Enjoy the Mess! ETHANProject Wrap Up

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Well, after my blog was down for several days, it is finally back up! (With a little help ūüôā ) And so now I am finally going to be able to post the final ETHANProject challenge Enjoy the Mess and wrap up!

Enjoy the MessI have to admit I have a hard time sometimes just letting the kids make a mess. I mean, you wouldn’t know that by looking at my house, haha, but I hate dirty hands touching me! I don’t want to be sticky because you touched me with your syrup hands! But in honor of it being the final week, I decided to do a bunch of messy projects and we just had a blast! I am so glad that I was able to let myself go and enjoy the mess.

Enjoy the Mess!

In the top row, you have pictures of the zucchini bread we made together, because of course, I don’t know about you but I find cooking in general to be messy and then throw in the help of a 3-year-old and it gets even messier real quick. Then, in the middle picture, we played with some cloud dough (made using this recipe). The last picture in the top row is the sidewalk chalk paint we made! In the middle row, you have us finger painting, which as you can see started out relatively neat but then turned into full on hand panting. And the bottom row was sensory play with shaving cream – this was definitely Dominic’s favorite and kept him busy for almost half an hour! And then my kitchen smelled like shaving cream for the next 3 days also haha.

ETHANProject Enjoy the Mess

I can not say enough how glad I am to have been involved in the ETHANProject. I had just so, so much fun and I think the boys really did too. It definitely pushed us to make the most of our summer, but without putting a ton of pressure on us at the same time. And I know it certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone of doing the same old same old thing every day – a rut that is all too easy to fall into! I hope that you had a great summer too! Feel free to share your summer highlights in the comments!

Enjoy the SOUND – Sunset Zoofari – ETHANProject

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Enjoy the Sound Challenge ETHANProjectI enjoy this project more and more every week! This week is enjoy the sound!

We bought a zoo pass with our tax return this year and it has been seriously the best investment. We go to the zoo all the time and it has more than paid for itself. It’s also nice not feeling the pressure to see the whole zoo at once just because you paid for the day and it’s expensive to pay for the day.

Anyways, our zoo has a summer concert series called Sunset Zoofari! And so I decided this would be a perfect fit for enjoy the sound. Not to mention, there are so many other sounds at the zoo as well – the sounds of all the animals! I loved listening to the music in the background as we enjoyed looking at the animals. And we spent a lot of time in the aviary (bird building) this time, so we got to hear a lot of really wonderful bird calls. It was really fun because the cards identifying the birds are right at Dominic’s level, so he would see the birds in the cages (for lack of a better word – though they use special tension wire so that you can not only see the birds but hear them as well) and look for the matching bird on the card.

All in all, a fun evening! I really enjoyed the music, they played a lot of things that I knew, and Dominic really enjoyed the zoo, as always. And Allen took it all in riding safe on mom.

By the way, if you are thinking of going to the Sunset Zoofari, it’s most Wednesday nights throughout the summer at the Milwaukee County Zoo. The last one for the summer is next week and it’s Blue Light Scene providing the music (or sound ūüėČ ¬†) with hits of yesterday and today.

Enjoy the Sound - Milwaukee County Zoo Sunset Zoofari

Week 7 Graphic SOUND

Sausage, Rice, and Veggies (#ETHANProject Enjoy FLAVOR)

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I have been having just such a blast with this #ETHANProject! I look forward to sharing about it every week and I feel like it has been really beneficial for me.

This week is enjoy flavor! (If you need to do so, click on the picture to make it clearer!)

Week 3 Challenge ETHANProject Enjoy the FlavorSo, at first I was going to pick something off of my American foods challenge. So I picked sausage, peppers, and onions on a hoagie. And then two things happened. One, I am pretty sure that I ate this food at the church picnic last Sunday and two, I bought the wrong kind of sausage – oops!

But part of the goal is to make something that is new and fun and challenging. Well, for me, I am not a natural cook. I have really worked hard to learn how to cook, but I always, always stick to a recipe. I am not just a throw it together kind of a gal. But on Wednesday, I decided I would try just that. And that was how sausage, rice, and veggies was born.

Sausage, Rice, and Veggies

Sausage, Rice, and Veggies


  • 1 pound ground sausage – your choice of heat (we prefer mild)
  • 1 cup corn (we used leftover corn, but you could use canned or frozen)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano added (we prefer the no salt added variety)
  • 2 tsp Wildtree Absolutely Onion seasoning (could substitute regular dried minced onions)
  • 1 pepper, diced – your choice of color (we used orange)
  • 2 cups instant rice
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)


Brown sausage and pepper, drain if necessary. Meanwhile, prepare rice according to the directions. Add corn, tomatoes, and onion seasoning. Simmer for 5 minutes or as long as desired. Once rice is finished and you are done simmering, remove meat and veggie mixture from stove. Add rice and mix together. Top with parmesan cheese if desired.

Sausage, Rice, and VeggiesIt was a hit!

Allen enjoying sausage, rice, and veggies

I have been really trying to push myself in trying new things in the food realm the last couple of years. I am/was a picky eater and I have worked really, really hard to get better. I have so far yet to go, but I have made a ton of progress. Here are some of the other new flavors we tried this week.

Fresh cucumber and tomato saladTomato and cucumber salad from the Simply Summer cookbook. I only ate one tomato and one cucumber, but that’s progress. Baby steps. Baby steps. 2 years ago I wouldn’t have tried it at all. Oh and Allen loved this one too. Okay, that kid loves all food but still.

Firetruck snack

Firetruck snack from Motherhood on a Dime as we study F is for Fire! Dominic really loved this one.

Week 3 ETHANProject Enjoy the FLAVORHere are my favorite posts from last’s week, Enjoy the View.

Don’t forget, there’s still a few days left to enter my Skunk Tales Giveaway! It’s a great family devotional – I promise you’ll love it.


A Lesson in Flexibility (ETHANProject 2: Enjoy the VIEW)

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Welcome to ETHANProject part 2, Enjoy the View! Let’s jump right in!

ETHANProject Enjoy the View Challenge DescriptionWell, I had super great intentions for this week. We were going to go to the beach! We live right on Lake Michigan, but we almost never go. Mainly because I am not an outdoorsy person in the least bit. But I was trying to push myself to get out of my comfort zone and do something that I thought the three of us (Dominic, Allen, and me) would enjoy.

Well one of the downsides of sharing a car is that you can’t just get up and go. You have to pre-plan pretty much everything in your life. So this was the day I planned to go to the beach because I could get the car then.

So, we got there and I get out of the car. I sunscreen myself first. Then I get Dominic out and start changing him into his swimming suit. He’s all changed into his swimming suit and then it starts to rain. Oh. So I change Dominic out of his swimming suit and get him all buckled back in his carseat. I guess the beach will wait for a different day.

This is a picture I snapped when we first got there. At least I got to enjoy the view of the lake driving along it.

Lake Michigan at Bradford Beach Now, there was a time where I would have let this really upset me. Where I would have let my ruined plans make the whole rest of my day a bad day. Because it is disappointing, especially when I work really hard to get up early and get all our stuff together so we can take Nick to work. But, parenting has really been helping to teach me a lesson in going with the flow. Especially with having two kids, you can plan the best you want, but things don’t always go that way. So, I said, what could I do with this rainy day? I thought, well, there’s a mall nearby with an indoor play space, I bet my kids would like that just as much.

And I was right. Allen climbing on a fish

Dominic on a train slide


What's that noise mom? They were doing construction next door.

“What’s that noise mom?” They were doing construction next door.

ETHANProject #2 Enjoy the View

P.S. Don’t forget to enter my Skunk Tales giveaway! This is a great family devotional! Also, feel free to share your stories with me about how you enjoy the view – I’d love to feature them!


Extending Friendship to New Moms (ETHANProject #1: Enjoy Friendship)

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If you’re not familiar with the ETHANProject (Enjoy the Here and Now), you can catch up by reading the introduction post here.¬†

I’m excited for the first challenge of the ETHANProject! This week’s challenge is enjoy friendship. So let’s dive right in!Enjoy Friendship Challenge DescriptionVery soon, I will be enjoying friendship with my good friend who is going to be a mom for the first time! And that’s all I’m saying on the matter, because . . . well, you’ll see in a moment when I explain four ways to encourage your friends who are pregnant with their first child!

4 Ways to Encourage Your First Time Mom Friend

When I was pregnant with Dominic, I was pretty young. As a result, I didn’t have a ton of friends who were already moms. That has its downsides and its upsides, but one of the upsides is that now I get to watch the friends I had before become moms for the first time. That’s more special to me now than it would have been before I had kids. But let’s be real, I don’t know about you, but when I was a mom for the first time, it was sometimes scary! So here are four ways that you can encourage your friends as they become moms for the first time.

1. Let them share.¬†If you’ll notice, I was very brief on the details about my meeting with my friend. Why? Because I don’t want anyone to figure out who it is I’m talking about. It’s her pregnancy, she should be the one to announce it. Same goes with labor details. If she tells you she is in labor/has had the baby, assume that is not your news to share. And don’t post congratulations on her Facebook wall – people can figure things out from that! Wait to say anything publicly until she herself announces it unless you have explicit permission. I know you’re excited for them, but imagine how you would feel if someone else told everyone else your very special news before you did.

2. Let them feel.¬†Everyone feels different during pregnancy. You can feel wonderful and excited. Or you can feel nervous and scared. Or you can feel everything all at once! There’s not a right and wrong way to feel. We feel what we feel. However, there can often be immense pressure on pregnant women to only feel the positive emotions. Be a safe place for your friend to express whatever emotions she is feeling and be supportive of her – don’t dismiss anyone doubts and fears that she might have. Those are real feelings that she needs to work through too.

3. Let them ask. Sometimes when you are a first time mom you have a lot of questions. Let them know that you are a safe place to ask questions and there are no dumb questions. I try to be this person for my friends because sometimes I know there are just things you need to know but you feel silly asking your mom or your care provider. Or sometimes you just want to know what it was like for someone else.

4. Don’t tell them freaky stories.¬†I don’t know why, but multiple people felt the need to tell me about their cousin’s uncle’s sister’s friend’s daughter’s hidden twin. You know, where there were two babies but the second baby hid behind the first during the ultrasound the whole time? Yeah, things like that totally freaked me out when I was pregnant. Same as labor horror stories. Now if your friend asks you what it was like, be honest. But there’s a way to be honest in a kind way and there’s a way to be honest in a scary way. Don’t be scary. Be truthful but be kind about it. Don’t say things like, “You will never sleep again.” Cause it’s not true. You do eventually sleep again and there’s no reason to freak your friend out.

So there you have it. What are you best tips for encouraging your friends as they become moms for the first time?

Enjoy Friendship EthanProject Challenge

photo credit: via photopin via flickr (license). Text added by me.

Kicking Off the Summer with #ETHANProject

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I have to admit that I¬†love¬†the warmer weather. But the summer can be a challenging time for me. For one thing, I feel like I should be spending more time outside during the summer, especially since we only have limited nice time in Wisconsin before winter rolls around again and Dominic certainly loves being outside. But I am not really the outdoorsy type of gal (I know, you never would have guessed). The other problem is that summer can be overwhelming with all the things there are to do! There are so many festivals and awesome events going around in our city sometimes it’s hard not to just let it go if you aren’t doing all the things. In the month of June alone I (and my family) have a wedding, Father’s Day, family pictures, Awake and Alive, and the Birth Without Fear Meet Up.

Ethan Project Kick Off Summer 2015

Enter the ETHANProject. I know I already talked about this some in my review of the kit, but guess what? It is time to kick it off! It is time to officially start the ETHANProject. And I couldn’t be more excited. There’s a fabulous group of ladies on board and we are going to have ten weeks of awesome activities that I’ll be inviting you to participate in. The goal is every week to set aside one day to do something creative and fun and to think outside of the box to enjoy your summer!

The purpose of the #ETHANproject (ENJOY the HERE and NOW Project) is to inspire your creativity, motivate you to be a better mom and support you through the summer months. There will also be a weekly link-up so be sure to check GroundedAndSurrounded.com every Friday for the blogger link-up and to see a re-cap of our favorite photos & stories from the week!

I personally think that everyone could benefit from doing the ETHANProject challenge, because it’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. I think we can be stuck in ruts and do the same things over and over again, but it is new experiences that grow us the most. Life can be an awesome experience full of personal growth and learning, but only when we are willing to step outside of our comfort zone and try new things. Rebecca over at Letters from Sunnybrook asks “What’s Your Meaningful?” And I think for me, spending time with my family is my meaningful as well as trying new things, so the ETHANProject is definitely going to be helpful for me in those regards.

So check out the schedule below and tell me what week you are looking forward to the most!

Ethan Project Schedule

If you want to be even more in-depth involved with the ETHANProject, you should definitely join the Facebook group.¬†All summer long there will be idea sharing. One of the things that I really love about the internet is how it has been able to bring us together to share ideas and this Facebook group is one of the great ways to get ideas. And if you are a blogger, consider purchasing the ETHANProject Blogger Kit¬†(Note: I have previously reviewed the kit here¬†after I received it for free). The more involvement, the more we all benefit. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.


#ETHANProject Blogger Kit Review

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Disclosure: I received a copy of the #ETHANProject Blogger Kit for free in exchange for my honest review. As always, this opinion is 100 percent mine. Ethan Project Logo

I’m very excited to bring to you a great opportunity for other bloggers and for my non-blogging readers as well!

I am sure you are all probably wondering what the ETHANProject is. You may think that ETHAN is a name, but it’s actually an acronym that stands for Enjoy the Here and Now. And the ETHANProject is designed to help you do just that. It’s a ten week challenge to inspire you to enjoy the here and¬†now with your kids.

I don’t know about you, but for me at least, the summer months hold a lot of intense pressure to do allllll the things. Especially in Wisconsin where you spend months cooped up because of the snow and cold weather. You want to make it a memorable summer, but you don’t want to go insane either.

Well, two lovely bloggers, Sarah and Sammi, who blog together at Grounded & Surrounded, have put together a kit to help blogger moms Enjoy the Here and Now this summer and still create great content for their blog. Sarah and Sammi are friends in real life and they blog about¬†about all things HEALTHY! Heart, Home, & Habits. You can definitely see in this kit their hearts and I think the idea of pre-planning now so that you can have a more enjoyable summer is a good habit to set up. If you can streamline your blogging that’s more time you have to spend with your kids.

This kit is awesome. First of all, everything, and I mean everything, is laid out there for you. Writing prompts, ideas on how to use the writing prompts, social media strategy, freebies for your readers, and anything else you could need. I’m especially excited for the social media strategy, it’s laid out with tons of ideas for every single week, and that’s an area I could definitely use some growth in. I am great at managing my personal page, but I’m often at a loss for ideas when it comes to my blogging page. And the social media strategy that’s including isn’t just a one size fits all approach for all the platforms – they offer ideas specifically tailored to individual platforms. Which I really, really appreciate. Twitter is very different from Facebook in a lot of ways, for example, and social media strategy needs to take that into account. It’s also not just about the kit when you buy it, but there is a community as well – and that community¬†and support surrounding it will make it all the more worth it. And just look at this schedule, doesn’t it sound like fun?¬†Ethan Project Schedule

If you are a blogger mom, you should definitely consider getting this kit. At just $9.95 you are getting a steal. If getting a kit interests you, you can get one for yourself here. They also have a free sample on that page that you can download if you need to see some more for yourself.

Loyal readers, I really hope you share in my excitement. I’ll be doing a more specific intro post in a few weeks, but I want you to know that each and I invite every one of you¬†to participate along with me. I’ll be inviting you to share your stories and your pictures (and I may even feature them on the blog!) There is a Facebook group you can join here if you’re interested. You can read more about the challenge as a reader mom here.

As you can see, I’m so excited about this and I hope you are too! Definitely check it out and stay tuned!

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