Friday, December 9, 2016

TWO YEARS!


December marks my 2-year Bloggerversary and I can hardly believe it! Honestly, I thought about it for a second last week and then totally forgot! Running a blog has become such a regular part of my life that I haven't really focused on this anniversary; which is weird because leading up to my one-year Bloggerversary was such a big deal to me. That's not to say this isn't a big deal, I guess I'm just now having the time to sit and reflect on the last year. Because when I actually think about it, I'm pretty proud of myself for making it to two years.  

Blogging for me has given me so much, truly. I always wanted to run a blog and share my thoughts, but I never imagined what I would get out of it emotionally. I have talked to other bloggers over the years and we all sort of get the same thing out of sharing our world on the web. Taking the financials out of the picture, blogging can give you a sense of freedom, friendship, and personal achievement. I can tell you there is nothing better than getting feedback through email or comments from a reader that is positive... that I've touched someone in some way or that we share a similar experience that connects us. Sure, getting free products to review or getting paid for posts is nice and all, but I've said it before, meeting people, reading their journey and sharing mine has always been my favorite part of this whole lifestyle.   

Last year, I shared some goals I set for SimplyWright. Man, I wish I could have had a crystal ball then to tell me how the next 12 months would play out. A move across the country with my family, a small bout with depression, and thinking about going back to work really throw me off my blogging game. Not to mention finding the time to blog with three active children. Gone are the days when Jakob napped so I could "work." Now, I have an extremely active toddler who takes up all of my time while the others are at school, leaving me to blog after everyone is in bed and I'm beat. I can't tell you how many nights I fell asleep on my keyboard ha. I'm not complaining, just stating the facts, that as life gets increasingly busy, my blog has had to suffer. Every week, as I look back on my weekly blog schedule and all the posts I didn't get up, I sigh and just tell myself "all in good time." But I'd be lying if I said I didn't get discouraged when seeing the numbers in my month to month archive get smaller and smaller.

There were some wonderful achievements to come from my blog in the last 12 months. In February, I started my journey being a contributor for The Huffington Post. That was such a proud moment for me -if you are a blogger, then you know how important it is to get your work shown on other, bigger sites. So far I've been on The HuffPost 12 times! {Shameless plug: HERE is my newest post. You can see all my posts HERE!}

Also, I've started contributing to RedTrycycle, a great online resource for parents! {Up now...}, along with being featured on many other parenting sites. I now that my blog itself might not be seen by others around the world, but it's nice that my work does from time to time. Again, it's the networking and connection that drives me to keep doing this. 

Here are my Top Posts from the Year...

Recipes: 

DIY:

Travel:

Parenting/Life:

Blogging:

As always, thank you for being a part of my journey and reading my little blog. I have such a fun time with it and hope to get more active on here in the coming months -we'll see how that goes. Have a wonderful rest of December and happy Holiday season!!! xo 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Top 5 Christmas Movies on Netflix Now

I'm a Netflix nerd and love a good night, getting cozy in bed and watching a good holiday movie. Right now, Netflix is offering up a nice selection of Christmas movies, a lot of which are good ol' fashion TV movies -think Lifetime or Freeform. Back in the day, I loved binge watching Lifetime movies around the holidays, but can't really now that I have three little people to look after... and share the TV with. So, thankfully, Netflix and my tablet to the rescue ha! I just thought I'd share some of my fav holiday movies that are currently streaming on Netflix! I will say, though, my all time FAVORITE Christmas movie, that I have on DVD so no need for Netflix, is The Holiday. Swoon.


My picks... 

#5 The Spirit of Christmas- It's kind of a weird premise but worth the watch. It's got romance, a very handsome ghost, Christmas... the works. It's sweet in its delivery but worth the twist in the end.


#4 Noel- Let's just say, Paul Walker in is prime. That man was gorgeous and so sweet. I love all the actors in this film and how they come together. It's a sweet story about Christmas miracles and how people can change each other's lives.


#3 Christmas Kiss- Super cute and totally predictable TV movie that has everything you need in a romance movie. Great story line for the holidays and just a fun movie to add to any binge watching list.


#2 Last Holiday- I have always enjoyed this movie and the meaning behind it. I think Queen Latifah is just the best in this movie. Even though it starts on a somber note (she's told she only has 3 weeks to live) the rest of the movie is charming, funny, and sweet.


#1 Love Actually- Best movie ever, EVER! This is my fav movie of all time and a tie for fav Christmas movie. It has everything! I can't imagine that someone hasn't seen this film but if you haven't, you have to! Hugh Grant dancing when HG was still H.O.T. is everything. Oh and the music is pretty wonderful, too.


I'd love to know what are some of your holiday/Christmas movie picks, on or off of Netflix! Happy Holidays!


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Snippets from the Christkindlmarket, Chicago

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Two weekends ago, the family and I took the train into the city and enjoyed an evening of German food, music, and traditions. We went to one of my favorite Christmas time events, the Christkindlemarket! When I heard that there was a traditional German Christmas market in Chicago, one that is designed to look like the markets found all over Germany, Austria, and Switzerland this time of the year, I knew I had to go. For over 10 years now, I've enjoyed the experience of visiting Christmas markets around Europe. They are absolutely my most favorite holiday activity. With that said, living in the US and not traveling to Austria for Christmas can pose a problem for Christmas market seekers like myself. And let me be honest, my expectations for the American spin on a German tradition was quite high. Let's just say, my expectations were met, as I felt as though I had been transported to Nuremberg, Germany for a holiday party.

When we were living in Switzerland, I swear we drove to and visited, like, 10 Christkindlmarkets around Southern Germany, Northern Switzerland, and Upper Austria... and Vienna, too. I've seen super tiny markets in small little villages, to the giant markets that take up whole city centers. The Christkindlmarket here in Chicago wasn't as big as I had thought based on what I had seen online, but it was bigger than some I had been to in actual Germany. It had everything one could want for a traditional market... yeah, the food was on par and according to my Austrian hubs, just like the motherland. We enjoyed bratwurst, gluhwein (hot wine) and soft pretzels, along with the music and little tchotchkes only Europe can offer. It was magical and a perfect way to start our holiday season. Not to mention, it was soooo super cold, temps dropping to the 20s that night! 

If you're in the Chicagoland area over the next month, I highly recommend visiting one of the two Christkindlmarkets in the area! You won't be disappointed. 
Happy Holidays! 

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Apple Crunch Pie, Holiday Table & SING© Sweepstakes



You guys, Thanksgiving has come and gone and Christmas is on its way! How did this happen?! I hope you all had the most wonderful Thanksgiving, whatever you may have done. I've had a fabulous week with my mom in town, cooking and sightseeing. It was so nice to have her here for the holiday, and to enjoy her traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Oh yeah, I let her to all the turkey day cooking, complete with her recipes. I, however, was in charge of the desserts and decorations. I'm one of these people who enjoys a good home cooked meal but enjoys decorating the table even more. So when it came time to lay everything out on the table, I went to town. And when my kids and I were discussing what to make for dessert, I knew just what pie recipe I wanted to use. 

Apple Pie is kind of a big deal around these parts. We all love making the pie and then, of course, eating it. As a family, it's easy to get everyone involved in the baking process. With this easy Apple Pie Crunch Pie, I got all the kids in on the cooking process and it turned out perfect! 

Here's what you'll need:
  • 3 apples, cubed
  • 2/3 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup pure brown sugar
  • 1 cup Grape Nuts® cereal
  • 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla 
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 5 tbsp soft or nearly melted butter
  • 1 graham cracker pie crust
Here's what you'll do:
  • Chop and cube apples and set aside in a medium mixing bowl.
  • In another mixing bowl, mix together oats, brown sugar, and Grape Nuts® cereal.
  • Mix in the vanilla and honey, stir together, then add in the melted butter. Stir all ingredients together until blended. 
  • Pour apples into the pie crust and cover with the Grape Nuts® cereal/oat mix, creating a thick topping over the apples. 
  • Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until the top starts to lightly brown. 
  • Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. 
  • Serve warm and enjoy!! 




Decorating for the holidays is always a treat for me. I will be honest and say that I have been slacking in that department for the last couple of month because of this last move. But I did manage to take the time to plan and design a tablescape for Thanksgiving. I wanted to use brighter colors and not the traditional deep, Autumn colors that I'm used to. I went with blue as an accent and really loved it. And Sunflowers, I mean, I love them and always have them around the house. Heidi helped me set the table and with the placement of the flowers. I find that this time to cook and decorate is such a great way to get the kids involved during the holidays. 


And let me just say, my Apple Crunch Pie was a nice addition to my table, only for about 5 minutes before we dove in a ate every last bite! Adding Grape Nuts® cereal to recipes had been a secret of mine for years. It's one of my all time favorite cereals. Right now, when you purchase participating Post Cereal Brands, like Grape Nuts®, you can enter the Sing Sweepstakes for a chance to win the $100,000 grand prize, plus the chance to instantly win lots of prizes including movie tickets, speakers and more! I bought my box of Grape Nuts® at Target because, duh, Target is my one-stop shop for everything! It was super easy to purchase and enter this great Sweepstakes. And even if I don't win, I'm going to take my family to see the new super cute movie SING© -it looks so darn cute- in theaters starting December 21st. I figure I'll try and do as many family-centric activities as possible this holiday season! 


Here is a COUPON for your next box of Grape Nuts® or Post Cereal Brands! I encourage you to get it and make this amazing Apple Crunch Pie and other new recipes using Grape Nuts® cereal! Also, I'd love to hear how you love the movie SING© once it comes out! 
Happy Holidays and enjoy the time spent doing your traditions this season!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Promotion starts 11/1/16 at 12:00 PM (noon) ET and ends 3/31/2017 at 11:59:59 PM ET. Open only to legal residents of the 50 US/DC, 18 years of age or older. See Official Rules for instructions on how to enter, how to obtain codes without purchase, prize details, restrictions, odds of winning, etc. Void where prohibited by law. Sponsor:  Post Consumer Brands, LLC.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Creamy Cauliflower Mash with Bacon


Happy Thanksgiving week!! As a carb lover, I have no problem with starchy foods like potatoes, and I often will look forward to a good mashed potato or potato wedges. With that said, I try to eat as healthy as possible and am not opposed to finding delicious alternatives for some of my favorite dishes. Case in point, this cauliflower mash.

I do love eating mashed potatoes but can honestly say I like this cauliflower mash more. I think I make a potato dish once every few months, versus a cauliflower dish close to once a week. I try to get as much protein as possible in my diet and cauliflower is a great source {11g in one head}. Not only is it lower in carbs, cauliflower is higher in potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, magnesium, and calcium. Plus, I think it tastes wonderful, too. 

This mash recipe is a simple two step process. In 30 minutes you can have a healthy and delicious meal that I hope your whole family with enjoy. Plus, there is scientific proof that cauliflower has many health benefits! Check out this great article I found and make sure to make this dish after~ http://www.well-beingsecrets.com/cauliflower-health-benefits/


What you need:
  • 5 cups cauliflower florets 
  • 3 oz plain cream cheese 
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 5 strips cooked bacon {I used turkey bacon}
What you'll do:
  • In a large pot or sauce pan, stir together cauliflower, cream cheese, butter, salt, pepper and water. 
  • Cook on medium heat {covered} for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Then simmer {covered} for an additional 5 minutes. 
  • Remove from flame and pour into blender or food processor, being extra careful because it's hot. 
  • Blend/chop until all cauliflower is smooth and thick. 
  • Add bacon to blender and mix into the cauliflower. 
  • Pour into serving dish and serve warm. Enjoy!  

                                                    Enjoy this healthy and delicious dish! 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A View From the Top


I did the ultimate Chicago tourist activity and took the fam up to the Skydeck in Willis Tower (former Sears Tower), America's tallest building and once the world's tallest tower. I have always wanted to go up there and see the views. We got so lucky with the weather that day in that it was clear skies all around! I actually had to wear my sunglasses up there because some spots were so bright...clearly, in these pics we have a hard time keeping our eyes open lol. 

The  Ledge at Skydeck itself was very cool. It takes a few seconds to get your bearings and step onto the glass ledge that hangs off the side of the building so high up. It's on the west side of the tower and we went up in the late afternoon, so the sun was nice and warm on the windows. The kids loved standing on the open piece of glass and looking down onto the street down below. There was a line to get onto the ledge and the large group of young women in front of us took about a thousand of pictures and selfies, I swear even patient me was getting a little upset lol. But it all worked out and the overall experience was happy and beautiful and worth the money. I will probably be going up again, maybe when there is a fresh layer of snow blanketing the city.

If you want more info about the Willis Tower or the Skydeck, check it out here!!