Making Something from Nothing Activity

During this time of no school and social distancing, I dove into my STEM enrichment materials to give you an activity that will get your kids creativity flowing and build something from nothing.

Below is my lesson plan I wrote for my enrichment. It is part of a bigger class Inventors Workshop so please excuse the treachery wording.

I hope your child enjoys this activity. My students did. There are a few pictures at the bottom of the post of students creating.

Objective: Thinking outside the box and creating from random items.

Materials Needed:

Bottle Glue

Stick Glue

Tape

Supplies for creating:

Scissors 

Supplies

Have items out on a table for the students to select from. Here are some ideas for items you can collect for this activity. This is a great opportunity to clean out all the extra “stuff” you have tucked away.

More supplies

Bottles, bottle tops, pipe cleaners, straws, chopsticks, paper plates, plastic spoons, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, construction paper, small cardboard boxes, shoe boxes, yarn, string etc. 

Preparation:

Set out all creating items on a table.

Last class we created cars, ships, and other creations out of a random shape. You stretched your brain to be creative. Now we’re going to stretch your imagination and creativity to create something from this table of random everyday items.

Give a quick tour of all the items on the table.

There are only a few rules to using the supplies on the table.

Think about what you want to create before you select your supplies.

Once you select items from the table, please respect them.

If you decide you don’t need an item please return it to the table. 

Now that you’ve seen the items and taken a moment to think about what you can create. I’ll dismiss a few of you at a time to select your items.

When class time is close to completing, give students the opportunity to share their creations.

Please share your childrens creations. I love how creative kids can be.

As always, to keep up on my daily happenings, please follow me on Instagram @beinglaurakmarshall

Until next time.

Student creation
More Creativity
Students being creative

Taco Soup Recipe

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Taco Soup

Taco Soup
This is a great recipe. Like other soups you can double or triple the recipe and freeze the leftovers. I love having a batch or two of this in the freezer. I also freeze single servings of this soup to have available for lunch.
1 pound Ground Meat
2 cans Kidney Beans
1 can Garbanzo Beans
1 can Diced Tomatoes
1 can Diced Tomatoes with Peppers
1 can Corn
Taco Seasoning

Optional for serving
Sour cream
Shredded Cheese
Crushed Tortilla Chips

  1. Brown the ground meat.
  2. While meat browns, mix all canned ingredients into a pot and set stove on medium heat.
  3. Add taco seasoning to taste to canned ingredients.
  4. Once meat has browned add it to the other ingredients and stir.
  5. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 10 minutes.
  6. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Add more taco seasoning, if desired, to taste.
  7. Serve with Sour Cream, Shredded Cheese and Crushed Tortilla Chips.

To use frozen soup

  1. Remove frozen soup from the freezer and defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Place partially defrosted soup in a medium sized pan and add two cups of warm water.
  3. Add taco seasoning to taste.
  4. Warm over medium heat until heated through.
  5. Serve with Sour Cream, Shredded Cheese and Crushed Tortilla Chips.

I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Until next time.
Remember to follow me on Instagram @beinglaurakmarshall

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Taco Soup

Life Continues During Social Distancing

Today should have been the beginning of Spring Break, which technically it still is.We had plans to go to the Zoo, OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry), the library and get things done around the house.

Our plans are a little different now but I don’t feel it’s a down grade. Yes, were not going out to some fun places but those places will be there when our social distancing is over. If you’ve been following me on Instagram then you’re up to date on what we’ve been doing during this first week of social distancing. We’ve cleaned the lofts in our garage, cleaned the gutters, done yard clean up in the front yard and doing some work in the back yard.

The weather this week isn’t looking as good as it was last week. It was sunny all week but this weeks forecast is rain. And it has been raining most of the day here. We were hoping to get mulch this week for the grass in the back yard but with all the rain we may not be able to do that. Also picking up mulch isn’t an essential item so venturing out to pick that up isn’t wise.

To insure we are all staying on somewhat of schedule during this time we sat down as a family and created one. Our kids have access to learning materials online from our school district to help keep their minds active. I wasn’t as concerned over materials for them as I was over getting a schedule for them. Both the boys are smart and they have always been a head of the game with their academics. So we have plenty of materials. But they are going to be out of school at least until April 28th. As an instructor for the school district I have to be ready to return to work on March 30th. What I’ll need to do isn’t 100% clear but I’ll be ready to do what needs to be done.

If you’re trying to establish a schedule for your children during this break I offer ours as an example. My boys are 13 and 15 for reference.

When they get up to 10am – Reading and Chores

10-12pm – School related work and Activities

12-1pm – Walk the dog and lunch

1-3pm – Family activities/ analog games/ reading

3- dinner – Electronics (computer/TV/video games)

7:30 – 9pm – Clean up dinner, showers, Computer or TV

9pm – Walk dog and get ready for bed

This schedule is for Monday – Friday. On Saturday and Sunday we have a much more relaxed schedule with yard work, cleaning and other family activities around the house. It’s the weekend we all like some time to chill out.

I hope this schedule helps you create your own.

Stay safe and healthy out there. This will pass and we will be stronger.

If your not already, follow me on instagram @beinglaurakmarshall

Aiden working on science.
Parker working on a puzzle
Puzzle finished

Cheeseburger Pasta Recipe

Cheeseburger Pasta

Cheeseburger Pasta

1 pound ground beef
1 can Cheddar Cheese Soup
1 can (10 ¾ oz) Tomato Soup
½ cup water
2 cups medium shell pasta (Can also use elbow macaroni )

  1. Cook medium shell pasta per package directions but don’t fully cook. You’ll add them to the other ingredients.
  2. Brown ground beef. Drain off fat.
  3. Add soups, and water to meat.
  4. Cook over medium heat.
  5. Remove pasta from heat when almost cooked through and drain water. Do not rinse.
  6. Add pasta to mixture and mix.
  7. Continue cooking until pasta is completely cooked.

Note: I used to cook the pasta in with the soups but not all the pasta would cook through. Cooking it partially in its own pot ensures that the pasta is completely cooked through.

I hope your family enjoys this dish as much as mine does.

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @beinglaurakmarshall

Until next time.

Week Two Meal Planning

Week Two Dinner Meal Plan with Recipes
Welcome to week two of dinner meal planning. I think you and your family will enjoy these meals.
Our meals this week are:

  1. Chicken Noodle Soup
  2. BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Tater Tots
  3. Peppers and Sausage with Rice
  4. Grilled Cheese / Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches
  5. Build Your Own Nacho’s

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Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup
There are several great things about this recipe. You can scale it up or down depending on your needs. You can add all different types of vegetables and it freezes great. My trick for freezing is you don’t add the noodles to the soup you are freezing, so no soggy noodles.
4-8 cups Chicken Broth
Sliced Carrots
Celery
Full head of Green Cabbage
Salt and Pepper to taste
3 Chicken Breasts baked and cubed Season with Salt Pepper and Paprika
2 cups Egg noodles or Noodles of your choice
Baked Chicken Breast

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Trim fat from chicken breasts
  3. Season breasts with salt, pepper, and paprika – both sides
  4. Line a baking sheet with foil
  5. Place chicken in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  6. Let cool slightly and cube. Add to chicken broth and vegetables.

Chicken Noodle Soup

  1. Bring Chicken Broth to a low boil.
  2. Add all the other ingredients. Cook over low- medium heat until vegetables are done to your liking.
  3. Cook noodles per package directions.
  4. Once the large batch of soup is complete, separate out the amount of soup for the meal and left overs for the next day.
  5. Add noodles to meal portion.
  6. Cool remaining soup on stove top while eating your meal.
  7. Portion soup into freezer containers.
  8. Cool completely in the refrigerator before putting it in the freezer.

Note:When I portion out the leftover soup for freezing I make one – two portions for another night’s dinner and I make a few single serving portions that I can pack in lunches.
Using frozen soup

  1. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Remove soup from container and add to pot.
  3. Add the desired amount of chicken stock. I recommend 1-2 cups.
  4. Bring soup to a boil and add 2 cups of noodles.
  5. Reduce heat to low-medium.
  6. Cook until the noodles are done.

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BBQ Pulled Pork with Tater Tots

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Tater Tots- Instapot Recipe
1-2 pound Pork loin
1 can Dr.Pepper
2 ½ cups BBQ Sauce
⅓ cup Brown Sugar
4 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
Rolls for Sandwiches

  1. Place pork and soda in pot
  2. In medium bowl mix – 2 cups bbq sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, and onion powder.
  3. Pour mixture over pork.
  4. Set the instapot to manual for 45 minutes.
  5. Natural release for 10 minutes, then quick release.
  6. Shred meat in the pot. Once shredded remove pork to a serving dish.
  7. Add the remaining ½ cup of BBQ sauce to the meat.
  8. Assemble sandwich.

Note: To help with the carb count on this meal I use a low carb tortilla and make a wrap.

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Sausage and Peppers Skillet

 

Sausage and Peppers Skillet with Rice
This recipe is a family favorite. It also can be sized up very easily for bigger families or gatherings.
2 packs Sausage (28oz)
1 bag Frozen Peppers and Onions mix or 3 cups Fresh Bell Peppers and White onions cut into strips.
2 cups Rice or Cauliflower Rice per package instructions.

  1. Slice sausage into rounds.
  2. Heat a large skillet to medium heat and add sausage.
  3. Heat sausage through for about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add pepper and onion mix. Place the lid on the skillet for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Stir mixture regularly until cooked to your liking.
  6. Serve over rice or cauliflower rice.

Grilled Cheese / Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches with Fries
This meal is very kid friendly as well as an adult favorite. We typically have this meal on a Friday or Saturday night when we watch a family movie.
White Bread (2 per sandwich)
Margarine or Butter
Sliced Cheese of your Choice
Sliced Ham of your choice
French Fries or other frozen potato (Oven or airfryer) per bag instructions.

  1. Lightly butter one side of each piece of bread.
  2. Heat skillet or flat grill to medium.
  3. Place bread buttered side down and place one slice of cheese on each side.
  4. Once the buttered side of bread is lightly browned, flip one piece of cheese bread on to the other so the cheese meets.
  5. Continue grilling until desired color of brown.
  6. If making a grilled ham and cheese sandwich you’ll need an additional small skillet to heat the ham. Heat the small skillet to medium and add the ham. Heat through and add to one slice on cheesed bread. Then place the other cheesed bread slice on top.

Build Your Own Nachos
Who doesn’t like nachos, right? I’m sure there are people out there that don’t. We do Mexican Tuesday in our house instead of Taco Tuesday so we don’t burn out of tacos. But don’t worry tacos are in the rotation regularly.
Basic ingredients for nachos
Tortilla Chips – traditional, hint of lime, ect
Meat – Taco meat, carne asada, fajita chicken
Refried Beans
Cilantro Rice
Nacho Cheese or Shredded Cheese
Sour Cream
Salsa or Pico
Guacamole

I hope you’ve been inspired by some of these meals to include in your family dinners.

Follow me on Instagram @beinglaurakmarshall

Week One Dinner Meal Plan with Recipes

Welcome to week one of dinner meal planning. I think you and your family will enjoy these meals.
Our meals this week are:

  1. Chili Mac
  2. Spicy Chicken Salad or Wrap or Sandwich
  3. Shrimp and Chorizo Skillet
  4. Italian Chicken with Roasted Green Beans, Sauteed Mushrooms and Mashed Potatoes
  5. Spaghetti Traditional noodles and Spaghetti Squash “noodles” with Garlic Bread

Chili Mac

Chili Mac
This recipe can be made in a crock pot or on the stove top. I haven’t tried it yet in the Insta pot.
4 cans Ranch Style Beans
4 cans Spaghetti without Meatballs
1 pound Ground Meat
Shredded Cheese
Corn Bread prepared according to box instructions

  1. Set the crock pot or stove to low.
  2. Empty the Ranch Style Beans and Spaghetti into a crock pot or pan, stir.
  3. Brown and drain Ground Meat
  4. Mix ground meat into bean and spaghetti mixture and cover.
  5. After two hours stir.
  6. Cook for a minimum of 6 hours up to 12 hours.
  7. Cook corn bread according to directions.
  8. Serve in bowls with shredded cheese.

This recipe isn’t low carb but it is a great feel good food. There is always plenty left over for lunches and I freeze the rest for dinner another night.

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Spicy Chicken Salad

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Spicy Chicken Wrap

Spicy Chicken Salad or Wrap or Sandwich
This recipe is very versatile. The chicken is the key to this recipe but can be used in a variety of different ways to create different meal combinations.
4 chicken breasts
Franks Red Hot Sauce
Blue Cheese Dressing
Blue Cheese Crumbles
For Sandwiches:
Green Leaf
Sandwich Rolls
For Wraps:
Green Leaf
Wraps any Flavor
For Salad:
Preferred salad mix
Note: I get my chicken breasts from Costco so they are large. I cut them in half horizontally for eight pieces total.

  1. Marinate Chicken breasts in Franks Red Hot Sauce for 12 -24 hours. I use about half of the large bottle.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Place chicken on a foil lined baking sheet and pour marinade over chicken breasts.
  4. Bake chicken breasts for 20 minutes, turning half way through, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Assemble Sandwich

  1. Cut sandwich roll.
  2. Spread blue cheese dressing on top and bottom roll.
  3. Place Chicken on the bottom roll.
  4. Place blue cheese crumbles on chicken.
  5. Top with green leaf and top roll.
  6. Serve with a choice of sides. We usually have chips.

Assemble Wrap

  1. Place wrap on a plate.
  2. Spread blue cheese on wrap.
  3. Layer with green leaf, chicken, blue cheese crumbles.
  4. Wrap by folding in the bottom and then rolling the sides.

Assemble Salad

  1. Salad mix in a bowl.
  2. Blue Cheese dressing to taste.
  3. Layer chicken and blue cheese crumbles.

There is usually enough chicken left over for Spicy Chicken Salads the next day. This is low carb if using Carb Balance Wraps or as a Salad.

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Shrimp and Chorizo Skillet

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Shrimp and Chorizo Skillet

Shrimp and Chorizo Skillet
This is a nice warm and slightly spicy dish. Serves four depending on serving size.
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
9 oz (1 tube) Pork Chorizo
2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound (1 bag) frozen Peppers and Onions (Stir fry mix)
2 Tablespoons Garlic
¼ cup Chicken Stock
Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
White rice or Cauliflower Rice

  1. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.
  2. Add the shrimp and saute on one side until opaque. Turn shrimp and add chorizo.
  3. Cook the shrimp and chorizo until the shrimp is just cooked through. About three minutes.
  4. Add the Garlic and bag of Peppers and Onions to the skillet.
  5. Cover skillet for one to two minutes. Then stir mixture.
  6. Add the Chicken Stock and reduce the temperature to a simmer.
  7. Simmer for about three minutes.
  8. Add red pepper flakes and stir.
  9. Serve over your choice of rice.

This is a flavorful, warm and slightly spicy dish. You can control the spice by how much pepper flakes you put in. This is a low carb dish when served with cauliflower rice.

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Italian Chicken with Roasted Green Beans, Sauteed Mushrooms and Mashed Potatoes

Italian Chicken with Roasted Green Beans, Sauteed Mushrooms, and Mashed Potatoes
This dinner isn’t as complicated as it sounds. This is a family favorite that is full of flavor.
4 Chicken Breasts
Italian Dressing or Italian Marinade of your choice
1 pound fresh green beans
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1 pound fresh whole white mushrooms, Sliced
4 tablespoons butter
1 pack mashed potatoes follow package instructions
Notes:
I get my chicken breasts from Costco so they are large. I cut them in half horizontally for eight pieces total.
If you don’t want to deal with fresh green beans use frozen or canned and season to taste.
You can purchase already sliced white mushrooms.
I use Himalayan Pink Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper.
I like having extra sauteed mushrooms on hand to add to my leftovers. I will usually saute 2 pounds whenever I am making mushrooms.Italian Chicken

  1. Marinade the chicken for 12 to 24 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Place chicken on a foil lined baking sheet and pour marinade over chicken breasts.
  4. Bake chicken breasts for 20 minutes, turning half way through, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  5. Allow to rest a few minutes before serving.

Roasted Green Beans

  1. Trim fresh green beans.
  2. Wash under cold water and allow them to drain in a colander.
  3. To ensure beans are dry pat with a clean and dry kitchen towel.
  4. Place green beans on a foil lined baking pan.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil and toss.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss in the oil to cover.
  7. Place in the oven on a rack below the chicken.
  8. Bake for 10-20 minutes. Stir halfway through roasting.
  9. The length of time depends on how you like your green beans cooked. I usually roast them for 20 minutes.

Sauteed Mushrooms

  1. Clean mushrooms with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel. Do not wash with water.
  2. Slice mushrooms.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add butter, allow to melt.
  5. Add mushrooms, stirring occasionally.
  6. Saute to taste.

This is a great low carb meal if you omit the mashed potatoes. There is always enough left over for both myself and husband to have for lunch the next day.

 

Traditional Spaghetti or Traditional Spaghetti with Spaghetti Squash “noodles”
1 pound ground meat or prepared meatballs
2 Jars Favorite Spaghetti Sauce
1 bags Spaghetti Pasta
Parmesan Cheese
Garlic Bread Fresh made or prepared per package instructions

  1. Prepare sauce per instructions.
  2. Prepare the desired amount of pasta per package instructions.
  3. Brown ground meat and drain. Add meat to sauce.
  4. Serve with Garlic Bread

Note: I like putting the extra sauteed mushrooms from earlier in the week in the spaghetti sauce for an extra level of flavor.Spaghetti Squash Noodles
1 Spaghetti Squash
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds.
  3. Lightly rub “meat” of Squash with olive oil, add salt and pepper.
  4. Place cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet.
  5. Poke skin several times with a fork.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to the touch. Using a fork, scrape the “meat” into noodles.

Using the Spaghetti Squash to create noodles is a great way to lower the carbs in this dish.

I hope you found some inspiration here and choose to try a few of these recipes.

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @beinglaurakmarshall

Meal Planning Made Easy

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Menu Planning recipes, grocery list and meal calendar

Are you haunted by the eternal question, “What’s for dinner?” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. But there are a few simple things you can do to make your dinner planning effortless or at least as close to effortless as it can get.

The first thing that you’ll want to do is take an inventory of what you currently have in your kitchen, food wise. This doesn’t need to be fancy, but you do want to take a little bit of time doing this. Once you’ve done this once or twice it won’t take long at all. This actually accomplishes a few things. You’ll find out what has been hiding in the cupboards, throw out old or expired foods and gets what’s left organized. With an inventory list you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you have on hand that you can use. Why spend more money buying food if you don’t have to.

Now that you have your inventory in hand you’re ready to write down your family’s favorite meals. Once you have those family go to favorites, then add some that you would like to try out. This is your opportunity to introduce your family to new foods and flavors. This also gives you a chance to try something new in the kitchen. We all fall into the rut of making the same thing on the same nights because it’s easy. So let’s shake it up and go a little wild. I like to throw in a new meal every week that we’ve never had before. That way you’re introducing something new without your family feeling like test subjects. Making dinner doesn’t have to be a painful experience.

Let’s get a calendar. I print off a blank calendar from the internet and make several copies. I put the meal calendar on the refrigerator so the family can see what’s planned for dinner. And to be honest so I can remember what I planned to make. With your inventory list and family favorites in hand write down what you would like to make for each day. Remember to include the entree and sides. As you are deciding each days menu items start your grocery list. This will insure you don’t forget anything and it will save you money at the same time.

When deciding what to make for dinner each night there are a few things to keep in mind.
How much time do you have to prepare the meal?
What time will you be getting home?
What activities do you or your family have scheduled for that night?

You can have a perfectly planned out menu but you only have thirty minutes to prepare your meal and a recipe that takes an hour, that won’t help at all.

One thing I have found that makes my dinner preparation easier is making meals that freeze well. I’ll make a double batch, one for tonight, one for another. I have a few go to recipes but I’m always on the lookout for more.

Another great time saver is at night before going to bed is to pull out the next days meal ingredients. For example take the ground meat or chicken breasts out of the freezer and put them in the refrigerator to thaw.

Below you’ll find one of my favorite make one for tonight and freeze one for another recipe. Taco-Stuffed Pasta Shells.

Every Friday starting February 7th I will post a five day meal plan for the entirety of February. This will give you complete meals, with recipes, to get you on your way to planning your family meals.

Until next time.

Remember to follow me on Instagram @beinglaurakmarshall

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Menu Planning recipes, grocery list and meal calendar

Taco-Stuffed Pasta Shells
Prep Time 20 minutes Bake Time 40 minutes
Makes 2 8-inch baking pans

16 Jumbo dried pasta shells, prepared according to package
1 pound ground beef
1 package or (1.25 oz) taco seasoning
1 cup water
1 can (16oz) refried beans
1 cup (8 oz) shredded cheese
1 jar (16 oz) salsa divided
Sour Cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350

Cook beef in large skillet until brown, drain. Add seasoning mix and water. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until thickened.

Add beans and ¾ cup cheese to meat, mix well.

Spread ¼ cup salsa over bottom of both baking pans.

Fill pasta shells with beef mixture, place eight shells in each pan, filled side up

Spoon remaining salsa over the shells.

To bake unfrozen shells – Cover baking pan with foil. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. (My family likes cheese so I add extra cheese)

Serve with rice, salad, or chips and guacamole.

If Freezing – allow shells to cool in the refrigerator before covering the pan with plastic wrap, then over wrap with foil. Label and freeze for up to two months.

To bake frozen shells – Place baking pan in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Preheat the oven to 375. Remove plastic wrap and foil. Recover with fresh foil. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Gingerbread Adventures

Recently the family and I visited OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) for two different exhibits taking place. The big featured exhibit was Exquisite Creatures and the second was Gingerbread Adventures. Gingerbread adventures was more than a gingerbread building contest, it was also a look at the science behind gingerbread houses and other creations. Using the current Exquisites Creatures exhibits as inspiration four local teams of expert bakers, architects, designers, and construction firms worked together to make these holiday treats. Except for the bases and structural supports, each sculpture was built with edible materials.

Let’s dive in to the competitors entries. The entrants will be reviewed in the order they were presented.

First up is Holiday on the Bayou by SFA Design and Safeway. The birds, snakes, frogs, turtles, and dragonflies are excited to share their holiday cheer. The alligator is covered in pear jellybeans. Little Beatles work to decorate their home on the Bayou. I enjoyed the detail given to the bugs and amphibians that live in the bayou.

Second up is Life in Contrast by WRK Engineers, Ankrom Moisa Architects and Zest Bakery. A veiled chameleon attempts to bring down a dragonfly for dinner. Butterflies rise from light to dark. I was drawn to the colorful chameleon covered in sweet tarts and skittles. It’s tongue is made from sour stripes. I then saw the massive dragonfly followed by the butterflies.

Third up is Jingle in the Jungle by Scott Edwards Architecture and Sugar Cubed Cakes. Gillian Gecko is throwing a party and were all invited. Detail is everywhere in this display. From the animals, bugs, lizards, and frogs, to the furniture and landscaping. There is even an Exquisite Creatures gallery in a log with mini artwork. Absolutely amazing.

Fourth and final entrant is Arborvitae by LRS Architects and New Seasons Market. The tree of life. From gingerbread sand to lofty branches this tree gives life and protection to the animals that depend on it.

After viewing all four displays we were invited to vote for our favorite. I voted for Jingle in the Jungle. There was so much to look at from every angle. While voting I opted in for an email to tell me the winner of the contest. We’ll find out the winner at the beginning of January. Good luck to all the entrants.

This exhibit runs until January 2nd, 2020.

Follow me on Instagram @beinglaurakmarshall for more of my daily adventures.

Until next time.

How All the Construction Began

We’ve been in full construction mode since July but the process started way before that.

First was the decision to actually do the construction. My dad had asked us to move in with him in December 2018. My mom had passed away in July of that year. He was lonely in the house with just the dog. The dog isn’t much of a conversationalist. We discussed him moving in with us, but he didn’t like that idea. Then we looked at a few houses in his current area that may have worked. It came down to his neighborhood was a perfect place for us to be. There was already a network established with the neighbors. We practically already lived there. We were over all the time and my parents had taken care of the boys while we worked. We participated in all the street activities for holidays so it just made sense for us to move in there.

Adding on to the house was the only option. The existing house had three bedrooms and two baths. It wasn’t enough room for three adults and two teenagers. My dad and husband both wanted their own office space and we needed rooms for the boys. But how were we going to add on was a big question.

In January we met with a contractor and designer. The original idea was to go up into the attic and above the garage. That was a no go structurally. We then went through a whole range of detached, simi attached, ADU (assessors dwelling unit) how can we attach it to be seamless with the rest of the house? It was stressful.

View of the back of the house where the addition would attach.

A design was finally proposed where we would attach the addition to the back of the house where the slider door was. With that we had to enclose our master bedroom windows and relocate them to another wall. That meant losing my walk in closet, taking down a wall and creating a new closet. There were several submissions to the county for approval and reworks to make the design code compliant. But we finally got it.

My master wndows that needed to be removed.

My new master bedroom windows

This process took six and a half months. During that time we had to remove our shed, and a tree. We moved in in March. The boys moved into the formal livingroom for the short term. It ened up being long term due to construction issues.

In July the excavation began and the construction started in full force. That in a nut shell is how we came to building the addition on to the house.

Check out my Instagram @beinglaurakmarshall for more pictures of the work done on the house.

Until next time.

My husband in the excavator. He did not do the excavating.

In the hole the excavator created.

The boys in the excavator

The POD Dilemma

The Large POD

We have been in the throws of construction for about six months but most of our belongings have been in storage for nine months. Our large POD container was delivered yesterday. We couldn’t open it because in all the construction moving stuff from here to there I lost the combination. We didn’t own a bolt cutter and neither did any of our neighbors. We did buy a bolt cutter today to gain entry to our stuff, but I didn’t open the POD until several hours later. I was having a dilemma over the stuff that it contained.

The last several years I have been decluttering, cleaning and donating but I always had more stuff. I did all the decluttering and cleaning before we moved and put all the stuff in the POD. My dilemma is we’ve lived without all of this stuff for nine months. There have been items that we’ve needed but over all we’ve lived fine without. My question is, do we need most of it? For me the answer is no, but not everything in the POD is mine. I can’t make that decision for the rest of my family.

When I did open the POD I stood and stared at the wall of stuff. I just let the image of it sink in. I only took a few boxes out because they had shifted during transport and had my older son take them inside. As I stood their I took a mindful minute and reflected on what I had read in Marie Kondos’ book. I can only tidy my own belongings, but those around me will see how I find joy in my belongings and they will do the same. That’s what I am going to do. I will only keep the items that bring me joy. I think I’ll be referencing my copy of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up quite a lot in the coming days and weeks.

I will deal with the box that was brought in when its that categories turn, per the KonMari Method. We will be unloading the POD on Thursday since tomorrow is Christmas. We’ll start in the morning to give us plenty of time. This process won’t be easy and I know frustration will occur but I also know peace of mind will also occur at the end.

Be sure to follow me on Instagram to see the progress.

The wall of stuff