MINTED Holiday Cards + Family Pics!

Hey everyone!  Have you purchased your holiday cards yet?  I am pumped to be partnering with Minted again this year.  We have created our cards with Minted for the last three years and I am always so happy with the results.

The 2013 card is probably my favorite ever.  It makes me crack up every time I see it.  We had to convince Levi that he needed to have serious face for the picture.
Last year Minted helped me to combine our Christmas card with our birth announcement, which was awesome because being a new Mom at Christmas is #overwhelming.

And this year we are doubly pumped to share a sneak peak of both our Minted card and a new family photo....

.....TA-DA!  We just had our pictures taken by Barbara Brooks and she did an amazing job.  That tent in the photo, she made it!  She was great with the kids and we got a ton of really beautiful photos.  If you are in the Sacramento area, I highly recommend her!

Our Minted cards this year are foil pressed (read: fancy schmancy), I cannot wait to see the hard copy version. Minted has so many unique options for cards and the customer service is outstanding.  They will also address your cards for you!  Not. Even. Kidding.  It's as simple as downloading their address template, filling it out (or in my case, cut/pasting from my own template), then uploading to the site. Making changes is super easy too.  So this year all we have to do is stamp these babies and send them out, which is great.  Also, Minted sends a proof, so you can review your card before printing.  I made a couple of boo-boo's on mine, so I was able to fix these thankfully.

You are not too late for holiday cards, so go over to Minted and get yours now, they are constantly running great deals!  And if you are reading this on December 25th, you still aren't too late, Minted has a plenty of fabulous New Years card options as well.

Welcome to December!!


**P.S.  This is a sponsored post.  Minted gave me a credit to use towards our holiday cards this year.  That being said, I will continue to order cards from Minted, credit or not, because they are awesome.  In fact, I did just that last year.

P.S.S.  It's Cyber Monday and Minted is running deals!

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Mesa Falls - Island Park, ID {take a scenic byway}

Hey friends.  I've got more goods from our Idaho/Montana/Wyoming adventure today.  I was wondering, how many times have you passed a Scenic Byway sign and just flown right by it?  I think most of us do this honestly, in our haste, we tend to want to get where we're going, thus missing some pretty cool stuff.

If you're on vacay, I suggest you might spend sometime to investigate one of these never know what you might find...... an incredibly beautiful set of waterfalls.

This is Upper Mesa Falls; farther down the river you will find Lower Mesa Falls.  Upper Mesa Falls has a paid entrance (I believe $5 per car) and well maintained paved paths as well as several overlooks.  The views are spectacular.

According to local legend, some kids actually decided it would be a good idea to go over the upper falls in a kayak years ago.....they survived.....and it looks like people still go down the lower falls....

The gift shop/museum used to have a news article posted about the kids on the upper falls, but they took it down as to not encourage any other potential Darwin Award winners.


Speaking of the gift/shop museum, it's worth taking a peek.  Especially the back room which has a ton of different animal hides and skeletons that you can actually touch.  Be careful though, per the sign, certain things are not to be touched - if you do you will be "shot at dawn".  Levi touched one of these untouchable items - after I read him the sign I think he was terrified to get up to early the next morning.

On our way in we met this guy on the path and he quickly attached himself to Levi's shoe.  Those guys are sticky!!  We had trouble getting him off.

So next time you are out and about, don't pass the scenic byway, you are probably missing something good.

Here is how our adventure went for this mini trip:

From Island Park heading South on Hwy 20, we actually passed (I know) the Scenic Byway sign and first headed into St. Anthony to grocery shop at Broulim's.*

We waved to the Teton's...

....and after grocery shopping and eating the best deli sandwich of our lives, we headed back East on Highway 20 and this time did not pass the Scenic Byway sign.

Then we turned off on ID-47 N toward Mesa Falls.

Here is a map of Mesa Falls:


*Side nugget of info, if you are going to stay in the area, Broulim's is a great little store - more selection than Dave's in Ashton and cheaper than the stores in West Yellowstone and they made the best deli sandwich of our lives.

So, enjoy your Scenic Byway adventures, you never know what you might find!


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How to Road Trip with Kiddos

So we recently returned from our summertime Idaho, Montana, Wyoming adventure.  Living in Northern California, it is a 14 hour drive for us to reach our destination.

Back when we were only 2 plus a big dog, we made a bed in the back of our Subaru wagon and one of us slept while the other drove.  We drove straight through, leaving at 2 a.m..  Oh the freedom!

Two years ago when we took our then 4 year old, our Subaru wagon still worked for us, though no bed in the back....and we still managed to do it in a straight shot, leaving at 2 a.m....although this did occur at hour 13...

This year, with a baby and a now 6 year old some changes had to be made.  First off, we bought a new vehicle.  I'm obviously not suggesting the way to take a road trip with your kids is to go out and buy a new car, but we knew it was fact, when we went on our Father's Day adventure with only 1 small bag each, a small cooler and baby's ultra small travel crib* and no dog, we had zero room left over.  Hence, new car, or in our case truck.

So, Tip #1 - Have enough space to be comfortable.
This is real folks.  It is hard enough being crammed in a car with kids and car seats and dogs and stuff for a long, long time.  Comfort is your friend.

Tip #2 - Be healthy.  In our case this means: don't find out your 9 month old is allergic to raspberries the day before you leave so that then you are driving with a 9 month old stuck in a car seat with a head to toe itchy rash.  :(

The only good part about this was the cure was Benadryl, which meant she slept basically the whole time.

Tip #3 - SNACKS!  For real.  Snacks are required for any road trip, no?  But snacks are especially required with kids.  You can avoid multiple stops by having snacks at the ready for when your little one's get hungry - or you do.  We had granola bars, apples, bananas yogurt, sandwich food and more.  For the babe, we used these* and they were a lifesaver!  Way easier to feed a munchkin in a car seat with a squeeze pouch than food in a jar....and way easier than breastfeeding said munchkin in a car seat.  #truth

Tip #4 - Entertainment.  We are pretty TV minimal in our house, especially for the kiddos.  This year, we broke down though and set our 6 year old up so he could watch Wild Kratt's on the drive.  He was in hog heaven.  While Levi watched his show, Nick and I listened to Podcasts.  Some of our favorites are: RadioLab, This American Life, The Moth, Criminal, Love & Radio and Strangers.  (We also loved Serial, but finished it long ago.)  I think we all agree the entertainment breaks made the long trip a little better for everyone.

Tip #5 - Stops.  So, when you decide to drive a long way with kiddos, be prepared to make stops.  Gone are the days of driving straight through with only potty and gas breaks! We suggest planning a couple of long-ish stops to break it up.  With a planned stop you can tell the little ones, "we'll be stopping in 20 minutes to eat lunch and hang out" which seems to settle ants-in-the-pants.  Also, depending on how long your trip is, you might want to make overnight stops.  Our trip was 14 hours, so we stayed the night in the middle both going and coming home.  (I'll share our whole route below.)  On the way out, we stopped for lunch at a park in Battle Mountain, NV.  I think it was Elquist Park, but I'm not positive.

Parks make good stopping places because the kids (and dog) can play and they have picnic tables for lunch making and a free stop is always a good one.

Tip #6 Enjoy the scenery.  It's a big world out there.  Find the beauty in your surroundings.

And apparently you take less pictures on the way home because you're sad to leave vacation.  :(

Tip #6 Know Your Route.  To be honest I mostly just stare out the window.  The hubs handles the route.  Here was ours:

Sac to Idaho:
Day 1
Sacramento to Reno via I-80 E
Breakfast at Jack's Cafe in Sparks
Reno to Battle Mountain - stop at the park (above)
{Change from I-80 E to US-93 N in Wells}
Battle Mountain to Twin Falls
{Change from US-93 N to I-84 E in Twin Falls}
Stay at Best Western Twin Falls
Dinner at Jaker's Bar & Grill (we got it to go and ate in our hotel room)

Day 2
Twin Falls to Pocatello
{I-84 E to I-86 E}
Costco for groceries
Avoid hailstorm by hanging out under Costco gas canopy.  Thank you Costco.
Pocatello to Island Park
{I-86 E to I-15 N to Hwy 20 E}
Say hi to the Tetons as you pass by.
Arrive at Cabin.

Idaho to Sac:
Day 1
Island Park to Twin Falls via US-20 W
{US-20 W to I-15 S to I-86 W to I-84 W}
Continue to Elko
{I-84 W to US-93 S to I-80 W}
Stay in Elko at Best Western
Eat dinner at Machi's Saloon & Grill
People watch all the biker's headed to Sturgis from your hotel window.

Day 2
Elko to Lovelock via I-80 W
Stop at the Courthouse in Lovelock to eat lunch
Enjoy the LoveLock/Lovelock art display

Lovelock to Truckee via I-80 W
Stop in Truckee and eat at Marg's Taco Bistro
Truckee to Sacramento via I-80 W
Arrive home.
Be sad that vacation is over.

So those are our tips, we hope you enjoy your next road trip!!

Oh guess what, some friends of ours just road-tripped with kiddos too, here are Amber's tips!


*affiliate link

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Dad's Day at Nevada City Classic

Hey friends!

Long time no blog.  I've been trying to figure out how to do this whole mom-ing and blogging thing together, but haven't quite determined how to do it yet.  I'm working on it.  I miss the blog and I miss y'all.  But today I've got something for ya, woot!

How did everyone spend their Dad's Day?  This year we went to one of our favorite little towns, Nevada City, CA to watch one of our favorite little crit's the Nevada City Classic.  (If you forgot what a crit was, click this link and let me teach ya.)  It was the 55th year anniversary of this race!

We have actually been going to the Nevada City Classic for the past several years, but last year found a sweet little hotel through our friends that is actually on the course - The Outside Inn - so we booked it last year and this year we stayed over.

Via Outside Inn

This is such a fun little place.  The rooms are all themed and just slightly different from the other.  There is a great picnic area in the center with tables, grass and BBQ's + a water feature/koi pond.  There is also a pool, which is fun with the kids....if you stay make sure you check out how they light up the pool area at night!  The staff is so laid back and friendly too.  I would totally recommend staying here if you're planning a trip to Nevada City.

We hung out in the pool for a bit and then watched the race and visited Dad's.  I was lucky to have both of my dad's come and hang out with us and our kiddos.

Instead of BBQ'ing for dinner we made it easy on ourselves and ordered yummy Pete's Pizza and enjoyed it picnic style in the grass area of the hotel.

On Monday morning we had a delicious breakfast - again picnic style - from South Pine Cafe (hello ollaliberry pancakes!) then headed out to the south fork of the Yuba River and spent some time in the sun.  It was so beautiful!

We hope all of you had a great Dad's Day too!  We can't wait to go back next year!


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How to Make an Awesome Salad

Basically anytime we go to a dinner party we are asked to bring a salad.  Apparently the word around town is that I make good salads.  I completely appreciate these salad based compliments but they always surprise me a bit too.  I mean, it's just a salad after all.  I tend to say, "I just used what I had in the fridge", which is true but not very descriptive.

I realized that I only have one salad recipe on this blog, which seems a little crazy considering I'm making salad all the time.  But I'm thinking the lack of salad recipes here is because I don't really consider it a "recipe" when I'm making a salad.  That's why I'm going to give you the steps to make your own awesome salad every time.

1.  Lettuce

There is a time an place for iceberg and it is in Cobb Salad.  Unless you are making a Cobb, I suggest sticking to green leaf, red leaf, butter leaf, spinach, romaine or a mixture of all or some of these.

Not only are these types of lettuce more nutritious, they taste better and make a much better salad. Also, you can make these lettuces (minus spinach) last one week to 10 days in your fridge if you follow my instructions on How to Make Lettuce Last.

2.  Raw Veggies

You have to add some veggies to that lettuce!  I usually lean to items we typically always have in our fridge - red, yellow or orange bell pepper, carrots, red onion.

I'm giving these as an example because they are, for the most part, always in my salads and always in my fridge. That said, these are just a starting point, the more veggies in the salad the better! Some other examples are avocados, cucumbers or corn.

So, about these raw veggies.....

  • You may have noticed the purple carrots.  We are able to get those here at our local farmer's market and they are delicious, plus add nice color to a salad.  I choose them over orange whenever I get the opportunity.
  • Regarding our friend the red onion, although it adds delicious flavor, I tend to slice it very thin and not add a lot.  If you are putting red onion in your salad, I would wait to put in the red onion until shortly before serving, otherwise you might "onion-up" your whole bowl of greens.
  • How am I getting all of these veggies?  Well we live in California's Central Valley, or the produce capital of the world, so the abundance of veggies available here on the regular is amazing and we are LUCKY.  If you don't have all of these veggies, that's OK, your salad will still be fab, just add what you can!
  • In the summer, corn is abundant here so I am typically buying many ears.  We love corn on the cob, so I tend to cook extra ears.  With the leftovers, I cut the kernels off the cob and save them for salads.  If you are short on cobs of corn, you can always throw in half a can of corn (drained obvs), to add some sweetness and color to your salad.

3.  Something Crunchy

You are probably thinking croutons.  If so you are wrong.  I pretty much never add croutons to a salad.  IMO, store bought croutons aren't good and they're overpriced.  You can easily do delicious homemade croutons with stale bread, but if I'm being honest bread never goes stale in our house. Because I eat it.  ALL.

For something crunchy I am talking about nuts and seeds.  Sunflower seeds, sliced almonds and/or pecans are all good examples.

I usually buy these at Trader Joe's, but Costco has a better deal on sliced almonds.  I prefer to buy them salted, but that is up to you.  I always have the sunflower seeds and sliced almonds on hand for my granola and usually throw both into any salad.  Pecans of course, make a great salad topper as well.  

4.  Something Sweet

I think the something sweet is the key to push a salad from good to great.  There are a lot of things to add to give a bit of sweetness including raisins, craisins, apples, pears, mandarins or strawberries.

My go-to of this bunch is craisins.  I love the sweet tartness they add to any salad, they store well and last a long time.  However, when you have fresh fruit to add, it is always a win.

Unlike our other salad components where I suggest adding "some or all", I would hold back a bit on the sweet factor.  If you put too much "sweet" (or fruit) your salad will be too fruity.  Think about adding just a bit to bring it up a level without overdoing it.  In addition to these examples, pretty much any dried fruit is delicious, as are persimmons, which I often add to fall salads, or dates, which are great with just about anything.

5.  Cheese

Of course my inner Urkel is going to tell you to add cheese.

Now that we have that out of the way, may I suggest goat, blue or feta for your salad?

I typically go for the crumbled goat cheese because: 1) goat cheese is mild enough to go with just about anything, and 2) crumbled goat cheese is easy.

If you crumble your cheese from the block its going to be better and more rich.  But we don't always have time for that, do we?  Instead just use a pre-crumbled cheese.  Other cheeses that go great in salads are roquefort and in Mexican salads - cojita.  In a pinch you can also add chunks of cheddar or jack, but soft, crumbly cheeses are better for salad.

Regarding the cheese, please just pick one.  These examples have strong flavors and combining them might make weird flavors in your salad.

Let's stop here.

If you use components 1-5, congratulations, you have an awesome salad!  Some of my favorite combinations are....
  • Green leaf, red onion, mandarin, sliced almond, blue cheese
  • Green leaf, spinach, bell pepper, carrot, sunflower seeds, almonds, craisins, feta
  • Butter, red onion, sliced strawberry, goat
But guess what?  Your salad can be even more awesome.  If you don't want to stop at step 5, keep going!

6.  Fancy Lettuce

Adding a bit of fancy to your lettuce is always good.  Here you can try arugula, kale, beet greens, endive or purple cabbage.

Arugula will add some spice, kale will add some heartyness, endive - crunch, beet greens - color, purple cabbage - bitterness.  Be choosy about your fancy lettuce, but don't be afraid to add one to your already delicious salad.

7. Fresh Herbs

Herbs.  At our local Farmer's Market we have Herb Ladies (at least that is what I call them).  They are there for the majority of the year and sell herbs for cheap.  Like 25 cents for a huge bunch, WAY better than grocery store prices.  Adding a bit of chopped fresh herbs to your salad can give it a delicious extra punch.  Some suggestions are basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, oregano, thyme and sometimes even mint can work great.  Again, I wouldn't add them all together, but be picky on which herbs will compliment your other ingredients the most.

8.  Hot Stuff

Not like "hey hot stuff" but literally, hot stuff.  Like rice, quinoa, cous-cous or even cooked veggies can add an extra deliciousness to your salad.  It sounds weird I know, but adding hot quinoa makes a cold lunch into a hot lunch, wilts the lettuce just right and changes the whole dynamic of your salad. Just trust me on this one.

9.  Meat/Protein

Grilled chicken, steak or salmon are all wonderful and healthy protein sources for your salad.  If you aren't feeling meat-y, try a hard boiled egg.  Protein can turn a lunch salad into a dinner.  And by the way, no one is going to complain if you decide to throw some bacon on there once in awhile!

10.  Dressing

Last, but definitely not least.  We can't have salad without dressing people!  Typically I make my own dressing.  It's too easy not to (really).  But in a pinch my favorite off the shelf varieties are Brianna's Vinaigrette or Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette.  Don't let the strawberry on the Brianna's bottle fool you, it's not strawberry dressing!  This dressing is great on basically everything.  Like salad, I don't use a recipe to make my own dressing's either (I know).  It looks like I'll have to do some tinkering and come up with specific measurements for you!  Until then - here is the easy version:

2 parts olive oil
1 part balsalmic vinegar
honey and/or brown sugar to taste


2 parts olive oil
1 part lemon juice
fancy salt (like Maldon) to taste

So my friends, that is how you make an Awesome Salad!  I hope to see you at the Farmer's Market this weekend buying your ingredients!


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On buying a house

Let's just start this post by saying that the house buying process has taken us through feelings of frustration, irritation, hope, excitement and disappointment.

The good thing is, I don't think we are alone.  I think everyone must have these feelings to some degree when going through the process.

That said, can we catch a break already?

It started with this house...

Looks pretty good right?  Well, these pictures are a year old.  The pool now looks like an alligator swamp.  The inside is pretty OK, but there was a lot of work done by someone who built things solid but wasn't a very good finisher (think large gaps between the sheetrock and ceiling, among other things).  The house is a short sale and we were hoping to 203k it.  If you aren't familiar with a 203k, it is essentially a construction loan, wherein you purchase a home and add into the amount of your loan a budget to rehab it.
Anyway, the bid to do everything we wanted to this house was $127k.  It sounds huge, but we could have made it work because the asking price of the house was low.  That said, it was going to be a TON of work and ultimately we decided the area just wasn't quite right for us.

Around the same time was this place.....

Awesome yard, funky house.  Like funky, smelled like dogs funky.  This would have again been a 203k.  I liked the private lane it was on and the yard that backed up to a little creek area with horses.  But alas, husband didn't like that the yard was so sloped and the first house I showed you seemed to have more potential.

Then there was this place....

An awesome old ranch with a great layout that was on the bluff above the river and bike trail.  That view!  It also had a beautiful pool.  We had looked at it before we were serious and then it went pending....and then it fell out of escrow.  So we tried to make an offer and they already had two above list.  We didn't think it was worth that so we walked.

So then we looked at this place.....

This is a 1200 sqft 2/1.  What, you might be wondering, is a family of 4 even considering this for? Well, the area is our ideal spot.  It's nearly impossible to get into this neighborhood with our budget but we could have done it in this house and made it into a 1800-2000 sqft 3/2.  So we were excited. But, we got outbid.  We were in position of first back-up but the house sold for $16k over list.

Then there was this place....

It was a short sale in the same neighborhood as the one above that had been contingent for months and months. And then it became active again.  And we tried to jump at it even though it was at the top of our budget. And, of course, they already had multiple above list offers.  And now, it is contingent again.

There was also a shack, seriously a 447 sqft shack in an area of town that we LOVE.  We planned to slap an awesome pre-fab home on it.  It went so quickly we didn't even get a chance to bid on it.  Then it came back on the market and again we tried, but we found out the reason it fell out of escrow was because the county was requiring the new builder to put in a paved road big enough for a fire truck to drive down and turn around on.  For real.  This would have eaten up the whole piece of property.  So that was out and now its off market.  Go figure.

So then there was this place....

Yes.  It was on the river.  Like the river was your freaking backyard!  And that part of the levy is private.  The layout was great.  The house was totally 70's but who cared, we didn't.  But of course, multiple offers over list.

And then there was this place....

All I should really say here is this:  BONKERS Listing Agent.
It is in a great neighborhood, it has all hardwood floors, a pool, a big backyard, an electric charging station (we drive a Leaf!) and our best friends live literally down the street.  This came up and we jumped.  Like for real jumped.  We made a sight unseen offer on this place.  Our cover letter was kick-ass.
They told us they got the offer, we were in first!
They told us they were going to send a counter, "great!" we said, send it over!
We waited.
They told us there was another strong offer.
"Great" we said "send us a counter".
We waited.
And then the house popped up pending.
Not.  Even.  Kidding.
And this is where I get pissed.  I mean really?
Was it so hard to say, "hey, we are taking another offer"?
Apparently it was.
That said, how did the agent know we wouldn't have bid much more? The fact is, she didn't.
But then this thing fell out of escrow and the agent came back and said "make your best offer" and we said, we made an offer, make us a counter.  And again, we never heard back.
And then she re-listed the house for UNDER our original sight unseen offer amount?  Um what?  So we made another offer at the new list price.  And then she sent us an inspection from 2012 and told us it would be an as-is sale.  Huh?  #wethinksnot.  Then she wanted us to remove standard stuff from the contract (like we the buyer are paying for the pest inspection).  We said no, then we folded, then it went into escrow with someone else.  I feel sorry for the owners on this one....if only you knew.

Then there was this house.

We'll call it the Streng with the awsome kitchen.  You can learn more about Streng homes here and see more here.  They are a personal mid-century modern favorite of mine and there are many in the Sacramento area. The kitchen was sweet (it actually looks better in this photo than in person, but still).  I was more in love with this house than hubby....that being said, it had a lot of great features, like a neighborhood pool/cabana club literally across the street and it was in a great neighborhood.  We made an offer, we asked for a counter and once again, they picked another offer (which they told us was "similar") and didn't counter us back.  (Seriously, somebody needs to teach some of these real estate agents how to negotiate the best price for their sellers!).  Alas, this home was not meant for us either apparently.

And then there was this house.

I sent this to hubby kind of as a joke.  This place is a flat with a unit underneath.  I told him we could buy it and rent out the bottom.  Then he suggested my grammy live under us, which would be awesome.  It opened up a whole new idea of living and we loved the idea of a multi-generational household.  When we showed up for the open there were about 20 people waiting on the sidewalk.  Seriously.  But we made our bid, and crossed our fingers, and we didn't get it.  We were sad.  So was grammy.

And now there is this house.

Hi house!  We currently have an accepted offer on this house!  Yay!  Fingers crossed it all goes smoothly.  If so I can talk to you about fun things like moving, building a pool, building a tiny house for grandma, etc., etc., etc.

My message to you is this: If you too are looking for a house, don't be discouraged.  The right thing for you and yours is bound to happen.

The houses I'm showing you here are only a drop in the barrel of homes we've looked at and ruled out.  Even though the process is grueling and stressful and sad.  Even though every time you find one you like you imagine your kitchen and kids rooms and your stuff in that house....and you imagine it as yours and how your family will look inside.  Even though all of these things, it just means you haven't found THE ONE.  You are not alone!

All photos in this post are from Redfin.  I purposely did not include direct links as they include exact addresses.

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