Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

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I was introduced to these muffins a few years ago while visiting some sweet friends in Atlanta. I recently remembered them and tracked down the recipe! While I was unpacking yesterday, my mother-in-law whipped up a batch! The house smelled amazing! I was in denial about the outside temperature (88 degrees) and just pretended it was fall. I’m not a pumpkin-a-holic (no PSL for me) but I sure do love pumpkin-based baked goods! These came out of the oven just as my husband was returning home from work! Kya greeted him in the backyard with a warm muffin of his own while she devoured hers, covering herself in chocolate! Do yourself a favor and bake up a batch of these delicious muffins! I hope your weather is more fall-like than ours!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients

3 cups granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin

2/3 cup water

3 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

Instructions

Mix together the sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin, and water. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Combine the wet and dry mixtures. Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips (regular or mini). Pour batter into greased muffin tins filling each section 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, checking with a toothpick for doneness.

You can also make these into mini muffins, mini loaves, or regular loaves. Adjust bake time accordingly. I kept some out for this week and threw the rest in the freezer for later! This recipe makes a bunch!

How to Dress a Toddler on the Cheap

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Clothing a child feels like a full-time job sometimes. The minute you think her wardrobe is set, she grows some more! This is why I can’t bring myself to pay high prices for what my toddler wears, knowing that in a few short months the clothes will find their home in a clear plastic bin, awaiting future children. Also, I simply can’t afford high-priced clothing! But I don’t want my tight budget to keep me from dressing my child well. I value quality, comfort, and simple, timeless styles. And who doesn’t love dressing and accessorizing an adorable mini-human?!?!

I don’t think there will be anything revolutionary or earth-shattering about this post, but I’m asked a lot about how I save on children’s clothes so I’m here to tell you! I’m talking today about children’s clothes specifically, but many of these principles apply to shopping for adult clothes too. As I think about my methods for finding good deals, these eight things come to mind.

1. Frequently check clearance racks.

Before having my child, I had a rule for myself: “Don’t check clothing racks unless you’re looking for a specific item.” I used to get sucked into clothes shopping and would often end up buying things I didn’t truly need. This rule does help me as an individual, but I have found that it’s not practical when trying to clothe a child (who’s constantly growing) on a budget. You know how you always find things when you’re not looking for them and you can’t find what you need when you’re purposefully on the lookout (did that make sense)? I make a habit of checking clearance racks every single time I’m in or near my favorite stores. For example, I’m in Target weekly. As I’m doing my regular shopping, I quickly pop over to the baby/toddler clearance and take a peak. I have scored many deals (often on the next season’s items) by faithfully checking these racks. I consistently come away with items for between $2.00-$5.00 each. Our Old Navy is across town, so anytime I’m in that area, I try to make time to stop in and browse the racks. I purposefully don’t look through the entire store. Just the clearance. Old Navy has the best clearance racks out there in my experience. I rarely pay over $5 for an item of baby clothing there and often I pay less. Just a couple weeks ago, I stopped in at Old Navy and took 10 minutes to comb through the kids clearance rack and found a skirt and a pair of shoes for $3.44 total. Yes, you read that right! Those kind of deals aren’t a rarity if I’m faithful about checking.

2. Take advantage of extra-percent-off clearance.

Old Navy, Baby Gap, Carter’s and even Target occasionally offer extra discounts on top of their already reduced clearance. I am unsure of their schedules but I know that places like the Krazy Coupon Lady share all kinds of sale schedules. I’m not into intense couponing or heavily researching sales, but there is a lot of info out there if you’re interested. I find that being a consistent shopper is easier and more beneficial than tracking all the coupons and deals specifically. All of that makes my head spin! Target’s extra discounts usually come through their Cartwheel app. It seems like every couple of months they offer an extra 20% off clearance prices to clean out the previous season’s merchandise. Combine the already low prices with an extra amount off, and you can snag clothing items for a few dollars each! Old Navy and Baby Gap also occasionally offer an extra 30-40% off their clearance prices. In addition, Old Navy and Baby Gap (and maybe others) allow you to earn “cash” (depending on how much you spend) to use on future purchases (during specified dates). I recently spent $40 on baby clothes at Old Navy (all clearance of course) and I earned $10 in cash to use on a $25 purchase this week!

3. Buy a season ahead.

This probably goes without saying. I think every mama reading my post does this to some extent. It can be tricky to gauge what size your child might be by the time the next season hits. Sometimes it’s a guessing game. If you’re really unsure about whether or not a very summery item (such as a swimsuit) or very wintery item (such as a snow coat or boots) will fit your child during the next season, opt out. You’re not saving money if your child can’t wear it. But if it’s super, super cheap, it might be worth the risk! Especially if you can re-sell it to a friend or at a consignment sale in the event it doesn’t work. When buying a season ahead, I like to stick to multi-seasonal items. Three-quarter length shirts, lightweight sweaters, leggings, basics, and non-season-specific shoes are great things to stock up on for the next size because your child can get use out of them for at least 3/4 of a year (depending on your location’s climate). That way you’re not locked into guessing sizes for very season-specific items.

4. Be patient.

I often want to snag that adorable, must-have piece of clothing the moment it hits the clearance rack. But I know (especially with Target) that the item will likely be discounted further before too long. So sit it out. Especially if you frequent the store (aka Target – because I know you mamas live there just like I do)! At the end of the spring, I purchased a ton of toddler leggings at Old Navy for $0.47 or $0.97 each! I was at Old Navy two weeks ago and saw some toddler leggings on the clearance rack for about $3.00/pair. Now that’s still a great deal, but because of my past experience I’m going to wait it out and see if those prices drop this week! Being patient comes with the risk that the items you’re waiting for might sell before they hit the price you’re looking for. So if you find something you “can’t live without” go ahead and snag it before someone else does! Paying a few extra dollars is often worth it if you love it.

5. Stick to (mainly) versatile and classic pieces.

About 80% of my clothing purchases for my daughter would fit under the “versatile” umbrella. Neutrals, solids, stripes, cardigans, basic white onesies or shirts, a myriad of leggings and jeans, neutral outerwear, and items that can be mixed and matched really stretch the budget. But I do love to throw in an occasional less practical, less versatile piece just for the fun of it. There are so many cute prints out there! But I make them the exception rather than the rule. Accessorizing is the best (and often cheapest) way to incorporate spunk, color, and personality into your child’s wardrobe. Headbands, hair clips, tights, socks, and hats are generally cheaper than actual clothing pieces and they pack a punch!

6. Buy cheap on the whole and spend in the gaps.

I make it a point to start gathering the next season’s clothing by shopping strictly clearance at first. Once the season comes and you have stocked up on quite a few pieces on the cheap, go through what you have and write down a list of things you need to make the wardrobe complete. I have gathered a good portion of my daughter’s fall and winter wardrobe over the last 4-ish months. I have purchased a lot of leggings, jeans, a few sweaters, a jacket, some shoes, and some headbands. I am getting ready to write out a list of the items I need to fill in her wardrobe and make it complete. When I specifically write down these filler items I can be sure I’m spending my bigger (non-clearance) dollars on just what I need. I went online this past weekend and was able to fill in the gaps a bit while Old Navy was running their Labor Day sale. I scored 11 items for $60. Not dirt cheap (in my book) but it came out to $5.45/item and included a bunch of long-sleeved tees, a couple of fall dresses, a tunic sweater, and some dresses and play clothes for next summer.

7. Don’t forget online shopping.

Online shopping has become a life-saver in the recent past, especially since becoming a mom. We all love how easy it is to hop online during nap time and find and order what we need without loading up a child or children in the car and spending unnecessary hours hauling them around to various stores. I love a good, in-person shopping experience and being able to personally handle items before purchasing. But companies make it so easy to buy online and return (either online or in person) that the risk attached to online shopping is little to none. Old Navy, Baby Gap, Carter’s, etc. often run really great online sales, sometimes even offering free shipping! I think the best time for online sales are around holidays. Last spring, I stocked up for Kya’s current fall wardrobe during an online sale that Carter’s/Oshkosh was having. They offered an extra 40% off clearance items plus free shipping if you bought something from each store. I ended up scoring eight fall items (jeans, sweaters, shirts) for under $30! I’m also a huge fan of the Target Redcard which allows you free shipping on any amount. So it’s no big deal for me to order a bunch of clothes online and return what doesn’t work in-store!

8. Stick to your style.

 In clearance shopping, just like all shopping, I need to love the item I’m purchasing. It’s easy to throw an item in your basket just because it’s dirt cheap.  That’s always been a temptation for me. But if you don’t love it and you won’t use it, don’t buy it. Buy items that coordinate with things you already own. I’ve shopped for my 15-month old enough to know what stores I like and don’t like. I stick to these five main stores – Old Navy, Target, H&M, Carter’s, and Baby Gap. Target is the most convenient brick and mortar store for me. I’m there weekly (sometimes bi-weekly, ya hear me?!). They’ve just launched a new line of kids clothes called Cat and Jack. You guys, the pieces are ADORABLE. They’re the perfect blend of classic and hip. And the prices are really affordable, even at full price (but I still wait for sales). Our Old Navy is about a 20-minute drive but I’m in that area enough to stop in quite frequently. It’s probably my #1 store for kids clothes. Their style correlates with Baby Gap but the prices fit my budget! I also adore H&M’s style but I find that their retail prices are generally a bit more than I’m willing to pay (except for their basics). But they regularly fill their clearance racks and mark down most items to $3, $5, or $7 dollars. I have found many super-stylish clothing items there for mere dollars if I’m patient enough! I have a love-hate relationship with Carter’s. We don’t have one nearby but of course, many stores carry their brand. In recent months, I’ve noticed that they’ve been offering more classic-looking pieces than years ago. I pick and choose through Carter’s selection, gravitating toward items that emulate Old Navy or Gap’s style. They do offer a lot of great staple pieces, specifically onesies. Sticking to your style saves time because you won’t waste it at stores you don’t love. But sticking to your style also saves money because you’ll get the most use out of items you love!


Speaking of items I love, I wanted to finish up this post with links to a few of my current favorite shops!

Over the last few months, I’ve started purchasing bows from Zozu Baby. I have tried to stick to the most basic of their pieces and have found that they coordinate with my daughter’s outfits across the board. They aren’t cheap, so my first purchase was made with some of Kya’s birthday money. Then Zozu Baby ran an end-of-season sale and I was able to get bows for at least 50% off! Worth the wait. I’m in love with their products!

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve shared The Little Doe products quite a few times. We LOVE their moccasins. They retail for $15/pair (which is a great deal already) but often run $12.50/pair! My daughter was a very early walker and these moccasins were some of the first shoes she wore. They fit well and stayed on her tiny little feet. I just snagged a couple more pairs for the fall/winter over the Labor Day weekend. Follow “thelittledoebaby” on Instagram or “The Little Doe” on Facebook to stayed updated on deals!


I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. It was fun to write! I welcome your tips and tricks for getting great deals on stylish baby/toddler clothes. Please share! I don’t claim to be an expert or to totally have my act together in this area! I honestly just have so much fun dressing my little girl so I’ve adopted a budget-friendly way to do so!

Wednesday Afternoon Ramblings

We purchased our first home in July of 2012 after renting a home for the first 1.5 years of our marriage. It was one of the first homes we looked at and I knew it was THE ONE the moment I walked inside. Love at first sight. It was a tiny bit above our budget, but adding $50/month to our mortgage seemed doable for this absolutely adorable little home. It was brand new and the perfect size for us – 3 bed/2 bath and 1,234 square feet (what a nice, sequential set of numbers). The small, manicured lawn was ideal. It gave us enough space but required little maintenance. The spring after we moved in Daniel built me a 4×10 raised bed for gardening. I would not consider myself a green thumb, but with some good soil and a little care, we have grown some delicious vegetables each year!

Because our home was brand new, it was (and still is) mostly neutral. The walls (and ceilings – why???) are a warm tan color and the cabinets are a dark, oak stain throughout. The carpet, tile, and linoleum are also neutral. It has been nice in some ways, because I have been able to add various colors through decor without changing the paint. But I’m also really looking forward to choosing paint colors for our next home. The only room we painted in this house was Kya’s nursery. We used a light, cool gray on her walls and painted the ceiling a bright, flat white. You can see her nursery here.

Our current place is definitely not my dream home, but it’s been a fantastic first home for us. Our dream home would be a craftsman bungalow with four bedrooms, two baths, hardwood floors, a fireplace, chunky white moldings, a custom kitchen (built by my husband, of course), adequate garden space, and a charming front porch. Oh and a bonus would be a basement playroom. I grew up with one and it was AH-MAZING! I have never wanted a huge home because we like to live on the minimalistic side. Something around 2,000 square feet sounds perfect to us. We’ll see what the future holds, but for now we dream.

When we move, we will be temporarily renting and hopefully buying again in the spring. We’re thankful to be making a good amount of equity off our current home (thanks to the amazing seller’s market) but we’re scared at the prospect of a more expensive housing market in SLC. Our goal is to buy a fixer upper. It’s always been a dream of ours to personalize a space through renovation. My husband is a master woodworker and I love design (I actually studied it in college). Having such a neutral pallet in our current home and knowing we would be moving forced me to not put too much time, effort, and money into it. We can’t wait to put our own stamp on our next home! For now, I’m keeping those Pinterest boards full of fresh inspiration.

Over the last month, I’ve been slowing taking things off my plate to allow myself time to pack and prepare to move. It has been a really good thing because I haven’t yet felt stressed about packing! My goal has been to pack a few boxes each day during the week. With a toddler in the house, sometimes all I have is 15 minutes here and there. But it all adds up! We have made LOTS of headway and I feel ahead of the game. This past weekend, Daniel and I worked together and got a lot more done. We took everything off the walls, removed screws and nails, cleaned out the attic, and arranged the garage. I am NOT looking forward to patching all the holes in the walls. Anyone want to volunteer??? I am the kind of person who regularly cleans things out. That practice has definitely paid off because I don’t feel overwhelmed with the amount of stuff we’re having to pack. I do still have a giant pile of items to get rid of or sell. Moving really makes you double-think-through what’s vital and what’s not.

I haven’t been as faithful as I should have been about pulling out my big girl camera this summer. I actually got a new camera (Canon 6D) and a new lens (Tamron AF 28-75 mm f/2.8)! I have done quite a few photoshoots for other families and in turn haven’t always had my camera out for day-to-day happenings at home. But here are a few photos I took over the last few months. They are reminders of precious moments spent at home during our last summer in Oregon.

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Oven-Baked Caramel Corn

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I’m sick and can’t do much by way of packing (hello, moving in 3 weeks!!!) so I’m finally getting around to blogging this favorite recipe of ours. On Sunday night, I came down with a fever, aches, headache, sore throat, and all that jazz. Bleh. I laid on the couch all day yesterday and watched show after show after show on HGTV and Food Network. I didn’t fix healthy meals (good thing Little Caesars is down the road), my daughter ate the whatever took the least effort, and I sent my husband to the grocery store for sickness essentials like orange juice and frozen yogurt bars. I absolutely crashed on the couch after Daniel came home from work with the worst body aches and headache. I felt like I got hit by a truck. Today is a tiny bit better. I have some energy but still have a fever, sore throat, and clogged head. I’m hoping this passes quickly! There is SOOOOO much to do around here!

I was introduced to this recipe shortly after we were married (almost six years ago). A lady in our church made this caramel corn and my husband raved about it so we asked for the recipe. I have never been a huge popcorn or caramel corn fan, though I eat it on occasion. But I have to say that this stuff is really good. Give it a shot! It’s easy, very inexpensive, and a crowd pleaser. It would be a great addition to any backyard BBQ, labor day picnic, or late-night movie session. It would also make a great gift during the holidays!

Oven-Baked Caramel Corn

Ingredients

1 cup popcorn kernals (trust me, this will FILL your pan)

2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

½ cup light corn syrup

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. vanilla

Directions

Pop corn and put in large greased turkey roasting pan (I like to buy a disposable one with a lid). Melt butter over low heat in medium saucepan. Add brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Turn heat up to medium and stir with wooden spoon until mixture comes to a boil. Set timer for 5 minutes and boil without stirring. Remove from heat and quickly add vanilla and baking soda. Stir well—mixture will turn a lighter color and start foaming. Pour over popcorn and toss well. Bake @ 250 for 1 hour—stir every 15 minutes. Pour out onto wax paper and spread to cool. Store in airtight container.

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Coastal Birthday + New Way of Doing Coffee

My birthday happened to fall on a Friday this year (woot!) which is my husband’s day off. For the majority of the summer he has taken almost no days off, so actually having a day off to spend together ON my birthday was pretty much amazing. Numerically speaking, this birthday was one of those not-so-cool ones. 29. Not a cool quarter century like 25. But not the big 3-0 yet, which will involve something super spectacular I’m sure (candid hint). Just 29. I honestly don’t feel a day over 25 and many people mistaken me for a 20-year old (until they see me toting my baby around). I’ll take it! As much as I’d love to believe I’ll be in my 20s forever, 30 is just around the corner and I’m going to have to just embrace it.

I opened my birthday gift from Daniel first thing after waking up. He purchased me something I’ve had on my Amazon wish list for quite some time – an AeroPress coffee and espresso maker (grammar/spelling nerd note: Espresso is spelled with an S not an X. Please pronounce it accordingly).🙂 A close friend has been raving about hers for quite some time and sent me info and tutorials about it months ago. I was very interested in it, but I wasn’t sure if I should commit to a standard french press or this new-fangled AeroPress thing. Aside from the fact that it’s the most highly rated french press on Amazon, what won me over was this article that Lyndsay Gugger posted on her drop-dead gorgeous blog. I’ve never made a better cup of coffee at home! Even my husband (who is a staunch non-coffee-drinker) asked me to make him a cup yesterday and he liked it. Shock of all shocks. I have been wanting to upgrade my coffee game for a while and this was a perfect and inexpensive way to do so. It’s very quick and easy and oh so delicious. You’ll find one here on Amazon.

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The temps yesterday were predicted to reach 108 DEGREES here at home, so Daniel decided we should head out of town for the day to escape. Great plan. I think it ended up reaching about 104, so not as hot as they said, but still. Hot is hot. We headed to the coast at about 10:00 after stopping at Starbucks to grab my free birthday drink. I love love love coffee but I always gravitate toward a chai tea latte at Sbux. I even got it hot (gasp!) because I just love a hot drink in the morning no matter the weather. I even shared a few sips with hubby (how kind of me).

We only live one hour from the coast. I have been probably six or seven times over the last six years, but that doesn’t seem like enough when we live so close! The weather out there can be a little hit and miss depending on the time of year. We’ve gone plenty of times when it’s cold, windy, and foggy. Not ideal because you can’t even see the ocean in weather like that.

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But yesterday we hit the jackpot as far as weather was concerned. My husband has lived in Oregon is entire life (31 years) and has never seen the coast as gorgeous and warm as it was yesterday. It was 80-ish, sunny, breezy, and perfectly clear. We first stopped for lunch in Florence at a famous Oregon coast restaurant called Mo’s. It boasts of amazing seafood and a water view. I had a bowl of their famous clam chowder, Daniel ate a huge plate of cod + fixings, and we ordered a kid’s meal for Kya for the very first time. Mac n cheese and applesauce. Every toddler’s dream. She also enjoyed the crayons and coloring page while we waited. What a big girl!

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 Even in warm weather, the PNW water is very cold so it’s not like we could swim or anything (though there were craaaaazy people doing it yesterday)! But sitting on a beach blanket taking in the sights and sounds with my little family was just perfect. Kya was very apprehensive about the sand. We tried to coax her off the blanket but she was most content to sit and play on the blanket. We walked down to the water a couple of times so she could see, hear, and feel what the ocean is all about. We stayed for about an hour then drove back into Florence and I poked my head in a few antique shops before we grabbed a bowl of cherry ice cream from BJ’s and headed home.

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We ended our day together with an early bedtime for baby, my favorite homemade pizza, and a romantic comedy. Perfect and simple and a birthday I’ll always remember.

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Three Boys + Baby Brother

I’m a little late getting this post up (my excuse is packing/moving).🙂 This family is so full of energy! I loved capturing these little boys and their distinct personalities. Mom and dad have such an obvious love for each other and for their kids. They welcomed a new little addition this spring and it was exciting to see him already smiling so big for the camera! Grandma joined the shoot and made it even more fun!

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A Golden Evening

I had the chance to photograph this beautiful family over the weekend! As you can see, I’m posting a lot of photoshoots these days. I’m thankful for each opportunity! I absolutely loved the outfits this mama chose for her family. Perfection! I am in love with the golden light that a 7:00 evening summer shoot allows. Couldn’t have been prettier!

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