Four of our Favorite Homemade Pizzas

At the end of a long week nothing feels better than curling up on the couch with some yummy food and my favorite person 🙂 That is why we have a tradition at our house that we look forward to at the end of each week… Friday night is pizza and movie night! We make homemade pizza and enjoy it together while watching a DVD.

If you want your pizza to be totally homemade, you can of course make the dough or the sauce (or both!) from scratch…but I like to keep it simple to make my Fridays as easy and stress-free as possible! Whole Foods sells frozen pizza dough with fairly simple natural ingredients, so whenever I go there I stock up on several packages to keep in the freezer. We also stock our pantry with jars of pizza sauce. Then all I need to prepare on Friday are the toppings! I try to chop them up earlier in the day so that they are all ready to go in the fridge. When it’s time for us to make our pizza, I just grease the pan, stretch out the dough, preheat the oven, and set out the ingredients on the table. Then we can assemble our pie together!

The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating your own pizzas and we love to try new combinations of toppings! However, we have found a few combinations that we will definitely come back to again and again. Today I’ll share four of our favorite homemade pizzas 🙂

Hawaiian Pizza

Toppings:

  1. Pizza Sauce
  2. Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  3. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  4. Chopped Onion
  5. Canned Pineapple (diced and drained)
  6. Diced Pre-Cooked Ham Steak (I look for all natural nitrate-free)

Hawaiian Pizza Ingredients

Hawaiian Pizza

This actually my #1 favorite pizza! Perfect balance of sweet and salty 🙂

Artichoke, Tomato, & Garlic

Toppings:

  1. Pizza Sauce
  2. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  3. Minced Garlic (a lot!)
  4. Chopped Fresh Tomato
  5. Canned Artichoke Quarters (Drained, Cut in Half)
  6. Grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese (to sprinkle on top)

Artichoke, Tomato, & Garlic Pizza Ingredients

Artichoke, Tomato, & Garlic Pizza

The best part of this pizza in my opinion is the fresh garlic! When in doubt, add more garlic… that is is my motto anyway…same applies to cheese 😉 I also think that garlic and chopped tomato make a great start to any veggie pizza! Mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, olives… so many delicious possibilities to try!

Taco Pizza

Toppings:

  1. Pizza Sauce
  2. Taco Meat (ground beef cooked on the stove with a package of taco seasoning)
  3. Chopped Onion
  4. Chopped Fresh Tomato
  5. Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  6. Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese

Taco Pizza Ingredients

Taco Pizza

This is Keith’s #1 favorite! 🙂 Feel free to add any of your favorite taco toppings!

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Toppings:

  1. Pizza Sauce
  2. Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  3. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  4. Chopped Red Onion
  5. BBQ Chicken (shredded chicken mixed with plenty of  barbecue sauce)

BBQ Chicken Pizza IngredientsBBQ Chicken Pizza

{A note on making the BBQ chicken… I like to keep boiled shredded chicken breast in my freezer. It comes in handy for so many things… pizzas, salads, casseroles, chicken salad, sandwiches, the list goes on. All you need to do is boil the chicken breasts in salted water or broth for about 20 minutes (check that it has reached 170 degrees with a meat thermometer). Then shred with a fork. To make the BBQ chicken for this pizza I just pour plenty of bottled BBQ sauce into some shredded chicken and stir it together. Add more than you think you need because you want the flavor to really come through when you combine it with the other ingredients on the pizza!}

So there you have it – four ideas for pizzas you can make at home! Once your pizza is assembled, just bake it in the oven at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes. Then cuddle up with your loved ones and enjoy! 🙂

 

Paint in our Main Bathroom

Just popping in to share some quick before and after photos of our main bathroom that Keith painted over the weekend! It was sort of a pumpkin-orange color before, which was nice, but not really my style. So we repainted with a medium gray by Behr called “Greige.”

Before:

Main Bathroom Before 1

 

Main Bathroom Before 2

After:

Main Bathroom After 1

IMG_1947 (1)

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out! Simple, neutral, and cooler / more calming than the bold orange 🙂

Glad to have our first paint project in the new house complete!!

(Thanks Keith for a job well done <3)

 

 

 

Making the Switch to Nontoxic Cleaning

Hi everyone! Today I’m sharing with you a new undertaking that I’m really excited about… transitioning to nontoxic cleaning methods!

For a long time now I have hated using smelly commercial cleaning products… but I honestly just didn’t know what else to use! When I became pregnant, I gave up using many cleaning products for fear of exposing the baby to toxins… but since I didn’t have an alternative solution, I wound up handing over a lot of cleaning tasks to Keith. Being the wonderful husband that he is 😀 , Keith was a very good sport about this… but I was pretty sure there had to be a better way. After all, if our cleaning products could be harmful to our baby, they probably wouldn’t be so great for a growing child… and they probably aren’t so great for us either.

So I started doing some research on nontoxic cleaning methods. I quickly found that the internet is filled with information on this topic! Reading other peoples’ ideas, recipes, and articles made me feel hopeful that it would be possible to keep our home satisfactorily clean without using any toxic products. So when we moved to our new house a few weeks ago, I figured that it was time to take the plunge! I made the decision that our cleaning products were not coming with us. After all, a new house is a good place for a fresh start!

Now, before I go on, I need to emphasize that I am a total newbie at all of this! My knowledge of cleaning in general is very limited to start with… and a few months ago I knew nothing whatsoever about nontoxic cleaning. I am totally learning as I go along. But I thought that I would share what we have been doing so far, and hopefully as I continue to learn I can share more in future posts!

The gist of what I gathered from my initial research was this…

You can clean most things in your home using one or more of the following 4 ingredients that most people already have!

  1. Soap
  2. Water
  3. Vinegar
  4. Baking Soda

Of course, there are plenty of other natural nontoxic ingredients that can be useful as well. Many recipes call for small amounts of essential oils, either for scent or disinfectant properties. I’ve also seen recipes that call for borax, lemon juice, washing soda, and other products. However, I decided that for now I would keep things as simple as possible and just stick to the basics.

For that reason, gathering my materials was really easy! I stocked my cleaning cabinet with a big jug of Distilled White Vinegar and a container of Baking Soda. I also bought a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap from Rite Aid (in the bath products aisle). [I think regular dish soap is probably fine for most cleaning tasks, but many sources recommend simple Castile soap for a more natural option.]

Nontoxic Cleaning Ingredients

In addition to these three ingredients, I stocked my cabinet with a few empty spray bottles from Wal-Mart, plastic containers for soapy water, sponges with a scrubby back, and plenty of cleaning rags. And that was pretty much it!

Now I’ll share the four cleaning methods that I have tried so far…

1 Part Vinegar + 1 Part Water

Water/Vinegar Cleaning Spray

The first “recipe” that I tried involved filling a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water and shaking it up. Pretty simple 🙂 . I’ve been using this as my all-purpose cleaning spray. I’m mostly going with the “try it and see what happens” method… and so far this mixture has worked well on most surfaces! It’s been particularly useful for cleaning appliances, countertops, sinks, inside the refrigerator, and mirrors. However, I have read that vinegar can damage granite/marble, as well as unsealed grout between tiles. So I’ve been wary about using this solution on tile surfaces (even though I have no clue right now whether our grout is sealed or not or what that actually means) and on our bathroom countertop which might possibly be granite (although I’m not sure about that either 😉 ).

Castile Soap + Warm Water 

Soap & Water

This one is so basic that it doesn’t really need an explanation, but I’ll give you one anyway 🙂 . Basically my motto has been – when in doubt, use soap and water! If I’m worried about whether my water/vinegar solution might damage a surface, I will often just use warm soapy water and a rag or sponge. It usually works just fine!

Plain Old Vinegar

Vinegar Spray Bottle

Apparently vinegar has disinfectant properties that kill most germs/bacteria. It is not quite strong enough to be registered as a disinfectant, but from what I can gather, it is still pretty effective. Since I am generally more phobic of chemicals than I am of germs, I’ve decided that, in most instances, vinegar is probably good enough for me. So I filled another spray bottle with straight vinegar and I have been using this on surfaces that need regular disinfecting, especially in the bathroom.

Vinegar + Baking Soda

Vinegar & Baking Soda

This is my favorite method so far because it’s like a little science experiment! When you combine vinegar and baking soda, they fizz… which just makes cleaning more fun 🙂 . But actually if you do some reading online, you will see that combining vinegar and baking soda for cleaning purposes is a bit of a controversial topic. Some people swear by it… and other people laugh at them because apparently the chemical reaction of baking soda and vinegar just creates salt water? And I imagine they are probably right about this because why would they say it otherwise… but from my limited experience I have to tell you that it works anyway!

This is what worked for us…

  1. Sprinkle some baking soda on a patch of tough residue (we have used it on the stovetop and also in the tub)
  2. Spray some vinegar on top of the baking soda
  3. The mixture will fizz…
  4. Use the scrubby side of a sponge to remove the residue

The first time we tried this was actually when we were still in the apartment. There had been brown stains at the bottom of our tub since before we moved in and no matter how much bleach we used, they would not come off. Keith tried cleaning the tub with baking soda, vinegar, a scrubby sponge, and a ton of elbow grease… and when he was done the tub was totally white! So anyway, when it comes to baking soda and vinegar, I’m a believer 🙂 .

The four methods that I described above have been so useful to us in cleaning our new house (which wasn’t so clean when we got here!). I’m definitely still working on finding better ways of dealing with certain types of messes and surfaces. But if anyone else is looking to quickly and easily swap out some of their cleaning products for nontoxic alternatives… the four ingredients and the four methods that I described in this post have been a great starting point for us!

Here are just a few of the online resources have been helpful to me so far…

www.cleanmama.net

www.diynatural.com

http://www.keeperofthehome.org/non-toxic-cleaning

http://greenopedia.com/category/household/

http://www.household-management-101.com/homemade-cleaners.html

And probably the easiest way to figure out how to clean something is to just google “nontoxic cleaning [whatever you want to clean]”… There really is so much information out there!

Well that’s all for now – Happy cleaning! 🙂

Love,

Kristen

 

My Baby Shower!

Last weekend was such a special one for me because my mom threw me the loveliest baby shower!!

Kristen at Baby Shower

She had the cutest idea of using the theme for our baby’s nursery – woodland animals – as the theme for the shower.

She used these sweet forest animals as centerpieces for the table…

Orange Squirrel CenterpieceBrown Squirrel Centerpiece

And put together little mason jars filled with trail mix for the favors…Trail Mix Favors

And she and my friend Michelle baked an assortment of cupcakes for dessert…

Baby Shower Cupcakes

My mom also downloaded these woodland baby shower games from Etsy. My favorite was Celebrity Baby Names matching… so many crazy names!

Anyway now I’m really inspired to start working on my little one’s woodland nursery… Hopefully I can make it as cute as my mom made my baby shower 🙂

The best part of my shower, however, was getting to see so many of my family and friends!! It is hard sometimes living far away from the town where I grew up because it means living far away from many of my loved ones. So it was really special to me to have the opportunity to get together with all the people in my life who live in that area. [To anyone who attended who might happen to read this post – it meant so much to me to have you there <3]

And of course everyone spoiled me and my baby rotten 😉

Baby ShowerPresents

Baby Carriage with Gifts

He is going to be one well dressed and well provided for little boy 😀

Here are just a few of my favorite photos of some of my guests…

With Nana, Aunt Kathy, & Shannon at Baby Shower

[with my nana, Aunt Kathy, & cousin Shannon]

Opal, Michelle, Lilah, & Ryann

[my cousin Michelle with her niece Opal and daughters Lilah & Ryann]

With Michelle at Baby Shower

[with my friend Michelle]

Aunt Dee & Angela

[cousin Angela and Aunt Dee]

With Ruth at Baby Shower

[with my friend Ruth]

With Grandma and Uncle Terry

[with my grandmother and Uncle Terry]

Cindy, Norma, & Anita at Baby Shower

[cousins Cindy, Norma, & Anita]

Ryann Tying on Ribbon Hat

[my cousin Ryann tying on my ribbon hat]

Aunt Annette & Opal at Baby Shower[my Aunt Annette and cousin Opal]

Opening Gifts With Michelle & Beth

[my friends Michelle & Beth helping me with my gifts]

Such a special day that I will never forget <3

[Thank you Mom, Michelle, & Ruth for letting me borrow your photos since I totally forgot to take my own :)]

What We’ve Been Up to Lately

We have internet!! And a working TV and phone! It feels good to be connected to the world again… and I’m especially happy to be back here on my blog!

Here’s a super quick catch up on what we’ve been up to these past few weeks!

Way back when in July we celebrated our two year wedding anniversary at our favorite Italian restaurant…

Anniversary Selfie

And Keith gave me this beautiful sunflower bouquet <3

Anniversary Flowers

Over the next week, we packed up our entire life into boxes…

Tired Snowy on Box

With some help from my amazing Mom!

Kristen & Mom at Longhorn Steakhouse

And all the while Keith worked ridiculously hard tearing up carpet and refinishing the floors in our house…

Wood Floor in Living Room 2 (2)

…which is not as easy as it looks on TV… but that’s a story for another day 🙂

Once all the packing and sanding and staining were done, we finally loaded everything into a moving van…

Keith, Greg & Moving Truck

Well, not so much “we” as Keith and his brother Greg 😉

And at last we said goodbye to our old apartment complex…

Apartment Complex

And hello to our new home! <3

Kristen & Baby on Closing Day

We had a special surprise visit from one of our new neighbors 😀

Chicken in the Yard

And we had two (much more special) visits with family! <3

Dinner with Barbara, Alex, & Greg

[Dinner at Flatbread pizza with Keith’s Aunt Barbara, cousin Alex, and brother Greg]

With Betsy & Ernie (1)

[A quick catch up with Keith’s Aunt Betsy and Uncle Ernie!]

Back at the house, of course, Snowy has made himself right at home…

Snowy at New House

And as for us, we are tired / happy / gradually settling into our new life 🙂

It will probably be a while before everything here is cleaned and organized and not hidden away in a box somewhere… but in the mean time we are loving having a home of our own.

It may be a mess but at least it’s ours <3

More pictures to come when it’s not so much of a mess 😉

Happy Friday friends!!

Love always,

Kristen

Will be back soon!!

Hi friends!! So in case you were wondering we have not fallen off the face of the earth 🙂 And the good news is… We are officially living in our new house!! The bad news is… We have no internet access :/ Moving lesson #1 (out of a million and three)…don’t wait until 2 weeks after you acquire your house and 2 days after you have moved in to call about setting up your internet/tv/phone service… Oops. Anyway I will be back with lots to share some time next week! Just wanted to let you all know that we are in fact okay and that I am looking forward to getting back to blogging ASAP! 🙂 Lots of love <3 <3 Kristen

My Time Management System

So this post was supposed to go up yesterday but ironically… I didn’t finish it in time. Hah! Well at least that lets you know right off the bat that time management is definitely something I am still working on.

But anyway before I jump into the topic of this post, I want to say…

Happy two year anniversary to my wonderful husband!!!

I can’t believe that it has already been two years since this  day…

Kristen and Keith Ceremony

But at the same time, I feel as if I can hardly recall what my life was like before Keith was in it! Being married to each other and being a family together just feels like the way that life should be. I’m so thankful today and every day for the incredible blessing that Keith is to me <3

I may write something else for our anniversary later in the week… but right now, before I get totally sidetracked, I will get back to today’s post! 🙂

To start with, time management has never come naturally to me! In fact, when I was in school, I had an amazing ability to make any given task take up the maximum amount of time I had to do it!

However, over the years, I have discovered that I actually enjoy coming up with systems that help me to be more productive. After all, a productive day is a good day! When I get things done, I feel good about myself and I enjoy my relaxation time more because I feel like I earned it!

Last summer I came up with the system that I still use now. I am always tweaking it to better suit my needs, but overall I think it has been working pretty well for me!

I have a document saved on my computer that looks like this:

Chore Chart

Every Monday I print out a blank copy for the week. In the column on the left, I have listed all of the basic household chores / tasks that I need to do every day. In the bottom section, I have listed the chores that I need to do once a week. (There’s not much in this last section right now, since I’ve handed over the more labor intense cleaning tasks to Keith – a little perk of being pregnant 😉 )

This chart lives on my refrigerator and provides an outline of my day-to-day routine. I probably don’t need a written reminder to do some of these basic things (such as “get ready” which basically means “take a shower”). However, since I am home all day, having all my tasks written out helps me to impose structure on my time. And besides, checking things off always feels good, so the more checkmarks I get to make the better!

Chore Chart with Checks

To keep track of all the other things that I need to do that don’t fall within my daily routine, I use the app/website Cozi. I’m sure many of you have heard of it, but if you haven’t, you should check it out! It’s free and really useful! Just go to www.cozi.com.

I use the Cozi family calendar as my system for keeping track of my appointments. I also keep a running list of all my short-term and long-term To-Do’s on Cozi. I like having my list easily accessible on my phone or computer. Whenever I think of something new I need to do, I always try to add it immediately so that I don’t have to keep it in my head!

On my chore chart, I have “Plan” listed as the fourth item. Every day after Keith leaves for work, I sit down and spend a few minutes planning out my day. I log into Cozi and check to see if there is anything on my calendar. Then I look at my “To-Do” list and I figure out what the top priorities are for that day.

Each day I pick only a few things that I need to get done. I can always add more if I have extra time (which honestly doesn’t happen very often). However, I like to set my expectations a little bit low so that I don’t become overwhelmed!

On a 3 x 3″ post-it note, I write down my top priority to-do’s plus any scheduled appointments:

Post-It

Then I stick the post-it to the bottom of my chart…

Chore Chart on Refrigerator

And I have a list of everything I need to do that day, all in one place where I can reference it whenever I need to!

One of the things that I really like about this system is that I only have to look at my long to-do list on Cozi once each day! After I pick out the things that I am going to focus on for that day, I don’t have to look at the long list again until the next morning. It is much less stressful to look at a tiny post-it with only a few items on it. And by the end of the day, I am often able to check them all off, which feels great! 🙂

However, I certainly don’t follow my system perfectly every day. If you’ll notice, I was not on top of things this past Monday. I didn’t even bother to print out my list! But I honestly think that flexibility is so important for effective time management… if you expect yourself to stick to any system perfectly, then you will give up on it as soon as you make a mistake or get behind! After I fell behind on Monday, I just printed out my chart on Tuesday and moved on! If I don’t get to something on my chore list one day, I just put a line through it and try again the following day.

So that’s about all there is to it!

I am always looking for new ways to manage my time better, so I would love to hear about any strategies that work well for you!

Wishing you a happy and productive week 🙂

Lots of love,

Kristen

 

Our New Home

Guess what?!

As of this morning, we officially have a house!!!

And….

 

Kristen & Baby on Closing Day

Here it is!!

Do you like it?!

I can’t believe this house is actually finally ours!! Our very own home where we are going to raise our little boy and spend our days together. It makes my heart full just thinking about it 🙂 After the closing, I was sitting on the floor of our new living room and daydreaming about what it will be like to live here and our baby started kicking like crazy… I’m taking that as a sign that he is excited to live here too!

Some things that I am loving about our new house..

Well, thankfully and most importantly, everything is already in pretty good shape! We can move in without worrying about any big problems that will need fixing right away, which is definitely a relief! [Other than installing a radon mitigation system, yes Mom, I didn’t forget, we’re on it 😉 ]

I also feel like the layout of the house will work really well for us. Everything is on one floor! There are three bedrooms: one for us, one for baby, and one for guests. There is a full bathroom, half bath/laundry room (I’m so thankful the laundry is on the main floor!), kitchen, dining area, living room, and bonus room that will probably be a playroom/office… Enough room to live in but not enough for us to lose track of each other 🙂 The nice flat little yard on the side of the house will be great for Snowy and the big basement will be a perfect workshop for Keith!

Some things I would like to change about our new house…

Mostly a lot of cosmetic stuff. Carpeting, tile, wall colors, textured ceilings, cabinets, appliances, light fixtures, countertops… On the bright side, it would be a perfect backdrop for that fantasy HGTV home make-over I’ve been dreaming of! Then again, just this morning we handed over a check for all of our money – hah! But hopefully with some patience and a lot of DIYing by my wonderful husband 😉 we can gradually make this place look more the way we want it to. I’ll be sure to take pictures and share with you as we go along!

And in the mean time I am honestly just so incredibly grateful to have a little house that we can call our own! I can’t wait to start building a life and making memories here with my family <3

Wishing you a most wonderful weekend!!

Love always,

Kristen

Visit from Mom & Getting Ready for Baby

So I was planning to post last Friday, but then I decided to take a little break from blogging because I was busy enjoying some quality time with my mom 🙂

Mom & Me at Teahouse

She spent all of this past week with me and it was so nice having some mother-daughter time. I loved having her company every day! She left yesterday and our apartment is feeling rather quiet and empty today without her. Miss you already Mom!!

One of my favorite memories of the week was taking my mom to this sweet little teahouse for lunch:

Teahouse

Mom in front of teahouse

Kristen at Teahouse

And  sharing this yummy scone 🙂

Scone at Teahouse

To be honest, I had been trying to put off thinking too much about our baby’s arrival for a long time… Ever since the moment that YES+ appeared on my pregnancy test, I’ve known that I have never wanted anything in my life as much as I want this baby. It’s scary wanting something that badly. And 9 months is a long time to anticipate and wonder whether everything will be okay.

However, I’m realizing that trying to protect myself from potential disappointment is a hopeless case.  And I’m also realizing that as much as I’ve been longing to become a mother, I am totally unprepared! When I attempted to start creating my baby registry a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know what most of the items on the checklist were used for!

Thankfully my mom came to my rescue this week!!

She bought me this…

What to Expect the First Year

And took me here…

Babies R Us

And helped me to pick out some of the major items on my registry. I’ve started to read up on baby care, and although there is still so much to do and learn, I feel like I have taken a first step.

And I’m not going to lie…I’ve been allowing myself to start feeling the excitement that I had been suppressing…and it feels pretty amazing 🙂

Here we are at 24 weeks this past Saturday…

Baby Bump 24 Weeks

You stay safe and healthy in there little boy… your mommy loves you so very much already! <3