Friday, March 9, 2018

Asparagus and Potato Soup

Saint Patrick's Day is coming up! What better way to celebrate than with a green potato soup? Today, we've got a delicious dairy-free soup that you're going to enjoy! Honestly, you don't even notice that the cheese is missing! It's a much healthier alternative to your traditional baked potato soup.



Last year, we went soy and dairy free because the little one was sensitive to these items. Now that he's older, he's outgrown his sensitivities, but we've kept many of the dairy and soy free recipes in our menu rotation. One of these is the Asparagus and Potato Soup recipe that the husband discovered and perfected. With it's green color, it's the perfect soup to serve on St. Patrick's Day! We also love having it on a hot summer day!


This soup is filled with all the hearty goodness of your traditional potato soup, but it's quite a bit healthier since we have removed the cheese and heavy creams that are found in traditional baked potato soups. Coconut milk is used in place of milk or cream.





Two potatoes are used which gives it the delightful potato flavor that you'll love without being too overpowering in the carb department. We used Russet Potatoes for our soup but you could probably experiment with other varieties as well.


I'm not going to lie - when the husband first made this soup, I was quite skeptical. I'm not a big soup person and the thought of asparagus in a soup just didn't sound appealing. (I love asparagus - I just couldn't picture it in a soup.) The soup surpassed my expectations in every way. We've also served it to a non-asparagus lover and he enjoyed it as well. So, even if asparagus isn't your thing, I'd still recommend giving it a try!


By removing the cheese and adding in asparagus, this soup is a much healthier option than your traditional baked potato soups. The bacon could easily be replaced by turkey bacon or even left out to make this soup even healthier. I can't wait to have it again and I might just be adding it into the slot for St. Patrick's Day!



Healthy Potato Soup
Total Time: 45 minutes

Kitchen Items Needed: pan, pot, knife, cutting board, blender

Ingredients:
- coconut milk (2 cups)
- asparagus (one pound)
- russet potatoes (2 medium)
- coconut oil (1 spoonful)
- bacon (third of a pound)
- nutritional yeast (1/8 cup)

Directions:
1. Put 2 cups of coconut milk in the pot and let it simmer down.
2. Trim asparagus.
3. Chop up 2/3 of asparagus (set aside the rest).
4. Add to the coconut milk. It should be on medium high to high. Be careful not to scorch the milk.
5. Peel the potatoes and cut them into squares.
6. Add to the pot.
7. Chop leftover asparagus in half.
8. Add one spoonful of coconut oil.
9. Allow the pot to simmer (not boil) until the potatoes are tender. While you're doing this, fry the bacon in a separate pan. (Keep the grease in the pan!) Chop and set aside to use as a soup topping.
10. Once the potatoes are soft, remove from heat and let it cool.
11. Fry the remaining asparagus in the leftover bacon grease. Set aside to soup.
12. Pour the potato and asparagus mixture into a blend.
13. Blend until smooth.
14. Pour back into the pot and heat it once again.
15. Pour a small amount of water into the blender and turn it on to rinse the blender. Pour this into the soup to lighten consistency.
16. Once the soup starts to bubble again, it's ready to serve.
17. Stir in the nutritional yeast and top with bacon crumbles and the extra asparagus.

This healthy potato soup would be the perfect addition to your St. Patrick's Day dinner!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Our Favorite Places in Michigan

We love exploring! In some ways, our military lifestyle and the constant moving is perfect for us. We get to explore new areas often without having to go on "vacation" to do so. California was filled with so many things to do that we never did cross everything off of our list. Michigan has been a different story. On the surface, there doesn't seem to be much to do, but we've found that if you dig a little deeper, then there's a lot of things just waiting to be discovered! Today, we're sharing a few of our favorites with you!


When it comes to the thumb of Michigan, we've done our fair share of exploring in the year and a half since we moved here. We've found plenty of duds and some real gems during our explorations. Today, we're sharing just a few of our favorite places in Michigan.

Blake's Apple Orchard
The first time we went to Blake's Apple Orchard was for our third anniversary. We had passed by this apple orchard many times and often commented about checking it out. The place exceeded our expectations. There was things to do for everyone in the family, the apple cider (hard and normal) was amazing, and their holiday events are a lot of fun. We continue to return time and time again.

Detroit Zoo
The Detroit Zoo is one of the first places we fell in love with here in Michigan. We first went to the zoo while we were waiting to move into our house. We're big zoo lovers so it seemed like the obvious choice of places to check it. We were so pleased that it didn't disappoint. In fact, it's another place that exceeded our expectations and we even bought a yearly membership so that we could go again and again.


Great Lakes Crossing
Winter in Michigan makes exploring a bit more difficult. I now understand what cabin fever! Last winter, we were busy with a newborn and it didn't bother us as much. This winter, we've had to dig a little deeper to find cold weather activities that are safe for a little one. One of our discoveries was a huge indoor outlet mall in Auburn Hills. This mall is filled with shops. It also contains the Sea Life Aquarium which we settled on for Baby Fox's birthday. The aquarium is a little pricey but they do offer a military discount. We got in for half price since we have an AZA membership through the zoo.


Village of Lexington
The Village of Lexington is a small town on the edge of Lake Huron. It's filled with neat little shops, a brewery, and a beach along the lake. It's one of the resort towns around here and is busiest during the summer months.


Sanilac Historic Village

Just up the road from Lexington is the Sanilac Historic Village, which is a village filled with historic houses. They offer tours of the grounds and the main house has been turned into a museum. If you're looking to do a tour, we recommend calling ahead to see if someone is working. They have an extremely small staff, so if someone is sick, there's a chance they won't be open. You can walk the grounds without a tour guide. The village is filled with historic buildings that have been moved there from all over Michigan.


For-Mar Nature Preserve
The For-Mar Nature Preserve is another gem we stumbled upon one day when we were looking for things to do. This particular park is located near Flint, MI and has a cool treehouse, trails, and more to explore. It's great for adults and kids alike with activities to do along the trail.


Castle Museum
The Castle Museum of Saginaw County was a neat little find. It's a museum that is low cost (for military, it was free) located in Saginaw, MI. This museum is housed in a building that looks like a castle. We were very impressed with their exhibits, including the fun Lego exhibit that was geared towards kids. It was complete with a Lego city and scavenger hunt!


Do you like exploring your local area? What's on your list of favorites?


We're hosting another day of the Love Blog Challenge! If you have a post about FAVORITES, then we recommend linking it up below!

GIVEAWAY! One lucky winner will receive a large cosmetic organizer in their color of choice (black, white, or gray) from Ellis James Designs. The giveaway starts February 22nd and ends on February 28th. US residents only. Learn more on Rafflecopter

Brita Long of Belle Brita will verify the winning entry before emailing the winner during the first week of March. If the winner doesn’t respond, she will start the process over again. Good luck! 



Today's Love Blog Hosts


Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. While her first love will always be Paris, she lives happily with her husband Daniel Fleck in the Atlanta area.




Pam is one half of The Coastie Couple. She is a teacher turned blogger that shares her family's adventures and recipes on the blog. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband, baby boy, and two dogs. You can often find her exploring the local area to find hidden gems to share on the blog. She enjoys travel, wine, writing, and playtime.



Tayler Morrell is a WAHM who loves to talk. She is obsessed with reading, writing, history, Wales. She is a Utahn transplant in Texas. The Morrell Tale aspires to show the real day to day of being a mommy blogger.



Link up your posts below!



Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Dear Coffee: A Love Note from a Mom

Today's topic for Love Blog is passion. I'm not going to lie - this topic had me quite a bit stumped. There are so many things that I'm passionate about that I found myself having a hard time picking one to focus on. So, I went to pour myself a cup of coffee in hopes that it would inspire me. And that's when it hit me - instead of writing about my passions, I should write about what fuels my passions. So, here you go folks - a love letter to coffee, the drink that fuels me now that I'm a mom.


Dear Coffee,

I should have believed them. My mom friends were right - I would fall in love with you after the baby was born. "I'm not a coffee drinker. I don't like the stuff." I said it over and over again. And each one of them came back with "that'll change when you're a mom."

They were right. You're an essential part of my morning routine. Feed the baby. Feed the dogs. Make coffee. I don't always fill my cup right away, but I do eventually have a cup or two of you in the morning. And yes, I do enjoy that cup quite a bit - especially right now when it's winter outside.

I didn't jump on the coffee bandwagon right away. In fact, I resisted for months after becoming a mom. I'm not entirely sure what changed - why I tried that first cup. It was love at first site. I'd had cups in the past, but none as good as that one. I'm going to blame the caramel almond milk creamer.

We've had our differences - including the morning you made a mess all over the kitchen and I was the one stuck cleaning it up. That morning you only added to my workload rather than helping me.

All in all, I'm glad we found each other. There may come a day when I no longer need you in my life, but that day isn't today. Today, I'm going to enjoy a cup over breakfast with my son.

Love,
A Busy Mom


Today we're a cohost of the Love Blog Challenge along with these lovely ladies:


Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. While her first love will always be Paris, she lives happily with her husband Daniel Fleck in the Atlanta area.




Pam is one half of The Coastie Couple. She is a teacher turned blogger that shares her family's adventures and recipes on the blog. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband, baby boy, and two dogs. You can often find her exploring the local area to find hidden gems to share on the blog. She enjoys travel, wine, writing, and playtime.




Kayla Whitter is a 20-something INFJ and Hufflepuff. She works full-time at a local university, goes to graduate school, and runs the lifestyle blog A Paper Arrow. Her favorite things include reading, drinking coffee, eating Chick-fil-A and Mexican food, and hanging out with her hubby and cat (Courage).


GIVEAWAY! One lucky winner will receive a custom illustration from Coffee and Maps, plus the item of their choice from the Coffee and Maps online store. The giveaway starts February 15th and ends on February 21st. US residents only. Learn more on Rafflecopter

Brita Long of Belle Brita will verify the winning entry before emailing the winner during the fourth week of February. If the winner doesn’t respond, she will start the process over again. Good luck!

Don't forget to link up your post for today! I can't wait to see how you dive into the topic of passion!




Friday, February 16, 2018

Five Tips for Long Distance Couples

It's still February, which means it's time for another Love Blog post. My original goal was to write a post for every prompt, but life happens and it just hasn't worked out this year. So, instead, I've made sure to commit to the four topics that I'm helping cohost. Today's topic happens to be "challenges," so I'm going to be sharing some of our tips for overcoming the challenge of long distance dating.


Before we dive into the tips, I want to give you a little background in case your new to the blog. My husband I had have been married for almost four years. During those four years, we have spent nearly half of our time apart due to deployments and prior to getting married, we were a long distance couple for a year with the entire country between us. (Luckily, we did spend our first year of dating in the same location.)

That's the quick version of our relationship and why we can share tips for long distance relationships. We both went into long distance a bit hesitant, but in the end, we thrived and made it work for us. I'm a firm believer that with a little hard work and commitment, long distance doesn't have to be hard. Below you'll find five quick tips to help you overcome some of the challenges that come with long distance relationships.

1. Communicate with each other.
The biggest tip I can give to any long distance couple is to communicate with each other. In fa ct, I recommend making communication a priority. Talk about your expectations so that both people are on the same page. We tried to talk to each other every day. It was a bit more difficult during deployments, but we still tried to get a quick email sent to each other. With today's technology, there are multiple ways to stay in touch including snail mail, email, texting, phone calls, skype, and so many more. Find what works for your relationship and make it a priority.

2. Avoid comparison.
Don't compare your relationship to any other relationship - even other long distance relationships. Some people need more attention in a relationship than others. For us, we were pretty happy if we had a daily check in with each other. Some couples may need more or less and that's okay. The comparison game can get pretty scary if you allow yourself to play it too long. Focus on your relationship and not the ones around you. Every relationship is different.

3. Surprise each other.
Keep the surprise alive within your relationships. Snail mail and deliveries are perfect for this one. I've found that small, unexpected gestures can mean more than big ones. I'll never forget the time the husband sent flowers to my workplace simply because I was having a hard week and had told him about it. He was clear across the country but was still able to surprise me.

4. Plan visits when possible.
Visits are what keep you going when you're in the middle of a long distance relationship. It gives you something to look forward to. That being said, visits aren't always easy and there can be many months between them at times. I believe our longest time between visits was eight months. It was a hard eight months, but it was so worth it in the end. The beauty of a long distance relationship is that you get a new first kiss every time you meet again.

5. Lean on your local support system.
Find your local support system and lean on them. I'm not talk about a formal support group. I'm talking about your friends and family that are there for you. Keep yourself busy and lean on these people when times get tough. A listening ear can mean a world of difference in the long run.

Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?


Your Love Blog Hosts


Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. While her first love will always be Paris, she lives happily with her husband Daniel Fleck in the Atlanta area.
Blog  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest  |  Instagram

 
Pam is one half of The Coastie Couple. She is a teacher turned blogger that shares her family's adventures and recipes on the blog. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband, baby boy, and two dogs. You can often find her exploring the local area to find hidden gems to share on the blog. She enjoys travel, wine, writing, and playtime.

Blog  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest  |  Instagram



Laura is a big dreamer, full time marketing manager, blogger, and part-time artist. She aspires to inspire people in their everyday lives and help them to live towards their dreams and making the most out of every day by sharing her own experiences and stories. Her blog, Do Five Things A Day, offers an eclectic mix of excitement, passion, and a story to tell of self-discovery, development and love. She focuses on topics about taking care of yourself, and learning to find beauty and light in every moment and adventure life has to bring us. Laura’s goals this year are to launch her Life Coaching program and to finish her novel.

Blog  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest  |  Instagram

GIVEAWAY! One lucky winner will receive a custom illustration from Coffee and Maps, plus the item of their choice from the Coffee and Maps online store. The giveaway starts February 15th and ends on February 21st. US residents only. Learn more on Rafflecopter. 

 Brita Long of Belle Brita will verify the winning entry before emailing the winner during the fourth week of February. If the winner doesn’t respond, she will start the process over again. Good luck! 

Do you have a blog about a challenge you've overcome? Link it up with us below!



Friday, February 2, 2018

Valentine's Day and the Military Spouse

Welcome to Day 2 of Love Blog hosted by Bella Brita! Everyone is entitled to their opinion and ours is that Valentine's Day is a commercial event. When it comes to celebrating our love, we prefer to do so randomly and for our special occasions instead (anniversaries, important dates, etc). In fact, we've spent many years apart with just a simple "Happy Valentine's Day" sent via email or text.


Long ago, I used to think that Valentine's Day would be different when I was in a relationship. In fact, I spent many years enjoying the holiday with a chick flick marathon. I never felt like I was missing out on anything, but I did always wonder what it would be like to have a "valentine" for the holiday. Then, I  met my husband and realized that Valentine's Day was just another day - especially in the life of a military spouse.

We've been together for five years. Of those five years, we've spent two Valentines together. One of those was our first year of dating and we did enjoy a simple night out with dinner at a favorite (low key) place and a movie we both actually agreed on. Otherwise, it was nothing special and it definitely wasn't over the top. The other year that we spent together was last year and we were sleep deprived and learning how to be parents. (Okay, I don't know for sure that we were sleep deprived nine days into parenthood, but I do know that we were a bit overwhelmed and there was no thought of Valentine's Day other than cute pictures of our kid.) The other three years - well, we were miles apart and a simple "Happy Valentine's Day" via email was probably the best we could do.

Now, this is a quick glimpse into the history of Valentine's Day in our relationship. Why am I sharing this glimpse? I'm not really sure, other than it's the topic that came to mind when I saw the prompt for Love Blog. I do know one thing - our love and relationship has not suffered one bit by being apart on Valentine's Day. Sure, I could get upset by it and wallow in self pity, but I don't. Instead, I find a unique way to spend the holiday (because I love holidays in general) and keep moving forward.

This year is another one that will be spent apart, but I'm sure that I'll find something special for Baby Fox and me to do together. If the weather cooperates, we may even go visit Daddy at work. No matter how we spend the day, I'm sure it'll be special because every day is special when you spend it with those you love. (Totally cliche, but also totally true!)

Spending Valentine's Day alone? Need an idea to make it more fun? Here's a few!
1. Movie marathon
2. At home spa day
3. Go out with the girls
4. Cook yourself a fancy new recipe
5. Make and send cards to friends and family
6. Get crafty
7. Find somewhere new to explore
8. Try out a yoga class
9. Enjoy a nice long bubble bath
10. Use the day as an excuse to indulge in your favorite dessert

How will you be spending Valentine's Day? What's your opinion on the holiday?

Psst...don't forget to check out this week's giveaway!

Today we're a cohost of the Love Blog Challenge along with these lovely ladies:


Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. While her first love will always be Paris, she lives happily with her husband Daniel Fleck in the Atlanta area.




Pam is one half of The Coastie Couple. She is a teacher turned blogger that shares her family's adventures and recipes on the blog. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband, baby boy, and two dogs. You can often find her exploring the local area to find hidden gems to share on the blog. She enjoys travel, wine, writing, and playtime.




Kayla Whitter is a 20-something INFJ and Hufflepuff. She works full-time at a local university, goes to graduate school, and runs the lifestyle blog A Paper Arrow. Her favorite things include reading, drinking coffee, eating Chick-fil-A and Mexican food, and hanging out with her hubby and cat (Courage).


Link up your own Valentine's Day post:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The History of Challenge Coins

The History Of Challenge Coins

The phenomenon of challenge coins particularly rose in popularity in the last couple of decades. Coins themselves are often associated with the military and it is widely known that these are given to the individuals who presented outstanding courage and valor while on service.

Therefore, having a challenge coin represents a great honor and in a certain way shows an individual’s affiliation with the certain organization.

But, they are not exclusively associated with the Army. Nowadays, challenge coins are also finding their use outside the military. Many non-military organizations (and not only the police departments) have adopted the practice of presenting coins to members that earned them somehow.

So today we have proud owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles wearing their own challenge coins as a way of showing affiliation to the club, or we have coins of NASCAR drivers that are predominantly used as collectibles by NASCAR fans for example.

It’s pretty easy and simple to make your very own challenge coins with a number of companies offering services of making beautiful custom challenge coins today. Embleholics is one such company for example.

And with all the buzz surrounding this whole coins madness, one questions will always linger:

When and where challenge coins originated?


Origins of Challenge Coins  
It is believed that practice of giving coins to people who showed outstanding performance of duty dates back to the Roman Empire. The Emperor used to give these to the soldiers as a form of payment. Because the coins themselves had the insignia of the Empire engraved on them, soldiers often decided to keep these to themselves rather than spend it on food and necessities.

But perhaps most common story of challenge coin origins is the one associated with the US stepping into the World War I. Namely, before the US aircrafts took off to Europe, one of the flight lieutenants ordered for coins to be made in bronze with the US Army flight squadron emblem engraved on it, and gave coins to every member of the unit.

When one of the planes was gunned down by the Germans, American pilot was captured and stripped of his possessions. He was held captive behind enemy lines but somehow managed to escape and made it to the other side of the battle front where French troops were holding ground.

Because he had no ID on himself and because of his funny accent, the French thought that he was a German spy so they ordered for him to be executed. Luckily enough, a coin he kept in his leather bag saved his life in the end as the French suspected he was an American after all. That gave him just enough time to contact headquarters and to prove his identity.  

Although this story may sound like a fairy tale or story from some book that could be exciting to your child maybe, it pretty much pinpoints the significance of challenge coins. Those who have a challenge coin or collect them, cherish them with great pride. They use every situation possible to acknowledge that they are proud owners of one such coin, just like an airborne lieutenant did years ago during the World War. 

About the Author
Hellen McAdams is a blogger at Bicycle On Fire and a writer that loves to tackle all topics related to every day life of military professionals and their families. If you have any comments or questions, shoot her a question at @hellen_mcadams.




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Our Favorite Travel Items for Baby

As a military family, we travel a lot - especially to see family. We currently live fourteen hours away from both sides of our family. We try to see our families as often as possible and this year was no exception. Even with a new baby in the picture, we set out to make the fourteen hour trip to see family. We discovered a few products along the way that made travel with a baby so much easier.

*Amazon Affiliate links are used in this post. They help you find the products that we mention and they help us earn a little bit of money to keep this blog up and running.*






When we first decided to journey fourteen hours to visit family, we knew this trip would be much different because we now have two dogs and a baby. So, the first thing we did was trade in one of our cars and upgrade to a minivan. This made a world of difference - we had so much more room for everyone! In addition to the minivan, we also found several items that made our trip much easier than for everyone involved.

Portable Bed
When we travel to visit family, we have a place to sleep in the guest room. However, there are no babies in the house and therefore, there are no baby beds. Baby Fox currently sleeps in his own room in a crib, so we needed a portable solution that could be set up in a separate room (everyone sleeps better). Sleeping with us was not an option as we none sleep well that way. This was one of the easiest solutions - we simple packed up our pack n play and took it with us. We highly recommend investing in a Graco Pack n Play to take along on your trips..

Portable High Chair
We were sitting at dinner one night and I realized that we were going to have a problem on our trip. There was no way we could fold up our high chair and take it with us. Baby Fox loves eating dinner with us, so I set out to find a solution. I found this Portable Booster on Amazon. It was cheap and game highly recommended so I ordered it in plenty of time for our trip. It has been super easy to use at rest areas and during meal times. It also folds into a small bag, making it easy to pack and take with us as we visit different family members.

Toy Bag
When we packed up some toys to take with us, I grabbed a utility tote from my collection of Thirty One bags. (I used to be a consultant so the collection is quite extensive.) The bag is similar to this utility tote. At the time, I didn't think anything of it, but this has been a great solution for travelling with toys. It keeps all of the toys in one spot and all we have to do is grab it when we head to someone else's house for a visit. There's no need to pick and choose among the toys we brought. We simply take them all with us.

Stroller
We have this Graco travel system, which we packed to take along on our trip. Baby Fox still fits in the car seat, but we no longer attach it to the stroller. The stroller is lightweight and easy to fold, making it ideal for travel. It also takes up a lot less space than our jogging stroller which was super important so that we could maximize space.

Collapsible Walker
We have this walker, which is easy to fold down and take with you. Baby Fox loves to play in his bouncer and walker at home. In fact, he loves standing in almost any form. His bouncer was much too big to pack. However, I remembered that our walker folds flat and decided that it would be a great option for those moments when he wants to stand. I was right - it has been a great item to have along on our trip!

Hanging Toys
We have several different car seat toys, which made our trip a little easier. When we would stop, we would switch out toys to give the baby something new to play with. This kept him from getting bored as quickly. I also bought him a brand new toy before we left so that he would have something entirely new to explore on the car tip.

Mirror
A mirror that attaches to the seat is a great way to keep an eye on your baby during the long ride. Our mirror helped us know that he was safe. It also allowed us to take a peek and see if he was sleeping or not when he would get silent. This was helpful at the end of our trip when he decided to sleep for several hours straight and we were able to power through the last leg of the trip without stopping.

Overall, our first trip with a baby went relatively smooth. There was one or two crying fits from boredom but we all survived and arrived with smiles on our faces. We'll be sharing some of our tips for long car trips with a baby in a future posts. Until then, we'd love to hear about your favorite baby products for travel in the comments below!