Recognizing Joy in the Small Moments

Would you believe that a journal and a phone app have helped bring so much joy to my life?  It's the small things that make the biggest difference.

My day to day life is pretty ordinary and often consists of fixing food, cleaning up the house, running errands, playing with my kids and other household tasks.  At a glance, it doesn’t feel very glamorous and there are days when I can’t wait for my husband to get home from work so I can turn the kids over to him while I escape to the bathroom by myself or go for a short walk around the block.  A break from everything I have to manage and be responsible for.  Does anyone else hear themselves in my words?

Even though they lack a lot of excitement, most days are good.  The laundry, the dishes, the chauffeuring kids back and forth to school and other activities, homework, chores, fixing meals, buying the second pair of shoes in as many months because kids grow so fast.

But if I stop and take a look at the moments in between, what do I see?  My kids pretending to be a baby animal, laughter at made up knock-knock jokes, my daughter getting me a yogurt out of the fridge for breakfast before getting her own bowl out for cereal, a hug from my son for no reason other than he just wanted to.

I think there is a difference between the real life that is essential to every day living and the real life that is in the small moments in between.  The ones that we just might miss if we’re not looking for them.

I will be the first to admit that I lean more towards being a realist.  But I don’t think being a realist excludes me from being optimistic about what’s around me and seeing the good in people and situations.  Over the last few months, I’ve implemented two small practices into my daily life that help me recognize the small moments: a joy journal and a phone app.

Would you believe that a journal and a phone app have helped bring so much joy to my life?  It's the small things that make the biggest difference.

A little over a month ago, I started a joy journal with the sole purpose being to write down at least three things every day that brought me joy.  It might be something to do with my kids, my husband, something I saw that made me laugh, a personal success and so on.  One of the benefits of this journal in my life is being able to take a step back and see what’s happening in the in between moments of life.  I have started looking for things to write down in my joy journal each night that my kids or husband do or say.  I look for the positive aspect of a negative situation and focus on that.  I work to create joy in my life, my family’s lives and those I associate with, rather than just expecting it to be there.  Overall, I am becoming a happier person.

Would you believe that a journal and a phone app have helped bring so much joy to my life?  It's the small things that make the biggest difference.

In February of this year, I saw a post on a friend’s Facebook where she had compiled a short video of one second clips of each day of her life for the previous month.  Many of them were similar, some were out of the ordinary, but all of them together brought a smile to my face.  Right then, I downloaded the app she used to create her video called 1 Second Everyday. (It’s free!  Download from the Google Play Store or iTunes.)  Since I have my phone with me most of the time, all I have to do is pull it out and take a video.  Then I open the app, select the day and choose which part of the clip I want to represent that day.  And at the end of the month, I had a short video of clips from my family’s lives.  (If you’re interested, you can watch a TED Talk from the creator of this app on why he created it.) 

Having these two things–a joy journal and the 1 Second Everyday app–have become wonderful tools for me because they capture the little moments of joy in every day life and reminds me that my life, ordinary as it may seem, is pretty darn good.

How do you find joy in the small moments of your life?  Do you write them down?  Take a picture or video?  I’d love to hear what benefits you’ve experienced from focusing on joy.

7 Creative Father’s Day Gift Ideas

If you're tired of giving the same old gifts for Father's Day, click through to find 7 creative ideas he's sure to love.

Father’s Day is coming up in a few weeks and I’ve had gift ideas on the brain.  While giving my dad or husband a new shirt or tools is nice and useful, sometimes I like to try and be a little more creative and unique.  So I’ve done some thinking and asking and have put together a list of eight gifts you might not have considered or even known about until this post.  I hope they give you some ideas or at least a jumping off point for a gift for the guys in your life.

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

Shipped Sentiments
I was on Instagram a few weeks ago when an account called Shipped Sentiments liked one of my pictures.  I was curious what they were all about so I clicked on over and found the cutest thing!  Shipped Sentiments is all about curating a themed box of fun items and then shipping it out.  They have over 15 options ranging from a Just For Him box to a Sympathy box to a Sunshine Happy Day box (with all items being yellow).  They sent me a Just For Him box and I know my husband will love it when he gets it on Father’s Day.  You can also request a custom box!  See more about what’s included and pricing for each box by clicking HERE.

Price range: $20-$35

If you're tired of giving the same old gifts for Father's Day, click through to find 7 creative ideas he's sure to love.

Sketch of Life (custom drawings)
Becca  has the cutest little online shop called Sketch of Life, which is, you guessed it: sketches.  All her sketches are custom and come in sizes ranging from 5×7 to 11×14.  This would be a great gift to give the dad/husband/grandpa in your life because you can choose everything about it and Becca will make it come to life.  You can choose one large sketch, caricatures or doodles and could include funny memories, quotes from kids/grandkids or anything else that would make it special.  You can find more information on sizes and pricing by clicking HERE.

Price range: $20-$125 (discounts available for extra hand drawn copies)

If you're tired of giving the same old gifts for Father's Day, click through to find 7 creative ideas he's sure to love.

Audio Book Subscription
The average person spends 26 minutes commuting to work each day.  Double that and you have 52 minutes of commuting time each day.  If you travel around for your job, that time increases.  When my husband started a new job that was a minimum 30 minute commute each way, I suggested he listen to audio books as a way to pass the time.  He isn’t a fast reader but by listening to books, he was making it through about one book every week or two.  My dad is a self-employed electrician so he is always traveling to different places all around the valley, and sometimes out of state, to work.  You can bet he listens to audio books.

Check out each of the following audio book subscriptions to see if one would appeal to your guy:

Audible – Free 30 day trial available, then monthly subscription
Deseret Bookshelf Plus – Free 30 day trial available, then monthly or yearly subscription

Price range: $5-$99 (dependent on type of subscription)

Personalized Metal Wallet Insert (with custom saying)
A couple of years ago for Christmas, I stumbled on this darling Etsy shop called O Jolie Designs.  One of their listings was for a metal wallet insert, which is the shape and size of a credit card so it fits in a wallet, but is completely personalized.  I bought one for my husband and put a little note on it from our kids.  He keeps it in his wallet now but will often leave it with the kids when he has to go out of town as a reminder that he loves and misses him.  This would be such a cute gift to give to your husband/dad/grandpa and the customization makes it perfect.  You can find out more about it by clicking HERE.

Price range: $15-$24

If you're tired of giving the same old gifts for Father's Day, click through to find 7 creative ideas he's sure to love.

Guys Night Out
When was the last time your guy had a night out with his friends?  If it’s been a while, consider helping him put together a guys night out (or in).  Time spent with their friends can help improve their mood and relieve stress.  You could suggest they watch a sporting event at your place or encourage them to get tickets to a local game, concert or other group activity.

Price range: Varies (depends on activity)
 
Grill Masters Club 
Does your guy like grilling?  Trying out new rubs and sauces?  Then the Grill Masters Club subscription box would be a great gift!  Each month they send out a new box with rubs, sauces, tips, tricks and recipes for grilling.  Make grilling more fun with a cool new guy’s subscription box he can receive for 1, 3, 6 or 12 months.  You can find out more about it by clicking HERE.

Price range: $27.95-$32.95 per month (depends on subscription length)

If you're tired of giving the same old gifts for Father's Day, click through to find 7 creative ideas he's sure to love.


Car Wash Kit, Car Wash Gift Card or Detailing
A couple of years ago, my mom gave my husband a gift card with a handful of car washes on it.  My husband doesn’t usually have a lot of time to wash our cars so this was great because a car wash is way faster than doing it himself, plus they have vacuums there.  Another option would be to put together a car wash kit with microfiber cloths, dash wipes and leather conditioner in a bucket.  Or maybe they have a nice car that could use a good, thorough cleaning and detailing.  Look into what your local car wash locations have to offer and you can take it from there.

Price range: Varies

I hope this list gave you some new ideas!  For more great gift ideas, check out my gift guide for men.

What are you giving for Father’s Day?

A Letter To My College Self

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!

With the end of another school year, I keep seeing high school and college graduation pictures popping up all over my social media and can’t help but think about my own time in college.  I graduated in 2010 with a BS in Marriage and Family Studies after changing my major a few times.  It took me six years to graduate rather than four but then again, if it had only taken four, then I wouldn’t have met my husband.  Funny how things work out, huh?  So in remembrance of my college years (pre-marriage), I’m sharing with you a letter to my college self.

Hey Shani,

It’s me.  Well, future you.  How’s it going?  School’s kind of crazy right now huh?  Trust me, you will miss the studying and classes and walking to campus multiple times a day.  So anyway, I wanted to just pop by and reminisce and give you a few bits of advice.  You know, things I wish I’d known when I was actually going through college.  

Here goes: 

First off, you are totally going to regret not doing a study abroad program.  Sure, it’s kind of pricey and yeah, you might have to find a different job when you get back, but hello?  Getting to travel to a foreign country like France or Italy has kind of been on your bucket list since you took French in 7th grade.  Trust me, anything you might miss during the time you’re gone won’t seem like that big of a deal compared to what you’ll be able to do during your study abroad.  Your family will be fine and you’ll figure out the whole job thing when you get back.  You always find a way to make things work.

Secondly, you did the right thing by moving to a new apartment complex the fall of your junior year.  Although, if you had to do it again, it might have been a good idea to double check who your roommates were going to be or at least move in with one person you knew.  Remember the girl who used to cook fish heads and then leave them in the fridge half eaten and stunk up the apartment for three days?  Thank goodness she was only there for a semester!  But besides the roommate situation the first couple of semesters, things turned out really well.  You met some of your best friends, dated some great guys and got more comfortable with yourself as a person.  

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!

You probably already know this, but the major you chose is absolutely perfect for you.  While some of the challenges you faced growing up were rough, ultimately, they led you to this major and it will help other people along the way.  A few words of advice though: go to the labs for your Statistics class.  Seriously, you know math is not your strong suit and not going to the classes because the are “optional” doesn’t mean they are optional for you.  That D grade is going to bug you for years.  (Especially when you meet your future husband and he gets and A in it.  Lame.)

I want to congratulate you on working so hard to stay out of debt during college.  The fact that you didn’t have to ask anyone for a loan during school is commendable.  But for heaven’s sake girl, you really should have learned about pell grants sooner!  It would have given you a little more cushion some of those months when money was tight.  Thank goodness you had family nearby and could do laundry at home and have a decent meal on Sunday nights to save a little money.  And that beat up little car you had?  Cammie Rue?  She’s gonna be a good car so it’s a good thing you didn’t sell her and get an SUV and a car payment.  (Although the 4 wheel drive would have been nice in the winter…)

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!


Something else you should be proud of is all the work you put into your schoolwork and end of semester projects.  Those are the ones that you’ll remember and have a lot of satisfaction in.  Especially the one where you stayed up all night to finish and only got 3 hours of sleep and ended up with an A and a personal congratulations on a job well done from one of the hardest professors in the school of Communications.  Taking that class was a good way to rule out going into Public Relations, haha.  But getting a perfect score on a 10 essay exam in one of the classes for your major was pretty amazing too.  You definitely deserved to go out for ice cream that night.

Hmm…what else… Oh!  Your friends!  They are the best, aren’t they?  Try your best to keep up with them even though they’re going to move far away at times.  Social media is great and all but don’t forget to give them a call every once in a while too.  And rooming with you sister in college is a whole heck of a lot easier than it was growing up.  You keep each other real and in check and call each other out when you do dumb things or date dumb boys or break up with dumb boys.  She will be there and your friends will be there when you fail exams, have a bad day or need to borrow some sugar.  

California…Idaho…Arizona…bonfires up the canyon…eating raw cookie dough out of a shared container…playing Mario Cart and Guitar Hero…mingles…dances…football games…BBQs…double dates…study dates…midnight grocery store runs…random dance parties.  You’ll remember all of these things because they made you happy (and also because you spent $300 on a nice digital camera and took pictures of e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.)  

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!

And lastly, not to spoil the surprise, but you’ll meet your future husband in college.  The timing will be perfect and you’ll think it’s impossible that everything has fallen into place like it has.  You’ll plan a wedding, be a full time student, part time employee and balance it all with a smile on your face because, gosh darn it, that’s what you do and who you are.  You’re a hard worker, an optimist, a good and loyal friend, determined, persistent and a pretty good planner.  

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!

College is awesome and you will never, ever regret going.  It will shape who you are and impact your future in ways you never expected.

You got this girl.

Love,

Me

What do you wish you’d known in college?  What would you go back and tell yourself?

Summer 2017 Reading List

Check out this diverse list of books to reading during the summer (or any time of year)!

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I regularly post reviews of all types of books: children’s, young adult, biography, self-help and the list goes on.  I love reading and I always tend to read more books during the summertime.  Last year, I put together a summer reading list and I loved the challenge of reading new books and discovering new genres and subjects.  With summer coming up so soon, I decided to create a summer 2017 reading list.

The list might look long to some people, but I have a tendency to devour books and I am a fast reader to boot.  Some are part of a series and others are stand-alone novels.  So take a moment and scroll through the list, click on the title to check out a summary on Goodreads and join me this summer in reading.

Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard
Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luca #1) by Alan Bradley
Ruby Red (Edelstein-Trilogie #1) by Kerstin Gier
The Look of Love by Sarah Jio
Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
The Art of Racing In the Rain by Garth Stein
The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas
The Mirror King (The Orphan Queen #2) by Jodi Meadows
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall, Denver Moore and Lynn Vincent
The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service by Beth Kendrick

If there’s nothing on this list that interests you, you can also check out my reviews of the books I read last summer.  Some of the books on the list above are sequels or parts of a series I read last summer and haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

What books have you read from this list?  What’s on your summer reading list?

$10 at Target: Gearing Up For Summer

$10 at Target: Gearing Up for Summer  |  Join us for our monthly link up party on the third Monday of each month and see what we got for $10 at Target!

Hey friends!  Happy Monday!  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and enjoyed Mother’s Day.  Today, I’m super excited to share a new series I am co-hosting called $10 at Target.  It is a monthly challenge where you have to try and spend…you guessed it: only $10 at Target.  Now, as we all know, Target is a wonderful lovely place where we go in for one thing and come out with 20 things way more items than we planned. *wink*  So spending $10 or less can be a real challenge!  Are you ready?

I visited Target a couple of weeks ago with this challenge in mind.  Of course, the first place I stopped was the Dollar Spot.  My thought was to pick up some things for summer since it’s finally starting to warm up here (although it’s supposed to rain this week…).  The way that I usually shop is to pick up things that I’m interested in and then look at what I have and see what I’m most interested in and then narrow it down.  Does anyone else do this?

I finally settled on these items: a baseball hat with a darling floral pattern on it for my daughter, three chalk paint squirt bottles, a package of cute, pink paper straws and a couple of glass jars with lids and plastic straws.  The total on my receipt was $10.69 with tax.  (The items I didn’t get: another package of teal paper straws, a lightweight spring scarf and hair tie bracelets.)

$10 at Target: Gearing Up for Summer  |  Join us for our monthly link up party on the third Monday of each month and see what we got for $10 at Target!

My daughter wanted to pull out the hat and wear it as soon as we got into the car and she’s worn it a few times since then.  It’s so dang cute on her!

$10 at Target: Gearing Up for Summer  |  Join us for our monthly link up party on the third Monday of each month and see what we got for $10 at Target!

As for the chalk paint squirt bottles, we’ve been saving those for a nice hot day when I can let the kids play and then let them run through the sprinklers in the backyard.  These would also be fun to do an art project using some inexpensive canvas and letting the kids squirt the chalk paint onto it.

$10 at Target: Gearing Up for Summer  |  Join us for our monthly link up party on the third Monday of each month and see what we got for $10 at Target!

The glass jars and paper straws were just really fun.  I am thinking I’ll probably use them for summer drinks and they will make for some great photo props, so keep an eye out in the next couple of months! *wink*

$10 at Target: Gearing Up for Summer  |  Join us for our monthly link up party on the third Monday of each month and see what we got for $10 at Target!

Like I mentioned above, I am a co-host for the $10 at Target challenge and link up party.  If you’d like to join us, we post the third Monday of each month.  I’d love to see what you find at Target!  You can also check out what each of the other hosts bought with their $10!

$10 at Target  |  Join us for our monthly link up party on the third Monday of each month and see what we got for $10 at Target!
Stephanie  |  Wife Mommy Me
Becky  |  by BMG
Ashley  |  Ashley Newell
Johannah  |  The Sirois Family
Stephanie  |  The Gifty Girl
Danielle  |  Sparkles and Lattes
Jess  |  Secrets of a SAHM

https://static.inlinkz.com/cs2.js

Best Snacks to Pack for Disney Parks

Disney parks allow you to bring outside food and drink in, but what should you take?  Click here for the ultimate list of snacks to pack for your next Disney trip.

School’s getting out soon and that means vacations for a lot of families.  Time to get away from the stresses of life and spend time together creating memories.  Of course, some of the most popular places to vacation are theme parks, such as Disneyland and Disney World.  Everyone wants to know the cheapest place to buy tickets, the best place to stay, which rides to go on first, and the list goes on.  About a year and a half ago, my family went to Disneyland for the first time and it was so fun!  I learned a lot about planning and what I wish I’d known before going and the next time we go, I will be even more prepared!  However, one question that I see asked all the time in groups and on Facebook is “what food can I bring into the park?”

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on it and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

Disney’s Outside Food and Drink Policy

Taken directly from Disney’s website concerning outside food and drink:

“Guests are allowed to bring food items—such as snacks or foods that do not require heating—into Disney theme parks. Inform a Security Cast Member of any food items when you enter the park.”

That’s pretty broad if you ask me!

What This Means For You

As a visitor of the park, you are welcome to bring any food or drink (except alcohol) into the parks that doesn’t have to be heated up.  This gives you a huge variety of options!  When my family went, we knew we wanted to save money by only eating one meal inside the park each day.  That meant we ate breakfast at the hotel and packed ourselves a lunch to take with us into the park, along with snacks and drinks, which we replenished when we went back to our hotel mid-day.  Now, this could be a little overwhelming depending on the number of days you’ll be at the park and how big your family is.  But my goal is to provide you with some options of what to take into the park and how to pack them and then you can pick and choose what will work best for your family.

Disney parks allow you to bring outside food and drink in, but what should you take?  Click here for the ultimate list of snacks to pack for your next Disney trip.

Pack It Up

Cooler: Before we left home to drive to California from Utah, we picked up a small cooler from the store.  (We bought this one.)  When choosing it, we looked for one that had a hard plastic insert, zipper/mesh pockets on the outside and big enough to hold an ice pack.  It also had to fit in our stroller since we didn’t want to carry it around on our shoulder all day, nor did we want to have to put it in a locker.  (Check HERE for size restrictions.)

Plastic Containers: This was a suggestion I saw on Facebook and I thought it was genius!  If you are going to be bringing any snacks that are easily smashed or need to be divided up into smaller portions, you can grab some small plastic containers with lids to put them in.  We have some from Rubbermaid (like this) that would work perfectly and you could easily refill them.

Bags: Sandwich or snack sized bags that zip at the top are a handy way to divide up portions for those things that don’t need to go in a plastic container.  I’d recommend just bringing a box with you that you can fill up with snacks at your hotel or the larger cooler in your car.  We try to save and reuse these as much as possible.

*Tip: Pack your snacks the night before you go to the park, if possible.  This will save you a lot of time in the morning when you’re trying to get out the door!

What Should I Bring?

I’ve divided this next section into categories to make it easier for you to choose what your family likes to eat.  Try to choose a variety of options so you’re not eating the same snacks all day long.

Fruits/Veggies

  • Grapes (frozen)
  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery sticks
  • Peppers (cut)
  • Broccoli (cut)
  • Cauliflower (cut)
  • Cucumbers (mini, sliced or spears)
  • Cuties
  • Plums
  • Blueberries
  • Apple slices 
  • Applesauce 
  • Ranch/PB/Hummus in individual portions or small plastic containers
Disney parks allow you to bring outside food and drink in, but what should you take?  Click here for the ultimate list of snacks to pack for your next Disney trip.

Crackers/Cookies

  • Crackers (w/hummus)
  • Pretzels (w/PB)
  • Graham crackers
  • Goldfish
  • Cheez Its 
  • Snack size cookies (individually packaged)

Dried

  • Granola bar (ones that don’t have chocolate because they will melt and make a mess)
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Craisins/raisins
  • Jerky
  • Fruit rope/Fruit leather
  • Trail mix
  • Fruit snacks 
  • PB Bites 

    Disney parks allow you to bring outside food and drink in, but what should you take?  Click here for the ultimate list of snacks to pack for your next Disney trip.

    Dairy

    • Frozen Gogurt
    • String cheese or Babybel cheese
    • Hard boiled eggs

    Lunch

    • PB and J sandwich
    • Frozen Uncrustables (will be thawed by the time you’re ready to eat them)
    • Bagel w/cream cheese
    • Lunch meat 
    • Tortilla wrap with lunch meat and cream cheese

    Drinks

    • Powerade/Vitamin Water
    • Juice Box
    • Water bottles
    • Crystal Light flavor packets or liquid flavoring, such as Mio

    *Note: You can ask for cups of ice water at any location that has a drink station and just fill up your empty water bottles from that!  Also, having flavored water really helps you drink more and tastes better even if it’s warm.

    Disney parks allow you to bring outside food and drink in, but what should you take?  Click here for the ultimate list of snacks to pack for your next Disney trip.

    Other

    • Plastic spoons, forks, or knives
    • Napkins or wet wipes 
    • Gum
    • Mints

    I hope you got some ideas about what to pack for your next (or first!) trip to one of Disney’s theme parks!

    What do you think of this list?  What else should I add to it?  I’d love to get your suggestions and continue updating it to create an ultimate snack ideas resource!

    Mother’s Day Dinner Menu 2017

    I've made planning your next Mother's Day dinner easy with this menu of tried and true recipes that you can adapt to feed any size crowd.

    Ever since my husband and I got married, we spend at least half of our Sunday evening meals each month at a family member’s home.  The family hosting plans the meal and then asks those who are coming to pitch in and bring something to share.  It’s been a great way to both save on the cost of food and enjoy time with family.  With Mother’s Day coming up, I know many people, including my family, are going to be getting together to celebrate mothers, wives, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and other special women in their life.  This year, my husband and I will be hosting Mother’s Day dinner at our house, which means we get to plan the meal. 

    My husband’s family is fairly large and there are over 20 people to feed when everyone gets together.  This can get a little overwhelming, but I’ve gotten fairly good at planning food for so many people in the 9 years my husband and I have been married.  Whether you have a large family or are on the smaller side, I have a Mother’s Day menu that can be adapted to serve any size.  All recipes come from my blog and in the case of dessert, I’m sharing a few options to choose from depending on taste preferences.  Or you can make all of them.  Hey, it’s for Mother’s Day! *wink*

    Main Dish

    I've made planning your next Mother's Day dinner easy with this menu of tried and true recipes that you can adapt to feed any size crowd.

    Sides
    Green Salad
    Carrots and Potatoes (cooked in crock pot with roast) 
    I've made planning your next Mother's Day dinner easy with this menu of tried and true recipes that you can adapt to feed any size crowd.

    I've made planning your next Mother's Day dinner easy with this menu of tried and true recipes that you can adapt to feed any size crowd.

    Dessert
    I've made planning your next Mother's Day dinner easy with this menu of tried and true recipes that you can adapt to feed any size crowd.
    I've made planning your next Mother's Day dinner easy with this menu of tried and true recipes that you can adapt to feed any size crowd.
    I've made planning your next Mother's Day dinner easy with this menu of tried and true recipes that you can adapt to feed any size crowd.
    What are your plans for Mother’s Day this year?  Do you have the same meal each year or does it change?

    One Pot Taco Pasta

    Quick, easy and delicious!  This one pot taco pasta only takes 30 minutes to make and your family will love it!

    One day I was browsing through my saved recipes on Pinterest and found one that looked promising.  It was a one pot dish that only took 30 minutes to make.  If you’ve been following me for long, you know that those two things are like magic words.  I love cooking, but don’t usually have a lot of time to devote to it so the majority of meals I make take about 30 minutes or less to prep and then leave all day in the crock pot or take 30 minutes from prep to table.  This new one pot taco pasta I’m sharing today will have you jumping for joy because it’s quick, easy and delicious.  Plus it uses basic ingredients that I always have on hand.

    So before we get started, I have to point out that I can’t take 100% credit for the birth of this dish.  I found a recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and then just made it my own.  It’s different enough that I feel comfortable saying that it’s simply been adapted from her recipe.  Let’s get started!

    Here’s what you need:

    Quick, easy and delicious!  This one pot taco pasta only takes 30 minutes to make and your family will love it!

    It might look like a lot of ingredients, but like I mentioned above, this is a one pot dish so it’s not complicated at all.

    First, grab a large pot.  Brown your ground beef or turkey, drain and then put it onto a towel lined plate or bowl to soak up any additional grease.

    Quick, easy and delicious!  This one pot taco pasta only takes 30 minutes to make and your family will love it!

    Next, add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, chili powder, oregano, pasta, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar to your pot.  Simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring often to make sure pasta doesn’t stick, until pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

    Quick, easy and delicious!  This one pot taco pasta only takes 30 minutes to make and your family will love it!

    Turn off the heat and add the ground beef, salt, pepper, onion salt and garlic powder.  Stir together to incorporate all the ingredients.

    Top with shredded cheese and cover for 1-2 minutes to let the cheese melt.  The sauce will thicken as it stands.  Serve warm.

    Quick, easy and delicious!  This one pot taco pasta only takes 30 minutes to make and your family will love it!

    I’m not even kidding when I say that my family LOVES this meal.  It’s one of those meals that pleases everyone and I don’t have to fight the kids to eat it all.  In fact, they usually ask for seconds!  If we happen to have leftovers, this dish reheats really well and we just have it for lunch the next day.  It’s been perfect for when we have company over because one batch of this taco pasta will serve 4 adults and 2 kids if we pair it with salad and rolls.  I hope you and your family love it!

    Quick, easy and delicious!  This one pot taco pasta only takes 30 minutes to make and your family will love it!

    One Pot Taco Pasta
    (adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)
    serves 4-6

    Ingredients:

    • 1 pound ground turkey or beef
    • 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
    • 8-ounce can tomato sauce
    • 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 2 1/2 cups bowtie pasta
    • 2 1/2 cup chicken broth
    • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 teaspoon brown sugar 
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese 

     Directions:

    1. Using a large pot, brown the ground beef.  Drain the fat and pour beef into a paper towel lined bowl to soak up any additional grease.  Set aside.
    2. In the same pot, combine the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, chili powder, oregano, pasta, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar.  Simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring often to make sure pasta doesn’t stick, until pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
    3. Turn off the heat and stir in the ground beef, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.
    4. Top with shredded cheese and cover for 1-2 minutes to let the cheese melt.  The sauce will thicken as it stands.
    5. Serve warm.
    6. Store leftovers in a covered container for up to a week. 

    Quick, easy and delicious!  This one pot taco pasta only takes 30 minutes to make and your family will love it!

        9 Lessons Learned In 9 Years of Marriage

        9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

        9.5 years ago: It was a Monday morning and I was heading into work at my on campus job when I made a quick detour into the bathroom to put on some mascara.  Another girl from a different department was in there doing the same thing and we chatted briefly before she asked me a question that would literally change my life, “Do you ever go on blind dates?”  I was a little taken aback since we’d only been talking for about two minutes, but answered with a “yes” before she explained that she wanted to set me up with her younger brother.  Three days later he called (after much pestering from his sister) and we set up a date for that weekend.  To make a long story short: our first date was a huge success, we started dating exclusively a week later, got engaged two months later and married four months after that.  Today, we are celebrating our nine year wedding anniversary (yay!) and I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned during our time together.  (Plus you get to see cute pictures of me and my hubby. *wink*)
         
        You and your spouse are going to change  Maybe this should go without saying because it seems obvious, but the truth is, people are going to change over time.  I am not the same person I was on the day I got married and neither is my husband.  We’ve grown as individuals, as parents and as a couple.  If you go into marriage expecting that everything will stay the same, no matter what, I think you will be disappointed.  These changes are natural and to be expected because life happens and life doesn’t stand still. 

        9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

        Sometimes you go to bed angry  A few months back, I shared the worst marriage advice I ever received (and what we do instead).  It was from a well-meaning, older relative who said, “Never go to bed angry.”  I didn’t take her advice.  I’ve found that there are some conversations that happen late at night when neither of us are fully able to discuss things rationally and one or both of us go to bed with the problem unresolved.  My husband and I can both be very passionate about expressing our point of view and sometimes it’s just better to stop talking and go to sleep.

        Seeing your spouse become a parent is beautiful  We tried for a year and a half to get pregnant with our first child and then waited another nine months until she arrived.  I felt like a mother from the moment that I found out I was pregnant, but my husband didn’t feel like a dad until she was born.  Because I had a c-section, he was actually the first one to hold her and he went with the nurses while she was cleaned and weighed.  Seeing the anxious concern on his face during the surgery and then the joy and excitement once she was born was priceless and beautiful.  When we had our second baby, a boy, he was so excited for his little buddy to finally be here.  I loved watching him with our kids moments after they were born and seeing him become a parent each time.

        9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

        9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

        Date nights aren’t just going to happen  When my husband and I were dating, we went out on dates all the time.  Over the years, going on dates has slowly become something that takes a little more effort and planning.  Unless we actually make the time for them, they don’t happen, especially not with two little kids at home.  If I notice that my husband and I seem to be getting on each others nerves or more grumpy, it is usually tied to not getting enough time together away from the kids to connect.  We are still working on going out consistently.

        Working together to solve a problem  The more time you spend with a person, the better you get to know them.  You know how they think and what makes them tick.  You learn how each others strengths and weaknesses compliment the other person.  My husband and I are much more efficient at identifying and solving problems than we were when we first got married.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a parenting problem, family problem, work problem, relationship problem or putting together IKEA furniture. (amiright?)  I’ve learned that my husband is good at looking at a situation from a larger scale and identifying problem areas and coming up with solutions.  I am good at planning things out, keeping us on track and identifying potential issues along the way.

        9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

        You keep learning new things about each other  I remember sitting with my husband one day eating some cookies and he said, “I like these, but oatmeal raisin are my favorite.”  Um, what?  I didn’t actually believe him.  We texted his sister (the same one who set us up) and asked her to tell us what my husband’s favorite cookie way.  Her reply: “Oatmeal raisin.”  How did I not know this?! (Clearly I never made cookies for my husband while we were dating…)  I think sometimes I feel like because my husband and I know each other so well that we forget there are a lot of things we don’t know about each other or have never done together.  Just last summer, we went water skiing for the first time together.  I’m actually a decent water skiier, but he didn’t believe me until I popped out of the water no problem.  Doing new or different things with your spouse, like on date nights, is so important because it gives you the opportunity to know them better and love them all over again.

        Build dreams, make goals, achieve together  One of the best things my husband and I have done for our relationship is to make goals.  It’s given us something to work on together.  We believe that if we are moving forward in the same direction that we’ll have less conflict and more success in life.  Whether it’s reevaluating a budget, planning to go to Italy (one day!) or redoing our yard, we are better together.

        9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

        Don’t stop doing the little things  Along with dating, doing the small things in a marriage really make such a big difference.  Because so much of our day and week is repetitive, it can be easy to fall into a routine with each other.  When my husband and I take time to connect each day, it rejuvenates us and we feel more whole.  When I hear my husband praise me in front of someone, it makes me feel happy and appreciated.  When I sincerely thank him for taking out the garbage so I don’t have to, he feels loved.  I think a big key to this is discovering your spouse’s love language.  It’s those little things that they do in your love language that lift you up.

        Love them more than the day you married  On the day of our wedding, I truly think my husband and I felt like we couldn’t love each other more than we did that day.  But we were wrong.  Our love grew as we put each other through school, struggled to make ends meet, got new jobs, built a house, had kids and so many other moments.  Each year on our anniversary, we look at each other and know we are still in love and that love is deeper than we could have imagined on that sunny spring day in May nine years ago.  It seems impossible and yet, here we are.

        9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

        How long have you been married?  What lessons have you learned?

        April In Numbers

        April in Review (by the numbers)

        Happy May!  May has always been one of my favorite months because the weather finally (hopefully) starts becoming a little more consistent and a little warmer, which makes me a much happier person.  It’s also the month my husband and I got married, so I’m a little biased. *wink*  But before we can get into May, I want to share my April month in numbers with you.

        If you read my March in numbers post last month, I did a special Orlando Edition talking about all the things that happened on our trip to Orlando and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  It’s a pretty fun post, so go check it out if you want a quick recap of my trip using only numbers.  That being said, April was not nearly as much fun.  Why?  Two words: potty training.  But rest assured, not all my numbers have to do with the potty. *wink*

        3 – Packs of underwear bought.  A couple of weeks before we left for Orlando, my son started showing signs of being ready to be potty trained.  We’d gone through this already with my daughter a couple of years ago and I was both terrified and ready to begin the process.  I took him to the store and let him pick out a couple of packs of underwear (Paw Patrol and Disney Pixar).  We ended up buying him another pair about three weeks later due to accidents.

        April in Review (by the numbers)

        6 – Underwear not salvageable.  I’m not going to go into this one in too much detail.  If you’ve potty trained your kids, you know it’s a messy job and you’re going to end up throwing away some of the underwear because it’s just not worth it.

        8 – Loads of just underwear washed.  No, I didn’t actually count the number of underwear only loads, but there were enough that it’s worth mentioning.  Or maybe not.  But I am anyway.  The first few days, we went through the entire two packs of underwear, which I expected, and the number of loads slowly dwindled from there.  We’ve had more and more days with no accidents and I am singing Hallelujah!

        April in Review (by the numbers)

        63 – Bribes made.  Okay, I didn’t really count this one either.  And if I think long enough about it, there were probably more bribes made than I’m counting.  We started out with a sticker chart and some prizes he could earn along the way, but he quickly filled out the first chart and so I made another one.  After so many stickers, he wasn’t as excited about them so we moved on to candy bribes: “If you go pee, you get one M&M.  If you go poop, you get two.”  We did run into an issue where he was having more accidents that successes so the bribe changed to screen time on Daddy’s phone playing one of the games he has on there.  That one worked pretty well and he still brings it up if he happens to have an accident: “I had an accident, so no playing on Daddy’s phone.”  Haha.

        2 – Picnics in the backyard.  The weather has been all over the place lately.  Just last week, we had SNOW.  Mother Nature needs to get herself together!  But before the weather went all crazy, the kids and I were able to have a couple of backyard picnics.  They love eating their meals outside, even if they don’t stay seated to eat their food most of the time and more ends up on the grass than  in their mouth. *wink*

        April in Review (by the numbers)

        April in Review (by the numbers)

        12 – Rainy days.  Like I mentioned above, we had snow last week, plus it rained and was windy almost every other day.  My kids and I were getting used to spending the late morning and afternoon outside so the bad weather put a damper on all of our spirits.  One good thing about the rain though (besides helping with the drought) is that our grass is a beautiful emerald green color and my garden is growing like crazy!

        2 – Books read.  Earlier this month, I shared 3 books I read in 3 weeks, but all of those were actually in March.  I was only able to make it through two books in April: Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham and Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas.  (Watch for the review of Throne of Glass next week.)  They are both totally different books but I really enjoyed each of them.  I’ve decided that Lauren Graham would be a pretty cool person to meet.  She seems so down to earth and likeable.

        845 – Easter eggs stuffed.  Okay, this isn’t a real number either, but when you are stuffing Easter eggs, it sure seems like a lot more than it is!  When I was pulling out my Easter decor, the kids noticed the plastic eggs.  They took them and started doing their own Easter egg hunts and hiding them around the house for each other to find multiple times a week leading up to Easter and even for a while afterwards.  They were still just as excited to do the real thing when Easter came though and it was so funny watching them.

        April in Review (by the numbers)

        1- Girls Night Out.  The parents of a girl in my neighborhood live in a beautiful house up the canyon about 30 minutes from where I live.  They were out of town for the weekend, so she asked them if a group of us could come up and have a girls night.  There were about 30 of us girls up there, eating soup, salad and rolls, stuffing our faces with popcorn, candy and brownies and laughing hysterically during the games.  About ten of us spent the night and let me tell you, it was amazing to get a full night’s rest, knowing nothing was around to wake me up.  (Except maybe the giggling girls in the room next to mine.)  Another perk: no cell phone reception!  There was absolutely nothing that was going to interrupt us and it was so great to take time away and visit with friends and recharge.

        2 – New recipes tried.  Last month, I pulled out all of the cookbooks I’ve received over the years and sorted through them.  Most of them were neighborhood cookbooks given as gifts.  I’d tried to go through them all and mark recipes I was interested in, but there were so many cookbooks and recipes to choose from that I never even opened them up.  So I decided to spend part of an afternoon looking through each one, marking ones that looked good, taking pictures of them on my phone and then throwing the cookbooks away.  It was so liberating, haha!  I found a chicken and mushroom quiche that was amazing and some brown sugar muffins that were yummy as well!  My family gobbled both of them up so you better believe I’ll be sharing them on the blog.

        1 – Dance pictures taken.  My daughter is in her second year of dance (she takes jazz/ballet).  She loves dancing and getting up on stage so it’s perfect for her.  One of my favorite things about little girls and dance is seeing them all dressed up in their costumes.  Too cute!  We’ll be getting the pictures back at her recital later this month, but I manged to snap a few behind the photographer and I can’t wait to get the professional ones.

        April in Review (by the numbers)

        4 – Happy mail received.  I’ve been participating in the Momma Love Fellowship hosted by Little Dove.  My partner is Patricia from Life of a Minister Mom.  She and I have been sending snail mail aka happy mail to each other for a couple of months and getting to know each other better.  It’s been so fun to actually receive something other than bills in the mail!  I’ve also gotten a couple of packages which is always fun. (p.s. Be sure to follow me on Instagram and watch for a post this Wednesday for a giveaway that has to do with the packages I received!)

        You can check out my other month in numbers posts below:

        February Month In Numbers
        March Month In Number: Orlando Edition 

        Also, I’m linking up with Deena from Shoes to Shiraz who hosts the month in numbers link party.  You can go see who else is linking up and see what their April in numbers looks like.

        And that’s a wrap!  I’m looking forward to what May has to offer!