Thursday, August 8, 2019

BUSY MOMS CAN COOK {SIMPLE recipes from a busy Mama of 3}

As a busy Mama of three little boys ages 4 and under, I am ALWAYS on the hunt for simple meals that are quick to make and don't require 20 different ingredients. One of my goals for 2019 is to cook more for my family and eat out less so the recipes I am sharing today are all recipes I have made within the last two months that we have enjoyed eating and that I haven't stressed about cooking! Win, win! But first a few things that have been making my life easier when it comes to cooking dinners for my family...

+Make a "Meals for the week" Pinterest board. Save all your meals you are making that week to this board and then you have the ingredients and recipe easily accessible when you go to make them!
+Plan out your meals each week. I do this on Sundays and then my sweet husband goes to the grocery store for all the ingredients or I will use Kroger Clicklist and pick it up Monday morning.
+Make a meal board to display in your kitchen. Display it where you can visibly see your meal plan so you can be more likely to put it in to action! You got this!
+Group your ingredients for each meal together. As I unload my groceries for the week, I put ingredients together for each meal. Obviously they can't all be put together because some are refrigerated and some aren't, but having them grouped together helps me out big time!
+PREP anything you can in your spare time during the earlier part of the day. I can't begin to tell you how much this simple change has helped me. While Aiden was at preschool and while the other two nap, I cut up veggies, thaw meat, mix spices, etc. I do anything I can to make the evening meal making easier! This has been a game changer for me.
+Get yourself an Instant Pot! Knowing I can cook frozen chicken or frozen beef quickly with my instant pot has been huge for me. Honestly, in the past I would simply not cook dinner if I had forgotten to thaw the meat needed for that nights recipe. That sounds terrible, but it was so discouraging to me when I went to start cooking and the meat was rock hard. So this gives me no more excuses! I know not everyone has an Instant Pot, but I decided to share a few Instant Pot recipes I've loved at the bottom of this post.

Real Mom confession:
You guys, I was making so many excuses about why I couldn't get dinner on the table (the baby wouldn't nap, I didn't have the ingredients I needed, I was too tired, I didn't know what to make, etc.) and then I would feel so guilty. We were wasting so much money and even though we were eating healthier options when we would eat out, it still isn't what was best for my growing boys. I know there are nights where I still won't cook for my family, but I am actually giving this whole cooking every night thing a whirl and I am making it happen slowly but surely. If I can do it, you can do it! Trust me!

Please let me know if you try any of these recipes or if you have any I should add to my ever growing list!!! 

EASY MEALS: (with few ingredients)

+Spinach Lasagna Roll-ups {I always double this recipe. So good!}

+Taco Pie: {A family favorite and the first recipe my husband and I ever cooked together as a married couple. 10 years later we are still making it!}

+Oven Chicken Fajitas

+Rotini with Salsa di Limone

+Southwestern Stuffed Peppers

+Bubble Up Chicken Bake

+Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

ONE PAN MEALS: (because who has time to cook annnnd clean all the pots & pans)

+Ranch Porkchops and Potatoes

+Italian Sausage and Veggies

+Sausage Pesto & Veggies with Gnocchi {Our absolute favorite!}

CROCK POT: (or use the slow cooker setting on your Instant Pot)

+Chicken Taquitos

+Chicken, Potatoes +Green beans

+Steak Fajitas

+Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potatoes {Don't knock it until you try it. YUM!}

INSTANT POT: (I am obsessed with my Instant Pot)

+Instant Pot Taco Meat {You could make this ANYTIME during the day or even the night before and refrigerate it until you are ready to eat it then just reheat and serve taco bar style!}

+Instant Pot Beef Stew

+Instant Pot Salsa Shredded Chicken {2 ingredients! Salsa and chicken! Use as the meat to your tacos. So yummy and couldn't be any easier!}

+Instant Pot Garlic Parmesan Chicken {I did not cook the noodles in the IP, but cooked them separately and added the cooked noodles to the dish after it was cooked}

+Instant Pot Chili Mac {Kid Approved}

+Instant Pot Cheeseburger Macaroni: {Kid Approved}

+Instant Pot Buffalo Chicken Pasta

+Instant Pot BBQ Meatloaf + Potatoes: {My husband's favorite Instant Pot meal I've made. Yum!}

Thursday, January 31, 2019

From my baby to big brother

*I meant to post this pre-baby, but forgot and still wanted to hit publish. New baby post coming soon.
I am currently 38 weeks pregnant so Alder's days of being the baby of the family are numbered. I really can't believe he is about to be a BIG brother. But instead of being sad, I'm feeling confident that this will be a good thing for him. I think he will do great in his new role mainly because Alder has always acted older than he really is. I know it's because he has Aiden to watch and learn from, but Alder has always done things more quickly and independently. He is not even two yet, but can talk in complete sentences and you can't tell him that he can't do something because he will prove you wrong. He is one tough cookie, so besides having to share me, I think he will embrace his new role.
I remember taking a series of pictures like this with Aiden and my heart was just breaking thinking about him not being my baby any more, but this feels different. Maybe it is because I know giving my boys another sibling is just adding to their future fun and that it means they are gaining a forever friend or maybe it is because I'm a calmer more chill mom now, but either way, it feels nice not to be worried about this transition for him. I know we will have hard moments, hard days and even hard weeks, but I am confident there will be more smiles than least after a few weeks.
I love you my sweet Alder J. and I am praying for your heart as you get ready to welcome a new baby to our family. I know you will make your Mama proud and teach your little brother all kinds of new things like how to "hi-ya" and how to beat up the bad guys. Things like where to find the clean cups and spoons and all the good places to hide mommy and daddy's things...the trashcan is a fun place right? I know you will teach him things like where to find all the choo choos and cars, how to fight bad guys and the names of all the Incredibles characters, how to play Hungry, Hungry Hippos, the best foods to eat (fig bars and yogurts), how to ride a plasma car through the house, how to give hugs and say sorry when you make someone sad and how to love big. I can't wait to see you in your new role. You will be amazing!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Dear August: A letter to my last baby

Dear August,
I can't believe my pregnancy with you is nearing an end. I have one week left of feeling you kick and hiccup and squirm from the inside. Next week at this time, I will be holding you in my arms, will feel the weight of your little body on my chest and will be breathing in your newborn smell. It makes me tear up just typing those words. My pregnancy with you has gone so quickly and has been so different than my pregnancy with either of your brothers. I felt you kick way sooner and I feel you move way more than I did with them. You are definitely making yourself known as part of this family already.

You have been a sweet and unexpected gift since we first found about you. You have already brought me so much joy and I know that God has big plans for you. In fact, your name means revered and exalted. I truly believe you are being born and raised up at this exact time for a reason.

While this may be my first post about you in this space, know that you are so very loved and we are eagerly anticipating you joining our family. Your brothers are so much fun and you have the best daddy in the world. I can't wait to see how perfectly you fit into our family.

Here are some pictures of my pregnancy with you:
How we announced that you were joining our family.

First ultrasound where we got to see you for the first time.

Our gender reveal party. We were so excited that you were a BOY!

18 week appointment and learning you were a BOY.

A random date night with your Dad to IKEA to look for baby stuff!

Most of the pictures I took with you were in the bathroom mirror.

Picking a name for you took us longer than usual, but we love your name and it's meaning. August Terrence.

Aiden predicted you would have orange hair and blue eyes. He loved feeling you kick.

Being pregnant with you at Christmas time was very special for me. 

January came quickly. Baby month!

With your arrival, Alder becomes a big brother too. I can't wait to see your relationship with your brothers form and grow.

Monday, January 14, 2019

2018 {A Year in Review}

2018 was a very FULL year. A year full of surprises, full of baby announcements and births, full of new roles at work, full of making plans for a new baby! This will be a hard year to top, but I know having August join our family in 2019 is already going to make for an exciting year ahead. Here's a look at our 2018 in review so I don't forget some of the amazing blessings this year held for our family.

We kicked off 2018 with a big snow and took both boys sledding, which they LOVED. It was Alder's first literal taste of snow and he loved it! Aiden's love of cooking truly took off and he started putting his chef outfit that we got him for Christmas to good use. Alder turned one at the end of the month and we celebrated with a lumberjack themed party.

Alder and Aiden started really playing together so the teacher in me decided to start creating all themed activities I could think of and my love for creating sensory bins for the boys began. We also had lots of playdates with friends and Drew and I got not one, but two date nights in. Our new favorite date activity: pedicures. That's right friends, my very manly husband loves to go get a pedicure with me and he's not ashamed to admit it. HGTV, massage chairs and a foot scrub? Yes, please.

March was a big month. We took Aiden to see Disney on Ice with my brother in box seats he hooked us up with from his work and seeing Aiden's face light up was a big highlight. We also found out my sister was pregnant with her first baby and then I helped host a baby shower for my sister in law who was expecting her first baby on my birthday!

Sadly we spent our Easter in the ER with Aiden. He had a weird virus with a high fever and hives. He was a trooper, but we missed out on our usual Easter fun on my Aunt and Uncle's farm. This month included more sickness than I would've imagined, which eventually led me to start using essential oils. I started using them and haven't looked back. I'm now on a continued journey to rid my house of chemicals and it has been truly empowering. When Aiden was well we took my Mom to see Beauty and the Beast at the Aronoff Theater and Aiden also got his first dentist visit in.

May was a big month for us too. Our favorite local playground got a big facelift so we went to the grand opening and spent many hours there throughout the summer months. We also got pool passes to our city pool for the first time and took the boys there many times. They both went down the water slides for the first time with their Daddy and loved it. At the end of the month, I started feeling a little off and so I took a pregnancy test, which turned out to be positive, surprise! So Drew and I wrapped our head around the news and were excited to begin planning how we would share it with our families. Finding out I was pregnant again helped push me in the direction to end my breastfeeding journey with Alder after almost 15 months. It was harder on me than him of course, but this is always a milestone for me as a Mama.

We celebrated my 33rd birthday in June and I got a very sweet gift, a new nephew! We shared with our families that I was pregnant, which is always fun to do. I had both boys wearing big brother shirts so Alder's new title gave away our news. We tried to surprise my sister in law and brother in law in Nashville with our news via FaceTime and they in turn, surprised us with theirs, they were pregnant and due in January as well! We took the boys strawberry picking for the first time and they both ate more strawberries than they picked, oops. And of course we chose the hottest day of the summer to do this, but still had fun. I also busted out my big girl camera and snapped some newborn pictures for my sister in law.

We headed to Douglas Lake in Michigan for a trip with immediate and extended family. We had a lovely time. We rented a boat to fish off of and the boys loved it even though only one fish was caught. We made a lot of good memories, but then all came home sick. Later in the month, Drew and I celebrated 9 years of marriage and Drew got a new job offer as Assistant Principal. We had a lot to celebrate in July!

I planned and threw a "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" themed baby shower for my sister. We had to take a few bump pictures together of course. We also made our pregnancy official on social media. We took the boys on the Thomas the train ride, which they loved of course and then found out and shared with our families that we were having another BOY!!!

The fall brought the start of school for Drew, his first school year as an Assistant principal and our baby started preschool. Everyday he asks if he is going to church or school. He is clearly an extrovert! I attended another baby shower for my sister with my aunts and cousins and we did our traditional onesie making party, which is always so fun to do! I also took my dear friend Bekah to see Lauren Daigle in concert and it was amazing.

October was full of lots of fall festivals and the anticipation of Halloween. We made a countdown chain because Aiden and Alder were both so excited about the upcoming holiday. After deciding on our family costumes (Peter Pan themed), Aiden decided he wanted to be a spooky bat, so his very kind and creative Dad made him his own bat wings out of a black umbrella. We had a fun Halloween and Alder was very into it this year just like his brother. He said Trick or treat to everyone and held out his little fingers for candy like a pro. Aiden turned 4 on Halloween and we celebrated with a Dinosaur themed birthday party.

We had some beautiful fall days in November to play in leaf piles with friends and collect buckeyes. Alder got his very first hair cut and did surprisingly well even though he was also recovering from Hand, foot and mouth disease. We got family pictures taken and spent some time together cooking (and tasting) in the kitchen. At the end of the month we headed to Nashville to celebrate a joint Thanksgiving and Christmas with Drew's family. We visited the zoo, Alder saw his first movie in the theater (The Grinch) and all the cousins got Grinch Build-A-Bears together.

December brought with it lots of holiday fun. We took the boys on the Polar express train ride, made our own homemade hot chocolate, visited the Festival of Lights at the zoo, had a fun pizza night and went to Christmas in downtown Mason with the Brittinghams, had breakfast with Santa and did lots of advent activities to celebrate the season. I went on an underground tour of Cincinnati with my coworkers and had a fun girl's night in. Drew and I's traditional Christmas date looked a little different this year, but we still got one in and we ended the year by purchasing a new car to fit our growing family!

2018 was a great year for our family and we are excited for what this new year will bring.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Keeping Jesus at the Center of Christmas with Your Little Ones {And a GIVEAWAY}

As my boys get older, I am working hard to help them see Jesus at the center of our home especially at Christmas time. This can be stressful because I want to do it "right" and there are so many opinions out there on how to do it and what tools to use. I recently posted a list of all the fun Advent activities we are doing this year (and some more that we have done in the past) and while all of these things are fun and can point to Jesus, I want to specifically teach my children God's word. So today with just 10 days until Christmas, I thought I would share a few tools that have helped me feel more confident as I navigate beginning to teach my little boys about God and His word.

Memory Verse Cards (The ones I use are from Crew + Co.)
With my four year old, we do a new verse each month. This month our verse is Matthew 5:14, "You are the light of the world." I love hearing him learn God's word and I also use it to help guide me as I navigate another fun thing, discipline. I am amazed at how it has helped me discipline my children in a positive and meaningful way that simply makes sense!

Podcasts (Risen Motherhood)
I have found the Evangelism podcasts especially encouraging as I work on modeling this with my children.

Children's Bibles (The Beginner's Bible)
I can't emphasize enough the importance of a good and reliable Children's Bible. The Beginner's Bible not only has simple and relatable images, but the content is true and easy to read aloud to my kids. Outside of being a Mom, I am also in ministry so I use this Bible with my own children as well as other people's children and I feel confident doing so. This Bible has proven to be reliable and I love the amount of stories found within it! I have found other children's bibles that I love, but they are often missing Bible stories that I think children need to know about even in the little years.

With Christmas quickly approaching we are reading one pre-chosen story from the Beginner's Bible each day and I have a set of wooden ornaments that go with some of the stories leading up to Jesus' birth. We read a story and hang an ornament up to remind us of that story. My boys have loved it and it has been a great way to start our mornings together.

The Beginner's Bible is one of the most sold and most well loved Bibles of all time and my boys have loved reading from ours as you can see in the picture above. I would love to give away a new Beginner's Bible to one of you! Simply comment below and you will be entered to win one for yourself! I will also be posting the Giveaway on my instagram account tomorrow, @allie_renner, so you can enter there as well! 

How do you make sure to keep Jesus front and center with your kids not only this time of year, but all year round? I would love to know!

Monday, December 3, 2018

More Kid Friendly Advent Activities

There is something so magical this time of year and I don't want it to be a one day thing with my kids. I also don't want to look back and wish we had done more. Enter Advent, a way to prepare your hearts and minds for Christmas. And since I have had so much fun planning and doing Advent activities with my kids over the last few years, I thought I would go ahead and share a few more simple ideas that we have enjoyed or plan to enjoy this year along with a few tips to help it go smoothly. See my original post with more ideas here.

Set up our Jesse tree
We will add the first ornament and read the first corresponding story from the Bible. (This is something we will do each day until Christmas day. If you want to know more about the Jesse Tree, email me, but basically each day you hang an ornament on the tree that represents a story from the Bible you have read that leads up to the birth of Jesus.)

Christmas tree slam
I already have green cups and fake snowballs so instead of a Snowman slam, we are going to stack cups like a Christmas tree and then try to knock them down.

Make a skating rink for Charlie Brown (or your child's favorite figurines)
Pictured above

We are trying a different snow recipe this year. This one has shaving cream so is not safe to eat obviously, but I wanted to try a different consistency for the kids this year.

Read a new to us Christmas book

Make Christmas cards
In the past, we have used marshmallows to paint snowmen. This year we are going to use marshmallow to make Santa’s beard. I will add pictures as we do it!

Make a Christmas snack and watch a Christmas movie

Have a pizza picnic by your Christmas tree

Breakfast with Santa (or make a Christmas themed breakfast)

Christmas sensory bin
We are doing this one because we have the magnetic wants, but just look on Pinterest for other basic ideas!

Make snow cream (on a day you have a fresh snow)

Load up the car and go see Christmas lights

Give a giftcard to the Garbage man (or to someone who works hard and might not get noticed-Postal worker, Bus driver, etc.)

Decorate a Gingerbread house or have a contest!

Polar Express Train ride! (Or simply watch the movie and drink hot chocolate!)

Take coffee or a treat to a friend

Make Sugar cookies for your neighbors (this might be a 2 day activity including the delivery of the cookies!)

Go sledding or go on a winter walk

Have your kids choose some new or "like new" toys to donate

Christmas craft
We are going to try Dish Brush Christmas Wreaths

Read the Christmas story as a family and sing happy birthday to Jesus

Plan your activities in advance. Shop for your craft items, buy your food items, check your stock of paints, etc. That way you don't have to waste time during your day going out and buying items, you can just get right to your planned activity. (This is the kindergarten, type A person that I am telling you this. You do you, but this helps me because the last thing I want to do is go out to buy a few supplies each day with my two kids in tow.)

Keep your activities SIMPLE and STRESS FREE. You want this to be a fun way to enjoy the holiday season with your kids, not something that is going to be stressful for anyone.

You don't need to plan an activity for each day. Keep it flexible. The holiday season is already so full of fun activities that are already planned for you (Lights at the zoo, holiday parties, visiting Santa, etc.) The last thing you want to do is make yourself too busy or feel bad if you don't do a certain activity one day.


Monday, August 13, 2018

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Baby Shower

My little sister is due with her first baby in October so this past weekend my cousin and I threw her very first baby shower. My sister is very classic so I knew early on I wanted the theme to be the same, classic and sweet. I landed on the theme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for a few reasons, but it also reminded me of the many years the two of us shared a room growing up. We had cloud bed spreads, which we thought were the most amazing thing ever and we had those glow in the dark stars on our ceiling which we just loved as well. 
To plan a party, you obviously  need a theme, then comes the invitations. I LOVED these Twinkle Twinkle Little star baby shower invitations from Basic Invite. Basic Invite has a wide variety of invitations (and more) to choose from. I was so excited they had invitations to fit the theme of the baby shower. In fact, they had a whole page of Twinkle Twinkle Little star baby shower invitations, making my job easy.
I didn't want to go overboard with the star theme, but it was a fun and easy element to play with since as a Mom of two little ones I didn't have time to go crazy with the decorations. I made a star banner to hang on the fireplace, made some star "wands" to put in mason jars filled with Baby's breath, found a free printable and put it in a frame and let Sam's club do the cake. We also played a guess the Nursery Rhyme game and I found a Wishes for Baby on Etsy for each guest to fill out. I am going to make this into a book to give my sister.
The menu was not themed unless the theme was YUM. But I did use a star cookie cutter to make some of the fruit into stars because I just couldn't help myself.

It was so fun to be able to celebrate my sister and her new baby and to finally get some bump pictures together! Looking forward to seeing her again in less than a month for her next shower!

If you are looking for a place to order invitations, here are a few things I loved about Basic Invites:
-I loved the original invitation, but wanted to change the color palette to make the invitation more of a light blue verses a navy blue. Once you select a design it is easy to change the color of EACH element on the card. I loved this feature! 
-They will also send you custom samples if you want to check out the paper quality or actual design. -Lastly, I loved the foil element. I think a little sparkle adds a lot of interest to an invitation...especially when stars are involved. :)

Basic Invites also offers other items including professional business cards and if you are already thinking about photo cards! Right now they are offering 15% off with the code: 15FF51

*I did receive the invitations in exchange for my honest review, however all opinions are my own.