Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dreams do come true...

It's been a year since we have become "Californians" and it's been the most amazing year.

Just recently, I've become part of an amazing store called The Paris Flea Market that sells home goods that are French Provincial inspired....RIGHT UP MY ALLEY!  Which means...more tutorials and before and after photos of my projects to come!  GET EXCITED!!

The BIGGEST news, though, is that my life long dream just came true!  No, I am not a guest on Family Double Dare or What Would You Do...though that would be AWESOME!  I recorded a Christmas album for my family!

A short history:

I started singing at the age of 5 and it's been my main passion since.  In elementary, middle, and high school, I was very, VERY vocal about this passion...through lots of criticism and well-warranted eye-rolls, I learned that to (continually) express such a passion can be seen as, well, annoying :).  So, come college, I didn't tell EVERYONE that I loved to sing, and after college told even less people.  Then, I had kids, and singing publicly, or professionally, became a long lost dream.

Fast forward 5 years...we move to California and I become a stay-at-home mom who spends a lot of time combing through Craigslist.'s like a virtual garage sale and super fun!  I've never ventured out of the 'for sale' category and I was in between books, so I decided to see what other categories held in the Bay area.  I came across an ad for a recording studio and just sent them an email about the possibility of doing a few songs and wanted to see what the price range was.  I expected to never hear from them, or be told it would be around $3000...or something else astronomical to allow me to toss away the dream for good.  However, I was emailed the next day and then called by the producer...and spent an hour talking to one of the nicest people I have EVER met! The price per song was quite reasonable and my AMAZING husband gave me the go-ahead.


We came up with a date to record the songs and I could barely sleep, I was so excited!  Over the course of the next 3 weeks, I recorded 4 songs and the kids recorded 5 beautiful audio clips.  I took some pictures of the kiddos and designed a cover for the CD.

This has been such an amazing experience.  I never thought that I would actually be able to sing in a professional recording studio, with a professional producer, and come out with a professional sounding CD.  How many people can say their lofty dreams actually come true?!

To add the icing to the cake, they have asked me to come back and sing background on an in-house project they are working on!  They also have a mentoring program and the plan is to join the program and start working on original songs!  ORIGINAL SONGS!  ME?!  AHHHHHH!

Yes...I'm pretty giddy, incredibly excited, very nervous, and so appreciative!  Appreciative of a supportive husband, a life-style that allows us to pursue my lofty dreams, an amazing production company that is incredibly kind and trust-worthy, and a God that has allowed everything to fall into place.

 I still have a lot of work to do.  I'm not crazy enough to think I'll be travelling the world on tours or that I will even produce a song that people will want to listen to and download.  BUT.  I get to have fun with an outlet that allows me to be a little selfish :) and have a ton of fun working with super creative, passionate people.

Brian and I have been thrown so many curve balls in our journey together...and we feel so incredibly blessed with where we are.

If you are intererested in hearing the Christmas CD, go here:

You can download the songs for free, or donate $4.99 to a great cause.  100% of the profit goes to support the Frost/Canary families.  Go here for more information.

Feel free to enjoy pictures from my time in the studio:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Freezer Crockpot Meals: A How-To Guide

Hi friends!

So, as you guys know, I am a mommy of 3 BEAUTIFUL (yes, I'm biased) children under the age of 4.  This means that time is very limited in the Relph household and spending a large amount of time on dinner (anything more than 15 min...) is pretty much impossible.  Add in the fact that we have to pick Brian up from his bus stop at 5:50 and you get a lot of take-out meals. Well, WE get a lot of take -out get what I mean ;).

I've met some WONDERFUL women since moving to CA and one thing we all have in common: we are all insanely busy with our little ones!  I had been seeing MANY blogs about 'once a month cooking', 'freezer meals', etc. but it seemed like too big of a task.  For me, if I get other people roped into the same crazy idea that I have, I'm more apt to complete the task.  SO!  I enlisted the help of my two friends out here, Colleen and Chelyn, and we decided to give this freezer meal thing a try.

I am so glad we did!  In fact, as I am typing this right now, instead of worrying about dinner, I am smelling it!  I put it in the crockpot at 9am and when 5pm rolls around...DINNER TIME!!

First of all, if three women with SEVEN children under the age of 4 can pull 33 meals together in two hours...ANYONE CAN!  I promise you that!  We are not SuperMoms by any means!

Before I get into the 'how-to' portion, let me say that this is not an original idea, none of the recipes are mine, and I even got a lot of the planning things from other sites, which I will link to!  There is no right or wrong...this is just the way that worked easiest for us!

Also, for those of you wondering, all 11 meals cost each of us $83!  Each meal will easily serve all of our families (even mine, being the biggest at 2 adults, 2 toddlers!).

So here is an easy (hopefully) plan for you to follow to get your own freezer meals ready:


1. Find some friends! - Talk to your friends and see who would want to do this with you!  Any number of people can be involved; just make sure the kitchen is big enough to hold all of you!  Also, if there are a lot of kids, you can designate one (or more) people to babysit while others make the food for you!

2. Find a kitchen! - You don't need anything fancy.  Someone's home kitchen will do!  If you have a very large group, do it at a church or rec center!

3. Decide what meals you want to prepare! -  Since this was our first time doing this process and trying the recipes we decided to be a little more conservative on how many meals we were doing.  We ended up doing 6 recipes, 5 of which made two dinners a piece.  I had sent out some links and we all chose our top 5 recipes and went from there!

4. Make a grocery list! -  I found this AMAZING resource from another blog that already had a grocery list made out with all the ingredients (in Excel) and all you had to do was enter the number of people and you knew how much of everything that you needed!  Unfortunately, I didn't like any of the recipes, so I used her template and then revised it for my own.

Here is a link to her website

Feel free to use it yourself!  Just change the ingredients and the number of people involved!  AND DON'T FORGET THE FREEZER BAGS!!

5. Decide who will go shopping - Depending on those involved, there are a number of ways to do this.

  1. Have one person do all the shopping.  Everyone can pay their portion the day-of-preparing.
  2. Divide up the ingredients so each person shops for certain items in bulk.  This has it's ups and downs.  All the responsibility isn't just on one person to get all the ingredients, but making it equal $ wise can be very tricky.  If you decide to divvy it up, have everyone prepare the groceries ahead of time and it will go even faster! (For example, peeling and cutting the veggies).

6. Pick a date and get started! - It can be really hard finding a time when everyone can all meet to make these meals.  Remember, you can always get your other half involved and have them watch the kiddos while you prepare these meals!  The good news is, it really only takes a couple of hours to knock out these meals - just put a movie on for the little ones and you're good to go!

Ok, so you have the food, you have the place, you are standing in the kitchen with all these what?!

Yes, it can seem a little overwhelming to have 40+ pounds of chicken sitting on your table...just take a deep breath...we'll get through this together :).

There are lots of ways to do this; assembly line, by ingredient, alphabetically ;), etc.  We chose to go by recipe.  We each chose a recipe and prepared all the bags for that one recipe.  Since there were three of us and most of the recipes were double batches, that meant making 6 meals PER RECIPE.  Ok, I know this can seem confusing...but it's really not!

1. Write the date, name of meal, and preparation instructions on the bag - For example, for the teriyaki chicken we prepared this is what I wrote: 6/22 Teriyaki Chicken, add 1/4c teriyaki, cook low 8 hrs or high 4 hrs, Serve over rice.  That way you know how old it is, WHAT it is, and what you need to do the dayof cooking!

2. Put in the ingredients -  Yep, we are to that step already.  It's that easy.  Now, depending on how you organized this, you may have to chop, dice, slice, peel, etc.  Once the ingredients are prepared, just DUMP IT IN THE BAG!!  So easy!  We did only chicken meals this time, so we all put in the chicken first - this helped weight the bag for when we put in liquid ingredients!

3. Seal and freeze - Once you have all the ingredients, you just let the air our of the bag, seal it, and stick it in the freezer!  I've seen a lot of people lie their bags flat to freeze, allowing better freezer storage.  Easy, right?!

There are a lot of places I looked at to find recipes and I will post all of the links for you!  I will also post a link to my template for the six meals we made so if you want to try the exact same things we did, it will be even easier!

If you guys have any questions, feel free to ask!  I haven't tasted any of the recipes, so I cannot attest to any of that, but when I do, I will let you know!  Also, I am wanting to go beyond the crockpot and prepare other meals such as mac and cheese and if this goes well and we eat it all, I'll be doing another blog about how that goes!

I hope this was clear-ish for all you guys!  Don't hesitate to open a few bottles of wine while preparing this!!

The meals we made were:
Teriyaki Chicken
Savory Chicken
Sweet and Tangy Meatballs
Healthy Mama's BBQ Chicken
Chicken Tacos
Cream Cheese Crockpot Chicken

My Grocery List (for these six meals) - I did not include wine, flour, salt, or pepper in my list because I knew it would be provided at the house!

If you want more options, here are some more recipe links!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Journey to the center of the cookie

It's been quite a whirlwind around here lately.  We've had our ups and downs but we are still standing and smiling!  Vera turned 2 months today and life feels like it's finally manageable.  Today I sat down and filled out a calendar with activities I can do with the kiddos for the next month.  I'm really excited not only to keep the kids busy, but to be prepared (partially) for the days to come!

One thing I am still struggling with is my weight.  I lost 31 pounds in the first 2 weeks after having Vera and I was so excited to get my pre-baby body back (and by pre-baby I mean, pre-Myah-baby!). I started logging all of my foods that I ate, and hoped to drop 52 pounds by the time Christmas comes around and I go to see my family.  It's not going so smoothly.

I was so incredibly blessed to be thin all through highschool and college (which, looking back, I am so mad at myself for thinking I was overweight then...if I only knew!).  I never watched what I ate, never said 'no' to seconds, and my love of food was never an issue.  After gaining 70 pounds during my pregnancy with Myah I guess I just expected my body to just 'go back'.  I thought, I might have to walk a little to lose a couple of pounds, but I honestly believed that it would be easy.  I cannot believe how wrong I was!  After having Myah, I had a really hard time changing my eating habits and the pounds weren't coming off quickly (like some of my friends).  I had lost about 35 of my 70 extra pounds when I broke my ankle.  It was only 4 months after I had Myah and since I was not breastfeeding, being mobile was a big part of my weight loss strategy.  Needless to say, I stopped losing weight and plateaued.

THEN I GOT PREGNANT AGAIN!  Yes, not the best plan since I was laid up with a broken ankle, but sometimes God has plans we aren't always privy to.  I was 35-40 lbs over what I was when I had Myah and I am not one of those people who lose weight in the first trimester.  I tried to watch what I ate during the second pregnancy and only gained 35 lbs; which put me back to the weight post-Myah.  Because I broke my ankle and had torn my ligament, my ankle held me back physically.  I can't walk faster than my toddlers, which makes breaking a sweat a challenge.  So, Brian and I decided to try the 30 Biggest Loser Challenge...and it was awesome!  I lost 10 lbs in 2 weeks and Brian lost 15.  Unfortunately, eating healthy and following this specific diet was extremely costly...our grocery budget tripled and we didn't have the funds for that.  So, we went back to the norm, and gained the weight back.

Now, post-Vera I am 10 lbs above where I was when I got pregnant with her, but 52 lbs above what I WANT to be...and that is a daunting number.  Being a person who typically gives up/in when faced with something that requires effort and is hard, I'm scared I won't reach my goal.  I am a mastermind when it comes to excuses and frankly, I'm also really great at convincing myself they are good enough reasons to quit.

I've done a few things to keep myself motivated this time around:
--Brian bought me an elliptical to keep in the house as a daily reminder to work out - This works about 75% of the time...I typically work out 3 days, take a day off, repeat.  And by work out, I mean 10 minutes - 130 cal burned...not impressive.
--I joined a program that set up a daily calorie intake to help me lose weight
--I am breastfeeding
--I keep track of what I am eating (calorie wise) - still a struggle to write everything down (especially when I cheat and snack all day)
--I told my parents I was doing it and put it on facebook as motivation

These things aren't enough because I've been doing it for 3 weeks now, and I'm still at the same weight.  Yes, I haven't gained weight, but I haven't lost any either.  My excuses and weaknesses are holding me back.

So, I bought a book (for kindle) called Made to Crave.  It's a bible study about craving God and allowing him to control your life instead of food.  NOTHING sounds more appealing to me than that.  I am more than willing to do this journey alone, but I thought that if anyone wanted to join me, it would be THAT much more motivation for me.

This is what I am proposing:

I would like to do an online bible study.  Whoever wants to participate can buy the book (in any form they want; hardcopy, ecopy, etc).  I will put my answers, thoughts, and personal questions on a different website that I will create just for this purpose.  I would love it if others would do the same!  We can encourage each other, answer each other's questions, and get closer through fellowship.  I promise to be fully open and honest during the process -- please be willing to do the same :).  If you would like to join me in this journey, here is the link to the book:

Also, leave me a short message at the end of this post letting me know you are in!  I will make a new page this week and make my first post Monday.  This will be at your own leisure.  I plan on following the study and doing a post when required (not sure if it's daily/weekly/etc).  Please post when you have time.  Instead of having to have a deadline of getting it done, I thought this might be more conducive to lots of people participating so you can do it on your own time, as opposed to a specific time/place.

If you aren't comfortable bearing your soul on the internet, email me :)  I totally understand.  OR, just follow along :)

Thank you, in advance, for your love and support in this journey.  I am praying that God will give me the strength to not only be true to myself, but to grow closer to Him through this journey.

Have a fantastic day, and I hope to hear from you soon!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The hospital stay and going home...

Given that I have had three kids and a broken ankle, I am no stranger to hospital stays.  I've had 6 surgeries in the past 4 years, 4 of the six have required overnight stays.  I've had good experiences and really bad experiences.

For example; when I had Myah I wasn't comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding so I didn't try - until the last day, when I asked a nurse if she could show me the basics.  Instead of being understanding, she yelled at me for waiting so long...literally raised her voice and scolded me.  While I wasn't on the brink of death due to a bad medical decision, it completely ruined my in-hospital experience with my daughter.

This experience could not have been more opposite!  Every single person I came in contact with: doctors, surgeons, cleaning ladies, ESPECIALLY THE NURSES, were AMAZING!  So incredibly nice, helpful, encouraging, and just a pleasure!  I couldn't believe it!  While I shortened my stay by a day (or two according to one of the doctors) it was, hands down, the best experience I have ever had in a hospital!  I made sure to personally thank every person that came in for being so really made it so relaxing!  I also tried not to be needy and whiny...I hope I accomplished that!

Not only was everyone so nice, but they sent us a celebratory dinner!  The night before we left, Brian and I had an upscale meal complete with cake, candlelight, and sparkling cider!  What a great idea to help new parents celebrate before they get home!  Maybe more hospitals do this and I am not aware of it, but I know Shawnee Mission does not...and they totally should!  My parents took the kids to McDonalds and gave Brian and I some alone time...who knows when we will get that again!

The day after Vera was born, Brian stayed home with the kids during nap time and my parents got to spend the afternoon with me at the hospital.  It was awesome just sitting around and talking - even if the room was too cold for them (Sorry!).

On the third day I was discharged!  We put Vera in the car seat and started the journey home.  There was no turning back...we were officially a family of five!

Unfortunately, Vera had high levels of biliruben (I think that's how you spell it), so she had to visit the hospital every day for the next 5 days to get her foot pricked and blood taken!  Watching it happen once or twice is bad enough...but 6 times (including the time in the hospital) was too much for me!  They finally decided that her jaundice levels were high due to my breastmilk and called it "breastfeeding jaundice".  They said it posed no developmental problems and told us we didn't need any more tests!  After 5 weeks, her eyes finally look white and not yellow!

Keep watching for the rest of my parents trip along with stories of breastfeeding, foot stamping, and more!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Toddler Games

Guys...I need some help.

As most of you know, I have anxiety problems.  I take medication for it and it keeps me functional...most of the time.  However, with Brian heading back to work in two weeks I'm getting more and more nervous about my new role as a mom of 3 kids under the age of 4.  Can that be right?! must crazy are we?!

I like schedules...they keep me sane.  It gives me things to work toward; starting and stopping points, to help me tackle the day.  So, it's been suggested to me, by numerous people, that I put my family on a schedule for when Brian goes back to work so I don't lose my cool.  Since it takes practice to get into a routine, we've decided to start tomorrow, so when Brian goes back, we all know our expectations.

The problem is, when I think of even setting up a schedule, my mind goes blank.  It's one of the fun things of my anxiety.  My mind won't stop racing when I want to calm down and when I need to think in stressful situations, it stops working.

So, I'm asking you guys for help!  I need to come up with activities for the kids and I to do together to keep us busy.  Trips, crafts, cleaning, schools, etc...I need all ideas.  The general layout of the day goes like this:

6:30 - Kids wake up
7:45 - We drive Brian to the bus stop for work
8:05 - We arrive home
11:30 - The kids eat lunch
12-2 - Nap Time
5:45 - We pick up Brian from the bus stop

Taking into consideration I have to feed the baby every 3-4 hours, I have big time slots to fill from 8-12 and 2-6.  I'm thinking just one activity, or two small ones, can fit in each time slot (i.e. two activities a day).  We have the budget to go to one big trip (zoo, etc) once a week while everything else needs to be free or close to it.  I live in the San Jose area, less than an hour to the beach, San Fran, etc. so if you have any ideas along that line, let me know!

This is where I need your creativity!  What can I do with two toddlers and a newborn without going crazy?

Feel free to post ideas on this blog, on facebook, email me at, or even text me!

I really appreciate all of your help on this.  I know since I have two kids already I should already know what to do, but #3 has put me in a tailspin and I need my friends' help :)

Love you all!!  Keep the ideas coming!