Easy Meal Ideas for The New Year

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

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And just like that, we’ve sailed past Christmas and are rushing towards the New Year faster than you can say how-on-earth-did-that-year-go-by-so-fast?

I’ve loved starting a new year ever since I was a little girl. It’s always felt like a brand new journal with nothing written in it yet. A fresh start, a chance to hit the “reset” button on life and make beautiful entries.

With 2017 I have several things I want to keep working towards just like always. A big thing that I’m going to re-focus on is being intentional. That’s a huge buzzword these days, though, and it can be easy to say “I want to be intentional” without having any real plan of how to make that happen. So this week as I prepare to jump back into “real life” again next week I’m stopping to set up some plans to help me succeed.

The biggest areas I want to be more intentional about are using my time more efficiently, and keeping my energy and health at the best they can possibly be. Every year after the crazy holiday scramble that started back in October I find that my over-run schedule leads to one too many burnt out mindless scrollings of my Facebook feed, and my overtired stress hunger lead to one too many Christmas cookies. I’m happy to give myself leeway, of course, because life is life and celebrations are wonderful. Come December 26th, though, I’m ready to start making healthier choices and trade my mindless scrolling and snacking for timers, planners, and re-picking up my usual good habits.

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The best thing to do when you decide to be intentional is to set yourself up for success and leave no room for excuses. This means passing out the last of the goodies, and stocking up your fridge, and especially your freezer, with better choices for quick meals made at home, especially for meals like lunch. Recently hubby and I went to Target (kid free, so fun! I picked up a coffee there and it was like a date!!) and after we got way too distracted by all their fabulous home decor options we headed over to stock up on LEAN CUISINE® Marketplace Options because Target has a *fantastic* selection of them! You’re not going to want to miss out because Target will have their lowest prices of the season for all Lean Cuisine entrees at $1.99 (normally $3.00). Get in-store and stock up for the new year and winter season from 1/1 – 1/31!

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I actually fell in love with LEAN CUISINE®  almost exactly a year ago. I was actually the Campaign Leader for the LEAN CUISINE® Campaign. I hadn’t ever tried them before that (crazy, I know!) but to that point I’d been pretty much just stuck with leftovers for lunches, which I was getting very tired of. I had tried different brands of frozen meal options before and had always been left less than impressed.

It didn’t take me long before I decided I had to try out LEAN CUISINE® though. All the blogger’s photos were absolutely delicious looking–I felt like I was looking at food they made from scratch, plus it had to taste good if they all raved about how they ate it every day. Then, when I kept reading about the options LEAN CUISINE® offered and how many of them were non-GMO, gluten-free, high in protein, and with organic ingredients, I thought they were worth checking out.

What really hooked me once I tried them, though, is that they were SOOOO tasty! I loved that I could pick one out, pop it in the microwave, and have an absolutely filling and delicious lunch ready in minutes. This is so perfect for me especially now that the kids are in school and I’m working every day from home. I just pop one in and then stop to enjoy a quick lunch break when it’s ready.

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With choices like LEAN CUISINE® Marketplace Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese , LEAN CUISINE® Marketplace Spicy Penne Arrabbiata, and LEAN CUISINE® Marketplace Sesame Chicken these meals are also a fabulous option for hectic nights when life gets in the way and I need something easy without resorting to ordering something in or reaching for something in a can filled with preservatives. Because let’s be honest, even in January life is still life and it’s bound to stay at its usual level of crazy, at least it always does for our family!

I love that I can whip up a deliciously easy side of Broiled Broccoli & Carrots, pop in the White Cheddar Mac & Cheese, eat a satisfying meal and then get on to family time or extra work or whatever life has for us that night! I make sure to keep our freezer stocked up with LEAN CUISINE® meals, and my fridge full of fresh produce and that way I never have an excuse not to be intentional about what I’m putting in my body.

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If you’ve never tried carrots and broccoli together before you absolutely must! We first made this side to serve with fancy grilled meals, like steak and crab, but I loved it so much I adapted it so I can make it in the oven during the drizzling, cold winter months here in Texas. Here’s the super simple recipe!

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Broiled Broccoli & Carrots

Ingredients

  • 1 Broccoli Crown
  • Bag of Baby Carrots
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you work from home you can do this a little before the dinner rush starts and everyone else arrives home or if you work outside of the home do this as soon as you walk in the door and by the time you’re settled in your oven will be good to go!

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Pull off several of the bunches of the broccoli crown (you can chop it up if you’d like but I prefer just to pull it off so I’m not making a big mess, plus it’s just as easy). Place those along with a handful of baby carrots into a small oven safe dish. Drizzle with olive oil and put 1-3 tbsp of butter on top, divided.

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Cover with tinfoil and Bake at 400 Degrees for 20 Minutes.

When the timer goes off put your LEAN CUISINE® meal of choice into the microwave and cook according to instructions. As I mentioned my personal favorite to serve up with this side is the Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese. However, the LEAN CUISINE® Marketplace Ricotta Cheese & Spinach Ravioli also tastes incredibly delicious with it as well!

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While your meal is cooking switch the oven to Broil.

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While your LEAN CUISINE® meal is cooling take the side out of the oven and allow to cool as well. The top should be a little blackened because of the broiling and both the broccoli & carrots should be fork tender. This makes for the perfect side!

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Now that’s all that’s left to do is sit and enjoy your delicious meal and then get back to life!

What’s your favorite LEAN CUISINE® option? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Don’t forget to pin this awesome side dish recipe!

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Sounds of Nativity

Merry Christmas, friends!

Christmas brings a lot of different associations with it. As we celebrate our Savior’s birth, many people think of cute Nativity scenes, a cozy manger, a “silent night.” But a few years ago it hit me – the reality wasn’t very cute or cozy or silent. Some of my ideas about the amazing paradox of Christ’s birth came out in this poem. I hope that you enjoy it, and that we can all take some time to be amazed at how much our God did for us when He became one of us. <3

Sounds of Nativity

(By Hannah Romero)

Listen to the Word
becoming flesh,
the night God broke the silence
with a baby’s cry.
Listen to sounds
of Nativity.

Earth did not stop to listen that night.
The tiny town was bursting at the seams,
Sons of David reluctantly answering
the call of Rome,
soldiers yelling orders,
families scrambling for room to sleep,
crowds pushing, doors slamming.
Too busy to notice a pregnant woman.
Too loud to hear her new baby cry.

Earth offered no calm that night.
A young girl, not yet married,
gave birth for the first time,
her fiancé struggling to help.
Pain, anxiety, and a baby’s gasping shrieks
echoed against cold stone and hard packed dirt,
rose over the clamor and stench of a barn.

Earth paid no attention to
the Baby wrapped in rags.
Heaven paid attention to
nothing else.

Glory was not silent,
worship was not calm.
Living creatures ceaselessly crying “holy”
round the throne
joined by armies of angels
shouting praise.
Eternity watched the eternal One
step into time,
beginning the culmination of eternity’s plans.
Every spirit shouted
glory to God
for infinite love and mercy.

Heaven burst with worship,
and God allowed eternity
to spill over
into a dark night outside Bethlehem.
Have heaven and earth
ever come so close?
Has the line between
infinity and history
ever been so blurred?

Heaven praised,
earth ignored,
but the Word echoed throughout.
The lack of silence and lack of calm
stated simply that
He did not come to be cozy.
He came to serve,
to get dirty,
to be one of us,
to suffer, to feel,
finally to die
and to conquer death.

On that first night,
uncomfortable reality
encased reality far deeper.
Physical darkness surrounded
Love’s pure Light.
Busy-ness, noise, and panic encircled
the Prince of Peace
Whose peace transcends circumstances.
Discomfort cradled
the first Comforter.
Helpless omnipotence,
Creator born,
God in flesh.
In such eternal paradox
coziness is not an option.
Superficial silence and calm
were overwhelmed
in the dawn of redeeming grace.

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Fun and Easy Christmas Eve Traditions

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Christmas Eve is THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW!!!!

I feel like it tiptoed up behind me and yelled “BOO!!!!” This month has rushed by in a blurry whirlwind of fun and not-so-fun mashed in all together like life so often does.

My crazy busy work rush is tapering off now, both hubby and the kids are out on Christmas vacation, and we’re eagerly looking forward to the next few days of celebrating!

As I mentioned recently, growing up Christmas Eve was my very favorite part of Christmas each year. Because it was, I’ve tried hard to create new, amazing traditions we can do each year to make it just as special and magical for my kids.

Because we’ve moved so very often each year how and where we celebrate Christmas has changed dramatically each year. I quickly learned that if I wanted to celebrate Christmas Eve it needed to be in ways that I could do easily and anywhere.

Here is the list of our new cherished traditions that we look forward to every year. I hope that your family is able to use them as a springboard into creating a day that is magical and creates cherished memories for a lifetime!

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Baking & Decorating Christmas Sugar Cookies

While we had our cherished holiday recipes of Seven Layer Cookie Bars and Fantasy Fudge growing up it wasn’t until I started dating hubby that I discovered these amazing Christmas Cookies. Every year since then I’ve been able to enjoy them! In 2011 (when this picture was taken) I decided it would be super fun to start a new yearly tradition of making them each year on Christmas Eve. It’s a super fun activity and since the icing has to set up overnight it is perfect because then you serve them as the best dessert ever for Christmas Day! These sugar cookies are light and soft (be sure you don’t roll them out too thin so they do bake up that way) and I absolutely adore them!

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Making & Decorating Gingerbread Houses

Two Christmases ago the #1 thing on Amber’s Wish List was a Gingerbread Village, of course, that was followed by Tyler wanting a Gingerbread Train. They had so much fun with these that a new Christmas tradition was born. Since they’re inexpensive ( I spent around $7 each for these complete kits) I’ve decided to throw them into our yearly Christmas Eve traditions on years we’re not traveling (or you could do it even if you are traveling if the kids want to eat them up quickly and/or don’t mind leaving them).

Don’t want to run to the store to fight the holiday masses? I don’t blame you! Try making this healthier version of Santa’s Village using items you most likely already have in your pantry!

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Watch How The Grinch Stole Christmas & The Nativity Story

I’m not exactly sure when the tradition of watching  Dr. Suess’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas each Christmas Eve started. I do know, however, that’s it’s been one I’ve been doing since before Amber was born, and also from her very first Christmas as evidenced by this photo! Since the majority of this short classic flick takes place on Christmas Eve (“tomorrow is Christmas, it’s practically here!!” is a line we now shout along with the Grinch) it makes perfect sense why this has become our first and favorite easy tradition!

I went to see The Nativity Story in theaters the year it came out and fell instantly in love with their portrayal of the Christmas Story. Now I love watching it every year with the kids, and there’s no better time to enjoy it than to watch it on Christmas Eve to help get our minds back on the true meaning of Christmas!

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Eating Delicious Treats

Of course, it would be sheer torture to bake up those cookies and make the gingerbread goodies and then NOT have any special treats to actually eat ON Christmas Eve, especially during the movies! I’ll make a confession that one reason I pick up special goodies for the kiddos to nosh on is so that I can keep my oh-so-special mommy Christmas treats all.to.myself!!!! Oh yes mommies, fly that Mom Guilt right out the door! You’ve bent over backward to make this season magical and now it’s time for you to put your feet up, snuggle in with them in a cozy blanket, and eat scrumptious treats to your heart’s content!! My veeerrryyy favorite way to indulge at Christmas time is with decadent truffles and this mix from Shari’s Berries is my jam!! If you still feel guilty gifting it to yourself for Christmas Eve (which you *shouldn’t*!!) You can always add it on to your Christmas wish list or drop a link hint via email to your sweetie for Valentine’s Day 😉 Truffles not your thing (which, you must be crazy, but no judging!) They actually have a huge assortment of delicious Christmas Chocolates to choose from or an even bigger assortment of deliciousness for Valentine’s Day.

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Reading The Christmas Story from The Bible

By now you’ve had a full day of fun and magical activities and it’s time to wind things down and prepare for the evening! A wonderful way to wind the day down is by reading The Christmas Story out of the Bible. Now, you might think that since you watched The Nativity Story you don’t need to, but there really is just something magical about reading it out of the Bible aloud as a family! Here are the passages that my family has always read aloud, and I even have it in the post there so you could even print it out or read right from your tablet if you don’t feel like flipping!

If your kiddos are still wee ones a great alternative is to read the story out of a Baby Bible–all of them have a version of The Christmas Story in the “just right” length even for toddlers!

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Gifting a Christmas Eve Present

One of the most fun parts of Christmas Eve as a child, of course, were the presents. Since we celebrated over at my Grandparent’s House we always got to open our gift from them, and any from the Aunts and Uncles. It always felt a little like breaking the rules, which was absolutely delicious!

I wanted to continue this somehow for my children, and over the years I added bits and pieces until this simple Christmas Eve Present has become a treasure of Christmas Eve Traditions all it’s own!

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Special Yearly Christmas Ornament

It started out when we got married and our first Christmas together I discovered my mom-in-law’s tradition of gifting my hubby one ornament every single year since he was born. Imagine my delight when instead of a sparse Christmas tree with the few meager ornaments were able to afford as newlyweds we were able to decorate our tree with mementos and symbols from each year of his life! There was a McDonald’s ornament from his first job there, an Alaska Totem Pole from his summer missions trip there, and several Coast Guard ornaments to represents his years of service.

I was so in love with this idea that I’ve continued it every year for our children. Each year I try to find something that was the most important, or the most special, about that year and gift them an ornament about it. The year that we took a family vacation to Carlsbad Caverns we got ornaments from there, for last year I got them awesome ornaments from Personalized Ornaments For You for both the kids to represent their first soccer seasons, I loved that I was even able to get their actual jersey numbers and team colors! Then this year I scored big when I found this *adorable* Baby Murloc from the Etsy shop The Tall Grass. I’ve mentioned before that our family loves the game World of Warcraft. This year hubby, Amber, and I actually created a group and leveled all the way up to 110 together! It was so much fun and to commemorate the hours and hours of questing together I thought that this was the perfect ornament for her this year! I can’t wait to see her reaction this  Christmas Eve!

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Christmas Jammies

I had heard about this tradition through friends online and loved it! Their parents bought and gifted them new Christmas jammies each Christmas Eve so that they could wear them that night and have adorable jammies for all those Christmas pictures next day. I always make sure to buy mine a little big and then let the kids wear them all year long. Where I buy them each year varies depending on where has the cutest sets for the best deals. This year I saw a blogger tweet that Crazy8 was having a great deal on these way too cute sets so I nabbed them up! You can see Amber’s but since I didn’t want to unwrap Tyler’s his say “Bah Hum Bug” which is way too perfect since he’s been going around and saying that (as a joke) all month long!

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Christmas Book & Toys

Another Christmas tradition I found out about online that I absolutely loved was the Christmas Book A Day tradition. You gather 24 Christmas books then each year you wrap them up and then the kids get to open one book a day at bedtime for their daily story as a countdown to Christmas. We’ve done it for the past several years. To get to that point, however, I had to first *gather* the 25 Christmas books. To help with that I started a different tradition of gifting them each a Christmas Book (or two or three) with their Christmas Eve package. If you’d like to get a peek at my favorites you can check out the Best Christmas Books For Kids Here

Another fun item to place in the package is Christmas specific toys. Although my kids have long outgrown Fischer Price toys they still squeal with delight when I pull out their Fisher-Price Little People Nativity Set each year. Other favorites are this Rudolph beanie baby I picked up at a garage sale that is one of Amber’s all time favorites, and Snowby, the beyond adorable polar bear who shivers and who the kids still fight over whose turn it is to sleep with. Having toys that you only pull out at Christmas time make them super magical. For new toys I leave them out for the first year that I gift them, then after that, they get put away each year with the decor, it’s worked great for us!

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Driving Around To Look At Lights

There is something so perfect about driving around to see Christmas lights, and it doesn’t get better timing than to do it on Christmas Eve! Here in Texas, we have several local places that set up amazing and fantastic light displays! If you’re willing to fight hours worth of wait your patience will be rewarded both at Santa Land  and The North Pole of Texas

If you don’t want to battle the crowds, however, you can still go look at lights! Pour some hot cocoa in some mugs, bundle everyone up in those new Christmas jammies, and go to the nicest neighborhood in your town! Usually, the “mansions” have gorgeous Christmas lighting. I remember growing up we’d always drive around the fancy neighborhoods in Rock Springs. There was one house that always went ALL OUT and was simply breathtaking each year as the finale for the evening!

No matter how you celebrate from our family to yours we wish you a beautiful and magical Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! Praising Him for the greatest gift of all time!

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Delicious & Easy Pizza Dip Recipes

This shop for delicious pizza and accompanying dip has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone #FreschettaFresh #CollectiveBias

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While December means so many wonderful and magical things, ever since I started working from home it took on a whole different meaning for me. If you work in the content marketing world December means one thing–You are CRAZY BUSY!!!!!

I know it’s not just us bloggers and campaign leaders, though. Here’s how it all seems to come together.

If you work in any form of retail, food industry, crafting, marketing, mail delivery, or content production December is THE busiest time of the year. We’re talking deadlines, extra work, rush jobs, and getting a heads up before the time off galore. Next, if you’re a parent you add in school and all its parties, field trips, treats, and presents. Then you throw in a good dose of Christmas cheer with decorating, wrapping, buying, shipping, plays, traditions, and more. Finish it all off with the surprise ingredient of sicknesses,  your son slipping and busting his chin wide open, and pieces of your roof blowing away ( <— yup all that just happened) and everything else that life loves to throw your way.

What’s that the recipe for?! A calendar that it jammed packed everyday with a million mile long to-do lists.

But, really, it’s the recipe for a crazy, exhausted and anything but holly jolly mommy!

^^^ I really was excited and happy, I was just suuuuper tired!

I know you feel my pain, and that’s why I’m here to give you a big ol’ dose of happy holly jolly sanity saver today! Want to know my secret weapon?!

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Repeat after me–Delicious & EASY Dinners.

Yepp! December is the best time of year to pull out all those “cheat night recipes” I’ve shared with you over the years! The one I’ve been relying on the most lately, though, is this delicious pizza! So I wanted to make sure you all knew about Freschetta Naturally Rising Pizza! Freschetta ingredients are what set it apart from other frozen pizza brands. It has a blend of 3 grains that are kneaded and rolled for dough that rises naturally, plus sauce that is made with 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, yumm! It’s freshness you can taste. Of course, you can get it at Walmart in the frozen pizza section. Even better is that right now they’re offering  special savings for Freschetta so be sure to check that out!

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This time I picked up Freschetta Naturally Rising Canadian Bacon and Pineapple and Freschetta Naturally Rising Pepperoni Pizza. The size is perfect to feed our family of four for dinner, but if you’re having guests over you’ll want to cook them both up!

Both pizzas are absolutely delicious as-is! If you have a little extra time, though, and want to make it look like you worked a lot more than you really did for dinner then these easy sauces are the perfect finishing touches for your meal!

To start off with I’ll share my recipe for Rosemary Garlic Pizza Sauce that pairs perfectly with the Freschetta Naturally Rising Pepperoni Pizza.

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Rosemary Garlic Pizza Sauce

  • 24 oz Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Minced/Pressed Garlic
  • Fresh Rosemary (to taste, I used 3-4 long strands)
  • 2 TBSP Italian Seasoning

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Preheat your oven and cook the pizza according to the directions on the box. While it’s cooking, following the remaining instructions for the sauce.

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In a medium sized saucepan combine and mix all ingredients. Bring to a simmer over medium/high heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes. It’s ready when your fresh ingredients have cooked down and all the flavors have melded together.

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Serve alongside your Freschetta Naturally Rising Pepperoni Pizza. It’s so perfect for dipping the crusts in, but tastes delicious poured on top as well!

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Enjoy!

I love buying pizza that has totally different toppings. The huge difference in flavors makes it easy to eat pizza without getting tired of it (wait, what am I saying?! Who would get tired of pizza???)

The Freschetta Naturally Rising Canadian Bacon is a fun and delicious flavor and when paired with this Cranberry Pineapple Compote Dipping Sauce it looks and tastes like something straight off of Pinterest! (Although, since you very well might be finding this post *on* Pinterest I guess it really is straight off of there…but I digress.)

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Cranberry Pineapple Compote Dipping Sauce

  • 2 Cups Fresh Cranberries
  • 6 oz 100% Pineapple Juice
  • 1 Cup Pineapple Peach Apple Sauce

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Again, you’ll want to preheat your oven and cook your pizza according to the package instructions. While it’s baking you can whip up this fun sauce!

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In a medium sauce pan combine and mix ingredients. Heat over low/medium heat for 10 minutes or until mix barely begins to simmer. You’ll want to get it hot enough that the cranberries start to pop, but not hot enough that they explode and make a huge mess (don’t ask me how I know). Stir frequently. Once the berries begin to swell and pop mash them gently against the sides to encourage them to blend even better with the rest of the sauce. Stir well until completely combined.

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This sauce can be served warm or chilled if you’d like to make it ahead of time!

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There you go! Delicious dinners at home even when life is at its craziest!!

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Remember to claim your special savings offer once you’ve purchased your pizza!

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Make life easy for yourself and pin this post so you’ll have these recipes handy! Want them right now? Here’s the printable version:

Delicious & Easy Pizza Dip Recipes
The delicious & easy recipes for Rosemary Garlic Pizza Sauce & Cranberry Pineapple Compote Dipping Sauce . Perfect for serving alongside Freschetta Naturally Rising Pizza
Ingredients
  • 24 oz Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Minced Garlic
  • Fresh Rosemary (to taste, I used 3-4 long strands)
  • 2 TBSP Italian Seasoning
  • 2 Cups Fresh Cranberries
  • 6 oz 100% Pineapple Juice
  • 1 Cup Pineapple Peach Apple Sauce
Instructions
  1. Rosemary Garlic Pizza Sauce: In a medium sized saucepan combine, Tomato Sauce, Fresh Minced Garlic, Fresh Rosemary & Italian Seasoning. Mix all ingredients. Bring to a simmer over medium/high heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes. It’s ready when your fresh ingredients have cooked down and all the flavors have melded together.
  2. Cranberry Pineapple Compote Dipping Sauce: In a medium sauce pan combine and mix Cranberries, 100% Pineapple Juice, & Pineapple Peach Apple Sauce. Heat over low/medium heat for 10 minutes or until mix barely begins to simmer. Stir frequently. Once the berries begin to swell and pop mash them gently against the sides to encourage them to blend even better with the rest of the sauce. Stir well until completely combined.

 

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How I am Learning to Be Genuine and Vulnerable

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One of my recent self-discoveries and adventures has been about learning to be genuine and vulnerable as a person. It has been humorous to me because I didn’t even realize that I was being fake as a person in general. Do you ever have those self-realizations that leave you stunned and puzzled at how you came so far without realizing said epiphany?

Well, when my lovely and honest counselor pointed it out to me, it was like my whole world just crumbled.

ME…Fake?! I scoffed at the very concept.

I am the girl who always boasts about being personally grieved by fakeness; and yet, by a bizarre twist of fate, I was the very thing I claimed to detest.

Humbling moment… let me tell you.

You see, I’m not shallow. I can still hold true to that claim, BUT I am fake.

I hide.

I wear a mask.

Ironically, one of my favorite poems ever since high school, which I suppose was a self-fulfilling prophecy I didn’t want to acknowledge, has been the one entitled “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar.

 The poem goes as follows:

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,

In counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us, while

We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!

-Paul Laurence Dunbar

 

There is so much depth and truth to that poem. It is one that has indeed stuck with me throughout all these years. So that leaves me now with the following questions:

  • How do I become a genuine person?
  • How do I shed this mask of perfection and pained happiness, and let people see the real me? How do I open myself up to being vulnerable?
  • How do I shed my idealism of needing to be perfect and strong for everyone else, and let myself be ministered to as well?
  • Why am I the girl that LOVES to encourage others, but runs away when people try to encourage and pour into my life?

I’m still seeking the answers.

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Therapy is definitely helping me peel back the layers of my mask and exposing my deepest hurts and insecurities and refining those ashes into beauty. I won’t lie, it is a painful journey, but it is worth it! I am aware. I am VERY aware of my shortcomings, but within those shortcomings, I am learning to see HOPE and opportunities for growth, instead of just a bleak fog of despair at my inadequacies.

I think the hardest lesson I am learning is…

I am ENOUGH.

Who I am, where I am RIGHT NOW…

is enough!

Not my ideal perfect self that I long and strive to be that is but a dream… no…

Rebekah Clark, the human soul born back in 1991, is ENOUGH.

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I have to believe that in my core. I have to embrace it. I have to allow myself to be the REAL me, the present me, THIS me.

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I want to leave you all with this amazing Ted Talk from Brené Brown. She is such a personal hero and inspiration to me. She pretty much embodies vulnerability and becoming genuine, even when it hurts.

I believe a big part of becoming genuine is laying down of pride. Letting the layers slip away and being exposed. Vulnerability isn’t weakness. Vulnerability is STRENGTH. That concept is really hard for me to grasp though as someone who always likes to ease the burdens of others and ignore my own – which is not healthy at all (Enneagram 2w1).

Let me know your thoughts on this Ted Talk. It is definitely worth the watch.

 

 

So, dear reader, what is vulnerability to YOU?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

With great affection and vulnerability,

Rebekah Clark

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Affordable Vacations without Compromising on Fun

If you’re a little tight on funds or simply don’t want to deplete your savings account for a weeks’ vacation, you can choose to stay closer to home. There are many resorts that offer wonderful amenities that will give you the feeling of being far away at an exotic location without the need for expensive airplane tickets, passports and wads of cash. Listed below are a few of the many destinations that will bring you joy and relaxation, even on a tight budget.

Branson, Missouri

Enjoy a leisure-filled vacation in the Midwest with a picturesque setting that combines the majesty of unaffected surroundings with clean, crisp air. It’s a destination that warms the soul with peace and serenity while offering amazing amenities. At a vacation resort in Branson, you can do nothing or chose to select a different activity each day. Here you can stay at a first-class hotel or succumb to your surroundings and stay at a rustic and luxurious lodge. There’s a miniature golf course, a lake for fishing and kayaking, a large theater showing excellent performances, a fitness center, game room, fine dining, arts and crafts and cupcake wars.

Florida, The Sunshine State

There’s no better way to escape winter’s fury than a trip to the Sunshine State, Florida. It offers seemingly endless activities sure to make every family member happy. There are miles of beautiful sandy beaches where you can choose to water ski, swim, go boating, snorkeling or simply relax and take in the endless sunshine. If amusement parks are your thing, you’ve come to the right place. Here you can literally spend days hoping from Disney World to Universal Studios and get your fill of the many thrill rides. If you’re traveling with young children, these same destinations offer an endless supply of kiddie rides, shows and activities to keep your young adventurers content. Florida still has many miles of untouched acres like the everglades, as well as large farmer’s markets and the Kennedy Space Center.

San Diego, California

Want to visit the West Coast? San Diego is a beautiful destination with a lot to offer. There are picturesque beaches and rugged terrain that gives your body and mind a workout. Pack up a picnic basket and head over to Balboa Park. Here you can rent bikes and enjoy a peaceful lunch on a thick grassy lawn while listening to lively music from the Organ Pavilion. Nearby Torrey State Park has multiple trails where you can spend the day hiking and collecting rocks and other finds along the way. The journey takes you along paths created through rocky terrain with breathtaking ocean views.  Or, if you prefer, take a scenic drive and enjoy the history, local shops along the coast and delicious cuisine.

Maine, in the Summer

Maine has much to offer and a very little known destination keeps most of the fun to you. When it’s too hot in the summer to think Florida, try Maine. With an average temperature of just below 80-degrees, you can enjoy the white sandy beaches and actually cool off. Stay at a resort and enjoy endless amenities or you can rent a cabin or stay at a cozy bed and breakfast. Spend an afternoon shopping in Freeport, kick back and have fun at the Portland festival or enjoy a picnic under a shady tree in one of the many state parks. In Camden, there’s the Windjammer cruise where you can take in a bit of the area’s history and view lighthouses and piers or park the car at the coastal amusement park.

Vacations don’t have to break the bank. Before planning your next trip, check locations within a day’s drive and compare rates. You’d be surprised at the number of places that are within reach that offer world-class accommodations and amenities at a fraction of the cost.

About Me: Hannah

Hi friends!

I’m Hannah—Nicole’s “baby” sister and the (very excited) newest contributor to this fabulous blog! I’m a 23-year-old recent college graduate taking this crazy adventure called “life” one day at a time! I’m a writer, nerd, ENFJ, and Hufflepuff. 😉

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I grew up in a small-ish Wyoming town as the youngest of four siblings. I love some “Western-y” things, especially going camping, but other loves my family has (like hunting and sports) failed to stick with me. 😉 Still, I love the West and hope to live in some region of it for a good long while!

I had the privilege of being homeschooled from kindergarten through my high school graduation, and I credit my amazing mom for instilling a love of words in me from early on. My college education spanned five years and two schools, and I am so grateful for all of it! I spent two years at Western Wyoming Community College getting an Associate of Arts with emphasis in English and a Creative Writing Certificate. Then I transferred over to Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina for three years to get my Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing with a (rather unexpected) Spanish minor. I was able to take so many amazing classes, meet so many amazing people, and be part of so many amazing opportunities, from WWCC’s Honors Program to my BJU outreach ministry at the Greenville County Juvenile Detention Facility.

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God’s also given me lots of amazing travel opportunities through school and missions groups, including a two-month missions trip to Eastern Canada, a week-long missions trip in New York City, and a one-month study abroad trip in Spain.

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Currently I’m back home in Wyoming, living with my parents for now (because let’s face it, I don’t have the money to live on my own after paying for all that school!), and working nocturnally in the Circulation department of our local newspaper. I’m hoping to start getting some solid work done on various writing projects so that I can work toward my goal of being published!

I love a whole lot of things, so here’s a list of some of the basics: my family and friends, my church, words and stories (especially fantasy and fairy tales), writing (fiction, novels, short stories, poetry, plays, and some creative nonfiction like this blog!), collecting books and movie memorabilia, going to plays, listening to music (especially Broadway soundtracks and YouTuber covers of pop songs), social media, being a total fandom nerd/fangirl, getting into deep discussions, defying stereotypes, and the list goes on and on…

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Above everything else, I am a child of the King, saved from my slavery to sin and made part of the kingdom of Light. I believe that the Gospel is the “true myth,” the greatest story ever told which is also reality! It is the one thing that makes sense of everything else and makes hope and love possible. My relationship with God gives me my identity and so influences everything else that I do and love.

I am so excited to be joining this blog! I love talking about things I love and am passionate about, and I hope to offer some different perspectives (as the only non-mommy of the group!), as well as insight, creativity, and encouragement. 🙂

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Things to Remember When Prepping Your House Before Travel

Traveling is all about experiencing new places, creating memories, and taking a break from your normal life. The last thing anyone needs when traveling is to worry about bad things happening to their home while they’re away. It’s normal to worry, but you can relieve a lot of stress and allow yourself to enjoy your travels by making a checklist to get your home ready and protected while you are away. It’s helpful to start planning early and to write everything down to ensure you don’t forget anything important.

Make Sure Personal Items are Protected from Burglary

No one wants to return from a fun vacation only to find their valuables and most treasured belongings missing. Before leaving for your vacation, put any jewelry, valuables, and sensitive documents in a fire-proof safe. You’ll also want to check with your homeowners or renters insurance to make sure your valuables are protected in the event that a burglary does take place while your away. If you don’t have any type of insurance, browse around for renters insurance quotes to make sure your items are covered just in case. You can also see if a friend or family member can hold onto any valuable items for you while you’re gone.

Prevent Pipes from Freezing

If you plan on traveling during cold winter months, you’ll need to make sure you don’t return home to frozen pipes. You definitely want to turn down the thermostat to avoid having your heat continuously running when you’re away, but don’t turn it completely off. Keep the heat set to around 55 degrees or higher to prevent your pipes from freezing.

Make Home Look Occupied

One way to prevent a burglary from taking place is to make your house look occupied. There are some very easy steps you can take to make it look like you’re home even when you aren’t. You can leave a couple of lights on the inside of your home, or set your lights on a timer so they come on when it gets dark outside. You can also install motion detector lights outside so they come on if someone steps on your property. Another step you can take is to temporary have your mail stopped or have a neighbor collect your mail while you’re away. This will prevent your mailbox from filling up and make it look like someone is home to collect the mail.

Unplug Electronics

Before you leave, take some time to unplug any electronics that are plugged into the wall and not plugged into a surge protector. You should also switch all surge protectors off. This simple step ensures these items are continuously drawing electricity while you’re away, helping you save money.

Ask a Friend or Neighbor for Help

If you have a trustworthy neighbor or a friend that lives close by, ask them if they’d be willing to look after your home while you’re away. This can mean anything from collecting your mail for you, driving by your house occasionally to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary, or even house sitting for you. You can also have them contact you if anything is wrong.

Going through a checklist is one of the best ways to ensure you have everything covered and you can actually enjoy your trip without worrying so much. If you have children and have never traveled with them before, you can also make a checklist of ways to keep your children happy and safe during your travels, including keeping them busy and making sure they have plenty of snacks handy. Try to avoid being stressed out during your vacation and remind yourself that everything will be okay while you’re vacationing.

Little Feet – Poetic Musings Of A Mom During Naptime

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“WINTER IS COMING”, and with that, I find myself under the weather sipping on some delicious echinacea with elderberry hot tea to soothe my sore throat. I’m also presently cuddling under blankets marathoning some Netflix shows whilst the kiddos nap. Isn’t it fantastic? Nap-time is seriously my “introvert re-charge” of the day, I either nap, journal, binge-watch shows, or play around on facebook (who am I kidding, I’m a modern parent, I could shamelessly blow hours just Facebooking and socializing via online mediums).  Am I right?

During one of my little ones’ naptimes, I wrote this poem thinking about the hours each day they are not sleeping. I thought about how busy life is with children, and also how brief this season of my life is. A friend once told me, “The days are long, but the years are short,” which I later found out to be a quote from “The Happiness Project” by author Gretchen Rubin. I find those words to be so true! I am going to look back one day and it will all just be a memory. I want to cherish and hold fast to every moment, good and bad, for they make up my world and my story.

Hope you enjoy! Vulnerability and personal post #2 of the week! So, without further ado, I introduce to you, dear reader, a little free-verse poem called “Little Feet”. 

Little Feet

Excited feet patter around me.

The delightful sound of six little feet

Never escapes my pictures of memories.

 

I savor and soak in the moment,

Let is flow through me.

Soon,

Very soon,

These feet will be grown,

And have little feet all of their own.

 

The days will blur by into years,

And I will have just these moments,

These smudgy faces of dirty glee

To hold tight to

When the years pull me on.

 

I love these little feet surrounding me,

They have sewn my wounded soul.

My broken edges have become soldered complete.

 

So with the sunshine of tranquility,

I just sit and listen

To the little precious feet that patter around me.

By: Rebekah Clark 

Thanks so much for reading!

What are some things you will miss once this season of having young children in the home is over? I look forward to hearing back in the comments!

Had to share this photo of my gorgeous "foot model" for my title photo on this post! Isn't she the cutest? hee hee
Had to share this photo of my gorgeous “foot model” for my title photo on this post! Isn’t she the cutest? hee hee

 

With Great Affection,

Rebekah Clark

The Question

The Question Poem Title

Happy holiday season, beloveds! Whether you celebrate traditional Christmas or something else. I wish you nothing but a season of love and peace.

I am currently in school working towards my BSN in English, and I took a creative writing course this past semester. This was my final poem that I wrote for the semester, and thought I would be vulnerable and share it with all of you, my favorite people! Hope you enjoy!

 

The Question

When one ponders the meaning of life,

Many things will come to each individual’s mind.

What is life to you?

What is life to me?

It varies for the souls this question conceives,

But the answer within my own bosom

Doth adamantly proceed.

 

Life is a journey,

An adventure of sorts.

Not the kind in the fairy tales,

But more practical of course.

 

There are highs,

There are lows.

There are mountains,

There are valleys.

There is pride,

There is humility.

There is generosity,

There is selfishness.

There is love,

There is fear.

 

Oh.

Did you think I would say hate

In antagonistic accompaniment with love?

My dear kindred spirit,

I must teach you a truth

I found within my own soul.

The very root of hate

Is

Fear.

 

Fear,

Both unabated and enflamed,

Is a dangerous poison

That both wrecks each soul and decimates.

 

So what is life to me?

Life is an unadulterated melody of changing notes.

It composes a symphony of harmonious cacophony,

Intertwined in a collision of brilliant life forces,

That are the souls each human tragically and blessedly doth possess.

 

Now only one question must remain,

What is life to you?

If you don’t know,

Just breathe,

For I believe that the answer

Not only lies within you,

The answer IS you.

 

So again I ask,

What is life to you?

By: Rebekah Clark

 

So, what is the meaning of life to you?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, beloved reader.

Thank you so much for reading!

With great affection,

Rebekah M. Clark