Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Bathroom Update for less than $60

Once upon a time, we walked into a gorgeous, spotlessly clean house. Then we bought it. Then it started falling apart.

The reason it was spotlessly clean is because it was freshly painted and then no one lived here. So when we began, you know, living in our house, that paint didn't hold up too well. It turns out it was a matte finish, which shows every. single. smudge. And the whole house is painted in it. Short of buying stock in Mr. Clean's Magic Erasers and driving myself crazy with constant wall cleaning, painting seemed like the best option. But in most spaces, I've hung photos and placed furniture and y'all, I just don't want to paint my whole dang house.

But the bathroom. Oh, the bathroom. It's our only full bathroom upstairs, and it's in the hall, so visitors use it too. We have a lot of little ones through here, and well, they just aren't that great at washing their hands yet. Or at least my little ones aren't. So we had a huge swath of area under the light switch which was a lovely shade of almost-washed-off-dirt. Regardless of how many Magic Erasers I used, it was tinted from all my scrubbing.


So one day, I snapped.

I went to Lowe's, taped two paint chips on the wall for a week, returned to Lowe's, and purchased a gallon of Valspar paint in Lei Flower ($36 before a $10 rebate I'm still waiting on). I also bought an edging tool. I cleaned and taped and cleared out the bathroom. I use Dollar Tree shower curtain liners as drop cloths, so I laid those down.

Then I put on some tunes, and painted.

And painted.

And painted.

I was extremely sweaty and my playlist was just about out of music, but I was finally finished.

Oh, and all of this took place in a single day while my oldest was at Kindergarten and my youngest got to have way more than usual TV time.

After showering and lunching with my youngest, we headed to the car pick up line so he could nap. We picked up big brother, and headed to Target for a new shower curtain.

Lei Flower was a little brighter than I anticipated, and my butterfly shower curtain (purchased at least 14 years ago) was just a little too feminine paired with it. But I knew a nice gray would even it out, and wouldn't you know I'd just seen a gorgeous shower curtain at Target the other day and it was currently 20% off?

Total Cost:
Paint- $36
Edging tool: $3
Shower Curtain: $14
Tiny Paintbrush- $1

I already had painting supplies like rollers, brushes, a paint tray, my Dollar Store drop cloths, and my trusty painter's tape.

I'm not totally done; I'd like to paint the vanity a gray to match the shower curtain and frame out the mirror. It turns out, life isn't like an HGTV show. The whole project doesn't always get done in one go. We were able to do this small project by doing just part of it, and now I don't cringe when I walk into the bathroom. Now walking into my bathroom makes me happy, instead of stressing me out. And that makes the work and expense totally worth it.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

My Kid is Ready for Kindergarten but I'm Not

I truly laid my heart out over at KMB! You can check it out here.

If you may have missed one, here's where you can find all my posts!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Dear Netflix, About Those Book to Film Adaptations...

No need to fear, there are no spoilers here!

Dear Netflix,

We've been together for a long time now. I know; I've put you on hold here and there throughout the years. But you've always been there for me, and for that, I'll always be grateful.

Now, about these book to film adaptions you've been doing lately...Please don't stop. I love them. You're truly doing a fabulous job with these Netflix Originals and I'd be fairly heartbroken if they stopped.

First, there was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I adored that one. I read the book earlier this year and there was just enough time for the details to get fuzzy before the film came out so that I could thoroughly enjoy the film without constantly comparing each tiny detail to the book. The characters were brought to life beautifully, and it was such a treat to see them pop onto my screen after living in my mind. I did notice some small adjustments here and there, but after all sometimes things can work in fiction on paper that don't necessarily work for film. I did note a few character adjustments and I felt we got to know the character of Christian better in the novel, but the film did a lovely job of showing who he was.

Here's the trailer for this WWII set film based on the novel:

Another recent page to screen adaptation is Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before. I nearly jumped up and down when I saw the trailer, because it looked so magnificent. I read this one last year, but I had a bit more trepidation going into the film because it's actually the first book in a series. When I see a trailer for a serial novel, I always worry they'll try and smooth all the parts of the series into one film. Thank goodness that wasn't the case here, and make sure you watch through the first bit of the credits to get a glimpse of what will hopefully continue in a second novel.

I just adored this novel. You can read my instareview of it here. The main character, Lara Jean, is just incredibly lovable. One of the many things the film captured is her sweet nature, introverted side, love for her family, and how she struggles to balance her individual style with her semi-desire to go unnoticed and breeze through high school without any big drama. The actress who played her did a fabulous job, and she's exactly how I imagined her in my mind. Her sisters are fabulous and the film shows how the loss of a parent creates a grief that doesn't truly go away. Something the novel covered that the film didn't delve into too much is her struggle to balance her Korean side with her American side, since her Korean parent is deceased. Her Korean relatives aren't present in the film, but I'm hoping they'll be in the sequels that I'm basically begging Netflix to make.

Here's the trailer for this one:

What do you think of Netflix's book to film adaptations? How do you think they measure up to the original novel?

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Dollywood's Splash Country's Trailhead Tacos Review

One of my favorite memes says, "If you could be thin forever or have as many tacos as you want, would you choose hard or soft tacos?"

I love this because dang, hard or soft tacos is a tough choice.

So when I learned Dollywood's Splash Country was adding a new restaurant, and that restaurant was a taco place, I was basically already salivating. 

After a crazy busy summer and our first Splash Country visit getting rained out, I just had the opportunity to try this new taco place, named Trailhead Tacos.

Trailhead Tacos is conveniently located near the center of the waterpark, near the popular Mountain Waves pool. The menu is set up in an easy to understand way. Here's the menu:

I love how incredibly customizable this is! As a picky eater (and insanely lucky mom of two non-picky eaters), customization is key. I also love that by choosing a bowl, those who don't/can't eat gluten can still find a delicious meal.

Another thing I love is the style of the meat. Having pulled pork and chicken as options provides a filling option, and I find them very kid (and adult picky eater) friendly.

The toppings! So many! I'm so grateful to the hosts for being accommodating to my oddities. When my husband wanted jalapeƱos and salsa on our shared nachos, and I knew the kids (ha, and me a little) would prefer without, I asked if they could just do it on half and they did! It was a great way for everyone to get what they want.

The salsa was very fresh, and not the chunky from a can kind. The tomatoes was crisp, not soggy, which is highly important for a texture-nut like myself. They didn't even give me a weird look when I asked for both nacho cheese and shredded cheese. Clearly I've found some fellow #AllTheCheese people at Splash Country!

We went with nachos, since we were getting a snack to share amongst our family before we left the park. Our three year old fell asleep in the stroller on the walk to Trailhead Tacos (not a long walk, mind you, just a worn out toddler! He slept until the next morning. True story. Can we live at Splash Country? That would be fine. Just put a bed in the retreat, please.) My kids are not peckish eaters- they eat all the things, all the time. Heck, today for lunch they each had two servings of spaghetti. For LUNCH. They will eat an equal or greater amount at dinner and they've each had two snacks and a big breakfast. True story. Pray for me when they're teenagers, because my grocery budget will be bananas.

Ahem, sorry I got sidetracked there. So we were down one napping kid, but my husband, 5 year old and myself were pretty hungry. The nachos were really filling, even split amongst the three of us. They were also delicious. We chose pulled pork, topped with black beans,  jalapeƱos, salsa, shredded cheese, and nacho cheese. The toppings were generously applied, and we used forks to finish off the toppings we'd run out of chips for.

We enjoyed our Trailhead Tacos experience and I like that there's another delicious food option at Dollywood's Splash Country. Although all their food is good, sometimes I want something not as hot (temperature wise) when I'm already warm from being out in the sun. Trailhead Tacos offers a refreshing menu with filling options for all palates.

Have you tried Trailhead Tacos yet? What did you think?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Fall Getaways the Dollywood Way

Fall at Dollywood may just be my favorite season. Autumn has always been pretty high up on my list of favorite seasons, with pumpkins and Halloween and, of course, lots of birthdays in my family!

We may still be in the throes of a hot and humid summer, which is all the more reason to book your Dollywood fall vacation now. Get amazing rates, season pass discount offers, and enjoy the fall festivals and amazing Great Pumpkin LumiNights as the air turns crisp and the leaves begin their descent into an array of colors that combine to create breathtaking and spectacular vistas- all the better enjoyed from the height of your favorite Dollywood coasters!

My latest Dollywood Insiders post is all about why you should visit in the fall. Make sure you're following the Dollywood Insiders blog for more great tips and tricks to making each Dollywood day special in its own way!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Book Review: Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor

To avoid spoilers, all characters are referred to as 'they/them'.

I've always loved Rick Riordan books. I enjoy them as a reader and I utilized them as tools as a teacher, and now I love them even more.

Want to buy the book? Here's a link!

Representation in media has been proven a vital component of social empathy over and over again. As we've seen more characters struggling with who they are and where they fit in these fictional worlds, it gives us greater empathy for how real people who have to deal with our ignorance in our real world think and feel. Reading books with characters who are different than us teaches us, if not perfectly for every situation, guidelines for how to treat all people with empathy and respect.

You may wonder what that diatribe has to do with a book about Norse mythology for middle schoolers.

In the original heroes and mythology series starring Percy Jackson, Riordan normalized behaviors commonly identified as disruptive in our schools. He took ADD/ADHD and dyslexia and made those characters heroes who saw the world a little differently than their peers.

In the first Magnus Chase book, we met a Muslim Valkyrie and were introduced to the general order of Norse mythology. Having characters of various religious groups in a kids book is amazing. The real world is full of diverse people of different faiths, and we so rarely see that in novels. Because the soldiers living in Valhalla are all from various time periods, Riordan created an incredible universe with the most diverse cast of characters of any book I've read, regardless of targeted age range. Each character is clearly defined and developed, with quirks and struggles. Aside from the wonderful messages of acceptance conveyed, these books are wonderfully crafted works of fiction that really stay true to the actual myths they were inspired by.

In the second book, one of the main characters is gender fluid. This is important for so many reasons. Just the simple representation of having a gender fluid character will normalize the vocabulary for heteronormative kids. Making that character one of the main characters allows the reader to get to know the individual. The character is often left to answer the questions of other characters who've never encountered a gender fluid person before, and shows that sometimes, not every question deserves an answer. It's so important to teach kids to ask the right questions appropriately, and to make sure they know when to back off. Wanting to learn more about an individual versus learning about the group they represent to you are two different concepts, and those skills need to be taught. But my favorite lesson from this book is that it's normal to have questions, and it's normal to be attracted to them. When one character is clearly intrigued and drawn to the gender fluid character, the friends show acceptance. Acceptance is the answer. Acceptance creates positive environments in which everyone can grow in a healthy way. Seeing someone often portrayed as different (in a negative way) portrayed in a positive way in this book, with battles and smarts and and an amazing adaptivity, is helping forge a path that allows all kids to be true to themselves.

Aside from the incredible messages of strength and resilience this book offers, it's a really great read! Although I'd recommend the Percy Jackson books to a little below the suggested grades, because it's so wonderful and enjoyable, I wouldn't encourage all younger readers with this one. Besides the more mature concepts, there are some frightening scenes. Vividly described zombies, graphic battles, and the violence required at such battles- I know my scaredy-cat self in upper elementary school wouldn't have handled those scenes well. If you aren't sure if your kid is ready yet, read it yourself! It's really enjoyable (confession: I've read all of Rick Riordan's kids books as an adult. True story. I love mythology and books and I don't age discriminate with books!).

If you're looking for the perfect middle school book, this one should certainly appeal to all genders. There are plenty of bodily function jokes, but also deep, meaningful relationships and a great explanation of Norse mythology. If your family has already read any of the Percy Jackson series, you'll all enjoy the small crossover bits (Annabeth from the Greek world is cousins with Magnus from the Norse world). If you're trying to sell it to your preteen boy, the protagonist is a male, he's a demigod, and he goes on quests and battles with literal soldiers preparing for the end of the world. While there are plenty of physical battles, there are also battles of wits, funny quips, hilarious chapter titles, and a subtle emphasis on friendship and loyalty. If you're pitching it to the middle grade girl in your life, the females are strong, capable girls worthy of looking up to. They're smart, quick on their feet, and work as equals with the males in the battles. They are fierce- but also human, and there's even a little bit of an age-appropriate love story.

Regardless of age and gender, I highly recommend this book. You don't have to read the first book to read this one, but it helps (and it's also enjoyable).

Have you read The Hammer of Thor? What did you think?

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Kids Activities at Dollywood

Have you been to the Dollywood Insiders page lately? My most recent post about all the amazing kid's activities is up! If you're looking to do more than ride coasters and see shows, check out all the hands on experiences available- from dipping candles to learning the art of blown glass to making a stuffed friend to take home!