Super Easy + Healthy One-Pot Taco Soup

Posted 04-12-2017 at 12:10 AM by Jessica

TacoSoup

 

Soups are the best because they’re super low-key. You can add just about anything to a pot with some broth or seasoned water and viola! It’s soup. Nothing fancy – no culinary degree required.

One of my favorite soups is Taco Soup mostly because it’s so easy to make, and super easy to improvise with whatever ingredients you have.

Here is what I usually like to add to my soup:

(*Remember, use whatever you have on hand!)

Ingredients:

1lb Ground Beef

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can corn

1 can kidney beans

1 can black beans

1 diced onion

1/2 cup cilantro

1 diced jalapeno

Juice from 1-2 limes

1 packet taco seasoning

1 packet ranch mix

3-4 cups water

Directions:

Brown beef in a large pot, then add all of the ingredients you’re using and let simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes.

Top with sour cream (or plain greek yogurt), crushed tortilla chips and some shredded cheese if you so desire.

That was easy!

*Substitutions

No fresh cilantro in the fridge? Dried works fine, or just skip it entirely!

Don’t have canned tomatoes? Use some of that Pico de Gallo you have in your fridge (literally what I did last time, and it was SO good).

Hate corn? Cut up some carrots instead.

Don’t have taco seasoning? Use some seasonings like chili powder, cumin, garlic salt, red pepper flakes and/or cayanne pepper.

Vegetarian? Omit the beef entirely and add extra beans OR use vegetarian “beef” crumbles (MorningStar makes my favorite kind). 

Would rather use stock than water? Go for it! Just reduce the amount of seasonings you add.

Hate spicy foods? Use less seasoning and skip the jalapeno.

Want to bulk it up? Add in some quinoa or shell pasta!

As you can see, anything goes with this Taco soup! Just throw together whatever you have and you’ll have a super yummy, inexpensive AND easy soup made in less than 30 minutes!

 

Diaper Swapers

4 Creative DIY Growth Markers

Posted 04-10-2017 at 12:09 AM by Jessica

My mom can’t be the only one to have us kids stand up against the wall so she could mark how tall we had gotten every so many months? In fact, I know she can’t be because my grandma still does it will all of her still-growing grandchildren to this day! (Though, thanks to my two taller-than-six-foot cousins she’s had to drag over a step stool so she can accurately measure them. ;) ) Almost every month she’ll have each grandchild stand up against the door frame of her pantry and pull out the trusted Sharpie! I think it’s an adorable tradition, and I love the idea of just using the wall or door frame, but if you’d like other less-permanent options for measuring your kids periodically check these out…

Four Creative DIY Growth Markers

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The Ruler 

This Pottery Barn “knock off” by 517Creations is SO cute. And it’s relatively easy with minimal supplies needed as well! Head here to check it out.

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Jute-Cloth Marker

I think this idea is so creative! It’s very unique and I love that you can transport it SO easily as the kids grow older and change rooms or you move to a new house. Get the instructions here.

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Growth Milestone Chart

For this one you’re not just marking the height, you’re also recording fun milestones as well! This one is similar to the ruler, though it’s much more detailed! Find inspiration here.

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Cloth Growth Chart

If you’re an embroidery whiz – this one’s for you! Or, if you’re not so handy in the sewing department (like myself) you can always use stamps or markers instead! I just love the whimsical feel of the fabric… It would look adorable in a nursery! Go here for the tutorial.

 

5 Hardy Houseplants That Purify the Air

Posted 04-8-2017 at 12:08 AM by Jessica

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I don’t have a green thumb AT ALL. I’m actually pretty terrible at keeping plants alive. I forget to water them, and then I go a little crazy and usually end up over watering them. But I love the ambiance plants bring to your home, and I especially love the fact that so many can help to clean your air. Pretty and purifying.

Here is a list of a few houseplants that are generally hard to kill, and help keep toxins out of the air you and your family are breathing.

1. Spider Plant:
I love these guys. They’re so easy to care for, too. Just keep them in a room where they can receive bright indirect sunlight and they can help rid your home of formaldehyde and xylene!

2. Garden Mum:
These pretty flowering plants help keep ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene out of the air you’re breathing. Woo hoo!

3. Ficus:
These babies can grow to be anywhere from 2 to 10 feet tall! They’re a unique-looking plant, a very easy plant to care for AND they’re a real threat to benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.

4. Peace Lily:
I love flowering plants that will still bloom indoors. The Peace Lily is a real air-cleaning champ, helping to get rid of ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene without asking much of you; simply keep them in a shady spot and keep the soil moist.

5. Snake Plant AKA Mother In Law’s Tongue:
Okay, why would anyone ever want to call this a Snake Plant when Mother In Law’s Tongue is the alternative?! I want this plant just for that reason alone. Oh, and also because it’s an extremely hardy plant that would be hard to kill even if you tried. And it takes care of benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene. Perfection.

 

20 Fun Spring Bucket-list Activities with Kids

Posted 04-6-2017 at 12:05 AM by Jessica

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Now that the weather is getting warmer it’s time to switch over from that Winter activity bucket list to to a Spring one! There are lots of great things you can do with your kids in the great outdoors, whether that’s in your backyard, at the beach or up in the mountains – and it doesn’t have to cost much, either!

Here are just a few ideas…

  • Create a scavenger hunt
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood
  • Jump rope
  • Draw pictures with sidewalk chalk
  • Play hide-n-seek outdoors
  • Blow bubbles
  • Use hula-hoops
  • Have a BBQ
  • Play hopscotch
  • Find shapes in the clouds
  • Play baseball at a park (or a simple game of catch is always fun)
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Fly a kite
  • Start up a soccer or basketball game
  • Go on a picnic at the park
  • Take a hike (literally, ha)!
  • Collect seashells on a beach (or wade in the chilly water at a lake)
  • Plant flowers
  • Have a weed-pulling competition
  • Feed the ducks at a pond

There are so many fun things to do now that the weather is warmer! After being cooped up inside all Winter the kids will LOVE heading out to have some fun in the sun, even if it’s not totally warm yet. Be imaginative and you’re sure to make lots of great memories this Spring without having to spend a dime!

 

“Bunny Butt” Cupcakes – A Unique & Adorable Easter Treat

Posted 04-3-2017 at 07:27 PM by Jessica

“Bunny Butt” cupcakes are my favorite cupcakes of all time. They’ve become an Easter tradition for the past couple years, and one that I’m not likely to stop anytime soon. They’re actually super easy to make, and they’re lots more fun when the whole family gets involved in the decorating!

Ingredients

12 Chocolate Cupcakes
12 Donut Holes
About 1/2 cup crushed Oreo cookies
12 mini marshmallows
1 cup vanilla frosting (store-bought or homemade)
1 cup chocolate frosting (store-bought or homemade)
1 ½ cups coconut flakes
1 package white chocolate candy melts
Pink candy melts or pink gel coloring

Directions

1. Cut a small portion off of the donut holes so that when placed on the cupcake as the bunny’s body, it will not roll off.
2. Frost the top of the cupcake with chocolate frosting. Then dip into the crushed Oreo cookies for the “dirt.”
3. Place a handful of white candy melts in a bowl and then microwave for about 20-30 seconds or until melted. Scoop the melted candy melts into a Ziploc bag and snip off a small corner so that you can use it to pipe little ovals for the bunny feet onto parchment paper. Create 2 bunny feet per cupcake.
3. After the feet have cooled and hardened, follow the same steps above to melt the pink candy melts and then pipe toes and the pads of the feet.
4. Coat the donut holes in vanilla frosting, and then roll in coconut flakes.
5. Gently press the donut hole (flat side down) onto the cupcake. (I like to clear away some of the crushed Oreo where I want the bunny body to be so that it sticks better.)
6. Cover each marshmallow completely with frosting and then roll into the coconut.Clear away some of the coconut from the bunny body and add a little more frosting or white candy melt if necessary to get the marshmallow tail to stick.
7. Last but not leaset, use the frosting or candy melts to adhere the feet with the toes facing downward on the cupcake, resting against the bunny body.

There you go! Super simple and super adorable “Bunny Butt” cupcakes, just in time for Easter!

Saving Money at the Grocery Store without Using Coupons

Posted 04-3-2017 at 12:14 AM by Jessica

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I’ve always dreaded grocery shopping. Especially when you end up leaving the store feeling bad about how much money you had to spend! Here are a few simple tips for saving money at the grocery store without even needing to use coupons!

1. Stock up on sale items.
Even produce! Are the bananas on sale? Grab a bunch and freeze half of them. If it’s an item you use frequently it’s best to grab lots when it’s on sale.

2. Bring cash.
If you leave your credit or debit cards at home then you’re forced to only spend what you brought with you! You will need to make sure you’re calculating as you add items to the cart so that you don’t have to end up putting food back once you get to the register.

3. Buy generic.
Most generic items taste exactly the same, but are much cheaper. Choose the store-brand whenever possible.

4. Don’t shop hungry.
I repeat – don’t shop hungry. You’ll easily spend much more than you would with a full stomach!

5. Mean plan ahead of time.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a ton of food and ended up realizing I still couldn’t make many meals because I didn’t get all of the ingredients I needed for particular recipes. Also, lots of food would go bad because I simply didn’t have a plan for using it! Decide on the meals you’ll make for the next 2 weeks and buy what you need for them along with basic staples and snacks, and keep it at that.

6. Use an online curbside grocery pick-up service if available near you.
This is my all-time favorite money-saving secret. I order all of my groceries online and then pick them up at the store, curbside. It helps because I’m not tempted to buy whatever I see as I’m walking down the aisle, and I can always keep track of my total – simply deleting items if I feel I’ve gone over my budget. It saves me SO much time and energy. No running around the store looking for specific ingredients, pushing heavy carts, and praying that my total isn’t too high.

These are just a few of the many ways you can save money when you buy groceries. What are some of your tried-and-true tips?

 

Ditch the Standard Basket – 8 Creative Easter “Basket” Ideas for the Whole Family

Posted 04-2-2017 at 12:05 AM by Jessica

Baskets are darling, don’t get me wrong. They’re an Easter staple and a super fun tradition! But trust me, after seeing these super creative ideas for a non-traditional Easter “basket” you’ll likely ditch the standard basket for good! PLUS, there are ideas for everyone in the family!

For the littles…

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Dump Truck w/ Paw Patrol:

Paw Patrol is so in right now. And toy dump trucks are always in, making this a clever idea for the little ones! Click here to see the full description!

dump truck

Dump Truck w/ Candy:

If you weren’t already convinced that you need to make a dump truck basket, you should be fully converted now. Head here to see just how stinkin’ cute this is!

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Plastic Pool w/ Lots of Goodies:

Instead of doing multiple baskets for each kid, why not wow them all with this adorable idea?

For the teens…

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Filled Baseball Cap:

You know those ideas that are just so genius yet so simple you can’t help but wonder why you never thought of them? That’s how I feel about this Baseball Cap basket idea. This is perfect for any of your hat-loving teens (or spouses)!

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Makeup Bag Basket: 

I would have loved this girly Easter surprise as a teen! Ha. Who am I kidding? I would STILL love this today. Fill up a makeup bag with a few of their favorite products and throw in some candy and viola! You’ll have a very happy lady.

For the adults…

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Tool Box w/ Goodies:

Got a handy-man (or woman) at home? They’ll LOVE this idea. Stuff a tool box with some of the equipment they need and throw in a few treats as well! Hop on over here for more info.

For everyone…

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Umbrella Easter Baskets:

Okay… I think this is my favorite idea, and that’s saying something because these are all so creative! You have got to learn more about how to make these Umbrella Easter Baskets – they would be a HUGE hit with everyone!

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Beach Towel Bunnies:

You know how I said that the Umbrella baskets are my favorite? Well… I think they are tied with this idea. This ‘Bunnies made from Beach Towels‘ idea doesn’t link to a blog as it was just an image uploaded by user Jacqlyn Smith to Pinterest, but she did mention in the comments that she followed the instructions in this YouTube tutorial, simply starting with a Beach Towel folded in half instead of a washcloth. CUTE!


There you go! 9 super unique Easter Basket ideas, minus the “basket.” Let me know what your favorite non-traditional Easter gifts are in the comments!

3 Surprises for St. Patrick’s Day

Posted 03-12-2017 at 12:07 AM by Jessica

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St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a huge holiday for most people, I know. It’s not like Christmas or anything, but, being the holiday-obsessed person I am, I can’t help but make a big deal out of it each year! I’m not talking big presents or tons of decorations or anything, I actually keep it pretty simple with a few small surprises – things that in turn actually make the day lots of fun!

Green Milk

Sounds nasty, right? Don’t worry, it’s just food coloring! Everyone gets to wake up to a gallon of milk dyed a nice light green color, perfect for accompanying their Lucky Charms cereal! I don’t stop there though. Sometimes it’s green pancakes, sometimes the water bottles are green, other times it’s green Alfredo sauce or cream cheese. I like to keep everyone on their toes.

St. Patrick’s Inspired Dinner

Whether it’s simply a bunch of green food, or I cook up something Irish (corned beef and cabbage is a popular Irish choice) dinner is always delicious with an extra bit of thought put into it.

Hidden Candy & Small Gifts

Sometimes the Leprechauns visit and they leave chocolate coins hidden here or there. And they usually bring by a small basket with a few fun trinkets in it as well. Maybe a pair of socks with clovers on them, a dollar store necklace, a small toy. Usually lots of green!

See, that’s really not much! But it’s the little things that can make the day feel so much more special. I love holidays because they seem like a little break from the ordinary. Even if it is just green milk in your cereal that day.

All-Natural Homemade Play-Doh

Posted 03-8-2017 at 01:14 AM by Jessica

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Who doesn’t love Play-Doh? I know that as a kid I could play with the stuff for hours. I’d make anything from ice cream sundaes to animals to jewelry. As fun as the legitimate Play-Doh was, I always got so much more excited when my mom would make up some of the homemade type because we’d have a much larger batch and the grainier texture was so much fun! I’d watch as she mixed flour, some salt and water together and we’d magically end up with a bowl full of homemade Play-Doh that we would play with for days. Sometimes we’d add some food coloring to make it even more fun.

If you’re sick of spending tons of money on Play-Doh go ahead and make your own! You likely have all the ingredients in your pantry already, and you can make a huge batch that your kids will LOVE.

Materials:

Large bowl

1 cup water

A few drops of natural food coloring (optional)

4 cups flour

3 tablespoons oil (canola is my favorite)

1 cup salt

 

Instructions:

Mix the water and food coloring in the bowl, then add in the flour and salt and mix it all together really well.

Pour in the oil, adding extra if the mixture still seems too dry after it’s been mixed.

Play, play, play!

 

Seriously, this is so easy and it’s going to be a big hit! When your kids find out that you know how to make the best Play-Doh ever and they can even pick the color(s) they’ll be thrilled!

Let me know in the comments how this recipe turned out!

 

 

Tips for Making Teeth-Brushing Time More Fun

Posted 03-5-2017 at 01:13 AM by Jessica
  1. Brush with them. Kids learn best by seeing the behavior modeled for them. If you are consistent and brush your teeth next to them, kneeling down so that they can see better, they will likely copy you. Demonstrate how moving the toothbrush in a circular motion cleans the best, and that you want to get behind your teeth as well!
  2. Let them pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste. You’d be surprised at how motivated a child will become if they get to pick out a Spider-man or Hello Kitty toothpaste and toothbrush. Choosing a few different flavors of toothpaste is always a great idea as well so that they can mix it up each night.
  3. Tell them they’re fighting “Cavity Monsters.” If they can think of cavities as little monsters that put holes in their teeth they’ll be more likely to want to fight them with their handy dandy toothbrush and “cavity-killing” toothpaste. After they’re done brushing ask them to open their mouth so that you can make sure they got rid of them all!
  4. Turn it into a game. Kids love games and anytime you make something into a competition it instantly becomes more fun! Set a timer for 2 minutes and see who can make the most bubbles in their mouth by the end of the 2 minutes.
  5. Reward them. Positive reinforcement and consistency is key to instilling good habits at a young age. Create a sticker chart where they can add a sticker each time they brush their teeth, with the goal being twice a day.697224