Monday, June 22, 2015

Celebrating first birthdays with mini photo shoots

first birthday photo session
I have always loved documenting each of the kids growing up with tons of photos, but usually nothing more extensive than a quick snap shot. A couple years ago, I decided that I was going to put some effort into taking family photos of us and the kids and actually do more than store them on my computer or cell phone. I wanted to take what I thought were “awesome photos” and hang them in our home instead of never printing them out. But I definitely didn’t have the funds for a professional photographer, and our family is way more into casual, spur of the moment outings than formal appointments. So with just a few tips and ideas I’ve managed to do 3 family photo sessions, and now Lennox’s first birthday photos.
*Read over my Family Photo Tips post and More Quick Tips for Family Photos for some motivation to start taking more family pics this year.
For Lennox’s first photos I put together a quick game plan of what I wanted for the photos and we made it happen Sunday afternoon.
1. We decided what he would wear, something simple that he already had because we didn’t have the funds to buy a new outfit.
2. We chose a location downtown with a cool background to make the photos more interesting.
3. We decided on a few simple photo props to make the pictures a little more professional looking and fun.
4. We made sure all the kids were fed and happy before heading out.
first birthday photos for Lennoxfirst birthday photos

I used an antique chair, that my used to be my dad’s when he was little, and painted it white with Americana Decor Chalky Finish paint so Lennox could sit or hold onto it while standing. I made a large rustic wooden number 1 sign as a photo prop to show off his age, and we picked up latex balloons from a local party store before driving downtown to take photos.

Justin and the kids both helped to keep him smiling and entertained while I snapped as many photos as I could.

Lennox's first birthday pics
1st birthday photos
I even managed to get Levi and Rian in a few photos with him and take a quick Father’s Day photo of Justin and the kids at the same time. The mini photo shoot of Lennox took less than 30 minutes and I totally believe that’s the main reason I am able to keep taking family photos. Short, easy sessions where no one grumbles about how long it’s taking is the key!

first birthday photo ideas with siblings
father's day 2015 pic

No more excuses ok? Get out there and use your camera to capture special moments and don’t be afraid to try it on your own.

If you’re interested in purchasing a large number sign for your own photo shoots email to create a custom order. Or check out our etsy shop The Rugged Heart for more awesome signs.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Easy to sew leather sleeves for your gadgets and studded leather trays for trinkets (plus a giveaway)

This is a collaboration between Always in Wonder and the Leather Hide Store. You can read more about my advertising and disclosure policies here.

DIY leather sleeves for iphone, glasses, and kindle

First let me start off with saying that I am the worst at sewing. Little children who haven’t taken a class could probably out do me on their first try. But even knowing how bad I am, I still wanted to try my hand at making some leather sleeves for a few of our gadgets, like my kindle and my husband’s iPhone, and even one for his glasses. It was the first time I took out my sewing machine in quite a while, so of course I had to practice before actually sewing anything. Once I started getting the hang of working with the leather and using the machine to sew the pieces together I felt comfortable enough to try making a few simple sleeves that I could easily slide my kindle into, or my husband’s iPhone. They’re totally not perfect because as I mentioned in the beginning, my sewing skills are not all there, but I love the look and feel of the leather, and how easy it was to stitch them together.

The upholstery hides I used came from remnant pieces from the Leather Hide Store. The Leather Hide Store has one of the largest online selections of upholstery leather that can be used for furniture, handbags, smaller projects and crafts, and many other uses. You can browse their many different leathers and even receive free samples so that you know the exact color, texture, and feel of the leather you will receive.

diy leather sleeve for kindle

I used paper templates cut to the measurements I wanted my leather to be, and traced around them with white chalk before cutting them out.
chalk outline for tracing pattern on leather

The chalk is easily removed just by handling the leather, and doesn’t seem to linger afterward or cause any stains. Once you have your two pieces cut out, make sure to keep the smooth leather facing each other. I used small clothes pins to keep the leather pieces clamped together while sewing them, instead of actually pinning the leather together. Once all three of my sides were sewn together I turned the sleeves right side out and made sure the tops were evenly cut straight across. Or as much as I could get them.

diy leather sleeve in chocolate leather
leather sleeve for kindle

I love that my kindle (which doesn’t’ have a case, scandalous I know) will now be protected in the nice soft leather sleeve when in a drawer, or in my purse/diaper bag, or when sitting on top of the table. My husband’s iPhone is also without a case, so the sleeve I made him is perfect for easily getting to his phone, but at night he can slide it inside and not worry about the screen getting scratched or hitting it against his nightstand.

After making and sewing the sleeves I also decided to make a few of those cute leather trays with the folded corners that people have been pinning and making like crazy. And with how easy they are, no wonder they’ve been filling up my search for easy leather crafts.
diy studded leather tray
small leather trays for jewelry and coins

At home my husband comes home, throws his keys on the table or dresser, takes his work badge off and leaves it on the counter, leaves miscellaneous coins lying around after emptying his pockets, and just generally frustrates me when I have to round up all these small items at the end of the day. In our bedroom I have several smaller pieces of jewelry and no jewelry box to put them in so they usually slide around in a drawer and get tangled up with each other. I thought these leather trays were perfect for small things such as jewelry, coins, and other trinkets, and help us keep them all in one place.  I ended up making two sets of three small leather trays, one to keep for our home, and one to giveaway to one of you!

trio of small leather trays for trinkets

Enter below using the giveaway widget if you’d like to win your own set of studded leather trays!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is a collaboration between Always in Wonder and the Leather Hide Store. You can read more about my advertising and disclosure policies here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Get rid of your outdoor mold, mildew, and algae this Spring using 30 Seconds Cleaner

This is a collaboration between Always in Wonder and 30 Seconds Cleaners. You can read more about my advertising and disclosure policies here.

Concrete before and after using 30 Seconds Cleaner

Do you see the above pic? The concrete on the left is what I’ve battled with ever since we moved into our home 6.5 years ago. Every time it rains water collects there on our patio and just stays there feeding the mold and algae. The sun rarely shines there either. It’s usually always shady in that one spot, which means the concrete never really has a chance to dry out during the winter or rainy spring, and it’s always a complete pain to try and clean and get rid of. We moved into our home in the Fall, and within the first week I was on my hands and knees for hours scraping and scrubbing the stuff away. Six months later it was back. My knees said “no way! Never again are we doing that,” so then I was left with either trying to spray cleaners on and hose them off (hoping they worked) or leaving it ugly and green. 

After 6.5 years of dealing with that mess I am totally happy to say that I found a solution to my problem.

 30 Seconds Cleaner and Sprayer

30 Seconds Cleaner got rid of the algae and mold from the concrete and the stucco on the side of our house and there was no scraping, scrubbing or kneeling involved. It was amazing how little I had to do in order for it to be gone.

30 Seconds Cleaner Concentrate

30 Seconds Cleaner will remove stains from algae, mold and mildew from concrete, wood, stucco, brick, plastic and a lot more surfaces. You simply spray it on and then hose it off after the recommended period of time for that surface. It’s safe to use around plants, lawns, and pets when used as directed, and it is biodegradable when rinsed into soil. 30 Seconds Cleaner is a product made in the USA, and the company has been established since 1977. They have over 35 years of experience creating a product that works extremely well.

uses for 30 Seconds Cleaner

Before using 30 Seconds Cleaner I can honestly say I was skeptical it was going to work like they said. I thought for sure I would have to do multiple applications, get out a deck scrubber, and be outside for an hour or two working on our patio no matter what the directions said. But instead I spent a few minutes reading the instructions and filling up the sprayer that came with the 30 Seconds Cleaner, before heading outside.

concrete before using 30 Seconds Cleaner

Once outside I sprayed the concrete and stucco generously to get the whole area saturated with the cleaner.

spraying on 30 Seconds Cleaner

I could actually see the cleaner working just minutes after spraying it on.

30 Seconds Cleaner working to kill mold and algae on concrete

I waited the recommended time for the cleaner to work on the concrete and stucco before going back outside to hose the patio off. I didn’t use a special pressure washer or hose attachment to rinse the 30 Seconds Cleaner off, just a regular hose and nozzle.

rinsing off the 30 Seconds Cleaner

After rinsing off the patio I went inside and waited for the concrete and stucco to dry. When I came back out a couple of hours later I was totally surprised at the algae and mold being gone without having to actually do any intensive labor to remove it. Even though the patio and stucco were still a little damp I could tell that the 30 Seconds Cleaner did an amazing job at getting rid of all the green moldy algae.

concrete after using 30 Seconds Cleaner to remove mold and algae

concrete after using 30 seconds cleaner

I’m lucky I got the chance to try out the original 30 Seconds Cleaner and would recommend it to anyone who has problem areas like I had. You can purchase the 30 Seconds Cleaners online or you can find them in a store near you with their easy USA store locator.
You can find 30 Seconds Cleaners on TWITTER & FACEBOOK and see more uses for their product in the video below.

Disclosure: This is a collaboration between Always in Wonder and 30 Seconds Cleaners. You can read more about my advertising and disclosure policies here.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Paleo Vegan Chocolate Chip Muffins

Vegan Paleo Chocolate Chip Muffins

Remember those Paleo Coconut Pancakes I posted before this? Well I wanted to see if I could turn them into vegan pancakes as well, but replacing the eggs with flax seeds or chia seeds did not work. I could tell just by the first pancake they weren’t working out, so instead of wasting the batter I decided to turn it into muffins as well. Not only are muffins easy to bake up, they’re also completely convenient for morning breakfast for the kids and I. The kids think of muffins as a treat, so no matter if they’re full of healthy ingredients, they always think they’re getting away with something when eating one.

Paleo Vegan Chocolate Chip Muffins


5 rounded tablespoons ground flax seed mixed with 1/4 cup warm water
1.5 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
2-3 tablespoons of melted coconut oil
1/2 cup almond butter
2/3 cup coconut flour
1 rounded teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2- cup of Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (you can add more if desired)

Mix together your flax mixture, almond milk, maple syrup, vanilla, oil and almond butter.
In a separate bowl mix together you flour, baking soda, and sea salt. 
Add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients and mix until combined.
Mix your Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips into your muffin batter.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes, or until you can stick a toothpick in the center of one and it comes out fairly clean.
Allow to cool or serve warm.

Paleo Coconut Pancakes

Paleo coconut pancakes

I’ve been working on getting my kids away from begging for their dreaded sugary cereals they want to eat in the mornings. They’re seriously convenient for me, especially with having an 8 month old, but they’re full of ingredients I’d prefer them not to eat. So this past week I concentrated on making them fruit and veggie smoothies, eggs, these paleo vegan Apple Sweet Potato muffins, and pancakes. I have a paleo pumpkin pancake recipe that I’ve made them many times before, but with no roasted pumpkin on hand, and a limited time to throw breakfast together I decided to experiment and throw these together. They came out delicious, very light and fluffy, and totally kid approved.


4 eggs
1 cup unsweetened almond milk or 1 cup full fat coconut milk
2 teaspoons of vanilla
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1/2 rounded cup of coconut flour
2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
coconut oil or avocado oil for cooking the pancakes


Whisk your eggs until they are light and airy. Then mix in your milk, and vanilla, maple syrup.
In a separate bowl mix together your flour, flax, baking soda, and sea salt.
Add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients and mix until they’re combined.
Oil a hot pan or griddle before spooning out the pancake mixture, about 1/4 of a cup for each pancake. The pancakes will spread out a bit but not too much.
Cook each pancake for about 2-3 minutes on each side before flipping.
Serve hot with maple syrup.

Apple Sweet Potato Muffins–Paleo and Vegan

Paleo Vegan apple sweet potato muffins

These muffins were the result of an early morning experiment this past week. I had roasted sweet potatoes and blended them with apples one day to have my 8 month old try them out. He’s only in the beginning stages of eating food but he has decided that sweet potatoes are just one of those foods he doesn’t like and refuses to eat. I wasn’t about to waste all that roasted sweet potato and apple mixture just because he wouldn’t eat it, so I decided to get creative and see if I could turn them into muffins my other two kids and I could eat for breakfast that day. Turns out I could, and did, and my older kids ate 4 muffins each that day. My older kids would never eat sweet potatoes either so making muffins out of the apple and sweet potato mixture felt like a stroke of genius to me. 

mixing apple sweet potato muffins

These muffins are sweet, and remind me a little bit of Fall with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger flavors running through them. I added chopped pecans to a second batch I made but also thought they’d be good with chocolate chips added in. The sweet potato and apples make them really soft, and the word I hate to use-moist.

apple sweet potato muffin batter


1 large roasted sweet potato without the peel
1 raw apple cored and diced (I used a Gala apple)
3 rounded tablespoons of ground flax seeds mixed with 6 tablespoons of warm water
1/2 cup of almond butter
3 tablespoons of melted coconut oil
4 tablespoons of maple syrup
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1/2 cup of coconut flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 rounded teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a blender or food processor blend together the sweet potato, apple, almond butter, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla. Then pour it into a medium to large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl combine your flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt.
Add your dry ingredients to your apple sweet potato mixture until they are combined.
Scoop your muffin batter into paper liners in your regular sized muffin tin that holds 12 muffins.
Bake your muffins for 25-27 minutes. Allow them to cool fully before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Paleo Vegan Chocolate Brownies

Vegan Paleo Chocolate Brownies

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. I’m sure most of you are having date nights, opening up Valentine’s or doing something incredibly romantic right now, and not browsing Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or your favorite blogs. But just in case you’re like me and hanging out at home with the husband and kids and looking for some chocolate to consume I’ve got a recipe here for you. I was inspired by my best friend Kristan who recently made the change to go vegan to make these Paleo Vegan Brownies. Even though I’m not vegan I am totally down with lowering my own consumption of animal products, refined sugars, and just practicing moderation in general. It doesn’t hurt anyone to make a meal or a dessert vegan, and it opens you up to experimenting with different ingredients and foods. Win win, right?

Vegan Paleo Brownies


  • 1 and 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1 cup pitted dates + 1/2 cup water processed together to make a date paste
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 3 tbs avocado oil or melted coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 rounded cup of raw cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 of a rounded tsp of baking soda
  • 2 rounded tbsp of ground golden flax seeds + 6 tbsp warm water (mix together to create a paste)
Preheat oven to  350 degrees Fahrenheit .
Blend together almond butter, oil, date paste, maple syrup , vanilla and coconut sugar in your food processor or blender (I used our Blendtec).
Add in flax seed paste, raw cacao powder and baking soda. Blend until smooth.
Place batter in to a lined 8 inch square baking tray.
Bake for 25-27 minutes.
Allow to cool before serving.

Paleo Vegan Chocolate Brownies