Friday Favorites

I've been working like crazy this week and decided to take some downtime to browse Pinterest for a few. I decided to make a quick post highlighting a few of my "Friday Favorites," just because. And also maybe a little bit because it's almost birthday season (fall) and I excel at dropping not-so-subtle hints! 

For starters, this "Because kids" stemless wine glass is perfection. I can definitely see myself pouring a nice big glass of prosecco at the end of a long day in this beauty. The best part? The shop owner is a fellow Buffalonian! (Also available as a coffee mug at Banky Girl Creations)

I've been eyeing up these Adidas Superstars for months now and kicking my 16 year old self for getting rid of the silver-on-white pair I used to have in my high school glory days. I might need to add these to my closet before the fall weather hits in a few weeks. (via Urban Outfitters)

THIS GNOME NEEDS TO GET ON MY COUNTERTOP IMMEDIATELY. It's more than I would ever spend on a kitchen accessory ($65 seems a little excessive, no?) but you know what they say – home is where the gnome is! (There's even more gnome goodness at Lulu & Georgia and I want every single one of them.)

I've been wanting to switch out the decor in our bedroom for a solid year now (actually, more like since we got married almost 5 years ago) and first on my wish list is this World Market bed. King sized please! I love the mix of industrial and rustic, and can picture it sitting pretty in a freshly painted dark gray bedroom. In my dreams – pun totally intended. 

Last but not least, no Friday would be complete without a fun happy hour cocktail idea! I'm loving the looks of this cotton candy bubbly via Momdot.com and If I didn't hate going to the fair so much, I'd be on my way there for a fresh bag of sugary goodness right now! 


What are you loving lately? Find more of my favorites on my Pinterest boards

Road Trip Snack Essentials

Since we're on the road so much during the summer months on camping trips, it's crucial that we find secret weapons to keep our kids content and occupied on the road. Along with our other Camping with Kids Essentials that I shared a couple weeks ago, there is one very crucial component to our traveling successes: Gerber snacks. 

Our kids have both always  been "grazers." They eat almost non stop, all day every day. You will rarely find them without crumbs of some sort on their shirts, non-sticky hands, or, thankfully, empty bellies. So when they're stuck in their carseats for 4+ hours, the hanger tends to hit hard – leaving us searching for something to keep our happy campers happy!  

Basically since the day they sprouted teeth, they have both been obsessed with Gerber snacks, particularly their beloved "Lil' Crunchies."  So when I was approached for an opportunity to try out the latest from Gerber, I was excited to see what "Lil' Beanies" had to offer!

Lil' Beanies are naturally flavored from navy beans - White Cheddar & Broccoli and Original flavor - with 2 grams of protein and 1 gram of fiber per serving, making them both delicious and nutritious! Huck took the most liking to the new flavors, and true to form, devoured almost an entire can in one sitting. The kid can put it away!

Gerber snacks are our go-to for more than just travel: effortless grocery shopping trips (Grab a can or two from the display while you shop and the kids stay content the whole time!), quiet(er) waiting room visits at doctor's checkups, and – of course – happy snack times! Much like their Lil' Crunchies counterparts, Lil' Beanies have officially secured a regular spot in our snack cupboard and camping backpacks.  

Head over to the Gerber website to learn more about this new, naturally flavored snack; or stop by your local Walmart store like we did so your kiddos can enjoy them firsthand! 

 

Side note: Does anyone else pronounce the names of these snacks like rappers' names? I can't help but feel like there's a parody video hidden in here somewhere! 

Camping with Kids

It shouldn't be a big surprise that we have a whole lot of trips planned this summer, none of which involve staying in a swanky resort or hotel room, private beaches or lakeside villas. Rather, we have over 30 days planned of being in the woods – most times without cell phone service and miles from the nearest towns. Although we are teetering on the verge of "glamping" with our new camper, there are still quite a few tricks of the trade when it comes to camping with kids. 

For anyone taking to the wilderness with littles this summer, whether you're staying in a tent, cabin, camper or RV, here are a few things we've found useful in our travels.

  • Prepare for the car ride by packing anything and everything you think you might potentially need and keeping it easily accessible from your seat in the vehicle. We have found that keeping a joint toy bin between the kids' seats in the back of the truck works wonders and gives them plenty of options of things to play with, read, and color. This summer, we bought Marleigh a wipe-clean workbook to take on our longer rides, and we got each of the kids their own backpack with a few special things they don't need to share with one another. We pack them with lightweight blankets for car naps, small containers for mess-free snacks, books, coloring books, and water bottles. 
     
  • Give in to technology for the really long road trips! I am not a huge fan of driving down the road and seeing mini vans with DVDs playing when people are bumming around town with their kids, but on long road trips, letting the kids watch movies in the car has been a life saver. We originally purchased a car DVD player with dual screens, but after a lot of annoyance with the DVDs skipping on bumpy roads, we found a great iPad holder that connects to the back of the headrests of the front seats! It has worked great so far this summer, and I can appreciate not having to be constantly pushing play/pause and skipping through scenes when the roads get rocky.
     
  • Great expectations are usually not great to set for any trip involving kids. I've gone into many-a-weekends expecting roses, butterflies, and picture-perfect moments only to be greeted by grumpy kids, dirty faces, and mosquitos. Setting expectations low, or at least expecting a few bumps in the road, is key to enjoying a weekend (or longer) away. Keep in mind that while you're looking forward to a relaxing retreat, camping (or any vacation, for that matter) is just another thing to throw your kids off whack with their normal routines. It might take a while for them to adjust, so when they're working on it, think of things to help them get acclimated to their new surroundings! 
     
  • Buy the freaking play yard even though it's a bit on the pricier side and looks atrocious on the camp site. I give 100% of the credit for this idea to my mom, who purchased the initial play yard (and then we bought the connecting/extender set to make it even bigger the next weekend). This is one of the very first things we set up after rolling into the campground and it has been a total life saver so far this summer! I can't recommend it enough for families who need a little bit of R&R after chasing after a crazy-busy toddler all day long. Fill it up with toys, and you're good to go!
     
  • Speaking of toys... buy some new playthings and don't show them to your kids until you're in desperate need (i.e. during witching hour, when said toddler is tired of being contained in said play yard, when you're trying to cook dinner, etc.). Opening up a new toy is a great way to keep them from being bored and let them take their mind and energy off of something other than wanting to run at warp-speed dangerously close to the bonfire! Some of our favorites to bring on our trips are a lawn bowling set, basketball hoop with ball, bubbles, and the classic velcro-mitt with tennis ball. 
     
  • When in doubt, take a walk around the campground or head to the campground playground if you're so lucky to have one where you're staying. Some of our best camping moments happen when we're on our family walks. It's fun to see the kids get excited about their surroundings and discover more of the world around them.

Our favorite must-haves: 
Animal Backpacks | Swaddle Blankets | Water Bottles | Snack Containers
iPad Holder | Play Yard | Toy Bin

What are your best tips for traveling with kids? If you're hitting the road any time soon this summer, I'd love to hear of your plans! 

Special thanks to BabyCubby.com for providing us with a gift card to purchase some of our favorite travel essentials! 

"I'm on a Boat!"

This past weekend, my husband surprised his dad with a trip on a local fishing charter for his 60th birthday. Luke, my brother in laws Brian and Andrew, and my father in law ventured to Lake Ontario and boarded the boat bright and early. I asked Luke to take some photos of their excursion and he did not disappoint! Continue reading for his recap of the day, as well as useful links so you can Discover Boating for yourself this summer! 

The fishing boat was prepared and ready to go when we got to the docks at 6:00 AM. When we left the marina, we went out two miles from shore to fish in about 175 feet of water. We set three "down riggers" to carry the fishing lures to 34, 45, and 55 feet. Our guide told us that the water temperature at those depths was around 54 degrees, perfect for King Salmon and Koho Salmon.

We continued to make passes back and forth, trolling the whole time between two and three miles per hour. When no fish were biting, we set the down riggers a bit deeper as we were seeing fish at about 80-100 feet down on the fish finder on the boat. 

We continued our trolling process and landed a few Koho Salmon, but they ended up being too small so we threw them back. The whole time we were out on the lake, the charter captains were communicating back and forth, amazed and confused as to why no fish seemed to be biting that morning! 

Finally, with our time winding down on the four-hour fishing trip, we landed a good sized Lake Trout. It took about five minutes to reel him into the boat, and the Captain cleaned and filleted the fish right on the boat. After that, he began tearing down the equipment (about a 20 minute process of bringing in the 7 fishing lines, downriggers, etc). Once everything was cleaned up, we made our way back into the marina. 

Overall, the fishing charter was a great way to kick off the boating season! Our captain was very accommodating and knowledgeable, the weather was beautiful - 60 degrees and sunny the entire time - and my dad was happily surprised to be able to spend a day on the water with just "the guys!"


With the weather warming up fast lately in WNY, it's the perfect time to incorporate boating into your summer schedule! There are 20 locations near Buffalo alone where you can rent boats for the day, as well as paddlesport rentals, boating classes, and charters so you can go on your own fishing excursions! 

Never been on a boat? Take this fun quiz to see what kind of boat best fits your lifestyle! I'm a pontoon boat kind of girl (give me some mellow music and bright sunshine and I'm happy as a clam!) but there's something thrilling about getting a good bite on the fishing line, too. 

Blogging Makes Me a Better Me

I’ve had this post saved in “draft” for quite some time now, mainly because I was worried that by publishing it, it might seem like I was patting myself on the back or trying to make it seem like I’m a better mom and blogger than I actually am. I’m, as they say, the world’s okay-est, and I'm completely fine with that. 

I love my kids fiercely and think of them almost every second of every day, but you know what? I also crave alone time. I’m an introverted person by nature. I don’t always love getting down on the floor with them to play with cars or build skyscrapers out of blocks, and the thought of playing with Play Doh actually usually creeps me out (I hate when it gets stuck underneath my fingernails). I try my hardest not to portray a picture-perfect life on social media, or on this blog. My kids have dirty, boogery faces in most of the pictures I post and they're rarely wearing outfits I've pinned on Pinterest. In fact, I'm lucky if they're even wearing clothes at all most days. I’ve often written about how difficult being a mother can be. How I sometimes feel like I’m struggling. How I fall under the weight of balancing my professional aspirations and being a mommy who is there for her children.

I came across a post today that made me feel defensive. In it, the author calls out “Mommy Bloggers” and tells us to "just quit" because our blogs “[expletive] suck” and "no one is reading."  She claims our blogs are boring, and while it may be true that business reviews and PR-friendly content might be at the forefront of my most popular posts, I truly believe that blogging has helped me to become a better mom, and perhaps more importantly, has helped me to become a better me.

Let me explain.

Blogging gives me an excuse to document the lives of my children in real-time. I have posts dating back from when we first found out I was pregnant with Marleigh, to when we found out she was going to be a big sister. Posts highlighting random trips to the playground and talking about our holiday highlights throughout the years. As a self-proclaimed procrastinator, I am happy that I have these moments in writing, because Lord knows I have been horrible at keeping up with documenting them in their baby books.

Blogging gives me a connection to other women in the same walk of life. As a work at home mom, I don’t get a chance to really connect with other adults who can understand my day-to-day. While I wouldn’t trade the friendships of my real mommy friends, it’s nice to be able to scroll through my Bloglovin’ or Instagram feed and nod my head in solidarity at the end of a long day. I find solace in unwinding by reading other mothers’ words on their blogs and knowing that we are all in this together, even if we’ve never actually “met” in real life.

Blogging gives me the push I sometimes need to explore creativity with my kids. My parents used to call me “Sloppy Jo” rather than Sammi Jo when I was little, but now that I’m a parent, mess-making tends to seriously freak me out. Documenting crafts and activities for my blog is a fun way to force myself to make memories. Through my blog, I have been given opportunities to experience fun places with my family, create fun crafts, and invite my kids into the kitchen to cook with me. These are all things that I most likely wouldn’t usually take the time to do if it weren’t for the little push of a promotional post.

Blogging gives me cool stuff for free. I mean… I’m just going to go ahead and say it. It’s awesome to receive free products and even monetary compensation for reviewing products that I would either buy for myself or lust over on Pinterest for months before I make a splurge. I’ve written about everything from diapers and wipes to cell phones and home decor, and I love every single second of it. And this part of the article where she talks about how nothing is true? I can’t agree with that. While it might be true that I have never used a certain product before writing a post on it, there have been many things that I tried and LOVED thanks to getting blog campaigns.

Blogging helps me practice my professional skills. As a copywriter by trade, blogging is a fun way to perfect my professional talents. Marketing products using natural storytelling and honest reviews is a great way for me to hone in my copywriting skills and helps me get my creative juices flowing when I’m stuck in a rut with writer’s block. Blogging also helps me learn more about SEO, link building, and HTML coding.


Whether you find your best self in the pages of a book, the strokes of a paintbrush, the notes of a favorite song, or by scrolling through a complete stranger’s words on the screen; whether you are the type of parent who loves nothing more than getting dirty with your kids or would prefer to sit on the sidelines and watch as they play independently… no one has the right to criticize or judge your passion.


Keep dreaming, keep painting, keep playing, and - Mom bloggers - please keep writing. Because despite what some people may choose to say or think, your blog doesn’t "[expletive] suck," and I, for one, would be really sad if you "just quit."

Viva Bertolli – Pasta e Fagioli Soup Recipe

Today, I'm partnering with Bertolli to celebrate their 150+ year heritage of providing premium olive oils and sauces in the United States! Click here to save $1.50 on your favorite Bertolli sauces, and continue reading for my favorite marinara sauce-based recipe for Pasta e Fagioli! Check out the #VivaBertolli hashtag on social media for more Italian inspiration!

I have absolutely no Italian in my heritage (to my knowledge, anyway), but I could easily eat Italian food five days a week. Luckily, my husband – who has relatives straight from Sicily – never complains about eating pasta for dinner. When we want to switch it up from our usual ziti and red sauce, I turn to my trusty Crock Pot for Pasta e Fagioli soup! 

The recipe is super simple, uses groceries we almost always have on-hand, and bonus: even the kids like it! 

• 1 jar Bertolli 5-Cheese Marinara
• 2 lbs. ground beef (I've also used sausage)
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1 cup celery, chopped
• 1 handful of carrots, diced
• 2 (28 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
• 4 cups beef stock
• 3 tsp. oregano
• 2 tsp. pepper
• 5 tsp. parsley (you can do without this if need be)
• 1 tsp. hot sauce
• 8 oz. pasta

1. Brown ground beef (or sausage) in a large skillet and drain fat. 
2. Add beef and all ingredients except pasta in crock pot.
3. Cook on low 7-8 hours, or high 4-5 hours. 
4. Before serving, cook and drain pasta and add to soup.

Mangia! I usually like to serve this up with a simple salad and breadsticks or garlic bread. For extra "Mommy points," warm up some Bertolli Creamy Alfredo sauce to dip! 

Secret Weapons for a Full Night's Sleep

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #EveryoneSleeps #CollectiveBias

When Huck was a newborn, he was a terrible sleeper – following in the footsteps of his big sister. We walked around like zombies for three months straight, hoping and praying for a decent night of sleep. At around the three month mark, we decided to get more serious about a bedtime routine. It was the only thing that worked in helping Marleigh develop good sleeping habits, so we crossed our fingers and held our breath that it would be the same for Henry. 

Since then, we have been doing the same pre-bed rituals (almost) every night, with the exception of the rare occasions where we have to be out past their usual bedtime – at which point the kids are so tired that they're basically lunging for their beds the minute we walk into their rooms! So... if you're looking for a simple way to (hopefully) get your kiddo to sleep more soundly throughout the night, read below for our tried and trusted method(s)!

  1. Set aside some time to unwind. If your kids are anything like ours, they are constantly on the go. We designate 15-30 minutes each night to settling down with a book, coloring quietly, or playing with a "calm" toy (puzzles, blocks, etc.). We will sometimes let them watch a show before bed, but nothing that will get their energy levels up! (Think Pajanimals, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, etc.) No being crazy allowed! 
  2. Stick to a strict bed time. Our kids know that bed time is by 8:00 each night. Huck usually gets tired at around 7:30 and Marleigh usually stays awake 'reading' to her stuffed animals until around 9:00, but no matter what, they are both tucked into their beds by 8 – 8:30 at the latest. We try not to stray from this unless it's absolutely necessary, even if it means leaving functions or family gatherings early to get them tucked in for the night. 
  3. Divide and conquer. While I'm in Marleigh's room with her reading books, singing our usual nighttime songs and saying prayers, daddy goes in to get Henry settled with a fresh diaper, cozy pajamas, songs and prayers, and his usual bottle of water and glow in the dark binky in his crib. Both kids sleep best with sound/white noise machines that have projectors, so we turn those on each night and hope for the best! 

*Knock on wood*, Marleigh and Huck are both great sleepers now, but it didn't come easy! Developing a bedtime routine and being consistent with it was so important for not only our sanity, but also our kids' healthy sleep habits. It took a lot of work, but now our kids both sleep for 11-12 hours straight each night, which is wonderful – for all of us!

Since Huck likes to sleep with a bottle of water, we rely heavily on his diapers to make it through the night. We've had a few instances of midnight (or later) sheet changes, and trying to wrestle a half-asleep grumpy baby into a new diaper and pajamas is not a fun event for anyone! We were all happy to discover Huggies OverNites Diapers to solve the problem!
Huggies OverNites Diapers are made to withstand all night leakage protection for up to 12 hours with a "wick away layer" to keep baby's skin dry and healthy overnight. As an added perk, the adorable Disney design of a sleepy Winnie the Pooh distracts Huck long enough to actually change his diaper without him trying to launch himself off the changing table!

In the mornings, we change Huck into a new diaper and use Huggies Natural Care Wipes to clean him up so he can start the day fresh! The wipes are 99% water for a more gentle clean, yet thick enough to clean any mess your baby might make throughout the day! I grabbed our Huggies OverNites and Natural Care Wipes from Target (I'll take any excuse to head towards the bullseye!), but you can get them from Amazon.com or Walmart, too! Just be sure to check your local store for availability first.

Being a parent is a hard enough job. You shouldn't have to do it on less than a full night's sleep! Grab a coupon for Huggies OverNites Diapers and give them a try!

How do you get your kiddos to sleep soundly through the night? If you use our techniques, let me know if they work!

Camper Tour - Bunk Room

As soon as we made the decision to purchase our new camper, I started brainstorming ideas for decorating it. I LOVE our camper, but the typical 90's style dark upholstery, dated window treatments, and bare walls make me cringe. After debating with what vibe I wanted our new home on wheels to have, I decided to go with a vintage/modern feel – classic camp style paired with clean details. 

After I took down the dated valences and curtains as fast as humanly possible, the first space I tackled was the bunk room. Our kids refuse to sleep under comforters, so instead of spending money on bed sets, I opted for our favorite "The Big One" blankets in a classic tartan plaid and matched them with solid sheets we already had. The bedding was super simple to find and I love the way it looks on the bunks, which is saying a lot because I'm usually extremely indecisive! 

Decorating the walls, however, hasn't been quite so easy. One downfall of camper decor is that you have to walk the fine line between too much and not enough. To prevent the walls from looking cluttered, I wanted to find larger stand-alone pieces to tie the room together. Another downfall of camper decor? Nothing can be too big, heavy, or fragile, since traveling can get a bit bumpy and it's important to keep the tow weight down as much as possible. Enter Oxford Pennant!

In my search for wall decor, I came across these vintage pennants and knew immediately that they would fit perfectly with the space! Much to my surprise, Oxford Pennant is located in downtown Buffalo! I have no idea how I had never heard of them before, but I felt like I had discovered a local hidden gem! I was super excited to collaborate with them for this amazing "Home" pennant (along with one other style that will be in the "Master Bedroom" of the camper, which is almost ready to reveal!). 

The pennants are the perfect size, lightweight, and mesh great with our classic camp style! We chose to hang them on the walls with double-sided 3M poster tape and it worked really well – but there are so many other fun ways to display them. Even cooler? Oxford Pennant takes custom orders for pennants, which would make for a fun party favor idea for a wedding, shower, or birthday party – not to mention awesome business marketing materials! 


I still have a few finishing touches to the bunk room – hanging the kids' glow in the dark stars on the ceiling and organizing their toys and "play clothes" in their cubbies – and A LOT left to do in the rest of the camper – but I'm very pleased with our decor progress so far! I'll be busting my butt this week to get things as presentable as possible since we're heading out on our first excursion of the season this Friday (weather permitting)! 

*Special thanks to Oxford Pennant for providing the amazing vintage pennants in exchange for this review! While the pennants were sent to me, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Organizing the Office Nook

When we moved into our home, Luke and I deliberated for a while about whether or not we should force the kids into sharing a room so that I could have a designated office space. Aside from the obvious desire for peace and quiet when I'm working from home, I ultimately realized that I need to be within eyesight (and earshot) of the kids at all times on my "days off" from going into work. 

And so, we decided on establishing my office nook in the living room. There is a weird little half-wall on the other side of our coat closet that made for the perfect spot for my computer desk and a few office accessories, but something was missing. I needed extra storage, but not a filing cabinet or extra drawers. Something functional and practical without looking too busy, since clutter freaks me out when I'm working (I know, I'm not the typical creative when it comes to my work space!). 

A few pipe fittings, two pieces of rough-cut wood, and a container of dark brown stain later, I now have the perfect open shelves to hold my books, extra pens/cords, and a few little knickknacks! I knew that I wanted to have a couple framed photos in the space as well, but my favorite pictures usually stay sadly trapped in tiny squares on Instagram, never to see the light of day beyond my phone screen. 

During my search for fun frame options, I was excited to find Framebridge and their custom framing services to put the finishing touch on my shelf space! Ordering the frames was simple and selecting my photos was seamless. I was able to upload my favorite shots directly from Instagram, choose the frames at matting styles, and less than a week later, they were at our doorstep ready to be displayed! 

I am really impressed with the quality of the frames from Framebridge and the professionalism of the matting, along with the image quality (which I will admit I was a bit worried about, seeing as they came from simple Instagram photos). The pictures are crisp and clear and the frames are really unique. And despite being called Instagram Minis, the frames are actually quite large (10" x 10" with matting), making them a great addition to my space! 

Although I love the photos on my shelves, I will most likely move them to hang in our master bedroom when we're finished re-decorating the space, whenever that may be! I might even enlist Framebridge's help in creating a floor-to-ceiling gallery wall when the time comes. But in the meantime,  the frames are a great thing to look at when my eyes need a rest from staring at my computer screen! 

 

I received product as compensation for this post. The frames are courtesy of Framebridge, but all thoughts and opinions are mine alone.

Whole 30 Week 1

Well, I've made it through week one of Whole30 and am alive to tell about it! This past week has NOT been easy. At one point (three days in), I seriously considered throwing in the towel and downing an entire pizza by myself for dinner. But I persevered, ate another salad, and drowned my misery in mint tea instead of my usual glass of moscato. 

I wasn't perfect this past week, even though I really tried not to have any hiccups along the way. I succumbed to the pressures of dark chocolate-covered almonds (6 of them, to be exact) on day three, and accidentally taste-tested a few pieces of rigatoni to see if it was done that same evening while I was cooking dinner for the kids and Luke. The almonds were an intentional cheat. The pasta, not at all! I didn't even realize what I was doing until I was three noodles in. Oopsies. 

...Then we had to make the decision to re-home our Hansie boy and I have been an emotional-eating mess ever since. Pizza and wings Friday night, a couple glasses of wine this weekend, and a bowl of ice cream after dinner last night. Whatever. Don't judge me. It's been a rough few days. 

A few notes from my experience thus far, 7 days in:

  • I never realized how often I sneak little things here and there throughout the day. A handful of the kids' Goldfish, a sip of Marleigh's leftover juice box when I'm cleaning up their lunches, a sneak to the pantry at nap time for a handful of chocolate chips, etc. Apparently snacking is a bad habit that I never knew I had! 
  • Drinking black coffee actually isn't all that bad. I used to only drink my coffee black before I got pregnant with Marleigh, but going on a 9-month hiatus from it in general made me weak, so for the last 3+ years I have been enjoying my coffee with just a little bit of sweetener - and sometimes a vanilla flavor shot. (I MISS YOU, VANILLA FLAVOR SHOT!)
  • It didn't take long to realize that body was REALLY dependent on sugar. The headache that I experienced on day/night three of the diet was the main reason I wanted to give up. It was brutal. I went to bed at 9:30 with a hot pad on my neck/back of my head to try to relieve the pain. Although that sucked, it was kind of a good wake-up call that I've become way too reliant on sugars/carbs. No bueno.
  • Whole30 is not super convenient. Throwing a frozen meal in the microwave for lunch is way easier than taking the time to prepare a salad, make homemade dressing, and actually remember to bring said salad with me to the office! Luckily, I work downtown so there are a few good cafe options available for a fresh, healthy salad when I forget. (It should be noted that you don't have to eat only salad on Whole30. I'm just a super picky eater, so salads have been my meal of choice.)
  • Speaking of fresh, healthy options from cafes... I did have another semi-cheat and literally licked the top of a piece of garlic bread that my grilled chicken salad came with on day 4. It looked and smelled SO good, I couldn't resist it! "Once it hits your lips it's so good!" It didn't satisfy the carb craving (at all), but I didn't give in and eat the bread after, so I'm counting it as a win.
  •  Having to hand-wash dishes after meal prep has been a pain, although I guess this point also goes along with the "not convenient" factor. I'm really regretting not registering for dishwasher-safe pots and pans for our wedding, but at least that Palmolive dish soap I wrote about last week is coming in handy! 
  • Surprisingly, I actually don't feel like completely giving up on the diet just yet. I do, however, think that doing a strict Whole30 might be slightly unreasonable/impractical. I will most likely do a modified version throughout the month, "cheating" on little things here and there (mainly for a glass of wine every once in a while or a meal with carbs). I do, however, want to stick with the program as much as I can, so I'm going to try not to stray too far or too often!

Favorite Go-To's this week:
Grapefruit | Salads | Grilled Chicken | Strawberries | Raspberries | Seltzer Water | Zoodles!

Favorite Whole30 Compliant recipes this week:
Balsamic Vinaigrette | Chopped Cooked Chicken | Crock Pot Red Sauce

Thanks for following along with my journey! Anyone who knows me knows that I have basically zero willpower when it comes to fitness/dieting, so the sheer fact that I've made it this far without completely giving up is a pretty big accomplishment! 

My goals for this week are to try out more daring meal options, drink more water, and make homemade fruit chips with our food dehydrator to have as healthy snack options since my post-dinner snack cravings are still pretty intense. If you've done Whole30 before (or if you are doing it now!), I would love any and all advice you have to share in the comments below! 

Starting Weight:   157
End of Week 1:      154

30 Minute Meal: Foil Pack Fajitas

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, Colgate-Palmolive. All opinions are mine alone. #FusionClean #CollectiveBias

Marleigh loves spending time helping me in the kitchen – she pulls up her little stool and, mixing spoon in hand, is always eager to help mommy. I will admit, though, I'm not always eager to have her help – mainly because it usually leads to a mess to clean up. When I'm short on time for dinner prep in the first place, it makes it difficult to say "yes." Whenever I push back my fears of flour flying throughout the kitchen in order to bring her happiness, I'm always glad to have her company in the kitchen in the end! Having the opportunity to receive Palmolive® Fusion Clean™ Dish Liquid to review gave me the perfect excuse to be messy and have fun in the kitchen with my little girl without the dread that usually comes along with washing dishes after a messy meal!

I run my own freelance business and work a part time office job and my husband is a school teacher, basketball coach, and trim carpenter on the side. To say we are busy would be the understatement of the century! When it comes time to make dinner, if I'm not resorting to throwing chicken nuggets in the oven, I'm trying to find new, simple recipes with ingredients we have on hand – which usually end up being tortilla shells, some form of meat, and fresh vegetables. Our family favorite recipe (and the one that Marleigh especially loves to help me make) are foil pack chicken fajitas.

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1-1/2 cups Mexican blend/taco cheese
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 white onion, diced
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1-1/2 cups instant white rice
  • 1-1/2 cups hot water
  • 1 tbsp taco seasoning
  • Tortilla shells
  • Tin Foil
  • Cooking spray
  1. Cut sections of tin foil (approximately 6" x 4") and fold up sides to create a bowl effect
  2. Spray tin foil packets with cooking spray
  3. Combine rice, hot water, and taco seasoning in mixing bowl
  4. Add all ingredients to the tin foil packets
  5. Fold, and bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and cheese is completely melted
  6. Serve with warm tortilla shells and vegetable of your choice (We typically go with corn)

To create this recipe, we usually set up an "assembly line" to put the fajitas together. I handle the chicken, Marleigh handles toppings, and we both work together to fold the foil packs.

Mess-making comes pretty naturally in our family. My nickname throughout my childhood was "Sloppy Jo" rather than Samantha Jo, and the apple didn't fall far from the tree with "Messy Marleigh!" 

Although clean-up is usually a chore that I'm not too fond of, I was eager to try out the new dish liquid from Palmolive®. See those pretty bottles of dish soap? You can find Palmolive® Fusion Clean™ Baking Soda & Grapefruit and Palmolive® Fusion Clean™ Baking Soda & Lime Dish Liquid at your nearest Walmart in the dish detergent aisle!

Since Palmolive® Fusion Clean™ is specially formulated for tough cleaning challenges, I didn't need to let the dishes "soak" in the sink overnight or ruin a sponge trying to get stuck-on cheese off our plates! Palmolive® Fusion Clean™ smells ridiculously good with the fresh scents of lime or grapefruit for "A Modern Twist on Cleaning.™" And the best part? A little bit goes a long way. Since Palmolive® Fusion Clean™ cleans 2.5x more dishes vs. non-concentrated dish liquid, I was able to wash a sink-full of dirty dishes without having to re-apply the Dish Liquid to my sponge! (You can grab a .25 off coupon for any Palmolive® product at coupons.com from 4/10-4/23 to try it for yourself.)

What is your favorite meal to make for your family? If you love to experiment with food and want to "Out-cook" the microwave without worrying about the clean-up, grab a $0.25 off coupon for any Palmolive® product at coupons.com from 4/10-4/23!