Sunday, July 5, 2015

This blog has moved...

My blog has been redesigned and can now be found at:

Inspired Family of 5

Please visit my new page and follow along.
Thanks! :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Snapshot Storytelling - Volume 2: Watercolor Shapes

Monet, Picasso, Seurat, Van Gough
Did they paint as children? I'd like to know.
Did they happily dive into art supplies?
Did they have that sparkle in their eyes?


Monday, June 22, 2015

Ditching the Suburbs for An Inspired Adventure

     Yup! This is for real! 
     My husband and I have decided to sell everything we own to buy a trailer and travel around the United States for a few years. 
     It's been an extraordinary aspiration. The idea didn't sound real at first, but something kept telling us it could be a reality.  When the concept first came up, we joked about it. But each time it came up, it seemed more feasible. Each time we discussed it, the idea seemed to benefit our family.  Somewhere along the line, it felt like a spiritual prompting. Now, it is the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep.
     After some research, brainstorming, and heartfelt prayer, we have decided to go for it.  We are currently planning and preparing for our big launch!  

     We've looked around at several types of RVs and trailers, but when we stepped inside an Airstream, it was love at first sight! In this photo we are trailer browsing with the family (No, we do not own this Airstream...yet).  But look at how big the trailer looks next to my tiny pigtailed Dylan!
  We had fun just hanging out with the guys at the dealership and talking Airstream.  Haha.

     In the midst of some research, I came across this adorable My Travels Map by Children Inspire Design.  It comes with star stickers to place on the map.  The banner says "Where Our Adventures Take Us."  How fitting! ;) This shop believes in encouraging global responsibility and instilling a love for the earth in young children.  I love the philosophy and the products!  I just purchased this map and I'm so excited to put it up in our trailer to accompany our journey!  The girls enjoy pointing out places they would like to visit.

     While perusing the website, I also picked up three of these adorable Explorer Journals (one for each of my babies).  My Marley is a natural born explorer, so she couldn't wait to go outside and start scribbling in her journal about all the things she observed.

     Marley can't wait to see the world, meet people, and travel.  She is more excited than any of us about the big trailer adventure.  She talks about it literally every day.  When I handed the Explorer Journal to her, the first thing she said was, "This can be for the Airstream momma!"    
     Now I'm getting pumped! I look forward to seeing the country and to experience a new lifestyle. I'm also thrilled to work side by side with my family to make this incredible adventure happen for us. Wish us luck!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Snapshot Storytelling - Volume 1: Banana Cake

Once upon a time, not long ago,
Two playful sisters, sought to learn and grow.
Heads filled with intrigue, radiating with glee.
It's the little things they treasure, just wait and see...


Preheat oven 350 degrees.
Melt 1 cup butter in a saucepan.  Add 1 cup hot water.  Mash 2 very ripe bananas and add to butter and hot water.

Mixing with a whisk, add:
2 Cups sugar
2 Cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda

Butter the bottom of a pan and dust with flour.  
Add cake mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean
Remove from oven and let it cool, top with frosting when cool.

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
16oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 ½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, cold.

Beat the cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth and fluffy. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream to nearly stiff peaks, then fold the whipped cream into the cheese mixture and stir until combined. Do not over stir. Frost cake when cooled!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Getting Crafty at Snack Time

     Here is a perfect example of planting the seed of creativity and letting it grow. ---

     As per our usual daily routine, the baby went down for nap and the girls sat down for a snack.  Cheese crackers were the snack of choice.  As they crunched on their crackers, Marley started a series of curiosity questions.

"Why are the crackers square?"
"Why are they orange?"
"How do they make them?"
♫"How do they maaaake these crackerrrrs?"♫ (And Marley sang this question to the tune of "That's How You Know" of the movie Enchanted will know why this is hilarious) ;)

     I LOVE when my kids ask questions! It's a wonderful sign of enthusiasm to learn.  I try to answer them to the best of my ability, but we often have to research online to find the answers.  Researching makes up a big part of our homeschooling.

     Then she asked "Why is there a hole in the middle of these crackers?" All of the sudden she lit up and said, "Mommy, I have a great idea!" Lets get some string and make cracker necklaces.  Um, brilliant!  How could I argue with this eureka moment she was having? Haha. Done!
     I brought out the fishline and scissors and the girls had a lot of fun making cheese cracker jewelry together.  

     Then, as always, after the activity was over Marley sat down at the table and wrote about it in her Learning Journal.
     I am so grateful to witness these moments and to see my children's thoughts flourish.  I hope they always feel empowered to express their ideas and feel supported in their creativity.

     FYI, this is the best video we found to watch about how cheese crackers are made:
     - How It's Made: Sandwich Crackers

     And here is an interesting video about crackers that has a more scientific research approach:
     - Crackers by Foodsky: The Science of Food and Drink

Saturday, May 30, 2015

~ To The Mom Who Thinks She Can't Homeschool ~

     This is a message to the mom who thinks she can't homeschool...

No, not the mom that has a negative opinion about homeschooling.  Maybe this opinion includes "lack of socialization" or "homeschooled kids are weird."  She is entitled to her opinion. ;)

No, not the mom who has specific circumstances in her life that prevents her from homeschooling, such as work, child custody issues, or medical problems.  She is doing the best she can in her current situation. XOXO

No, not the mom who prefers not to homeschool. She has looked at the options and made a decision for her children that she is confident about.  That is awesome and wonderful!

I'm talking to the mom who says things like, "I could never do that..."
     - I'm not patient enough.
     - I'm not educated enough.
     - I'm not creative enough.
In my experience, these are the things I hear the most!  I have met so many moms who say "I would love to homeschool BUT..." and then one of those three reasons related to inadequacy.  Rubbish.  This breaks my heart! Because guess what?...YOU ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH.

     Here are some important things those self-doubting moms should remember:

     1) Mothers are educators by nature.
Somewhere along the line, moms started becoming convinced they were not qualified to educate their own children.  How did this happen?  We are mothers.  Mothers are incredible women who suddenly have amazing abilities to protect and provide for their family.  A mother's purpose is to raise her children.  What does it mean to raise a child?---To educate.  Think about that.

     2) Moms are just as qualified, if not more qualified than the best teachers out there.  
The biggest thing parents look for in a good teacher is for the teacher to care about their students.  As the mom, you've got that covered. ;) You love your children more than anyone ever could.  You know them better than anyone.  And you want the best for them.  The rest is just finding educational resources, which is easy thanks to the internet.  Trust me, teachers get the same information that you have access to.

     3) If you are patient enough to be their mom, you are patient enough to be their teacher.  
For some reason, some moms think that sending the kids off to school is absolutely necessary to keep their sanity.  Myth busted!  Nowhere does it say that having the kids in school will solve your frustration problems.  It doesn't.  As human beings on this earth we all experience hard days and we often find ourselves on the brink of insanity.  Especially moms!  It's a tough job, but you can do it.  I have found that the hardest things in life are the most rewarding.

     4) Creativity is a muscle.  You can exercise it and become a creative rockstar.
I am proof that this is true.  Before I had kids, I had never thought of homeschooling.  And I never considered myself a creative person.  But once I started researching homeschool and the options (which are mind-blowing), I started thinking more and more "outside the box."  I saw ideas and methods that other moms have utilized and I started borrowing them.  I probably have yet to come up with an original idea, haha.  But sharing ideas and piecing together different types of curriculum has become much easier for me.  It's been a lot of work, but I love it now and my kids are having a blast with the ideas I find for us.

     5) You are enough! As a mother, God has blessed you with abilities beyond your understanding.  Trust your instincts and trust in Him.
I'm sure it isn't a coincidence that almost every homeschooling mom I've met has a strong faith in God.  On social media, one of the biggest responses I see to homeschool dilemmas is "Pray."  Those of us who choose to homeschool know that homeschooling is hard and that the best thing we can do is seek guidance from God.  It helps. I promise.  And I promise you are enough.  Don't let anyone (including yourself) convince you that you are not adequate as a mother.  You are.

    I don't think public school is a bad choice.  And I definitely don't think that homeschool is the universal answer.  I aim to empower and inspire the moms who want to homeschool, but think they can't.  If you are one of these moms, contact me! I want you to know you are not alone. I would be happy to give you advice on the subject and make you aware of your options.  God bless! xoxo  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Stroller Etiquette (10 Tips for Operating a Stroller at Disneyland)

     I've said it time and time again... "People should be required to have a license to drive a stroller." ;)
     I am a Disneyland passholder, so I am often caught up in crowds of people with small children in strollers.  And I am one of those people.  I take all three of my kids (all under the age of 6) to Disneyland by myself.  I rock the double stroller and baby carrier.  I always get comments like, "Wow, you are brave!" and "All three by yourself?!"  Yup.  I love Disneyland and we have an amazing time together.  Even my husband can be spotted at Disneyland with all three of our kids.  Hahaha!
     And trust me, it is a lot better than having them cooped up in the house and letting them make a mess, where I need to constantly clean up after them.  Disneyland is a beautiful and fun place to let them run and play and get their energy out.  They sleep like angels at the end of the day too!
     HOWEVER, the stroller madness at Disneyland or any other crowded place can be frustrating.  I often see people that do not know how to properly drive a stroller and are unaware of stroller etiquette.  If everyone had an understanding of how to safely drive a stroller, we could prevent accidents, injuries, frustration, and unpleasant memories.  So I decided to go over the stroller basics as a friendly reminder to my fellow parents.  This is my logic: It is just like driving a car...

1) Do Not Fill Over Maximum Capacity
     California Vehicle Code 24002 states "It is unlawful to operate any vehicle or combination of vehicles which is in an unsafe condition, or which is not safely loaded, and which presents an immediate safety hazard."  Similarly, a stroller should only be packed to a safe capacity.  Some strollers I've observed have giant heavy bags attached to the handle bars which swing back and forth amongst the crowds.  I myself have been plowed down by some of those strollers and wonder, "What just happened? And why is my arm throbbing with immense pain?"  Eeek!  Please be aware that there will be people and children walking near your stroller.  Try not to pack it like the family mule. ;)

2) Stay To The Right
     Yes, just like while driving, stay to the right.  The opposite flow of traffic should be kept on your left side.  Whenever I see someone heading in the opposite direction coming toward me, I begin to veer my stroller to the right.  It is a natural reaction.  If they cut in front of me to pass on my right, I am thrown for a loop, literally.  This usually causes anxiety, accidents, and chaos.  There are times when I assume the person is from a country where they drive on the opposite side of the road.  That would explain it! Haha.
     Sometimes Disneyland Cast Members will be out directing traffic during a parade or some other attraction and they are almost always directing the crowds to stay to their right.  But honestly, we are intelligent capable adults that can always follow that logic without being micromanaged 100% of the time.  Right? :)

3) Stay A Safe Distance From The Person In Front Of You (Eyes On The Road)
     Anyone ever been rammed right in the heels or ankles with a stroller?  Yeah, me too.  It hurts! And it only took me getting hit once to make me realize I would never want to do that to someone else.  Don't get me wrong; I have done it, and I felt so bad.  It is an innocent accident; no one actually sets out to run over other people...I hope.  And it is so easy to get distracted, especially at Disneyland.  We are constantly looking around us.  But while driving a stroller, it is important to maintain eyesight on your path.  I do my best to remain a safe distance from anyone in front of me.  Just like a car, it is wise to remain another stroller length from the person in front of you.

4) Follow The Flow Of Traffic
     My husband is an offender of this one.  He likes to play Speed Racer and weave in and out of the crowds.  I have tried to remind him that it isn't a good idea and probably unsafe.  When he sees an empty road in front of him, he smiles and takes off with the kids in the stroller as fast as he can go.  The kids love it and I can't object since there is no one anywhere near us.  But when stuck in a crowd, it is courteous to follow the flow.  Assess the speed of the people and strollers around you and adjust to remain at an average and safe speed.  Not too fast and not too slow.

5) Pull Over For A Rest Stop
     This is my biggest pet peeve!  When I am happily moving along down a path in a crowd of people and all of the sudden, without any warning...the group in front of me comes to a STOP in their tracks! They just stand there: adjusting kids, looking at a map, making decisions about where to go or eat, etc etc.  I'm there thinking, "Um, hello?  I just skidded to a halt about an inch behind your ankles and now I'm trapped behind you until you decide to continue along your way."  All the while the rest of the crowds are walking past us.  This happens at least once every time I go to Disneyland.  Why?? It just doesn't make sense to me.  Crowded place, people constantly moving, and you just stop in the middle of the road?  Do people do that while driving? No, I don't think so.  Just pull over to the side.  Do your thing and then pull back out into the crowds when you are ready to proceed on your way.  It's easy, I promise.

6) Yield To Pedestrians
     Very rarely am I the "pedestrian" (or person without a stroller) at Disneyland, but I need to speak on their behalf.  People driving strollers may not want to admit this, but the "pedestrians" are far less cumbersome then strollers.  They are compact, faster, and more agile.  When I see a "pedestrian" trying to get around me, I slow down and let them go where they need to go.  They can get in places where I can't go and they will be out of my way quicker than a stroller.  I see no reason to be aggressive and try to keep my place in a crowd when I know that the "pedestrian" will be hundreds of feet in front of me in seconds.  Let them continue on their way and avoid confrontations.

7) Utilize Designated Parking Spaces
     I can't speak for other theme parks, but I know that Disneyland has designated stroller parking for almost all of their attractions.  When you are ready to park your stroller, take a quick look around or ask a Cast Member about stroller parking.  They do a great job of accommodating the thousands of strollers sitting around Disneyland, without being a nuisance to the crowds walking through the park. If you park your stroller in an area that is not designated for parking, you may find your stroller to be gone.  No no, not stolen! Cast Members are trained to move strollers to the designated parking areas in order to maintain flow of traffic and keep the strollers from being hazards.  So it is wise to park your stroller yourself where it is supposed to be.

8) Strollers Going Straight Have The Right of Way
     Helpful reminder for when you are about to collide with another stroller.  If you are making a lane change or a change in direction, look around and make sure the crossing is clear.  Strollers who are proceeding in a straight path should have the right of way.  I'm not insinuating that there could be a lawsuit if you don't yield (crazier things have happened I guess, haha)... it is just a nice way to maintain order and peace amongst the crowds.
     And in addition...don't play Chicken! When you are about to experience a head on collision with another stroller, don't be like my husband and assess the size and weight of your stroller and figure the single stroller will yield to the big bad double stroller (LOL)...don't say to your kids, "Hey, think we can take them?"...don't try to be the aggressor and test out who will swerve first.  Sounds like fun, but really...not a good idea. ;)  

9) Apologize When You Incur A Fender Bender
     Accidents happen.  They happen every day and all day at Disneyland.  But when they do, people are generally very nice when they are acknowledged and receive an apology.  An awkward situation or confrontation can easily be avoided/ diffused with a friendly smile and apology.  I have said "I'm sorry" so many times, even when I felt the situation was not my fault.  I don't consider myself to have a doormat personality, but basically I am apologizing for the circumstances or for the miscommunication.  It is much easier to go about your day when someone has apologized, even if it needs to be you.

10) In General, Be Aware And Considerate Of Others Around You
     I want to leave a few of my thoughts on respect, consideration, and empathy.  Disneyland is always pretty crowded and it is easy to step on each others toes there...figuratively and literally.  When you are out there in the world of heavy strollers and giant diaper bags and screaming kids and cranky parents, remember that we are all in this together.  We are all human beings.  We are all children of God and brothers and sisters on this Earth.  
We need to be mindful of others and their individual circumstances.
- That rude employee that gave you attitude may be going through a divorce and child custody issues.
- That disrespectful teenager that cursed in front of your children may have been abused as a child.
- That grumpy lady that yelled at you for bumping into her may have recently lost her sister to cancer.    
     Anger and judgement is not the way to go.  Take a deep breath and carry on.        
     Disneyland is the "Happiest Place On Earth," but each of us are responsible for maintaining the happiness there.  We need to embark on our family adventures with a positive attitude and with respect for our fellow human beings.  We need to keep in mind that we are all hoping to create enjoyable experiences and happy memories.  Let's do this together!  I know we can. :)

"We believed in our idea - a family park where parents and children could have fun- together." 

     - Walt Disney

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Lesson Plan for the book and movie)

     No such thing as a bad day?  Doubtful.

     I guarantee you that everyone has been there.  We've all had bad days.  No, no.  Not just bad days.  Horrendous, awful, don't want to remember days.  The days where everything goes wrong.  I have them at least once month.  But once it's over, I look back and laugh at it.  And I definitely value my good days so much more.
     That is why one of my favorite movies is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

I seriously love this movie!  I loved the book as a child.  It is a classic and I highly recommend all children to read this one.
     I was so excited when I heard about the movie.  We bought it when it first came out and so far, my kids and I have watched it once a week.  It is hilarious!  I laugh out loud every time.
     Alexander is an 11 year old boy who has terrible days all the time, while the rest of his family has awesome days.  But Alexander gets fed up and wishes that for just one day, his family could understand what it's like to have a very bad day.  And as they say, be careful what you wish for. ;)

     The sweet message the movie delivers is that bad days are there for a reason.  They allow us to learn and progress.  Alexander learns that we have to have the bad days in order to appreciate the good ones.  And even when we do have bad days, they are so much easier to endure when we have a strong supportive and loving family by our side.  The movie is touching, memorable, and 100% right on.
     Since my kids enjoy both the book and the movie, I decided to do a lesson plan based on them.  The following resources are available and make up a fun week on the book and movie.

Picture Book

YouTube Video
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The Movie

- Alexander Activity Pages
- Alexander Writing Project
- Alexander Events Sequencing Activity
- Alexander Cause & Effect Printable
Compare & Contrast Vend Diagram (We used this one to compare and contrast the book and the movie.)

     My kids really enjoyed this lesson plan.  My favorite part was that at the end of the week, Marley asked me, "Mommy, can we have a terrible, very bad day today?" Haha!
     I am grateful that even in the middle of a terrible day, I have fleeting seconds of happiness.  When I'm cleaning my toddler sitting in globs of yogurt, or when I'm wishing for a shower because I haven't had time to brush my hair and put on makeup, or when I'm changing a nasty blowout diaper... I look down at my babies or look up at my husband and catch them smiling at me with unconditional love.  I get a couple seconds of absolute bliss and remember that "even terrible days aren't so bad, when you're surrounded by the people you love."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

La La Logic {Review} - Preschool Brain Exercises (Raise Your Preschooler's IQ by Playing Games)

La La Logic Review
     Marley and Dylan have been using an online learning program called La La Logic Preschool Curriculum and be prepared to hear me rave about how great it is in this review!  We La La LOVE this program! ;)
     La La Logic has created fun games and activities to help children develop their critical thinking skills.  But in addition to games and activities, the program includes an easy to follow schedule which takes the form of a substantial daily curriculum.  

     This online program is designed for ages 3-6, which worked out perfectly for my girls (ages 2.5 and 5).  I opened up an account for each of them.  You can have accounts for up to 5 children.  Each of my girls were able to choose their own little character icon.  Marley is the Elephant and Dylan is the Bumble Bee.  The program provides 100 weeks of lesson plans and over 500 online games.  The curriculum includes three distinct learning methods: 
     1) Brain Challenges
     2) Worksheets
     3) Extension Activities  

     My 5 year old, Marley really enjoyed the online brain challenges.  She would ask to do higher levels and more games. And Dylan (my 2 year old) struggled a bit with clicking the mouse but the practice has been great for her.  This program has helped her improve her computer skills by leaps and bounds.  The brain challenge portion became easy for me.  I just started the games and both of my girls were able to click right through the games and enjoy them without much help from me.  The brain challenges are very cute and have a variety of games, helpful for visual and audio learning.  The colors, shapes, and characters are very appealing for preschool aged children. 

     I think Marley liked the worksheet portion the best, because she enjoys hands on learning.  The worksheets require printing so a printer is needed.  The worksheets included visual thinking, categorizing, cutting, and gluing.  This was also very easy to prep for my 5 year old.  I would provide her with the worksheet, a pair of scissors, and a glue stick.  I gave her the instructions and she was excited to get started.  She completed the worksheets quickly and would look forward to another.  She would run up to me with a big smile and show me her completed worksheet.  The sound of "I finished mommy!" is such a sweet sound.  This is one where her critical thinking skills surprised me.  

     I asked her which categories the objects were placed in and I had in my mind that the 3rd column was "animals" but when Marley said "They are pets"  I looked again and I realized she was right!  Pets is a more specific category than animals.  She would have received a better score then me on that question. Haha.

     Here is another worksheet where I instructed Marley to match the animals to their shadows.  A fun and easy activity for her to do on her own.  
     My favorite part was participating in the extension activities.  Mainly because this portion included me and I was able to interact with my girls and watch them think and see the look in their eyes when they figured something out.  Those moments are priceless!  One of the activities was to lay out objects.  I asked her to look at them and remember what she saw.  I asked her to run to her room and I mixed up the items.  Her job was to place them in the original order. Then I started taking items away and she would ask where it went.  Marley enjoyed that tricky part.  She would laugh and say "Hey, where did you put it?" She LOVED this activity. We played for 20-30 minutes.

     I also appreciate the section where you can add notes to each week assignment.  I was able to record Marley's progress, and things she needs to work on, and if we should repeat the same week.  This makes it so easy to use this program as a self-paced curriculum.  I believe this is key to a successful education with young children.  Fun, variety, and no pressure.

     This online program is so simple and easy to do with your kids and I feel like it covers so many learning styles and thinking skills that are important, as well as prepping children with test taking skills. These activities help exercise the brain, while the children are having fun and feeling independent.  We used it at least 3 times per week and sometimes we used it every day! All of this for a one-time fee of $29 per household! (Your account never expires.)  Totally worth it!  I highly recommend this program for any preschooler or kindergarten student.  And for moms that would like to homeschool, but need some direction in lesson planning, this online program is super helpful.

La La Logic Review
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, April 20, 2015

People Who Inspire Me: Chef Kayla from Parsley & Pepper

     My dear friend Kayla is often told that she is an amazing cook.  When I was pregnant, she was such a sweetheart and brought dinner to my family when I wasn't feeling well.  We were able to get an idea of her skills, and everyone enjoyed it!  We had told her many times that she should start a blog and share her recipes and secrets.  I am excited to share her brand new website/blog! Parsley & Pepper.

     Kayla is sweet, talented, and humble.  She is a devoted wife and mother of three young adorable kids.  She is a supportive and helpful friend.  It is through her encouraging words, that I have started actually cooking for my family.  She has inspired me to improve my homemaking skills without stress.  

     You see...I DON'T cook!  We live off cereal, pb&j, frozen chicken tenders and frozen pizza.  No joke.  My family is lucky if I decide to make spaghetti, using jarred sauce.  I just don't have the patience and all the ingredients intimidate me.  I have often looked at the meals some moms prepare for their families and felt envious and inadequate as a mom.  However, by following Kayla's instagram account @parsleyandpepper and pinning some of her recipes from her new site, I felt empowered to give this cooking thing a try. This is how it went...

     This recipe is so awesome.  Only THREE ingredients! Yay!  Easiest thing I've ever cooked and I felt so fancy watching the spices and meat cook on my stove. ;)  It only took about 15 minutes to cook.  The guacamole is an awesome addition to the Fiesta Lime taste and that was also super easy to whip up.  My husband and I were excited to get some home cooked protein in our meal for a change. And huge kids enjoyed it!  They ate every bite I gave them and my little one asked for more.  Victory!  I was even able to use the leftover meat for lunch the next day.  I just sautéed a few tomatoes added the diced up meat and salt & pepper.  I served it over white rice and again, my family liked it!  Definitely will be making this again.

     My kids are big fans of macaroni and cheese.  I was excited to try to make it from scratch for the first time.  I had no clue how easy mac and cheese is to cook until I read Kayla's recipe.  I thought, "Hey, I can totally do this!"  And I did.  I wasn't a fan of the smell of Gruyere, so I'll probably use a different kind of cheese next time, but this recipe is incredibly easy and fast.  My family was so impressed that we had a home cooked meal for dinner.  I am a huge fan of the Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts!  This was so easy and delicious.  I love sweet things and bacon...don't even get me started on my love for bacon. ;)  Not a big fan of Brussels Sprouts but somehow Kayla put together a recipe that made me want more. Yay.  Thumbs up!  

Condensed Soup-Free Chicken & Rice Casserole
     This one was my absolute favorite! When Kayla recommended me to try this recipe, she warned that it wasn't her easiest recipe, because there were a lot of steps, but she was confident that I would be happy with it.  For sure! There are a lot of ingredients and prep for this casserole.  I worked hard on this one and I was so proud of myself when I placed the baking dish in the oven.  It looked fabulous when I took it out, to place it in my broiler.  Warning: I never used my broiler before this, so I was not aware that placing glassware in a broiler is a sensitive issue.  This is how unexperienced I am with cooking ;) Haha.  Well, when I was taking the dish out of the broiler, it shattered in my hands and the casserole was everywhere. :(  I should have taken a picture of the mess (it's funny now looking back), but I was so sad.  I apologized to my family and expressed that it broke my heart because of all the work I put into the casserole.  We were able to salvage about 1/4 of the casserole, to taste some of it for dinner.  Let me tell was SO incredibly delicious.  My kids asked for more.  This picture of Marley laughing is because daddy was teasing her about eating all her dinner...she is my picky eater, but she loved this meal.  My husband and I enjoyed it so much that we went back and picked through the broken glass for a few more bites. Hahaha!  This recipe was a lot of work, but this was the most delicious and the healthiest casserole I've ever made.  My husband asked me to make it again in the future.  But obviously, beware the broiler. ;)

     I have been able to provide nutritious meals for my babies and grocery shopping was not random chaos like usual, because I went with a set list for my planned meals. And since I have learned some basic techniques from Kayla's recipes, I am much more confident in trying out my own recipes or throwing in some extra ingredients.
     PARENTAL NOTE: I have also noticed that my children have been behaving much better!  The evening tantrums have diminished, and the crankiness has disappeared.  I am almost certain that the more substantial meals (in place of junk food and processed food) has had a direct affect on their behavior.  We have all been feeling good and more peaceful. Amazing!!  Um, this is awesome! Hopefully I can keep it up. ;)
     I am so impressed with the quality of Kayla's recipes.  She makes an effort to use natural ingredients to cook healthy wholesome meals.  They turn out delicious and beautiful.  I spoke with her several times telling her, "No really, I am not good at cooking."  She kept encouraging me and assuring me that her recipes are very easy and that anyone can be successful at cooking when they keep it simple and practice.  She has helped me take my first steps in improving my cooking and my family has benefited from my efforts in just the past week.  I am lucky enough to be good friends with Kayla, so I can text her with last minute questions.  But if you comment and ask questions on her blog, she responds as soon as she can.  Kayla is very happy to help and she loves to hear success stories.

      Thank you Thank you Kayla! xoxo

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