How We Keep Our House Clean

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Ok, so our house isn’t always “clean,” but I was told once that your house should never be more than 15 minutes away from being able to host company. I like this tip because it allows for a little bit of manageable clutter.

Have a designated play area. We have a long, skinny living room, and I knew the moment we bought the house that I would be breaking up the room into 3 distinct sections, with the intent of having a chic place for my kids to play without having a full-on play room. This is the section where our teepee is and a few, select toys. Some times toys end up in the kitchen or on the couch, but the majority of them stay in the play area, which makes clean up a lot quicker and easier. Also, the way we have positions our couches to create distinctive “areas” helps to hide the appearance of all the kids’ toys if they do happen to be left out by the time guests arrive.

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Toy rotation. There is simply no reason your child needs every single toy they’ve ever been given at their disposal. This is why I hate play rooms. Too many toys are overwhelming, difficult to contain, and impossible to clean up. Every few months I break up the kids’ toys into 4 categories: toys that we keep downstairs, toys that belong in our room, toys that will go into the basement for awhile, and toys we no long play with. Anything that is loud or extra stimulating we keep downstairs, that way if one kid is napping while the other is awake, the toys won’t disturb the other’s sleep. The quieter toys go upstairs for quiet time or bed time snuggles. It is important to me that we only have the same amount of toys as we do storage space. Granted, our toy cart appears to be overflowing some times, but I don’t want their to be multiples piles of stuff cluttering the space. During each season, we sort through the toys that don’t get played with and donate them. Whatever is left gets put in the basement until the next season, where we will switch out the basement toys with whatever toys are upstairs. This keeps their toys in better shape longer (since they aren’t being played with EVERY day), prevents clutter, and keeps old toys feeling fresh, new, and nostalgic.

Keep adult clutter in check. We pretty much have to do this anyway if J and I don’t want our own stuff being handled by tots. Plus, Cora is notorious for putting everything in her mouth (surprisingly not a problem we ever had with Sophie). Not only is it a matter of safety for us to keep our own clutter in check, but it also helps with appearances. There are some things I just don’t want in my bedroom: stationary, extra phone charger, meditation books, etc. I have my own chic little box to put things in that I keep downstairs, so that these things are still easily accessible without being a hazard. I got J a vintage looking chest to keep his coupons and stationary in too. They look decorative while also being functional, and containing clutter.

Another tip I think is helpful… I like having neutral colored containers, even for the kids’ toys. As you know, children’s toys are typically brightly colored eye-sores, so having neutral bins to put them in helps the space to feel more soothing and like a shared place for all members of the family, rather than a daycare center. We have purple and turquoise bins in the babies rooms, but downstairs I prefer a more consistent look when it comes to storage.

What do you do to contain daily messes and keep your house looking sharp?

Fall Time

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Fall is in full swing, here in the Ohio Valley. Being the week of Halloween, there have been many fun activities that are fall themed. It’s part of the reason I was M.I.A last week, as far as updating the blog went… We went trick-or-treating at the mall, attended a fall festival at the university for the families of staff members, and we baked pumpkin spice cookies.

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Sophie has been increasingly affectionate toward me lately, which is nice since she is either being her introverted self, or she awaits daddy’s arrival from work to unleash her softer side. Perhaps it is the cool, fall cuddle weather? Either way, I’m not complaining.

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Growing up in California, I never got to experience fall. The seasons hardly change, few trees even lost their leaves, and palm trees of course, are perpetually the same. Fall still seems new and exciting to me despite having lived here for almost a decade now. Fall reminds me of the season in which I met J, and our romance blossomed.

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I love being able to share this gorgeous season with our children. There is so much excitement as we head into the holiday season!

Annual Pumpkin Patch Trip!

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One of the benefits of living in Ohio is that there are many farms within a 30 minute drive. This gives us access to animals, fresh produce, and other products like milk and cheese. There are also many fun, seasonal activities. Apple picking, and going to pumpkin patches!

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We made our annual trip to Hozack Farm with the girls and it was a blast. Sophie is much more mobile and interested this year than she was last year. Cora loves all things sensory, so she enjoyed herself despite only being able to crawl.

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We came home with a pumpkin Sophie carefully painted, a huge bag of kettle corn [which I have to admit, I ate all the way home] , and a cute ghost with marquee lights.

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The trip was definitely a success. There was free parking and hayrides, so it was an affordable event for us to go to. Though, Sophie was nervous to get on the tractor for the hayride because she was still traumatized by our last trip to Amish country where the hayride was bombarded by hungry cows.

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It was the perfect fall day, warm and sunny with a light cool breeze. As fun as it was, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that fall is barreling toward us so quickly. Soon we will be hosting Thanksgiving, taking a trip to California, and preparing for a harsh winter. There are a lot of changed happening within myself as well, that may have effected my mood that day. Overall though, it was nice to live in the moment and enjoy time with family.

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Will you take your kids to the pumpkin patch this weekend?

Strawberry Pancakes (gluten free!)

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All last week Sophie begged me for strawberry pancakes. This was prompted by a popular Daniel Tiger episode, where HE eats strawberry pancakes for breakfast after going to the community garden to pick perfect, fresh strawberries. “Land of make believe,” INDEED.

I opened the cabinet over the stove to find bugs — yes, BUGS — in our bisquick. I discovered this only after I had announced to Sophie that today would be the day I would finally make her the strawberry pancakes. Luckily for her, I still had this gluten free recipe in my repertoire of cooking knowledge.

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  • 1-1/3 cups Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 Eggs beaten
  • 1/2 cup Milk or dairy alternative
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, washed and chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp agave syrup

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Whisk together all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Heat a skillet and spray with coconut oil [or any oil of choice, to prevent sticking]. Pour 1 pancake in the pan at a time, and flip when the batter begins to bubble. Top with whipped cream and more strawberries!

I let Sophie help mix the batter, as she always eats more at meals when she is involved in the preparation.

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Getting Your Kids to Eat Spinach

So I’m blaming this recipe hunt on my kids, when in reality I should have titled this post “Getting YOURSELF to Eat Spinach.” If you’re like me, you buy baby spinach in bulk with good intentions of starting a healthy lifestyle, and then when morning comes and you’re faced with making a healthy smoothie or eating cookies with your cup of coffee you always,  ALWAYS pick cookies.

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This week I went to the store and got, you guessed it… SPINACH. After a trip to the doctor [and their scale] I decided I really do need to commit to eating more vegetables. So, how to make them appealing? Chocolate, of course! I have had success tricking both myself and Sophie with spinach hidden in chocolate this week and now I am passing the success on to you, my readers.

Recipe #1 : Predominantly Paleo’s Chocolate Spinach Cake. 
I wanted to barf the first time I read the title of that recipe. It was close to my reaction for “Black Bean Brownies” WHY?! But, I had all the ingredients on hand, so I decided to give it a shot. Wow, I totally underestimated the power of cocoa. This cake was moist, chocolaty, and contained 2 full cups of spinach. I served it up with strawberries and a tablespoon of whipped cream. Sophie, my husband and I all loved it. I wouldn’t recommend making it for Thanksgiving or any other event where you really want to impress people with dessert, but if you have a sweet tooth like me, and simply MUST eat dessert every night, then this is a recipe for you! It cures your sweet tooth while still giving you an antioxidant punch.

Recipe #2: Chocolate Spinach Protein Shake
We invested in a Nutribullet a few years back and I love it. I filled the smaller sized cup with a handful of spinach, ice, and chocolate walnut milk. You could use chocolate almond milk as well, that is just what I had on hand. Blend it up, pour it in a cute cup with characters on it, and your kid will love it.

What does everyone love besides chocolate? Cheese! Martha Steward has a really delicious, home made Mac N Cheese recipe, but you can add spinach to any boxed version as well. Just make sure you chop it up finely, so you aren’t getting an entire soggy leaf on your fork when you dig in.

What Happened When I Tried To Take a Portrait of My Kids

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The above picture is pretty explanatory of what occurred when I attempted to take a nice photo of my girls in their coordinating outfits from my mom. Would it have been a nice surprise to send my mom a print of the girls in their matching outfits she bought them? Of course! It taking a picture of 2 kids 2 and under an impossible task? Of course!

I mean, what was I thinking? I have a camera shy 2 year old, and a baby that just learned to crawl and has a sense of adventure. I mean, you can clearly see, I didn’t even have time to adjust the settings on my camera. The pictures are dark, out of focus, and just generally horrible. In my defense, it is hard to line up all the settings when you have escape artist children who would literally do ANYTHING else besides sit for a picture for you.

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Daddy tried to help — BUT WHOA, HEY… Didn’t you know Dad is a celebrity around here? His adoring fans just couldn’t stop throwing themselves at him.

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So anyway, my attempt for a cute picture  utterly failed. My one consolation is that most children of photographers ironically hate being photographed. Have a great weekend everyone, and make sure to get some cute pictures of your kids!

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Annual Apple Picking

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Last weekend we made our annual trip out to Peace Valley orchards. I thought Sophie would enjoy it more, now that she is a little older, but my little grumpy girl had just awoken from a nap as we were arriving. Cora on the other hand was thrilled and excited by the sensory overload.

She could not stop touching all of the gourds! Sophie preferred to stay in my Mother-in-law’s arms.

They didn’t only have apples in the country store on the property, but lots of other locally grown vegetables. We picked up an eggplant, [for the delicious ratatouille I’ve been making lately,] an onion, plums, and 2 peppers in addition to our bag full of apples. Of course, I couldn’t resist letting Cora pick a gourd since she had become so fond of them.

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It seems silly to drive 45 minutes just for some apples, but i enjoy driving the country roads and the atmosphere of the orchards. It really makes me feel like fall is approaching, even if the weather has still been hot and humid.

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I am so excited to share the holiday season with both girls. Sophie is getting older and subsequently more curious and excited about new traditions, while Cora has a curious nature in general. I love watching them explore and experience new things.

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In a few weeks it will be time to find a pumpkin patch, but for now, I need to come up with some truly delicious apple recipes. I have plans for some delicious pork chops and apple hand pies.

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Thanks for reading up on our apple picking adventure!