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From Expectation to Appreciation

from expectations to appreciation

Ever since I found out I was pregnant and began to experience the fun that is nausea, food aversions, and a crazy strong sense of smell, I have been very appreciative of my husband. As a stay at home wife, I cook, clean, and do those kinds of things. But since food makes me want to run for the hills (I know, a very sad thing for me), the kitchen has pretty much become a torture chamber for me, so I rarely visit it. And when I do have to, it is not pretty as the smells of the food attack me and turn my stomach. So my husband has picked up my daily tasks also, when it comes to the kitchen anyways. He cooks his own food- well pops it in the oven. They preach eating healthy and cooking all of these grain and protein filled foods but never ever do they mention how difficult it is in your first trimester. I am being real enough to admit to you that frozen and ready to eat foods have taken over my home the last few weeks. The doctor says eat what you can hold down, for me that’s mini chocolate donuts and popsicles. Thank goodness for prenatal vitamins.

As I wait for this mean first trimester to pass me, I am learning the ropes of leaning on my husband when I am weak. We have usually had our own roles in our marriage. He earns money, I take care of our home. Now he is earning money, grabbing me water, toasting poptarts at midnight for me, and baking his own food before work- as well as packing his lunch. At first, I felt bad. I felt bad that I had to abandon what I felt is my assigned tasks. But my husband comforted me over it, and still does. Letting me know that he is happy to do it, and that I’m growing his child inside of me- which is a big job in itself. It is true, that in our marriage vows we talk about in sickness and in health, the highs and lows, richer or poorer. And what I have thought about in my many days in bed is that I am very thankful that I have a husband who upholds his vows with a smile on his face, but that I shouldn’t chalk this all up to him keeping his vows. He is doing these things for me out of love, and if he were to just go get me a glass of water on any other day without the sickness and growing a life form inside of me, would I be as grateful as I am when I am sickened by the very thought of doing such a simple task on my own? I would say thank you and mean it, but I wouldn’t look into it so much to see just how the little things in life do speak volumes.

I think as a married couple it’s so easy to take things for granted, to just expect certain things. I think when you sit and think about the reasons for actions, what’s behind them, a small gesture will bring much more appreciation to our significant others than before. We may do this already at times, but it’s easy to get caught up in life and associate nice gestures with expectations. I am showering my husband with thank you’s as he helps me with everything. A husband should contribute to his home and help, so I’m not just thanking him for feeding himself or loving me, but I am thanking him for contributing and letting him know it’s appreciated and not just expected of him. My husband has always helped me, even before baby, and I know he will continue to without complaint and will out of love. I just want to turn things that may be expected as the duty of a spouse, into things to appreciate and love also, not just take it as part of the package. And this goes from husband to wife as well. We should all learn not to JUST expect anything but to love and appreciate everything as well.

Peach Tea Banner

Easy to go Peach Iced Tea

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Peaches, oh that sweet sweet smell. Being someone who is allergic to everything, including all acidic fruit, it makes me appreciate the things I’m not allergic to even more- like peaches. Now, if I get too messy with them I still break out but nothing like I do with lemons or pineapples or tomatoes or…you get it. But, peaches are my saving grace. They taste PHENOMENAL and like I said, I can enjoy them without fear. So any time I can incorporate them, I want to.

Lately my husband has given up soda (yayyyy!) and as a treat from time to time he enjoys tea. He also shares a love of peaches so it came to no surprise that when they went on sale (I got 8 of them for $1.87!) and I brought some home, he requested some peach tea. I was all over it. I am no stranger to flavored drinks, especially teas, so this came pretty easy. But when I saw my husband’s mason jars that I use for his Easy to go Iced Coffee, and thought heyyyy, we can make the peach teas even better, put them in mason jars so they are easy to grab on the go! Picking him up from work last night all I had to do is grab one out of the fridge and get on my merry way.

If you don’t dabble too much in the kitchen, homemade peach iced tea may sound complicated. But it’s really not. I promise, any of you with some peaches and a pantry can pull this off easily. Take a look and see for yourself…

What you need:

  • 3 Peaches- sliced
  • 1 Cup of Sugar
  • 1 Cup of Water
  • 2 Lipton Iced Tea Bags
  • Mason Jars- optional.

Throwing it all together:

See this prettyPeach Syrup pink stuff? That’s what’s going to put the peach in your peach tea. Isn’t it beautiful? You kind of hate to spoil it by adding some boring brown tea, but once you taste it- you’ll be like, who cares what it looks like when it tastes like this?!

and as I promised, it’s really easy to make. All you have to do is take your water and bring it to a boil. After that stir in your sugar, let it bubble for a minute. Then take it off the heat, add in your peaches, and let it sit for a couple of hours to come to room temp. Once it is, you can store it in a jar like this until your ready to use! Or, if you are ready for that tea, we can go ahead and start mixing it all up!

The next part, you’ve probably already done. Brew some Tea. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil, and then steep 2 LLipton bagsipton Iced Tea Bags for 5 minutes. One your done steeping, take out the bags and set aside.

Take 3 mason jars and fill to the first line with peach syrup. My jars it was to the 4 line.

Nowwww, add tea to the last line at the top.

 

tea all together

And lastly, seal on the lid, give it a shake, and then let it come to room temp before refrigerating.

See? I keep my promises! :)

 

 

 

 

To make it even better, add in some ice, and take it outside to enjoy the summer weather. Enjoy it for me too because where I live, it’s been raining for 2 weeks now :/

Feel free to send pics of your sunshine filled day as you enjoy your Peach Iced Tea! Hope to hear from you. :)

Chobani_Logo

#BreakYouMake My deserving mother

As I sit here, drinking my fruit smoothie, eating my granola, listening to some soft music I feel at such peace. Life has been good to me lately, I have been blessed beyond measure. I am so happy to have these kinds of moments to sit and relax and reflect on my life. I understand that this is a blessing in itself. There are so many people out there in today’s world that lack these type of blissful moments in time. They are busy running from one place to another, distracted with phone calls and emails, without a second to lose. I was just reading a questionnaire that Chobani Flip had conducted and they said nearly half of the people they asked don’t take a break and most of them only got one if they scheduled it. It was then that I realized just how blessed I actually was for my breaks. I don’t have to skip a break, I don’t have to find time to relax for a second, and I then realized that there are so many people out there living lives without something I have easily taken for granted.

My mother is one of those people. She has been one of these people for as long as I can remember. Which is why I am nominating her for Chobani Flip’s #BreakYouMake movement. When I read about what Chobani Flip was doing and the facts they had found, I thought of my mother the entire time as I read along. And if you knew my mother, you would too. But since you don’t, let me tell you a little bit about her.

Looking at my mother, you see beauty, happiness, and an immense amount of joy. Which are only three things my mother is filled with. There is much more than meets the eyes with her. YIMG_2100ou would never imagine this joyful and bright person who lights up the room, had experienced a lot of loss in her life or that she has been through tough times in her life. Times that not all of us are forced to dealt with. She has and will always be the strongest person I know. If I were to lose my mother, my sibling, and my child like she had in just a few years time, I think I would break. Well, I know I would. I couldn’t imagine that a smile so beautiful would ever cross my face. But with her, I’ve known it the entire 23 years I have been in this world. During the hard times when she was raising me as a single mother, during those times she was so exhausted she couldn’t imagine walking another step, let alone go into her 12th hour of work, even during the times when I was being a bratty teenager and all I wanted to do is push her buttons, she smiled. Through everything her smile remains, but…she is still going, and I would love more than anything for her to get a break that she deserves more than anything, a break she would never ask for, because she is also completely selfless.

Speaking of her selflessness, here my mother is volunteering her only day off that week to help the needy in our community. She got up at the crack of dawn, instead of sleeping in- IMG_2098something she never experiences-, and went out on the very cold and rainy day that it was, and helped pick up families that had no transportation to make it to this event to receive the help they desperately needed, and then she stayed and worked. She spent her day handing out free food and clothes to those who were struggling instead of staying in bed like most of us would. Oh, and there’s that smile again! :)

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and smiling again! Even without a camera pointed at her.

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So why does she only get one day off here and there? Well, you may not be able to tell, but in this picture she is working her second job. That she clocks in at, at 5pm right after she clocks out at her other job at 4:30. She barely has enough time to make it there, let alone enjoy a nice break. But, she spends the rest of her night, on her tired feet and helping customers with that famous smile on her face that spreads warmth wherever she goes. And as you can see, she doesn’t let her aching feet get her down- she’s too busy making silly faces, because she loves life despite what falls on her. She needs that second job because being a single mom in this world is tough, and without complaint, she makes the very best of it.

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As you probably guessed by now, but just in case you didn’t, she is also full of LOVE. Love for everyone she meets. Just last month, a customer had sent in her granddaughter to pay her bill at my mother’s first job, and she shared with my mom her bike had been stolen. So what did my mom do? Because of her loving heart, she found that little girl a bike and took it to her, just 2 days later. The little girl in the picture, she is the beautiful Abby.Our baby cousin, who my mom would easily lay her life down for. Regardless of her not being her own child, which you would never know because my mom treats her and everyone else in this world, as if the were her own. She doesn’t meet a stranger and she makes sure to spread her love to not just her cousin, or the little girl without a bike, but to every person she will ever come across, no matter who they are.

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How is this woman, that has dealt with so much, so happy? Look in this picture. You will see her at the very front of the church, lifting her hands up to the Lord, and praising her for all of the blessings he has given her. She doesn’t see darkness, she doesn’t see negativity, she doesn’t see anything bad in this world. All she sees is good, despite what she has faced because her faith is unshakable.

My mother is my hero, she has shown me what strength, love, compassion, and joy are without even explaining those words to me. All I had to do is grow up by her side, and I am so glad God allowed me to. My mother works, 14 hour days every week, sees the inside of her home very rarely, serves the community on her very little downtime, and always makes time to thank God for her blessings. She goes and goes, and she does not stop, unless it comes to helping someone and sharing a smile. So Chobani Flip, if there is anyone in this world that deserves a break, it’s this incredible woman I have featured here. If there’s anything in this world I hope to never do, it’s to take her heart for granted.

Please visit breakyoumake.com and http://www.chobani.com/products/flip#strawberry-summer-crisp to find out more about Chobani Flip and how they are helping people across the world, like my mom, realize the importance of a break, and just how to make the most of it.

Let’s hear it for hard working people like my mother and for Chobani Flip for helping people enjoy their breaks a little lot more.

Chobani pic

Budget Banner

Easiest Budget Plan in the world

So, I am apparently known for my budgeting. I have to admit, I don’t just have a budget for my own money gain or to keep track of my finances, I do it to keep me sane and focused on my goals- which is currently to purchase a house in September. It was July, but…I have to be honest, we didn’t stick to our budget like we should have. If we would have, we would probably be looking at houses next month. So if you are reading this, take it from me- stick to your budget! Whatever reason you are keeping a budget, make sure you stick to it and make it realistic.

Realistic being the most important part of a budget. When you go down the unrealistic path, you are very likely to blow your budget and thus, being let down. When I first began budgeting I pretty much made a dream budget using my husband’s highest pay (instead of his base pay) and underestimating my grocery store spending, which blew my budget out of the water and I found myself getting more and more stressed over finances, which, the point of a budget- is meant to help you avoid. It may take you a few months to get everything sorted out and on track, but you will get there.

A budget is also created to help you stay on track though, so while it is important to be realistic, you may need to make adjustments in some of your spending. If you are blowing your budget by $40 each week, don’t tell yourself “Well, i’m being realistic. This is how much I spend on eating out each week.” When this happens, it’s time to make cuts and realize where you are over spending. Budget’s require patience, honesty (harder than you think), and sometimes when you are going over budget and wondering where in the world all your money is going- sacrifices. But it’s all in the name of financial stability. Financial stability is something very important in this world. Not only does everything demand payment, but think of how often you’re stressed…now think of how often it’s tied to money. I don’t know about you but with us, pretty much all of our stress comes from money. Which is why I began budgeting. Winging finances just wasn’t working for us.

Budget’s take away many financial confusions. It shows you what comes in and it makes you realize where you may be spending a little too much money. When you blindly spend money it’s so easy to over spend, you can forget oh the water bill is due this week and instead go out with friends and when it comes time for the water bill to be due and you remember, you realize you spent your last $30 on dinner and drinks. Having a budget and knowing what money needs to go out before you get paid, prevents surprises like this. It also helps you build savings, even if it’s just a little. Which can help you later on when something happens that doesn’t fit in your budget- like a car repair. So let’s take a look at this super simple laid out budget plan, that will work for all of you!

So first off, here is the simple lay out. Here you only see 3 weeks, but the whole budget plan will stretch from 4- 5 weeks depending on the month.

Budget lay out

Nothing fancy, just plain and laid out for ease!

As you see here, in the left column you have three things to fill out. Pay, Bills, and Savings.

highlighted left column

Fill them out like this (it’s pretty self explanatory):

Pay: What you bring home weekly. If you get paid bi-weekly feel free to divide your check in half and put it in week 1. If your checks differ drastically each week, use your best, best, best, guess. Don’t include overtime or any incentive. Stick with your most base pay incase overtime isn’t available or you don’t make incentive. This is where being honest comes in to play, as much as you would love to count on overtime to make your budget prettier- don’t do it.

Bills: After you fill out your bills, add up the total and put it here.

Savings: How much in savings you will be putting into the bank this week. This is easy as you just move it from your savings column in the bill section.

Now, to the fun section :p THE BILLS!

Bill highlightedLike the last part, it’s self explanatory. What you do though, is instead of “Bill 1″ you would write in the name of your bill. Such as, Mortgage/Rent. And then the same for Bill 2, 3, 4, etc, etc. I suggest, highly suggest, listing each bill in order of importance. Shelter, Water, Utilities, etc. In the bill section, write everything you spend money on. Not just paper bills, include your groceries (everything you buy at a store- not just food, like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, shampoo, etc.), gas, fast food, makeup, anything and everything. This helps you see all of your expenses and you keep everything on track.

Now, the last column. an important column, something I don’t find optional but as a need.

savings highlighted

A lot of people only put back savings if they can. Having a savings, big or small, is important incase you get into a jam later on. You don’t have to put back a big amount, do what you can. Even if it’s only $5. Take it from your grocery budget. Get 1 bag of dorito’s instead of 2, skip mcdonald’s for everyone and just get a $5 pizza, whatever you have to to make some room for savings, do it. And always put what you can. Don’t settle for the least amount and blow the rest. If you can put in $20, do it. You will thank yourself later. What I do to calculate savings, I add up all my bills, take it from my base pay, subtract $15 (I like to have a little cushion in the account during the week), and then put what’s left straight into savings. If my husband works overtime, straight into savings. I make sure we can live off his base pay and anything extra is for later. This is important to ease financial stress that may pop up later.

And this is your basic budget plan! It’s simple, no frills. It’s straight forward and easy to create. You can write it down on paper, you can type it out on paper, you can set up a table on your phone. You can customize it by adding more columns and rows, extra weeks or fewer weeks, customize it to fit your life. Just be sure to be honest and realistic.

Just for an example, I filled out this basic week for you to see!

budget exampleSee, super simple!

Happy budgeting! Do you keep a budget? If so, does it help you?

Hoping to hear from you! :)

Chicken Tips Banner

Chicken Tips, Part 1.

Chicken Tips FI

Chicken, we eat it at least twice a week, often 3 times, sometimes even 4. So I have had my fair share with chicken and everything that entails it. I’m sure, if you are a meat eater, you consume chicken often. Maybe even more than we do. It’s cheap (compared to most meats anyways) and it’s incredibly versatile- you see it in everything from soups to rice dishes to crammed in between tortillas. You can really sculpt chicken into something amazing. Since chicken is so popular, I thought I would share a few tricks I have learned about it on my chicken ventures.

  1. Shredding Chicken: On my instagram last week, I shared a clever shredding tip that comes in handy with chicken but there are so many recipes involving shredded chicken- soups, casseroles, quesadillas, shredded chicken is everywhere. Now, when I first began cooking, I would sit down and take two forks and spend 10 minutes or more shredding the meat and coming up with uneven shreds. It took too long for something I wasn’t even that pleased with. Then I remembered hearing some where forever ago that taking a hand mixer to meat shreds it much easier. So I gave it a try and haven’t went back.IMG_1547
  2. Taking the stink out of boiled chicken: I don’t know about you, but nothing (well maybe some things but this is a biggie) churns my stomach more than the smell of boiled chicken. I don’t know what about it makes me want to run and hide 10 miles away from my house but it does. It is one of the worst smelling things I ever do did in my kitchen. For shredding, like we talked about above, the easiest method is to boil the chicken and then shred. Since my household loves Mexican food (tons of shredded chicken) I was having to do this often but found myself shying away from things that required boiling chicken. When I was tired of just avoiding some really yummy foods, I went to the drawing board. In order to avoid that icky smell, add some chicken broth cubes to your water. This zaps the smell away and actually adds flavor. I now always keep the cubes on hand. If you are making something that you can add even more flavor into the water, go for it! Just make sure it won’t throw off your recipe too much. Last night I made chicken fried rice and added in teriyaki sauce and some garlic, mmm.
  3. Quicker boiling chicken: When my husband went to second shift, so did I. I began making meals before he went to work because I loved our family dinners. This ended up cutting into our time more than I had liked so I went searching for ways to cut down on cook time. I began prepping everything I could the night before. When it came to boiling chicken, I realized I could even do this over night. All you have to do is pop in your chicken in the slow cooker, cover with water, throw in some broth cubes, and your chicken is ready to shred when you wake up. Cooking times differ with each crock pot so adjust to your crock pot. Mine can cook on low for about 4 hours and be there, it then switches to warm.
  4. Getting more bang for your buck chicken: Last year, my husband and I began buying organic chicken. Organic Chicken is a little pricey and was making our already way too high grocery budget even higher. It’s more expensive ($9-$11 for 3 breasts) but we didn’t want to go back to the other breasts, we didn’t want to cut back on chicken meals, so we were up in the air. And then my husband came up with this idea after examining them one day that they should be cut in half width wise and it would double our chicken.He was more interested in a better portion size (a honking 8 ounce chicken breast can sometimes be too much) and I had been pounding and tenderizing the chicken as it was to make it not so thick in the middle (it can easily become dry and flavorless when it’s too thick and have you seen how thick the chicken breasts are lately), so this wasn’t causing us to cut back on chicken. So now we get 6 breasts for $11 instead of 3. Which is two meals! This has helped our grocery budget and the flavor of our meals because the chicken ends up being the perfect thickness. I highly suggest doing this!
  5. A better breading: Something I never did when I first began cooking was dip it in flour first and then the egg mixture and then the flour again. I also didn’t think to season the flour. Double coating your chicken helps the breading so much and making sure to season your flour (with salt and pepper for basic recipes or you can get fancy and season with garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, the works) will never disappoint when it comes to a flavorful breading.

I labeled this part one because I know I will be back with even more chicken tips one day as much as I cook with it. I wanted to start off with some 5 basic tips at first.

And as always, when cooking poultry, remember to heat it to at least 165 degrees and wash everything it came into contact with. These aren’t so much tips as they are important steps for every chicken adventure.

What rookie mistakes did you make when you first started cooking? I would love to hear about them! :)

MTC FI

Mushroom Thyme Chicken

MTC bannerGrowing up, I grew up on a variety of foods. I don’t mean a little Italian here, a little Mexican there. I mean my dad hunted and often times, we enjoyed what he brought home. My favorite dish he ever made from venison (deer) was a variation of hand breaded, fried venison smothered in delicious cream of mushroom soup. It seems so basic, so simple, but my goodness it was full of flavor and just….amazingness. Now, my husband doesn’t hunt and I obviously don’t- the thought of killing something (even bugs sometimes) makes me sad. So I rarely enjoy venison, but one day last week I found myself craving my dad’s special dish so I went to the drawing board and came up with something similar that did more than just the trick, it set my taste buds over the moon. And it was a lot healthier than fried venison since it uses chicken and it is smothered in a delicious, creamy, peppery, mushroom gravy of sorts and it’s to die for so I knew I had to share it with you guys. The pictures are making me want it again so I think I may need to put it on next week’s meal plan. Take a look for yourself so you can get the stuff to make it for yourself. It’s so simple but so amazing. Don’t deprive your taste buds from this one.

What you need:

  • Fresh Chicken Tenders 1 pound
  • 1 can of Cream of Mushroom Soup + Equivalent Milk
  • 2 tablespoons of Ground Thyme
  • 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Black Pepper and Kosher Salt (to taste)
  • Baby Bella Mushrooms (or your favorite), cut up into pieces. 

Throwing it all together:

  1. Mix together your oil and thyme and then brush the chicken with it.
  2. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over your chicken tenders.
  3. Heat a small amount of oil in a pan. Just enough to lightly coat the pan. Your chicken already has oil so really we just want to prevent a little extra stickage. I used a cast iron so if you have a non-stick skillet, it may not be needed. Use your best judgment depending on how your skillet does.
  4. On medium high heat, cook your chicken tenders. When they are about 3/4 of the way finished throw in your mushrooms and let them cook until the chicken is fully done. About 3-4 minutes total on each side.
  5. In a bowl, whisk together your milk and soup mixture and then throw it in the pan when the chicken is done.
  6. Add in some more fresh pepper and then let it bubble up for about 10 minutes.
  7. ENJOY!

See how easy it is? And I swear it tastes so mind blowingly amazing for what little it has in it. With the added mushrooms and fresh pepper it really takes it beyond just a simple cream of mushroom soup and thyme really livens up the chicken. Mmm, I need some STAT!

MTC in a pan

MTC Close Up

Look closer! :9