April 16, 2014

Pregnancy Update! (Finally?) 19 Weeks


Yes, I know that we announced our pregnancy over a month ago, and that I still have not even really talked about how I am doing or looking or feeling this time around. When I was pregnant with little J, I was really good about blogging what was going on and taking pictures and sharing that with my family and friends. This time, I have not been good at all. I blame it on second-pregnancy-syndrome (which I just made up but I feel is probably real). Anyway, it is time to share the belly!



So how am I feeling this time? Well it is definitely different than the first time. I was more sick from about 8 weeks until 15 weeks, and with little J I only got a little nauseous if I didn't eat (but I never threw up). I actually did get a stomach bug around 13 weeks that made me crazy sick this time, and when I was pregnant with little J I got one at 7 weeks and I had to go to the ER. So apparently that is a tradition. But I feel a lot better now. I am getting about one bad headache a week, I feel like I popped out sooner, and I already have those lovely stretch marks coming back. I have been in maternity pants for about a week, and I am still having to pee all the time. At my last appointment baby was pretty low though, so that explains the bladder problems. But still. I thought I was supposed to be sleeping through the night now!

This pregnancy has also gone a lot faster than the first. I think because I am so busy with little J and the things our family has been through in the last three months, time is just going by fast. The first time I was pregnant I was only working a little bit so I had a lot of time to just sit around and think about baby. This time I am always busy doing other things with little J or with the house or with my blog so I don't ever really just sit around. We still haven't bought anything for baby because we have all the big things and until we know if we are having a boy or a girl, we can't really get anything else (I am not a big gender neutral fan). But don't get me wrong, we are incredibly excited and can't wait for this little baby to be born in September!

I still haven't felt baby move yet, but it took until I think like 23 weeks for me to feel little J. And again, I don't really just sit down and wait for it to happen like I did with him, so that is probably another part of why I haven't felt anything yet. At the first two appointments baby's heartbeat was in the 160s and last time it was in the 150s, so maybe a girl? I am hoping for a girl because I want to dress her in cute clothes and have her be all girly. Plus, my sister-in-law is having a baby girl in July, and it would be so fun for them to be two months apart and both be girls! Mister husband wants another boy so little J has a friend, but either way we would both be happy. We have had a lot of fun with our little boy and I know another one would be just as exciting.

So I guess that is all I have to say right now! We find out next week if we are having a boy or a girl (on our anniversary!) and I will let you all know soon!!!

April 14, 2014

Fired-Up Fettuccine Carbonara Bake with Ragú


One of my favorite things to eat, hands down, is pasta. I cook it at home all the time and even when we go out to eat I almost always order pasta. I just think it's that good. And my favorite pasta sauce is Ragú. So when I had the chance to come up with my own spin on classic fettuccine carbonara using Ragú Classic Alfredo, I absolutely jumped at the chance! It was a lot of fun to experiment and come up with my very own New Tra-Dish.

If you've ever had classic fettuccine carbonara, you know it is pretty simple. I wanted to keep my recipe simple, too, but add a little spice and change the way it's served. I am a big fan of oven-finishes on my pasta, so I topped my carbonara with extra cheese, bread crumbs, and bacon before letting it get nice and bubbly for 15 minutes in the oven. It came out PERFECT.

Before I go on, let me just say that after one bite, even my husband was hooked. He's not as big on pasta as I am, so for him to tell me immediately that he wanted me to make this again is a big deal. And not only that, but he told me twice that this dish was restaurant-quality. TWICE! Oh yes, my friends. This is a delicious, simple recipe that only takes 35 minutes from start to finish and will have your family thinking they are out to dinner.

I loved using the Ragú sauce as my base because it was already creamy, cheesy, and delicious. The Ragú Classic Alfredo sauce is definitely my go-to alfredo sauce, and it is good both on its own or with a twist like this dish. My husband almost always adds salt and pepper to his food, and he didn't even want to when I used the Classic Alfredo sauce! I highly recommend checking it out, because you may not go back to whatever sauce you were using before!


Fired-Up Fettuccine Carbonara Bake
Serves 4
Prep: 20 min. Bake: 15 min.

Ingredients:
  • 1 jar Ragú Classic Alfredo sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 3/4 c. shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 12 oz fettuccine noodles
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 1/2 c. shredded pepper jack cheese (for topping)
  • 1/4 c. bread crumbs
  • 4 slices turkey bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled
Directions:
  1. Cook fettuccine according to package directions, adding peas in during last 2 minutes. Drain.
  2. While fettuccine is cooking, heat the Ragú Classic Alfredo in a medium saucepan on the stove. Once hot, stir in the 3/4 c. shredded pepper jack cheese and the chili powder. Stir until smooth.
  3. Remove the sauce from the stove and mix in the noodles and peas.
  4. Pour into a square baking dish and top with 1/2 c. shredded pepper jack cheese, bread crumbs, and crumbled turkey bacon.
  5. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.
  6. Serve and enjoy!!

I absolutely loved this recipe, and I am sure you will, too. I am definitely going to incorporate it into our meal rotation and make it over and over again.

And if you enjoy this recipe, or just want more inspiration to liven up your dinners, check out
Ragú's Facebook page for more easy and delicious Authentic Italian recipes. Also, don't forget to enter the Ragú Sweepstakes for a chance to win great Authentic Italian-themed prizes, including a grand prize trip to Italy for a family of four at www.RaguSweeps.com. It's easy and you can enter up to three times every day!



Thanks for stopping by!

I received product samples in exchange for this post, but all opinions are my own.

April 10, 2014

Tips for Spring Cleaning


It is spring! Okay, so spring break is over and spring started almost a month ago, but if you are like me and aren't starting spring cleaning until now, it's okay! I guess the most important thing is that you do something like spring cleaning once a year, right?

Anyway, I thought I would share my plan and tips for spring cleaning!


So these tips are not hard, but I have found that you really do need to have a plan when you start something big like spring cleaning. Otherwise you can a) get overwhelmed, b) give up, or c) not even start because of the magnitude of the job ahead. First, I want to give you a few tips before you start going through your things and cleaning. That way when you go through these steps, you will have a clear head and be able to get rid of things and not be overwhelmed.

First of all, I recommend going room-by-room. This helps you have a starting place and helps the task not seem so big. If you conquer one room at a time, you won't feel like "oh my goodness, I have so much crap, how do I even start?" Trust me. This is a big helper.

Next, be real about the things you are going to keep. Did you find some old wedding cards you saved because you thought one day you might look back on them? Did you find old manuals for things you don't even have anymore? Ask yourself if you are ever realistically going to look back and enjoy these things, and if you aren't, then get rid of them! If you are and if these things really do have sentimental value (the ticket stub for your first date with your husband), then move on to the next tip.

One of the best ideas I have ever had was to have a special big box for sentimental things I don't want to get rid of. Things like a personalized napkin from our wedding brunch, a note from my husband when he first told me he was falling in love with me, the little tag with my name for when we got sealed in the temple. Most of the things in there are things that have to do with my husband, but you can also put things like cards from grandparents with special notes, ticket stubs to some of your most life-changing concerts or movies, or photographs of friends you have from before digital cameras existed. This is the kind of stuff you will want to go through again. But remember the previous tip: be real about the things you are going to keep. Really ask yourself if it's something you will want to look at again and have memories with. If it's not, it doesn't belong in your big memory box.

Okay so now onto the steps!! The first thing you need to do when you pick starting place is to go through your stuff. And there are three piles that you need to make when pulling stuff out that you don't need.






The first pile of things is a "sell" pile. This includes everything you don't want or don't use or don't ever need and that you think you could reasonably make some money off of. I don't mean having a garage sale in a few months, I mean getting rid of things now. You can use Facebook, Craigslist, or other kinds of places to sell things. For example, we have a little tv that we never use. So I am selling it because it is just taking up space and is in the way. Easy peasy.






The next pile is your "give away" pile. This is things that people would not ever buy, but is in good enough condition that someone might pick it up from Goodwill or DI. For example I got rid of some baby stuff that we had like fifty of (blankets, burp rags I never used) because I knew I wouldn't be able to sell them quickly and I knew they could still be helpful to other people at a place like Goodwill. This will probably be your biggest pile of things.






I think this pile is pretty self-explanatory. Anything that you never use, that nobody would never use, or that is broken can go in this pile. I found old thank you cards, boxes for our old iPhones, and old magazines that fit this description. And this is probably the easiest pile to get rid of because you can just throw everything into a bag, walk outside, and throw it away!

Now that you have de-cluttered and gotten rid of things, you can begin the next phase of spring cleaning--the renewal!






Obviously when you are doing spring cleaning you will want to clean. So take the books off the bookshelf and dust (don't just dust in front of them). Wipe those windows down. Clean off the top of your shelves and your refrigerator. Actually deep-clean your home. Since this is something you will only do once a year, you probably will be grossed out by what you find. But it is worth it! Because think about if you didn't deep clean once a year, what would you find when you decided to move and had to clean then? Eew. So just do it. Wear gloves if you really feel like you need to.






Organizing what you have after you have gone through everything can really help you feel like you've accomplished something when it's all over. I don't know if you are like me, but sometimes after a year of just stuffing things into the linen closet, you may need a bit of an overhaul. Take everything out and then make sure everything has a nice place. You can get little baskets or labels if that is your thing. Just organize things so that you are starting over new. It really does help you feel good!







Something I don't think many people think about when they are doing spring cleaning is to refresh their home! It is okay to update a room with some new pillows or wall art every few years (in fact, you probably should!). I got some pillow fillers from Ikea a few months ago and am planning on sewing some bright, patterned pillow covers for them to help refresh our living room. And we just got one-year-old pictures of little J done, so I need to get those hung, too! I think this is probably the most fun part of spring cleaning, because it feels kind of like a reward for getting everything else done. And it helps top off that feeling of new-ness only a clean home can bring!

So those are my lovely tips for spring cleaning! I hope they help you not to be overwhelmed and to get rid of a lot of the clutter in your home. If you have any other tips please share in the comments! Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with your spring cleaning!

April 7, 2014

Spring Favorites


It's that time again. Time for spring favorites! Yay! I didn't actually realize it was spring for like two weeks after it was actually spring. I guess that's what happens when you are living in chilly, windy Iowa. Especially when it keeps snowing randomly. Ugh. Anyway, here is my list of spring favorites!



1. Vera Bradley Umbrella: "April Showers bring May Flowers" so duh, of course you are going to need an umbrella. I got one of these umbrellas for Christmas two years ago, and it has come in so handy! It keeps both me and my son dry, and it is lightweight and easy to stow. It would be dumb to go anywhere without it right now!

2. In-Step Double Bicycle Trailer: My husband got this amazing bike trailer for his birthday a few months ago, and even though he's only used it a handful of times, I know that once it gets warmer it is going to get used so much! Little J loves riding in it and my husband loves taking him for rides to the park. There are some cheaper versions of this trailer, but we got it for a good price on Amazon and it is going to last a long time! Plus it has room for little sibling for next year!

3. Little Debbie Cherry Pies: The one thing I have been craving the last few weeks (thanks, pregnancy) is cherry pie. And it would be embarrassing to buy myself a whole cherry pie (not to mention shameful), so these little pies are the perfect option! They are delicious and have a yummy glaze coating them. I need to figure out a way to re-create these at home because they are so good!

4. Hawthorne Threads: I love this website! It has a ton of different categories and designers listed and you can look at all of their latest fabric designs. I could spend hours on this site getting fabric inspiration. I used it a lot to help find fabric for my son's burp cloths before he was born, and I've spent a lot of time on it recently trying to figure out what kind of fabric to use for this baby's bedding. Anyway, this website is amazing!



5. Liz Lange Maternity Line at Target: I seriously love everything about this line. Everything is so comfortable, and it is all affordable, too. And super cute! I have been dreaming about all the maxi dresses they have for this summer. I plan on wearing lots of nice airy dresses this summer so I won't get crazy hot. And I hope to get a lot of them from Target!! They also have some really cute swimsuits that I will definitely be checking out in the next two months.

6. Tiny Prints Foil Stamped Baby Announcements: Right now my favorite color combo is gold and pink. And Tiny Prints just unrolled some gorgeous foil stamped baby announcements in GOLD AND PINK! They also have baby boy announcements, but I got really excited when I saw the gold and pink foil announcements. AKA, we need a baby girl! And, until the end of the year, you can get 10% off all birth announcement orders from Tiny Prints with code 2014TP10 at checkout!. So pretty much, you have no excuse not to get these!

7. Succulents: I haven't been able to find the perfect succulent for my house yet, but I am very much on the lookout. I love these little plants! I've read that they are really easy to take care of and hard to kill, so obviously they are perfect for me! I love how many varieties there are and the many possibilities of vases and displays you can put them in. I have seen terrariums, paint-dipped mason jars, and polka-dot vases. Can they get any better? Nope. I need one (or ten).

8. Fresh Flowers: First of all, who doesn't like fresh flowers? Second of all, it is spring and what says fresh and beauty more than flowers? They can brighten up any room and are a great surprise for any lady in your life. Again, there are so many varieties and colors and they smell so good. Fresh flowers are a great way to welcome spring into your home. So again, I need them in my house.

I hope one or two of my spring favorites have given you something new to try! Because really, they are all amazing!

April 3, 2014

Meet Pamela ($25 Target and Bannerie Giveaway)

Hello everyone! Today I just wanted to take a quick minute to let you know about one of my new favorite blogs, MacDonald's Playland. It is written by my sweet friend Pamela (who seriously is the sweetest). She writes about her life, being a mom, the amazing crafty things she does, and the amazing ways she has beautified her home. She actually found my blog first, and I am so glad she did because she has been really helpful and I love reading her posts!

http://www.macdonaldsplayland.com/
 
Two weeks ago she and her husband welcomed a brand new baby boy and to celebrate, she is currently hosting a giveaway on her site. She is also having a few guest bloggers contribute for the next little bit, and I was lucky enough to be one of those she picked (check back in two weeks to find out more). Anyway, I just wanted to let you guys know that she is out there and point you in the direction of her wonderful blog. And also, to share the giveaway she has going on! I was going to wait until my guest post went up, but you wouldn't have much time to enter if I had done that, so I am doing it today!

The giveaway includes a $25 gift card to Target (who doesn't want that!?) and a custom 6' paper circle garland from The Bannerie, which is a super cute Etsy store filled with all kinds of cute, handmade banners and garlands. All you have to do is follow a couple of lovely people on different social medias and you are entered!
 a Rafflecopter giveaway

And don't forget to check out Pamela's blog MacDonald's Playland

March 31, 2014

Dad's Banana Bread


I'll be honest. My dad is not the best chef in our family. His favorite meal of warmed up lima beans was constantly stinking up our kitchen (my mom hated it) and he was never one to offer to cook meals. But he did have one, secret, hidden talent--banana bread. Every once in a while we wouldn't eat our bananas in time and they would go so ripe that they couldn't be eaten. So every once in a while, my dad would whip out his special banana bread recipe, and we would all be so glad we didn't finish those bananas in time. When I moved out and went to college, I would get a package in the mail every few months with a loaf of my dad's special banana bread. I finally decided that I needed it more often than that, and got the recipe for his banana bread! After keeping it all to myself the past few years, I think it is time that I share it with the world!!



This recipe really is not hard. And oh man, it is so worth it. It is a delicious, moist, and springy bread with the perfect flavor of bananas. The most important tip I can give you for this recipe is to use bananas that are ripe enough, but not too ripe. They should be browning to the point where you won't eat them anymore, but not too brown because then the banana is a little overpowering. But if you use bananas that aren't ripe enough, the bread is not sweet enough. So here is a picture of my bananas and how they looked before they were mashed:


Other than that tip, there really isn't much to this recipe!

Dad's Banana Bread
Makes 9x5" pan, or two 5x3" pans

Ingredients
  • 1/3 c. shortening
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 c. sifted flour
  • 1 c. mashed ripe banana
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
Directions:
  1. Cream together shortening and sugar. Add eggs and beat well.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients. Add to creamed mixture alternately with banana, blending well after each addition.
  3. Pour into greased 9x5" or two 5x3" loaf pans.
  4. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes.
  5. Remove from pan and cool on rack.
You can serve this warm (but not hot) and if you don't eat it all immediately (if being the key word), wrap it in foil or plastic wrap to make sure it stays fresh. It will stay fresh for several days after baking, but I highly doubt it will last that long!

March 24, 2014

My Apologies

I just wanted to briefly say to my regular readers that I am sorry I have not been posting as regularly the past few weeks. First of all, I got really sick two weekends ago and couldn't do anything, plus I have had bad morning sickness up until last week. Not to mention that it has been hard getting things done that I have wanted to with everything else our family is currently dealing with. But I promise that I am still here and doing well and that I am going to get back on top of this! I have some great posts planned, including a delicious banana bread recipe that should be posted this week, and I think I just need some time to pull things together and take care of my family and myself. 

So I am sorry, but things are going to get back on track!
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