Kid friendly tuna rolls

So I’m over here all, “This year, I’m upping the school lunch game.” and I’ve got the kids all on board. But let me first state that having tons of kids has a few advantages, like slavery, child labor and any other hard work intensive purposes that come up. In my case, they help me prep fun kid friendly foods ahead of time, and the older kids pack their own lunches. A few of my boys love tuna. Personally, I hate it, and may or may not gag repeatedly when working with it. That being said, let’s get started with this kid friendly tuna rolls recipe.

Easy Tuna Rolls Ingredients

2 – 12 oz tuna in can
1/3 c. mayo (not pictured)
1/4 c. pickle relish
2 hard boiled eggs
2 tsps. of wasabi sauce
seaweed sheets
1 1/2 c. of cooked sushi rice

Step 1: Start by cooking your sushi rice per package directions. Sushi rice cooks a little differently than regular rice. Combine 1 1/2 cups of sushi rice into a sauce pan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Then remove from heat and let cool.

Combine all Tuna rolls ingredients

Step 2: Combine drained tuna, mayo, relish, egg yolks, and wasabi sauce. Leave the whites out and set aside. If you find that your mixture is still too dry add a small amount of mayo.

add chopped egg whites

Step 3: Chop your egg whites and add to mixture.

Spread sushi rice on seaweed

Step 4: Place a sheet of seaweed on a bamboo mat. (If you don’t have a bamboo mat, I would suggest using a placemat that is somewhat firm. Then use parchment or wax paper over the top of that.) Spread sushi rice on top of your seaweed. Your seaweed should be shiny side down. Leave about an inch at the end, because when you start to roll it the rice spreads out a bit.

Step 5: Add a thin layer of your tuna mixture to the center of your rice.

Use bamboo mat to roll sushi

Step 6: Place seaweed close to the end of your bamboo sheet and begin to roll. I hope the pictures help.

Step 7: Slice your tuna rolls to your desired thickness! And tada! Easy as pie.

Slice rolls

Serve your rolls with wasabi sauce and some pickled ginger. Want to know what is really great these days? The fact that you can find these ingredients in your regular supermarket! I used to always have to drive to my closest Asian market for things like seaweed and specialty rice’s. And that was a 45 minute drive.

My intention wasn’t to serve this delicacy for dinner, it was for my kids to take in their lunches. So to spice things up a bit and make it a little more fun, I found these googly eyes and mustaches in the baking section at the store.

kid friendly toppings

Here is a sample of our cool bento box lunches! I hope to share a few other quick and easy plan ahead school lunches.

Tuna Roll bento box

***If anyone is interested in a seaweed-free/tuna-free version please let me know. My daughter made some that way and I’m sure she’d be happy to share the recipe with you non-seafoodies like her and I.

Back to school


Well here is the obligatory back to school picture post! I can’t believe it, this is the year that all the ducklings are all in school. My baby Brooks is no longer a baby, he’s a big boy kindergartener! It is bittersweet. (Long sad sigh) …. (Cue dance music and begin to party!!)


So here’s this years line up: Caitlyn 9th grade, Beau 7th Grade, Braden 6th grade.


Bennett 3rd grade, and Brooks kindergarten.


It’s not just a new school year, it’s an entirely new school. So of course we all had our concerns. New school (literally just built), new system, new friends, new uniforms, new bus, new new new… I will admit it, I was on the brink of a melt down pretty much everyday the week leading up to the first day. But I will get into that in a bit. Let’s first admire how cute my kids are.

I want to give a big shout out to my husband for emailing the transportation department and arranging to have a bus stop right in front of our house! Whooo hooo! Since it was the first day of school, just the older kids took the bus. I drove Brooks to school because I wanted to walk him in. Getting to the school was pure insanity. There is quite a bit of construction going on at and around the school. So it took me nearly 45 minutes to get into the parking lot. I sat at the stop light waiting to turn left for over 20 minutes. But I don’t regret it because Brooks needed me. And I’m so grateful to be able to be there for events like this. He gets pretty nervous about new things.



He was so nervous when we walked into his classroom, I had a hard time getting him to let go of my hand. We found his seat, put his back pack and lunch away, and then I walked him to the area where his class was quietly sitting while his teacher read a story. (We obviously were late.) As I sat him down I let him know I was leaving, that’s when he almost lost it. He looked up at me with teary eyes and asked “But wait, are you leaving”. I had to say yes and leave him there. It was so sad. I almost cried.  I was so worried about him all day long. And this isn’t just a case of him being the baby of the family. He really has a hard time adjusting to new things, he comes by it naturally.

The first day of school the kids missed the bus home, I let them know this morning that if they weren’t all together, then don’t get on the bus. And I’m glad I did. Bennett found Brooks at the end of the day crying. I think he was probably thinking in his little mind that he was on his own. The three older kids waited in the bus line and couldn’t find the younger two, so Caitlyn took charge. She told her other brothers to stay put and walked over to the elementary campus to find the littles. It was hot and dusty from all the construction. About the time she found them, the bus was leaving. I have to imagine a lot of elementary school kids missed the bus. It was pretty hectic.

The second day of school was just as hectic for me as the first. This time Brooks rode the bus. Bennett walked him to the gym where are the kindergarteners and first graders meet. About an hour after school had started I got a call from the school nurse. Bennett was in the office experiencing  severe chest pain. He wanted to be picked up from school. This isn’t something that has happened before, so I was pretty concerned. But as a mother, my instinct told me something else was probably going on. My first thought was, “oh no, he probably got picked on“. He’s my sweet, kind, and sensitive kid. When I got to the school, I could see that he had been in tears for some time. He explained his chest was still hurting. I asked him some routine mom questions to see what was going on. Well, he was having an anxiety attack. It was heart breaking. He said when he walked to his class line after he had taken Brooks to the gym door, he saw Brooks run out crying, panicking and looking for him. He didn’t know what to do, so he went to class. He couldn’t get over it. He felt saddened and guilty. We talked about what he could do in the future; talk to a teacher, or ask if he can offer reassurance to Brooks. I was already on my way home with him and I saw in my rear view mirror that he was getting teary eyed again. I asked him if we should go back to the school to check on Brooks. That way Bennett could see that Brooks is ok. He said he wanted to do that. I also felt that if he did see him, he’d feel good enough to finish the day. When we got Brooks out of class, he was so happy to see us. We walked Brooks back to class, and Brooks started to cry, then Bennett started to cry, then I almost started to cry. It was rough, for all of us. Man, motherhood can be so hard sometimes! But I hugged them both and reminded them that school is fun. It was hard to walk away. My shy boys need school. I am glad that Bennett was able to gain his composure and resume his school day.

And happy to report everyone made it home on the bus the rest of the week.

Alright, Let’s talk about the real back to school madness.

School supply list. It’s out of control. Each year the lists seem to grow, teachers have their particular ways of managing and organizing. I spent about $300 on school supplies for my kids this year. And we do as much recycling as possible. I am seriously at my wits end with these outrageous lists. I would like to think I had a pretty good education, and having discussed this same topic with friends, we all agree that this list of items is not actually making our kids smarter. Let me just give you an idea of what was requested this year. For my oldest two children, one middle school and one high school, we needed 4 different color spiral notebooks. Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green. And they each needed four of them… That’s 32 entirely new notebooks, for only two kids.

So I want you to take a close look at this pile of chaos. Those are old notebooks, composition books, binders and folders. Many of them still in usable condition. Some of them not, BUT with paper to spare. Along with the requests of certain color note books are requests for certain color folders, with certain types dividers and so on. I mean really, is this helping my children learn? Or is this helping the teachers keep their sanity? I realize teachers do a tremendous amount of work with our kids, but there is a lesson being taught in all this organization. And it’s not a good one. The lesson is waste. Many of the notebooks I went through from last school year have but one or two sentence’s per page, then the notebook itself is about 1/3-3/4 full. I am appalled. Why is it that we are not teaching our children to organize their thoughts and notes without being so wasteful? What is the problem with simply drawing a line across the bottom of yesterdays notes and starting todays notes below? Why can’t we just take a sharpie marker and write MATH on a notebook and use it all year long. Do the children really need four Math notebooks in the color red? Is that making them smarter?? I do not believe it is. These are OCD requests. I get it, I have my fair share of OCD, but this is not right. Riddle me this: some schools have little blue trash cans specific to recycling, yet the bigger waste is in everyday note taking…. I DON’T UNDERSTAND IT?! Do any of you remember just taking one notebook and a few pencils to school? Do you remember being able to pick out one or two cool folders? How about Lisa Frank or trapper keepers?

Another major problem with all these supplies is the weight! I swear, we are creating back and neck problems for our future generations. My kids often complain about how heavy their bags are. I feel so bad for them, because there isn’t anything I can do to help them.

I would really love to hear your opinions on this waste, and ways we can bring this to the attention of the school systems. This supply topic, as miniscule as it may seem, truly weighs heavy on my heart. I have elected to do better about teaching my children to not be wasteful. I have started to un-spiral these left over notebooks and tear off the messy ends. I am saving the good paper and piling them into “college ruled” and “wide ruled”. So the next time they ask for a pack of either, I will be sending it to school in a previously used and newly washed zip lock bag. And folks, this isn’t just about affordability, its about mother earth. We can’t just continue to live like a bunch of takers now can we…


Now, to get off my soap box. Here is a picture of the kindergarten aftermath. He fell right to sleep in the car after the first day of school when I had to go pick them up. Poor sweet Gus.


DIY Sun Screen

DIY Sun Screen ingredients

So before we get started here, let me just tell you, sun screen is so expensive these days. And living in Arizona, it has become a daily necessity for my family. I didn’t decide to make my own sun screen out of frugalness alone. I really do enjoy using all natural products, and my kids do to. They love seeing what goes into what and why its better for our bodies, and yada yada yada. When I sought out this new DIY adventure, I did my research. The biggest question was, what is SPF really? All I knew was that the higher the label, the harder that crap is to rub into my kids skin. And most of my kids, a lot like my self, go fifty shades of aborigine in the first weeks of summer. So my right arm gets freakishly stronger in those weeks just trying to keep that sun screen from looking like war paint on their dark chocolaty skin. The struggle is real folks. But to be honest, we don’t use a really high spf. We ride around 30 most of the time, because we like to live life on the edge.

So here is the mystery of SPF unfolded for you. You’re welcome.
Sun Protection Factor
Answer: SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and refers to the theoretical amount of time you can stay in the sun without getting sunburned. For example, an SPF of 15 would allow you to stay in the sun 15 times longer than you could without protection.

So here are some things I found out while getting to know the ins and outs of homemade sun screen. The higher the SPF, the longer you can feel safe hanging out in the blazing sun. And, many oils have a natural amount of SPF, and zinc oxide is the key ingredient. I would say most of you know that when you use those easy spray bottles, not only should you wear a gas mask, they seem to wash off rather quickly in the pool. And my friends, we do as best as we can to live in the water in the hotter months. It’s the only way to survive. With DIY sunscreen you need something that can make the oils stay on your body, that’s where the bees wax comes in. It acts as a waterproof. The amount of bees wax you use needs to be pretty close to this recipe, too much will make it to hard to rub onto your skin. So if you over do it, you better have the patience of Mother Theresa.

I bought my zinc oxide from Essential Depot. And I’ve taken the liberty of listing the natural SPF for the oils that I used next to the quantity below. There is a site called Living pretty, Naturally, You can see some additional oils that are great for sun screen.

(I used what I already had on hand. I can’t even remember when or why I bought zinc oxide, but I was glad to finally put it to use.)

•1/2 cup coconut oil SPF 2-8
•1/4 cup jojoba oil SPF 4
•2 tbsp-1/4 cup beeswax* (depending on how thick you want it) SPF 15
•1-2 tbsp shea butter* SPF 6
•1 tsp vitamin E oil
•2 tbsp zinc oxide powder SPF 10 per tsp

Shea butter and bees wax

I used a white bees wax and grated it down with a cheese grater. I don’t recommend that method, I would suggest if you are going to attempt this, go buy the bees wax pellets. But like I said earlier, I was working on the fly.

zinc oxide

So lets talk about this zinc oxide funny business. Just so you know, Zinc oxide is a natural mineral which provides the safest and most effective protection against UV rays. Unlike chemical sunscreens, zinc forms a physical barrier on the skin, reflecting the sun’s rays rather than absorbing them. Zinc Oxide is the best performing ingredient for blocking both UVA and UVB rays. I stole that from the world wide web.

combine diy sun screen ingredients and melt

To get started, combine all your oils, shea, and bees wax. You are going to melt them down so either use a double boiler or microwave.

double boiler

This is my makeshift double boiler.

fully melted base

Once your oils, shea, and bees wax are fully melted remove from heat and let sit for about five minutes just to cool down.

add zinc oxide

Add in your two teaspoons of zinc oxide.

combine zinc oxide for spf

Since there is roughly 10 SPF per tsp, if you wanted a stronger sun screen, you can add an additional 1/2-1 tsp. But I have found that this recipe does really well for my husband, who’s nickname was “sunburn central” in high school.

make sure zinc oxcide is completely disolved

crush up any last clumps

Make sure you get the little clumps crushed up.

still until the consistency changes to a lotion

From there you just continue to stir until it is the consistency of lotion. It may firm up based on temperature. When you apply your DIY sun screen, put a small amount on the palm of your hand and rub your hands together. The heat from your hands will melt the oils down for the quickest application.

complete diy sunscreen spf 30-40

I am totally in love with this sun screen, and have had great results! Its smells great, feels great, repels that water for hours of fun.

Soft Garlic Pretzel Recipe

Garlic Soft Pretzels

Before you go forward, I am warning you now, this step by step soft garlic pretzel recipe has a lot of photos. Because making pretzels is way harder than I had ever imagined it would be! But in the end it was worth it and we had a lot of fun in the process. We tried to follow along to this recipe we found on Pinterest. And for those of you that aren’t serving a family of 6-8 people, you might want to cut this recipe in half. This recipe will yield 16 small-medium pretzels.

Ingreditents for garlic soft pretzels

Ingredients you’ll need:

For the dough
3 cups warm water (110-115° F)
2 tbsp. sugar
4 tsp. garlic salt
4.5 tsp. instant yeast
9 cups all-purpose flour
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for greasing the bowl
Large dose of patience

For finishing

Cooking spray
20 cups water
1-1/3 cup baking soda
2 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water
Garlic Salt salt
8 tbsp. melted butter

my boys

Here’s my crew reading through a few recipes to find just the right one.

starting the dough

For the dough, mix together sugar, water, garlic salt, and yeast with a hand mixer on low speed until all of your yeast has dissolved. I ran out of my small jar of yeast, and I started to panic. Then I remembered I’m a rockstar and buy odd things in insane bulk. Like yeast, why in the world do I have this amount of yeast? Um, I was worried about 12-21-12. Yep, I thought there was a chance the world may come to an end and buy lots and lots of yeast seemed like the right thing to do. There, I said it. Not my proudest purchase, but it came in handy today. And if any of my neighbors ever need some yeast, I got their back, for at least the next decade.

use plenty of flour
don't loose track of flour

Add your 9 cups of flour and try not to lose count. Do not pack your flour, scoop it lightly and do not exceed the top line of your measuring cup. This will help keep your dough light and fluffy as is bakes.

add some butter

Add your 4 tablespoons of melted butter. And begin to mix. I do not have a machine mixer so this particular step was long and tedious. Once I felt I had it mixed pretty well, I removed it from the bowl and kneaded it by hand on my counter top. (And its quite possible my pretzels may have had some subtle hues of jelly or ramen noodles based on that last minute audible.)

knead the dough
let dough rise

One you have it kneaded as smooth as possible, roll it into a ball and place it in a large bowl that is lightly greased with vegetable oil. Rub a bit of oil over your dough ball as well. Cover your dough with plastic wrap and let rise for an hour.

line trays with parchment paper

Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly dust them with cooking spray.

seperate into dough balls

Once your dough has risen, separate your dough into 16 equal size dough balls. This part was kind of hard when you have 4 little boys grabbing handfuls. This is where you turn to your large dose of patience. Save some for later as well.

boil water with baking soda

This step seemed odd to me, but I did it and that’s that. Bring your 20 cups of water and 1-1/3 baking soda to a boil.


have fun with dough
form pretzel shape

This next portion of pretzel making took a heck of a lot longer than I thought it would. Actually it probably took us about an hour to get our pretzels just right. Reason being was little hands have a harder time getting the dough rolled out into long strands. Ideally try and get your strands to at least 24 inches. I’d say we averaged about 20-22. So some of our pretzels we super fat. Still equally scrumptious, just thick.

pretzels are always perfect

I really loved seeing the wonky pretzels my kiddos formed. To me they were the true pretzel perfection.


The boys had such a hard time getting their dough in strands, at one point my oldest son just started swinging his around, which kind of worked as it stretched out a bit. But I do not recommend this method. If you get a little too wild with your swing, your dough will break in half. And then, game over. Gotta start again. And mom has to then consume another large dose of patience. But its ok to laugh, just don’t belly laugh because that could be easily confused with shenanigan encouragement.

boil pretzels before baking

Here’s what the water and baking soda is for… you boil your pretzels for about 30 seconds each and place them back on your baking sheets. They sort of expanded but not by much.

add garlic salt

Take the two beaten egg yolks and brush over your boiled pretzels and add some garlic salt.

bake at 450 for 10 minutes

Bake your pretzels at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes. We baked them for 10 minutes.

tasty garlic pretzels

And TADA!! Perfectly tasty soft garlic pretzels!

Soft garlic pretzels

With your remaining 8 tablespoons for butter, melt that down and add a few dashes of garlic salt for dipping! Of course you could also use cheese sauce, ranch, or something else you might like.






Parmesan Chicken Recipe‎

Chicken Parmesan Recipe

This is one of our all time favorites. Its simple and always a hit. My parmesan chicken recipe can be used to make chicken tenders as well as breaded eggplant or eggplant parmesan.

Chicken Parmesan Ingreditents

Ingredients for chicken:
Chicken Breast 1.5-2lbs defrosted
1/2 cup parmesan Cheese
1 cup of Italian bread crumbs
3 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil
1 egg

Cut chicken breast in half

Because I try and create budget friendly meals to feed my army, I tend to cut my chicken breast in half by width. I started doing this to eliminate food waste in my home. My younger kids have a hard time eating an entire piece, and it cooks much faster this way. I call that a double win! If you prefer to have a larger piece of meat, you can always pound your meat out to keep the time down. I also trim any excess fat.

Cut all your pieces and set aside to make your breading.

Bread crumbs, parmesan and one egg

For this recipe I used one cup of Italian bread crumbs and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese. You’ll need two separate bowls, one medium sized bowl for the breading and one small bowl for one egg.

bread crumbs, parm, salt and pepper

Combine your bread crumbs and cheese.

add salt and pepper and mix

Add salt and pepper to taste. I didn’t measure that part. Sorry folks.

Be sure to mash up all those cheese clumps that sneak their way into your breading. Mix it well so you keep that delicious flavor even to the taste buds. They’ll thank you periodically throughout your meal. Trust me. (wink and a handgun)

wisk egg and coat your chicken

Wisk your egg in the small bowl and give your pieces of chicken a well deserved egg wash. I feel like this could be the start of a cooking joke. What do you call a chicken who bathes in their own beaten egg…. And for anyone that comes up with an awesome punch line, I will reward you with a gift card to starbucks. Or a dozen fresh eggs, your pick.

add oil to sautee

Heat your olive oil on medium, be sure you have all the former steps ready. If you over heat your oil, you’ll ruin the flavor. AND you’ll smoke up your kitchen. I have only heard of these things. Its not like its happened to me or anything.


Turn when dark golden brown

Add your chicken to your heated oil and brown on both sides. I like mine to get a dark golden brown. Because once it starts to bake, it will seal in the juices and add some crisp. Once you get your chicken browning you can start in on your marinara.

Marinara sauce ingredients

Ingredients for Marinara sauce:
One 15 oz can of tomato sauce
One 6 oz can of tomato paste
Garlic power
Italian seasoning
Seasoned salt

Ok so this recipe here is the exact same thing I use for my pizza sauce, and dipping sauce for cheese sticks, and basically any other time I need marinara. However it is not my spaghetti sauce recipe. That is just a little different.

making marinara

Combine sauce and paste into a bowl. I didn’t measure the seasoning either but I’m going to give you some guesstimates. Roughly a 1/4 tsp of both garlic powder and seasoned salt. 1/2 tsp of Italian seasoning, and about an 1/8 tsp of paprika. Mix well. The reason I use the paste for this dish is because it keeps the breading from getting soggy when its baking. I use the entire can of paste. This is just what I’ve come up with over the years and found to work best on both chicken and eggplant parmesan. You can always be a sell out and just buy a can of marinara, but where’s the fun in that?!

add marinara to breaded chicken

Add a little of your sauce to each piece of chicken and top with shredded mozzarella cheese.

bake chicken parmesan for 15 minutes

Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

bake chicken parmesan for 15 minutes at 400

And there you have it! Mouth watering chicken parmesan. I would say the prep time for this was about 20 minutes. That includes the breading, browning, and the marinara. So you’re looking a 30-45 minute meal here. It took me a tad longer tonight because my camera man was running into some focusing issues. (My 10 year old son).

chicken parmesan made simple

If you try this recipe out, please let me know how it went! Also, if you come up with a killer punch line to my lame cooking joke… I am a woman of my word and will honor your reward!

Life Created Workshop

Not long ago I posted about an amazing urban goat farm I came across and visited. Well after immediately falling in love with the farm, I began to follow her unique story. Lylah is truly a giver, she gives to those she loves, she gives to her animals, she gives to her community, and now she has begun yet another giving adventure, she is giving to the creative spirits of the world. She has collaborated with many other talented local artists and makers to bring to all of us The Create Series . And as soon as I saw what she was doing, I knew I needed to be a part of it. With many of my own personal projects on the horizon I needed to be selective about which one I could attend. And with my endless love of learning and my passion for photography my choice was pretty clear. Introduction to food photography, put together simply and beautifully by Life Created. Stephanie is a natural light photography with a serious eye for still life and styling. I have also been following her through social media for quite some time now. I can appreciate the art in styling, and I am sure you all know that from all the collaborations I have done with my dear friend and designer Paige with The Love Designed Life . I knew I needed this food photography workshop for two reasons… 1: I love food and to create lovely inspiring recipes. 2: I have absolutely no game when it comes to styling or staging. Now to me, those are pretty vital pieces to the blogging pie I hope to master sometime this year. So here are some photos from the workshop. Stephanie did such an amazing job staging the table and covering all things necessary to show casing food and still life to the fullest. I will share a few things I picked up in the workshop, but encourage you aspiring photographers to take one of her workshops as well! I won’t give away all her secrets so hopefully that entices you to sign up with her soon, she fills spaces quickly!

Life Created Workshop

Life Created Food Photography Workshop

One of the key things I took away from her workshop is color. Keep it simple folks. Neutrals help allow the food or the entrée steal the show. Have some great go to props to include in your photos, ones that don’t shout out “look at me… I’m in like half the photos”. These things can be but are not limited to; napkins, wooden cutting boards, large bowls or plates, and serving ware.

Food Photography Workshop at The Simple Farm

Another key learning for me was not to over think it. Its ok to have a few short cuts. If you only have a few good looking berries, stuff something under them in the bowl to make it look like you have dozens of perfect berries spilling out of your quaint little vintage bowl. I know that seems like its not a huge “Ah Ha” moment. But for me it was. I can personally attest to not taking a picture because I thought I didn’t have enough of something. Ummm, hashtag PefectionistProblems!

Life Created Tablescape

The last take away I’d like to share with you all is be true to yourself. Don’t sit and compare yourself to others all the time. And please don’t just try and recreate what others have created before you. That of course makes so much sense to me as a portrait photographer, but what a thing to say when it comes to still life and food photography. Are there really that many ways to stage a bowl of strawberries? Yes, there are. And as a photographer every snap you share with others, you are sharing a bit of your creative passion. Be kind enough to be authentic with each and every thing you do. If you do that, you’ll do great. I hope you love the images and tips from this awesome workshop! There is always something that can be learned if you are willing to listen. I am so grateful to have attended this workshop and finally meet a photographer I have looked up to, and of course just be at The Simple Farm and see Lylah.

If you’d like to see what a portrait session looks like at The Simple Farm stop over at The Love Designed Life and check out my recent session with Paige and her family. They are expecting their third baby, and I am always blown away at Paige’s visions.

Share Six – May Theme – Floral

Share Six – May theme – Floral. This months theme kind of stumped me, at first I thought I would buy some flowers, stage them and take pretty pictures. But to be honest, I really didn’t want to buy flowers, because I really hate that they die. I like receiving flowers, but those die too. Then I thought, perhaps I will buy some flowers and plant them. And then I remembered all the times I have planted flowers, only to see them die. You get the idea here… flowers come to me to die. I am basically the flower reaper. As this was adding up in my mind, and not at all in a pretty way, I almost let the theme pass. (Kinda like how I dropped the ball on last months theme “Tasty”, I could have done a lot with that one too!) But I didn’t, and I am sure glad that I made it a point to participate.

I did not do all of my growing up in the desert. I spend my childhood years roaming my neighborhood playing hide and go seek or roller hockey amongst the most beautiful tree’s. The grass was green, there were four seasons, and flowers survived, everywhere. (Greeley, CO) It was grand. I have never really loved living in AZ. Its hot, like a lot. But now that I have become a photographer, I have finally learned to love the desert and its landscape. And certainly can appreciate the flora of the hot dry desert.

Just for fun, I have added my camera settings. All photos were shot with a canon 5D Markiii.

Jumping Cholla
100mm 2.8 Macro: F/2.8 1/100 ISO:1000

Fishhook cactus
50mm 1.2: F/2.8 1/2500 ISO:400

Palo Verde
100mm 2.8 Macro: F/2.8 1/100 ISO:1000

Jumping Cholla Blossum
100mm 2.8 Macro: F/2.8 1/125 ISO:1000

100mm 2.8 Macro: F/2.8 1/100 ISO:1000

Prickly Pear Cactus
100mm 2.8 Macro: F/2.8 1/60 ISO:3200

Here are some fun out takes from our family hike at San Tan Regional Park, that where I took these lovely desert photos.

Family Hike

Pot Roast Perfection

“Do I smell a  pot roast???” Any one seen Diary of a wimpy kid? Well this is a line off the movie, one that I hear anytime I am making a Pot Roast, Said by Brady.

A tried and true family favorite. And honestly one that is thoughtless and time saving. I have to admit, I don’t care for a lot of red meat. But if, and when I do decide to put it on the table for dinner… it’s often in the form of a roast. I have tried to make roast in many different ways. And of course, just as the coined phrase goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. This is the way I was taught to make a roast when I was a teen. It’s simple, tasty, and takes little time and attention.

Ingrediants to the perfect pot roast

Here’s what you’ll need:
A nice chuck or rump roast (Thawed)
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic Powder
Seasoned Salt
Black Pepper
Head of garlic
A few large carrots
A large sautéing pan
A large crock pot
Some beef stock

(These ingredients are major staples in my cooking: garlic powder, seasoned salt.)

So to get started add a few tablespoons of olive oil to your sauté pan and heat on medium high. Season the roast generously with the garlic powder and seasoned salt, and lightly dash some pepper. Be sure you do this to both sides of the roast and the edges. Add to your oil and brown both sides and all the edges. Browning is the key to a tastier, juicier, and all around better roast.

browning the pot roast

After you have given your roast a nice crusty brown layer, transfer to your crock pot and set aside. Chop up your carrots into bite size pieces, and separate your garlic cloves. I use the entire head of garlic. Using the remaining oil and season from browning your roast, toss in your carrots and garlic and sauté them until they are a nice golden color.

add carrots and garlic to the pot raost

Once you are done with the carrots and garlic, pour them over your roast. I like to pour the remaining oil over the roast too, waste not want not!

Perfect Pot Roast

I add two beef bouillon cubes and a cup of water to my crock pot and set in high temp. You could also just add a cup or two of beef stock. I usually cook on high for 5-7 hours. So I put my roast on in the mid morning.

A good rule of thumb is an hour for every pound of meat. The longer and slower, the better the meat is to fall right off the roast. And that my friends, is a perfect pot roast.

Perfect Pot Roast everytime

Some of my favorite sides to this delicious roast include, but are not limited too: potatoes, corn on the cob, cauliflower mash, and salad.

This Roast was served over my cheesy garlic and herb cauliflower mash. Pot Roast Perfection, always mouth watering goodness. Hope you enjoy, if you have a pot roast recipe you love please share in the comments!

Where I Stand

So it looks like there is a new sheriff in Town, Share Six. This is going to be replacing the previous photography group I was in called Project Ten. New group, new fresh ideas, I’m on board. This months theme was “Where I stand”, the title alone had my wheels spinning in so many different directions. If you know me personally, you know I have strong views on many matters. But aren’t always comfortable talking about them with people. Because, quite frankly, people get offended too easily these days. Having deep meaningful conversations happen few and far in between. Only because topics turn into debates, rather just listening to where someone else is coming from.

But don’t worry, I’m not going to really talk about debatable things. I’m just going to share with you Where I Stand in my parenting role. And how far I’ve come in accepting my place in my home. The struggle is real.

I never wanted to be a stay at home mommy. I can’t even recall thinking about motherhood and a family of my own at all growing up. I didn’t think about my dream wedding, prince charming, or the little house on the hill with a white picket fence. I thought about going to college, and having an awesome job that paid the big bucks. I thought of ways I would conquer the world. Be great at something, write a book, and eventually land on the couch of Oprah answering all her inquisitive questions on how I became such a great success. Add the dreamy full house music as you start to drift off and imagine it. Now snap out of it.

Well life didn’t happen that way. And that’s not a bad thing, it has just been a hard thing. So here’s where I currently stand. I left a great job making great money in 2011 to stay home with my five kids. I wasn’t happy in my overall career and felt like there was no “top” for me. The main reason was that I had a family. I just couldn’t move forward in my job with out traveling more, putting in more hours, and sacrificing activities for my kids in order have personal gain. It was the toughest decision I think I have ever had to make. I am not great (in my eyes) at being a domestic mom. I get mad, I get frustrated, I bark at my kids and even my husband when I get overwhelmed. I won’t pretend it was easier to manage adults than children but I will say its 100% different. And I didn’t know how to do it. I’m still learning that part. I often feel defeat because I’m not winning awards doing the laundry or cooking a delicious and healthy meal. I sometimes drown myself in feeling lonely because I hate that so many others seem to be loving this stay at home mommy life. I don’t hate them, I just do not relate. At least at work I had a sense of community. When our personal values were different, it didn’t matter we could relate to the job. Commonalities seem to be very important in the mommy world, or so I have come to find. I kick myself for not getting out there more and meeting other moms to combat that lonely feeling. I don’t because of all the mommy drama out there. There is plenty of it; from what we feed our kids, to how we raise them, to what school project we helped with (thanks to pinterest). I’m not that mom. Some of you may think “whatever crafty Martha wanna be” but let me explain. I don’t put my kids before everything. Don’t misunderstand me, I love my kids, and I would give my life for them in a heart beat. I just don’t do as much as the next mom. I don’t proof their homework, I don’t put their laundry in their drawers for them, I don’t make their breakfast or pack their lunches, I don’t volunteer to be at the school, and I certainly don’t enjoy curriculum nights. And mom’s out there getting it done and loving it, that’s awesome. You are truly a rockstar. I’m here to let all those other moms lurking in the shadows not volunteering to hang out with a class of 30 kids at the zoo in the blazing heat know that it’s ok, there’s another mom who will gladly step in. Do your thing, whatever that thing is. For me it’s working. If you see me doing a craft, it’s probably something I intend on selling. I tried to be that other mom, and it’s just not me. I tried to make cake pops for my sons class one year for a party, then the other kids wanted them as well. The next thing I knew I was making over 100 cake pops, something I had never done before, for a bunch of kids who would have been fine with a stick of gum instead. I wasn’t really making the cake pops for the kids, I was making them so all the other moms could see how cute they were.  Who was I trying to kid. I’m no baker. And if I am, its for my family. I have nothing to prove to the next mom.

I want to be a solid provider. It’s hard for me now to have an income. Having an income is very fulfilling to me. It makes me happy. Being a happy parent is also important.  I am still raising my kids, but just not the way I thought I should have been doing it. And that was a misconception of mine. I have a right to determine my style of parenting. It has been said “wow, you run a boot camp” and I often laugh it off. I don’t run a boot camp. I just stick to my word. I am firm about my rules. If I expect my child to do something, it better get done. There isn’t a lot of warning in my house when it comes to a consequence. They have, for the most part, come to know there are consequences to every action. And attitude is everything. Sounds like a scary house I know, but it really isn’t. We are a home filled with laughter, fart sounds, and funny memories. Just like the next house. I teach my kids to be independent, to be able to care from themselves at an appropriate age. (Mainly for my own sake, but also the value of the lesson for them.) An example, I teach my kids a few basic cooking skills right about the ripe old age of five. But I’m talking basic stuff, like toast, a sandwich, basic use of a kitchen knife, then as they are comfortable they move onto other things, and they usually tell me what they want to learn. I would say most of my kids could scramble an egg by the time they were six. Once I knew, they could make their own breakfast I stopped making it for them. Sure I occasionally get up and do it, but that is rare. More often than not they are making the occasion breakfast for me. My kids eat like Kings and Queens every morning. Eggs, bacon, toast, pan cakes, home made donuts, waffles, and oatmeal just to name a few. And they all task each other with an item and share in their feast. That’s just one example of how I feel I am empowering my kids. They do sometimes ask that I cook something for them and I agree.

I am just now finding my groove, accepting the fact that it’s ok to choose something for myself before putting that extra time into my kids school project or class party. My sanity is their sanity. I spend a lot of time with my kids. “Me time”  isn’t just important to me, its necessary for me. It’s fine to admit that staying home wasn’t my first choice. It’s ok that I am a dreamer. I hope that my kids grow up remembering how hard I worked to make that extra money that allows me to be home so I could get them where they need to be. I hope that they will recognize I wanted to give them life skills like gardening, raising animals, creating something, time management, and generosity. They know school matters, but I usually let the school handle it (if I need to step in then I do).

This is my youngest son Brooks, he is the one that has had the joy of having me home the most. He will start school in the fall. He is the one that hears me say, “ok we will play that as soon as I am done working”.

Dang Quesodilla

He is quite a character. He is five and hasn’t yet mastered making a quesadilla. But he can make a piece of toast, and a PB&J sandwich. He loves getting a “mocha” from starbucks, which is a kids milk with a splash of vanilla, he prefers no ice, that way he can mix the whip cream once he drinks most of the milk. He loves to go to QT and has just recently discovered that there are more than the two where we live. It was a pretty monumental Ah Ha moment for him.

Playing Monopoly

He is good about finding something to do while I get my editing done, or I’m working on a new post, or I’m sewing something. He loves board games, although he doesn’t really play them. He mainly goes through the motions with the dice and enjoys it just the same.

Playing with his Wild Cards

He is a lover of learning. He is kindergarten ready! He knows his ABC’s, counts to 100 repeatedly throughout the day. Loves to tell me he loves me, and loves to give me snuggles. This is how I know whatever parenting style I’ve chosen, its working out ok.

If you like this awesome set of wild cards you can find them on Etsy Here by Taylor Town Design. She is a local artist I found on instagram. And I just love her creative set of alphabet cards!

Lavender Love Maternity Session.

As promised, the images from the beautiful maternity session that inspired my DIY Flower Crown. This lavender love maternity session was a vision I had when thinking of my dear friends maternity session. When she found out she was pregnant she began to plan her maternity and newborn session together. And called me to help her share her new adventure with all her loved ones.

We have been friends for a long time. We met long ago when we both became mothers far sooner than planned. Immediately we became friends and we often supported each other in young single motherhood. We actually met volunteering at a youth center for young mothers, giving support and advice to other young mothers. (I’ll save those stories for another day.)

She has recently found Mr. Right, who is not just her Prince Charming, but truly her Mr. Right. She is now newly married and starting motherhood all over again, after all these years. I knew the moment she enlisted me to be the one to document this journey, I needed to make it extra special. I had visions of glamour, rich colors, femininity, and elegance. You can find the tutorial of this beautiful DIY Flower Crown HERE

So please enjoy these images of my dear friend ready to start in New Motherhood… again. She is so lovely that I just. Can’t. Even.

Once her sweet baby girl arrives, I will share the end of my creative inspirations and craftiness.

Flower Crown Maternity Session

Purple Flower Crown and Purple maternity dress

Handmade Maternity dress and Flower Crown