Farewell 2016, Happy New Year to 2017

People always warn you about certain things and it’s always hard to comprehend what they mean until you’ve walked the path. “Time will fly,” is what they tell you. And oh how quickly it does.

Looking back on 2016 there are so many things to remember and celebrate. We started the year off with a bang and Baby Jo greeted us on Leap Day. Ryan and I both took some much needed time off to soak in as much baby time as we could before she started moving and grooving on her own.

After baby break was over, we got the Janis Ann project up and out – it sold within 48 hours. We had people asking if we had any other properties to sell – it’s so flattering and reassures us that we’re doing good work. It’s also motivating us to find the means to expand Muddy River Homes.

Through the summer we took a short break to visit my family in West Virginia. I’d like to say it was an easy peasy trip, but come to find out Baby Jo hates car rides. After we got home, it was back to work, but with less sleep. Joanna wasn’t sleeping through the night and started having trouble with ear infections.

Despite the ear trouble, Jo is such a pleasant baby. She loves her big sis and Cobes can’t get enough of her new friend. It’s amazing the amount of patience Coberly extends when “Baby Joey” is pulling her hair, pinching, and nabbing toys. I know that won’t last – so it’s fun to watch for now.

With Fall, came our first rental property purchase. A small condo in St. Peters needed some attention. New kitchen, floors, and paint – we had it gone by the third showing. During this time Ryan continued the hunt for our next house, but the competition was fierce. We spent 12 weeks visiting moldy, rodent infested, and/or hoarder homes that all needed serious renovation. After a grueling search, we found the next project: Spinning Wheel.

But the last 12 weeks presented such a challenge in more ways than just our project search. Our closest friends know that at home we were still dealing with sleepless nights. Baby Joanna made it to nine months without sleeping through the night due to constant ear infections. Early December she had tubes put in and we’re already seeing an improvement in not just her, but ourselves.

We enjoyed our Christmas season and topped the year off on the 29th when we signed for the Spinning Wheel home.

Looking back on the year, we had plenty of moments to give us pause – we lost loved ones, visited the hospital too many times, and have had more “bugs” come home from daycare than we can count. But those things always seem to pale in comparison to the fun we’ve had as a family, as a couple, and as two business owners here in St. Louis.

I know everyone isn’t a fan of “resolutions” for the New Year, but I enjoy the opportunity it provides to sit back and reflect, consider how we can improve, and be mindful of God with us on this journey. Personally, I’m realigning my focus to be intentional with where I place my effort daily. I enjoy sharing our journey on this blog, and toward the end of last year – it always fell to the bottom of the list. I’m ambitious to revive it. As a couple, we’re celebrating ten years of marriage this year and we can’t wait to take time out to vacation together. As a family, we’re enjoying life with our new addition and thankful for all the support we’re surrounded with. As business owners, we’re so excited to share this next project and all the fun things 2017 has in store for us.

We hope and pray that 2017 brings you and yours new adventures.

Best,

Ashley Sturm

our first rental property

Our First Rental Property

A few months ago we decided that we were ready to add a new element to Muddy River Homes offerings – and this week, it finally happened. On Wednesday we got the keys to our very first rental property!

It’s a cute one-bedroom apartment in St. Peters that backs up to one of the city’s better parks with a trail that takes you all the way to the city RecPlex.

Walking through the apartment reminded me so much of one of our first places in Lake St. Louis. I remember the things I loved about that simple little place. I also remember what could have been better. It’s exciting to know that we’ll have the chance to really fix up the kitchen, the flooring, and bathroom to the level we like to see it. I really believe it provides the opportunity for someone to take pride in their home.

rental kitchen

rental bedroom

rental bathroom

Give us just a few weeks and we’re going to have some great before and after photos of this place – plus, a one-bedroom ready to rent!

Summer Travels

Every summer as a kid my parents would pack us up into the vehicle and make a long drive out to see my grandparents in the mountains. I’ve got great summer memories filled with playing at the farm, hiking the mountainside, or walking the railroad tracks with my sister to buy jellybeans at the corner store. Of course it wasn’t until I started packing up my own babies that I really comprehended the amount of work it took to get ready.

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We’ve taken two trips this summer. One was just a couple of days to see my baby brother walk the stage to earn his bachelor’s degree.          13240702_10205566120262341_8969011678394406113_n

The second trip we hauled everyone out to the farm.

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High maintenance is an understatement. Kudos to the parents that pack away with ease. My comprehensive list was anything but “ease” and Baby Jo hates the car. But after we got there…those little smiles (and the help of cousins) eased the stress of the logistics. IMG_0011 IMG_4895

Fingers crossed, by next summer Jo will learn to tolerate car rides (or at least she’ll be old enough for Benadryl by then…kidding…kinda). And maybe, just maybe, I’ll even get better at packing.

And Then There Were Two

It’s been more than a month since I was able to sit down and find time to write. In the last four weeks our family experienced some of life’s most extreme highs and lows. We’ve said goodbye to loved ones and welcomed new life into our world. We’ve dealt with sickness and celebrated our vibrant health. So much change packed into such a short time span continues to challenge me and serves as a reminder of the grace we all need on a daily basis.

As the dust settles, our home is forever changed with the addition of Joanna Harper. This sweet baby arrived on leap day and is keeping us on our toes! Only a week into the world and she caught a nasty cold, but she’s a tough girl and is recovering. Thankfully, Nana Yvette stayed for a bit after birth and helped our family juggle. Today is my second day alone with baby and I’m trying to find my new “normal.” Again, grace.

After a tough few weeks of family change and time off, Ryan is back at Janis Ann and determined to wrap up the project. The hardwood floors are down and look beautiful. The appliances are installed and it’s beginning to look like a finished product. Can’t wait to share the final reveal!

Freezer Meal Food Prep for Baby: Day Three

Freezer Meal Food Prep for Baby: Day One

Freezer Meal Food Prep for Baby: Day Two

Everything hurts.

There is no mincing words – a full day of cooking is not for the weak of heart. My 35 week pregnant feet and back are not appreciative of my ambitious adventure, but the big freezer meal prep project is complete. I’m so thankful that I’m able to stock up on delicious food to feed my family. In a few weeks, when Ryan and I both have full hearts, tired eyes, and empty stomachs – I’ll be grateful I put in the hard work and prepared this food.

freezermeals

The morning started early at 7:30 am. I took out a half hour to start with a clean kitchen and plot my plan for the day. I won’t give advice because I probably wasn’t the most efficient – but one thing that did help was categorizing each recipe as to whether it was straight to a freezer bag, prep up until the cooking portion, or fully cook then bag. If you are following the recipes I chose – here it is in categories:

  • Beef, Tomato and Acini di Pepe Soup – cook beef/veggies, assemble rest in freezer bag
  • Crock Pot 3-Bean Turkey Chili – straight to freezer bag
  • Chicken Rollatini with Spinach alla Parmigiana – prep up until cook, flash freeze, and bag
  • Broccoli Cheese and Potato Soup – fully cook then bag
  • Classic Lasagnas – prep up until cooking portion
  • Pizza Doughs – prep and place in freezer bag before dough rises
  • Pork Carnitas – straight to freezer bag
  • Slow Cooker Jalapeño Popper Chicken Chili – straight to freezer bag
  • Stuffed Green Peppers – prep up until cooking portion, bag
  • Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions  – straight to freezer bag
  • Skinny Italian Spinach Meatballs – prep up until cook, flash freeze, and bag
  • Teriyaki Vegetables with Shrimp (Rice) – cook rice and saran wrap while hot
  • Oriental Vegetables with Shrimp (Rice) – cook rice and saran wrap while hot

My day ended at 4:00 pm, but that does include plenty of interruptions from a sick babe. Not an unreasonably long day, but intense no doubt. I love cooking, but this is a different level. Will I be doing it again? Maybe when it’s time for Baby No. 3.

Freezer Meal Food Prep for Baby: Day Two

Freezer Meal Food Prep for Baby: Day One

Freezer Meal Food Prep for Baby: Day Three

$150

That’s what I ended up spending out of pocket during my grocery trip to make 20 meals. That cost even includes the aluminum foil, saran wrap, and freezer bags. What it doesn’t factor in are the items I already had in my cupboard – including all the spices, some potatoes, tomato sauce, and the big money saver, my venison ground meat. Ryan, my hunter, takes time out every year to grind up a lean mix of venison and pork. With lean beef checking in at five dollars a pound – this saved us at least 35 dollars.

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I’ll be upfront – I never intended for this to be a cheaper option than a regular night’s dinner. I didn’t necessarily buy in “bulk” because I wanted particular items. For instance, I could have saved a dollar by buying a bulk size jar of Prego, but it wasn’t the flavor I wanted. While I’m not made of money, I want to enjoy my food. Could I have found cheaper options? Sure – but I went with quality this time.

Here is my haul – I’ve never done anything like this, it’s quite intimidating. Cooking day here we come!

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Freezer Meal Food Prep for Baby: Day One

Freezer Meal Food Prep for Baby: Day Two

Freezer Meal Food Prep for Baby: Day Three

With Baby No. 2 being a month or less away, I’m scurrying to finish my preparations to make life a little easier when we bring her home. Those few weeks with a new baby are so precious and so short-lived, the last thing I want to be worrying about is cooking. I want my focus to be on Ryan, Coberly Nicole, and Baby No. 2 – we all need that time to soak each other up and adjust to the changes. With that being said – dinner still must be served.

The next three days I’m taking time out to create 20 freezer meals to keep my little family fed. I’ve never ventured into this cooking madness territory, but I’m ready to give it a go. Today’s goal was to create my “food prep” list. I wanted to come up with 20 meals and the extensive shopping list to make it happen. A simple search on Pinterest was enough to overwhelm/provide me with plenty of meal ideas. After reading, I realized I needed more than just food – I’ll need to purchase some disposable serving trays and plenty of aluminum foil.

If you need tips on the do’s and don’ts – I found these sites most helpful:

http://happymoneysaver.com/freezer-meal-tips-beginners/

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/freezer-cooking/

As I put together my list, I was pretty picky because the macronutrient contents matter to me. I may not be able to make it immediately back to my workout routine, so I want to keep nutrition in check. Plus, I don’t feel like eating the same meal over and over again…and my days of Hamburger Helper are over. Does that make me a food snob?

Here are my 20 meal ideas with links to the recipes:

Here is the PDF Grocery List for Print

One Step at a Time

Winding down from the holidays and starting a New Year is always a fun season for change and self reflection, but I urge you to keep perspective when tackling your goals.

The holidays left my home a mess, put the Janis Ann project a few days behind, and served as a reminder that we’re going to have a new little joining our family in less than ten weeks. The nursery isn’t completed, the crib isn’t ordered, and no, we haven’t picked out a name. Ryan and I both enjoy choosing meaningful resolutions and this year we chose to establish our Freedom Number and craft a plan to hit that goal.

If I immerse myself in all the things that are not completed, I would drive myself crazy. Actually, two nights ago, I did just that – thankfully Ryan noticed my stress and helped me prioritize and tackle my list. For the past couple of days, I continue to remind myself to take one item on the list at a time. Multitasking is physically impossible – even computers can only process one item at a time. Yes, you can implement some serious “task-switching,” but your brain can’t do two things at once.

Above that, I appreciate that this is my list. I have a beautiful home to care for and create a space of love for my family. Our business is thriving and we continue to learn and grow how to be better. And in just a few short weeks a beautiful little girl is going to join our family.

As you review your New Year’s resolutions, whether it be a financial, physical, or some other personal goal – slow down and appreciate where you are and what you have as you strive to improve this life. Run from feelings of worry and being overwhelmed and embrace the opportunity 2016 presents.

  

Digging In + New T-Shirts

Not growing up in the St. Louis area, I had to learn the nuances natives do not naturally point out to newcomers. For instance, people in St. Louis County hate the thought of “crossing the river.” It seems that those in St. Charles County hate the thought of being too close to the city. Everyone has preconceived notions about certain communities within our area, whether it’s Maplewood or Lake St. Louis. It’s funny to me how each little community tries to silo themselves away. This is one of the reasons I love being a transplant – I feel like I can appreciate the benefits of each area. The fun and excitement the city can offer, the quiet and relaxation that comes with the fields of vineyards just a short drive away. I’ve grown to love living in this community; it feels like home.

When I started the Muddy River Homes t-shirt project, I wanted to dig in and reach back to before this area became what it is today. I wanted to rewind before the arch and the stadiums were the big focal points to a time when the rivers were the heart of this area. The Missouri and Mississippi rivers brought so much life to our community – that’s the inspiration behind the company name.

After scouring through photos, I landed on this beauty and for what I wanted, the best of both worlds. The Missouri River, incorporating both St. Louis and St. Charles Counties to make up our rich culture. This old “bird’s eye view” map from 1869 shows the river busy with steamboats and you can see where the community is starting to expand out from the water source.

stcharlesMap Maker: A. Ruger

Original Production Date: 1869

With a little editing, it’s exactly what I had envisioned for a fun t-shirt! Let me know what you think!

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Banana Nut Mini Muffins

This last week is on the books as a “sick” one for our family. Of course it started with a nasty stomach bug baby girl brought home from school, traveled to both Ryan and myself, and progressed to a few not so fun cases of pink eye. Did my “to-do” list get done? Nope. Did I have to take days off of work? Yep. Am I behind? You betcha’. But these are life’s little problems. Perspective is always best when you feel a pity party coming on. It takes a whole half a second for me to realize a week of sickness is nothing compared to real problems.

All that being said, I promised Ryan some banana bread about five days ago and I’m finally making it happen. I love putting rotten bananas to good use. These banana nut mini muffins will lighten our spirits and make the whole home smell amazing.

I’m no Martha Stewart or Betty Crocker, but I can follow a recipe. My favorite way to find a fool-proof recipe is to search for one that has thousands of positive reviews and is practical…this is one of those recipes.

banana nut ingredients

I’ve tweaked it slightly according to my preference and other user comments. For instance, the addition of vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, exchange of brown sugar, and this time I added walnuts. I also completely skipped the crumb topping and the banana nut muffins are still delicious. My final ingredients list came out to this:

banana nut recipe

The prep time is 10-15 tops with a cook time of 12-15 minutes for my mini muffin pans. From the batter, I got 38 mini muffins which means each little muffin is only 65 calories (Carb 10/Fat 2/Protein 1).

banana nut