Wednesday, July 8, 2015

My Planner Round Up

July has begun and now I am thinking about August... If anyone knows me I am a planner junkie. I love the crisp white pages that are waiting for my myriad of rainbow colored pens to paint them into a daily schedule masterpiece. Honestly, a good planner will change your life. Well that is if you use it. With August upon us and the new release of 2016 planners right around the corner I have begun the hunt. Bearing all that in mind, I feel like my life is constantly evolving. In the past 2 years I have gone from a mother of one to a mother of three. I have left a full time job and traded in my business mindset for a stay at home mom frame of mind. Then add on the fact that I am now constantly juggling 4-5 appointments of therapy a week for little Miss Lizzy I would say that my planner needs have acquired some very drastic changes. Now that things have settled back into some what of a normal schedule, that meaning I am not spending every day at a hospital and I am not pregnant, I decided to add one more wrench into my schedule. I'm going back to school! Another issue that my planner will have to tackle this coming fall. So I am now on the hunt for yet another planner to fit that aspect of my life. I am not opposed to multiple planners, I mean I am a notebook hoarder as well after all. But I would love to have everything in one place like I have now. So in my search for something that fit I thought I might give you guys a peek at what has made the final cut....

My current love at the moment is the weekly edition of  Emily Ley's Simplified planner which I think is absolutely adorable and functional. All except the weekly edition is sold out right now but she has made some upgrades since I purchased mine so you have to take a look. Just the right amount of space for appointments and a to do list. Oh, and if you have read my post on menu planning and prep you will know why I adore the space for writing in dinner plans daily! It is moderately priced at $58 which I think is great considering the quality of planner you are getting. This is my second year using her planners. Last year I got the daily version and it had a little more detail each day than I needed. But by all means check out her daily edition if you like an hourly view of the day or I even have been eying her academic edition for this school year. Just don't tell my husband....

Another planner that I have considered in the past and have currently been looking at getting is Erin Condren's Life Planner. They too are moderately priced at $50-$75 based on the options you choose.  These have such a beautiful design and get this, you can customize them! There are two different layouts for your day, horizontal or vertical. I really love the bright colors that just beg you to fill them in. Don't even get me started talking on all the accessories. I'm literally giddy with sticker happiness.

image credits: 

The last planner I wanted to highlight is on Etsy, Posy Paper. They are stationary shop that is now offering planners! Although the nuts and bolts of this planner are pretty straight forward what I really like are the cover designs. They are fresh, modern, and cheerful. Some of them feature some awesome mantras including, "Live, Laugh, Love" and "If you can dream it, you can do it". They do offer cover customization options and they are also the most affordable on my list at $20! This thrifty mama was a little more than excited when I saw that. 

image credits: Posy Paper on Etsy
 So there you have it. Just three of the awesome designer planners on the market. I am so excited to get a new one and start filling it with all kinds of appointments and dates. I think I actually like the planning more than the doing? Happy planner hunting and let me know what some of your favorites are! 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Blackened Chicken Breast with Avocado Cream Sauce

So, about clean eating. If anyone knows me they know I enjoy food, all food and more specifically all the foods that are bad for me. I'd like to think that I could make healthy food taste just like a double cheeseburger dripping in cheese, but I have not mastered that skill. Not even by a long shot. However, now that I am FINALLY getting serious about getting rid of this baby weight I have resigned myself to healthy, clean eating. And seeing as though I love food as much as I do and enjoy cooking I am finding new ways to make the foods that I am supposed to eat into foods I want to eat. This recipe is one of those meals born out the desperation of having to sit through another plate of tasteless "healthy food". So lets get into the recipe....

Blackened Chicken Breast with Avocado Cream Sauce and Roasted Broccoli

For the blackening seasoning
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (you can use more, but I was making this for the kiddos too)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp olive oil

For the avocado cream sauce
3 Tbsp non fat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 avocado
juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup cilantro leaves (you can use parsley if you don't like cilantro)
2 Tbsp water
1 garlic clove
1 tsp brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

1large head of broccoli
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

First you want to mix up the blackening seasoning. Literally just put it all in a bowl and stir. Done.

Preheat your oven to 450 F and cover a sheet tray with parchment paper. This is your friend, especially since we are using such a small amount of oil. Next you want to split your chicken breasts in half. That way you will end up with thinner chicken breasts that take a shorter amount of time to cook and it also tricks my mind into thinking I have more chicken to eat then I really do. I know, the mind games I play.

Then you want cover both sides with all that lovely blackening seasoning. Rub it in good. Take that 2 teaspoons of olive oil and divide it evenly over the top of chicken breasts on the sheet tray. 

Okay now place this tray in the oven for 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the chicken. While that's cooking we can tackle the broccoli that will go into the same oven. Cut the broccoli into florets. 

Put those on a sheet tray with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Use those fingers and make sure it's all coated. Slide that tray into the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes until the edges are slightly brown. Now onto the sauce. I didn't get any pictures because I was so excited about it that I just forgot. Please forgive me, it is super easy I promise. All you do is dump everything into a food processor or blender and give it a whirl. You may or may not need more water and also it's all about the consistency you like. I wanted a cross between a sauce and dip so 2 Tablespoons worked perfect. Then plate it all up and pack yourself on the back for making something delicious and nutritious. It's definitely not a steak, but it is a far cry from the baked chicken breast and steamed spinach I had been downing as of late. Enjoy!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Meal Planning for the Organized (and the not so organized...)

I am not the most organized person you will ever meet. I aspire to be, but somehow life seems to happen before I have a chance to break out the label maker and color coded plastic bins. With all that aside one thing I do try to stay on top of is meal planning in our house. Between having three kids with various extracurricular schedules, a husband in the military, and being involved in our church I find when I don't make a conscious effort to meal plan and prep we are making that trip through the drive thru way too many times. On top of all that I have been trying to get in shape after this last baby so eating cleaner and being more mindful of my food choices has become increasingly more important. Enter, my meal planning binder.

Isn't she pretty? I know I'm a sucker for a brightly colored and geometrically designed office supplies. As made very apparent by the stock load of pens, markers, pencils and various items lurking in my desk drawer.  But that's another topic for another day. This particular beauty came from Target and was only, wait for it $5! Inside it houses everything I need to plan out my meals. Seeing as though I have a problem finding the time to meal plan consistently I plan for the month, but if you are a person that can't see past Friday don't worry I haven't forgotten about you. Weekly meal planning can be just as efficient in this system. 

Now when you open her up I have a pencil pouch with everything to make the job more enjoyable and fun. Pretty Pencils, colorful pens, a basic calculator, and a green highlighter (because I prefer to highlight my list at the store instead of cross out items) are pretty much all the supplies you need. In the front before my dividers I put the current week's shopping list and monthly meal plan calendar so it is the first thing I see. Since I do most of my grocery shopping every two weeks I put a little post it note in the corner of the shopping list that has the produce I would have to pick up the week I don't shop because if I bought it too early it would spoil. 

Then comes the dividers. You can divide them up however you would like but these categories work the best for me. I needed a place to put all those Pinterest recipes that I used to have to print over and over again because I would misplace them. Yep, I was killing way to many trees. This way they are all organized and if I get in a rut when I try to fill in my menu plan I have a bunch of go to ideas that are right at my fingertips. Easy peasy right? These dividers (also from Target, can you tell I spend way too much time there?) have lines on the back so I wrote down items that I didn't necessarily have a recipe for, but are staples in the rotation. That way I don't forget about them. You know, your go to recipe that you forgot you had? Again, if you don't get dividers with the lines on the back don't worry I have a fix for that too. I didn't always have these stylish things in my binder. A master meal planning list works just as well. 

The last divider is probably the most important and my favorite part of this binder, my meal planning resources. Have you ever started meal planning and wondered can I get ripe tomatoes this time of year? Or have you bought a fruit or veggie at the beginning of the week for a recipe at the end of the week and are disheartened because it has wilted before you have had a chance to use it? Well I complied a list of produce by the season and how long said produce will last into two worksheets that honestly I don't think I could meal plan without. It has saved me so much time, money, and heart ache because I know that if I am using produce that is in season I can find it available and it is fresh and will taste so much better then if I didn't. 

So that's it. That's my meal planning binder. Hope that it inspires you to do some more cooking and that it makes it simpler to do. Oh and yeah of course I couldn't let you go without giving you all the printables that I use. I'm really into watercolors and I love the designs by Angie Makes. She has some great free resources for graphic designers and novel dabblers like myself on her blog. You have to check her out. I used some of them in the printables. So enjoy and happy meal planning!

click here to download the meal planners

click here to download the meal planning resources 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

DIY: Easy Zippered Pillow Cover Tutorial

I love pillows. Can you tell, all those pillows are currently on my couch. Yep, I may have a problem. If I had it my way I would have them everywhere in my house. My husband, he's not so enthusiastic about my love of these comfy, soft squares, but he is coming around. The only thing is with 3 kids running around I find that our pillows can get pretty downright grimy. And don't even get me started on the stains! While washing and refreshing my actual pillows is a necessity at times, there are sometimes that I just want to switch out the cover. Whether it had a meet and greet with Lizzy and Lily, need I say more? Or if I feel like the room needs some new life. They can add some fresh design without breaking the bank.

 Covers for my pillows was actually the first sewing project that I ever undertook so if you are a newbie, start here. I promise it is painless. Well stick pins aside almost painless. While I have made button and envelope close covers my favorite has to be a zipper cover. Again, I have a toddler, a very busy one and buttons seem to go flying off and pillows magically end up outside of their covers with the other two closures when she is around. Zippers, she has not mastered yet, I know yet... So if you are ready to take on a project that is easy and you can do in one nap time or about 1 hour pull out that sewing machine and we can get started!

First you want to gather your supplies:

Coordinating Thread
Sewing Machine
Straight Pins
Seam Ripper

I like a snug pillow cover so I cut 2 pieces of fabric to the same dimensions of the pillow I am covering. Today I had a pillow that was 22" x 22" so I cut two squares that were, you guessed it 22' x 22". For the zipper you want a zipper that is 1" shorter than the length of the side you are putting it in. So in this case you want a 20" zipper. I prefer invisible zippers but you can definitely use whatever you like or was on sale. I'm a sucker for a good zipper sale. I had to shorten my zipper so I just followed the instructions on the package to do so. 

Now we are going to create a place for the zipper to go. Take both pieces of fabric and lay them together right sides facing in. Pin in place. Then you are going to baste, or sew with your sewing machine set to the longest thread length possible, down the side that you want your zipper to go.

Now you want to press that seam open. 

Great! Now you are ready to install your zipper. Lay your zipper centered and zipper pull facing down on the seam you pressed open. Pin into place. We are going to sew down both sides of the zipper on the front side of the fabric. This is when that zipper foot for your sewing machine comes in handy. See you did find a use for it! 

Time to expose that beautiful zipper you just installed. Using a seam ripper open up those basting stitches that you put in down the center and revel in the fact that you have just put in a zipper Yay! 

Okay you're almost done. Now we have to sew the whole beauty up. Open the zipper halfway. DON'T FORGET this part or you won't be able to turn the cover! Fold the fabric back again so the right sides are facing in. Pin all the way around the remaining three sides. With a 1/2 inch seam allowance sew around all 3 sides. 

Phew! Almost done, I promise. Now you want those pretty sharp corners right? So cut a triangle tip off the side of all the four corners. Turn the pillow right sides out and use the pencil to push those corners out. Press the cover and fill with your pillow form. Voila! You have a new cover for your cushion. 

Great work! Just don't blame me if you start recovering any and every pillow in your house. I'm just saying...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Surprise!: Birthday in a Box

Who likes surprises? I love surprises! Especially on my birthday, and the only thing I like better than getting a surprise is giving one. I have a friend back home who is having a birthday and I thought I would send her a birthday party in a box. I know right what could be more exciting then cupcakes, flashy confetti, balloons, and a little something for the birthday girl of course?

Since we live so far away from so many of our friends and family it's been hard to come up with ideas of thoughtful gifts that I can send them since I can't spend the day with them like I wish I could. Just another plight of a military spouse right? This box has a few things that I hope will brighten her day and won't cost me an arm and a leg to ship.

The first thing I had to do was to wrap the box, from the inside of course.  First gather your supplies. You'll need a flat mailing box (I used a 6" x 6" x 6" box), wrapping paper ( I just love stripes...), good scissors (I can't tell you how important a good pair of scissors is... I may of may not have almost cut my finger off with a pair of dull ones on this project, I'm just saying...), some clear packing tape, or and some glue (it's not pictured but you can really use any adhesive you like I just happen to have this on hand).

Then you want to use the GOOD scissors to cut open the box so that it lays flat.

Measure out your paper using the box as a template and cut it just a tiniest bit shorter on all sides.

Then glue that bad boy into place. You can see I went real low budget on the glue here. Just good ol' white school glue.

Then you have to cut out the notches where the paper is seen through. That way you can fold up the box and tape it shut. Good as new. 

Okay now the fun part, time to fill it up! I tried to pick things I knew she would enjoy and because the whole box of cake mix wouldn't fit the box I disassembled it, add a cut topper with instructions and put it all back together again... All in all it was really fun and I can't wait to hear from her once she gets it. All about gifting smiles...

And just because here's a printable for the cake mix topper and birthday card. Enjoy!

click here

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

DIY Rental Master Bedroom on a Budget

The master bedroom, or any bedroom for that matter is a place to sleep, but so much more it is the one personal space that you have in a home. It should reflect your personal style and give your mind pause and rest from world. Even more so if you have children you know that there aren't many places to hide in the house. Sneaking away to a place where I can dare I say indulge myself in a novel, prepare and plan for the next day, or just rest my head for what seems nowadays a 15 minute nap I wanted our room to be that place. Everyone needs some time to decompress and recharge alone, and although I do allow Landon, Lizzy and Lily to spend some time in there I wanted it reflect a more soft and mature style than the rest of our cheery, kid-friendly abode.

So I started to pour over magazines, Pinterest boards and seek inspiration from the amazing design blogs I follow on Instagram and became so immersed in the mood and style I wanted for our room. I had paint swatches and grandiose plans of wood planks and drama. For a brief moment I drawn into my design bubble where anything is possible. Then I remembered that we are renters. Being a military family it just hasn't made sense for us to purchase a home. We never know where we might end up and the thought of being saddled with a mortgage and orders to another state or dare I say country is something we just didn't want to deal with. 

Dialing back my aspirations was frustrating, but caused me to create a space that I think others might find inspiring especially if they do are dealing with less than lackluster white walls and a small budget. It was an exciting project that I can say I am proud to share with you. Along the way I found out some tips and principles that you can use and apply to any budget bedroom makeover or refresh. They are....

1. Use soft colors to create the illusion of more space.
I have lived in just about every size master bedroom. I have had more space than I know what to do with and I have lived in about the tiniest space I thought I could ever shove a dresser and queen size bed into. Luckily this bedroom is a good medium of the homes we have lived in. Not overwhelmingly large, but not so tiny I can't create a pathway from the door to the bed without tripping on the furniture. Even so, with two adults in the room and no walk in closet you have to add furniture for storage. To combat the feeling of that we choose a white wrought iron frame for our bed and I used pale coral, grey and white linens to create a softer look. The curtains are also a pale turquoise so it lets in the light and blends into the already white walls. While I would have loved to used a nice creamy light beige or gray on the walls I had to compromise in light of the fact that we are renting...

2. Create a multifunctional space
Back to being a busy mom and finding time to get away. I have such an amazing husband that will take our kids and allow me time to work on projects that I am passionate about, but since we don't have a basement and our kids rooms are not the largest our office space has to double as a playroom. That means our desk is in the midst of chaos most of the time. Also we do have a bathroom in our room which is a blessing (especially since our last rental only had one!), but it is on the smaller side so when I need to do my make up I was invariably hogging the mirror space. So I took a desk and put it beside the bed and created a vanity, desk, and nightstand combo. Now I have storage for all my make up, a place to write, and also a surface to house my latest reading material for bedtime. Using the space beside your bed wisely can create extra space in your house and give you more room to do the things you love. 

3. Don't be afraid to Do It Yourself
I love a craft project. The feeling I get when I complete a project is unlike any other. It might be better than chocolate... maybe. For this room I decided to tackle just a few projects. I made the curtains and button pillow cover on the reading chair and I created some wall art. They were all very simple and I was able to make 4 curtain panels for the two windows for less than $20! That I would say is a major score. Whether you are constrained by your budget or you haven't been able to find that perfect piece there is a wealth of diy resources online that can make any dream come true.

Could the room be more like my HGTV dreams? Of course but design is an ever evolving process for me. I'll probably wake up tomorrow and decide to add another piece of wall art or move the chair. I have to continuly tweak, add and subtract. That's what makes it so much fun! For now though I think I will take my own advice and relax in the space. Well at least for a minute then it's on to the next project, the girls shared space...