Easy & Healthy Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

Thursday, January 19, 2023

I came across this recipe the other day in The Anti-Inflammatory Diet Slow Cooker Cookbook. I ended up tweaking it to fit our family's tastes and needs. 

I added sausage, used cannellini beans instead of kidney beans, omitted a few ingredients, and switched up the seasonings a bit as well. It actually turned out really good and was super easy to prepare. I love when I can throw a bunch of things into the slow cooker and then dinner is ready just a few hours later. We will definitely be adding this to our dinner rotation.  

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

— 1 lb sausage browned
— 1 can cannellini beans
— 2 carrots diced
— 1 zucchini diced 
— 1 can fire roasted tomatoes 
— 1 tbs lemon juice
— salt
— pepper
— Italian seasoning
— 2 bay leaves
— 4 cups of chicken broth

Brown and drain the sausage. Then add to your slow cooker all the ingredients. Cook on low for 6 hours and then enjoy! 

My Breastfeeding Journey and My Breastmilk Ring

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Every woman's breastfeeding journey is different and today I wanted to share my journey and to also share how I celebrated breastfeeding both of my boys for 13 months each.

When I first became pregnant with my oldest son, I had plans to try and breastfeed, but I was so nervous I would not be able to do it. TMI, but I am very small chested, and I was like...how in the world am I going to be able to breastfeed him. Also, I have heard a lot of my friends struggles and have heard that many breastfeed during their maternity leave, but when they head back to work it's so hard to continue to pump at work, so they quit after 6 or 8 weeks. So when I started breastfeeding my goal was to take it day by day. I set my goal to be...let's try this for a month, then let's go another month. Every month I said...let's just see how far we can go this month, and I'll stop when it's time. I was so very lucky both employers I worked for were very flexible with my pumping schedule and provided a nice Mother's Room to use. 

My oldest son, who is 5 years old now, came 6 weeks early. He was 5 lbs 2 oz, which was a good size for a baby delivered at 34 weeks, but he was sent to the NICU for 11 days, and they wanted to make sure he was getting as many calories as possible so he could continue to gain weight. This meant they wanted to feed him via bottle (so he would not burn extra calories trying to learn to breastfeed) and they wanted to supplement with formula while my milk came in. Once my milk came in, I was allowed to breastfeed him 1x a day, but then all other feedings were to be via bottle, and they added formula to my breastmilk to give him a boost in calories. 

We continued to have to add formula to my breastmilk for every feeding even after he finally came home from the hospital, until he was 4 months old. This made it extremely difficult to breastfeed, so I turned to pumping exclusively so I could continue to give him my milk, but also be able to add the formula to boost his calories. I got to the point where I was actually more comfortable pumping than breastfeeding, so I made it work and I exclusively pumped for 13 months and had enough in the freezer to give him 2 bottles of breastmilk a day 12 months through 15 months. 

My youngest son, who is 19 months old now, was born via scheduled c-section at 39 weeks due to medical complications. I was able to breastfeed him right away, and he had no trouble latching. But my milk was not coming in, and he was starving and losing weight. So we started him on formula to supplement until my milk came in. After he was 4 days old, I was released from the hospital and he was sent to the NICU at the Children's Hospital to continue to monitor his medical condition. 

At this point I started pumping when I was not in the hospital and he was getting my milk in a bottle when I was not there. I honestly never got comfortable breastfeeding him either, and I got more milk by pumping than I did feeding him directly, so I got into the routine of exclusively pumping for him as well. 

I told myself I would not exclusively pump my 2nd child, because it was hard enough to do this while only having 1 child, let alone now pumping for a newborn while also having a toddler to care for. But then the formula shortage happened, and I was so afraid I would not be able to find formula, so again I made it work and I exclusively pumped for my 2nd child for 13 months and also had a nice freezer stash to continue to be able to feed him.

Why did I choose to pump for 13 months? Well I wanted to get them both to 12 months and then I discovered I could not just stop pumping and I had to wean myself down slowly, or else I would get clogged ducts. So I ended up spending about a month, just pumping when I was starting to feel uncomfortable, to wean myself off completely. I started pumping 1x per day, then every other day, and then finally 1x per week.

When I stopped pumping it was bittersweet. I was so happy to be done with my pump, but at the same time, it was sad my babies were growing up, and weren't relying on me for their sole nutrition. I never thought this was something I would be able to accomplish, and it was a lot of work, so I wanted to commemorate my breastfeeding journey with a breastmilk ring. I found this one from Keepsake Mom and immediately fell in love with it. 

It was a process and took a few months for them to process my milk into the stone, and for them to make my ring, but I am so happy with how it turned out and absolutely love wearing it. Every time I wear it, it reminds me of my boys being babies, and the love and dedication I put into providing them both breastmilk for their first year of life.

Pork Tenderloin, Sweet Potatoes & Apples Sheet Pan Recipe

Thursday, January 12, 2023

This is one of our families favorite recipes, and it's perfect because it's a 1 sheet meal, so it's easy cleanup! It has great flavor and is savory from the pork and sweet from the sweet potatoes and apples. It's also nice to be able to pop in the oven and then have time to catch up on a few things while dinner is cooking.

Pork Tenderloin, Sweet Potatoes & Apples Sheet Pan Recipe


-- 1 8oz pork tenderloin

-- Salt

-- Pepper

-- Chili powder

-- Cinnamon

-- Olive oil

-- 2 large sweet potatoes

-- 3 apples (my favorite is Pink Lady apples)


Place the pork tenderloin on sheet pan and season both sides with salt, pepper and chili powder. Then drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the top to keep it moist. Place in the oven under the broiler on high for 7 mins on each side.

While the pork is under the broiler, dice your sweet potatoes and apples into ~1 inch cubes.

Once the pork loin has been broiled on both sides, remove from the oven and place your sweet potatoes and apples around the pork loin on the sheet pan. Drizzle olive oil over the sweet potatoes and apples and then season with salt, pepper, chili powder. You could also include some cinnamon if you wanted a more sweeter taste.

Place the sheet pan into a 400 degree oven for about 30 mins or until the pork tenderloin reaches 145 degrees.

First Birthday Puppy Themed Party

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Today I want to throw back to about 4 years ago, for my oldest son's first birthday party. We had a First Birthday Puppy Pawty, and I wanted to share the details in case anyone was looking for birthday party theme ideas. Over the new few months I'm going to share all of the birthday parties we have planned for the boys over the last few years...so get ready for some fun party planning posts!

My first baby turning 1 year old was so bittersweet. I was so sad he was no longer going to be a "baby," but I had so much fun planning his first birthday party and I could not wait to celebrate and watch him dig into his cake!

Around 9 months, he started to love all things dogs (which is funny because our youngest is following into his brother's footsteps and loves all things dogs and kitties as well!!) Dog was actually one of his first words, behind Dada and Mama of course. It's funny because he actually called most animals "daw. Since "daw" was his favorite animal, a puppy themed party just seemed perfect. I started off by finding the cutest birthday invitation on Etsy which fit the theme perfectly.

Since our house is kind of small, we only invited close family, and it was just perfect. We served pulled pork and sloppy joes from crock pots, warmed up a few cans of green beans on the stove, and heated up a few pans of mac and cheese from Costco in the oven. If you are looking for an easy way to serve a crowd, I would highly recommend this menu as it involved very little prep, was easy to keep warm, and guests could serve themselves whenever they wanted.

*Note: I cut the #1 with my Cricut using glitter card stock from Michaels. I then taped a wooden skewer to the back of it, and stuck it into the cake. It was the first thing he grabbed of course.

You can see his full reaction to the cake in my Instagram Reel I'll be posting later this morning. 

The cake turned out so cute and was so tasty. A co-worker recommended Holly (A Cake for Leroy), who made a puppy themed cake and cupcakes for her daughter's birthday a few months prior. She had brought some of the cake into work and it was so delicious I immediately asked her for contact info. I had found the puppy centerpiece on Etsy (similar one here), but had no idea how I wanted the cake to be decorated. I sent pictures of the cake topper, and some of the party decorations to Holly and she suggested the gradient. She actually made 2 smash cakes for me, and I froze one of them to use a week later for his smash cake session (pics to come).

Holly also made these adorable puppy cupcakes. I sent her a photo I found online of what I wanted, and she made them exactly like the photo.

I didn't go super crazy with decorations because as I mentioned our space is super limited, but I do love a fun centerpiece. After browsing some inspiration on Pinterest (let's connect!), I saw where someone had used their Boon grass drying rack as a grass stand for a centerpiece. Since I actually have 2 of them I thought it would be perfect. I found the little dog at Home Goods and spray painted it blue (it was originally gold). The little balloon dogs I found at a local home decor store, and the little fire hydrant was an ornament I picked up at Michaels. I thought the fire hydrant ornament would be fun to have on our tree as a reminder of his first birthday, and the little dog decorations I still (4 years later) have displayed in his bedroom. The flowers came from Costco, and the blue mason jars and the burlap table runner were used as part of the centerpieces at our wedding. 

This banner was actually used at my baby shower, and is also stilled used as a decoration in his room. For his birthday I wanted a cute way to display the photos from his monthly photo shoots, so I figured this would be the perfect way to display them. I cut out numbers with my Cricut from royal blue glitter card stock and just attached to the photos with pieces of photo adhesive. I then attached the photos to the banner with gold paperclips.

We had a lot of fun opening presents, although Little Man really didn't get the concept of opening presents. But his cousins/friends had fun helping him, and he really enjoyed playing with and eating all the wrapping paper 😂

It was a fun party and the next day I immediately started thinking of the theme for his next party. I'm a girl that loves to plan parties!!

Any guesses on what the theme for his 2nd birthday party was??

Snow Ice Cream

Friday, January 6, 2023

This Snow Ice Cream is a lot of fun and super easy to make. Make sure to save this recipe for your next snow day!

Snow Ice Cream


-- 1/2 cup of milk (any kind)

-- 3 tbs sugar

-- 1/2 tab vanilla extract

-- 1 pinch of salt

-- 4 cups of clean snow

-- Sprinkles!


Whisk the milk, sugar, vanilla extract and salt together. Then go outside and gather your snow. Mix in the 4 cups of clean snow until the consistency of ice cream. Then add sprinkles and enjoy!

Easy Chicken Sweet Potato Skillet

Thursday, January 5, 2023

We've been looking for some easy weeknight meals and I came across this easy one skillet meal that was so delicious. You can easily swap out the sweet potato for whatever veggie you have on hand and I think it would also be great with butternut squash. You could even use some frozen veggies, just adjust your cooking time. Salt, pepper and chili powder are my seasonings of choice for sweet potatoes, but you could also use whatever seasoning is your favorite. It's definitely a meal you can easily switch out for whatever you have on hand. 

Easy Chicken Sweet Potato Kale Skillet


-- 6 pieces of Bacon diced
-- 1 lb of Chicken cut into cubes 
-- 2-3 Sweet Potatoes cut into cubes
-- ¾ cup Chicken stock 
-- 3 cups of chopped Kale
-- Salt, Pepper and Chili Powder to taste 

In a skillet, cook the diced bacon, then remove and drain on a paper towel. I removed some of the bacon grease, but then kept some to cook the chicken. 

Season your chicken with salt, pepper and chili powder and then cook about 7 mins until cooked through, then remove and add to the plate with the bacon.

Season the sweet potatoes and cook with the chicken broth about 7 mins until tender. Then add the chopped kale and cook until wilted.

Add back in the cooked bacon and chicken and cook until everything heats through. 

Serve and enjoy!

A New Year and a New Start

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

I love planning for a new year. The idea that you can start fresh, with a new calendar or planner. Not that you can't start fresh any day of the year, but there is just something about the new year, or even the new school year, that really gets you thinking about a refresh. For me, the holiday season is just so busy and full of abundance, that by the time the new year rolls around, I'm ready for simplicity and a fresh start. So I'm starting 2023 off with a clean slate, and a new set of goals.

To start, I chose my word of the year. This is not something you have to do, but I do think it's a great way to help guide your goals and the decisions you make over the year.

The last few years have been challenging. A lot of things happened that we could not control, and as a person who loves order and control, it's been very hard for me to navigate through these challenges.

My faith has been challenged so many times, and I've had many conversations with God on -- why do these things happen? And why do they all seem to happen at once. You think you have just overcome an obstacle, and then a new one comes along. 

I came across the verse "Be content in all circumstances" (Philippians 4:11) which has helped bring me peace that I can still live a happy life, even if things aren't going perfectly to my plan at the moment.

As well as, "For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11) which is a great verse for those who are learning how to give control to God, because his plans really are bigger than ours. 

My word of the year is:

My goal is to find joy in all things, big and small, and in all circumstances, even if they are not how I'm expecting things to go.

This will allow me to be intentional with my goals, with the choices I make over the year. If it doesn't bring me joy, then it's probably not the right decision for me. 

Now this doesn't apply to things like...does buying groceries or doing the laundry bring me joy...not really...so I'm not going to do it. And obviously I'm not going to do anything illegal. But when it comes to simplifying our life, I'm going to take a hard look at what brings our family joy, what's worth investing in, versus what might not be a good fit for us. 

In regards to my goals for the year, I have placed them into 3 categories and limited them to 6 goals per category. 

Life // Home // Personal


-- Try new recipes - at least 1 per month

-- Get organized with daily use of my planner and my new Alexa Show (a future post to come on this)

-- Establish a morning routine the causes a much smoother morning and allows myself and the kids to get ready and out the door at a reasonable time, with limited meltdowns by all!

-- Take a family trip 

-- Explore our city 

-- Date nights (or days) with Rick - hoping at least 1x quarter 


-- Declutter each room 

-- Touch up paint to refresh our space

-- New light fixture in our living room 

-- Create a creative/personal space to relax, recharge, dream and be creative (more to come on this as well)

-- Kitchen makeover - I'm not sure if this will really happen this year or not...pending the next goal

-- Buy a new home - we would love to buy a new home this summer, before Matthew goes to kindergarten this Fall


-- Work on my photography skills

-- Plant a flower garden from seeds

-- Read/Listen to 24 books

-- Create photo albums for years 2018 - 2022

-- Continue to grow my faith through bible studies - goal is to complete 5

-- Share my journey here on the blog and Instagram

I'm planning to re-evaluate each quarter to see what I was able to complete, or if any of my goals need to pivot, or are not relevant any more. Or maybe I find a new goal I would like to work towards. My hope is that these goals can be flexible and fluid and can adapt to our lives and whatever circumstances come up. I think where people fail with goals is when they try to stick to goals that are not attainable or the right fit. And then you just give up, which is why most people fail at their resolutions by February. 

I created this goal tracker to help keep my goals handy so I can refer back to them easily. If you are interested in downloading, you can right click and save as to download.

And as a reminder, you can do all things through Christ which strengthen me (Philippians 4:11).

Cheers to a new year of learning, growing and encouraging one another. May we listen less to our fears and more to our dreams in 2023!!