Friday (Whole30) Fives

FridayFives!(Whole30 edition)

It’s Friday! I’ve been enjoying some time off this week, and still have the weekend, Monday, and Tuesday (the 4th of July!) off before I’m back to work on Wednesday.  Today, I’m going to share with you FIVE of the Whole30 tools or foods I can’t live without.

Silicon Muffin Pan

I didn’t know I needed this until I threw away ANOTHER muffin pan after making egg muffins and not being able to clean it. This silicon pan is a GAME – CHANGER. You don’t even have to spray your pan, and cleanup is a breeze (I’m talking rinse it with soap and water, and you’re done). I am thinking about replacing every pan I have with a silicon one…..


Pineapple Slicer

Another thing that people kept telling me to buy and I KEPT thinking was unnecessary was this pineapple slicer. It is ANYTHING but unnecessary. Stop what you’re doing and just go buy one now. They are cheap (I actually found mine at Aldi), they are small, and they make me want to buy and eat a pineapple a day.


Immersion Blender

I have been making Dump Ranch on the regular lately – and I don’t know if it would even be possible without this magic wand. Again, cleanup is a breeze (are you sensing a theme here?) and it works perfect every time. Before this one, I had a cheaper brand (this one is still cheap!) and it broke after a couple months. This one is going strong and showing no signs of wearing out, even with frequent use.


Nutpods Coffee Creamer

I LOVE my coffee. I used to love coffee creamer – but when I realized how much CRAP was in the creamer, I knew I had to give it up. Luckily, with Nutpods, I don’t have to give it up completely. This stuff is fully Whole30 compliant, and it tastes amazing. There are different flavors (original, French vanilla, and hazelnut) – but hazelnut is the one that has my heart. I have it on my Amazon Subscribe and Save, so 4 fresh containers show up every month on my doorstep.


Carrot Cake and Coconut Cream Pie Larabars

I know on Whole30 snacks like these are only for emergency – but most days there is an emergency and I reach for one of these. I swear that Larabars are an acquired taste – but once you like them, these flavors SERIOUSLY taste like dessert, and I’m loving them both right now. These are another item I’ve been getting with Subscribe and Save – and you can’t beat the price with the extra discount!

SO there you have it – five of my favorite Whole30 convenience tools and foods. Enjoy your 4th of July weekend – and even if you aren’t participating in a full Whole30 right now, make the best decisions that you can, and make sure your splurges are really worth it!


*This post includes affiliate links. If you purchase through these links I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!

You Want to Know More About Whole30?

You want to know more about whole30

Thank you for the amazing response to my first post about my journey with Whole30. I had a number of friends reach out to me with additional questions, or to tell me they were now considering Whole30. I’m serious, you all – it has changed my life.

If you want to give Whole30 a try, here are a few tips to get you started.

Be prepared.

Like, really prepared. I recommend purchasing and reading a book first – but it’s not necessary. You can get the Whole30 book – which is the rules and guidelines and explanations AND lots of recipes (kind of like a cookbook). Or you can get the one I prefer which is It Starts With Food. I like getting my recipes from Pinterest (here’s a link to my Whole30 board), so it wasn’t necessary for me to have the whole big book. I love how It Starts with Food will tell you WHY some foods make you feel like crap, and the background of the program. Having that knowledge really motivates you and makes you think twice when you’re about to grab a treat out of a candy jar. It also helped me understand why other programs I’ve tried in the past maybe didn’t work for me.

All that being said, one of my favorite things about Whole30 is there is nothing to buy (besides groceries) – so it really is for anyone. There are tons of free resources on the Whole30 official page. If you peruse the website, you can find anything you might need. I just think it’s helpful to read the book (or skim it if that’s more your jam) so you’re in the right mindset before starting.

Pick your start date.

You don’t have to start on the first of a month – but it makes counting easy. I like being intentional when picking my start date, although the whole point is to change your habits, so waiting for a month when you have nothing going on kind of defeats the purpose. You’re probably going to have to go out with friends at some point in your Whole30 and order a water (or sparkling water with lime if you want to be fancy). You’re really going to wish you could go sit on a patio and drink a beer or eat chips and salsa. But the key is – its ONLY 30 DAYS. You can do it. 

I tend to go back to this quote from the Whole30 program when I feel like it’s too hard or restrictive:

“This is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth—the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.”

Know what you can’t have.

You can’t have SUGAR (real or artificial), SOY, DAIRY, GRAINS, ALCOHOL, LEGUMES, OR ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS. The official Whole30 page is the best place to go if you want to figure out what all you need to cut out. The point of my blogging my experience is not to pretend to be an expert about Whole30 – but to share my experience and show you that it’s completely manageable for ANYONE to do.

Know what you CAN have.

There is SO much variety in what you CAN have. Seriously! You can have bacon (sugar free, though!). You can have potatoes (any variety!) You can use ghee as a butter substitute, eat almost all cuts of meat (hello, chicken thighs!), all fruits, most vegetables, and there are even compliant snack bars for when you’re in a pinch. My favorites are Coconut Cream Lara Bars and Chocolate Sea Salt RX Bars. I even found some compliant fruit snacks today at Aldi! These aren’t meant to replace your 3PM daily afternoon snack….but they are compliant for times you are starving or on the run and not around good, wholesome food.

Meal plan/prep.

Every weekend you’ll want/need to meal plan and prep for the coming week. There is not  one more important tip I can give you besides meal planning and prep. When I fail it’s because I’m ill prepared. Write out everything you’re going to prep on Sunday, and everything you’re going to eat throughout the week. Then get groceries accordingly. Here’s a sample of my meal plan for this coming week:

Sunday: Bun-less Burgers

Monday: Beef and Cabbage Skillet

Tuesday: Taco Salad

Wednesday: Chicken Thighs and Veggie Sheet pan meal

Thursday: Out to dinner with friends (left overs for rest of the family)

Friday: Flank Steak and Broccoli

And here’s a sample of what I’m going to prep today for lunches and to make the week easier:

Salads in containers for the week, Italian Dressing, roast whole chicken, sausage patties for breakfasts, carrots portioned out in baggies, ground beef cooked for the week, and Chicken Fiesta Lime Soup. Having these things prepped will make lunches a breeze, as well as make dinner a little easier every night. And my philosophy is if I’m going to dirty the kitchen….might as well just do it once. Plus, plan your prep order so you can use the same ingredients all at once. For example, I’ll cook the sausage, then move straight to the ground beef, I have two meals with ground beef next week, so I’ll cook 2 pounds today, and have half for my Beef and Cabbage skillet, and half for my taco meat.

Get used to reading ingredients, not nutrition facts.

You will become an expert at reading ingredient lists – but not overnight. It takes some practice and time to learn. You want to avoid anything that says “artificial” or “artificially flavored”. You want to avoid SUGAR and any sugar trying to hide in a different form (I’m talking about you dextrose and maltose). No maple syrup or honey or Splenda or anything else “like” sugar. Find a full list of those tricky names here and a full list of all the okay ingredients that you might find in things here.

Your first trip to the store when you’re planning your Whole30 is going to take forever. Print those pages off, along with the list of what you can have and take those with you. You’ll need to look at every ingredient unless you’re buying produce raw and straight off the shelf. You will start to realize there is sugar in EVERYTHING (in some form or another). One time I found there was sugar in the spice packet of my potatoes. WTF.

Keep it simple – especially at first.

When I started my first Whole30, I had so many dishes every night it was a freaking production and it WORE. ME. OUT. You can find millions of recipes on Pinterest for Whole30. Some are super complex. Save those for when you are really going and ready for some variety. When you’re just getting started, STAY SIMPLE. I mean sheet pan meals, zoodles and spaghetti sauce, meat, veggies, fruit, salads. If you don’t know what all these things are, that’s okay – I’ll be posting compliant recipes over the next month and beyond that can help you get started and stay on track.

Heres a look at what I’ve been eating so far in my first 3 days:

I’ve learned so much just from following Whole30 myself. The main thing I’ve taken away is that sugar is in EVERYTHING. Even if you think you’re being healthy by eating greek yogurt (full of sugar) or reduced fat this or that (tons of sugar), or even DIET something (get outta here aspartame!), until you actually learn what you’re putting in your body and cut out the sugar, your weight is just going to keep fluctuating and you’re going to keep feeling like crap. Fake sugar makes your body think you’re eating sugar, which makes you crave more sugar. Its a terrible cycle.

Here are some Q and A’s I was asked since my last post and want to share with you all.

Do you feel really restricted on Whole30?

In short, yes, but only for 30 days. And there are so many convenience foods I’ve found that it really isn’t bad. The hardest for me personally are sweets and alcohol. But those also are probably the two that make the biggest difference for me. Once you’ve done your first 30 days, you can add back in what you want, but you honestly don’t even want them like you used to. You know how it makes you feel/what it does to you, and it’s a million times easier to say “no thanks.”

How can I get started? Where should I go?

As I said before, I plan on posting my personal experience on this blog, so I encourage you to sign up for email updates and check back often. However, I’m not an expert, I’m only sharing MY OPINION and take on the program, so your very best bet is to check out the real Whole30 program page. Those folks are the experts, and everything on the site that you need without buying A THING.

Are you working out, too?

I’m not proud to say I’m not right now. I’m still nursing so I know that’s helping me burn 500 or so calories a day. And I am chasing a toddler around, so I call that some exercise. Additionally, though not technically “working out,” I try to get up and walk around through out the day as much as possible. I know I need to get more consistent with working out because the health benefits are obviously super important, but I’m not there yet. If you aren’t eating healthy and you aren’t working out right now, I recommend you get your eating in check first. If you try to do too much at once, you’re going to set yourself up to fail. If you ARE working out – don’t stop!

Feel free to leave more questions in the comments. I hope you’ll be following along over the next coming month or share with someone else who wants to start eating healthier, and follow me on IG for more looks at my yummy (and simple) meals. Soon I’ll be posting some ideas for easy compliant convenience foods, my favorite sheet pan meals (I could make these every night), more Sunday prep ideas, recipes, and more.

If I can do it, I swear anyone can!

Who is with me???

*This post includes affiliate links. If you purchase through these links I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!


How I Lost 30 Pounds on Whole30


I have two beautiful boys now, but my journey to motherhood wasn’t the easiest.

It took a couple years of trying before I got pregnant the first time. I had been diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and needed to take a couple different medications. For as long as I could remember, my weight had fluctuated, but in that time when I was trying to get pregnant, I really started to gain weight due to hormones and my lack of control when it came to eating. I figured I was HOPEFULLY going to be pregnant soon and gaining weight anyway, so I might as well not worry about what I was eating.

Ugh. If I would have know then what I know now.

I suffered a miscarriage before getting pregnant with my first son. After I got pregnant after the miscarriage, already in an emotional state, I was at my 8 weeks doctor’s appointment, when the nurse said my weight out loud, in front of my husband. She said I was one pound shy of their threshold for sending mothers in for early gestational diabetes testing. I was horrified, and couldn’t believe I had gotten to that weight.

And as pregnancy goes, I continued to gain weight. I gained close to 50 more pounds before my son was born, and at the end was swollen so badly I couldn’t find shoes that fit. I look back at pictures now, and I swear even my nose was swollen. I didn’t take care of myself, and it showed and I felt it.


38 weeks pregnant with my first son – everything was swollen and I felt terrible.

It was so hard to lose the weight after my son was born. I was nursing, but that didn’t seem to make a difference. I was still eating like crap and feeling like crap. I lost some weight, but it took a long time, and I was still not where I wanted to be. I succumbed to the fact that my pants were just a bigger size than they used to be. Chalked it up to being a mom.

I was about 10 pounds lighter than before when I got pregnant with my 2nd son. But I still wasn’t happy with my weight. A few weeks into my 2nd trimester, a friend asked me if I’d be interested in joining her for a “Whole30“. She explained that it was no grains, dairy, soy, sugar, legumes – basically nothing processed. You also couldn’t have alcohol, but being pregnant, that was the least of my worries. I figured I might as well try it. I spoke with my doctor who told me that he was absolutely supportive of it. He also told me if I never eat high fructose corn syrup again, that would be ideal.

So I joined her Facebook support group. My husband agreed to do it with me. We ate (mostly) whole foods for a month. And in those 30 days, so great things started happening.

  • I LOST 5 pounds (while pregnant!)
  • My energy levels were through the roof (while pregnant!)
  • I could feel a shift in my body – things didn’t ache like they had previously
  • I was less swollen all over
  • I was no longer craving sugar
  • And I felt like I could keep going eating mostly Whole30 compliant meals

My first Whole30 wasn’t perfect. But it was a start. And I learned so much about label reading and nutrition, and how to make better choices about what I was eating and what I was feeding my family. I continued eating mostly Whole30, living by the 80/20 rule, and the weight gain throughout the rest of my pregnancy was slow and manageable.

By the end of my pregnancy, people kept saying they couldn’t believe I was almost due. I didn’t look or feel huge. I felt great. I could still fit into many of my pre-pregancy clothes comfortably. I knew I had turned a corner and was looking forward to doing a full Whole30 again after the baby was born.


38 weeks pregnant with my second son. I felt so much better after I started eating whole foods!

And only 2 months after my baby was born, I started another Whole30. I started dropping weight like crazy. I was still nursing, so I had to modify just a little (I ate snacks and would occasionally have oatmeal or other carbs) but for the most part I was very compliant. And once again, I felt great.

After that Whole30, literally none of my clothes fit me. I needed to go buy all new pants – and not just one size smaller than I was used to….TWO, sometimes THREE sizes smaller. I am now at the lowest weight I can remember in a very long time, and I’ve kept it off for several months now. I would like to lose about 10 more pounds, but I am not obsessive about it.

After Easter and a few weeks of really falling off the Whole30 wagon and indulging too much, I haven’t gained weight back, but I don’t feel very well. So I’m starting a new Whole30 today.

Follow me on Instagram for my daily meal posts, and check back here for updates and tips about Whole30. (Hint: I had shredded pork in a salad for lunch, and a bunless hamburger for supper)

“Diets” have never really worked for me. But eating using the principles of Whole30 has actually not been hard. And it’s only 30 days. Will you join me? Put any questions you have about Whole30 in the comments and I’ll try to help answer them. Having a support group was the biggest motivator for me, so I hope I can help others, too!


*This post includes affiliate links. If you purchase through these links I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!

Real Talk: Getting Trolled/Mommy Wars

rEAL TALK-.png

Once a month, I write a blog post for the Cedar Rapids Moms Blog. I love connecting with local moms, and have made some wonderful friendships by being a writer with them. You can see all the posts I’ve written for CRMB here. I’ve really learned a lot and have definitely seen an improvement in my writing.

I always enjoy when I get comments on my posts. For one, it confirms for me that people (besides my parents) actually read my writing. Two, it’s always been something complimentary or validating, and who doesn’t like a choir of people saying “Right on! I agree!”?

My latest post was titled “Four Hours with my Kids: A Working Mom’s Reality,” and I talked about the challenges of being a full-time working mom. Namely – only getting to spend limited time with my kids before and after work during the week. In it, I was honest, and said I enjoy working, but sometimes I feel guilty not wanting to be a stay at home mom.

When I saw I had received a comment on my post, I was excited to see what someone had written. Not thinking that my post might be controversial AT ALL, I eagerly read the response. It said:

“Sorry but you feel guilty, because someone else is raising your children! Being with your kids 4hours (sic) a day is not giving them what they need. You are thinking about yourself, that’s why you feel guilty. You are fooling yourself, trust me every child wants to be with their mom. Make a sacrifice for a few years until they are in school, you will never get that time back!” -Sandy

Whoa – talk about a gut punch. I didn’t even see it coming. Someone quickly came to the defense of all working moms and responded:

“Wow Sandy – you must have been one that was able to stay at home with your kids. Lucky you (note sarcasm). I myself am a working mom – because I want to and my husband is self-employed. Quite frankly, I don’t feel guilty about leaving my kids at daycare. I know they are learning more there than they ever would at home with me. Most importantly, they get to learn how to play and interact with other children – they aren’t stuck in the same four walls with me every day. My thought for you – if you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all. Hopefully your kids learned that when they were home with you…” -Lea Ann

Neither comment was very nice. And they both just further promoted what we know as “Mommy Wars.” Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, SAHM vs. working mom, public vs. private school – and the list goes on.

I know “trolling” happens on blog posts and social media all the time. It’s hard to please everyone, nor should that be the goal. I didn’t take the post personally, and I don’t necessarily agree with everything Lea Ann voiced in her rebuttal, either. I have lots of friends who are SAHM’s and they love it and are wonderful at it.

But, we’re all moms. We all want what is best for our children, and what is best for our personal situations. Promoting or participating in “Mommy Wars” does no good – it just further divides us. I never expect that everyone will agree with my choices 100%. I can only support my fellow moms and write from my heart.

In my heart – being a working mom is me. And I’m proud of that. To quote from the post:

“I pray that they’re seeing first-hand that women can have a successful career and a family, and give them both her all. That they’re getting what they need from me, my husband, and the village that is helping us raise them.”

Let’s stop the mommy wars and band together to join team mom. Lord knows there are plenty of other conflicts and disagreements out in the world today….and I can’t think of a better team to promote love and understanding and support.

How to Save $142+ in New Baby Gear

After having my second baby, I started going through my baby gear again and realized just how much STUFF I had. Some of it I knew I’d use again, but others, I couldn’t help but realize what a waste it had been. I knew I could have saved a LOT of money had I not registered for or purchased myself some of the gear that was taking up so much space in my closets.

Whenever first time parents to be ask me for advice on what they should register for – I tend to give them a list of things they SHOULDN’T register for instead. I think that is just as helpful so they can save money, and even more importantly SPACE, by skipping these unnecessary things.

5 (1)

Here are 5 things – worth $142.00+ – that you do NOT need for your new baby:

1) Tummy Time Mat – $19.99

Tummy Time Mat

This thing is such a joke. It is essentially a blanket, with a tiny pillow attached and a fake flimsy mirror, so your wee-one can do tummy time. How about this – lay any regular blanket on the floor (you’re going to get a million of them as baby gifts), roll up a swaddle blanket to put under baby’s arms to prop them up, and forget about the mirror (or use a cheap baby floor mirror) and viola! You have your very own tummy time mat and an extra $20 in your pocket!

2) Bumbo Seat with Tray  – $39.99 for seat, $11.99 for tray

Bumbo and tray

You might feel tempted to register for the Bumbo seat and tray. Resist the urge, I assure you this – YOU DO NOT NEED IT. Not only are there studies out there that tell you not to use it, but it is completely unnecessary and just takes up a lot of space. You will have a highchair, you will probably have a bouncer and/or swing. There will be plenty of ways to prop your baby up so he or she isn’t constantly just laying on the floor. I repeat: you don’t need this.

3) Boppy Newborn Lounger – $29.99

Boppy lounger

See above. This is another floor seat you might think you need. I did. Folks, I hate to break it to you, but this is just a pillow.  It only slightly elevates them off the floor. I, too, was sold on the cute print and convenient handle. But I think I only used it a handful of times, and each time thought to myself, why couldn’t I just put him on a pillow?

4) Bottle Warmer – $24.99

Bottle warmer

Maybe I’m just an idiot, but I had a bottle warmer similar to this one and I never did figure out how to make it work. I read the instructions front to back, followed them to a T, but I swear my bottles never seemed any warmer and I always just ended up burning myself on the steam. My advice – leave your milk out for a little bit before you plan to feed baby to naturally get the milk to room temperature. Don’t waste your money here.

5) Infant Shoes, Tutus, Jeans, Etc. – $14.49+


I hear you – shoes that are smaller than my index finger are pretty much the cutest thing ever. With a puppy on them? Even cuter. But do you know how freaking hard they are to get on a squirmy baby’s feet? And that babies don’t actually keep them on their feet? A little girl with a tutu on or a little boy in a pair of jeans and suspenders and a bow tie? I KNOW – ridiculously cute. But don’t buy them. I assure you that you’ll get AT LEAST ONE cute and unpractical outfit from a grandma or cousin or friend that will be perfect for some newborn pictures. But that is the one and only time they will ever wear that outfit. The rest of the time, they’re just wearing onesies and sleepers because they’re easy and because they can be more disposable when the outfit happens to be the casualty of a blow out situation.

What other baby items did you realize after the fact that you didn’t need? Am I missing the boat with any on my list above?

Leo’s 1st Birthday Par-Tee

After searching Pinterest for 1st birthday party ideas, I settled on a golf themed party for baby Leo. It was taking place in the middle of summer, in our back yard, and our family loves to play golf. So we planned a 1st birthday PAR-TEE, complete with his very first set of golf clubs!


2-tiered cake and smash cake: Countertop Cakes

Embroidered birthday shirt: Etsy


Golf Clubs (Brats and Hotdogs)

Putt-ato Salad

Par Pasta Salad

Chip Shots (Chips)

Watermelon Slices

Range Balls (Popcorn Puffs)

Donut Hole-in-Ones (Donut holes)

Arnold Palmers


I’m Back–With Lots of BIG News!

Hello, and I’m back!! I had to take a break from blogging for the first part of this year, with lots of big changes going on in my life. But lucky for you, I’m back and ready to talk about what’s happening in Our Little Ivory Tower!

Here’s the first piece of news:

Guess what?!

Guess what?!

Big enough for you???? We found out in November that our life was going to change DRASTICALLY in 9 months and couldn’t be any more thrilled. We got to share the news with our parents at Christmas by giving each set of parents a baby book and ultrasound picture. There was a lot of screaming, tears, and hugs–and I think it’s safe to say this first grandchild on BOTH SIDES is going to be very loved (and very spoiled!) We have decided NOT to find out what we’re having {yes, I know that’s crazy!} so we are preparing as best we can with neutral tones. I can’t wait to show our nursery progress with you as we get further along.

I am at 32 weeks today, so we only have about 2 months left to prepare until the little bambino is here. He or she is incredibly active and has been looking great at my doctor’s appointments. I have been feeling pretty well, but the swelling has been getting worse and worse, and sleep is getting harder and harder to come by. I miss margaritas, sushi, and being able to comfortably bend down to pick something off the ground. I also miss wearing my wedding ring, which became impossible to get on and off about a week ago. Darn you summer pregnancy!

Here’s the second piece of news:

I got a new job! On May 12 I had my first day at ACT in Iowa City as a Product Marketing Associate and it has been a whirlwind since. I’ll be working on marketing their K-12 products including the ACT Test and the new ACT Aspire. While I miss my amazing coworkers from my old job SO MUCH, I’m really excited about my future with ACT and am already loving working full-time in a marketing role. I can’t wait to see where it will go from here.

I think that is enough news for today. Next weekend we’re taking a mini-“babymoon” to Milwaukee, then in coming weeks we have a LOT of work to do to prepare for the baby, and a baby shower at the end of June. We’re also trying to enjoy quality time together while it’s just the two of us, work on projects in and around the house, and getting a few rounds of golf in.

Have a great weekend, and I promise to be back soon!

Dory is resting up for the baby

Dory is resting up for the baby

Where Did January Go?!?

Well, I’m off to a terrible start this year blogging. Believe it or not, it’s been a pretty busy month, despite the freezing temps and frigid weather. I had several things I planned on blogging about this month. For one, I thought I was going to do Bachelor recaps. However, after the first show or two, I realized this season is REALLY not very interesting. The lead barely speaks English, and the girls are pretty blahh. So I didn’t have much motivation to blog about it. Then G & his dad painted our kitchen/dining room, and it looks AWESOME! We still have some projects to finish it off, but the paint looks great. We went with Naval (navy blue) and white, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. Maybe this weekend I will get my kitchen put together enough to take some pictures and post the before and afters.

Last weekend I got to celebrate my friend Tiffany’s 30th birthday at her 90’s theme party. We had SO much fun reliving the 90’s in costume, complete with lots of denim, clogs, and some butterfly clips. I was so impressed how into it everyone got. Lots of great costumes and fun games. One guy even came dressed as a TY BEANIE BABY. It was awesome.

Me and "Cher" - the birthday girl!

Me and “Cher” – the birthday girl!

He's got his much is he worth?!

He’s got his tag….how much is he worth?!

Bottom's Up for the Birthday Girl!

Bottom’s Up to the Birthday Girl!

It’s going to be a fun year with so many of my friend turning the big 3-0 this year! (I still have another year, though, YIPPEE!)

Tonight I tried a new recipe that I wanted to share while it’s still bitterly cold outside. This chicken noodle soup recipe will make your house smell amazing and will warm you right up–and the best part is it’s SUPER easy and only takes about 30 minutes to make! I did make a few changes to the original recipe found on Pinterest.


Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup

1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 bag of egg noodles (medium or wide)
2 cans of cooked chunk chicken breast, strained
1 can sliced carrots, strained
8 cups water
Chicken Boullion cubes
Spinach leaves, cut in thin strips
Parsley Flakes

1) In a large soup pot, saute onion in olive oil until translucent.
2) Add 8-10 cups hot water and add bouillon cubes (I used 8 cubes)- you could also use canned chicken broth.
3) Bring to a rolling boil and add bag of egg noodles.
4) Boil until noodles are tender (approx. 8-10 minutes, according to package), and stir occasionally.
5) Add carrots, spinach, and chicken and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 more minutes. (I did a quick taste test here and add more seasoning if it needs it including some salt/pepper.)
6) Sprinkle parsley flakes on top and serve!!! (Don’t skip out on the parsley flakes- it really adds to the “homestyle” look of the soup.)

This recipe makes a big pot of soup, so you’ll have left overs for a couple days. It is so easy and delicious, and perfect for this time of year. Enjoy!


2013 in Review

2013 was an AMAZING year! This week, I’ve seen some of my favorite bloggers writing their year in review, and I really liked that idea. 2013 was full of weddings, and parties, changes and trips, and overall it was a wonderful year! So without further adieu, here are some of my favorite moments from 2013!

  • In February I started my new blog, Our Little Ivory Tower! I wrote 47 posts in 2013, and I’m excited to see how I can grow my blog in 2014. I absolutely love having a writing outlet and a way to keep in touch with my family and friends. It has also been a great way for me to document my life and it serves as a “live” scrapbook.
  • In March my sissy moved to Colorado, which was incredibly sad, but also so exciting for her! She got a promotion working for Victoria Secret, and shortly after moving she got ANOTHER promotion and was given her OWN STORE to manage. She is doing an awesome job and loving being out in Denver!

Mar  VS

  • Also in March, G & I did some fundraising for the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight. So many of our family and friends helped by donating and we were able to raise $250 for the local organization to help send veterans to Washington D.C. to see the WWII Memorial.
  • In April my bestie Megan invited me to be her +1 for a work trip she earned to Austin, TX! All expenses paid, we spend a long weekend exploring Austin with an awesome group of people, as well as a couple days at an amazing resort. We were pampered, ate like queens, and had an awesome #palsweekend overall. The trip was definitely a top highlight of 2013!


  • At the end of April, I helped to host my dear friend Tiffany’s bachelorette party in Des Moines, which was a blast with old and new friends.

bachelorette party

  • In May I celebrated another bachelorette, my roommate from college Katie, in Nashville! It was my first time to ‘Music City’ and I loved every minute of it. We danced to country music, bought cowboy boots, and drank till the sun came up. It was another amazing girlfriends trip!


  • In June I got to stand up as a bridesmaid in Tiffany and Nick’s wedding. It was one of the most fun bridal parties I’ve ever been a part of and the wedding was beautiful and classy and SO much fun.

Malcom Wedding

  • In July G & I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary! He posted this on Facebook which absolutely melted my heart 🙂 He’s not a big “sharer” on Facebook, so that made it all the more special. It’s good to be me, too!



  • Also in July, I was a bridesmaid in Katie and Sean’s wedding in the Quad Cities. It was a gorgeous wedding and incredibly special and truly a wedding I will never forget.

Laird Sisters

  • In August we attended my 10 year class reunion. I rode in our class float, watched old class videos from elementary and high school days, and enjoyed catching up with my classmates, some of whom I hadn’t seen in 10 years!

Class of 2003

  • In September we went out to Colorado with my parents to visit Marlee and Andrew. We went to a Reds/Rockies game, hiking in the mountains, exploring Denver and Boulder, and had a lot of family fun time.

Mountains Family

  • Also in September, we traveled to Missouri for our friends Stephanie and Horacio’s wedding. So many of our friends who G grew up with were there, and we had a great time dancing the night away and catching up with old friends.

Wedding fun

  • In October I got to go to Las Vegas for work to exhibit at the NBWA Tradeshow. Not only was it beautiful weather while we were there, I learned a lot and even had some time to explore the city.

Las Vegas

  • In November I participated in NaBloPoMo and blogged {almost} every day in the month of November. We also spent Thanksgiving in Fort Dodge with the Ivorys, and went to G’s cousin’s wedding.


  • In December my sister got engaged!!! Her fiance Andrew took her up into the mountains for a relaxing weekend, and ended it by putting a beautiful ring on her finger. We are looking forward to the wedding planning to come in 2014, and a wedding in 2015! I’m so excited for them and excited for Andrew to become a part of our family.

Future Newbergs

  • Also in December, I decorated for Christmas  and we went to Chicago to celebrate the holiday with my mom’s side of the family. We also got together in Cedar Falls with G’s family to open presents and enjoy a really fun lunch at a Japanese steakhouse.

Christmas Tree

As you can see, 2013 was a really exciting and eventful year. We’re expecting another fun and and crazy year in 2014, and I can’t wait to share it all with you again. My goal for 2013 is to take one picture everyday to document the year {thanks for the idea, Mix and Match Mama!}, and to take time to enjoy my family and friends, because life is too short to not be around those you love.

Tonight G & I are going to ring in the New Year together by going out for a fancy dinner at 350 First and possibly to a movie, then probably home to watch the ball drop on TV. I’m really looking forward to it! Tomorrow we will spend Jan 1 relaxing and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes play LSU in the Outback Bowl! GOOOOO HAWKS!

I hope you all have a safe and happy new year, and look forward to seeing you all in 2014!

That’s What I Love About Sunday

It was an emotional week last week with lots of ups and downs. We were traveling through Christmas day, then home to work for a day, then back in the car to go to the Quad Cities to pay our final respects to an amazing man. On December 21st, we got the news that my college roommate and close friends’ dad had passed away after fighting pancreatic cancer for 10 months. Bill always called me the 3rd Laird daughter, and was someone who could always make me laugh and had the most warm and caring smile of anyone I’ve ever met. He loved and appreciated everyone he met, and I am so sad for my friends who will now miss their dad every single day. We went to the visitation on Thursday night, then spent the night and attended the funeral on Friday morning. It was a beautiful service and I’m so glad we were able to attend.

When we got back on Friday afternoon, I had to go back to work for the rest of the day, and then babysat in the evening. Saturday we met G’s family in Cedar Falls for a really nice lunch and our family Christmas. I must say we were really spoiled by both of our families this Christmas, and feel very blessed to have such amazing parents and siblings.

But by today, I was EXHAUSTED. I knew I needed to do some laundry and go to the grocery store, and didn’t feel like making anything too complicated for dinner. Cue up my Yummy Food and Drinks Pinterest Board and I had the perfect recipe in mind to try. One of my favorite Illinois staples that my mom and I always HAVE to hit when we’re visiting our family is White Castle. Love it or hate it, I don’t care….I love a delicious slider! So when I saw the recipe for Easy Cheeseburger Sliders, I pinned it right away! Tonight I finally tried it and must say, it is SO EASY and INCREDIBLY yummy! One of my new favorite pins!


Photo from

Since I was just cooking for G & I, I used a smaller pan and cut the recipe in half. Only using 1 pound of ground beef was enough for us to each have a couple sliders, and still have more left over for tomorrow. Click the photo above for the original recipe, or here’s how I did it:

Easy Oven-Baked Cheeseburger Sliders


1 pound, 90% (or leaner) lean ground beef

1/8 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/4 cup chopped onions

Pinch of salt

Kings Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls (or slider buns)

4 slices cheddar or American cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees.   In a bowl, combine beef, bread crumbs, onion, and salt.  Gently press mixture into a 8 x 8-inch pan so that it makes one large patty of even thickness.  Use the tines of a fork to poke holes throughout the meat.  Bake for 20 minutes.  As it bakes, the meat will shrink away from the sides and liquid will accumulate around the edges of pan.  When fully cooked, remove the pan from oven (keep oven turned on) and carefully drain off the liquid.

Top the meat with an even layer of sliced cheese; return pan to oven for about 2 minutes or until the cheese melts.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes.  Cut into 2-inch squares (or the size of the buns used), making about 8 mini-hamburgers.  Serve with dill pickle slices, ketchup and mustard.  Serves 4 at 2 sliders each.

I would use this recipe to make regular sized hamburgers again, too. It was so easy baking the meat, and was pleased how all the patties turned out the same size and thickness. You could also add bacon, or other favorite toppings for some variety, or make a double cheeseburger who wants to eat less bun and more burger!

Now I’m back to work tomorrow for the last day of 2013, and then off on Tuesday and Wednesday for New Year’s Eve and Day. After such an emotional week, today was exactly what I needed – relaxing, yet productive, with a comfort food dinner. Now, THAT’S what I love about Sunday!