Dinnertime with Hello Fresh

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I love meal planning and I've shared many recipes and some of my meal plans before. Lately I've been in a bit of a rut and have been struggling to find new recipes to try. Enter Hello Fresh!

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I've actually been doing Hello Fresh off and on for about 6 months now. I usually only order from them 1 or 2 times per month. I typically order from them when I am really interested in multiple recipes, as you have to order 3 meals, and when I know that I'll have time during the week to make the meals. If I'm having an extremely busy week I'll opt for crock pot meals or some of my easy standbys like a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, but if I feel like I can spare 30 or 40 mins a few times a week, I love trying out new recipes. I also love that they are pretty healthy meals and use simple fresh ingredients. Perfect for a clean eating lifestyle. They also have gluten free, vegan and dairy free options, and recently have started offering a breakfast option (which I'm super excited to try!).

I've shared some of my meals on Instagram stories, and my friends and family are always asking me about the service, so I thought I would share my thoughts and some of my favorite meals.

When you sign up, you pick a day of the week for your delivery. I originally choose Wednesday because that was Rick's day off and I knew he would be home during the day to accept the delivery. We have to decide by Friday which meals we want, or if we want to pass for the week. Our delivery shows up around 4:30 pm and is in a large insulated box with large ice packs. So even if we cannot get it immediately in the fridge, the food is cool and safe for at least a few hours.

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Once you open the box, there are 3 smaller boxes that have the portioned out ingredients for each meal. The meats are in the very bottom of the box under the ice packs, to keep them really cool. I like how everything is organized and easy to store in the fridge. Then when I'm ready to cook one of the meals, I just pull out one box and everything is included.

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Each meal includes a recipe card with a large color picture of the meal, with the cooking time and calories on the front, and all of the instructions on the back. I love that I can keep these recipe cards and make the meals another time if I really like it, I just need to purchase the ingredients myself.

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The recipe cards break down the recipe step by step, and the recipes aren't too hard to do. Every once in a while I come across a recipe with a new cooking technique I've never tried before. I've also learned about interesting things like Potato Rosti (crispy potato pancakes, made the Swiss way), and Gremolata (a condiment made of parsley, lemon zest and garlic)

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I love using the Hello Fresh app, which I have downloaded on both my phone and my iPad. This makes it really easy to choose my meal selections when I'm meal planning and I can also easily reference back to my previous recipes and favorites. I can also go about 6 weeks out and decide if I want to skip for the week. Right now I tend to go ahead and mark skip as far out as I can just so I don't accidentally forget to skip. Then I can go back in and unskip when I'm meal planning. The only issue I have with the app is that it is always logging me out, so I have to log in every time I go into the app. But I like that I have it on my phone as well so I can reference recipes when I'm out shopping.

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One thing to think about when trying Hello Fresh: Each recipe takes about 30-40 mins of active cooking time. So they are not a quick prep and then throw in the oven and multi-task type of recipes. You will spend the full amount of time actively cooking.

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The majority of the recipes we have tried we have both loved. Some of my favorites include:

Lean Mean Chicken and Greens

Meatloaf Balsamico with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans

New York Strip Steak with Truffled Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans Amandine

Mustard Pork Chops and Potato Rosti with Green Beans

New York Strip Steak with Balsamic Reduction over Polenta, Blistered Tomatoes and Green Beans

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The puppies love when I'm cooking Hello Fresh meals because usually there are a few stray veggies that fly off the counter.

I'm trying a few new meals again this week, and will be sure to share everything on my Instagram stories, so make sure the follow along. I also have a few discounted and free meals that I can share so if you are interested in trying Hello Fresh, feel free to email me at lifeloveandpuppypaws@gmail.com and I'll send you a code.

New Babies on the Farm

Monday, April 3, 2017

Last weekend we visited Rick's family and hung out on their farm. Over the last year they have gotten various livestock, and they just got a few babies that I was super excited to get to meet.

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Although not babies, the goats are always my favorites. They are super friendly and will follow you around all over the place hoping you will either feed them, or give them neck scratches. They will nibble on you a little, but it doesn't hurt and is kind of funny. As you can see I'm wearing my goat shirt in honor of my favorite little buddies.

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Here is one of babies (#socute). They got 3 baby Scottish Highlander cows. They are all between 6 and 9 months old. This one is Gwendolyn, which is the one that I got to name and she was the most photogenic of the 3 (loved getting her picture taken).

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The black cow is the boy and his name is Finian. The two brown cows are girls, and I'll be honest I can't remember the other girl's name (I'll update later). We chose Scottish names for all of them.

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They were a little skittish, but they had just been taken away from their mother, and were now in a new place with a bunch of other animals (chickens, goats, turkeys oh my!)

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But they all allowed us to feed them later in the day, so I think they will warm up to us soon.

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The goats weren't sure what to think of them first, and they were sticking to one side and the cows on the other. Eventually they will all be good friends I'm sure.

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This is Rey. He is my favorite of the 3 because he is a nubian goat (which are my favorites, love their ears!) and I got to bottle feed him when he was only 2 weeks old.

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The two white goats are females and they are super sweet too. I'm hoping they have babies in a few months because baby goats are just the cutest!!

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Rick's parents also have chickens and turkeys, and they sent us home with 8 dozen eggs! We eat a ton of eggs, so we will likely go through all of these in a month or so. Check out this ginormous egg from one of their chickens!

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To get a better idea of size, here it is next to a regular egg from the grocery store. The egg on the left is 1.9 oz and the one on the right is 4.2 oz! All of the eggs from their farm are free range and they are so fresh and good. They have the clearest egg whites and the creamiest yolks that are bright yellow/orange.

Flowers and Coffee

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I am one of those people who gets a lot of joy out of simple pleasures. And two of my favorite simple pleasures are coffee and flowers. If I'm having a bad day, grabbing a cup of good coffee and having fresh flowers on my table, or at my desk, can really help to raise my spirits. So when I came across a new bakery Flowers and Bread, I totally had to check them out.

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Flowers and Bread is a unique concept because not only is it a bakery, but they also sell fresh floral arrangements, as well has have cooking classes and floral arranging classes.

Rick and I stopped by on Saturday morning around 10:30 am, and although it was busy, we were able to quickly find a table to sit and enjoy some coffee and a yummy bakery treat.

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I had a mocha, which was so rich and decadent because it was made with almond milk and chocolate ganache. Rick had a regular coffee with cream, and it had a really unique spicy flavor to it. We also tried the carrot cake, and Rick had the egg in a basket. His egg in a basket was covered in gravy, and it also had an interesting flavor (like thyme or sage) to the gravy that we could not identify, but we both thought was pretty yummy (and I'm not even typically a fan of gravy).

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I loved all of the cute floral arrangements on the tables, perfect for taking lots of Instagram pictures.

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As I mentioned, they also sell fresh floral arrangements, and although they were a little on the pricier side, they were so beautiful that I had to pick up one.

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The arrangement I picked out had blush pink roses and parrot tulips, which are my favorite, but I never seem to find in arrangements.

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Flowers and Bread is a fun little place, and although it is not really close to our neighborhood I can definitely see this place as a fun treat every once in a while, or a fun place to meet up with a girlfriend or to take family when they are in town. I'm also really interested in trying one of the cooking classes or floral arranging classes. I'll be sure to share when I do!

Entry Way Update

Monday, March 6, 2017

Happy Monday! I wanted to share a fun update to our home. We are slowly making some home updates, and one of our almost finished spaces is our entry way. I shared an update back in December on Instagram on how our entry way looked all dressed up for the holiday, but I wanted to share an update of what it looks like now.

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It's pretty similar, but I switched out some of the decor on top of the shelf, and I got a new feedsack pillow the other day which looks really cute next to my cardinal pillow. The feedsack pillow I got at Feather Your Nest, a cute little home decor store in Pickerington. The cardinal pillow I got at the Celebrate Local store at Easton. Both of these stores are awesome if you are looking for a unique gift or home decor item.

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I also wanted to share the cute bench my husband made for me a few months ago. I had been wanting a little bench to fit this space, and I found a few design ideas on Instagram. I then sketched out what I was looking for, and he did all the rest. It was a total Jo Jo and Clint moment, and the result turned out perfectly!

We used this weathered hardwood board kit from Home Depot, and then we bought these 16" hairpin legs from Etsy. My husband tends to overbuild things, so an elephant could probably sit on this bench it's so sturdy. But for now, only my pillows rest here :)

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Here's a little taller view and you can see one of my favorite light fixtures in our home. We have been slowly switching out all of the light fixtures, in addition to painting everything, and it's really helping to update our home.

One of the biggest updates we are looking to make is to replace all the floors with hardwood or a type of laminate, and we are hoping to do this soon! Then we are hoping to replace our countertops and add a backsplash in our kitchen and then our home will be complete! I've got it all picked out and planned, we just need to go pull the trigger.

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And because in the blog-world we tend to see only picture perfect home photos, I wanted to share what this space typically looks like on a daily basis. The hooks on the shelf are covered in coats, dog leashes and hats, and there are usually about 6 pairs of shoes under the bench. Just keeping it real!

5 Reasons To Get a Second Dog

Friday, March 3, 2017

When people find out we have 3 dogs, we get a ton of questions. How did you end up with 3 dogs? Is it hard to deal with multiple dogs? Would you recommend I get a second (or third) dog? Or is it best to stick with just one?

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The decision to get a second dog (or really your first dog), is a big decision. There are a lot of responsibilities that come with dog ownership, and a lot of things to consider before making that decision.

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But there are a lot of benefits to getting a second dog. Both of us went many years with only one dog, and we both agree although there are challenges, we have also seen positive results with increasing our pack size, and today I wanted to share 5 reasons why you should get a second dog.

1 // Companionship

Dogs are pack animals so it is not their natural instinct to be alone. Abby has severe separation anxiety, and although she can still be a nut at times, we have noticed her anxiety level did get better by having the other dogs around to keep her company. Rick originally got Bryn because he worked long hours and didn't want Napoleon to be alone all day long. Typically our dogs spend the day in separate rooms, or even on separate floors, but they know their playmates are close by, and they are not spending the entire day all by themselves. If your dog is alone for long period of times, and is a breed that typically gets along with other dogs, it might be worth thinking about adding a second dog to your pack.

2 // Exercise

Most of us are guilty of not playing or exercising our dogs enough. I tend to work later hours, and for half of the year by the time I get home it is too dark to play outside. Napoleon and Bryn like to play tug of war, or they like to play fight with each other. Although it's not the same level of exercise as if you took them on a long walk, when dogs play together they are releasing some of their energy, and it also provides mental exercise.

When we do take them for walks, or when we take them to the dog park, they tend to be competitive so they will walk faster to keep up with the other dogs, or they will be interested in what the other dogs are sniffing vs if they are all alone they tend to be a little more lax on their walk or with their sniffing at the park. 

3 // Constant Companion

One of the nice things about having 3 pups is that there is always a dog around that wants to cuddle. And usually Rick and I don't have to fight over the cuddles because usually one dog is on his lap, one is on mine, and the third is usually close by to sneak in for a few ear or belly scratches. 

4 // A Chance To Rescue

There are plenty of pups that need good homes. 1.2 million dogs are euthanized each year. And although there are many things to keep in mind when adding another dog into the pack, many shelter pets received training and socialization before they are adopted, which can help with the transition to a two dog family. 

5 // Every Dog Is Different

Every dog has it's own unique personality. And getting a second dog can let you experience new breeds and characteristics. You may find one dog is more about going on adventurers, like our pup Abby, or playing catch, like our pup Bryn. Whereas Napoleon is more of a homebody and is happy as a bird with a fry when he is cuddling on my lap.

Having multiple dogs lets you get to experience different dog personalities and allows you to expand your love. It's like adding another kid to the mix, it's a lot of work, but the benefits are priceless.

It's always important to keep in mind what breeds get along best with other breeds. I came across this chart that helps explain what breeds are more compatible with other breeds.

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Of course keep in mind every dog is different. Napoleon is part Chihuahua and Bryn is a Jack Russell, neither of which are on the chart. You need to keep in mind that training and discipline are a major factor when it comes to introducing new dogs into your pack as well. I'm working on another post about things you need to know when getting a second or third dog that I will share soon.

If you are looking to get a second dog, I recently came across this company called PuppySpot. They are a community of dog lovers committed to helping responsible breeders place their puppies with caring individuals and families. The PuppySpot brand, with puppies at the center, is rooted in the belief that dogs should be celebrated, and owners deserve to experience trust, confidence and transparency when searching for their new companions. They take pride in their No Puppy Mill Promise and have a zero tolerance for puppy mills or any substandard breeding practices of any kind! Check out their cute puppies for sale to find your new best friend today!

Do you have more than one dog, or have you been thinking about getting a second dog? What are some of the pros you have seen to adding to your pack? What are your concerns? I'd love to hear your thoughts that I could possibly incorporate into my post.

Coffee Talk // Volume I

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

I wanted to start a new series called Coffee Talk. I love coffee and I love catching up with friends over coffee. So this series is really just meant to recap some of the random things going on in my life, or in my head, that I might chat about with girlfriends over coffee.

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1 // Whole30

About a month back, while browsing at Costco, I came across a few Whole30 cookbooks. The Whole30 challenge has been all over social media lately, and I love cookbooks, so I figured why not get them and see what this trend is all about. In theory I love the idea and the health benefits of cutting out foods that cause inflammation. I actually suffer from IBS and was diagnosed a few years ago with SIBO, so inflammation in my gut is a serious issue I struggle with, and diet is the only way to control my symptoms.

So I would love to say how I completed the Whole30 challenge and my skin cleared up and my belly issues are now gone, but in all honestly my challenge was more of a Whole4.5. You see I only lasted about 4.5 days, and within those 4.5 days, I may have cheated twice. So you likely won't be getting a Whole30 recap post from me. But I will tell you that it has kicked started us eating healthier about 80% of the time, allowing a little splurge on the weekends or if I've had a really stressful day.

My biggest issue was major heartburn from cutting out grains. Some say that is a side effect of making a major change in your diet that goes away after time and is all part of the gut healing, but it was way too much for me to handle. So I'm sticking to quinoa and brown rice in addition to potatoes and sweet potatoes as my healthy carbs. Also sometimes a girl just needs a piece of chocolate, or a glass of wine, and last week was just not a good week to restrict these two items. To much cray for 1 little week. There are some really awesome recipes in the Whole30 cookbook, so I'm going to keep trying them, and will share some of my favorites with you all.

2 // Big Little Lies on HBO

Anyone else watch the first two episodes of Big Little Lies on HBO? I read the book over a year ago, and loved it. So I was really excited to see they were turning the book into a TV series. I was bummed when I first heard it was going to be on HBO because a few months back we got rid of all of our premium channels in an attempt to save a few bucks. But then I learned you can watch in real time on the HBO NOW app on my iPad (the first 30 days is free and then it's $14.99 a month for the subscription that you can cancel anytime). They have it for Amazon Prime members too if you have a Kindle or Droid Tablet.

I really didn't remember much from the book, other than there was a murder and the main storyline of the book was reliving past events to discover who might have done it and why. The show is set up very similar to the book where it keeps flashing between current day, where they are interviewing witness after the incident to give you a perspective of what happened, and the past where you see the events that lead up to the incident. As I have been watching the show I'm starting to remember certain parts, but I'm kind of glad that I don't remember a lot of the storyline so there is still a little mystery in this series. Let me just say that I LOVE Reese Witherspoon as Madeline Martha Mackenzie (you just have to say all 3 names when you refer to her) and Nicole Kidman as Celeste. I really don't know what will happen once they solve the mystery, but I sure hope they can find a way to keep the show going.

3 // Books

Speaking of books, I'm currently reading another Liane Moriarty book - Truly Madly Guilty. I've been having a tough time getting into this book, but I feel like sometimes her books are like that and once you get past the first 100 pages you can't put it down. I'm almost there, so I'm hoping it picks up soon.  I also have Behind Closed Doors and The Girl Before on my "To Read" list. I love mysteries, but sometimes I also just need a light hearted chick book like First Frost, another book on my list from one of my other favorite writers. I definitely want to put together a book recommendation post of some of my favorite books and authors. I'm also always looking for book recommendations, so please share what are your favorites? What should I add to my list?

4 // Workouts

I joined Orangetheory a few weeks ago and I'm kind of addicted. My favorite part is being able to track my workout with the heart-rate monitor. Your monitor links up with a screen in the middle of the room so you can track in real-time your heart-rate. The goal is for the majority of your workout to be in the 70% range, and for at least 12 minutes to be in the 85% plus range. If you succeed, you will continue to burn calories for up to 48 hours after your workout. It's like having a personal challenge to get in the "zone," but then you have the challenge of working out with other people at the same time and seeing their heart-rates on the screen to push you even further. Each week the workouts are slightly different, but they all involve the treadmill, rowing machine and strength training on the weight floor. I really like how it mixes things up, so it's always a challenge.

Right now I'm only taking classes 1x per week because they are kind of expensive. Oh and they kick my booty so much that I'm sore and can barely walk for like 4 days. I'm debating on upping my membership to 2x per week, but I wanted to see how the first month went. Anyone else try this workout yet? It really is addicting. Oh and if you are interested you can take 1 class for free to try it out before you commit.

5 // Spring Flowers

Our bulbs have started popping up in our flower bed and it's getting me excited to plant flowers and herbs in my garden. I've decided to go with a cut flower garden this year instead of a vegetable garden, primarily because we grow too many tomatoes that we are never able to eat and that take over our garden, and nothing else ever seems to grow. Plus I'm all about flower arranging these days (check out my latest arrangement on Insta), and I'm hoping that I can grow some pretties that I can turn into some nice arrangements. Definitely more updates to come. For those of you who are into gardening, what is your favorite thing to grow? Have you ever had a cut flower garden? If so, what types of flowers were the easiest to grow?

What have you been up to? Tell me something you would like to chat about over coffee? Like what's your favorite coffee? Do you like Starbucks, Tim Hortons or a Specialty Shop? What book are you reading and favorite shows are you watching? Try any crazy fad diets lately? What Spring fashion piece are you dying to get? Would love to hear from you :)

The Best Adventurers of 2016

Friday, February 24, 2017

Happy Friday! Today is a good day to have a good day. It's supposed to be 70 and sunny here in Ohio...in February...and I have the day off.

As I mentioned in my post from the other day, one of the things I miss most about updating my blog is recapping our adventurers and best moments. Sadly when I try to look back on what all we have done, I usually need to refer back to Instagram to remember it all #gettingold. So today I wanted to recap some of those moments and share what Instagram deemed as my Best of 2016...because you know if Instagram says so :)

I know this is so 2016, but humor me as I walk down memory lane...

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~ We love to travel, and we especially love visiting Charleston, SC. This was our second time visiting for our 2nd year anniversary. Our first trip was during our honeymoon. There are so many fun things to do, and so many amazing places to eat, but my favorite thing is just walking around and photographing all of the pretty window boxes #plantlady

~ We also spent our 2nd anniversary on the beach. On the day of our anniversary we woke up super early to watch the sunrise. We took a few photographs and then went back to bed. It's vacation...you are required to do some sleeping in.

~ We also love exploring Ohio and spent a beautiful Fall day at Hocking Hills.

~ This Moscow Mule from Tupelo Honey Cafe was amazing! And I so wanted to steal that copper mug (but I didn't!!)

~ Rick's sister and BIL moved back to Ohio from DC and bought a cute little log cabin with lots of land for farm animals. Currently they have chickens and ducks, but I am trying to convince them to buy some alpacas. We have enjoyed visiting them, and experiencing farm life.  

~ What year wouldn't be complete without a trip to visit some alpacas. This farm also happened to be a winery...double win!

~ In addition to traveling, we also love to explore our city, and we had visited a few fun spots around Columbus in 2016. I'm hoping we can continue to explore our city in 2017.

~ We also visited Boone Hall Plantation while in Charleston, and it was so picture perfect. 

~  I shared the other day about how we are trying to take more adventurers with the pups, including Miss Abby. We took her to the apple farm shortly after she started recovering from her stroke. She was having a pretty good day that day and we got a few pictures to remember our adventure.

So that is it! As you can see our Best of 2016 was all about travel and exploring, which is one of our favorite things to do. We have started chatting about plans for this year, and I'm really excited to see where our adventurers will take us next.

PS: You can find more travel posts here.