The Hulk piggy banks from when my husband was a kid. Passing down = cost saving. Inside the closet, each shelf contains similarly themed items (work out gear: yoga mat/hand weights, canned cat food/treats, breastpump/accessories).
  • To the right we have our laundry baskets, both purchased on clearance. The larger one for the adults, the smaller for our daughter.  Fabric makes them look a little fancier than plastic, and since they are exposed and easily accessed, instead of crammed in a closet, we keep dirty clothes picked up. Again, less clutter in a small space is key to having the room feel big. 
  • The stuffed animal corner cost us $20. My husband found another sweet deal on the large bear, and the rest were free from the local “Buy Nothing” Facebook group, or gifts.

Building a Nursery
This is another example of how I saved on cost while building a nursery. I bought these picture frames at Goodwill and painted them black and white (again, using what we already have). I drew digital pictures of our cats, framed the first ultrasound pictures of our daughter, and printed a couple photos from when my husband and I were kids (our favorite of each other). One of a kind, personal artwork makes the room unique, and this section cost less than $10!

The moral of my story:

It’s relatively easy to spend a lot of money building a nursery. If done right, it can be incredibly easy to save. Everything pictured that we bought specifically for the nursery, totaled under $200. You’ll notice no crib is in the room. We decided to co-sleep with a family bed, so our daughter sleeps with us. Good thing we own a king sized bed. I convinced my husband we don’t need a changing table. Instead, we change her on the bed, which is more convenient for us anyway.

  • Bringing what you can off the floor is going to help save space when building a nursery.
  • Use your own crafty ways to decorate the nursery (or any room) to save on cost.
  • Upcycle.
  • Check out local groups online.
  • Browse craigslist every day.
  • Find a friend, like I did, whose kids are slightly older than yours, and take all their hand-me-downs.

We’ve paid for almost nothing full price while prepping for baby and building a nursery. Except for socks. We totally bought socks. 

DIY Lifestyle

Envelope Style Pillow DIY

Envelope Style Pillow DIY

In our home, we have a problem that my husband affectionately calls “pillow hell.” I do purchase an excessive amount of throw pillows…but there’s a method to my madness! When it comes to decorating, like many people, I like a strong neutral base. Having a gray couch instead of a green one allows me to use pillows and various other decor to set the tone. When I get sick of it, I can just swap it out for what’s in style or season. Which brings me to my inspiration for doing this Envelope Style Pillow DIY!

The other day I saw a tutorial for a Cactus Pillow Outline DIY on A Beautiful Mess and a lightbulb went off. I’d been going about this all wrong! Instead of being a weirdo pillow hoarder I can just make different pillow covers to switch out, saving space and lots of cash!

Lucky for me, I’m also a fabric hoarder. Whenever I’m at a fabric store downtown like Michael Levine, I always pick up a yard of a few Ikats and styles that speak to me. These types of fabric can get really pricey (like $18 a yard, that’s pricey, right?) so I love the option to pick up a little bit to use as a chair cushion cover, purse, or as part of a handmade gift. My textile obsession definitely paid off when I went to create my Envelope Style Pillow DIY. I had quite a few Ikats and other fabrics to choose from. In the end, I chose a beautiful earth and jewel toned Ikat and a bright orange cotton duck for my Envelope Style Pillow DIY.

I already had a pillow (as evidenced from my pillow hoarding), this one came with a comforter set from Ross that I’d just been clinging on to. It’s been traveling aimlessly around our bedroom floor forever and I thought it deserved a better life.

Let’s go, Envelope Style Pillow DIY!

You’ll need:

  • A pillow you hate
  • Fabric, I used two kinds one for the front, one for the back
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • A sewing machine (or the patience for hand sewing)

Step 1:

Mark the fabric for the back/ envelope side of the pillow for cutting. Gave an extra 1″ on each side of the pillow to allow for the height/ stuffing. I just eyed it, it isn’t rocket science.

I used a white fabric pencil to mark my cuts.

Step 2:

Once you cut out the fabric square for the back, cut it in half just a little off center.

Step 3:

Repeat the process of marking and cutting the front piece of fabric. You can use the back piece as a guide for the height, but the width will be uniform (since you won’t be doing an fabric overlap in front).

Envelope Style Pillow DIY

Step 4:

You can see that the front piece is less wide than the back piece.

Envelope Style Pillow DIY

Step 5:

Pin your back pieces for a hem where they’ll “meet” (if you’re doing a hem).

Envelope Style Pillow DIY

Step 6:

Sew your hem. You can match the thread color if you’re OCD, but I don’t care and my husband won’t notice, so I just used what was in my machine. Pin the fabrics with the right side of the fabrics facing each other and with the fabric for the back of your pillow overlapped as shown. Sew around the exterior border with a 1/2″ seam allowance.

Envelope Style Pillow DIY

Step 7:

Look, you completed my Envelope Style Pillow DIY!

Envelope Style Pillow DIY

Step 8:

Stuff your pillow in your new Envelope Style Pillow Cover.

Envelope Style Pillow DIY

 

Envelope Style Pillow DIY

 

Let me know in the comments if you liked this Envelope Style Pillow DIY tutorial!

 

Attempts DIY Lifestyle

DIY Rope Dog Toy Basket

DIY Rope Dog Toy Basket

I’ve seen concepts for DIY Rope Baskets a lot—on Pinterest and various blogs—with people using laundry baskets (the standard, dollar store plastic ones with holes). These baskets are perfect for beside a sofa or living room setting to have blankets and other items of comfort on hand. I have my blankets stored elsewhere and what I really needed was something cute to store my dog’s toys in. So I came up with an idea to do a DIY Rope Dog Toy Basket.

I had a leftover IKEA wastebasket—sans holes— so I thought I’d give my version a try. My wastebasket is much smaller than a laundry basket.  I had a lot of extra sisal rope from Home Depot, in two different sizes that had been sitting outside in the rain for almost a year (eek, I know). So I finally freed it from its wet prison and draped it over my porch railing to air dry a bit. Once it was mostly dry, I threw it into the dryer for 30 minutes to finish the job. My original vision was to use the thicker kind of sisal on the bottom and try to taper up into the thinner twine. Sounded easy enough!

In the end, for my DIY Rope Dog Toy Basket I chose to begin with the thicker sisal, braid in the thinner sisal halfway up for three rows, and end with just the small sisal. I’m super happy with the result, and so is Tallulah (she’s the cute one in black).

DIY Rope Dog Toy Basket

Step One: Collect Your Supplies
  • 10 ft. of natural sisal rope
  • Wastebasket
  • Cloth/ textile of your choice
  • Hot glue gun & Glue
  • Scissors

DIY Rope Dog Toy Basket

Step Two: Cut your fabric

For this step, lay the fabric inside the wastebasket so that it is touching the bottom and all the sides. This way, if something heavy is put in, the weight won’t tear the fabric or make the hot-glue come undone.

DIY Rope Dog Toy Basket

 

Step Three: Cut off the fabric that’s overlapping the lip of the wastebasket on the outside.

Give yourself about an inch to overlap. Once you’ve cut around the outside, you can begin to hot glue the fabric so it overlaps the lip of the wastebasket by about 1″. I wasn’t bunching my fabric enough when I started gluing, so I ended up with a bunch of fabric spilling out when I reached the end. However, I liked the effect and decided to keep it! The best part about DIY is that sometimes your mistakes can inspire you 🙂

DIY Rope Dog Toy Basket

Step Four: Begin gluing the sisal rope, starting at the base.

Once you’ve secured the fabric to the outside lip of the wastebasket, you can start to glue your sisal on. I used all the glue pictured (about 12-13 sticks), so have a lot on hand if you need it. Apply the glue directly to the basket and pressed the sisal into it for ten seconds to dry. Glue about 5″ at a time.

DIY Rope Dog Toy Basket

Step Five: Continue

Now you’ll basically continue gluing and wrapping the sisal all the way around until you’re finished. If you want to do a braided effect start it once you reach the second tier/ halfway point. Begin to twist in the thinner sisal. Do this for a few rows. Then, cut the thick sisal rope and continue in a straight line all the way around with the more lightweight sisal. This is the end result and I’m super happy with it. If you’re good at needlepoint or embroidery the excess cloth would be great to add a monogrammed initial or a little heart.

DIY Rope Dog Toy Basket

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed this tutorial for a DIY Rope Dog Toy Basket! Let me know in the comments how it turned out and tag me on Instagram in your creations! I’d love to see <3

Lifestyle Recipe

Banana Mango Breakfast Bowl

banana mango breakfast bowl

My husband is the coolest, most supportive person I know. Furthermore, he happens to be a fiend for tropical flavors. I decided to treat him today by making him a surprise Banana Mango Breakfast Bowl! What better person to appreciate my exceedingly impressive smoothie skills than him 😂 😂 ???

He woke up kind of grumpy and feeling under the weather and I have to say my delicious recipe totally turned his attitude around. How instead of moping around all day we’re going to take a hike to explore a nearby ghost town!

I’ll be bringing my copy of Drawing Down the Moon, by Margot Adler.

I love reading about paganism and how people around the world practice different traditions. Hopefully, my husband stays sated by the Banana Mango Breakfast Bowl so I can enjoy my book in peace!

 

Banana Mango Breakfast Bowl

Print Recipe
Serves: 1 Cooking Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 1/4 cup vanilla greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tbsp. sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • Garnish:
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp. sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 strawberries, sliced horizontally

Instructions

1

Blend ingredients

2

Plate beautifully

3

Garnish

4

Serve to significant other

5

Redeem praise and love