Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pumpkin Carving + Halloween Decor

This weekend, the kids and I carved pumpkins for Halloween.  I don’t know if one week before Halloween is the standard pumpkin carving time slot, but as it’s still quite warm in the Valley, I’d rather not have rotten pumpkins when the big day comes.  Although that may add to our decorum…  Anyway, here are some pictures of our pumpkin carving day.  I’ve also included some shots of our Halloween decor which we purchased at Michael’s and Target this year.  Enjoy and Happy (almost) Halloween!

My DIY Halloween wreath! This will double as our fall wreath when Halloween is over by simply removing the hanging skull.

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere!

I'm in love with this skeleton key ribbon from Michael's.  It matches our doormat from Target. ;)

This twiggy pumpkin was a great find in Target's discount section.

Our kitchen received a dash of fall in the form of this $3 burlap banner from Target.

I added a burlap and lace ribbon (from Michael's) and some plastic gold coins (from Party City for Hendrix's bday) to our current decor to play into our Voodoo Lady Lair theme.

Banner close up...

Heading our pumpkin carving adventure, Ella makes the first cut...

...and removes the pumpkin goop.

Yay for pumpkin seeds! I can't wait to roast them.

Ella found these great ceramic books at Michael's.

We added a sprinkle of sparkle with the shimmering skull from Target.

Tea lights in an up-cycled 3-wick candle holder from Bed, Bath and Beyond alongside a paper mache pumpkin from Target.

Ella's finished product!  She did a great job!

Ok - so this is neither decor nor carving-related, but it's a seasonal must have!

Happy Halloween from all of us to you!!

<3 n

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Our Day at the Zoo

Today we ventured to the LA Zoo in honor of Hendrix and Sadie’s birthdays.  Below are a few of our favorite photos from our trip!

As Ella has an amazing sense of direction (which she totally did not get from me), she was in charge of mapping our trip.

If every work day involved lying in a sun-drenched pool...

My favorite color and one of my favorite zoo exhibits.

Ella's giving the ol' take-the-picture-so-we-can-get-on-with-this-day-please smile.

Hendrix vs Alligator.  I'm not sure who should be more frightened of whom.

California Kangaroos chillin...

Can you spot the Koala?

Snake hugs...

Hendrix and Daddy in the natural spotlight.

Ella's photo of a Mountain Bongo.

Hippo pool party!

Gorilla watching...

Found one!

J's favorite part of the zoo (and one of Ella's too!).

Even out of its natural habitat, the Wild Valley Sadie will still graze and lounge all day.

This tortoise was one of the things Sadie easily spotted during our trip.

Big sis and little sis taking a break at the zoo's play park...

...but Hendrix takes no breaks.

Ella on a lily pad!

Random foliage because it's just that nice to look at.

Ella and Mommie sneaking in a selfie...

My favorite shot by far.

Last but not least, we have the backside of Randa the Rhino.  She is an Indian rhino and a cancer survivor!

<3 n

Monday, October 6, 2014

Motivational Monday: Meal Planning

This is not a traditional Motivational Monday post, but it’s motivational just the same.  As each new week presents an opportunity to start fresh, I think meal planning is an important part of starting off right.  Whether you plan each day’s meals right down to the snacks or just your dinners for the week, meal planning helps you stay on track.

A well-executed meal plan can help you maintain a healthy diet and it saves you from wondering what to cook each night.  In addition, you’ll probably save a few bucks because you won’t be holding open the door of the refrigerator, staring at its contents in hopes that the perfect combination of ingredients jumps out at you.

Meal planning also paves the way for cost-effective grocery shopping.  When you plan meals ahead of time, you buy what you need.  No extras.  No waste.  No rotten produce festering in your refrigerator drawer because you forgot you even bought it.  I can truly tell the difference between weeks for which I’ve planned meals and those for which I haven’t.  Meal planning saves money, time and a little slice of my sanity which Lord knows I need every bit of.

One helpful tip for reaping further meal planning benefits is to create a menu that features dishes with shared ingredients.  An extra chicken breast cooked on Monday night can be used in a salad for Tuesday’s lunch.  The same goes for veggies.  Using the same ingredients for various meals will save time while still offering a good variety.

One step further would be meal prepping which is another amazingly helpful practice.  It does take time.  You will spend a good chunk of your Sunday chopping, cooking, categorizing and cleaning, but it’s quite worth the effort.  You’ll free up a generous amount of time during the week which is always a plus.  Just think of all the amazing things you could do if dinner were already ready already…  Read.  Talk with a friend.  Play with your kids.  Get a head start on tomorrow’s workload.  Take a walk.  Paint your nails.  Sleep, perhaps?

I hope this post provided a little jumpstart to map out your meals and make your week a little easier.  Thanks for reading!

<3 n

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Grocery Haul

As usual, we devoted a segment of our weekend to grocery and home shopping.  This week, I’ve decided to share our grocery list in a haul-esque post.  Below, in photo form, are some of the goodies we got during our latest grocery run.  As we've been juicing lately and just trying to be healthier in general, a good percentage of what's in our fridge is fruits and veggies.  We also picked up some snacks and some essentials for nutritious, delicious meals.

Avocados and bananas are a staple in our household.  The kids LOVE bananas while J and I eat avocado with almost everything.

To be horribly honest, this bag of sweet potato chips didn't last the evening.  They're just that good.

J picked up these Clif Bars as snacks for work.  Behind them are blueberry muffin oatmeal, trail mix and apples. 

Nuts are another thing we go crazy for.  This blend is one of J's favorites.

 Trader Joe's, being the great place it is, has pre-packaged these yummy salads for the purpose of purchasing and tummy-pleasing.

These small sweet peppers are one of Ella's favorite snacks of all time.  She'd literally eat the entire bag if we'd let her.  Collard greens are one of my favorites which will be boiled until tender with garlic and onion.

We picked up some fresh mint to make infused water this week (I may do a post on that as well!), but it will also come in handy for cooking.

As I am a vegetarian who actually likes the taste and texture of meat, I'm constantly looking for things that come close to the real deal.  To me, portobello mushrooms have a delicious heartiness about them that satisfies my meaty cravings.  These particular mushrooms will become steaks this weekend.

Our babies love berries!  And why wouldn't they?  Berries are sweet and easy to eat.  We serve them alone as snacks and incorporated into meals like oatmeal and cereal.

Sweet potatoes are very versatile.  We use them to make fries, mashes and desserts.  Mixed with a little butter, milk, cinnamon and Splenda, they are simply amazing.

Ok, so this is not edible, but it houses something we can't live without - drinking water.  After battling a leaky water cooler and hauling five gallon bottles up and downstairs for months, we finally purchased a Brita water pitcher.  Lives changed.  We may pick up a second one to stick in the fridge.

I love this veggie pasta from Barilla so much that I have on occasion eaten a few pieces raw prior to dropping it into a boiling bath.  I know that's probably weird and bad, but it good and crunchy.  Quinoa is delicious and healthy and its uses are many.  I prefer the tricolor package but red alone is wonderful too.

These yogurts from Trader Joe's are so good they put ordinary yogurt to shame.  The thin layer of cream followed by velvety chocolatey goodness satisfies even the most demanding sweet tooth.

And since the kids love yogurt as well, here are some easily eatable yogurt squeezies that they are sure to enjoy.

I bought this package of pita bread to change up our sandwich routine.  These super thin pitas are 180 calories for two pitas which is great because we only use half a pita per meal.

Trader Joe's is a cheese haven.  There are so many to choose from and it's hard to go home without a few varieties.  We decided on a longtime favorite, English Coastal Cheddar.  This cheese is so good that it forced J to renounce his love for Kraft (eww right?).

Hey, look, more pita!  These chips seemed healthy and yummy so they came home with us.  The kids and I love them, so I think it was a smart choice.

As many times as I've had arugula, I'd never ever purchased it.  Now that I have, I'll be sure to find as many recipes as possible in which to showcase these peppery little leaves.

So as not to forget all our purchases (as I often do and often regret), I jotted down our fridge contents on our kitchen's dry erase board.  This way, I know exactly what we have on-hand and I get some visual inspiration as to what I should make.

 This BLT and berry combo was tonight's dinner - quick, simple and delicious.  My vegetarian version featured avocado and MorningStar farms veggie bacon strips.  Yummy!

I hope you enjoyed this post!  If you’re reading this, please comment as I’d absolutely love to hear from you!!

<3 n