Weeknight Spinach Tortellini Soup

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I love tortellinis! I used to ask for them for my birthday dinner with alfredo sauce. Pasta filled with cheese. Can’t go wrong there! Today I wanted to add some veggies and put it in a soup to make it a healthier dinner for us. I read through some soup variations and came up with this. I was pleased with the outcome, so here it is! Oh, and big bonus. It’s quick and easy!

You’ll need:

  • half an onion, diced
  • 2 Tbl olive or avocado oil
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 4 cups (or 32 oz) vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp basil
  • Tri Color Cheese Tortellini, 19 oz bag
  • 3 cups fresh chopped spinach (no stems)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup half and half
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pour oil into large stock pot and sauté diced onions. Once tender, add garlic salt.
  2. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, and basil. Let come to a boil on medium heat.
  3. Then add the tortellini, spinach, and parmesan. Once tortellini is soft, pour the half and half in. Crack fresh pepper to your liking. Let soup come to a boil again.
  4. Serve and enjoy 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

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30 Things I’ve Learned in 30 Years

I turned 30 a couple months ago.

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Not quite as fun as turning 16, 18, or 21! You learn a lot in your first 30 years and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more in the next 30. Anybody feel like they’ve learned TOO much and kinda wish you could go back to being naive and full of young hope? Haha! Yeah me too! I came up with a list of 30 things I’ve learned in 30 years. Some of these may resonate with you as well.

  1. Most things are out of our control (despite what we tell ourselves lol). Roll with it and make the best of the situation.
  2. Anger will pass. Be slow to react so you don’t regret what you did/said in the heat of the moment.
  3. It’s okay to be honest and stand up for yourself. As long as you’re calm, rationale, and polite, most people will receive it well.
  4. Give an animal a family and loving home. They will give you unconditional loyalty, love, and comfort in return. They are part of your life for a short time, but you are all they will know for their entire life. Give them a good one. Take them places, play, give them treats, and cuddle.

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    My sweet boy Gunner ♥

  5. Plan fun things to look forward to. They don’t need to be big week long vacations. They can be small weekend getaways, a girls’ day/night, a movie, a play, a nice dinner out, etc.

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    Our weekend in Winter Park

  6. Give compliments often, especially to your spouse and the people you love.
  7. Make fun memories with your kids or the special kids in your life. They will remember spending a fun day with you (like baking cookies) and look back on it fondly.
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  8. Be supportive and encouraging. You may be the only person they will get it from.
  9. Smile at people. You never know what they’re dealing with.
  10. Get involved in groups, bible studies, or clubs. It will help you meet people that could become very good friends.
  11. Find something that you enjoy doing.
  12. Don’t be afraid to try something new. If it interests you, give it a go and if it doesn’t work out or isn’t as enjoyable as you thought, oh well! Onto something else.

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    I tried cookie flooding and ended up loving it!

  13. Be a good listener. Make eye contact, nod, and ask questions. Being heard always feels good.
  14. When things in life get hard, talk to a trustworthy friend or family member. When you isolate yourself and become distant, the problem and feelings can get too overwhelming.
  15. You’re never the only one going through something. There will always be other people struggling with the same thing.
  16. Treat yourself! It’s okay to get that special Starbucks drink sometimes or take a hot bubble bath for some relaxing alone time.
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  17. Spend time with people that build you up and want what’s best for you. If you’re around people that do the opposite, you’ll start believing things about yourself that aren’t true.
    If you have a spouse, you also need to be around people that want your marriage to succeed. Hearing negative remarks about your spouse will create problems and make you view your spouse negatively too.
  18. Don’t put God in a box or into a formula. It will shake your world up when He breaks it. We will never figure God out. His thoughts are higher (and much different) than our own.
  19. Don’t console people with clichés or advice. When someone has experienced loss or pain they just need to know you care and are there for them. You don’t need to say much more than “I’m sorry” or “I’m here for you”.
  20. Be silly and laugh at yourself. One of the greatest pleasures in life is laughing until your sides hurt.
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  21. Send sweet texts. It will make the receiver’s day.
  22. Do small acts of kindness for people you love. Bring your mom flowers, drop off coffee or lunch to your spouse at work, make your sibling their favorite cookies, or bring dinner to a friend having a bad week/day. You’ll feel good and they’ll feel very loved.
  23. Call your grandparents and send them cards. Everyone likes to get a special card in the mail for birthdays, Valentine’s, Christmas, etc. This is especially true for grandparents and they’ll love knowing you thought about them.

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    You can make your own cards at low cost with some pretty paper and stickers

  24. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask questions at the doctor’s office, when you’re learning something new, at a job, anywhere! It’s better to ask and know for sure, than to guess and make mistakes that affect people.
  25. Follow through with your commitments. If you commit to doing something and then later change your mind, you still need to do it. Otherwise people will see you as unreliable.
  26. Say no to commitments if you know you can’t follow through with them. It’s better to say no upfront than to put someone in a bad position at the last minute.
  27. Make yourself reminders. I used to always feel like I was forgetting something. And I usually was! Now we have phones with calendars and reminders. Use them and give yourself peace of mind.
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  28. Health is important. Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  29. It’s all about balance. Too much of anything isn’t good.
  30. Money isn’t everything, but be wise with it. Financial problems cause depression, relationship issues, stress, anger, and anxiety.
    Thinking about a budgets can seem difficult, but they’re really not. And when you realize you have enough money in the bank at the end of the month, you’ll feel so good! I’ve fallen off the budget wagon many times. It’s never too late to get back on it.

These are things I’ve learned from making mistakes, going through hard struggles, and seeing other people do it right. My favorite things on this list are the ones that love on other people. I’ve been on the receiving end of some incredible people who showed me great kindness and unconditional love ❤️ It really is a key thing to remember in life.
One of my favorite versus in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

 

How to Say Goodbye to the Grumpy Grinch

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Christmas is a time for holiday cheer, giving, and all around good spirit. However not every Christmas feels this way. It might be because we’re just going through the motions year after year. Or maybe life isn’t feeling very good right now so it’s hard to be in a cheery Christmas mood.

As the holidays were approaching, I certainly wasn’t feeling warm, fuzzy things. I thought, “Can we just get this over with?” I didn’t like that I felt that way, but there it was. I’ll be honest. My husband and I have been going through a lot of loss and grief. So being told it’s a happy time of year wasn’t jiving with how I felt.

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I couldn’t be the only one who felt the way I did. I got the idea to start making a list of ways I might be able to bring some joy to others. Doing something (even small) could help bring a good feeling to someone’s heart. And in the process I just might enjoy the holiday I was hoping would be over quickly.

Here are some of the things I came up with:

•Pay for someone’s coffee in the drive-thru ☕️

Optional: Leave an encouraging note for the barista to give them.

•Bring cookies and a card to elderly friends/family members 🎄

•Give out cookies and chat with people in an assisted living or nursing home 🍪

•Pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child or another organization that does something special for those in need 📦

Note: you can pack a shoebox virtually online if the time has passed to drop them at an OCC location

•Plan some fun Christmas activities with the kiddos in your life ❄️

I’m a nanny for 3 children, so I have some fun activities and baking for us to do together on their winter break

•Plan a fun outing with your spouse, good friend, or a family member so you can make a holiday memory together 💚❤️

Some ideas might be ice skating, a Christmas train ride, a special show or play

•Bring goodies to a neighbor 🍭

Maybe pick a neighbor you haven’t had a chance to meet

•Try to go a more sentimental route for some of your gifts 🎁

Buying gifts can be stressful and hard on your wallet (which makes it more stressful). But if you know a gift is going to mean something special to someone, it’s a little more exciting.

•Invite someone over for hot cocoa and a movie 🎥

This time of year we will usually hear “Christ is the reason for the season!”

But the meaning behind that saying doesn’t always sink in. There’s a lot of people dealing with grief, loss, and sadness right now. I think its time I put more thought into how I can show others the love Christ has shown us, instead of grumbling about my To Do list.

Merry Christmas! May you find some joy this holiday season. Hugs ❤️

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Christmas Gift Ideas for Everyone

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Every year when the holidays roll around I get this mixed feeling of joy and fear. The fear comes from the realization I have to start racking my brain for 100 different Christmas gifts. Slight exaggeration but you get it. You’re faced with the task of coming up with a gift for each and every person that meets all these requirements:

*thoughtful
*unique
*inexpensive
*something they don’t already have
*not cheesy
*decent quality
*something they would use
*is cute/cool

That’s a lot of pressure.

I’ve done plenty of searches online for gift help. So to help my fellow gift searchers, I’ve put together some ideas I’ve used successfully.

MARRIED COUPLES/PARENTS:

  • Date Nights
    -get a variety of gift cards they can use for date nights
    ie: coffee, movies, ice cream, restaurants
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  • Tickets to an Event
    ie: play, comedy show, concert, musical
  • A weekend or Night Away
    ie: bed & breakfast, a nearby town/city with fun activities, spa
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*As an added bonus if you gift someone a special night or weekend away, you can also offer to watch their kid (s) or dog sit

  • Matching Pajamas and Mugs
    -you can find a lot of cute Mr. & Mrs. items
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  • Get Local
    -if you live in a different state than the gift receiver, put together a variety of products specially made in your state.
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  • Hobby Accessories
    -Are they really into something right now? Camping/RVing, hiking, house projects, etc.
    My in-laws bought a camper and they take full advantage of it in the warm months. So we put together some things we thought would come in handy for that.
    ie: a personalized bag to store things in, scented fire starters, and a shark steam mop (there’s a lot of foot traffic in their camper).

SINGLES/COLLEGE STUDENTS:

  • Subscription to Hulu
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  • Crockpot (include some good recipes)
  • Funny t-shirt, Mug, and/or Movie
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  • Wine, Beer, Whiskey (as long as they’re 21)
    -I have a brother in college and one thing I’ve learned is that he and his friends appreciate a good local beer or whiskey. Any gifts that go along with that are usually a hit also.
  • Gift cards
    -This might seem like the easy way out. But when you’re on your own, gift cards are like gold! If you’re not sure what type of gift cards they’d like, ask for a list of 4 or 5 to pick from.
  • Just ask
    -Maybe they’re trying to cook more and would love some new measuring cups and spoons. Maybe they’re trying to save up for a trip and would love to just take the money and put it towards that. No harm in asking!

LADIES IN YOUR LIFE:

  • Pedicure
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  • Facial or Massage
    -a morning or afternoon at a spa getting pampered?! That’s a great day
    *My favorite place is Brookside Gardens located in Berthoud, CO. If you don’t know of a good place, ask around!
  • Tickets to a Fun Event
    -ie: concert, play, dinner theater, etc
    *If you choose to get someone tickets to an event, make sure you find out if they’re available that night.
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  • Favorite Things ♥
    -I started making a list of things I’ve come to love in the past year. If I love it, I have a feeling other people will too and it could make a great gift!
    For example, I bought a Pampered Chef tool that chops up ground beef like a pro and makes cooking so much easier. It’s a game changer! So for Christmas I ordered some for several women in my family. And guess what? They loved it too 🙂
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MEN IN YOUR LIFE:

  • Wood Docking Station
    -My husband has this and we both really like it. It looks very nice and holds everything from his phone and wallet to watches, sunglasses, and keys. I got it from Palmetto Wood Shop. You can choose from a variety of colors.
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  • Whiskey, Beer, Favorite Liquor (21+ of course)
  • Whiskey Accessories
    ie: whiskey ice cube molds, whiskey glasses, or other accessories. I got my husband a death star ice cube mold because he’s a Star Wars nerd 😉
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  • Beard or Shaving Stuff
    Beard- beard oil, lotion, beard kit, beard comb
    No Beard- grooming kit, homemade or good quality shaving cream, shaving brush
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  • Travel Bag
    -I purchased personalized travel bags for some of the guys in my family. They’re good quality and can hold all their bathroom products when traveling. This one is from Thirty-One and they call it the “24/7 Case”.
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KIDS:

  • Creative Gifts
    ie: chalk, crafts, new art supplies, play dough  (just not anything that creates too much of a mess or has a lot of small parts)
    *mom and dad will love if you include an organizer with it too
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  • A Fun Outing
    ie: movies, zoo, bowling, mini golf, etc. Kids tend to look back and remember experiences more than toys
    *If you want them to still be able to open something, you could wrap a small item to represent your outing
  • Imaginative Play
    ie: Dr. kit, tool kit, baking set, dress up clothes
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I hope some of these ideas helped you check some people off your list!

Shape Hunt & Scavenger Hunt

A few ideas for keeping small people busy! The boys are loving these 2 games right now. And the great part is there’s not much prep to them.

Shape Hunt – The object of this game is to find the shapes hidden or placed around the room. Draw some shapes, cut them out, add tape, and BAM! Endless fun 🙂

Try to “hide” the shapes at eye level for younger ones

I traced the shapes onto another paper so they could put them in their place as they found them. It helped them to see what shapes were left to find too.

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Steps to Play:
1) Cut out shapes
2) Trace shapes on another paper
3) Add tape to cut out shapes (painter’s tape works great)
4) One person counts to 20 0r 30 while the other person puts the shapes around the room
5) Person counting finds shapes and matches them to their spot on the paper

Scavenger Hunt – The object of this game is to find the listed items. Here are a few examples. The boxes at the end are for the boys to check off when they’ve found that item.

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I’ve found that this is a great way to talk about textures, patterns, shapes in everyday objects, and using your senses. Depending on the age the scavenger can be made easier or more difficult.

Have fun!!!!

 

Breakfast Burritos-bacon, egg, potato, & gravy

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Bacon, eggs, potatoes, cheese, and gravy wrapped in a tortilla. It’s a pretty good way to start the morning. And it can last many mornings if you make extra, wrap them and store them in the freezer. Here’s my burrito assembly set up:

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It’s burrito making time!

Now I know that breakfast burritos really aren’t that hard to make. But there are many options and ways to do it. So since I was making a batch, I thought I would share!

To start I cooked up the potatoes. I used diced potatoes found in the frozen section, but shredded would work too! Once those were browned and cooked, I added in beaten eggs. Stir into potatoes until scrambled. Turn heat off and add shredded cheese. It will melt as you stir it in. It’s nice to have the potatoes and eggs in one skillet. Less dishes, less mess.

And Bacon. Yes bacon. The salty, meaty, crispy goodness that completes every good breakfast meal. Cook it until crisp and crumble into a bowl.

I chose to top it off with bacon gravy. I grew up going to my MiMi’s house for biscuits and bacon gravy, so its definitely a comfort food for me. You could choose a different gravy or green chili. Both are great options.

Wrap up the leftovers and store in a zip lock in the freezer.

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Breakfast Burritos – Bacon, egg, potato, and gravy
Yields 7-8 

Ingredients:

  • Diced potatoes – half of a 32 oz bag
  • 8-10 large eggs
  • 7 slices of thick cut bacon
  • Shredded cheese for sprinkling on top of potato/egg mixture
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Gravy or green chili
  • Large tortillas

Directions:

  1. Follow directions on the diced potatoes package. Add in salt and pepper to taste. I started cooking the bacon at the same time as the potatoes. (In a separate skillet of course ;))
  2. In a separate bowl crack your eggs and beat. I like to add a little bit of milk to help fluff them up.
  3. When potatoes are cooked, pour in the eggs and stir until scrambled. Take off heat and sprinkle cheese on top. Stir to melt it into the mixture.
  4. Crumble bacon into a bowl. If you’re making bacon gravy, don’t forget to save some of the bacon grease.
  5. Heat up your green chili or gravy of choice. This is the bacon gravy recipe I used:
    http://www.unclejerryskitchen.com/recipes/southern-white-gravy-just-like-moms/
  6. Set up your breakfast burrito assembly and go to town!
    1-tortilla 2-potato/egg mix 3-crumbled bacon 4-gravy or green chili 5-wrap it up
  7. Saran wrap and freeze in a zip lock

 

~Fun Lunches~

Here are a few ideas to kick it up a notch at lunch time. Sometimes (or all times) kids can be picky eaters. However, if their lunch looks like a smiley face or their sandwich is in the shape of a  bunny rabbit they might be a little happier to eat it. It’s worth a shot right?

I enjoy being a little creative with their lunches, but I don’t want to be spending too much time and energy on it. After all they’re just going to eat it 5 seconds after my masterpiece is finished. So these are very easy ways to just make it a little more colorful and fun.

Colorful Containers – I like to use fun cups like these (Target $1 section) or cupcake liners to put fruit, veggies, goldfish, etc. I don’t know why, but just simply putting food into something colorful makes the same old-same old feel more like new.

Shapes – Most of us already have some cookie cutters. They can be pretty inexpensive if you want to get a few more. I suggest cutting the bread with the shape cutter BEFORE adding the fillers (pbj, mayo and turkey, ham and cheese, etc). Then continue making the sandwich. Otherwise you’re wasting everything that gets cut out.

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Faces – Happy faces! This is one of the boys’ favorites. There are so many different ways you can make a silly face. And don’t feel bad if you have to tell them it’s a happy face lol They will still love it!

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Pizza Time

Interactive – Making lunch together is a really fun thing to do every now and then! We made little pizzas here and they had a blast. You can also take this opportunity to teach kitchen safety; ovens are very hot, knives are sharp, only mommy can use this or that, etc.

Other easy interactive lunches for kids:

  1. Corn dog muffins – cornbread batter in muffin tins with a piece of hot dog in the middle
  2. Quesadillas
  3. Pancakes – they can help you make the batter and then watch you cook and flip
  4. Nachos
  5. Calzones

Getting new cups, straws, utensils, and plates every so often is exciting too!

The Dollar Tree carries some and the dollar section at Target is great for that too. The most I spent on these items was $3 at Target for the Minion plate. BA-NA-NA! Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

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Lick it!

New foods can be scary for some children. Or they can get in a rut and just refuse any change. The oldest child I take care of doesn’t like trying new foods. The unknown of it all scares him. But his mom told me about an approach she heard to help with this. And it has helped him overcome some of his fear and realize he does like other foods. If you’re introducing a new food and they are hesitant about it, they can choose to do one of these 3 things:

  • Bite it
  • Lick it
  • Kiss it

This gives them some reasonable contact with it before completely banishing it to the black list of evil foods.

Now get out there and do some lunch art! 😉