Toddler Fall Leaf Banner

Fall Toddler Leaf Banner

Although the calendar says it is officially fall, we are still waiting down south for crisp, cool mornings and perfect fall afternoons. Yesterday we finally saw the highs dip below 90 degrees, so we are headed in the right direction. Just because it doesn’t feel like fall outside, doesn’t mean we can’t make it feel like fall inside. Around our house we are doing just that by breaking our all of our Auburn football, pumpkin & fall leaf decor!

The kids helped make a new banner for our bay window last week during Teach It Tuesday. We talked about how leaves change colors (check out this video or for a simple song about leaf colors, this one). Then we choose our favorite fall colors to make changing leaves of our own. The kids picked out green, brown, orange, red and purple paint to use. We use paint from this crayola pack my uncle & aunt gave them two Christmases ago. It lasts forever!

First, they cut the paper (hamburger style) in half. Then we accordion folded them & used a hole punch to make a hole at one end. 

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After flattening them back out slightly I folded each piece in half and cutting on the end opposite the holes and towards the fold I cut a leaf like jagged pattern.

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Now it’s time to paint! We paint a lot and I love seeing the kids having fun being creative. I usually have them wear the long sleeve bibs from IKEA as painting smocks if they are wearing something I would rather not get paint on. However, this paint is washable so it is not always necessary!

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After they dry, fold them back in the accordion style and tape over the hole. We used washi tape which is pretty thin and so we were able to use a pencil to poke the hole back open. Then fan out the bottom to give the leaf look.

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We used baker’s twine to string them all together and hung their banner in our bay window above the kitchen table.

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I love decorating for fall, but I love it even more when our decorations have my kiddos special touch!

Fall Toddler Leaf Banner

DAILY Afternoon Activity Guide

Daily Afternoon Survival Guide (1)

Several months ago I realized that I needed a plan. What for you may ask? Well, for those two hours when all the kids are up from their afternoon nap but dad hasn’t called yet to say he is on the way home! Yall, know what two hours I am talking about. I decided I could either give into the “witching hours” or I could make a change. The kids are pretty good for the first hour or so, eating snack, reading, playing in the playroom or outside…but that 2nd hour, we needed some structure so that all of our sanity would remain in tact until dad made it home. And so, I came up with daily themes…corny, maybe? But all is fair in love and motherhood. Whatever it takes mamas. 

I thought I would elaborate a little on each daily activity here and then I have big hopes to post for you our actual activities each week so that you can get ideas and maybe save your sanity as well! My goal will be to post our activities each Friday and then if you would like to use them the next week, you have the weekend to prepare (I promise the “preparing” will be minimal!). 

Make it Monday

On Mondays we create. Sometimes we create food, sometimes an art project, sometimes a mess, haha. Most of the time we make oatmeal balls or muffins (usually banana muffins or applesauce muffins). These are great to have on hand for the week for snacks or to go with breakfast. Other times we do “arts and crafts” as Chickadee calls it. We paint, color, cut, make seasonal crafts, and sometimes we even use glitter.

Teach it Tuesday

We work on different skills during this time. Writing, reading, letters, and numbers. Sometimes we play learning games. Other times we try experiments or we talk about answers to questions kids like to ask like, “Why do leaves change colors?” or “Why does it rain?” They are always learning, but it is also always fun!

Wander there Wednesday

Wednesday in our house is the only day no one goes to preschool, so we “wander” in the morning. Since we are gone all morning the kids are very content playing for those two hours in the afternoon, but you could easily wander to close locations in the afternoon. Some of our favorite places include the zoo, botanical gardens, trampoline park for toddler time, pet store, play date at the park, walking by the river, meeting dad for lunch, the splash pad, and the library. Get out there and go!

Thoughtful Thursday

On Thursdays I am encouraging them to think about others. The kids draw pictures for their teachers, make cards for friends and family, cook treats for neighbors. We FaceTime with my grandmother or our parents. I would also like to add to their world view and begin making treats for community helpers or cards for the checkout lady at the grocery store. Go shopping for a food pantry, make blessing bags to keep in the car when we pass someone asking for assistance. I’d love to hear your ideas.

Free for All Friday

This day is pretty up in the air. Every Friday night we make pizzas and watch a movie as a family. So we usually spend some time making the pizza with my favorite two ingredient pizza dough. Sometimes we finish projects we started earlier in the week or head back over to the library to pick out a movie. Hold strong mama…the weekend is coming!

Wish me luck! I hope to be back on Friday with a post of this week’s fun activities. 

WHOLE30 | Loaded Potato Fries

Yep, you read that right. LOADED. POTATO. FRIES. And they are Whole30 approved. What? I’m starting with probably our favorite dinner meal we had while on Whole30, and man was it good. One of my good friends who has done the Whole30 experience a few times passed it along and I am so glad she did. This is a new staple in our house. 

Loaded Potato Fries

Back when III and I were dating we used to LOVE to go to Outback. That meal deal special where you could get a steak, salad, and side for $10 spoke to us. When we were feeling really adventurous we would also get the loaded fries as an appetizer. Man, were they good! But goodness gracious, did they make you feel terrible afterwards. 

These loaded potato fries are goodness gracious good too, but with no guilty consequences! So add this to your meal planning this week, and you can come back and thank me later!

To begin you will need to hop over to my recipe for Skinny Oven Fries. There you will find everything you need to know about making the potato fries which will be your base for this recipe. And FYI, you can slice them however you want, I did chip slices here because I wanted to try out my new mandolin, but skinny fries lead you to the same result! I find you can also use sweet potato fries and make these extra good for you since sweet potatoes are a super food and all.

After you get your fries going, follow the recipe below for your chili ground beef & toppings!

Whole30 Loaded Potato Fries

Whole30 Loaded Potato Fries
Serves 4
Loaded Chili Potato Fries with all your Whole30 favorites! You will feel like you are cheating this recipe is so good!
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
1 hr
for the fries
  1. 3-4 medium/large white or sweet potatoes
  2. 1/3 cup olive oil
  3. 1 tbsp chili powder
  4. 1tsp garlic salt
  5. 1/2 tsp pepper
for the ground beef
  1. 1 pound of organic grass fed ground beef
  2. 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes
  3. 1/2 tsp cumin
  4. 1 tsp chili powder
  5. 1/2 tsp paprika
  6. 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  7. 1/2 tsp onion powder
  8. 1/2 salt
  9. 1/2 tsp pepper
for the toppings
  1. Whole30 ranch (link below)
  2. 4 slices of Whole30 compliant bacon (nitrate & sugar free!)
  3. 1 avocado
Instructions
  1. 1. Prepare fries using the Skinny Fry recipe linked above
  2. 2. While the fries are baking, heat a large skillet over medium/high heat and add your cooking fat (bacon grease, ghee, or avocado oil). Then add the ground beef, tomatoes, and all your spices. Break clumps apart as your cook. Cook until brown and then remove from heat.
  3. 3. Prepare your toppings (if you aren't doing Whole30 feel free to add some cheese!)
  4. 4. Once the fries are finished prepare your plate starting with the fries, then chili meat, crumbled bacon, avocado and finally top with the ranch sauce.
  5. 5. Serve hot and enjoy!
Adapted from Paleo Running Momma
A Step In The Journey http://astepinthejourney.com/
Here is the Ranch dressing recipe I used while on Whole30 to drizzle on top! I hope you enjoy! 

Our Favorite Whole 30 Recipes

We did it. Whole30. CHECK! 

Favorite Whole30 Recipes

A few months ago I got the crazy idea that we should give Whole30 a go. All the cool kids are doing it. If you haven’t heard of Whole30 before you can read more about it here…but it basically it is eating WHOLE foods in an effort to cleanse your body of known irritants and processed food. I have been pregnant or nursing a baby for almost 5 years straight and after Poppy turned ONE I decided my body needed a reset. At some point ice cream EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. catches up to you. I managed to convince III to do it with me, and we determined the month of August was going to be our best shot. I mean, we had to finish before college football season, because watching Auburn while eating broccoli & grilled chicken every Saturday just wasn’t going to work! 

The first week was pretty tough (hello sugar detox) and meal planning/prepping takes a little more work…but it was soooo worth it! And if you know me, you know that means a lot. If you are new here I stay at home with our three young children and while we try to be pretty healthy overall, we definitely have our weaknesses (Coke…ice cream…Annie’s Mac N Cheese…nutella…convenience). So adding extra meal planning/prepping while wrestling three kiddos, four and under wasn’t easy, but it was totally manageable. 

To be honest, we weren’t looking for a complete life change, just an overall awareness of what we are putting in our bodies and how it may affect us. And we definitely learned we feel better when we stick to WHOLE foods. What happened? Well, I lost 7 pounds, III lost 12. We ate A LOT of eggs for breakfast. I learned sugar is in EVERYTHING. Our energy levels were up (after the first week, I never woke up tired), we felt lighter, nagging joint injuries didn’t bother us after working out, my belly hasn’t been this flat since high school and we just overall felt better! 

I think it changed our thoughts on food too. We went to a wedding this weekend and we both found ourselves ordering salads, loading up on meats and veggies and passing on the sugary drinks. We did of course have wedding cake though! My new kind of “full” is different than it used to be. Before “full” meant stuffed and kind of bloated feeling, probably from too much cheese and carbs. Now I have a new perspective on what it means to be full. I’m snacking less and just making better choices even if they require a little extra effort. 

Our kids did pretty well too trying some new recipes. They didn’t always eat Whole30 but dinner is always made for all, so they ate what we did and we moved to healthier WHOLE food snack options. Their only real complaint….when will we go back to Chick-fil-a! 

I want to share some of our favorite meals with you in case you are thinking about giving clean eating a go. This will be a work in progress as I post recipes and come back to link them here. A lot of things I found from other food bloggers who ventured into Whole30 before me, but some came from friends or me playing around with ingredients I knew were compliant. 

Breakfast

Breakfast Fried Rice

Breakfast Fried Rice

Apple Sausage & Sweet Potato Hash

Veggie and Hashbrown Casserole

Veggie and Sausage Casserole

Eggs, Avocado, Hashbrowns, and Bacon/Sausage

Lunch

Lunch Salad Scoops

Egg Salad

Chicken Salad

Salad with veggies and usually some kind of meat

Leftovers

Dinner

Zucchini Spaghetti

Loaded Chili Sweet Potato Fries

Taco Bowls

Simple Chicken Marinade and Veggies

Citrus Chicken Marinade and Veggies

Oven Roasted Steak and Veggies

Meatloaf and Mashed Red Potatoes

Smashed Potatoes

Zucchini Noodle Spaghetti

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Lettuce Wrapped Burgers

Stupid Easy Chicken Nuggets & Zucchini Fritters

Instant Pot Carnitas 

Pot Roast

Cauliflower Chicken Fried Rice

Stuffed Peppers

Other

Ketchup

Mayo – Although after the first batch I ended up buying the Chosen Foods brand at Costco

Dump Ranch

Red Wine Vinaigrette Dressing

I think the biggest thing I learned from Whole30 is to pay attention to what I’m eating and how it is making me feel. To be more mindful. And that moderation is key. Because let’s face it…I’m going to eat ice cream again. So if you were to give up dairy, gluten, grains, sugar and legumes, what do you think you would miss the most????

Poppy’s FIRST Birthday

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I still have a hard time believing she it ONE. Our baby girl is growing up (and so are her brother and sister for that matter!). Can we please slow down time. Similar to our other babes we had a small first birthday with just family to celebrate and love on our BIG girl! The them was simple, flower…poppies, of course and a simple color scheme. I think she felt pretty spoiled and didn’t mind one little bit getting all of the attention. We ate lunch, devoured cake and opened presents. You can tell from the pictures she was not shy about the cake. Little girl went all in. And she was not happy when we took it away! The cutest little strawberry maraca took home the award for the favorite present. There was no prying that thing out of her hand. We loved celebrating you sweet girl!

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I made the cakes…strawberry on the inside and lightly frosted with cream cheese icing. I loved these tall candles and the flowers were fake and from Michaels. 

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The menu included chicken salad from Chicken Salad Chick, pimento cheese, mixed salad with poppyseed dressing, fruit and these amazing ham sliders. 

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We did a little photo shoot in the front yard. Poppy participated as much as any one year old would. She mostly just wanted to play with the balloons. 

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And the cake…well the passion is undeniable. ALL. IN.

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And then there is this lady. My mama, Poppy’s Bebe. They share a birthday! And this birthday was a big one for them both. Poppy turned ONE and well let’s just say Bebe turned a big one that starts with a 6… And so it was a doubly joyful day to celebrate them both!!

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Poppy, you are the sweetest, happiest, giggliest baby on the block. We love you to pieces! Happy Birthday!!