Ainsley’s “Blue” Themed Second Birthday

February 28, 2017











Ainsley turned two last Saturday and we had a little birthday party to celebrate! While I didn’t want to go “all out” for a second birthday celebration, I couldn’t resist throwing a party to celebrate our favorite toddler. The party was mostly family, with a few friends as well, and we kept the plan simple: Cake, letting the kids run wild around the house, fun time for the adults to chat and that’s it! Joe and I both have fall birthdays, so I’ll admit that this whole winter birthday thing has thrown me for a loop. My memory of birthday parties revolved around pumpkin patches and time outdoors in the crisp fall weather. Winter birthdays in the midwest? Well, I have a feeling we will have to put our creativity hats on as Ainsley gets older.

The theme for her party was “blue” which I realize isn’t really a theme at all, but what Ainsley wants, Ainsley gets. I had a few people ask if it was “Frozen” themed, and while we love Frozen at our house these days, that wasn’t really my intent with all the blue. Ainsley has been talking specifically about having a blue cake for her birthday for the last two months, so that was where the theme idea came from and the rest of the party sort of evolved from that.

It was an open-house style party from 3:30 to 5 on a Saturday afternoon, with cake and singing around 4 being the only really structured part of the afternoon. The food was equally simple, since we were celebrating in the afternoon. I stuck to serving cake, yogurt cups with fruit and crushed graham cracker topping and snack cups with Goldfish crackers and Teddy Grahams because they are Ainsley’s favorite. We also had little goodie bags as friends left that contained a blue and white striped lollipop but I forgot to hand out half of them!

I’ve done a little sourcing guide below for all the products and goods used for her party, but I have to do a little shout-out to Heartfelt Blooms for their amazing work on Ainsley’s flower crown. I mean, could it be any more precious? Last year I purchased a crown for Ainsley’s first birthday from an Etsy shop and was so in love with it that I knew I needed something for Ainsley’s head this year, too. When Misty reached out to me about collaborating on a crown for Ainsley’s second birthday, I jumped at the chance. Ainsley loves wearing it and I could tell that it made her feel like a little princess. Mission accomplished!

Felt Flower Crown // Heartfelt Blooms
Paper Snack Cups // Paper Eskimo
Blue Lollipops // Fun Express
Ainsley’s Dress – Embroidered Yoke Swing Dress // Old Navy

Food & Recipes

Healthy Chocolate Mug Cake for One

February 21, 2017


I don’t care what the circumstances are, every single night I need to end the evening on a sweet note. Truth be told, my body just doesn’t enjoy or tolerate sugar well these days, probably because I don’t eat much of it anymore, but I still have a sweet tooth that begs to be satisfied when Joe and I crash on the couch at the end of the evening.

Usually I try to keep my little nightly “dessert” to around 200 calories and like for it to have some sort of nutritional value, too. Meaning I rotate fruit and Greek yogurt with honey, dark chocolate, a spoonful of nut butter, etc. on the regular. But the other night I was craving something different, and behold this chocolate mug cake was born.

A lot of the recipes that I’ve found on the web for “mug cakes” are actually pretty indulgent and hardly healthy – usually containing plenty of oil or butter, sugar, all-purpose flour and more. Hardly what I look for when I’m going for a healthy dessert.

This recipe comes in around 120 calories without the toppings (I highly suggest a spoonful of peanut butter and some fresh fruit!) and tastes like a dense, rich flourless chocolate cake of sorts. I don’t want to over-promise here, because it is a healthy dessert, but it’s totally crushing my cravings for chocolate each night and doesn’t leave me with a pre-bedtime sugar crash. Total win, right?

Healthy Chocolate Mug Cake for One
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
I LOVE dark chocolate, so two tablespoons of cocoa powder is right up my alley. However, if you prefer a milder chocolate flavor, don't hesitate to use the suggested swap mentioned in the recipe, substituting a little chocolate protein powder for a bit of the cocoa powder.
  • 2 tablespoons Kodiak Cakes Powercakes Pancake Mix (or something very similar)
  • 2 tablespoons powdered peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (for a less "dark chocolate" taste, use 1 tablespoon cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon chocolate protein powder of your choice)
  • 1 packet Stevia
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • Toppings: Peanut butter, fresh fruit, dollop of Greek yogurt, chopped chocolate, etc.
  1. In a ramekin or small bowl, combine the dry ingredients until well combined. Add the water and stir until smooth. Microwave 35 to 45 seconds or until the edges are set and center is almost set but the very middle is just slightly gooey looking.
  2. Top with a scoop of peanut butter and fresh berries, or desired toppings as suggested above and enjoy!



To my momma friends, on the hard days.

February 17, 2017


Well friends, it’s safe to say that it’s been a week around these parts. I don’t share that to seek sympathy or encouragement, but something tells me that perhaps some of you other moms have had one of those weeks, too?

This week what I thought was a nasty cold or strange sickness for Ainsley turned out to be two year old molars coming in, which should also be known as the worst teething we’ve ever experienced. I’m not sure “teething” really captures the pain, discomfort and volatility that we’ve experienced over the past week. There’s been very little sleep, and the sleep we did get was fragmented and restless. Days have been long, the crying and screaming spells have been loud and as timing would have it, we’ve had something every evening this week.

By the time last night rolled around, I was reeling. Exhausted and more than anything, emotionally drained from trying to muster up every last ounce of patience and energy I had to offer Ainsley. And then, 10 minutes before our baby shower guests walked in the door, Ainsley choked on all her drool and puked up her bedtime milk all over the kitchen floor. The good news is that at that point it had been such a week that I couldn’t help but just sort of shrug, clean it up and move forward rather than get frustrated or cry. #brightside

I would be lying, however, if I didn’t admit that the week took it’s toll on my mental game. Maybe the more accurate way to put that is the week took a toll on my spiritual game. By the time yesterday rolled around I was believing all the lies that so quickly creep in.

Me? Fit for motherhood? Hardly! 
If I am having such a hard time handling one child, how in the word am I worthy to have two? 
Joe has so much more patience for Ainsley than I do. I’m such an inferior parent. 

The lies, friends, were washing over me quicker than I could ward them off. It’s times like these that I’m thankful for a few things.

First, for a much needed distraction. That my husband could cuddle, rock and put Ainsley to bed while I got away from mothering to host a baby shower for a friend who is expecting twins. Do you ever find you just need to “reset” your thinking by getting out of your own head for an hour or two? Sometimes when I’m deep in it, I need a little re-set time before I can even process truth and differentiate the truth from the lies and guilt.

Second, for a serious helping of truth and a reminder of God’s grace to all of us, tired and weary moms included. That although I’m woefully inadequate to be a perfect parent, or even a good one sometimes, my weakness serves to point to God’s power and strength within me. (2 Cor. 12:9)

If you’re in the same boat with me, feeling weary and a little beat down from the week, I would highly recommend some of the resources that I’ve shared below for a hefty serving of truth going into the weekend!

A Prayer for the Mom Who is Worn // The Gospel Coalition
Joy in Motherhood // Risen Motherhood Podcast
10 Deeply Honest and Encouraging Posts for Weary Moms // Devotional Family

Love and joy to you, my mom friends! Praying that your spirit will be renewed as you go into the weekend.


Food & Recipes

Freezer Meals for New Moms :: Meatballs

February 13, 2017


I feel like I have a dozen friends or family members due with babies in the next six months. I’m not even joking when I say a dozen – it’s babies and more babies. I suppose it’s probably just the phase of life we are in right now, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about freezer meals both for my own postpartum phase as well as meals to bring to friends who are anticipating a new little one.

My genuine hope is to do a very robust freezer meal series on this page in the coming weeks and months. Fingers crossed that I stick with the plan and get all the freezer meals made that I hope I can get done. First up: Meatballs!

Although I’m a vegetarian, I really love the process of making meatballs. And while I don’t have an old family-favorite recipe from an Italian grandmother to pass along to you today, this recipe for meatballs is straightforward, super easy to make in bulk and delivers delicious results from the freezer.

Ideas for using the meatballs include:
-Served on a toasted hoagie bun with marinara and shredded cheese
-Served over whole wheat pasta with marinara
-Served with marinara over spaghetti squash for a lower-carb choice
-Served plain with a side of steamer veggies (because let’s be honest, that’s what my husband would do!)

I decided to make things easier by cooking the meatballs, freezing them flat on a sheet pan and then transferring the frozen meatballs to a freezer bag for storage. Then, since they are already cooked, all you need to do is pop them in the oven until they are hot or thaw them and then add to a skilled fillet with marinara and cook on the stovetop until heated through. Super simple!

Freezer Meatballs
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 64 meatballs
  • 4 lbs. lean (at least 80%) ground beef
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 slices white sandwich bread
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Line four baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy clean up and set aside. For even easier baking, use disposable aluminum baking pans.
  2. Place the ground beef in a very large mixing bowl. In a second smaller bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Stir together (best to just mix really well with your hands) until bread is completely broken up and a soft, liquid-y mixture forms. Add the mixture to the ground beef and work together with your hands until very evenly combined.
  3. Shape beef mixture into 2-inch sized meatballs (mixture should make about 64 meatballs) and place on baking sheets, about 16 meatballs per baking sheet.
  4. Bake 15 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through and no pink remains. Remove from oven and cool meatballs on baking sheets until they are room temperature.
  5. Place cooled meatballs on baking sheets in the freezer and freeze for 4 hours or until frozen solid. Place frozen meatballs in a plastic zip-top freezer bag and store up to six months.
  6. To reheat, place meatballs on baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 350°F or until heated through. Or, thaw in the refrigerator and place in hot marinara on the stovetop; cook until heated through.


Family, Food & Recipes

No-Bake Chewy Granola Bites

February 8, 2017




We are currently working on a home renovation in our basement! Last year we targeted the upstairs and this winter I set my sights on our basement, which needed a LOT of work, I tell ya! By the way, I know that a house tour is long overdue. It’s been a work in progress in terms of design, which is why I’ve held off on sharing anything besides an occasional Instagram photo, but I promise I’m going to get my act together and share soon.

Anyway, the basement. So our contractor is one of our favorite people. He’s so nice to have around, very good at what he does and Ainsley loves him. Joel is her buddy and she honestly looks forward to seeing him every day. We were downstairs a few weeks ago working one night and Ainsley ate one of his chewy granola bars that he eats while he’s on the job. You know, the Sunbelt Bakery kind? Well, she became obsessed on the spot and has been asking for “Joel’s bars” every time we go to the store.

I’ve obliged from time to time, but I would really rather make something at home. So I whipped up these easy little no-bake granola bar bites that are packed with real, whole foods and a little bit of sweet thanks to chocolate chips and a little honey and brown sugar. Health food? Not exactly, but it’s a healthier snack than some of the store bought alternatives, so I’ll call that a parenting win!

No-Bake Chewy Granola Bites
Serves: 16 bites
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup pecan halves
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries, raisins and/or dried cherries
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter (not the natural kind)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the oats, pecan halves, dried fruit and chocolate chips. Pulse 15 times with on-off turns to break up oats and other ingredients. Add the sesame seeds to the mixture and transfer to a small mixing bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the honey, peanut butter, oil and salt. Stir until well combined. Cook 2 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, or until bubbles appear around the edge of the pan. Remove from heat and pour over oat mixture. Stir until wet and dry ingredients are evenly combined.
  3. Scoop by heaping spoonful into 16 mini muffin cups, pressing down firmly with your fingers. Refrigerate 2 hours. Use a knife to gently remove bites from muffin tin cups. Store bites in a zip-top plastic bag or storage container with a lid.