Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Homemade taco seasoning mix {recipe}

We eat a lot of Mexican food in our house. 

Nachos, quesadillas, enchiladas, and our favorite...


I found the following recipe about 6 years ago online (before Pinterest, gasp!) and it makes homemade tacos simply the BEST. I saved it to my desktop in a word document so I don't have a clue what site I found it on. If you know where it originated, please leave the link. I would love to thank the person who came up with it!

All-Natural Taco Seasoning Mix
This seasoning mix is the secret behind terrific tacos whatever the filling — ground beef, chicken, turkey, even sautéed veggies.

Makes about 3/4 cup
·  4 tablespoons chili powder

·  2 tablespoons onion powder

·  2 tablespoons garlic powder

·  1 tablespoon natural brown sugar

·  1 tablespoon arrowroot (this one was tricky to find. Try a health food store or local spice store)

·  2 tablespoons ground cumin

·  4 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste

·  4 teaspoons paprika

·  4 teaspoons dried oregano

·  1–3 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Stir all ingredients together and store in an air-tight container until ready to use.

Now that you're in the mood for cooking, I'll share my favorite way to make taco meat using this yummy seasoning...

Start by sauteing one whole chopped onion in some olive oil.

Get 'em nice and brown, then push them to the sides of the pan to make room for your thawed ground beef.

Sorry, I can't bare to take pics of raw fast forward >>>>

Once the meat is browned, drain the extra grease.

Sprinkle your homemade taco seasoning mix (about 1-2 Tablespoons?)

Once you mix it all together you can totally STOP here.

But, if you like some extra color and flavor....

Mix in some drained and rinsed canned corn (maybe 1 cup?).

Add some drained and rinsed canned black beans (maybe 1 cup?).

Mix it all together and voila!

Delicious taco meat to stuff your flour or corn tortillas with. 

You're family will thank you. 

Trust me.


Monday, August 27, 2012

A week snapshot...

On top of Greg working 14-16 hours every day last week, here's a quick snapshot of the past seven days on the home-front:

Monday: Sore from the Amazing Race. Like, the kids barely brushed against my shins and I wanted to cry.

Tuesday: Still sore. Managed to take the kids to an enclosed space where they can climb and slide and run while I sit the whole time. It's called the mall playground. Life-saver I tell ya.

Wednesday: Finally feeling like I can walk without a limp. Meanwhile, the kids decided to fight over every single toy in our house. The baby stroller, the legos, the blocks, the paper towel tube that we turned into a "trumpet". Does it matter? Took them to a park to burn some energy in hopes that they would forget what toys are.

Thursday: Even more fighting over toys. Pretty sure I threatened to donate ALL our toys at least 6,923 times. Took the fighting siblings to another park--not for them but for me. I needed some clean, fresh air.

Friday:Started the day with a nice and relaxing play-date at yet another park. Thought this day would be smooth. Nope. More fights, disciplining, and tantrums throughout. Then at 7:35pm Kensie felt impelled to throw a wooden truck toy close range at Mason's head. Blood streaming down his crying chubby face. Once I got him cleaned up enough to reveal how tiny the cut was, I decided he wouldn't need to visit the ER for stitches. I still feel bad at how I screamed at Kensie.

Saturday: I was mentally and physically exhausted. Almost zero patience with my kids. Missing my hubby like crazy. Just needing a break from LIFE at this point. Thankfully a sweet couple from our Sunday School class invited us for a boat ride and dinner date (pre-planned with two other couples). Long story short, I found a babysitter last minute (I would have sooner but with Greg's schedule I wasn't banking on even going). Greg rushed home from work just in time so we could have a few uninterrupted hours together (without kids!). It was lovely. Just holding hands and walking the pier. Bumping knees on the boat ride. Laughing with friends. SO needed.

Sunday: We went to church separately. Greg went to first service, and myself and the kids went to second service--we passed each other briefly in the hallways. Followed by more work in the afternoon (for Greg), then he rushed home so I could attend a baby shower with some former college teammates of mine. Again, with NO kids. Although there were other kids there, I felt FREE as a bird! It was definitely refreshing.

Taking pictures are good for recording. But writing is good for actually remembering. 
{Wow. Just had a light bulb moment there.}

They did have SOME sweet moments of giggling and fun last week.

I feel much more prepared and refreshed to start this week. But, sometimes a girl's gotta vent.

Thanks for staying tuned in my friends. And being okay with a little venting now and then.

It's healing.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Amazing Race 2012

Where do I even begin???

This race was truly amazing...and truly exhausting.

I wish I could tell you every detail of our two-day adventure. The places we got to see, the things we got to do and the memories we made as a team. It's incredible how much we did in such a short amount of time.

All I know is team RED had




We solved over 45 clues in just two days. 
This was TWICE the amount from the race in Chicago.

There were also different "challenges" along the way . 

Some had to be completed by the whole team--like the zip line course. 

Some of the challenges were individual. Like this one...

Greg had to jump in and retrieve a clue that was tied to a rusted pipe underwater.

He didn't even hesitate.

My husband is awesome.

This next one was a picture challenge. We had to find a specific road sign and take a pic with 2 of our teammates in it. ..

This was not the correct sign btw--whoops!
We usually went into the challenges with NO idea about what we were going to do. Meaning, you couldn't always  line up your "best player" so to speak. Plus, we had to always rotate--meaning you couldn't have one person do 2 challenges in a row. Make sense?? 


Some challenges were two-person. Like when Greg pulled me in a wagon around a softball diamond blindfolded. That was fun...and funny looking!

Here's another individual challenge. Nik eating two HUMONGOUS pasties from a restaurant. 
(He actually enjoyed every bit and finished the whole plate in 10 minutes flat)....

And I didn't mind dressing up like Goldie Locks to run around a Bear Farm looking for clues...

But the ultimate physical challenge....

The one we hoped wouldn't be too hard.

The one we NEEDED to close the gap on some teams ahead of us.

The challenge said something like, 

"Pick 2 teammates by water and 2 teammates by land to retrieve your next clues"

We could visibly see rowboats down on the water, so we decided as a team to send the boys by "water" thinking they would have the harder task. Us girls set off down the trail on foot guessing that we'd be hiking or running somewhere close-by.

We then got our specific clue to tell us where we were going. 

"Follow the blue trail to the Upper Falls"

Jamie and I sprinted down the boardwalk trail for maybe 200 feet and that's when we saw it. 
The sign that said,


Ummm, boy did we RUN...

and RUN

and RUN.

This was not a nice smooth, flat trail either. About 90% of it was full of tree roots that stuck up a couple inches. I was certain one us was going to roll an ankle (we didn't). We just kept running and running. There were hills, stairs, and winding trails only 5 inches wide at times. It felt NEVER ENDING. We ran for a good solid hour.

I've never pushed myself so hard. 

In my whole life.

And Jamie and I just kept encouraging each other. We were determined to pass the teams in front of us.

And we DID!

When we finally saw Greg standing at the opening of the trail ahead of us I almost started crying my eyes out. I thought we were never going to get out of that forest.

And this was the picture right after that insane run where we got our next clue....

We ended up falling behind after this point in the overall race, but that was definitely my #1 Amazing Race highlight. Hands down.

Other things we did but I didn't get pictures of:
- I shot a gun. A real live gun people. We all got to shoot at a clay pigeon as one of the team challenges.
- Nik ate 75% of a fish he caught RAW. No lie.
- Jamie and Greg kayaked out on a lake to find a clue in the middle of the water.
- Nik dislocated a rib trying to get a Nutrigrain bar in the back of the van. Also not kidding.
- We played disc golf as a team on the hardest course ever with the worst plastic frisbee ever. Don't ask what our score was.
- Jamie did one of the fastest memory challenges I've ever seen.
- There were so many beautiful lookouts and beaches we saw (for very brief moments that is).

Team RED placed 5th overall in the race. But, we were all so proud of ourselves for never giving up, and having (mostly) good attitudes throughout. What a great experience to have with good friends!

If you EVER hear of one in your area, get yourself signed up!

It's one of the best experiences you will ever have. Seriously.


I was finally able to upload a clip from the race after I posted this.

We were often unsure of our whereabouts. This clip is a perfect example...

We ended up going exactly where the next clue was. It was just a LONG drive through the middle of nowhere.

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's time for the Amazing Race again!

There is a lot of excitement over here these days...

We will be competing in our second Amazing Race this weekend!

We competed 2 years ago and had such a blast! It was held in Chicago. Read about it HERE.

I had also just found out I was pregnant with Mason a week before the I guess you could say Mason was there too!

The Chicago Race was so physically exhausting! I think it was harder than any volleyball tourney I've ever played in or any track work-out I've ever done. Seriously the hardest athletic competition of my life. Two solid days of racing around downtown Chicago in 100*+ weather, on foot, carrying all our belongings. We guzzled water all day long and still felt dehydrated by the end of each day. I think we were all sore for the next 4 days straight. Seriously, so TIRING. I'm sure it didn't help that I was pregnant either. 


This year the race is held in the upper part of Michigan.  It's called the UP (that stands for "Upper Peninsula"  for my non-Michigan friends).

Basically this whole part of the state...

Instead of being on foot the whole race we are allowed to drive our own vehicle. This is good news because there is not much civilization in this part of MI. It's known for it's beauty, hiking, waterfalls, and campgrounds....but you won't be seeing any large cities in these parts. Just lots of trees and wild animals.

We are so excited for another chance to race with our good friends Nik and Jamie! It will be a totally different kind of race than last time but we are ready for anything!

The race starts Saturday at 7:00am and ends Sunday evening. 

Wish us luck! I'll update next week how it all went!

GO Team RED!


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Stools + Online shopping mistake = Sewing

We got new stools a while ago but forgot to mention it here on the blog!

I found the idea here...

And here's the ones we got...

I bought them online HERE
(This was not my online shopping mistake. Keep reading...)

I'm so happy with them. We previously had only two stools and there was never enough room for everyone to sit at the counter. Plus these have adjustable legs so we can raise them up for the little ones and lower them for the adults! They're sturdy, safe, and CHEAP...which is always a priority around here.

Now for my mistake...

I ordered a bunch of fabric online for a quilt for Kensie's big girl room. Most of the fabric was exactly what I ordered. However, two of the prints were LAMINATED FABRIC. Never heard of it?! Well you can't make a quilt out of it, that's for sure! It's got a shiny, waterproof coating on top. I bought FOUR yards of this stuff and couldn't return any of it.

After researching online for a bit I discovered there are LOTS of things you can make with it.  Tablecloths, totes, aprons, and raincoats to name a few.

I watch a little girl one day a week while her mommy goes to work. She's exactly a month younger than Mason. I've always been lacking an extra seat for her when lunch time comes. It's a game of musical high chairs. One child quickly eats while the other cries, and then they flip-flop. Or I feed one in the high chair while one eats off the floor like a puppy dog. Basically its a lunchtime nightmare. Lots of panic eating and crying.


New stools {PLUS} my need for an extra high chair {PLUS} laminated fabric

Then I found this.

And that's what I made with my laminated fabric!

Seating problem solved and fabric used!

The tutorial used basic cotton fabric. I think the laminated is even better. It wipes clean in a jiff and won't leave stains on such a pretty print.

Pardon my long-winded story for such a simple craft!

What else should I make with the three yards I have left?



For tips on sewing and taking care of your laminated fabric click HERE.
(P.S.- the fabric I used is from Amy Butler--"Love" fabric line.)


linking up to:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Basement phase 4 {moving the electrical box}

Here's where I left you last time I mentioned our basement renovation...

Basement {phase 3}

This view is from the bottom of the basement stairs.

Our plan is to turn this large open area into a playroom/ TV/ hangout room. The space to the right (behind those beams) will be a storage/ laundry room area.

Here's the problem:

You can't really have a safe and functional playroom with an electrical box right at the bottom of the stairs.

So, we decided to move it to a safer location (in the soon to be "storage/ laundry room")

My sister and brother-in-law stayed with us over the weekend to help with this tricky project--because we're amateurs when it comes to electrical work, and because we love having them stay with us! Win-win.

Basically this is what they (Dave and Greg) did...

Essentially they removed the old box, and put a new one up in the storage room...

Easy enough, right?!

Greg and Dave working their electrical magic!

Ummm, it wasn't QUITE that least not without some major bumps in the road.

This was my FB status on Tuesday:

"Soooooo moving an electrical box is a bigger headache than we thought:

- Two days of hard work followed by a failed inspection.
- A failed inspection means the city won't reconnect your electricity.
- Not having electricity is forcing us to be VERY creative.
- Being creative means borrowing generators, lanterns, and the neighbor's laundry machines.

I guess you could say we're living the Amish dream right now :)"

Yep, that sums it up.

Greg was able to fix some mistakes for a second inspection...

And after borrowing a generator for a whopping FOUR days (thanks Nik and Jamie!) 

we finally passed our second electrical inspection!

Some observations:

1. My breakfast every morning requires TWO appliances--coffee maker and toaster. 

2. Bath time in candlelight is kinda fun!

3. Eating out was an easy excuse all week, but I am definitely feeling more sluggish and sleepy as a result.

4. We have awesome and incredibly generous neighbors.

5. Moving an electrical box is like solving a puzzle. A really hard puzzle with roadblocks and occasional booby-traps.

6. We played outside a LOT more than normal this week. 

7. Generators run on gasoline. About 10 gallons of gas will generate electricity for roughly 24 hours. Gas these days costs a LOT. We used the generator for four days. You do the math.

8. I felt incredibly helpless with this project, but more patient than I expected. I just tried to be Greg's cheerleader.

9. My husband is my superhero.

Let's hope the hardest part is now over!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Church softball

Another season of church softball has ended.

We were able to go to most games this year.

Going and actually watching are two different things.

But, we were there.

And that's what means the most to Greg.

I do love my man in a good lookin' uniform. 

Especially those pants.