It’s a known fact that I’m the coldest-natured person on earth. If there was an actual contest for the honor, I have no doubt that I would win it. So when the temperatures in Houston dip below 60-degrees, you can find me wrapped up in 4 layers of clothing sitting on my heated seats or by the fireplace. I don’t do cold. Last night, the weatherman said that our temps would dip into the 20’s. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen that in the 11ish years that I’ve been a Texan. While most were out wrapping water pipes and covering palm trees, I made a quick, easy and delicious vegetable soup. I make this quite a bit and although it is lackluster on the fancy part, it’s big on taste!
STEPHANIE’S EASY VEGETABLE SOUP
2 cans corn
2 cans peas/carrots mix
2 cans green beans
2 cans diced potatoes
2 cans diced tomatoes (I used one can that also had added chilies)
1 small can tomato paste
1 lb ground beef
1/2 white onion
2 T minced garlic
2 bay leaves
Italian blend spices
Ground black pepper
I make my soup in one pan – it’s up to you, but it can all be done in one stockpot. The less I have to wash, the better!
I started the process by sauteing the onion and garlic until the onion was clear and a bit softer, then added the ground beef. Once cooked, drain the beef of any extra grease, and put back into the stockpot.
The hard part is over at this point, drain and add all canned veggies! Mix and combine.
To that, add the diced tomatoes and the tomato paste. The cans will still have tomato residue in them, so use the cans to add water. This gets all the tomato flavor from them & helps to add that pretty red color. Water should cover all the veggies and about 1/2″ more so that it’s actually “soup”.
Finally add the bay leaves, ground pepper and Italian seasoning blend to taste. I think the spices really add to it, so I have a heavier hand than some!
Heat the soup until just before boiling – stir every bit or so just to blend the flavors. Add crackers, shredded cheese, whatever you like to your bowl, and enjoy!
In July, I took Piper to New York for a week of dance. It was her first trip to the city and I really looked forward to seeing her experience everything that NYC has to offer. On our first full day, we ventured to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I don’t think either of us expected that this day would have such an emotional affect on us.
It’s easy to say where you were when the tragedy of 9/11 happened. It will forever be etched in our minds, much like the assassination of JFK is for our parents. I didn’t know anyone personally affected or that lost a loved one on 9/11, so it has been easy for me to simply pay respect to the day each year and move forward without an attachment.
One visit to the 9/11 museum has changed me. I’ll admit, embarrassingly, that museums are not my thing. I find them interesting, sure … but to spend an entire day at a museum is not on my list of things to do. Or on Piper’s list for that matter. (My husband and son are the complete opposite!) Piper and I entered the museum and thought we would just do a walk through. We could not get enough … and stayed until the afternoon.
For me, as an adult that vividly remembers the day of September 11, 2001, I can go right back to that time in my life. But, for Piper, who wasn’t even born, it was new. The fact that a group of people did this on purpose was baffling in her mind. She read every sign, every plate, looked at every piece of scrap – trying to make sense of it all.
We spent most of our time in the hall where the museum features photos of every person that lost their life on 9/11. There are some interactive boards that allow you to find out more about the individual and even a small glimpse into how they came into the path of tragedy on that day. Putting names with faces and stories was absolutely heart wrenching. It seemed unfair to not click on every photo to learn more. As a mom, I wanted to hear everyone’s story – almost like it paid a form of respect to their families.
So many young lives. So many beautiful stories. So many accolades and tremendous accomplishments. Our country lost a lot of remarkable people.
There was also an area where you could hear audio recordings from first responders and people who were in the towers during the attacks. You heard first hand their stories of how they attempted to save people, or how they tried to escape, and what they saw. There is also so much in the way of memorabilia from the day. Fire trucks, the door of an airplane, bent steel from where a plane entered one of the towers. To see it in person is just mind-blowing. The heat of the flames, the force of entry, the magnitude of the loss is impossible to put into words.
Piper is a very happy soul. She’s a people-lover and does a tremendous job of seeing the good in everyone. Going through the museum with her, explaining some of the things she was reading, and watching as we got further into the story and knowing that she was understanding the concept of terrorism crushed my soul. I have always tried to shield my kids, and probably moreso Piper, from the meanness of the world. But, there’s no shielding or fluffing up of what happened on September 11. She left heavy and so did I.
After we left the museum, we went to lunch and it was hard to find words for what we had seen. Like so many places in the world, you really need to see it for yourself. Your life and your outlook on so many things will change with just one visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Allow yourself the time to really take it in and do it justice, for yourself and for the families of those who lost their lives.
For many years, our family has used a shared calendar that was web and app-based. Our schedules with work and kids rivals any family that I’ve ever seen. We must have a product that is easy to use, available on desktop, tablet, and mobile (app). A quick search introduced me to Picniic.
My essentials in looking for a shared calendar are:
Easy to use
Color-coded for each family member
Still in active development (I want a product that will continue to be updated)
Push notifications for reminders
Picniic is a next-generation family organizer built with the goal of being the ‘operating system for the family home.’ It serves as a family management dashboard that brings all your activities, tasks and data together in one place, keeping everyone organized and on the same page.
In a nutshell, Picniic has a shared calendar (every family member has their own color); a family locator tool (think “Find My iPhone”); a meal planner, a to-do list, a shopping list, special event calendar (which syncs birthdays and anniversaries onto the shared calendar), and a family info locker where you can store key information like your medical details and other household information.
We have now successfully moved all of our family to Picniic and I’m very happy using it. It’s nice for all of us to have the latest updates – for every member of the family – right in the palm of our hands! No more “Mom, can I have a sleepover on Friday night? Am I busy?” My response is always the same – “Check Picniic!”
I admit that I often struggle with meal planning because it’s such a hassle. The Picniic app is loaded with recipes that are awesome. Type in an ingredient or a common recipe and it pops right up in the palm of your hand. The best part – one simple click at the bottom of the recipe and you can add all of the ingredients to your shopping list! As if that wasn’t good enough, you can also add your own personal or family recipes into the recipe binder. That is super helpful and actually makes it more of a reality that I will meal plan, and come home with every ingredient needed from the grocery store!
Picniic is free to use online or via app, but their are portions that are available by subscription. (I paid $50 for a year.) My suggestion is that you download the free version and use it for a few weeks and see what you think. I used it regularly for nearly a month and was sold!
I am not a Picniic affiliate, but I do love this product.
The movie Cars debuted on my son Avery’s 3rd birthday. My husband and I had seen the trailer months before and knew that Avery would love it … and what better way to celebrate being 3 then to go to a big theater and watch a movie about something you love – CARS! We had no idea when we stepped foot into that theater how the movie would change our lives.
Avery fell in love with Cars. I can’t even put into words how much he loved everything about the movie. The characters, the music, the storyline – our family lived and breathed every minute of the film over and over. One of my fondest childhood memories of Avery is hearing him sing “Life is a Highway” from the Cars soundtrack. His little voice with the perfect mimic of the inflection from Rascal Flatts – it was like a little angel was singing it.
We have had Lightning McQueen birthday parties, Sally birthday parties, Christmases filled with every Cars toy manufactured that year … If it has been made with the Cars logo, I feel confident in saying that we own it.
In April, our family was invited to attend an event called Cars 3: Road to the Races tour. We were excited to see what the new movie would bring and – fingers crossed – we were set to again become the biggest fans of the film.
At the event, we were able to take photos with the new characters and see a trailer of the film. Take a peak:
My husband and son were lucky enough to get to screen the movie on behalf of StephanieClick.com earlier this week. They were blown away at every aspect of the film with my husband even admitting that he teared up a couple of times.
My son, Avery, said “The visuals were stunning, especially the mud. The movie brought us many new characters, who each had their own story to tell. The introduction of each character and place was added in seamlessly and expertly. It brought out emotions I hadn’t seen from Pixar since the original Cars movie. The settings were both visually and emotionally pleasing. I can’t wait to see it again!”
As far as the music, my husband raved about the soundtrack. (It’s available now on Amazon!)
Here’s the jist of the film: Lightning McQueen is back on the big screen, but he’s not a rookie anymore. Blindsided by a new general on of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Piston-Cup champion finds himself suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. “The next-gen racers are cool,” says director Brian Fee. “You can see instantly that cars like Jackson Storm are effortlessly fast. We designed these younger, faster cars to be sleek and aerodynamic—and they’re a sharp contrast to Lightning McQueen.
While Lightning is still the same self-assured, determined and fun loving race car audiences fell in love with, his confidence is being tested by the new cars on the track. “When we first met Lightning McQueen, he was a young rookie—a superhero,” says Fee. “He had his whole life ahead of him. And while he’s done well since we last saw him, he’s not a young hotshot racer anymore. We kept circling the idea of what happens when an athlete like Lightning is in the twilight of his career.
Enter Cruz Ramirez. Tasked with getting Lightning McQueen back on track after a devastating setback, Cruz isn’t shy. Her training style is high-tech, enthusiastic and steadfast—she’s not afraid to apply a little tough love. But there’s more to Cruz than meets the eye. “I love Cruz’s story,” says co-producer Andrea Warren. “She’s such an admirable, likable character. She’s so passionate about racing and her role to create champions. The movie isn’t just about Lightning McQueen—it’s Cruz’s story, in many ways.”
As a mom, I love the fact that there are so many great characters for our kids (and now teens) to fall in love with. This is a movie that everyone can enjoy, laugh, cry and identify with. We need more movies like Cars 3! Although it’s just mid-June, I feel safe labeling this as the “Must-See Movie of the Summer of 2017“!
I’m absolutely in love with Project Life, a product that was developed by Becky Higgins. I began Project Life in 2010 and I’ve never looked back. Although there are several ways to use Project Life, I have always used it to capture one-photo-a-day. In 2016, I switched to the Project Life app and it has made life even easier.
When Becky says that the Project Life app puts scrapbooking in the palm of your hand, she is telling the truth. The app has the functionality of so many things that you would find in a traditional paper kit. Everything is at the touch of a fingertip.
Here are the steps:
Pick a collage
Import your photos
Choose a kit within the app for additional cards and journaling (there are some free options for kits)
It really is that easy! There are so many collage options and fun kits to choose from!
This is a layout that I did for a week in January. I use the same collage layout for every week during the year. The kits that you can buy within the app all have cards that coordinate, but I tend to mix and match them depending on the topic.
Tip: While I use the app to capture one photo a day for our large family album, some (probably the majority of users, actually) use Project Life layouts to capture a snapshot of each week or month of the year. It’s much less to think about and still gives a good glimpse at what’s happening in your family.
When I do specific layouts on kids or family events, I tend to vary the collages. I always stick with a 12×12 so that all of my albums are the same size.
While I still love traditional paper scrapbooking, I have really grown to love the Project Life App. If you are in a busy season of life and you are already so behind on memory-keeping that you are thinking of giving up, I hereby give you permission to use the app. It IS NOT a cop-out. It is not cheating.
Here’s a quick video from Becky Higgins herself to show you how easy the app is to use:
Finally, let’s talk about what’s next. You’ve made your pages, it’s time to print. You can order prints directly from the Project Life app. The “order prints” bar is at the bottom of the opening screen of the app. You can order in four sizes: 4×6, 6×8, 8×8, 12×12. (My second choice for printing is Persnickety Prints.)
Tip: If you are going to use square collages, always save/export as a 12×12 because the resolution will be suitable for an 8×8 print. But, it doesn’t necessarily work the other way around.
More questions? I’m happy to help. I might not be an expert, but I am an active user! Here’s where you can download (iOS and Android).
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is one of our favorite family activities each year. We are lucky that the rodeo always falls during our spring break, so you can count on us to take one day and make it a rodeo day.
This year, I needed to work through spring break, so my husband loaded up the kids and took them for the day. They had a fantastic time.
The rodeo with young teens is a lot of fun. They love everything that there is to offer. One of the biggest tips that I have is find a rodeo committee member that is near you to buy half-price carnival tickets when they are available. Most of the bigger rides cost 10-ish tickets, so you can run through tickets quickly. Buying the ticket booklets beforehand can save you a ton of cash.
From the animal pavilion, to the shopping, to the midway and the carnival rides — oh, and the food — the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a must do for every Texan. It matters not if you have children, there really is something for everyone. So, mark your calendars for February 27 – March 18, 2018.
This post is sponsored by Rodeo Houston and US Family Guide. I received rodeo tickets in exchange for my honest opinion.