Meal Plan With Me

If you’re looking to save money on your grocery bill and stay within budget, then this method is for you! I wanted to dive in deeper into how I plan our family’s meals for the week. So far I’ve been using this plan for the last couple of weeks and it has worked beautifully! We’re trying to cut back on eating out to save as much as we can. I wanted to share my method if you’re feeling overwhelmed – believe me, I’ve been there! Anyway, let’s get to it!

Meal plan from a couple of weeks ago.

*You can get this free printable here!*

So every Saturday or Sunday I take some time and write out what we are having for dinner. I also go above and beyond and get out my calendar on my phone and write it down on the days I planned them for. That way I can see what meals I’ve made in the past so as to not make the same meal too close together. Obviously you don’t have to do this step – I just like to be hyper-organized.

Here is the key: I figure out what meals I make for the week by shopping my pantry, fridge, and freezer! I would recommend writing down what you have so you don’t forget and to help reduce waste! Another benefit is that your grocery bill goes down because you should use what you have on hand FIRST, then go and get the items you need from the store.

Now, if you’re not a paper and pen person, I would recommend putting everything on your notes app in your phone.

I write it down on paper and I also use my phone. It helps me to keep everything organized – plus you can delete and rewrite on your notes app so you never have to make the outline again.

Now, what about your inventory items you used up?

Take your grocery budget and designate a portion of that amount to load up on items you’re running low on. This is why you write everything down and keep a stock. If you know that you’re running low on chicken broth, put it on your list so you can replenish. (Want to really penny pinch? Make your own!)

I hope this helps anyone intimidated by meal planning – I know I was! Pinterest is a great source for recipes, and once you have a good arsenal of tried and true meals, you will have a healthy rotation of delicious dinners. You can do this!

What are your favorite recipes? I’d love to know in the comments!

With love,

Em

Waking Up Early

I need to disclaim this right off the bat: I am not a morning person. I really wish I was, but it is so hard for me to get up. Sleep is a valuable thing for me right now – especially since my little one still gets up in the middle of the night to comfort nurse. I find that when I actually do wake up early, I absolutely love it! It’s time I have to myself…alone…with no one needing anything. I’m not mommy or honey yet. I’m just me.

Granted I don’t wake up early every morning. However, this morning in particular as I’m writing this seemed like a perfect opportunity to challenge myself to waking up earlier before the official day starts. My little one got up ten minutes before my alarm this morning. TEN MINUTES. At first, I was really annoyed. Yet then I decided to shift my perspective and think of this pre-alarm wake up call as an opportunity to start waking up and actually get up before the alarm went off. I’ll admit, it was perfect for me. Usually I snooze the alarm to kingdom come and never get up, later kicking myself for not getting up and spending time with God or working on my blog (like I am now).

This week I’m challenging myself to wake up and actually get up and spend time with God, get ready for the day if I want, read a book, write a blog post, etc. I’m loving this so far so I’m hoping I can stick to it this week. Today is Monday. Let’s see what happens when Friday comes! I’ll update this post on Friday and let you guys know how I did.

Do you want to take the challenge with me? Got an iPhone? Good. Set your bedtime schedule to have your alarm go off at 6:30 A.M.. To some it may not seam early, but we’re doing baby steps here. My hope is to gradually wake up earlier. My only condition is to make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep. So everyone needs to have lights out by 10:30 P.M..

I’ll see you guys on Friday!

Mama, You Are Beautiful.

Yes, I’m talking to you.

Every stretch mark.

Every scar.

Every stitch.

Every bag under your eyes.

The milk-stained shirt.

The yoga pants with baby food splattered on them.

You are beautiful. Even when you don’t feel like it. Even when you haven’t showered in days. Believe me, I’ve been there.

It’s been almost a year since I’ve had my little girl. I still cannot believe she is going to be one! It’s been the most rewarding and the most challenging year of my life. With everything going on, sometimes I forget about myself. Honestly, I feel weird for wanting time to myself when I know I should be doing other things. So I usually come last. Last to eat, last to shower, etc. I haven’t gotten my nails done or my hair since she’s been here. Granted, the coronavirus happened and shut everything down, but my point still stands. It’s a good day when I put on makeup. It’s a MIRACLE if I can do my hair as well. I know I’m not the only new mother who feels this way.

I’ll let you in on a little secret – it’s okay to be a little selfish and do something for you. I know, I know. I heard the gasps and saw the large eyes in my head as I was typing that. However, I believe we need to be a little selfish once in a while for our mental health’s sake. I suffered with the baby blues, which almost turned into full blown postpartum depression. Thankfully I had my husband, mom, and mother-in-law to help me through it. They told me to go take a nap, to go out and get some air, to go and just take a break. They told me to take care of myself.

Sometimes it’s hard when you don’t look the same. There’s new rolls that you’ve never had before. Your hips grew. The pooch isn’t going away, even though you’re breastfeeding and you thought that would be the answer to losing the baby weight (if you can’t tell, I’m a little bitter about this one in particular). At the end of the day, we have to remind ourselves that our bodies are incredible. God designed us so intricately and gave us the ability to grow a new human. Our organs shifted and our hormones went crazy all for this little one we so desperately love. When my baby runs up to me and gives me a big hug, it reminds me that every change we go through is worth it.

I want to challenge you. Take twenty minutes for yourself every day. I’m not talking about your time alone with Jesus. I’m talking about your time alone with YOU. Read a book. Go get your nails done. Rest your eyes. Ask your hubby to take the baby and other kiddos for a little while. If you’re a single mama, first of all you’re a rockstar, but maybe that time alone is trickier. I would suggest getting a friend or someone to come babysit for just a little while. Yes, I’m giving you permission to leave mom duty aside.

When the guilt starts to creep up on you, I want you to remember this: if you want to be the best you can be for your spouse, your children, your job, etc., you have to take care of yourself.

With love,

Em.

St. Augustine | Travel With Me

I recently went on vacation to St. Augustine, Florida, and it was absolutely beautiful! I was the only member of my family who had never been there. (Apparently I had been there when I was little, but to me that doesn’t count. I don’t remember any of it.) It is the oldest city in the United States, where it is said that Ponce de Leon thought he had discovered the fountain of youth. Since it’s establishment in 1565, it has become a hodge lodge of paved and cobblestone roads, Spanish and English-style buildings, an eerie Castillo de San Marcos, with museums and shops galore.

One thing I highly recommend doing is the trolly tour! They take you through the whole city and explain every important area of St. Augustine. It was fascinating to hear the history of this old city. It was pricey, but the ticket lasts all day and you can hop on and off to visit different areas. After the tour we decided to hit the shops on George St. While it’s mostly souvenir shops, I enjoyed looking around at everything. We didn’t have time to visit the museums, but when I go back I would like to see Ripley’s Believe it or Not and the Lightner Museum.

As far as places to eat, the Columbia restaurant is the place to go! I highly recommend the famous 1905 salad and the Cuban sandwich. It was delicious, the staff were very friendly and accommodating with my baby, and the bread and butter that are complimentary are to die for. If anything, I would go back for the bread and butter. Let me know if you’ve visited St. Augustine and what your favorite spots were. I’d love to hear!

With love,

Em

Mama, Get Off Your Phone.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time. This is also to myself because I struggle with this daily. It’s something that I think many of us struggle with, regardless of whether we have kids or not. Our phones are a thief of our time. They also destroy our self-esteem. They create monsters inside of us called jealousy when we see an influencer’s new wardrobe, or their third new home in the last few years; each one more grand than the last. I should know because I’ve experienced these emotions and consequences. Yet it does have its virtues believe it or not.

Our phones connect us in ways past generations thought impossible. My daughter loves to FaceTime our family that lives 1,000 miles away. We can send pictures and videos instantly to our friends and relatives. Our phones also give us the ability to find the best deals on Facebook Marketplace, for example. Youtubers give us opinions and advice about products for our littles so we can make a sound purchase. See, I told you our phones have some good qualities!

Yet how many moments have I lost scrolling through Instagram, or watching video after video on Youtube? Moments of my daughter’s life and mine that I cannot get back. I believe that we would have so much “more time,” if we took a minute to see how much we waste on our devices. I love the screen time feature on the Apple iPhone. It was a rude wake up call to see how many endless hours I was wasting on my phone PER DAY. I’ll get transparent so you don’t have to feel as bad. I was averaging about five hours a day on my phone. What the heck?? I will also admit that it was mainly social media that was stealing that much of my time. Endless scrolling and mindless viewing.

I got to work and thought about what I could do with five hours of my day. I could definitely work on laundry. I could finish that book that’s been sitting on my bedside table for a year. I could throw in a thirty minute workout that I keep telling myself I don’t have time for. I could work on a mommy blog that I’ve been dreaming about (hello!) and make it a reality. There’s so much you could do that you “don’t have time for” if you looked up from your phone.

You know, it’s incredible how much comparison steals our happiness. I have to keep myself in check every day when looking on Instagram. I see her immaculate house, her expensive wardrobe, the endless hauls of hundreds of dollars she spent on a whim, the exotic trip that we all know cost her nothing because it was sponsored. That green monster of jealousy rears its ugly head and I become ungrateful for everything I do have. Do you want to know the secret to squashing that annoying monster? Get off your phone. If you’re a christian, get in your Bible. I cannot tell you how much better my day goes when I reach for His Word in the morning when I wake up before I open social media. If you’re not a christian, then I suggest keeping a notebook and write down a list of what you’re thankful for. How about the roof over your head? The fact that you were able to eat dinner last night? The fact that you and your family are in good health? How about the realization that it’s a luxury to have a smart phone? (Obviously these are examples, and it is different for everyone.) I remember always hearing, “If you have breath in your lungs, thank the Lord, because He’s the one who put it there.” How many times do we ever think about how blessed we are to be alive? Probably never. We’re too busy complaining about things we don’t have.

I hope this was encouraging for someone. I’m talking as much to myself as I am to someone else. No one in particular, I promise. I meant in general. I want to challenge you to utilize that screen time feature on your phone and schedule a part of your day where social media is blocked. Put your phone in your bedroom, in a drawer, in a safe, I don’t know. Just leave it somewhere you can’t get to it. Take a minute and breathe. Start on that hobby you’ve wanted to learn. Read a book. Journal. Go on that walk you didn’t have time for. Crack open those dusty recipe books and find a new one that looks delicious. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve done this. Leave me a comment or connect with me on the contact page! Or we can add each other on social media (I know it sounds ironic, but if it’s in your allotted time I’ll allow it 😉) and let me know that my blog sent you!

Let’s to this challenge together. Starting the month of July. Let’s go.

With love,

Emily

 

How I Plan My Week

Everyone has their own way of planning out his or her days and weeks. You’re probably thinking, “Girl, I don’t just plan my days. I micromanage every minute and color cod it.” Perhaps you’re thinking, “What are you talking about?? I just go day by day and see where the day takes me.” I have to ask, though, is the latter question truly working?

I’ll have to admit, I am not a planner by nature. Having a baby changes things. I have to constantly check my watch to know when to put my baby down for naps, when she has to eat, etc. So I hunkered down and bought myself a planner, some pretty colored pens, and got down to business. I want to show you how I do that! If you’re a new momma, this schedule will be ideal for you!

I believe writing it down is so important. Did you know that if you write things down, it will boost your ability to retain information? Now as I say this, I am all for the digital planners and calendars as well. I use them both hand in hand. Once I write everything down for the week in my planner, I will then put it in my calendar so my phone will remind me of important appointments or events. Pro tip: sync your digital calendar with your spouse. You’re welcome. 

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I break my days down into three blocks:

  • Morning Block
  • Afternoon Block
  • Evening Block

Let’s take a closer look at one day of the week:

(Keep in mind that this is a day in the life of quarantine)

Morning Block: 

6 a.m. Wake, Devotionals

7 a.m. Noelle Wakes, Change, Play

8:30 a.m. Breakfast

9:30 a.m. 1st Nap

10 a.m. Mommy time – this is where I use my time to workout, work on the blog, get some cleaning done, meal prep, etc.

11:30 a.m. Noelle up, play

Afternoon Block: 

12:30 p.m. Lunch

2:30 p.m. 2nd Nap

3 p.m. Mommy time

3:30 p.m. Noelle up, play

4:30 p.m. Start Dinner

Evening Block:

Dinner Plans: (Whatever we are having for dinner)

6 p.m. Dinner

*Bath Night* 

7:30 p.m. Noelle Bed Routine

“…the block system and using those timers are key – they help you keep track of time and manage it properly and realistically!”

And that’s it! That is a typical day in my life right now. I keep times open to account for running errands, going to the park, etc. I don’t micromanage my day, because I tried to do that and it didn’t work. If you can’t get everything done you wrote out, it doesn’t make you feel good. In fact, it can be pretty discouraging. I want to fill you in on a little secret: You don’t have to do it all, Mama! That is why the block system and using those timers are key – they help you keep track of time and manage it properly and realistically! When you see how many hours you have in your block, you can schedule realistic goals for that time period. One important rule, though. Honor those timers! Once the block is done, it is done. Finished. Gone. You get the idea.

Another thing to keep me on track is wearing a watch. I know it sounds pretty obvious, but I tend to lose track of time often and my Apple Watch syncs to my phone and I can keep track of my calendar much easier. Timers are a life saver as well! If you’re anything like me, I need a timer or else I could stay up for hours and not know when to press pause. Figure out what works for you and stick to it! And if you try my method, give it a week and I will wait with a big smile on my face and say you’re welcome.

Now, I know some of you will have completely different schedules, and that’s okay. This method is adaptable! You don’t have to do three blocks – make as many and you need throughout the day. We all have the same amount of hours in our day; we just have to figure out how to manage them!

You got this. Feel free to leave a comment with your own tips and tricks, or you can leave me an email under the contact link! Who knows, another printable may be coming soon!

With Love,

Emily

Planner I use: Link

Pens: Link

Finding Love in an Unexpected Place | Journal

“Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” Proverbs 19:20-21

I would categorize myself as a hopeless romantic – one who believed that someday my prince would come. I know I sound like a Disney princess movie, but that was my view. Those movies had a very large impact on my life, okay? Yet reality is so much different than a fairytale. Throughout the years of never having a boyfriend or never holding someone’s hand in a romantic way it had an effect on me. Every single Christian girl can vouch for me when I say I’ve heard all the remarks from older generations on marriage and “the one” and I was sick of it. I was immensely tired of hearing that my time will come, or that there are plenty of fish in the sea, or something along those lines. Well, he wasn’t really coming in my timeline at all. I was supposed to be married three years ago with at least a little one on the way by now. Reality had a cruel way of showing you that life isn’t a movie, and social media also has a way of letting people pretend that they’re perfect and happy, giving you the feeling of loneliness that amplifies into untruths. I have a love-hate relationship with social media.

I wanted a relationship so bad for so long, I eventually gave up hope if I’m being completely honest. In January of 2017, I threw in the towel and wrote a letter to my future husband and to God, saying that I was done looking. I was fed up with my own failed timeline creating doubt and disappointment. I was finished with feeling sorry for myself and painting false ideas on myself that I wasn’t pretty enough, or outgoing enough, or just plain likable. If I claimed to be a child of God, it was time for me to start acting like one.

I did a lot of soul searching, and found that I was not ready for a relationship with someone when I wasn’t strong in my relationship with God or myself. I leaned on what God said I was, and started to finally place my worth in what He said versus what the world said a young twenty-something girl should be. (I could go on about how social media is a blessing and a curse to society, but that’s another soap box that I need to not step on, otherwise I could go on forever.) Let me tell you, it’s hard changing your mindset. The beauty of serving a mighty God is that it didn’t take very long for me to be free of those untruths. It starts with talking to God and telling him your fears, your concerns, your failures, and just giving them up. It also means finally being okay with HIS timeline.

I wrote a post on here a few years ago proclaiming that I was done with dating (I’ll link it here if you’d like) and while for the most part I stuck to this, words are easier said than done, because after that I still struggled. Just being completely honest. Yet who knew that I would meet my husband eight months after truly declaring, by myself at night in my room, that I was handing it to the Lord. Also, who knew that the internet/social media was the way I would meet him. I know, I just went on a little tangent about social media, but remember I said I have a love/hate relationship with it? Well I found him on none other than ChristianMingle. Yes, you read that right. At first, I was skeptical of trying it. I thought and prayed hard before I started and during the whole process. I kept my mindset pure and on God. At first, I felt like it wasn’t right for me to give my dating life to God and then turn around a few months later and look for him myself on an internet dating site of all places. However, I prayed a simple prayer, “I’m going to try this for a little while, and if it’s not what you have for me, God, then shut the door.” Surprisingly, he didn’t shut it.

I want let this phrase sink in, because it is so true: God’s timing is PERFECT. All those years of wishing and crying and wanting someone taught me to trust in God’s plan. If I didn’t, I would have never met my husband, because all this time he was 1,000 miles away from me until he moved to Michigan in June of that same year I gave it all up to God. In August, we had our first date and talked for hours. We both opened up to each other and asked serious compatibility questions, like ones about finances and other relationships. I know it sounds crazy, but I was not messing around, and neither was he. By our third date, we both knew that this was it. We had found our soulmates. In December, he asked me to marry him, and I said yes. In August of the next year (two months ago) we made the most important covenant between a man and a woman official. I’m telling you, when God is in the mix, things just happen. I look back at all those “wasted” years of being single as a lesson. I put the word “wasted” in quotations because they were not wasted at all. All those years of saving myself and growing into the person God wanted me to be paid off. We each other’s firsts in everything. And that is something truly special that I thank God every day for. When we do relationships and marriage God’s way, it is truly beautiful and the most romantic love story of all.

I want to say this as a sort of disclaimer – God’s timeline for everyone is different. I know I would read these types of posts and say to myself, “Okay, if that’s how it worked for them, I’ll try the same things and see if they work for me!” It never did. If you’re struggling with singleness and all the other issues that come with that, I understand your pain. I was right there with you for many years. Remember this: a girl should be so lost in God that a guy needs to seek him to find her. That way the struggle is easier, and the waiting doesn’t seem like an eternity. I hope my story resonates with someone, and if it does, then my goal is made. I will see you next week with another blog post (I’m determined to keep this thing going)!

With love,

Emily

What I’ve Been Up to….

Well hello there! Let me dust off the cobwebs and find you a better seat. I know it’s been a while – I don’t even know who keeps up with this blog anymore, but if you still do, bless you. Life has been so busy as of late, mainly because I got a boyfriend, got engaged, and got married within a year. I know, I know. That’s a lot, right? I have so much to catch you up on, so many posts to sit down and write, so many ideas in my head for new reviews, new outfits, new discussions about life and my walk with God, and new habits to talk about that are changing my life. So don’t worry, I have a goal this month to be consistent with this little blog, and one of my new found habits is helping with that. To give you a little hint, it has to do with waking up early. However, that is for a separate post I want to write. I’ll keep this one short for now, but I am so excited to get back into this. I will see you this Thursday with a post about meeting my husband and hopefully encourage someone out there who is struggling with loneliness and aching for their soulmate. Well, time to get writing and taking/editing pictures for this blog – see you soon!

Emily

Mackinac Island | Travel With Me

Mackinac (Mack-in-aw) Island is one of the most beautiful places in Michigan. I have not been to the island since I was a young girl, so reliving everything again was breathtaking (even in the frigid, rainy temperatures). There are no cars or any motorized transportation on the island, so the only way to get anywhere is by a bicycle or by horse. With there being no cars allowed, you have to take a ferry to get onto the island, which makes the experience more memorable.

Though I have biked around the island many times, this was the first time I experienced riding in the horse-drawn carriage. Even though it’s pricey, I highly recommend the private tour if you take a carriage. The private tour takes you around all of the private cottages on the island, plus you get to see the governor’s summer home.  I felt like I was in Pride and Prejudice. One of the benefits to biking around the island is seeing the beautiful views around the island, which is only eight (approx. 8.2) miles around.

Besides bikes and horses, Mackinac is known for its decadent fudge. There are at least three fudge shops to choose from. Plus, they give you as many free samples as you want! The restaurant I would recommend is Millie’s for their kid-friendly meal selection and great selection of options for adults as well. The truffle oil fries with blue cheese appetizer is one to definitely try. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of my food, but I got an olive burger with swiss cheese and Millie’s olive spread. It was a pretty good burger, even though it was messy.

If you have never been to the UP (Upper Peninsula), or at least at the top of the mitten, I would put it on your bucket list. Michigan is a beautiful place, and I’m glad I get to call it my home.

(Click on any image to enlarge)

Stratford, Ontario | Travel With Me

“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

-excerpt from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

I have been to Stratford many times on school trips to see a play, usually from Shakespeare, for my English class. It has been a while (six years to be exact – yikes) since I had been to Canada and Romeo and Juliet was playing this season. I had always wanted to see Romeo and Juliet live so I begged my mom to come with me. Soon we told my sister and it turned into a birthday excursion for my sister.

We had the most wonderful time there, myself in particular. I strolled through the streets, soaking in everything I remembered as a young teen. We ate at Downie Street Burgers for lunch (you can see the pic of my meal below) and it was delicious. They have many other options to choose from if you’re not into burgers per say, but I highly recommend this place. It is a little pricey, but with the exchange rate it is less in the long run for Americans. For dessert I chose a lemon tart, which was amazing, from a little coffee shop I used to go to every time when I went in school.

If you are interested in plays and love little towns, then this place is one to check off the bucket list. It is not far from Toronto, so if you are ever around there you should definitely make a little day trip and go see a play, explore the little boutiques, take a walk by the river, and eat some delicious food.

(Click on any picture to enlarge)