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).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Putting Your Erin Condren Life Planner to Work: Meal Planning

We have this issue in our house - a lot. It's 6 pm, J and I are both starving, and yet we have no food thawed out, the left overs are bad, and no plan for dinner. So we make it work by going out to eat - a huge killer for our already tight budget. We have implemented a system at our house to make grocery shopping easier, decrease the meals we eat out, and make the most out of the food we do buy. If you take your lunch to work, you can even take this a step further by figuring out how you are going to dole your leftovers out over the week for lunch.

1. I have taken this idea from a sweet girl I know from a Facebook group for Erin Condren fanatics. I created a page of quick meal ideas (my "meal reference") that I refer to when I get stuck.  I have organized these by categories: main dishes, crockpot recipes, sides, and recipes to try (for when I stumble across that amazing-sounding recipe on Pinterest and want to actually remember which dish I pinned).  If you have a picky kid, make a list separate for them and add to it when you find a new food he or she likes. The possibilities of your menu reference are endless! I even created on specifically for parties, dividing it up into the following categories: appetizers, sides, salads, finger foods, dips, and main dishes.
2. Using my cravings (no I'm not pregnant), J's requests, and my Pinterest inspirations, I create a list of meals - one for each day. I run this list by J to make sure that he is ok with everything (after all, he is the cook!). I write this down on a sticky note (and try to assign one meal to each day of the week, mixing up the protein of the main dish so we don't have chicken 3 nights in a row, etc.).

3. Once I get to the point where I am ready to decorate my week (see how I do that here!), I write down each meal on a sticker and stick it at the bottom of the page on the lined notes section.

4. I then transfer the meal plan to our menu board on the fridge. I ordered this off of a discount website (  The original company was Lovey Dovey Creations. This way, if I am at work with my planner, J knows what to thaw out, cook, prepare, etc.. We often use the left overs for lunch the next day if we can. Sometimes, we simply plan to make less of a meal if we are trying to cut down on the amount of leftovers we have (like if we are leaving for a trip later that week).

I hope this has inspired you to get to meal-planning! I plan weekly so we make weekly trips to the grocery store. However, I have made monthly meal plans before (it just got a bit tedious for me). The great thing about this system is you can use all (or none, or some) of what I do. Let me know how it works for you!

Friday, August 1, 2014

5 Crockpot Recipes You Can't Live Without

Summer is winding down, and school supplies are lining the shelves at the local stores. It's about to become the busiest time of year: school, after-school activities, sports, more traffic... You get it. Life is about to get busier while the days get shorter (literally, but I love my extra hour of sleep when we "fall back" an hour!). How on earth are you supposed to get all this done and put dinner on the table in a timely fashion?! Enter, my best friend during the season of winter: the crockpot.  Crockpot recipes often contain "cream of something" soup. Not ideal, and certainly not healthy. I have made an effort to try and cut back on the amount of processed foods in our diet. I can't say that I've been 100% successful (particularly in the crock pot arena), but I certainly have made headway in cutting back! (Pats self on back). Generally I do this by avoiding crockpot recipes, but I do have a few I keep in my regular repertoire. What I've done is compile a list of my absolute favorite crockpot recipes that stay in my regular dinner rotation (complete with ingredients and directions).

1. Slow Cooker Loaded Potato Soup (**Disclaimer: this isn't healthy, but it's AMAZING!)
5 pounds Russet potatoes, washed but not peeled. Diced into 1/2 inch cubes
10 cloves of garlic, minced (If you use jarred, it's 5 teaspoons)
64 ounces (8 cups) chicken stock or broth
16 oz cream cheese, softened (we chose low-fat)
4-5 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
Optional: Ham, cubed

1. Add potatoes, garlic, and chicken stock to slow cooker. (You can add 1 tablespoon salt. I just leave it off and allow people to salt their own soup - everyone has different tastes/preferences)
2. Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 10 hours.
3. Add softened cream cheese and puree into potatoes with an immersion blender until the cream cheese is well incorporated and about half the soup is blended. There should be a creamy appearance, with some small chunks of potatoes throughout.
4. **Optional step. Add ham and stir well. Cook for another 10-15 minutes.
5. Top with cheese, bacon, chives, etc. Enjoy!

2. Weight Watchers Slow Cooker Potato & Bacon Chowder (4 Weight Watchers Points!)
Original Photo courtesy of Pinterest
2 cups potatoes, cut into small cubes
4 oz. Canadian-style bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large carrot, diced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced (jarred garlic, use 1/2 teaspoon)
4 cups fat-free chicken broth
1/2 uncooked barley
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp dried thyme, crushed
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup fat-free half and half

1. In slow cooker, combine potatoes, carrots, garlic, broth, barley, bay leaf, thyme, pepper, and bacon. Cover & cook on low for 4-6 hours.
2. Stir in half-and-half. Heat through, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

3. Slow Cooker Chicken & Dumplings
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each cut in half
Salt & Black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of dried thyme (optional)
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can Grands biscuits (8 ct.)

1. Add the cream of chicken soup to the slow cooker. Pour in 4 cans worth of water.  Drop in the
Original Photo Courtesy of Pinterest
bouillon cubes and add the garlic powder and thyme. Using a fork or a small whisk, mix everything together in the slow cooker.
2. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and drop in to the slow cooker.
3. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.  Then break up the chicken a bit. I generally just do this right in the slow cooker. We like to shred the chicken so it's in fairly small, thin pieces.
4. Cut each biscuit in to 8-10 pieces. You can use scissors or a knife for this step. Add the pieces into the slow cooker.  Stir in, making sure that you cover all sides of each biscuit piece with the liquid mixture.
5. Cover, and cook for 2 more hours. Check on the soup every so often, just to ensure that the biscuit pieces don't stick to the inside of the crockpot or brown on the top too much. Just press the biscuits down, don't stir the mixture.
6. Give the mixture a good stir just prior to serving.

4. Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup salsa (I used mild simply because T hates anything super hot. This is where you can have some fun!)
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (my least favorite thing about this recipe, but hey - at least it's only one can!
1 packet taco seasoning
1/2 cup sour cream
6 tortillas (J & T like the extra fluffy, and I'm all over here like "I'll have a corn one, please.")

1. Place the chicken in the bottom of the crock pot (The beauty of this - we dumped in the chicken still completely frozen). 
2. Sprinkle taco seasoning on chicken breasts. 
3. In a separate bowl, combine soup and salsa.  Pour over chicken.  
4. Cook on high for 4 hours.  
5. Shred chicken (I use the 2 fork method) and stir in sour cream. Serve on tortillas.

5. Beef Stroganoff  
1-2 lbs cube steak, cut into one-inch strips
2 cans condensed golden mushroom soup
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1-14 oz can beef broth
8 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and diced
4 ounces cream cheese, warmed to room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream

1. In the crockpot, combine the meat, soup, Worcerstershire sauce, broth, and mushrooms. Cook on low 5-6 hours.
2. Stir in cream cheese and sour cream, about 1/2 hour before serving. Make sure to stir the mixture every ten minutes to break up the cream cheese.
3. Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Stir in to the crockpot mixture for approximately a half hour.
4. Add cornstarch and/or water to change the thickness of the sauce to your liking.
5. Serve (I generally prefer bowls and large soup spoons!) and enjoy!