Project Elephant Update: The Refinished Dining Table

I’ve mentioned several times a certain Facebook Sale + Trading site that I’ve used to clear out some furniture we didn’t need, but it’s also been really good for scoring several incredible deals as well.

Perhaps the most amazing of which was this table.


Somehow, I managed to be first in line to claim it (it’s a first come, first served kind of thing), and there was much use of the crying eyes emoji by all of the commenters who came after me.

It was a really great price (and I even sold the chairs that came with it because they weren’t quite right for me, so I made half of my money back), but I aaaaaalmost didn’t get it because it needed some TLC, and, since I have those half dozen children who need TLC all day errrr’day, it seemed a bit foolhardy to take on another project.

But those legs! Seriously, I couldn’t pass up the stems on that table.

And now that she’s done, I’m so glad I didn’t.

When I posted the above pic and mentioned that I shouldn’t have bought her due to her fixer upper status, I got a slew of, “Don’t touch her! She’s beautiful just the way she is!” comments.

Which I get. But outside of the big ol’ gouge out of the wood, this is what her finish looked like up close.


And since we’re going to be eating off of her, I didn’t think it was thee best idea to mix peeling varnish with our peeled potatoes.

Honestly? She wasn’t that hard to perk up. All it took was some wood filler for that huge gouge, a quick round with an orbital sander on the tabletop, an even quicker hand-sanding of the legs, a coat of paint, and a little intentional distressing of said paint…and she was good to go!


{The top is painted SW Rainwashed, in case you’re wondering; it’s the palest gray/blue/green}

It was probably 2 hours tops.

Is she perfect?


{Hello, gorgeous gams!}


And that is so the point. I love her craggy, weathered self. I wouldn’t like her as much if she were shiny and lacquered. I like my tables like I like my people. Real and quirky and pragmatic and a little rough around the edges.


And you know what else I like? Having another item crossed off my latest Project Elephant list (I’ve got another BIG one to show you soon, but it’ll have to wait just a bit longer).


Now, if only I could manage to make my bedroom curtains sew themselves. Le sigh…

P.S. After referring to my table as a “she” for this whole post, I really feel like she needs a name. Any thoughts?

Evy and Nola are THREE!

I’ve been trying to get this post done since last week…last Thursday when the twins     actually turned three…to be exact.


But, well, you see, there are these twins (plus four other small humans) always hanging around that seem to prefer that I feed them and read stories to them and wipe their bottoms over editing pictures and writing about them.

Totally backwards priorities, clearly.

Anyhoo, as I’ve thought about what I wanted to actually say about the twins’ newly minted status as threenagers, the entire mental dialogue has felt a bit surreal. Like: What? I have 3-year-old twins? I have 3. year. old…TWINS??!

I always wondered what life with twins was like whenever I observed mamas pushing their multiples through the grocery store, and, even now, if I spot twins out and about, I think, “WOW. That’s a special challenge. Wonder how she does it?” And then, I’m all: “Oh. Yeah. Duh.”

Mostly, it’s just my new(ish) normal. But then it strikes me again that I have twins, and I just shake my head in wonder.

So, what is having 3-year-old identical twin girls like?

Well, it’s fun. And I mean that with zero sarcasm.


And it’s hard. And I REALLY mean that with zero sarcasm.

Up until the past 8 months or so, twins didn’t really feel that “bad.” In fact, if you read last year’s “The Twins are TWO” post, I made it sound pretty darn rosy. And it was/is. I mean, sure, when they were babies, the sheer constantness of the feedings and changings and burpings and shushings on repeat was…a lot. It just wasn’t as overwhelming for me as I always assumed it would be.

Only recently do I feel like my twins have fully lived up to their (in my mind) “twin cred.”


How so?

Well, imagine, for a moment, one three-year-old–with all of the usual WANT it!!!/DON’T want it!!! meltdowns and picky food preferences and kamikaze attempts at independence followed instantly by death-grip clinginess…

And then add in another one with all the same ingredients for crazy but with just enough of a different personality twist to drive her twin (not mention her mama) a little insane…

And you’ve got the idea.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my girls to distraction (ha!), and there are entire days that having twins feels like a super-fun privilege. But those days are sometimes a precursor to 3 full weeks of arched back screaming fits every. single. time we get in the car to go anywhere. Fits that often take place in stereo.

And then, there are the occasional cat fights. HO.LY cow. I think some of their death matches could draw a hefty audience on Pay Per View. The screeching and the hair pulling and even the rare biting episode.

I realize that I’m making them sound downright feral, and believe-you-me, these displays of, um, spirit do not go undisciplined. But the honest-to-goodness truth is that they both have sweet natures. They’re not what I would call “wild” (although the potential is there, I think). And that’s not just a partial mama talking. They’re cheerful little girls. Ask anyone who’s met them.


But they are typical little 3-year-old sinners (lots of ME! MINE! NO!), and the mere fact that there are two of them the exact same age, constantly jockeying for the same territory, the same lap, the same toys (never mind that there’s probably an identical toy at hand), the same CUP (for the love…while 20 others mope in dejection in the drawer) creates an environment ripe for conflict.

Case in point: at the grocery store last night, while the boys were at soccer, I had all three girls stuffed in the bottom of the basket, with Theo’s car seat clicked into the top portion. And all of them were getting along beautifully…until suddenly they weren’t–complete with hair-raising banshee shrieks and writhing and flying elbows. At just that moment, a man walked by, and, without missing a beat, offered me the case of beer he’d just bought.

Now, I’m a teetotaler, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if the phrase: “driven to drink,” was invented by a mother of 3-year-old twinados.

Of course, I think if I only had Nola, I might be feeling a bit at my limit for 3-year-old hormonal issues. Girlfriend is the sweetest thing you ever did see until she gets a bee in her bonnet, in which case, clear the room! Her capacity for tantrums is impressive, to say the least.


Tantrums? ME? Never.

Evy is a bit of a different story. She’s capable of a good ol’ throw-down herself, but her rebellions are a tad more subtle, usually.


I feel like this is a quintessentially Evy expression. Slightly mischievous. A little bit thoughtful. And a wee bit ornery.


Evy is quite happy to go along with Nola’s bossy britches ways, until she’s not.

Of course, I feel compelled to balance all of this threenager talk out with the fact that, no sooner have the twins finished rolling around in a snarling ball of fury than they are playing primly side-by-side, chirping: “Here you doll, No-wah.” “Dank you, Eh-vy!”


They just love each other to death. Almost literally sometimes.

And you’d better be ready with a another one for her twin if you ever hand out a treat because, inevitably, a little hand will shoot out for round two with an expectant, “And Eh-vy’s?” And off she’ll trot to deliver her sister’s loot.

And heaven help anyone who tries to separate them for long.


So, basically 3-year-old twins are delightful.

And exhausting.

And exhilarating.

And infuriating.

But more than anything, 3-year-old twins are sanctifying.

(But that’s pretty much true of every kid, now isn’t it?)

More than anything, I’m just praying for the grace not to wish this stage of twindom away. I have to actively remind myself that this very well may be my only shot at mothering 3-year-old twins. And as much as a part of me goes: “YIP-EE!”…another part already feels nostalgic for four identical, chubby little hands, the way they both pad into our room (lately, at approximately 5:30 every morning…zzzzzz) with soft little voices chorusing: “I hongrey,” the way both of their solid little bodies feel wedged up against mine when we read on the couch in the mornings, and the way I can never, EVER kiss one without her sister demanding her fair share as well.

So far, so good.

Project Elephant Update: A Slipcovered Ottoman

Well, to say that I’m a bit off the pace for finishing my (admittedly ambitious) Project Elephant list from last week in time for this weekend’s party for the twins’ birthday is a weeeee bit of an understatement.

But it hasn’t been for lack of trying.

I blame all of these small human that live with me. If only they would stop making extravagant demands for things like food and water and diaper changes, I would be free to cross things off my list at will.

I guess that’s what I get for birthing 6 adorable, fun, maddening, needy, awesome children.

Anyhoo, I have been plugging along steadily when I’m able and have found that–just like my desire for productivity comes in waves throughout the year–so my actual productivity waxes and wanes from day to day.

Monday? AH-mazing! If I could manage to do what I did Monday–homeschool, cook, clean, project, read to my girls, feed/play with a baby, exercise–all with a minimum of fussiness and fighting and a maximum of energy, I would probably opt to play that day on repeat–Groundhog Day style–just to experience again and again the feeling of my head hitting the pillow that night with a thwump of satisfaction and accomplishment.

But then, there was yesterday, which felt like jogging through quicksand. As soon as I got everybody fed, another round of “HUNGRY!” cries began. Which meant another round of cleaning afterward. I hauled almost everything out of the craft room, but that just means that our big room, which started the day clean, now looks like Hobby Lobby’s fabric department got in a cat fight with their scrap-booking aisle.

And there were entire hours fraught with fussy meltdowns over scenarios such as: toddler asks for juice, mother hands her juice, toddler proceeds to wail as if mother has served her a scorpion with a side of razor blades.

I literally got into bed last night thinking: “Well, I hardly sat down, but I’m not sure what I accomplished or where the hours went.”

ANYhoo, as I comfort myself with the (quite possibly faulty) reassurance that, “It gets worse before it gets better,” I thought I’d show one thing I did manage to check off the list.

And that would be this recovering this sad little ottoman.


{Pardon the ugly yellow pic; I completely forgot to take a before pic when I had light}

I think I bought it at Ross for something like $30 4ish years ago. Clearly, it has been well-loved by my kids. And their apple juice.

I’ve been meaning to make a slipcover for it for aaaaaages, but it just never was a priority until I finally plunked it on my Project Elephant list (there’s the beauty of PE for you).

Do you remember my lampshade recovers from a little while ago? Well, I had juuuuuuuuust enough of that gorgeous Waverly Santa Maria fabric left (seriously, it was sufficient by maaaaaybe an 1/8″) to make my slipcover, so, using a modified version of this super-simple tutorial, I whipped up this cover, which took it from sad, stained, and lumpy to this:


I reeeeeeeally like it.

I’m not usually into matchy-matchy fabrics in living spaces, but I like that I can move the ottoman around the room so that it plays more or less off of the mirroring pattern in the lampshades.

And now I’m off to attempt to stuff all of my craft supplies in a somewhat organized manner back into the craft room (which, considering that it was piled practically to the ceiling and is clearly insufficient for the amount of stuff I have, could be…interesting).

Happy Hump Day, y’all! If you have any trouble chomping through your elephants today, I suggest eating an appropriately shaped animal cracker. You’ll feel accomplished immediately. Or at least, less hungry.


Mama Life Hacks {#15}: Reusing Baby Food Jars

Okay, I feel a little sheepish about this post because I feel like, after reading the title of it, you’re probably expecting a litany of clever ways to repurpose glass baby food jars.

Like for craft supplies or planters or organizational doo-dads.

And yes, all of those would be fabulous ways to stretch your baby jar use from one to many.

But the #mamalifehacks tip that I have for you is soooooooo much simpler–so much more DUH!–than that.

Here’s the thing: I like to make my own baby food as much as possible. It’s healthier. It’s cheaper. It’s convenient, since if I run out, I don’t have to hightail it to the store for more (assuming that I have the makings of baby food on hand).

It’s just so stinking easy to throw some sweet potatoes in the oven, then whip them with a bit of water in my Ninja into yumminess for Theo.

Still, I keep a small supply of store-bought baby food in the pantry for when we’re out and about or when I’m making dinner and need the boys to feed him without the hassle of retrieving, portioning out, and heating up homemade food from the fridge.

Because the only thing I don’t love about the homemade baby food is the mess and then the storage. When I make it in my Ninja, I typically either a) pull out the blades and then shove the whole container in the fridge, pulling it out and glopping some in a bowl as needed or b) scrape it out of the Ninja into a Tupperware container and then store that in the fridge.

Either works, but it’s not my favorite thing to locate a bowl and then fill it with food. Not saying it’s a big deal. Because it’s not. In fact, on the hardship scale–with 1 being: I stubbed my toe and 10 being: I live in a 3rd World country and don’t know where my next meal is coming from–it doesn’t even register.

And yet.

If I can find a way around it, I will.

Now, I know there are fancy blender attachments and Baby Bullets and whatnot, which allow you to store the food in small quantities, individually, but I don’t have any of those. And neither do I have any desire to buy one.

So, the other day, when the boys (aka: little hoarders) asked me if they could spirit two used baby food jars away for “projects” (I think we all know this is code for: something else to grow mold on), I happened to be standing in front of a freshly mixed batch of homemade baby food.

And as I held up the used (but washed) baby food jar, trying to think of an excuse for why Simon couldn’t take it to his room and then lose it under his bed for all eternity, it’s like Theo’s sweet potatoes spoke to me, and said: “NO! Take me instead!” #namethatmovie (this one’s harder than the Princess Bride reference from last week).

baby food jars2

And so, the idea of reusing baby food bottles for the purpose of–hold on tight now–storing baby food was born.

I know, right? So brilliantly simple and obvious that I’m sure EVERYONE in the entire world has thought of this besides me.

baby food jars watermark

Which means that I’m typing to myself.

Which is kind of a waste of time, since I was there when I had the original (tiny) epiphany and all.

But still.

As DUH (see? I told you) as it may seem, I am loving having tidy little bottles of pre-portioned homemade baby food in my fridge. No more Tupperware. No more big Ninja karafes taking up space. And NO MORE fishing food out of one container to transfer it to another container every time I need to feed Theo.

Oh! And I can now easily take homemade food with me (as long as it’s not going to sit in my bag for any significant period of time, of course). And then? I can toss the container! (Because who wants to accidentally forget about a baby food Tupperware container in your purse only to find a lovely fuzz colony in there a week later?)

I won’t blame you if you think I’m slow for only now figuring this out.

But I also won’t mock you if the light of revelation is just now dawning in your eyes as well.

baby food jars1

Theo’s clearly a fan of my newest duh moment. Now, if only somebody would invent something to put around his neck to keep food from getting all over his clothes.

Joke, people! I know napkins already exist. ;)

Are you guys homemade baby food makers too? What do you store yours in? Maybe I’ve been missing out on something (else) obvious and simple all these years?

Don’t forget to share your #mamalifehacks so I can feature you!

Wardrobe Wednesday: Making an Effort

Hey-ho. It’s Wednesday. And I’ve yet to accomplish one single thing from my Project Elephant list. So that’s…going well.

I did, however, manage to finally get together a post that I’ve been planning for a while.

I know there haven’t been that many clothing/style posts of late. Several of you have expressed an interest to see them come back, but…

I haven’t had much to show.

With Shaun traveling so much (often leaving on Sundays), we haven’t been at church as much as usual, which kind of negated the one guaranteed time a week that I actually made an effort to get dressed.

The rest of the time? I’m ashamed to admit that I’m wearing P.J.’s or workout clothes (mostly those) all the live-long day.

We live in the country, and other than the UPS guy (does he count?), we don’t get regular visitors, so I can kind of get away with this.

But honestly? I just felt kind of gross all the time. Sure, it was practical. But it wasn’t attractive. Or motivating.

And there are a lot of clothes in my closet languishing in the land of the unworn.

So, I decided to start making an effort, even on the days when I have to be at the gym later in the afternoon, and it would make more sense just to wear the same clothes all day long.

I’ve been making said effort for a couple of weeks now–not every day because sometimes it really does make sense to wear workout clothes aalll day–and, even though I had ambitions of showing each week’s outfits to you one at a time, that hasn’t happened yet.

So, I figure a big photo-dump is better than nothing at all.

In the future, I hope (we’ll see how it goes) to get the photos posted at the end of the week in a Weekday Wardrobe feature, but for now, we have Wardrobe Wednesday: The Making an Effort Edition.


Outfit 1: Top + Shorts from thredUP (that link gives you–and me– a $20 credit, if you’re a new customer) sandals from Greece

Outfit 2: Top – GAP, Shorts – Old Navy (old), sandals from Greece, Necklace – on sale for $3 from Walmart (still had them last time I checked)

Outfit 3: Top - J. Crew (got mine when it was on sale + an extra 50% off…which they do sometimes), Shorts – Target (from this summer), Shoes – Marshall’s


Outfit 1: Top - GAP, Jeans – LOFT (this summer), Cargo vest – Old Navy (old), Shades/Purse/Shoes – local FB swap ‘n shop

Outfit 2: Top – thredUP, Shorts – American Eagle, Sandals – Ross

Outfit 3: Top – Madewell (on major sale), Shorts – J. Crew Factory (ditto), Sandals – Ross, Bag - Anthro (I got it when they had an extra 30% off + free shipping, but it’s still on sale right now)


Outfit 1: Brought to courtesy of: I was majorly overhauling my closet and was tempted to hide all the mess before I took the pic but decided you would appreciate a little reality instead (Shirt was a gift from my sis-in-law, Jeans are Joe’s – $3 from Clothes Mentor, Shoes – Ebay)

Outfit 2: Dress – thredUP, Booties (or are they Shooties? I don’t claim to know) – Anthro (on major sale last spring)

Oufit 3: Top – thredUP, Jeans – Clothes Mentor, Shoes: Payless (old)

(Most of these were church outfits; I don’t clean bathrooms in dresses + b/shooties)


Aaaaand there you have it! A round up of what I’ve been wearing when I actually manage to put on real clothes these days.

Which would not include today (yet) as I sit here typing this in my P.J.’s. Off to remedy that!

Happy Wednesday to you! May you find time to put on real clothes and apply mascara today. And if you don’t, may you not care one single bit!


Project Elephant Checklist {#5}

Do y’all remember Project Elephant?

If you don’t, I don’t blame you. It’s been languishing in the shadows of pregnant-while-homeschooling-with-two-toddlers-then-having-a-newborn-then-having-a-relaxing-summer.

I know, I know. The excuses abound. In multi-hyphenate form, no less.

The truth is that I’ve actually been getting a fair bit done, even without my project elephant lists. Like more than usual, lately.

My productivity comes in waves, it feels like. I go through months-long blocks of exhaustion and, “Nope, not gonna happen right now.” And then, all of a sudden, my energy is renewed, and I feel up to waking up super early and tackling things that seemed utterly overwhelming only a few weeks before. (Case in point: I wrote this post early early this morning at Chick-fil-a while eating a fruit and yogurt parfait that was not entirely 14 Day Cleanse compliant but was better than the chicken + egg + cheese bagel I really want to be eating…while using their free Wifi because I woke up at 5 to exercise so I could be done with that for the day. What??!)

Obviously, I like the peppy stages more than the, “Can somebody please find me some toothpicks to prop my eyelids open” stages.

Doesn’t everybody?

It’s almost impossible for us women not to put at least a few of our self-worth eggs in the accomplishment basket, especially in this day and age of (seemingly) endless productivity and creativity a la Pinterest plus 40 other new social media outlets a day (Periscope? Whaaaa?! I can’t even…I may eat those words, but I literally can’t even consider it right now).

So, OF COURSE, I like myself a little better when I’m kicking tail and taking names (by my standards; someone else probably wouldn’t be impressed) in the project/house cleaning/life department.

But I’ve also read Ecclesiastes. I’ve heard The Byrds’ Turn! Turn! Turn!

I am aware that there are seasons for everything, including nothing. As in “accomplishing” nothing. And being okay with that.

I’ve come to realize that my spurts of energy don’t usually come in the spring. I realize I’m supposed to see all that new life sprouting and feel this undeniable urge to clean! all! the! things!

But I don’t.

Instead, I just mentally calculate how many weeks of homeschooling we have left and weigh that against how much sanity I have left…and hope for it to break even. How’s that for honesty?

But the fall? That’s another story. After a relaxing, refreshing summer, when the weather starts to feel just a little bit less like I’m constantly swimming in a simmering pot of soup, I start to itch for something to paint or organize or rearrange. Plus, if you’re anything like me (and I know some of you are because you’ve already told me), there’s nothing like a party or a deadline to jump start your “git ur dun” battery.

Weeeelll, I have both looming. We’re having a party for the twins’ 3rd (????!!! How?!) birthday in a couple of weeks + plus some pictures that will be done at the house. And I need to get a move on.


After the world’s longest, most rambling introduction that basically could have been summed up with:

I feel like getting stuff done, y’all

I give you:

project elepant

This list is both ambitious (the craft room alone might be the death of me) and truncated (because there’s always more to do), but it’s a good start.

I will, of course, be blogging about each project as I finish it.

And I would, of course, love to know if I have any fellow one-bite-at-a-time project-ers out there.

Care to share what you’re working? Misery loves company, and all that.

Do you go through spurts of energy/lethargy too? If you’re just straight up productive all the time, I don’t think we can be friends. :)

My Mama’s Granola Recipe

There are certain things that will always be the holy grail of a particular food item in my mind.

There was that amazing tangerine-flavored Snapple that I had in Ottawa, Canada that one time and have never been able to track down since. Or that transcendent pain au chocolat from the cute little boulangerie down the street from our airbnb in Paris.

And I’m not the only who does this. I know because Shaun has been trying to remember where he ate a certain incredible sea bass dish on a work trip one time for years now. He keeps going back to restaurants and trying out their version, only to be disappointed.

We both agree that the best granola either of us ever ate was at breakfast one morning on our honeymoon. It was crunchy and chewy, with just the right amount of fruit + a hint of cinnamon. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. In fact, if anyone from the Lucerne Inn in Bangor, Maine just so happens to read my blog and wants to shoot me the recipe, I won’t object one bit. Anyone? Anyone? Sigh.

But, believe me, I’m not sighing too much because, while the honeymoon granola set the bar super high, the granola my mama makes is right up there with it.

I always grab a handful (or three) when I’m at her house, and she has a batch lying around, but I’ve been meaning to make my own for an embarrassingly long time.

I finally did because it’s compliant with our 14 Day Cleanse guidelines, and, oh man!

Although my primary goal of the cleanse is not to lose weight, if I don’t watch out, I’m going to end up gaining some by the end of it because I am pretty much constantly grabbing a handful of this awesomeness to munch on as I make my way through the kitchen. It’s sooooo good. But low calorie? Not so much.

Of course, with such a glowing recommendation, it wouldn’t be nice at all not to share, so I’m passing along my mama’s granola recipe so you too can feel healthy, all while over-indulging in something that should probably only be enjoyed in (yeah, right) quarter-cup portions (anybody remember the Seinfeld fat-free fro-yo episode? yeah, that).

Okay, so here’s the thing (my 7-year-old uses this phrase aaaaalll the time, and I thought it was hilarious and random until I realize that I say it constantly):

This “recipe” has a lot of wiggle room. And when I made it from my mom’s (admittedly) loose guidelines, I didn’t follow anything exactly or measure much.

But it’s also kind of hard to mess up, so even if you’re an exact measurement type, and all of this “wiggle room” talk is making you nervous, I promise you’ll be okay.

Here’s what you’ll need to make your very own scrumptious/addictive/hip-widening granola.

  • Oats (32 oz.)
  • Sesame Seeds (16 oz.)
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 1 cup almonds (obviously any of these nuts are optional if you have allergies or other objections, but I like all three)
  • 1-1 1/4 cup coconut oil (solid)
  • 1- 1 1/4 honey
  • 1 1/2-2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2-2 tsp vanilla
  • Various dried fruits (I used raisins, cranberries, and chopped up apricots), approximately 3/4 cup each

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit

Mix together the oats, sesame seeds, and nuts until well-blended.

Microwave coconut oil, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla for about 45 seconds – 1 minute, and then remove and stir well.


{I posted this shot to Instagram and got several questions about my measuring spoons. They’re from World Market, in case you’re wondering}

Pour oil/honey mixture over granola and mix well with a large spoon or clean hands.

Spread onto a jelly roll pan or a deep casserole dish (probably both, since this is a lot of granola), and bake for 15 minutes.


Stir well, then return to the oven for 15 more minutes.


Add dried fruit, if using it, and return pans to oven for another 10-15 minutes. granola3

Stir again, and then let it dry on the pans, torturing you with its delicious scent.

Store in gallon plastic bags and set it on your counter where you can snag a bite every time you walk through the kitchen. Or, if you don’t want to gain 10 pounds in one week, put it in a locked safe.



Happy munching! And HAPPY Friday!

Do you have tale of a dish that got away? Or do you know where I can buy tangerine Snapple? After my cleanse, of course. Ahem.

Mama Life Hacks {#14}: Batch Cooking Chicken Breast

So, there are times that I hesitate to post something because all I can think is: EVERYBODY already knows this, Abbie. It’s just too, too obvious.

And for many of you, today’s #mamalifehacks tip will be. My apologies ahead of time. Feel free to click away to the weather or something equally scintillating.

But I’ve had enough of a, “Why didn’t I think of that!?” reaction in both real life and blog life to this idea any time it comes up that I figured it was worth posting at least once, especially considering the fact that there are a good number of you participating in our healthy eating/drinking challenge.

So, WHAT IS IT, Abbie? Enough blathering, for the love!

My big fat (skinny?) tip for today is to cook chicken breast in big batches at the beginning of the week so that, on those days when you’re stumped/too tired to think about dinner, you don’t really have to.

Because SURELY there’s something you can make with pre-seasoned, pre-cooked chicken breasts!

Off the top of my head, I can name: chicken + veggie stir fry, Chipotle-style chicken + rice bowls, chicken pot pie, ANY kind of chicken + pasta, chicken fajitas, chicken lettuce wraps, King Ranch chicken, chicken salad…

Get the idea? If it has the word “chicken” in it, then you can probably use chicken breast from your pre-cooked batch to make it.

Of course, this hack isn’t just for those weeks when you haven’t planned ahead. There have been puh-lenty of times that I have planned 3-4 of our family dinners around the fact that I am cooking a huge batch of chicken at the beginning of the week.

As we’re doing our 14 day cleanse,  (Y’ALL! I’m so proud of all of you for jumping in like you did! This is so fun! The Facebook Page is hoppin’! If you’re still interested, don’t hesitate to join in!) it’s really important that I have healthy options on hand so that I don’t get discouraged or distracted or just plain devour-some (sorry, not a word; I didn’t want to ruin the alliteration).

But, whether you’re adhering to a special diet or not, I think all of us busy women could use a little help in the meal-planning department.

And I’m here to tell you that, if you’ve got 30 minutes on your Monday (only 5-10 of those have anything to do with prep; the rest is oven time), then you can get yourself set for the week with delicious, pre-cooked chicken that is SO much cheaper and better than that grisly, rubbery stuff they sell in bags in the freezer section.

So, what do you do?

Hope you have  a pen and notepad ready because it’s super complicated.

No, it’s not. And that’s the beauty!

::STEP 1::

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit

::STEP 2::

Butterfly your chicken breasts. Note: this step is totally optional, but I always do it because it means that my meat cooks more quickly and that there’s more seasoning on each piece.

::STEP 3::

Arrange butterflied chicken breasts on a jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with a lip) and sprinkle generously with Lawry’s Perfect Blend Chicken Rub (I buy mine in the huge containers from Sam’s, but that link is for Amazon).

batch chicken1

::STEP 4::

Cook for approximately 23-26 minutes or until juices run clear and no pink remains in the meat. This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you to use a meat thermometer, and YES! You totally should. TOTALLY. But…I don’t. So, there’s that.

batch chicken2

::STEP 5::

Allow chicken to cool on pans, then place in gallon plastic bags and store in the fridge. Mandy did a really similar post to this one ages ago, and she freezes hers and says it still turns out great when thawed.

::STEP 6::

Pull out of fridge and dance with it around the kitchen when you realize that you forgot to plan dinner but you have cheese in the fridge and tortillas in the pantry, so…QUESADILLAS FOR EVERYONE!

Shoo husband away when he sticks head quizzically in the door to ask why you’re so excited about quesadillas.

High-five yourself on your super-mom levels of preparedness.

batch chicken


Just me?

Okay. I’m good with that.

And for all my clean-eating homeys…don’t get any ideas about cheese and tortillas. BUT! This hack will still serve you well on your clean-eating quest.

No go eat some lettuce!

Got any #mamalifehacks to share with me? I’m listening!

14 Day Clean-Eating + Gallon Challenge

Do y’all remember the 10 day clean-eating cleanse I did back in the spring?

I got great results in terms of shedding some stubborn baby weight and definitely could tell a difference in my energy levels and how I felt in general.

And the food was tasty in the extreme!

So, the big question is: did I continue?

Sort of. I never intended to cut out all dairy/bread/sweets for good, but, of course, with summer and its loosey-goosey ways, some days were–ahem–cleaner than others.

Even so, I lost an additional 5 pounds over the course of the last 3 months, which got me within 2-3 pounds of my pre-baby weight.

Just as a refresher…

cleanse collage

And then we have…



I did everything in my (limited technological) power to make all three of those pics side-by-side so you could better see the progression, but the top ones are linked in a collage, and I can’t find the originals to separate them, and the bottom one just wouldn’t size correctly to fit. So…there.

You get two rows of my creepily headless body for your viewing (dis)pleasure. Assuming that I’ve got some results to report after this round of the cleanse, I’ll make an even greater effort to line them all up in a row.

Never let it be said that good things don’t come to those who wait. Such good things.

ANYhoo, Theo is 8-months-old, and this is, by far, the longest it has ever taken me to shed the pounds, but I can definitely tell that my almost-33-year-old self is a little fonder of extra poundage than her 20′s predecessor.


Lately, the struggle has been to eat well on the weekends. When Shaun’s out of town, I eat clean for the most part, but when he’s home on the weekend, we’ve been going on (much-needed) dates, and indulging just a wee bit.

And while I’m all about enjoying treats on occasion, I don’t love the sluggish, gross feeling I get after a whole weekend of it.


Enter our blog post title:


{I didn’t intend for this to continue the headless theme OR look like a mug shot, but since I achieved both without even trying, we’re going with it}

Because I always do better when I have accountability, and I’m guessing I’m not alone in my desire to reset my eating habits after a lax summer schedule.

So, what is this challenge?

Well, basically, I’m inviting anyone interested to join me for the next 14 days (I started today, but I know you guys didn’t get a chance to, so the official dates will be Sept. 10-23) as we eat lots of yummy veggies, eggs, fruits, healthy grains, etc.


And drink water.

LOTS of it!

As in 1 whole gallon a day.

I’ve been chugging my gallon for over a week but not always with perfect consistency, which, again, is where you guys and your accountability comes in.

In case you’re wondering, when you drink 1 gallon of water in 1 day, you pee. A lot.

But it’s not nearly as hard as it might sound, and the (positive) effects on your skin, energy, digestion, exercise performance, and general health and well-being are pretty amazing.

Here’s the thing:

The water consumption part is pretty straightforward.

I just carry my gallon jug with me everywhere I go and make sure that it’s empty before I go to bed.


{I think you’re supposed to write inspirational things on your jug, but I speak sarcasm more fluently than “encouragement”–even to myself [sad, but true]–so this is what I’m working with}

But the “clean” part of the eating aspect can get a little sticky.

After all, how clean are we going? Are we being sticklers about every little thing or shooting for 95% clean without a trip to the health food store required?

Honestly? That’s up to you. If you don’t really even know where to start, then all you have to do is Google the words: “Whole 30 Diet,” and you’ll get a SLEW of details about recipes, what to eat/not to eat, how to prepare it, etc.

There are oodles of resources on Pinterest too.

But I’m trying to keep things as simple/attainable as possible, which means that these are the guidelines I’m using for myself:

*No processed food (no canned soup, no fast food, no chips, no pre-made salad dressings, etc.)
*No sugar
*No dairy/limited dairy (I am allowing myself milk, butter, and cottage cheese…but only on very limited/rare occasions)
*No simple carbs (basically a reiteration of no sugar)
*No bread/tortillas/pasta/oats (with the exception of steel-cut oats)
*Nothing to drink but water

What IS allowed:
*Good fats, including (but not limited to) olive oil, coconut oil, and butter (clarified is best)
*All veggies + fruits
*Meat (no frying/breading/processing)
*Rice/Quinoa (with a focus on brown rice)
*Corn (I might even eat a few corn chips with my guacamole since most corn chips are nothing more than corn + oil; but again, VERY limited)

I shared the recipes that were my go-to during my 10 day cleanse, and I’ll be returning to most of those, but I also have a “clean eating” board on Pinterest that you’re welcome to join (I’d love to see yours as well!)…


I’ve created a FB group for accountability. We can share pics of what we’re eating, ask questions, offer encouragement, and advice–sarcastic or not.

Anyone that wants to can join, but only those who are part of the group can see the pictures and posts within the group, so it will be a safe place for only those truly interested.

Of course, if you’re only interested in participating in one aspect of the cleanse–either the clean eating or the gallon a day, that’s cool too. It’s your cleanse! I’m just excited to see what combining the two does for me this time around.

So…the only thing left to ask is: ARE YOU IN??!

{In case the caps + multiple question marks and exclamations didn’t convey it, I’m excited}

If the answer is yes, leave me a comment or shoot me an email at blogabbie{at}gmail{dot}com. And then jump in on the FB group if you’re so inclined.

See you there!

Love What You Do

First things first:

The winner of our pouch giveaway is: AMY K!

And the winner of our “oily” giveaway is: NATASHIA PETZ!

Be on the lookout for an email from me this weekend, ladies!


There’s this idea making the rounds of the blogosphere. It’s not a new one. In fact, it’s quite old. It’s just being re-packaged with Pinterest-worthy fonts and graphic design.

And the gist of it is this: YOU have been called to do something amazing! Incredible! YOU are a shining star! Only YOU can do XYZ. Be YOU!

I think it can be summed up most concisely in this popular t-shirt that is circulating the interwebs.


The thing is, I really like this t-shirt. I want to buy it. I want to wear a constant reminder that I am unique. That I am beautiful. That I have something to offer this great wide world of ours.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this–at least at surface level.

But if I start to break it down–start to turn all of those YOU’S inward–I end up with a small mountain of ME’S.

Which is where I hit a snag or two.

Because if I think about me–who I really am at my core–3 words come to mind:

1. Christian

2. Wife

3. Mother

I am not a Christian because of me but because of what Jesus did when he died on the cross for my sins to reconcile me to God.

And my marriage is not about me but “us” because the moment Shaun and I said, “I do,” we became one.

And–as any mother anywhere knows–there is precious little room for me in mamahood. How can there be when a solitary trip to the bathroom becomes the holy grail of “alone time?”

Which is why, as much as I loved how it looked and what it said, I was a bit unsettled by this little print that I bought from Marshall’s.


“Do what you love.”

It sounds so good. Just like Be-YOU-tiful. Catchy. Simple. Alluring in its invitation to embrace one’s fullest potential.

But I don’t have to ponder it for too long before I hit another snag. Because here are some things that I love:

  • Watching movies
  • Reading books
  • Making fancy meals
  • Long, soulful conversations with friends
  • Shopping
  • Writing
  • Creating things
  • Exercising
  • Traveling

On the flip side, I don’t particularly love hustling all of the children into the car and then listening to Nola wail for 30 consecutive minutes (that’s 1,800 seconds) because, well, she’s (almost) 3, and she can’t handle life. I’m not wild about finally getting to the gym to teach a BODYPUMP class that ends with my looking up during the cool down to discover the daycare worker with a chagrined expression on her face standing beside a pants-less Evy after my (supposedly) potty-trained other (almost) 3-year-old has had an accident while playing on the racquetball court. And I don’t just adore it when my baby blows out his diaper as I wipe up the soiled toddler and try to gather my brood from the four corners of the gym daycare.


I don’t love going to Walmart with six children, one of whom has decided that she is petrified of sitting down in a grocery basket even though she’s done it without complaint or incident a thousand times before (hashtag toddler logic).

grocery basket

I’m also not in love with putting kids to bed by myself for the 17th night out of the last 23 because my husband is going on 5 consecutive weeks of work trips.

I don’t say any of those things as bids for pity. They don’t even begin to stack up to the harsh daily realities that many of you face. I know that. But they make up a good portion of my reality at the moment, and I’m not in love with any of them.

So, what?

Does that make me a fraud? Am I not being true to myself because I only rarely do most of the things on my list of loved activities? After all, won’t I be a better mom if I take care of me first? If I pursue desires that fulfill me first? Practically every single Instagram account that I follow tells me this is so–including many of the Christian ones.

While I understand the motivation behind that line of thought (we don’t do anybody any favors when we ignore our own health or grooming or sleep), I have to flatly say that there is zero Biblical precedent for “putting ourselves first to serve others better.”

How can there be when Jesus says, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first” and “deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me?”

So, if you don’t like the print, why did you buy it, Abbie?

Short, silly answer? It was pretty. And cheap. And I was able, despite my misgivings, to take it in its simplest form to mean that I should focus on the things that I am uniquely gifted to do–what *I* love–rather than chasing after the interests of others and comparing my results with theirs.

But ultimately, I bought it because when I see it, I intentionally transpose the words “Love and “Do” so that, instead it says, “Love what you do.”

Philippians 4:13 is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

It sounds so empowering–so transformative. And it is! Just maybe not for the reasons we think.

Because when you tack on the previous verse you get: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I have learned the secret of being content–HAPPY–in any and every situation.

So, when it says that I can do “all this” through Him who gives me strength, it’s not talking about “all of this amazing, inspirational, exciting, challenging-in-a-way-the-world-admires stuff.” It’s talking about “all of this good and bad and frustrating and mundane and everything in between” stuff.

To take a bit of paraphrasing liberty, it’s like saying, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether the baby sleeps or wakes up 5 times at night, whether the toddler keeps her stuff together or completely loses it on the filthiest floor of the most crowded aisle in Walmart, whether the teenager quietly does his homework or mouths back and stomps out of the room at dinner. I can do motherhood through Him who gives me strength.”

What I take away from that is that my goal is to learn the secret of loving what I do, not first and foremost because it is fun or fulfilling, but because it is the very moment that I am called to rather than a moment that may never materialize no matter how many motivational t-shirts I don.

Is motherhood (insert: your own situation in life) fun? Yes! Fulfilling? Absolutely!

And has God gifted us with unique interests, loves, and abilities that He desires us to utilize for His glory?

I know He has! We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

And yet. I beg you (and me) not to confuse His giftings with an excuse to despise your current circumstances.

Whatever they are, however ho-hum or downright demoralizing, God sees you doing them, and he sees your attitude in them. Through every bottom wiped, story told, boo-boo kissed, tantrum endured, nightmare soothed, and math problem solved.

You may not be able to do (exactly) what you love right now (or ever). I think Jesus spoke directly to the myth that we are most fulfilled when we do what makes us “come alive” when he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Such a beautiful, challenging paradox. And yet I’ve seen it play out time and again in my life. When I CHOOSE to love the maddening moment that God has placed me in–not necessarily with my emotions (which can sometimes border on disgust or panic) but with my actions–I see growth and enormous fulfillment in my own life and blessing in that of others.

So, this is my challenge to you (and me) as we (in America) head into a long weekend that I genuinely hope will be one of relaxation and enjoyment:

Do what you love. By all means.

But first: love what you do.