homemade play dough

This quarantine has made home life with a toddler a little more intense. Ro and I are constantly out and about all week, so I have found myself dusting off my old nannying-days activities and tricks, trying to keep our active girl entertained! I got out my go-to easy homemade play dough recipe from years ago and was pleased to see how it entertained not only our toddler but, both me and my husband for over an hour. The fun of homemade play dough is that you get to play with the finished product, but you get to have fun as you make it!

homemade playdough


  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • gel food coloring
  • add ins: vitamin e oil, essential oils


  1. measure out all your ingredients, and if you have a toddler helper, let them dump the flour, water, cream of tartar, salt, and oil into a medium saucepan and stir it together.
  2. on medium to low heat cook the mixture and constantly stir with a wooden spoon as it thickens.
  3. once the dough is thick, gathering around the spoon, and is the consistency of dough, dump the dough onto wax or parchment paper.
  4. let cool for 10 minutes
  5. carefully, if the dough is still warm, split into the number of portions of the different colors you want to make. I suggest up to 4 colors for this single recipe.
  6. using your thumb, create a small crater for your dye in each piece of dough.
  7. add in a few dots of color to each dough, and fold the color into the dough, trying to keep the dye contained as to not get it on your hands (gloves are also optional for this step).
  8. optional: once all the color has been incorporated, you can add in a few drops of moisturizing vitamin e oil and/or essential oils for some scent, I suggest peppermint or calming lavender.
  9. play! we like to use plastic play knives and cookie cutters.
  10. store in an airtight container or baggies in the fridge, if it starts to dry out, I like to knead in some more vitamin e oil or veggie oil.

toddler easter basket: online friendly

For this year’s Easter basket, I was perplexed on how to approach it, given now being in quarantine. My original plan was to support some of my favorite children’s stores in Columbus- Cubshrub of Grandview, Lilylimes of Worthington, and Fritzy Jacobs of Worthington. My intention was to buy quality little toys and trinkets from local and small businesses, and then maybe add in some other things like sidewalk chalk, homemade playdough, seeds for the garden, or bubbles. But, now with quarantines being mandated and everyone taking whatever measures it takes to stay safe- shopping online is seeming like our only option. But, it is especially now important to support our local favorites, to help them through these tough times.

For Ronnie’s basket I put in an order to Cubshrub and am going to use little supplies we have around the house, as well as some supplimental items from amazon.

Ronnie’s Basket:

Sarah’s Silks Playsilk: Sarah’s Silks this Easter has been encouraging parents to have a more eco-friendly Easter buy using a green playsilk instead of Easter grass. I just loved this idea! It is beautiful, useful, and is a fun way to build your playsilk collection. Instead of green we opted for the Turquoise!

shop local: available at Cubshrub

amazon: playsilks

source: amazon

Sidewalk chalk: For the little artist and kid who loves to be outside!

amazon: Crayola Washable Sidewalk Chalk, 12 Classic Crayola Colors Outdoor Art Gift for Kids 4 & Up, 12 Classic Crayola Colors, Anti-Roll Sidewalk Chalk Sticks Keep Little Artist’s Tools Close At Hand

bubble wands: bubbles are a favorite in our house, I buy bubbles in bulk and then can bring out a wand now and then as a surprise.

amazon: Joyin Toy 12 Pack 14’’ Big Bubble Wand Assortment (1 Dozen) with Bubble Refill Solution – Super Value Pack of Summer Toy Party Favor (12 Bubble + 12 Refill Pack = 24pack)

Jellycat bunny: Jellycat animals are truly the best, they are so soft and have a lot of corresponding books to match the stuffed animals- they make a great gift!

amazon: Jellycat Squiggle Bunny Stuffed Animal, Small, 9 inches

*we ordered this via Cubshrub- but, they are now out of stock

first words flashcards: it was important to me to have a little fun learning toy to include and working on language is a constant at this age!

amazon: My First Touch and Feel Picture Cards: First Words (My 1st T&F Picture Cards)

wooden xylophone: for the little musician

amazon: Schylling Wood Xylophone

shop local: available at Cubshrub

source: meri meri

meri meri temporary tattoos: meri meri has such unique and fun products, these tattoos seemed like a perfect small addition to Ro’s basket!

shop local: available at Cubshrub

amazon: Meri Meri Boom Pow Tattoos – 6 Pack Bundle

Dollar Spot Bunny Ears: I decided after Ro’s first Easter last year, I will just save these every year and just add them back in every year.

similar ears: bunny ears amazon

Homemade Ideas:

If you are having trouble getting things to come in time here are some last minute ideas that you can add in from home.

  • homemade playdough: my recipe here
  • homemade slime or slime kits
  • homemade candy bars or reeses eggs
  • other homemade treats, cookies, brownies, etc.
  • “coupons” for activities to do once summer comes around

Do you have any creative ideas for Easter baskets? Leave it in the comments!

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one bowl banana bread

In our home, it seems like we always have extra bananas in need of use. If they are too over ripe for a snack or to freeze for smoothies, I am more than happy to throw together a batch of banana bread. As much as I love the science of baking, for this banana bread, I love this simple recipe I have pieced together over the years, and I love it even more now that I have a pint-sized sous chef always excited to help.

one bowl banana bread

mise en place


  • 3 overripe bananas (at least has a lot of brown spots or even completely brown)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 of unsalted butter (one stick)
  • 1/3 cup of buttermilk*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup ap flour (substitute 3/4 cup for whole wheat flour if you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • optional add ins and toppings: chocolate chips, walnuts/pecans, ripe banana on top (banana as pictured- may add up to 30 minutes of bake time due to extra moisture)

suggested supplies

  • sheet pan
  • large bowl
  • measuring cups
  • saucepan
  • potato masher or whisk
  • rubber spatula
  • loaf pan
  • parchment paper
  • 2 clips: binder clips, clothespins, chip clips, etc


  1. preheat and pan: preheat oven to 325 degrees and prepare your loaf pan by greasing and making a parchment paper sling, grease the parchment as well, and hold in place with clips (see photos)
  2. brown the butter: place the butter in a medium saucepan and heat on medium high until melted. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, watch the butter as it boils and turns from yellow to an amber tone. Once amber toned, remove the butter from the heat.
  3. Measure all ingredients and supplies, and place them on the sheet pan. This step is especially important to me when cooking with my daughter so, we are all set up and ready to go- keeping our assembly speed fast.
  4. Place the bananas in the large bowl and mash, then add in the brown butter, applesauce, sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Stir/mash until incorporated.
  5. Add in your remaining dry ingredients; flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir/mash until all the flour is mixed in, scrape down the side of bowl if needed. Do not over mix. Fold in chocolate chips or nuts if desired.
  6. Pour your batter into pan and smooth with rubber spatula. Cut extra banana in half lengthwise and lightly press into top of loaf if desired.
  7. Remove clips from sides of pan and bake for 50- 60 minutes or until toothpick poked into center comes out clean or with only a few crumbs. note: if adding banana as pictured- this may add up to 30 minutes of bake time due to extra moisture.
  8. Allow to cool in pan for 30 minutes. Remove with sling. Serve warm or store in an airtight container on counter for up to 5 days.*


  • buttermilk: to have buttermilk always on hand, I buy a carton and portion it out into ziploc bags in 1 cup increments- you could also use an ice cube tray. Thaw when needed.
  • buttermilk substitute: You can make a buttermilk dupe. To make one cup of “buttermilk”: put one tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup and fill it up the rest of the way with milk to equal one cup, stir, and leave it to sit for 5 minutes. Another option is to substitute plain yogurt for buttermilk.
  • *shelf life: if used banana on top may brown after a couple days-this preparation is best eaten within a couple days.

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easy fall apart pot roast with au jus

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.” 

-Oscar Wilde

Living two hours away from our family has its perks, although they are TWO WHOLE HOURS away, they are really only a short road trip away. Once we had decided we were not not moving back and had fallen in love with Columbus, we all had to embrace the two hour drive as being “really not all that bad”. Now we have all adjusted to one day visits of driving up in the morning, and driving back down after dinner. Although these visits are fun, we have a proclivity to try and fit in as many activities and fun stuff for the kids to do out and about- resulting in 2 tired toddlers that in no way could we expect to handle a sit down dinner in a restaurant and a need for a prepared meal as soon as we get back to our house. This pot roast is our solution to this problem, instead of picking up takeout for everyone. (which is still another delicious option… just sayin.)

So, before you go out to the zoo all day with your in laws, or a busy weekday- get this roast going and you will come home to a heavenly smelling home and a delicious dinner.

Easy Fall Apart Pot Roast with Au jus

mise en place (everything in its place)


  • 3 to 4 pound chuck roast
  • Generous amount of salt and pepper (enough to season the entire roast)
  • 1 tbsp of oil (for browning)
  • 1 ½ cups of low sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 cup of red wine (merlot or pinot noir)
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 fresh thyme sprig-whole)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 (1 oz) packets of onion soup mix



  1. Heat your skillet with the oil on high heat, you want it to almost be smoking. While you wait for the pan to heat up, prepare the roast (step 2). 
  2. Prepare the roast: dry it with paper towels, then season it with salt and pepper. You will end up using approximately 1 ½-2 teaspoons of salt and about 1 teaspoon of pepper. 
  3. Once the pan is hot enough, carefully place the roast in the pan. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes, letting it brown into a nice crust. Once a good crust has developed, flip it to the other side, repeating this until you have brown it on all sides. Keep in mind the goal is browning the roast for flavor, not cooking it. 
  4. Transfer the roast to your crockpot, then return the hot pan to the stove. 
  5. With the same skillet on med high heat, add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
  6. Add the red wine, and let simmer for 2 minutes to cook off the alcohol, as well as, to deglaze your pan. 
  7. As, the wine simmers, scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and break them up into the wine. Pour cooked wine into the crock pot.
  8. Add the beef broth and the whole bay leaf to the crockpot.
  9. Dust the top of the roast with the dried thyme or add the whole thyme sprig to the broth.
  10. Rub the exposed parts of the roast with french onion soup mix, getting as much on the roast as possible, it is okay if some falls into the broth. 
  11. Cover your crockpot and set to low for 8-10 hours. You CAN cook this roast on high for 4-5 hours, but I do not recommend it. The beef will simply not be that tender. 
  12. The roast is ready when it is fall apart tender
  13. *Optional* The juices in the bottom of the crockpot can be eaten as is, but can be a bit fatty, so if you would like a more pure jus, carefully remove the roast to a cutting board or plate and pour the juices into a fat separator. Add the roast back in and then pour the separated jus back into the crockpot. Serve and enjoy!

Our favorite way to enjoy this dish is with Our Instant Pot Mushroom Risotto and sauteed veggies

plated with instant pot risotto

**You can make this a one pot wonder by adding baby potatoes to the bottom of the crockpot before adding in the roast, also you can add baby carrots about 3 hours before serving so they do not get over cooked.

**In a Dutch oven: Oven set to 275 F. Directions are same as about, except brown the roast in your dutch oven on the stove instead of in a separate skillet(less dishes!),when the roast is completely browned, simply place it to the side on a plate or cutting board, while you follow the steps to deglaze the pan with the wine. Once the wine has cooked, add the roast back into the dutch oven, and proceed with the instructions. Once you are ready to cook, put on the lid, then roast for 3 and ½ to 4 hours. The roast will be ready when it can fall apart with a fork.

**Another trick to make sure every one has a full day and a full stomach; I prepare a food board before we leave for the day, so we just pull it out of the fridge as soon as we arrive home.

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happiness found here

I am a wife to my best friend since high school, Matt, and mom to the sweetest silliest little goober girl, Veronica or better known as “Ronnie Ro”, and cat mom to our sweet tuxedo cat, Panda. We love living in Columbus, Ohio after moving here for Matt’s job 5 years ago from Cincinnati. We didn’t really even give Columbus a chance when we first relocated here, always discussing when we were going to move out of Columbus. We decided to give this town a true chance and adventure our own backyard, making it our mission to find the happiness in our new city. We definitely found the happy and now love Columbus so much that we hope to grow old here.

This exploration of our city, shifted into every part of our day to day lives, and is something we live by everyday since, how we grow in our marriage, how we raise our sweet girl, how we cook, how we play, and how we embrace our lives- to find things that bring us joy everyday, and to put a spotlight on the HAPPY.

rainy day shredded potato soup

this hearty, simple, potato soup takes the humble potato and makes it a meal.

Growing up, my mom would take a day and make a massive pot of potato soup and we would live off it for days. Her soup was delicious and flavorful, but she would take a day. We live more by the seat of our pants in our home, and I do not have that kind of patience. This soup still takes a little extra time to simmer, but the prep is quick.

This approach to potato soup is inspired by the famous Schmidt’s restaurant here in Columbus, Ohio. I will not dare say it is the same, but it I am having a craving for their soup with shredded potato, this soup hits the spot. It is perfect for a rainy, cool day when you are in need of “warm soup belly”.

“I am all snugly now from my warm soup belly.”

-my husband

rainy day shredded potato soup

mise en place


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup diced white onion
  • 6 tablespoons AP flour
  • 5 cups milk
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon
  • shredded potatoes (2-2.5 lbs)
  • 2-4 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

toppings suggestions

  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • bacon bits
  • chopped chives or green onion
  • hot sauce
  • flash-fried rosemary
  • roasted corn

suggested supplies

  • grater
  • large dutch oven or soup pot
  • ladle
  • soup bowls


  1. melt the butter in your large dutch oven, once melted and hot, add the onion and cook until soft for about 3-4 minutes- do not brown.
  2. sprinkle the flour over the butter and onions and make a paste. Add your bouillon and 2 cups of milk, stirring constantly-cook on med-low, until thickened to a pudding like consistency.
  3. stir in 2 more cups of milk, 1 cup chicken stock and shredded potatoes and bring to a simmer.
  4. cover and simmer at med- low for 40- 60 minutes, be sure to stir occasionally to prevent burning on the bottom of the pan and lower heat if soup is browning too much on the bottom.
  5. once the shredded potatoes are cooked through, soft, but not mushy, add in the last cup of milk and 1-3 cups of stock (depending on thickness desired). Bring the soup back up to temperature and season to taste with salt and pepper. (I start with a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper and work up from there-remember potatoes usually need a healthy amount of salt!)
  6. ladle into bowls and serve with toppings bar.

**this recipe makes 7-8 bowls of soup, store leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator, use within 2-3 days. When reheating, whether in the microwave or on the stove top, reheat to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit and if the soup has gotten too thick add in more chicken stock until if is back to desired consistency.

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