The Secret Playroom

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Moving is such an exciting time. You get to look for a home where your family will grow and expand, your lives will bloom, and many friends and family will visit. Finding the perfect home is something that doesn’t happen very often but when we found our home about 7 months ago, we knew it was something special.

The first time we looked, we thought it was abandoned because there was so much snow in the driveway. We almost didn’t even give it a second thought. Though I was tired of looking through so many homes that were broken down and needed a ton of work, Nolan was adamant that we should at least give this one a shot. I am so thankful he talked me into it! It wasn’t broken down at all, it was GORGEOUS!

With 7+ acres of land, enough room to have guests and gatherings, as well as beautiful views of the surrounding countryside I was in heaven. When we walked through a door attached to the kitchen, I knew exactly how we could use the space to make a special surprise for our girls.

We prayed and prayed that the home would be the one for us. We worked to get ours on the market and it sold in record time. And after a bit of negotiation, we were finally under contract on the home we loved.

I immediately started painting a door with no handle… this would be the chalkboard that would cover the doorway to the secret room – a playroom!

Before the girls could even visit the house, Nolan replaced the door (it’s really handy having a door guy as a husband!) and we were on our way to awesomeness!

Though the girls didn’t think much of the chalkboard, they did ask a couple of times how we could get to the attic (it’s pretty obvious we have an attic from outside the house). We told them since it’s an old farmhouse, the attic had probably been closed up and was probably unsafe – kind of like the corn crib on the property. (This is important to understand Faith’s reaction…)

Over the course of the next few months, we worked on the room sporadically when the girls were out of town. Nolan, my amazing husband – previously referred to as McDreamy, painted the base color (a beautiful grey/blue) and moved all the boxes up while the girls and I were in Ohio. Then I had to wait until the girls were in Colorado visiting my parents to finish the room.

Pinterest was the main inspiration for the room, in fact, I had an entire board dedicated to it! Some of the inspo I used:

We bought a bunch of the stuff at Walmart, IKEA, and Target as well as off of Amazon but a large majority of the items were things we already had, just repurposed!

This was the most fun I’ve had decorating in a long time and honestly the reaction the girls had was better than I could have hoped for. They have spent most of their time up there playing, creating, and even sleeping. Our house has officially grown and I couldn’t be happier!

Check out the video of the big reveal:

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Virtual Races: Fab or Fad?

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The first time I heard about virtual racing, I thought to myself, “Why?”

Why would I want to pay money to run by myself? Can’t I do that for…

wait for it…

FREE?

Well, the answer is yes, but I decided to try it anyway, just to see what the big deal was. And I was astonished by how much FUN I had. The race director had an interactive Facebook Group and Facebook Page where I was able to chat with other participants and meet new racing friends. I also received the coveted race medal!

But the best part was that I didn’t have to leave my family for a weekend to participate in a race that they had no interest in. I didn’t have to travel, try to find parking, walk more miles to get to the start line than I would run during the race, deal with crowds, etc.

I DID get to take my dog, listen to my music, and pick my own course (flat and fast, baby!). It was exhilarating and fun. The medal was awesome. So though I’m not sure whether virtual racing is a fad, it is most definitely FAB!

Find some virtual races at www.mkt.com/RCFVirtualRace and if you use the code “RCF Fans” you can get $5.00 off any upcoming race or race series!

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I’ll be running the Summer Race Series, will you join me?

~ Thankfully Exhausted

2015 Is Coming – Link Roundup

2015 is coming and many of us are going to try and make a change in our lives. Here are some links to help you with your planning!

~ Thankfully Exhausted

Overcoming My Insecurities One Shake at a Time

From the moment I saw Taylor Swift’s new video for Shake it Off, I knew this was my jam. From the bad dance moves to the message behind the lyrics, I could relate. My family will tell you how hilarious it is when I dance (you’ll soon get to laugh along with them) and until now, I have been relatively embarrassed by my lack of Jaggeresque moves.

Then last night the girls decided that they were bored and I got an idea. We would make our very own music video. We danced for a solid hour burning hundreds of calories and making one infinitely valuable memory together. I spent the following two hours putting my movie software to use. It wasn’t until I watched the final product with my girls that I realized, I wasn’t embarrassed, I was happy.

Happy that I’m able to dance with my girls. Happy that my body is transforming. Happy that our little video could make them smile and giggle. But most of all happy that I could provide my girls with an example of love and acceptance for myself. After careful consideration from the three of us, we have decided to share the video with you. We hope you enjoy it and that you will take one small but brave step towards self acceptance today.

~ Thankfully Exhausted

Healthy Cooking and Meal Planning

If you know me, you know I’m not the meal planning type of girl. That was until my new hubby asked if I could put together a shopping list for a week of dinners. I had no idea what to put on it. I usually just went shopping whenever I needed something, but since most of my staple food was either left in Colorado with family or the non-perishables were still buried in boxes, I had to come up with a plan (and buy a bunch of stuff that you probably already have in your kitchen).

I was thrilled when this plan ended up being 5 nights’ worth of dinners for a family of four under $100! Since we have a bad habit of going out to eat, the thought of making a meal for under $20 for all four of us (when even the cheapest restaurant will run at least $40) was thrilling!

And the best part… they’re all relatively HEALTHY meals! WOO HOO!

So here it is…

Shopping List:

  • Whole Wheat Linguini
  • Whole Wheat Rotini
  • 1 Can Diced Tomatoes
  • Black Olives
  • Large Can Stewed Tomatoes
  • Small Can Black Beans
  • Small Can Pinto Beans
  • Small Can Kidney Beans
  • 2 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 4 1/2 Cups Vegetable Broth
  • 10 1/2 Ounce Can Low Sodium Beef Broth
  • 19 Ounce Can Red Enchilada Sauce
  • 4-6 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 8 Onions
  • Garlic
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • 1 Jalepeno
  • 3 Muli-Colored Bell Peppers
  • 2 Large Sprigs Basil
  • Green Onions
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Packet Low Sodium Taco Seasoning
  • 1 Packet Dry Onion Soup
  • 2 Packets of Chili Seasoning
  • Oregano Leaves (Dried)
  • Bay Leaves
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Onion Powder
  • Baking Powder
  • Flour
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Colby Jack Cheese
  • Provolone Cheese
  • 3 Pounds Ground Beef
  • 3-4 Pound Eye of Round Roast
  • 1 Whole Chicken (or some frozen chicken breasts)
  • 1 Beer
  • Hoagie Rolls

Recipes:

One-Pot Tomato Basil Pasta

Tomato Basil Pasta

(Courtesy of MyFridgeFood)

  • 12 Ounces Linguini Pasta (Whole wheat to make it fit my diet)
  • 1 Can Diced Tomatoes with Liquid
  • 1 Large Onion, cut in julienne strips
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano Leaves
  • 2 Large Sprigs Basil, chopped
  • 4 1/2 Cups Vegetable Broth
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese for garnish

Directions:

Place pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, in a large stock pot. Pour in vegetable broth. Sprinkle on top the pepper flakes and oregano. Drizzle top with oil.

Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and keep covered and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so. Cook until almost all liquid has evaporated – I left about an inch of liquid in the bottom of the pot – but you can reduce as desired .

Season to taste with salt and pepper , stirring pasta several times to distribute the liquid in the bottom of the pot. Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese.

French Dip

French Dip

(Courtesy of The Redhead Baker)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3- to 4-lb eye of round roast
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 Medium onions, cut into ½-inch thick rings
  • 1 packet dry onion soup mix
  • 1 (10 ½-ounce) can low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 (12-ounce) beer
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 12 French rolls
  • 12 medium slices provolone (mild or sharp)

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Season both sides of the roast with salt and pepper. Sear the roast in the pan, about three minutes per side.

Lay half the onion rings in the bottom of the 5 quart slow cooker. Place the seared roast on top of the onion rings. Sprinkle the contents of the dry onion soup packet on top of the roast then layer on the rest of the onion rings.

Pour the beef broth and the beer over the roast. Cook on low heat for 6 hours. Shred the meat with two forks.

Preheat the broiler. Split the rolls and brush each side with melted butter. Place them buttered-side up on a baking sheet. Broil until golden and crusty, about 3 minutes.

Place a slice of provolone on each roll, then top with the shredded beef and onions. Serve with some of the cooking broth in a small dish for dipping.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup

(Courtesy of Rebekah’s EaTs & TrEaTs)

Soup Ingredients:

  • 1 Whole Chicken – Neck, gizzards, and livers removed. (Or I just use chicken breasts)
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 2 Long Celery Stocks – Chopped Fine
  • 5 Thin Carrots – Peeled and Sliced
  • 4 Tbl. Dry Chicken Flavored Vegetable Base.(canned Chicken broth will work as well)
  • 1 Tsp Onion Powder

Homemade Noodle Ingredients:

  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour (You may use more or less than this depending on the size of your eggs – Your dough should be stiff enough to roll out!)
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions for Soup:

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and let simmer for several hours until the chicken is falling off the bones. Remove chicken and continue to cook broth and carrots. (You will need this to be boiling to drop your egg noodles into.) At this time you may need to add more water with base, or broth. De-bone chicken and add back to pot.. be very careful…VERY HOT! Replace lid and let it boil for a few minutes. Prepare and cut egg noodles from recipe below and drop into the boiling pot. Don’t worry if they sink they will float in a minute. Stir after dropping every few handfuls in. Cover and let cook for another 20 or so.

Directions for Noodles:

Roll out on floured board – making sure to flour both sides to prevent sicking. Roll up loosely! Cut in 1/4 inch pieces and add to boiling soup. Cook at least 20 min in a boiling broth to insure proper cooking.

Enchilada Pasta

Enchilada Pasta

(Courtesy of Number Two Pencil)

  • 2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of a small onion, diced
  • 1.25 pounds of taco seasoned ground turkey meat or 1.25 pounds of lean ground beef and packet of low-sodium taco seasoning
  • 2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 19oz can of red enchilada sauce
  • 8oz (about 2 1/2 cups) of dried rotini pasta
  • 2 cups of freshly shredded Colby Jack cheese
  • Green Onions
  • Black Olives

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet or sauté pan, sauté garlic and onions in olive oil over medium low heat until softened.
  2. Add ground turkey meat and cook, breaking meat up with a wooden spoon until browned.
  3. Once turkey meat is cooked through, add pasta, chicken broth and enchilada sauce to pan.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduced heat to low and cover.
  5. Cook on low, with pan covered for about 15 minutes.
  6. Then remove lid and let simmer for additional 5 minutes until pasta is tender and sauce has reduced.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of cheese.
  8. Top pasta with additional cup of cheese and melt under broiler for a minute or tow, or place lid back on pan and let heat from the pasta melt the cheese.
  9. Garnish with black olives and green onions.

Chili

(Courtesy of Crystal Ferry – Me!)

  • Large Can Stewed Tomatoes
  • Small Can Black Beans
  • Small Can Pinto Beans
  • Small Can Kidney Beans
  • 1-2 Pounds Ground Beef
  • 1-2 Packets of Chili Seasoning (one for each pound of beef)
  • 1 Jalepeno
  • 3 Bell Peppers
  • 1 Onion

Directions:

Chop the onion, bell peppers, and jalepeno (more seeds = greater heat) and sauté them in a pan of olive oil. Brown the meat and add chili seasoning. Add the meat, veggies, and cans of tomatoes and beans to a slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours. This can also be cooked on higher heat in either a slow cooker or a pan on the stove for 1-2 hours.

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I hope you will find these recipes enjoyable, healthy, easy to make, and budget friendly!

~ Thankfully Exhausted

All Access Accountability

Alarm Clock

Today I begin a journey of 60 days of full and utter accountability. My life will be an open book where I will showcase my struggles and achievements; and through the help of the products I so heartily endorse I hope there are more achievements than struggles.

The past two months of my life have been a whirlwind of awesomeness. McDreamy and I reunited after my 109 steps to get over him obviously failed. We eloped and are now living in Iowa, the land of corn.

ElopedI miss my Colorado for a variety of reasons, but we are enjoying this new adventure in our lives… well, most of it. The one place that hasn’t enjoyed it is my weight. I’ve heard of baby weight, the freshmen 15, menopausal weight gain, and many others, but I had never heard of marriage weight. Seriously, I had no idea that going from being a single mom to a happily married woman would wreak so much havoc on my steadily slimming body. Now, several pounds heavier than I was just a short month ago, I am jumping in with both feet, full submersion, as I reverse this crazy cycle.

Now, I want to ask you a favor: Can you please help keep me accountable? I am going to be posting regularly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and occasional blog posts about my journey. If you have a moment, can you visit one of these outlets and if you see I haven’t posted something by noon on any given day, will you call me out on it? Or if you see something you think I’m doing well, will you tell me so?

My Motivation: 

  1. We have a vacation coming up in November to a swimsuit-wearing place. ‘Nuff said.
  2. I have signed up to be in a PiYo Commercial which requires me to complete the PiYo Program in 60 Days. Since I’m starting today, August 11, 2014, I will be finished with my program on October 9, 2014 just before the deadline for the “after” pictures!
  3. I am actively trying to build my Beachbody business and I want people to be able to get to know me so they feel more comfortable having me as a coach, joining my team, and participating in my challenges.
  4. I want to inspire others to change their lives. Whether this be through one of the programs I sell, one of the challenge groups I manage or through another avenue, I want others to be inspired.
  5. I want to help end the trend of obesity and help people to achieve their goals and enjoy a healthy fulfilling life.

My Plan:

  1. PiYo – I will be focusing primarily on PiYo for my workouts.
  2. 21 Day Fix eating plan – PiYo and 21 Day Fix have very similar eating plans (almost exact) and since I’m so familiar and happy with the 21 Day Fix eating plan, I’m going to be using those cute colorful containers!
  3. Shakeology – a non-negotiable for me. Absolutely necessary for my overall health and weight loss goals.

My Goals:

  1. To be comfortable wearing a swimming suit on our vacation.
  2. To be consistent at least 90% of the time.
  3. To have a visibly dramatic change in my before and after pictures.
  4. To grow my business by 45% in 60 days.
  5. To lose at least 30 pounds.

Thank you all for helping me to stay accountable. I will absolutely need your encouragement throughout this process!

~ Thankfully Exhausted

Don’t Give Up When You’re Missing Your Pup

Today’s post is by Guest Blogger Kate Townsend

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In mid February I lost my dog on a hike in the foothills of the Rockies. She bolted after a deer, broke away from me, and vanished. Our group called for hours and hours, and when dusk settled in we rushed to the library to make lost dog posters. It felt so surreal, I couldn’t believe I was about to leave that park without my dog, I felt guilty, I felt helpless, knowing she could be anywhere.

The weeks that followed were filled with immense anxiety, sadness, and a rollercoaster of emotions. Between calls of sightings that didn’t pan out, driving up every day after work to where we lost her, and searching endlessly for her – time was in exhausting slow motion.

We printed hundreds of posters, put ads here on Craiglist, used the pet alert call system, gathered a search party, and shared it on facebook and via email threads. We tried leaving clothing with our scent on it where we last saw her, tried using a dog trap, tried doing a bacon burn to attract her to us – and we were getting nothing.

We never gave up hope but of course discouragement sets in, how can all this relentless hard work not pay off?

On April 1st I received a phone call from a woman who had been following my dog and I’s saga, and lived near the area she was lost. She had, like us, been searching for weeks in hopes to bring Blitz home. She was walking in her neighborhood when she noticed a small sign that read “Found” and had a picture eerily similar to Blitz’s. She rushed home to look up a photo of Blitz and was convinced it was her. She was so sweet and called me right away in tears of joy – certain she was about to reunite me with my dog. Sure enough, I phoned the number to leave a message of Blitz’s description and they returned my call asking what color collar she had on. I told them and heard the words I’d been waiting a month and a half for: “I think we have your dog.”

I rushed up to the house, rang the doorbell, and sure enough heard Blitz’s bark right before seeing her little head pop up at the door. Nothing short of miracle!! She had been lost in the wilderness for 44 days, defying all odds and making it to a family who brought her back to me. She is now home safe and sound – filled with unimaginable experiences of the outdoors.

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I wanted to share this with those who have lost their pet, to encourage them not to give up. Your pet is out there somewhere, and if you can spread the word enough, they will come back to you.

  • Check all surrounding shelters regularly, online and in person. Lots of dogs slip through the cracks this way because their owner doesn’t realize they are at the shelter.
  • Call and leave descriptions at all surrounding vets, often times people who find dogs will bring them in to get checked for a microchip.
  • Be sure to use social media – it is your friend! Colorado Lost and Found dogs and other animal rescues pages
  • Craiglist is very useful – keep your posts constantly updated and at the forefront, on both the pets and lost and found pages – and make sure to read through the other posts so you don’t miss a post about your dog/cat/etc!
  • Try leaving an article of clothing that was worn for a few days, heavy with your scent, where you last saw the dog, with a bowl of water. Check this spot as much as possible, often times dogs will be attracted back and wait for you at that spot.
  • Create colorful posters, and talk to as many people in the area as you can, keep people thinking about it as much as you are. Canvass the entire area surrounding where your pet escaped.
  • Utilize the FindToto or PetAmberAlert call system – these can be pricey but get the word out very quickly and efficiently
  • Most importantly – DONT GIVE UP HOPE! – be diligent and keep doing everything you can to bring your pet home

Hope this helps reunite some pets to their loving families!

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Thank you so much Kate, for sharing your story and for being such an inspiration to me as I was searching for my puppy!

~ Thankfully Exhausted