Simplifying: A Year of Cards

There are certain areas of our lives that I have worked hard to simplify. It’s not that I’m lacking in free time, seeing as I’m not working. Maybe this is just me, but I probably spend 10 minutes staring at the card section before finding the right card. Multiply that by 20-30 cards a year, and I’ve wasted a lot of time without realizing it.

Part of my goal for 2015 was to simplify and streamline as much stuff as I could to make time for the more important stuff. I already have our diapers, laundry supplies and cleaning supplies delivered from Honest every 4-6 weeks. I try to go to the store once a week–mostly because crowds fluster me. All of our bills, savings and investments are set up for auto pay. So, why not save myself a few hours a year by buying all my cards at once?


I ordered cards from Cardstore. I’ve ordered cards from them before (side note: After you customize the card, they’ll mail the cards for you if you’ve forgotten to get a card and can’t get to the store). It’s sort of the best. Also, this isn’t an ad or sponsored post. I just feel like I should share this time saving trick!

I spent probably an hour going through cards on their website to find all the ones I needed. They have a nice assortment of cards for birthdays, holidays, etc. with sentimental cards as well as funny cards.

Once they all arrived, I put a sticky note on the front of each envelope with the recipient’s name and the date of their birthday/the holiday. I store them in our kitchen (because we have about 50000000 extra cabinets and I have alllllll the stuff you could ever imagine in a kitchen, so extra space blows even my mind!)

IMG_6298 copy

Paleo…ish and a Cookbook

IMG_6298 copyBrussels Sprouts with Garlic and Bacon from The Paleo Chef 

Earlier this year, Sully and I decided to try the paleo diet. Mostly, we needed to cut the processed food out of our diet after the holidays. Basically, I ate all the cookies. We knew we couldn’t fully commit to any sort of extreme change, so we decided to do paleo…ish. The “ish” part means we have alcohol on occasion, we eat cheese every once in a while and have a cheat meal here and there. Particularly if we’re traveling. We’re going to enjoy ourselves and the local cuisine.

IMG_6395Wild Salmon with Artichoke Salad from The Paleo Chef

The hardest part of switching to paleo was feeling like we couldn’t eat anything but meat and a vegetable for dinner. It got sort of exhausting and bland after a few weeks. Enter The Paleo Chef by Pete Evans. Guys, this book is awesome. So many delicious meals with so much flavor! The meals all feel gourmet, but they’re super attainable for a weeknight dinner. Very few of the recipes have bizarre ingredients that require some hunting, which is a big bonus in my book! And, most are pretty quick to put together. Those Brussels Sprouts up there? Best thing I’ve eaten in weeks. Seriously, so much flavor! We both loved them.

IMG_6297 copyRoast Chicken Thighs with Garlic, Lemon and Herbs from The Paleo Chef

Things I love about this book:

  • Beautiful photos for almost every recipe. This is a deal breaker for me on cookbooks. I pretty much won’t buy a cookbook without pictures.
  • Hardly any recipes require special ingredients.
  • Almost all the recipes are quick, everyday recipes.
  • There’s a dessert section for entertaining, which is nice so you don’t have to derail your diet when you entertain.
  • Explanation for parts of the paleo diet, such as “activated nuts.”
  • Resources in the back for things like aioli, mayonnaise, almond milk, etc.
  • Recipes are in cups AND grams. Cooking in grams is so much easier (once you get a kitchen scale). You end up with more accurate measurements and a better outcome.


The only negative about the book isn’t really a negative, but a preference. I’m not a big fan of organ meats or sardines, so there are maybe 5 recipes in the entire cookbook I’ll never make.

I really love this cookbook and have a running list of about 20 recipes from it I’d like to make in the next few weeks. I’m also thinking about gifting a copy to a few people because it’s such a great book!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


DIY Patio Furniture


Since the weather here is glorious 99% of the time, we knew we wanted to have a nice patio area. It was 77 degrees out yesterday. In March. We enjoy being able to sit outside and have a bottle of wine after Molly goes to bed or to spend the afternoon outside lounging.

We debated buying a set, went back and forth for months and then finally settled on Sully building us a set.  Now, he’s never built anything before, so I was nervous it wouldn’t turn out well or the directions wouldn’t be thorough enough. So positive all the time, I know. Anyway, after many hours of work, driving 2 hours to buy lumber so he could get what he wanted and a deep cut that really should have gotten stitches, we have patio furniture.

He used Ana White plans for knock off Restoration Hardware Belvedere patio furniture, and he bought red cedar, which will turn grey as it ages.

He used this Ana White plan for the chairs. This plan from Old Paint Design for the table, and Old Paint Design for the loveseat as well.

We bought these Sunbrella cushions at Lowe’s. They don’t fit perfectly, but we weren’t willing to spend $1300 at Restoration Hardware for their cushions. The pillows are from Target.


The total cost for the project is around $800, which sort of makes me want to vomit. But, had we bought it from Restoration Hardware, we would have spent well over $3,000. Because he bought red cedar, the furniture should last us at least 10 years, which is a lot longer than a cheaper set from somewhere else would last. So, in the long run, it’s an investment.


  • Red Cedar: $370
  • Cushions: $380
  • Pillows: $50

He’s currently working on building this console table, though shorter than the plans to fit the space where we’re putting it, and these side tables to go next to our new couch being delivered in a few weeks. We’re working really hard to get rid of stuff we don’t love and slowly collect things we do love so we enjoy being home. We’re both itching to settle down and buy a house, but we know that’s not realistic with our moves every few years. So we’re trying to buy pieces we love to make the best of our house until we finally do settle into a more permanent home.

Immaculate Gluten Free Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

Maybe this is just me, but when it comes to trying new gluten free baking mixes, I’m skeptical, hesitant and nervous. Perhaps it’s that they typically cost $5 for a box, and I haven’t always had the best luck. I tend to stick to mixes I know turn out well to spare myself from disappointment.

1-2-3 Gluten Free is still my absolute favorite brand for yellow cake mix and pound cake mix. Bob’s Red Mill seems to make the best gluten free pizza crust mix. Cup-4-Cup seems to be the best substitute in non-gluten free recipes. Cookies? Still undecided. I’ve had some good cookie mixes here and there, but I’ve never been so persuaded to label something as “the best” in my book. I like to keep my cookie options open. Plus, cookies aren’t really my thing. I’d pick cake over a cookie any day. And brownies over a cookie any day.


To get to the point here, when I saw the Immaculate brand double chocolate chip cookie mix, I was interested. They sounded sort of like brownies, and Immaculate’s refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough is pretty fabulous. So, I bought them and figured worst case scenario I’d waste some money.

They ended up being delicious! I thought I’d share so anybody else who is gluten free knows these don’t taste like cardboard. They remind me of brownies, soft on the inside with a little bit of crunch on the edges. It’s like the best of both worlds in terms of brownies. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m conflicted when it comes to brownies. I mean, the center ones? So soft and gooey. But, I just don’t know that you can beat the crunch of the corner pieces.


The mix is sold at Target. I found it at our commissary as well. But let’s all just remember that a cookie is still a cookie. Despite it being gluten free, it’s not healthy.

Any gluten free baking mixes I should know about?

PS Immaculate has no idea who I am. I just like cookies and thought I’d share a successful cookie mix!

Favorite Baby Feeding Supplies

I always planned to make baby food once we had a kid. I just like knowing what goes into the food our baby eats, and I knew we’d save a lot of money if I made food because we want to feed her organic as often as we can. So, I thought I’d share some of our favorite items for feeding Molly.


Beaba 1st State Spoons: ($20) We started with these spoons because they are soft, flexible silicone. We thought they’d be less intrusive than hard plastic while we were trying to get her used to the idea of eating food. She did really well with these until we transitioned her to a harder plastic spoon. I honestly think she took to eating so easily because these spoons.


Beaba 2nd Stage Spoons: ($7) We partly went for these because the idea of metal on teeth (she’s got 2 little guys on the bottom) sort of made me cringe really hard. I figured a little longer with plastic was a good idea for her to get used to/biting plastic hurts less than metal. She does great with these spoons. They’re a little deeper than the 1st stage spoons, so it helps feed her faster (because some days she wants the food right now, mom, right now!) She can hold these better because of the short, fat handle too.


Beaba Freezer Trays: ($20) We have two of these for freezing the foods I make. I usually fill them about half way when I make food because I know that’s closer to the portion she’ll eat than a full one. Each pod is 2 oz.


Vitamix 750: ($649) Sully got me this for our anniversary/my birthday 2 years ago when he was out to sea for both. To quote him “And you can make baby food.” So he bought it knowing I’d use it for a lot of things. Honestly, this this is magic. First, it has a clean setting. It cleans itself. Magic. But, essentially, you just put the cooked fruits or veggies with a tiny bit of water in and turn it up to 10 for a few seconds and you’re golden. But, really you just need something that will finely blend food. You want your baby food to be very smooth until they can swallow bigger pieces.

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Multipot with Steamer Basket: ($100) Basically you just need a steamer basket, not specifically this pot. I really do love this line of pots and pans though. Ours have held up really nicely. To maintain the nutritional qualities of foods you’re making, you really want to steam or bake anything you can without anything added. If you cook something in water, you should use the water used to cook it in the food, as nutrients will have leached out into the water.

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Happy Bellies Organic Oat Cereal: ($3.50 at Target) We chose to start with oat after hearing about arsenic in rice cereal. While the AAP basically says rice cereal is still fine, I felt more comfortable doing oat cereal. You just want to start with single grain cereal and mix it with breastmilk or formula. And, the reason you start with cereal is because exclusively breastfed babies’ iron stores are depleted by 6 months, so you need iron fortified cereal to replenish those levels. DHA is great for brain development.


Libbey Glass Bowls with Lids: ($13) We wanted something glass to reheat any of the foods we make for Molly that are frozen because chemicals leach out of plastic when it is heated. These are great because they have lids. We typically defrost the food in one of these and then serve her out of another one so we can have half for the next feeding without contaminating it with saliva/germs.


Evenflo ModTot High Chair: ($80) We got this for $60 right around Christmas. My main requirement for a high chair was easy to clean. So, that eliminated basically everything with fabric. This folds up relatively small. It’s slightly difficult to move, but we don’t move it often. We also liked how high it is because we have a pub height table. Molly fits in it well, and she’ll continue to fit in it for a lot longer. It has great back support, which was particularly helpful when she couldn’t quite support herself at first.

“All Natural” and Other Food Marketing Terms

There are a lot of hot words and phrases in food marketing.

No sugar added. Gluten Free. Vegan. No artificial sweeteners. All Natural. Organic. Low fat. 


But, a lot of people really don’t know what they mean. There’s a grey area in food marketing where terms aren’t defined, nor are they regulated. All Natural is the best example of this. What does “all natural” mean? To me, it should mean grown from the earth with no added ingredients and not genetically modified.


Organic: Made/grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizer. Organic foods also cannot be genetically modified. BUT, “Organic” actually only means made with 95% organic material. This applies to “organic” crackers, cereal, etc. An “organic” apple is 100% organic. Organic produce will start with a 9. For example, bananas are 4011 and organic bananas are 94011. These items may include the USDA organic seal.


100% Organic: This is definitely not genetically modified. The food product only has organic ingredients, as opposed to an “organic” food that has 95% organic ingredients. These items may contain the USDA seal.

Made with Organic Ingredients: Not genetically modified. Must be at least 70% organic ingredients (but less than 95% or it would be “organic”), and up to 30% can be conventional ingredients. It should be noted that products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list the organic ingredients, but may not use the term “made with organic ingredients.” These items cannot display the USDA seal. Here’s a good resource from the USDA that explains organic labeling.

All Natural or 100% Natural: This has NO MEANING. The USDA (regulates meat, poultry and eggs) does not define this term. The FDA does not define this term. There is no regulation over the use of this term by food companies. Essentially, you might as well slap it on all foods.


Gluten Free: As of August 2013, all foods labeled “gluten free” must meet FDA guidelines. This includes being under 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. Only foods that are naturally gluten free or do not contain a gluten containing ingredient may be labeled gluten free. This does make it safer for consumers who must eat gluten free.

Natural Sweetener: This often includes things like Stevia products. I personally wouldn’t put that in my “natural” category, but again natural isn’t a term defined by the USDA or FDA. Mayo Clinic has a great chart showing the different types of sweeteners and categories of sweeteners.

Artifical Sweetener: These are the ones you typically think of. Apsartame, Saccharin, Sucralose (Sweet’N Low, Equal, etc.)

Non-GMO: These items are not genetically modified. Genetic modification uses biotechnology to change the genes of a plant. Call me crazy, but this reminds me of stem cell research. And when you think farmer, you tend to think conservative old man (just me?), so they’re OK with playing God with food, but not with things that could cure cancer. Riddle me that. I don’t like GMO, if you hadn’t noticed. If you want to avoid GMO foods, but non-GMO food or organics. Organic foods cannot be genetically modified!

Low Sodium: To be labeled low sodium, a food must have less than 5% of the Daily Value (DV) of sodium. The DV for sodium is no more than 2400 mg (meaning eat no more than 2400 mg of sodium a day). So, to be considered a low sodium food, it must be less than 120 mg of sodium per serving. However, pay attention to what is considered a serving. It might be a lot less of something than you think.

Low Fat: 3 grams or less of fat per serving.

Here’s some information from the USDA on labeling

Here’s a great article from, the dietetic association’s website, on some other terms on labels such as low cholesterol, high fiber and fat free (which doesn’t always mean totally free of fat).

Here’s another great resource from that explains food terms like free, low, high in, lean, light, etc.

Side note: Genetic modification is a post for another day. A large GMO seed provider, which has threatened to sue states that try to label GMOs on food, has a lot of ads in magazines geared toward the food shopper of the house that basically claim there won’t be enough food by 2050, but organic crops (non-GMO) actually have a better yield long term. OMG GMO is a great documentary that discusses GMOs and sustainability, as well as food supply in terms of longevity. I have a hard time trusting that GMO foods, which have been around for less than 30 years, are just safe with no long term consequences.

Snickerdoodle Biscotti {gluten free}

Snickerdoodle BiscottiI’m going to attempt to get back into the swing of things with blogging. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve got quite a few recipe posts in mind and a few travel posts, so hopefully I’ll stick with it!

My mom used to make biscotti around the holidays. I haven’t had biscotti since I had to start eating gluten free about 6 years ago. I’d been craving it for a few weeks, so I finally decided to take advantage of nap time and attempt gluten free biscotti.

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (I used Cup4Cup)
1 cup sugar
2 teas baking powder
¼ teas salt
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teas vanilla extract
3 large eggs
cooking spray
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teas ground cinnamon
1 large egg white

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Combine oil, vanilla, and eggs; add to flour mixture, stirring until well-blended (dough will be dry and crumbly). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly 7-8 times. Divide the dough in half. Shape each portion into an 8” long roll. Place rolls 6 inches apart on a baking sheet coated in cooking spray, and flatten each roll to 1” thickness. Combine 2 T. sugar and cinnamon. Gently brush tops of rolls with egg white, and sprinkle with the cinnamon mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove rolls from baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut each roll diagonally into 15 (1/2 inch) slices. Place the slices, cut sides down, on baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees, bake 10 minutes (the cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet; cool completely on wire rack. Yield: 2 ½ dozen (or if you’re me, you get 16 of them because you cut them too thick).

Folk Art Chalk Paint Projects & Review

**This is not a paid review. Folk Art has no idea who I am. I just wanted to share a cool new product I found!

I don’t know about you guys, but the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint–as magical and beautiful as it is–just isn’t in my budget. While I’d love to buy it, it’s just not a reasonable way to spend money when living on one income. And, quite frankly, I’d rather spend my money on wine since wine country is like 30 minutes away. When I saw the Folk Art Chalk Paint at Joann for $8.99, I figured it was worth a shot.

chalk paint

I bought this chair at a yard sale for $5 when we were still in Washington. I assumed at some point I’d repaint it, but I didn’t know exactly what to do with it. I had originally planned on staining it dark brown, but when I was buying fabric to recover the chair, I happened upon the Folk Art Chalk Paint and figured I’d give it a try. There’s no prep work before painting with the chalk paint. You just paint over the finished wood–a major selling point in my book. I did this project one afternoon during nap time. It took 2 coats of white (White Adirondack) to finish the chair. You can still see some of the wood grain through the paint–a quality I wanted in the finished product. We were so happy with the chair we also painted a bookshelf for Molly’s room!

Chair Before:

chair before

Chair After:

chair after

Chair detail:

chair detail

To paint the bookshelf, we decided to make a custom color. I wanted a blue, but I didn’t love any of the blues Folk Art sold. I mixed two White Adirondack jars, two Cascade jars and one Parisian Grey to make our bookshelf color. The bookshelf also took two coats, and some areas needed three.

Bookshelf Before:

shelf before

Bookshelf After:

shelf after

Come back Friday to see Molly’s nursery!

Vegetarian Hummus Wrap


I’ve been on a vegetable kick lately. I want to eat all the vegetables, all the time. And fruit. All the time. Meat? Not so much. I’ve had this every day for the past 4 days and I can’t get enough. I use a gluten free tortilla from La Tortilla Factory. If I didn’t have to eat gluten free, I’d use a Flat Out Wrap. I ate those a lot (and made pizzas out of them) before I had to eat gluten free. If you use the gluten free ones, they should be warmed on a skillet over medium for about a minute on each side so they are pliable.


Vegetable Hummus Wraps

About 500 calories, 8 g protein 


  • 1 wrap
  • 4 T hummus
  • red onion
  • shredded carrots
  • cucumber slices
  • avocado (half)
  • tomato (half)
  • lettuce/spinach/spring greens