Thursday, March 31, 2011


I'm all about trial and error. In my first year and a half of being a mom I have tried lots of things and made lots of errors. Luckily, Griffin seems no worse for the wear. While I find myself asking Courtney and my mom and my other mom friends questions about how they do things, I learn so much more by watching and participating. This is one of the reasons that I love to stay with Courtney. I always learn at least one trick or idea to simplify and improve my daily routine with Griff. For example, Court fills her kids' cups with milk each evening. Okay, so it's not a major revelation, but it gives you just another moment in the morning. I am all about having systems for doing those routine activities like breakfast, nap time, floor cleaning, laundry.
Rubbermaid Cleaning G304 Heavy-Duty Long Cuff Rubber GlovesMethod, Dish Soap Pump, Cucumber, 18-Ounce (Pack of 6)Oxo Good Grips Kitchen Brush
One of my least favorite household activities is emptying the dishwasher. I know it's silly, but sometimes I will put it off all day. I think it's partly because my son always tries to empty the dishwasher himself and climb into it. So, I need to be speedy about this job or always do it during nap. Here are a couple ideas to make your dishwasher emptying system speedy and less painful.

1. Separate your silverware: This is the biggest timesaver in the dishwasher world. All the spoons go together, all the forks go together and so on. You may have to train other people in your household on this one!
2. Arrange your dishes: I put all of my large plates on one side of the dishwasher, all of my small plates on the other side, and all of the bowls in the back of the dishwasher. My top rack is saved for small containers, lids, glasses and sippy cups.
3. Open your cabinets and drawers: I open all of the cabinets and drawers first, so I can carry a big stack without needing to stop and place everything on the counter.

You may just save two minutes, but if feels so good to have a plan for completing daily tasks. And, you may dread emptying the dishwasher just a little less.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

When Church Isn't Where You Are

You can access just about anything through the internet. Since you're reading our blog, I'm sure you already know that. I feel like the sheer magnitude of options can be overwhelming. When it comes to spiritual and inspirational resources, this is especially true. There are a few websites and podcasts that I have found with my bible study that are solid and enlightening. I enjoy listening to a snippet of a sermon while washing dishes or driving to and from the grocery store. I often find myself wanting to drive around the block to listen to an excellent sermon on my iPod when I pull into my neighborhood. The best part is that I don't need to worry about something coming on the radio that I don't want my son to hear.

Of course, church is about community and fellowship, but if you can't get to church, why not listen online? I'm thinking about the first month of having a newborn at home. Living abroad. Days when you or someone in your family is sick. Moving and not being able to find a church you like. It happens.

Many of these resources are available for free, but in order to listen to an entire series, some must be published.

Check these out:
Mars Hill
Rock Harbor
The Sanctuary Downtown (This one is the church I attend and love!)

Do you have any incredible spiritual resources to share?

Also, feel free to leave a prayer request in the comments section of this post to have us all pray for you. If it is personal and you would like prayer, please email us at (at) gmail (dot) com.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


There are a few things that I miss about teaching. I miss the expression on kids' faces when they really get something for the first time. I miss figuring out the best way to explain a tricky concept. But, the thing I miss most is the excitement that kids show when they are being truly creative. Everyone responds to mediums differently, but in my classroom almost everyone loved creating collages. We made collages that stretched across an entire wall depicting mountainsides, as well as tiny, personal ones that fit on index cards.

When I was in Virginia this past week, I wanted to give Lily a chance for a little extra creativity. Since she was already cutting pictures out of her magazine for her alphabet binder, I thought the time was perfect to show her a new way to make art. Lily cut meticulously from her magazine. She arranged each picture carefully on top of and next to each of the others. I glued each scrap of green and blue and each little animal exactly where Lily told me. She was proud of her creation.

Think back to your childhood. What are some of the activities that you most enjoyed or some of the crafts that you loved? Maybe it's clay, paper mache, cooking, jewelry or knitting. Make something with a child in your life this week. You will be amazed how a few minutes of sharing can impact a little mind in an extraordinary way.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cinnamon Apples

After a delicious lettuce wrap and Chinese dumpling dinner recently, one of my friends whipped up a quick and delicious dessert for all of us to enjoy. While we ate this treat plain, I think it would make a great addition to other desserts, as well. You will make it in your microwave, so it couldn't be easier.


Cut the apple into slices. Place the slices in a bowl with about 1/4 cup of water. Sprinkle the apples with the cinnamon and sugar to taste. Microwave the apples for one minute and check to see if they're done. Add more time, if necessary. Obviously, if you use more apples, you'll need more of everything else.

We ate them with our hands right off a communal plate. But, I think their are many options for this dessert. I'm dreaming of vanilla ice cream with the cinnamon apples and a tad of granola. Covering a muffin or scone in the apples would make a tasty treat. If you make snickerdoodles, I would add some cinnamon apples when they're still hot out of the oven. This would also be a lovely addition to oatmeal. For a decadent breakfast, use the apples as a topping for waffles, pancakes or cinnamon rolls. Are you hungry yet?

Friday, March 25, 2011

let's go fly a kite...

It's Friday, it's going to be 75 degrees all weekend, and all I want to do is play outside. After working all week, my bones are itching for fresh air.

I'd really love to go for a bike ride, but I don't actually own one. I'm thinking a hike or some poolside R&R might do the trick.

What are you doing this weekend? Will you be enjoying this springy weather?

via real simple

Thursday, March 24, 2011

keep it clean, people

I've always kept the spaces I live in clean, but now that I have my own apartment, there are so many new areas of upkeep.

It took me a while to feel like I could get my kitchen really clean, but now that I have a system, I feel much better about my cooking routine.

A few tips...

  • To keep your drawers and cabinets clean, opt for a shelf liner. You can remove it and dump it out, or completely replace it regularly, as a roll of it is only $2.99.
  • To get rid of garbage disposal odors, pour bleach down the drain. I had a real stanky issue and lemons and limes, old-wives tales and baking soda were not cutting it. I had to get serious. 
  • Always use a cutting board. As someone who grew accustomed to granite and often cut directly on the counter, plastic cutting boards are my new found besties. Clean up is so much easier! Be sure to choose the plastic options, because you're not supposed to wash wood cutting boards in the dishwasher, so they tend to retain bacteria. I like the Casabella Cutting Boards that are labeled to prevent cross contamination. 
  • If your freezer gets smelly, place a box of baking soda inside it and dump out your ice cubes once a month. They retain bad odors. An added bonus is that putting ice cubes down your garbage disposal keeps the blades sharp. Teamwork in the kitchen!
images via real simple and amazon

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

run and not grow weary

Something I've often read about is incorporating bible verses into specific prayers by finding scripture that is directly related. Because I've been praying for Crosby a lot, and had more time to think about him, I wanted to find a verse specific to him.

While there are hundreds that relate to children growing strong in the Lord, Isaiah 40:30-31 seemed more relevant to me:  "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Crosby has so many people hoping in the Lord for him, and over the next few months, he will need the strength from those prayers to ensure he remains strong.  Having this verse as a reminder is a way to pray specifically for his needs, while still feeling strong in hope.

Monday, March 21, 2011

no bake dinner

After an amazing trip to Australia, I am completely, utterly, jet lagged. And the last thing I want to do is cook.

Which is why I bring you, the hors d'oeuvres dinner.

A favorite when we were younger, my mom often served it to us when things were especially busy at our house. We thought we were real fancy eating our french meal.

At the time, it consisted of veggies, cheese, crackers and summer sausage. Today, the ingredients have changed, but the idea remains the same: pull off a satisfying dinner without cooking.

The key is to figure out what you need in a meal to make it feel complete. I need the to have vegetables and protein. Others might need a carbohydrate, something spicy, a fruit, etc. Isolate what it is you need and build on it.

Some of my favorite uncooked ingredients are cheese or cottage cheese, red peppers and carrots (my favorite raw veggie). Throw in a little turkey, and I'm all set.

What's your favorite uncookable meal?


Friday, March 18, 2011

Emptying the Wallet

I'm going to bet that you have at least one unused gift card in your wallet. And, I'm going to bet that you either have a plan to spend it soon or it's been taking up space for way too long. You may have a whole bunch of gift cards in your wallet or purse. You may have so many that you don't even remember which ones you have.

It can be exciting to receive a free dinner at your favorite restaurant or enough cash on that little card to purchase the sweater that you've been eyeing for weeks. But, here's the problem. So often, gift cards are given for establishments that you do not frequent. Being a former teacher, I found gift cards tucked into Christmas and teacher appreciation cards on many occasions. While I appreciated the generosity and thoughtfulness of the gifts, I found that many of my students and their parents just didn't know where I shop and dine. We all do a gift or gift card based on our own preferences, just hoping that the recipient will enjoy and use it. If you are that recipient, I say today is the day to use that gift card.

Spend a few minutes searching through your wallet, purses, drawers, files, etc. searching for those unused gift cards. Lay them all out on a table. Set aside the ones that you are saving for a specific occasion. Jose and I, for example, have a Melting Pot gift card from Christmas that we are planning on using with some movie passes when we have on our next date. (I've never been to the Melting Pot, so I am quite excited.) Peruse the remaining cards. Can you pair a couple gift cards for a night out? A restaurant and bookstore, perhaps. Do you have gift cards for stores at which you don't typically shop? It could be the perfect time to pick out a birthday present for your brother or friend. Or, you might surprise yourself and find those shoes that you need for work. Have fun with it. Take yourself or someone else on a date. And, don't spend a dime!

Do make sure that you call or go online to check the balances first. It is a real bummer if you try to take someone out to a meal only to find that your balance has been diminished to $2.25.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Dog

I have a dog named Ike. A weimaraner to be precise. He's a good dog...really. Aside from the seizures, chronic ear infections, allergies and anxiety. The one thing that really drives me bananas is that he wants to be going outside and coming inside constantly. He'll whine and bark and scratch at the door. Eventually, he'll sit and wait patiently for a moment or two. I wipe his feet every time he comes in the door, but he just leaves so much dirt on our floors--not to mention the hair he sheds.

Since we had wood floors put in last summer, I see every speck that Ike leaves behind. I am completely embarrassed if someone sees how our floors look right before I clean them. I could clean them every day, but I only allow myself to do it every other day. That may sound a little obsessive, but when it only takes 15 minutes, why not?!
Bissell Steam & Sweep Hard Floor Cleaner, 46B4
I used to sweep the floors with a rubber broom, and then either use a steam mop or the rubber broom covered with a damp microfiber cloth. It took forever. The floors never looked as clean as the effort I put in. Then, I found the Bissell Steam and Sweep.

It gave me the gift of time. I wasn't nearly so hard on myself. This magical little device vacuums and steam mops simultaneously. The mop pads are reusable--just throw them into the washing machine. The tray that collects the vacuumed particles is easy to empty. The vacuum is not as strong as my Dyson, but it picks up the hair and dander. My only real complaint is that it can't get into corners and right along the wall.

To really maximize the speed and effectiveness of the Steam and Sweep, you'll want to have clear paths to sweep. If you have lots of furniture or knick-knacks or toys spread across your room, it will certainly take longer. But, you'd have to move them to clean anyway, right?

So, for now, Ike is allowed to think he's king of the castle. Do you have a cleaning tool that saves you oodles of time?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The New Addition

As you may have figured out from some of Courtney's posts, there was a little one on the way in their family. It has not been an uneventful pregnancy. She has been a picture of strength and courage. Last week, her sweet babe decided that it was time to make his debut. Last Monday morning (at 27 weeks) Crosby Dunkin was born. This has been a frightening and prayerful time for their family and truly our whole family. He weighed in at 2 lbs. 6 oz. But, he is quite a fighter. He is getting stronger every day and exceeding their expectations. Whitney and I will be taking over the blogging for a while, so Courtney can recover and spend time with all three of her kids. Little Crosby has been covered in prayer by so many people who care. I would like to ask that if you think of them in a quiet moment, you'd say a prayer for Crosby and Courtney and the rest of their family.

Also, we would love to pray for you. Saying a few prayers for each other's concerns definitely takes left than fifteen minutes, but could have an eternal impact. Just leave your prayer requests in our comments section or email us at (at) gmail (dot) com.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A place to rest my head (board)

Do you live in an apartment? Are you surrounded with white walls? Do you have a bed on a frame without a headboard? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this is the project for you! It is an easy fifteen minute project with results that pack a punch.

Plastic frames with the glass and backing removed.
Several complementary fabrics
Hot glue gun
Glue sticks for your gun

I bought my frames from Big Lots. They are not high quality. They were each between a dollar or two. They are cheap plastic frames, which is all this project requires. You may even be able to buy the frames without the glass or backing.

Cut your fabric so it is approximately 2 to 3 inches wider and longer than your frames. Don't worry if your cuts aren't perfectly straight. The edges will be hidden.

Lay the fabric right side down with the frame on top of it--also right side down.

Begin glueing along the edges. Simply draw a line of the hot glue just inside the frame. Carefully adhere the fabric to the frame. You may need to hold it for a few seconds to ensure that it sticks. Just don't burn your fingers.

Fold over and glue the other two sides, folding the corners like you're wrapping a present.

Allow your glue to dry and you've done it!

Before I got married and lived in a house where I could paint the walls, I used a set of twelve of these as my headboard. It added color and height to an otherwise blah room. I used four different colors, patterns and textures of fabric that had a similar green tone. Now we have green walls! Through my own trial and error, I found that the best fabric to use for this project is lightweight without being see-through. The fabric above is flannel, but a light cotton would work nicely, as well. Let us know if you try it!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chicken Revisited

Oh, the many uses of the good, old rotisserie chicken. Well, preferably a new chicken. A fresh chicken that you have purchased from your favorite grocery store. This is a perfect meal for your grocery shopping day. I often find myself not wanting to cook a complicated meal after spending time grocery shopping and putting groceries away. It's just a little more exhausting to grocery shop with a one year-old. You can imagine, I'm sure.

A fifteen minute chicken meal is an excellent solution for a grocery store day. Whitney is the biggest lover of chicken that I know, but often finds herself in a rut--making the same chicken dinner over and over again. Having several chicken recipes in your arsenal is the best way to avoid that rut! (I am not including pulling the meat off the chicken in the 15 minutes.)

Meal 1: Tacos
Mix the meat with taco seasoning, black beans, and salsa in a skillet over medium-high heat.
While it's cooking, slice an avocado and shred lettuce and cheese.
Put all of the ingredients into taco shells and enjoy!

Meal 2: Pasta
Boil water for pasta of your choice.
Dice an onion and saute it in some olive oil.
Add a large can of diced tomatoes to the onions along with some other veggies of your choice. Good options include zucchini, carrots, celery, leeks, peas.
Get your pasta cooking.
Add chicken to your veggies.
If your sauce is too thick, add a bit of pasta water.
Mix the cooked pasta into the veggie and chicken sauce.

Meal 3: Big Salad
This is self-explanatory, so I will just give you a list of some of my favorite salad ingredients. Just try to really load it up with veggies to make sure it satisfies.
Greens: spinach and arugula
Veggies: peppers, carrots, celery, cucumbers, peas, tomatoes, snow peas
Toppers: cashews, beans, avocado, corn, sesame seeds, cheese
Don't forget the chicken!

Meal 4: Grain Bowl
We love eating grain bowls on a quick and easy dinner night. We all enjoy it--even our 15 month old!
Two parts water and one part grains need to be cooked in a pot. We just had a quinoa and barley mixture. It will take about ten minutes to cook.
While your grains cook, dice vegetable of your choice.
Veggie combinations: butternut squash, carrots and snow peas
                                   onions, peppers, and corn
                                   broccoli, peppers, and onions
During the last three minutes of cooking, add your veggies and chicken to the grains.
Right before serving, I often stir shredded cheese into the pot.

What are some of your favorite chicken dinners in a hurry?

Friday, March 11, 2011

when to wash

"I like my money right where I can see it; hanging in my closet." - Carrie Bradshaw

When I was younger, if my clothes were on the floor, my mom would tell me she wasn't going to buy me new ones anymore. Though I am fairly confident this was an empty threat (she's a giver), it basically brainwashed me into being slightly obsessive when it comes to clothing care.

Whenever I go to someone's house and see their beautiful clothes on a pile in the floor, it makes me cringe. Hundreds of dollars strewn about the room...

I'm a major advocate for reduced clothing washing*, meaning not doing it every time you wear something (unless they're work out clothes). Real Simple recently produced a guide to washing clothing and although I think a few of their schedules are a little frequent, for the most part, I can endorse it.

*Note: I'm also an advocate for increased showering, and do it at least twice a day. If you opt for fewer showers, I suggest increasing your clothing washing. They're correlative.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

the world's easiest DIY

You know when you find yourself knee deep in a project, with no desire to finish it? Overwhelmed by the tediousness and wondering why you ever took it on? 

Being slightly impulsive when it comes to DIYs, and relatively impatient with small things (threading needles!), I often find myself in this predicament. Yet, I continue to pursue projects because I love how invigorating new d├ęcor can be.

Today, I have officially found my new favorite DIY. For a lovely new side table, follow the steps below…

1.       Order these modular units from Amazon
2.       Wait for your units to arrive (the least fun part, but at least it’s not tedious!)
3.       When they do arrive, start your stopwatch – your units will become end tables within the next 15 minutes.
4.       Stack the units to make a stepped side table.
5.       Create miniature displays in the cubbies – stack reading materials, various lighting, etc.
6.       Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


One of my greatest spiritual challenges is that I worry too much. And although letting go of my worries is a major undertaking - much greater than a small 15 minute task -  it also has a simple solution. Whenever I am worrying too much I know I need to pray more.

Right now, I am trying to remember to pray whenever I feel consumed by worry.  Although it will take time before it becomes a habit, it has helped me to stress less and lean on God more.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

wall art

I often have a very difficult time deciding what to put on my walls.

When you don't have kids, it can be creepy to blow up huge photos of people (or yourself), but I'm also beyond the age of wanting posters hanging. If I were sportier, I'd hang a canvas of my favorite stadium and if my apartment were more modern, I might blow up a photograph of cool architecture.

It's also expensive to order nice prints, and because my visions are often better in theory than they are in practice, I don't like to spend a lot of money on these indulgences.

If you also find yourself in this predicament, yearning for a quick fix, I suggest printing regular photographs that look arty, and framing them. No one will ever guess you just printed them on your own as hi-res, and the frame makes them look infinitely more chic.  I suggest these wall frames from Umbra.

If it turns out you don't like the way they look, or like to switch them out often, just print another photo.

Monday, March 7, 2011

pudding pops

I have this slight problem that I LOVE dessert (understatement). And when you love dessert this much, you’ve got to have quick, low calorie ways to indulge.

Introducing: chocolate pudding.

At this point, you might be thinking about closing your browser. But give me a minute. I assure you, the proof is in the pudding.

Pudding is an extremely low calorie treat, and actually provides a source of calcium. Because the hardest part for people is getting past the texture, I recommend making pudding pops. To make them, follow the (15 minute) recipe below.

1 small package of instant pudding mix
2 cups of skim milk
1 cup of Cool Whip
Popsicle molds

To make:
Mix the milk and pudding
Blend well
Add the Cool Whip (it prevents the iciness)
Poor into molds
Freeze until texture is desirable


Friday, March 4, 2011

A Walk in the Park

One of my favorite springtime activities is taking a walk.

Whether it is a 15 minute walk or an hour long walk, it has the power to transform my mood, my energy level and my frame of mind.  And it always seems to help my kids attitudes as well!

My mom and sisters and I all adore the postprandial walk and as the warmer weather moves in, I look forward to my after dinner walks and time spent outside!

So, if you have 15 minutes on your lunch break, in the morning, or after dinner, step outside and enjoy 15 minutes in nature!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Spring is only 17 days away! Hooray!

And while I look forward to the vernal equinox and all that comes with it, spring cleaning can sometimes seem daunting.

I often feel paralyzed by the amount of large and unexciting jobs I put off for many weeks or months. And then doing them all at once seems insurmountable.

This year, I have decided to handle small jobs each day or week so as to not feel overwhelmed by all of the supposed "spring cleaning" I am meant to do.

So, if you have just a short bit of time and want to tackle a job or two, I have made a small list of some of the jobs I am going to divvy up over the next few weeks.

- Dust off the ceiling fans in your home. (This is a job I dread, but it usually takes me much less time than I anticipate!)

- Clean out the toys one room at a time. Divide them up into piles of toys to keep in the room, toys to store for a later rotation, toys to give away and things that need to be thrown away. You will finish feeling lighter and more organized!

- Tackle one closet a day for a week. If you haven't used or worn something for over a year, consider donating it. Can you take things out of your closet and use the fabric for upcoming projects? I have been amazed by the yards of fabric I have amassed from our closets!

- Clean the baseboards in your home. Again, not a job I love. But once I set my mind to it, I am surprised by how quickly it goes and how much better I feel to have it behind me!

- The bathroom and kitchen often overwhelm me a bit. There are so many nooks and crannies to scrub and keep clean. But, I have found if I just focus on one thing a day, it is much easier to handle. Give the bathtub a deep scrub on Monday. Tackle the toilet on Tuesday from top to bottom. Do the floors and baseboards the next day. On Thursday, go for the sink and countertops. And on Friday, clean out your cabinets and storage spaces. You will feel great after that week!

- Get your family involved in the big clean up. My husband is amazing when given a list. All he asks is that I write it down and he will tackle it for me. And although it might take a bit more time when my kids are involved, it helps them to appreciate the hard work that goes into maintaining a home.

These are just a few ideas for how to break up some of the spring cleaning jobs. It seems so much more manageable when done in small steps and that is my plan for this year!

How do you best handle spring cleaning?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Spiritual Pick-Me-Up

There are so many things you can do in 15 minutes to re-center your spiritual walk or to help you get back on track.  And so many of those things are activities you embark upon on your own.

While I love my time alone, I have found as I have grown in my spiritual walk, that it is imperative for me to have community and fellowship on a very regular basis.

When I am in a slump or facing a hard decision or a difficult time, one of the best things I can do is to talk to people whose opinion I value and whose faith I admire.

I am so fortunate to have four siblings who are amazing sounding boards and several friends who I cherish and have such discernment (and of course, an INCREDIBLE husband!).  And as I have entered into mothering, I have come to realize how much I value the opinions of older women in my life.  They have such wisdom and insight and can often see beyond my immediate crisis.

Our spiritual walk is definitely not something we are intended to handle alone and I hope that each of you has someone who can encourage and uplift you in times of need.

"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
- Matthew 18:20

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Make in only 15 minutes...

Welcome March!

March is a month that brings me so much hope.  It always seems the weather improves considerably, the days are longer and new life seems to be springing up everywhere.  I am always so happy to enter into this month!

And with this joy, comes a newfound motivation to be active.  Active physically, spiritually, in my home, in my relationships, really in all parts of my life.  So, this month, we plan to focus on things you can do in a small chunk of time.  If you have 15 minutes, what is a project you can complete?  Or something in the kitchen you can accomplish?  Or a way to improve your spiritual life?  We are going to talk about small things you can do in 15 minutes in the areas of eat, pray, nest, make and play.  We hope you enjoy!

Without further ado, here is the first of our 15 minute projects...

My daughter and I completed an incredibly simple craft for Valentine's Day this year that took very little time and could easily be modified for many other occasions.

We cut a potato into a heart shaped stamp and used paint to stamp muslin bags for her friends at school.

Then we melted old bits of crayons in a muffin tin in the oven (about 250 for 5 minutes or until melted) as a treat for her everyone.

She loved creating them, but she was even more excited to hand them out to her friends!

The bags were so easy to make and would be great for birthday parties, baby showers, wedding favors or any event where you need a sweet bag to hold a treat!

Happy quick crafting!

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