DIY Bird Feeder: So easy, a Toddler can do it!

It’s that time of year again; time to break out the pumpkin spices and pie pans and decorate your porch with pumpkins. I love fall. I really do. If it was up to me, I would have only fall and summer as seasons. Along with fall, comes many fun crafts that you can do with your kids. My daughter is a couple of months away from turning 2 so I have to get creative when I think about what her skill level is right now. Today, we made some fun little bird feeders!

These are very simple to make and seriously only took us about 10 minutes (TOPS!) to complete. You will need:

  • bird seed (I chose the “wild bird food” since it would be outside and the off brand only cost $5 for a huge bag)
  • peanut butter
  • pine cones
  • yarn or twine

First thing you want to do is cut a length or your yarn or twine and attach it to the pine cone. I intertwined it and tied a knot using the middle of my twine and left the two ends open for when we hang it in a tree. Then spread peanut butter onto the pine cone.

pbpineconeAfter we were done and my daughter had difficulty spreading the peanut butter, my mother-in-law had a great idea: warm up the peanut butter and then have your child dip the cone into it! Or roll it in a pan! Genius! So that’s definitely on my “next time” list for this craft.


Your next step is to cover the pine cone in bird seed. We started with my daughter holding the string and dipping it into the bowl, but she had more fun using the spoon. Whichever method you use, you want bird seed in all the nooks and crannies. And there you have it! Super easy, inexpensive, and fun, bird feeders! And they are so simple, even a toddler can do it! What is you/your child’s favorite fall craft? Tomorrow we are off to the apple orchard to pick some apples! Another amazing thing to do in the fall! Thanks for reading 🙂


Dear parent of a diagnosed child

I have never walked in your shoes, and I hope I never will. My heart aches that you have to go through this right now! I have one, soon to be two children and there is no way for me to even imagine what you must deal with every day. The thoughts, the hopes, the disappointments, and the exhaustion must be overwhelming.


When I was 8, my grandfather died of cancer. I had no idea what was going on though. He came to live with us; my mom took care or him. Life went on. That was my only exposure to the disease killing someone I loved. I was 8, now I’m 25 and my outlook on life has definitely changed.

Watching a child go through something difficult if painful even if you aren’t the parent. You must be so strong. You sacrifice more than the typical parent does; long hours at a bedside, frequent specialist visits, mountains of medical bills. What do I sacrifice? My last bite of cake, “my” time.

I admire you.

Thank you for keeping your chin up even when the whole sky is falling around you. Thank you for believing in your medical staff. Thank you for helping your child have hope even until the end. Thank you for supporting the search for a cure even after your little one’s chance is gone. I wish there were awards given out for bravery; awards that would recognize you.

There is nothing quite like the love a parent has for a child.
Thank you for keeping a smile on your face even when you want to crawl away and hide.

I salute you.

The Vegan Life: Is it really the life for me? *PLUS* a quick DIY!

So here we are on week 2 of living the life of a vegan. I have to say, it hasn’t been all that bad but it has made me think more about what I’m making for dinner. I rely so much on milk, some type of meat, cheese, or eggs that it really does throw a wrench in the works when you need to find something to eat. I shared quite a few meals last week and this week I only have two: Vegan Chili. 20140811_184933Yes, we ate other things but I didn’t remember to photograph them all haha. The chili really didn’t taste all that different from regular chili; we typically have beans in our chili so leaving the meat out didn’t change it up much. Something new about it was the Tofu Sour Cream though; didn’t exactly taste like regular sour cream but it filled the void by giving you a little creamy something to mix into your bowl.

The other meal I want to share is Vegan Subway sandwiches! Just choose any vegetables you want and load them onto a mini sub bun, then drizzle with some Subway copycat vinegar and oil.

Best Dupe for Subway Oil and Vinegar Recipe. INGREDIENTS: 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1/2 cup apple cider/red wine vinegar 1/2 teaspoon oregano 1/2 teaspoon basil 1/2 red pepper flakes 1/4 teaspoon dried onion flakes (rehydrated if using within 2 hours) 1/4 teaspoon parsley 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder DIRECTIONS: salt and pepper to taste, stir well or put in jar and shake. Refrigerate. Overnight is best, but 2 hrs. is still fantastic. It will go bad after a week or two.

Deeeeelicious!! If you want to just go the vegetarian route, throw some mayo and cheese on there! The possibilities are endless. And where is the recipe from? I really couldn’t tell you- I found it on pinterest but the recipe is just in the comments of a picture that doesn’t go anywhere 🙁 sad day huh?

My husband remains convinced that this is the lifestyle he wants from now on, well for week days that is, but I still struggle with giving up dairy. I confess, Ihaven’t been entirely vegan this week; I eat an occasional slice of cheese or something that has milk or egg baked into it. It’s hard not to feel guilty but then I remind myself: DAIRY IS NOT EVIL. Just because we have decided to avoid animal products, doesn’t mean they are bad for me. There are a lot of other things that I could name that I know I SHOULD feel guilty eating, or letting my daughter eat, but I don’t (enter any fast food-aka pink slime meat-, including fries etc etc etc…). Anyhow, for now- vegan/vegetarian is the life for us. I got a few books from the library that have great recipes, “The Everything Vegetarian Slow Cooker Cookbook” by Amy and Justin Snyder, as well as “Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook” by Del Sroufe. Seriously, if you are considering trying the vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, check them out!

Okay, so enough with the food, I want to share with you a little project that has been in the back of my mind for a few weeks now but I finally acted on it last night 🙂 Check out this old, corkless bulletin board that was being discarded by my in-laws! 20140814_001422 I saw it and immediately wanted it for my sewing room. All I did really was find some coordinating fabrics and cut them to the approx size I needed. Then I straightened up the edges and ironed them under. I hotglued it all into place and then glued the rickrack over the seams!! And voila! 20140814_005111My new command center to help keep me sane! I have sections for both my businesses as well as a “Home” and “Gifts” section where I can put ideas for future/current projects. I also hot glued some binder clips (is that what they’re called?) to the frame so I can change out the sections in the future if I need to! What do you think? I’m in love…..

What vegan recipes have you tried and been pleasantly surprised by? Any quick organizing projects you have tried lately? Please share below!! As always- thanks for reading 🙂

A Peek into the Life of Vegans

I am always trying to find a new recipe that not only tastes great but is also super healthy for my family. I look for recipes that contain little to no processed ingredients and lots of veggies. Recently, my husband came home from work talking about how he had a salad for lunch and how he even made it “vegan”. In response, I was a little confused as I didn’t realize we were TRYING  to go vegan; sure we try to not eat a ton of meat but attempting to cut out all animal products had never come up in our house. Well, as of this past Saturday, we decided try it out. For those of you who don’t know, according to

 “a vegan (pronounced VEE-gun) is someone who, for various reasons, chooses to avoid using or consuming animal products. While vegetarians choose not to use flesh foods, vegans also avoid dairy and eggs, as well as fur, leather, wool, down, and cosmetics or chemical products tested on animals.”

Along with the health benefits, veganism also has to do with animal rights; vegans are against animal cruelty and so they do not want to consume anything that might have harmed an animal in the process. Am I for animal cruelty? No, however I have no problem eating a hamburger or a slice of cheese. Our main goal here is health. We had been trying to make it to the gym frequently but were finding it difficult due to the usual business of life, hence the oh-so-original idea of “if you can’t work it off, don’t put it in” idea was formed. Yes, we will try and continue to be active (we have an almost two-year-old who definitely helps with that HA!), but if we eat better, then our bodies will function better and do what they are supposed to do.

So, I have been scouring the internet and my recipe books to find either vegan recipes or regular recipes that I can leave out the animal products to make it vegan. Can I just say that this is extrememly hard for me because I LOVE cheese….and I LOVE to bake and you use a lot of animal products in baking. Sigh…the things I do for love. While we are only on day three, both my husband and I have been relatively satisfied with the meals I have prepared. 20140803_135839[1]On Sunday we had lentil wraps from The Garden Grazer (The picture of the filling). My hubby- who comes from a picky eating background – actually thought they were alright. They are a hearty wrap full of wonderful goodness…definitely try them out.

Sunday dinner was a black bean/corn taco salad bowl. I just made this recipe up as I went: threw in black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, chopped green peppers, just a tad of diced onions. I then sauteed it all for a few minutes along with a pinch of homemade taco seasoning. To serve, I made a bed of chopped lettuce (you could really use any mix of greens here: lettuce, kale, spinach, etc.) then scooped on the black bean mixture. 20140803_191455[1]Topped it all off with some diced fresh tomatoes, salsa, and some chopped hot peppers (for the hubby). Used corn tortilla chips to scoop the mixture or crushed them and ate it all like a typical taco salad. We were very happy with the results.

On Monday I served up a favorite but with white beans subbed for chicken: One Pot Pasta!

20140804_184231[1]You can find this recipe on multiple sites but the specific one I used was from Apron Strings. I steamed up some green beans and made some Honeyed Carrots (this is not the exact recipe I used since I sauteed them on the stove, didn’t use butter, and seasoned with dried thyme, but it’s close enough. I can’t even remember where I got my recipe from- its been too long!) to go along with the pasta. I had some left over Overnight Bread that I  made a few days ago that went well too. Altogether a great vegan meal.

Tuesday was a great day; started off with berry oatmeal! 20140805_094418[1]I made the oatmeal on the stove with half almond milk and half water for the liquids. During the last minute of cook time, I added blueberries and chopped strawberries.  For some sweetener, I stirred in some “brown sugar” sauce (put approx 1 cup brown sugar in pot and add water until sugar is covered. Boil for about 5 minutes, let sit for a minute). I also sprinkled some shredded coconut on top. My young daughter and I loved it! Lunch was leftovers with some sauteed mushrooms atop my pasta. And dinner consisted of a huge salad – with more homemade bread (best wheat bread recipe I have ever made) from Pennies & Pancakes.

So far, we have enjoyed our food and not really missed our usual diet. I have to say though, it is hard to pass up the cheese or yogurt that is still in our fridge – I LOVE yogurt and granola! And I’m not interested in finding vegan substitutes (I mean, WHAT is in them if it’s not dairy etc? I don’t think I want to know). I will post an update next week with any more cool recipes we try so definitely check back next week! Will we continue this long term? My husband is committed but I’m more of the vegetarian mindset, or even Nutritarian Lifestyle suggested by Dr. Fuhrman so who even knows.

Have you ever tried drastically changing your diet? How did it go? Did you stick with it? We would love to hear about your experiences!

Disclaimer: I am in no way discounting animals or those who fight to protect them, I am merely stating my opinion that I think it’s ok to use animal products. I don’t believe in animal cruelty and would love to see changes in the world regarding how animals are treated in the consumption industry. 

Intentional Community: 7 years post graduation

Each summer, I look forward to the “Cottage Reunion”; a weekend gathering of friends. We graduated in 2007 from Taylor University, and have made an intentional effort each summer to get together. These gatherings have become more elaborate and developed over the years, and we rotate responsibilities with hosting and planning. We have rented a “cabin” in Brown County, Indiana where we sampled ice cream and walked through a quaint town. We’ve gone off-roading with 4-wheelers in Milwaukee and had dinner along the river. This year, we celebrated two engagements and two mom’s to be!

The staples of these weekends consist of the following; copious amounts of food that we try to eat as if we are still in college, conversations that start over coffee, carry over into lunch, and last late into the night (another thing we think our bodies can handle like we did in college), and my favorite tradition…sharing our “words”.

“A word” is shared by each of us that epitomizes our year, and we keep records of years past. Our words have ranged from “new beginnings” to “devastating”, and I feel privileged to be allowed into the stories behind those words. Each of the women that I gather with have stories to tell that we may or may not have been privy to throughout the year due to life getting in the way of consistent communication. It is incredible to have time pass like it does, yet have all of us gather together and intentionally devote time to transparency with one another on the sharing of our “words”.

This summer, all ten of us descended upon Indianapolis. Like previous years, we had a loose agenda of options to fill our day (county fair, public pool), but unlike those years, this year we camped out at Addie’s house conversing for the good part of the day before we headed out for our “dress up” dinner (which ended up being multiple hours long with us then moving to an outdoor cafe for multiple hours after).

It struck me on this weekend that many people do not get to enjoy the richness of intentionality. To have ten women whose jobs range from education to medicine to finance to homemaking, make scheduled sacrifices, speaks volumes. In essence, by making the time to attend, we are communicating intentionality.

It’s a great feeling to know that you are worth someone’s time. I feel so lucky to have community with these women.

Cottage Reunion

Lola’s Gotcha Day!

I grew up with animals, both cats and dogs my whole life. Since I’ve been in college I’ve wanted a dog, but I knew that where my life was at it would not be fair to the dog. So here I am at age 28 and after a month long search I found “my dog”. Let me tell you, this has not been an easy process at all.  But it is worth it.

First off, in a relationship world it appears that singles are not looked at as the best dog owners. It was never flat out said, but it was very apparent that there was no one else there to carry the load with me, which made the search a lot harder.

After multiple dogs and when I felt defeated I met Lola. A sweet black lab mix that was full grown at just 35 lbs.  What I found out about her that first day were only a few things… she loves treats, had just had puppies but they had no idea where the puppies were, she pees quicker than any dog I’ve ever seen, she looks like a black lab but is full grown at 35 lbs, and she’s not quite sure about cars. (and she is incredible adorable)

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Fast forward a week and a half later after my adventure to Tahoe during my staycation portion of my day off, Lola arrives.  Within 2 hours she had found the hole in the fence and I was in a full sprint behind her as she made her run. Thankfully, at this point, that is the only time that has happened. And let me tell you, even though I’m a big dog person, I was incredibly happy she was only 35 pounds as I huffed back carrying this dog that was now mine after her running adventure.

Throughout the last few weeks we’ve gotten to know each other. We have developed a routine and we’ve had a lot of bumps. She’s still learning that I’m not going to leave her and I’m still learning what things may remind her of bad times in her past. I am also learning what being a dog mom is all about. Bot the ups and downs have been worth it… even the moments where I wanted to sit and cry and possibly even return her. But then I look at this face… and just fall in love all over again.

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And I can assure you even just 3.5 weeks in I can’t imagine my life without her. Getting a dog, especially a rescue dog, isn’t easy, but it is oh so worth it! Lola I #gotcha

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Out of Hibernation Leapt the Manning Sisters and It All Felt So Glorious

For many of us, this has been an extremely long winter.  I have found it so unnerving with every ounce of my being lacking motivation to work out, clean, and be a productive member of society.  My extreme lack of sunshine is reflected in paleness, mood, and body.  I NEED SUN ASAP!

Recently, I have been spending a lot of time together bonding with my sisters.  You see my beautiful sister Mary Jane entered the world of the married a year ago and then more recently motherhood this January.  We had some fun bonding in between all of her major life changes and it was good.  Our baby sister Claire just got her license.  EEK!  I have been personally trying to spend more time with them as I know they both need girl time and it’s important for us to be close.

This past week at work, Mary Jane and I had to replace a few office chairs that were worn.  There were 5 that were purchased.  Well when she got back to work, we got them on a cart and took them where there was some open space to assemble them.  We only assembled 4 of them due to the fact our shipping department got antsy and assembled it by himself.  We started pulling the pieces out of the box and of course we got bothered the whole time.  Our dad, brother and cousin all approached us at different points of starting and everyone had a different suggestion.  Give me a break boys!  We got this.

The old chairs practically leaped into the trash!
Chair Races….ready, set, go!  We did it  🙂
I didn’t have to work on Saturday.  It was a nice chance to catch up on some spring cleaning, sleep, and laundry.  I asked my sister Claire if she wanted to get a pedicure as we both needed one.  Upon getting the list of Claire’s chores we were on our way.  We stopped by Starbucks first then it was on to  the Spa.  I wanted to catch up on everything that was going on in her little world.  She got asked to Prom by her boyfriend of 4 months.  She was excited at her new found freedom of driving and most of all just excited to relax a bit.  I told her that I would help her with part of the list (which included making dinner) in order for her not to get into trouble.
My mom had already started a roast so it was a matter of making sides and a salad to accompany it.  While Claire did her laundry, cleaned and organized her room, and dusted the back porch I produced the remainder of dinner.  No one seemed to be bothered by that so it all worked out well.

Then on Sunday, Mary Jane and I got motivated and finally went out on a walk.  It was warmer than it had been for a while and the sun was still shining.  I’d like to think we had some fun…

We may or may not have started off jogging when we realized that was a poor life decision…

We discussed our current fitness goals, men, Caribou (her daughter Carolyn Rose), and girl stuff.  There were a lot of laughs and honesty.  My phone ended up dying and her phone was left in the car.  Oh darn!  That meant there weren’t going to be any distractions and Caribou was in her precious Grandma’s hands.  We were only going to do one lap at the YMCA which is 1.65 miles but we quickly decided to do another one as to continue our chat. 3.3 miles down, some great laughs in and awesome bonding time with my sister we finally headed home feeling accomplished.

There is nothing more refreshing than the ritual of sister bonding.  I love hanging out with my sisters and even though we are all at different points of our lives that’s what makes it even more special.  All of us couldn’t be more different aside from the fact we all may or may not be over achievers!  I am the single, educated (2 degrees) career driven girl who has the social life.  Mary Jane is the educated (going on second degree) married girl with child at 25 and Claire is cute 16 year old who is maneuvering high school well with awesome grades despite her sports schedule, who is boy crazy and dreaming of what’s next.

The Manning sisters haven’t bonded like we have this past week in a very long time.  It was long over due.  One might say there were a few beautiful byproducts of this long winter.  Out of hibernation, leapt the Manning sisters and it all felt so glorious!

Welcoming Spring with open arms whenever it decides to stay….

Our Crazy Life: Basement Edition

Hello! I am glad to be back! The move is over and we are settling in well. And I have to say, I am so glad it is all over. As well as trying to pack with a one-year-old, we were also patching nail holes, painting, and finishing up our basement.

Before we put our house on the market, we had to do something about the basement floor. We had a tiny leak last spring which got the carpet wet enough that we had to rip it out. Since then, we have lived with a pretty junky basement (not quite the selling type, ya know?).

And then we decided to just go ahead and redo the entire basement floor. (Why we get these ideas, I’ll never know- we love to make more work for ourselves.) Here is the laundry room as we were in the middle of pulling up vinyl tiles.

After it was all said and done, we learned a lot about refinishing and staining floors. Here are the DOs and DON’Ts that might make your life easier if you decide to take the same path.
  • Do rent a diamond grinder to grind off old carpet glue, paint, and any other junk that is stuck to your floors. We rented ours from Home Depot but you could get yours from most tool rental stores. Some floors won’t need such a heavy duty tool, so definitely research the best option for getting your floor back to the bare concrete. 
  • Do use a hot iron to remove old vinyl tiles (place a steaming iron on a tile for about 15 seconds and then use a paint scraper to peel back the tiles; its amazing how easy this is!), don’t attempt to chip away at the tiles with chisels…its AWFUL and doesn’t work. And just so you know, this will ruin your iron; mine has been banished to the home improvement bucket for future projects.
  • Do purchase a massive squeegee to use while grinding the floors down. You have to grind the floors while wet so there ends up being a lot of water on the floor that needs to be guided to a drain. Don’t even try to grind the floors without water; you will go through the blades in no time and they aren’t cheap! Hook up a garden hose to a tap to make the “wetting” process easier on yourself.
  • Do clean your floors, re-clean, and clean them again. This is a must. If your floor isn’t clean, the stain won’t stick well. Mops (using a “wash” and “rinse” bucket for sure), sponges, and scrub brushes all work well. Don’t use the cheapo twist mops for this; they disintegrate pretty fast when used on concrete floors. 
  • Do make sure that the floor is completely dry. Also, a vacuum job right before you stain isn’t a bad idea either. 
  • Do grab a friend to help out with the staining process. We used a garden sprayer to apply the stain which worked okay but we were new to the whole thing so we had to figure it out as we went. If you are going to use the sprayer, make sure to use some masking paper (12″ is wide enough) on the walls to protect them. Have one person spray the stain and the other use a roller to blend the stain on the floor. We used 3/8″ nap microfiber roller, but would recommend something else. Work fast as the stain soaks in quickly. We ended up with a lot of roller lines in the first coat, which didn’t look good at all. After a second coat, rolling in the opposite direction, and a second coat with two people rolling the stain, we had a finished floor. It ended up darker than expected, not quite as “semi-transparent” as we expected, but we like the finished product despite that. What do you think?
We also painted the paneling to update the walls a little.  
The variations in the floor color are from the reaction of the stain with the components of the concrete. There are also concrete patches that took the stain differently. If we did it again, we would try applying the stain with rags to try and get a more even finish with the first coat, however you could also apply the stain with paint brushes. It is recommended that you apply a sealer top coat for high traffic areas and for some extra shine; we didn’t use it as we liked it as is. 
What home improvement projects have you worked on lately? 

“I believe in what you are doing…” A blog about grief

I remember the evening of January 19, 2010 like it was yesterday. I was in my 3rd week of nursing school when I had what I didn’t know was my final conversation with my grandpa. It pained me to speak to him because he sounded so weak. He died early in the morning on January 20. As of yesterday, that day now represents the day my family’s dog Maddie also entered into heaven as well. It was sudden and she was only 5 years old, but she died doing something she absolutely loved, barking. While I adored Maddie and will miss her sweet nature as she rested her head on my leg to be pet, the hardest part was speaking to my mom over the phone and hearing her gut wrenching sobs and not being able to bridge the 160 mile gap between us.

I’m a cancer nurse. I face the reality of the fact that death is very real every single day. I’ve walked with families through what “hospice” and “comfort care” means. I’ve educated family members on ways that we as health professionals know that death is near. I’ve whispered in the ear of patients “it is ok to let go”.   I’ve listened to a chest and heard no heartbeat and had to say to families “I’m sorry your loved one is gone”. I’ve taken that body that no longer contains life cleaned it up and placed it in a bag. I’ve rolled it down to the morgue and left it there. I’ve comforted the family as they were grieving. I’ve cried with families as the reality sets in that that person’s soul is no longer on this earth. I’ve filled out the death papers. I’ve called in the chaplain. I’ve seen death up close and personal more than once.

As a nursing student I witnessed a first breath… as a nurse I’ve witnessed many last breaths.

As my grandpa was on his death bed I was speaking to him from 600 miles away. He was ready to go and I knew that and I’m thankful for those final words he said to me as I was pouring over my studies “I believe in what you are doing, you are meant to be a nurse.”  I found out he was gone when I was sitting in class. I was in my nursing school’s bathroom sobbing. It was those words though that helped get me through the med-surg class I was convinced I was going to fail. They helped me get through the clinicals where I was in tears.  Those words helped me to get up in the days of night shift where my body felt like a wreck. Those words have stayed with me day in and day out for the 2+ years of my career. My grandpa died of cancer. I’ve not only been on the clinical side, but I’ve been on the personal side… multiple times.

There are days it is easy to forget when I’m stressed out what it is like to be the family member wondering what is going on, but I try my hardest to remember that I’ve been there. I’ve been just as worried about many of my family members.

Those words from my grandpa said so many years ago mean so much to me. And it is those words that remind me that I need to grieve. I went years without crying. I went years without letting emotion out. And that was damaging. No matter whether it is grieving the loss of a patient, the loss of a friendship in my life, the loss of a loved one, the loss of precious Maddie, the loss of a familiar life due to a move, or any sort of change that represents loss we must grieve.  Because of those words from my grandpa I am reminded I must grieve, because grieving is what helps keep me healthy and able to be the best nurse for my patients and their families.

So while this blog is a bit on the heavy side, as someone who spent years holding the tears in, I want to encourage you to let them flow. I want to encourage you to talk it out if that is what you need to do to process. Work it out if you exercise to process. Whatever it is my dear friend, you deserve to grieve.

Secondly, I want to encourage you to not fear something because it may involve the grief process. Life isn’t easy. Letting go of places, people, jobs, animals, etc. isn’t easy even if it is needed. But I can tell you from experience it is worth it.

And it is with my grandpa’s words in my head and heart saying he believed in what I was doing that remind me that my first duty is to allow myself the room to grieve so that I can walk with others through their grief.


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