Self Help

Ginger Cookies

Natalie : December 15, 2017 7:00 AM : Recipes

Yesterday I brought you some delicious cranberry and white chocolate cookies. Today I am giving you the recipe for the best ever ginger cookies. These are a Thanksgiving tradition in my family and they are perfectly suited for the Christmas holidays as well. I think what really sets these cookies apart is the use of fresh ginger. It really makes a difference. And they are oh so soft too!

Ingredients:

¾ C canola oil
1 C packed brown sugar
1 egg
¼ C molasses
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
3 ¼ C all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves

Directions:

1. Cream the oil and sugar; beat in the egg; then add molasses and grated ginger.
2. Add dry ingredients to oil mixture and mix well.
3. Form into small 1” balls and place on greased cookie sheet 2” apart.
4. Bake at 325⁰ for 8 – 10 minutes.

 

What are your favorite holiday cookie recipes? Let me know in the comments!

 

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White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

Natalie : December 14, 2017 3:28 PM : Recipes

Nothing quite says the holidays like stuffing yourself full to bursting with all manner of confectioneries, amiright? I usually try to post relatively healthy eats (for my own sake!) but I took some divinely sugary and waist inflating cookies to Thanksgiving dinner and had many a request to post the recipes on the blog. So today I am coming at you with some bomb-dot-com white chocolate and cranberry cookies. These delicious morsels hold their shape well and are so soft and chewy, just like how the perfect cookie should be. (I am not in the crunchy cookie camp!)

Ingredients

1 C Butter
4 oz Cream Cheese
2/3 C Sugar
½ tsp Salt
1 Egg
½ tsp Vanilla
2 C All-Purpose Flour
1 C White Chocolate Chips
1/2 C Dried Cranberries, roughly chopped

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Combine butter and cream cheese. Beat until smooth.
  3. Add the sugar and salt and beat until combined.
  4. Next add the egg and vanilla and beat in.
  5. Gradually beat in the flour until combined.
  6. Form into 1″ balls and place on buttered cookie sheet.
  7. Mix in white chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
  8. Bake for 8-12 minutes.

 

I also baked some of my famous ginger cookies (be on the lookout for a post on that recipe coming soon!)

 

I thought I would also give you a little peak of our Christmas decorations.

Our Mantle

Our very Charlie Brown-esque Christmas Tree. We seem to be missing our box with most of the ornaments, which is ok because we have a toddler who would just pull them all down anyway!

I’m not a terribly crafty person so I am very proud that I made this star once upon a time!

Our Elf, Victor.

 

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Winter in Phoenix!

Natalie : December 8, 2017 12:55 PM : Lifestyle

Once upon a time I used to love snow. There was something so magical about that white fluffy stuff, especially during the Christmas season. Then I learned to drive. What once seemed to make a sparkly white winter wonderland is now a slushy, muddy, and dangerous mess. So when we got the invite from my brother-in-law to come down to balmy AZ for Thanksgiving we jumped at the chance. Except that plane tickets are crazy expensive during the holidays so we waited a week. It was super nice because we went in the winter when it was in the 80s. No worrying about burning to a crisp in temperatures rivaling the surface of the sun!

Again, a special thanks to Joe and Jessica for hosting us for the week and joining us on our shenanigans. Also, Jessica has just started a blog that you should all check out. She is super cool!

So here’s some of the stuff that we got up to:

Freestone Park

Our first day there we decided to keep things super lax as we were tired from our plane ride. We headed over to Freestone Park to walk and play about.

 

Phoenix Zoo

Next stop we headed over to the Phoenix Zoo. This was great because Ocki is getting old enough to enjoy it. Whenever we would go before it was more just for me :)

I think her favorite part was the petting zoo. I think she made it to every goat to brush their hair.

The zoo also has a dinosaur exhibit you can go to for a few extra $$$. I am a sucker for dinosaurs so of course we went. This one was animatronic and I loved it! My favorite was the Utah Raptor. Some of the dinosaurs were a little scary for Ocki.

 

Hole in the Rock

After the zoo we headed to the Hole in the Rock. Although the hike is said to be short it’s not stroller friendly and we didn’t fancy carrying two kids up the incline. So we just drove by and snapped a few pictures. We’ll just play make-believe that the people up there are us ;)

McDowell Sonoran Conservancy

We also visited the Sonoran Desert. I think this was our favorite activity. Those saguaro cacti are just so iconic! We did the Bajada Nature Trail because it was stroller friendly. I was kind of worried we wouldn’t see much with the trail being so close to the welcome center but boy was I wrong! Cacti galore!

Many warnings were given about the “sharp pokies!”

Jean-Luc’s thoughts on the desert.

Goldfield Ghost Town

On Saturday we headed to the Goldfield Ghost Town. An old mining town with a very touristy feel. But guess what? We’re tourists so we loved it! It really felt like you were stepping into the old west. On weekends they put on gun shows which was really fun but also kind of loud for little ears. Ocki was also very concerned when someone would drop dead. It’s incredible how empathetic she is even at such a young age!

The town also features a tour of the old mine and horse back riding for those willing to loosen their purse strings.

Way fun but I think we would enjoy it even more when the kids are a bit older.

We didn’t get very many pictures because I was tired of lugging around the big camera and just wanted to enjoy the moment. Sorry folks.

I.D.E.A. Museum

On Sunday they had free admission to the Idea Museum which is a hands on museum for kids. Ocki loved the giant blocks and didn’t want to leave. I did snap some grainy cell phone pictures for your viewing pleasure :)

After the museum we had a shopping day then headed back to cold and windy Wyoming, the place we call home. I have a lot to do now that vacation is over. Can you believe that I have a blog but that my house is not yet decorated for Christmas in perfect pinterest fashion? Oh my! Dave is on the ball and put up lights on the roof but I have not done anything yet. Now off to decorate my house!

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Gratitude Never Goes Out of Style!

Natalie : November 23, 2017 12:32 AM : Fashion, Lifestyle

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am going to keep things short as I am wanting to spend as much time as possible with those for whom I am most grateful, my family.

But I did want to take a minute to to say thank you to all those who read my blog and/or follow me on my social media accounts. Sometimes I am really shy about sharing my blog but it is something that I love so much and I am glad for your continuing support.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and remember that gratitude is always in fashion everyday of the year!

 

P.S. — This is the gorgeous lace bell sleeve blouse I’m wearing.

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The Perfect Thanksgiving Sweater

Natalie : November 17, 2017 12:45 PM : Fashion

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and so I thought I would share my favorite sweater for the holiday! I actually bought this sweater a couple years ago but it is still in stock!

I paired it with some simple black jeans

And some adorable oxford heels!

The shoes are old so unfortunately I could not find the exact pair for sale. Check out similar styles here and here.

More details on the sweater:

I love the cute stitching on the collar and all of the texture on the sweater.

The sleeves also have the white poking out. Super cute!

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A Study in Blue

Natalie : November 8, 2017 7:00 AM : Fashion

I’ve always wanted to do more fashion posts but felt I had a lot of limitations.

I am my own photographer. Like seriously, is every blogger out there married to a professional photographer with limitless time restrictions or so ridiculously rich that they can afford a photographer to follow them around all day?

I was taking photos on my phone. This was stupid hard. Framing my shots to make sure I am in the picture then realizing I messed up and have 20 pictures with my head cut off. Dealing with going back and forth 5 thousand times to hit the button. And then after all that work, the phone is limited in the quality of photos it can take. In order to get my full body in the picture I would look tiny and get lost in the background.

Turns out that fashion is also expensive. Like I could (and do) wear all out of season clothes but I want readers to be able to see my clothes and if they like them be able to actually buy them. Maybe one day companies will gift me clothes to appear on the blog (wouldn’t that be nice!) but they won’t do that unless I actually do fashion posts! What a conundrum.

Then there’s the whole body insecurities deal. I’m not really skinny and I don’t know how to pose well so the camera adds a good 20lbs.

Well I am so happy to announce that I’ve got a new camera (Cannon Rebel T6i) that is actually capable of taking some decent shots! (thanks mom!) Still practicing my photography skills but it is so much easier now. That flip screen is so helpful in with the whole cutting off heads deal! And I parted with the 20 bucks for a remote. Best investment ever!

Still working on losing baby weight (and lazy overeating weight if I’m being honest.) Also still working on posing but practice makes perfect, right?

Also still figuring out the expense part. But it is time for me to update the winter wardrobe so I might get a few posts out of that ;)

This sweater is so comfy and such good quality and I only paid $20! Depending on the size and color the price goes up to $37 but I was lucky enough to get the bargain!

The necklace was also a steal off amazon.

The shoes I actually bought like a year ago but they are still in stock. Yay!

My splurge in this outfit is this gorgeous Steve Madden clutch. I love that velvet is making a comeback in a huge way this season. This is a good way to incorporate that trend in a subtle way. And bugs!!! I love the intricate beading on this bag. My other favorite thing about this clutch is that it is big enough to hold keys, wallet, my huge phone and then some. Sometimes clutches can’t even do that. Where is the practicality folks?

 

 

 

I hope you all enjoyed the outfit and I hope to be able to do a lot more posts like this!

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10 Minute Solid Perfume

Natalie : November 1, 2017 5:18 PM : Beauty, DIY

Coming at you today with a super duper easy diy beauty project today inspired by my own little Ocki.

Earlier this week as I was getting ready in the bathroom Ocki busied herself emptying every drawer and cabinet as is her usual habit. Among her spoils was a ziplock bag full of those little sample perfumes. It was not long before I stepped on one of those little beauties, breaking the glass and saturating the room with Etat Libre d’Orange. Luckily I was wearing shoes at the time and no one was injured but it did make my bathroom smell very strong and very pretty for a while!

Then the idea — solid perfume! Easy to make, if you could do my 10 Minute Chapstick then you can do this. Plus there is no broken glass to worry about (although still the potential for a little mess if you have toddlers!)

Ingredients*

2 tbsp Coconut Oil
2 tbsp Apricot Oil (or other oil of your choice)
1.5 tbsp Beeswax
Sample perfume vial or essential oils of choice

*This was enough for about 6 10g pots of scent for me.

 

Instructions

  1. Melt beeswax on medium low heat. Stir until melted.
  2. Add apricot and coconut oils. Stir until melted.
  3. Remove from heat and add your scent. Start with a little and add more. The great thing about this recipe is you can make it as strong as you like. No more worrying if you’re giving the world a headache with your overly scented body!
  4. Pour into itty bitty containers. I used these little guys that I found on Amazon.
  5. Apply to temples, wrists, etc. All the usual places and enjoy!

 

 

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Jean-Luc is here!

Natalie : October 16, 2017 3:40 PM : Lifestyle, Self Help

I am happy to officially announce that Jean-Luc has arrived.

For all those interested in the gory details:

Birth Story

When I had Ocki my water broke first and I never went into labor on my own and I had to be induced with pitocin. This water breaking first business seems to be a genetic trait as that is how it always happened for my mom and my sister. I definitely did not want a repeat of the 26 hour pitocin fueled nightmare so I started doing membrane sweeps at about 39 weeks. I credit these with going into regular labor. At 40 weeks + 4 I had my third sweep and felt the first contractions about 1.5 hours later. At this point they weren’t very time-able or strong. Two hours later and I was pretty sure I was in labor. Contractions were three minutes apart and getting stronger all the time. Between dropping Ocki off with family and the drive to the hospital it was another 2 hours before arriving at the hospital.

When we get there I am at 5cm. Things are starting to get uncomfortable.

With Ocki I wanted to go the all natural route but after 6 or so hours of 1.5 minute apart transition like contractions I got over my fear of needles and scruples about how epidurals might not be the most healthy for baby….blah blah blah. With Jean-Luc I still wanted to try to go the natural route. Not because of the needles or thinking it might hurt the baby. After all, Ocki was just fine when she came out after the epi. It was more of a morbid curiosity. What does it really feel like to give birth? I hadn’t done anything at all preparation wise. Hypnobabies did not happen. So while I was going to try and hold out as long as I could I also wasn’t going to feel bad if I caved and got the whole medical cocktail.

After another hour or so at the hospital things are starting to get way uncomfortable but I’m still holding out. I did not find that walking or being on all fours or anything to be more comfortable. That made it a lot worse! Probably would have made Jean-Luc arrive a little faster, what with gravity pulling him down. I found it most comfortable lying on my side. I think because I could rest easier between the contractions.

At maybe three and a half hours (who’s counting? I sure wasn’t!)  at the hospital the pain is starting to get really bad so they check me. I’m at an 8 now. So transition. To my everlasting shame, I got some Fentanyl. Just kidding. No shame here. I could still feel it all. Just enough to take the edge off. Plus it wears off really quickly so I got to feel the pain of pushing in all its glory!

I’ve always heard that you’ll know when to push and that you feel like you need to take a giant and excruciatingly painful poop. I’ve also heard a lot that when its time to push you get some relief from the pain and that you get to feel all empowered. Lies. All lies. Pushing was the worst. I certainly felt pressure but never really felt like I wanted to push. Pushing just caused it to feel like all the skin and muscle and stuff was slowly being ripped apart. Think one of those medieval torture devices where your limbs are tied to a wheel and slowly pulled from their sockets. Yeah. That is exactly what it felt. 100% the worst part. I was screaming like a banshee the whole time.

Somewhere in the midst of pushing is the point that I thought I couldn’t do it anymore. It just didn’t feel to me like it was doing anything. I was all like get back up in there baby! When I was ready to give up and be like “get back in there baby” they had me reach down to feel and there was the head, halfway out. That really surprised me how far out the baby was and really bolstered my energy. About four or five more pushes and my little baby was out!

A boy!

Labor was about 6 hours starting from when the contractions were time-able (8hrs from the first cramps) with 40 minutes of pushing. Not bad!

Epidural vs Natural

Although I did have a little of the Fentanyl, for me I’ll chalk this birth up as natural. My thoughts on it are I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. Rather that one birth was easier than the other.

Ocki was a 26 hour ordeal with 4 of those hours being pushing. I was also on Pitocin. Now I have heard that there is some debate about whether pitocin contractions are actually worse. Let me put the matter to rest — they are unequivocally 1000 times worse! Avoid like the plague if possible.

Jean-Luc was 6 hours with only the last two or three being really bad. To be sure the pain from pushing was a lot more intense without the epidural but it also was 3 hrs and 20 minutes shorter.

What would I do in the future? I think it really depends. If I ever have to be induced again I think I would just be like “give me my epidural” upon arrival. Or if the labor is going really long I might get one. If all the rest of my future babies are 6 hour labors I might just go unmedicated.

Life with Two

Jean-Luc is a very sweet baby. Not colicky at all. Just cries for food, diaper changes, and snuggles. Which is all the time! Mostly at night.

I would say that the hardest part is adjusting to two. When one of the babes wakes up at night it often wakes up the other. There also seems to be a lot less time. Right now Jean-Luc is still at the age where he needs to eat all the time. So feeding him is pretty much my life right now. And of course Ocki is at an age where she needs lots of interaction and stimulation. So they keep me busy!

One of the sweeter things is how much Ocki loves Jean-Luc. Lets just say that there is no shortage of hugs and kisses for this little guy!

Even though I have a lot less time on my hands for things like cleaning and blogging having Jean-Luc is an absolute pleasure. We simply adore him! Expect to see no shortage of him on my Instagram account!

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29 Week Bumpdate

Natalie : June 13, 2017 4:42 PM : Lifestyle

Its that time again! It has been a few weeks but I like to keep the world apprised on how my little parasite is doing now and again.

  • They say that little one is 2.5lbs and about the size of an acorn squash.
  • Feeling a bit more movement now, especially when I get woken up in the wee morning hours by Ocki.
  • My eating is still out of control so I am trying hard to work on that. This probably has more to do with me than the baby!
  • Did the whole glucose testing thing for gestational diabetes. WORST BREAKFAST EVER. Glucose levels came out great though. Hooray!

That is about all that I can think of that seems different. If you can think of anything you’re just dying to know that I’ve left out, let me know in the comments below!

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Lets talk food: Cravings vs Hunger!

Natalie : June 8, 2017 6:07 AM : Lifestyle, Recipes, Self Help

I naturally cycle through periods where I eat super healthy for a few months then I’ll fall off the wagon and treat my body like a garbage disposal for weeks!

Being pregnant I find not just myself but others making excuses for me when I graze throughout the day. “Are you sure you’re eating enough?” or “That’s the baby telling you he needs those nutrients.”

I think that this is something that sooooo many people struggle with (regardless of pregnancy status!) How do you tell if you are actually hungry? And then the BIG QUESTION: If you find yourself eating your emotions or from boredom or because the food is there, how do you stop?

Hunger vs Craving

How much have you eaten already?

It may seem obvious but how much have you eaten already? If you had a decent size lunch an hour or two previously but still find yourself reaching for the bag of chips you might not actually be hungry.

Harder to tell is if you are a meal skipper but graze a lot. Those little snacks sure can add up! Even if you’re not counting calories it might be helpful to write down that handful of nuts you just ate. It might surprise you how much you have actually eaten.

Are you emotional? Bored? Anxious?

Take inventory of your emotional state. A hard day isn’t usually enough to derail me if I’m one of my good streaks but if I’m already mid-month-long-binge then the tiniest emotional upset can cause me to spiral deeper out of control.

Other states of emotion that can throw my eating habits into a frenzy are Boredom and Anxiety. If I’m bored I will grab handfuls of cereal and cookies just to keep my mind occupied. If I’m anxious (which I seem to be alot  :-| ) I will also grab food by the handfuls to take my mind off things.

I’m sure there are other emotions and hormones (hello period!) that can throw one off a healthy eating pattern too! What are yours?

What is it you are wanting to eat?

I’ve heard it said, “If you aren’t willing to eat a carrot stick you aren’t really hungry.” I never eat plain carrot sticks but it is true that when I am eating healthy and am hungry I love things like salads, fruits, and proteins. I am perfectly fine with skipping dessert. When I am in binge mode I can’t stop thinking about the delicious confections in the freezer or the sugary cereals stocked in the pantry.

There really is no nutritional value to be gained from a box of frosted flakes so unless you are about to faint from low blood sugar your body is probably not telling you to reach for the cookie.

 

So you’re not actually hungry. What to do?

If you’re being at all honest with yourself you knew all along that you weren’t really hungry before you polished off that box of Thin Mints. Now comes the hard part. Stop Eating. Put down the chips. Walk away from the freezer. Except that when you are fueled by emotions and are a complete hormonal mess its really, really, really hard to do that. I am still working on my perfect solution. Obviously I would have a slammin’ hot bod if I was good at this. But alas, this article is really for me most of all! Here are some tactics that I have had varying success with and that others swear by:

Distraction

Find something else to do. Read a chapter. Play a game. Wash some dishes. Or best yet — Exercise! Why not burn some calories while you aren’t eating. Plus then you’ll feel healthy, will see yourself as a healthy person, and won’t want to ruin all that hard work.

Rid Thyself of Temptation

My husband hates this one. If I am having a hard time keeping away from a batch of cookies or bag of chips I have been known to throw them away. I will avoid keeping any tempting little morsels in the home until I can get myself under control. Obviously unfair to those who have a little self control and would like a treat now and again.

Portion it Out, Lock it Up

A sort of middle ground between having a fully stocked pantry and an empty freezer. I’ve used the Kitchen Safe before. Portion out the goodies into ziplock bags then lock them up. The box only opens once a day. Get your treat out then lock it up immediately!

Also, when buying treats for Ocki, I spend the dollar or two extra to get them pre-portioned rather than doing it myself. It is a tiny bit easy not to eat them all at once when they come that way.

Write it Down

Sites like MyFitnessPal.com make tracking what you eat a lot easier as they have a database of foods that other users have already input nutritional data for. It doesn’t pass your lips until you write it down. This also helps to give you back control. You can plan out exactly what you are going to eat ahead of time and so there is no guessing.

The “NO fill in the blank” Method

Sometimes getting into writing everything down, counting calories, etc can be daunting after periods of unbridled freedom. I find that it can help to ease back into things. One of my favorites is to self-impose “No snacking between meals.” Other popular variations include “No more soda”, “No more added sugars”, “No meat”…..the list goes on and on. Identify your trouble foods and try to eliminate that food for a set period of time.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

While working on getting back on track is great it really is just treating a symptom. To make a true lifestyle change you’ve got to get down and dirty and identify the real issues that cause you to overeat. What are your triggers? Again, still working on this.

For me, a binge most often starts with eating the unexpected. I’ll be doing great and can have ice cream in the fridge for a month and not touch it even when I’ve had a hard day and am bawling my eyes out. Then an unplanned event with lots of food will come up. Or I’ll let my loved ones convince me to make an unplanned batch of cookies. To me this suggests there just might be some control issues surrounding food. One little mess up is enough to ruin months of hard work. 

I’m going to be honest. I don’t really know what to do about this. Any amateur psychologists out there are welcome to give me their input!!!

Your particular issue might be a little different but to beat the bulge it needs to be confronted.

What are your favorite methods for getting rid of cravings? What are your triggers? Lets help each other out! Give your best tips in the comments below.

 

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