Friday, April 22, 2016

Cake in a mug?!

Recently the kiddo and I attended an impromptu birthday party. It pretty much sprung up the day before but we were excited to go just the same!  It was in one of those indoor jumping house places and was pretty amazing. She had 2 hours to run, jump, scream, slide, and climb until her heart was content. 
We reached the point in the party where we sang happy birthday and ate pizza. Shortly after the pizza...Claire asks me, "time for cake??"  ...ummm...I didn't see a cake in sight. LOL! I quickly told her lets just see what we can figure out at home. She's an extremely easy going child - so she agreed. 
I had 1 yellow cake mix at home and 1 can of white frosting. Bleh!  I did NOT want to waste my energy throwing this ridiculous cheap cake together only to eat 1 slice. So I took to the interweb and Pinterest!
There I found this wonderful "brownie-in-a-mug" recipe!  We were excited to embark on an experiment!

I sat her on the counter and we went to work!
Sugar - check
Flour - check
Oil - check
Cocoa - check
Vanilla, Salt, cinnamon, and water...stir...

Pop in the microwave and BAM!  Happy audience!   We had some heavy cream on hand so I showed her how to make whip cream!   Overall great activity, yummy, and it was super fast and easy. Mama and kiddo give this little experiment a thumbs up!

Check back later for more reviews or crafty ideas!!

Delayed Happy Birthday post

This day has been a long time coming!  Eve is ONE today!  The little monster didn't want to share her birthday with St. Patty's or her great grandma...she wanted her own day.  (ha well jokes on her because she shares a birthday with American Express)  She also shares a birthday with Dane Cook, Queen Latifah, and Mike Rowe!

The above picture is one of my favorites...this is pretty much Eve's outlook on life.  Whatever you have in mind for her...she sticks out her tongue and does what she wants to do.  This little bundle of tenaciousness will (and already has) push me to limits beyond myself.  I don't pray for her as much as I should...and want to change that this year.  I must admit, the prayers regarding Eve have been more selfish in nature in the past year. "please help her stop crying, go to sleep, stay calm..." and on and on..."give me the strength to deal, to function w/out sleep, to feel better..."

That said, Eve is FULL of life.  Her whole body smiles when she's happy.  She loves to mimic sounds like 'Uh-ohhh' and 'Dadda' She LOVES her Dadda!  Whenever she's happy she's usually saying, "Dadda, dadda, dadadada,"  Brian loves this!  She loves eating bananas and string cheese and is still VERY in to babyfood and her bottle.  Transitioning this one is going to be a super challenge!  Eve loves dancing and hitting things.  We sometimes have to take toys away from her because she likes to hit her head with them. LOL

She loves her sister, Claire get the biggest laughs and the biggest smiles from Eve.  It's nearly unfair! I love watching the both of them grow older together and interact more every day.  I'm excited for the day when Eve says, "Claire," or "sis/sissy"  That will MAKE Claire's little day...maybe even week.

With that - I will leave you with some of my favorite pictures over the past year.
Brand tiny!

Claire loved Eve from the start.

Love this one <3 <3
First dress Eve ever wore!  LOL Christmas time!
She was SO proud of herself when she learned to stand
Eve loves being outside!

Monday, April 11, 2016

There is hope - share this journey with me!

This is an old picture of my sweet Claire - I just love it SO much.  Look at that face - not a care in the world, so happy and expectant - worry free.  Don't you wish you could have that expression?  A worry-free and hopeful outlook...what a joy.

From the beginning we are wired for hope.  As we grow and mature things come into our lives and attempt to rob us of this precious God given gift...yet many remain resilient!  What is it that causes us to keep fighting, stay strong, and move forward?  What is it that causes us to look the other way, our strength to fail us, and just plain give up?  It's hard to make a blanket statement when answering these questions, but I do know what has made the difference in my life.

Regardless of what is going on right now - you NEED hope...and I know where to get it.  This is real folks.  It's this hope that has changed my life.  Forever.  There's no substitute, no quick fix, no other way to get it.

My church is doing a 12 week study on HOPE - the thing that EVERYone needs.  Everyone - no exceptions.  Our pastor challenged us to invite 1 person to church in the coming weeks and since I work from home and my closest friends are attending this series - I'm putting it out there on facebook and my blog.  Don't let fear or cynicism get in the way. COME get hope and your life will be changed for the good.

Click HERE to find out where to go and what time.  We go at 9am on Sunday morning at Rolling Meadows campus.  If you come - we will take you to brunch!  Have kids?  We have an AWESOME kids ministry (where I'm sometimes the storyteller...more on that in the future).

God has taught me SO much through this place...I can't even begin to articulate in this post how my life has been changed.  I'm not asking for you to give me anything, buy anything, or sign up for anything.  I'm asking you to come so your life can be impacted for the better...forever.  You will NOT regret the decision to come.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

How to catch a Leprechaun???

Earlier this week I was explaining to Claire that we needed to wear green on Thursday for St. Patrick's Day.  This brought up the subject of Leprechauns.  I honestly cannot remember the last time I even thought about leprechauns...probably in the 90's when all those creepy movies were made! She made sure to inform me that IF we catch a leprechaun...he will HAVE to give us all his gold!  Now, this fascinated me because we really haven't talked about St. Patty's at all...also because I really don't remember ever believing this as a child so I thought it was adorable.
I asked her if she wanted to see if we could catch one...she said yes!  I later texted her babysitter that was coming that night and let her in on the project.  She came through with shining colors!  She showed up with gold coins, a box, decorations, and lots of stickers!  Brian and I left - and they went to work!

Fast forward to this morning...

Claire was slightly concerned that there was going to be a random leprechaun sneaking around the home.  She refused to go anywhere in our home by herself.  I had to prod and pry her away from my bed to come into the bathroom to see the green toilet water. (of course because the leprechaun had to go potty before he escaped)...let's just say she was slightly disappointed there was only ONE coin of gold in the bathroom...

We had to enlisted Dad in the next venture.  There was NO WAY  on earth she was checking out the trap w/out him.  The next video is about 3 minutes of...well..truthfully pretty anti-climactic footage, nonetheless, I'm posting it because I still think it's adorable.  Once we found the one gold coin - she was convinced we should put it back because he would be mad if we took 'em.

In the end, the leprechaun left behind a couple handfuls of coins, a green bracelet, a cookie picture of himself, and green potty water.  Maybe next year little leprechaun...maybe next year!

Monday, March 14, 2016

GREAT weekend!

I am SO LUCKY!  Not only do I have an amazing family that has come out to see me this year ALREADY, but I have an awesome "in-law" family.  IF there's one thing I'm going to beat into our girls' that when you get get the WHOLE make sure you love his family.  And I do!

Eve - 11.5 months
Claire - 11.5 months
This weekend was so much fun.  We played in the pool at the hotel, we did crafts (by we I mean Grandma and Claire), we watched the basketball tournament (well..Papa did...then he would tell us about the highlights and close calls), we ate deep dish pizza, and the most amazing cupcakes. If you're curious...go here. cutest, tastiest cupcakes here)

We hung out at home and were a family.  Yesterday was supposed to be the date of my little one's 1st birthday party...however unfortunately we had to cancel due to sickness.  I've put up pictures of the girls at 11 months of different are they?!?  I can't even believe how light and straight Eve's hair is!

Here they both are below as well. Claire and her little curls and Eve with her big smile.  These two are so much fun (when they're not sick - lol). Hope you're having a wonderful day!  I know I can't wait to see their little faces every day!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

New Goal!

I have a new "goal" in mind for use less chemicals in my home.  I work full-time outside the home, am a mom of two crazy girls, and am still primarily responsible for keeping the household running smoothly.  Did I mention I have a loving, yet extremely cynical husband that is resistant to anything new or different?  This is NOT going to be an overnight (or easy) process.  I'm starting slow and working my way through our home.  I figure - our clothing touches our skin every day, so why not start with laundry?  Full disclosure, a friend of mine sells Norwex and most things I'm going to try will be their products, that said, I'm also going to be exploring other options as well as making my own if need be!

I am testing out Norwex's laundry detergent this month.  My friend, who's a consultant, was having a "Leap Day" Sale (her site is here)!  The package weighs 2 lbs - I can't even believe how light and small it is.  I could stand to never lift an awkward tub of liquid detergent again, hahaha!  I got it for $26 and, since I have a top loading H/E machine, I'm able to do at least 66 loads.  IF I had a front loader I could do 100.  Not bad!
If you're like me - at this point you would wonder...well what about fabric softener?  Norwex also has dryer balls that take the place of fabric softener.  They bounce around in your dryer, separating clothes and, in turn cutting dry time, leaving your laundry fluffy and (mostly) static-free. If you want to read more about dryer balls (and how to make them) I would go here.   I didn't have the money for dryer balls, so I made some of my own.  They turned out GREAT!  These bad boys cost me roughly $8.00.  Well worth the time spent making them!
Now I have a chemical-free laundry plan!  I will let you know how it goes!  I'm terribly excited and can't wait to update you.  Yes...I am a dork and I'm excited about laundry solutions.

In other news we've basically been fighting this virus from the darkside and are slowly but surely recovering.  I'm sad we are not having a BIG first birthday carnival bash for Eve as I was so excited about her own little photoshoot with a smash cake and carnival themed party.  I'm hoping to have some excuse to use my good friend's wonderful circus decorations soon!  In the meantime we will continue inching toward our 3 to 6 months of expenses savings account.

Happy Saving!  I will leave you with a couple recent pictures of the girls!

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Ok - I know I've posted a lot this week on facebook, and I have started my new lovely Craftymaxine page, but I just MUST share this with you.

As I mentioned before - we started our journey to being debt-free in December.  We have seriously been ridiculous about watching every single penny in this household.  We signed up on everydollar ,  had budget committee meetings, sold a ton of stuff on facebook, and ate a lot of leftovers.  Dave Ramsey always says, "beans and rice, rice and beans, baby."  For us it more looked like PB&J, ramen and grilled cheese LOL!!

So - to share "the program" for those of you who aren't familiar.  Dave Ramsey has a financial process call the "baby steps."

1 - save a beginner $1000 emergency fund
2 - list your debts smallest to largest - then pay off the smallest one and "snowball" from there
3 - save 3 to 6 months worth of expenses in a full-on emergency fund (building off the initial $1000)
4 - put away 15% of your income into retirement
5 - save for kids college
6 - pay off mortgage (yep you read that right)
7 - continue to build wealth and give generously

We also listen to the Dave Ramsey show just about every day.  Both Brian and I feel that we could field 90% of the questions on that show by now.  Although it seems as though the same questions get asked...there's just something about surrounding yourself with things that push you toward your goal rather than take your attention away from it.  If you have ever listened - they do this "debt-free scream" segment on the show.  Various people come to the studio or call in to tell their story of becoming debt-free.  (Debt-free generally means that you have paid all debt except for your home.)

Brian and my story is a bit all over the place, If I had to guess - this is how I think our debt-free scream would look if Dave Ramsey were to let us do a debt-free scream in his studio.

***Usually at the beginning Ramsey asks how much the person/couple made at the beginning and at the end, how much they paid off, and how long it took...***

Amount paid off: 15K
3 months
Dual income

Ramsey - "So what happened a few months ago that made you want to be debt-free?"
B & R - We just got tired of making the money we make...and not really having anything to show for it.  We were pretty good at paying off our CC every month, but still our savings account was pretty low and we felt a little like we were in a hamster wheel.  Every year that tax statement would come and we'd be pretty surprised at how much came in VS how much we had.

Ramsey - "What would you say the secret to becoming debt free is?"
B:  "Not spending money."  "It's also about being content and being thankful for what God has provided us."  "There were times I'd just need to walk away from my phone or not go into certain stores, because it would just breed discontentment."
R:  "Both parties need to be on the same page...I mean...literally the same WORD on that page. Both need to be fighting for every penny to go toward debt - no deviation.  Another important thing to this is that when both are on board - one can help the other one come off the ledge.  Even in this short period of "gazelle intensity" there were some rough moments where one of us would get very frustrated.

Ramsey: "What was the biggest budget fight you guys had?"
R: "To get on a budget."
B: "Convincing me to stay on a budget."

Ramsey: "Now that you are at the top of the mountain, looking down, would you say this journey was harder or easier than you thought it was going to be when you started?"
B: "WAY HARDER, It sucked." he would continue, "It was like someone had a dollar on a string and every time I thought we were about to grab it, it would get pulled out of reach again."
R: "It was harder - I always listen to these debt-free screams on the show and I really just wanted to be THERE.  It was frustrating knowing that we had made poor choices and knowing that we did this to ourselves.  I could honestly have cereal for dinner every night if it was JUST me, but it wasn't just me, it was Brian and our two kids that were making sacrifices as well.  That was the hardest part, knowing that everyone, kids included, was affected by our mistakes with money.

Ramsey: "What was the hardest part of this journey?"
R: Not having the option of buying things right now.  It's very difficult to get used to waiting until the cash comes in before buying what you want/need to buy.  In December it was SO HARD to not buy Christmas gifts when I found something I liked!!  Christmas shopping was bittersweet.  It was fun to try and figure out a less expensive 'thoughtful' gift, but really hard to pass up something I knew someone would like because it was over budget.
B: Not sure...hmm...I would say the whole process sucked.  The biggest thing is that we didn't buy Christmas gifts for each other - and I really miss doing that. (we haven't in a while to save money).  It was hard limiting generosity at Christmas time.

Ramsey: So - there is a couple in their 30's with two kids out there in debt - what would you say to them, now that you know what you know?"
B: "Follow the plan." "You don't know better."  "It's not worth the points (credit card points)."
R: "So true!!" "It's so hard to humble yourself and just trust the plan."  "Admittedly I LOVE points!!" LOL.  "I would say if you are staring down a pile of debt and are afraid of "depriving your kids" - take a step back.  there's just SO many more ways you can show you love your kids outside of spending money on stuff.  Claire and I made cookies, played play-doh, cut, glued, and colored, made hideous pasta necklaces, and had play dates with friends.  None of which cost us extra money.  We need to stop equating spending money on our kids with loving them.  I STILL struggle with this, but it's SO so true.  YOU CAN do it and you absolutely will change your kids lives for the better.  We are only in baby step 3 now, but I have faith that we are in on something BIG!

Ramsey: Well done guys - very well guys - that's awesome!  Here we go - get ready guys - Brian and Rachael in Palatine, making a certain amount of $$, paying of Fifteen thousand dollars in just 3 months - let's hear it.....count-it-down...your debt-free SCREAM....



Ramsey: "haahahahaa - I love it I love it I love it!!!"

Monday, February 15, 2016

Love is in the air!

As I mentioned in my previous post - we have a lot going on at the Shoebox home!  Eve is finally at a place where I can let her play a few minutes at a time and she will actually entertain herself!  YAY! I knew this day would come!  Okay I may be overplaying it a bit, but I gotta say that Eve is definitely a whole DIFFERENT baby than Claire was.  Let's just say she challenges me in new ways.  :)

Yesterday was Valentines Day.  As a child, Valentines day is incredible...a whole day (or hour at school) devoted to you getting cute notes, candy, and snacks that you wouldn't otherwise be able to eat during a normal school day.  Claire came home Friday super excited about all the little Valentines she received - and knew (and shared with us multiple times) which child gave her what candy/sticker. Thankfully at this age we were just told to bring 10 Valentines...and the teachers took care of distributing them (no names needed because 3 year-olds cannot read.  BRILLIANT!

Yesterday was about enjoying my family (even if one of them is a teething monster right now) and watching the peaceful snow fall.  It was about enjoying coffee drinks with Brian and Claire and talking about how delicious Dad made them (and how we could actually taste the LOVE that was put in there!)  It was about putting the sermon into practice - VERBALIZING LOVE.

Hands down - Brian did an amazing job.  Of course some of the epic compliments and comparisons had a sarcastic ring, but at the heart was a true blue genuine act of love.

With that - I will leave you with a short clip of yesterday.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

New Year - New Things!

Here are my precious girls taking an adventure in a "boat."  Claire's fake american girl doll is along for the ride.  Their love for life and sense of humor is just so inspiring.  I have wanted to post on this blog SO MUCH during these times of change - but as life would have it...there are so many hours in the day!
That said - Here I AM!  Posting again!  There is so much I want to tell you about, but really this post is all about reintroducing my little shoebox.
A shoebox is a place to keep odds and ends tucked away "safely" and it's easily pulled out and rummaged through at a whim.
We are coming up on Eve's 1st birthday in March!  What a year it has been!  She's anything but an "easy" baby, but her precious smile melts much frustration away...and she's recently been sleeping all night, so has definitely gone up on the likability scale. LOL

SO - what could I possibly share with you? Hmmmm - I would say one of the things we are most excited about is becoming debt-free.  Brian and I decided in December to completely abandon the use of credit cards.  WHOA!? Say what???   Why on earth would we choose this in December??  Well - we did and we have made some serious progress.

I'm excited to share with you that we did not go into debt further during December and the BEST thing about not using credit during December is that there's no looming January credit card bill!  YES!  That was the first big personal "win" I felt.

We have been following the teaching of Dave Ramsey and listening to his 3 hour podcasts pretty much every day since we started.  Let me just tell you - that is a whole lotta Ramsey in one's life!  It get pretty overwhelming at times, but at the end of the day we decided that we just make way too much money to constantly be wondering "where did that go??"  As Ramsey would say, "We got sick and tired of being sick and tired."

So HERE we are. Since December we have paid off nearly $8000.00 worth of debt. Can you even believe it?  We are SO PUMPED.  Now we have just $3500 left and we are biting, clawing, and scratching our way to the end goal.  I will definitely be posting the day we say GOOD-BYE to the annoying costly debt!

Well - that's a good update for now. I will close with a couple of pics of my crazies.