Monday, September 11, 2017

MyMagazine's #BabyYourBaby Campaign

I received free products to review for this post, but my opinions are my own.




If you're a frequent Kroger shopper, you've likely received their MyMagazine issue in the mail at some point. It contains fun articles, seasonal recipes, and sometimes even coupons! They recently sent me a package of baby items to review as part of their Baby your baby campaign.



I received:

  • Huggies Wipes and coupons
  • Enfamil formula sample
  • Gerber Coupons and baby food sample
  • Pampers Coupons
  • Beech Nut Melties sample
  • Enfalyte coupons
I love Huggies wipes. They're soft, hold up well, and stay moist. I've been using them for years, as I can buy them at Costco and only have to buy wipes once every couple of months. Huggies also has a rewards program, in which you upload a photo of your receipt with a Huggies purchase on it and earn points you can redeem for gift cards, sweepstakes, etc. I like this because I'm buying them anyway, and wipes get expensive, so at least I'm getting a little something back.

As a primary breastfeeding mama that just weened her baby two months ago, I don't have tons of use for the Enfamil sample and coupons so I'm sending them to a friend that just had her second baby. Even if you pump and breastfeed, it can be nice to have a little bit of formula on hand in case of emergencies. If you've pumped but have to evacuate due to an emergency (here's looking at you, hurricane season), or you're out and about and your sitter spills the breastmilk (gasp, the horror, oh no, that would be awful), it's good to have a backup plan.

I also made my own baby food and only used the packaged kind for travel, but it can be a nice thing to have. Gerber is pretty well established as having a good quality of products. I usually used the store brand, because I bought it irregularly and I tend towards frugal.



I'm sharing the Pampers coupons because I'm a Luvs mama through and through.

Beech Nut wasn't an established brand when my babies were small enough for melties. I'm sure they would still gobble them up, but since these are soy and dairy free I want to share them with a friend that has a dairy-free baby. 

Enfalyte is an electrolyte drink for babies that are ill and needing to replenish fluids. I'll use one coupon and share the rest, because school just started and now it's basically germ season.

What brands do you love for baby items?





The Paw Prints in the Sink Zazzle Shop

Hey friends! I'm excited to announce I've started selling some cute items on Zazzle. You can find my shop here.


I'm creating all sorts of fun and fun items, with aprons, tote bags, and more. From my goofy phrases (Put that in your pastry bag and pipe it) to the most appropriate adjectives used to describe the blog (Adorkable, anyone?), you'll find all sorts of interesting and exciting things on all manner of objects. Check it out!





New designs are added daily, so check it out!



Friday, September 1, 2017

Sweet Peach Tea Recipe



Here in Tennessee, it's already been feeling like fall. Rumor has it we had a cool August but Fall will be warmer than usual. Apparently this is good for fall foliage, which is great, but it leaves me hanging on to summer a bit more than usual.

Usually come September 1, I'm busting out the fall decor and baking all the pumpkin things. I'm not quite letting summer out of my grasp, as I'd love a few more pool days with my boys at this age. They're so fun to watch, darting around the pool in their puddle jumpers, and they aren't into rough play in the pool yet. I feel like next year the pool will be a battleground, as the indoor roughhousing is increasing daily, and it's only a matter of time before it extends outdoors.

Since I'm clinging to summer, I thought I'd share my favorite 2017 summer drink- Sweet Peach Tea. This tea reminds me a bit of the Bellini iced tea at Olive Garden, but it's better because I can have it whenever I want! I drink it chilled and iced, because #SummerLoveForever.


Sweet Peach Tea Recipe

Makes one gallon

1/2 gallon filtered water
3 family size cold-brew iced tea bags
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups white cran-peach juice

Can you tell Kroger is my preferred brand?

  1. Fill a 1 gallon pitcher halfway up with water (don't worry, you'll want all of this tea! It's delicious.)
  2. Steep tea bags in water for at least 10 minutes. (I'm basically sacrilege to tea lovers- I don't time my steeping, I use cold water tea bags, sometimes I even let it steep overnight because I'm daring like that and I like my tea like I like my men- strong and able to sweep me off my feet.)
  3. Remove tea bags and stir in 1/2 cup sugar until dissolved.
  4. Add white cran-peach juice, stir. 
  5. Serve chilled and over ice, preferably on a porch with the butterflies flitting about and the promise of an Indian summer in the air.

What's your favorite summer beverage?



Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Dollywood Insiders and the Dollywood DreamMore Resort and Spa Review



Hey friends! I'm excited to announce I've been selected to be a Dollywood Insider. This means I'll be bringing you behind the scenes, giving tips and tricks, and writing here and over at the Dollywood Insiders page. I'll still be sharing my adventures here and on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

I'm honored to have been chosen as a Dollywood Insider, and began my tenure with a stay this past weekend at Dollywood's DreamMore Resort and Spa. My family got to play at the hotel and Dollywood's Splash Country, and there was so much to do!

We began at the resort on Friday evening. We arrived shortly before 8 p.m., and stepping into the lobby took my breath away. I was greeted with a gorgeous view of the pool, playground, and barn, with the glorious Smoky Mountains residing in the background. Sunset was just beginning to tinge the sky with cotton candy colors. To top it all off, a piano player was serenading the lobby with a variety of music. Even my two little wild ones stopped to stare in wonder at his lovely voice paired with the beautiful sight beyond the windows.


Check in was a breeze, and we headed to our room to get settled before exploring.


Our room faced the road, but still offered a beautiful view. The sunset on the mountains is not something you want to miss! Our room was designed for a family, with two bunk beds for the kids and a king bed for the hubs and myself. Confession: I now want a king bed. Preferably the incredibly comfortable one I slept on at the resort! It was amazing. Little Brother woke up an hour after falling asleep, because #MomFail brought a new sippy cup that apparently leaks. He woke up with a wet shirt, and I was so tired after trying to do everything all the time that I cleaned him up and pulled him up into the king bed with us. The best part is that he didn't bother me or the hubs all night long! The bed was so big neither of us suffered his back-breaking nighttime dance routine that leads to sore backs and necks the following day whenever he sneaks into bed with us at home.

The bunk beds were such a huge hit with Big Brother that he claims he'll be asking Santa for one come Christmas. He loved the ladder, and was especially pleased with the sleeping bags attached to the bed. I was comforted by this added feature as well. Though the bunk beds had a railing, since it was his first time ever in one I was a tad nervous. The sleeping bag zipper, attached to the mattress, gave me comfort in knowing it would be even harder for him to accidentally roll off. He slept in that bed all night long, and referred to the resort as 'our new home' because he didn't want to leave the bunk bed! (Or the playground, pool, fire pit, indoor pool, game room...the list goes on!)



After we tore the boys away from the coolest room they'd ever seen, we toured the resort. We walked around the pool, the boys played on the playground, and we joined story time in the barn at 8:30 for bedtime stories. We bumped into the story reading host on our way back to our room later, and she informed us that we could check out a book to read in our room to the kids and then return it to the front desk in the morning. *Tangent*: I love how much Dolly Parton has done for childhood literacy. From the Imagination Library, that will mail your kids ages 0-5 books for free, to even having a little lending library at her resort, I just love how accessible she makes books for kids. Thank you, Dolly. *End Tangent*

When story time was over, the boys wanted to enjoy the playground some more. My husband and I only lasted so long before we were dying to see more of the resort, but we were able to entice them with checking out the fire pits. Since it's just beginning to cool down here in the evenings (yay, fall!), it was the perfect weather to sit around the fire and chat with other guests. A fireside host was selling s'mores materials, and parents and kids alike were partaking and feeling like kids again regardless of age. No one feels old while eating a s'more!




One of the many things we loved about the resort was that although it was expansive, there were little pockets of intimacy everywhere. From the chairs around the multiple fire pits, to secluded benches, to a tucked away arbor, there was plenty of space to sit quietly and chat with your loved ones without feeling like you were surrounded by strangers.

We stumbled upon a beautiful flower garden, aptly shaped like a butterfly, with an inspirational sign:


Scattered throughout the resort were framed images of Dolly with positive, inspirational quotes. Exiting the elevator onto our floor had a grouping of 4, of her encouraging us to chase our dreams. 

Everywhere you went, it was as though you were being invited to sit and relax. The flower garden held butterfly shaped benches, the porches were full of white rocking chairs, the pool was surrounded by lounge chairs and dining sets, and the fire pits offered multiple seating options as well. Everything about the resort makes you want to sit back, relax, and make yourself at home. Everything is family friendly, from the game room to the kid-sized rocking chairs to those books I won't stop talking about. (I'd love to share adorable photos of my kids in the rocking chairs, but they were a little too into the rocking and all the photos turned out blurry.)

Once we were all tired from our explorations, we headed back to the room to get into pj's and tuck in for the night. Even Little Brother loved his lower bunk bed, and I've never seen him look so sweet at bedtime.

We woke up well rested and ready to enjoy the hotel and parks. We grabbed breakfast and Starbucks coffee at the Pantry. My husband and kids spent the morning playing on the playground and at the pool while I attended my Dollywood Insiders meeting, and then we all met up at Splash Country. We spent the day at the water park, covering all 35 acres. We hit all the kid areas, and Big Brother even got to ride some of the big rides. Little Brother is an inch too short to ride the family rides, but he loved all the kid areas. He even fell asleep for his nap on my lap on the Downbound Float Trip. You haven't felt the fear of moving a sleeping baby until you've moved a sleeping baby while floating down a river.

At 4.5 and 2 years old, there's so much for these boys to do at the water park. Big Brother especially loves the Cascades area. He's a big fan of the 'sinking' boat, and has played half the day there each time we've been.

One of my favorite things about visiting any of the Dollywood properties is how I get to be a kid, with my kids. We all get to relax and have fun together. There are even several water slides we can ride together. Bonus: it always puts my kids to sleep. Little Brother took an extra long nap and still went to bed on time, and Big Brother fell asleep on the drive home and slept for 14 hours. #Winning!


All in all, it was one of the best weekends we've had as a family. It's so fun to make memories with your family that you know you'll always cherish. Staying at the resort simplified our trip, allowing us to utilize the trolley and pick up any last minute items there (like when your toddler conveniently unpacks your hairbrush and you need to buy a comb). The 3 on-site restaurants allow you to choose what kind of meal you want. Plus, Starbucks in the morning! Yes, please. 

I definitely recommend combining your visit to Dollywood with a stay at the resort. It'll save you on tickets, simplify your trip, and give you benefits like free parking and a free TimeSaver pass for each member of your family.

Have you been to a Dollywood park or resort? What did you think?



Thursday, August 17, 2017


Over the summer, my eldest son began a Mother's Day Out program and suddenly adorable crafts were coming my way twice a week. When little brother began pulling them off of the fridge, which was truly overrun with schedules, invitations, and artwork, I knew I needed a better place to display my budding artist's creations. Since I have neither the time nor money nor willingness to go store to store searching for something that would work, I got creative. Look around, see what you have to work with, and see if you could arrange something similar to fill your needs!

Here's what I used, based off of what I had on hand.

1 large square of manufactured wood I had leftover from a previous project
A small amount of white chalk paint
Clothes pins
Colorful paint (I used acrylic craft paint)
Sharpie

First, I painted the wood white. Then, I painted the clothes pins rainbow colors, because my son had been singing the rainbow song from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for three days and it was, clearly, on my mind. I used a box, clamped the clothes pins around the edge, and got to painting. I painted over the springs because I'm lazy and I had no idea how you'd get pretty clothes pins without painting them.

Once all the paint was dry, I situated the clothes pins how I wanted them. I rearranged them a couple of times, and visualized where I wanted my descriptive word to go. I went with 'Gallery', but I saw dozens of cute ideas on Pinterest, from artistic quotes to Kid's Art Corner to the child's name with the word gallery following. Super cute ideas, but I figured Gallery was pretty versatile and would grow with the kids. I can also use it to display Christmas cards, party invitations, and pretty much anything.

I lightly traced a pencil line with a ruler under where my word would go, then outlined it lightly in pencil as well. I went over that with my Sharpie. If I were to do this again, I'd definitely use a paint pen instead of a Sharpie.

After labeling my board, I heated up my glue gun, situated my clothes pins, and used hot glue to glue them in place.

When everything was dry, I grabbed two screws and an electric screwdriver and hung it up!

I love that I have somewhere handy, and out of baby's reach, that I can hang up my son's artwork and projects. The seasonal creations give a festive air to the kitchen and dining area, and he feels proud to have his work displayed.


By using materials I already had, I limited waste and utilized materials that weren't being used. My handwriting isn't great, but I'm pleased overall with how it came out.

How do you display your child's artwork and crafts?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Walmart vs Kroger: Grocery Pickup Parking Lot Showdown



Y'all, we live in the magical world of 2017 where you can order your groceries online and someone will select them all, bag them, and bring them to your car. It is a special place, this world. With two kids under 5, not having to unbuckle all 10 points of seatbelt is a lifesaver. But now that so many stores are offering this service, which one is the best? Not to fear, I've really sacrificed to compare for you by trying out Kroger's ClickList service and Walmart's new grocery pickup. Here's the nitty-gritty.


Kroger ClickList
Pros:
  • You can use paper coupons, and digital coupons auto-deduct
  • Paper receipt for rebate apps, like iBotta
  •  Fast and friendly service
  •  Pickup areas are generally well-marked, but it varies by store. The first store I used was clear and great. I had to hunt for the pickup location at the second store.
  • If they don't have something in stock and substitute it, you still pay the price of the original item. For example, the store was out of regular grape tomatoes, so they substituted organic grape tomatoes instead. 
  • With substitutions, you have the right to say no thanks and you won't be charged for the item.
  • ClickList offers unique coupons. I received $11 in FREE snacks in a back-to-school coupon bundle. These included Rice Crispy Treats, fruit cups, granola cups; I even got to select the flavors! This was such a nice treat, as I don't usually buy those items and it's nice to have something different every once in awhile.
  • Once you try ClickList, Kroger mails/emails you ClickList specific coupons. I got mailed one for 10% off my entire grocery bill next time I used ClickList. That's big, y'all.
  • Bonus Kroger points: After your ClickList experience, you'll receive an e-mail survey (I got one after my first time but not my second, so I'm not sure if it's a first-time only survey or an every-time survey and I got skipped). When you complete the survey, you get 50 Kroger Fuel Points. That's halfway to 10 cents off a gallon of gas!
  • Same day pickup!
  •  The first 3 ClickList orders waive the $5 fee

Cons:

  • No unit prices on website can make it difficult to find the best deal
  • Digital coupons don't deduct until you pick up your order, so you don't really know how much you're spending
  • It can be hard to find generic items if you don't know the specific names. I had to google what their Kroger version of Triscuit's were called, because they didn't come up under my search for Kroger Crackers.
  • $5 per pickup isn't bad at all, but it's not free like Walmart
  • When you use paper coupons (which they MAIL me!), an employee has to walk out to your car, get them, walk back, and then print your receipt. I don't mind the extra wait time, but I hate making more work for people, and I wish there was a drive-thru where I could drop them off.
  • If you order for the next day and the ad changes the prices of items in your cart, you pay the current day's price. This could completely wreck your savings plan.
  • Substitutions can get weird. I ordered cookie dough ice cream, and when they were out they gave me cookies and cream of the same brand instead of a different, if more expensive, brand's cookie dough flavor. I could have declined the substitution, but my kids had been terrible and I needed something to look forward to after they went to bed! #MomLife!
  • I've had a lot of trouble placing the order. Their website says the mobile app doesn't do ClickList yet, but there's a button on the app. So my first two orders, I ended up frustrated and had to basically make two lists because it wasn't working right. When I tried to change stores on the website, it deleted my hard-researched list. I ended up going back a page and driving further so I wouldn't lost all the time and effort I'd put into the first list. So there are still some glitches to be worked out.


Walmart Neighborhood Market Grocery Pickup
Pros:

  • Unit prices on the website make finding the best deal easy
  • Free pickup is a plus, but there is a minimum purchase
  • Bonus first timer goody bag- this was such a nice surprise! The little bag is cute and witty, and it included items I often forget (a birthday card!), a breakfast item, a snack item, Spaghetti-O's, and coupons. It's like they know me!
  • E-mail has a map of where the pickup location at your store is located
  • I created and ordered my entire list from my phone. I used their website in Safari, because I don't like having dozens of apps, and it was easy peasy.
  • They e-mail you when your order is ready, even if it's before your pickup window. My order was ready 30 minutes prior to my pickup window, and it was nice knowing that if I was running early (HAHAHA, just a minute while we all laugh at the thought of me being early), I could've picked it up.
  • If their ad changes, you get the lowest price- whether it was yesterday's ad or today. It's nice to not worry about ad change day affecting your weekly bill!
  • Same day pickup!


Cons:

  • Must spend $30 to do a pickup. I was so bummed about this. If I only need a few items, I hate unbuckling my kids for a five minute run into the store. Newsflash- there's no such thing as a five-minute run-in with a 2 year old and a 4 year old.
  • Digital receipt hinders rebate apps like iBotta and Coupons.com. I was quite disappointed here, as I had several rebates I wanted to use, but couldn't, because I needed a paper receipt.
  • Produce is tricky to order if weighted. For bananas, I put 1- meaning one pound, because the website said it was sold by weight. Instead, I received a single banana. Unlike Kroger, who allows you to add notes, there was no space to indicate how many pounds I wanted.
  • I had my husband pick up this order on his way home, which was quite convenient for both of us. He mentioned that when they show you the produce, it's in a bag, so it's hard to tell if it's good or not. When he got home, we realized the one banana had split and turned brown. But he couldn't see that with the produce bag around it.
  • Our pickup window was 6-7, so prime after-work hours. My husband mentioned there was only one worker running deliveries out to cars, so the wait time was longer than what we generally experienced at Kroger.


If you'd like to give Walmart Grocery Pickup a try, you can get $10 off by using this code (And I'll earn $10 off my next order too!).


So which is better?
It really depends. I honestly see myself using both. I love how easy Walmart's ordering process was, and it's super close to my house. The Kroger ClickList locations are 15 minutes away, so those require more planning. Kroger has more coupons, and quicker service. Walmart has cheaper prices, but their generic brands aren't as reliable as Kroger's. My choice each week will mostly depend upon what I need, if I'll be on the side of town with Kroger and can justify the $5 fee, or if I have at least $30 worth of stuff but won't be on the Kroger side of town. Coupons will play a deciding role as well; if I have many worthy digital Kroger coupons, I'm going to save up items on my list and head that way.

Both stores offer unique experiences with ups and downs. Neither is perfect yet, and I'm looking forward to 'testing' each store further to discover which is best!


What do you think? Have you tried Kroger's ClickList or Walmart's Grocery Pickup?



Tuesday, August 8, 2017


We lead busy lives these days. Working moms, stay at home moms, and work from home moms are all busy bees, running a home, scheduling doctor's visits and dental checkups and classes and lessons, oh my! It's no wonder many mothers get so busy helping their tiny loves lead their lives, the moms themselves get lost in the shuffle. Slowly, day by day, we begin to feel more and more invisible. I thought I was alone in this, and then I watched Sing.  It took a movie with a target audience of the under 12 set for me to realize I wasn't alone. But this is the secret plight of the American mom: over time we become invisible, and then we worry we're the only ones who feel this way.

In Sing, Reese Witherspoon's character Rosita is a mama pig to 25 piglets. She seamlessly runs their household while her husband and kids either ignore or her mock her for the things she enjoys (singing). When the opportunity to participate in a singing competition arises and she can't find a sitter, she creates an elaborate pulley system to do all of her jobs for her.

And no one in her family notices. They were so used to not looking at her, they literally didn't notice she wasn't there for days, until her husband accidentally wrecked it all. When they watch her perform later in the film, they finally see her. She isn't just a mom, a wife, a woman running 26 other pig's lives. She's an individual with passions and goals. That's what brought tears to my eyes; she was finally visible again. She was seen as more than just mom and wife and family chef; she was seen for her individual talents and joys. I loved that the filmmakers didn't make her a disgruntled parent, either; she clearly loved her children, and simply wanted something for herself as well. We all want wonderful lives for our children, and we often forget to make sure our own lives have fulfilling moments outside of parenting.

This isn't an uncommon phenomenon, either. Another mom formed an experiment when she felt invisible. She wore only one earring for 7 months, waiting for someone to notice and tell her. 7 MONTHS. She had just had her second baby, and everyone was so busy fussing over the baby they didn't see the mom. This is why the maternal death rate in the U.S. is so high compared to other developed nations. We simply see less of the mom once the baby is born. Newborns are so needy, and adorable, that it's easy to give them all of our attention. But new moms need attention, too.

I love my kids. I also love myself, and it's important to remind myself I'm more than a mom. I'm an individual with interests, talents, and goals outside of my family life. Just as it's perfectly fine to be satisfied with a life focused on your kids, it's also okay to want more. Find your joy, and give yourself time to explore it.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Raven's Home: Pilot Review

During the Disney Channel reign of the early 2000's, there were so many good shows. The Suite Life of Zach and Cody, Hannah Montana, Phineas and Ferb, and Wizards of Waverly Place, to name a few. Competition was high, and I'll admit I missed the That's So Raven train. I caught an episode here and there, but I wasn't a dedicated viewer. However, when I heard it was getting a revival, a la Boy Meets World/Girl Meets World, I was intrigued.

Since I wasn't an original viewer, I can't compare the current reboot to the original. But while watching the pilot, I was reminded of the old episodes. Also, Disney Channel has put the original That's So Raven episodes on the Disney Channel App (I've got it on Apple TV, so I plan on catching up a decade late!).
Image result for raven's home


Overall, I enjoyed the reboot. There isn't a lot of backstory as to why Raven isn't married anymore, though we do get a snapshot of Chelsea's situation. We don't meet the mysterious ex-husband/kid's father, though his texts show us that he sees the kids daily when driving them to school.

Disney is doing so much right these days. Despite a rocky relationship with her felonious ex, Chelsea doesn't speak poorly of him in front of their son. She and her son have an interesting, slightly inverted relationship, but it works. She still has her ditzy moments, but it's clear she loves her son.

I love that Chelsea and Raven are still close, and that their friendship hasn't waned. Their roommates at the moment, because financial situations required it, as their marriages dissolved in a similar timeframe. It's important to show kids that adults can maintain relationships, especially through difficult circumstances. It's also refreshing to see that although moments can be hard, like sharing a bathroom, the kids all come together to support one another too. They stick up for one another and are there for each other, even when they're in an argument. I love that this show is teaching kids that not every disagreement is an overdramatic, end-all, life-ruining thing. Even if you're mad at someone, you can still protect them and take care of them.

Raven's Home focuses more on the kid's relationships and issues than the adult's, especially as one twin discovers their physic power-while the other twin has not. I'm excited to see where the show is headed, and if the other twin will also discover powers. I'd love to see Raven's twins work together to solve situations that arise from the one's visions.

I loved how Mia's 'sheroes' (she-heroes) were strong women of all colors and walks of life. It was great that Raven struggled with parenting decisions, like if she was inadvertently giving one twin more affection than the other. The serious moments were tempered with humorous ones, so the show had a great flow.

Have you seen Disney's latest reboot? What were your thoughts?

Thursday, July 27, 2017



Let me sit down for a damn minute
A fun rhyme for tired parents


Let me sit down for a damn minute, please.
You do not need more cheese.
Nor a snack nor a nibble;
No, you can't eat the dog's kibble.
I do not want to carry you,
Your pounds are many, not a few.

I do not want to sing to you,
I do not want to say another moo.
Old McDonald can keep his farm.
Just let me sit down, and your stuffed animals will not be harmed.

I do not want to walk around,
I will not leap nor bound.
Kiss your own boo boo ouch,
I am glued to this couch.

I want to read a magazine or book,
I do not want to heed your 'look!'
I want to sit, be still a spell,
Please don't make me yell!

I'd like some quiet, some peace!
Not another pretend doll feast.
I do not want to play with your train,
If you keep this up, I won't be sane!

Hands and knees, on the floor
That's really such a bore.
Can't we sit and watch a movie?
Without a tune, catchy and groovy?

Please don't cry!
I'm sorry, you aren't allowed to fly.
Not from the roof, at least.
Please don't act like such a beast!

Is it nap time yet?
That's usually a safe bet
For a quick little rest,
For both of us, it's for the best!

That's right, close your eyes.
Breathe deeply and sigh.
I love you most,
From coast to coast.
Enjoy your sleep,
Please don't make a peep.

Ah, peace and quiet.
A serenity; you can't buy it.
A comfy seat for the first time all day,
Or maybe even since last May!

Ding dong!
What fool is at the door?
When I'm done with them, they'll surely be sore!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

An Affordable Moana Birthday Party


When I began searching for Moana themed birthday party ideas for my two year old's party, I was underwhelmed. Every Pinterest and Google search revealed extravagant, over-the-top, expensive custom decor. Ain't nobody got time for that! He's turning two; he probably won't even remember it! I wanted him to have a fun day, with a theme from his favorite movie, but I wasn't willing to break the bank to accomplish it. Here's how I threw a memorable party for under $50.

Decorations

I hit the Dollar Tree for decorations. Since his birthday is in June, there were lots of summer Luau themed options. I picked a couple of garlands, a palm tree, a table cloth that looked like a grass skirt, hot pink plastic silverware, spunky colored napkins, and bright flowery plates. I also picked up some colorful leis to double as fun party wear and a take home favor. I got all of it for $15. I reused a 'Happy Birthday' banner I had on hand, and put a couple of fun leftover streamers around it. The only thing that didn't work out like I wanted was the table cloth. I thought it was a full table cloth, and it ended up being just a grass skirt for a table. Had I known, I'd have grabbed an actual table cloth in a contrasting color to add more to my colorful theme.
 


Food

The most important food at any birthday party is obviously the cake! We got this gorgeous cake from Costco ($18). I chose the beach theme, then asked them to leave off all the beach chairs, umbrellas, etc. and just write his name. I picked up the Maui and Moana figurines at Target on clearance for $6 and added them myself. 


Birthday Boy enjoying his cake on his luau themed plate.
 In terms of snacks, I got creative. Here's the menu:

Maui's sun (Pineapple rings, watermelon in shape of sun)
Tamatoa's seafood (goldfish)
PB &Jellyfish/ star fish sandwiches (PB and J cut into shapes with cookie cutters)
Coral Reef (Cheetos)
Lolotai Seaweed (Grapes on a skewer)
Sea Snails (mini hot dogs in crescent roll strips)

To add some flair, I put the grape skewers in the pineapple husk. I put the bright plastic silverware in plastic cups, and put the cutesy named food labels out so people could enjoy my hilarious commitment to theme (also, my niece mentioned she loved my food puns at the last few birthday parties, so the pressure was on!)
For the goody bags, I put blue Sixlets in a snack size bag with goldfish, swedish fish, and gummy sharks.

Going 90s

Overall, I'm really pleased with how it all turned out. The decor made the porch feel nice and festive, everyone loved the food (and my niece was a fan of the continued puns, so #winning!), and our now two year old had a blast. We may not have had a custom balloon arch with life-size Moana cut out, but what would I do with that after the party anyway!? I like 90s style parties, like I had as a kid, with kids running around, yummy cake, and a few decorations. If my kiddos have fun, I'm a happy mama.

How do you like to do your kid's parties?



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Mott's Juice Pouch Review

I received coupons for free Mott's Juice Pouches to try and review. Here is the review!

We tried the Apple Cherry flavor of the Mott's juice pouches. Both of my boys, ages 2 and 4, loved the flavor. I like the pouch shape, as its easy to toss in a bag on the go. It had a good flavor, but they drank it super fast. It was a little difficult to get the straw in the pouch as well. Overall, it was a hit. It's something I can imagine picking up every now and again as a special treat, but not something I'd buy consistently since it didn't satisfy their thirst for long. 

We also usually water their juice down, because they're both extremely active which leads to us needing to make sure they stay hydrated. By watering down their juice, we make sure they only drink the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended amount of juice while also getting plenty of water. I really liked the convenience of having a drink prepared, and all I had to do was grab and go.

Do you have a favorite juice brand? What is it?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Liv and Maddie Love Letter

I never thought I'd get so upset with Disney that I'd take a break from classic Disney Channel shows. But with the cancellation of Girl Meets World, I needed some space to heal for the first time. I loved that show, and I felt it was prematurely cancelled. But time heals, in this case, and after catching bits and pieces of Liv and Maddie, I saw the entire series was on Netflix and have been steadily watching it while folding laundry. Then I got so caught up in it, I started watching it when I was just wanting to chill and watch something. The more I saw, the more I liked, then loved, the show. Here are my top 5 reasons why I'm officially a Liv and Maddie fan.

1. The portrayal of familial relationships is great. While each parent has their weakness, overall they're great parents. They listen without prying too hard, and own up to their prying when they do. They're involved, but also let their kids solve their own problems. The siblings seek each other out for advice, but also give each other a hard time. The parents collaborate and show each other respect and are always there for each other. I love seeing positive relationship portrayals in youth television; it's important to show realistic, healthy relationships. Their family isn't perfect, but it's great, and attainable.


2. They take a more realistic view on things. Sometimes you get hurt at the wrong time. Sometimes long distance relationships don't work out. Sometimes you like your best friend's guy, and then once they break up he's still out of reach because he's your bestie's ex. The right thing isn't always the easy thing, and I seriously respect the show for demonstrating that. They allow the characters to not get everything they want, and to make poor choices and learn from them. There are, of course, unbelievable things that happen (the Parker tunnels, anyone?), but overall, there's a healthy dose of reality not often seen in kids/tween/teen television.


3. Real world issues pop up all the time. When it's pointed out to Liv that reporters don't ask her deep questions about her roles like they do her male costar, she (and guest star Kristen Bell- say what?!) addresses it. When women are ranked by nasty high school boys, the girls react. They don't show the sunny side. They show how societal expectations can affect even  the most level-headed girls (oh, Willow.) When their mini-protest doesn't change the boy's actions, they realize they can't control what people think and say about them, but they can spread the word that objectifying women is wrong.

4. Confession: I love the music. Dove Cameron has some pipes, and she knows how to use them. The songs get stuck in my head all the time. It's not a musical show, but having a main characters that's a singer/actress allows for the occasional song.

5. This little Disney channel show is so empowering. Not only do they teach people of all ages (I know I'm not the target demographic, but their messages totally get me in the feels) that they can make an impact, but they show them how. When Maddie learns an acquaintance is homeless, she takes action. She teams up with someone to build a tiny house out of recycled materials, contacts the city about where it can be, and learns how to apply for grants to make more. If a teenager can tackle homelessness, why aren't we adults? I love that they're showing that every single person can make a difference, if they'll just try.

So, yeah, I'm obsessed with this show. I've only get a few episodes left in the series, because it ended last spring after four seasons. But the entire series is now on Netflix, so you can binge to your heart's content. There are plenty of grown-up laughs to be had, and you're sure to love it.

Are you also a Liv and Maddie fan? What are some of your favorite moments?

Friday, June 30, 2017



As a mom, it’s easy to allow yourself to be swallowed by that one label. So much of our days are spent as caretakers, fixing plates and filling cups, changing diapers and, sadly, wiping bottoms long after the last box of diapers is gone. It’s hard to find time to remember the self you were before these tiny humans captured your heart and practically all your time.

As my kids grow, I find myself growing as well. Farther away from the individual I once was. Where is that fierce girl, striking out on her own without knowing anyone in a new state? Where is the woman who planned on naming her daughter Audrey to honor the great Hepburn who taught her that style and class go hand in hand with kindness and heart? Gone are the days of curling up to watch a black and white movie at 9 p.m., worrying about no one’s bedtime but her own. Or taking a bubble bath with a new book, without fear of the sound of the faucet waking the baby. Or just sitting on the porch, listening to crickets and watching the stars, without the ever present, slight whine of the baby monitor (or the toddler you just can’t shake). 

These days, I look for that fierce girl while debating whether to try and venture out on my own, with two kids, in a place where I don’t know the parking situation. Street parking is terrifying when the four year old has to stand by my side as I unbuckle the two year old. Trying new things has gotten scarier, as I don’t know how one kid or the other may react. Simply going to a new park can be frightening, as one child has a tendency to wander off while the other deliberately runs away.

I try to salvage pieces of the person who I was once that feels so much stronger than the one I am now. I’ve always been an avid reader, but these past few years reading has taken on a feverish intensity. It feels like the last shred of something the child-free me loved, and I cling to it. Each year, I challenge myself to read more than the last. Last year, I topped out at 54 books. This year, it’s June and I’m on book 41. It’s a desperate attempt at remembering I’m not just a mom; I’m still an adventurous spirit, tethered by the desire to put down roots for my babes while also stretching my limbs to experience as much of life as I can. Reading takes me to places I can’t physically go, to people who don’t exist but often feel like friends nonetheless.

It’s hard to find balance. The person I used to be seems glamorous now, but she struggled too. The grass is truly always greener, and looking back allows me to choose personality traits I’d like to rediscover. A love for classic movies? Absolutely. I hope my kids grow up knowing who Audrey and Humphrey are, and I think they will, if only because one day I’ll get to sit down with them and show them Sabrina. My love of books and porch sitting are already being imparted. My adventurous side, previously explored through circus arts and travel, are a little out of reach right now. I can't stride recklessly into new scenarios without research and preparation, as these little pieces of my heart walking around need me unbroken and present. These parts of me aren’t truly gone; they're simply on a shelf, waiting for the day I can help these smallish people discover the same things I once loved. 

The reality is, I am still strong. I’ve handled midnight illnesses with a strong stomach I didn’t know I possessed, and childbirth, for heaven’s sakes. I’ve overcome a fear of appearing impolite in order to advocate for my children’s healthcare. This strength is different than the bravery the old me had; this comes from a deep well of love resultant of caring for other people, and giving them parts of yourself along the way. 

New parks and situations may give me a fleeting pit of panic in my stomach, but that doesn’t make me weak. It means that in this stage, new situations with tiny kids can be scary and that’s just something I have to deal with. The grocery store before lunch is equally scary, and that’s well tread ground. Different seasons hold different combinations of the me I used to be and the mom I am becoming, and that’s where I find the balance. Thankfully, years of tight wire walking have made me an expert at balance. In the meantime, I’ll be driving to the same old park while singing “Yellow Submarine” with my four year old (and the two year old, because this park is fully fenced so there is no escape). Maybe one day I'll even get to teach this precious cargo of mine to leap into a chasm, holding onto a metal bar and, for just a moment, fly without a plane.



Tuesday, June 20, 2017


To win Father's Day this year, I created a special breakfast for my husband that I knew would make his day. He loves bacon, and he loves cinnamon rolls, so instead of making some of each, I combined them. I present to you: Bacon wrapped cinnamon rolls!

Granted, I took some shortcuts. I didn't make my own cinnamon rolls, but you could. You'd need to bake them for a bit, then add the bacon, then finish baking them. It's quite a bit easier with store-bought rolls, since all you do is wrap, bake, and blow someone's mind.

Take your ingredients. Crack open that pressurized can, set each individual roll in the prepped and sprayed (I use Kirkland olive oil spray to guarantee some non-stick action) pan, and then open your bacon.



Wrap one slice of bacon around the outside of each cinnamon roll. You can do some lovely tucking and scrunching to make it prettier; it's entirely up to you. I made one extra special one that had bacon wrapped from the spiral inside, all the way around the outside. I had to unroll the cinnamon roll, lay the bacon inside it, and re-roll it. I don't know that it made a big difference though.



Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes. Check bacon. You may have to compromise on how crunchy you like it if the cinnamon roll tops are browning too fast. I recommend using a lower shelf in the oven to delay the cinnamon rolls and make both items be complete simultaneously.


Let cool and enjoy!

Have you tried these? What did you think?