Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Kitchen Confessions: The BEST Baked Ziti Recipe

You guys...I made a dinner that the WHOLE family enjoyed. Every single member. And asked for seconds! Do you even know how rare that is?!

It's like seeing a unicorn. Or winning the lottery. Or the Braves making it to the World Series. All rolled into one.

I mean, I've been making the same five meals each week for the last few months. The fact that it was something new in rotation could have been part of the excitement. However, if I have to say so myself it was pretty tasty. 

This Baked Ziti recipe is a play off of the Pioneer Woman's recipe. I just made mine a little easier and a little spicer. (I like a small kick to my pasta.)


I also used jar sauce. Because, as I've said before, there are professional people out there who make a living off doing this. Who am I to recreate the wheel? 

Or spend nine hours attempting? 


In fact, way back in the day a blog/real life friend shared this sauce and it's been my go-to ever since.



The recipe was so easy, and obviously tasty. It will definitely be put into rotation again soon! The only hard part is seeing which recipe I have to boot out. Because mama doesn't cook more than five nights a week.

Really three.

THE BEST BAKED ZITI RECIPE 

Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 35 mins

Ingredients
-1 lb of ground beef 
-1 lb of ground sausage -1 can of diced tomatoes w/chili peppers 
-2 jars of Raos Marinara Sauce 
-1 16oz box of Ziti -2 tsp ofItalian Seasoning 
-1 16oz bag of shredded Mozzarella 
-1 16oz bag of shredded Italian cheese 




Instructions 
1: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
2: Boil Ziti according to instructions. 
3: Brown both beef and sausage. 
4:Mix meat with tomatoes, seasoning, and 1 1/2  jars of marinara. 
5: Mix remaining marinara with noodles. 
6: In a 9x12 baking dish, place a layer of ziti noodles. Cover with a layer of the meat mixture. Then place layer of Italian cheese on top. Repeat until baking dish is full. 
7: Bake for approximately 20 mins. 
8: Remove and place a thin layer of Mozzarella cheese on top. 
9: Heat for approximately 2 mins and then remove. 
10: Let sit to settle for 5 mins before serving. 
11: Serve and enjoy!




Do you have a recipe that your whole family just loves?? Share with us! 





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Monday, September 17, 2018

Battle the Burnout


Happy Monday sweet friends! We just wrapped up another fun filled weekend full of sports and kids activities. It's so much fun to watch our kids compete and come home each night with huge smiles on their sweaty faces. But, we would be lying if we didn't say it was a little exhausting.

Long gone are the lazy Sundays sleeping in late. Now we pop up almost earlier than we do for school, each grab a kid and rush out the door. Sometimes we meet in the middle to cheer all of them on before heading to the next game time location, but most times weekends require an act of logistics the Pentagon would be proud of. 


Our kids are none the wiser of our exhaustion though. They are happy, thriving, and soaking up each moment of this part of their childhood. Sure there are down moments, or moments of frustration and stress, but overall, they love their activities with such a passion that it's all worth it in the end. 

We get asked all the time how we balance it all. How do we manage three kids, all in different activities, and stay sane? How do they balance it all? How are they not over tired? Stressed?

The answer...we don't really have one. The demands in school are high and increasing each year. Throwing in extracurriculars can be a lot. Throw in multiple extracurriculars, or elite level sports, and you are talking a whole different level of challenge. 

We ultimately let our kids guide us. We check in with them often, monitor their emotions and school grades routinely, and never have a problem tuning into the backseat carpool conversations they don't think we hear over Taylor Swift blasting on our speakers. 

Sometimes we get life wrong. As moms we question ourselves often if we are making the right decisions for our tiny little humans, but we've founds some tips and tricks along the way to make this stage of life as stress-free as possible for our kids.


Here's a few tips we have for battling the sports burnout, but we'd love to hear your thoughts too! 

HOW TO BATTLE SPORTS BURNOUT FOR KIDS

Let them choose. First and foremost, let you kids choose what sports and activities interests them.
Speaking with other parents, and from personal experience, kids all naturally gravitate towards certain activities.


Let them choose what they want to participate in rather than what you enjoyed as a kid/have an interest in now/had dreams of. The more interested in the activity, the more confident they will be as well as more invested. They will naturally set their own goals, and it's so rewarding to see when they accomplish them on their own accord.


Play one on one. Nothing is more fun to a kid than getting to getting to show off their skills one on one. Let them choose the activity (promise they will choose something in their wheel house!), and work with them one on one with no pressure. They will think it so much fun beating mommy at a personal home run derby or a goal kicking shootout. It also gives you a chance to have an open conversation about their activity. You can chat one on one about their goals, anything that's bothering them, or monitor if something is hurting them you might not have seen before.

Fuel the fun, and their bodies. Give them good fuel - not just during halftime or before the game, but all the time! Let their bodies build the energy it needs by give them great meals and snacks as often as you can. We try to keep quality filling snacks on hand all the time. Let's be honest, kids eat non-stop, and they can kill a bag of Goldfish faster than you can blink. But, we found protein packed snacks or ones with a little more substance go a longer way.


These Slammers pouches top our list. They are packed with tons of protein, contain organic ingredients, and have full servings of fruit and veggies. Our kids love their yogurt-like texture, and they are so easy to have on hand for grab and go snacking.


Slammers are by far one of our favorite pouch snacks. Other favorite snacks to have on hand include peanut butter to-go cups, cheese/pretzel/apple snack packs you can find in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, and smoothies.

Encourage off the field play. One thing about being part of the team is that you instantly have a handful or more of children who have at least one thing in common (and so do the parents!). Encourage off the field socializing. Even if that is as something as small as an after game ice cream stop, or as big as hosting the team for a random weekend pool party. Take the time to facilitate the relationships with teammates outside of the game. It's amazing how excited your little athlete will be to know they always have a friend they can chat with about their same interests. Some of our little one's teammates are some of their closest friends, even if they don't go to the same school.


Night, night. Sleep tight. You've heard it a million times before, but getting good sleep is way important. Nothing is worse than a tired, cranky child. And we can guarantee that if your little athlete is over tired, they are not going to want to do much of anything, let alone continuously do something that is burning all the remainder of their energy. So tuck them in early and often!




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Friday, September 14, 2018

Fashion Fix {Ways to Wear it - Transitioning to Fall}

This time of year is so hard to dress for.  All around me I'm seeing boots, sweaters, jeans and all things fall, but if I were to actually tried to wear those things right now I'd probably pass out. It's still hovering around 90 degrees here in Atlanta so unless you sit in air conditioning all day (which I don't...hello kids' sports), then dressing in all of the fall trends isn't a reality just yet.



However, I still love to look the part and taylor my outfit choices to the season we are approaching.  One of the biggest things I love about fall are the colors!


I love them all...beautiful oranges, yellows, browns, deep purples, greens and every other pretty shade that fall brings us.


So, when I saw this cute plaid peplum top the other day it just screamed fall to me and I started think about how it would be perfect to wear it now and into true fall when the weather does cool off.

jeans//plaid top//cardigan//booties

I wore the first look the other day and was chatting with a friend at the baseball fields when she told me I looked just like fall. I laughed and told her that was the look I was going for. It's really all about the fall colors!

plaid top//cardigan//denim shorts//sandals//jeans//booties

So many ways you can wear it! 

Look 1: I wore the top with my favorite denim shorts and sandals. I threw this rust colored cardigan for when I was indoors and chilly with the air conditioning and it was perfect for when the sun went down and it cooled off a bit, but it was just as easy to slip the cardigan off and wear the top alone when it was sitting out in the sun at soccer practice that day.

Look 2: As it cools a little bit and I want to wear jeans. This top looks cute with skinny jeans and sandals or even neutral flats.

Look 3: When it really is officially fall weather the top will be great with jeans, the cardigan and booties.

I've pretty much been doing this little trick all week long and will probably be continuing for the next couple of weeks.  A fun fall colored top in a print, stripe or floral with shorts (and maybe a cardigan, if I'm lucky) for now and then wear the same top with jeans and a cardigan for later.  I found some other fun tanks that would be great for now and later!


I shared this picture on Instagram the other day and so many people messaged me about my top. It was a TJ Maxx clearance find at the end of last summer, but again, it fits into my philosophy of wearing tops with fall colors.


Plus, my new James Avery turquoise post earrings have been getting lots of wear so far this fall. They are super light weight, very versatile and a fun pop of color with just about anything I wear. I've been wearing them a bunch with my workout clothes and then with nice outfits, too!  They have a lot of new releases that can help transition outfits into fall! Click HERE to see them all.

My other tip for transitioning to fall is to change up your nail colors from light and bright to darker and more muted colors. I shared some of my favorite shades HERE, but this one I'm currently wearing is called For The Twill Of It and definitely one of my top pics for fall and winter.  It changes color depending on what angle you look at it from green to burgundy to purple and just about everything in between!


We hope everyone has a great weekend.  We'll be glued to the TV watching the updates about Hurricane Florence. So many of my family members are in Wilmington, NC and we are just praying that the damage isn't as bad as they were predicting.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

10 Ways to Get (and Stay!) Organized for Back-to-School

Thank you Scotties Facial Tissues for sponsoring this post! All thoughts and opinions are our own. 


We've been back-to-school for about six weeks now, but we know many of you are just starting out. We have such a love/hate relationship with this part of our parenting duties. We love that our kids love school. Hearing about their days, seeing what they learn, and watching them grow is an amazing experience.

But then there is the other side of back-to-school. The shopping, the supply lists, the paperwork, the hectic morning routines, the lunch box packing, the meetings, the fundraising, and - our personal favorite - the homework. O.M.G. make it stop. There is so much that goes into coordinating those ten months out of the school year (nine if you're lucky and get an actual summer).

With little ones in preschool through middle school, we've realized we have to be super organized to keep all those little details in check. Do we still get overwhelmed and forget things on occasion? Absolutely! But here are some sure-fire ways we've figured out that help keep you organized as the school year starts, and carry you all the way to Summer!


10 Ways to Get (and stay!) organized for Back-to-School


Sound the alarm! 
The morning routine can be either the smoothest (if you have a child that pops right up) or the roughest (hand raised and waving) part of back-to-school. All those lazy summer days usually resulted in lazy summer nights. Therefore, the alarm clock becomes enemy number one the first day. 

To beat this try to start putting your kids to bed at their school year bedtime a few weeks before school starts and then try waking them up relatively close to their school year wake up time. Right from the start of the school year put an alarm clock in their room. Turn the alarm on each night and set to five-minute intervals. If you have a really slow riser, put the alarm clock across the room. Giving your kids an alarm clock helps them get in a routine and serves as a back up for you too. You know, in case your one of those who hits snooze and oversleeps on occasion (hand raised and waving again). 

We've even created a little toiletries basket to keep downstairs to speed up the morning routine. Right after breakfast, we grab our basket, do a little last minute brushing and then we are out the door! Every second counts!



School supplies for you, you and YOU!
When it comes to school supplies, channel your inner Oprah and buy school supplies for everybody. In mass quantities. And just when you think you have enough - buy more! 

In all seriousness, school supply shopping is one of the easiest ways to keep prepared for the whole year. Find a place in your home to store extra school supplies. That way when homework arises, or a project is due, you are prepared. Not to mention the multiple times a year you might have to restock your children's classroom set, or the teacher requests a new set of supplies mid-year. Having them on hand lets you be prepared.



Take note, file it.
Papers, papers, and more papers. If we could describe school in one sentence to someone it would be: All. The. Papers! Just one week's worth of papers can be a lot. Times that by two or more children and your countertops begin to look like a hoarder's daydream. 

Get your self prepped before the school year and find pocket folders or binders and label them to keep your children organized. Go through them each day (that's right, we said day!) and throw away anything unnecessary. 

Trust us, you totally don't need that macaroni art six months from now. 

Keep a file box at home, with different subject tabs. File anything important that your child might need throughout the year, and then at the end of each quarter empty it out again. Then at the end of the year determine what you need to keep and what you can throw away (hint: all of it). 

Store backpacks and shoes in a cubby. 
Whether you have a mudroom, a backpack wall, or cute little baskets on the stairs. However, you decide to do it find a home for backpacks and shoes. A home that's not your counter. Or your dining room. Or the middle of your kitchen floor. 

Having a designated spot for your children to put their backpacks and shoes will mean, 1: They will always be able to find them, and 2: You won't have them cluttering up your space, which as well all know is the bane of a mom's existence.


Organize your car. 
Make your car like a mini rolling tiny home. Purchase some behind the seat or in-between the seat organizers. Put a little stash of school supplies, some tissues, and even some grab & go snacks. These come in handy more than you want to admit. Sometimes a project needs a little last minute touch up in carpool line. Sometimes you need to get homework done on the way to soccer practice and in between violin lessons. Sometimes your middle child realized they didn't pack a school snack. Something will inevitably come up, and equipping your mom-mobile will be the easiest way to stay on top of those unexpected times. 

Set up an afternoon snack station. 
The minute those tiny little feet hit the last step on the bus, a hunger seems to wash over them like they haven't eaten since birth. Set up a snack station with a mixture of healthy and filling snacks. A place your kids know they can go to grab something to eat before heading into their after-school routine. It eliminates them rummaging for things you don't want them to eat, and if they have friends come over it gives everyone one set place to choose snacks from.


Be prepared for war, not battle, against germs. 
Back-to-school means back to germs. It's just a way of life. There's no need to go overboard about germs, but there are definite ways to go ahead and prepare for it. Have tissues, and hand sanitizer set out in strategic locations all over your house. Go ahead and add a set to your car while you are at it.


We love these back-to-school boxes from Scotties tissues! Scotties always has a wide selection of options that fit into your everyday home decor without sticking out, but these are just plain fun for back-to-school. We love the colorful box designs, that they are easy to store, and can stand up to even the worst of sneezes. Trust us, you want something strong to battle kid snot. 

Having them strategically placed around the areas the kids hang out helps remind them to actually use one rather than their hand or their sleeve when the unfortunate time comes.



Dedicate a homework area. 
Find an area in your home to designate as the homework area. Preferably a space that is quiet and distraction free. Having a clear view of the TV while your oldest is playing Fortnite - not a winner. 

Having a set space prepped for homework with all the essentials helps make it go smoother in the long run.


Prep meals ahead of time. 
Nothing is worse than trying to make dinner on the fly after a late night practice or game. You're tired. Kids are hungry. Homework, dinner making, and showers make bedtime seem so far away. It's the recipe for disaster (see what we did there?). 

Planning and prepping meals ahead of time might seem like an arduous task, but in the long run, it helps alleviate a ton of stress. We are suckers for a good doubled crockpot recipe to help us squeak out an extra meal or two for the week. Being able to walk in and just hit a quick reheat button on the microwave after a long day - priceless! 

Catch the late night fashion show. 
Okay, maybe not a fashion show. But, before bed, have your little ones layout their outfit for the next day. (Bonus points if you have them sleep in it. Kidding. Sort of.)

This saves a ton of time in the morning, and alleviates any of that, "I have nothing to wear!" battle if you have time to help them prepare the night before. It also helps you be prepared in case suddenly your child realizes they need to wear a red shirt for school the next day, but you haven't done the reds wash yet. Having 8 hours to do a wash is way better than 8 minutes.  


Do you have any tips for staying organized for back-to-school and beyond? What works for your family? Share with us! 


Bless you, and Win! 

Our friends at Scotties wanted to help you be prepared for the school year too! We are teaming up to give one lucky reader a set of their amazing tissues. Leave a comment below sharing one back-to-school tip you have, and you'll be entered to win!



Also check out Scotties' own blog, where they Bring Comfort Home with special home decor and budget-friendly tips!





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Monday, September 10, 2018

Master Bedroom Makeover

Thank you CTSandThat! for sponsoring this post.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.


Updating and organizing my house has been priority one since school has gone back into session. The few hours a week I get to myself, I've spent cleaning out closets, getting rid of unused home decor, and updating certain spaces. One of the spaces that needs an overhaul is our Master Bedroom. Luckily, I knew just where to go to get a little help! andThat! literally has everything, and now our bedroom is on it's way to being the glamorous space it should be.

Out With the Old (and drab!)

Our Master Bedroom is large, and a place where we spend a lot of time surprisingly. The kids have a built-in cabinet that contains toys in it to play with. Often they come into our room to play because of the vast amount of floor space. We have a built-in bookshelf, an entertainment center, and a seating area - it's a space that gets used a lot.



I have always tried to purchase great bedding, but I recognized otherwise it's pretty plain. So, I thought if we are spending so much time in here we can at least spruce it up a little bit. Make it less lackluster, and more like a cozy put together dreamy space.



The Wishlist 

Okay, so I knew I wanted to stay in a similar color palette that I already had going - creams, whites, and pale blues. With such dark, heavy furniture I want to keep everything else light.

I have a few things on my bedroom wishlist:

  • A rug
  • An end of bed bench
  • Table lamps
  • Artwork for either side of the dresser
  • New chairs for the seating area
  • Frames & Accessories 
  • Optional: Bedding (because I just can't resist)
Am I forgetting anything???

andThat! Makes Things Oh So Dreamy!

It's no secret that we love andThat!. It has a ton of departments filled to the brim with great items. I just knew I would be able to knock out a pretty large part of my wish list here (if not all of it!).


I tried to not get distracted by all of their adorable Fall decor (trust me, it was tough) and made my way straight back to their bedding section. They have a huge bedding section filled with everything you would need to outfit your bed - pillows, comforters, mattress covers, sheets, quilts and more!




I instantly fell in love with their Grainhouse line. It's an exclusive farmhouse-inspired line, and it is darling. The Grainhouse bedding is gorgeous and inexpensively priced. I'm not sure there are many places where you can find quality bedding for less than $30.


I had a hard time choosing which one I loved the most, but I couldn't resist grabbing this striped quilt set.

Just before I went on my shopping trip I had ordered new lamps for my bedroom. After seeing the huge selection andThat! has in stock, and all their dreamy options, I kind of wish I had waited. They had so many ones that coordinated with what I had in mind, and at a much better price than the ones I ordered.


I just loved this tall option. I might have to go back and get it. I loved the turned wood, and it comes in a variety of colors!

I had put a bench on my wish list, and I had no idea andThat! had such a great selection of those too! In my head, I wanted something quilted and plush, and when I turned the corner from the lighting department there she was!


As a bonus, this bench opens into storage too! Which is perfect for my throw pillow obsession. I grabbed the cream colored one and could have stopped there because my whole day was made.


But I was on a high, and ready to tackle accessories!


I mean, I might have blacked out for a moment when I saw all the cute finds I could get my hands on and bring home. The lanterns, candles, and frames are all just what I was looking for!




I love that andThat! carries most items in multiple sizes so you can layer your space, or grab the right size you might need but maintain the same look.



I stocked up my cart with various size frames, various candles and candle holders, a few fun signs, and a little surprise or two that wasn't on my list. It was the perfect place to get all my bedroom decor needs!


In With The New!

After I came home from my shopping trip I couldn't wait to put everything together in my bedroom! I still have a few things on my list I want to grab for the space, but for now, it looks a million times better!



The bench might be my favorite find of all. I love how it breaks up my dark furniture and it's come in handy to put on shoes, store extra pillows and sheets, and just to keep it real - the kids love jumping off of it onto our bed. It's a winner for the whole family!




I love that I was able to work off of what I already had and just add little special touches here and there! Starting from scratch would have gotten really expensive, and overwhelming. 




Considering andThat! is so budget friendly, I have a lot of wiggle room left over to find a rug and new seating without breaking the bank. I love how it turned out and can't wait to put all the final touches on it! Now to actually try to get some sleep in it...


Stay tuned for all the final details soon! In the meantime, you can check out #andThatshoppingchallenge on social media to get more inspiration for your home, and see what other andThat! fun finds are out there! 

What is one room in your house you wish you could re-do? Anything that you saw that you absolutely loved? Share with us! 


 

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