Downsizing: The Simple Life

My husband and I began talking about a pretty significant idea back in April of last year: downsizing. (Side-note: I cannot believe 2016 is now past tense…where does the time go?!) It was our 4th anniversary weekend, and we had sent our oldest with some family and had a mini stay-cation at a nice hotel here in NWA. Being just the two of us, we had all the time in the world to discuss things that are many times otherwise interrupted and pushed aside these days. On our last morning “away,” while we ate our breakfast, we flipped our hotel television on to our favorite channel: HGTV. Of course a show popped on that we didn’t ordinarily watch, but it was immediately intriguing to us so we kept it going; it was a show on ‘tiny living’. “That is so cool, but I just don’t see how these families do it. Especially with kids!”

I remember saying this to Jer a few times while we watched these families (some with kids, some without) take their belongings and their space and condense it all into a space of about 400 sq ft or less. We marveled at the idea, and slightly envied the people who nipped America’s stereotypical house in the bud, dropped 80-90% of their belongings, and headed straight for the simple life. It was a concept that we just couldn’t get out of our heads.  “What if we did this?”

At first we thought it would just be too hard. After all, we had one toddler and had recently found out we would be having a second baby in the fall. How in the world would we make the (lack of) space work? We lived in a decent size home, about 1800 sq ft, and we had “stuff” in every room! I should also note that we had only moved into this nice home months before, adding even more insanity to our scheme. But what we finally realized, was that much of our living space was not utilized; it was just holding all the stuff we’d accumulated over the course of our marriage, much of which we could certainly live without.

The idea of simplifying our lifestyle grew more and more compelling to us, and the more we researched and read, the more we loved it. Not just for the mere fact of getting rid of “things,” though that was a large portion of it. We also loved the idea of taking our girls out of the cycle that we tend to get caught up in of not being content unless we have the latest and greatest, the nicest, the biggest and best, [insert ‘thing’ here]. Taking them out of this cycle and raising them in an atmosphere that was safe, promoted creativity, created closeness, and of course was always truly ‘enough.’ We were sold.

Downsizing Simple Life

A few days after listing our house for sale, we placed an offer on a small home in my childhood hometown, and were accepted. A couple weeks after our house was on the market we were under contract, and thus officially began our downsizing! “Simplify” quickly became our word for the remainder of 2016. Bit by bit we sifted through our things, donating a substantial amount of our belongings that we would no longer have the space for. A few weeks later we packed up what was left of our things and moved into a home that is just under 1000 sq ft. Of course, this was our version of a big downsize, and we didn’t move into a truly tiny home. But those of you with kids know that moving a family of four into a very small, 2 bedroom home is quite a feat! Simplify.

It is in no way an easy thing to accomplish, especially with kids, and we are still in the process of slowly downsizing more of our things even 6 months later, but as we’ve moved into 2017, we haven’t once looked back! I believe our word to live by this year is “intentional.” One of the biggest things we’ve had to do in our downsizing process has been to be so intentional with our space and how we utilize it. Do I love this piece, and does it make me smile? Like (Emily Gilmore, anyone?) Every piece we own must serve a purpose, and if it can serve for more than one purpose, even better!

Our space is very intentional. One of the main things we wanted to fit into our small home was our full size dining set. We wanted to have a space to bring people into our home and have good food, good discussion, and close relationships. I have my reading corner, the girls have a play space…every part of our home has been thought out, and is utilized! As far as the girls’ things go, we haven’t cleaned them out of all their toys, and they have a substantial book collection in the making, but we do have regular “sorting” days where we filter through and weed out the toys that have since become unexciting, and make room for the new. I can tell you our oldest never misses a thing!

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Since downsizing and simplifying, we’ve decided we love it so much that we are working toward ways to simplify even more! There is such a freedom in knowing that there isn’t a wrong or a right way to “live,” and for us this lifestyle has been so rewarding! Don’t get me wrong, we see nothing wrong with consumption, and having “things.” We still have things, and we still love to buy certain things! But where I have seen a difference in our consumption is in the intent behind our purchases. Is it compulsory, or is it intentional and for a purpose? Let’s be real, in this small space we live in, there isn’t room for anything but intentional and purposeful–and I love that!

My favorite thing about downsizing has been that it consistently makes us reflect and consider the things that are most important to us, and then the freedom we feel when we condense down to only those most important things! Living small may or may not be forever for our family, but the idea of working toward more freedom with how we use and spend our time and where will be a theme that sticks with us wherever we go from here on out.

I am excited to share more about our downsizing, different projects that have ensued in order to make a small space the most efficient, and updates as we progress to an even more minimalist lifestyle. My husband jokes that our next downsize will be our wardrobes…okay, he’s only half joking (insert nervous sweating emoji).

For more updates and peeks into our day to day, follow me on Instagram ( @terapianalto ) and be sure to follow all of Oak and Earth’s social media accounts!

Here’s to a fresh start to your 2017!

Tera, xo

 

 

D.I.Y. Pom Sandals

Hey, readers! I hope you’ve all been enjoying the warm summer sunshine! My family and I have had a crazy busy few weeks, but we’ve managed to hit the water park a couple of times, and we’ve indulged in quite a few milkshake nights…it’s how we like to roll. If you follow my personal instagram or Oak and Earth’s instagram page, you may have seen that us girls of O&E have recently started participating in the Whole 30 meal plan (basically a diet eliminating grains, dairy, and legumes and of course any processed foods). We plan to share with you guys how each of our Whole 30 experience goes, but so far I can tell you it’s been a challenge on my end! I am keeping some dairy and tiny bit of grain in for pregnancy purposes, but for the most part, those things are not in my diet. I’m a lover of bread and pasta and cheese, so this has not been an easy feat! Aside from this lifestyle change, we have some big house news going on that I’ll share after things settle down a bit, AND not to mention we are on the homeward stretch to meeting baby girl (10 weeks left) EEK! Starting to feel a little bit of stress and a lot a bit of crazy, but we are trucking through. Nothing a fun little DIY project can’t distract me from for a bit anyway!

I’ve been so excited to share this post with you because I really love how these sandals turned out! It’s such a fun accessory to add to your summer wardrobe. These pom sandals are super trendy this season and they’re all over Pinterest and Etsy. It plays up any outfit, so you can be comfy in your boyfriend shorts and a tank, and slap these puppies on, and BAM! You’ve gone from comfy casual to super adorable in .5 seconds! The best part? If you go online to buy these pom sandals, you’ll see that many of them are selling for $100+…I was able to buy my supplies and shoes all for around $30! You can look super cute and trendy without it costing you an arm and a leg, which is always my kind of style!

These did take me a full day to whip up, mostly because it’s a bit of trial and error–especially for the first sandal you assemble. So this makes a perfect summer weekend DIY where you can either spend a Saturday creating them, or split it up over two days!

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Okay, now for the fun part! To make your own pom sandals, you’ll need:

  • Sandals  (Here are some similar ones to mine)
  • Pom Poms
  • Wooden Beads
  • Mini Tassels (if wanted)
  • Thread/Needle*
  • Scissors

* I chose to stitch my materials on to the sandals to make them a little sturdier, but there are some great Pinterest DIY’s for these that just use a hot glue gun!

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To assemble these, I started with trying the sandals on in front of a mirror and placing poms (with a sewing pin) in the desired areas. This part took some trial and error to get them where I wanted them! You can leave sewing pins in place or just make tiny marks with a pen to remember where you want them. Once you have an idea of where you want your poms, unlace the sandals and before making the poms permanently attached, string the wood beads along the sandal straps in desired places. I tried my sandals on during this process a few times to see where I wanted beads once the sandals were actually wrapped around my leg. It helps to do this so that you can see where the pom poms are, and where you’ll have some naked space on the straps! Here is a photo of mine about midway through my second sandal: (You can see I had the beads strung in place and the poms are temporarily pinned with sewing pins)

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After the beads are placed along the straps, then you can begin stitching or gluing your poms into their permanent place! I just did a couple simple stitches to secure them to the sandal, and voila! It was the easiest part of the process. For the strap around the toes, I bought some pom pom trim (from Hobby Lobby), measured across, cut, and stitched. Other than figuring out placement for the poms and beads, it was the most time consuming part of the project. I think hot gluing would do just fine for this part and would save you a good chunk of time!

The last thing I did was assemble the mini tassels to the ends of the straps for a cute added touch. I just looped them on the end of the strap and stitched them to make sure they were secured.

After this was done, I had some super adorable and colorful sandals! They look super cute gladiator style, which is how I wore them here, but they also looked super cute wrapped and bunched closer together! I deemed this to be a very successful DIY and can’t wait to wear them around town!

This was such a fun and cute DIY for summertime, and for the steal of a price, I’d do it all over again! I’m obsessed over this look right now!! We can’t wait to hear what you all think of these pom sandals!

Keep up with us by following our social media pages, and stay up to date with all Oak and Earth happenings! Until our next summery post, stay cool and eat ice cream!

 

Peace and Love,

Tera -xo

5 Ways to Know You and Your Tot are Totally BFFS

Hey, readers! Self proclaimed nap time writer is back at it this week (it’s me, Tera). When I’m not drowning in last night’s dishes and days of laundry, I love getting to use Norah’s nap time to squeeze in a little down time for myself, and let’s be honest, sometimes a nap of my own (second trimester insomnia has me dragging these days)! Today’s nap time is consisting of a few of my favorite things: a bowl of fresh raspberries (all to myself), burning the best candle ever made (Capri Blue’s Volcano…mmmm), and this–blogging!

Since motherhood is one of the biggest roles in my life, I love getting to share little snippets of my everyday happenings and experiences, mom fails, and mom successes! This week, I wanted to share something light-hearted and something that all moms of toddlers (maybe even more specifically, moms of little diva tots) can relate to. We mom’s need to give ourselves a break every now and then from the pressures we feel with doing this mom thing the “right way,” and just have a good laugh. Motherhood is messy, tiring, never ending (I mean like 24/7 all day, everyday, whether you work or stay home), humbling, and completely wonderful! Now, have I done research and created this compilation based on facts? Yeah, basically. No better way than living it first hand, #amiright?

So, with that, I share with you my list of 5 Ways to Know You and Your Tot are  (Totally) BFF’s

Mother and daughter

  1. You’re Attached at the Hip

You and your tot go everywhere together. You’re the inseparable duo, two peas in a pod. You’re the peanut butter to their jelly, the glaze on their donut, the cheese to their macaroni–catchin’ my drift? So much so, they want to go everywhere with you. Literally. You wanna just run and pee really quick? Not without the ying to your yang you don’t! Thinking about taking a nice bubble bath to soothe your sore muscles at the end of your day? Funny you should think that, because that’s exactly what your tot would like to do–and look! You’ve got it all set up and everything…how convenient! Wanna make a quick run to the s-t-o-r-e for a few to grab a couple groceries? They see that glance over to your spouse. Spelling the words don’t help, they know that glance, and they “pobby need to come get sum snacks too, tay?” In true best friend fashion, you two are attached at the hip; many times, very literally. They don’t want to be separated from your actual hip. If this sounds anything like you and your tot, this could mean that you two are BFF’s.

2.  You Tell Them Everything

Here’s the thing: it’s not a true BFF unless you tell them everything. You tell your tot the things you never imagined telling anyone! I mean it. You don’t tell just any friend not to eat your family dog’s dog food, or to please not pick up said family dog’s poo from the yard to bring inside to show you that said family dog did indeed poo in the yard. No, this is BFF level talk. I’m fairly confident you wouldn’t inform just anybody that yes, panties are a must when walking out of the garage, and no, wearing them on top of your head is not an acceptable form. “Get down,” and “don’t jump off of that!” and “no, we don’t poo in the yard like the family dog,” might not be things you’d say to the average Joe of a friend, but BFF’s get down to the nitty gritty. You’ll tell each other the things that no one else will. Is your tot an actual good secret keeper? Negative. She’ll tell every stranger at Walmart that she saw mom’s boobies today (speaking from experience). BUT, you can expect some real honest talk moments–like, “Let’s not talk about mom’s boobies to people, ok?” If you tell your tot things you don’t tell anyone else in the world, you might just be BFF’s.

3. You Share All the Things

Best friends share the motto, “what’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is yours.” Mom’s food tastes better. No, it doesn’t matter that it’s the exact same thing…it might taste completely different on mom’s plate than it does on theirs. Or, that last cookie you hoped to enjoy to yourself…it won’t matter that you’ve already given your tot 2 cookies to eat, they will still give you the sad begging puppy eyes and ask “petty peas, jus one more bite?” until you give in, and it’ll be a bite the size of a large mouthed bass. That warm bubble bath we mentioned earlier? Your tot will insist that it’s more enjoyable if they join you. I mean you could run a separate bath for them, but it just isn’t the same as the one you currently have waiting for you; no, yours is way better and bubblier and the perfect amount of water. Your ice water is what your tot prefers. Not their ice water, not their juice. Your ice water. “I hab some of your dink, mom. Iss perfec’ for me,” they’ll tell you. In the early am when your tot sneaks in to your bed for some morning cuddles, your pillow becomes 3/4 their pillow. No need for them to bring their own pillow; your pillow will suit them just fine. You share potty time together, movie time together, you toot together and laugh together, all day. Have you been an excellent sharer lately? I’m sensing some BFF action–sharing is caring.

4. They Wanna Be Just Like You

Monkey see, monkey do. There is no greater role model in your toddler’s life than you, mom. You’re the bee’s knees, the cat’s pajamas. Whatever you do, wherever you go, your tot wants to do and go also. When you leave your bathroom with a fresh face of makeup, little tot will sneak in and apply that bright red lipstick on her lips (and let’s be real, her cheeks and forehead). She’ll layer her neck with half a dozen of your blingiest necklaces, because she wants to be a superstar like mom. Your tot sees the strange contraption you wear across your chest, and they want in on this action. You’ll need to find a nearly identical bra and assemble it for them, and yes, it’ll be a fight to get it off when you need to leave the house because, “mom wears her bra!” If you’re leaving the house in your sandals, your tot won’t leave until they change out of their sneakers, and into (you guessed it) their own sandals. Are you wearing your sunnies? Well, then I hope you brought a spare! And when you say a phrase that is deemed the funniest phrase ever spoken (by your tot of course), be prepared to hear that phrase for the rest of the day, from them. You’re a rockstar, mom! If only we could get our tots to copy cat us when we ate all of our veggies at mealtime (sigh). If you have a little mini me at your heels all day, then I’d say you’ve found yourself a little BFF.

beautiful young mother daughter smiling each other summer green grass

 

5. You Could Talk for Hours

A sure sign of a BFF: you two never run out of words. Best friends never shut up (I mean this in the nicest but most sincere way possible). From the moment they wake up, to the moment their eyes close for the night, words are spewing out of your tot’s mouths. If your tot could text, you’d have 56 unread messages by 7 a.m. Questions of “what’s dat,’ ‘what happened,’ ‘what you sayin’ about,’ and ‘why?” are oh so commonly asked by your tot, many, many times in a day. You’re even graced with the occasional 3 a.m. wake up call from the monitor with: “Mom, I wake up!” and an hour’s worth of conversation that follows. No matter if you’re in the bathroom peeing or showering, there is never a short in small talk with your tot; they do not run low on exhaust. Cows, princesses, toots, boogers, feet, raisins…do you see what I’m getting at here? The conversation is endless. Throw in 500 questions in the mix of small talk, and you have a whole 27 hours worth of words exchanged! What’s that you say? There are only 24 hours in a day? If you’re close to losing your voice and your eyes are nearly crossed at the end of the day from all the question answering, pretend phone call taking, and smorgasbord of conversation, you and your tot may just be best friends forever status.

 

There’s no one that loves you, looks up to you, wants to be like you, and who’s always by your side like your BFF.

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Me and my BFF

Thanks for reading! We are excited to share some fun summer DIY’s, recipes, and more, so keep an eye out for more posts! Follow our insta page @oakandearth or my personal handle @terapianalto for updates, and more!

 

XO,

Tera

Amazing Avocado Chicken Salad

Hey, reader! It’s Tera here this week on the blog. I was inspired recently by one of my favorite go-to recipe sites (Six Sister’s Stuff) when they shared their avocado chicken salad. Being a devoted lover of all things avocado, I of course had to try this recipe for myself…immediately. I’m all about delicious and healthy food that is simple to make, that my family loves to eat, and that I can feel good before and after eating it. Oh, and everything avocado. I’m all about that, too. I tried out the recipe, and with some of my own tweaks to it, I wanted to share my rendition of the avocado chicken salad because it’s so delicious and seriously takes about 5 minutes to whip up!

If you keep up with our page, you may have seen the news that I am expecting our second baby in September! For a little lifestyle update, baby and I are doing well, and I am already nearly halfway through my pregnancy! Aside from some mild discomfort, I have my energy back since my first trimester, and I’m feelin’ good! We recently found out that we are having another GIRL, and we are so excited! Little Norah is especially excited for baby sister to get here, and she’s been telling us from the beginning that it was indeed a sister.

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We’re pretty eager to meet her! Much like my first pregnancy, my appetite has increased a bunch these last couple of weeks, and I’ve been trying to keep healthy snacks around the house, along with some meals that are healthy and easy to prepare. Fortunately for me, my daughter (and husband) both love avocado, so anytime I make a batch of this stuff up, it’s gone in no time. What’s that you say? A healthy meal that my finicky toddler LOVES to eat? Obviously, you can count me in every time!

Let’s eat, shall we?

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I made this avocado chicken salad today for lunch–and seriously, I can’t get over how easy this is to prepare. The avocado is used in lieu of mayonnaise, so it makes for a super healthy and guilt free meal! (I apologize in advance for my poor photo quality; I used my iPhone to take these pictures)! Here’s what I did to tweak this original recipe to make it my own, and I think it turned out yummy!

Here’s what you need: *This makes about 4 servings

-2 cups of (cooked) shredded chicken (I usually use rotisserie because I love the flavor)*

-1 avocado, rinsed, pitted and scoop out the pulp

-3/4 cup diced up apple

-1/2 cup chopped walnuts

-1-1 1/2 tablespoon(s) of lime juice

-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

-salt and pepper, to taste

ps. Here’s a crazy fact about me: I do not like cilantro. I know. Crazy. The original recipe (linked above) has cilantro, and if you love it, it would be a great addition!

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Feta makes it betta! (And, croissants of course).

In a medium sized bowl, add the chicken, apples, walnuts and avocado, and using a fork, mash the ingredients all together until the avocado totally coats them. Then, add the garlic powder, salt and pepper, and lime juice and blend all of these into the salad. It tastes the best when you can refrigerate it for a while after making it, but if you’re ready to eat it right away, like for me today, it tastes yummy at room temperature too!

Would you believe me if I told you that was it?! Because, it is! So fresh, and delicious! My family loves eating this salad on a croissant bun, but you could also add a scoop of it to your favorite spring salad and get some extra fruits and greens in your meal! It tastes great either way. The salad should keep for a day or two in the fridge if you seal it air tight, and the added lime juice is meant for both flavor, and also to help the avocado keep its color for a while longer.

Voila! I will be making this chicken salad all spring/summer long. And in case you are doubting the toddler approval of this meal, here is proof that my 2 year old picky pants loves to eat it as much as I do!

What are some of your favorite avocado recipes? I am always looking for fun ways to incorporate even more avocado into my life, because you know, avocado. Happy weekend wishes to our readers! Follow our social media pages to get updates and stay in the loop with our blog happenings!

Peace, love, and avocado,

-Tera, xo

 

Easy Lower Body Workout Routine for Pregnancy

If you missed my last post, I shared exciting news that I am expecting our second baby in September! We were so thrilled and a little surprised when we discovered the news back in January when I thought I had come down with a stomach bug and ended up with a positive stick!

Though my husband and I had been talking about getting pregnant in the near future, one of my goals for myself beforehand was to get my body back in shape! Having had a busy summer and fall with moving and then settling in, and then moving again, and settling in, my workout routine had fallen by the wayside. We got pregnant sooner than expected (funny how that happens), and though I didn’t hit my main goal of running another half marathon before pregnancy, I was able to start back up a good routine to get my body feeling good and enjoying the sweat and burn! Fitness is something that I am passionate about and something I plan to incorporate into my pregnancy now, but preparing your body before getting pregnant will help you maintain a good routine after becoming pregnant!

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While I enjoy fitness, this pregnancy has really kicked my booty harder than my workouts have been lately! I feel like I may be turning a corner, but the exhaustion and the nausea have been real. It could be partly that it comes with the territory of having a toddler in full toddler-mode, and also growing a human being inside of me, but my lack of energy as of late speaks for the lack of motivation to hit the gym regularly! Sometimes Mama just wants to stay home and eat a s’mores pop tart. I’ll admit, one pop tart was consumed during the making of this post.

All this leads to my main point. Though I haven’t had as much energy these last few weeks to hit the gym more than a couple times a week, I can be motivated with a short, easy workout in my own home! I mean, come on. Bra, no bra? Real workout pants, pajama pants? No one knows! You’re able to burn some calories and feel great afterward regardless of what you’re wearing or how dirty your hair may be, and for me, that’s for many days the more realistic alternative!

I decided to pull some of my favorite exercises for my butt and legs (and core!) and create a short, 10 minute workout that is safe (in most cases) for all trimesters during pregnancy, and also, I believe, a great workout for moms to get back in the groove post-pregnancy! Ten minutes may not seem like a lot, but trust me…I’ve done this routine myself, and you definitely feel a good burn! The other great thing about this simple workout is that you don’t need much more space than the size of your own home! Scoot a couch back a few inches, crank some music, and you’re good to go!  If you’re feeling ambitious, repeat the steps one or two more times and make a 10 minute workout a good 30 minute one! Ready?!

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Cardio

Start your workout with some cardio to get your heart pumping and start burning those calories! You’ll continue burning calories throughout the workout once you stimulate your body and get it pumping!

  1. Butt Kicks- 45 seconds   This is a really simple step and if you haven’t done them before, it’s basically like jogging in place, only make sure to bring your foot all the way up to your butt. Go at a steady pace, but always listen to your body!
  2. Knee Highs- 45 seconds   This is another simple exercise to get your blood pumping. Holding your hands out, lift one knee and bring it up to your parallel hand, then switch and bring your other knee up to its parallel hand. Again, keep a steady pace with this to get your heartrate going!
  3. Lateral Shuffle-45 seconds   With this exercise, bend your knees and keep your core balanced and upright. Shuffle a few steps to your right, then shuffle a few steps to the left, and repeat for the 45 seconds. The more swiftly you do this move, the more you will feel it!
*Stay in tune with your body and never push yourself farther than what you are comfortable with!*
–water break–

Standing Exercises

These exercises will focus on your butt and thighs and most can be done *optional with weights! It’s a great way to add an extra challenge and also throw some arm muscle toning in too.
  1. Standing Lunges- 1 minute (weights optional)   For this exercise, you should be very careful to keep good form to avoid injury. The bigger the belly, the more you need to make sure your body is in good balance! Keeping your spine straight throughout the duration, step back with your right foot about 2-3 feet. You can keep your hands down to your sides, or hold some 2 or 5lb. weights like I did above. Lift your back foot so that your toe makes contact with the floor and your heel is off the floor. Then, bend both knees (the goal is for both knees to hit a 90 degree angle). Make sure your right knee doesn’t bend over the right toe line. Hold for about 5 seconds, and then repeat the steps with the other side.
  2. Squats- 1 minute (weights optional)   I LOVE doing squats! It’s an exercise you’ll feel today and tomorrow. The best way I can describe doing a squat is to first set your feet about shoulder width apart. You can hold your belly to help you balance, or hold onto some weights like I’ve shown above. Keeping your core centered, spine straight, and butt back as you go down, squat down and act as if you are going to sit in a chair, and slowly come back up. Keep your butt tight as you do these for best results. If you choose to use the weights, a great way to incorporate them as you squat is to do a punching movement each time you are squatted down (squat, right punch, left punch, back up). You can sort of see the movements I used in the above picture!
  3. Plie Squats- 1 minute/ Pulse- 30 seconds   This is an alternate style of squat that is very effective and again, gives you a burn right away that lingers a day or two! Set your feet about a shoulder’s width apart, this time with your feet pointed out (think of a ballerina). Hold on to your belly if it helps you stay balanced, and keeping your thighs and butt tight and core centered, squat down and slowly come back up. After your minute is up, go into your squatted position and slightly bounce up and down in a “pulsing” motion. Don’t come all the way back up when doing this; the goal is to stay squatted and lightly bounce, keeping thighs and butt tight. Feel the burn!
  4. Wall Sit- 45 seconds   For this, find a flat wall (easy enough to do!) and stand with your back against the wall and your feet about shoulder’s width apart. then, keeping your back straight, go into a sitting position (really just like you are sitting in a chair). Make sure your knees do not go over your toes. You can hold the baby belly, or keep your hands in your lap as you “sit.”

–water break–

Sitting Exercises

For these, it’s helpful to have a mat for some cushion, though not necessary! They will also focus on core strength, which is so beneficial during and after pregnancy when our muscles are totally shot!

  1. Arm and Leg Raises- 1 1/2 minutes   Start on all fours, and slowly lift one leg, and the opposite arm (like in one of the pics above). Make sure to keep your butt tight as you lift your leg back. Then, slowly come back down and repeat the opposite arm and leg. Keep your butt tight while you do these, but this will also help your core and arms! As you get further into your pregnancy, it may not be safe to raise your arm while doing this exercise. If it is uncomfortable for you, keep both arms down and use the same lift and tuck movements with your legs like normal. You’ll still get the burn in your glutes and core strengthening without the risk of losing your balance.
  2. Side Leg Lifts- 1 minute + 20 second circular movements per leg   Lay on your side and stabilize yourself with your arm (like shown in above pic). If your belly is bigger, make sure your whole side is flat on your mat. Slowly raise one leg up as high as you can, and bring it back down. After about 30 or so seconds on one side, add in 10 seconds of small forward circular movements, and 10 seconds of small backward circular movements. To do this, raise your leg just about 6 inches, and with your foot, make forward (or backward) circular movements. Repeat with your other leg.

–water break–

*Try repeating the whole work out for double or triple the muscle and calorie burn if you’re body is feeling good!

I was so excited to formulate this routine and share with you all, as a way to encourage you to keep you feeling and looking great during your pregnancy, and also to hold me accountable to keep at it throughout my own pregnancy! Obviously, our goal during pregnancy should never be “weight loss,” or doing some major body sculpting; rather, it’s to maintain a healthy weight, keep those muscles toned, and feel amazing during these 9 months. It’s so beneficial for mom and baby to exercise and keep moving! Whether you’re in tip-top shape, or a very early beginner, you can do these simple workouts at your own pace and time! Only have energy for half the time? Cut it down in half and start there! Any effort is a great start, and your body will thank you for it!

*I do want to state that it is always safe and a good idea to check with your doctor before any type of exercise during pregnancy. In most cases, you’ll get the okay, but for some with complications there may be restrictions and limits to what you should and shouldn’t do!*

I hope I gave you a great lower body workout that will keep your butt and thighs feeling tight and looking hot during and after your pregnancy! What are some of your favorite workouts that are safe for pregnancy?! I would love to hear what you all do to stay moving! If you don’t follow Oak and Earth on Instagram yet, we have created a new page (@OakandEarth) that you can follow! I also have my personal Instagram @terapianalto that you can follow and stay up to date on blog happenings. Plus, now you can find us on our Facebook page (Oak and Earth)!

Can’t wait to see how you all enjoy the workout! Here are the steps, without the how-to’s:

butt kicks (45 seconds)

knee highs (45 seconds)

lateral shuffle (45 seconds)

standing lunges (1 minute)

squats (1 minute)

plie squats (1 minute)/pulse (30 seconds)

wall sits (45 seconds)

arm and leg raises (1 1/2 minutes)

side leg lifts (1 minute per side with 20 second circular movements per side)

*Repeat if you want a good sweat!!

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Peace-

Tera, xo

A Celebration-Norah is TWO

I just had to share a little life update this week, as we have had a lot going on this past weekend! Norah turned TWO  years old Saturday (HOW can this be?!). We gathered around our sweet girl and she was celebrated–and she could feel the love. She felt so special! I was visiting with a close friend yesterday about how our girls (only one month apart) both had a very good grasp of their birthdays this year. They both realized we were celebrating them, and they just loved having everyone they love surround them on their special day. This could not be more true for Norah! She soaked up the whole afternoon of family and friends!! We are so blessed to have so many who love our family and share our celebrations with us.

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If you have been reading along with us for a while, you may recall my last birthday post, here-. I shared a few things I learned over the course of Norah’s first year of life; the ups and downs for me as a mom, and how each stage brings a new season of parenthood. I have to say though, that this second year has probably been my favorite stage so far! I treasure every baby stage and share some sweet memories of Norah’s baby innocence, but man this past year has been a blast! Just like that, she turned into a little girl right before our eyes. It is bittersweet, but it has been a blessing for my husband and I to watch what a sweet, sassy, hilarious, beautiful, little girl Norah has blossomed into.

Though she has become quite the independent little girl–we hear “Norah ‘dood’ it” an awful lot–there is still such a precious innocence about her. Still marveling over the things that we adults would rarely think twice over, causing Jeremy and I to pause and acknowledge these little things every now and again that in her world are new and amazing (like the sound of a “choo choo,” or a little anthill in the yard). She keeps our imaginations running, and I hope that never ends! There is so much about her life that we treasure. We could not be more grateful to God for another year of life with our girl!

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One of the things Norah loves right now is ice cream (i-keem), so naturally, we decided to have an ice cream sundae themed party for her! We supplied the ice cream and a plethora of toppings, and let everyone create their own sundaes; it was a huge hit! She loved helping me prep for the party and only tried to smuggle the M&M’s under the table a few times (ok, ok…if Norah’s honest, it’s really the only thing she was concerned about regarding the party prep). Note to self: next year, hide all party food until the day of party to avoid stolen bags of candy around every corner turned.

She truly loved having all of our friends and family come over and celebrate together, and the ice cream sundaes weren’t a bad way to do that! Though it will likely never happen again, the weather on Norah’s (winter) birthday reached about 73 degrees! We lived it to the fullest with a bounce house, courtesy of a family member, and trampoline for the kiddos, and they hardly stepped foot inside from start to finish! We kept it simple with the food and decorations for her birthday, and made the focus more on who we spent the day with. We loved how it turned out, and Norah adored every minute of her special day.

 

Year two had some exciting and some challenging stages surface. The beginnings of potty training, the development of a very stubborn independence that begins to battle with you over things from which socks to wear, to bedtime, to what foods she’ll eat (today). Learning colors, shapes, numbers, letters, and songs. Building strong bonds with loved ones that are treasured. A quizzical nature that tends to get into mischief, daily. On the go bright and early, and no stopping until we crawl into bed that night. So many days can feel so draining and even mundane at times, though it will always be worth every long day. I am so grateful for a God that allows new mercies in the morning to start each day with renewed energy and grace (He knows I need it)!

A letter to Norah Grace:

Sweet Norah,

How fast your second year flew by, but oh how I treasured every bit of it. Our selfie queen, ice cream lover, little ham. You give us sunshine every day, and I could not be more proud and humbled to be called ‘mom’ by you! I love your gentle, caring spirit, your one of a kind facial expressions, your love of donuts, and your obsession with all things pink and all things princess. My heart swells with joy when you talk to us about how you love Jesus, and how excited you are to go to church every week. I love listening to your sweet singing voice as you perch on a cinder block outside and belt “Let it Go.” I love that you call me ‘mom’ on occasion to get my attention (“Mom. Hey mom. Here you go, mom. Mom, look”). I love that you love to read and be read to! I may be tired more days than not, but I still love that you still need your mama for an occasional extra cuddle, to kiss your booboos, to feed you, and tuck you in at night. I love how you are learning new things every day, and I love the way you pronounce some of your words (to-mah-loo “tomorrow,” oo-ah gace “Norah Grace,” and so on). I love that you ask me to play pretend in your kitchen, and with your million and one baby dolls. I love that you already possess a nurturing spirit, and I pray I can be an example to learn after. And I love that your favorite thing to do is play chase and be tickled! God created a most beautiful “you,” and I pray that you will grow up living and knowing the fullness of Christ’s goodness and love, and that you would chase after His will for you. I am so incredibly thankful for another year God has blessed us with “you”, and I pray He blesses us for many, many more years to come. I love you most forever.

-Your Mama 

 

Someday, there will be a last time Norah plays with her baby dolls. She’ll wake up one morning and “Oo-ah” will be “Norah.” She’ll outgrow her need for cuddles, and one day she won’t need me to prepare her food or tuck her in at night. And someday, she’ll use her cinder block in the yard as her performing stage one last time. As I type these thoughts out, my heart already weeps preparing for this day. No, it won’t all happen at once, and for that I am thankful. It will be gradual, over the course of time, but in my heart I know it is all too fast approaching. Seeing how fast the first two years have flown by, I am saddened at the thought of waking up one morning and being a mom to a teenager, just like that. I pray that in the long days where I am so exhausted and just want a shower or to eat my meal that was overlooked in the busyness of my day, the Lord will slow me down and let me cherish all of these little things about Norah that won’t last forever. That He’ll prompt me to cuddle her a little bit longer before bed time (even though she may be stalling), and to not be frustrated after preparing four different foods before finding one she will eat. This is such a precious time of our life. So challenging, but even more so rewarding. Lord, help me to slow down and live in each day, to soak it all in. Amen.

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Here was our big surprise for everyone at the party!! We feel blessed to be adding a little one in September. Norah is so excited to be a BIG sister!

 

Keep up with Oak and Earth on my Instagram handle (@terapianalto)! We love your feedback and love hearing your stories and getting to build a network with you all. We are so thankful for our readers!!

Love and Peace,

-Tera, xo

Making a Home, Part 1- Buying

Buying a house can be such a fun, exciting, scary, hard, lengthy process! As some of you already know, my husband and I purchased our first home together a few months ago. The process of buying a house was completely new to us, and there are several things that we learned (good and bad) over the course of the few months we searched. I’ve decided to make a mini series of what I am calling Making a Home, so that I can post little snippets of our long list of to-dos, and projects that we endeavor in over the course of time. Naturally, for “Part 1,” I thought I would take it back a few months to share some of my experiences in the home buying world, and things I have learned along the way!

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Expectations vs. Reality

Months (even years) before my husband and I purchased our house, I dreamt of what our house would be like. Pinterest helped me formulate my perfect dream home, complete with the craftsman build on the outside with the white shudders offsetting the pretty gray siding, and my little imaginary mud room on the inside. I was so excited to plan these things out and imagine our family living in our quaint little craftsman suburb! Let me tell ya, I make a darn dreamy Pinterest house.

When it came closer to the home search, we started browsing Zillow and a few other real estate websites. Quickly, very quickly, the reality of a 25 year old couple living on one income’s budget hit us pretty hard as we realized: we ain’t gettin’ no mud room. As a matter of fact, we weren’t getting a mud room, OR the pretty gray and white craftsman build, for a couple of reasons. One being, what is on the market when you are ready to buy greatly determines what kind of house(s) you can purchase (i.e. no craftsman houses for sale, no craftsman house for you). Secondly, our first time home buyers’ budget could not accommodate such fine splendor of the custom cabinetry and beautiful built-ins. No, no. We were looking at the houses with pink shag carpet and hunter green sinks, and trying to imagine what they would look like if we bought some big area rugs and slapped ’em down on top. I say this all light heartedly, because, if you are in the same season of life as we are (20 somethings, figuring life out, living on a prayer), then the first reality of home buying I’d invite you to join in sharing is this: It will NOT be your dream home. This was the saddest reality slap in the face for me, and quickly we began to think more realistically. After we came to terms with what our budget would buy, the search became easier, because we quit looking at the heart breakingly good looking and expensive houses that put us into a pity party, and began searching for what could become our home, with a little bit of tlc.

Another thing we learned about buying a house, is that it takes time! From start to finish, we were in the process of home buying for 3 or 4 months. Saying that now, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but when we first decided to buy, we were ready right then and there! We expected finding and buying to be a much faster endeavor, but we realized there is a waiting period in every step of the process. Talking loans with the banks (sidenote: I’d highly recommend shopping around different banks for the lowest interest rates, and what they can offer you), searching on the web for houses you would like to see, walking through some of these houses, putting an offer in, going back and forth between your real estate agent and the seller’s agent on said offer, and even closing on a home. By the time we had gone through all of these steps, a few months had flown by! With this process being brand new to us, we were not prepared for all of the waiting periods. Another important thing to remember is: it’s ok to wait if the right house isn’t out there for you yet! You will regret it in the long run if with all of your eagerness you jump into a house simply because it’s for sale and in your price range. Make sure it’s something you could love! When you buy it, its yours…the reality still hits me some days that this house is all ours, and not to be afraid to put some big ol’ nail holes in the walls, and to fix the fan on our back porch, and to replace that dang ugly dining area light fixture (my list goes on, but I’ll spare you). Being a home owner is a lot of responsibility, so be sure you love what you buy and if not, be okay to wait for one that you do!

Location is another big part of buying your first (and every other) house. We spent the first month and a half debating on where we wanted to be! I wanted to be in my hometown that is adorable and small, and comfortable. My husband wanted to be in his hometown, in which I pictured smelling manure and chicken plants. What helped us decide was sitting down one evening and making a list of where we go the most often; work, church, shopping, eating out, etc. After seeing this list, we realized my hometown, though I may still be a tad bitter about it, was just not practical. My expectations were to be in a small town with a downtown, historical feel, but reality was that our family needed something more central to our daily schedule! We settled on the edge of his hometown and about a 5 minute drive to one of our largest cities in NWA (which was a great compromise for me, because I spend a lot of time here). And so far, to my surprise and delight, I smell no cow manure and no chicken plant! Win-win. Other things to consider and ask yourselves with location in mind are: What school district would we like to be in? What is the neighborhood like? What are the near-by homes selling for? What is the neighborhood next to?

All of these questions are some that we hadn’t even considered until our real estate agent started asking us. Especially if you will consider your first home as your starter home and not your forever home, like we do, these factors can add value to your home or take away value, so take time to think about these things and be selective!

Before we totally dove into the home buying process, we hadn’t realized the extra costs, aside from the actual house. Most loans require a down payment of some degree (3-5% for first time home buyers normally). On top of this, there is usually a fee of a couple thousand dollars to even take out the loan. When we learned these things, we thought it was crazy talk! Why they takin’ all our money?! Most loans also have closing fees, for the real estate part and the title ownership part. This can also somewhat determine what price range you can afford, as you don’t totally want to wipe out all of your hard earned savings (that’s a lot of pb&j’s and canned bean dinners over the years in order to save back a few bucks a month-some of you know what I’m talkin’ about). After doing some number crunching, we did a lot of research and found a route that works best for us. Be aware of the reality of financial obligations of buying a house, as there is a lot to it aside from the sale price on the house! Do your research and talk to a few loan officers to see what works best for you, and it doesn’t hurt to compare rates and fees that different banks will apply!

Lastly, after we purchased our home and moved in, we realized there were a lot of blank walls and some empty square footage that made our house feel bare. And to be honest, it’s been about three months of living here and we’re still there! What we have learned in this stage, is to allow your house to slowly be filled with the right pieces, and the right touches. You don’t have to rush out to hobby lobby for that 40% off coupon just because you have a space on your wall that is bare! Part of making a house a home is imagining and creating a space that is uniquely yours…that can’t be done overnight! Don’t be afraid of a little project or two, whether big or small. The time and love invested into your spaces will make a special bond in your house for your whole family. Even if it’s not your forever home, or your dream home, it can still be your special home! I am so excited to make plans for our kitchen, and some other spaces in our home that will truly make it feel like ours. Granted, it may be a ways down the road, it’s fun to dream and plan, and I’m looking forward to sharing our home with you over the course of the next several months!

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Look at this beautiful space! All of my pics in this post are from this site. They have some great inspiration!

 

I hope my insight on first time home buying was able to encourage some of you who are thinking about or starting out in this journey! Even though our first house may not be what we see for our family long term, a house is made a home by the people you invite into it, and the memories shared there. I am excited to share some of our memories in our new house with you! Keep up with me and Oak and Earth happenings by following me on Instagram (@terapianalto). We love to hear your feedback, advice, stories and love getting to know you! If you share any O&E experiences, please hashtag #oakandearthblog so we can share it with you!

Peace and Love-

Tera, xo

Brave

Hello, reader, it’s Tera! It feels SO good to be writing again on here after being away for a bit! The girls of Oak and Earth took a small break over the holidays to enjoy some family time that was much needed, but we are back and excited for what we have in store for 2016 (one thing being that we want to post much more frequently)! I hope you and yours shared some special times over the holiday season. With that being said, what better way to start off 2016 -and this week- on O&E than with a little devotional?

My initial thoughts for this devo were sparked by one of my favorite songs right now (“You Make Me Brave,” by Amanda Cook). The lyrics are powerful and beautiful, and as of late, have really resonated with me. You would be doing yourself a great favor by checking it out if you haven’t heard it yet!

In this song, she sings about how the Lord makes us brave. In one line she sings, “You make me brave, You call me out beyond the shore into the waves.” When I first heard the lyrics, I loved the power that was behind them. I pictured myself in the vast world of unknown future, taking long strides and doing things that I am only capable of doing with His help and through His grace. How true this is! But one Sunday morning, we sang this song at our church. It was a Sunday that would lead to a week of anticipated anxiety, and was sure to surface some pretty sensitive and wounded areas of my heart. This particular Sunday while we were singing this song, the lyrics took a whole new meaning to me, and it hit me. The lyrics became deeper for me when I realized that the Lord does make us brave, in more ways than this daydreamt adventure!

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This picture is makes me feel like a hobbit looking out onto the shire! Any other LOTR fans out there??

 

He doesn’t have to call us on a grand journey in order for His power and love to make us brave. He certainly can and does sometimes, but taking a giant leap of faith into a sea of unknown is not the only prerequisite in order to be capable of being very, very brave. God makes our love brave, to love even the people in our lives who are the most difficult to love, to be a good friend, to have a heart of compassion for others. He makes us brave in our strength. To fight for our marriages and hold on even in our marriages’ darkest seasons, or to stand up for our faith unashamedly, (the list goes on). God makes us brave in our insecurities. Whether it be our body image, our fears of acceptance, our fears of not being enough, our lack of a higher education, our jobs…[insert insecurities here], we can say “I love myself. I am beautiful. I am enough just the way I am.” He makes us brave in our shortcomings, to take it day by day and say, “Today, I want to be better than I was yesterday.” He makes us brave so we can forgive– even the ones who never ask you for your forgiveness– to have a freed heart and a cleared conscience by saying, “I forgive YOU.” God makes us brave in our circumstance. When we feel so unsure of why we are going through a situation(s), when we want to get out of our rut(s), when we don’t know who we are fully and we wish we had the answers…He makes us brave to embrace this season, to learn from it, to know that it will not be forever, and to trust that He is always at work behind the scenes. And He makes us brave in living out our purpose. Maybe He’s called you to be a homemaker, maybe you teach, maybe you are taking that huge leap of faith in a new adventure He’s called you to, or maybe He has you somewhere right now to prepare you for what your purpose will be in a few years. Whatever it is, He makes us brave to fulfill our purpose with love, grace, and with happy hearts, even when it feels mundane, tiring, and hard. The capacity we have to do these things is so grand when we rely on God’s abilities rather than our own. Because of God, our love stretches, our strength endures, our self worth shines, our shortcomings do not overcome us, our forgiveness is limitless, our circumstances we face teach us and encourage us, and our purpose fills us. Because of God, in God, we are brave.

2 Cor. 4:7 “We now have this shining light in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”

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Aren’t these photos beautiful?! They were taken by my brother on his trip to Alaska.

 

 

 

We would love to hear your ideas for some future blog posts you’d like to see! Follow me on my social media if you don’t already for blog updates and daily snippets of life; Instagram @terapianalto, and Twitter @terapianalto. We always love your feedback and love being a part of the blogging community!

 

Love Fiercly,

Tera -xo

Make Christmas Memorable for Your Family While Keeping it Simple

Merry Christmas season, readers! It’s Tera here on Oak and Earth today. This time of year is by far my favorite, for so many reasons! It is a time for family, a time of giving, a whole season of yummy foods, a time for Christmas lights and hot chocolate, and most of all a time to celebrate and remember the true reason for the season: the birth of our Lord and Savior! I have the most special memories of the holidays from my childhood years, and the excitement and fun my family had during the Christmas season has most certainly carried on in me into adulthood!

 I was reflecting recently on Christmas time and my own little family, and I tried to think of ways to make this a memorable time of year for Norah (and us), while keeping our main focus on the true meaning of Christmas and not getting wrapped up in the common mindset of, “more is more.” I want to instill meaningful and treasured memories into Norah’s core for Christmas time that teach her what principles are important to have and to pass down, and that will tug her heart strings (in a good way) for years to come. Simple moments that create a lifelong impact. So, I have created a list of some simple things you can do as a family that will make great memories, give quality time, and can respect even the most frugal holiday budget. I’m sharing my list below, and I hope you can be inspired for your family by some of these ideas! ‘Tis the season!

1.   Christmas Lights Outing  

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Downtown Siloam Springs, AR

This is an easy way for you and yours to have some fun during the Christmas season! My family would do this every year after our Christmas Eve service, but this is something you could do any time during December! Many of your local neighborhoods will have some fun light displays, or your downtown square (for us NWA folk, the Fayetteville square, for example). Some houses even connect their light displays with one of your local radio stations, and it’s really fun to see the lights flickering to the rhythm of the music! Your kids would love it if you all dressed in your comfy, festive Christmas pj’s, whipped up some hot chocolate, and hopped in your car together for a ride around town to see the pretty lights! It’s a nearly free activity (minus a little gas), and the kids will love starting this tradition with you!

 2.  Trim the Tree as a Family 

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My Christmas mantle in my pretty new house!!

Another fun memory I have from my childhood is helping my mom and siblings decorate our Christmas tree together each year! We would all get a new hallmark ornament every year to add to the collection. My own Christmas tree now is full of all of these ornaments (plus Jeremy’s and now Norah’s). There is something super special about those homemade ornaments and little hallmark collectibles that make a Christmas tree so sentimental and nostalgic! Pick a day where the whole family can be a part of this; and if you want to make a whole afternoon of it, visit a local tree nursery and choose a real tree to take home and decorate! The prices are usually very reasonable and it’s a fun and neat experience for the family. Set your tree up, stick some cookies in the oven, and choose a favorite Christmas movie to watch while you all have fun decorating (our tradition is The Polar Express). Let your little ones have a role in making the tree pretty! You can “touch up” some bare spots after they go to bed and disperse the ornaments that are stringing around the bottom half of your tree up and throughout (they’ll never know the difference), but, in the meantime, let them feel special and like they have an important part of this Christmas tradition! They’ll grow to love it, and their decorating skills should improve over the years ;). For the teeny tots who are still trying to grasp what a Christmas tree is, and from whom you’d like to spare some of your favorite glass ornaments from the game, “throw it on the floor,” try purchasing a mini tree and some plastic ornaments and set it up next to the big tree. We did this for Norah and let her decorate her special tree while we did the big tree and she loved it, (and we purchased her tree for $8)! Until they can better understand the concept of the ornaments and the tree, this is another way to get the littlest tots involved, and they’ll have their own special tree to decorate!

3.  Do an Advent Series Together 

Make some time during the month of December  for everyone to reflect on the ‘reason for the season’ by doing an advent series together. There is nothing more important that you can instill into your children’s hearts (or your own for that matter) than the love of Christ. Make sure in the hustle and bustle that your family stays grounded and that you make some quality time for this! I realize we are already part way through December, but this is something so important that I am adding it anyway to encourage you to do! You can play a little catch up, or just pick up where you are! It will help your whole family remember what matters most during Christmas, and you will instill this most important thing into your kids’ lives–and this is something you can’t put a price tag on! I am linking a great advent series for the whole family to partake in HERE. If you want to save money for budget purposes, there are some great online resources to pull verses and stories from to read each night as a family. Try doing this at a time where everyone is always together, like at the dinner table either before or after a meal (while everyone is still gathered). Making a routine like this is a good way to keep from having to try and squeeze it in at the end of the night while kids are dispersing to bed, or forgetting to do it altogether! After a long day at work or school, this is a great way to end each evening this month and will be so impactive on your kids’ hearts!

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My sweet little family at our church; New Life Church, Fayetteville

Free online resources:

4.  Christmas Cookie Decorating 

You can’t go wrong with a fun day of baking and decorating (and eating)! Tune in on your favorite Christmas pandora station, and you have a festive party right in your own kitchen! Google or Pinterest some easy sugar cookie recipes, pull the sprinkles from your pantry, and check Target’s Christmas aisles for some adorable (and cheap) Christmas cookie cutters! This is something you can do whether you have two or twelve people, and have fun doing it without breaking the bank! Take it to the next level on your baking day by trying a salt dough recipe and making some homemade ornaments that the kids can decorate and hang on the tree! This is a low stress, low cost way to get festive and celebrate the holidays, and will be a fun tradition the whole bunch can look forward to each year.

Fun cookie cutter set HERE ; Delicious sugar cookie recipe found HERE ; adorable and easy salt dough ornament recipe HERE !

5.  Christmas Caroling            

This is an outing to get your extended family and friends involved in! Take a big group around the neighborhood and sing some popular and well-known Christmas songs together! My family has not ever done this, but I think it sounds like a super fun way to spend an afternoon, and would love incorporating this into our yearly festivities! The more the merrier for this activity, so a little planning may be required to get the group together, but it would be well worth the effort, and would create fun memories for the whole family! End the night with some hot chocolate and a nice fire (because you can’t go wrong with hot chocolate)! This is a free way to lift people’s spirits and put a smile on their faces. If you want to go the extra mile this season, look into caroling at your local nursing home and share some love and Christmas cheer with our beloved elders…no one would love and appreciate it more! This is a totally free and fun way to get the whole family involved in some fun times together, and share some great memories!

6.   Gingerbread House Contest

  Nothing like some friendly competition to make for a fun night! You can purchase gingerbread house kits for fairly cheap at the store; why not buy two and make a friendly contest of boys vs. girls and have some fun?! You can have as small or as big of teams as you want, and that makes this activity super universal and accommodating to any family size! Spend the evening dressing your gingerbread houses up, and have some friends be the judge (without them knowing whose is whose). Let the winners choose the next Christmas movie for movie night, or spice it up with a bigger incentive for the winners! This is a tradition that your kids will want to repeat next year, and they’ll cherish their memories!

7.  Downtown Parade (or your town’s Christmas festivities)             

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Aren’t my besties totally adorable holding children?? 😉 We were able to enjoy the downtown parade together this year!

Going to our annual downtown Christmas parade is a tradition my family has held for years. It’s always a fun night of warm bundles, a hot drink in hand, and lots of pretty Christmas floats! Check your calendars for your town’s holiday festivities and make it a family affair! Bundle up, grab some extra blankets and a warm beverage (you know what would be great for this? Hot chocolate), and share some laughs together. If you missed this year’s, make it a goal to try it next year and start a new tradition together!

8.  “Christmas” Game Night

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“Louie” themed socks and hot cocoa are my secret to winning 😉

Here’s another fun idea for the entire family and even some of your friends to join in on! For the last few years, my husband’s side has done a fun game night together for our Christmas tradition, and it has been a huge hit! You can find some Christmas themed minute -to -win it games for your inspiration on Pinterest, or even google, and most of them look super fun! Get the group together, share some yummy snacks (and maybe some hot chocolate), split into teams, and let the laughs begin! What’s nice about these games, is that any supplies you may need can most always be found at the dollar store, so you can stretch your dollar and enjoy lots of games. Make your prizes as big or small as you want, or nix them all together and play just for the fun of it. There will be guaranteed a ton of laughs, and with or without the prizes, everyone will look forward to next year’s annual game night! Here are a few links to some very fun minute to win it ideas you can try:  Here , here , and here !

9.  Christmas Angels

Teach your kids the importance of giving during this holiday season. Magnify this and make it a higher priority than being on the receiving end. If we are honest, most of our kiddos who live in a warm and safe home do not really need much for Christmas! I’m not saying our kids don’t deserve gifts, or that we shouldn’t let them receive any. It’s so fun to watch Norah open her gifts and seeing her face light up! But, the more important thing we can give them is to teach them selfless love and share what we have with those who go without. Go to your nearest Christmas Angel tree and choose a couple angels to give a nice Christmas. Let your kids have a big part in choosing the Angels and the gifts. It’s important to show our kids that there are some big needs in our communities, and that they can have a part in making Christmas special for someone who otherwise wouldn’t have the same experience. Partake as a family in spreading love this season, and make it a tradition to give to others in a very tangible way every Christmas! If you don’t have Christmas Angel trees in your area, research some places that you can donate items and help make Christmas special for someone else!

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Here is our littlest angel, to give you all the feels!! *sigh*

10.  Wise Men Gifts

One principle we really want to keep incorporated into our Christmas as a family is simplicity. The excessiveness that is so common during this time of year we believe takes away from the specialness and “sacredness” that simplicity holds. Keep your gift giving simple with your kiddos this year by trying the Wise Men Gift method. This is a concept I first heard from Oak and Earth’s Bethany, whose family started doing this several years ago. Whether your budget is $3,000 or $300, this is a concept that you can easily incorporate into your family’s traditions. It’s very simple: each kid (and/or spouse) would receive just three gifts, and their stockings. You can arrange them however you choose; two smaller gifts and one big gift, three small gifts, one “Santa” gift, and two from you–there’s no method to it other than keeping the number simple with 3. We loved the idea and decided to start this tradition with Norah! It’s an awesome way to keep the sweetness of Christmas time by not drowning our kids (and our finances) in “more.” Our little ones will expect only what they are used to when it comes to gifts, so why not start this tradition now and keep your gift giving sweet and simple. 

If you want more ideas for gift giving methods, here are a few others you can try:

  • Do the “4 gifts” (something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read)
  • For older kids (this is what we do for my husband’s side), draw names and each person gets one person a gift or two.
  • Sock exchange (buy your kids some christmas socks and fill them up with goodies, much like a stocking), or just their stockings!
  • Encourage your kids to read and grow their imaginations by giving books for gifts!
  • If you are opting for “no gifts” this year, try donating to a charity in honor of each of your children. It’s a great way to give back and will be a special way to honor your kids.

I absolutely love getting to start new traditions with Norah, and I’m excited to start with some of these ideas together as a family! Keeping our holidays sweet and simple by focusing more on the memories and fun, and less on the “things” will hopefully create a special place in Norah’s heart for this time of year, much like it did for me! I hope I have given you some ideas that you can start incorporating into your family festivities each year too! No matter how you choose to spend the holidays, try to do some fun things as a family that will make it memorable for everyone!  If you want some fun and creative date ideas to do with your special someone, make sure to check back in a couple days for Bethany’s “12 Dates of Christmas” post coming soon! Also be sure to keep up with Oak and Earth this month, as we have several holiday inspired posts that we can’t wait to show you!! Follow me on Instagram @terapianalto if you don’t already, so you can stay informed on all of our blog happenings, and make sure to hashtag any Oak and Earth experiences you have with #OakandEarthBlog. We love your feedback and would love to know what you would like to see us write about on here! We’ll do our best to try out your ideas! Wishing you the sweetest and merriest Christmas yet!


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Happy Month of December, and Holiday’s best,

Tera (with Jeremy and Norah, and Louie)   -xo

Nothing Bundt Pumpkin: (The Yummiest) Pumpkin Spice Mini Bundt Cakes!

Hey y’all, it’s Tera! As I am typing this post out (briskly, during my little’s nap time), I can hear the rain trickling off of the trees outside and the cars slushing the water along the street. It’s cool enough outside that I have a cozy blanket wrapped around me, and I’m daydreaming about the fast approaching holidays (not wishing it to be here too soon)….FALL is in full swing! Fall is nostalgic for me. I think of warm, cozy things, the family gatherings…the weather gets cooler (amazing weather, I might add), but the season is so warm to me! This fall in particular will hold some special memories for my family! Our life has been so hectic and busy since moving back to Arkansas from Colorado, and our most recent endeavor has been a whirlwind of a time in the home purchasing world. I’m excited to say that there should be some fun and treasured news coming soon for this Pianalto Family. It’ll be fun to share with you more about that soon! Okay. Back to fall.

I LOVE all things fall; the hayrides, the football, the yummy scented candles (a serious obsession of mine, really, ask anyone), the scarves and boots, the parties, the weather, the magnificent, beautiful colors, the smells–usually accompanying the food, and the PUMPKIN. SPICE.-aka. the most commonly used phrase throughout the entire fall season [and we all know Starbucks started this pumpkin frenzy. Have you guys tried their “mini” size, by the way? It’s perfect. #PSL for life]. I have entirely boarded the crazy train for this one. I want my home to smell like pumpkin spice. want to smell like pumpkin spice. And I want to eat all things pumpkin spice.

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Side story: Just last night–no not joking, last night–us O&E girls spent upwards of an hour in the candle aisle at Target. We literally got kicked out of Target for closing time and essentially sat and sniffed candles the whole time. We could have spent another hour, unashamedly. Obsessed much? By the way, I got one called Market Roast and it is a perfect fall scent for your dwelling. End of side story.

Of course along with fall comes all of the fall themed recipes and delicious foods shaped like turkeys, but are actually cheese and salami. I love seeing how creative some people are with their food presentation. Let’s just call them Pinteresters, and I am not excluding myself from this. It’s just when it comes to those amazing platters of food and those perfectly sewn DIY baby rompers, some people got it, some people don’t got it. (hint: I tend to ‘don’t get it’)

Pinterest: sharing deceptively difficult and unattainable ideas since 2010. Still goin’ strong.

Let’s get back on track now…

One of my favorite recipes for pumpkin spice is one that is in an old family cook book of my husband’s fam. It’s hard to beat a homemade recipe, and really, really hard to beat this particular one! With all of the fun parties and gatherings that happen this time of year (and food is bound to happen at them), I wanted to try and put a twist on the recipe and up the ante a little with presentation and taste. Level: Pinterester.

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So, instead of just whipping this recipe up as a loaf or as muffins (which you can most certainly do), I baked them into mini bundts and came up with a cream cheese glaze to top them off! It makes you look like you know what you’re doing when it comes to pumpkin spice, without actually making your job any harder, and your friends will all want your recipe. Plus, make them even more festive like I did by adding a little tootsie roll “stem” to make pumpkin bundts! So cute. If you want your house to smell delicious, and your guests’ mouths to fall off from the goodness (or your own, no judgment here), look no further! You have found the spot. Read along!!

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Okay, here’s the yummy part:

For the Pumpkin Mini Bundts:

(you’ll need a mini bundt pan, or a doughnut pan for another fun idea!)

  • 1 can of pumpkin
  • 1 3/4 C. cake flour (you can use all-purpose flour too. I like cake flour because it is so light and airy)
  • 1 1/2 C. sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 T. cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C. mini chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
  • 1 C. (optional) crushed pecans
  • 3/4 C. oil (or substitute all or half with applesauce for healthier option)
  • 1/2 C. water (I usually use a tad less so my mixture isn’t too runny. If you feel like your mixture is runnier than you want, add a tiny bit of flour)

Mix together your dry ingredients, and in a separate bowl mix your wet ingredients. (I add the chocolate chips and nuts very last) Slowly add your dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix them well. (hint: Don’t over mix ingredients to allow the bread to rise well. Just mix all the dry into the wet and make sure it is well-combined) Grease your mini bundt pan (I use coconut oil), and spoon mixture into the cups, about 3/4 of the way full. Set your oven at 350 degrees and bake these for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. The chocolate chips will come off onto toothpick, but as long as the bread part is clean, they’re ready! Let these cool before adding the glaze on  top.

For the Cream Cheese Glaze:

  • 1/4-1/2 cup cream cheese, softened (depending on how much you want)
  • 2 T. half and half or heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 C. powdered sugar
  • add a “pinch” of pumpkin spice for extra yummy flavor (to taste)

Make sure your cream cheese is super soft (nuke it in the microwave if it’s not), to prevent little cheese lumps. Combine these ingredients together and mix them up well. Once your mini bundts are cooled off, take a spoon and drizzle the glaze over the tops  of the cakes. YUM!

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These turned out super yummy and I love how cute they are in little bundt form. So festive and a creative way to bake them for your fall parties and get togethers with friends (plus, it’s the best pumpkin spice bread recipe there is)! They look like mini pumpkins to me, so if you want to indulge in your super festive side, add the little tootsie roll stems on top! This was a fun day of baking for me, and the mini bundt cakes got thumbs up all around.

I’m so excited to continue sharing more festive ideas and crafts over the next few months! Us gals at Oak and Earth would love to hear your favorite recipes for this time of year!! If you don’t already, follow my instagram handle @terapianalto to hear all of the blog updates and happenings. We have some wonderful things planned for the near future that we are so excited to share with you all. And as always, if you try a recipe, adventure, or craft, and love it, instagram with our hashtag #OakandEarthBlog so we can share your O&E experiences with you!

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Peace, Love, and Pumpkin Spice,

Tera Pianalto -xo