"In all of living have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured!"
~ Gordon B. Hinckley

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fall is Here!

Fall is here!! I usually don't like Fall very much; it means Winter is coming, and with it comes never-ending cold cold, dark, dreary days that I have to suffer through until Spring comes again! (which isn't until about May in Utah. blah) But this year I'm actually excited!!

It's been soooo hot in Alabama this Summer, the past few days have felt wonderful outside! Still warm and humid, but without being stifling, and with a nice cooler feel in the evenings. And according to weather.com, the lowest low (on average) for the coldest day of the year here is only about 35. That's waaay more doable than all those single digit days we get in Utah!!

I'm also really excited for Halloween and Fall decor and making costumes and all kinds of stuff!! Carving pumpkins, Fall baking, apple cider, cuddling with my Trevor at outdoor movies, cute cardigans, Fall-colored crafts and sewing projects, Halloween parties (aka more excuses to wear costumes), Halloween candy (which we've already started eating), soup season, reading scary (but only a tiny bit scary) books and watching movies with Trevor, soooooo much to do!

I just found this nice little list of traditions, crafts, and recipes for the Fall. I can't wait to get started!!


But first, me and Trevor are going to squeeze a little bit of last-minute Summer out of this warm weather, and go on a trip to the beach tomorrow!!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Save the Muffcakes!!

I feel like a battle hero. An epic warrior princess!

Well...actually the kind that screams like a banshee and runs away, and then - while shaking like crazy from an insane adrenaline surge coupled with panic - manages to eventually capture and destroy the unarmed enemy...who is waaaaay smaller than both her and her weapon of choice.

So maybe not so courageous after all when you look at the facts, but I still feel like a champion!

A bit of background information:
Earlier this week we had a Favorite Fall Recipe swap at church, so I mixed up a batch of my favorite Pumpkin Spice Muffcakes. I've made them pretty much every Fall since I found the delicious recipe hidden discretely on the narrow side of a store-brand cake mix several years ago. So soft and fluffy, yet moist, and just the right amount of pumpkin to make it festive without being over-kill. Yum! I always bake it in a muffin pan instead of as a bundt cake or in loaf pans because a single batch doesn't use up the whole can of pumpkin, so I usually double it and the cupcakes make for easy sharing and spreading of Fall cheer! Who doesn't love finding a plate of freshly-baked goodies on their doorstep? (Also, it only takes half as long to bake in a muffin tin as it does in a bundt or loaf pan so I can devour them sooner. Easy choice!) Sometimes I add chocolate chips and/or chopped nuts, or top them with whipped cream or rich cream cheese frosting, but I usually just leave them plain so I can bask in the glorious, uninterrupted, delicious goodness. Mmmmmmmmm.

My delightful muffcakes were all baked and sitting on the counter to cool long before I needed to leave for the activity (wahoo!), so I got on facebook for a bit to congratulate myself while I waited for Trevor to get home.

Then I heard a faint noise coming from near the door to the sunroom - just a few feet away from where I was sitting. I chose to ignore it. Our house frequently makes odd sounds - as did the house I grew up in - and I have a very vivid easy-to-spook worst-case-scenario imagination. It was probably nothing.

Then I heard it again. Still probably nothing...please? And again, but a little different. It's probably not a scary man in my sunroom...maybe Trevor randomly decided to walk around the house and through the back yard and check out the mold damage in the sunroom before coming home for dinner?

And then I heard some rustling right next to me, so I slowly peeked around the corner of the sewing table/computer desk and saw several long black legs clambering around on a plastic shopping bag of stuff sitting on the floor. Gah!! A monstrously huge cockroach! I snapped my eyes back to facebook. Much less frightening. I hate bugs!!!! Especially ones that are several inches long and are inside my house and on my stuff!

My panicked mind tried to calculate my chances for survival if I just ignored the roach until Trevor got home and could take care of it (wishful thinking). Now I'm not good at math, but my chances didn't seem all that great. I peeked cautiously around the corner again to size up the enemy, and the thing flew right at me! What?! Cockroaches are huge, ugly/scary, and they can FLY?!?! Who's terrible idea was that?!?!

I'll be honest; I screamed my head off. The neighbors probably thought I was dying. The cockroach probably went deaf - or at least would have if cockroaches had ears.

And then I ran away. So did the roach. As I was turning and running I saw it land and make a mad dash into the kitchen. My kitchen!! That nasty, scary, germ-breeding, icky, creepy-crawly, gross, huge, monster was going to run amok in there with my food and my dishes and my wonderful pumpkin spice muffcakes still sitting on the counters cooling?!?!

Heaven help me. I was too scared to go back and kill that thing, but too scared to leave it to run free in my kitchen. What's a poor girl to do but hide somewhere and start praying until Trevor came home to save me!

But then my inner warrior princess/motherly muffcake-protecting instincts came out and reminded me that my indoor spider-killing spray also kills roaches!! So I grabbed it and headed shakily for the kitchen. Sure enough, there it was, coming out from the bottom of the fridge and heading straight towards me. It could probably sense my complete and utter terror.

BAM! Right in the head with the roach poison :) But it kept coming towards me, and actually started moving faster. So I started spraying faster! It retreated and tried to sneak away under the fridge and the baseboards, but it was too big. Then it made a mad dash for the other side of the kitchen. Dang, cockroaches can run fast!!! But I could spray fast too, and I chased it the whole way across the kitchen leaving a soggy wet trail of poison. Then it scurried up the wall, almost all the way to the counter top! They can climb fast too?! Horrible horrible bugs!! So I sprayed down the wall from above to hopefully knock the roach down.

That worked well enough, and by this point the floor was so wet that the cockroach couldn't run as fast. In a moment of incredible courage, I grabbed a glass that happened to be out on the counter and successfully trapped the intruder as it was slogging through the obsessive amount of poison I had sprayed on the floor! Victory!!!! The encounter probably lasted no more than 3 minutes from the time I first saw the cockroach, but it sure felt like an eternity!

Just a small sampling of my spraying rampage. Please excuse my dirty kitchen floor.

The roach ran around like crazy in the glass for several minutes, but then the poison took effect and it eventually twitched it's last twitch and died. It was dead before Trevor even got home :) Why yes, I am awesome. Nevermind the fact that the kitchen floor was so covered in spray that I probably could have gone water-skiing.

Aaaaaand the muffcakes made it out safe and sound! The first thing I did after the beast had been contained was wash my hands very very very well and put those muffcakes away somewhere more safe! And then I ate one to congratulate myself on a job bravely (haha ok, maybe not so bravely) done. Sooooo good :)

(don't worry, the poison was all sprayed down and away from the muffcakes, which were safely up on the counters - and there weren't any on the counter that the roach started running up. And I promptly took a shower to make sure I got all the spray safely off of me :)

I would link to the original source for the recipe if I knew where to look, but I have never been successful in finding it online (believe me, I've tried many times through the years). As far as I can tell, the recipe is only available on the side of a box of Western Family brand Spice cake mix. So just know that this is not my recipe. It's Western Family's. And it is wonderful! :)

Super Easy Pumpkin Spice Muffcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare muffin pan.

Mix together:
- 1 package Spice cake mix
- a 3.5 package instant vanilla pudding mix (dry)
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Add in:
- 1 cup canned pumpkin (not canned pumpkin pie filling!)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup water
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts and/or chocolate chips (optional)

Mix until thoroughly blended.

Pour batter into pan and bake at 350. Bake 50-55 minutes for a bundt pan, 55-60 for a loaf pans, or 25-30 minutes for muffin pans.

Serve with cream cheese frosting, whipped cream/coolwhip, or just enjoy them plain :)

ps, you may have noticed, these are dairy-free! (if you eat them without topping, and if whatever brand of cakemix you use doesn't have dairy - the Western Family brand doesn't)

In the Eye of the Beholder

Two weeks ago we went yardsaleing (one of my favorite things!) and we totally hit the jackpot! We didn't get out and about until around 12:30, and by then it was crazy hot and the bugs were insane, and the lady running the yard sale just wanted her stuff to be gone! She had me fill up a huge bin with stuff and sold me the lot for $10 flat. Our spoils include treasures like a Wilton princess-shaped cake pan (!!!!), some cake decorating books, 2 diaper bags, nice embroidered burp clothes, several pairs of darling baby socks, some changing pads, a few other things, and a TON of super cute baby clothes - basically all like-new!

After hitting that sale we were feeling pretty good about our success (plus the heat and bugs really were unbearable), so we were going to call it a day. Of course I had to happen to see another yard sale with baby stuff on the side of the road...so we made one more quick stop.

The lady running this sale told us to come in out of the sun to look at her items, but then looked at my exceptionally pale skin and joked that I should actually stay out in the sun instead to get some more color. She was Korean, and told me that in Korea women think white white white skin like mine is extraordinarily beautiful. Meanwhile I was jealously admiring the beautifully healthy tan hue of her skin that mine is incapable of achieving.

It's kind of silly. Girls with white skin are voluntarily giving themselves skin cancer and aging their skin to make it look darker, while other girls with nice dark skin are spending a fortune to damage their skin with bleaching products and other stuff to make their skin lighter. So which is really the most beautiful? It just depends who you're asking.

That thought made me think about all the various contradictory things I've been told by others about myself, or overheard them saying about me.

My eyes are beautiful and round. My eyes are freakishly huge and I shouldn't open them all the way when I get excited because they look weird.

My hair is so beautifully thick and luscious and healthy! My hair is unfashionably healthy and I should have it damaged so it will look more normal.
My long hair is something to be jealous of. My hair is too long.
My natural hair color is really pretty. "Don't you want your hair to be a different color than that?".
My hair is so nice and perfectly straight, and I'm lucky to have it. My hair is really dead and flat and unstyled.

My teeth are really nice and white and straight. My teeth are too huge and round like a little kid who still hasn't grown into her permanent teeth yet.

I have a great smile. My smile is too big, and my teeth come over my lip too much.

My freckles are really cute. My freckles are a shame and make my complexion look even worse.

Short girls are the best. I'm too short; tall girls with legs for days are where it's at.

I look great. I'm too fat. I'm too skinny.
I should stop eating desserts. I need to eat more because people are worried about me.

My legs are beautifully sculpted. My legs are the biggest of anyone in my dance class. My legs are super skinny.
My legs hyper-extend too much. My legs don't straighten enough.

I could go on, but I won't. I think I've made my point.

These are all things that other people (friends, associates, strangers) have looked at me and said about my appearance without provocation; they are not my own thoughts about myself (though I will admit, several of these thoughts have also existed in my mind).

So who is right? Which features are actually beautiful, and which are ugly?

Honestly, I think it just goes to show that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Everyone is different, so of course they'll see the same thing differently and appreciate different things. There's no sense in comparing apples to oranges.

The things that make you different make you beautiful, and the things that make you similar and relateable make you beautiful.

And because it's Sunday and I just had a mini lesson/discussion about God's creations, I just have to include Ecclesiastes 3:11

"He hath made everything beautiful in His time"

If I had to choose one person whose opinion was the most correct of anyone, I'd choose my Heavenly Father.

So there! Now go feel beautiful, and be beautiful, because you are :)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Little Life Inspiration

I woke up this morning after a nice, deep, dream-less (quite a rarity lately now that these crazy pregnancy dreams have starting hitting strong!), long sleep, and I just felt wonderful! I love it when that happens! And then I got on facebook and saw this incredible quote:
"When in situations of stress we wonder if there is any more in us to give, we can be comforted to know that God, who knows our capacity perfectly, placed us here to succeed. No one was foreordained to fail or to be wicked."
~Neal A. Maxwell (Ensign, February 1990, 31)

Just some little words of comfort and inspiration for when the road gets hard. God knows you and what you are capable of. He also knows exactly what you are going through, and how hard it is specifically for you, personally. And even if you are struggling to understand how so much can be required of you, just remember: when God is on your side, you win. Every time :) He wants you to be victorious.

Friday, September 13, 2013

3 Minimal-Effort Dinners to Use Up Leftovers

I haven't felt like being super gourmet with dinners this past week and a half, so I've been playing "what can I toss together quickly that uses up the stuff in my fridge?", and making up random meals and recipes a bit more often than usual. It's kind of a hit-or-miss process (especially with my picky-eater husband and my delicate stomach), but we had 3 big "wins" recently, so I figure I better document my recipes so I have them handy for next time!

Any time the first words out of my husband's mouth after tasting dinner are "We are definitely making this again!", you know it's a keeper :) Extra bonus, all 3 meals are dairy-free!!

Unfortunately I don't have pictures of any of them because they were just quickly assembled last-minute dinners that we ended up loving way more than anticipated! We'll for sure be making them again sometime, so I might be updating this post with pictures soon. In the meantime, feel free to use your imagination :)

Homemade Teriyaki Marinade with stuff you've already got in your kitchen:

Most of the "real" recipes call for rice vinegar, sesame oil, some kind of Japanese wine, fresh ginger root, and a bunch of other things that I'm sure take it to a whole new level of awesomeness and authenticity, but I don't have any of that stuff in my house regularly! So I kind of mish-mashed the general idea of several recipes with what ingredients I had, and what sounded (and smelled) about right, and we ended up loving the results!

Heads up, this recipe only makes enough for 3 or 4 servings, so you might want to double it. 

The Marinade:

- 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce (yes, it makes a big difference!)
- 2 tsp. white vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. oil
- 1 1/2 cloves minced or finely chopped garlic
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 3 Tbs. granulated sugar (white)
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger

- 1 lb. chicken or pork, thawed and cut into strips or chunks

(This is just what I happened to have so it's what I used. It would also be great with water chestnuts and red and/or green bell peppers. Or a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies from the store, to make it even quicker!)
- 2 cups chopped broccoli
- 1 cup carrots cut into thin slices
- 1/2 cup celery cut into disks

Mix together all ingredients of the marinade and pour over 1 lb. chicken or pork cut into strips or chunks. Let marinate in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. (if you don't have that long, just put it in the fridge until the veggies are ready to go.)

You could also put the meat and marinade in a ziplock bag and freeze it for an even quicker dinner later :)

Prepare your veggies of choice while you wait for the chicken to marinate.

Pour meat and marinade into a skillet (we don't have a wok) and cook on medium until the meat is cooked nearly through. Add veggies of choice for the last few minutes of cooking.

Serve over white rice.

Simple Lemon-Pepper Pasta with Broccoli

This one was truly a grab and dump experiment using leftovers in the fridge, so I'm not sure on measurements. 

Toss leftover fettuccine (or any other pasta) with 1 Tbs oil (give or take, depending on how much pasta. You don't want it slimy, just enough so it's not sticky and so the breadcrumbs and seasonings will stick.)

Add to the pasta and toss:
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 Tbs. dried parsley
- 1/4 tsp. garlic salt
- a dash of pepper
- 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Season pre-cooked chicken (I cooked too much earlier and had some ready in the fridge) with pepper, garlic salt, and fresh squeezed lemon juice, and add to the pasta mixture.

Serve with steamed broccoli.

Italian Yum

I definitely don't have measurements on this one. You know what proportions you like though :)

- 1 lb. raw chicken
- lettuce
- tomatoes
- cucumber
- Italian cheese blend or Parmesan (optional)
- Italian dressing
- tortillas and/or French bread (from a grocery store bakery or wherever)

Cut 1 lb. raw chicken into chunks and marinate in about 1/2 cup Italian dressing (enough to cover the chicken) for 30-60 minutes. (I used Wishbone's Bruschetta Italian dressing and it turned out great! Any kind of Italian will work though.)

While chicken is marinating, wash and chop up lettuce (we like Romaine), tomatoes, and cucumbers.

After marinating, cook chicken in a skillet on medium (or in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour if you have time).

Heat tomatoes in a skillet with a dash of Italian dressing until they are just starting to get soft. (Just about a minute or two, any longer and they'll get soggy and mushy)

Top chicken with cheese if desired, and serve chicken and tomatoes warm over lettuce and cucumbers as a salad with chunks of fresh French bread and extra Italian dressing, or serve in a tortilla as a wrap.

A Bit of Friday the 13th Bad Luck

I woke up this morning thinking "What a beautiful day! And it's Friday! Yay!" Yes, I really was that chipper from the moment I woke up today. I slept in until after 9; it helps :) I got myself some breakfast (some grapes and leftover homemade teriyaki stir fry. yum!), and got back in bed with my laptop, made a list of all the stuff I want to get done today, and started writing a bucket list. It's high time I made an official one. Somewhere along the way I realized it was Friday the 13th, but aside from choking a little from inhaling the juice from one of my grapes, I was having an awesome day! Then my sister called and we chatted for a few hours about nothing in particular. Still a great day!

I got off the phone around 12:30 or 1:00 and got myself some cucumbers and chips and salsa for a snack/lunch, and as I was putting my dishes in the sink I noticed something moving across the floor right in front of me. My glasses are a super old prescription (about 10 years old...) and they keep me from running into things, but they really don't compare to my updated prescription. If I had put my contacts in I might have noticed earlier that there were these 1/2 -  3/4 inch long white larvae - the same color as our kitchen tile - scootching all over the floor in every direction, all around me and my bare feet and my over-sized pj pants that were dragging through the vermin. YUCK! My kitchen is a nest of worms!!! Again!!!

We had these little critters a couple of months ago, but I thought we got rid of them! Not so. The creepy crawlies are back, with a vengeance! There were waaaay more this time! And running away screaming and letting my husband take care of it wasn't an option since he wouldn't be home for almost 5 more hours, and I did NOT want those things crawling all over my house the whole time!

So I shook off my pants and ran out of the kitchen, put my contacts in so I could see the icky things, put on my husbands shoes (hehe aren't I such a good wife? Seriously though, something about husbands' shoes seems so much more effective at killing bugs than my girly shoes), and headed back to the battlefield. I kept sweeping the larvae together in little piles and stomping on them, but new ones were appearing just as fast as I could smash the old ones, and I couldn't make any sense of where they were coming from or where they were going. It's like they were just appearing out of thin air. Super stressful! Then I discovered - both to my relief and disgust - that they were jumping out of the slightly over-filled trashcan. Not crawling up and out of it, they were crawling up the inside, and then jumping/falling off the edge through the opening where the lid didn't quite close. Totally nasty. There was literally an open can of worms in my kitchen, and it was a big can!

Fortunately, that means the larvae are not currently living in our food storage! Thank heavens!! They were in something we threw away! Quite possibly the new head of lettuce we bought and threw away the same night because it was gross and diseased inside when we tried to wash it and chop it up? I put a new trashbag on upside down over the can to hopefully deter larvae from jumping on me, and I dragged the whole thing outside and left it in the sunshine. It's metal, so hopefully it'll get crazy hot and fry the little scootchers and end our problem :)

So in the grand scheme of things, it really wasn't that bad, but I wouldn't mind if that's the end of my Friday the 13th bad luck :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Zucchini Bread (AKA Veggie Cake)

The past 3 days have been not-so-fun as far as dealing with pregnancy symptoms go. A couple brand new ones set in (congestion, sinus pressure, headache, and an unrelated toothache), and a few old ones have been paying an unwanted visit as well. So basically I've been lounging, moping, and feeling icky and not doing much of anything useful for the past few days. BUT today I'm actually feeling a bit better, so I made zucchini bread in celebration!!

I've been looking for an awesome recipe, and this new one still isn't "it" unfortunately. My mom has a great recipe, but it just never quite turns out for me, so I made some changes. The resulting texture still isn't quite what I'm looking for, and it was kind of a little too much sweet and not enough spice for my taste. Oh well, still plenty moist and tasty! And the fact that it wasn't 100% what I was hoping didn't stop me from eating half of one of the loaves all by myself for lunch! Oops :)

I wasn't going to post the recipe since I'm still on a quest to find "the one", but I figure I might as well. It's still yummy Zucchini bread! Plus it has no oil or butter, and it's dairy-free! Extra bonuses :)

It's great fresh and warm and gooey with the lemon glaze, and it's also delicious and refreshing served cold, or even frozen if you're like me and love frozen cake :) You could always eat it warm with a nice thick slab of butter too instead of the glaze. Yum!

Zucchini Bread

Preheat oven to 350, and grease two loaf pans

Mix together:
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup applesauce (no oil!)
- 3 eggs

Add in and mix:
- 3 tsp vanilla (yes, it's the same as 1 Tbs)
- 2 1/2 - 3 cups of grated zucchini (I left the skin on and tossed a large carrot into the mix as well. That plus the natural sweetness from the applesauce probably made it a bit sweeter than it should have been)
- 1 tsp lemon zest

Sift in and mix until well blended:
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 3 cups flour

Pour the batter into both greased pans evenly, then bake on 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

They are done baking when a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool for 5-10 minutes and tip out of the pans onto a cooling rack. Let cool another 30 minutes and top with lemon glaze! (Or just slice them up and put glaze on your individual slices if you're impatient like I was and want to enjoy the warm, fresh-baked goodness:)

I don't have a recipe for the glaze, you just mix powdered sugar with lemon juice (I used fresh squeezed) until you like the consistency. If I had to guesstimate, I'd say maybe 2 cups of powdered sugar and 1 1/2 - 2 Tbs lemon juice? Give or take a bit? (You can always substitute water for some or all of the lemon juice if it's too strong for your taste, or you don't like the flavor combination.) An extra sprinkle of lemon zest on top would be a nice touch too.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Playing Tag with Daddy's Little Girl

Over the course of the past 2 1/2 weeks our baby girl has starting moving around noticeably! Sometimes it's a lot more fun than others. For example, using my full bladder as a trampoline (she's currently breach) especially while I'm on a flight trying to avoid using the airplane bathroom, and squirming around and putting pressure uncomfortable on various organs when I'm really full and/or feeling sick are not so fun. Dancing around and keeping me company when I'm lonely at home while Trevor is gone at work is much more fun!

Definitely my favorite is when she plays tag with Trevor. She usually moves around a good bit while me and Trevor are talking after dinner (maybe because she can hear his voice? She loves that guy :), so he'll sit next to me on the couch and squeeze or jab my belly where she's moving. Then she kicks, head-butts, or fist bumps him back. Or possibly elbow jabs or knees him...who knows. He pokes her again, she pokes him right back. It's so cute! :)

She's not even born yet and she's already daddy's little girl. I can't say I blame her though; he is pretty amazing :)

He's been trying to feel her move through my blobulous (best "word" I can come up with to describe it) stomach ever since we got the ultrasound, but I had a hard time telling what was her moving, and what was my food moving for awhile, so there was no way he would be able to tell through all my fat/muscle/tissue/everything. Plus he went out of town for almost a week, and then once he came back I had a nasty cold for over a week and wasn't very much in the mood to be poked and prodded in the belly. Then right as I was recovering from my cold, I went out of town, and my first night away from home I woke up in the middle of the night for a snack and she started kicking me so hard I could totally see it! And of course he wasn't there for me to wake him up and show him! I did tell my little brother about it the next morning though. He wasn't that intrigued. Instead he just told me that was creepy and gross. He's 10, what can I say?

Trevor was pretty excited about it, and after the 10 long days that we were apart, he finally got to feel her moving around for the first time! It's just been a few days, and now look at them! They already made up their own little game with each other :)

We bought some fun stuff for our baby girl too! Our first baby purchases! It's slowly starting to get more and more real that we're actually going to have a baby. We went to Babies-R-Us to look at big stuff like cribs and strollers, but they were having a crazy clearance sale on clothes and some random items, so we had to check it out too! And I'm so glad we did!

(PS Sorry the lighting is bad in all of these, I wasn't feeling well again today and just snapped some pictures and called it good enough!)

How cute is this?! A little ballerina outfit for my little ballerina :) You can't really tell in this shot because it's so washed out, but it's white with a nice froofy 3-layered pink tutu skirt and a cute pink bow up near the shoulder. And it totally matches this wall-hanging I found for her room like 2 months ago (before we knew she was a girl...hehe...wishful thinking :). Original price for the outfit: $32.99. We paid: $12.50.

And check out these three darling Summer outfits! The smallest size they had was 6 months, so they'll be perfect for next Summer! Pink monster shirt: $1.50. Pink fishy and ruffle butt outfit: $2.50. Yellow outfit: $3.50.

And we can't forget about this gorgeous bedding set we found! The quilt doesn't look very pink in the picture, but it's the same lovely shade of dusty rose as the bumper, and the top layer is organza with the flowers are embroidered in cream. SO pretty! I completely fell in love with the collection (the Daniella bedding collection) when I saw it displayed in the store, but of course it costs more than we have in the budget for frills, so when I saw this set on clearance I just couldn't believe my luck!! Everything is a little on the wrinkly side from being in the packaging, and there are about 3 flowers where the stitching is a little flawed, but hey! The original price was $79.99, and we got it for $12.50!! Sold! :)

Altogether we bought $145 worth of stuff, and we only had to pay $35 total. That's like 75% off everything! Now we just need to find great mark-downs like that for the expensive stuff!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Easy Crock-pot Veggie Minestrone Soup

It's time for another recipe! I got the inspiration for this one from a recipe my aunt emailed me, combined it with a recipe from Hunt's, and tweaked them both a bit to work with what we had on-hand. It's delicious, super quick to prepare, healthy, and oh so easy. Yep, this one's a keeper!!

And as an added bonus, it's dairy-free! I put cheese on it because Kraft Naturals has cheese with 0 grams of lactose! Yay! It's also great without the cheese :)

We will DEFINITELY be making this again! And I love that there are several easy ways to change up the flavor without changing the recipe very much! Like by adding Italian sausage or some other meat instead of ground beef, using different veggie blends (celery and carrots maybe?), tossing in some chunks of potato instead of pasta, adding fresh basil or fresh parsley, adding different spices, you get the idea :)

So without further ado, here's the recipe!

Easy Crock-pot Veggie Minestrone Soup

Mix together in the crock-pot:
- 1 24 oz can of pasta sauce (I used Hunt's Garlic and Herb)
- 2 cups of water
- between 1 and 1 1/2 cups of frozen veggies (I used a frozen peas, carrots, corn, green bean, and lima bean mix)
- 1/3 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 lb. cooked ground beef
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
- 1 Tbs Italian seasoning

Cook on low for 5-6 hours, or on high for 2-3 hours.

30 minutes before you plan on eating, add the following:
- 1 1/4 cup uncooked pasta mini shells (or some other small shape)
- 2 cups of water (yes, in addition to the 2 cups you added in the first phase)

Cook on high for 30 minutes. Top with Parmesan, or an Italian blend of shredded cheese. (I put pepperjack on mine for a fun little kick :) I also added a bit more Italian seasoning, garlic, and pepper because I wanted mine stronger than Trevor wanted his)