March 23, 2017

Stuck Inside with Sick Kids

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post: Stuck Inside with Sick Kids, are affiliate links, and I will receive a small commission if you click on one of those links and make a purchase, but this at no cost to you and all opinions are my own. 

It has been a long couple weeks. The boys and I were both hit pretty hard with the flu virus, and after more than ten days of pajamas, nonstop movie marathons, and grilled cheese sandwiches or wonton soup, we finally seem to be on the mend. I have the washing machine working overtime, sanitizing everything that was touched in the last month. The kids are begging to go outside and my husband, who has been incredibly supportive through this mutant virus, desperately deserves a home-cooked meal - but that might not happen until tomorrow.

A Guide for When You Are Stuck Inside with Sick Kids - Cuddles

We are starting to put the pieces of our normal life back together as we cough away the last bit of the flu and shed our PJs for what appear to be real clothes. While battling this bug I learned one thing - being sick as a kid is about as good as it gets. Minus the actual illness, the rest of it is magic: sleep all day, play Kindle, eat Vanilla wafers, and movie marathons galore. As a mom, it is anything but glamorous, but I did appreciate all the extra snuggles. Regardless, ten days of being cooped up inside can take a toll on anyone, but I've put together a little list of must-haves for when your little ones are sick that will help you and your them battle through it with as few hiccups as possible.

Amazon Fire Kids Edition
I know that doctors do not recommend screen time for little ones, but when sleep is not an option, the Amazon Fire Kids Edition is a lifesaver. It's also perfect for travel. It comes preloaded with kid-friendly and parent-approved content. The child-proof case is easy to clean and disinfect and nearly impossible for a child to break. Plus, at less than $100 a pop, they fit nicely in an Easter basket (wink wink).
Vanilla Wafers
My little guys had no appetite for days and only ate four crackers cumulatively throughout the day. That is until I handed them Vanilla wafers. I was instantly transported back to my childhood, and they finally ate something that put a smile on their little faces. The cookies are bland enough to settle their tiny tummies but sweet enough to keep them asking for more.

Chinese Delivery 
I feel sorry for the gentleman who delivered to us over the last couple weeks. I think he stopped by 3-4 times with bags of rice and wonton soup. I just hope he does not catch the bug, but man that soup was like super food for us. I'm so grateful we have the ability to make a call and have delicious Chinese food is delivered right to our door. If you follow me on Instagram, then you probably caught a peek at our Chinese delivery obsession.

A Guide for When You Are Stuck Inside with Sick Kids - Wonton Soup

After several dry diapers, I knew that the boys needed to drink more to keep them hydrated. We stocked up on Pedialyte to help them add electrolytes to their system and give them something with a little flavor. I always forget that Pedialyte is only good for 24 hours once it is open, so I try to stock up on several when I'm at the store, that way I always have it in a pinch.

Cool Mist Humidifier
Stuffy noses, dry skin, and nasty coughs seem to be some of the side effects of this crazy flu virus. I've been a big believer in the Vicks Cool Mist Humidifier for years now, and I love that VapoPads leave the room with the comforting smell of Vaporub.

Mama needs a break too, and with the pounding headache I've been struggling with, I can hardly bring myself to read a book or computer screen. I accidently signed up for Audible a couple months ago and had a couple of credits stored up, so I decided to give it a try this week. I sat happily listening to Big Little Lies while my kids watch Thomas the Train and Trolls over and over again. I can get used to "reading" books this way. If you are interested in trying Audible now is the time because you can sign up for a free 30-day trial and get TWO free audio books.

A Guide for When You Are Stuck Inside with Sick Kids

I hope you all are staying healthy but if you find yourself trapped inside with little ones I'd love to know what you use to get you through the days trapped inside.

Be Blessed,
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March 9, 2017

Turkey Salad Recipe

Disclosure: Some of the links in this turkey salad recipe post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you click on one of those links and make a purchase. 

Turkey is a delicious, lean protein and it pairs wonderfully with many fruits and vegetables so you can transform it to please almost any palate. I enjoy eating turkey during the holidays but I don't think it gets enough love during the rest of the year, which is probably why I make it so often in the crockpot. My family gobbles up crockpot turkey every time I make it, but we still always have leftovers. Well, this turkey salad recipe solves that problem - plus, it's great for Thanksgiving leftovers as well. Did I mention that it's super simple?

Turkey Salad Recipe

12 oz turkey, cooked and cubed
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup Miracle Whip
1 tbsp yellow mustard
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Preparation Instructions: 
Mix all Miracle Whip and mustard together, until well blended. Add all other ingredients to a bowl and stir. Then add the Miracle Whip and mustard mixture and stir everything until it is well incorporated and all ingredients are even distributed. That's it. Seriously.

The salad can be served in a lettuce wrap, on a sandwich, with crackers, in a tortilla or it can be eaten straight out of the bowl.

Turkey Salad Recipe - Served as a sandwich

If you're a meal planner this is a great way to transition from one meal to the next, without feeling like you're eating the same thing night after night. With very few ingredients you can elevate to leftovers to a whole new meal and not only is it great year round, it's also perfect for lunch or dinner.

Turkey Salad recipe made with leftover turkey - perfect for thanksgiving leftovers

What are your favorite second-day meals? Please let links in the comments below! If you're interested in trying some of my other great recipes you can check them out here.

Be Blessed,
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March 5, 2017

The Kitchen is the Heart of the Home

Disclosure: The article, The Heart of the Home, is a sponsored post. 

Over the years there's been a shift in thinking when it comes to kitchens. Once, they served a mainly utilitarian purpose, and now they are the epicenter of life inside a home. Life is lived and nurtured in the kitchen, and it's so much more than just a place to serve three square meals a day. The hustle and bustle of the family are most evident here, in the proverbial heart of the home. And if the kitchen is considered the heart of the home, then the countertops are most certainly the home's vital arteries. Nothing can move in and out of a kitchen without first gracing their surface. Food, mail, and homework all find their place upon countertops, even if it's only for a short time. So it's important to use great love and attention when caring for a kitchen's surface area.

When a heart is in good working order, the entire body can function with ease and grace, and the same can be said for a kitchen. Each component plays a vital role in the operation of the whole; the stove, the refrigerator, the floors and pantry, the sink, the cabinets, and the piece which holds it all together - the countertops. Similar to a body, with a kitchen everything should be well cared for and made of high-quality materials. Natural stone countertops are the perfect addition to any kitchen, and they set an unmistakable standard of timelessness and beauty. When it comes to natural stone countertops, granite and marble are undoubtedly the most popular and well-known types, but soapstone and limestone are great alternatives.

Just like each person is an individual with unique fingerprints, unmatched DNA, and a heartbeat that adds both rhythm and flow to a body; no two slabs of granite or marble are the same. They each have unique grains, veins, colors, and patterns, making every single slab one of a kind. Made of naturally occurring and porous stones, granite and marble countertops are a truly beautiful, and individualized addition to a kitchen, bathroom, wet bar, mudroom, or office. Adding natural stone fabrication to a kitchen will bring back beauty and vitality to a home. It's also a worthwhile and desirable feature for homes soon to go on the market and they can add a considerable price increase to a listed home.
A healthy heart can add years to life, and likewise, a well-maintained kitchen adds value to real estate. Updating a kitchen is a great investment option, but a complete overhaul is not always necessary. To give a kitchen a facelift, simple tasks can be done like painting cabinets, upgrading fixtures, updating paint or wallpaper, backsplashes and of course, countertops. Just be sure to leave it to the experts to help you through the countertop process.

Premier Surfaces is the industry leader in granite and marble fabrication and installation in the Atlanta area. They have four locations in the Southeast; Atlanta, Georgia, Birmingham, Alabama, Huntsville, Alabama, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. They work with both commercial and residential properties and specialize in the design, fabrication, and installation of luxury countertops. Premier Surfaces hand picks all of their natural stone based on the stone's quality, value, and beauty and they offer a 100% warranty on all their craftsmanship, ensuring homes with only the best. They provide the expertise, knowledge, and skill necessary to not only design and install luxury countertops, but also bring a kitchen back to life.

President and CEO of Premier Surfaces, Eric Tryon, was named the 2016 Stone World Fabricator of the Year by Stone World magazine for his exemplary use of technology within the stoneworkers industry. Prior to receiving the prestigious award, Eric and Premier Surfaces posted a proven track record of excellent work, garnering most of their new customer base from referrals - or word of mouth - the truest testament to customer satisfaction. Premier Surfaces is accredited by the Marble Institute of American (MIA), and they were recognized in Atlanta with the "Consumers Choice Award" from 2007 to 2015, proving time and again that they are the local, industry leader for natural stone countertops.

Eric built his business on relationships, and it's those relationships which have propelled Premier Surfaces to continued growth since its inception in 2002. Premier Surfaces sources its natural stone countertops directly, cutting out the middle man and cultivating relationships with vendors, which in turn allows them to offer limited lifetime warranties, surpassing industry standards. Surpassing standards, respecting and honoring customers, and embracing technology at every turn makes it an obvious choice for any natural stone countertop design, fabrication, and installation, especially in the Atlanta area.

Add value, beauty, and vitality to any home by upgrading to high-quality, natural granite or marble countertops. Eric and his team at Premier Surfaces are experts in luxury, and they are excited to help bring new life to the heart of any home.

When was the last time you did something to improve the health and appearance of your kitchen?

Be Blessed,
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March 3, 2017

Self-Imposed Winter “Hibernation” vs. Hot Tubs

Disclosure: The article, Self-Imposed Winter “Hibernation” vs. Hot Tubs is a sponsored post. 
Animals respond to winter: they migrate, adapt, or hibernate. Bears and bats are the most well-known hibernators although snakes, skunks, bees, and groundhogs also shelter in the winter. After creating the perfect spot to bed down, the animal must increase its body fat and prepare for low levels of breathing. Spending a few months asleep may be a respectable way to get through the winter if you walk on all fours, but not so much for a human.
Days shorten, and activity wanes, inversely as the temperature falls. This lack of motivation intensifies lethargy and can result in seasonal affective disorder or winter depression. As the yearning for warm sunlight surges, the need to comfort eat enhances. Additional eating can only be counteracted with increased movement.
It has become commonplace for elders to avoid winter altogether and snowbird south. This option is typically only available for retirees with less commitments at their “northern” abode. By purchasing a hot tub from Rec Warehouse, the opportunity to tolerate winter months from home can become more bearable.
Since ancient times, humans have enjoyed the healing and communal benefits of hot tubs. It was not until the 1960’s when the first home hot tubs began to emerge in pop culture. From the first home hot tubs made out of old barrels, wine vats, granite or cement to wooden and fiberglass tubs in the 1970’s, many companies entered the arena to cash in on the gold rush. In present times, hot tubs are mass manufactured out of man-made plastic and offered in numerous shapes and sizes. One company, who has fine-tuned this process over 40 years, lowering costs, while maintaining exceptional quality is Rec Warehouse. They retail over 70 unique hot tub and spa models. From 6 distinct categories, customers can peruse different levels of relaxation, enhanced jet hydrotherapy options, vibrant lights, proprietary insulation, and filtration. The company offers convertible spas, swim spas, and is an exclusive dealer of Sundance Spas.
(Source:Getty Images)
Hydrotherapy and Detoxification: Cold temperatures can cause tightened muscles and exacerbate achy joints. Hydrotherapy is an effective way to advance circulation and ease chronic pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia, which tend to worsen in colder weather. Using a hot tub that alternates hot and cold therapy, is a simple way to heat up and release your muscles to discharge pain. The massaging jets are a powerful pain reliever and can be a godsend to anyone suffering from joint pain. Since Rec Warehouse has numerous tubs with moveable jets, the precise streams of water can be laser focused for troublesome areas such as the neck, lower back, and knees.
Halt Winter Ailments: Hot tubs and saunas will induce significant amounts of sweat, opening up clogged pores. Through this heating process, one’s body will release and eliminate detrimental toxins. Impurities will be flushed out and the body cleansed. Long soaks can support the elimination of headaches, colds, and flu; circulation and health are intricately connected. Turn up the temperature on any Rec Warehouse hot tub to warm your blood, expand your vessels, and decrease your blood pressure.
Mental Relaxation and Therapeutic Recreation: Beyond a multitude of physical benefits, resting in a hot tub in frost-filled air is tranquil for the mind. The soothing heat of the water and pulsating jets can help induce a meditative state. This stress relief is a perfect ending to a troublesome day. Hot tubs also foster a forum for friendly gatherings. Immersing in a hot tub with friends, good conversation and maybe a drink in hand can be healing to the soul. This quality time can strengthen relationships and even create new ones. Turn up the enjoyment by adding in any of Rec Warehouse’s upgrades. Choose from an iPod hook up, stereo and subwoofer, LED lights, backlit jets, and diverters, cup holders, pillows, steps, or waterfall handrails.
Since their start in 1974, the brothers of Rec Warehouse, Gary and Don Doebler, aspired to be a household name in fun, rest, and relaxation.  Selling over 200,000 hot tubs and spas, Rec Warehouse successfully developed a business model geared towards its customer. With tight margins, reasonable prices and free shipping, the company’s president, David Doebler, (Don’s son), has built a business across Georgia in Kennesaw, Norcross, and Jonesboro as well as online.
(Source: Rec Warehouse, Kennesaw, Georgia, left to right: Bob, Tim, Adam)

Although its roots are in the pool business, the Doebler family took their small startup in North Tonawanda, New York and quickly grew into the hot tub industry. Since the hot tub industry was emerging in California in the early 80’s, Rec Warehouse decided to eliminate costly freight and manufactured the hot tubs sold in their locations. Watching quality control and sustaining the ability to quickly add new innovations to its hot tub lines allowed the company to dominate the competition in the Southeast. High employee retentions, transparent pricing, and a family atmosphere has always translated to pleased, well-treated, and educated customers. As an active pillar in the community, Rec Warehouse remains involved in local community events, businesses, charities and a pillar to backyard recreation.

March 1, 2017

Escaping Moderation: A Lenten Sacrifice

As Lent fast approaches - I mean it literally starts today - I've been juggling with what I should give up this year; chocolate, Facebook, or reality T.V.? I've offered up most of these options in the past, and while they are all sacrificial and simultaneously inspiring, they just aren't speaking to me this year. 

Escaping Moderation: A Lenten Sacrifice

When I decide on my Lenten sacrifice, I evaluate my lifestyle so that I can eliminate something that will be a true challenge. This year I started to mentally list all the things that I do in abundance, but the conclusion that I came to is that I live a very modest lifestyle. I eat fast food, occasionally. I enjoy chocolate, sometimes. I indulge on a glass of wine several times a month. The reality is I'm not really an overindulgent person. That got me thinking, do I do anything in abundance?

I probably do watch too much reality T.V., and I admit to having an abundance of laundry throughout my house. From a more positive perspective, I do overindulge on kisses from my kids, but I can't think of anything else that I do with pure abandon; with no care or restriction. I'm just not on fire and the conclusion that I came to is that I'm not on fire for God either. Realizing this was like a stab in the heart.

I pray, often. I attend mass. I'm a part of a weekly faith-sharing group. Heck, I even occasionally share my faith here on the blog, but there's something missing. The burning deep down desire, the unquenchable need to be close to God just isn't there. I'm not implying that I don't have faith or that I even don't occasionally have those all-consuming, euphoric moments offered to us through the Holy Spirit, I'm just admitting that they don't happen often enough. I'm realizing that while most things are best in moderation, the desire to be near God is the exception to that rule. The Book of Revelation even tells us, "'I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.'"So this Lent I plan to set my heart free and unleash a wild abandon for Christ!

Oh how quickly the tides turned. One second I'm trying to come up with ways to simplify my life and eliminate unnecessary distractions, and the next minute I've come to the conclusion that I need to set my soul on fire this Lent. I plan on starting that by reading the Gospels and journaling about those select passages each day. I've broken up the Gospels in a printable below so that you too can follow along and read them with me.

Read the Gospels in 40 Days
I'm hoping that by giving myself over to Christ for an undetermined amount of time each day to read the Gospels and journal, I will rejuvenate my soul and escape moderation. I would love it if you would take this journey with me, especially if you are still scrambling to determine what you're going to do this Lent.

Have you ever been stuck in the lukewarm waters of faith? How did you escape the moderation to fully embrace the Holy Spirit?

I wish you a blessed and spiritually awakening Lent,
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February 17, 2017

How Guatemala Taught Me to Really Love My Neighbor

How Guatemala taught me to really love my neighbor

I've never been to a place so rich in beauty but so economically deprived. There are no addresses on the houses, which are more accurately categorized as shacks, because there is no postal system. There are no garbage trucks because there is no trash pick up, which means the air is literally filled with the smell of burning garbage and the mountains simultaneously spew abundant foliage and mounds of waste and trash.

A street in Guatemala - How Guatemala taught me to really love my neighbor

Trash on the mountainside in Guatemala - How Guatemala taught me to really love my neighbor

I'm still coming to terms with some of the things I saw while on my recent mission trip to Guatemala. The juxtaposition of beauty and trash, rich and poor, happy and sad, life and death, are themes that seem to replay themselves over and over again in my mind. I went on a Mission Trip with a church but it was organized through a group called Friends of San Lucas, and the mission itself is located about three and a half hours outside of the bustling Guatemala City. The mission has done incredible work over the past 50 or so years, and it was a privilege to be able to be a part of their work, even if it was only for a short time.

One day I assisted in pouring a concrete floor in the kitchen of a cedar-walled house and on another day I was helping to sort through coffee beans, picking out all the dudes, ensuring the highest possible coffee quality.

Sorting coffee beans in Guatemala - How Guatemala taught me to really love my neighbor

One of the more rewarding jobs I was tasked with was when I was paired with a small group, and I helped construct the four walls, place the roof, and cut the window for a house. After we departed, other missionaries would help put in the floor and a new oven so that the owner no longer had to cook over an open fire pit inside his home. The newly constructed house belonged a man that appeared to be about 65 years old, and it was his first home. The new house was about the size of my walk-in closet, but you would have thought we built the man a palace. The construction crew - volunteers and seasoned professionals - took great pride to ensure the highest level of perfection in every detail. Steps could have been skipped, work could have been done half-heartedly, and some of the complicated details could have slipped between the cracks, but the care and attention that was given to every detail were similar to the attention you would hope someone to give to a house if you were having it built for your own family. The man who would live within those cedar walls thanked us profusely for our help, shaking our hands and posing for pictures.

A grateful man in Guatemala  - How Guatemala taught me to really love my neighbor

One of the most touching moments of the trip was when the man's neighbors brought us over a tray of sliced tropical fruit - pineapples, papaya, oranges, and watermelon - all which grow in abundance in the volcanic soil of the region. They also brought over a giant container of purified water. These people, with so little, were so gracious that they offered us, complete strangers, food and drink in thanks for building their neighbor's home. For too many in Guatemala, a meal is a commodity, so for this family to go out of their way to share with us, it was nothing short of the true definition of loving thy neighbor.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said, "I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples." After laboring on a couple houses and some other service projects while I was in Guatemala, I think it was really the Guatemalan people that were the best example of this ideal. With full hearts and empty wallets they offered us all they could - their actions may have seemed small in comparison to building a house but they did them out of love for their neighbor. We can all learn so much from these generous people.

Lake Atitlan in Guatemala - How Guatemala taught me to really love my neighbor

I'll be sharing more stories about my trip over the next couple weeks but if you're interested in learning more about the mission you can check it out here. Also, there is a great documentary on Netflix called Living on One Dollar, what documents four young American college students who travel to the same region of Guatemala and live off of a standard wage, one dollar per person a day.

You would be hard pressed to visit Guatemala and met the people there without having a profound effect on your heart. I challenge you to think about how you can help your neighbor today.

Be Blessed,
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