Health, Love & Fire: November 2015

Red Cups and Christmas Music and Why I'm Okay With All of That Before Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

From the time I can remember, I have always loved Christmas time. Growing up, we didn't go black Friday shopping or set up our tree before Thanksgiving. We were never in a hurry to rush the holidays, and truthfully I feel like that saying has starting popping up more frequently in the last few years, sometimes even in my direction. Yes I love the holidays and yes I may have one of my two trees already up, but I don't think that takes away anything from Thanksgiving, if anything it makes me enjoy it more!

I am hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my house for my family. We will have a traditional meal with turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes. Our table will be filled with fall colors and place cards for people to write what their thankful for. And as you walk in our home you'll see signs of harvest and thankfulness.

But if you walk upstairs to our bonus room you will find a tree assembled and decorated. Or if you check our guest bathroom, you'll find holiday theme towels and a candy cane candle, but you know what, I'm okay with it.

Our holidays are different every year. Unlike some families, both my Mom and husband have jobs that unfortunately have them working some holidays. This year they happen to have Thanksgiving off, but my mom works Christmas Eve and my husband works Christmas. From the time I was little our schedules were this way, so we had to celebrate holidays on different days some years and our little girl will grow up having to do the same thing. I don't honestly think this is an uncommon occurrence, which makes it even more surprising that people seem to think certain decorations should be saved for after a specific day.

I can't understand why people are so upset with the christmas lights and decor filling their Facebooks, instagram feed or shopping malls. It's the same as the holiday cup debacle going around with Starbucks. To me, Thanksgiving has never been about the decorations or music playing in the background, it's about spending time with family and being thankful for the blessings in your life. And just because I have "Jingle Bells" playing in the background doesn't diminish those feelings.

While I think skipping your thanksgiving meal to go black Friday or Thursday shopping is completely over the top, I think it's perfectly okay to turn those christmas lights on early or hang that green wreath whenever you feel inspired to do so. It doesn't matter what decor is lying around your house on that Thursday evening in November or whenever you're able to celebrate, it's the meaning behind the day and who you're sharing it with that counts! So you'll find me listening to Christmas music in my car and hanging ornaments or holiday decor around my house in November, but you'll also find me extremely thankful throughout this holiday season for the roof over our head, the jobs we have, the food on our table, and the amazing Family and friends we get to share this season with!

Unique Baby Gift Ideas

Thursday, November 19, 2015

As a new mom, I've gotten lots of amazing gifts for Harper in the last few months. The book shelves on her wall are full, she's got blankets to last her years and her closet is far more stylish than mine. But as I was getting all the sweetest gifts you can imagine, I came across some unique and special gift ideas that I will definitely be using the next time someone I know is having a baby. There's always the go-to baby gift in clothes, books or toys, but what if you're looking for something different, that no one else at the shower will think to bring? Here are some of my favorite gifts that may help you with your next baby shower shopping trip!

How cool would it be for your little boy or girl (or your friend's child) to have a book all about them? This book is called The Girl/Boy Who Forgot Their Name, and it's the perfect gift for any child!  The storyline is about a boy or girl who forgot their name and talks to different people to find it. Each person or animal that the little boy or girl talks to provides them with a different letter to help them remember. This book lets you personalize it with a printed note in the cover to the child along with the storyline of the book. The purchaser gets to select the name that the plot follows and the letters and characters that stand for each letter throughout the book. Since we hadn't shared the name of Harper before she was born, my parents purchased this for her after we were home from the hospital. I can't wait for her to read this as she grows up!

Headbands - If your friend or family member is having a little girl, I have loved getting headbands for Harper. One of my favorite shops is Zozu Baby who's got everything from simple mini bows to adorable larger headbands. When babies are little, girls are often mistaken for little boys (which my husband hates). I love having bows to distinguish her as a girl and to add a fun touch to any outfit! I love Zozu Baby bows because their mini bows are perfect for newborns, and they have all sizes to grow with the child as they grow!

I have lots of scrapbooking supplies and the best of intentions when it comes to saving photos and memories, but life tends to get in the way! This memory book from Lucy Darling is the perfect thing for busy moms to still capture fun memories for your child to look back on. The pages are set up to capture monthly photos, the many firsts including all of their first holidays, and even has space to remember the popular songs and price of gas when your little one is born. I have loved being able to fill in these pages and remember all the milestones with this easy and adorable book!

One of the most common baby gifts tends to be clothing, but sometimes you need some shoes to go along with an outfit. Moccasins from Freshly Picked are the perfect fit! These shoes are great for kids who are learning to stand and walk and are adorable at the same time! They come in tons of different colors to match any outfit! Order a larger size and it will fit the child at the perfect age where their learning to walk!
When I was researching which baby carrier to buy, there are so many different options out there. Do you need the one that has four different carrying options? Should it be more like a backpack or like fabric? Does it have good reviews? What size child does it fit? These were all questions I found myself asking. I finally decided on the Solly Wrap and I couldn't be happier! It's lightweight so I don't find myself sweating the minute I put it on, but it's still strong enough to be supportive. It's easy to put on, and does require someone else to help you get in and out of it like I've found some carriers require. Lastly, it's so comfortable for both me and for Harper! Anytime my baby is getting fussy, all I have to do is put this one, put her in it and go for a short walk outside! This wrap not only lets me carrier her through the store, but also lets me get stuff done around the house! I love it!
One of my favorite gifts was gifts from my Mom friends. Being a first time parent, there is so much research you can do and so many products to choose from that it can be overwhelming to try to figure out what you need for your new baby. Some of my best friends happen to also be new moms, so they gifted me with some of their favorite products to use for their kids. This was the greatest gift because it took the second guessing and all the research out of choose which diaper cream works best or what their favorite baby shampoo is! If you're a mom and you're friend is expecting, definitely do this for her! It's a lifesaver! 

What are your favorite new baby gifts? What are some of the best gifts you received while pregnant?

Announcing . . . Hart & Home

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I've always been interested in home decor and crafts. From the time I was 7 or 8 years old, my parents would come up to my room to find I had completely rearranged and redecorated my entire room by myself. Unfortunately for my husband, I haven't really given up that love for decorating, but I have found ways to use it that don't involve rearranging out entire home.

When I'm searching for decor to use throughout our home, I like something that combines a clean and unique feel with something that has a little history. Many times when looking at stores for pieces to add to our home, I find myself thinking, oh we could make that. So I usually do. As I was working on making a welcome sign for our front porch, I started to think about making signs for not only myself, but for other people as well. I have thrown around the idea before to start an etsy shop, but I always chicken out. I was afraid of what other's would think, or overall just afraid to put myself out there for fear of rejection. During my time off with Harper is when I decided to put all that aside. Why be afraid of what other's might think if it's something that makes you happy?

So today, I'm putting myself out there and sharing what I've been working on for the last few weeks, along with Dan's help of course! My shop is called Hart & Home and is officially open! Here are just a few of my favorites listed in the shop!

You can visit the shop HERE

I love to decorate for whatever season it currently is or the upcoming holiday so you'll see lots of seasonal or holiday related signs mixed with ones you can keep up year round. Every sign is hand painted. Some are done on reclaimed barn wood and others on stained aged wood. Each sign is unique and a fun addition to your decor! I would love to hear what you all think of the designs! For this week only in honor of the opening of my shop I'm offering 20% off with the code OPENINGWEEK. Thank you all for your support and motivation to do something I love! I'm so excited to share it with everyone!

Visit my shop at:

And follow my shop on Instagram for updates and new signs!

Harper - 3 Months

Friday, November 13, 2015

I'm Nicknames: Harps, Harpy, Turkey

Height & Weight: We didn't have a doctors appointment this month, but my mom weighed her the other day at the hospital and she was right around 13 pounds

Food: She's still breastfeeding. She takes bottles while I'm at work and breastfeeds when I'm home. I've slowly be getting used to pumping at work and remembering to take breaks to do so.

Sleep: She's sleeping great at night. She usually goes down to bed between 9-10 and sleeps till around 7 with some grunts and noises in there. She's still sleeping in the rock and play in our room, but I plan on transitioning her into her own room soon. I'll just miss her :) Her naps during the day are less planned and more sporadic. She will usually take more cat naps throughout the day with a longer one around lunchtime or early afternoon most days.

Favorites: She's starting to love her play mat, and still loves laying on her changing pad or in her crib staring at her mobile. We've been trying to incorporate some more tummy time, but she still only lasts a couple minutes before she starts crying. She also loves bath time as long as she's warm. This month she's started to love to go outside and stares at the trees. If she's being fussy, you can almost always calm her down with a walk to the mailbox or just by stepping outside.

Things That Happened This Month: She celebrated her first holiday by dressing up for Halloween which included a trip to the pumpkin patch, mom carving a pumpkin, a little one halloween party and dressing her up for the occasion. I went back to work this month just a day before she turned 12 weeks. It's been hard to be away from her, but I love our snuggle time in the evenings.

Looking Forward To: The Christmas season with her! It's my favorite time of year already but I can't wait to experience it with Harper!

Some photos from throughout the month:

National Adoption Month: Our Story

Thursday, November 12, 2015

November is national adoption month, which is something very close to my heart and something I consider at the core of who I am and what defines myself and my family.

Adoption is something I grew up knowing and that I grew up thinking was the norm. A friend once asked me how old I was when my parents told me that I was adopted, and I honestly couldn't come up with an answer. I guess it's like anything else you're used to. Unless you find out there's a different way to do something, you assume that everyone does it your way. The same goes for adoption. I thought that's how everyone built their family. Wouldn't family tree projects be even more interesting and difficult to follow if that was the case?

I can remember the day I was officially adopted at a little over 2 years old and I remember going through the process to adopt my brother when I was 4. I love that it is a part of my story and a part of my memories.

Our story, like everyone else's is different. It wasn't a simple sign papers and be done with it, it was more complicated for my parents and my birth parents than that. But it's just that, it's our story. I've never been more thankful or amazed by my parents until I became one. Once I had my daughter in my arms, all the struggles and trials my parents went though to build their family resonated with me even more.
I've learned over the years from discussions with friends, acquaintances and even strangers that adoption is different for everyone. Just as two people could walk the exact same path but see two different visions, every adoption story is different. Because of this it can be difficult to navigate the feelings and emotions associated with the adoption process, meeting birth parents and all the other thoughts and questions that arise. There's no blueprint that tells you how to feel about meeting or knowing your birth parents, or if you should even have that desire to know more. There's not rules about how your relationship should look if you decide to meet your birth parents and their family. This unknown is definitely something that makes all of those things more difficult, but interesting at the same time.

I'm lucky enough to not only have the most amazing parents, but to also have a relationship with both my birth mother and birth father and with their families. And while I may be closer to some of them than others, the sense of peace that I have from knowing more about my background and my birth parents is so comforting. We don't live close to each other or talk every day, but I'm thankful for the relationship I have built with them that continues to grow!

When I made the decision to try to find my birth parents and meet them, it wasn't because I didn't love my parents or I wanted new ones, I just always wondered about my biological past and family history. I'm closer to my parents than most people I know, and have the type of relationship where we are family but also best friends. I feel so blessed to have the greatest parents and also be able to have a relationship with my birth parents. And as my family grows, so does my extended one, which just means more people to share our happiness and photos of Harper with.

I understand adoption isn't for everyone and not all stories will have the happy endings our family has, but I'm thankful it is a part of our story and who I am. I look forward to teaching Harper about how our family was made, and maybe one day make adoption part of Dan & my story.

If your interested in reading any more about our story, check out some of my other adoption posts:
Finding Answers Part 1
Finding Answers Part 2
Ridiculous Adoption Questions & Answers

Crock Pot Freezer Meals: Recipes and Shopping Lists

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Whether you're preparing for a new baby, making meals ahead to help lessen the load during busy weeks or just wanting to plan ahead to save money and time later, making freezer meals was something that I had on my to do list for a while now. I see so many Pinterest posts claiming you can make so many meals for so many dollars in a certain amount of time. For whatever reason, I kept pinning or reading those posts and thinking to myself I didn't have the time or want to put in that much work. When the end of my pregnancy got closer and closer, and the fact that I like to be as prepared as possible (or at least think I am), I decided this was the perfect time to try out this whole freezer meal phenomenon. And because I'm so nice, I wanted to share everything from the meals themselves to our shopping list with all of you in case you're interested in trying it out too.
When looking for recipes, I wanted some variety, especially in the meats being used. I found lots of chicken recipes, but knew we would quickly get sick of eating chicken all the time so I tried to mix up the meats. I also searched for recipes that would be good for leftovers the next day since many of the meals will feed more than two people. So after some searching and pinning, here is what I decided on.

- Chicken Tacos: This recipe can be used for tacos or can be made and served over a baked potato
- Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken
- Hawaiian Pork Chops
- Stuffed Shells
- Beef Roast

We did all of our shopping at one store, but probably could have gotten everything even cheaper if we had price matched and shopped at different places. We also purchased all organic meat, which is pricier than the regular store bought meat. This won't change the recipe at all, but I wanted to let you know that since it could change the overall cost of your bill. I was lucky in that I talked Dan in to helping me prep all these meals so it made the time go by faster, plus it's always more fun to work along side someone else. The prep time from start to finish (including a last minute run to the store and doing all the dishes) it took us about 2 and a half hours.

*The shopping list is based on doubling each of these recipes (except for the stuffed shells which make 6 pans) so that you end up with 14 meals.

Beef Roast: 
- 2-pound beef chuck shoulder roast
-1-2 pounds of carrots cut into small pieces
- 1 onion chopped
- 4 stalks of celery chopped
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
- 1 taco seasoning packet

To Freeze: 
Combine all ingredients in a gallon-sized plastic freezer bag. Remove as much air as possible and freeze for up to three months. When you're ready to eat, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. Brown all sides of the roast in a pan before adding all the ingredients to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-12 hours, or until meat easily pulls apart with a fork. 

Stuffed Shells (makes 6 meals with 13-15 shells per meal) 
3 packs of jumbo shells 
3 large containers of ricotta (15oz) 
10 cupes of shredded mozzarella cheese
6 jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce - I used some of our homemade pasta sauce 
2 cans o f permasean cheese
Italian seasonings
4 eggs
Cooked spinach (optional) 
Ground Turkey or Beef (optional) 

To Freeze:
Cook noodles in boiling water. Mix the rest of the ingredients together. Put a thin layer of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of your tin pan. Layer shells stuffed with the ingredients on top of the sauce. Pour the remaining sauce on top of the shells. You can also add meat to the top layer of sauce if you want. When you're ready to cook, defrost the pan a day early and cook at 350 for 45 minutes or until hot.

Orange Teriyaki Chicken
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 Tablesoons of chopped onion
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 Tablespoon of grape seed oil
1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper sauce
1 6oz can of orange juice concentrate
3-4 chicken breasts

The day of cooking just thaw these completely and grill for 35-40 minutes. I have also thrown these in the crock pot with some more orange juice on low for 6 hours.

Hawaiian Pork Chops
1 package of pork chops
1 fresh pineapple cute and cored in to small pieces
2 Tablespoons of light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce

Based on your shopping list, you are able to make two freezer meals. Throw all ingredients into gallon sized freezer bag and lay flat to freeze. The night before cooking, move the frozen bag to your refrigerator to thaw. The morning of cooking, pour contents into your slow cooker on low for 6 hours.

Chicken Tacos
4 Chicken Breasts
1-2 Tablespoons of taco seasoning
1 can of corn
2 can of black beans
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon of green chilies

Mix all ingredients in the freezer bad. On the day of cooking, put it in the crock pot and cook on low for 8-10 hours. You can serve this on taco shells, as a burrito, over a baked potato or really any way you like!

I hope that this is helpful for others looking for make some meals ahead of time. I was really surprised at how little time it took us to make all of these and very happy that we did! It has been so nice to just run out to the freezer, grab a meal and throw it in the oven or crock pot! What other freezer recipes do you love?

Cozy Weekend Wrapup

Monday, November 9, 2015

I've definitely noticed that weekends are much more exciting and enjoyed when you're back to working full time. While I was on maternity leave I could barely tell you what day of the week it was most days. So now that I'm back at the office Monday through Fridays I'm definitely planning on soaking up every minute of the weekend I possibly can!

Friday evening we met up with our friends for dinner and a short trip to a holiday bazar. Of course Harper was sort of over all the running around her and Dad had done that day and ready to be home for the night, but it was still nice to get out with friends for a little while!

Dan had to work Saturday so it was a girls day for Harper and I! Because the holidays last year were so crazy and basically a blur, I am so excited for Christmas this year! We decided to check out all the new holiday stuff at Target that morning with my Dad. All the decorations had me wishing it was time to decorate the house already!
We spent the rest of the day curled up by the fire working on holiday party invites and enjoying some snuggle time and a nap for Harper!

That evening we went to my parents to watch the Oregon Duck game!
Sunday Dan got off shift so we spent the morning hanging out around the house and then headed out to grab lunch and run some errands. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, working on signs for my Etsy shop and baking cookies!

All in all a pretty great weekend! But it's back to work and back to me missing that little girl again!

Made It Through Week One

Friday, November 6, 2015

Well . . . . I made it! it's officially Friday and I've make it through my first week back at work - or at least I will once it's 5 o'clock and I'm on my way home to snuggle that cute little girl and my sweet fireman! So in honor of Friday, here's five random things to catch you up on what I've been up to this week!

Monday was tough leaving her and I've missed her every single day, but I love the look of contentment she gets when I walk through the door and hold her! I've been spending every minute I'm home in the evenings holding and snuggling her on the couch with the fireplace on and I've loved that!

And how could you not love getting some play and dress up time in with this little cutie?!?

This week I've also tried to get myself back in to the swing of blogging. This marks my third post this week, which is probably the most in months! I also even participated in a giveaway this week, so make sure you jump over to that post and get yourself entered to win $165 of cash and an awesome christmas card design!

I've already started my Christmas shopping and planning my birthday/holiday party. With my birthday so close to Christmas, I've come to realize you have to start planning early so that everyone doesn't fill their schedule with holiday parties the night you want everyone to celebrate with you! Why is it that once you reach a certain age it becomes really awkward to host a birthday party? I find you always have to come up with a different reason to have a party and it just happens to fall on or around the same time as your birthday. Well if you're invited to my ugly Christmas sweater party on the 19th of December, just know that it's also my birthday and you don't have to feel bad about getting me a gift, or don't, whatever.

Be on the lookout for awesome ugly sweater party photos like these after the party!

Speaking of Christmas, I reserved a spot with a local photographer for a mini session to get some holiday photos so now I'm searching near and far for outfit ideas. The photographer is using these mini sessions to help fun their adoption, and since I'm adopted and hope to adopt one day as well, it pulled on my heart strings. And everyone knows I don't need an excuse to get photos taken, but if you need one . . . new baby, first holiday, Christmas time, Christmas cards . . . done! Does anyone have any suggestions of outfits for myself, Dan and Harper? It will be inside at her home studio so I'm on the hunt for something cute and holiday-ish.

One of my favorite bloggers had her baby this week and I am just so excited for her! If you don't know Morgan and you haven't checked out her blog before, you definitely should! Especially since now you'll probably be able to see some adorable pictures of her little Charlie Beth!

Well I hope you all had a good week! Please send some outfit ideas my way for our holiday photos! Have a good weekend, I'm off to get through my work day so I can go home and snuggle my family!

New Halloween Traditions

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

This year our halloween went a bit different than past years. Obviously life with a new baby makes everything sort of turn upside down, but mostly in all good ways! This year instead of finding a scary haunted house or making drinks at a fun party, we got Harper dressed up and went to a little one's halloween party, meaning all of our friends with little kids dressed their kid up and got together for a party at 3 in the afternoon. See people, life has changed!

Before halloween was actually here, we took Harper on her first pumpkin patch trip. It's one of my favorite things to do every fall, and something I've looked forward to taking my kids to one day. This year we brought my parents along with us for a fun family outing (and so we had someone to take our pictures). And while Harper might still be too small to really care or remember any of it, I still had fun forcing her to take pictures and picking out a pumpkin!

On Halloween day, after several halloween costumes that were ordered and then returned because they were all huge on her, we finally found several halloween themed outfits for her to wear, including a jack-o-lantern top she wore the day before to get in the spirit.
We spent the afternoon on halloween at a friends house. They hosted a party for families with little ones which was so fun. It was nice to have a dry place for the kids to play and dress up and the parents to chat. Obviously Harper didn't do much more than be held, sleep and get her photo taken at the party, but it was still fun to spend time with our friends, even if it looked a little different this year. One of the things I love most about being a parent is that so many of our friends are newish parents too!
I'm sad that her first holiday has passed, but so thrilled to welcome in my favorite time of year. I already warned Dan that he may hate me this year because I plan on going way overboard with christmas! Being that it is my favorite time of year, last year we were in the middle of trying to move into our house and this is Harper's first Christmas so it's probably going to look like santa threw up around our house, and I am totally okay with that! What are your favorite parts about the holidays? Not that I need any more ideas!

Back To Work

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

well as of yesterday i was no longer enjoying the new stay at home mommy life and was back at the office bright and early.

i thought coming back to work right after daylight savings would make me feel so much more rested and ready to tackle my first week back, and then i remembered that i'm now the parent to a 12 week old and was quickly reminded that little ones at that age have no idea what daylight savings is and their sleep schedule is still based on whenever they decide they're hungry. so there i was, up by 5am snuggling my little one before i had to leave her for the first time. it was horrible just what i needed.

the first day was tough, although something that i knew would eventually come. i only cried for about a mile of my drive so i'd say that was a win. i'd been trying not to think about it for weeks days and finally it was here. thankfully i don't have to worry about how she's doing while i'm gone because dan will be home with her on his days off and the other days she'll be with my mom, so she'll be totally spoiled while i'm away. that still doesn't make me miss her any less!

so i tried to get in as much snuggle, play and photo time as i could the past couple days! thankfully i only have to make it through three full weeks of work and then i get a couple extra days off for thanksgiving and it's basically the start of the christmas season (or it is in my head at least), and that always makes me happy! before you know it my little desk christmas tree will be out and lit and helping me make it through the work days a little happier.
anyway...i am sitting here counting down the minutes till i get to go home and get some more snuggle time in so thank god we have a CASH GIVEAWAY going on to take my mind off being back at work.

so let's get ourselves busy and check out the gals bringing the giveaway as well as getting entered!

$ 1 6 5 P A Y P A L  C A S H +

H O L I D A Y  C A R D  D E S G N by K A R L I  B E L L
katie | annie
karli | libby | shelly
alexis | brittney | macy | hannah
lindsey | jenn | hayley | mar