little loves: winter edition

December is our 7th month of living in Montana! Most days, I still can’t believe I actually live here. There are still so many NEW and DIFFERENT things we are seeing and learning about life out here! One of those being all the things that come with the changing of seasons. It’s wild. We are not in the South anymore. Thanksgiving was COLD, we are talking lots snow on the ground and going skiing that weekend. I’ll be honest with you, I was pretty terrified of winter coming. I had a few nights where I was just straight overwhelmed by the thought of it. And I know that we are no where close to being doing with this season, BUT I have surprised myself with how much sweetness and goodness I have found in these cold, snow-filled days.

So in honor of celebrating this winter season here are a few of my ‘little loves’ – the things that remind me of the sweetness and goodness wrapped up in these days!

  • Watching Bob Dylan play in the snow! I haven’t captured a picture of this yet because I usually have on gloves that are too warm to take off. But y’all, watching him play brings me so much joy. I love the shin deep snow more because he has absolute blast in it. The cutest is when he dunks him nose into it and then has powdery white snow all over his black nose!
  • Christmas Tree Hunting – ok so here is Montana you skip all the Home Depot’s and Christmas Tree Farms and head straight to Ace Hardware to get your $5 tree permit. You then head to the national forest (20 min from your house) and trudge through the snow to find your perfectly un-perfect Christmas tree! You lower your Home Depot expectations because you realize how no tree in the forest looks like those ones and then you drag your tree out of the woods and bring it home with great pride and joy. I think this one is my very favorite tree of all time!
  • Peppermint & Chocolate Covered Pretzels — riffed on this recipe here by going with dark chocolate chips instead of white chocolate and finding the closest thing I could to chop-able peppermint candy pieces (ie Andes Peppermint Crunch Thins)
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  • Homemade Dried Orange Garland — Now, Adam says he doesn’t understand how oranges are a Christmas-y decoration but hopefully you will understand that they indeed are! 🙂
  • All things SOURDOUGH. So much so that I’ve had thoughts of making this blog a purely sourdough blog… because who would be mad about that? I’ve ventured into new sourdough territory, trying my hand at Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls, Sourdough Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread, and Soft Buttery Rolls! It’s been fun.
  • Feeling Baby Boy move and kick! I’ll be 28 weeks pregnant tomorrow, which means we have no more than 3 months left before he will be joining us in this world! I am getting more excited with each passing day and I am dying to know who is going to look like. Baby Boy is such a precious miracle and blessing!
  • The mountains and trees covered in snow. It is simply beautiful. No one words for it.

a week of meals: how-to

As many of you know, I used to make weekly meal plans for families and friends. I provided a shopping list, a schedule, and wrote (and tested) every recipe! It was a blast of a side-hustle and I feel proud of the work to this day. So why did I stop? Because my system wasn’t all that sustainable or doable for everybody and because of my Enneagram 1 nature, I couldn’t really handle helping folks and knowing that my answer could be better or more “right” (i.e. that it wasn’t the perfect solution to dinnertime woes.) Hah! Maybe now you think I am a crazy girl, and you might be right, but I so badly wanted to my system to help EVERY family & friend get dinner on the table with more DELIGHT, that I didn’t feel right about continuing to provide my imperfect service.

So this post is all about attempting to help the MASSES. Whether you are in college, working long days at a job, learning how to feed your spouse, or learning how to make dinner happen with little ones around – I think there is something useful in this post for everyone! Which really satisfies this crazy enneagram 1 girl.

So here is how I make a full week of meals get to the table in our house. And before any of you think I am some pro or wonder women at dinnertime, that is simple untrue. I work full-time and am tired at the end of the day. I want simple, satisfying meals that use regular ingredients. I want time in the kitchen to be short so that I can spend more time with the people of love. Mealtime is a forever work in progress and something I really enjoy working at.

Step 1 : plan one freezer meal session a month

This is a new thing in our house, but I loved it so much the first time I did it that I wanted to make it a part of my monthly kitchen routine. For me, I prepare 4 meals in this one “session,” which takes me no longer than 1.5 hours. It is a MUST for me that these meals only require the oven, instant pot, or crockpot to bd ready to hit the table on a weeknight. I have found these exact kind of recipes in THIS blog post. Adam and I went through all of them and agreed on ones we both liked and I wrote down a list. I pick 4 from the list and add those ingredients to my week’s shopping list. Then, I carve out the time needed on Saturday or Sunday to get them all into the freezer. This way for each week of the next month I have one meal that requires ZERO planning and is prepped in the freezer. This has been such a game changer for making a week of meals happen!

Step 2: make a list of “brainless crowdpleasers”

Thanks to The Lazy Genius, “brainless crowdpleasers” have made meal planning RADICALLY easier for me. The Lazy Genius is my meal planning guru if you will and her way of doing things is just so good. For her explanation and execution of “brainless crowdpleasers” you can listen to her podcast episode. But for now the short and sweet explanation of “brainless crowdpleasers” are meals that satisfy the likes and dislikes of the people you feed at YOUR table, are “brainless” for YOU (as in they don’t cause stress or overwhelm – they feel easy and very doable on a busy weeknight), and are REALISTIC (in terms of time and ingredients) for the season of life you are in. Having a list of these meals (even if you only have 2 or 3) is so helpful because you have something to turn to that is much smaller than the internet or a whole cookbook when you are planning out a week of meals. PLUS, you know these meals will actually be WINNERS at the table! Gosh, it really is GENIUS. Here are a few from our list —

  • Buffalo Chicken Wraps
  • BBQ Chicken Pita Pizzas
  • Verde Chicken Chili
  • Caribbean Bowls
  • Beef Tacos & Fajita Chicken Tacos
  • Kitchen Sink Salad
  • Lasagna Florentine
  • Pesto Pasts & Turkey Meatballs
  • Greek Bowls
  • Pizza Friday

Step 3: write your meal plan & grocery list

With your list of brainless crowdpleasers and list of the freezer meals you made this month in hand, I want you to write down the days of the week you will be making dinner at home. Then think about your week – what days are hectic? what days might you have more time in the kitchen? what days allow for very minimal prep time? Now, pick one freezer meal for your busiest day/night of the week and mark it off the freezer meal list. Next, look to your brainless crowdpleasers and pick the nights that will work best for making them. Last step is to make a list of all the ingredients you will need for the meals you picked, plus whatever else you need for breakfasts/snacks.

Step 4: shop once & get everything in the right place when you get home

This step is somewhat self explanatory. But let me emphasize that shopping ONCE for the week really pays off in terms of maintaining sanity come Wednesday. What I mean by get everything into the right place is — wash lettuce/herbs if it needs it, put things it the pantry so that you know where to find them when its time to cook, leave veggies/fruits on counter if they need time to ripen, etc.

step 5 (BONUS) : make a batch of something extra

Something that you can have on hand for breakfasts on snacks throughout the week! Examples – muffins, loaves, breakfast cookies, peanut butter balls, egg cups, overnight oats, quiche. This does not happen every week in our house, but gosh I love it when it does because it is one less thing I have to think about during the week and we usually end up eating at home more!

I hope this was helpful and that you got at least one idea of something you could to make your life in the kitchen more enjoyable! Food is a gift, y’all and I want it to feel like that! Let me know if you have any questions – more than happy to help you.

Life under the Big Sky

Hi, friends!

Adam and I have been settling into our new home of Bozeman, MT for about 2 months now! Crazy. And I finally feel like we are coming up for breath (i.e REST) and really feeling more at home, which is exactly why this blog is making its debut today.

As Adam headed out with Bob Dylan (our puppy boy) on a hike on this rainy Saturday morning, I slowly woke up and headed to the neighborhood sandwich shop for their morning breakfast burrito special. So with a happy and full belly, and true wi-fi that totally beats our hotspot at home, its time to give y’all a good update on our life these days under the Big Sky!

listening to: Due to the nature of my new job, where I sew backpacks all day, I have been listening to lots of podcasts and yoga-y playlists. A fave weekly podcast listen – The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey

baking: granola — with walnuts and a mix of maple syrup and honey. so good.

amazed by: The weather. Apparently its been a “long spring” out here or “mild summer.” It snowed in June. And now in lateJ uly it is still raining occasionally, which is apparently very rare by this time. It cools down every evening, we open up our windows because A/C is unheard of here (not complaining!), and wake up to brisk mornings. It is truly awe-some! Especially for a Georgia girl that is used to living in tanks and gym shorts for 5 months of the year.

soaking up: the temperatures! but also, hiking after work, the warm sunshine, the clear skies, the long days of natural light, and taking Bob Dylan without having to bundle up!

wearing: scarves and socks! like what? but the mornings and evenings are chilly and those two extra “layers” do the trick. it’s so cozy.

moving: I found a yoga studio that I really like! And what’s funny and totally reflective of the culture differences between here and fast-paced hustling Atlanta, is that even yoga classes here that are described as more challenging don’t hold a candle to the intensity of Atlanta’s classes. And honestly, I am all about it. It is way less competitive and just more “feel good.” It’s good to be a Montana yogi 🙂

reading: call us goobers but Adam is determined to have me love Harry Potter, so we have been trading off reading it to each other before bed on the nights that we don’t watch an episode of the office or new girl. it’s fun.

feeling loved by: call and texts from friends and family checking in on us!

adventuring: so much adventuring! its almost overwhelming how much there is to see and do outside. a favorite of late is Fairy Lake, the trail up to it isn’t that exciting but once you get there… JAW DROP (see below). we are also floating a river tomorrow and I am very excited about that!

experiencing: fly fishing for the first time! we were taken by some Atlanta friends who came to visit and gosh it was fun! and even if I didn’t catch any fish, the views on the Yellowstone River would have been satisfying enough!

learning: so many things… another post soon on this topic. but in the meantime, I am learning that when you become very aware that you are not in control of your life, you can be sure that the Maker hasn’t left His throne and rest in peace knowing that He has been steering your boat all along.

excited about: getting back into knitting! headed to this cutie yarn shop after this to get some supplies!

thankful for: Adam, for being my steady earthly rock and always looking to the promises and provision of the Lord. and Jesus, for knowing me fully and still loving me without end. Them two, are too good to me!