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I'm a mom, but I am also so much more. I'm a wife, I work, cook, shop, craft, try to stay healthy, keep up on the latest technology, and style trends, and much more! Come join me in my adventure of making a new blog that allows us to share the everyday things (ups and downs) that turns living an everyday life into living a lively life!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Happy Chinese New Year

It's Chinese New Year and in honor of that I have been trying out a few new recipes. 

I made a Pinterest recipe the other night that turned out so good! (So very good that we ate it all!)

It was simple, easy, fairly healthy, and if you can get your 5 year old and your husband to both say they liked it, it must be a keeper! I modified it to fit the ingredients I had in my fridge and to fit my gluten free needs.

6 oz gluten free spaghetti noodles

1/4 cup very hot water
2 tsp low sodium beef bullion
3 Tbsp gluten free soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar

Oil for pan frying beef and veggies in pan (I use olive oil)

1lb beef (I used grass feed beef and a fajita steak cut)
1 large red onion chopped
2 large carrots chopped up into small chunk (I used carrots I grow in the summer the wash chop and freeze in 1 lb bags.)
2 cups (give or take) I like broccoli so i make mine heaping cup fulls :-)
2 Tbsp of diced garlic
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1) Cook spaghetti as directed. (If you can, time it so you will be draining it about the time the meat and veggies are done.)
2) Combine low sodium beef bullion, gluten free soy sauce, and brown sugar the hot water and stir until fully dissolved. Set off to the side.
3) Cook meat with olive oil in pan until almost done. Near the end add the onions, garlic, and sesame oil so they will start to soften and caramelize a bit and the flavors will combine.
4) Add in carrots and broccoli and put on medium low head to warm and soften veggies. Stir often to mix flavors.
5) When veggies are warmed all the way through (I like mine with a little crunch, cook longer if you prefer a more cooked veg)  Add the sauce you set aside earlier, mix to coat everything well.
6) Pour the entire meat, veg, sauce mixture into the drained noodles and toss to coat everything.

Serve and watch it disappear into happy mouths!

 Original recipe from momsdish.com can be found here.

Serving size:
- See more at: http://momsdish.com/recipe/400/beef-lo-mein-recipe#sthash.uDCZLntN.dpuf
    • 8 ounces
    • Thin Spaghetti; broken in half
    • Oil; for frying
    • 2
    • large Carrots
    • 1
    • large Onion
    • 4
    • Garlic Cloves
  • - See more at: http://momsdish.com/recipe/400/beef-lo-mein-recipe#sthash.uDCZLntN.dpuf
    And after eatting such a great dinner why not continue the fun with a craft?
     Super simple Chinese lanterns from firstpalette.com.

    • Paper or cardstock (preferably red or yellow)
    • Scissors
    • Stapler or tape
    • Glue
    • Ruler
    • Pencil
    • Things to decorate your lantern with: gift wrap
      paper, ribbons, sequins, stickers, glitter glue,
      small buttons, etc.


    Step 1 Chinese Paper Lantern craft 1. Start out with an A4, Letter size, or any rectangular sheet of paper or cardstock. Red and yellow are preferred colors for a Chinese-themed lantern, but you can always choose any color you like.
    Step 2 Chinese Paper Lantern craft 2. Cut a 1-inch wide strip off on one short side. Set this aside for the handle.
    Step 3 Chinese Paper Lantern craft 3. Fold the paper in half, lengthwise.
    Step 4 Chinese Paper Lantern craft 4. Draw a horizontal line one inch from the long edge opposite the fold.

    *This line is just a guide for cutting and may not be necessary for older kids.
    Step 5 Chinese Paper Lantern craft 5. Starting from the folded edge, cut a straight line about an inch from one short edge, all the way up to the horizontal line.
    Step 6 Chinese Paper Lantern craft 6. Continue to cut more straight lines about 1 inch apart until you reach the opposite short edge of the paper. Remember that the horizontal line marks the point where you stop cutting each straight line.
    Step 7 Chinese Paper Lantern craft 7. Unfold the paper. The paper will have several vertical slits along the middle. Erase any pencil marks or re-fold the crease the opposite way to hide the pencil marks at the back.
    Step 8a Chinese Paper Lantern craft 8. Decorating the lantern is optional but if you wish to jazz up yours, here are some ideas you can try:

    a.) Make a border by painting with any water-based paint or coloring with crayons or oil pastels.
    Step 8b Chinese Paper Lantern craft
    b.) Create patterns and details with glitter glue, puffy paint, or markers.
    Step 8c Chinese Paper Lantern craft
    c.) Glue on a strip of gift wrap paper, patterned paper, fabric, lace, washi tape, or a wide ribbon to make a border.
    Step 8d Chinese Paper Lantern craft
    d.) Add texture by gluing on materials like craft foam or felt shapes, small buttons, beads, sequins, ribbon, lace, etc. Do not glue on materials that are too heavy for your paper though.

    Take note to leave at least a half-inch of undecorated area on one top corner. This space will allow you to connect the two edges of the paper to form a lantern.
    Step 9 Chinese Paper Lantern craft Ask for an adult's help9. Form the paper into a tube shape to transform it into a lantern. Overlap the long edges at least a half-inch. Staple or tape the top and bottom corners.
    Step 10 Chinese Paper Lantern craft 10. Glue on the paper handle from Step 2. Decorate the handle if you like.

    Once the glue dries, hang the paper lantern as a festive Chinese New Year decoration.

    More Ideas

    Red Chinese paper lantern with sequins Instead of paper, you can use a length of ribbon, lace or fabric for the handle.
    Chinese paper lantern with streamers Cut strips of crepe paper and glue these along the inside of the lantern's bottom edge. These streamers will make the lanterns move gracefully with the wind.
    Pastel-colored paper lanterns Besides the typical red and yellow Chinese lanterns, you can make them in your favorite colors or in hues that go with a particular occasion (e.g. orange and black for Halloween).
    Blue paper lantern You can also decorate the strips in betwen the slits of your lantern. Glue on small paper or fabric shapes, or draw designs with markers or crayons.

    Monday, February 23, 2015


    Strawberries were on sale at the store. I know they are out of season and probably sprayed with an unhealthy amount of pesticides but I got them anyhow. My daughter loves them and so do I. 

    I decided to have a bit of fun and create a dinosaur (inspired by a strawberry alligator I found on Pinterest).

    It's super simple. 
    -clean the strawberries. 
    -cut the top of of a large strawberry and place upside down .

    -place a toothpick In at an angle and insert a medium sized strawberry for the head.
    -use cake decorating gel (or sprinkle, or any other decorating material) to create the eyes and nostrils. 

    Then watch your child "roar" with delight when they see them!

    Tuesday, February 17, 2015

    Alternative Option: Clean(er) Eating ~Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

    The sub zero cold weather is coming again to the Midwest.....  BRRRR!
    Why not warm up with a cup of hot chocolate, but lets be clean about it.
    Instead of a cup of the processed hot cocoa mix (that I told you about a few weeks ago Link here) how about making your own?

    It's so simple and you have most ingredients in the pantry, if not they're easily accessible at the store!

     Homemade Dry Hot Chocolate mix

    Makes 5 1/2 cups of dry mix
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 cup cocoa powder
    • 3 cups powdered non-fat milk
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
    Fill mug halfway with mix (about a 1/4 cup of mix). Pour in hot water. Mix well.

     Here are a few tips that I've picked up over the years while making this.
    • Put the cornstarch and powdered milk in the food processor if you have one. (It gets rid of all the lumps!) Then put it in a large bowl and use a whisk to mix together all the other ingredients. 
    • You can play with the flavor a bit and add more or less milk depending on the creaminess you prefer.
    •  You can also play with the type of coco you add, dark choc, milk choc, white choc, etc. 
    • Finally, if you'd like, add a tiny dash of cayenne pepper will give it a great little flavor. You can also add cinnamon or a variety of there flavoring if you want to jazz it up.

    Spring Educational Fun

    Spring in coming.... 

    That means, flower, caterpillars, and butterflies!

    I am looking for some fun yet educational activities to do with my daughter during spring break. Here are some fun things I have found while perusing the web. 


    These are some cute printable s that could easily be made into a book and then use them for some practice reading. Pick out sight words. Highlight names of foods. etc...


    I LOVE homeschoolcreations.com. I have used several of their preschool printables last summer. This garden unit is adorable and the perfect way to learn more about spring while getting some letter and fine motor skills practice.

    Engaged and Entertained Without Electronics

    My daughter has become the child who often asks, "Mom, can I have your phone?" while we are traveling in the car or at the grocery store. She is looking for a source of entertainment and something to keep her mind engaged. Here is a great article about when it is appropriate to let you child use electronics.

    I have nothing against her using it occasionally since I keep a collection of educational apps on there for her. I keep a limit on electronics and TV time so occasional usage (short periods of time, a few times a week at most) is all I allow. I do also admit, if I am trying to focus on driving or get my shopping done quickly without interruption having that there for her to use is rather convenient.

    However, as a child I was forced to use my mind to create my own entertainment and I think that is part of the reason I am creative today.

    Part of me wonders, as today's society looks more and more to electronic devices to provided educational material and entertainment for our children are they going to lose some of that ability to use their imagination?

    When my sister shared this Etsy shop with me and wanted to share it with all of you. Felt boards are a simple product that can allow your child tons of creative options. Allison creates some super adorable boards and characters. Just keep them in your car or bag and when your child is looking for entertainment they can create and tell their own scenes and stories over and over and again.

    Felt boards allow unlimited imagination in creating a scene.
    What adorable carrying case!

    Perfect for a pirate story.....

    Or for someone who loves to tell fairy tales.....

    And how CUTE are these little arctic animals!!!

    Allow your child to relive their favorite family memories by recreating the scene.

    Lots more at the Etsy shop. Hours of endless, reusable, mix and match fun.

    Link to Allison's Shop:

    Monday, February 16, 2015

    Evaluate Your Options: Homemade Fruit Snacks

    My child loves fruit snacks. I don't particularly think they are great but there is something about fruit snacks that kids LOVE.

    I have searched for "healthier" options. 
    I tend to lean towards Mott's or Annie's when I buy them. Since starting this clean eating change I have held off, not wanting to purchase food full of sugar and corn syrup. 

    But... have you ever thought making your own? 

    I never had, until I saw a few Pinterest posts about homemade fruit snacks. 

    Now I am intrigued. 

    The Land of Nod blog really interested me. 


    Another great recipe is here on Wellness Mama. 

    I don't have the little cute shaped molds but I saw a few versions of the recipe that just cut them into tiny squares. That would easily do the trick for me. 

    Have any of you made fruit snacks? 

    Wednesday, February 11, 2015

    Evaluate food Week One: Taco Seasoning

    We love tacos. We eat them often. Do you? 

    Do you use homemade seasoning or the store bought packets?

    Take a look at a packet of seasoning that you can pick up at the store:

    Taco Seasoning - misleading products on 100 Days of Real Food 
    I couldn’t believe it when If you look at the ingredient you will notice that 'Maltodextrin' as the first item on the list (meaning of all the ingredients this contains the most of that). Maltodextrin is a filler found in highly processed foods and is usually made from corn. If I want corn in my taco I'll use fresh or frozen kernels not processed corn. 

    Why would it be the main ingredient in a simple as taco seasoning?
    Clean Alternative: Make your own batch of homemade taco seasoning. See my tutorial here.

    2 Tbsp chili powder
    1 1/2 Tbsp paprika
    1 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
    2 tsp onion powder
    1 Tbsp dried onions
    2 tsp garlic salt
    1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
    1 tsp crushed red pepper

    Gently mix all ingredients together in a bowl and store in an air tight container.

    Use 2 large scoops of seasoning and 2/3 cup water per 1 pound of taco meat.

    I usually triple the recipie and then I have enough for a few months.

    Clean eating family resources

    Clean eating for families:

    If you are more into having a book in your hands to read and a hard copy of recipes here is a book recommendation. Food Network featured this author and has a full page of the interview here. A good starting place. 

    Thursday, February 5, 2015

    Tuesday, February 3, 2015

    Clean Eating On A Budget

    As I said at the beginning, cleaner eating isn't about going all organic. A majority of American families can't afford that, including me!

    However I can make the choice to allocate a few extra dollars towards buying some organic vegetables and fruits that might contain less pesticides and be healthier. 

    I also have to be willing to take a little bit of extra time to maybe make a few things instead of giving into buying the pre-made versions at the store.

    Here's some great tips from the Small Wonders Blog I found for clean eating on a budget.


    1. Plan Your Meals
    This is not always as easy as it sounds. We get busy.  We get lazy.  We go into the grocery store with no plan and wander the aisles aimlessly grabbing whatever we think looks healthy.  $300 later, we’re home unpacking everything.  We’re so proud of ourselves for finding all of these healthy foods!  We aren’t even that upset about the price we paid.  Until a week later, when we have 5 overripe avocados, two bunches of brown bananas, and some sour, chunky milk.
    I’ve done this plenty of times.  I always feel guilty for wasting food, knowing that there are hungry people in this world.  Also, I’m pretty pissed that all of that money is going right in the trash.  It’s not that I don’t like the foods I’ve bought, it’s just poor planning.  That’s why meal planning is my number 1 tip.

    2. Love (or Learn to Love) Cooking
    This goes hand-in-hand with the meal planning.  If you’re going to eat clean, you should prepare your own meals at home.  Eating out or ordering food is expensive.  Just think- if you usually spend $20 ordering take-out, you could buy enough clean food for two meals with that money.  Instead of ordering pizza, you can get the kids involved and have them make their own clean pizzas at home!  Or if you spend around $50 going to a restaurant for a date, you could have had at least 4 clean meals at home with that money. Instead of going out, you could buy quality ingredients and spend the night cooking with your significant other.
    And don’t worry- If you do decide to cook most of your meals, it doesn’t mean you have to spend all day in the kitchen either.  There are plenty of clean crockpot recipes, or recipes that take 20 minutes or less.  Check Pinterest or buy a ‘clean eating’ cookbook for ideas.  

    3. Focus on the Dirty Dozen
    When it comes to buying your produce, you DON'T have to buy everything organic.  If you have the money, and you want to buy all organic- by all means, go for it!  But if you are trying to stick to a budget, focus on the dirty dozen.  The dirty dozen is a list of 12 fruits and vegetables that you should always buy organic.  The reason is that these fruits and vegetables have the highest pesticide residues and also because we typically eat the skin(s) of these foods.
    The Dirty Dozen
    1. Peaches
    2. Apples
    3. Sweet Bell Peppers / Hot Peppers
    4. Celery
    5. Nectarines
    6. Strawberries
    7. Cherries
    8. Cucumbers
    9. Grapes
    10. Spinach / Leafy Greens
    11. Cherry Tomatoes
    12. Potatoes
    All other fruits & vegetables (with the exception of summer squash which is also recommended to be organic when possible) are okay to buy regular.  Try to include a lot of other fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, avocados, bananas, and broccoli in your menu if you are concerned with the prices of organic produce.

    4. Use Your Freezer
    It’s okay to buy the frozen stuff!  Not only is frozen produce usually less expensive than fresh, it lasts areally long time in your freezer. You can buy frozen berries to make smoothies or to add to oatmeal.  Frozen spinach can be a quick side dish or a veggie to add to lasagna or soup.  The same goes for meat and chicken.  I can often find deals on frozen ground grass-fed beef, so I stock-up and keep it in the freezer.  You can even freeze a gallon of milk!  If you have a freezer in your garage or basement (like I do) it’s a good idea to keep a list of what is in that freezer.  When you buy your groceries, add them to the list before putting them in the freezer.  When you use something from that freezer, cross it off on your list.  This will help you from forgetting what’s in there and letting it go to waste.

    5. Buy In-Season
    Buy in-season fruits and vegetables and plan your meals around them.  In-season produce is usually less expensive that out-of-season stuff that has to be shipped in.  

    6. Watch Your Portions
    It’s hard to avoid sticker shock when you see organic milk for $5.99 a gallon. Around here, regular milk often goes on sale for less than $3 a gallon, so I’m paying more than twice as much.  Then, I think about all the times I’ve poured my kids a glass of milk and they drank two sips of it. Or I gave them milk in their cereal, and I end up pouring all the milk down the drain.  Since I began buying organic, I’ve become much more stingy with the portion sizes of our food.  Instead of filling up a glass with milk for the kids, I give them about 4 ounces.  If they still want more, I’ll give them another 2 ounces.  The same goes for me!  When I make dinner, I’ll think, “Do I really want to eat a whole piece of chicken?”  I know if I only eat half, I can eat the other half for lunch the next day.  A serving of chicken should only be about 3-4 ounces anyway, so an entire breast is usually more than twice the serving size.  Because the organic food is more expensive, I don’t want to ‘waste’ it by eating more than I really need!

    7. Beware of Organic ‘Junk’
    It’s important to know that just because something is labeled as organic, it’s not always clean or healthy.  There are organic cookies and chips, but they aren’t necessarily good for us.  Also, they are usually pretty pricey.  If you’re on a budget, stay away from organic junk food, so you’re only spending your money on foods that are truly nutritious.
    Drinks are another waste of your money.  Avoid (or cut back on) sodas, sports drinks, & energy drinks.  Stick with water (and milk if you’re having dairy).  Fruit juices are full of sugar too, even if they are 100% juice.  You’re better off eating your fruit.

    8. Eat Leftovers
    I know some people are not huge fans of leftovers, but if you’re on a budget, you gotta learn to love them!  When you prepare a meal for dinner, only eat as much as you need.  Once you’re full, put any leftovers in the fridge for lunch the next day.  I find that it’s best to put things into clear plastic containers or clear glass with plastic wrap. Clear plastic or glass helps keep the food in sight, so it won’t go to waste.
    Also, you can use some of your leftovers as ingredients for another dinner meal.  For example, this Friday, we’re going to have burrito bowls.  I’ll make shredded chicken, and we will have black beans, roasted corn, tomatoes, peppers, etc. to add to our bowls.  I’ll save all the leftovers and make chicken tortilla soup a few days later.  I’ll throw the chicken, tomatoes, beans, corn, peppers, etc. into a pot with some chicken broth and let it simmer.  I’ll add any extra ingredients I need, but there’s no reason to let all of those leftovers go to waste!

    9. Consider Joining a CSA for your Produce
    CSA stands for community supported agrigulture.  What this means is basically you are buying a share into a local farm.  You will pay a fee in the beginning of the season, usually based on a package you choose.  Sometimes they offer weekly or bi-weekly packages with varying amounts of produce.  You will have to decide based on your family size and how much produce you think you will eat.  I will tell you that the more produce you buy, the lower the price per pound typically is.  Then, the famer uses the money to plant and grow crops.  Depending on your plan, you will go and pick up your produce weekly or bi-weekly. The downside to a CSA is that you usually don’t get to choose what you get.  If you’re a picky eater, it may not be for you.  The good news is that you get locally-grown, organic produce at a great price.  It also gives you the opportunity to try new foods and experiment with new recipes.

    10. Buy in Bulk, Buy Local
    If you are really serious about eating clean, and you have the freezer space, consider buying chicken, beef, or pork from a local farm.  Some farms allow you to buy packages of meat and poultry, while others will only sell you the whole cow or whole chickens.  You could split a whole cow (or a side, which is half a cow) with another family if it seems like too much meat.  Just like the CSAs, typically the price per pound decreases as the amount you are purchasing increases.  Also, some farms have CSAs for meat and poultry (and milk and eggs even).  If you’re interested, check some local farms to compare prices and quality.
    Other things that you can buy in bulk are nuts and grains.  They may not come in fancy packaging, but they are the same thing!  Also, these staples will last a while in your pantry.