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Category: Family, Fun & Holidays

Costco, Tough Mudders, Crockpots, and Camping

Welcome to my weekly post I share a peek into our lives, talk about things I’m loving, share links to interesting articles or helpful ideas I’ve collected throughout the past week, and just talk about whatever is on my heart! 🙂

I posted asking you all about whether you thought I should get a Costco membership and MAN, you all delivered! There were 100+ comments on the original posts + so many other comments I got on social media and emails you all sent in! Part of me just wants to try shopping at Costco for a few months, but the other part of me thinks that many of you are very right: I won’t be able to beat the prices I currently get.

Also, I found out that you can buy seaweed at Kroger (I had no idea since I’ve never purchased it before!) and you can usually get it for less than a $1 per package by pairing coupons with sales. I also heard that it’s even less expensive at Asian grocery stores. So I guess that 10 packages of seaweed for $8.99 at Costco wasn’t such an amazing deal after all!

I started the Eat at Home Challenge on Thursday and I am so enjoying getting on Facebook Live at 6:50 a.m. in the mornings to share what I’m cooking for dinner.

Plus, having dinner all made before our day starts makes the afternoons and evenings so much calmer! I’d love to have you join me live tomorrow morning, if you’re up at 6:50 a.m. CST!

I got this new book in the mail from my friend, Jennifer Dukes Lee. AND I got to interview her on my soon-to-be-released podcast! It officially launches next week and I am crazy excited about it and have been having so much fun learning a brand-new skillset! (Sign up here if you want to get to hear the very first episode before anyone else does!)

Jennifer sent me a copy of her book and these beautiful cards that made me smile! 🙂

On Friday, we left for a weekend camping trip with our Community Group. I brought my Instant Pot for the first time to use for dinner — and it worked like a charm!

Psst! Looking for some of my newbie camping advice? Check out my post from our last camping trip on How We Prepared for Our Very First Camping Trip.

After we got camp all set up and ate dinner, we began with a reading and prayer from our pastor.

(Kaitlynn took some amazing pictures of the lights.)

He was the only boy on the camping trip, but he did great at holding his own and having fun with all the girls!

One of the families brought their dog — and the kids enjoyed playing with him! (Not sure why Silas had one shoe on and one is missing! Who knows?!)

They made a bunch of mud creations with the clay in the lake. The girls then painted them and sold them to the parents. I thought it was quite creative entrepreneurship!

A good ‘ole fashioned game of “chicken”.

We rented a camper trailer this time around in order to try to help us sleep better, make the set up and tear down quicker (since we had the Tough Mudder on Sunday), and help our outdoor allergies not be so awful from camping like they were last time we went tent camping.

Well, it was the best thing ever! We rented it from an RV share site and got it for a day and a half for less than the price of a hotel room. And we absolutely loved it! I’ll probably be writing a complete post on our experience because so many people asked me to do so after I shared about it on Instagram Stories.

By the way, it only took us a few hours to get all packed up and out the door this time — as opposed to 10 hours last time. It helped tremendously that we already had most of the supplies in tubs and I had put together the Master Camping List last time around.

(You can read my post on the Master List of Things You Should Take Camping here.)

The four families who came (one family from our Community Group couldn’t make it, sadly!), all were each in charge of their own breakfasts and lunches, but we had Communal Dinners and everyone pitched in and brought stuff.

We did hot dogs and brats the first night (I brought all of the ones I’d gotten from various Kroger deals and markdowns the last two months — I had them in the freezer and it was plenty to feed all 20 of us!) and then we did a Taco/Fajita night the second night. This worked so well and made it so that no one had to do a lot of work.

Sunday morning, we got up bright and early for the Tough Mudder. It was our third time to participate in a Tough Mudder (see details on our first Tough Mudder here — look how tiny our kids were then!!)

I had been looking forward to the Tough Mudder so much because we had convinced some of our best friends to do it with us. It had been SO hot on Saturday, so we were worried it was going to be too hot today. But it was perfect. Warm, but cloudy and the perfect temperature.

We loved getting to hang out, walk 10 miles together, push and encourage each other on the obstacles, and challenge ourselves outside our comfort zones.

(We didn’t get any pictures on the actual course, but one of the volunteers at the finish line offered to take these pictures at the finish line and text them to us!)

I ended up only skipping one of the 23 obstacles this time — which I was super excited about since I had always bypassed three obstacles in the past. I wasn’t able to complete two of the obstacles that I tried out (both requiring upper arm strength — something I really need to improve in!), but the fact that I didn’t chicken out and went for it and tried it encouraged me.

Plus, the entire Mudder as a whole just felt so much easier and fun than the two we had done in the past. I think that the more you do hard things, the less scary and daunting they become!

If you ever get a chance to do a Tough Mudder, I highly, highly recommend it.

By the way, the tickets are expensive, but you can sometimes find them discounted on Groupon (that’s where we got ours) or you can get in free or highly discounted if you volunteer at the event the day before.

2018 Goals Update

Personal Goals

1. Read 100 non-self-help books that will build me up/encourage me/inspire me/recharge me. (Fiction/story-driven/biographies/inspirational living books/devotionals.) See the list of 44 books I plan to read this year.

**Progress: 58 books read so far this year

2. Read through the entire Bible.

**Progress: I’m using the Robert Murray M’Cheyne plan and am all caught up— yay!

3. Write one handwritten note to someone every week.

**Progress: 34 notes written so far this year

4. Run 500 miles.

**Progress: 348 miles run so far

Marriage Goal

5. Go on an overnight trip with Jesse without the kids.Jesse and I went to NYC together in January.

Family Goals

6. Read 10 books aloud with the kids.

**Progress: We’ve finished three books so far.

7. Take the kids to South Africa. We took this trip in July. What a memorable experience!

8. Go on a family road trip.

**Progress: We’ve been researching some options for this and are planning to make this happen over Fall Break. Stay tuned!

Financial Goals

9. Save up to pay cash to finish off an office for me and workout room for Jesse and me in the basement in our new house.

**Progress: The workout room is DONE and the office is almost done!

10. Replenish our Emergency Fund (we dipped into it to replace my car when it got totaled because of the carpet beetle infestation.)

Business Goals

11. Increase our gross income from the business by 8%.

12. Launch 5 new courses.

**Progress: We launched 4 Weeks to a More Productive Life launched in January, Content Creation 101 in February, 4-Week Blog Coaching Program in March, Email List Setup 101 in March, Make Over Your Mornings LIVE in April, the Facebook Live Masterclass in May, and we launched Build Your List 101 in June!

A movie, an online class, and an Aldi trip

Welcome to my weekly Slow Day post, inspired by Monica from The Homespun Heart. My Word for 2018 is Slow and, in the spirit of that word, I’m taking one day each week (Wednesday) off — I’ll be unplugged and offline and plan to move at a slower pace, take time to do things that refresh me, and just really focus on being present and savoring the moment.

Each week, I’ll be sharing a photographic peek into my Slow Day. Enjoy a little peek into our lives!

I started the day attending chapel at Silas and Kaitlynn’s school.

I love getting to sit with them and spend a little time in their world on Wednesdays.

And then I headed to Discipleship Group.

We kicked off our Lesson 1 meeting by talking about stories and how each of us have a story — and how in light of the Gospel, we can see Creation, the Fall, Redemption and Restoration in our stories.

In our small group time, we each had to draw a picture of a little screenshot of where we’re at in life right now and share that with our group (how we’re feeling right where we’re at in life). This brought such honest discussion and we had really heartfelt conversations as a result.

After Discipleship Group, Jesse and I went to a movie together. (Middle of the day dates are the BEST!)

We saw Mission Impossible: Fallout — which we both enjoyed, though it made me want to go back and watch the rest of the Mission Impossible movies.

After I helped the kids with homework, I laid down and read a little bit and then took a power nap.

And then it was time for dinner and to prep for my online blogging class that I was teaching. (Brian on my team came over to help run the class and get everything set up for it!)

{By the way, I wanted to teach this class during a middle of the week evening, but the only free night that worked to do it was Wednesday. Even though it’s my off day, I made an exception and did it. And I actually really enjoyed doing it on a Wednesday since I felt like I came to the class so fresh and ready to teach after being offline all day!}

We sometimes get creative in how we set things up! This time, we used a huge stack of my coloring books to hold my computer! 🙂

When I was finished, Jesse was on his way home from picking the girls up from church.

(By the way, Jesse and Silas went to Aldi for me while I was doing the class. He said that they split up and both took half the list. Silas told me how it compared prices and made sure to get the store brand not the name brand and the best deal on everything. While it’s pretty simple an easy to do this at Aldi, it made my mama heart so happy to hear him doing this all on his own! I feel like I have accomplished a big life goal that he knows how to grocery shop on a budget and find the best deals!)

I got everything ready for the Eat at Home Challenge live video (since I was going to be working out with my friend, Melissa, at 6:15 a.m. the next morning and was supposed to be on live video at 6:50 a.m.!)

I even washed the potatoes and had them ready to go!

Kaitlynn finished up some homework while I worked in the kitchen.

And Silas made a bedtime snack of macaroni and cheese. (That boy loves his mac & cheese!)

Then, we all hung out and talked for awhile and then the kids went to bed and I worked on prepping for podcast interviews the next day. And then it was time to bed for me, too!

My #1 Tip to Have Stress-Free Afternoons & Evenings

(Note: The links in this post are affiliate links, and we will be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking through our links. Read our disclosure policy here.)

One of the best ways I’ve discovered to feel more organized and less frazzled in the afternoons and evenings is to have a plan for dinner and have it already made before the kids come home from school.

That way, when they come home, I can just be present with them instead of trying to fix dinner and oversee homework and help kids with projects and get ready for whatever activities we have in the evening. Plus, it also saves us money because we’re not running to the store or through the drive-thru at 5:30 p.m. at night!

I’ve found that the best way to make this happen is to either have dinner already made and just needing to be heated up or to put dinner in the crockpot in the morning. I look for quick and easy meals that only take minutes to make in the morning or can be pulled out of the freezer and heated up in the Instant Pot or Crockpot or oven.

Want to Try Prepping Your Dinners in the Morning?

I want to challenge you to try implementing this habit of having dinner prepped in the morning in your home and see how it works for you. And to help you out, I’m going to do a fun Eat at Home challenge on my blog and on Facebook Live and Instagram Stories for the next 6 days — where I’ll be prepping our dinners on live video before we head to school in the mornings (I’ll be on live around 6:50-7:10 a.m.).

I’ll likely be in my workout clothes with no makeup on and the kids will be doing last-minute prep for school. It’s going to be real and raw and unedited… and I can guarantee there will likely be some mishaps or real-life scenes that take place. But I want to bring you into our morning and our kitchen to encourage you that you don’t have to do it perfectly for it to still make a big difference!

By the way, I’ll be using the Eat at Home Menu Planning Service for all of my recipes. If you wish you could simplify dinners and plan ahead but you feel like you just don’t know what to make or you don’t have time to plan meals, I highly recommend this Menu Planning Service. I tried them out for the first time last year and promptly fell in love!

And I’m going to show you how it works in real-time on my videos and in my blog posts! (And I’ve got a special discount for you at the bottom of this post!)

How This Challenge Will Work

The challenge will run for 6 days — September 13-18, 2018. Thursday, Friday, Monday, and Tuesday morning around 6:50 a.m. to 7:10 a.m. CT, I’ll be on Facebook Live prepping our dinner to throw in the slow cooker for the day so that when 6 p.m. rolls around dinner is READY!

(I’m taking the weekend off since we’ll be camping with our Community Group on Saturday morning and running the Tough Mudder on Sunday morning.)

Every day, in addition to doing a Facebook Live video on my Facebook Page, I’ll be posting here on the blog what I made that day, along with a link to my video (in case you missed it).

My hope is that this will inspire you with some new recipe ideas, encourage you to not wait until the last minute to think about what you’re having for dinner, and motivate you to eat at home more (even on busy nights!) so you can save money.

I’d love for you to join me in this challenge! To participate, go join the Facebook Page here so you can share what you are making every night and see what readers all over the country (and world!) are making for dinner each night, too!

(You can see all of the recipes I made in a recent Eat at Home Challenge + all of my videos by clicking here.)

Need Some Quick & Easy Recipe Ideas?

Like I said, I’ll be following the Eat at Home Cooks Slow Cooker Menu Plan. I love this menu planning service and I think you’ll see why after you watch my videos! It’s the best menu planning service I’ve ever tried — and I’ve tried quite a few different ones!

Here’s what you get when you subscribe:

  • An entire month of Traditional Menu Plans, including weekly grocery lists and printable recipe instructions
  • An entire month of Slow Cooker Menu Plans, including weekly grocery lists and printable recipe instructions
  • An entire month of Whole Food Menu Plans, including weekly grocery lists and printable recipe instructions
  • An entire month of No Sugar, No Flour Menu Plans, including weekly grocery lists and printable recipe instructions
  • Each menu plan comes with recipes created for small family (3-4 servings) and large family (6-8 servings)
  • Color-coded grocery lists make it easy to swap out ingredients or whole meals
  • Printable Menus to hang on the fridge or near your calendar, so you can easily see what’s for dinner that week and your family can too
  • Access to the entire month at once!
  • 1 Hour Freezer Stash Plans – a new plan each month to stock your freezer with 6 meals in 1 hour!

You can choose to stick with just the traditional menu plan or just the slow cooker menu plan or just the whole foods menu plan or just the No Flour, No Sugar plan. Or, you can rotate different menu plans on different weeks, depending upon what you feel like cooking or how much time you have!

And as a special offer for my followers, you can get 30% off the price of the Eat at Home menu plan subscription when you use coupon code FALL at checkout. That makes the monthly subscription $9.80 or the annual subscription just $58.80 ($1.13 per week!!)

If you struggle to make menu plans and would love for someone to make them for you + make a grocery list for you, it’s well worth spending a few dollars every week to let Eat at Home Cooks do the work for you.

Go read more about this incredible menu-planning service here. 

(Oh and they have a fantastic money-back guarantee if you think you want to try it out but aren’t sure whether it will work for you or not!)

I know that many of you are in the middle of getting back into rhythms and routines after summer break so I hope this Eat At Home Challenge will inspire you with simple and easy meals that you can make in the morning before your kids head out the door to school or before you head to work or before you start your day and then you won’t have to think about dinner the rest of the day!

Are you joining us for the Eat at Home Challenge? If so, leave a comment and let us know!

What I Pack in My Backpack for International Trips

Welcome to my two-week series all about our recent family trip to South Africa. I’m recounting some of our favorite experiences, lessons we learned, travel tips, and some of the most memorable stories and takeaways. To read all of the posts in this series, click here.

This post contains affiliate links and we may be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking through our links. Read our disclosure policy here.

I shared a peek into my backpack on Instagram Stories before we left for South Africa and so many of you asked if I could give links to the products and post more details. So, here is the much-requested post with all the details on what I pack in my backpack for international trips.

First off, you want to find a sturdy backpack that is specifically designed for the wear and tear of travel.

After a lot of research, I bought this OGIO Renegade International backpack on Amazon and I absolutely love it. It’s the perfect size to be able to carry everything I need to carry — and it has a very protective pouch for my laptop. It’s also not too large or bulky and fits under the seat of every plane I’ve been on.

In the largest zippered section, I usually bring:

  • my books I’m reading or plan to read on the plane (yes, I’m weird and travel with real books — I just can’t bring myself to switch to a device for reading!) some magazines I’ve gotten for free (I leave these on the plane after I read them)
  • socks (in case my feet get cold on the long flight)
  • my travel blanket
  • my travel pillow (I sometimes bring this one, too, depending upon the flight)
  • If you are not bringing a carry-on with you on the plane, I would also recommend including a complete change of clothes + basic toiletries in your backpack (I’ll share what I put in my bathroom/toiletries bag in a post in a few days) so that you can brush your teeth/wash your face on the plane + change your clothes, if need be. In addition, if your luggage gets lost, at least you’ll have some basic things until they find or replace your luggage.

In the next zippered section, I pack:

  • My wallet & passport (I also usually stick my phone here — it’s not pictured since I was using it to take these photos!)
  • Snacks (you never know when you’ll get hungry or if the food will be good on the plane or not)
  • An eye mask for better sleeping

In the top pouch, I pack my earbuds and adaptors for the plane, if needed (Some of the South African Airways flights have two-pronged headphone jacks and you need an adaptor for them.)

I absolutely LOVE these earbuds and have had them for a few years and used them incessantly! They are so lightweight but so high quality and do a great job at noise-cancelling.

In the top zippered pouch, I keep my sunglasses. This is a really sturdy pouch and can’t be crushed — which is great for something like sunglasses or a small camera.

In the side pouches, I pack phone chargers.

In the front zippered pouch, I pack:

  • Wet wipes + antibacterial wipes (these are so handy for lots of things — including wiping down your tray and space on the plane right when you board + to use as toilet paper if you’re going to a location where there might not be toilet paper in most bathrooms)
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Listerine Strips — these are the BEST and I always bring them when I travel
  • Lotion
  • A pen/pencils
  • Lip balm
  • Tissues
  • I had the medicine bag in another bag on this trip, but if I wasn’t traveling with others, I would also pack basic medicines in this pouch — sleeping meds, Dramamine, stomach meds, essential oils, ibuprofen, etc.

In another side pouch, I pack a bag of tea bags. Since I don’t drink coffee anymore and there isn’t always decaf tea readily available, I like to have these on hand to make my own (I ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot water and cream).

I pack my sinus rinse bottle in another side pouch because I have found that rinsing out my sinuses once a day has made such a difference for my allergies and is one of the reasons I’m no longer on allergy medication! (And yes, I totally bring bottled water or get some on the plane and rinse out my nose in the airplane bathroom!)

And then my computer and computer cord goes in the computer pouch.

I love that this backpack has a luggage handle pass-through, too!

And there you have it — everything I packed in my backpack for our trip to South Africa (which is pretty much what I usually pack on any international trip!)

What else would YOU pack in your backpack for an international trip? Am I missing anything that you think is a necessity? I’d love to hear!

If you enjoy posts on international travel, be sure to also check out the following posts I’ve written on the topic:

Planning a long trip? This list of carry-on backpack essentials is really helpful for international flights!