Sunday, December 14, 2014

Orgainzing Your Planner Stickers

I saw this idea initially on Instagram from someone in the planner community for Erin Condren lovers like myself. I couldn't resist jumping on the bandwagon as my current system of storing planner stickers is to pile them up in a tupperware container. SO not conducive to finding something quickly. I searched high and low online trying to find something that I liked (as I am super lazy and hate shopping/running errands), but had no success. I then ventured out to my local Target and OfficeMax as Staples wasn't an option in my neck of the woods. I have outlined below the products I used, along with where I found them. 

What You Will Need:
Avery 7x9 1" 3-ring binder
Avery 5 1/2x8 1/2 inch Sheet Protectors
Avery 5 1/2x8 1/2 inch business card holders

How to Organize:
1. Separate stickers by vendor. To me, I generally think "Oh I wish I could find these from this shop." So organizing by etsy seller was easiest for me. However, you may choose to organize your stickers by category, what you use them for, etc..
Some labelled & filled page protectors
2. I labeled each page protector with one of my favorite stores. I made sure to write them on the outside portion and made sure to stagger them so I could see the labels a bit easier. Once labelled, I dropped the respective stickers into their protector and popped it into my notebook!
Some Lillie Henry stickers in their page protector.
3. Once my page protectors were filled with the larger sheets of stickers, I moved on to filling the business card holders. I used these for stickers bought in-store (i.e., Target, Michaels, etc.), page flags from target, and some washi samples. If something was a little too long or tall, I trimmed the excess to help it fit a bits better.
My page flag-filled business card holder.
Some stickers and washi samples.
4. Once I had filled all of my business card holders, as well, I created a dash board for my sticky notes on the back part of the binder, using the binder itself. Some of my thicker sticky note pads didn't make "the cut," as they would have made the binder outrageously thick.
My dashboard in my sticker binder! Dreams do come true!
5. My completed project, chock full of planner goodies!!! 

The biggest key to making this work for you is to find and use a system that makes sense to you! Happy planning and organizing! :)

Want more of what you see?? Follow my on instagram: @mrshenleyplans

Sunday, November 9, 2014

7 Minutes to a Fresh Face!

We are all busy! Unfortunately, between getting hubby and kids out the door, we ladies often neglect ourselves. No more! Getting a simple, but fresh, clean make-up is super easy. It doesn't require a lot of time, either! It can be as simple or as fancy as you want! I have literally nailed my make-up routine down to 7 minutes (or less!). Want to know how?! You're in luck!

1. Foundation: I have 3 "favorites" that I rotate between. I have a slight system that determines which foundation I use. If I'm just throwing on make-up for work, I use E.L.F. High Definition Powder. I really like it because it keeps me from getting shiny during the day while running around the hospital or the office (and it provides a simple base for my make-up that doesn't make me look pale or too yellow!). If I'm going for a more finished look (like for date night or drinks with friends), I'll use MAC Studio Fix Pressed Powder Foundation. It makes my skin look amazing and it provides a flawless finish! If I'm going to a super fancy event where lots of pictures are going to be taken (i.e. a wedding), I use my Younique BB Cream. It really evens out skin tones so that you don't look splotchy with all the bright flashes from the camera!

2. Blush: I used to be a Clinique girl, but then I discovered Revlon Matte Powder blush at Target. Way cheaper, and it works just as well as Clinique blush. When I first started learning how to apply make-up, a consultant for Mark Kay told me that the best tool a girl can have in her make-up bag is her make-up brushes! I love the brushes by E.L.F.. They are fairly inexpensive, but work really well. I use the E.L.F Blush Brush to apply my blush.

3. Mascara: I also have 3 options depending on the look I am going for. Generally, I wear my Younique 3D Fiber Lash mascara. It makes my lashes look ridiculously long and full! It's almost as if I am wearing fake lashes, but they are mine! If I'm going to a pool party, I'm all about the waterproof mascara (just incase I get in the pool!). I love Rimmel London ScandalEyes (Waterproof version!). Sometimes, if I want a little extra thickness to my lashes as the base for my Younique Mascara, I apply some Urban Decay Perversion Mascara. Just a head's up - it's not waterproof!

4. Eyeshadow: I don't usually wear eyeshadow, but when I do, I wear Maybelline. I love these little sets. If you flip the case over, there's a diagram for how they recommend you apply the make-up to achieve a smokey eye. Sometimes I follow their diagram; sometimes I make up my own way of applying the eyeshadow. I use my E.L.F. angled brush to apply the darker colors as liner. Sometimes, I just apply the darkest color as liner and leave it at that!

5. Lips: I'm a chapstick girl. Even for fancy events, I'm applying EOS chapstick on my way in the door.  The only time I haven't worn chapstick is for my wedding! I love e.l.f. lipsticks, particularly the Studio Moisturizing Lipstick in Wink Pink!

As we have established in previous posts, I love things that give you options! This make-up routine is quick, easy, and allows for you to customize the routine to your liking! I generally apply foundation first, then blush, and save my eyes for last. Here's my finished look: 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cleaning Your Home On a Busy Schedule

I hate clutter. Let's establish that first. I like a fairly clean home, but I rarely have a whole lot of time to put into cleaning. My big cleaning days are Sundays, but what about the rest of the week? I have little more than 15-30 minutes to spare each day. I tried the FlyLady system - it's great. BUT my home isn't big enough to spend 15 minutes in the same room each day for 1 week. I would run out of things to do or clean up! So I've formed my own system (and my own "cleaning commandments"), which I have outlined below to share with you! I used the FlyLady model as inspiration for my BusyWife schedule/commandments. Follow with me OR make your own!

BusyWife Commandments:
1. Always wash/rinse your dishes (and/or place all dishes from the meal in the dishwasher) after every meal. And wipe down the counters after dinner every night. And wipe off the kitchen table after dinner every night (It will literally take you no longer than 5 minutes).

2. Sort mail immediately: trash what's junk, read and trash "quick reads" (ex: church fliers, coupons, invitations - make sure to RSVP!), save and file important mail (i.e., bills, bank statements, etc.)

3. Put your shoes up immediately after taking them off. Yes, seriously. I don't care if you plan on wearing them again in 15 minutes. Chances are you won't, and if you truly do, then you know exactly where they are!

4. File important papers immediately. None of this "Oh I'll get to it in a minute." Do it. Now.

5. Plan 1 day per week to perform deep cleaning activities (i.e., dust, mop, clorox, etc.).

6. Purge at least twice per year. Clothes, toys, pantry items, kitchen supplies. We all have those clothes we never wear, toys the kids haven't looked at in months, spices that are expired, hot cocoa that's been sitting in the pantry for 3 years (untouched), coffee mugs we never use any more, lunch boxes that were bought with good intentions. You get it - be brutally honest with yourself and purge it!

7. Always make your bed every morning. Always - it will instantly make the room seem cleaner and more organized! Plus, things don't get lost in the sheets when you climb into bed.

8. Put away your clean laundry as soon as it is folded/dried/ready. No one (including you) wants to look at it on the couch or in the laundry basket for a week.

Inspired by FlyLady, I have divided my home into zones. Each zone gets my attention for 15-20 minutes one day per week. Sundays are my "Deep Clean Day," so I have 6 zones. To me, the lower floor is more important because that's what guests see. That's why those areas are towards the top of my list. That way, these zones/areas are cleaned earlier in the week, and I don't have to stress if I have dinner guests Friday night! Below is my list of zones and the simple tasks I perform in each zone for 15-20 minutes.

Zone 1 - Front Entrance/Living Room: Clean off coffee table and end table. Sweep floor. Purge magazines (anything older than 6 months is recycled - hubby knows this and clips any articles/recipes he wants to keep). Put any shoes away (hubby loves to leave his shoes laying around). Fluff sofa cushions, fold throw blankets, straighten throw pillows, roll up computer/extension cords so that no one trips.
Zone 2 - Kitchen/Dining Room/Half Bathroom: Sweep floor, wipe down counters, clean stove top, wipe kitchen table down (use a little elbow grease!), clean mirror in bathroom, wipe down sink(s), purge fridge.
Zone 3 - Stairs/Upstairs Hallway: Hang up any coats laying on the stairs. Take stack on stairs to appropriate rooms (we have a knack for placing items that need to go upstairs on the stairs and just walking around said items for 1 week), vacuum hallway, straighten pictures in stairwell, clean up toys/miscellaneous items in the upstairs hallway.
Zone 4 - Upstairs Bathroom: Wipe down counter, dust off shelves, clorox spray in toilet, sweep floor, clean up hair off shower wall/floor, unclog drain (if needed), clorox soak for shower curtain (if needed), wipe down mirror, put random toiletry items/medication bottles into designated areas.
Zone 5 - Little T's Room: Put away toys, change sheets, put up books, throw away Happy Meal toys, vacuum floor.
Zone 6 - Master Bedroom: put away clothes on the floor, clean off/organize bedside tables, clean off dresser, put jewelry away, change sheets, vacuum floor.

Sunday: Deep Cleaning Day
Downstairs: Dust & wipe down all tables/shelves off. Mop floor. Clean windows, sliding glass doors. Dust picture frames on wall and tables. Sort through miscellaneous items that have collected on various pieces of furniture and keep what's important. Toss what's junk.
Upstairs: Mop bathroom floor, wipe down windows in all rooms, dust bedroom furniture, dust blinds in all rooms, clean shower/bathtub and toilet.

Making Any System Work For You: 
Ultimately, it boils down to what works best for you, your family, and your schedule. Get your kids involved, too (particularly if they are younger - they want to be a "big help."). If they understand from the beginning that this is something they need to contribute to, then they will be less disgruntled later when you ask for help! Rules apply to everyone (making beds, putting up shoes), and there will be less griping 3 hours later when you ask kids (or hubby) to pick up their shoes. 

Let things go. There are some things you aren't going to be able to change in your family. My dad is constantly leaving his tie on my mom's desk in the kitchen. She's truly given up (after 30+ years of marriage, I would, too!) on this issue and happily carries his tie up to the closet every night. Some things are negotiable, so be a little more flexible on those issues!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Making Your Erin Condren LP YOU!

Remember a few months ago, we talked about how to make your ECLP work best for you? Well, I think it's about time we talk about how to make it YOU (not just make it work for you!). I have recently become obsessed with some new stores on Etsy that allow to you change your ECLP and alter it so that it works best for you! I've tried to break things up by categories so that you can find exactly what you're looking for! (Don't see supplies you're looking for below? Check out my initial blog on planner accessories {link above}, too!)

1. Personalized Name Bookmark: Want an adorable personalized bookmark? Check out CraftyAliCat on etsy! I ordered mine originally for my A5 Filofax - it's the perfect size for the ECLP. Naturally, you'll need to add a coil clip to make it work in an ECLP (Or be able to create your own removable bookmark [like the covers!]). Ali (shop owner) is so easy to work with, and she truly honors special requests! I love purple, and I am obsessed with glitter. She honored both! How adorable?!

2. Magnetic Bookmarks: I talked about Oliclip in my last planner accessories blog, but I've since found out about the etsy shop craftedvan (check them out on Instagram, too!). They have a wide assortment of characters, foods, etc. I got myself a stethoscope (and a cupcake for a friend!). Love them!

Labels/Event Stickers:
1. Custom Labels: Want some adorable labels for when you have a doctor's appointment? Check out these labels from ObsessedWithCute on etsy!

2. Switching the Daily Labels: Don't like the "Morning/Day/Night" labels on the weekly spread? Check out AlexStudio on etsy for some custom labels to stick over those! Check them out here!

3. Flag Labels: Page flags have become quite popular across the Facebook planner groups I am in. Want some custom flag labels or stickers? Check out some shops on etsy! Don't see what you want? Message the shop owners. Here are some To Do stickers available at HelloAshleyAnn.
  • Page flags are also available at Target in the Dollar Spot. Look carefully! Sometimes they get buried. Not all Targets carry the Dollar Spot stationary either, so you may have to check out a few in your local area!
  • Planneresque on etsy also sells some adorable check list page flag stickers! 
Decoration Stickers/Accents:
1. Kawaii Style: There's just something so cute and endearing about the kawaii-style stickers that are floating around! I can't get enough - seriously.

  • Obsessed with Cute: I love her Bible stickers and purchased some recently. I'm waiting for them to be shipped, but I'm already doing a little happy dance just knowing that there will be some stickers from her shop on their way to me soon!
  • WishiWashiLove: Adorable stickers, sticky notes and other planner supplies! I mean, how cute are these bowls and jars? Seriously!

2. Fun Stickers: I am obsessed with adorable stickers that add different flare to my planner! My recent purchase have included stores such as Stickerswashiandmorelilliehenry, joeydesignplanner pretties by K, and SouthernHaute. All these stores have adorable stickers that add character to my planner in different ways!
My cute mermaid stickers and hot air balloon stickers
from JoeyDesign!
3. In the Store: Many local stores also have supplies that you might be looking for! Check out your local Target, Michael's, Jo Ann's, or AC Moore for craft supplies! If you're lucky, your local Dollar store will have some stickers or washi tape that you can use, as well! I haven't been so lucky!

Washi Tape: I've fallen off of the washi train slightly, to be honest, in my recent obsession of stickers. BUT in the spirit of all things you can use to customize your planner, I have to share my favorite sources for washi tape! ACherryOnTop, Pikwahchan, and SweetSuppliesStore.

Have some other sources for your planner supplies?! Share in the comments!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Designing Your Own LP Cover

Like the LP covers, but not in love with them? Color choices not to your liking? I was coveting a collage cover with the rainbow squares and brown text changed to shades of blues and purples. Alas, I received an email from EC shortly after placing my order that what I had requested was no longer a change that could be made. Imagine my disappointment. But I moved on - quickly. I have a scrapbooking program on my computer, which I don't use to scrapbook much anymore (but use it for Christmas cards, invitations, etc.). I decided to measure the size of the EC cover, create my own project that was the same size and start designing!
This is my design, courtesy of Creative Memories
scrapbooking software. PS -How adorable is my stepson?
Once I was happy with my layout, I saved it as a jpeg file. I chose the "Picture This - Full Frame" cover option. I uploaded my jpeg document to the EC website. For some reason, it charges you $5. This is an error/glitch on the EC website. Contacting the EC Customer Service reps resulted in a $5 refund, no problem. I uploaded my design without issue. If you would prefer to incorporate your name into your design, etc. just let the EC team know that you don't want their name/quote space filled by specifying "No text." I made sure that my design allowed for the name they add on, as well as a quote from our family ceremony from when J and I got married (and included Little T).
My finished product. It's my favorite cover yet!
Don't want to go through EC? I've seen several people design their own cover (front & back) and take it to Staples for laminating/hole punching. If you do decide to go at it alone, you may want to reach out to others in your Facebook EC community on how to do that. You will definitely want a thicker laminate (like 10 mL) that will allow for daily use (or abuse in my case). You may have to make your own slits to make the cover removable, but that would be the easy part!

Don't have CM scrapbooking software? Don't worry! There are plenty of free apps online, such as pixlr, that allow you to create a document to your size specifications. This is an endless possibility DIY project! Have fun, go crazy, and most of all - enjoy! :)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

My New Favorite iPad App

I love to cook - when I have time. While most of you know from previous blog posts that J does the majority of the cooking, that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy scavenging for some amazing-sounding recipes! We really do enjoy cooking together (remember our second date?). Recently, my mom introduced me to this amazing iPad app for the kitchen: RecipeBook. When she initially purchased it, the app cost $2.99. Now it's $3.99. I don't generally make a habit of buying iPad apps. I personally think that it is a waste of money, but I did purchase this app. I am so happy that I did! Whenever I find a recipe that sounds great, I transfer it into this app. From there, I can email it to J (who has the same app). He can then transfer it into the app on his iPad and use it to make dinner! Super simple!

So, to demonstrate, I've included a little mini tutorial to show you a little bit of what this app is all about! I found this amazing-sounding recipe on Pinterest: Roasted Cauliflower & Gruyere Soup. I opened up the actual webpage that this recipe was found on and copied the link.

I then opened up my RecipeBook app and selected "Import Recipe from Online" under the menu options.

From there, you can import the recipe in a snap! The directions on the app are actually really well-written and easy to understand. The best part is, the app will create a grocery list on demand! Pretty awesome, huh?!

I hope you enjoy this app! Let me know if you want to swap some recipes! :)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Monogramming Your Master Bedroom (Like an Adult)

 I am obsessed with monograms. Let's just establish that fact first. You don't believe me? You should check out my wardrobe: monograms galore! Think: fleece vests, sweatshirts, workout clothes (shorts, shirts), baseball caps, puffy vests, fleece jackets, boot socks, my towel get it. I have a small (or big) problem. I truly think my only possession that isn't monogrammed is my car (oh! And my laptop!). So when I said to my husband "I want to put a monogram in our bedroom," he rolled his eyes. He doesn't get the obsession, but he lets me go. I must admit that I have been rather proud of myself. The entire downstairs is tastefully monogrammed. There's a wooden H on our bookcase and a fancy H hanging above the landing on our stairs. So I've done fairly well....for me. However, sometimes a very large monogram can seem rather childish, so I set out to monogram our bedroom without the childish flare!

I saw the idea initially on Pinterest (oh yes, another inspiration from Pinterest!). There's so many sweet ways to monogram your home without making it seem like a child's room. I figured out exactly how much space I needed to fill between the top of our headboard and the ceiling, subtracting about 4-6 inches (that's how far the bottom of your picture frames/monogram should be above the top of a piece of furniture). I ended up needing about 30-inches tall for the monogram. I literally went on to etsy and searched "30 inch wooden monogram." The possibilities and options are truly endless. I ended up purchasing from a store called "letterworld." They did a great job and shipped fast (exactly what I like!).

I used a particular kind of spray paint called "Design Master." It dries fairly quickly and the colors are brilliant! Our bedroom colors revolve around the quilt, made by my Grandmother before she passed. We chose navy (titled "Dark Blue" in Design Master world). I bought 2 cans, and I was really glad I did! While you only have to paint one side (otherwise the letters will be backwards!), you have to keep in mind there are quite a few edges and corners you have to spray into.

I used my backyard as my art studio (per usual). I cut open the box that the monogram was shipped in, and used that as my pallet on the ground. I laid the monogram on top of the cut-open box and went to work!
I sprayed one coat and waited about 10 minutes before trying to recover. I was slightly bummed that the paint seemed to be going on unevenly, despite my master spray paint technique. Once I had sprayed 2 coats on (and let them dry), I brought my monogram back inside and let it set for several days (read: 2 weeks until I had time to finish it). I would highly recommend that you lightly sand it before painting. Forget what the descriptions say if you buy online. I pulled out my second can of spray paint and utilized the same method to paint another few coats: paint a layer, let dry for 10-15 minutes, paint another layer. I tried to paint from all sides to try and make sure the sides/edges were covered entirely.

After the first round of painting.
I then let the paint set for another week before I had J hang it up (blue on a white wall would be bad). I had actually ordered a monogram throw pillow, as well, so I threw that on the bed once it was all said and done, and....Wha-la! Tasteful monogram without going overboard (if it were up to me, we'd probably have monogrammed pillow shams, throw blanket, etc.).

Check out these pictures I pulled from Pinterest for some more cute ways to monogram your home!

Add a cute flair to your front entrance!
Maybe you're more of a vinyl girl?!
Or use an adorable ribbon to add to your monogram!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

5 Amazing Fall Soup Recipes

If there's one thing I love about fall, it's the cooler weather. Cooler weather means boots, leggings, hot chocolate, fires in the fire place, soups, and snuggling - just to name a few things I love about fall. If you're looking for some ideas for you and your significant other (and/or family!), wander on over to my post "5 Things To Do During the Fall" and see what else I love about fall! One of my favorite parts about fall is the fact that it is no longer "too hot" for soup. I love soup. It's so comforting and warm. Soups are truly my comfort foods. (yes, you read that right - other comfort foods include macaroni and cheese, buffalo chicken dip, and cookie cake with LOTS of icing). Back to the soups. In the spirit of my little blog miniseries "The 5's of Fall," I've included my top 5 favorite soups (with recipes!) for you to peruse, possibly make, and enjoy! I can't promise that they are all low-calorie or super healthy, but they are super yummy!
Original Recipe from The Pioneer Woman

1. Broccoli Cheese Soup (With Ham!) 
4 heads broccoli, cut into 1-inch florets
Olive oil
Salt, Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 stick unsalted butter
1 whole onion, diced (we substituted 3 cloves of garlic due to onion allergies)
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (I use gluten-free flour)
4 cups whole milk (we used 2%)
2 cups half-and-half
Nutmeg (just a pinch)
1/2 pound of ham (optional), cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
3 cups grated cheese (we used sharp cheddar)
1 cup chicken broth (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Take the broccoli florets, cut in half, and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the florets on a baking sheet with the cut-side down on the sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the florets crisp and become slightly brown.
2. While the florets are cooking, melt the butter in a fairly large pot over medium heat. If you would like, add 1 whole onion, diced, and cook about 3-4 minutes until they are softened. If not, sprinkle flour on top of the butter and stir to combine. Cook until the flour is absorbed (about 1 minute). Add the milk and half-and-half. Add a dash of nutmeg, then the broccoli florets, a small dash of salt, plenty of pepper, and the ham. Cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer until broccoli is tender (about 20-30 minutes). Stir in the cheest. Allow it to melt completely.
3. Taste. Add salt and pepper to season to your taste. Using a hand blender, break up the broccoli until the soup is more of a puree consistency. If you have a food processor, you can use this instead. Make sure you break up the soup into 2 batches if you use to the food processor. If needed, pour a smidge of chicken broth in to thin the mixture out.
4. Serve, garnished with grated cheese.

2. Vegetable Beef Stew on Mashed Potatoes
1 Tbsp cooking oil
1 lb stew beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup red wine (that you are willing to sacrifice. We generally use Bordeaux, but the dryer the wine the better the flavor!)
Salt & Pepper
4 small potatoes, or 2 sweet potatoes (optional, particularly if serving on mashed potatoes)
1 cup green beans
4-6 small carrots (4 doesn't seem to be enough to me sometimes)
1 cup tomatoes

6 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
8 cloves garlic, cut into quarters
1/2 c heavy cream

1. Heat pressure cooker, add oil and brown the meat slightly.
2. Place vegetables over the meat, and pour in 1 cup red wine.
3. Place pressure regulator on vent pipe and cook 10 minutes with pressure regulator rocking slowly.
4. While the soup is cooking, place the cubed potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 10-15 minutes, or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Make sure you skim the starch foam off the top occasionally. Drain potatoes and place in a blender/food processor (or use a hand mixer!).
5. Return saucepan to stovetop, and place on low heat. Add garlic and heavy cream to saucepan. Heat until cream begins to simmer. then add to blender (or place potatoes in saucepan and use hand mixer). Blend until potatoes are totally smooth puree. Add skim milk, as necessary, to thin to taste.
6. Scoop one ladle-full of mashed potatoes into a large soup bowl. Using the bottom of the ladle, form a bowl-like shape out of the mashed potatoes by pressing a "crater" into the mashed potatoes.
7. Ladle a healthy serving of beef stew on top.
8. Enjoy!

3. Copycat Olive Garden Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

1 Cup chicken breasts cooked and diced (we just shredded a rotisserie chicken instead)
4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp flour
1 quart half-and-half
15 oz can chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup carrots, finely shredded
1 cup fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp parsley
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 lb. potato gnocchi (You can buy this, but we made our own. It's super simple, and recipes are ALL over the internet!)

1. In the bottom of a medium-to-large pot, saute the butter, garlic, and olive oil on medium heat. When the garlic becomes translucent, add in the flour a little at a time, creating a roux. Let this cook for about 1 minute. Then add in the half-and-half.
2. Cook gnocchi according to package directions (we just made our own right before starting step 1. Super easy. I have not heard good things about the store-bought gnocchi. What I have gathered is that you need to buy the gnocchi in the refrigerated section, not the dry gnocchi on the shelves).
3. Into the roux, dump the carrots and chicken pieces. Once the mixture thickens, add the chicken broth.
4. Once everything has thickened back up, add in the cooked gnocchi, spinach, and seasonings. Simmer on medium heat until the soup is heated through.

4. Chicken and Dumplings
1 Rotisserie chicken
32 oz. chicken broth
11 oz. can Cream of Chicken soup
1 can Pillsbury biscuits
1 cup flour
Salt & Pepper

1. Shred the meat off the rotisserie chicken. (This is J's job. I hate getting my hands dirty.)
2. In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil.
3. Pour in the cream of chicken soup and shredded chicken pieces. Stir well. Splash in salt and pepper to taste.
4. While this is heating through, taking the biscuits and pull them apart, making sure to separate the top of the biscuit from the bottom. You should have 2 thinner sections for each biscuit. Cut each piece into quarters. Dip the pieces into the flour. Place the biscuit pieces gently on top of the soup.
5. Gently poke the bread down, randomly, while cooking for about 10 minutes. Don't stir too much or the dumplings will break apart. Once the dumplings are cooked, you're done!
6. Serve. Enjoy!

**Side note, we sometimes add peas and carrots so it's like a chicken pot pie soup! Amazing! :)

5. Brunswick Stew
1.5 pounds of BBQ pork from your local BBQ place
1 Cup BBQ Sauce
2-16 oz cans tomatoes
1 can cream of corn
1 can reg whole kernel corn
1 Tbsp sugar

1. Squish up tomates with clean hands and break up the BBQ really well.
2. With clean hands, mix up all the parts with some TLC.
3. Place in crockpot and cook overnight (or all day) on low.
4. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How I Planned My Wedding On a Budget: The Break Down

When I started planning my wedding, I took a look at the Pinterest board. (Yes, if you're a man, every woman has the "obligatory wedding Pinterest board." Moving on.) Using my Pinterest board, I was able to do several things: (1) Prioritize, (2) Determine WHAT I wanted in my wedding, (3) Read how other couples planned their wedding on a budget. All that out of Pinterest - and men say it's a worthless app. ;)

(1) By prioritizing what was important to me, I could prioritize where my money went. A DJ wasn't hugely important to me, so an iPod and outdoor speaker worked perfectly (and cost me no money). Flowers were more important to me, as I felt flowers could set the tone a little better for the wedding (colors, theme, etc.). That's where part of my main focus was.

(2) Determining what you want in your wedding is also important. How do you convey to your vendors what you want if you don't know what you want? Consider it an act of kindness for everyone involved. It means that when you meet with your vendors, your time with them is more productive, cutting down on the time they spend talking and increasing the time they spending DOING.

(3) Research it! No one said you had to plan on a budget on your own! Throw away those bridal magazines (unless your budget is $20K) and start searching - online, google, Pinterest, etc. Use other people and their successes as your inspiration! You are NOT alone in planning this wedding on a budget, and there are some GREAT resources out there for you to utilize!

So you've got your Pinterest board FULL of ideas, themes, decor, THE DRESS ideas, floral arrangements, centerpieces, etc. Now what do you do? You've prioritized what's important (Nod your head yes - if you're shaking your head, go back up to the top and start again). We did not break down our budget PER category, we had a total budget in mind. You may prefer to specifically itemize the cost of each category, but we are "free spirits" as Dave Ramsey says.

Wedding Attire:
Photo Credits: Ashleigh Mallard Photography
FIRST (and to me, most important), I found my dress. $500 off the rack. Yes, you read that right. Many bridal stores have huge clearance sales in July and August as they try to clear out inventory from the past year to make room for the new fall styles coming in. Many stores also offer a discount if you purchase the dress off the rack. Ask if you can pay with cash/check (and if so, will they offer a discount), or if you pay in full if they will give you a discount. What's the worst they can say? No. So ask - they might say yes! I bought my dress in July (a year before my wedding) off the rack for $500. It was strapless and I wanted straps for the ceremony (cost me $15 at the bridal store). I had to have it hemmed, and some minor alterations (plus the straps added) for $125. You don't have to use the bridal shop's alterations lady. Sometimes it is safer as they alter gowns all the time. However, I knew a lady that I used for tons of alterations (pants, formal dresses, etc.), and I knew that she would do a great job for a reasonable cost. Ask around! You aren't the only one who's getting married, and you might be able to find someone less expensive than the bridal store!. So, total cost of my dress (dress, straps, alterations): $640. We bought J's suit as it was actually less expensive than renting (and he gets to keep it!). We found a great sale going on at Men's Warehouse. Normally, I wouldn't recommend them as they are fairly expensive, but we got a great deal! J's Suit (tie and shirt!): $250.
Total Wedding Attire for Bride & Groom: $890

Florist: My first piece of advice when it comes to finding the perfect vendor: shop around. I knew for the most part what I wanted for my flowers. I initially called the florist from my first wedding, but he was unavailable. He recommended the florist that had done his wedding (La Petit Fleur). I was a little bummed, but once I met her, I was so happy I had chosen to use her. She was flexible in her pricing, willing to work on a tight budget, and talked me through some ways to cut down on cost. Be honest with your vendors. If they know you're on a tight budget, they won't do an outrageous set up for centerpieces, your bouquets, etc. (That way you can avoid a $4K quote!). I told Corrine what I was looking for, that I was on a tight budget, and asked what she recommended. Many times if you use flowers in season, it will cut down on imports/costs/etc. I wanted Peacock feathers (which cut down on some flowers in the arrangments) and purple/teal Dendrobium Orchids. I wanted to use hydrangeas, which are a little more expensive. BUT Corrine pointed out to me that while they cost a little more, you get more flowers for the dollar. She worked extensively with me to make sure that I got exactly what I wanted on a budget I could afford.
She did: 2 bouquets (mine was a cascade), 4 corsages, 7 boutonnieres, and a throw away bouquet for a total of $500.

Food: For my cake, I wanted one cake (not 2: classic Bridal & Groom cakes). But I wanted to have half the cake iced in white with a lace-like design and the other half to be chocolate with ganache drizzled down the layers. I also needed a gluten-free cake, which really limited my options, as 4 members of my family (including me) are gluten intolerant. However, we were able to find a vendor that was willing to do a gluten free cake within our budget. Total Cost of Cake: $225.

For our dinner, we utilized J's dad (remember in Blog 1 we talked about using family or friends as a resource). He owns a Barbecue restaurant, which is exactly what we wanted for our reception dinner. He was willing to do this for us, at cost (meaning we only reimbursed him what it cost for the food - he made no profit). Total Cost to feed 65 people: $200.

Photography: When looking for photographers, I immediately asked friends for their recommendations. Ashleigh Mallard Photography. I knew Ashleigh as we group up going to church together, and J knew Ashleigh as she had photographed his son's newborn pictures. I contacted her and was upfront about our limited budget. She was willing to cut her wedding package cost IMMENSELY. While it may have temporarily cost her a little money, she has gained loyal customers in us. She didn't skimp on anything with us, despite we did pay her less than she normally would have been paid. We have 2 family photography sessions coming up in the next 2-3 months - with Ashleigh! Total Cost of FULL DAY Photography: $1000.
Unfortunately, this led to photographers that had a base price (for their wedding packages) of around $2500-3000. Not in my price range. So I started researching photographers that I knew personally. While I was a little afraid of mixing business and personal relationships, I figured I would be able to communicate what I was looking for (and be heard) and that I would be able to set up a payment plan (even if it extended a little past the wedding) that would be acceptable. J & I finally discussed it and agreed on using

Hair & Make-Up: I am terrible at doing my own hair. It's just a simple fact of life. I have 3 main hairstyles for work that simply don't cut it for my wedding. While I was willing (and able) to travel to an outside location for hair and make-up, having my hair & make-up done on location took a load of stress off my mind. We utilized Trio Makeup & Hair Designs. I had utilized this group for my first wedding and loved the results. So when I contacted them 4 years later for this wedding, I asked if they gave repeat customers a discount. Fortunately, they were willing to honor their pricing from 2010, when my first wedding took place. That was actually a HUGE discount. For my mom's make-up, my hair & make-up, and my sister's hair & make-up, it cost us a total of $400. While that is more costly than you may be willing to pay, it was a load of my back that they were willing to travel to me on the day of the wedding.

Ceremony: The church I grew up in (and was till a member of at the time), provided the facilities for a nominal fee for members. While we did pay for a nursery for children under 5, we still saved a substantial amount of money by utilizing a facility that provided us the same services as other locations with nominal cost. We simply had to cover custodial fees ($150), wedding coordinator fee ($250), sound/microphone fees ($100), candle fees ($60), and nursery cost ($150). While that seems like a lot of nickel-and-diming (and it certainly seemed like it at the time!), it was still less than renting a facility outside of our church. All the fees added up to a ceremony venue cost of: $710. Some churches we looked at started their sanctuary rental fee at $1000!!!

Reception Venue: We decided (after much discussion between J & I, as well as my parents) to utilize my parents' home as our reception venue. While we still had to rent tables and chairs, but it cut down significantly on the rental fee for the facility! While we still paid $1000 for rental fees for tables, chairs, tablecloths, etc., we didn't have to pay for the facility (and we could keep the party going as late as we wanted!).

Total Cost for My Wedding: $4925. (Paid over the course of 13 months)

Monday, September 1, 2014

How I Planned My Wedding On a Budget (And Got Everything I Wanted)

Photos Courtesy of Ashleigh Mallard Photography
Weddings aren't cheap anymore. Whatever happened to the good ole days of having a ceremony with some cake and punch in the Church's gathering hall afterwards? Gone. Now, it's not a reception without an open bar (no judgement - there was an open bar at my first wedding). So when round 2 started (cue boxing bell rings), I knew I was planning a wedding on my own dime. And open bar was NOT the first thing on my mind. So what's a girl to do with a budget of $5000 and LOTS on her wishlist?!

1. Start a Pinterest board. No, seriously. The first few months after J and I got engaged, I started a Pinterest board. It let me see what I was drawn to, looking for, not even paying attention to etc.. It helped me see where my priorities were before I even realized it!

2. Involve your family and friends! Got an aunt who's a whiz at flower arrangements? See if she's willing to help you (for a small price of course!) for the cost of the flowers/vases/etc. Maybe even a little on top to compensate for her time. Your mom has an amazing jewelry collection? See if she'll let you raid it for your special day. Your sister's the bomb at making burlap wreaths and bows? Include her! You get the picture. I'm sure that you are surrounded by talent, so ask if those people are willing to put their talent to use for you!

3. Find hidden resources. The church that J and I got married in has an option for members to purchase flowers for the altar on Sundays. 1 arrangement is $35 (vs. the florist's arrangements at $200 a pop!), so we bought both of the arrangements (only 2 are available). We requested some extra peacock feathers/orchids to match our bouquets/corsages/boutonnieres (and additional $30/vase) for altar arrangements totaling at $130 (for both arrangements!). While we couldn't take the arrangements home with us, as they had to remain in the church for the Sunday morning services, it was a nice price break!
One of our altar arrangements.
4. Shop around. Who says you have to use the first vendor you find? Shop around! If you don't take the time to look and see what is available for what price, you might miss out on a huge budget saver!

5. Give yourself plenty of time. J and I got engaged 13 months before we got married. Why? Well, 2 reasons. (1) So that we could get married the same week as our parents and my grandparents, but (2) so that we could spread out the cost of our wedding without living above our means. We paid a few vendors in smaller amounts for several months, paid them off, then moved on to other vendors! It took more time, BUT it gave us plenty of time to pay every one without struggling to eat, pay the bills, etc.

Next up on the agenda for planning your wedding on a budget: prioritizing, opportune times to book/shop, and finding vendors that work within YOUR means!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

5 Pictures to Take This Fall

With fall just around the corner, what better way to celebrate than to take some pictures! The weather is a little more cool (allowing for some adorable boots-leggings-scarves combos), the leaves are changing and falling, and it's prime time for some snuggling (adorably and PG, please!). So while you're wondering what to do about Christmas cards this year or updating the pictures of the kids - look no further!

1. A Pile of Leaves: What better way to bring out the kid in anyone than a pile of leaves to jump in?! Pile the whole family in. Start a leaf-throwing fight with the kids and then move out of the way for some adorable kid pics. OR stay in the frame with hubby for some hilarious pictures! Make "leaf angels," spell out something and lay next to it, or form some leaves in to your kids' ages and have them take a picture next to it so you can remember how old they are! Or just pile some leaves on your kiddo and snap a few shots like below - adorable!
Original Source: Pinterest
2. Fall Leaves Scenery/Backdrop: As we established in post #1 (5 Things to Do in Fall) I love the changing leaves. What better (or more gorgeous) backdrop for some family photos? I think this picture from Pinterest (below) speaks for itself.
Original Source: Pinterest
3. Pumkpin Patch: Is there a better way to represent the fall season? Take your kids, drop them in the middle of a pumpkin patch (one that isn't too crowded) and snap some pics. Maybe even carve one and drop your littlest one in the pumpkin itself!

4. Halloween Costumes: Uh, I think this kind of comes with the answer of a bunch of resounding "Duh"s. While this may seem like a simple one-picture snap and head to trick-or-treating, it's not. Your kids are only little once (Sorry to remind you - again). Why not take an extra 15 minutes to get some extra pictures of your kiddos - to frame or send to Grandma and Grandpa? A painful little reminder that your kids are only little once, so snap some pics (just don't ruin the moment by taking HUNDREDS of pics!).

5. A Flannel Blanket: This is particularly perfect if you have a photo session planned, whether a couples session or family session. To me, nothing says fall more than a cozy flannel blanket (or fleece, if that's more your style!).

Don't want to pay for some pictures?! Grab your kids, your significant other, your pet...step outside and start snapping. We probably take WAY too many pictures of little T, but the best shots are candid pictures! Don't have a fancy $500 camera? No sweat, I don't either. I have a little point-and-click which works great. Have fun! Want to hire a photographer? Start a Pinterest board. That way when you find a photographer you like, you can show them what you have in mind! Be mindful, though. Some photographers really dislike copying images you find on Pinterest, but they may be willing to do their own version of the picture.

Anyways, I hope you get the family outside to enjoy the weather. And maybe get some adorable pictures this fall, too!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Making Your Left-Overs Go Further: Chicken Quesadillas

Remember the Crockpot Salsa Chicken we made in May? Well, we made it again recently. I had forgotten exactly how much of this stuff it makes! We had it for dinner 2 nights in a row with a TON still left over! We are getting ready to go on a trip soon, and I hate to let such a good recipe go to waste. So what is a girl to do? Well, enter my amazing fiance, J and his ability to whip up anything at a moment's notice. Little T has become obsessed with all things Mexican food, hence the salsa chicken. So, enter J's quick thinking: salsa chicken quesadillas. It's a super easy, quick meal to make and when there's a starving 4 year old screaming at your feet, it's quite the answer!

Salsa Chicken Quesadillas:

1 bag soft taco shells or tortillas
Butter (I would use a half a stick)
Left over salsa chicken
Mexican Blend Shredded Cheese
Guacamole (my recent obsession is with Yucatan Organic Guacamole - amazing. Got it at Sam's).
Shredded Lettuce, Tomatoes (Optional)

1. On medium heat, start warming a cast-iron skillet.
2. Rub the entire skillet down with butter once warm. J generally just takes the stick and rubs it directly on the pan.
3. Lightly brown the soft taco/tortilla on both sides.
4. Add lots of cheese on one side and let melt (J puts enough on that it squishes out the sides when he folds it together).
5. While the cheese is melting, pop some salsa chicken into the microwave to warm (generally 20-30 seconds, but will depend on amount of chicken you are reheating).
6. Once the cheese has melted, place salsa chicken on one-half of the tortilla. Fold tortilla in half.
7. Brown evenly on both sides so that the tortilla is a golden brown color (ok to have darker brown spots).
8. Open briefly and add lettuce and tomato (optional).
9. Cut into thirds or halves (whatever you desire) and serve with a dollop of guacamole.
10. ENJOY!

Monday, August 11, 2014

5 Things to Do This Fall

School is starting back, and that means fall is just around the corner! In the Spirit of Fall returning to us, I have decided to start a little blog miniseries "The 5's of Fall." To me, fall is such a perfect time of year, although it does mean that school has started back, meaning more time for you during the day (and maybe some more hyper kids during your evenings). Weekends will be packed with extra-curriculars that you can't do during the day during the week, possibly traveling for soccer games, cheerleading name it, I'm sure it's on your to-do list. Don't get so busy that you don't take a time-out for yourself, your significant other, or your family. To kick off "The 5's of Fall" is a list of five fall "musts" that every family should enjoy.

1. Go See (Or Watch) a Football Game Together: Maybe it's just the two of you, or maybe you drag (I mean lovingly coerce) the kids into joining you. Maybe you go to a bar and enjoy the bar atmosphere while watching the game together. Or maybe you just pop some popcorn, buy some movie snacks and pile on the couch together to enjoy the game. It doesn't matter how you do it, but nothing brings a family together like rooting for the same team! Maybe you're in a house divided like J & I (he graduated from University of Alabama and I went to UGA for 2 years) - just don't watch the SEC championship game together (We did - and we're still together but I wouldn't recommend it!). If you're going to a game, do it right and tailgate! There is nothing better than hanging out with the family in the crisp fall air, enjoying a cookout (and each other), and then traipsing over to the nearby stadium to watch the game. (Side Note: If you do this, the kids won't be sitting glued to the couch and/or TV all day either!).

2. Fall Pictures: There's nothing that makes a more gorgeous backdrop than leaves changing colors. And scarves make for some adorable pictures! Don't have kids? Snuggle up with an adorable quilt and your significant other! Or even just you and your dog. Either way, enjoy the scenery and beautiful backdrop that life in the fall can create! Plus, Halloween is approaching (ok - not too quickly) and pumpkins make for some adorable pictures!

3. Get Outside! The weather is perfect (at least down here in the south!) and the scenery is beautiful! The kids can run around without sweating to death and you can be outside with them, watching or playing, and be comfortable, as well. Fall is too pretty and too perfect to be cooped up indoors all the time. Just think: you work 40+ hours per week and they are busy in school almost that much. Release some pent up energy for everyone and enjoy the changing leaves while you are at it (yes, I love when leaves change - gorgeous!).

4. Go Camping (or at least Hiking!): The most beautiful time of the year is fall. I love the changing leaves (as we have established), but I also love the cooler weather. Here in Georgia, summers are unbelievably hot and humid, followed by the "Dog Days" in August (where it is so hot even the dogs won't do anything). Fall brings a welcome cooler temperature with a slight nip in the air. Perfect weather for exercising, working out, sweating outside. Take time to enjoy the cooler air, the beautiful changing scenery, and a good workout without the serious amount of sweating you get during the summer days!

5. Sit By the Fire (and Read a Good Book): It is finally starting to get cold enough to put that fireplace to use! Grab a good book, some hot chocolate, a blanket, and some comfy relax! Books (to me) are a rare thing nowadays. TV, iPhones, iPads, technology have taken over! It's so easy to walk in the door and flip on the TV, looking for the latest and greatest reality TV show (or for some of us, the next episode of Once Upon a Time or Castle or Body of Proof). Reading an actual book is so rare now thanks to Kindles, Kindle for iPad app, Nooks, and many other incredible pieces of technology. To me, there is nothing better than curling up by the fire with some hot cider or hot chocolate and thumbing through the pages of a good book. It may sound gross, but I love the smell of old, dusty books. And reading a great book is a great stress reliever (and way to escape the real world where work duties call).