Favorite Recipes

Breakfast Scramble

I love this recipe. It’s quick, easy AND delicious. You can eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner! We usually treat this as one of our breakfast-for-dinner recipes. It’s definitely comfort food; perfect for a cold night or any time you want something that can easily feed a whole family in about 30 minutes. It is easiest to cook this on a griddle or in a very large frying pan.

INGREDIENTS

Most of the ingredients needed for the breakfast scramble.
  • 1 package/bag of uncooked shredded hash browns (about 1-1/4lbs or 20oz)
  • Eggs (1-2 per person being served)
  • Milk (about 1/4 cup per 8 eggs)
  • Garlic salt for sprinkling
  • Pepper for sprinkling
  • Dried parsley for sprinkling
  • 1 medium onion (any color works)
  • Your favorite cheese, shredded works best
  • 1 package bacon (or preferred breakfast meat, about 12oz)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat griddle or pan to medium high heat (I set my griddle to 350 degrees specifically). No need to pre-grease pan because bacon will cook first, and bacon grease can be used for the remainder of foods. If other breakfast meats are used instead, grease griddle or pan accordingly.
  2. Dice onion into about 1/4″ pieces.
  3. Remove bacon from package, keeping pieces together (making it easier to cut). Using a sharp knife, make vertical slices through bacon slab about every 1/2″ until all bacon is cut into pieces about 1/2″ x 1″ pieces. It’s not necessary to separate the pieces, as they will come apart while cooking. *See photo below for example.*
  4. Break eggs into a bowl big enough for all of them plus milk and seasonings. Add milk, some garlic salt, pepper and parsley. I usually eyeball amounts, but to help you estimate- I used 8 eggs for 4 servings (2 eggs per person), about 1/4 cup milk, 1/2+ tsp garlic salt, 1/4+ tsp pepper, 1 Tbsp parsley. Mix until eggs are beaten and all ingredients are evenly mixed in.
  5. Add bacon to heated griddle/pan. Cook bacon until it’s thoroughly cooked. Remove bacon from griddle/pan and set aside on a plate with paper towels to soak up excess grease.
  6. Add cut up onion pieces to griddle/pan using the bacon grease already in place. Brown onion until it is translucent and caramelized.
  7. Remove onion from heated surface and set onion aside on a paper towel covered plate like bacon. Bacon and onion can share a plate at this point if necessary.
  8. With griddle/pan still sufficiently greased, add hash browns. Flatten hash browns with a spatula so that the majority of them are making contact with the heated surface. Sprinkle garlic salt and pepper over the hash browns. Let them cook for about 5-7 minutes on one side before flipping and doing the same on the other side. (5-7 minutes on each side while keeping close watch on them as to not let them burn).
  9. Once hash browns reach desired doneness, add bacon and onions back to the grill/pan.
  10. Slowly and carefully add beaten egg mixture into the hash brown, bacon, onion pile. Begin mixing everything together while also letting the egg cook on the hot surface. The egg mixture will begin to hold the hash brown mixture together.
  11. Once egg is completely cooked, turn off heat and cover mixture with shredded cheese. There should still be enough residual heat to melt the cheese. Enjoy while still hot!
The three stages of the bacon for this recipe. Whole, chopped, and cooked.

This meal can be easily reheated and enjoyed again IF there are leftovers!

Nutrition

  • Serving size: as cooked with 8 eggs serves about 4 people.
  • 1 serving is approximately 498 Calories; 25.2g Fat; 11.1g Sat. Fat; 468mg Cholest.; 829mg Sodium; 38.9g Carbs; 4.4g Fiber; 7.6g Sugar; 35.1g Protein.
Honest Product Reviews

My Honest Review: Onion Goggles

There are thousands of ridiculous gadgets on the internet today. Kitchen gadgets is probably the genre with the greatest number of unnecessary items. I worked for 5 years at a retail job that focused largely on kitchen gadgets. I’ve seen it all- strawberry hullers, banana slicers, corn cob butterers. If there is some process that takes place in the kitchen, some hopeful inventor has devised a gadget to “make your life easier.”

Because I spent 5 years exploring what we called the gadget wall, I had the chance to try many gimmicky gizmos. Some of them withstood the test, and some of them became clearly unnecessary. One gadget that I never saw in the store but ran across during one of my late night online impulse buys was called Onion Goggles.

At first, I thought it was silly. Sure, cutting onions sucks…but does it really require eye protection? But, thinking back to all the times I’ve cut onions, I reconsidered my skepticism. It seems like every time I cut onions, my eyes pour tears in defense against the onion’s stinging particles released from the cut. It’s a job I dread. I spend a lot of time cooking. I’m the main cook in our house, and I genuinely enjoy cooking, so I come across this problem frequently. Many times, my husband offers to cut the onions for our dinner because he knows how seriously I react to them. Apparently, his eyeballs are a lot tougher than mine!

So, I purchased a pair of onion goggles and waited for my first opportunity to use them. Recently, we had a meal of pulled pork sandwiches, and I wanted to make caramelized onions to go with it. Caramelizing the onions brings out their natural sweetness and goes very well with the tangy zing of the barbeque sauce on the pork. So, I busted out my newest kitchen fashion accessory and gave them a try.

I wish you could smell pictures!

I was very skeptical. Over the years, I’ve tried many of the Old Wives’ Tales based around ways to keep onions from hurting your eyes and had yet to find one that works. I’ve tried leaving the roots on while cutting the onion. I’ve tried using a very sharp knife. I’ve tried coating my knife in several different substances before cutting into the onion. I’ve tried many others. None of them worked for me, so the onion goggles were really my last effort before giving up on fighting it.

I needed to cut up the entirety of my red onion, so I was able to give my goggles a fair first try. As I began to cut the onion, I noticed that the lenses started to get what looked like tiny water droplets on them. That must be what normally gets in my eyes. Yikes! To me, that was physical proof that the goggles worked. After getting through an onion cutting experience tear-free, I’d say that these onion goggles lived up to their purpose. I’ll be keeping them handy in my kitchen from now on.

With the onion goggles I didn’t have to worry about cutting myself because of impaired vision so I was able to get perfect slices!

If you’re looking to get a pair for yourself, I’m not here to recommend any specific brands, but I can recommend some criteria for your search. Make sure that the goggles you purchase come with some sort of particle blocking material around the frames where they sit against your face. This is the main protection against the onion’s sting. Additionally, it is useful to purchase a pair with a strap that goes around the back of your head to hold them on rather than them just sitting on your nose like a regular pair of glasses. Even with a foam barrier between the glasses and your face, if they’re not held against your face tight enough, there will be plenty of gaps for onion particles to sneak in and make your purchase pointless. The pair I purchased were like regular glasses but came with an optional band that attaches to the frame. This band worked perfectly and was quite stylish, if you ask me! They made me feel like a kitchen superhero!

Kept my eyes protected AND made me look cool! Haha!

I give this product: 5 out of 5 Bear Tracks!

Favorite Recipes · Hmm, Pinteresting

Keto “bread”

I don’t follow KETO specifically but I try to substitute proteins for carbs whenever I can. My body seems to function better that way. And I stay fuller longer. I found this recipe a couple months back and saved it to my healthy recipes to try Pinterest board.

I have found many pins using this same recipe so I have no way to credit the original recipe creator but I will leave the original pin as I found it for proper credit to that pinner.

Here is the original PIN I found next to my finished product:

My Attempt

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Garlic salt sprinkled on top before baking

I used the convection setting on my oven which puts it at 375°.

They only needed 15 minutes to cook. Any longer might have made them too crispy.

PROS:

  • Easy to make
  • Easy to double or triple recipe to make more
  • Very fast prep time
  • I could successfully pretend this was bread
  • Very versatile

CONS:

  • Could be bland without some spice for flavoring which is why I sprinkled garlic salt on it.
  • Needs to be eaten soon after it’s made. Doesn’t age well.

In the future, I plan to use this recipe to make:

  • Bagels
  • Breakfast sandwiches
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese sticks

Nutrition

  • Serving size: 1 whole regular-sized bagel (2 halves) or 1 regular-sized hamburger bun (top and bottom).
  • 1 serving is approximately 271 Calories; 20.8g Fat; 11.5g Sat. Fat; 156mg Cholest.; 705mg Sodium; 1.5g Carbs; 0g Fiber; 0.7g Sugar; 15.4g Protein.
Cleaning and Organizing · Life Hacks

Cleaning Hack: Dirty Stroller

I wouldn’t call myself cheap, but I appreciate a bargain. Especially when it comes to equipment and clothing for my children. I still end up spending plenty on them, but when I can save a few bucks here and there, it means I can splurge on the more fun stuff.

Getting hand-me-downs and re-gifts is a great place to start when you’re expecting a child, but as you get further in, you start to realize how much stuff you actually need for a baby. Of course, there are some things that are more of a luxury and not a necessity. But there are some items that end up on every baby registry or wishlist. A stroller is one of them.

When I found out I was pregnant with my second baby, I started to think about what life would look like with a newborn AND a toddler. How do I keep track of both of them at the same time when we’re out and about? How do I get both of them from one place to another outside of a vehicle? It all started to sound overwhelming, but I was determined to make the transition from one to two as easy on myself as possible. I struggled with anxiety when I became a mom the first time, and I was intent on preventing a repeat situation.

Dreaming of a Two-Seater

I told myself years ago (before I had kids) that I never wanted to have to juggle a double-stroller. Well, that bit of pride went right out the window when I discovered multi-function strollers. They now have double strollers (for two children) that convert into different seating functions. You can have two seats for toddler-sized kids, or two spots for baby carriers (good for twins), a spot for an older kid to stand and hold on, or any variation of those options.

My bargain stroller almost totally clean!

Since I love a bargain, I was determined not to pay full price for one of these luxury baby vehicles. I saw how the stroller I had for my first child got beat up, used heavily, and tossed around, and this made me less excited to sink several hundred dollars into something that received that much wear and tear. So, I started bargain shopping.

Thankfully, there are as many people trying to get rid of their old child-rearing gear as there are trying to buy it, so I had plenty of options to choose from. Once I narrowed down the make and model of the stroller I wanted (based on reviews I read on new ones combined with input from other moms), I jumped on the Facebook Marketplace and searched my surrounding area for the stroller I wanted.

I lucked out and found one for a fraction of the cost of a new one. It was practically free! I knew this most likely meant that it had some wear and tear, but at the price they were asking, I could hardly be picky. Once I picked up the item, I found that it wasn’t so much wear and tear that I should have been concerned about but more dirt and grime. Yuck! I know kids are messy, stinky, sticky, icky, cute, little creatures but this stroller had seen some action!

I had seen some Pinterest post months before about soaking a stroller in a bathtub filled with water and soap, but I wasn’t quite willing to submerge my stroller in water. Plus, I wanted to be able to let it dry out completely, which seemed tricky when washing it inside the house. Luckily, I was pregnant with an end-of-summer baby so I had great weather for my experiment.

The Nitty and Not-so-Gritty

I decided to wash my not-so-new stroller like I used to wash my car. (I say “used to” because I just go through the car wash now…I don’t have the time or energy to wash my own car anymore.) I cleaned the stroller in my driveway with a hose fixed with a spray nozzle that had multiple spray options. Here’s the breakdown of my method:

Scrub brushes like this make the job easier.
  1. Open up stroller completely and remove any loose debris. Turn it upside down and shake it out if need be. Vacuum it out! There are a lot of methods that could work for this part.
  2. Remove anything on the stroller that you don’t want getting wet. This could be any bags or extra things hanging off the stroller that don’t need cleaning.
  3. Open/extend all canopies as they will also be getting a scrub down and need to be easily accessible.
  4. Get a hose hooked up to water, preferably with a spray nozzle that offers at least one higher pressure setting.
  5. Spray the heck out of that stroller. Get every nook and cranny. Use the high pressure setting to blast stains and grimy surfaces. *Watch out for flying fishy crackers!*
  6. Using regular dish soap and a scrubby brush (I used the kind I use on dishes, and it worked fabulously), scrub every surface of that stroller until you get a decent lather all over.
  7. Using the high pressure hose setting, spray off all of the soapy surfaces until water runs clear.
  8. Check surfaces for any necessary re-scrubbing.
  9. Once stroller is clean of soap and dirt, leave in a warm, dry area or in the sun to dry.
  10. ***Don’t leave the stroller in the sun too long because some material colors could fade. Make sure to spin the stroller around every 15 minutes or so to speed up drying in the sun. Also, don’t leave a wet stroller in a warm, dark place or you could cause mold to grow on it. Similarly, don’t fold up the stroller if it is wet or even damp for the same reason. Fold it up once the material surfaces are COMPLETELY dry.***

You may need to go over some sections more than once. Seriously, kids are gross! But so much fun, amirite?! I purposely used just regular dish soap for this task because it is a mild detergent. I’m sure you could use something else, but I wouldn’t suggest it. You don’t know how some cleaners could affect the integrity of the stroller’s surfaces. You wouldn’t want to weaken materials or corrode the stroller’s moving parts.

This process took me maybe 30 minutes to complete, and it changed something that was garage-sale-quality into consignment-shop-quality for only minimal effort and no extra money. This process could be used on things like playpens, baby seats, high chairs, etc. But you SHOULD NOT use this process on car seats, as car seats have very strict rules on cleaning so that their structural integrity and safety are not compromised. Please do your research or ask a qualified car seat safety specialist for the proper methods of cleaning a car seat.

Building a Home · Home Life

Building Your Dream Home: Floor Plan Design Process

My husband and I moved in together when we got married. We had just purchased a home that was big enough to grow a family and had everything we wanted. It was a dream come true. What we didn’t see coming and couldn’t predict was that the city we chose to start a life in would change drastically and cause us to rethink our entire family plan.

We started looking at options to move, hoping to relocate far enough away from our current city but stay within the same state. I started shopping for houses, looking at different cities and towns outside of where we were currently living. Due to certain circumstances, we knew that we couldn’t make another mortgage purchase for a couple years so we had time to take things slowly and figure out our plans piece by piece.  

Even with the long and flexible timeline stretched out before us, we quickly became overwhelmed with the size and complexity of our possible move. On top of that, the issues within our current city were pushing us out more and more. Was there a way that we could speed up our timeline and escape as soon as possible? Then came a big “what if” question. When I first asked it, I thought for sure it would be immediately shot down. It’s crazy! Preposterous! We don’t have the money for that! Etc. Etc.

What if we could buy a piece of land and build our dream home over an extended period of time? Surprisingly, the question didn’t fall flat. We were both quiet for a few minutes trying to poke holes in the idea with the realities of our situation. But we couldn’t! So we began trying to figure out how one goes about building their dream house.

Step one was to buy a piece of land. For the sake of keeping this post at an abbreviated length, I’ll just say that over the course of several months we found the perfect piece of land and made the purchase. I may get into details of land purchasing in a different post.

The next step that we needed to figure out was how to design our dream home and turn it into a drawing that a builder could actually use. Here are the things I learned along the process:

Step One: Gather Ideas

I started by brainstorming with my husband a couple lists, defining all of the things we wanted to have in our dream house. Number of bedrooms, bathrooms, floors, special use rooms, special features. No matter how ridiculous they seemed, we wrote them down. Once I had those lists, I started to gather visual examples for the ideas on those lists.

An example of my Pinterest boards where I collected and organized my home design ideas.

I started with Pinterest. On Pinterest, I was able to create pin boards for all the rooms, features, and visual aesthetics we wanted. On those boards, I collected as many examples I could find. It also helped me find new and different ideas. I also found that there are thousands of floor plan links to look through for good starting points. Pinterest also has a function that suggests similar visuals, so if you find a particular type of floor plan that you like, you can find many variations of it there. This is how I found the original floor plan after which we modeled our design. Of course, each floor plan has copyrights, so you’ll have to make significant changes to any that you choose or pay a fee for the right to use it.

Step Two: Draw Up Some Floor Plans

Regardless of how you begin to assemble your floor plan, it can be a very helpful starting point just to start sketching ideas. After searching Pinterest for floor plans, I took a few that fit most of our requirements and combined them to start with. I used a couple methods for doing this. The first was to grab some good ol’ fashioned graph paper and hand-draw up some rough plans. Put rooms next to other rooms. See how they fit and flow together. I used a light table (you can also use a window with light coming through it) to stack the floors on top of one another to see how they line up.

Another option for drawing up floor plans is to try out the many different home design apps that exist. I tried several. Always try the free versions first to see if you like them. None of them are perfect, but many of them are helpful. Depending on your level of dedication and time available, these apps can be very useful for visualizing your floor plan ideas.

Here are some things to keep in mind when designing or choosing your floor plans:

  1. The plans that you initially design will be VERY different from the plans you end up with from a designer. This is not a bad thing. Just be prepared to compromise and change.
  2. Hallways are a huge waste of square footage and can drive up the cost of your house.
  3. Consider the layout of your land. Which way does the sun rise and set? Where are your views? If your land gets significant wind storms or road noise, make sure to place rooms in your design methodically based on those (and other) environmental factors.
  4. Are there going to be baby rooms/nurseries in this house? Consider placing those rooms far away from the noisier/high traffic rooms like the kitchen, living room, garage (due to garage door noise), theater/game/play room, etc.
  5. If your land is sloped, consider putting in a finished daylight basement.
  6. Roofing can be one of the most expensive parts of building a home. If you can have less square footage to cover in roofing, it could save you money. As an example- try to design multiple, stacked floors rather than a sprawling rambler-style house.

Step Three: Find a Designer/Architect

Something I learned early into our design process was that you need someone to draw up your blueprints regardless of how intricately you’ve drawn up your floor plans. There are varying levels of how much a designer provides you for your build process. This depends on the specific design firm and what they offer for their services. A designer and architect are generally the same thing, but they may refer to themselves as one or the other. Either way, a designer/architect is there to take your ideas and make them into something that works visually.

One of the many versions of our floor plans.

They usually have experience in knowing how a house should flow and what ideas work and what ideas are not worth considering. It is in your best interest to take their advice. Of course, I can’t speak for every designer out there, but you should choose one who has had a proper education and can show you a portfolio of work that fits with what you’d like for your house. They should be able to answer your questions, interpret your ideas, and steer you in a direction that gets you well on your way to building your dream home.

The designer we chose offered some very thorough job packages that covered everything from the exterior and interior design processes as well as the civil engineering and permits. We chose this because this was our first experience with the home building process, and we wanted to make sure that things were being done right.

Additionally, civil engineering is one of the most important parts of your home’s design process. Some design firms may offer this service in-house, but some may not. If they don’t, you’ll have to find a separate civil engineer. A civil engineer is the one who takes your visual house plans (from the designer/architect) and turns them into something that actually functions. They make separate plans for your lighting, your vent systems, plumbing, electrical, roofing structure, etc. These plans are necessary for your builders, which we will talk about more in a future post.

A few things to keep in mind during your design phase:

  1. Be very clear with your designer/architect on what their prices include. You might be surprised to find later on that something like civil engineering or permitting could be a separate charge all together.
  2. Listen to the suggestions of the designer. They should have the skills and experience to answer all of your questions and concerns. They also know when something just isn’t possible or might be out of your price range.
  3. Make sure you talk with your designer about what your home building price range is. Be very honest with them about how much you are looking to spend on the actual building of your home. They will then be able to keep your designs within that range.
  4. Know that there may be a lot of revisions and back and forth during this part of the process. Be patient and know that you’re that much closer to perfection.
  5. Be very honest and verbal about your questions and concerns. You need to get your plans exactly how you want them, and you cannot assume that your designer knows  what you’re picturing in your head.
  6. Find a designer who is familiar with the permit processes and code requirements for the specific county your house will be built in. Different counties have different requirements to pass inspection, and if your designer doesn’t catch them all the first time, it could lead to expensive rework.
  7. It is possible to find a designer who runs permits for you. This is very helpful if you are unfamiliar with the process. They will know what permits need to be filed and when and can help make sure those are completed on time.

In the end, this process should be fun and exciting. You should begin to see your ideas turned into real plans. Plans you can hold and show other people. It makes a huge difference to do your research first. Know who you are doing business with because you will be spending a lot of time and money on the design process. This is also an area of the process that you don’t want to skimp on. Being cheap with the design plans can cause a lot of rework and could end up costing you more in the long run.

An example of something your designer might be able to provide you alongside your floor plans.
Beauty · Honest Product Reviews

My Honest Review: Lash Boost by R&F

Full disclosure: This review DOES NOT make me any money. I am reviewing this product only as a consumer and do not stand to profit from any promotion of the product. I do NOT sell this product.

Any woman who has been pregnant before has noticed changes with her body. It wasn’t until I had given birth to my first child that I began to notice many things about my body that had changed and were still changing. Of course, carrying a baby inside your body will change your shape and the way some things function, but there are other changes, sometimes subtle, that you don’t notice right away.

Months after I had given birth to my son, I started to notice my hair changing. I was in denial for weeks that it was falling out. I had heard other moms talk about losing their hair, so I knew it was a possibility, but I didn’t believe it would happen to me. I thought having thick hair would save me from that. As I slowly started to lose my hair, I also noticed that my eyelashes had thinned out to a point that not even mascara could help. So, I started to look for options.

I had heard about eyelash extensions and other options similar to that, but I wasn’t willing to resort to that until I had exhausted all of the options I could do at home. I knew that eyelash extensions were only temporary and had to be done by a professional esthetician. This wasn’t a great option for me as a new mother. I didn’t have enough time in my days to leave the house for appointments like that. I wanted an option that I could do at home by myself.

“I wanted an option that I could do at home by myself.”

For months, I saw advertisements from a friend showing before and after pictures of women who had tried a product called Lash Boost from Rodan & Fields. This product was specially formulated to grow your lashes out as naturally as possible. Of course, I’m always skeptical of products coming from direct sales companies like Rodan & Fields. I, myself, have been a part of a couple MLM (multi-level marketing)/DS (direct sales) style companies in the past. Some companies sell really great, quality products and others do not. I had heard a lot of good things about R&F products, but I was still skeptical.

A friend of mine who is a consultant for R&F was running a deal on the Lash Boost so I figured it was a good time to try it. I had no idea how much it would cost, and when I found out the reality of the price tag, I almost backed out. It is expensive! That was my first impression. And because I had never purchased any other products from R&F, I had no basis for estimating the price to start with. But realistically, if growing my lashes out was important to me, Lash Boost still ended up being cheaper than going the route of eyelash extensions. The first tube I purchased was an experiment because I didn’t know if it would work or how long the tube of product would last me.

The Lash Boost product comes in a skinny, silver container, about the size of a mascara tube. When I first got it, I thought “this stuff better work for this price!” Initially, I felt kinda disappointed because I had paid so much for such a small tube. It turned out that that tube lasted me about 2 ½ months. So, once I did the math, it turned out that the value of the product wasn’t as bad as the initial sticker shock. Thankfully, R&F gives you control over when your next product shipment is purchased and shipped. This meant that I was able to push out the purchase of my next tube for a couple months. Not having to pay the full price every month was a bonus. You also save a bit on the product by signing up as a recurring customer. Of course, those types of “discounts” are always factored into the price of the product anyhow, but it was nice to have a discount as long as I could stay on top of the reorder date.

Now that I had my product, I was ready to try it. I had no idea how long I could expect to try it until I saw results. I also had no guarantee that it would work for me at all, but it was worth a try. I told myself that I would give it a month, and if I saw no results, I would stop using it.

“I told myself that I would give it a month, and if I saw no results, I would stop using it.”

After a month of trying Lash Boost, I did see results. I was surprised at how well it had already been working. Initially, the only issue I had with it was that it left the skin on my eyelids a little red where I placed the product at night. It looked like I was wearing a dark pink eyeliner. I was a little concerned at first, but after using the product for a month, the redness started to go away. This may sound concerning to some of you but there was no swelling, pain, or other signs of a bad reaction other than the skin redness, so I was willing to risk it.

Top image was before using Lash Boost. Bottom picture was after 3 months of daily use- mascara used to highlight lash length.

I continued using the product and continued to see results. My eyelashes grew in length and thickness. I finally started to feel less like a hot mess mom and more comfortable in my own skin. Lash Boost worked so well, in fact, that I rarely felt like I needed mascara to accentuate my eyes, but when I did use it, the mascara did a great job of highlighting my already long lashes. It was nice to finally feel like I didn’t need to wear false eyelashes when I wanted to dress up. It was nice to feel proud of my own lashes. It helped me feel pretty, and I’m not ashamed to admit that.

As I write this, I have been using this product for a little over a year now. I did notice that after about 6 months of using Lash Boost, my lashes had reached what I consider to be their max length and thickness. Anything after that has been just staying consistent with the product to keep the look intact. There was a period of time after I had given birth to my second baby when I was too tired to remember to apply the products during my bedtime routine like usual. I did begin to notice a decrease in length and thickness of my lashes during that time. Once I noticed that, I made sure to continue my evening applications, and it seemed that my lashes recovered quickly, and I was able to regain my max lash length and thickness.

My most current results. Mascara used to highlight lash length.

Overall, I have been happy with this product. I love my results and have had to exert minimal effort to attain them. Once I factored the cost into my beauty regimen budget, it wasn’t as shocking as it was at first. Thankfully, other things in my regimen became more affordable, so the tradeoff evened out in the long run. In a future post, I will review the skincare products I have been using from another company and how their value is the best I’ve come across in my many years of trying various products.

I give Lash Boost from Rodan & Fields 4 out of 5 Bear Tracks!

Beauty · Life Hacks

Super Thick Hair Hack

It seems to be common that if you were born with a certain type of hair, you end up wishing you could change it. I’ve heard this said for almost every hair type. If you have complaints about your hair, I can almost guarantee that there is someone out there in the world wishing their hair was exactly like yours.

Fine-haired people wish their hair was thicker or had more body. Thick-haired people wish they had fine, manageable hair. Straight-haired people wish for curls, and curly-haired people want to straighten their hair. I remember that when I was a kid, many girls were jealous of my long, thick braid. My mom kept my hair in a braid to protect it from getting tangled, since she had been letting it grow my entire life. I was blessed with thick hair, but let me assure you, this is as much a curse as it is a blessing.

“I was blessed with thick hair, but let me assure you, this is as much a curse as it is a blessing.”

I’ve met many hairdressers who express their envy of my thick hair but also curse it once they find out how long it takes just to blow-dry it. And changing the color or adding highlights? Fuhgettaboutit. All of this may sound like a big, stupid humble brag to many of you, but I assure you, there’s another point.

A couple years ago I found a solution to my thick hair curse. Every summer I spend several months feeling miserable from the heat. My hair has always acted like a scarf on my neck and a knit hat on my head all year round. That might be okay in winter, but during the summer it is pure torture. And keeping my hair in a ponytail or bun for months at a time gets really boring and doesn’t let my scalp breathe.

After dealing with this for years, I decided that I would shave off all of my hair from about the top of my ears down. This allowed me to get rid of half of my hair but also gave me the option to hide the undercut beneath my regular length hair.

Postpartum Hair Loss

On a side note, I was a bit concerned about postpartum hair loss with this haircut. I did not have my head shaved during my first pregnancy, but after I had my first baby I ended up losing a lot of hair. My hair started thinning out along my hairline, and I got bald spots near the sides of my forehead. I just did my best to ignore it or cover it up until it started to grow back. When I became pregnant the second time while having the undercut, I was afraid that I would have to deal with the same type of hair loss as with the first. Luckily, it seemed that my hormones were more forgiving after having my second child. Plus, my hair was lighter and easier to manage because of the undercut. And since I was pregnant in the summer, it was also very helpful in keeping me cooler than normal.

Here are the pros and cons I have discovered to getting an undercut.

UNDERCUT PROS:

  • Much cooler head temperature.
  • With my hair up, I can feel a breeze on my skin.
  • My hair dries a lot faster.
  • My hair sits straighter and flatter.
  • Getting my hair colored takes half the time that it used to, and it is usually cheaper!
  • Hats fit me better!
  • I have a very versatile style between up and down looks.
  • I can get my undercut shaved at a salon for cheap or do it myself for free.
  • Styling my hair takes a fraction of the time that it used to.

UNDERCUT CONS:

  • The breeze can be a little cold on my scalp in the winter.
  • If I ever want to grow it back out again, it will take a long time to catch up with the rest of my hair.
  • Keeping my undercut shaved regularly becomes a challenge with my fast growing hair.
  • If I dye my undercut, my hair will grow out with a very small section of color on it.
  • My long hair likes to velcro to my shaved undercut when I’m trying to separate the two.

Conclusion

I would recommend this type of hair cut for anyone looking to stay low maintenance while also being able to have fun with hair styles. I don’t do a lot with the styling because I rarely have the time since becoming a mom. But this cut allows me to hide the undercut for a softer and more feminine look while also giving me the flexibility of pulling it back or up to reveal the shaved parts for a more playful and edgy look. If you’re not willing to commit to cutting off half your hair and not being able to grow it back quickly then definitely avoid this type of cut. Below are picture examples of the simple ways I have worn my hair while having the undercut.

Favorite Recipes

Crock-Pot Chili

This chili is a recipe I have been making for years now. It changes a little each time depending on how many of each item we have laying around. I don’t like to waste food, so I find ways to incorporate unclaimed items into my recipes. The recipe below is the most common version that I make. There are many options for changes or substitutions that I will note below the recipe. Look for the * symbol for specific notes. It’s an easy recipe. The most time consuming part is cutting up the vegetables.

  • Prep time: approx. 30 minutes
  • Cook time: on low 6-8hrs, on high 4hrs
Most of the main ingredients for Crock-Pot Chili
  • 1 lb ground turkey*
  • About 1 lb cubed steak*
  • 1 medium yellow onion*
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (optional for spice)*
  • 1 can black beans (15 oz.)
  • 1 can kidney beans (15 oz.)
  • 2 -15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1- 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 16 oz. chicken broth*
  • 3 cloves of garlic or 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp Himalayan Pink Salt*
  • 2 bay leaves
The spices used in the Crock-Pot Chili recipe
  1. On medium heat, brown and crumble ground turkey in a frying pan (using a little oil to grease the pan).
  2. Trim fat from cubed steak and cut steak down to small pieces- about 1″ cubed or smaller.
  3. Using high heat and an oiled frying pan, sear (brown) each side of the steak pieces but try not to cook them all the way through. The Crock-Pot will do the rest of the cooking and this will keep the steak pieces tender.
  4. Cut onion, red and green pepper, and optional jalapeño into small pieces.
  5. Add all ingredients (except the bay leaves) to the Crock-Pot. With a large spoon, stir ingredients until evenly mixed.
  6. Tuck the bay leaves into the chili alongside the inside of the pot.
  7. Cook in the Crock-Pot on Low for 6-8 hours or on High for 4 hours. Stir ingredients occasionally but it’s not necessary.

Notes:

*This recipe calls for ground turkey but you can substitute ground beef or even take it out entirely for a vegetarian option.

*This meat is also not necessary for the option of a vegetarian chili.

*I typically use a sweeter yellow onion but any type will do. White onions are also a good option but typically yield a stronger onion-taste.

*The jalapeño is totally optional but is a great addition if you like a little bit of spice. Some jalapeños are spicier than others. Sometimes you can find mild jalapeños. You can add these but they usually won’t be spicy enough to notice in the chili. One “hot” jalapeño is a good amount of spice for this recipe. But feel free to add as much or as little as you want!

*For the chicken broth, I usually use scoops of condensed broth paste dissolved in hot water but you can also use bouillon cubes dissolved or already prepared broth from a package instead. It’s all a matter of choice and convenience.

*Himalayan pink salt has less sodium than table salt. If you have to substitute table salt, make sure to only add a teaspoon or two and possibly just add more to taste after it cooks.

Nutrition:

  • Servings: there are about 15 servings measured with a regular sized ladle.
  • 1 serving is approximately 178 Calories; 1.8g Fat; 0.2g Sat. Fat; 14.7mg Cholest.; 465mg Sodium; 24.7g Carbs; 5.5g Fiber; 8.1g Sugar; 18.5g Protein.
Beauty · Honest Product Reviews

My Honest Review: Lumē Deodorant

Full disclosure: I DO NOT make any money or get any promotional kickbacks from Lumē for my review. I am reviewing this product only as a consumer/customer. Click HERE for my current follow-up review of this product.

That being said, I feel there’s something else you should know. I’m stinky. Well, not right now but more often than I’d like to admit. I’m a mom, and unfortunately, I’m pretty low on my own priority list. So my showers usually happen at night before I go to bed and after the cubs are already sleeping. I’ll be real and admit that I don’t get the luxury of a daily shower. I sometimes have to go a few days without showering because sleep is more important to me than de-stinkifying myself. I’ve also been blessed with prodigious stink-making abilities, so deodorant has been my best friend since puberty.

All of this together means that my deodorant is usually working overtime to keep me socially acceptable. Years ago, when pit stains were the biggest of my insecurities, I depended on clinical-strength deodorants to keep me sweat and stink-free. Unfortunately, those are terrible for the endocrine system, affecting the body’s hormone production. In retrospect, it actually explains a lot about my hormone struggles through the years. In recent years, I’ve been using regular Dove deodorant because it has been the gentlest on my skin while also working well to keep me stink-free.

In the past, I’ve tried a couple different natural deodorant options, neither of which worked for me. I’ve heard some people say that natural deodorants work, but you have to be willing to let your body adjust to them. Sorry, I don’t have time for that. I don’t want to stink for what could be weeks or months just because I’m “working through a few things.” So I’ve been convinced for a while that I would never find a “natural” deodorant that works for stinky ol’ me.

Recently, an ad came through my Facebook feed (sometimes marketing works, people) that caught my eye. I’ll admit that it initially caught my eye because it was a video commercial with a lot of bright colors. But as I watched, I noticed their added humor about what is normally a fairly taboo topic. A silly ad for deodorant? I’m listening… The best part of the commercial, in my opinion, was that every time I came up with a question about the product, they answered it! By the end of it, I was sold. I jumped online and bought some. But I was still skeptical.

They claim that this deodorant, called Lumē, is an aluminum-free alternative to most others on the market. I have personal reasons for wanting to pursue an aluminum-free deodorant, but without getting preachy, HERE is a simple article giving some insight into aluminum-based deodorants and how they can affect our bodies.

The Lumē brand also claims it can be used anywhere externally on the body where odor occurs. It was developed by a gynecologist who wanted to find a better way to kill odor causing bacteria without using materials that could harm your body. They sell both a stick-style deodorant and a tube/cream-style to be applied with your hand. Both seem to be the same formula, just different applications.

The first thing I noticed when I tried this product was the smell. It was a little strong for me. It was citrus-y and almost chemical-y. (Yes, those are scientific adjectives.) I’m still not a huge fan of the scent, but I found out through further research that they also sell an unscented version, which I plan to try next. Yes, you read that right! I do plan to purchase this product again. Here’s why:

The Lumē brand claims that you can get 72 hours of protection out of their product. That is still up in the air for me. I chickened out after about 30 hours. Thankfully, the product did seem to continue working, but I could tell it had started to wear out its effectiveness around the 24 hour mark. It also could be that once my body adjusts to the bacteria balance, I may get longer use out of one application. But I’ll have to add an update at a later time when I’ve done some further testing.

The biggest positive I found in this product is that it worked. It kept me from getting stinky for at least 24 hours, even while chasing down toddler bear all day and juggling a breastfeeding baby bear. I actually felt like I sweated a little less than I normally would as well, but that could have been a fluke. Since I’ve been consistently taking my amazing multivitamin and probiotics for the last couple years, they have helped me balance my hormones, which, in turn, has helped regulate my body temperature and decrease my usual intense sweating. But I’ll go into that further in a future post.

The only negatives I found about the Lumē products are the price and the smell. It’s a pricey stick of deodorant at about $14 and $19 for the tube. Yikes! I know. But with the idea that it should last about three times as long as your daily-application, aluminum-filled deodorant, it evens out to be about the same cost over time. One great thing I noticed is that they offer free shipping, which probably means that the shipping cost is built into the price of the product. Something to keep in mind any time a product claims “free shipping.” But, hey, at least I didn’t have to see an additional cost in my checkout cart. As for the smell, I’m curious to see if their “unscented” scent is truly unscented and keeps me…unscented.

Overall, I would give Lumē deodorant a positive review. It is the first deodorant I’ve tried that has eliminated the need for aluminum but has worked immediately and for a realistic length of time. I normally expect to re-apply my deodorant daily. But with all other natural deodorants I have tried in the past, I had to re-apply them multiple times a day. That is wasteful and annoying. Lumē seems to have found a good recipe for healthy and effective. If it was just mediocre, I probably would not have wasted my time writing a review.

I give this product: 4 out of 5 Bear Tracks!

Favorite Recipes

No Oil Banana Bread

This is one of my family’s favorite recipes…to eat! It is made with yogurt in place of oil or butter. The end result is a very moist, spongy banana bread. It’s so addicting, especially once you realize there are fewer calories with the yogurt substitute. Muahahaha! Look for the * symbol for notes and options noted at the end of the recipe.

  • Prep time: approx. 15 minutes
  • Cook time: approx. 35-45 min for bread, 15-20 min for large muffins, 12-15 min for mini muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup sugar*
  • 6 oz (3/4 cup) vanilla yogurt*
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large medium ripe bananas*
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup buttermilk (optional)*
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups mini chocolate chips (optional)*
  • Brown sugar for sprinkling
No Oil Banana Bread Ingredients (without buttermilk)

Instructions:

  1. Before you turn your oven on, remove all but the bottom rack. These need to be cooked on the bottom rack so at least leave enough room to place your pans on the lowest rack in your oven.
  2. Turn your oven on to 350°
  3. Butter or non-stick spray a 13×9 pan or 2 9×9 pans. This recipe can also be made into muffins- see the note below*
  4. Pour the mini chocolate chips into the bottom of your pan(s). Line the bottom evenly so that you cannot see the pan.* This will bake onto the bottom of the bread like a delicious, chocolate crust.
  5. In a stand mixer, mix sugar and yogurt until smooth.
  6. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well in-between.
  7. Add bananas, buttermilk (opt.), and vanilla. Mix well.
  8. Mix in flour one cup at a time, mixing well in-between.
  9. Add salt and baking soda. Mix until smooth.
  10. Carefully pour batter in to pan(s) while not disturbing the chocolate chips. Make sure to divide the batter evenly between the pans if you are using more than one.
  11. Sprinkle desired amount of brown sugar over the top of the batter-filled pan(s).
  12. Cook for between 35-45 minutes depending on your oven. It is best to check doneness with a toothpick at about 30 minutes and every 5 minutes after that until the toothpick comes out clean.

Notes:

*I usually use cane sugar rather than white sugar but both should work the same.

*I use a small container of vanilla bean yogurt but I have also tried using the same amount of plain greek yogurt as a substitute and it worked just as well but required an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract for flavor (2 tsp vanilla total).

*You want bananas that are very ripe but I have used bananas of varying ripeness. The difference is- the riper they are the sweeter and more banana-y the bread tastes.

*The buttermilk is labeled as optional because sometimes I put it in my recipe and sometimes I leave it out. The recipe seems to cook similarly either way but cooking it with the buttermilk adds even more moisture. Without the buttermilk it seems to be plenty moist and you wouldn’t notice it wasn’t in there.

*Chocolate chips are an optional ingredient and 2 cups is an approximate measurement because you can really add as much or as little as you’d like. You can also mix the chips into the batter rather than lining the pan with them. It’s all a matter of opinion.

*MUFFINS- spray and line 1-12 cup or 1-24 mini cup muffin pan(s) as you would large pans. Cook for about 15-20 minutes checking the doneness the same as you would in pans, adding 5 minutes at a time until the toothpick comes out clean.

Nutrition:

  • Servings as bread: 32, servings as mini muffins: 24, servings as regular muffins: 12
  • Based on 24 serving mini muffins baked with optional buttermilk: 1 serving is approximately 141 Calories; 2.1g Fat; 1.1g Sat. Fat; 20.6mg Cholest.; 152mg Sodium; 28.7g Carbs; 0.4g Fiber; 17.4g Sugar; 2.6g Protein.
Finished product!