12/29/15

Merry & Bright

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It's amazing how fast the holiday season goes. It seems like we were just trimming the tree, decorating the mantle and icing cookies, yet here we are packing away the Christmas goodies and delicately tucking them away for another year. As Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, "Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind."

With each and every day we create memories; memories that cast a fountain of shadows over ourselves. While time may pass with the blink of the eye, we are always left with our memory of shadows. And it's these shadows that I franticly run around and collect as quickly as possible, it's these shadows that I attempt to hold onto so dearly with both hands, and it's these shadows that I want to lock away forever.

This holiday season was good to us; we were blessed with good health (minus a family case of the flu), warm weather and joyful times. Unfortunately, this time of the year always brings stress into household. It is the busiest time of the year for our restaurant, which means I don't see my husband as often as I would like and neither do the kids. Not to mention, when he works overtime, I work overtime. As we all know, long hours in the day mean that stress is festering somewhere. But even though we are always faced with stress, we always manage to dispense it evenly until it disappears. And when Christmas morning arrives, it is always magical.

The holiday season may be coming to a close, but I would love its shadow to linger just a bit longer. I would love to hold onto some of that magical Christmas spirit and carry it around with me all year long.

I hope you enjoyed your holiday! This is just a small glimpse into ours, but I assure you it was good.

12/15/15

A Room Makeover with a Star Wars Twist

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I don't know about your household, but I'm starting to think that my boys are more excited about the new release of Star Wars than Christmas! It's certainly the topic of most conversations, the wish lists are full of Star Wars toys and legos and I catch my boys sneaking off to watch the trailer, just one more time.

I started working on Joshua's room over the summer as a project for Babiekins Magazine blog. As with any project I tackle these days, it tends to take me a bit longer and I move a tad slower, but his room is finally done and he is over the moon with excitement!

As far as renovations and makeovers go, I didn't actually do too much. I added a fresh coat of paint to the walls, hung new curtains that were a similar hue, switched out the bedding and added a desk so he has a space for homework, writing and Lego building.

For a full list of credits head on over to Babiekins Magazine blog by clicking this link.

12/4/15

December Days

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It certainly doesn't look like December days, but as the month rolls on the days grow a little bit colder. Eventually we'll get a white blanket that will cover the ground, dust the trees and rooflines and spread excitement and cheer for the season. And eventually, we'll get out the ski gear, dust it off and put it to use. But for right now, we're soaking up the warmer days and letting the sun shine down upon us.

While parts of me are eager and ready for the traditional winter weather, parts of me love the thought of coatless days, warm sweaters and cozy boots. We still have yet to make a fire, but we've certainly been enjoying our share of hot cocoas and soft snuggles under the blankets.

These days we're keeping cozy with FabKids

FabKids is JustFab's fashion club, started by a team of parents including mom and actress Christina Applegate. FabKids is a convenient way for busy parents to shop. It's an outfit club -- so parents get monthly selections of super affordable, high-quality fashions personalized for their kids.

New styles are in! Winter and Holiday pieces include quality clothing for affordable prices so you can shop must-haves for any season!

Thank you FabKids for patterning with us on this post.

12/2/15

Gratitude

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"Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul."
Henry Ward Beecher


Sometimes in life it's difficult to find gratitude, it's difficult to wade through the thick nets of despair and discouragement that hinder our view. It's difficult to see through the challenges that have been thrown our way; challenges like Crohn's Disease and other difficulties we encounter. Sometimes it is easier to embrace them than pick them up and thrown them out of our path.

But I choose to clear my path and throw those challenges aside.
I choose gratitude.

This year at Thanksgiving dinner we were handed two pieces of paper to write down what we are thankful for; one piece for a serious note and one for a silly note. We placed them in a jar and at the end of dinner we read them aloud and shared in the thankfulness. It was the beginning of a new tradition.

Thanksgiving may be behind us, but I believe in carrying the gratitude on throughout the holiday season. If there is one thing I have learned over this past year, it is gratitude. It is a true belief in the magic of Christmas. The holiday season is not about gifts, glitter and trees. It's not about cookies, shopping and parties. It is about the spirit of the soul, it's about uniting together as a family, it's about sharing and it's about gratitude to what we have in life.

My list could reach for miles, but here are a few thoughts on what I am thankful for:

Our health | even though it's been a journey we are in a far better spot this holiday season than last.
My family | my husband and kids are my rock. Period. We are also so blessed to have a supportive family who are willing to step up and help us when we need them. From picking up kids from school, to cooking for Jonas to watching them while we are away. We couldn't do it without the loving support of family.
Our home | A home is more than just a house and I know that when I walk through our front door I am home.
Opportunities | I am thankful for opportunities we have been given in life and in our careers. I am thankful for the Babiekins Magazine team and the amazing support these women have shown me.
Friends| They are always there, always. I love them more than they know.
Food | Our lifestyle and how we conquer our son's Crohn's disease is unique. I am blessed we have the opportunity to eat and cook how we do; refined sugar free, preservative free, organic and nongmo. It has taken cutbacks in our budget but it's something I believe in.

What are you thankful for this holiday season?

11/23/15

Sausage + Aged Cheddar Stuffed Spaghetti Squash | Cooking For Crohn's

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"At home I serve the kind of food I know the story behind."
Michael Pollan


Although these days tend to feel more like an Indian Summer, I still have that autumn urge to retreat inside our cozy home under a woolen blanket of warmth, my hot tea and good book. The record player will softly hum in the background and faint sounds of crackles will trickle out of the fireplace; scents of cinnamon and homemade applesauce will rope their way around the banister and sneak up to the children's room before they have time to finish their homework. But who am I kidding, I can't tell you the last time I curled up with a blanket, a book and cup of tea! When the kids do actually work in silence, I'm running around the house like a mad woman, attempting to get everything done in those few moments of solitude. But I have a vision.

The days are still warm and our fireplace sits empty. Our weather may not be a true reflection of Ohio's traditional November, but I can certainly make sure my home reflects all the comforts of the season. The autumn scents, the homemade applesauce and the hearty dishes that accompany this time of the year. I may not have my book and blanket, but I certainly have my food and kitchen.

SAUSAGE + AGED CHEDDAR STUFFED SPAGHETTI SQUASH
Ingredients:
2 medium to large spaghetti squash, or winter squash of choice
1 1b ground turkey (organic, free-range is best)
1 Chopped Onion
2 Chopped Stalks Of Celery
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Pepper
1 Tsp Fresh Rosemary
1 Chopped Apple
1 Cup Aged Cheddar Cheese, grated
* 2 cloves of garlic (I omit this due to my garlic allergy)

Cut each spaghetti squash in half, scrape out the seeds and place on a cookie sheet. Drizzle each squash half with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in a preheated oven at 400˚F (200˚C) for 40-50 minutes - or until tender when pierced with a fork.

While squash is roasting, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat oil and add onion, celery, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Cook until onions begin to soften. Add garlic, if using, and ground turkey and sauté until sausage is browned on all sides. Add apple and cook until soft. Mix in aged cheddar cheese just until incorporated. Remove from heat.

Once the squash is done, remove from the oven and add the turkey sausage filling. Sprinke the tops with the grated cheddar cheese and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly browned.

Let cool and serve.
Bon appétit and happy cooking!

11/6/15

These Days

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These days we're adjusting to the time change and getting used to our autumn schedule. Outdoor soccer season is done and we've moved on to indoor and futsol; we have ballet and gymnastics, piano and Lego club. Our days are busy, but surprisingly not that stressful. Let's hope it stays that way!

01. My little helper
02. Chef in the making
03. An awesome birthday cake
04. Dressing up for ballet
05. Mirror, mirror
06. A family favorite

11/3/15

Raising A Confident Kid

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"You've always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself."
The Wizard of Oz


con·fi·dence:
noun
belief in oneself and one's powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance:

I wish there was a secret manual that taught parents the key to raising confident children. As adults, we know how important a positive self-esteem is on our lives, our careers and our overall social well-being. But what exactly is the key to a strong self-esteem? I have no doubt that our self-confidence is built and developed in our childhood, but how do we teach our children self-confidence?

The truth is, I have no idea. In fact, one of my very own children lacks self-confidence, one is probably slightly over-confident and one falls right smack-dab in the middle. My kids are all over the map, which is why this topic seems to reappear fairly often in my mind. I want to teach my children balance, the difference between confidence and arrogance and I want them to understand their inner strength and identity. I want them to be outgoing; I want them to use their own voice. But like my three children, every child is different and every child is made up of different building blocks that are unique in their very own way. I certainly don't have the answers and I wish I did, but I have made observations over the past few years and have found these guidelines to be helpful.

Communication Is Key
Talk, talk, talk. That is one of the biggest components of communication and self-esteem. Talk about your day, talk about school, talk about friends. Make sure to ask your child open-ended questions to keep the conversation going. Get creative and think outside of the box. Instead of asking "How was school today?" try and ask "What was your favorite thing you did today?" or "What did you play on recess?" Talking around the dinner table is one of the highlights of my days. We have the chance to discuss our ups and our downs, which is very important for expressing feelings and keeping the lines of communication open. Talking in a casual environment also teaches basic communication skills which, as adults, we know are imperative in school, jobs and in our society.

Give Responsibilities
I know that I fall victim to my children; sometimes it is just easier to do something for them versus they do it for themselves. I am slowly learning to break this habit. Doing something on your own not only teaches responsibility but it also gives you a sense of strength and confidence.

Be A Cheerleader
From the sidelines! We all know that positive praise feels good, but as a parent it's very easy to go overboard. Choose your words wisely and focus on detail instead of the bigger picture. When your child brings you a painting, it's very easy to say, "This is the most beautiful painting, you are the best painter!" While you are giving praise you are also sending a conflicting message. Is it the most beautiful painting ever? Are they the best painter? Instead, compliment them on the details. "I love how you combined all these colors together, very creative!"

Get Active And Get Outside
You certainly can't learn confidence by sitting around all day on the couch. Go outside and play together. Play an activity that your child enjoys and let yourself get into it; happiness is contagious. If you smile and laugh, they will smile and laugh. Leading an active life also reflects responsibility and self-identity. Enroll your children in various activities so they are able to discover what they enjoy. Sports teach you body strength, mind strength and leadership which all lead to self-confidence.

Encourage Creativity
Step aside and let your children express themselves. Whether it's how they want to decorate their space, how to dress or how to wear their hair give them room to discover who they are and what they want. By constantly telling them how to do something, your child may feel insecure and lack the confidence to communicate what they really want or how they really feel. Let them be the leader, let them make choices and see what direction it takes them. Taking risks (small, healthy ones) may actually teach them something. Instead of jumping in, watch and observe. Let them learn from their mistakes and from their successes.

Be Positive
Role models are the best influences on our youth. We may not think so, but our children look up to us. Choose your words and actions wisely because you are being watched. Even if I'm in a rut, I always watch what I say and how I talk about myself. If I come across as confident then chances are my children will also reflect confidence. Stay healthy and stay active. Not only is it good for you but it sends the right message; I am strong, I am happy, I am positive.

What has your experience been with raising a confident kid? Do you have any tips or thoughts to share? Advice or suggestions?

*This post is in partnership with FabKids

FabKids is JustFab's fashion club, started by a team of parents including mom and actress Christina Applegate. FabKids is a convenient way for busy parents to shop. It's an outfit club -- so parents get monthly selections of super affordable, high-quality fashions personalized for their kids.

New styles are in! Fall and winter pieces include quality clothing for affordable prices so you can shop must-haves for any season!

10/30/15

Good Reads

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And just like that, another week flies by with the blink of an eye. We've been as busy as can be over here wrapping up the end of our soccer season, trying to stay healthy and preparing for Halloween. Since Jonas can't have any of the treats, I've been spending all my spare time in the kitchen loading up on goodies that he can have. Regardless of our dietary requirements and the stress the holidays can bring, we're looking forward to a weekend of fun and relaxation.

Here are some good reads to start off your weekend:

1. Could food additives play a role in the makeup of our gut and chronic diseases such as IBD? This is a huge step in the right direction.

2. If only more people had this outlook on life. We all have problems, we all have stress, but I would rather happily be wrapped around life than wrapped around my problems.

3. My husband came across this article and I love the message, what the journey of sports should teach your children.

4. I'm thinking of making a batch of Fire Cider, a cold and flu remedy.

5. I love this video. I may have had a slight obsession with The Doors when I was in high school and the early college years. Actually, I think I still do…

6. Why study piano?

Photo from our summer vacation. I finally finished going through all 500 of them and will share a few here shortly.

10/19/15

A Room Makeover For Babiekins Magazine

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If you happened to pick up the most recent copy of Babiekins Magazine then these photos may look familiar. I was honored to have Jessica's room featured in print issue six this past summer. Through this wonderful experience I came in contact with several new sources and my view of decor and interior design has been broadened beyond my original scope. I had the opportunity to think outside of the box, to mix and match and get creative.

To view more of this featured room and for a list of full credits you can click here for the original post and click here to purchase your very own issue.

Photography by Mallory + Justin Photography