Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Packing with Kids

We’re getting ready to travel and I’ve been spending this week getting the house in order, washing clothes and beginning to make my packing lists for each of us. We haven’t flown since Kensi was a year and half old so it’s been awhile and a lot has changed. Typically when we travel we’ve been driving because it’s 1) less expensive 2) we can pack more 3) we get to see more. However, driving 1) takes waaaaaay longer 2) makes us lose our minds 3) extends our trips up to four days.

We are so grateful we get the fly this time, but I’m trying to prepare myself as best as possible since we are now traveling with three kids. Everyone I’ve talked to and every blog I’ve read has emphasized be organized, organized, organized and that’s exactly what I’m striving to do. So as we travel often by car and now getting ready to travel by plane I’m sharing my tips to packing for the kids.

Let them help
Too many times I’ve done all the packing and Kensi has no idea what we brought, where anything is or worse I forgot to pack the her most favorite thing that she wanted to bring with us. Getting the kids involved in packing makes the trip smoother overall. Of course they can’t bring everything, but limiting them to a favorite outfit, book or small toy can make a huge difference. 

Pack some entertainment.
It doesn’t matter how we’re traveling we always pack a few things to keep the kids entertained. I bought Kensi & Finn each a backpack and inside are oodles of activities. I love shopping the dollar bins at Target for small fun items like magnets, figurines and coloring books. This last week I was able to find cute little drawing pads with crayons and matching temporary tattoos (sharks for Finn, mermaids for Kensi). We love the Melissa & Doug On The Go Water Wow books; they’re mess-free painting books that dry quickly for endless fun. I’m also packing the iPads loaded with two movies a piece. 

Don’t forget the snacks.
My kids are snack addicts. They will inhale the little bag of peanuts and cookies within seconds and then beg for more. I love using reusable snack bags and cups to keep their little tummies happy with healthy choices that aren’t going to cost a down payment in the airport. Some of my kids’ favorites are Annie’s crackers, trail mix, raisins, 365 Fruit Strips, fruit pouches any sort. We also found Fig Bars at Costco that were recommended by our friends. The kids love them because they’re just like breakfast bars, but they have less sugar. We alway make sure each kid has a water bottle and we’re currently loving the Ello bottles we found at Target. They can leak if tipped completely over, but they can also lock to prevent them from spilling when not being used. We also love these Munchkin Miracle 360 cups and the Munchkin Weighted Straw for Olivia. I also pack a few lollipops to get them settled into their seats as we take off and it helps them with their ears popping. 

Pack for safety.
It never fails, when I don’t pack a few first aid essentials we need it. I love keeping a few bandaids, lavender oil, Zoe Organics Everything Balm, hand purifier and ibuprofen in a small cosmetic bag that I can carry with me. Since we’re flying and travel means extra exposure to germs, I’m making a few wellness roller balls to help all of keep our immune systems strong.

Clothes & Shoes
I love being able to have access to a washer and dryer whenever we travel if possible. It definitely keeps packing clothes under control. I like having outfits put together before hand and mix and match tops and bottoms for multiple options. I try and keep shoes to two pairs per person and I  always pack swim suits because we never know if we’ll get a chance to hit the pool at the hotel or if it’s part of our planned trip.

Wish us luck as we fly with three kiddos! Hopefully we’ll survive the chaos and we have a great trip visiting our hometown! 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

No Screen Month

I completely fell off my wagon of monthly resolutions when April came around. We got busy and felt like we were merely surviving life those weeks. Trying to get through each day with three cranky kids who were so over long work hours for Mike, I often just gave in and handed them an iPad or tablet of some sort in the afternoons to keep them calm and to keep my sanity in check. By the end of the month we were sort of able to get ourselves back into a routine, but our kids were crazy cranky, whiny, sassy and stubborn. They threw more tantrums than Mike or I could count. We tried making up for the loss time with special outings or one on one time with daddy whether it was playing legos or even going to the park.

Mike and I have always been pretty strict with screen time, but when the days got long it was just easier to say ‘yep here ya go!’ I used the tablets to keep them quiet so I could get some cleaning done or make dinner. However, I felt like I was going to lose my freaking mind with their attitudes and knew we needed to really kick our crap to the curb and do some hardcore discipline and routines. Knowing we had an upcoming trip at the end of this month we decided to get rid of the mobile devices: iPads, LeapPads and iPods...seriously anything that had games, movies, or shows. We're calling it No Screen Month. At first the kids felt like we had completely ended their world. After weeks of being able to use them in the afternoons and now nothing was pretty devastating to both of them. We had a lot of tears, whining and I can’t even tell you how many questions of ‘WHY?????’ and my favorite...”I can’t have it for FOREVER?!?!!”  I didn’t know what was worse...dealing with the tantrums before we cut the cord or after. Trust me there were plenty of times where we so badly wanted to GIVE IN!!!! But we didn’t. Somehow we stayed strong and it’s been AWESOME!

Our kids know the tablets aren’t an option so they don’t even ask any more! They’ve found ways to fix their boredom on their own. They’ve always loved reading books, but the level of their literature interest has sky rocketed. I’ve also been struggling to get Finn interested in puzzles, but now he plays with them every day. He’s also picking up more words which is a huge answered prayer and I’m so grateful! The playroom is in complete disarray every. single. day. But I don’t mind, because it’s getting played in. Together Kensi and Finn have come up with the most creative ways to play. Sometimes I can find them rummaging through the kitchen drawers and cabinets because they’re ‘building something super cool!” They’re more hands on now then they were a couple months ago and it’s incredible to watch.

I’m not condoning any parent who let’s their kid use a tablet, but I am encouraging everyone to try taking a break from them and just see what happens. We are much more connected as a family where we spend our down time playing games, telling stories or playing pretend which is so much better than letting a screen have our time. When we travel in a couple weeks we will have the tablets with us, but I have other options to give them first. I also know it will be another struggle once we get back home and getting back into our new routine, but I’m willing to do it all over again. So get unplugged and enjoy something real.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Date Night: Thunder Storms

Temperatures have been really dropping off in the evenings and they’ve been accompanied by some of the best thunderstorms. Being from the midwest Mike and I have a deep love and appreciation for a good thunderstorm. Cooler temperatures, the smell of rain in the air, rolling thunder and lightning dancing across the sky. We find it pretty darn romantic and the perfect storm for a date night in.

Usually when there’s storms rolling in, we find comfort dishes to be our favorite. Depending on the season the dish can change. Sometimes its a hearty bowl of soup, meatloaf and homemade mashed potatoes, or even salmon cakes with macaroni and cheese. Those are all things we grew up having throughout the year and they’ve claimed our hearts as some of our favorite comfort dishes because they remind us of home. Since living on the east coast twice now and learning the way of each city we’ve come to appreciate good seafood comfort dishes we just never had in our landlocked state, at least not done well.

Here in North Carolina a few staples we’ve learned about include banana pudding, Carolina bbq, collard greens and shrimp + grits. I can’t get Mike on board with banana flavored anything and no one will be able to change these Kansas City bbq souls towards Carolina bbq. It’s just not going to happen. However, I adore collard greens and we both can’t get enough shrimp + grits. They’re so dang good, I just don’t think you’ll be able to deny them either.

We originally started with a recipe from Food Network Magazine and have tweaked and made it our own over the last couple years. It’s definitely one of our favorite comfort dishes for anytime of the year, but we especially love it for cozy nights in. We can’t go wrong with grits, shrimp, garlic and butter. Paired with a thunderstorm and we have a very romantic date night for the two of us!

Garlic Shrimp & Grits
3/4 cup Stone Ground Grits (we like Trader Joe’s)
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1/4 cup Romano Cheese, shredded
3 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
1 lb. Shrimp, peeled + deveined
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
Pinch Cayenne Pepper
2 drops Lemon Oil or Juice of 1 Lemon
2 Tablespoons Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped

Cook grits according to package directions. Once thicken, stir in cheeses and 1 tablespoon butter. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside, covered, to keep warm.

While grits cook, season shrimp with salt and pepper. Melt remaining butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp, garlic, lemon oil and cayenne pepper. Cook until shrimp are pink. Remove from heat. 

To plate, divide grits among bowls, top with shrimp and garlic. Drizzle some of the butter from the shrimp skillet on top and sprinkle parsleys over everything. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Simple Mother’s Day Gifts

We have just a couple more days until Mother’s Day and simple, quick gifts are always a must.  Yesterday, I spent nap time mixing up some fun scrubs to spoil a few moms around me. Using the book Hello Glow that I’m giving away with every starter kit order (under me) this month I made the Mint Mojito Foot Scrub. I had all the ingredients in the fridge and garden which made it a breeze to whip up in a few minutes.  I also made a whipped grapefruit sugar scrub I adore. I love these two scrubs as they’re perfect for spring going into summer and keeping hands and feet soft and moisturized. They’re also great for a little pampered date night with the hubby!

Whipped Grapefruit Scrub
1/2 cup Coconut Oil
1 cup White Sugar 
Juice & Zest of 1 Grapefruit 
25 drops Grapefruit essential oil

Mix together in a bowl and divide among mason jars. 
Top with lid and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Mike and I also stayed up late sipping beers and baking cookies. I used my oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe and added flaked coconut and walnuts for some added crunch. If you’re deciding to use this awesome little trio, but don’t have time to bake, you can easily grab a package of your favorite cookies (I love Trader Joe’s because they have a variety of mini sized cookies) and package them up in a cute little mason jar.
Now I’m all set to spoil a few of my favorite moms with a little something that’s almost as sweet as them!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas out there!


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Kitchen Cabinets // Finished

It's been a long time coming to write this post and I've had several people ask me about the progress of the cabinets. You guys...They're done! They're done! They're done! I can hardly believe the day has come where these cabinets are actually DONE. However, the kitchen as a whole is not done. It’s definitely been a process to say the least and even more importantly a long one.

Looking back to late November when we decided to start painting the kitchen cabinets I honestly thought we would have them completed within a few weeks. Wrong! This project was time consuming and not for the faint of heart. The painting itself wasn't bad, it was mainly living in an over-exposed kitchen with no doors while we took our sweet time with each step. 
It took as long as is did because we didn't allow it to change our everyday life which really allowed us to work only on the weekends. Throw all the major holidays into the mix, a couple toddlers, a new nursing baby, family visitors, three weeks fighting off viruses, an outage schedule and you have quite the renovation journey.

The biggest impact of our work besides the paint is definitely pulling out the cabinets above the refrigerator and building a box around it to create a built in cabinet. We also replaced our crown with something more substantial, also with adding a few little character details around the cabinets to give everything a more finished appearance. Now that the cabinets are painted and hardware has been added we find ourselves looking at other details in the kitchen and agreeing more needs to be done. We replaced our oven range within the last few weeks and we've actually returned it and now waiting for a different one. We love the style of the one in place, especially the large window in the door, but due to the door design the exterior of it can reach to 160 degrees F which a no-go with kids in the house.

We also hit a few hiccups during the process. What diy project doesn't? We originally discussed carrying the cabinets up to the ceiling, but we have a light in the way and we would have had to move it, therefore reconfiguring more than one to keep it balanced. We nixed that due to all the extra work involved. We also did endless amounts of sanding work to smooth out the trim we added under the upper cabinets. Word of advice...just buy the better, more expensive wood. Just do it. We didn't even think about it and that small detail cost a lot of time!

Our next steps are putting in a vent hood, replacing the countertops & floors and adding backsplash. We absolutely love the brightness the white paint brings to this space and we know with each addition the kitchen will continue to change dramatically!

And a little before photo, just to see our dramatic improvement!

\\ Sources \\
Paint: Benjamin Moore Advanced in Chantilly Lace (white)
Benjamin Moore Advanced in Chelsea Gray (gray)
Hardware Knobs: Cosmos Round Mushroom Knob
Hardware Pulls: Amerock Blackrock Pull

Monday, May 8, 2017

Herb Garden Tricks

The last few years Mike and I have felt like our once green thumbs turned black and we’ve had to educate ourselves on gardening and the type of soil we have here in coastal Carolina. This year will be our third year using our raised garden beds. We are die hard tomato lovers and the last two years all of our tomato plants died due to a horrible storm one year and those large green worms the second year. We just purchased all our garden plants a few weeks ago and I’ve been studying new ways to keep our garden healthy and protected from all those crazy elements including planting sacrificial dill.

I’m also super excited we found a couple citrus trees this spring. I’ve always wanted a few and we planted one lemon and one lime in simple terra-cotta pots for our back patio. They’ve been blooming the last few weeks and just this morning I spotted several teeny tiny little fruits growing! Ah, I can’t wait!

We may struggle with our large garden, but we always seem to do well with our herb garden. Last year Mike used some leftover scrap wood and created a wall garden on the fence. We’re planning to rebuild it when we finalize our patio plans so we can incorporate it into our dining space. We want something a little more modern and a little less shabby. We also use herbs a lot so building a larger garden will allow more space for the plants to grow. For now I’m planting all our herbs in pots to make an easier transition when we transplant them. After learning a few nifty tricks our herbs grow very well and here’s our Dos and Don’ts as to why it seems to flourish the way it does.

1. Do spread them out. Herbs need plenty of space to grow. Keep it simple and leave three inches or so between each plant in a container. This will allow enough room for the plant to spread and grow as needed and it gives them room to breathe.

2. Don’t mix mint. Certain herbs should not be together. Mint should never be planted with other herbs and it HAS to be contained because it LOVES to spread. Planting mint in a box or pot alone is best.

3. Do plant what you use. Herbs are great to plant, but if you’re not going to use them they can quickly go to seed and be done. Basil is one to flower and turn woody which shortens the life of the plant.

4. Don’t trim too much. The rule of thumb is to only trim no more than 1/3 of your plant every time you go to use it. Trimming too much will shorten the life of the herb. If you love to use one herb more than others, plant it in its own large pot so you have an abundance all summer long. 

5. Do plant flowers. Bugs and insects like bees love and need to pollinate the herbs, especially lavender. Planting flowers near your herb garden will attract everything you need for good pollination.

As for planters and pots, I love mixing different sizes and shapes, but keeping it simple in color. I love white because it really makes the greenery pop. My favorite pots are still the few we picked up from IKEA eight years ago (similar here). They’re simple and modern with texture. I can pair them with about anything and they always look beautiful. I also love the simplicity of the concrete planters from Target this year.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Bedding Design Balance

In the last month Mike and I have begun focusing on the design of the kids’ room. The girls (will soon) share a room and Finn has his own. When it comes to designing a space I’m terrible about making decisions because I’m constantly changing my mind. I know it drives Mike crazy, but he has so much patience and he’s so good to my indecisive mind. I’ve shared design idea boards in the past for the girls’ shared room and even the playroom, but I have yet to have a solid design in any specific room mostly due to budget. In recent months Kensi has been asking us to redo her room and we really couldn’t argue because there wasn’t much going on in there since we’ve moved the kids from bedroom to bedroom trying to figure out the best function for our family. Once that was settled we could start brainstorming the design of each room.

Mike and I don’t like characters splashed on furniture, clothes or bedding. I know some may think we’re depriving our kids, but when they own their own space they can do with it what they want. We allow our kids to fill their character needs with pajamas, coloring books, stickers, figurines and plush toys. This is a good balance for us because the kids can love and play with their toys and Mike and I can put them all away in their designated home. When it comes to bedding, we choose simple, neutral pieces that can be paired with fun colors and patterns but still keep everything clean and simple. Kids change their minds all the time and too quickly for us to drop money on character bedding, but there are several stores and companies that are constantly stepping up the bedding game and making the perfect sets for this type of balance.

If we gave Kensi the reigns to completely design her space it would look like the Disney channel threw up everywhere. There would be stacks of Highlights and American Girl Doll catalogs, paper and sticker sheets hiding under every possible surface along with piles of who knows what that piece or toy came from as she’s kind of our little hoarder. Much like me when I was little. Fortunately, I’ve become quite the purger and we’re slowly teaching Kensi the same habits. As for her room, she would have it filled with all the bright colors of the rainbow and every princess character her little heart desires. I like things to be very clean and simple which can be a struggle when trying to make her own space. But where there is a will, there is a way.

In the girls’ rooms we went with the famous simple Jenny Lind style bed. We originally bought our crib for Kensi in this style, later found a spindle styled bed from an antique store. White may seem boring and plain, but it’s neutral and will go with anything we pair with it. As for the bedding Kensi asked for pink and there are so many beautiful pink comforters and duvets on the market today. A solid comforter is perfect for pairing with multiple different sheet sets whether it be black and white or a fun pattern full of color. I especially love The Land of NodPottery Barn Kids and Teen for our bedding basics because pieces can be purchased individually like the rainbow pillowcase. There’s no need to purchase an entire sheet set and it’s perfect for mixing and matching. They also have the best accent pillows that can be changed out with each season!

In Finn’s room we went a little more modern with his convertible toddler bed. I love the two tone design. His bedding is very simple with bold black and white patterns a few pops of color. I found this geo accent pillow at Target last year on sale. He loves having his own space with his things all together, but he needs a little more color. We think he’s going to be our little traditionalist because he loves a routine and always does the same thing each night. He always keeps his books close and when he goes to bed we can hear him dropping the books one by one when he’s done down to the floor. Finnley is tall and he’s nearly at the point where his toes can touch the end of his bed when he’s laying on his pillow. We’re getting ready to switch him over to a big boy bed and I’m so excited to style it!

We still have a ways to go with pulling the rest of the rooms together, but I can’t wait to share more as we get a little further in the process!

\\ Sources \\

Bed | Antique, but similar here.
Duvet Cover | Land of Nod
Star Sheets | Pottery Barn Teen (Discontinued)
Rainbow Pillowcase | Land of Nod
Star Pillow | Land of Nod
Plush Unicorn Doll | Pillowfort at Target

Convertible Toddler Bed | The Honest Company
Fitted Cloud Sheet | The Land of Nod
Coolest Kid Pillowcase | Pillowfort at Target 
Geo Pillow | Target (Discontinued)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Date Night : Popcorn Frenzy

Our weekend was jam packed full of fun with our friends and kiddos and it left us exhausted. We called our Friday night out with friends out date night for the week even though we had Olivia. We went out to celebrate a birthday at one of our favorite restaurants, known mostly for it’s incredible views of the ocean. We love having our own dates, but it’s also very healthy to be able to go out with friends and interact with others which is also something we don’t make enough time for. 
During the outage, Mike and I weren’t able to have a date every week because there was no time and even if there was we were wiped out! To make up for it we plan to squeeze in a few during the week after the kiddos go to bed. We did just that on Tuesday and settled in on the couch to catch up on our favorite shows and decided to have fun making some creative mixes for our popcorn. 

I am a popcorn addict. I love snacking on it all the time and I can crave it in the middle of the night. Thankfully I have a husband who is happy to make it for us every time we settle in on the couch for a good movie. We always pop our own in order to dress it however we wish, but it’s almost always simple and very basic. Mike loves his popcorn drizzled with olive oil and lightly salted and I’m a traditional butter lover.

We tried a few flavor combinations just to mix it up this time. Not only was it fun and creative, but we also discovered a few new versions we love. Popcorn flavor combinations are completely endless and it’s so much fun mixing and matching traditional and nontraditional flavors for something completely different! I hope you try one or more of these and enjoy them as much as we did. Our favorite was the buffalo style!

Buffalo Style
6 cups popped popcorn
2 teaspoons hot wing sauce
2 teaspoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cilantro Lime
6 cups popped popcorn
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
4 teaspoons grapeseed oil
2 drops lime essential oil 
zest of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon salt

Italian Parmesan 
6 cups popped popcorn
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

Monday, May 1, 2017

Our Weekend in Photos

This weekend was top-notch and summer like. Our weather was incredible and our days were spent outside soaking up the sunshine, hitting the beach and keeping cool in the sprinklers. The babes all woke up bright and early Saturday morning pushing us to start our day around 6am. They’ve been early risers this past week and we took advantage getting out of the house before eight by heading to our favorite donut shop. Kensi and Finn always get sprinkles on their donuts and mix it up by adding either strawberry, blueberry or chocolate icing.
Afterwards Kensi requested to find some seashells and so we headed to the beach. It was low tide and the sand was covered in shells which of thrilled Kensi. Finnley found two broken clam shells and quickly turned them into cars, pushing them through his sand race track. The water was still pretty cold, but it didn’t keep any of us from not dipping our toes in.
  We spent the rest of our afternoon in the backyard working on the landscaping and having too much fun playing on the slip n slide. The kids have been loving all the backyard water play lately and I know they’re going to be disappointment this coming weekend since it’s suppose to be cooler and all the water will be off limits. However, I think it’s safe to say we’re ready for summer! 

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