Missouri Summer Road Trip: Idaho & Montana

Our first road trip is in the books. We pulled back into our driveway this morning at 8:45am (yeah… AM) and immediately wanted to turn around and leave again. I’ll take that as a good sign.

5,000 miles.

13 states.

Zero blown tires or roadside assistance.

Zero ticks.

Zero panic attacks.

Zero mom chill.

I’m going to work my way through the trip and recap in segments, so we don’t forget all the fun details and you don’t get bored reading about our adventures.

First, let me just say, that if you’re looking for a aesthetically pleasing PDF download of all the top tips, tricks, hacks and must-know-tibits for brand new Rv’ers… you’re not going to find that here. I am not that organized or cool.

Day 1

We pulled out of town on Thursday evening, blasting Dave Matthews after an enthusiastic family prayer for safe travels and listening ears, and made our way to our first stop: a gorgeous parking lot at a resort called Cabela’s, in Post Falls, Idaho. 

Lol. 

We discovered this is a thing when it started to get dark and we realized we were already exhausted. So, we searched rest stops/overnight camping as we flew down the freeway at 65mph, wanting to stop for the night and gear up for our first full day of travel.

Day 1 came to an end quick.

All the truck stops were JAM PACKED, and although my dad is a truck driver, it was super intimidating. They’ve gotta haaaate RV’ers, right? So we kept looking – Paul, at nearby truck stops, and me on trusty Facebook groups for brand new travelers. But semis are menacing in the dark, idling loudly with their lights off. All I kept thinking about was Paul Walker in Joy Ride, and I was not in the mood for anyone to call me “Candy Cane”, so we moved on to Plan B.

Plan B: Parking Lot Party

Apparently, Walmart, Bass Pro, Cabelas, and Cracker Barrell mostly all allow overnight camping for travelers and truckers – for free! We started by stopping at a Post Falls Walmart, but the crowd there looked… fun. So, we went to Cabela’s, and found a quiet little lineup of good looking RVs with not a creature stirring. So, we fell in line nearest to a parking lot light, and jumped into our trailer before anyone could murder us.

It was great! Peaceful, despite my crippling anxiety that someone was gonna smash in our window and rob us in the middle of the night… but ya know, that’s just life.

Survive the Night

We woke up – yay! Porter gets nauseous if we wake him up before the sun, so he shoved a Z Bar into his mouth and we piled into the truck in search of coffee and an open road. Montana, here we come.

Montana

We pulled into Montana and stopped for diesel at a little roadside convenience store/coffee shop/bakery, and struck gold. This place was the cutest, and had local, handmade gifts and fresh fudge. The boys wanted treats, so they grabbed neck pillows and candy that we’d never allow them to buy at home. The tidal wave of Yellowstone gear began, and we continued on.

We stopped for lunch in Bozeman at a great Brewery called Nordic BeerWorks, Porter hauled me into a reptile shop, I promptly hauled him out, and we continued on to Billings. 

It was about 5pm when we decided to see about KOAs, so the kids could get out and run around, ride their bikes, and explore a bit. Turns out, the Billings KOA is the first ever KOA, and it’s incredible. Putt putt, an awesome playground, with the whole property backing right up to the river. We were there for less than 12 hours, but it was clean and I would go back in a heartbeat. 

The boys got to play, and Paul and I got in a couple rounds of dice before the rain began…

…and didn’t let up until we pulled into Missouri. Lol

More to come!

Pumpkin Patch 2020

We had a great day at a new pumpkin patch, Knutson Farms. It was so well done, not crowded at all – and everything was free except for food and pumpkins. Can I tell you how nice it is to not have to pay individually for each activity you want to do as a fam? Corn maze, hayride, games, play area… all free at Knutson’s. Thank you for an awesome day!

We stopped at Target on our way, because we had no clothes in the house that I felt was appropriate for our fall family photo. I grabbed this copper puffer jacket, and two sweatshirts for the little boys. They worked perfectly.

But this puffer, guys. This puffer is gonna get a lot of use this year. It’s men’s, which is weird because it was at the front of the store in the women’s section in a display, but I could not possibly care any less. It’s oversized for layering, and kept me super warm.

Totally recommend!

Get Well, Be Well, Stay Well

Since being and staying well is what everyone is thinking about, and what I’ve been sharing about most often in my day to day life, I thought I would go through my list of must haves, routines, tips, and must dos for getting/being/staying as healthy as can be.

I’m gonna keep it super simple, and include links, and brief explanations of why/how. Please feel free to leave comments, or share with friends and family. Also, an important note: I am not a doctor and am not telling you to take these products or giving any semblance of medical advice. This is my routine. My research. My decisions. My products. What you do is completely up to you.

Most of the products I use, especially the supplements and antioxidant drink, are from Young Living. My shipments show up at my doorstep every month, and are full of incredible, plant-based products. If you want your own membership, click here

  1. Find a good Vitamin D. I take this one, which I get from my chiropractor. Most of us, especially those of us in the beautiful PNW, don’t get enough vitamin d. This is a daily supplement. I have this liquid vitamin d for my kids, and they don’t mind it at all!

  2. Schedule regular chiropractic visits. We try to go twice a month, but we go 1-2x a week if we’re under the weather. A body in alignment is much more likely to be strong and healthy – when everything is in place, everything can function as it’s supposed to.

  3. Vitamin C. Our bodies don’t produce it, so you have to find a good supplement. I take this one for daily dose, but I’m ordering this one to do a vitamin c flush very soon. There is vast research pointing to vitamin c as an incredibly important and beneficial nutrient; the more its studied, the more we understand how diverse it is in protecting our immune systems, cardiovascular health, eye health and more! Vitamin C is necessary for growth, development and repair of all body tissues. It’s involved in the formation of collagen, absorption of iron, immune system function, wound healing, and the maintenance of bone, cartilage and teeth. It’s also water soluble. This means that excess amounts are not stored in the body – so you need to replace it daily. In times where your body is under stress and/or your immune system is weakened, your body will use up vitamin C quickly. Vitamin C helps stimulate both production and function of your white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off infection. (Our Vit C is formulated with camu camu, acerola, cherry and rose hips fruit powder).

  4. Elderberry. I make my own, with raw honey and my favorite essential oils. We take this if we come into contact with someone that is sick, just to give our bodies a little bit more fighting power. The frequency that you take your elderberry is THE most important – I take 1 tablespoon hourly, until symptoms subside. This elixir has severely reduced the length of my sickness (coming from someone that used to be sick for weeks on end).

  5. Inner Defense. This supplement is magic. We take this once every few days, and more often if we’re run down or fighting something. IT WORKS. I’ve got nothing else to say about this, except to get it. The website says: reinforces systemic defenses, creates unfriendly terrain for yeast/fungus, promotes healthy respiratory function, and contains potent essential oils like oregano, thyme, and Thieves® which are rich in thymol, carvacrol, and eugenol for immune support. Yes, please!



  6. Probiotic. Health begins in the gut, so getchu a good probiotic ASAP. Your gut is an area of your body that is highly concentrated (or should be) with bacteria – about 100 TRILLION – thats more than the entire amount of cells in your body (by about tenfold). You need that bacteria for digestion, absorption of nutrients, immune system function, mental health, neurological health. Our probiotic has 17 billion active cultures from 9 different strains of bacteria (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus salivarius, Streptococcus thermophilus, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium longum).

  7. Ningxia Red. There’s so much I could say about NR, but I’ll just say that this drink is something that everyone should be drinking — it’s a wolfberry (aka goji berry) puree, and it’s just magical. I take 2-4oz of this daily; my favorite way to drink it is in a little cocktail with a Bubly water of choice (cherry or lemoncello). I have people on my team that order JUST this, every single month, and would never miss a day. You can check out the starter kits here (spoiler: you get a LOT of bang for your buck!)



  8. Ditch ingredients that make it harder for your body to operate at full capacity. Some of those things: fragrance. Sugar. Food dyes. You don’t have to be perfect, but choose 1-2 things in your life that you can swap out or eliminate this month. Two easy ones: your household cleaner (especially if it says “fragrance” in the ingredient list), and a food item you buy often that might have added sugar in it (swap it out for one that doesn’t). For us, it was peanut butter. It’s important for me now to read labels and find one that doesn’t have the added sugar content (especially with the amount of peanut butter and honey sandwiches my kids eat, holy wow). It’s worth it, ok?



  9. Diffuse essential oils! We keep them pumpin’ in our house daily. I love Thieves + orange in the diffuser (which, coincidentally, is also the blend I add to my elderberry syrup).

  10. Other supplements I take/need to order: this mushroom blend, glutathione, and a good zinc!

What are some of your favorite items in your wellness routine?

Effortless.

I’m getting to that age (ew, that just sounds old) where I’m appreciating things in my life that don’t require a lot of extra effort.

Effortless is not to be confused with laziness – that’s the tricky part. Relationships, motherhood, family, church – they all deserve 100% of me. Effortless doesn’t mean to not be fully invested, because there’s nothing worse than sitting back and letting life happen to you. But when you walk the path that God sets before you, things are just easier. Things fall into place. Things make you smile. There’s less heartache, less sadness, less confusion… it doesn’t take a lot of extra work to be happy. Things get messy when you complicate your life.

Sure, there are tough days. Sure, there are bad decisions. Sure, there are difficult scenarios that are unavoidable. In fact, there are going to be times I have to make three times the amount of effort in any given situation, because that’s what it deserves. I’m ok with that. But as an all-encompassing rule of thumb: I’m trying to keep my life effortless.

How To Host an Elderberry Party | 4 Helpful Tips & Tricks

Hosting your own elderberry syrup “make and take” is a lot of work, but extremely profitable and educational for your friends, family, and community. I love to use the time to teach people how to do it themselves, but also sharing why we love elderberry, and what the primary differences are in this particular berry that causes me to keep it STOCKED during the fall and winter months.

First, you need to do some prep. Figure out how many people are coming, and do the math on how many oz of elderberry you’ll need. I knew that I had 20 people coming, and each person was going to be able to take home 16oz of elderberry. That meant that I needed to be able to pump out 320oz of elderberry syrup during my party. The InstantPot is fast, but it’s not that fast.

TIP #1: Start a few days ahead. Make several batches of elderberry syrup in the days leading up to the event, but do not add the honey or oils. Simply cook the berries, cool and bottle the syrup so you know you have enough for everyone attending.

TIP #2: Charge for your event. You can charge a few bucks for supplies (which is what I did), or you can make a nice profit because this is taking a lot of your time and preparation. There is no shame in charging for something like this, especially if you’re wanting to bring in some extra cash to be able to buy more supplies and teach more people how to do parties of their own.

TIP #3: About 30 minutes before the guests arrive, pull all the bottles out of the fridge and dump the contents into a Crockpot, set to “Keep Warm”. You don’t want to cook the mixture again, you just want to heat it up so it can melt the oily honey.

TIP #4: At your party, work in rounds. Distract a majority of the group with another DIY while you grab your first 5 guests and take them to the kitchen to prepare their bottles. Explain to them that you’re now going to be adding the honey + oils, and empower them to customize their oil blend. For my parties, I added a heaping tablespoon of honey to a mason jar, and dropped in 2-3 drops of Thieves, and 5-6 drops of orange. These measurements are totally up to you — if you like it sweeter, add more honey. If you want lemon instead of orange, knock yourself out.

Stir with a stir stick, then use a funnel to pour the 8oz into a bottle (the ones that had already housed the plain syrup overnight). The 5 guests I pulled into the kitchen followed along with me, asking questions, spilling syrup, laughing at how uncoordinated we all felt, and making jokes about their magical elixirs. 🙂 

This is fun because each person takes home 2 bottles, so they can customize each bottle to their liking. I had one girl make a super spicy version – lots of Thieves – for her first bottle, and then the bottle for her kids was very heavy on the orange. It was so fun to watch them get excited to prep and plan!

When that crew is done, they do back into the other area of your party to craft/learn/socialize, and send in another 5. At the very end, usually before the last group of people – you’ve ran out of the prepped elderberry! Use this time to show them how to actually cook the elderberries in their InstantPot. Then you can walk that last crew through the whole process from start to finish — as a thank you, for waiting 😉

What can the others do while the smaller crew is in the kitchen?

  1. EAT: have some snacks and drinks set out, and let people chat and socialize. I love serving cheese and wine at these sorts of events.
  2. LEARN: while 5 were off with me learning about elderberry and making their own bottles, the rest of the people were learning more about winter wellness tips and how we stay healthy. We show them Thieves Cleaner, and Multigreens, introduce them to the antioxidant powerhouse Ningxia Red, or show them how simple it is to get started in this world of wellness by grabbing their starter kit.
  3. DIY: We’ve had the rest of our guests busy making their very own wellness rollers. Set out a bunch of cute 10ml rollers, big bottles of fractionated coconut oil, and print or write out instructions so people can make their own rollers. Make sure you tell them how and where to apply their rollers, so they don’t go home and stare at the roller on their bathroom counter in shock and terror.

Have fun! Have you hosted an elderberry party before? Anything you would change or do differently?

Simple Homemade Elderberry Syrup in the InstantPot

What better way to mark my return to the world of blogging than with the ONE THING I get asked the most about these days?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:

THE EASIEST ELDERBERRY SYRUP RECIPE IN ALL THE LAND

Seriously, it’s so easy – you’re going to be annoyed I have a blog post dedicated entirely to this when your instincts could have probably given you the same result.

But, here we go.

You’re going to need:

  • Elderberries (organic, non-GMO, all that jazz). I always try to buy them when they are marked down, because when flu season hits, you can bet that the prices are gonna skyrocket.
  • Raw, local honey. I love this one, which is localish to me. Find a good quality honey that’s local to you!
  • Thieves Essential Oil
  • Orange Essential Oil
  • Whatever other Essential Oil that you want to use (Ginger, Clove, Oregano, Lemon, Copaiba, Frankincense… all incredible additions to this recipe)
  • Instant Pot (have you seen this white one? Oh my.)
  • 8oz Boston Round glass bottles

SIMPLE STEPS:

  1. Measure out 1 cup of dried elderberries and put them in the bottom of the InstantPot. Add 5-6ish cups of distilled water. Sometimes I add more water and let them sit and “marinate” longer before straining.
  2. Cook on high pressure for 12 minutes. Let depressurize naturally. Mash the berries to release all the juice, and strain through a fine mesh strainer. Let cool to room temp.
  3. While your elderberry liquid is cooling, add your oils to your honey and stir it mix it together. When I’m making a batch this size, I add 15-20 drops of Thieves, and 20 drops of orange. Then, once the liquid is cooled off to a comfortable bath temp (I dunno), mix the oily honey into the elderberry.
  4. Bottle (use a dang funnel, trust me – it will look like a murder scene in your kitchen), and refrigerate.

I double this recipe all the time (as much as my IP will hold) because I make this so much for friends. I truly thing that the Thieves and Orange essential oil are the “secret sauce” to why this elderberry works so freaking well.

Have you made your own elderberry? If so, leave your tips and tricks below. I’d love to try some new variations someday!

Dinner Recap: Diamond Burgers

I made incredible sliders yesterday, and they were a major win. I just wanted to share them here on the blog so I could find them again, because I’m probably going to turn these into a staple in our house. They turned out way better than I imagined… even the kiddos loved them.

They aren’t clean or healthy, but you could make a few adjustments to improve them:

  • Use ground turkey instead of beef
  • Avoid the glaze (but it’s the best part, so I’m willing to just eat more salad the next day to keep the glaze)
  • Serve open-faced (1/2 the roll)
  • Replace with vegan cheese, or even just nix the cheese and swirl some hot sauce over the top. The filling was delicious!
Ingredients:
  • Dinner Rolls (I used these, but any dinner rolls would work)
  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • 2 cups of diced onion
  • Garlic
  • 1 can of Ro-Tel
  • Sharp cheddar
I made my sliders ahead of time, then took them to my friend’s house to bake. I was worried that the bottom of the sliders would get soggy, but they didn’t. I drained off the beef, and drained the Ro-Tel, so there really isn’t much liquid. I took off the aluminum for the last 5 minutes, and the glaze on the top, was SO good.
Original and full-version of the recipe is here. Thanks for an incredible meal, Kevin & Amanda!

Holiday Tradition | Annual Photo Ornaments

Paul and I started a fun tradition when we first got married. It’s not something that’s going to blow you out of the water. It’s not uber creative, it’s not super original… in fact, it’s not original at all. I’m pretty sure a lot of people do this.

We love getting an annual picture frame ornament each year. It’s so much fun to watch these evolve as we grow up and add to our family. Our first two are just us as a young married couple. Then the third year was an ultrasound photo, because Porter was due any day. The following year was his one year old self seated at his big gift for the year – the baby piano. Then, there was the three of us in a photobooth (pregnant-Simon belly not pictured). Read more

This is a tough season, but I’m a tough mother.

Being a mom of two little ones, while trying to work efficiently from home, is harder than I thought it would be. I mean, I knew it would have challenges, but I think I’m right in the heart of the stress – complete with a 3 year old with lots of energy and demands, and a 1 year old that is a mama’s boy, though and through. I cannot be in the same room without holding him, he just thinks that is a total disgrace. Add these demands together with a job that needs my full, analytical attention? Yeah.

The other day, I reached max capacity.

Red alert.

Where’s my white flag? I was waving one in my mind. Frantically. Read more

Hallmark Movies Madness: My Top Picks

I am proud of a lot of things. Birthing two children. Paying my tithe at church. “Dating” while married. The fact that as I grow up, I’ve gotten better at actually finishing beverages rather than just collecting half-empty cups in whatever room I pass through. You know, true growth and empowerment. However, when I introduced my friends to Hallmark Christmas movies, I pretty much felt like my life was complete.

Then, I got a text that just said:

“Lori Laughlin just touched a snowflake on her wall and was transported down a North Pole slide.”

And I felt fulfillment that I just can’t explain. Read more