Fall Sprinkle Chocolate Chip Cookies

Even though down South temperatures are still in the 80s (or higher!), here in the Midwest fall is upon us! The nights are cooler, days are shorter, and everyone and their mom has plans to go to a pumpkin patch! One of the things I love most about Fall and Winter is that it puts me in the mood to bake. I don’t know if it’s some sort of primitive gene wanting me to fatten up for winter or the fact that it’s getting cold and I little time in a warm kitchen is very welcomed!

Either way, I’m a sucker for some good old fashioned chocolate chip cookies but for a little festive fun, it’s fun to dress them up for the season.

For my chocolate chip cookies, I use the recipe from Pillsbury’s website with a couple of small edits.


3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter or margarine (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
2 & 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bag (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips (try using minis for a different look/taste)
sprinkles of your choice

My directions vary slightly from, but are still based closely upon the Pillsbury directions.

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pour sprinkles/colored sugar into separate bowls, set aside.

In large bowl, beat sugars, butter, vanilla and egg with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt (dough will be stiff). Stir in chocolate chips.

Use hands to roll dough into ~1.5 inch balls. Dip balled up cookie dough into sprinkles of your choice. Place on ungreased cookie sheet* about 2 inches apart.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown** (centers will be soft). Cool 1-2 minutes, remove to wire rack.

*I much prefer to use a baking stone rather than a traditional cookie sheet. I find I have much more even heat and no burned bottoms!

You are welcome! Now, go! Get out of here and go make some delicious and adorable treats!

Happy Fall Y’all!

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2017 YNP, GTNP, GNP, & TRNP Road Trip: Part II

Recently we went on a 10-ish day, super amazing road trip through Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, & North Dakota (and technically South Dakota on the very last day). We visited Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Glacier National Park, & Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Hope you enjoy the recap!

In case you missed it, you can find Part I here.

Day 3: Yellowstone National Park

We spent most of Day 3 in YNP, taking the driving tour and trying to see some of the more famous features. This was the day that we were able to see Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic, & the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. We basically spent the entire day trying to get around the south loop, which is bigger than it seems! I’ll just let a couple of pictures speak for themselves!

Old Faithful, YNP

This was also the day of the Solar Eclipse! We had originally intended to head down to GTNP since there was going to be a 100% eclipse over most of the park. However, after talking with some of the Rangers, we decided that it would be far too crowded and that 98% was good enough for us. 🙂 We ended up watching the eclipse at Inspiration Point. And that’s when I figured out where Yellowstone got it’s name.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Look at all that yellow rock!

Day 4: Grand Teton National Park

LC exploring

For this day we wanted to maximize our time in the park so we got up and rolling early. Once we were in the park we stopped for breakfast near Jackson Lake. We don’t often make use of the picnic areas near different features but it was a great place to stop, cook a little breakfast (the benefit of carrying your food/kitchen in your car at all times due to bears) and let LC stretch his legs a bit.

Chocolate chip pancakes!

It was an absolutely gorgeous day in the park and as with all of our other adventures, I wish we could have stayed longer. It was a much quieter park than Yellowstone, it doesn’t have as much tourist-y allure, but definitely don’t pass it up if you’re anywhere near. The pictures don’t even begin to do it justice.

After a long day in the park, we headed back to camp to settle in before our last day in Yellowstone.

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How to Go Camping with a Toddler (and Actually Have Fun!)

Before we had LC, we ran into a lot of people who would tell us to have fun while we could, because after you have kids you won’t be able to keep up with any of your old hobbies. They would tell us, travel while you can, cycle while you can, go out to restaurants while you can,…because once you have kids, the fun STOPS.

Well I am here to tell you that could not be farther from the truth! Since we have had our son we have been on several long road trips (the most recent one was over 10 days long!), taken an overnight train to Denver, ridden our bikes across Iowa (with help from grandparents), participated in my first Triathlon, and done lots of other fun things as a family.

That being said, one of the things that I was nervous about initially was taking our little guy camping. I rekindled my love for camping and the outdoors during a 2014 road trip and was scared we’d have to put that kind of adventure on hold now that we are three. As it turns out, TONS of people camp with kids and in general, the kids love it! Through lots of trial and error, we have found some sure fire ways for the entire family to enjoy the trip

1.Bring toys, lots of ‘em.

One terrible mistake I made during our first weekend camping trip when LC was solidly into the toddler age was not providing enough entertainment. Just because I like to sit around the campfire and read for hours at a time does not mean that my super energetic 2 year old will do the same. Even his favorite movies on the iPad got boring to him after a while. And word to the wise, even sticks and dirt will only entertain them for so long.

Be sure to bring some new and exciting things such as a new coloring book or a new model car to play with. Bubbles are also usually a big hit. I look for things that are inexpensive (that way I’m not spending a fortune on new stuff) and that we generally don’t do a lot of at home.

2. Creature Comforts

We have lots of little creature comforts for camping. Whether it be a favorite chair, awesome sleep mat, or making sure your favorite snacks are in the food box. Make sure your little one has these too! Learning how to keep him comfortable has definitely increased everyone’s enjoyment on our trips! LC has his own camp chair, cot, and sleeping bag. The cot, in particular has been a godsend. Make sure that for every comfort item you bring for yourself, your toddler has something similar.

3. Good Sleep

If you all have a terrible night’s sleep because you have a toddler who was up half the night beside himself screaming and crying because he’s uncomfortable and in an unfamiliar environment, no one will have fun the next day (I do, unfortunately, speak from experience on this one). Spending $22 on a cot for him was literally one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. He always has his own spot, that he’s now used to sleeping in no matter where we pitch our tent. It’s even gotten to the point that he will put himself to sleep on his cot just like he does in his bed at home!

4. Plan Activities Accordingly

Remember that your toddler is not going to be able to hike/walk for very long. They will get tired easily and if you don’t remember what a disaster that will create, refer to #3. We make sure to either keep the walking short or be sure to bring along our “pack pack” as LC has dubbed it. This was a something of an investment but if you wait for a great sale (that’s when I purchased ours) or look for one used it’s not as tough a pill to swallow.

5. Plan Some Down Time

Speaking of activities, it’s also important to plan some down time, especially if you’re on a longer trip. Before LC, we packed our days full of activities and hikes and Go Go Go! It is a difficult transition, because we still want to see and do all the things, but we all have a much better time if we have an afternoon or morning here and there to just relax! Even just spending a morning in camp lazily making breakfast and coffee rather than rushing off to start that hike at 7am makes a huge difference!

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3 Simple Things I’m Doing Right Now to Save Money

Once we received our orders to move a couple months ago, we decided that I would leave my full time out-of-the-home job about five weeks before the move to pack, sell our house, search for housing in Texas, and deal with all the things that crop up in the weeks before a cross country move. However, with my leaving work, about 40% of our family income goes out the window as well. As much as I like things the way they are, I’m not willing to go into debt to maintain my lifestyle once our income is slashed. So I’m starting to practice my frugality now so that I can make the most of our money once we become a one income household. (I should also mention that while I will be searching for employment at our new duty station nothing is a guarantee, so once I leave work we’ll be a one income family for an undetermined amount of time. Scary!)

1. Make coffee at home

Y’all. Let’s not talk about how much money I used to spend on coffee, it’s embarrassing. Especially during the warmer months, I love iced coffee and I never could make it quite as perfectly at home as the baristas at my local Starbucks. But in the interest of living the frugal life, I’ve found an option that works for me. I’ve been buying the pre-brewed iced coffee (you find it by the milk and coffee creamer in the refrigerated section) either made by Starbucks or a company called Stok. These aren’t quite as cheap as truly making it from scratch at home but I have not mastered that skill yet (mine always comes out tasting stale, yuck), and it still fits within our grocery budget. Win!

2. Meal planning every meal

Over the last 5 years, I was in survival mode a lot of the time. My husband travels a lot for this job and I convinced myself that I either didn’t have time or “deserved” to eat out because my life was so crazy! Unfortunately, that lead to a lot of money spent and a few pounds gained as well. Over the last few weeks I’ve been planning out our meals so I can (A) be sure to buy the right supplies at the grocery and (B) have a plan to stick to during the week when things get hectic.

3. Only pre-meditated and necessary shopping allowed

Before, whenever my husband would go out of town and/or I’d have a super stressful week at work, I would shop to relieve stress and treat myself to something I “deserved”. I don’t totally disagree with this strategy if you have the spare funds as it did help me cope and I was fortunate/smart enough not to go into debt over it. And I wasn’t spending crazy amounts of money, but enough that it’s not wise to continue on a smaller income. It’s important that I don’t shop just for the fun of it and that if I do need to purchase something, I make sure it’s something I/we actually need (like food, or clothing for my continuously growing toddler).


These things may seem like second nature to some people who have been living the frugal life for a while but until you stop and look at how much you’re actually spending and on what, you may not realize that some really simple changes can have a big impact on your finances. If I’m being totally honest, I would estimate that I used to spend $100 every two weeks (each paycheck) on lunch and coffee. Using these tips I now spend about $40 every two weeks on coffee and food at the grocery store to bring with me to work. That’s $60 every two weeks or $1500+ per year. YIKES!


Are you living the frugal life? Why or why not? What tips do you have to share?

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Tips for Camping in a National Park

Grand Prismatic, Yellowstone NP

Follow all posted signs and directions of Park Rangers and Staff

Now I know this isn’t super glamorous but it’s very important for your safety and frankly for the sustainability of the park. Wild animals really are wild and dangerous, sometimes the conditions really are too dry for a campfire, and the terrain can be very unforgiving. I saw a lot of people on our most recent road trip putting themselves and wildlife in danger because they were approaching them beyond the safe distance just to get a “great” picture!. Then when we were camping in the nearby National Forest there were several people every night at our campground having campfires even though there were many posted signs about the current extreme fire danger and active wildfires burning in Montana. (Literally, one Law Enforcement Ranger we talked to described the area as a “tinder box”.) Just follow the freaking rules so we can all continue to enjoy the land.

Do Some Research and Make Reservations If Necessary

The National Park System has a lot of different options for camping. They have campgrounds complete with general stores and restaurants, completely primitive backcountry camping and literally everything in between. There are also some campgrounds that take reservations and some that operate on a strictly first-come-first-served basis. I would say that especially if you’re planning on camping in the parks during the peak seasons (usually the summer months), check around and see if you’re able to make a reservation. However, if you’re going to a park that only has first-come-first-served basis camp sites or even if that’s your preference, you can often check the website (like this one that pertains to Yellowstone) to see what time the campgrounds generally fill up each day or even call the National Park and the rangers are happy to help answer questions! And if you plan to go into the backcountry, be sure to check on whether or not you need a permit!

*not a National Park map

Stay for Two or More Nights If You Can

Nothing is worse than finding an amazing spot to camp and then remembering you just have to pack up and get back on the road the next day! There is so much to see and do in the National Parks that it’s really nice to spend at least 2 nights, ensuring at least one travel free day at the park. You’ll have more time explore and give yourself more time to relax and a break from setting up and breaking down camp every single day.

Always Say Yes to the Map and Newspaper

Y’all, there is so much park information in these little pamphlets. You can learn about the geography, history, landscape, wildlife in the park and more! They are not just an ideal, but totally necessary tool you can use to plan and get the most out of your visit! It is something I never leave the Ranger Station without and has earned many an eyeroll from my husband when the Park Ranger says “Map and newspaper?” and I shout an enthusiastic “YES!!!” from the passenger seat. (If you’re super eager, some parks will even mail them to you ahead of time! Or you can find them online, like this one from Glacier NP!)


In general, I’ve really enjoyed each time we’ve been able to camp in a National Park (though we’re becoming pretty partial to National Forests as well) and can’t wait to do it again. Do any of you have a favorite camping tip for camping within the National Park system?

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3 Easy Ways to Reduce Daily Stress

I am always on a journey to relieve stress in my life. From scented candles to exercise to breathing exercises, I feel like I’ve tried just about everything to manage my stress levels while be a working mom and military spouse. While a lot of the things I’ve tried do help and are still things I do often, there are a few small things I’ve been doing recently to try and develop good habits to reduce some day to day stress.

1. Set out your clothes the night before.

Starting out the day running late is the easiest way to begin your day on a stressful note! I did not realize how much time I was wasting in the mornings by either staring at my closet wondering what I should wear, or running up and down the stairs from 2nd floor bedroom to basement laundry room searching for that one article of clothing to complete an outfit! Or even worse, getting 95% dressed and realizing that one essential outfit piece is dirty! Gah! For the last couple of weeks I have been laying out my outfit, even down to my shoes and sometimes jewelry the night before, that way the only time I need for getting dressed is the time it takes to literally put my clothes on!

2. Keep a To Do list.

For me a lot of stress comes from knowing I have a lot to do but feeling like I don’t have a good plan on how to get it done. Whether I’m at work or have the day off, I get easily overwhelmed if I feel like I have too much to do but am unable to prioritize it in my head. If I make a list, then I can see clearly all the things I need to get accomplished and prioritize them more easily. Using highlighters and pretty colors help too. 😉

3. Eliminate Negativity

Recently I deleted Facebook & Facebook Messenger from my phone. I was so guilty of constantly checking to see what drama was going on during the day and I didn’t realize until recently how much stress it was causing! With all of the political battles, family arguing, etc, I just couldn’t take it anymore! I do still use Facebook, but it is conscious and not so constant as it was when I had the apps on my phone. If there’s something in your day to day life that’s causing a lot of negativity/stress in your life, try to get rid of it!


Obviously doing these things isn’t going to totally relieve all of your stress, but I can tell you it does go a long way to help the days be a little more pleasant and allow you to get a little more joy out of them!

Do you have any tricks to keeping stress away?

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2017 YNP, GTNP, GNP, & TRNP Road Trip: Part I

This was a road trip several years in the making. I don’t remember exactly when the idea came to us, but I do know that we’ve been talking about it for at least 3 years since our last major road trip. Maybe even before then. I have no idea what drew my husband to Yellowstone, but he was desperate to go. As the trip got closer, we did more research and found out that Grand Teton National Park was super close by and Glacier National Park was only 6.5 hours away (and if we did it right, we could swing by Theodore Roosevelt National Park on the way home). 😉 So from that small Yellowstone dream came another road trip of a lifetime.

Day 1

Omaha, NE to Rawlins, WY

Ideally we would have left really early in the morning but because I had to work we weren’t able to leave until almost 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I’m going to be totally honest, I was absolutely dreading the drive on Interstate 80 across western Nebraska. We’ve made this drive at least twice before and have also seen it by train. And let me tell you, there is not that much in western Nebraska to keep this drive exciting (at least not along the interstate). However, if we wanted to get to the other side, we needed to suck it up and just start driving. So drive we did, for about 10 hours.

This first leg was thankfully pretty uneventful. We had one near disaster with a very full diaper that we caught just in the nick of time, and had a couple moments where we thought we had left a couple important things behind, but alas, we found them!

We finally got to the Econolodge in Rawlins, Wyoming which was pretty mediocre even by mediocre standards. The front desk was less than friendly, the room was shabby, and breakfast the next morning was…well, it was free is what it was. But can you really complain for $73 for three people to sleep, shower, and eat free breakfast? No, we can’t. 🙂

Sunset in Western Nebraska
Sunset in Western Nebraska

Day 2

Rawlins, WY to Grant Village Campground, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Good Morning Wyoming!

I was so excited for this day of driving because we “only” had 6 (and a half) hours ahead of us and we would finally get to a National Park! We were actually going to see two National Parks because we planned to actually drive through Grand Teton National Park on our way into Yellowstone NP. (Don’t worry, we didn’t just pass Grand Teton NP by without care, we planned to go back a couple days later for a better look!) However, I forgot to take one small thing into consideration…we stop a lot when driving through scenic areas. It’s something I need to remember to build into our timeline for our next road trip. But how can you not stop!?!?

The Grand Tetons!

We tried to press on as much as possible but just couldn’t help ourselves at a few particularly scenic spots. Fortunately we already had a campsite reserved in Yellowstone so we weren’t in a huge hurry to get there. We just really wanted to be set up before dark and in time to have some dinner. 😉

We were overjoyed to pass this sign on the way in, we had finally arrived!!! After a few more stops along the way, we made our way to the campsite and set up camp for the evening. I was perfectly happy to set up camp after a long day knowing that we were going to be in the same campsite for 3 nights. Especially on a road trip, it is rare and lovely to be in one place for so long! 🙂

Our tent!

We did do a little more sightseeing before turning in as well. We visited the Grand Prismatic and a few other amazing features at the Midway Geyser Basin. I fell asleep hoping to wake again quickly because I could not wait to do more adventuring the next day!

Black Pool, YNP
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Must Love Dirt

Welcome! And thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog! Feel free to pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee and stay a while! After taking a few years off from blogging, I found I really missed writing and the community of blogging way too much! I let a lot of things distract me & discourage me for a while but while on a recent road trip I finally decided that I needed to just go for it! So here I am! (Side note: the mountains are a great place to make decisions!) 🙂

The name Must Love Dirt did come to me during a camping/road trip but the more I thought about it the more I felt like I could apply it to many different facets of my life. Loving the outdoors, being a boy mom, and knowing that sometimes getting what you want requires you to dig deep and get your hands a little dirty. I hope you’ll stick around for the adventure!

If you want to know a little more about my family and me, feel free to check out my About page!



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