Thursday, June 23, 2016

thank you for being a friend...

they say that if you have been friends with someone for more than seven years, you will be friends for your lifetime. i have found that to be true. there are some friends that i have known so long, they are no longer just friends but extended family.

that is the case with us. heather and i met in a summer school class in our small college in san diego in 1997. i had just moved into a house with a couple other girls and we needed a roommate. i figured heather and i had laughed at the same things in that summer school class and i'd known her for a full 24 hours so i figured she would work. little did we know that during that one class, we would set the stage for a lifetime of sisterhood friendship. we added one more roommate over time and our household of five college aged girls was complete.

over the next year, we laughed together, fought with each other, dated a parade of boys that came through the house, vacationed together, cried together, danced in our socks across the hardwood floors and grew up together in one of the most life altering years of our lives. as time and years passed, we walked through heartbreak together, first jobs together, engagements, marriages, and babies. heather was the first call i made when i went into labor with my first born son. these girls have walked through each stage of live with me. they are precious beyond what words can describe.

over the years we see each other less and less. when we are together, however, it is as if no time has passed. we talk over each other's sentences, filling the space and the years with excited words and pieces of our lives. we have a bond that distance and years can't separate and time together is like medicine for the heart. these girls have known me at my worst, my most insecure, my most indecisive, my most fearful, my most brokenhearted. they have seen me through every life stage and have loved me through each. when i look back at the last 20 years, i cannot imagine those years without the fingerprints of each one of these women in my life.

this weekend during a blogging trip to california, we managed to secure child care, carve out time, and spend a few precious hours together. we could have talked for hours and the child care ended long before we were ready to go. it was short but every second of time we spent together reminded me why i love these girls so much. we are different, have different views, live in different towns, have a total of 17 kids between us, have husbands with varying careers, have walked through divorce, cancer, sickness, moves, miles of separation, and more but we still come back to the heart of it all every time we are together. we remember why it was we count those college years as so dear. we remember all of the laughter, all of the shared tears, and years and years of memories built together. in one quick moment, our lives come together once more.

this is what friendship should look like. friendship walks through fires and years and separation and lives to tell the tale. friendship looks beyond differences and finds the things we have in common. friendship loves through bad hair-do's and the passing trend of baggy jean overalls. friendship turns strangers who met in a summer school class into the family we choose for ourselves. friendship loves through thick and thin and makes us better for the years spent together. friendship makes life sweeter. thank you, sweet friends, for being mine for the last twenty years. i couldn't love you more.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

how to be your pet's favorite in one easy step

this post was sponsored by the lovely people at nutrish. the comments and opinions are all our own.

my life is pretty high maintenance. with all of my kids running around, work to do, life to live, i needed pets that were pretty low key. i got two cats who, while fairly easy to care for, pretty much glare at me on a daily basis. i used to fool myself into believing that they just had a resting angry face but, no. i'm pretty sure they are thinking mean thoughts in a british accent as they stare at me each day. 

don't get me wrong, they love certain people in our family. the boy cat sleeps with my oldest son every night and the girl cat will sleep anywhere within a five foot radius of my husband. she just sleep by me by default. if i move, she stays put. if he moves, she gets up and leaves the room with him. i'm pretty much superfluous where my cats are concerned. 

it's my fault, really. i gave them names that belong in british literature. mr. darcy has never forgiven me and jane, i believe is just insulted that she got named after a minor literary character and not a leading lady. they have never forgotten who named them and so, i'm not their favorite person.

i can't really blame them. they are loved by so many people in our household that i'm really not needed. i usually walk into a room where one child or another is touching them or petting them, usually when the cats don't want to be bothered. sometimes they are even pet with my child's feet instead of hands. when i tried to convince my four year old not to pet the cat with his feet his response was simply, "she likes my feet the best." who can argue with that? the cats seem happy with that kind of attention and i'm not one to argue with four-year-old logic.

for the most part, the cats exist without needing much from me. the one exception to that is their daily meals. somehow they know that i'm the provider of food and water so when they want one or the other, they follow me wherever i go. it's the one time i feel wanted by them on a semi-daily basis. meal time is the one and only area of their lives that they are high maintenance. first, they refuse to drink from a bowl. ever. if the water isn't fresh and trickling from a stream of water from the faucet, then it doesn't meet up to their standards.  

can you say, "high-maintenance?"

they go one step farther in their neediness as they are sensitive to certain foods and we have found that grain free food settles much better with them than the alternative. because of this, we recently switched from our normal nutrish cat food to nutrish zero grain chicken and potato recipe. our cats have done amazingly well with the switch and seem to be responding exceptionally well to their new food. don't let their resting angry face fool you. 

we have always loved rachael ray nutrish pet food but the new zero grain for cats chicken & potato recipe is even better than what we have used before. it is made with simple, natural ingredients, plus the vitamins and other minerals your cat needs for a complete and balanced diet. there are never any grains, glutens or fillers. u.s. farm-raised chicken is the #1 ingredient. there is zero grains, glutens or fillers, zero poultry by-product meal and no artificial preservatives, colors or artificial flavors. the potatoes and peas are easily digestible and are naturally gluten free to be gentle on a cat's sensitive digestive system. the food gives my cats everything they need to eat and nothing that they don't. they may not notice the difference but i can tell the difference in how well they are digesting their food and how much energy they have around the house. they even look a little less annoyed with me each day. 

the best part about this food is that i don't have to go far to find it. anywhere i run to get groceries, i can find the food i need. if i am every wondering if a store carries it, i can search the nutrish website and get all the information i need to find it in my area. that's about the lowest form of high maintenance  i can find. 

if you would like to try nutrish zero grain cat food, here are three ways that you can get some great deals and even some free bags of cat food to try.
1) head over to the "switch to nutrish" website and sign up to get great coupons and offers.
2) comment on our website or our facebook page. one winner with get a gift package from nutrish with zero grain cat food and some goodies for you and your pet.
3) comment on our website and you could receive coupons for free nutrish zero grain cat food. 

what have you got to lose? free cat food and happy cats are a pretty great combination in my book. who knows? maybe, just maybe i will start to be my cats' favorite person. i'm not counting on it or holding my breath but at least i may move up past the child that pets them with his feet. here's to hoping. 

we love rachael ray and nutrish pet food and we are sure you will as well. you can follow nutrish at:

rachael's rescue: rachael's personal proceeds from the nutrish pet food line go to rachael's rescue. this organization was created to help shelter pets in need. to date, she has donated over $14 million dollars. this money has gone toward food, medical supplies and treatments for these unfortunate animals.

Monday, May 16, 2016

fun finds: awesome shirts for boys

i am constantly on the lookout for fun shirts for my boys that are not exactly like every other kiddo on the playground are wearing. i love my target, but apparently so does every other mama.....imagine the lost and found at's crazy town.....filled with tons of the same things that you have to dig through. as usual, i turned to my favorite site etsy for unique, fun tees for my little men to wear. support small business and embrace the creative goodness.......happy shopping! xo

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

mmmmm: gluten free chicken spaghetti

i'm constantly trying to change old recipes to accommodate my new gluten free self. sometimes the results are pretty delicious. this one gets rave reviews from everyone...the four year old up to my 70 year old parents and everyone in between. seriously, i don't have anyone in my family who is not a fan and that is nothing short of miraculous. it's also easy and makes a ton of food...always a win for us. i hope it's a lifelong win for your family as well.

gluten free chicken spaghetti


1 pound gluten free spaghetti
4 large chicken breasts
1 tablespoon garlic
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce

1 bag of frozen, chopped onions (or one white onion chopped)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 green bell peppers, washed and diced
2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup chicken stock
2 cans organic, gluten free cream of chicken soup (or make your own) note: this is not a concentrate. it is the actual ready to eat soup.

2 cups cheddar cheese


boil the chicken in a pot full of water, 1 tablespoon of garlic and the worcestershire sauce. allow the chicken to cook for approximately 25 minutes. remove cooked chicken from water and shred or chop into bite sized pieces.

break the pasta in half and boil per package instructions. after cooking and straining, rinse the pasta well with water. gluten free pasta is typically more sticky than other pastas and rinsing helps to eliminate some of that.

sauté the peppers, onions, garlic and butter until onions are translucent and peppers are soft. set aside.

in a large pot, melt the cream cheese until smooth. add the cream of chicken soup, the chicken stock and all the spices. mix well.

add the pasta, chicken and vegetables to the sauce mixture and mix well.

place half of the pasta mixture in a large casserole dish sprayed with non-stick spray. cover with one cup of cheddar cheese. layer the rest of the pasta mixture and top with the last cup of cheese.

bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. enjoy!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

seven reasons everyone needs a garden

this post is sponsored by the lovely people at cvs minute clinic. the thoughts and opinions are all our own.

i love the spring. each march (sometimes even end of february if i'm lucky here in the south) i emerge from my wintery cocoon and venture out into the great outdoors. i'm not going to lie, the sun can be blinding the first two times but that fresh air quickly becomes addicting and i've learned that i'm a better person for each minute i spend outside the walls of a building. 

over time i've learned there are many benefits to having my own little garden (or a big one as mine has grown to be.) the benefits are endless and are certainly not limited to these seven but maybe, just maybe these will give you enough reason to venture out to plant something of your own.

seven reasons everyone needs a garden

1) it gives you some measure of success every spring.

let's be honest. parenthood sometimes feels like running on a hamster wheel. life can feel like that too. there is always more laundry, always more dishes to wash, faces to clean, meals to prepare. each day brings more work than the next and, let's be real, it can be weeks before we see success in some areas. i know with my own kids i some days have to search for those nuggets in them that show that i parented well. not so with a garden. if you plant it and water it, it will usually grow. each day i walk out to my garden, i really wish there was someone next to me to high five because, "look what i did!" is so much more effective when said out loud to a human. as it is, i share my excitement with the furry woodland creatures nearby and carry my head a little higher as i walk back to the house. a little bit of success every day feels amazing.

2) it's good to have fresh produce.

fruits, veggies and herbs can be expensive. here in the south a bell bell pepper can cost one to two dollars...each. it's ridiculous. i plant a ton of bell peppers and each plant will produce from may through october. they also freeze beautifully. think of some fruits and veggies that your family will eat and find a way to grow them. the money it saves adds up very quickly.

3) it's important to remember that food doesn't come from a grocery store. 

let's face it, many of our kids don't realize this. "what? this hamburger is from a ground up cow?" yes, babies, it is. and it's delicious. "what? apples don't come off the tree shiny?" nope, that's just wax added to them to make them appealing. all of those fine life lessons are important to learn for kids, and important for adults to remember as well. 

4) kids are magical outdoors.

when i step outside, my entire clan of children follow...and they love it. they are happiest when they are running around, digging holes, playing tag, and doing cartwheels in the grass. some days i make them work with me. on those days they plant and weed and water with the best of them. they actually love it and are the happiest harvesters you'll ever find. there is serious joy in picking plants off of a tree or a bush. serious joy. other days they just play and have the time of their lives. we have become a society with a lot of sedentary, computer screen addicted children. don't get me wrong, my kids have screen time like others do. i just find that they are a thousand times happier when i pull them away from the screen and into the sun. on top of that, it reminds me of my own childhood and that makes me very, very happy. 

5) gardening teaches everyone patience.

some things are worth the wait. this is reinforced everyday with gardening. some trees take years to produce fruit after planting. all plants take time to mature before they can produce whatever it is they are supposed to produce, from flowers to fruit to vegetables. it is a great life lesson to learn that things take time. maturity doesn't happen in a day. growth doesn't happen overnight. if my kids (and i) can learn that through gardening, then that's a successful day.

6) it's teaches that if you want something to thrive, you have to take care of it.

gardens require work. plants need water, fertilizer, to be free from weeds. this life lesson goes way beyond the soil. whatever it is that my children are caring for, it's important to know that with the proper care, it can become all it was meant to be. without proper care, it will probably die. this lesson translates to pets, relationships, marriages, jobs, the list is endless. 

7) you learn to push through things that may be uncomfortable.

spring and summers in the south can be hot...and ridiculously humid. gardening can be labor intensive. my kids and i all have allergies. a garden means that sometimes we have to push through things that aren't comfortable in order for it to be successful. thankfully, where our allergies are concerned, we don't have to suffer alone. when our symptoms are at their worst, and we are suffering with itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, wheezing and coughing, we know just where to go. our local target now has a cvs minute clinic in. the. store. stop it. now i can get a starbucks, groceries for my family and stop by the minute clinic to get my allergies under control. the nurse practitioner or physician's assistant can prescribe or recommend the best treatment for me and my kiddos to get our allergies maintained. our nurse practitioner knows us so well that she even has little treats for my kids when they come by. they are actually excited to go see her and she will send the prescriptions right over to the cvs pharmacy inside the target store as well. it's my one stop health and shopping errand rolled into one outing and it means we are quickly back on our way. with the help of cvs minute clinic nothing stops us from getting everything we can from our outdoor gardening experience. it doesn't get any better than that. 

no matter the size of your garden, or even the purpose, getting outside is always a good idea. i'm learning something new every year when springtime rolls around and my children are learning as well. through the good and the bad, we have come to understand so many life lessons through our garden. if you are a beginner, consider starting small. you may surprise yourself with how much you enjoy it. if you are an enthusiast, what have you learned from gardening? no matter where you are in the process, take some time to get outdoors. i doubt you'll regret it.