September 19, 2014

The Newest Must Have Thirty-One Bag

I'm so excited to share my review of the newest Thirty-One bag, the All-Day Organizing Tote, with you today! For the longest time I've had my eye on these super versatile totes and bags. I have been on the hunt for the perfect bag that I could use for everything from the park to school to the gym, and I think I've finally found it.


The All-Day Organizing Tote has interior pockets and zip-top closure to keep everything organized and secure, as well as a sturdy, hard bottom so the bag won't cave when it's packed to the brim. There is also a front pocket (on the other side) that can be personalized, and is perfect for holding your phone or keys.


Here's a picture of me with the tote, just to give you an idea of how big it really is! It can hold a lot and the really great news is that the bag is the September special!! Get the All-Day Organizing Tote for $15 with every $35 spent!*


Did I mention I'm going to school too? I have one class left to complete for my teaching credential and after a 2 1/2 year hiatus I'm finally back! I love that the bag can handle the weight of my books, notebook, planner, computer and water.


I usually bring so much to the gym, especially if I'm showering there or if we're swimming, so it's nice to know I can fit it all in one bag!


Although O doesn't usually need too much these days I like to be able to bring whatever I think he might need with us to the park, especially is we plan on staying for a while. I really like that this bag can be used for all of our many needs! 

My Thirty-One Gifts consultant, Stephanie, also told me about some of the other great specials going on this month, like the September Hostess Special. If you'd like to host a party yourself you can learn more here. There are some great incentives! And please check out and follow Stephanie's Thirty-One Gifts Facebook group Bags With Heart for updates and information about specials!

And now comes the really exciting part! You can win one of these awesome bags. All you have to do to enter is use the widget below. Good luck and thanks so much for reading!

a Rafflecopter giveaway




September 17, 2014

Oatmeal Pumpkin Spice Cookies

You know what? I love Target. Not a surprise, because I think we all feel that way. You can buy almost anything there, and now with the semi-recent additions of a grocery section you can justify a  trip there almost daily -- much to my husband's chagrin. But don't worry, I usually only make it there once a week.

Anyway, what I really love most about good 'ol Target is that they always seem to have the newest grocery products. I can always count on them to have the newest seasonably appropriate flavors of International Delight coffee creamers, the trendy Chobani Greek Yogurt Flips and of course the best selection of holiday appropriate candy!

Enter the Toll House Pumpkin Spice baking morsels (I hate that word, morsels. Yuck):



My mother-in-law told me about them last week and so I had to run out on Saturday and pick me up a bag. And what do you do with baking morsels? You bake! So I decided to whip up some Oatmeal Pumpkin Spice cookies with them. And you guys, they did NOT disappoint!

They're soft and chewy in all the right ways and perfectly pumpkiny! I hope you're ready for Fall and all things pumpkin because you're going to want to make these!



INGREDIENTS: 
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 white flour
1 1/2 cups oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
1 cup Nestle Toll House Pumpkin Pie Spice baking morsels
3/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)
3/4 cup chocolate chunks (optional)


INSTRUCTIONS:
1. First take out all of your ingredients, preheat your oven and make sure your butter is sitting out. Next put the oats, flours, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium size bowl -- stir to combine. Set aside.


2. Combine sugars and butter in a large bowl and use a hand mixer, or a stand mixer if you have it, to beat them together. Do this just until they are well mixed and fluffy.


3. Next add the egg, vanilla, pumpkin and beat together until combined.




At this point in the cookie making process I started to worry that the cookies might be too pumpkin flavored (is that possible?), so I thought some chocolate would help cut the flavors a bit. I didn't have chocolate chips on hand, so I used what I had, which was two 1.5 oz Hershey's Milk Chocolate bars. I unwrapped them and threw them in the blender for a few seconds to create chunks. This step is totally optional though.


4. Now you can mix in your Pumpkin Spice Morsels and whatever other add ins you desire -- I added 3/4 cup chocolate chunks and 3/4 dried cranberries. Make sure you mix these ingredients by hand using a wooden spoon -- the paddles on a mixer are too harsh and might break down the chips.


5. Now scoop them out onto a prepared baking sheet. I like to use my MIU baking mats to line my cookie sheets, but you could also use parchment paper. Scoop out balls of cookie dough using either a tablespoon or cookie scoop.


6. Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Let cool on a baking rack before serving.


These go perfectly with a hot cup of coffee! Enjoy!

September 15, 2014

Busy Bag Link Up & DIY Portable Road Playset Busy Box

Last week a big group of us shared the busy boxes / bags we received through our Busy Bag Exchange. I have absolutely loved seeing all of the creative ideas my mommy blogger friends have come up with for the busy bags / boxes we exchange. So much creativity and so many great ideas were shared!

Now, it's our turn to share how we made the boxes we sent out, where we bought the materials and any tips we might have.


I got the idea for this busy box from Dyan at And Next Come L, and as you'll see I originally thought I would make the road connect by attaching Velcro, but decided against it at the last minute. It seemed like a good idea because the Velcro would hold the craft stick road in place, but then I thought it might be frustrating for a 2 year-old to deal with so I just skipped it. I also made a set for O too and knew he'd like it more without the tricky Velcro.

O has loved playing with his set, which probably has something to do with the fact that I only pull it out every once in a while. I keep the box on the dining room table, so he usually forgets about it until I pull it out (maybe 2-3x a week).

Want to see how I made it and how to make one of your own? Here is what you'll need: 



Materials All materials were purchased at Micheal's Craft Store
2 sheets of green felt
1 sheet of blue felt
Velcro dots which I ended up not using, but they're still in the picture
jumbo wood craft sticks
yellow & black acrylic paint
paint brush
small box / bag
figurines of your choosing
cars



1. Start out by painting your craft sticks with black paint on ONE side -- these will be your "roads" for the play set. I tried really hard to keep the paint even and from getting on the back side, but some still slipped by. Because of the extra paint on the backside the craft sticks stuck to the paper I had them drying on, so on my next batch I was even more careful and laid them out to dry on wax paper.

I waited about 1 hour between painting the first side & letting it dry before I painted the backside of the craft sticks.


2. Once both sides are dry you can begin painting the yellow lines on the craft sticks to make them appear more like an actual road. I'm not super crafty or neat with a pain brush, as you can see, but luckily toddlers do not care about either of those traits as long as you're fun!


3. While you wait for the yellow lines to dry you can make a little pond or lake for your road play set using the blue felt.

4. Now that all of your "roads" are dry you can assemble your road play set. Use the two green felt pieces as grass and lay the craft sticks however you see fit, as long as they are all connecting. O had a fun time laying out his roads and deciding for himself where they should all go.






Everything fits really nicely into the plastic pencil box I bought at Micheal's, but it would all easily fit into a gallon Ziploc bag, which is probably easier for portability and storage space. 

Now it is YOUR turn!! Please link up your post about a busy box you've made so we can all share our ideas! I'm looking forward to seeing your ideas and pinning them to my Busy Bags to Make Pinterest board.

Weekend Wrap Up & Motivational Monday

The weeks go by quickly, but the weekends go even faster! I know I always say it, but when I think of the weekend it is the first thing that comes to mind. If it were even possible they're feeling even shorter now that Keith's picked up a few hours of paradigm work on Mondays. We had a full weekend though all squeezed into the time we had.

On Saturday O and I spent some time with Keith's mom and then some time with my mom. He's so lucky to have two grandma's who love him so so much! My mom watched O while I went to Target, Safeway and Micheal's. I've heard a lot of people complain about all of the fall decorations and products everywhere, but I don't really see the problem and kind of love it. And it is now officially fall here at our house, because we've found our first pumpkin spider of the season.. in the mail box! Ek! My mom and O relocated it to the bushes, but the next morning it had found it's way back into the mailbox again. Needless to say I will not be getting the mail anymore.



Saturday night we went out for pizza and ice cream. O's been such a homebody lately that we practically have to bribe him to leave the house. On Saturday night I told him we were going to a pizza parlor like Pizza Planet (like they go to in Toy Story), and it worked! We played games, ate pizza (O's with tons of parmesan on it) and then went for ice cream. It was a nice outing.


Sunday morning we hung around the house in our pajamas and played toys, read the paper, drank lots of coffee and I baked some delicious cookies that I can't wait to share with you this week!



Around lunch time we headed up to San Francisco with Keith's mom to celebrate her birthday! Keith's sister Kelly had a brilliant idea and suggested we all go to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival!
It was such a fun idea for us to all go together, even Keith's sister who lives up north was able to come down with her husband to join us.

The Chocolate Festival did not disappoint, there was definitely a ton of chocolate to be tasted and sampled! When you first enter they give you your Chocolate Tasting Ticket, which has 15 spots to be marked off as you claim your 15 samples.


When you first entered the festival there was a large both where you could pick up some samples of Ghirardelli Minis, chocolate covered pretzels and some of their new and limited edition chocolate squares.



One of the best parts of the whole day was the gorgeous views of the bay! It's not everyday that the weather is that clear and sunny in San Francisco - we got lucky!


Believe it or not I only sampled two thing while we were there. I don't know if it was the ride up, which usually makes me feel a little carsick or the fact that we were chasing O 99% of the time, but I just wasn't in the mood to have more. What I did try was amazing though! I tried the drinking chocolate, which was like drinking pure chocolate, and reminded me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I also tried the S'mores type chocolate covered thing!


There was more than just Ghirardeli at the fesival too though. Lots of other vendors donated their time and (sweet) products to the fundraiser, which benefits Project Open Hand, a non-profit that serves meals to seniors and people with HIV and AIDS.
After the festival we were all in the mood for some real food, so we ventured down to the piers to find a place to eat -- not an easy task with 10 people, but we ended up finding Bistro Boudin. You know Boudin, right? They're famous for their sourdough bread and clam chowder. The bistro is a fancier version of their regular restaurants, and we'll definitely be back someday, because look at that VIEW!

 

And of course, this little cutie pie was totally tuckered out after the all day chocolate festival. After nap time we played with pumpkin guts, watched some football, cleaned up the backyard and then it was bedtime.  It was a great weekend and I wish it didn't go so fast!
_________________________________________
Goal: Make healthy choices for me and my family, including making conscious (healthy) food choices and staying active.

Progress to date: Down 3lbs...on Friday that is -- I'm afraid to get on the scale today after all the fun we had yesterday.

Highlight of last week: Starting preschool! I'm hoping this week is just as smooth.

Challenge of last week: Starting preschool! It threw us off our schedule, which resulted in two skipped naps. All of the change could have made healthy eating a lot harder, but I stuck to it.

Workouts: 3 great weight training workouts and 3 semi-good cardio workouts. My knee has been bothering me, so I've been using the stationary bike, which isn't the hardest workout. And I try to just keep O in the childcare for 60 minutes and it goes by too quickly, which results in time being shaved off the end of my workouts which is when I do cardio.

Lessons I learned this weekPacking a protein bar, apple or carrot sticks makes it much easier to avoid eating out or feeling too hungry in between meals. I'm not missing dessert because I know I can have it on the weekend, and it tastes so much better when you have it less often. 

Here's the plan this week: 

Monday - Weelicious Pesto Turkey Meatballs + Quinoa Pasta + Veggies
Tuesday - Easy Oven Fajitas w/ corn tortillas
Wednesday - Slow Cooker Curry Chicken
Thursday - Greek Turkey Burgers in Whole Wheat Pita with Greek Salad
Friday - Out

Have a nice Monday everyone! 

September 12, 2014

Hey there, Friday!

Hooray, the weekend is here! I'm linking this post up with a gaggle of wonderful people, so go check them and all the other linkersup too! September Farm, The Farmer's Wife, A Little Bit of Everything, Grace and Love, and Momfessionals! 


ONE The Moon & Lola necklace I bought all the way back in July during the Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale finally arrived! At first I thought it was a little large for my taste, but after wearing it once I totally changed my mind and fell in love, hard.

They no longer sell my exact one, but Mark & Graham sells one similar, in addition to a ton of other beautiful personalization necklaces and jewelry. My personal favorites are the Layered Dog Tag necklace (would be so cute with your wedding date on the large tag and children's initials on the small hearts) & the Rose Gold Elle Bangle.

I made the jewelry hanger myself. You can find the DIY here: DIY Jewelry Display
TWO I picked the Stuck On You Giveaway Winners! I will be forwarding your email addresses to Stuck On You and they'll be sending over your $25 vouchers! Thank you to everyone who entered.


THREE Roast Sweet Potato Bun Burgers - We tried something new this week with our standard burgers. Instead of using a bun we using slices or roast sweet potato. We both really liked it (O was never going to be able to hold something like that together with his hands -- he had all the contents of the burger broken down), it was super filling and much healthier than a burger with a standard bun and cheese.

FOUR Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival - This weekend we'll be taking Keith's mom up to San Francisco for her birthday to attend the best chocolate festival around. I am so beyond excited -- been eating clean all week for this! -- and you can expect a full recap of all the deliciousness next week.


FIVE Somersaulting - O and I have had a little Summer tradition in the evenings. If I'm finished cooking dinner, or we're waiting on something in the oven, and Keith still hasn't walked in the door O and I will play around on the grass out front until he comes home. Every time a car drives down our street O says "Ooooh! Is it daddy?". This week we were playing around with our somersaults and I caught him in motion (using the Auto Sports setting on my Canon dSLR Rebel (similar)). I'm going to have to blow this one up and frame it for sure.

Have an awesome weekend!

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