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I know “bone broth” is all the rage lately, but the truth is, it’s the same stuff your grandma made 50 years ago to make soup, stew, casseroles, etc. It’s far more flavorful, thicker (in the best way possible), and so, so good for you. Bone broth is the reason doctors recommend chicken soup to help you feel better– it’s stuffed with all kinds of nutrients AND it’ll help keep you hydrated. The thing about bone broth is that it SHOULD, when done right, take hours and hours to make. This Instant Pot bone broth recipe has all the goodness of the traditionally-made version in a fraction of the time (and none of the watching-the-pot-ness).

Calling this Instant Pot bone broth recipe a “recipe” is a little generous. Part of the beauty of bone broth is that you can make it with what’s already in your fridge and pantry. That’s why it’s been popular for hundreds, if not thousands, of years– it costs virtually nothing to make, but can fill up a belly quickly. I freeze the bones from whatever I’ve made– a roast chicken, the Thanksgiving turkey, beef ribs– as well as the scraps from veggies I use routinely– the tops of celery or the peels of carrots get tossed into a gallon-sized baggie that just stays in my freezer– and pull them out when I have an afternoon at home. Choose a type of bone (so you have chicken, turkey, or beef broth, not mixed), drop them into your Instant Pot, add the scraps along with a quartered onion and a tablespoon of white vinegar, top with water, and hit go. Seriously, that’s it. Let it cook for a couple of hours, strain it, toss it all back in, and make another round. Yep– you can get two great batches of broth from the same ingredients.

So, what do you use this amazing liquid in? A glass, a recipe, or a spoon. Literally anything you’d use broth in, but Instant Pot Chicken Soup with Butternut Squash and Kale or Instant Pot Zuppa Toscana are two of my all-time favorites, whether I’m sick or not!

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Instant Pot Bone Broth Recipe Ingredients

Chicken, turkey, or beef bones– enough to fill the Instant Pot about 2/3 of the way

2 c Celery/Carrot Scraps (or fresh if you didn’t save them)

1 onion, quartered, skin on

1 T white vinegar

Enough water to cover the bones and veggies (probably 8ish cups)

Cheesecloth

Instructions
  1. Into your Instant Pot, place the bones, veggies, vinegar, and top with water.
  2. Close and lock your lid before setting the Instant Pot to manual, high pressure, for 120 minutes.
  3. Once the timer goes off, allow it to natural pressure release so that you don’t end up with broth all over your kitchen.
  4. While the pressure is going down, take your biggest mixing bowl and set a colander in it. Over the colander, lay cheesecloth.
  5. Open the lid and CAREFULLY lift the pot out to pour into the mixing bowl via the cheesecloth/colander contraption (say that three times fast!).
  6. Dump all the bones, veggies, etc. back into the pot, add another tablespoon of vinegar, top with water, and re-do the recipe a second time before trashing the bones and veggies.

The post Instant Pot Bone Broth Recipe– Chicken, Beef, or Turkey! appeared first on soTEXANblog.

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There aren’t many things that are more Texan than Dr. Pepper. At Sonic, you HAVE to try a Dr. Pepper with chocolate– I know it sounds weird, but it’s like drinking a chocolate covered cherry! Poured over ice with a little (or a lot) of Rebecca Creek whiskey (also Texan), it makes for quite the sipping beverage around a fire pit. Added to an Instant Pot with some pork, Dr. Pepper makes for killer pulled pork. Instant Pot Pulled Pork sandwiches, I admit, are not the same as the smoked version (particularly if you’re from Texas), but it’s yummy anyway, especially on a busy mama night when you don’t have 8-12 hours to smoke a pork loin.

One of the keys to making this recipe the best it can be is to NOT stir the BBQ sauce into the pot. With an Instant Pot, you need liquid to bring the pot to pressure, but while it’s heating up, you have to make sure there’s nothing thick that’s going to scald to the bottom (like the BBQ sauce) because that will prevent it from coming to pressure. So, the way you prevent that is by pouring the Dr. Pepper in over the pork and onions (allowing it to get to the bottom) and then pouring the BBQ sauce over the meat without messing with anything in the pot so that it stays up above the bottom of your Instant Pot.

There are 101 ways to serve Instant Pot pulled pork, but my favorite is on a hamburger bun with extra sauce and a slice of sweet onion. The sauce of choice at our house is moppin sauce, a mustard-based, slightly spicy sauce that soaks into the bun and makes a deliciously messy sandwich. It’s also amazing with Instant Pot black-eyed peas for another traditional Southern dish to accompany your Instant Pot pulled pork. Instant Pot Pulled Pork Sandwiches have definitely become a favorite for a quick weeknight meal or something easy to bring to a friend’s house for a BBQ (even if it wasn’t TECHNICALLY BBQed… shhh!).

Instant Pot Pulled Pork Sandwiches Ingredients

4-5 lbs pork loin, cut into 4-6 pieces

1 sweet onion, sliced

2 c Dr. Pepper

1 bottle BBQ sauce

Garlic powder

Onion powder

Salt

Instructions
  1. Rub the pork loin all over with the garlic powder, onion powder, and salt, to taste.
  2. Place the sliced onion on the bottom of your Instant Pot, laying the pieces of pork on top of it.
  3. Pour in the Dr. Pepper (use the rest of the second can in a glass with a splash of Rebecca Creek– I promise you’ll thank me) and then the BBQ sauce on top. Do NOT stir it– you want the liquid on the bottom and the thicker stuff on top so it doesn’t scald to the bottom of your Instant Pot while you’re making your Instant Pot Pulled Pork Sandwiches.
  4. Close your Instant Pot and set it to manual high pressure for 50 minutes.
  5. Allow it to natural pressure release before opening it up, pulling the pork out, and shredding it with two forks.
  6. Serve on buns with extra sauce and a slice of sweet onion.

The post Instant Pot Pulled Pork Sandwiches (with a Secret Texas Ingredient!) appeared first on soTEXANblog.

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We all know I’m rather addicted to coffee (I mean, heck, I sell it to fund my habit!). As a result, I end up with a lot of coffee grounds that I wanted to find something to do with other than toss in the trash. I love putting them in a compost pile (which will be started again as soon as we get to the new house), but I also wanted something a little more creative. Pinterest was kind to me in coming up with uses for used coffee grounds, as was some accidental trial and error (see #9).

There are 1,001 uses for coffee grounds, but I narrowed it down to my favorite 10 just for you! Seriously, these are game-changers in the kitchen, in your garden, for a little pampering, and even on your pets. It doesn’t hurt that you’re helping the planet in the process by reusing the coffee grounds you brewed earlier that morning (or week or month) and giving yourself some cheap help around the house.

If you need some quality coffee for your cup of joe in the morning (it’s even yummier than Starbucks!), check out this post for coffee that will brighten your morning, no matter how many times the kiddos were up the night before!

10 Uses for Used Coffee Grounds
  1. Get the Garlic Off– Rub some used coffee grounds on your hands like a scrub after you cut garlic or onion to get that smell off your hands!
  2. Add to Your Garden– Jumpstart your seedlings this spring with coffee grounds mixed into the dirt to increase the nitrogen content and give them a boost.
  3. Bug Repellant– Help prevent bugs from getting on your plants by sprinkling coffee grounds around the base of the plants.
  4. Scratch Be Gone– Steep your leftover coffee grounds in just a little bit of water (so it’s more of a paste than a liquid) and use a q-tip to dab on your wood furniture to hide scratches.
  5. Fridge Deodorizer– Forgot to grab more baking soda at the store? Dump your used coffee grounds in an open mason jar (or use this super pretty lid with vents) to absorb odors in your fridge instead!
  6. Blue Hydrangeas– Y’all, we had THE most stunning hydrangeas when we lived in Seattle. My secret? Dumping my coffee grounds underneath them!
  7. Skin Therapy– Rub coffee grounds on your skin to gently exfoliate. Feel free to add some essential oils to help boost the power of your coffee grounds (lavender for soothing, perhaps?)
  8. Pot Scrub– Get the greasy mess off of the bottom of your pots by using coffee grounds and a sponge to clean it up and get them sparkling again.
  9. Make Your Kitchen Smell Amazing (and Clean Your Garbage Disposal at the Same Time!)– Put your used coffee grounds down your sink and grind them up. It’ll kick a delicious scent into the air and clean your garbage disposal in the process!
  10. Natural Flea Repellant– Add coffee grounds to your dog’s shampoo to help repel fleas naturally.

The post 10 Uses for Used Coffee Grounds appeared first on soTEXANblog.

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I hate numbers, math, finances, anything except actually spending the money. Thankfully, I have a husband who is amazing with that stuff (hence the guy getting his MBA). Unfortunately, when you’re buying a house, numbers and budget come into play in big ways so understanding how the loan process works and how to survive financing (much less financing a new construction, which is weird enough since you’re starting off financing a house that doesn’t exist) is important. Needless to say, I’ve now learned more than I ever wanted to know about financing a new construction.

Knowing what I know now, I’m hoping to help you avoid some of the pitfalls (or at least some of the stress) that we managed to step around (mostly by accident or sheer luck) when it comes to financing a new construction. The key (which I didn’t include below)? Coffee. All the coffee. You gotta stay alert for keeping track of all those numbers and a yummy-tasting coffee puts you in a better mood.

For the rest of this series, from choosing a builder to designing your dream home, check out this page!

How to Survive Financing a New Construction Get your credit and savings in order.

If there’s anything iffy on your credit report, call your cards/lenders/etc. to see if they’d be willing to take it off. You can also fight it with the credit bureau and sometimes improve your score that way. Get your credit cards down to at least 75% (preferably lower or completely paid off, but reality sometimes makes that not doable and I get that!). Have as much in savings as possible so you have earnest money, down payment money (unless you’re doing the VA loan for less than your county’s max), moving money, and eating out money (because cooking AND moving is rough) without giving yourself a stomach ulcer while you’re financing a new construction.

Check out several lenders.

Don’t just go with the builder’s lender because they’re giving you a credit for using them. Ours actually wound up costing the same as other lenders, even with the credit included, because their costs were higher. We went with a different lender who matched the builder’s APR AND the credit, so we saved a significant chunk on closing costs!

Keep a folder going!

When you decide to start your financing stuff (usually before you even choose a home, lot, etc.), start a folder! Whether it just sits on your desk or in a file cabinet, get one going so you can easily just throw everything the builder and lender send you into it. Better yet, start a binder– I listed all my favorite moving binder items here! Even if you don’t keep it organized (I do, but I know some people are less nutty), it’ll be an easy go-to place to find that floor plan or those estimates.

Scan everything in.

In this digital age, you’ll be emailing things a whole lot more than you’ll be mailing or taking paper copies in. As a lender requests something, scan it in and keep it in a digital folder, too. That way, when a different lender (you should get a few pre-approvals so you know you’re getting the best rate) asks for the same thing, you can send it right over, instead of having to find that W-2 or pay stub again.

Learn to read loan estimates.

There are about a dozen terms on the loan estimate I’d never seen before, so I did my research and I learned what they all meant. You wouldn’t spend money on a random item at Target if you didn’t know what it would do for you– don’t do it here, either!

Give yourself PLENTY of time.

The key to surviving financing is to keep it as low-stress as possible. When it comes to financing a new construction, emotions are high, so give yourself PLENTY of time to have them come back and say you’re missing something, they need more information, etc. You don’t want to get to a couple of weeks before closing, just to find out that a step was missed and your closing date has to get pushed! Plus, by giving yourself plenty of time, you can enjoy the process of the build and getting ready to move into your dream home, knowing everything is settled with financing a new construction.

The post Built with Love: How to Survive Financing a New Construction appeared first on soTEXANblog.

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This post, “5 New Mom Tips from a Military Spouse,” is sponsored by 1 Natural Way, but I only write about topics (like getting Tricare breast pumps as painlessly as possible) in which I truly believe. For more information on my disclaimer and privacy policy, check it out here!

When we found out we were being sent to San Antonio for training, I was 7 weeks pregnant with Matthew. It turned out that we were going to be moving to Mississippi immediately after we had him. I went into labor first thing in the morning on February 8th, and wound up with an emergency c-section after over 2.5 hours of pushing. Let me tell you, my body was WRECKED. I talked my way out of the hospital 2 days later, went to my parents’ house for a week, and then we pulled away, on the road to Columbus, MS. I remember looking at Ryan as we left my childhood street and saying “There’s no one in this car who knows how to be a parent.” We were moving 700 miles away again, this time with a tiny 9 day old baby in the back and a hurting mama in the front. When we got to Mississippi, I spent 6 weeks on an air mattress while we waited for our household goods to ship.

Speaking from a semi-seasoned military mom perspective now that we have an almost-5-year-old and a 2 year old, I have a few tips that I felt I HAD to share with all my military mamas, far from home and family. On the bright side, living in Mississippi (and Oklahoma, Austin, DC, and Fort Worth) taught me how to fly with a baby like a champ, but it also taught me a LOT of other lessons. I may be a former military spouse, but I lived the life with babies, far from everyone I knew, and remember it (mostly) fondly. I truly hope these new mom tips from a military spouse (even if it is former) will help you feel more secure in the decisions you’re making and give you some ways to make your life a little easier.

5 New Mom Tips from a Military Spouse

Yep, that’s an “Anything but Cardio” tank I ran in. Irony is my favorite, what can I say?

Do Whatever Makes You Feel Better

Wine, coffee, sleep, running, TV, reading, whatever it takes (within reason, of course). I started running after I had Matthew because it helped me sleep better, but it also let me lose the baby weight and he LOVED it. Watching the world go by made his witching hour slightly less cranky (and I got to listen to music and not actively entertain him). Now, I love doing it with both boys for the same reason! It kills an hour before dinner that would otherwise be tempting to just flip the TV on and zone out (which is TOTALLY acceptable, by the way).

Accept Help!

I know, it would be so nice to be able to do everything yourself, but your mama body isn’t made to jump right back in. You’re talking to a girl who took a solid 8 weeks to recover from C-section #1 and less than 1 week to recover from C-section #2. I firmly believe the amount of help I accepted played a huge role in that difference. It would be amazing to have your mama down the street, but sometimes, having an Air Force sister is just as good. (Plus, they’re way more likely to bring you wine)

Enjoy Your Time with Your Baby– but don’t feel guilty when you don’t!

Y’all, being a new mom is amazing. That baby is beautiful, sweet, snuggly, and they just smell SO good (until they don’t). It’s also exhausting, stressful, you second-guess everything you do, and downright not fun half of the time. The good far outweighs the bad, but you’re allowed to not love every second and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise!

Take the Easy Way When It’s an Option

You don’t have to do everything the hard way. Let your local grocery store do the shopping for you and load the darn things into the car– you’ll still have to bring them inside! Your kid can wear pj’s for the first year of their life with zero judgement from anyone who should matter. Less laundry is a win, my friend. Shop online for anything and everything– and yes, I do mean have Amazon auto-ship you razors every month.

Fed is Best.

Can’t or don’t want to breastfeed all the time? Pump. Can’t or don’t want to do that? Formula feed. This gorgeous little lady to the left (not mine– my military niece– but the boy is mine!) spent most of her babyhood being formula fed and she’s a chatty, hilarious little 2 year old now! Fed is best, people.

If you DO want to breastfeed and pump, though, let 1 Natural Way deal with getting your TriCare breast pumps ordered, shipped, AND paid for by TriCare. Not only do they cover your breast pump, but they have an auto-ship system that can send you more bags, tubes, anything you need, every month– ALL covered by your TriCare insurance!

So, how do you get your insurance-covered breast pump?

  • Step 1 – Fill out your insurance information form on their website.
  • Step 2 – Select your breast pump model. Tricare covers all models they offer, so choose the one YOU like best– they carry Medela, Spectra, AND Kiinde!
  • Step 3 – Enroll in their monthly breastfeeding accessories program (called Resupply)– no more last-minute trips to grab more bags for freezing milk. They have all kinds of breast pump accessories, compression socks, AND postpartum care supplies, so they can have you covered from birth to 2!
  • Step 4 – Provide them with a prescription or your doctor’s information and they will get one for you (yeah, you don’t even have to go to the doctor to get it!).
  • Step 5 – Your pump and supplies will ship right to your front door via UPS or USPS.

Seriously, y’all. I know there are SO many people telling you what to do, what not to do, but as far as getting something you’re likely going to need anyway, this makes for a 5 minute solution (literally) and you never even have to talk to TriCare (which is every military spouse’s dream, right?!).

The post 5 New Mom Tips from a (former) Military Spouse appeared first on soTEXANblog.

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Y’all, we take our black-eyed peas tradition VERY seriously in this house. For those who don’t know, Southerners believe you’re supposed to eat black-eye peas on New Years Day for good luck in the coming year. I have exactly zero idea WHY we think that, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s an excuse to eat a yummy dish at least once a year, so who am I to question it? In fact, we take it SO seriously that my darling husband has eaten them in the sky and in several different countries over the last 8 years because I’ve made him take some with him when he’d leave on a trip. I even got up early this morning to make them for him so he’d have them for the trip he’s on this weekend! I made the version my Awmaw always made, so I did not make this Instant Pot black-eyed peas recipe this time, but I will be next week for round 6 or 7 of them (turns out my kids LOVE them!).

Taking dried black-eyed peas, water, sugar, butter (uh… it’s Southern, remember?), and maybe a little bacon in the Instant Pot makes for one heck of a bowl of deliciousness, particularly when topped with some sweet, crunchy diced onion. Adding in pickled jalapeños for some heat balances out the sweetness, but my kids aren’t fans, so we just add them to our portion, along with the sweet onion. This is not meant to be a healthy dish by a long shot, but if you’re on the healthier end of things, you can definitely cut some of the sugar and butter out!

Looking for another warm dish that makes for a perfect New Years meal? Add some tamales to this Instant Pot chili (or the traditionally-made version) and you’ve got yourself a delicious meal straight from Texas!

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Instant Pot Black-eyed Peas Recipe Ingredients

1 lb black-eyed peas

6.5 c water

3/4 c sugar

1 stick butter (use butter alternative if you have someone allergic to dairy like we do!)

4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional, but delicious)

Jalapeños, optional

Salt and pepper to taste

Sweet onion, diced, to top

Instructions
  1. Add the beans, water, sugar, butter, and bacon (as well as the jalapeños if you’re using them) to the Instant Pot.
  2. Close the lid and set to manual high pressure for 25 minutes.
  3. Allow the pot to natural pressure release.
  4. Stir well and add salt and pepper to taste (the butter and bacon will have added some salt to it).
  5. Serve topped with sweet onion!

The post Instant Pot Black-eyed Peas Recipe– from a true Texan! appeared first on soTEXANblog.

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One of the perks of building our own home is the fact that we get to touch every single piece of our home from the ground up. It means we get to choose each design detail, but it also means that we get to add our own personal touches every step of the way. From taking pictures at every stage to changing things about the floor plan or cabinets to putting verses on the frame, there are SO many moving pieces, but staying organized and keeping running to do lists, keeping receipts, etc. has made it so much smoother than it could have been. Last week, we got the opportunity to spend some time adding verses to every room of our future forever home. After all, having Bible verses to bless a new home was super important to us!

I spent a while beforehand, pouring over the Bible (this one is hands down my favorite Catholic journaling Bible), finding the verses that would be the most meaningful for each room of our new home, from a verse about what we want for our boys or foster kids, how we wish to care for our friends and family through the kitchen and den spaces, to protection over our family as we leave our home. We plan to find pretty/cool prints of the verses we chose for the three kid rooms upstairs and frame them because they just have SO much meaning for us and we want our (foster) kids to know what we’re praying for them.

In addition to writing all our Bible verses to bless a new home on the frame and foundation, we let Matthew write his name (and his brother’s name) on the floor of their room— something he was VERY excited to get to do since it made it THEIR room. It might not be the prettiest signature in the world, but it is special because he won’t remember getting to do it, but we’ll have pictures to show him (and Mason) as he gets older and grows up in the house.

To give you a little less on YOUR to do list, I thought I’d share the Bible verses to bless a new home that we used to give you some inspiration for your new home, too.

PS: If you’re in the DFW area, you NEED to call up Lauren at Lauren Lawson Photography to have her document your process. I’m telling you, the photos she’s gotten for us are absolute gold and I cannot wait to frame them IN the home we’re building!

14 Bible Verses to Bless a New Home Front Door

This is kind of an easy choice, but we love it for its simplicity!

Deuter­­onomy 28:6

You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.

Back Door

I cannot WAIT to get to plant a garden in our backyard. While this verse is obviously metaphorical, I love the fact that it will also be literal in our home and nourish little bodies to then go out and build houses and plant gardens in the metaphorical sense.

Jeremiah 29:5

Build houses and dwell in them; and plant gardens and eat their fruit.

Garage Door

Because this is where our cars will be parked and where our family will leave the home to go out most of the time, I wanted a verse of protection over us. This one felt perfect!

Psalm 91:11

For He shall give His angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways.

Our front door’s verse!

Kitchen

Again, sometimes the Bible verses to bless a new home get double meaning in our home, like this one. The kitchen has always felt like my safe place— the place I go where I’m stressed, sad, happy, or just need to love on someone. I’m excited to use our kitchen to show others how awesome our God is and togive them refuge from whatever is going on in their life using the power of a good meal.

Psalm 34:8

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.

Dining Room

The dining room is going to have a big farmhouse table to seat our family and friends around for game night, great meals, and lots of laughter. There wasn’t a more perfect verse for what I envision happening in our dining room!

Job 8:21

He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.

Den

Over our fireplace, I bought a large sign that says “Gather” because that’s exactly what I want for our den. I want it to be the place where strangers become friends, our boys get to know their new schoolmates (and eventually new loves), and we get to love on those we’re close to (as well as those who just need some love).

Hebrews 13:2

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unknowingly.

Master Bedroom

Y’all, Ryan and I have had some hard times in our marriage. It’s not something I talk about much (if ever), but we’ve struggled. This pilot life stuff is not for the faint of heart, especially when it’s on the military side, and it tests your marriage. We chose this verse because we wanted a reminder of why we love and how to love one another the way God intended.

1 John 4:19

We love because He first loved us.

Foster Kid Rooms

Foster kids are often tossed around from home to home, not knowing where they’ll be next, after a traumatic experience at home. I pray that we can be their safe place and that they’ll know how much they’re loved. The first verse is everything I pray for our sweet future foster kids to feel while they’re in our home— to feel safe— and the second is what I wish more than anything for them— to know that they have value.

Proverbs 3:24

You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly.

1 Timothy 4:12

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in father, and in purity.

Boy Bedroom

Since our boys share a room, we LOVED this verse as a prayer for our sweet boys to grow up loving one another, but we also pray that they feel this way toward people who they run into on the street, work with, or go to school with. We want them to know that they’ve been greatly blessed and remain humble. As far as Bible verses to bless a new home went, this was high on our list for our babies.

1 Peter 3:8

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.

Guest Bedroom

We love that our home is open to our friends and family anytime and that they know and use that invitation. We want our home to be the place that they can be themselves, lay down what they’re having to deal with, and just get loved on.

Matthew 11:28

Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.

Office

It’s so easy to forget what we’re working for, so I love that this verse is also a prayer and a reminder for keeping the right meaning behind the work we do in this room.

Colossians 3:23

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if working for the Lord, not for human masters.

Bathrooms (We doubled up on one verse upstairs)

This was the weirdest set of rooms to choose verses for. I mean, you shower and pee in them. We decided to go with a cleaning theme and try to keep it as classy as possible!

Psalm 24:4

Give us clean hands and pure hearts.

Psalm 51:10

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

The post 14 Bible Verses to Bless a New Home appeared first on soTEXANblog.

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Christmas is seriously the most wonderful time of the year. That said, it can also be SO stressful to find not only the gifts for your family, but 1,001 stocking stuffers to go with them, too. I actually LOVE finding stocking stuffers (possibly more than the actual gifts) so I thought I’d come up with a list of my top 10 toddler stocking stuffers for y’all so that those of you who see it as more of a chore don’t have to spend any more time finding them than you have to!

When it comes to toddler stocking stuffers, I try to get a good mix of educational, fun, and functional. I have an extremely low tolerance for crap around my house. Moving 8 times has ensured that I do a regular cleaning out of our stuff, but now that we’re building our last house ever, I’m trying to make sure that we don’t BRING anything in that we don’t want there. So, I don’t do stuff that I’ll be wanting to trash after the first week because I hate the idea of wasting money just to fill a stocking. Heck, I even re-use Christmas/winter books every year to make our Advent calendar, rather than bring in a calendar with little toys that will end up all over my house or broken (plus there’s the educational aspect of it, too).

Advent and Christmas are everything to me, so I’m super excited to have my toddler stocking stuffers found, purchased, and done so I can just enjoy all of the Christmas cookie decorating, apple cider drinking, and especially each important day during Advent for us Catholic mamas. These are some of the cutest stocking stuffers I’ve found for my kiddos (for the fourth year in a row). What are your favorite things to put in your kiddos’ stockings?

Toddler Stocking Stuffers
  1. Color Bath Tablets: These actually add quite a bit of color with one tab and you can change the colors by mixing two. Our boys each get to pick one to drop in for an inexpensive, super fun bath treat.
  2. Building Bath Pipes: Anything that adds a little education to our play time is something I’m all for, but then you add in the fact that these can go on the back bathtub wall and keep the water splashing to a minimum and I’m totally sold. They’re little pipes that have spinning wheels in them and can be used individually or one above another to create a longer trail for the water to go through.
  3. Foam Bath Letters/Numbers: Again with the sneaking education in, my eldest LOVES spelling words on the bath wall with these, while I use them to teach letters and numbers to our littlest (and our eldest loves teaching him, too).
  4. Glow-in-the-Dark Stars— Stick these to your toddler’s ceiling and give up the night light for some out-of-this-world decor instead!
  5. Liquid Bubble Timer— Like a new-age sand timer, it’s calming and cool and perfect for settling your fit-throwing kiddo down while thinking they got something awesome in their stocking. It’s like a gift for you!
  6. The Original Slinky— Go old school and give your child the gift of YOUR childhood. Whether you have stairs in your house or just want something fun for them to play with on their own, this is super inexpensive and SO fun!
  7. 3 Bees and Me Airplane Set— It wouldn’t be a holiday in our house without airplanes. These are so stinkin’ cute and they come in a set of 4 (so I can put 2 in each boys’ stocking)!
  8. Anti-Slip Socks— A set of 10 pairs, these are the perfect stocking stuffer to keep little toes warm throughout the winter without sliding all over your wood or tile floors.
  9. Silicone Elephant Mug— I know my boys LOVE to get to drink their “warm chocolate” out of a mug like Mama’s coffee in the mornings. Why not spoil your kiddo with a fun elephant mug so you can do the same?
  10. Road Car Tape— Y’all. Forget putting together all those crazy tracks for your kids’ cars. Grab some of this tape and quickly and easily “assemble” and “disassemble” tracks in any room of your house with virtually no storage space required! (And if by some miracle your house isn’t already filled with cars, this is a great inexpensive set to go with the tape.)

The post 10 Toddler Stocking Stuffers That Won’t Break the Bank appeared first on soTEXANblog.

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Okay okay okay. It’s been pretty well-established that I love fall. And we ALL know I love all things warm and contained in a mug (ahem like this COFFEE ahem). So, when I figured out how to make Instant Pot apple cider, it was like the heavens opened up. This stuff is SO fresh, spicy, and comforting that I could drink it every day for the rest of my life. Plus, it’s amazing with a little apple pie moonshine in it.

It pains me to pay $4 for a gallon of flavorless apple cider from the grocery store when I’ve been spoiled by Washington and Virginia apple orchards who made it themselves (and then turned it into apple cider donuts, but that’s another recipe for another day). Making it at home, though, means that I can alter the spices to my liking, while upping or lowering the orange based on how sweet the apples I’m using are. Instant Pot apple cider can take an hour or all night, depending on which setting you use, so you can either have it super fast or wake up to delicious, fresh hot apple cider (and an incredible-smelling home) in the morning!

If you’re loving fall like I am, and getting excited for winter, check out this list of winter/Christmas books that are the PERFECT gift for any young reader!

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Instant Pot Apple Cider Ingredients

10 apples, quartered

1 orange, quartered

2 cinnamon sticks

4 whole cloves (or a couple of dashes of ground)

1/2 t ground nutmeg

Hot tap water (to speed up the process)

Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to the Instant Pot and top off with water until it’s just below the fill line.
  2. Lock the lid on and set to manual high pressure for 1 hour (or slow cooker option for 10 hours so your house smells amazing when you wake up in the morning).
  3. Allow to natural pressure release entirely before straining the liquid into a pitcher (or straight into mugs).

The post Instant Pot Apple Cider– Spiced and Delicious! appeared first on soTEXANblog.

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It’s no secret that seasons are my thing. Heck, I have an entire post of autumn steel cut oatmeal recipes. So, it should come as no surprise that our dinners tend to follow the same trend. We eat ALL the squash in the fall– acorn, butternut, spaghetti, you name it. One of our favorites is twice-baked butternut squash. It’s got the autumn-ness from the roasted butternut squash, the protein from quinoa, and a TON of ingredients to up the flavor like crazy. The nice thing about this one is, I can make it during nap time, add the Parmesan (or Parmesan substitute) topping right before it’s dinnertime, stick it back in the oven to heat/brown, and it’s perfect (maybe even better) than if I’d made it with two kids running around underneath me.

I’m always looking for meatless options for Fridays for us and I feel like a lot of squash recipes lend themselves well to it. This one uses bacon, but it’s (almost) as good without it, so it’s a great option for me to make on a cool Friday evening since the quinoa provides the whole protein that meat does. In fact, it’s so good that even my husband doesn’t argue when I make twice-baked butternut squash the only dish for dinner that night (and that’s saying something)!

Do you LOVE you some fall (or any other season), but not know how to make sure all your meals actually end up healthy and cheap? Check out how I meal plan here!

PS: a little pro tip– if you accidentally dig too deep into the butternut squash to technically make it twice-baked butternut squash, just dump it into your prettiest baking dish (I like our tart dish, personally) and use that!

Twice-Baked Butternut Squash Ingredients

4 lbs butternut squash

1 c uncooked quinoa

1/2 c pecan halves, chopped

2 t olive oil

1 small sweet onion, minced

1 t dried oregano

1 t dried basil

1/4 t salt

1/8 c brown sugar

1/8 c bacon, optional (I leave it out for meatless Fridays)

3/4 c panko breadcrumbs

3 T butter (or “butter”), melted

4 oz parmesan cheese, finely grated (I leave this out or use this substitute for my kids)

Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 450*.  Wash the outside of the squash, cut it in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash cut-side up in a large baking dish and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  Pour 1/4″ of water in the bottom of the pan and cover tightly with foil.  Bake it until it’s tender when pierced with a fork, 30 to 50 minutes, depending on the size of the squash.  Remove from the oven, discard foil, and allow the squash to cool.  Reduce the oven temperature to 400*.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the quinoa by bringing 1 1/3 c water to boil in a small pot.  Add the quinoa, reduce to a simmer, and put a lid on the pot.  Simmer for 15 minutes and then remove from the heat.
  3. While the quinoa is cooking, toast the pecans until fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Set them aside, pour the olive oil into the pan, and add the shallots.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots are transparent.  Remove them from the heat.
  4. Scoop out the flesh of the butternut squash, leaving 1/4″ of squash remaining in the shells in the baking dish.5. In a small bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs, butter, and 2 T parmesan cheese.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the squash, quinoa, pecans, shallot, oregano, salt, bacon, brown sugar and the rest of the parmesan cheese.
  6. Return the squash mixture to the squash shells and top with the panko mixture.
  7. Put the baking dish back in the oven until they’re golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

The post Twice-Baked Butternut Squash– A Fall Favorite! appeared first on soTEXANblog.

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