Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Leftover Ham & Vegetable Soup

This is one of my absolute favorite soups to make every year.  Once the holidays are approaching, I start craving it like you wouldn't believe.  I don't make it often because we only have a Honey Baked Ham a couple times a year but when we do have it, you better believe this soup is soon to follow!  Two reasons why I love it so much...
1. I don't eat kale very often, if at all, so this is a great way to  jump on that train and incorporate it into our lives.
2. Leftover Honey Baked Ham thrown into this prevents wasting it, because who can ever finish a whole ham, and it makes the flavor a home run!  Seriously, it is SO GOOD.
We always end up with tons of leftovers after Thanksgiving so I usually find myself grabbing everything in the fridge and just throwing it in.  This year, the carrots I had on the menu for Thanksgiving dinner never made it to the table, much less out of the fridge so you know, in they went.  That's one of the great things about any vegetable soup is that they are so versatile.  You can add what you like and leave out what you don't.  In this soup, I always like to make mine extra hearty, using up all of the leftover ham.  If your husband is anything like mine, putting as much meat in soup as possible betters my chances of pushing it off as an entree. :) 

Ingredients:
Leftover ham, diced
Potato (1)
Carrots (4 petite)
Celery (3 stalks)
Onion (1)
Roma tomato (2)
Kale (1 bunch)
1 can sweet corn
1 can white beans
2 boxes of chicken stock (32 oz)
1 box of vegetable stock (32 oz)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream cheese
Season with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and a few dashes of hot sauce 

Direction:
I used the crockpot for this soup.  I diced everything up, threw it in and cooked it on high for about 6 hours. 
I put in parentheses how much of each I used for my soup but feel free to adjust the amounts according to your taste.  In hindsight, I would have added more tomatoes to mine and less celery. :)

A couple other options: sub the kale for cabbage, add lima beans, add bacon, or add more cheese.  You can also cook this with the ham bone for extra flavor.  Filling the crock pot to the rim with veggies is more my style so I couldn't fit it in mine.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I do because it's a staple around here! 

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving

This may seem silly but I liiiive for tablescapes, you guys.  I have an entire board on Pinterst designated to tablescapes and entertaining.  The funny this is though, this is my first actual, like legit, tablescape!  We are having family over to our house for Thanksgiving this year and now that we have the house, I figured it was time to get some good inventory going for holiday entertaining.
I spent some time on Pinterest and came up with a solid plan of all elegant neutrals that I've been drooling over.  But then, I came across these emerald green chargers and I couldn't stop going back to them.  It was at that point that my theme took a turn for the jewel tones.  My sister is probably rolling her eyes right now because I'm almost always drawn to the jewel tones, whether shoes, clothes, etc.  From there, the table evolved into a romantic tablescape with moody blues and berries that give a dramatic edge to a Thanksgiving spread.
When I was designing the centerpiece, I wanted something interchangeable that I could use for other upcoming holidays as well.  I went with a neutral table runner that has a slight shimmer to it for a little added elegance.  The faux eucalyptus leaves act as the base of the greenery.   I added in some gold and plum picks to dress it up for this occasion.  These can easily be switched out with red berries for Christmas or I could leave the eucalyptus as is for more of a simple look. (Thinking ahead for Easter!)   From there I completed the centerpiece with flowers in the center of the table and candles spread throughout either side to give a romantic feel.
While the centerpiece started to come together, I knew that I needed gold silverware for this setting.  Our everyday flatware is silver and I wanted a fancier set for holidays.  I had just purchased all new dishes (obsessed with ours and such a great price!) so I didn't want to spend much on silverware.  I almost got these from Target, which are beautiful, but I wanted a softer gold.  I then found these instead and for a better price!  The quality is great and I love the Champagne Gold color.  I'm considering buying a black set to replace our everyday silverware.
I love this bouquet so much.  I went to the store with 2 dozen white roses in mind but the boys picked these.  I wasn't sure about them but they pulled everything together perfectly!
You can find our dishes here.  They are bright white, which speaks my language, and if you sign up for emails, you get an extra 10% off!  We are obsessed with them!
I  was on the hunt for gold candleholders.  I wanted something simple and modern that complemented the greenery but didn't take away from it.  I found these elegant gold candleholders and knew right away that they would be perfect!  We have a lot of black accents throughout our house so I wanted to incorporate black into the color scheme to add subtle drama and elegance.  I also just wanted to buy these Hearth & Hand black candles because, Joanna Gaines. The white candles are also from her line.  They are the Sugared Birch and they smell amazing!
Her line is so great!  These black serving dishes go so well with this table spread too.

I am so happy with how everything turned out.  My family loved it and it really made it feel a little more special to sit together around a beautiful table setting. 

Here is a list of everything I used for our Thanksgiving tablescape:
 Dishes
Chargers
Silverware
Table Runner
Napkins (on sale!)
White Candles
Black Candles
Gold Candle Holders
Glass Candle Holders
Eucalyptus Leaves
Gold Stems
Berry Stems

Or you can shop the post here:

Our Thanksgiving was amazing this year.  We started off with brunch at my sisters house and ended at my house for dinner.  Holidays can be busy and hectic these days, but the memories keep getting better and better! 
My first pumpkin pie!  Had to be documented. :)


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Friday, November 17, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Cakeballs

It has been years since I made cake balls.  They used to be a staple for me!  Before I had kids, Loyal and I were living in Dallas and I would make cake balls for him all the time.  He was obsessed with them and that was back when I had all the time in the world to do things like this.  Now I have 3 kids and this batch here took me a day and a half.  (Hilarious and sad all at the same time, ha!)  How much we take time for granted back before kids!
For these, I went with my tried and true cake box method.  I couldn't find Pumpkin Spice cake mix so I bought a box of Duncan Hines Spice Cake and a can of pumpkin puree and decided to wing it.  I adjusted the ingredients that the cake called for to accommodate the puree.  I used the entire can of pumpkin and here is how I altered the rest:

1 box of Spice Cake
1 15oz can Pumpkin Puree
3 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water

I had to bake the cake slightly longer than suggested on the back of the box.  I can't remember the exact time it was in for but I used the toothpick trick to test it.  It's ok to cook the cake a little longer when you are making cake balls only because adding the icing makes them very moist.  So don't worry if the cake comes out on the dry side!
Adding the pumpkin puree made this cake so moist and the flavor was unreal!  It was just the right amount of pumpkin and spice, complimenting each other so well.   I gradually added small amounts of icing so that the cake balls didn't come out too gooey since the cake itself turned out so moist.

I divided the batter into 3 parts to make different versions of pumpkin spice.  I kept one batch original, added chopped walnuts to another, and because my husband is obsessed with chocolate, mini chocolate chips went into the last batch.  I coordinated the toppings for each and used gold sprinkles on the original.
These turned out so perfectly moist without losing the cake texture. I love making cake balls around the holidays because they are such a versatile treat.  Wrap them in cellophane treat bags, tie a ribbon around the top, and gift them to a teacher or friend.  Take them to a potluck Friendsgiving or have them out for people to grab while entertaining at home!   These flavorful treats are so easy to make and with simple, yet elegant toppings, you are sure to wow everyone you make them for!

For a more in depth look at how to make cake balls, use my Cake Ball Tutorial for a step by step explanation. 
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Callie's Birth Story

As I was going through old posts one day, I realized that I never did get around to sharing Roman's birth story. (Oops!)  I remember having every intention to do that but I guess life was a little crazy back then.  It really wasn't that eventful in terms of labor.  Very similar to my labor and delivery with Loyal except a couple hours shorter and only about 15 minutes of pushing.  A breeze compared to the 2 hours I pushed with Loyal!  This time around, Callie's was very different.  Every aspect of it , from the drive to the hospital to delivery, was entirely different.

With both boys I was very against being induced.  I delivered Loyal 7 days late. I was set to be induced at 41 and a half weeks but luckily he ended up coming on his own just 2 days prior.  The same thing happened with Roman.  I delivered 2 days before they scheduled my induction date.  This time though, I elected to be induced.  The circumstances were so different now that our family was bigger.  We live 45 minutes from the hospital and arranging child care for the boys and making sure I made it to the hospital on time was giving me so much anxiety.   The doctors at my practice couldn't stress enough how fast 3rd babies can come!  I felt good about my decision to induce aside from all of the horror stories I had heard in the past.  I hoped that because my body had been in labor twice before, it would get the memo quickly and just do its thing.

The night before the big day, my parents came to stay the night since we had to leave early the next morning.  I ran around the house cleaning, prepping, packing, and cleaning some more.  I was trying to busy myself as much as possible to take my mind off of being so anxious.  I think I was also expecting myself to go into labor overnight like I did the first 2 times so I knew that running around could help trigger that.  I hardly slept that night and not because I went into labor but because I kept waking up to what I thought was a contraction.  I would lie there for an hour waiting for another one and nothing.  I tossed and turned all night and woke up to an alarm that came way too soon.  
The plan that morning was to get out of the house before the kids woke up to ensure a quick and easy exit.  That definitely didn't work out the way we had intended and saying goodbye to them was so much harder than I ever thought it would be.  I was nervous about delivering and sad to leave them and just over all really anxious.   After a million kisses goodbye and several head nods toward the door from Loyal, we were on our way.   One of our favorite parts of the entire labor process was always the drive to the hospital.  It was usually somewhere between 2 and 4 a.m.  It was dark out and the roads were clear, making it such a calm and special time for the two of us.  This time however, there was traffic, lots of it, and Loyal's weaving in and out of lanes to get us there on time, for once, only intensified as the traffic thickened.  I knew I had to stay calm and prepare myself for what I was about to do so I did my best to block it out.  I closed my eyes and put my head back and that's when I realized that I was in fact having contractions.  That was what had woken me up overnight but because they were the first 2 or 3, they were so spread out.  The contractions I was having were so faint but I was definitely feeling them.

We got the hospital just after 8 and were in our room by 8:30.   My sister showed up with Starbucks for Loyal (a delivery room staple for them!) and before I knew it, I was hooked up to all the machines, my IV was in and everyone was ready to go.  I had been about 4cm dilated for a couple weeks so the doctors knew that this induction wouldn't take long.  The doctor came in at around 9 to check in with us, see how I was doing and go over the plan.  She broke my water right away, started me on pitocin and basically told us we were not messing around today!  And that we weren't because the contractions started coming fast and furious.  My contractions this time were very different than the first two times.  They were so much more intense and the pressure I was feeling was off the charts.  I never felt pressure when I was in labor with the boys and especially not before I got an epidural.  This time though, I couldn't even catch my breathe.  I knew this could only mean one thing...she was ready to come out and ready to come out NOW.  The nurses knew without me even telling them that I was ready for the epidural and we were going to have to step on it if I was going to get it before she came out.  Waiting felt like 6 years and the blink of an eye all at the same time.  I was so ready to feel some relief but surprisingly it hardly even touched the pressure I was feeling.   Soon after the epidural, I started to feel sick so they gave me Zofran to help with the nausea.  Then they said something about my blood pressure being high which I guess can happen after an epidural so they gave me medicine for that as well.  The next thing I knew, I felt so loopy and drugged up which I never felt with the boys.  I hated feeling like that but things were moving so fast that I didn't even have time to think about it much more.  (Just to put some perspective on how fast, at this point we are only about 2 hours after the doctor started the induction.)  What happened in the next 30 minutes is a blur but somewhere in there it was time to push and the nurse telling me not to start until she called the doctor.  The doctor came in and I think I pushed 2, maybe 3 times and she was here!

Callie Marie Hoover entered the world on January 12, 2017 at 11:27 a.m.  She cried for 45 minutes straight while Loyal and I overwhelmingly looked at each other like oh shit.   She eventually calmed down and immediately stole our hearts forever.  Callie has brought so much joy to our family and opened our eyes to a world we didn't know before we had her...girls!  So different and so fulfilling after 2 boys.   Everyone in the family is smitten with her!    
If you are interested in reading these...

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Bananas are a pretty big staple in our house.  It is rare that I leave the grocery store without a bundle of them and I'm usually at the store at least 3 times a week.  Between protein shakes and the kids eating/wasting them, we go through a lot.  Every once and a while though, we will not get around to eating all of them fast enough and they will turn brown.  Loyal loves to put the brown ones in his protein shake but in a desperate attempt to speed up our morning routine, I made a batch of muffins with them.  I am not usually one for banana flavored treats but for some reason, on this particular morning, I was craving chocolate chip banana muffins.

I came across this recipe on Pinterest and wow, they were so good! They were gooey and chocolatey and so unbelievably moist, just as she said they would be.   Loyal took one bite and said it was the best muffin he had ever had!  This was the first time I had ever made muffins that didn't come from a box so I was eager to try this recipe again, changing things up just a little bit.  I didn't have baking soda this time around and I wanted to use a little less banana because the gooey-ness of the first batch may not be for everyone.  This round, the muffins were still moist but had more of a muffin consistency which the first recipe didn't have as much.  By decreasing the amount of chocolate chips, they were the perfect combination of banana and chocolate. After everyone in the family tried both versions, it really came down to personal preference.  Ultimately we agreed that my modified version won only because it resembled more of a traditional muffin texture.  It was close and both were so good!


My little helper while brother is at school. :)

 Ingredients:

3 ripe bananas
1/3 Cup melted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease muffin tin.
Melt butter and let it cool while doing the next steps.  Peel your bananas and add them to a large bowl.  Mash them with a fork until texture is mostly smooth and creamy.  Add melted butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla.  Mix until combined.  Stir in salt and baking powder.  Add flour and chocolate chips, mixing together until just combined.

Divide mixture into baking tins and bake for 18 - 20 minutes.  I only made 9 muffins with this modified recipe and they came out perfect!  For a slightly smaller size muffin, fill all 12.

Flour towel and measuring cups are both Hearth & Hand by Joanna Gaines and oh so good!
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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Roman's Minion Birthday Party

We celebrated Roman's 3rd birthday last weekend with a minion party!  This was something that has been discussed many, MANY times over the last 6 months or so.  Basically ever since Loyal's birthday party in May.  I guess that comes with the territory of younger siblings who watch their big brother experience everything first.

I have to start with saying that I am so sad that I didn't get more pictures than I did.  This happens every time!  It's like you put so much effort into the decorations and setting up and getting everything just perfect only to finish moments before everyone arrives.  Once the party starts, you're so done and pictures are the absolute LAST thing on your mind.  Regardless, I want to share the few pictures I have because despite everything I have going on at the moment, I did work really hard on making this party special for Roman.

Brace yourselves for the poor quality of this next picture because it is terrible you guys.  And I mean TERRIBLE!
Before I get into the specifics, this is the only picture I got of the table in front of the wall display.  I really don't know how this happened but CLEARLY, I dropped the ball here.
  
This room is right when you walk into our house and I love using it for parties.  I wanted to make this particular wall in that room the focal point when everyone arrived.
The stripes are made with yellow streamers.  I taped them to the wall with blue painters tape right below the crown and above the baseboards, which you can see on one of the bottom pieces.  (Sorry to all my fellow OCD'ers! It bugs me too!!)  I eyeballed the width in between and definitely listened to my fair share of ridicule and sarcastic suggestions of getting me the tape measure. :)  


The banner I made by hand and is the detail that I am most proud of.  This will likely go in a keepsake box and you know, never get looked at for 30 years or something.  I bought 8.5 x 11 sheets of felt from Hobby Lobby.   I'm sure there are much easier ways of doing the letters but I drew them out on graph paper, cut them out and used that as a template to trace onto the felt.  I attached everything together using iron-on adhesive that I had left over from a Christmas project last year.  I drew the minions freehand and put them together using the same adhesive.  The top piece is a simple black seam that I got from Hobby Lobby.  I attached that with a straight stitch using my sewing machine.  If you don't have a sewing machine, I know that there are a lot of other products out there that are used in place of sewing. :)   


To the left of the main wall, I hung a few Minions from the ceiling.  Unfortunately these didn't make in any of the pictures from the actual party so I took some the next day.  I ordered yellow paper lanterns from Party City, glued black ribbon around the middle, and used card stock for the eyes.  (The pupil is marker.)  The mouth I made out of card stock and glued it on with hot glue.  The pipe cleaners I just wrapped around the wire at the top.  I made 3 hanging Minions and tried to make each one a little different.
Also, basically impossible to get all 3 faces looking at me while running back and forth from chair to chair.

For party favors, I made little Minion hats for all of the kids to take home!  I don't know about everyone else but my kids were super excited about them and a favor that isn't candy and doesn't make noise was hopefully a win for the parents! ;)  These were pretty simple to make once I got a system down.  The hats were a little on the flimsy side and started melting when I tried to use hot glue.  I found that Elmer's Glue worked best for applying the ribbon.  The eyes were made out of card stock and plastic googly eyes that I found at Hobby Lobby.  I put a grey circle behind the plastic eye to make them look more like the Minion's goggles.  I applied those with hot glue because the ribbon worked as a barrier between the eyes and the hat.  I wanted to somehow attach black pipe cleaners to the tops for hair but couldn't figure out how to do that without using hot glue.  (And also because I finished these the night before the party so, you know.)

Lastly, and probably one of the best details of the entire party, I made Minion cupcakes!  They turned out so cute and guess what, NOT ONE SINGLE PICTURE.  The shame!  You can kinda see them in this picture below but at this rate, I should look into hiring a photographer for my next party.
Roman requested cupcakes for his party.  Chocolate, specifically.  I died the icing yellow and after I iced each cupcake, I dipped the icing in yellow sugar sprinkles to give it some texture.  I used black gel icing (the kind that comes in a little white tube at the grocery store) and drew the strap for the goggles, hair and mouth.  Then I put little candy eyes over the goggles.  I tried to switch up the designs of these to give them some variety.  These ended up being super simple to make and turned out so adorable.  Really bummed that I didn't get a picture of all of them!

This was such a great party!  I tried my best to keep the guest list simple this year and not invite his entire class like I did for Loyal's party in April.  October is such a busy month for us and with family in town, this ended up being perfect.  Despite having fewer guests, I really wanted him to feel special and have a great party that he had been anticipating for months.  I will say that this 3 year old of mine knows what he wants!  He has talked about his "Minion Party" since April and the smile on his face that day was so worth all of it.

Sources & Supplies
Yellow Streamers
"3" Balloon
Yellow Paper Lanterns
Black Ribbon, Card Stock, Googly Eyes, Pipe Cleaners, & all Felt - Hobby Lobby
Construction Hats
Table Cloth 
Table Skirt
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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Hello again



Hi there!  It's been a while.  Blogging again has been on my mind pretty heavily lately.  I finally had some time the other day to sit down and start with logging into my account.  That's when I realized that it has been almost a year and a half since my last post.  A year and a half!  I was shocked, you guys.  My last post was Mother's Day, 2016.  I don't know if I was pregnant with Callie yet or not but needless to say, my energy level and time for things like blogging quickly decreased shortly thereafter.  I thought about how much has happened since that Mother's Day.  It seems that life has flown by in just a short year and a half.  We have moved, vacationed, built a house, got pregnant (by surprise!) and welcomed a sweet baby girl into our family.  I guess that's when life really began to move at the speed of a blur.

This past year has been quite the challenge for me.  Adding a third baby to our family has been one big overwhelming blessing to put it simply.  I had Callie in January when the boys were still in school and life wasn't so hectic.  Once we were home from the hospital and officially a family of 5, it didn't take me long to determine that newborns were EASY compared to toddlers.  I would take the boys to school, come home, and lay on the couch snuggling a sweet and sleepy little baby.  Pure bliss!  But then the boys would come home from school and it was utter chaos.  I didn't necessarily mind it, because we had a nice balance of quiet and chaos going at the time.  Fast forward to summer break and it was flat out BRUTAL.  This summer rocked me.  We were stuck at home most days because taking all of 3 of them out was exhausting and hard to manage in between alternating nap schedules.  Cabin fever quickly set in and after listening to whining, screaming, fighting, crying, and everything else that comes along with toddler demands, it became difficult to really enjoy summer break as a stay at home mom.  It was like this dark cloud constantly overhead and everyday was nothing short of a countdown-to-bedtime mission.  I eventually found myself going through my usual postpartum phase of losing myself and then later finding myself again but more specifically, the delicate transition in between is what I have been struggling with over the past few months.

I think that most moms go through this weird transition at some point in motherhood, often times without even realizing it.  I know that with myself, it usually takes some time before I am aware that I am in it again.  Lately I have been struggling to find a balance between being a mother and giving my children the time and attention that they deserve, and finding enough time to meet my own needs.  With 3 little ones that rely on me all day every day, it's mentally and physically exhausting and usually leaves me with very little time to recharge.  For the most part, I've alway been ok with that but more recently, I have felt this huge void that I simply can't ignore.  I just felt like I needed something, anything, for me.  I found myself trying to fill this void with various things when in reality it just left me even more depleted and burnt out than before.  There I was, exhausting myself, trying to be a good wife, care for my kids, workout, look put-together, build a business, have time for myself, when eventually I decided that something had to give.  In fact, all of it had to go.  That marked the beginning of this breakthrough moment for me where I decided that what I needed was to focus only on what was most important to me, my family.  I poured everything I had into Loyal and the kids.  I didn't worry about having anything left for me even though that was what the issue seemed to be.  I cut out every distraction, stopped working out, went to bed early when Loyal did, and really just did everything I could to make everyone else happy and you know what, by doing that I felt more fulfilled then when I was actually trying to do things for myself.  I began to realize how much happier I was.  I didn't see that I was spreading myself too thin, which I never seem to do until after the fact.  Funny how that works!  I have learned that when life is hectic, trying to keep up with all-of-the-things sometimes just isn't worth it.  

Once I got back to the basics of my happiness, I felt the urge to finish this postpartum cycle and figure out (again) who I am and essentially determine who I want to be as a woman, wife and mother.  This has been a long yet fulfilling journey and one that I am actually very proud to overcome.  There were dark days and ones that shined bright, lots of tears, prayers, and revelations along the way.  Through this process of self healing, I read that one of the best things you can do to heal yourself is to write.  So today, I sat down and did just that.  I opened up and poured it out and it felt great.  Empowering, if you will! I feel like getting all of this out and into the cyber world was therapeutic in a way and ultimately gave me a blank canvas to start over.  That's what led me to blogging again.  I have been thinking about it for a while now and have desperately wanted to find the time to have that in my life again.  It doesn't matter how little time I have, my body craves creative expression and it feels really good to have an outlet to do that.  So this is it!  I may not post often and no one may even read them, but I am going to try my best!  So anyway, if you have made it this far, thank you for reading along while I unleash my inner struggles about the darker side of motherhood that is so often unrevealed.  

And now back to the highlight reel of life that is deemed "perfect" here on social media. :)
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