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I was slightly hesitant when my sister's post went live and it was all about embracing the capsule wardrobe for the month of May.  Minimalist May, we are calling it. I certainly do not have a TON of clothes but I fill a small closet nicely. Living in a country without a Target, Marshall's or even a store that sells pants in "American" sizes, really helps with the constant shopping trips and being pulled to the clearance rack but there is always online shopping. 





We got rid of A LOT when we moved to Japan back in October, 2016. It helped that I was also very large and very pregnant, so I didn't fit into a ton of stuff, which made purging it that much easier. Now that we have lived here almost two years, I have quickly found out that you have to keep purging in order to continue to fit comfortably in a smaller house. A good rule of thumb is that for every article of clothing that I buy, I get rid of two things that I no longer wear. It has worked well so far and honestly, it is not as hard as you think it would be. That being said, there is still quite a bit that I don't wear so I am hoping this challenge will weed out some more clothes.

My issue is not so much spending too much time deciding what to wear, but rather not getting "dressed" enough. School pickup and drop off is easier in workout clothes, soccer practice is more comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. I don't mind the rude look I get from someone who asks if I just got done running and my response is "Nope, I'm just comfortable." To each their own. But, I can say that I find myself a bit more put together if I take the time to put on "real" clothes. And until you have lived in 150% humidity, coupled with 90°, you don't realize that polyester and spandex is less than ideal for hot climates.

15 items. Including shoes. All I gotta say is thank gosh for my birkenstocks, which I firmly believe can be dressed up for any outfit! I too have a few things going on this month that I need to plan for. MOPS is doing our annual Mother's Day Brunch so a nicer sundress for that and we have a few date nights planned throughout the month, including a day date. I have been trying to wear more dresses, since I find them super comfortable and I have way too many in my closet.  It is also getting HOT in Okinawa, so I have to include plenty of light cottons. I am going with two pairs of shorts,  one pair of cotton capris, four shirts, three dresses, one pair of causal wedges and my Birkenstocks. 





While picking out these items, I was able to donate over ten other items that I deemed unnecessary to keep. So, that felt super good! But, then I looked down at my very small pile of clothes and realized this is going to harder than I originally thought. Are you joining us for Minimalist May? I know it sounds crazy, but honestly I think it will be great way to kickstart the summer. Make sure to follow along our Instagram stories and pictures to see our daily outfits and how we styled them. 
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So it turns out picking items for a capsule wardrobe is a lot harder than I thought! Same for you? I follow a couple of minimalists on Instagram and they’ve never mentioned how hard it is to narrow down your wardrobe. It’s hard to pick staple pieces that will function in multiple capacities. For example, I love a good grey tee shirt but can I wear it to a brunch? Church?A meeting? The park? Maybe. Probably. But that requires a lot of thought into what I pair it with. Is that making sense? Instead of grabbing and going, I have to plan. A lot.




I think I’ve figured out why we overstock our closets, it’s so we don’t have to plan ahead. In this day and age, we are busy and on the go. Planning and piecing together outfits takes some effort and thought and frankly, it’s easier the more options you have. I have clothes for my stay at home mom gig, I have clothes for when I have volunteer or teacher meetings, I have clothes for date nights, clothes for church, clothes for girls nights, clothes for family dinners, clothes for….you get the idea! So if I am being real on this minimalist gig then I need to have one wardrobe that has many functions. 

I picked a couple of dresses, one pair of shorts, two pairs of jeans and some tops. I tend to wear solids but I did do some prints because even a loyal solids gal needs to jazz it up in once in awhile! I’m already anticipating some switches because I need a good, cotton sleeveless shirt and I haven’t found one in the abyss of my closet. I may be on the lookout for that this month or I may realize that I can live without it. 




As far as really committing to Minimalist May I have decided that I donate some clothes and shoes as well as just wearing limited clothing. I will spend the minutes, the many minutes, that I usually spend picking out outfits picking out clothes that can go. I tend to spend some serious time picking out clothes so I anticipate finding at least 15 items that need to go.

Are you joining me? Brave enough to pick just 15 items for 26 days? Let’s do it! Getting dressed could be fun again when you get to be a little creative and a little less overwhelmed. Minimalist May has begun!

Check out what Meredith chose for her 15 items later on this week and what was surprising to her throughout the process. And don’t forget to share on Instagram what you chose and how it’s going! 
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You know the feeling…you’re standing in your closet full of clothes and you realize you have nothing to wear. There are so many clothes, so many colors and yet you see nothing you want. Has this happened to you? I know it has! It happens to me almost weekly. And so, I’m going to try an experiment. A minimalist May capsule wardrobe! Read on to find out what that means, how I’m going to do it and the details if you want to join me!



What is a capsule wardrobe?
It’s a wardrobe that consists of a certain amount of clothing that you wear for a certain amount of time. Some people do capsules for a season or for a month. It’s something that has gotten popular recently in our world of excess. The world where you can walk into Target or Old Navy and buy a shirt for $7. A world where we buy clothes not because we need them but because they are a good deal, we have an event or we just need a retail therapy. These habits lead to an overflowing closet full of clothes that we don’t really like and we don’t really wear. The hope of a capsule is that you wear clothes you actually like and make you feel comfortable, successful, capable, sexy – whatever you need out of an outfit. Personally, I’m hoping that I can start planning my summer wardrobe. These past few weeks I've been grabbing cheap clothes here and there because the weather is getting sultry (Mere and I both live in super humid climates!). I want to plan instead of grab when I shop for summer or maybe I will realize that I already have everything I need in my black hole of a closet.
My Minimalist May
I have decided that I am going to attempt 15 pieces of clothing for the month. This includes clothes and shoes and accessories. It doesn’t include workout clothes (can I get an Amen for leggings!) and pajamas. I have to think about the month ahead and some of the events when planning my wardrobe. We are going to see a musical  for our date night this weekend (I’m still I shock my husband agreed), camping next weekend, a couple of girls nights and a few family friendly barbeques sprinkled in. I’m a stay at mom with three kids so my wardrobe is mainly comfortable, modest clothing that I can chase kids around in. Clothes that I don’t mind getting applesauce, bodily fluids (gross but true) and so many other fun things on. I’m just now realizing how easy laundry will be! I will have do it more often but folding 15 things will be a walk in the park. Maybe the whole family should join me…



Join me!
Want to try? Come on! May already started but I say its completely fine if you join me starting this weekend! Cinco de Mayo can be your last day of freedom and start your capsule on the 6th. I’ve already begun and will be showing you my outfits throughout the month but Minimalist May can start whenever! I’ve decided I’m allowed to switch items out if I need or want to meaning if I realize I am not wearing something then I can drop that (maybe even donate it) and replace it with something I might be missing. My plan is 2 pairs of earrings, one necklace, 3 pairs of shoes leaving me with 10 items of clothing. Wow! That’s not a lot…but come on, lets do this! Even Meredith has agreed to try out the Capsule Wardrobe, we will both be blogging our way through this experience all month. Minimalist May has a ring to it and we can  be Semibalanced Minimalist May Mamas!

A Little About Me!

Hi all, I'm Erin, Meredith's or how she is known on here The Semibalancedmama's older sister. I live in Texas with my husband and three kiddos. I love being outside, exploring parks with my family, reading and talking with my sisters! I stay at home which means I have my children best of times and worst of times all to myself. It's all about balance and here that makes sense, right? Like Meredith, I run and love to write so I'm so happy Meredith is letting me share some of that with you and I hope you will see more of me on here in the future! 




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Dear Cecilia,
My sweet, sweet girl. Your entry into this world was shadowed by the fact that we had just moved across the country and were adjusting to life in Japan but you still came into the world with a BIG bang. The doctor smiled and said to me, “Looks like you have a red head!” It gave me the last UMPH I needed during those 3 hours of pushing. A red head, how lucky we are!! You are also what they call a Christmas Baby and while we are already seeing some of the side effects of that, I think I will never tire of knowing that December will be filled with so much love because of you! Our few days in the hospital were some of my most favorite early memories. Your daddy decided to sleep at home with your bother so it was just you and me during those first few late nights. You would snuggle and nurse and you were just so content. 


You latched like a pro and despite the normal wear and tear, our nursing relationship has always been so easy and so natural. Words can not really describe what it is like to nourish and provide for such a small and vulnurable human being. I knew you would be the last baby that I would nurse and the last baby that I would have all of those late night moments with. I tried not to think about it too much but I sit here today and am so grateful for that time we have shared. I have kept you full, I have kept you healthy and I have given you exactly what your little body needed to survive this world. But, you also did so much for me without even knowing it. You gave my confidence in what my body can do, you taught me to practice the art of just taking it all in and you also embraced my sometime very sweaty and very rushed nursing sessions while training for my big run. You did it all with a big smile. And while I am ready to stop nursing at any point, know that I am so happy we had that time together and know that I am truly amazed at what both my body and your body did to make this first year so fulfilling.





The love you have for your daddy makes me so happy. You are truly a daddy’s girl. Even with a 5 month intermission in there, you still prefer him to anyone. The joy this brings me is quite amazing. I love how you light up when he comes home from work or when you spot him walking across the room. I love that you snuggle up to him when you need some alone time and I especially love how you giggle at all of his silly ways. Your miniature under bite while you concentrate is inherited from your main man and we can't help but to laugh every time we see it. Never stop being a daddy’s girl, they are the best kind.







Your brother’s love for you is BIG. Transitioning from one to two was easy for our family because of your big brother. He couldn’t wait to meet you and to help us grab diapers for you. He also loved to give you big kisses, sometimes too big but was always so willing to be gentle with you after we reminded him that you were just a tiny baby. During your daddy’s deployment your brother was SO helpful. I look back on those five months and I know we survived because of him. Because of his love for you and me. Now, you love following him around, albeit much slower than him, you are always right behind him. I know you will have a special relationship growing up and that makes me so happy. The age gap was a bit scary for me, but I think that won’t stop you two from being close throughout life.









We are coming up on a fun time in your early years. You will start to see and experience something new daily. You are about to start to express yourself even more and maybe even start talking. A part of me is sad because we had such a good year, like seriously the best year ever. When I say you were a dream baby, you really were, for so many different reasons. But, I am excited to see you grow and see you experience all the new happenings around you. I am also excited to add to your passport, now that you have some more traveling under your belt. The world has not seen enough of Cecilia!

You are the most perfect addition to our family. You are the last addition to our family and I feel so content and happy saying that. You completed our little club and I can not thank you enough for that. Never stop seeing the joy in the world. 

I love you my sweet Cecilia!
Happy 1st Birthday!

Love, 
Your Mom 







Favorite Food - Chicken and any type of beans.
New Skill - Walking!
Favorite Activity - Taking all of the cards out of mom’s phone holder or her wallet!
Sleeping - Eh ok, but on vacation it has been rough. Early riser for sure.
How Many Teeth - 8 (all within the last 3 months)
Favorite Book - God Gave Us You - MarbleSpark personalized book
Words - Mama and Dada and a specific noise when she points to brother.



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The month of pumpkin has been so much fun to host throughout October! My love for pumpkin is severe, but it is well deserved. Pumpkin adds flavor, nutrients and should be used as often as possible, in my opinion! 

My last recipe for the month of October  (I am in no way saying this is my last pumpkin recipe for Fall) is Pumpkin Ale Chicken Chili. It is spicy and earthy, and the perfect addition to a cold Fall night! I know I am bias, but this dinner was pretty darn good. Make sure to read all the way to the bottom for my beer bread recipe!


Pumpkin Ale Chicken Chili 

Ingredients:

2 large chicken breasts cut up into bite size pieces (or hamburger meat)
2 T of coconut oil  
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large carrots, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of chili powder (or ¼ teaspoon, if you want spicy)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup pumpkin ale (I used Shipyard Pumpkin Ale)
1 15 oz can of pure pumpkin puree
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can of black beans, drained 
1 15 oz can of cannellini beans, drained
½ cup chicken broth 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Combine beans, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, tomato paste, and spices into a crockpot. 

In a medium saucepan, melt the coconut oil and brown and cook the chicken. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of pumpkin ale, let simmer for 5 minutes. Dump into the slow cooker. 


In the same saucepan, cook the chopped vegetables (onion, carrots, and bell pepper). Once they are cooked through, add in the chopped garlic, cook until you smell the fragrance. Deglaze pan with remaining beer, let simmer for 5 minutes. Dump into slow cooker.


Mix everything in the crockpot and let cook on low for 2 hours. 

Served warm, topped with cheese and add pepper and salt to taste!

Enjoy!  


I served this chili with Beer Bread, as I am sure you have noticed in the pictures! I had made some in the past, but had neglected to sift the flour. Let me tell you, IT MATTERS! This bread is moist and SO easy to make. I used the same beer as the chili, Shipyard Pumpkin Ale, and thought it turned out perfectly. It was not pumpkiny, at all.


Beer Bread

Ingredients:
3 cups of whole wheat flour, sifted (trust me, do this step!)
½ cup of sugar
3 t baking powder (do not use if using self rising flour)  
1 t salt (do not use if using self rising flour)  
1 12 oz bottle of beer (I used Shipyard Pumpkin Ale)
½ cup melted butter
¼ t of cinnamon 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°

Grease a bread pan, I use coconut oil, making sure to completely cover. 

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, mix well. Pour into well greased pan and sprinkle with the cinnamon. 

Cook for 45 min, and let sit for 15 min, before removing from pan.

Enjoy!



Happy cooking,







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Growing up I was somewhat of a tomboy, sure I had my pink stage and my shiny red shoes that my mom used as leverage on more than one occasion, but for the most part I enjoyed comfort over frills and bows. Fast forward quite a few years later to us welcoming Cecilia and discovering that it really is fun to dress miniature females, bows and all. The endless rows of girl clothes can overwhelming compared to the tiny boy's section next-door, not to mention the plethora of accessories that are offered for the girls, but so far she is rather loving her new closet.



Living in Okinawa, you would be surprised at how many places do not ship to our post office. Even though it is on base and the cost of shipping is the same as stateside, just add on that pesky customs form of course. So when I found The Golden Bow Shop and realized she was local, I could not have been more excited. Hannah makes the cutest bows and her prices are so affordable. Shipping costs can really determine whether or not I shop local, so I was thrilled to find out that Hannah offers no tracking option that is under $1.00 or an option to add a tracking number for just a small bit more. So affordable! She can always take custom orders, too. I have already sent in my request for a special homecoming we have soon, can't wait to show you all! 

Cecilia does OK leaving bows on her head, but I am also super concerned with her being comfortable. Insert the nylon headband bow. These stretch so nicely and seem to be much more comfortable on Ceci's head. I also have gotten a lot of people saying they love the look because of how skinny the nylon actually is. Is your little girl ready to start wearing pigtails? Have no fear, she offers pigtail bows too in the same patterns. 

Hannah just released her Fall collection and to celebrate we are doing a giveaway! Head over to my Instagram to enter for your chance to win your very own set of bows for your little! Follow the instructions on the pictures and make sure to follow Hannah at The Golden Bow Shop over on Facebook to get all the latest news about shop specials and new releases.



On a side note this is not a blog where the babe is somehow perfectly posed and calm for pictures. How do they do it? Seriously, Cecilia is on the move 24/7 these days.


 

While I may need some time to warm up to the bell bottoms and the bows the size of Texas, I am having fun being a little girly and dressing Cecilia in all of her cute new bows. Bring on the bows, frills, and occasionally white tee, because honestly babes look so cute in those simple shirts! 


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Hello! Oh, how I have missed you all! Thank you so much for those of you who are still pinning, clicking and commenting on my older blog posts. It means the world to me that you are all hanging around during this whole "hiatus" season. Since moving to Okinawa and welcoming our second child, I have been trying to decide where to take the blog and what sort of content I want to bring to all of you. I have some exciting things in the works and hope to be up and running in the next month or two, with lots of  new posts. Until then be on the look out for a few giveaways and special posts here and there. Also make sure to catch me on Military Moms Blog and over on OkinawaHai!

Being pregnant and recovering from Cecilia's birth really drove home how much I love running. I was not able to run throughout my pregnancy, but I did keep up with physical activity and other workouts. The entire time I really, like really, missed running. Right after having Cecilia the Okinawa Marathon took place and the start line was literally right out our front door. We took the kids out and cheered on all of the runners and the entire time I was sitting there, wanting to join in. I missed the feeling of training for a race, I missed the butterflies that happen while in the start line and I really missed the satisfaction I got when I completed a run. That day, I registered for the Honolulu Marathon.

Now, let me back up here. I have only ever done one half marathon and it was a trail half. An extremely hard trail half, you can fund my race recap here, and after that I took a much needed break from running races. Then I got pregnant. So, it had been well over a year since I was doing serious mileage or training for any sort of race. But, the thought of completing a marathon within a year of having Cecilia was something that I knew I wanted to do and something I knew would be difficult, but so rewarding. Now you may be thinking why Honolulu? Well, there is no time limit to the Honolulu Marathon which makes it a popular race for first time marathoners. Most races here on the island and mainland Japan are timed and strictly timed at that. Also, Honolulu is relatively easy for us to get to from the island since there are constantly flights to and from. Ryan and I discussed this runcation and knowing that he would be ready for dose of America we decided to make it a family vacation. Knowing my Uncle loves running and was actually the one who helped fuel my love for running, I invited him. He responded by saying he would think about it. A few weeks later, he was officially in. I can not not tell you how excited I am to be doing a race with him.

The dreaded Trail Half Marathon that was maybe the hardest thing I have ever done.

Me, next to my Uncle (and our team) after completing my second Dances with Dirt. 

So, I set off on finding the right training plan. With Ryan being gone for the first half of my training, I knew I wanted to give myself some extra weeks and was leaning towards a 26 week plan. I was starting with very little mileage, so I needed a lot of time to build up. The best laid plans always go awry, am I right? I started the 26 week plan while back in Ohio visiting family, and a week in my kids and I got seriously sick. Like, sick for over two weeks, sick. There was not much running happening during that time unfortunately. So, I moved on to a 22 week plan. So far, so good. I did take a week off due to us flying back to Okinawa. I knew with the flying and adjusting to the time difference my long run would be nearly impossible to complete that week.

So, here we are, one month into my training plan and things are going well. Let me start by saying the weather right now is less than ideal when it comes to running. We wake up to hot and humid and we go to bed to hot humid. There is not much relief. I try to get out early for my stroller runs and the stroller has not one but TWO fans for Cecilia. When Lucas bikes with us, we stop for water breaks a lot and usually have more than one rest stops in the shade. I have been utilizing a babysitter for my long runs. These typically start around 9AM due to Cecilia's schedule. She is still exclusively nursing and not wanting to take a bottle or a sippy cup, so even though she can go a few hours in between nursing sessions, I try to work with her nap schedule as much possible. Starting a 8 mile run at 9AM when the temperature is already near 90 degrees is hard, but I am making it work. Lots of fluids and just taking it easy is my game plan. I have also decided to utilize the run/walk method for this marathon. More on that in a later blog post, but basically I wanted to give the method a try and thought my first marathon was a good starting point.

Training for a marathon with a jogging stroller and sometimes a 4 year old on a bike is hard. Don't get me wrong, there are days where there is bribery in the form of an ice cream cone to get the run in, but we are doing it. Not only am I checking these runs off the bucket list, but I am being active with my kids and that is so important. Sure, sometimes I shave off a mile or two if I feel it is too hot, but I am feeling stronger and more solid with each long run. I wanted to breakdown my miles so you can see how I am running them.

Total August Miles - 58.14
Stroller Miles - 32.45
Bike and Stroller Miles - 14.6






Isn't that amazing? Lucas rode almost 15 miles this month. I let him know this impressive stat and he laughed and said, "Well, ya we love running and riding my bike!" I hope to update you all through this journey, including recapping TWO half marathons I doing, one of which will be my first local race.  Okinawa is an amazing place to run. There are always so many people out and about, and the views are absolutely breathtaking.




Need some motivation to run while you are parenting solo? Need some motivation to train for your next race? Let me know! I love chatting strategies with people. 
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WiFi and 4G service is spotty at best when you live in a building made predominately from concrete. It can be quite frustrating when I am in bed trying to download my next RomCom or when we send Luke to his room for some alone time with the iPad (no judgement, our apartment is tiny ya'll). But you know what? I'm happy I don't get service in my daughters new nursery. 

This is my last baby I will nurse through the night. The last time little cries will wake me up, needing me. The last time that I will be the sole provider of what my baby needs to survive. Someday within the next year will be the last time that she nurses and the last time that I will ever nurse a sweet baby.

I want to relish these moments with her. I want look in her little eyes and get her to smile that nursing smile that we all know and love. I want to have both hands available to be able to hold those tiny fingers while she is slipping away to dreamland. 

So often throughout the day I am rushing to get nursing sessions over. We are rushing to get one last session in before picking Luke up from school. I am rushing her, so I can get the next load in the dryer or start dinner for the family. I'm hastily nursing her in the dressing room so I can finish the shopping that has to be done. The time we spend in the nursery is our time and it's one of the few times we don't have too much going on outside that door. 

Since everyone we know is awake while we sleep (thanks, time zones) it would be so easy for me to get lost in social media every night. Instead, I am spending these precious hours soaking up all the smiles, all the cuddles and all the hand holding I can before it's over. My 4 year old needs me less and less these days. One day Ceci will need me less and less too, and that's ok!  But, for now you can find me in the pink nursery loving life without service. 










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I had so many books on my, "I will be nursing 24/7, so let's read a bunch" list. Isn't it funny how much less reading happens with your second child compared to your first? One can only multi task so much. So, I am doing a Winter Book Review this time around and includes a little bit of everything.
 Time period reads, beach reads for these dreary pre-spring days and even a YA thrown in there. Let me know what you are reading these days and if you have read any of these books, let me know what you thought.



Along the Infinite Sea - Beatriz Williams

This book is a must read. It was beautifully written and will grab you from the first page. Any book that is set from the 1900-1940's is going to be a favorite of mine, but this book really captures that time frame and the feelings and emotions around the lead up of World War II. Williams writes two storylines that run together brilliantly. It is multiple love stories, tied up in one and you will love every moment of chase. Please, please, please go and rent or buy this book. I have since found out that this part of a series, The Schuyler Sisters series. All of them are the about women who lived during the early 1900's mixed with a mid century storyline involving sisters. 

This is Where it Ends - Marieke Nijkamp

This was a YA novel and it definitely reads as a YA novel. It follows a day where a school shooting occurs and the lives of a few different students who are living through it. It was hard for me to finish this one, but I am happy I did. I did not feel like it was strongly written, and I thought it was missing something. That being said, I would recommend it to someone who likes emotional YA novels and is OK with lots of character development.

Here's to Us - Elin Hildebrand

I have read a lot of Hildebrand's books in the past year, and while they are all based in the same area of the USA, they are all so different. This book follows the lives of an extended and diverse family, including the deceased three wives! It is funny, heartbreaking and truly makes you think about the situation and what you would do if you were in the same position. Like any good Hildebrand novel, there is some sweetness and some character development, but it is a nice story that has a predictable but good ending.

Between Shades of Grey - Ruta Sepetys

By far, my favorite book I have read this year. It is beautifully written and the content is about events that most people do not even realize happened. The character development is spot on, strong but it does not take away from the content. The book is about Lithuanians that are forced to Siberian labor camps during WWII by the Soviets. It is a side of the war that not too many are familiar with, and while the story is horribly sad and hard to imagine, it is an important piece of history. The author paints a picture of how awful these camps were, but also shows the side of human emotion. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

Salt to the Sea - Ruta Sepetys

This was the first Sepetys book I read, and no joke I think I finished in under 24 hours. I LOVE the WWII era and I especially love when it shows the human side of all the horrible events that occurred. It is based on the largest wartime tragedy in history, no not the Titanic, but the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. Never heard of it? Yup, me neither. This book follows the stories of four teenagers who are refugees in 1945, vying for a spot on the ship that will hopefully take them to safety. You will cry, you will laugh and be prepared to be amazed how the amount of history you do not know. Once again, this is a must read. 

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

I found this book off a pin that listed suspenseful books that you will want to read in one sitting. While, this book is definitely suspenseful and has all the workings of a huge twist, I was able to predict the twist roughly halfway through. There were times that I continued reading, simply to prove that I guessed correctly. It was an interesting book, and if you like suspense I would absolutely recommend it. It fits somewhere in between YA and Young Adult, since the main characters are rather young.



Happy reading,

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Cooking is so important to me. Not only do I like to feed my family meals that I have prepared, but I also truly enjoy following a good recipe or creating my own one of a kind dish. Getting back in the kitchen was important to me after we welcomed our second baby, Cecilia. Not only because I love cooking but I am also living in a new country, filled with endless new ideas to add to my recipe book. If I'm being honest, it took me about a month until I really had the energy to spend grocery shopping and cooking a solid meal,  but once I got back into the swing of things it felt so good to be chopping and cooking again. Here are some of my foolproof hacks to make getting back into the kitchen an easy transition.


1. Don't set your expectations too high.
I aim for three good home cooked meals each week. The days where Ryan has to work 12 hour shifts, or we have two doctor appointments during the day, I go ahead and dip into my freezer stash. The last thing I want is to be stressed out and in a horrible mood when I sit down to eat the dinner that I planned, prepped and cooked. 

2. Set yourself up for success.
In the old days when there was just one kid involved, I was really good at getting everything prepped right after I went to the grocery store. But, now that I have a little one that nurses, she always wants to eat as soon as we get home from the store. So I have had to kind of change my routine of prepping. I try to prep all of my vegetables and ingredients before I actually get in the kitchen to cook dinner. If I have a down moment during the day while my oldest is at preschool, I go ahead and cut the vegetables. If the baby is napping and I have already had my power nap, I prep. One of those days where the baby takes a 4 hour nap? Prep all of your meals for the week, trust me you will thank yourself later. It is so much simpler to cook if you have everything prepped and ready. 


3. Distract, distract, distract! 
Luckily, our island in the kitchen is big enough for Luke to sit and color or paint while I cook. He is really good at doing an activity if I sit with him for a few minutes and walk him through what to do and then get dinner ready. Aren't bouncers a gift from God? As long as CC is fed, changed and happy, she will sit in that for a few minutes while I get everything ready. I occasionally wear her, but I am still learning to love that process! 



4. Use a grocery delivery service. 
For those of you that are in the states, the curbside grocery is really taking off. Take advantage of it! I hate grocery shopping, but love cooking. I would rather use my energy to cook in the kitchen than to push a stroller around and try to keep a baby happy while we are shopping. I love the service, The Set Table, they are available out here in Okinawa as well as Leavenworth Kansas, so check them out if you are local. They give you everything pre-measured, all you have to do is read the recipe and prepare the vegetables. It has saved me SO much time you would not believe it. I try to order one or two meals from them a week, which is one or two meals less that I have to worry about. Not in those two areas? Try another meal delivery service.


5. Keep your recipe expectations low! 
As much as I love cooking Rachael Ray dishes, those are just not doable at this point in our routine. Maybe in a few years I'll have the time and the patience to go to three different stores finding all of the ingredients, but for now I love the 3 to 5 ingredient recipes. I also stick to the dinners that I am very familiar with. You know the ones that your husband got sick of a few weeks into your marriage? Those are perfect for right now! 

6. As always, double up those recipes. 
You all know by now that I love having a freezer stash! If I am able to cook one night then why not go ahead and double that recipe so I can freeze the dinner and use it at a later date? It just makes so much sense and has made my life so much easier! I made my Lasagna recipe a few weeks ago (which yields FOUR lasagnas), so yesterday when I was sick all day, I threw in the extra one that I had frozen and dinner was done.  Most recipes can either be cooked and frozen or prepped and frozen.

Happy Cooking,

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