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Check out the latest posts from the blog, a sweet little corner of The Junq Drawer created to share all the lovely home decor, DIY and other lifestyle things!
Dinosaur Themed First Birthday Party
There's something about dinosaurs that screams roars "little boy." Before he could say any actual words, our little boy could roar. So it only seemed fitting to use a Dinosaur Theme for his first Birthday party! Our daughter was born in November so an outdoor party is usually out of the question. But August seemed like a great time for an outdoor party! And although we don't have the space inside (we live in a 900 sq ft apartment), we have a beautiful, spacious field out back. Now this party day was a scorcher at a projected high of 94 degrees. And I was s-w-e-a-t-i-n-g bullets by the time the party guests arrived (so much for that shower, let alone trying to style my hair!). Never mind all of that because it was the cutest party I've ever thrown and I'm excited to share these photos and ideas with you. I've been on a learning curve for throwing kid's parties. This was only my third one, but I had picked up a few tips from the last two. After choosing a theme, I decided to focus on the food table. That would be my main area for decor & cute things. Also, I needed to keep it simple. Our party budget was far less than extravagant and I did have to cut a few things out for time and money. Believe me, sticking to a budget is a struggle. Give me a set amount to spend and I tend to push it to the limit every. single. time. Kudos to my husband for being disciplined enough to reel me back in, even when he wants to let me have every whim. He's a keeper!! Most of these ideas came from our beloved Pinterest. You can follow our Pinterest boards here and I will link a specific Dino theme board here so that you can see my original inspirations.

Party Table Decor

The main thing I wanted was the word "ROAR" hanging above the food table. The green streamers & paper leaves make a nice backdrop for the gold letters, making them "pop." I originally wanted some of those gold mylar letter balloons to spell out the word. You can get them for about $25 which isn't too bad, but it didn't quite fit into my budget. Being resourceful, I found some gold poster board, stenciled the letters myself and cut them out. It turned out perfectly! dino-party-10 This pennant banner and number one mylar balloon I found at hobby lobby. If I couldn't have the letters, I at least had the number! It was a nice touch across the back patio door. dino-party-7

Dino Menu

Planning the party menu was a breeze after deciding to break it down into types of dinosaurs: Carnivores, Herbivores & Sweetivores. You remember that last one from school, right? No? Well, let's just go with it ;-). dino-photo-food-1 The herbivore cups (veggies & hummus), dino eggs (grapes), dino spikes (watermelon) & dino toe nails (doritos) fed our herbivore guests. dino-party-11 dino-party-13 dino-photo-food-6 dino-photo-food-7 The carnivores feasted on barbecue meatballs & dino shaped chicken nuggets. dino-photo-food-2 Finally those sweetivores had dino cupcakes & dinosaur bones (white chocolate covered pretzels). Full disclosure: it was so hot the cupcakes started melting!! dino-party-12  

Party Game

I didn't plan any games really. Party games are not my favorite thing (I'm all about the food and chatting it up with friends!) but I loved this "Dino Dig" idea and thought the kids would have fun with it. They certainly did and I apologize to every one who ended up with sand in their cars as a result! We picked up 3 bags of play sand from Lowe's for $15 and used a little plastic pool we already had (from Target for $10). I threw in some dollar store plastic dinosaurs and pails and shovels and the Dino dig was ready for excavation! dino-party-8

Fun DIY Projects

I didn't want to stress myself out too much by planning too many little projects and then scrambling to get them all done at the last minute (experience talking!). However, these next few projects ended up getting done simply with plenty of time to spare. It's the little touches that make a party & tie everything together, isn't it? I love those custom little chalkboards you can purchase on etsy with all of the facts about your one year old. I didn't have the time or budget to order one and honestly didn't even plan on doing one. I happened to have this chalkboard lying around around and decided to try my hand at it. It's not perfect! And I probably won't be selling them myself, but I thought it turned out pretty well! Well enough to display in front of family & friends (and now you!). dino-party-6 I always like displaying photos that show the age progression throughout that first year. During naptime a day before the party, I chose my photos from my facebook & phone, uploaded them to Walmart.com and ordered 4x4 square prints. I think it cost me less than $5. This adorable frame with the twine & mini clothespins was a gift from my husband's aunt. I added a coat of white paint a few months ago (since discovering that farmhouse style I'm painting all the things white!!). It was the perfect way to display the photos! dino-party-frame dino-party-presents

Birthday Prince

My daugher wore a beautiful crown headband from Pride & Princesses on her first birthday. Definitely check them out on Etsy and Instagram. I wasn't sure what to do for a boy, but I wanted him to have something similar. This felt crown was perfect! I found my inspiration here, but put my own spin on it based on what I had available. I got two different colors of felt and free handed the crown design. I did trace the one color onto the next so that the crown points would match. Then I used some spray adhesive I had on hand to glue them together, leaving a little tab to glue the ends together. I love it so much & he looks adorable in it! dino-party-1 The pennant banner is just some craft paper I had glued together over some string, and the letters are cut from the leftover poster board I used for the "ROAR" letters. Nothing too special, but a nice added touch!

Happy 1st Birthday, Simon!

Hope you enjoy these photos from the party! We had a blast and it was a whirlwind like most fun parties. Let us know if you decide to use any of these ideas in your next party! dino-party-9 dino-party-2 dino-party-3 dino-party-4     amanda-signature
French Themed Toddler Birthday Party
Have y'all heard of Sophie the Giraffe? If you have a toddler girl, I'm going to go with probably yes. My daughter has three media loves right now: Curious George (or "Monkey George" as she calls him), Daniel Tiger and Sophie the Giraffe (aside from Frozen, of course). So when I asked her if she wanted to have a Curious George, Daniel Tiger or Sophie birthday party, I was thrilled when Sophie was her top choice because it's girly, fun, frilly, sparkly... All of those happy things little girls are made of, and set in Paris! I'm usually on top of planning events like this, but I found myself this year three weeks out and only just having sent out invitations! It's a busy season, what can I say? Still, creativity wins out every time and I had so much fun planning out all the details of Ashlyn's party! french-themed-toddler-birthday-party The invitations I chose (available on Etsy here) were my inspiration for the party decor. Invitations

Source

My mother-in-law has a closet full of silk flowers and is wonderfully generous with them, so I came away with literally bags full without spending a dime!

French Themed Birthday Party

To incorporate some gold and sparkles, I found gold and burlap chevron ribbon at Walmart, of all places, and wrapped those around mason jars to hold all of the cutlery. Of course, what French party is complete without an Eiffel Tower? This was a struggle for me (because who can afford to spend $50 on a three-foot tall Eiffel Tower for one birthday party? Not me). Thankfully, I stumbled on a beautiful Eiffel tower jewelry holder that was black and fit the theme perfectly. Where did I find this gem for $14.99 plus 40% off with a coupon? Michaels. Yep!

I had this idea from the get-go of using white tablecloths with French phrases written on them, but when I saw the invitations, I knew I had to use black and white stripes or polka dots or something more pattern-heavy, too, with splashes of gold.  The gold tray came from the Party Store, as did the polka dotted plates and napkins. The pink cutlery and black and white polka dotted ribbon I found at Walmart.

Hobby Lobby Bunting

My next quest was bunting. I pretty much love all things pennant banner, and stumbled on these beautiful MDF pennants at Hobby Lobby for half off $1.99! I was not in love with the font on the gold and white ones, so I went with pink for the letters and gold and white to separate. (Don't judge the fact that my shelf is unfinished. It has since been painted a beautiful white to match the rest of the house. If you love the shelves, Shanty2Chic has a great tutorial on how to build these!)

French Themed Birthday Party

The other pennant banners I bought in a package from Michaels (again, for 40% off). They were in the party section, already cut into triangles! I just glued twine to the back and hung them with tape. Super easy.

French Themed Birthday Party

For the table covers, I went to Walmart and bought $1 white rectangular tablecloths then used a sharpie to write french phrases all over them. We have an awesome beginner hand-lettering tutorial that you can read here if you're not sure where to start.

French Themed Birthday Party

Does anyone else think balloons are ridiculously expensive? Especially the oversized ones! Here's a great tip. Hobby Lobby has oversized balloons like this pink one (they get as big as 36" round) for between $2 and $5 depending on whether or not they're on sale (a lot cheaper than the $10+ you'd pay at a party store). Take these to Kroger or your local party store and ask them to blow them up for you. They'll charge between $.49 and $.99. If you're into foil balloons, Hobby Lobby and Michaels have gold and silver foil numbers and letters, too! It's a great way to save some money.

French Themed Birthday Party

Probably my favorite part of the party decor was the photo backdrop. I found this paper at Michaels in the wedding section. While I was at Hobby Lobby, I stumbled on Eiffel tower sticky decals for half off. (Similar ones can be found here.)The only problem? Where to hang the backdrop... I don't happen to have a 5' x 8' blank wall hanging around, so I improvised by gluing the backdrop onto a 4' x 8' piece of plywood. Yes, there are lines, but it's not obvious in the photos!

French Themed Birthday Party

Then there's the buffet! I used tiered cake stands, one that I purchased at Home Goods a few years back and another that my grandmother gave me, to give the dessert buffet some depth. These held the cake pops. You can read my tutorial on making those here. The "happy birthday" toppers are from Hobby Lobby as well.

The jewelry holder Eiffel tower was put in the center of the buffet, and to bring Sophie the Giraffe into the mix (because apparently no decorations currently exist out there for a reasonable price), I printed clip art graphics onto cardstock, cut them out and taped them to the table and the pennant banners.

French Themed Birthday Party

This was a simple, but beautiful and girly way to celebrate Ashlyn turning two. I hope it inspires you in your own party planning!

French Themed Birthday Party

If you're interested, Ash's dress is from Old Navy. All of their toddler dresses were on sale for $10, and this one with the tutu was too perfect to pass up for her big day! The matching bow is from Walmart.

xoxo

jess-signature

It’s Giveaway Day!
Hi, friends! We are so excited to be teaming up with Ashley over at At Home With Ashley today to offer a free copy of her book, At Home For Less.  Ashley guest posted on our blog a few months ago (read it here) and shared some of her designer tips with us, and today, she's celebrating her one year "blogiversary"! We don't want to give away all the secrets, but suffice it to say she's got a great eye for design and some incredible tips in her book that will have you loving every corner of your home in no time. Did we mention she does it all on a budget!?! at-home-for-less Need some proof? Here are some of the spaces she's inspired in our own homes after we read her book!

Vignettes

Vignettes are fun to do and easy to change up based on the seasons. These vignettes in Jess' home were inspired by Ashley's tips on styling a tabletop or shelf. Amanda also did a post about styling vignettes which you can read about here. its-giveaway-day-front-porch-vignette its-giveaway-day-vignette-3 its-giveaway-day

Decorating With Books

We'll let her give you the details in her book, but we took Ashley's advice and started decorating with old books! They make perfect accents for decorating using the Rule of 3's! its-giveaway-day-vignette-4 its-giveaway-day-vignette

Pillow Covers

Pillow covers are such an easy DIY! Ashley shares all the details in her book (on where to get them for cheap and how to make your own). We used her tips to make our own for our fall front porch and bought some for less than $5! its-giveaway-day-pillow-covers-2 its-giveaway-day-pillow-covers The best part about Ashley's book is she gives you all of her designer tips and then shows you how she incorporated them all in one room! It really pulls everything together and gives you that "ah-ha" moment! An even bigger bonus, the book is beautiful in and of itself and will make a great home decoration! Now that you know you want to win a free copy of this book, how do you enter? Simple! Like Salt & Life Blog and At Home With Ashley on Facebook and tag 3 friends in the comments section of our giveaway post. That's it! The giveaway winner will be announced on our Facebook page at Thursday morning. Even if you aren't the lucky winner of this book, Ashley is offering At Home For Less at 40% off to all of our subscribers. If you're not subscribed already, just click on the subscribe tab at the top of this page and enter your email address to receive the promo code! Good luck, friends!!! xoxo Amanda & Jess  
In Minutes: 5 Minute Devotions
As a Christian, the single most important, most life-giving part of my day is the time I spend in solitude with God. Do you want to know what's sad? It rarely happens. Just like all the other well intended plans of my day, somehow the most important things get pushed aside by all of the most urgent issues (such as crying babies, hungry toddlers, grocery trips, cleaning messes, etc.). So maybe you're like me: the desire to be with God and develop a more intimate relationship with him is there, but it still doesn't happen. This is the reason I am writing this post! To help you and me discover a simple, practical way to make time for God every single day. This is titled "5 minute Devotions" but God certainly deserves more of your time. Even 10-15 minutes can make a vast difference in the quality of the time you spend in quiet reflection. However, I'm going with 5 minute devotions so that we can see them as attainable. We can always find 5 minutes, right? Here are a few different ways to ensure that we make that time. 5 Minute Devos 1.  Scripture Memory - Grab some index cards & write out a favorite or meaningful scripture. Keep it in your pocket and read it multiple times a day, say it out loud. You can even involve the kids with this! Write the scripture on your mirror with a dry erase marker, and post it on the refrigerator. Keeping God's word in front of you and putting it to memory will keep it at the forefront of your mind when you face trials & frustrations. Out of the content of the heart, the mouth speaks. What better way to put good stuff in than to memorize God's word? We also have some inspirational lock screens on our Pinterest board that you can download to your phone. It's one of our favorite ways to commit scripture to memory!   image 2. Psalms & Proverbs - Not sure what to read when you open your Bible? A great daily reading is one Psalm & one Proverb, chapters corresponding to the date. So today, on September 13, you would read Psalm chapter 13 & Proverbs chapter 13. Try keeping your Bible on the dining room table and read it while you have your breakfast & morning coffee. Or keep it on the coffee table & have a read once the kids are in bed for naps or bedtime. Read together with your spouse and follow it up by praying together. There is no spiritual bond more powerful than that of a husband & wife when they pray together. The Enemy knows that a couple in agreement is a powerful force to be reckoned with. image 3. SheReadsTruth.com - If you haven't heard of this amazing website, I am so glad to be the one to share it with you. There are several studies available on this website updated daily, including the current study from Hosea. Each day includes several passages of Scripture as well as a devotional thought for each day of every study. There's even an app for your phone! At the end of each day's reading, there is a gorgeous lock screen with a significant verse to download for your phone. Just another way to keep God's word in front of you throughout the day. It's a great way to have your 5 minutes with God no matter where you are. image 4. The "Throne" Room - The porcelain throne that is! Let's face it, some times that's all the alone time you get & those moments are precious. I've been known to keep a little devotional book in a basket on the back of the toilet for a little reading material. You can even post a scripture passage where you can easily see it from your "throne." You will find yourself reading it every time you see it. On the rare occasion you get to take a bubble bath, that's a great opportunity as well to meditate on God's word and simply be still, listening. Our hamster wheel of a mind keeps itself SO busy with endless thoughts. It's good to clear your mind of those for at least those 5 minutes and let God speak to your heart. image 5. Worship Music - There is something about music that ushers us straight into the presence of God. Music connects to our very souls through our emotions and our senses. Five minutes is just enough time to stick in some ear buds or turn up the radio and let the lyrics of your favorite worship song wash over you. Focus on the words and sing them like they are your prayer. God will meet you where you are and minister to your spirit as you worship him. You will find yourself refreshed more than you ever thought possible in a 5 minute time span. Here are some of our favorites!  

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6. Prayer Journaling - Did you ever keep a diary as a kid? Or write in a journal? It's probably been awhile, huh? What a luxury to have time and clarity of thought to record your daily events and thoughts each day. I would challenge you to get a journal. It can be a pretty, leather-bound one or just a twenty cent notebook of lined paper. All you need to do to have a prayer journal is jot down a few requests or whatever few lines of thought you can get down on a page. Maybe take a verse that stuck out to you in your daily reading and copy that down along with a few notes on why it means something to you. You don't have to get deep, just write what's on your mind. The amazing thing about a prayer journal is looking back on it and seeing how God answered your requests or taught you certain things that you didn't even realize were happening in that moment. It's a great testament to God's faithfulness. And if he's been faithful in the past, he will be faithful in the future, because he does not change. And that, my friends, is worth remembering! image 7. Walking with God - Ok, so literally walking. Put on your cross trainers and go for a walk with God. Or a run! It is literally the best way to clear your head and put all your focus on HIM. Pray as you walk and notice his fingerprints all over his creation. If you open your eyes to see it, you cannot ignore his existence when you are surrounded by his creation. I've had some of my best quiet moments with him when I am silent in nature and I simply listen. It's peaceful. Plus, you're also getting in some cardio so that's a double use of your time and I know God doesn't mind if you wanna do both. Lol. Just make sure you're focused more on the condition of your heart towards him than your heart rate, right? image Well, I pray you are filled with hope and a renewed sense of purpose as you finish reading this post. Spending time with God doesn't have to mean hours pouring over an open Bible with study guides and eloquent prayers. All he wants is acknowledgement and a chance to speak to us. It's what any parent would want. I'm humbled by the fact that it truly takes so little time and yet makes such a huge difference in my day to day life. I hope you will join me in this effort to invite God into our daily lives in whatever ways, large or small, that we can. Life can be crazy and time can seem fleeting. Do your best to control your time and not let it control you. Even on those days when it does, give yourself some grace, listen to that worship song and let God tell you how precious and loved you are. No matter how much you fail and even because you fail, He loves you. He wants to be needed, to be able to show his strength in our weakness. As independent as we like to be, it's foolish to believe that we can make it a day without his input. "Holy Spirit you are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory God is what our hearts long for, to be overcome by your presence, Lord." Amanda Signature  
In Minutes: 30 Minute House Cleaning
I love a clean house. Everything put away, smelling wonderful... it just gives me a feeling of peace where if I have a project to work on, that's the only project to work on and I'm not distracted by scattered toys or dirty floors and feeling like my project supplies are just adding to the mess. Unfortunately, this seems more like the exception than the rule in my house. Or it was anyway. I went through this weird organizing season during my last trimester of pregnancy (which I dubbed "Extreme Nesting") where everything had to be clean. I hated clutter. I wanted simplicity. I'm pretty positive it was my mind's last hurrah of cleanliness before kids. Anyway, that kind of stuck with me even after the birth of my daughter, and ever since I have this thing about associating a clean house with a sense of calm. The thing is I'm a mom... of a toddler... which means stuff is always on the floor needing to be put away, counters and tabletops are always sticky... you get the point. So I've had to strike a healthy balance between life with kids and an attempt to keep things clean. Did I mention that one of my spiritual gifts is hospitality? Ha! I know, right? My husband and I love having people over, love entertaining and love opening our home to hang out with friends, family, neighbors, whoever! Not all of these events are planned, though, or at least planned in advance and, let's face it, sometimes I just don't have time between work life, mom life, blog life and Etsy shops to spend hours cleaning. So how do I find that balance I was talking about before and keep the house in some semblance of cleanliness? Here's what works for me. Clean Your House in 30 Minutes 1.  Organize All The Things. The first step to a quickly cleaned home is to have everything relatively organized in the first place. Whether you read the KonMari Method or follow our organizing tips, make sure everything has a place where it lives when you're not using it. This designated space will save so much time when you're picking up. If you've already done this, skip to step 2. If you haven't gotten organized yet, do it. Take a day or a weekend depending on how much stuff you have and just commit. It's a one and done deal, and it's totally worth it. Now, I know, I promised in 30 minutes. You can still do this and just shove baskets in the closet, but eventually you'll have to put that stuff away, so go ahead and plan a day to get organized. 2.  Assess The Damage. Clean Your House in 30 Minutes This post is about cleaning your home in 30 minutes, and let's face it. You can't deep clean you house in that amount of time. You can, however, make it presentable for guests or pick up for your own sanity. Whatever your reason, I'm not about to walk you through the proper way to scrub your tile grout or anything. Take an assessment of your home how it is right now. Aside from the things that need to be picked up and put away, what needs to be done? Do you have dishes in the sink? Add that to your list. Does your rug have mashed up goldfish in it? Add that to the list. Look around and assess the damage. In general, our house needs the following on a regular basis:
  • Dishes done
  • Kitchen swept
  • Counters wiped down (kitchen and bathrooms)
  • Den vacuumed
Now, hear me. I do clean the rest of my house, but not when we're expecting guests in less than an hour. So don't judge me too harshly here. 3.  Break Out The Baskets. basket-and-trash You'll need three items for this quick cleanup.
  • A trash bag
  • Two laundry baskets
Make your way room by room through your house and pick up everything on the floor, counters, tables, shelves, etc. that don't belong. All trash goes in the trash bag. All dirty laundry goes in one laundry basket. All items that need to be put away elsewhere go in the third laundry basket. When you've picked up one room, take a look around (it should look neat and clean aside from fluffing pillows, etc.) to make sure you haven't missed anything then move on to the next. I can get all the way through my house in less than 10 minutes with this method. Admittedly, my daughter's room is the worst, but thankfully most of the items that need to be put away go in her toy bin. Another thing to note, I have a toy basket in both of our main rooms as well as in my daughter's room. This gives me an easy place to store books and toys that might be left on the floor (or anywhere else, really) without having to constantly haul all of it to her room. It's a huge time saver. As you move room to room, put items from your "Put Away" basket where they go. This saves you from running all over creation, and trust me on this one, do the kids' rooms last. Most of the stuff will probably go in their rooms. 4.  Tackle Your To-Do. You're probably 10 to 15 minutes in at this point, which is great because this is the last step!  You made your to-do list in Step 2. Now is the time to go back and do those things. Wash the dishes (or put them in the dishwasher), vacuum, sweep quickly, wipe down the counters... Whatever was on your list, tackle those things now. I have dishes, sweeping and countertops on my list almost every time I do this, so I obviously start in the kitchen. It takes me somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes to do all three, then I move on to the den and the bathroom counters. And in 30 minutes, I've given my whole house a once over, picked everything up and put it away and tackled the most needed areas of my home! Clean Your House in 30 Minutes Clean Your House in 30 Minutes I try to go through this process a couple of times a week to cut that 30 minutes down even more, and there are other tasks I do on a daily basis to ensure things don't get overwhelming. Take the dishes, for example. If I let them pile up, it would take me a lot longer than 5 minutes to wash them, so they're a daily task (sometimes twice daily... sigh). This is nothing revolutionary, I know, but these little tips end up saving so much time! Just for fun, I've included a free download of my weekly cleaning checklist. This helps me manage those bigger tasks like cleaning the bathrooms without having to spend four hours of my Saturday doing it. Salt & Life Blog: Weekly Cleaning Checklist

 weekly-cleaning-checklist

Here's to cleaner homes and calmer lives! jess-signature
In Minutes: 15-Minute Meals
I have really good intentions at the beginning of the week. I order our groceries through Kroger ClickList (try it if you haven't already. It's awesome) with meal ideas in mind. Then somewhere around Wednesday night, I realize I didn't actually allow myself enough time to prep AND cook the meal I had planned before running out to church, and my meal plan for the week falls through the tube. Oh, yeah. And then there are the weeks when I'm just flat lazy and don't want to spend time cooking or thinking about what to cook, and we end up either snacking on random things or getting takeout. If you're anything like me in that respect, today's time saver is for you! Yesterday, Amanda inspired us to get healthy and work out, even if it's just for 4 minutes (if you missed that post, click here), and today, to keep the healthy train going, I'm sharing my top five 15-minute meal ideas. The recipes are pulled from some of our favorite recipe sites, so be sure to check them out! Now these are not prep for 3 hours then cook for 15 minutes meals. These are it-takes-you-15-maybe-20-minutes-tops-from-start-to-finish recipes. Easy, healthy, family-friendly and a huge time saver! 15-minute-meals

Chicken & Asparagus Stirfry

chicken-and-asparagus-stir-fry-1 This stir fry from Gimme Some Oven is the perfect easy and delicious meal! It's healthy, and a winner in our house. We usually serve it with rice, but that's optional, of course.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1-inch)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 bunch asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • (optional) 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
 

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl or in a ziplock bag, combine soy sauce and honey. Add chicken, and stir to coat. Set in the refrigerator until ready. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus, and saute until cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon, and set aside. Remove chicken from marinade, and add to skillet. Saute until nearly cooked through (with the insides still slightly pink), about 5 minutes. Then add garlic, scallions, and the reserved marinade to the pan. Saute for an additional 2 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the garlic is fragrant. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil. Serve immediately with rice, garnished with toasted sesame seeds if desired.

Chicken & Avocado Ranch Burrito

chickenandavocadoranchburritosimg_0004edit Need something that could double as lunch or dinner? Here you go! This quick and easy recipe is the perfect blend of sandwich and burrito. To make it healthier, make your own Paleo ranch dressing or use a lettuce wrap instead of a tortilla!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks*
  • 1 (1.25-ounce) package taco seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 burrito-size flour tortillas, 10 inches each
  • 2 avocados, halved, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup Ranch dressing
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season chicken thighs with taco seasoning. Add chicken to the skillet and cook until golden, about 3-4 minutes; set aside.
  2. Heat tortillas according to package instructions.
  3. Working one at a time, place chicken, avocado, cheese, sour cream, Ranch and cilantro in the center of each tortilla. Bring the bottom edge of the tortilla tightly over the filling, folding in the sides. Continue rolling until the top of the tortilla is reached. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
  4. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Add burritos and cook, pressing gently with a spatula, about 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown and the cheese has melted.
  5. Serve immediately.
 

Strawberry Basil Chicken

strawberry-basil-chicken-2
I love strawberry salad, so this makes a perfect dinner choice! It's lighter, but can be paired with rice or lettuce depending on how hungry you are. It's chock full of fresh herbs, healthy lean mean and fruit! Better enjoy it now, though! Those strawberries won't be in season much longer. PS: This recipe is Paleo friendly!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3-4 large chicken breasts
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze
 

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Begin by heating a large skillet to medium heat. Add olive oil and garlic, cook for 2 minutes or until fragrant.
  2. Prepare your chicken breasts: you may need to pound the breast to make them a bit thinner, mine were approximately 1 inch. Salt and pepper each side, add to pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes per side (until golden brown, but cooked through). Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the topping. Toss together strawberries, basil, balsamic and 1 tbsp olive oil. Top each chicken breast with strawberry mixture, and salt and pepper to taste. Add additional balsamic glaze or balsamic if needed. Serve immediately.
 

Black Bean & Corn Quesadillas

quesadillas Don't have 15 minutes? This one only takes 10! It's another that could double as an easy lunch meal or as dinner. Just add some guacamole (our favorite recipe is here), sour cream and the side of your choice, and you're set!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 (15 oz) can Black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup Corn
  • 1/3 cup Salsa
  • 2 tspTaco seasoning
  • 1/4 cup Fresh cilantro, chopped (or green onions)
  • 1 cup Shredded cheese of choice 
  • Low carb/high fiber wraps
 

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together beans, corn, salsa, taco seasoning and cilantro.
  2. Preheat a large skillet over medium low heat, sprayed with cooking spray. Place one tortilla in the skillet, and scoop 1/2 cup of the filling onto the tortilla in the pan. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese over the bean mixture, and place second tortilla on top of the cheese. Press down on top tortilla lightly with the back of your spatula, so you can meld the tortillas together as the cheese melts. When the bottom tortilla begins to brown, flip the quesadilla over until both tortillas are lightly browned and crispy and the cheesy filling has melted. Cut into wedges if desired and enjoy!
 

Shrimp Tacos with Cilantro Lime Sauce

spicy-shrimp-tacos-with-avocado-salsa-sourcream-cilantro-sauce-18-of-26 One of my favorite things about traveling is the tacos, especially when you go to the beach. Shrimp tacos, fish tacos, beef tacos, chicken tacos, really weird seafood ones that you might not be willing to try... there are so many to choose from, and really, they're not time consuming to make! The cilantro lime sauce really makes this meal (and **spoiler alert** it's just sour cream, cilantro and lime)!

INGREDIENTS:

  • Spicy Shrimp:
  • 20 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • squeeze of lime (optional)
 
  • Avocado Salsa:
  • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 avocado, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from half a lime
  • ¼ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 6 small flour tortillas (corn tortillas can also be used)
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
 

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. To cook the shrimp: In a medium bowl whisk together olive oil, garlic, cumin, chili and onion powders, and salt. Add in shrimp and toss to coat completely. Cover and refrigerate for for at least 10 minutes or up to 24 hours. Heat a large heavy-duty or cast iron skillet on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the olive oil and shrimp. Cook shrimp in a skillet on medium-high heat until pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and finish with a squeeze of lime (optional).
  2. To make salsa: Combine tomato, avocado, jalapeno, salt, pepper, lime juice, and cilantro in a small bowl and stir to combine. Set aside. (If not using right away, place a piece of plastic wrap inside the bowl and directly over salsa to prevent discoloration and refrigerate.)
  3. To assemble: Stir sour-cream with cilantro and lime juice in a small bowl; set aside. Grill tortillas on stovetop over flame until lightly charred (this step is optional). Spoon avocado salsa generously over warm tortillas, then top with 3 shrimp and drizzle with sour cream sauce. Serve tacos with lime wedges on the side. Enjoy!!
These are just five of the 15-minute meals available to you! My advice? Head over to Pinterest. We've got some great 15-minute meals pinned, and be sure to search for some others to find your favorites! Once you figure out what you love and what's easy to make, you'll never have to slave over meals for hours in the kitchen again (or even ever think about having to do that... well, except for Thanksgiving, but... you know what I mean). Bon appetit! jess-signature
In Minutes: 4 Minute Workout
This sounds hard to believe & too good to be true: A workout in just 4 minutes a day? How can that possibly be effective?? Well, it is. And I for one am so grateful. Lucy Wyndham-Read is a British Army girl who posts her workout training videos on YouTube. She's created these amazing, simple HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts that work multiple muscle groups at one time. If you are consistent (and really, how hard is that at 4 minutes??) and eat a healthy diet, you will see results. We've already established that we are busy. And especially as moms, we are striving to lose that baby weight and just be fitter and healthier versions of ourselves. Any type of exercise typically requires some "me time". And even if we do get some of that, there are so many other things competing for those precious few moments (shower, nap, eating, cleaning, blogging, etc). Getting to the gym is nearly impossible. Home workout programs are awesome, but sometimes even a 20 minute workout is a stretch. But how hard is it to do something for 4 minutes? Even if it's 11 o'clock at night and you realize you didn't work out today. It's four minutes. You can muster up enough energy for that. So how do you find these 4 minute workouts? You can check out Lucy's new Ebook on 4 Minute Workouts on her website. You can also follow along on her YouTube channel. She has a playlist of a month's worth of 4 minute workouts. Those aren't the only ones, but it's a great place to start. Most all of the workout videos on her channel take less than 10 minutes. [caption id="attachment_1988" align="aligncenter" width="400"]hitt-4-min-for-blogg Source: lwrfitness.com[/caption]

Are you still skeptical that so little time can make a difference in your body? Check out her before & after page on her website. It's pretty amazing! But here's the thing, if we really understood how effective small consistent changes over time are, we wouldn't be so surprised. This is a concept I am constantly learning in all areas of life. This "In Minutes" series is a great example of things that are easy to do, but also easy not to do. These small acts that seem to not matter much, when compounded over time make a HUGE impact. (Check out an awesome book I'm reading on this very topic. It will change your perspective on life!)

[caption id="attachment_1996" align="aligncenter" width="594"]image Source: Lucy's Instagram[/caption] You need accountability? Do it with a friend! Or go on Twitter or Instagram and follow Lucy. Tweet out that you did your workout with the hashtag #lucyssquad and you'll get a like or retweet from her as well as encouragement from other people around the world doing the same. There's nothing like social media to make it feel like a truly "small world after all." I hope that you are inspired and encouraged to take 4 minutes out of your day to get fit today and everyday. You can do it!! Just stay consistent. I did this for 3 weeks and then lost my motivation. It does happen. But the key is just  jumping back in! I'm going to start back today & I hope you all will join me. Follow Salt & Life Blog on Twitter to join with me in accountability for the next 4 weeks. I'll be tweeting after each workout! Come join #lucyssquad! Amanda Signature
Happy Fall, Y’All!
Okay, so it's not officially the first day of fall, but September marks that beautiful transitional season from summer to fall when the mornings are crisp but the afternoons are still warm. Labor Day signifies the last summer holiday of the year, and have you noticed all of the garden centers have mums out? Fall Home Tours are all over our Instagram and blog feeds and while we're not posting a full tour, we wanted to show you some of the ways we're already celebrating this year! We've got some really fun fall decor, DIYs and recipes ready to share as autumn gets into full swing, but until then, here's how we're welcoming in the season and some ideas to get you inspired!

A Fall-Inspired Front Porch

Edited-8 Nothing screams fall is here like mums and pumpkins! The white pumpkins  are from Michaels, the lantern and bin from Gabriel Brothers and the mums from Lowes. Edited-4 The harvest-themed pillow covers are made from duck cloth and a fabric marker (we'll be posting a tutorial later this season). Edited-5 Fall-Edited-1 Jess used half of an antique ladder  to create shelving for the mums and pumpkins. To see how she used the other half, click here. The vintage toolbox is from one of our junkin' trips! Edited-7 Edited-9

GET INSPIRED!

We love the blend of rustic wood, nature (mums, pumpkins) & something cozy like a blanket or twinkle lights. Take an element from each of those categories and you've got yourself some gorgeous fall decor. Check out some of our favorite examples from fellow bloggers: [caption id="attachment_1958" align="alignleft" width="600"]image Source: Three Pixie Lane Blog[/caption] We love the idea of using an old wooden chair as the foundation piece for your little fall vignette. [caption id="attachment_1963" align="alignleft" width="600"]Source: Adventures in Decorating Blog Source: Adventures in Decorating Blog[/caption] Don't have a spare chair? A wooden crate works just as well and is perfect for small spaces. Amanda is using the following example for inspiration outside her front door. [caption id="attachment_1964" align="alignnone" width="600"]Source: The Crafting Chicks Source: The Crafting Chicks[/caption] Are we the only ones that find pine cones cozy? We may not be able to snuggle up to them, but there's something about bringing these outdoor decorations inside that makes any space feel warmer. Adding some twinkle lights gives it that finishing touch. This is a perfect centerpiece or end table decoration: simple yet beautiful. [caption id="attachment_1962" align="alignnone" width="768"]4 Source[/caption] We always love a good chalkboard addition to any space. Throw that into the mix and your space instantly has even more rustic, autumnal charm. [caption id="attachment_1965" align="alignnone" width="620"]Source: Three Pixie Lane Source: Three Pixie Lane[/caption] Who doesn't love a good fireplace mantel? And don't we always need fresh inspiration for decorating one? We love this one by Rustique Restoration. [caption id="attachment_1966" align="alignnone" width="600"]Source: Rustique Restoration Source: Rustique Restoration[/caption] Adorable chalkboard art! It's really just a few simple items placed together in a complementary way. Thankfully, even if you don't feel you have an eye for these things yourself, there are plenty of examples from people that do. It gives you a place to start, and from there, you can make it your own! We hope you had a fun and festive Labor Day, friends! xoxo Amanda & Jess FB Profile Photo
In Minutes: 5 minute Makeup

I am by no means an expert when it comes to makeup. I am however, pretty decent at putting a face together fast. I don't really like spending a lot of time on makeup and I certainly don't follow all the "rules." Maybe you're like me, or maybe you're at the opposite end of the spectrum and you put on full foundation, primer, setting spray, etc. every single day. Regardless of where you fall on the makeup wearing spectrum, I hope you will find my tips for 5 minute makeup helpful. First things first, if you haven't already, make sure you've read our 5 minute skin care post so that your face is fully hydrated and prepped for makeup. Your product will go a lot further & glide on a lot smoother on clean, moisturized skin. image These are the products I'm currently using:
  1. BB Cream or Tinted Moisturizer
  2. Concealer
  3. Translucent Powder
  4. Blush
  5. Bronzer
  6. Eye Shadow & Tools for Brow Shaping
  7. Mascara & liquid eye liner
  8. Lip gloss/lip balm
To some of you, this looks like a lot. To others of you, it looks like the bare minimum! Lol. Let's walk through the routine: [caption id="attachment_1899" align="aligncenter" width="599"]image Fresh faced, no makeup - please ignore the messy bedroom behind me![/caption]
  • First I apply my BB cream or tinted moisturizer. If you don't have one, you can use a dot of regular foundation mixed with a dot of moisturizer. That's actually my favorite way to wear foundation. Most foundations can be pretty heavy and adding the moisturizer just lightens it up, helps it glide on smoothly, blends well and still has a little bit more coverage than a tinted moisturizer.
[caption id="attachment_1907" align="aligncenter" width="599"]image I don't actually mix these two, but just to give you an idea of the amount of foundation vs. moisturizer that I would use.[/caption]
  • Next I use concealer anywhere I have redness or discoloration. For me, that's my chin, the corners of my nose, under my eyes & then any blemishes I may have. I follow that with the translucent powder to set everything.
[caption id="attachment_1900" align="aligncenter" width="601"]image Foundation, Concealer, Powder applied.[/caption]
  • After that, I have a blank canvas to start applying some color! First I take my blush and brush it on to the apples of my cheeks and back into the hair line. Following that I "contour" with bronzer. I am using quotation marks with "contour" because it's a very quick, simple contouring pattern and there are much more detailed ways to do it. I don't have time for that! So I suck in my cheeks and brush it under my cheek bones, around my hair line, down my nose, and maybe a tad along the jaw line.
[caption id="attachment_1901" align="aligncenter" width="599"]image Face contoured[/caption]
  • Next is eyebrows. Now, I do not know what has happened to America (maybe even the world) but we are suddenly OBSESSED with eyebrows. Unfortunately, mine quit growing a long long time ago. At the age of 13 I went tweezer crazy and plucked them to bits! I have rarely had to tweeze them since. Definitely have not tweezed at all in 10-15 years and still they do not grow. So, sadly, my eyebrows are nearly nonexistent. They've also gotten increasingly lighter in color since having children (maybe they're going gray first??). All of this to say...I now must draw eyebrows on my face. But pencils are way too harsh for me, and again, no time!! So I grab an angled brush & some dark shadow and I go to work! Shadow is much softer than the harsh lines a pencil can create, and allows for a little sloppiness.
[caption id="attachment_1902" align="aligncenter" width="603"]image Oh haaaaaaay there, eyebrows![/caption]
  • Now for my favorite part: Eyes! I have spent my life battling raccoon eye from eyeliner & mascara. That NEVER happens with these products: Artistry Liquid Liner & Artistry Length & Definition Mascara. I'm not just saying it cause I rep for those products either, I swear. The liner goes on so smoothly and it's a felt tip, just like a marker! So it's super easy to apply and get that little "flick" at the corner of your eye. It doesn't feel like you've painted something on your eye when it dries. It doesn't feel like anything! It can be rubbed off if you sleep on it, but it typically stays put.
image The mascara is that really cool formula that wraps around your lashes. You can literally slide it off your lash in a tiny tube. So cool! I love this stuff! It's waterproof, but when you do wash it off, it just balls up and comes off super easily rather than creating a big black mess on your face. Try it, you'll love it. Saves me time in application & clean up. I have been known to wear one single application over an entire weekend, it stays put that well. You probably shouldn't do that though. Might not be the best thing for your lashes (but you totally can if you want!! Lol). [caption id="attachment_1903" align="aligncenter" width="601"]image Mascara & Eyeliner[/caption]
  • At this point, sometimes I'm done. But if I'm getting really fancy I'll throw on some gloss or lip balm. This is Artistry lip gloss over Baby Lips, both in nude colors. I like a nude lip, simply because it's understated. I have a hard time choosing a lip color I'm really confident and comfortable in, and I feel like you just can't go wrong with a nude lip.
[caption id="attachment_1905" align="aligncenter" width="600"]image Full 5 minute makeup face. Also sporting one of our 5 minute hairstyles![/caption] It took me about 3-ish minutes to do this face. Even with a few interruptions or eyeliner redos, it can still get done in 5 minutes or so! What do you think?? Can you survive on this makeup? Can you try it out if you never wear any? Please let us know if you do! Take a cute selfie and tag us on Facebook & Instagram. We wanna see those gorgeous faces! Amanda Signature  
In Minutes: 5 Minute Skincare
Many times I think we overestimate how long something takes to do. This is part of the reason for this series of posts: to help us realize just how little time it can take to do these important things we think we don't have time for. I am just as guilty as the next person! Especially on this particular front. Keeping up with my skincare routine is something I am working at. It's easy to do, but it's just as easy not to do. It doesn't bother me today if I skip it. But, if I continue to skip it, I may wake up one day with dull, wrinkled, dried out skin, all because I wouldn't take 5 minutes to simply wash, tone & moisturize. No one wants to look older than they are! And who doesn't want to look a little bit younger? All you need is the proper skin care routine. You don't even need age defying products to fight the signs of aging (although I like to use them for the added benefit)! Simply having a regular skincare routine is enough to affect your skin dramatically. So what kind of skincare routine do you currently have? Are you a soap & water girl (you need to graduate to a real skincare routine, btw. Soap & water is very drying & will age your skin faster! Ahh!) ? Drugstore brands? High end stuff? Maybe Mary Kay or Avon? Whatever you use, make sure you have a three step system of:
  1. Wash
  2. Tone
  3. Moisturize
Now, I know, that sounds like too many steps. Why not just use those makeup remover wipes?? Believe me, I hear you (I love those things! SO simple & easy.). But if you care about your skin, and you should, you're gonna be stuck with it for a while, you  we need to make it a priority. Why is it so hard to find the time to turn the faucet on to run some water to wash your face, lather up, rinse, put some toner on a cotton pad, and then rub some lotion on your face? Because it takes SO long? No. It really doesn't! It sounds like it would, but I'm going to time myself. I'm not even entirely sure of just how long it takes. Be right back! *washing my face, trying to take my time but thinking I probably need to hurry to try to squeeze it in to 5 minutes. Even I am a skeptic!* *Make sure hair is tied back, turn on water* image *Wet hands, squeeze dime size amount of cleanser onto hands. Work into lather & give face a good scrubbing, paying special attention to my eyes so as to remove all the eye makeup.* *And rinse! And rinse...and rinse...and rinse...ok, enough, the toner will get the rest.* *Apply toner to cotton pad & wipe over face* image *Apply moisturizer over entire face, neck and chest* image Done. I am stunned. And a little embarrassed. It took me a whopping 2 minutes and 20 seconds to perform all three steps of my skincare routine. Are you kidding me?? And that's with taking my time. In a hurry, I'm sure it could get done in less than 2 minutes. Why have I not been doing this??? I could check Facebook one less time & have the time to take care of my skin. Well, now we know. And now that I know, it going to be very hard for me to, in good conscience, claim "I just don't have time to wash my face every morning & night." So not true! I've just not been taking the time. Ok, are you convicted yet? Maybe you're one of those super smart people who figured this out long ago, but for the rest of us slackers, I hope this encourages & empowers you to take the 4-5 minutes total a day to wash your face in the morning & evening. Just keep your stuff out by the sink, with some clean washcloths. Maybe make yourself a little basket with all your supplies. Anything that makes it even easier to squeeze it in those few minutes a day when you have some time. image Most of us think we don't have time for a lot of things. But really what we are doing is we aren't making time or prioritizing our time. When something is important, we make time for it. Maybe you're finding it hard to believe that you can wash, tone & moisturize in 2 1/2 minutes. Go ahead, time yourself! I think you'll be surprised. Make sure you're subscribed to Salt & Life Blog, because later this week, I'll be sending out some video proof! I'll be filming myself and my skincare routine, followed by my 5 minute makeup routine (blog post on that, tomorrow!). It's one thing for me to describe it to you here, but it makes a huge difference to see it in action. All of our awesome subscribers will receive a link to the video in their email inbox as soon as it is made available. So click here to subscribe now! And if you're interested in what skincare line I use, it's called Artistry and it is one of the top 5 prestige brands in the world. I rep for this gorgeous brand and I can testify that it has literally changed my skin for the better. Check it out here! Hope your week is going well, friends! Make the most of the time you have each day <3 Amanda Signature