Saturday, November 1, 2014

Day 1. 30 Days Of Thanks with Au Coeur

Thankfulness, gratitude. Often times these words appear during holiday seasons and when a light lifts us from our darkest hours. Being grateful, if only for the small every day treasures of "Hi Mama!" or that first kiss of the day from your partner can be prevalent every day, without a holiday of "thanks" pressuring us to prove our thankfulness to others and of course, to ourselves.

What I've learned on my journey to self acceptance through motherhood and beyond is that it's OK to feel gratitude for YOURSELF. Mothers are often the last to receive thanks for the small every day. I encourage you, to while you consider your gratitude towards others, towards moments and towards material goods, you also take a moment and give yourself a word of thanks. Of course it's lovely to hear a "thank you mama" or "thank you darling" but we forget the value of ourselves TO ourselves.

I am thankful, today for my ability to give love. Love to my children, my husband and to my community.

I am also thankful for quiet. I've never been thankful for quiet until recently and I'd have never really considered what a difference it makes. After 8 weeks of shared living space with a relative, my family of 4 being on our own again the quiet of 2 children under 5 (yes! I just said that) is beautiful.

Our "quiet" is not necessarily about noise or volume but about the peaceful quiet of our own routine. I'll never forget the stability of our families dynamic again.

I'm also thankful for the reminder that this season of Holidays brings to us. We CAN stop and enjoy the moments, we CAN be thankful for quiet, we CAN be thankful to ourselves for getting a healthy meal on the table for our family. And we can, of course... Be thankful for each other.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday Night *Take In* - "Half Homemade" Spanakopita

Lately, going out to eat is a rare occurrence.We're a family of 4 naturally but have 2 additional house guests.  With one of them being another child, it's better to be home for meals.

While we love going out for some delicious BBQ or a burger, we often choose more ethnic cuisine when dining out. Tapas, Italian and of course Greek. 

My favorite of all is the "Spanakopita" or spinach pie. Spinach, Feta, Pastry, what more could you ask for!

With a tighter than usual grocery budget, I planned my Spanakopita to comfortably feed 6 as a side dish during dinner and also be easy lunches for the munchkins and I during the week.

Not only was it delicious, but it was organic and GMO free unlike the average Greek restaurant.

Price Comparison & Breakdown:

Organic Pre-made Fillo - $5.99 (their website has it cheaper if you're not in a rush here
1lb Organic Spinach- $3.99
10 ounces Feta (Used 3/4 container) $5.64
Organic cream cheese $.99
Organic onion $.79
Grass Fed Butter $1.40 worth ( 2 pack @ costco for $6.60)

Total Tray $18.80
16 squares = $1.18 Per Person!
Compared to $6 per appetizer portion at our local eatery.

Without further adieu- Half Homemade Spanakopita

You Need:
1lb organic spinach
1 package organic fillo dough- 16 sheets (you'll have left overs)
2 cups feta cheese
1 cup cream cheese (room temp)
half of 1 medium onion, minced
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
about 6 tablespoons of butter, preferably grass fed pasture butter.
Salt & Pepper to taste.

*important step* 
your fillo will be frozen if purchased at the grocery store, allow to thaw on the counter for 1-2 hours.

1.  Sautee onion on medium heat in 1 TBL spoon butter until translucent
2. Add your spinach and cook until wilted
3. Add garlic, cooking 1 minute additional and turn off heat. Salt and Pepper to taste
5. Melt 5 tablespoons butter in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds
6. Brush a small coat of butter on the bottom of your baking dish
7.When fillo is thawed, Carefully separate one sheet and lay in an oven safe baking dish. 
(Fillo is 14x8, - I used a 12x12 dish and overlapped) brush top of fillo with melted butter
8. Repeat step 7 until 8 layers of fillo are buttered and ready.
9. Add Feta and cream cheese to spinach mixture and mix well until fully combined

10. Spread spinach mixture on a layer about your fillo

11. Add 8 more fillo sheets, buttering each one separately, same as before.
12. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 20 minutes, preheat your oven to 350*
13. Once out of the freezer, precut your pieces and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.

For Freezing-

Wrap each piece individually with plastic wrap and freeze immediately- ENJOY!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Celebrating the little things and an easy recipe for roasting pumpkins!

My favorite season, Fall. Leaves of gold, red and brown adorn our yard and tree lined streets of our town. Our house cozy with the fire place glowing and lots of under the blanket snuggles with my family.

But alas, Fall is also the time of year when stores showcase their home decor for the holidays, their new products and the material goods that they swear you cannot live without. I'd like to live without it, and be happy doing so. The second part is the hardest.

My husband and I have always been moderately minimalists in general but being aware of the constant demand of BUY BUY BUY has got me in a bit of a funk lately.

 I love shopping just as much as the next mama but the internal need to do so more ethically and consciously is stronger than ever. In my last post I mentioned buying local clothing from local makers and the importance of keeping your dollars in your community.

While this will always be my intention, doing so within our budget can some times raise a challenge. While my husband and I build up our 4th and (hopefully) final business venture, my goals will be the following:

 1. Try to make it first. While I am nowhere near a world class crafter, the internet is full of tutorials and giving us the ability to learn. I will be trying to use this resource to our advantage.

 2. Use Cash. The best money management books and articles say that our society is so quick to get their credit cards that we forget the value of actual paper money.

I've recently attempted this with my children with much success. Both my 2 year old and my 4 year old earned $1 for various chores and exceptional behavior. We then went to our local dollar tree and each child was allowed to pick 1 item of their choice. My 4 yr old of course asked for a candy as well, it was the perfect opportunity to explain that all things cost money and not always can we purchase every item we would like. Not only did they leave the store feeling proud and grateful, They had a better understanding that the little square piece of plastic is actually MONEY and not mommy and daddy's magic toy/candy buying wand. So many of our children see excess on a daily basis. Bringing them back to reality may be difficult but incredibly worth it long term.

3.Work for it  I'll be honest. Before moving to Colorado, the term *Barter* was never in my vocabulary. I never considered earning a need or want without paying for it monetarily. After doing local vendor fairs and farmers market I learned the beauty of trade. I'll never forget the day a cherry juice maker asked me if I'd like some delicious cherry cider in exchange for my granola bar. What a brilliant encounter, 2 makers with different products coming together to enjoy one another's offerings without making a purchase.

 4. When in doubt- Buy Local Harvest season is perfect for stocking up at local farmers markets and artisan fairs. Combine this with #1 and make yourself a winter supply of Apple butter or tomato sauce by learning to can. Ask for a deal if you're buying multiple goods and always leave feedback to promote a local business you love.

 5. Give yourself a break. We cannot always afford a hand painted masterpiece or a winter coat made by hand from an alpaca farm and that's ok. This is where our corporate frenemies come in handy. Cut yourself some slack and understand that you are always doing your best and your best is most often enough if not more than worthy of praise. Keep on keepin' on mama ;)

And Finally...

6. Use the internet. Google FREE and low cost EXPERIENCES for your children and your family. I'll take a new adventure over a new "thing" any day of the week and so will our children. Paint a pumpkin, collect some acorns and build a nature scene. Spending time is much more valuable than spending money.

 I'll be setting up our House Of J goodies tent at a few upcoming events this season, while our new studio sets up. My favorite of all of course my daughters farm school fair. If you are a Colorado local, come and support our amazing community of Artisans, makers and community leaders.

Last Fall a good friend had asked me to create a recipe for her motherhood community magazine Birth.Play.Love

Here it is :)- Enjoy!

Roasting your fresh pumpkin
into puree
  1. Cut the top stem portion of your pumpkin and then cut in half length wise.
  2. Scrape all of the seeds and stringy parts out with a spoon.
  3. Lay your pumpkin half on a tin foil lined baking sheet and bake for 1
    hour at 350 degrees.
  4. Once slightly cooled enough to handle, scrap the pumpkin fruit away
    from the shell..
  5. Using a food processor or emersion blender pulse your pumpkin along
    with 1 table spoon of organic cane sugar until smooth and creamy.
  6. For this recipe you only need 3⁄4 cup pumpkin but a medium pumpkin
    will yield roughly 2.5 cups.
  7. Freeze your left over puree in a mason jar or air tight plastic bag and
enjoy long after pumpkin season is over! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Why I buy handmade...A review

With our hands in 100543234234 things this summer and the attention of mom and dad split a few more ways than usual, it is SO important to us to set time aside for fun.

We play with friends, we go to the splash pad and we most definitely have our afternoons of wild and crazy play time.

Balancing family, entrepreneurship and community outreach has been one of the biggest challenges I've ever faced. It helps so greatly that I am a part of an amazing community of mom-owned businesses who also walk the tightrope of business-owner and mama. As a multi-business owning mama I can truly vouch for those little memes that say things like "buying local means paying for a little girls ballet classes" Every dollar earned from House of J goes towards our children and back into our community- supporting local as much as we possibly can.

With new articles out there everyday on corruption from big name stores, child labor and unfair wages for workers, it seems like the only safe bet is to purchase clothing from small batch, local artisans who produce their clothing by hand or in US garment facilities only. While this can sometimes be pricier, the reward is so much greater.

Sweetpea Mcgee is a brand-new Facebook based children's clothing boutique that offers beautiful hand made pieces in very limited quantities. The quality and durability is immaculate and my 4 year old is just the preschooler to test it out! J is tough on her clothes and when she falls in love with a new dress, that's the dress she wears...and wears...and wears...and WEARS!

Photo Courtesy

Because buying local and preferably MOM made, is so important to me (and YOU!) I asked Kashara, owner of Sweetpea McGee a few questions about WHY she chooses to balance work and being a full time mama

House Of J:  I've seen you make your daughter beautiful dresses forever, what made you decide to start selling your creations?

Sweetpea McGee: I decided to start selling on facebook because my children are young and this way I can share my creative passion and creations with others while still enjoying their fast childhood years. I can control the flow of how many items I create per month and how many items I put up for sale. That way I can still do school volunteering, field trips, tiny tots classes and household necessities with a good balance for everything.

House Of J: why do you choose the fabric you choose

Sweetpea McGee: Why do I choose the fabric I do is such a tough question. I am drawn to so many fabrics because of their beautiful colors and composition. I see fabrics that I love and I try bring out their beauty as best as possible by pairing it with the best pattern to make it all shine. I have multiple nieces and a daughter and I truly try to put myself in their shoes. It really takes me into such a fun and creative mind frame..oh to be a child again.

House Of J: What is your design inspiration?

Sweetpea McGee: My inspiration or my driving force to continue doing what I love is basically the smiles and happy faces I see every time I receive a photo from a customer saying "Thank you!" I really have more creations in my head than I can ever create with my time but I truly am passionate about delivering a product that will send a little one over the moon with happiness.

And She's done just that! Sent my little one- Over the moon in twirling-whirling dress happiness!

Photo Courtesy

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sprouted Fried Rice and Asian Chicken Skewers

We use the grill A LOT. So coming up with fun and interesting marinades and side dishes can sometimes be daunting.

We LOVE Asian inspired cuisine and while nothing will be as delicious as that greasy, New York City style Chinese food, this came pretty close to perfect. Oh, and actually healthy!

I grew up eating the packet seasonings, want Chinese food, no problem here is a packet! Mexican food? packet. Steak marinade? packet. When you eliminate processed foods, chemicals and additives form your families diet, those packets turn into poison. You don't need them, I promise!

I advocate using organic meat, produce and groceries as much as your families budget can allow, a great rule of thumb is the EWG's clean 15 if you have to pick and choose what to buy organic versus conventional. Also, the NON-GMO project verification seal is just as good if not better than a USDA organic seal.

Chicken Breast Skewers: (feeds 2 adults &2 very hungry kiddos)

2 organic chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4cup organic rice vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon saigon cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced organic garlic
4-5 drops hot chili oil (or more if you love spicy!)

Assemble skewers and mix all ingredients together. Marinade can be mixed and stored overnight in a bag with your skewers, we marinated for 1.5 hours and it was tender, moist and delicious!

Grill for 10-15 minutes at medium heat (outside is nice and charred while inside remains juicy)

Sprouted Brown Rice:
Step 1
1/2 cup organic sprouted brown rice (rinsed and drained)
1 cup organic chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
Directions: Cook rice according to package or Lundberg's family fool proof recipe of 45 minutes on low and 10 minutes with heat off "steaming".

Step 2
1/2 cup soy sauce
5 organic baby carrots
1 cup cooked organic green beans
1/4 organic white onion
1 organic egg
4 tablespoons Ghee
chop green beans, carrots and onions into tiny bite size pieces (roughly double the size of the grain of rice) and saute in your melted ghee using a heavy bottom or cast iron pan.

once your veggies are tender add in cooked rice and soy sauce and simmer for 6-8 minutes on medium heat until your rice has absorbed the excess moisture. Add in your egg and saute until egg is cooked through and rice is fluffy.


What's your favorite take out to make at home?  I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Running like a .....snail? turtle?

Have you heard the term- "Run Like a Mother?" For me, this term is not only adorable, but its inspiring, motivating and up-lifting. Yes, I'm a mom, I don't sleep much, I take care of my self last and I can RUN!

Well... For me, I cannot run. But I am going to try. For now I'll go by the phrase WALK like a Mother. And that is OK. For now.

Exercise has always been a really important part of my life, even through injuries, very uncomfortable pregnancies and mommy-hood I've always placed a high importance on getting those exercise endorphins pumping.

But I've always been tied to the 4 walls of a gym. It's time for a change. I live in beautiful Colorado and I should be seeing the world around me. So I'm pausing my cozy corner of yoga and pilates and expanding to outdoor walk/running. With the help of my friend and fitness guru through Fit4Mom FrontRange.

Was I the slowest mama? YEP. Did I feel like I was dying? YEP. Was I embarrassed? A little.  But totally worth it.

Eating organic, healthy and real foods is only 1 part of the equation. Being OUTDOORS is so important to overall health and well-being. Waking to sunlight proves to aid in weight loss and folks who spend time outdoors are better sleepers, less depressed and the list goes on.

So along with my goals for the summer, exercising OUTDOORS is one of my biggest priorities. Then I can come home and reward myself with one of these delicious smoothies.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Summer Snack Picks & House Of J Updates.

While I sometimes wish I lived a completely Zen life style, "Busy" seems to be our middle name lately. It's been insanely quiet on the House Of J blog lately. With family, our businesses, community outreach and of course my little darlings, I just haven't had a chance to "blog". But I miss it, and will try to make updating a higher priority.

If you're interested in guest blogging for House Of J with healthy family recipes shoot me an email :)

In the mean time- check out a few of my blogger "it" lists. One of my faves- party posts, gorgeous kids clothes and much much more. Local Fort Collins mama who is passionate about community outreach, custom jewelry and so much more. A lady after my own heart, healthy living, great recipes, and lots more! She even featured a House Of J favorite here-

Summer time is here and that means picnics, fun in the sun and being on the run. Activities can keep us moms so busy that we end up at the drive thru for coffee and if you are anything like me, give in to an almond milk chocolate milk for the kiddos every once in a while. But chocolate milk (even with almonds) is not very nutritious, so what is a busy mama with a car full of snacking littles supposed to do?

I find that sticking to organic and non-gmo goodies on the go is the hardest.
#1 they are SO expensive, especially feeding a very hungry 2 year old and a growing 4.
#2 you have to watch out or there is as much processed junk in there as non-organic snack foods

I was recently sent a DELICIOUS pack of Ladera granola- It was delicious, with really great ingredients and my kiddos ate it up, I think the entire bag lasted us about 3 days.

My kids love yogurt but with the greek yogurt controversies  and the sky rocketing prices of dairy, I can honestly say that the yogurt is optional.

Their ingredients are California grown and they are a small business company that prides themselves on wholesome ingredients.

Check out their website and order a bag or two, or three :)

Another snack of choice is my supreme go-to because guess what-- the HUBBY loves them! YEP! Total family score, The vanilla-raspberry is AHHH-mazing and so are all the other flavors. I even made a CAKE out of my Natures Bakery Fig Bars. And my local Costco has them, which is a huge savings.

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. I take pride in giving my honest opinion and assessment of all the products that are submitted to me and experiences I may be given. I reserve the right to opt out of publishing a review if I do not feel that I can be fair about my opinion.As the owner of this blog, I may accept forms of cash advertising, or sponsorship. There might also be paid topic insertions. I will and do accept and keep free products, services, travel, event tickets, and other forms of compensation from companies and organizations. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog..I believe in honesty and integrity therefore I will always give my personal opinion-whether or not it shows a product or company in a favorable light.  Compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post will be clearly identified as paid or sponsored content.The views and opinions expressed in this blog are purely and entirely my own. I do not claim to be nor make an effort to be an expert on a certain topic, product or service.  I will only endorse companies, products and services that I believe, based on my own experiences, are worthy of endorsement.  All product or service claims should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.