Yummy Granola Tuesday, January 31

I have had a few requests for the homemade granola I posted on Facebook.  I decided it was worth being on my blog because it is that delicious!  This recipe was handed down from my friend Rebekah and resides in a fantastic book of favorite foods collected over the years called "A Divine Collection of Recipes" by my southern friend Deena.  I started a new page "What's For Dinner" that will be a perfect place to save all of the delicious foods my friends make and some of my own too.  If you need an idea check it out, or if you have some of your own favs, email me and I will post them.

Remember you can take any recipe and change out the ingredients to suite your families needs.  For example, our family does not eat pork or shellfish.  So typically when a recipe calls for pork I will use ground turkey and add a little fennel seed, sea salt and pepper and it tastes better than sausage.  Perfect for pizzas, pasta sauce, meatballs etc.

Lots of homemade granola recipes call for sugar or brown sugar, which kind of negates the healthy part of granola.  Here are a few healthy "replacement" sweetener options.

organic raw sugar (this is not expensive and is the regular sugar isle, the benefit here is the sugar does not go through a bleaching process it is raw cane sugar but tastes and bakes the same).  You can also use Sucanat, Rapadura, or Sugar In The Raw.  These are all a little grainy and not as easy to bake with, but still great healthy options.

Agave Nectar - This is amazing and sweetens like honey.  It now comes in flavors like vanilla and hazelnut  which is perfect for you coffee in the am.

Raw Honey - Look for your local honey.  When you consume honey in your area you are getting an extra layer of health benefits to fight against allergens and build up immunities.

When making the granola I use raw honey and unsalted butter. ( I use local butter). I prefer that over canola  or vegetable oils.

4 cups of oats
1 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of raw honey or agave nectar
Pecans, walnuts, almonds, flax, pumpkin seeds, craisins, raisins, dried cherries, unsweetened coconut, or dark chocolate chips (use any or all of these.  My favorite combo is oats, pecans and craisins) Toss all of your ingredients on a cookie sheet and spread out evenly

Melt the butter and honey in a sauce pan, add a teaspoon of cinnamon and vanilla then pour the melted mixture over the top of the oats on the cookie sheet. Stir to coat and bake at 400 for 10 min, stir again and bake 5 more min.  Let cool, and enjoy.  Store in a glass mason jar if you want to keep it on your counter or in plastic tupperware.

You and whole family will love this granola, in milk, on yogurt, or simply plain... it is heavenly!

Organize Me

Something about a clean organized space makes me very happy, and peaceful.  Life gets so busy and we have hundreds of things to accomplish in a day, and cleaning usually falls to the bottom of the list.  I have come to realize for me that when I am feeling out of control and disorganized, my house is usually looking the same.  For some reason, when I look around and see toys and clutter and dirty dishes and food crumbs on the floor and clothes everywhere, I start feeling claustrophobic and overwhelmed.  Anyone else?  

Now don't panic, I'm not saying your house has to be immaculate all the time, everyone certainly has their own threshold of tolerance based on your personality, but what I am saying is if you can create some helpful systems it will be easier to keep things in their home and help teach your children to do the same. 

My lovely friend Robin is the queen of organizing.  I mean it is a gift!  She naturally thinks to label and categorize her stuff in ways I would never.  But in her house, when her kids need a bandaid, she knows exactly where to find them! Or when her husband asks for the tylenol, he won't even need to ask, because it has a home that anyone can find.  Here are a few pictures of her genius.


Medicine Cabinet


Amazing right?  The benefit to creating an easy and might I add very decor savvy system will minimize the hundreds of questions we are asked per day and reduce the amount of headaches caused by searching around your house for things like your car keys!  

If you notice, the top picture is of Robin's pantry, yes even her food is organized into categories... but I have to say, when any of her 4 children ask her for a snack, they have a "snack basket", with healthy snacks.  Ok, so for me, who makes snacks all day, this would be amazing! At least 2 of the snacks can be raisins or peanut butter crackers, vs me being asked 10 times and then finally getting out the cheese and crackers, right?  This system can work for anything and everything in your home.  But to take baby steps, we could start with the important things like, personal and financial papers, your keys, a place for your kids homework, a change collector, and the list goes on.  

I dream of a huge mud room some day and with 5 kids I am going to need it!  But for now, I have created a  "make shift" mud room  with 2 rows of hooks to hold the kids back packs and coats and boots etc. I have 2 baskets, one for hats and one for gloves.  And of course a calendar and cork board to remind me of things! 

Check out this simple DIY project from Real Simple

Let's Get Organized!

I LOVE FOOD! Monday, January 30

I love food! Always have and always will, but how and what I eat has evolved over the years.  I grew up eating pretty healthy almost too healthy, I have nightmares of my mom forcing us to eat brussels, the slimy green ones not the baked, sea salt encrusted ones with a dash of balsamic and parmesan they make now.  I went through a faze of eating all fat free, no taste or nutrient filled foods and at least 2 Diet Cokes a day, to eating no red meat and all veggies. And who could forget the Atkins Diet, I was so excited that I could eat a Big Mac every day (just the meat and cheese of course).  After having children we decided to go GREEN!  I mean all organic, if it didn't come from Whole Foods, we didn't eat it.  I made baby food and spinach muffins and used raw ingredients in everything, until we didn't have $1,500 a month to spend in groceries!

So where am I now... BALANCED!  Trying to eat as much fresh, natural produce as possible and doing the research on the protein we eat and where it comes from has been very educational.  We are now a mix between organic and all natural.  I feel very challenged by the fact that we are given one life and one body. It is truly our responsibility to take care of ourselves as much as possible and what happens after that is out of our control.  And I feel even more challenged now that I have children to take care of and teach how to eat and make healthy choices.  Believe me, we get in our treats here and there and have pizza night on Fridays, but our "foundational foods" are things that will help our bodies keep up with a long week of school, and sports and homework etc!

I believe you can take any recipe and make it healthy or change out a few of the ingredients and throw in something green.  Luckily for me, I have lots of friends who know how to cook and make some fantastic dishes.  The best day for me to get some ideas is Monday!  What to make for dinner?  My friend Lisa Leeman who lives in California with her hubby and 3 littles, makes some of my all time favorite food!  She makes a chicken spinach lasagna to die for and a chicken dish with apples and sweet onions and these easy tortilla wraps with a chili powder, cilantro mayo!  I asked her, and other lovers of food, to start sending me some easy recipes to share with all of you on Mondays!

I love Chili and here is a delicious version ... Merlot Chili

1 yellow onion, chopped
2 T evoo
1 t chili powder
2 t ground cumin
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
3 bay leaves
3 cups Merlot
2 27 oz kidney beans, undrained
1 27 oz can pinto beans, undrained
3 21 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 lbs ground turkey, cooked
1 pkg kielbasa sausage, sauteed

Saute onions and olive oil until tender. Add spices. Stir. Add wine and bring to a boil. Turn to simmer and add all other ingredients. Simmer 1 hr.

Must Haves For Spring - Fashion Edition Saturday, January 28

I want to be here now and wearing that from Anthropologie. I am loving all the colors for this Spring! Huge fan of color blocking and bold lips but the pastel colors are showing their pretty faces this season too! I remember a suit I had from 
J Crew when I went on my first real interview over 13 years ago in a soft mint green.  

Here are some new trends and colors for spring!


J Crew
J Crew
J Crew

J Crew

Ann Taylor


Since I had the minis 3 months ago, I have been waking up at night and getting sucked into infomercials... anyone else?  I don't know about you, but for some reason when I am watching the "Insanity" workout or "Slim In 6" or "P90X" or my latest work out "Brazillian But Lift" I really believe I will look like one of those genetically perfect models that have every toned muscle showing and skin that is varicose vein free and stretch mark free and even with a glowing tan!  The power of marketing is just amazing!  

I am trying very hard to be intentional about focusing my mind on being healthy and strong for my littles and for me. To feel good in your clothes is very important and I love fashion and let's face it some of these fab trends need a "model" figure to even look good. Don't worry I will post a "how to dress for your figure" tutorial soon.

I felt the need to make that disclaimer, since I am looking at these amazing short outfits from J Crew and visualizing me in it with a bit of a muffin top and not very smooth skin on my legs and possibly a cankle look with shorts and flats!  The nice thing about fashion is we can make it work for you!  Picking the right pieces for your body type will make you look and feel your best.  

Not what you expected? Friday, January 27

Doesn't this picture look like fun!  This is the "Allen Girls" my beautiful mom and sisters!  I am so blessed to have such amazing relationships with all of them. Now that we all have children the times we get to share "ALONE" are much less of course, and so I truly cherish and look forward to the times we get to be together!  

I woke up yesterday morning feeling sad and disappointed that things did not go as I expected Wednesday night! Every year the girls go to our favorite Italian restaurant Maggianos for dinner to celebrate all of our birthdays!  This is something I look forward to for the entire year, I promise.  We eat way too much, drink our favorite wine, and of course end with cappuccinos and tiramisu! Last year we were such a spectacle  laughing so loud, trying to take pictures of ourselves and not being satisfied with how they look.  Seriously, when one looked good the other had a double chin, or cross eyes, or one arm was was positioned in a way that added 10 pounds! hahahah!  If you have sisters you know what I mean.  

Well this year we have NONE! Not a one! With little ones in the house it becomes harder and harder to get ready and actually make it out of the house in time for anything.  So of course I planned to shower, which is kind of a victory right now, get ready, do my hair, and feel like the woman in the picture above!  So imagine me trying to blow dry my hair, pouring sweat, getting asked when I am leaving 100 times by my 5 year old and if she can have a snack, and put on makeup and play with her barbies in the sink, and watch Mickey Mouse... and lets not forget I have 2 adorable minis and for some reason this day they didn't want to take their morning nap, so I am running back and forth to them and back to the bathroom.  Needless to say I was supposed to leave the house at 1 and didn't get in the car until 2:10pm.  And off we go into Woodfield. Now that I have a min to breathe I realize that "oh I haven't eaten or had coffee or water," this is not good when you are nursing twins!  So we grab a starbucks and a turkey bacon sandwich and continue on. 

I started getting a head ache, you know the one you get from not eating or drinking enough. I didn't have any medication and either did my mom.  So after shopping a bit we head over to Maggianos around 7:00pm. By this time I am physically shaking and realizing quickly if i don't eat something, I will be throwing up!  I started downing bread, which is delicious by the way, dipped in olive oil and balsamic!  Well I guess when you get a migraine, it doesn't just go away with food... it gets worse, much worse, to where I literally went to a table of strangers asking for any kind of pain meds.  Haha, and it worked, but it was to late. I was now in the bathroom hoping to just throw up and get it over with.  My mom brought me a chair to sit on in the stall and I just waited, with my hands pressed tightly against my temples praying the pain would numb a bit.  Finally around 10:00pm the edge came off a bit and I felt like I could make it to the car for my mom to drive me home.  No dinner, No dessert, No little cappuccinos, No pictures, No laughing and No iced lemon half moon italian cookies they give you when it's your  birthday.  

The moral to this story is that life is not always what you expect and especially when you are raising little ones.  Their are curve balls every day, blow outs, time delays, tantrums, massive disasters to clean up, sickness, conflicts, and the list could go on for days. One of the things I have learned over the years is how to find the fun in the many unmet expectations and even disappointments we face.  If you can't change it, then how will you handle it? 

You've heard the phrase "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade" well this is exactly the choice we need to make.  In the middle of the unexpected can we somehow find the beauty, or realize we can't "change" it so how can we make it fun or just decide to surrender to the chaos, take a deep breath, and be POSITIVE! I try my best to help create a positive mindset in my kiddos.  There is nothing more deflating then a downer who seems to always find the negative and rest there.  I have to believe that in all things, from big to small, there is something for us to learn, grow from, teach others or just build faith.

Dream Journals Tuesday, January 24

I wouldn't consider myself a writer of sorts or even someone who is good at writing.  But something I am good at is motivating and encouraging, hopefully my kids and husband the most but then my family and friends... to look at life through a positive lens and go after their dreams and not be afraid to persue what may seem impossible. I am clearly an optimist! 

Before I had children I had lots of dreams, dreams to be a princess in a castle, to be a super star on the Disney channel, and had a slight obsession with babies.  From such a young age I was working in the nursery at church and being a "mothers helper" to any family friends who would let me come over. And then as I got older and realized being an adult was not fantasy but reality and I actually had to figure out what I was going to do with my life, how could I pick just one thing?
So fast forward 20 years and I have been married for 13 years and have 5 children. And you would think that would be enough to keep me busy for the rest of my life, but there is still a little spark in me that wants to dream. To reach for something bigger than myself.  Of course dreams of singing at CMA awards, going to NY Fashion week with Rachel Zoe, or having my own reality show may seem a little far fetched but what happens to all of those gifts and talents God blesses us with after you have children.  It's a little confusing when you like so many different things, like singing and writing music, speaking and leading women in their pursuit to becoming their best, creating art like Heirblooms and DIY projects, styling photography and people, decorating and redecorating my house, and all of this is in addition to the emence love and desire to pour into my children and help them develop into kind loving and giving humans and not to mention keeping the fire alive with my high school sweet heart and best friend Nate.  What about those dreams to travel together and create memories and just have fun! 
So this is the consemet quest... how do we do it all and have it all and do it well?  And is that even possible? 

My heart in this blog is to create room for inspiration and motivation, to encourage and inspire.  To maybe help one person gain the confidence to know... it is possible!  You don't have to loose your self but enhance yourself.  Kind of like a marathon I know but the winner is the one who paces themselves and never gives up.  And I am not good at pacing by the way! I want it now and yesterday.  You?

So here is the challenge! Lets begin a dream journal or a dream jar together... writing our goals and dreams and slowly moving towards them.  Looking inward for guidance on timing and decision making.  Working on not being emotional or reactionary but practical and patient. 

This is an adorable dream jar isn't it?  You can make your own with a mason jar and some pretty flowers.  Then each time a thought or dream or idea comes to you, you simply add it to the jar for safe keeping. 

I will be featuring some of the many wonderful and inspirational friends I am blessed to have that are gifted in areas I am not and can help give us tips on parenting, organizing, cooking, learning, teaching, mentoring, etc.  I am a fan of recognizing those around me who are succeeding and doing it well and open to learning! 

The Perfect Smokey Eye Sunday, January 22

Now that we have beautiful skin we have the perfect canvas for fun new spring colors and pretty makeup!  There is something about makeup that makes me smile, it's like art or painting.  You can use any colors you want and create bold or soft looks.  Enhancing your natural beauty! Speaking of beauty... a friend of mine Mikhail Cox married our long time friend Philip Cox this past September 

Isn't this picture amazing!  Just stunning.  I was honored to make her a hair piece for the big day and she wore it just beautifully

LOOK AT THOSE EYES!  Mikhail is is the queen of makeup and so I asked her if she would share her secret to creating those amazing smokey eyes.  And of course what makeup she swears by.  Her friends insisted she begin documenting "how to" videos on You Tube on how to create these amazing looks.

Here she is with all the details...

To re-create my wedding day smokey eye you want to begin with a clean, primed eye-lid. This will ensure that you have no veins or discolorations altering your shadows. You want the truest shadow colors on your wedding day! I used MAC Paint Pot in Painterly to begin with a blank, color-less canvas to create this look. Apply it all over the eyelid, up to the eyebrow. I then used Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Double Face Perfector, just the high-lighter end, to highlight my brow bone, as well as the inner-half of my eyelid. Blend with your finger. The next steps are shown on the image:

1. Apply a nude/vanilla color all over your eyelid, up to your brow. I used the shimmer vanilla color in the L'Oreal quad: 508 Summer Dusk.

2. Apply a mixture of medium brown/tan/plum/gray in and above your crease. This creates a shadow effect for the deeper, darker colors you'll use in the outer corner and crease. I used the matte plum color in my 508 Summer Dust L'Oreal quad, the 2 medium browns in my 821 Neutrals L'Oreal quad, and the gray in my Shany Cosmetics pallet. I find this is best created with a medium crease brush.

3. Blending is ESSENTIAL in a smokey eye look. Use a blending brush to blend these colors together, focusing on leaving no harsh lines between any colors. Use circular strokes while blending from the inside of the eye to the outside of the eye.

4. Apply a mixture of dark brown and black shadow to the outter corner of the eye, as well as DIRECTLY in your crease, only about halfway across your eye.  I find this is easy to apply with a flat angled brush. You want this to be significantly darker than the other colors you've used. (Also keep in mind, in professional photographs your makeup will be washed out, so don't be scared to go a bit darker.) I used a dark brown and black in my Shany Cosmetics pallet.

5. Blend again using a blending brush. Focus on creating a smooth gradient between colors. Darker on the outter half of your eye...lighter as you move to your inner corner. No harsh lines on your wedding day!

6. Apply another layer of the shade you used in step 1 only on the inner 1/3 of your eyelid, and onto your brown bone.  Blend into the darker shade with a blending brush. Then apply a white/vanilla shade with very fine shimmers (or matte if you prefer) to the inner corner of your eye, and on the inner 1/3 of your bottom lashline. I used shade 100 Glam Ice by Rimmel London. I also applied and blended a small amound right under the peak of my brow. (White is a harsh color, so use sparingly.)

7. Line your bottom lashline, using a flat angled brush with the same combination of brown/black shadow that you used in step 4. I apply this to the outter 2/3 of my lashline. Using shadow creates a softer line, rather than a harsh black liner. This can be applied over some type of cream-shadow using the same brush to give it more staying power.

8. Line your top lashline with a water-proof liner. I love the look of gel liners. I used Maybelline Eyestudio Lasting Drama Gel Liner along with the brush that comes with it. I then used my flat angled brush to apply a black eyeshadow over the line to make it stay longer and look a little softer. Wing your eyeliner out just a bit to create the same shape.

(I wore Ardell false lashes on my wedding day and applied L'Oreal Voluminous Carbon Black Waterproof Mascara. In this tutorial I used Lancome Hypnose Drama mascara with no false lashes.

Check out Mikhail's You Tube Page - www.youtube.com/missmikhail

MAC Paintpot in Painterly - maccosmetics.com ($17.50)
Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Double Face Perfector - drugstores
L'Oreal Eyeshadow Quads - drugstores - (approx $8)
SHANY Cosmetics 40 Color Eyeshadow Pallet - shanycosmetics.com ($17)
Rimmel Glam Eyes in Glam Ice - ulta.com ($4)
Maybelline EyeStudio Lasting Drama Gel Liner - ulta.com ($10)
L'Oreal Voluminous Carbon Black Waterproof Mascara- ulta.com ($7)
Lancome Hypnose Drama Instant Full Body Volume Mascara - lancome-usa.com($25)

Painted Tables

I have been working on a family room "redo".  To me the family room is one of the most important rooms because that is where we hang out the most as a family.  It's the room we sit by the fire and watch movies together, the room the babies have their toys and lay on the carpet.  It's the room guests see when then come in the front door and the room we entertain in.  My goal is to make it comfy and inviting. My decorating style is a little spanish inspired with a bit of Bohemian.  These are some rooms I love...

All of these spaces are beautiful and so so pretty.  These colors make me feel good.  It's funny how some people feel most comfortable in minimalistic and neutral color pallets and some in bold and vibrant.  

One thing that will help bring some life instantly and affordably is to paint a table or existing piece of furniture or something you pick up from a garage sale. Here are some ideas 

Happy Painting!

Fresh Face

So... my sisters birthday is next week and when I asked her what she wanted she said " A must have for Spring" well you know I was on that instantly and have begun my search.  

Top Beauty Must Have -

Beautiful Skin

To have fresh, young looking skin will get your spring off to the right start.  I like many of you don't have the margin for weekly facials so luckily the smart industry creatives came up with a tool we can use at home that is almost like getting an exfoliating facial!  I have tried both the top of the line Clarisonic about $130 and the Oil of Olay version which is around $50 and they both do the trick.  The Clarisonic works more intensely by vibrating and allowing the bristles to work deeply into your skin and pores.  The Oil of Olay spins around with less force and does not get as much of the dead skin off so your face is still clean but you can feel the difference with the more expensive one for sure!

The Clarisonic comes with a charger and no batteries and fun color options!

The Oil Of Olay can be purchased at Sams for around $48 and it comes with the hydrating face scrub and a replacement bristle top.  You will need batteries for this one 

Fab Find! Wednesday, January 18

One thing I know moms want is a good deal and I have found one! This may be old news but Zulily is a great place to find awesome deals, adorable clothes, shoes, accessories, mom stuff, eco stuff, etc!  Check it out and use my link sign up and receive a coupon... Ahndea 

zulily events open at 6am pdt and usually last 72 hours (some are one-day sales). After that, they scoot away to make room for new events. Inventory is limited and items often sell out, so shop early every day. That way, you'll have the widest selection.
Check back every day: We’ll send you an email each morning, announcing the day's events. Think of it as your treasure map.
We strike deals with top brands you already adore, and we introduce you to new brands you might not find anywhere else. You get a hand-picked selection of high-quality goods.
One day, you’ll find an adorable dress for your little girl. The next day, that dress will be gone, but you'll spot the perfect new yoga pants for yourself. Then you'll notice a baby sling or a diaper bag that would make a fabulous shower gift. Finding out what’s new each day is part of the fun.
For every new member you refer to zulily, you’ll earn a USD $15 credit. The credit will show up in your account just as soon as your friend's first purchase ships. Then, it's time to shop some more!
Three easy ways to spread the word:
Once you choose something you love, we order in bulk from our vendors. We receive bulk orders and ship your items as quickly as possible. Our shipping plan is a big part of how we ensure low prices every day.