Monday, January 26, 2015

Motherhood


Even as a little girl I knew that all I wanted to be when I grew up was a mama. I imagined names for all of my possible future kids and dreamed of the adventures I would take with my family. As much as I dreamed of what motherhood would be like, nothing could prepare me for what life as a mom is really like. 

Motherhood is full of giggles and reminders to look at life through innocent eyes. Days are full of ups and downs and sleepy cries. Life as a mom means leaving the house with a combination of spit up and baby food on your jeans. Motherhood is both fulfilling and emptying. It is full of heartache and heart warming smiles. It means compromising your own sanity for the sake of caring for a little one who can't care for himself. Motherhood means putting your own needs last on the list. It is full of lessons in patience and sleepless nights. It is full of adventures through the eyes of a baby and it is full of proud moments. Motherhood means maybe showering every other day and walking around with chipped nail polish for weeks at a time. It means leaving dirty dishes in the sink and leaving laundry unfolded. It means watching endless hours of Curious George and Veggie Tales. Motherhood is rewarding and discouraging at times. It means stretch marks and body aches. I means never getting to sit still for more than ten seconds at time. Motherhood is the best thing in the world.

What is motherhood to you?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

10 Tips for Sticking to Your Grocery Budget


One of my talents is grocery shopping. Like, I'm really good at it. And I love it! I guess you could call me a grocery nerd? One of the things that I am great at is getting everything that we need while staying within my grocery budget. Pretty much every week, we end up with leftovers (though my goal is to never have any extra and buy everything fresh each week). Since this is one thing that I am really good at, I thought I would share a few of my grocery shopping tips with you. How do you save money at the grocery store?

1. Download Apps.
Target's Cartwheel app is actually really great and whenever I get groceries at Target I scroll through the app to see if anything on my list is on there. If I use all the coupons that I save, I could cut close to $15 off of my bill!

2. Make a Meal Plan & Stick To It.
Every Thursday I sit down and choose our dinners for the week and make a very organized grocery list. And then I stick to that list when shopping. If I happen to have some extra money after getting what I need then I can go back and get one or two things that I want. This also keeps me from buying pounds of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups every week...

3. Check Clearance Sections.
Most grocery stores have a clearance shelf or two (usually on the end cap of an aisle). You can often find some good stuff on there, just be sure to check the expiration date!

4. Name Brand Isn't Always Best.
With many snack foods, the generic brand is just as good as (and sometimes even better than) the name brand. Some generic products do suck but it's worth the try because some products are even one or two dollars cheaper than the name brand.

5. Coupons Do Work, As Long As You Use Them.
I am notorious for taking hours to search and cut out coupons that match my grocery list and then I go through the store and find everything on my coupons. Then, I get to the cashier and forget to use the coupons. But if you do use them, you can save a good chunk of money.

6. Shop At More Than One Place.
I shop at our local market, Giant, and Target every week. At market I buy all of our produce. I like buying all of our produce there because I can buy the exact amount of spring mix (or any fruit/veggie) that I need without having extras that will end up rotting in the fridge. Plus, it usually tends to be cheaper than the grocery store and I like knowing that I am supporting local businesses. I tend to buy most of my groceries at Target, they have all of the basics that I need and their generic brand "Up & Up" never fails to impress (they have fantastic frozen meatballs!). I buy whatever I couldn't find at Target or Market at Giant along with any "specialty" items like Earth Balance butter or fancy cheese.

7. Take Your Time.
If you rush through the grocery store you are just going to grab everything without looking. You may miss that it's buy one get one half off or miss that the generic brand is a whole dollar cheaper. It can be hard to take your time if you have a little one along but try to time the grocery trips for when they are happiest. I try to go right after William eats because then I know that I have a few hours of happy baby before he gets hungry again.

8. Buy in Bulk.
Let me tell you people, that $55 Costco membership is life changing. Two words: bulk hummus. Also you do get a really good deal for large sizes of foods that will last you close to two weeks. I like to buy sandwich bread there because most of them come in loaves of two so we use one now and freeze the other.

9. Don't Fear Discount Grocers.
Some discount grocery stores can look a little scary. They usually aren't bright and shiny like Target but they are usually full of good finds. At a local discount grocery around here, I buy all of my flours, sugars, etc. in bulk for fantastic prices (hollah 10 pounds of flour for just under $5). Just be sure to triple check the expiration dates.

10. Only Buy What You Need.
If you don't think that you're going to use the entire container of rolled oats, go somewhere like a discount grocer where you can buy a smaller amount. I don't know about you, but I never use the entire container of a spice. Usually it will go dull far before I'm even halfway done with it. So now I buy all of my spices from a stand at market where I can buy just a quarter of an ounce if it's all I need and then my spices stay fresh. I still keep all of my spices on hand but in smaller quantities. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Kitchen Inspiration

image sources: 1//2//3//4
In just about one month we will be completely moved into our new home. Where I have a kitchen that actually has storage. It's a novel idea for a kitchen, right? I love the layout of the kitchen but the cabinets need updated and I'll be repainting every single room. Basically, I get to make my kitchen look however I want it to which is so much fun. After renting a home with a kitchen looks nothing like I would ideally like a kitchen to look, I am just so excited. My goal is to make it a light and airy space that breeds creativity and maximizes storage and counter space. The one bad thing about my kitchen is that there is not a ton of counter space so I'm fixing that by getting this rolling island cart from Ikea which also fits into the kitchen closet/pantry.

I also have this adorable open shelving space that I plan on making my baking "station," similar to the first photo above. Seth is also going to install an electrical outlet into the wall between one of the shelves so we can put the microwave in the shelving space, allowing me to keep the little bit of counter space I do have. And I totally want to put hooks in for my Kitchen Aid attachments like in the photo. I also need to get some new pretty containers for my baking ingredients and find a pretty way to label everything.

The two longer cabinets on either side of the oven, I plan on eventually turning into open cabinets like in the third photo above. I think this will make the kitchen look a little more airy and I can put some of my pretty dishes and containers on the open shelves to use them as storage and decor. Perfect pairing.

Do you have any ideas for how I should maximize my storage and counter space? Or how I should label the containers on my baking station?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Recipe // Vegan Apple Cinnamon Streusel Bread



I have about five or so more months of breastfeeding left which means five more months of avoiding dairy and soy to the best of my ability. I am not too strict about cutting out things that are baked with soy because it only seems to bother William when I drink straight soy milk. But the no dairy thing is really hard for me. I cheat a lot and then suffer the consequences of a fussy and spit up-y baby. But recently I've found some dairy and soy free foods in the organic section of my grocery store. Yummy treats like chocolate almond milk pudding, dark chocolate almond milk, Greek style coconut milk yogurt, and coconut milk ice "cream." I'm a little upset with myself for not finding these things when William was first born. But don't worry, I shall enjoy them for the next five-ish months. 

Since I am avoiding dairy, I am always looking for and making delicious dairy free recipes. Enter Vegan Apple Cinnamon Streusel Bread. This moist, sweet, and spicey bread is so good, you will have no idea that there is no milk, butter, or eggs. The streusel is even like one you would make with butter! I used Earth Balance as my butter substitute but if you are vegan and don't like to use food substitutes, you could also use coconut oil. If you use coconut oil it won't be as thick as with Earth Balance. But either way, it's seriously so good, you could trick people into thinking that you actually used butter.


The one thing that I would do differently next time that I make it, is chop up the apples much much smaller. Maybe even put them in the food processor for one or two pulses, just so that there are apple pieces in each and every bite. But either way, it's still yums.


Vegan Apple Cinnamon Streusel Bread
Yields: 1 loaf          Prep Time: 15 minutes          Bake Time: 50 minutes          Total Time: 65 minutes

Ingredients
apples
1 lg Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp granulated sugar

streusel
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
4 Tbsp vegan butter (I used Earth Balance) or coconut oil, cold and chopped

batter
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup almond milk
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 Tbsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9x5" loaf pan with coconut oil or vegan cooking spray and line some of the pan with parchment paper to make it easier to remove the baked loaves.

2. In a medium bowl, toss together ingredients for apples and set aside until ready to use.

3. In another medium bowl, mix together dry ingredients for streusel. Chop up the cold vegan butter into small cubes and add to dry mixture. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles large crumbs. Set aside until ready to use.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together applesauce and sugars. Add in almond milk, coconut oil, and vanilla. On top of the wet ingredients pile on the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Using a spatula, fold in apple mixture.

5. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and evenly spread the batter across the pan being sure to get the batter into the corners. Evenly spread the streusel mixture over top of the batter. Bake for 45-50 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking, or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the streusel is golden brown. Let pan cool for five minutes then carefully lift the loaf out, using the parchment paper, and move to a wire cooling rack. Do not let the bread sit in the pan too long or the bottom will become wet and mushy. Once cool, slice into thick slices.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Being Blog Buddies

Today I have a lovely post from my friend Betsy of Heavens to Betsy. She's been a beautiful addition to my sidebar this past month and I have gotten the opportunity to meet up with her in real life, as she will discuss below. Take a moment and hop on over to this lovely lady's blog and say hello (after reading this post of course).


Hey there!  First of all, thanks so much to Abby for having me today!  I'm Betsy, and I blog over at Heavens to Betsy, where I write about faith and life and everything in between.  I'd love to have you visit!

When Abby offered me the opportunity to guest post on her blog, I couldn't turn it down!  It took me a while until I really decided what I wanted to write about, but as I started to think about how Abby and I met, it occurred to me that she is one of the only bloggers who I met first online and then was able to meet in real life.  

Abby and I first connected when she joined The Peony Project.  As it turns out, we have some real life mutual friends, and she's just thirty minutes away from me in Lancaster.  We chatted about meeting up for coffee, and after one failed attempt, finally grabbed breakfast together at the Prince Street Cafe in Lancaster on Friday morning.  (Sidenote:  if you're ever in Lancaster, definitely stop by Prince Street!)

We spent that morning chatting about blogging and working in ministry and life in general, and as I reflect on our time together, I realize how sweet it is to find friendship in the online world.

The blogging world is so vast and really is a funny thing.  We throw out all of this information about our lives and who we are and what we're doing, but most of the time, we don't really know one another.  It's not terribly often that I meet another blogger from my neck of the woods...I'm just too far from Philadelphia to call myself a Philly blogger, and life isn't too terribly glamorous in little Berks County, PA, so we aren't teeming with bloggers.  But once in a while you do find a gem who just happens to be close by, and it's honestly one of the most exciting things!

Finding another person who gets this part of my life is always really special, because it really is such a unique and hard-to-explain thing.  Most people don't really understand the time and effort that running a blog and brand really takes, and if you never find someone who does, then you're going to get burnt out really quickly.

I don't know where you're reading this from...maybe you're in an area where you bump into bloggers left and right and you have tons of blogging friends turned real life besties.  Or maybe you've never met a fellow blogger in person, but either way, can I encourage you to do one thing?  Reach out to another blogger this week!  Tell them what you admire about their writing or their blog and if they live near you, ask them to coffee!  You never know what kind of friendship will blossom from it!


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