At Home in the Woods {An Update On Our House and Land}

IMGP4200-001A year ago I was a very pregnant mama hoping for a baby soon born and wondering when our house on two acres was going to be finished. We thought it might be done by the time our little girl arrived but clearly that wasn’t in the picture. Two days before Thanksgiving our little one joined us just two hours shy of being born on the same day of the month as her big sister. With a new little face to care for and mama (me) resting we wouldn’t be moving just yet. But then in the new year – providence. A new family joined our home fellowship and because of their circumstances we felt led to talk to them about moving into our home. We were planning on moving out anyway. So plans fell in to place perfectly, our new little home finished (sort of) at an alarming rate. In one weekend after Valentine’s Day we moved out of our Golden Meadow Dr house and the next weekend they moved in. And two weeks after that my husband began working out of state for 7 weeks.

There I was by myself with a little girl and a very little baby in a new house surrounded by cardboard boxes. It was February and very cold. We had no heater or central air system yet. No stove top, no oven, no kitchen sink, no washer or dryer, no closets and very little storage space. We relied upon our water well and got our drinking water from our bathroom sink. I used my trusty little toaster oven and the burner on the grill outside which I cooked on even in the cold and yes, the rain. What warmed me in those cold months were lendings from a friend and neighbor: an electric burner and a cast iron pot. I took all our dirty clothes over to my mom’s house and I had never appreciated clean clothes like I did then. When my husband came home on the weekends during those 7 weeks he installed whatever he had time for. One weekend I got a washer and dryer. The next weekend I finally got a kitchen sink. (Oh, for not having to wash dishes outside in a big bowl in the cold!) One day we had a magnificent ice storm and the neighborhood transformed into a winter wonderland. It was breathtaking. Except at 5 in the morning when the power went out- which means no heat (the little we had), no water (from electric water pump), no toilets, and no food even from my trusty toaster oven. Those first couple of months on our land proved to be memorable, challenging and interesting indeed!

Finally the icy Winter melted into soft Spring and warm Summer. We were able to enjoy the woods and their beauty for the first time, especially without having to worry about A/C or heat, ice storms and no supplies. Piece by piece our house slowly took shape and little by little it is now turning into a home.

IMGP4861-004Probably the most fun is all the creatures we’ve seen in and around our woods. This little turtle was quite a treat to see. We’ve also seen foxes, raccoons, deer in abundance, a roadrunner we’ve affectionately named “Bob”, snakes (yes venomous), Cardinals, hawks, hummingbirds, Tufted Titmice, birds of all kinds, skinks (a lizard-snake like creature), the most beautiful damselflies, and baby bunnies, which I absolutely wanted to take home with me…but didn’t.

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The beauty of the natural world around me here never ceases to take my breath away. Truly. I’ve seen spider webs more beautiful than precious gems, sunlight glittering the earth like rays of gold, the quiet of the woods, the rush of the wind through the trees, the stamp of deer feet, the familiar call of the owl every night. It is an endless symphony of sight and sound- music for the soul.

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Nine months after moving in, where are we now? Well, after 6 months of washing dishes by hand (by choice at first), we finally got a dishwasher. We had a new line dug so we could have internet access to our computer and even though it was a pleasantly mild Summer, my husband and his friends helped us install a central A/C and heating unit. My handy husband built us a beautiful tall bookcase for our one humble hallway, an outside stairway to our attic, and created more storage in our attic so we finally have room to spread some things out. I’ve unpacked almost every box, cleaned and organized and continued to give away many of our things to make space in our less than 1200 sq ft home. We have one “family closet” above our washer and dryer. I’m surprised at how well this serves us. Only the clothes that absolutely have to be hung up are, and everything else is in drawers.

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With all the construction our yard was quite a mess, but with our basic needs met we’ve finally been able to put some effort into creating a cleaner and more inviting outdoor space. First all the piles of construction debris had to go. Some we hauled off, most we burn in makeshift fire pit. Then, my husband began grading the land around the house, filling in holes, flattening slopes and making even ground. It doesn’t sound like much, but what a difference it makes.

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He even had a little help!

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And we got a cat. Her name is Kit. It’s short for Kit-Cat, and while we were a bit reluctant at first to take on another animal (I really thought I didn’t want anymore pets) I’m glad we did. She beautiful and when she’s not climbing our windows (literally) reminding us to feed her, she’s sweet and affectionate and even follows us on our walks.

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This house my husband built was supposed to be a garage one day. One day we’d build a larger home and turn this one into a garage or workshop for my husband. We still might one day. But everyday we’re letting that go a little bit more. Every day we’re adding comforting touches here and there: a rug, pictures on the wall, coffee table and hooks in the hallway for our jackets, and everyday this little house is looking more and more like our home.

So what’s on the horizon for our land? After much thought and debate, I think we have decided to clear a bit more of the underbrush only (sparing every tree) on our property. I love the dense wildness of this untouched acreage, but the woods are even too thick to take walks through in many places because of the Yaupons and vines and bushes all tangled over each other and it is not a very useful space. We’d like to try our hand at raising chickens in the Spring, and even maybe one day, a goat or two. If that’s to be in our future, we definitely need a little more useable space. And I can’t wait to see where that will take us next!

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We came here to live more simply. Our goal is to be completely debt-free, keep our expenses low and enjoy the beauty of this land, our children and each other. Every day we’re finding this more a reality. We’re learning that “things” don’t make us happy, but God satisfies with the work he gives us (even if it is difficult at times). There is grace here. Grace in going where God leads, grace in letting go, grace in working with our hands, and grace in quiet living.

Welcome! I’m Brittany, wife and mama to two little girls Marlee and Hannah (3 yrs and 1 yr). This is where I tell you what I’m about and what I love, but honestly that always seems to change as time goes by. For the most part, I’m a mama just like you. My goal is to live as authentically, imperfectly, passionately and naturally as possible and to inspire you to do the same! I'm so glad you're here!

Categories: Our Home | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Glimpse of a Home Church Fellowship: No Duty, Only Desire.

A sliver of moon low in the sky.

A little house with green floors sitting in an open green field.

Windows alight against an expanse of black sky.

Stars twinkling overhead.

An invitation to come- come experience the Body of Christ.

A group of people come together:

Young people, old people, children, babies;

Familiar faces and new ones pour into this house filled with love.

Empty tin dishes once filled with piles of warm food for a hungry crowd.

Hearts and stomachs full from feasting together.

These aren’t just the people I worship God with, they are family.

Babies crawling underfoot.

Knowing smiles passed across the room.

Guitars played by experienced fingers;

Heart strings plucked, tuned to praise.

We’re all here for one reason: we love Jesus.

This isn’t going to church- we are The Church.

Bibles and hearts opened to receive whatever He may have for us.

A Saturday night spent in waiting adoration for the One who saved us all.

A bottle of wine sitting on a table. A cracker laid out on a kitchen island.

Plastic cups passed around the room. Crumbs on the floor. Blessed communion.

This is holy ground. In our everyday ordinary, we are sacred.

There is nothing fancy here.

No fancy clothes. No fancy music. No fancy lighting.

The air is warm with the presence of bodies.

Children gather around the patio in the dark to hear a Bible story.

Patio lights shine on their shining faces, receiving the word of God.

No schedules, no volunteers, just hearts willing to serve the Body of Christ-

Even its smallest members.

As I walk across the damp lawn in late evening hours, moon overhead,

Bright lights in the windows calling out to anyone who might see, “Come inside,”

And my heart is so full I can barely breathe.

Worshiping Jesus, fellowship with my many brothers and sisters, receiving the word of God,

It is always filling, never taking; inviting, never demanding.

This is not a church, it is The Church, just one part of the much larger Body of Christ.

And it is so good.

I wonder, how many others are tired? How many others think worship is just a song you sing?

How many others need to leave their fancy clothes behind and just come as they are?

How many others need to leave “church” to experience Jesus?

As I wonder, I am still so grateful because I am here, and I needed

Just as so many do, to give up the obligation of duty

And just to come, experience Jesus, experience His Body, The Church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome! I’m Brittany, wife and mama to two little girls Marlee and Hannah (3 yrs and 1 yr). This is where I tell you what I’m about and what I love, but honestly that always seems to change as time goes by. For the most part, I’m a mama just like you. My goal is to live as authentically, imperfectly, passionately and naturally as possible and to inspire you to do the same! I'm so glad you're here!

Categories: Jesus, My Faith | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

This Moment

Inspired by SouleMama

 

It’s the little moments…

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Welcome! I’m Brittany, wife and mama to two little girls Marlee and Hannah (3 yrs and 1 yr). This is where I tell you what I’m about and what I love, but honestly that always seems to change as time goes by. For the most part, I’m a mama just like you. My goal is to live as authentically, imperfectly, passionately and naturally as possible and to inspire you to do the same! I'm so glad you're here!

Categories: This Moment | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Autumn Maple Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Soup {Grain Free, Paleo, Dairy Free, Vegan}

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Leaves are falling, spiders are out making magnificent spider webs, and I’m pulling out my daughter’s leggings and jackets. I can’t believe it, Fall is here!

I’ve been feasting on all kinds of squash all Summer long actually. It’s mild on digestion, easy to cook and prepare in different ways and my replacement for many tomato and nightshade dishes (nightshades are tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatillos, and spices like paprika and chili powder) that I now avoid in my diet.

This beautiful squash soup recipe was inspired by Panera Bread’s new squash soup on their menu this Fall. We don’t eat out a lot, but my girls and I stopped there one day before running errands and I thought I would give it a try. I usually prepare a savory butternut squash soup at home, with celery and vegetable stock with a hint of onion and black pepper, but this thick sweet squash soup made my day and I just knew I had to recreate it! I had no idea what was in the original recipe, so I played with some flavors and I think I got it just right!

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You can serve this mashed right from the soup pot, or blended into a smooth puree in your blender. I was too impatient to heat up my leftover soup so I just ate it cold straight from the fridge! Anyway you have it, it’s delicious!IMGP5195-005Maple Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Soup {Grain Free, Paleo, Dairy Free, Vegan}

Ingredients:

- 1 large butternut squash

- 1 can 100% pumpkin puree

- 1/4 c to 1/2 c pure maple syrup

- 1 c natural vegetable stock

- 1 c dairy free milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)

- cinnamon for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Poke butternut squash 3-4 times with a sharp knife about 1″ deep. Place whole squash on a baking sheet and bake until very tender. Cool.

2. Once squash is cool enough to handle, cut in half with a sharp knife, scoop the seeds out (and discard) and scoop the tender flesh out into a large soup pot.

3. Add vegetable stock to squash in soup pot and bring to a boil. Let simmer until squash is extremely soft and tender and does not resist mashing. (You may need to add a little more stock or water if 1 c is not enough for the size of your squash.) If your squash came out of the oven already super tender you may need to skip simmering. Mash well in pot.

4. Add can of pumpkin puree and dairy free milk. Stir to combine and keep heat on simmer. Start off adding 1/4 c maple syrup and do a taste test. If you like it a little sweeter add a little more maple syrup up to a total of 1/2 c. Add a bit of sea salt to taste if desired. Add additional milk to your desired consistency. If you like a thinner soup, add more non-dairy milk.

5. Stir and mash well and heat through. If you like it a little chunky then serve as is. If you prefer a smoother soup, take off heat, and let cool slightly. Pour in blender and blend until smooth. (You may need to do this in batches).

6. Top with cinnamon and serve hot! Enjoy!

 

Welcome! I’m Brittany, wife and mama to two little girls Marlee and Hannah (3 yrs and 1 yr). This is where I tell you what I’m about and what I love, but honestly that always seems to change as time goes by. For the most part, I’m a mama just like you. My goal is to live as authentically, imperfectly, passionately and naturally as possible and to inspire you to do the same! I'm so glad you're here!

Categories: Food & Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Farewell Summer! {Our 2014 Summer Vacation Photos}

I had planned on writing this post today and saying “farewell” to Summer. Everyone, it seems, is ready for the new season. The stores are lined with pumpkins and jingle bells ring faintly in the background. The smell of cinnamon-this and chai-that waft through the air, and interestingly enough, today is the first day of Fall. So today is the perfect time to reflect on our Summer beach vacation, the salty smells and ocean breezes and begin to look forward to the last three months of the year with even more family memories yet to enjoy.

IMGP4948-001IMGP4950-002IMGP4971-003IMGP4991-004IMGP5043-006IMGP5044-007IMGP5045-008For all you brought us, Summer, we’ve enjoyed your warmth and sunshine, your sand and salty water, and we look forward to the warmth you’ll bring us next year. Farewell!

Welcome! I’m Brittany, wife and mama to two little girls Marlee and Hannah (3 yrs and 1 yr). This is where I tell you what I’m about and what I love, but honestly that always seems to change as time goes by. For the most part, I’m a mama just like you. My goal is to live as authentically, imperfectly, passionately and naturally as possible and to inspire you to do the same! I'm so glad you're here!

Categories: Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m a Liberated Woman!

Have you joined the ranks of liberated women? I have! Jesus Christ has liberated me (praise God!) from so many things I didn’t even know I needed to be liberated from. I truly believe we don’t even realize we are in any bondage, in any chains, until He releases us, we taste the freedom, then look back and see that dark and dingy prison cell we were living in. And Christians can absolutely be in chains too, even though the salvation of their souls is secure. In every new area of my life that Jesus reveals my liberation to me, I look back and can’t believe I was in chains and didn’t know it.

The liberation this world offers (and at one time I certainly thought it was liberation) is a lonely place, full of illusion and darkness. God’s freedom is bright and lovely, and full of the good fruit of joy and peace. So how has Jesus liberated me?

Jesus Christ liberated me from…

…the requirement to follow a law- any law, whether the Old Testament law or any new human law, dietary law, or formula for my life.

…the need to be equal with my husband. God’s design is perfect and full of joy.

…the need to have to outwit death. I do not have to be afraid of death or strive to find perfect health. I will live forever.

…the need to have all my needs and desires met. The more I give my life away to others, the more of it I gain.

…the need to have a purpose that is desirable to the world. My purpose is in God, simply knowing Him and loving Him.

…the need to have to save the world and everyone in it. Jesus Christ already did that. I’m here to do what the Father tells me.

…the need to have my life be about ME. Praise God! On the cross, Jesus liberated us from not only the power of death and sin, but from OURSELVES. The less I focus on me, the more joy I have.

I’m a liberated woman!

 

Welcome! I’m Brittany, wife and mama to two little girls Marlee and Hannah (3 yrs and 1 yr). This is where I tell you what I’m about and what I love, but honestly that always seems to change as time goes by. For the most part, I’m a mama just like you. My goal is to live as authentically, imperfectly, passionately and naturally as possible and to inspire you to do the same! I'm so glad you're here!

Categories: Godly Femininity, Jesus | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Truth About Motherhood

Motherhood has been all consuming for me lately.

All consuming as in an angry fire devouring a beautiful forest and there will be nothing left. As in I think I’m going under and I won’t survive this.

I’m starting to resent “those” mom bloggers (including myself) who look like they have it all together: “I’m just a mom, I cloth diaper, stay home, I never feed my children Cheetos or bribe them with Oreos, and I even have time to post all my healthy recipes with beautiful photos to boot. Oh, and I’m beautiful and happy too.”

Actually I can’t stand those bloggers now that I think about it (again, including myself) and I hate that I often (in my happy moments) portray my own motherhood that way too. And motherhood absolutely does have those fleeting moments where you don’t burn the chicken and the children are actually playing with each other instead of yelling, and you actually did wash (and brush) your hair today. But the truth is being a mom is hard work and recipes of the perfect Rice Krispi treat, homemade play dough and ’27 reasons why everyone should cloth diaper their children’ as the pinnacle achievements of our lives trivializes motherhood in the worst possible way.

As mothers we are raising, feeding, caring for human beings. I quickly learned my baby was not a craft project with a detailed list of materials needed, illustrated directions for care and a beautiful expected finished result. Oh dear no, motherhood is messy, aggravating, joyous, hilarious, pushes me to my limit and then some. It brings me to my knees. I have seen the worst and best side of me only in the context of being a mother. I have lived the worst fear: failure. I have yelled, bribed, threatened, ignored, pretended to be asleep and punished unnecessarily. I have hated (can I say that?) motherhood sometimes, the demands and the fact that it never. lets. up.

I know, I know..we have to savor the moments, we have to enjoy, we have to take a zillion pictures and remember everything, and we do. I do. And there’s not really a whole lot I would trade motherhood for, except maybe, an easier version of the motherhood I’m in now. But then if it wasn’t hard- gut wrenching hard, painful and challenging, requiring sweat, sleep, blood and tears- it wouldn’t be motherhood (and fatherhood) would it? We’re in the trenches. We’re in the business of shaping human hearts and souls, fragile, tender, overflowing with potential greatness and love. With so much fragility is it any wonder we sometimes fail, break, fall, make a mess?

I have so much to learn. I wish that I didn’t have to learn it with my children’s hearts on the line. But I’m trying (oh, how I’m trying) to remember that children are resilient and maybe, just maybe, the most powerful thing my children will see in me is my weakness. And that we’re all just human together. We’re all a big mess. A beautiful mess.

Maybe that’s what I need to be reminded of. And that after an all consuming wild fire, with what seemed like only death all around, new life hides in the fertile black soil, ready to spring forth.

Welcome! I’m Brittany, wife and mama to two little girls Marlee and Hannah (3 yrs and 1 yr). This is where I tell you what I’m about and what I love, but honestly that always seems to change as time goes by. For the most part, I’m a mama just like you. My goal is to live as authentically, imperfectly, passionately and naturally as possible and to inspire you to do the same! I'm so glad you're here!

Categories: Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

This Moment

Inspired by SouleMama

 

It’s the little moments…

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Welcome! I’m Brittany, wife and mama to two little girls Marlee and Hannah (3 yrs and 1 yr). This is where I tell you what I’m about and what I love, but honestly that always seems to change as time goes by. For the most part, I’m a mama just like you. My goal is to live as authentically, imperfectly, passionately and naturally as possible and to inspire you to do the same! I'm so glad you're here!

Categories: This Moment | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Make Room for Imaginary Friends {The Most Important Thing Your Child Can Do!}

I love my daughter’s imaginary friends. They play nicely, eat their vegetables and generally don’t make a mess of their toys. We take them on outings, make sure to buckle them in tight, tuck them in for nap and sometimes play ring-around-the-rosie together. We have gotten to know “Princess,” “Robot,” and “Monster.” Sometimes we forget where they ran off to, my daughter, suddenly realizing, will gasp and ask “Where’s Robot?” to which I will remind my daughter that maybe Robot felt left out and that he really ought to be invited to our play. Sometimes her imaginary friends are sad and I explain the importance of being a good friend and maybe playing a game with one of them, and sometimes one of them dies.

I’m still figuring out what to do about that.

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Holding hands with her imaginary friend!

I have only recently begun to get to know these little playmates of hers. They started coming to play about the time we made a drastic family decision: to eliminate the TV from our home. We never were the type of family to watch a lot of television. We never had programs that we just “had” to watch, and I’ve always filtered my daughter’s media very carefully. But the TV habit did sort of sneak up on me.

Maybe it was when she was a baby. Soothing her to sleep and distracting my tired mind with colorful cartoons was an all too common scenario. Or maybe it was when her little sister was born and movies were a way to keep my rambunctious toddler quiet and occupied. No matter the cause, soon it simply became a habit, and she was asking for movies nearly constantly. It was just so easy. She wasn’t making a mess and she wasn’t requiring my patience or attention, but she wasn’t playing either. She wasn’t exploring, asking questions or stimulating her mind with things like dirt and grass- all the things I knew were best for small children. This was one of the many reasons we had moved to the country only a few months ago, and with acres of trees and woodland wildlife our backyard, I couldn’t stand the thought of my daughter not taking in all that nature had to offer. I also highly valued my carefree and imaginative childhood: climbing cherry trees, making forts, pretending to live on a farm and gathering up grass to make “soup”, playing mommy, and making doll cradles out of white shirt boxes- I cherish these memories. And I wanted her to have the same too.

So one day, in a moment of tired frustration and firm resolve, I asked my husband if we could take the plunge and get rid of the TV. We moved it to a dark corner of the attic and it only took a week for my daughter to stop asking for her old pastime. I simply told her that the TV had become very tired from so much watching and needed a long nap. She didn’t question this sound logic. Now in the morning when she shuffles in from her bedroom to come snuggle with me, instead of asking to watch a “moomie” she’s been giving me a hug and asking if I would read her a book. (A book!)

The wall the TV used to be on wasn’t empty for very long. We moved the couch there, and it’s like we’ve never watched a day of TV in our life. We don’t miss it. Now we watch the birds eat from our bird feeder and the squirrel’s silly antics. We take walks and try to spot the rabbit that lives nearby, affectionately named Roger. We listen for our friend the hawk that squawks overhead. We color and do puzzles. We read a lot. And we invite her imaginary friends to impromptu tea parties.

My mama heart is happy and full. This is the childhood I want for my children. I truly believe unstructured play and imagination are the most important skills a young child can learn, and with pressure to structure more and more of our children’s lives, the space to practice imaginative play is becoming increasingly rare. We will never really know what depths and heights of imagination and brilliance our children are capable of unless we give them the unfettered space to try.

And for us, imaginary friends and tea parties are a really good place to start.

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For further reading on the importance of play

 

Welcome! I’m Brittany, wife and mama to two little girls Marlee and Hannah (3 yrs and 1 yr). This is where I tell you what I’m about and what I love, but honestly that always seems to change as time goes by. For the most part, I’m a mama just like you. My goal is to live as authentically, imperfectly, passionately and naturally as possible and to inspire you to do the same! I'm so glad you're here!

Categories: Play & Unschooling | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

My 20 FAVORITE Grain Free Real Food Recipes!

Here they are! My list I’ve been compiling of my top 20 grain free recipes that I just really really love! I’ve been “flirting” with the paleo diet ever since the beginning of this year. At first it was like “Whoa- what in the world do I eat?!” Then I totally missed all those “wonderful” foods that I had left behind, so I went back to them – with a vengeance, and suffered the bloating and fatigue too. So after going on and off paleo many times, I’m back on, and dabbling so much in the paleo world for the last 6 months, it’s been a smooth transition so far. While there is something to be said for going paleo “cold turkey” it has definitely benefited me to ease into it slowly over time.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and that they are ones you might not have normally thought of when going grain free. They are all grain free and processed food free and only 2 require dairy products (Real Food “Ranch” and World’s Best Chicken). So get to the kitchen, eat up and tell me what you think! (This is for you, Linda!)

 

Warm Apple Cinnamon “Oatmeal”

Perfect Paleo Biscuit  — Yes. Perfection.

Nut-free, Dairy Free Pumpkin Bread – Pumpkin perfection.

Spaghetti Squash “Noodles”  — Our household staple.

Turkey Sweet Potato Pie

World’s Best Chicken –Seriously. World’s. Best. If you can tolerate dairy, make this right now.

Rosemary & Raisin Almond Crackers  – The perfect cracker!

Paleo, Vegan Chocolate Avocado Pudding – I am forever indebted to you, M. V!)

Sweet Potato Dip – Great for breakfast or snack.

Real Food “Ranch”  — For my sis. Back away from the Hidden Valley.

Scrumptious Paleo Seafood Chowder – Oh my…more perfection. Like eating in a fancy restaurant.

Paleo Cabbage “Noodles”

“Cheesy” Chicken Casserole

Butternut Squash Risotto

Baked eggs in a avocado – Creamy warm avocado and gooey egg yolk.

2 Ingredient Banana Pancakes

Paleo “Fried” Green Tomatoes – Pair with the Real Food “Ranch”

Turkey Roll-ups  – Easy peasy.

Mango Cucumber and Avocado Salad

Roasted Vegetables with Bacon

 

Enjoy! And come back and tell me which one you loved the best!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome! I’m Brittany, wife and mama to two little girls Marlee and Hannah (3 yrs and 1 yr). This is where I tell you what I’m about and what I love, but honestly that always seems to change as time goes by. For the most part, I’m a mama just like you. My goal is to live as authentically, imperfectly, passionately and naturally as possible and to inspire you to do the same! I'm so glad you're here!

Categories: Food & Recipes | Tags: , , | Leave a comment