Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Web Finds Wednesday

Shall we start a new tradition around here? Well, maybe. I'm noncommittal on stuff like this, but I wanted to at least share a few things I've seen around the web lately that have caught my eye! Maybe you will find something you love...

1. I was so pumped when I read Centsational Girl's post on thrifting and junking today. Lots of people tell me they never have any luck when going 'junkin' or that they don't know what to look for, etc. You definitely have to have an eye for potential when it comes to thrifting... after all, your main goal is to turn someone's trash into your treasure, right? I thought her post was great and I would say the same things about how I go thrifting. I may do my own post like this one day. But first I need a junkin trip. Takers? Takers?

2. Whitney at Elm Street Life posted this tutorial for clay rose earrings that would be such a fun craft for a girls' night! It'd be fun to make them for some other moms or teachers or for a special cause.

3. Ikea is calling my name. Thankfully I only have to wait another month. My high school girls and I are going on a weekend trip to Blue Ridge in March and I WILL be making a pit stop in Atlanta. I'm already making my list so I am sorry if I have overloaded your Pinterest page; that is the easiest way for me to keep track of what I want/need from the greatest place on earth.

4. The kids and I made these oatmeal cookies today and they were absolutely hands-down the best recipe I've tried. They don't call for chocolate chips or raisins (and are pretty sweet on their own) but you could definitely add them.

5. Have yall seen this craft nook on Fancy Frugal Life? I'm way jealous.

The end.
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Monday, January 28, 2013

Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Feta

I love Taziki's. Their Friday special is one of the greatest gifts to mankind. And so when I pinned this Balsamic Chicken recipe on Pinterest,  I knew I wanted to try it. The reviews were okay, but most of the reviewers ended up changing a few things to make it more tasty (it is a clean-eating recipe I believe and so some people commented that it was bland and needed more flavor.) I knew I would be changing some ingredients too (because what would some chicken be without a little pasta and feta cheese??) so here is how I tweaked the recipe:

 Ingredients:
3 T. butter
3 chicken breasts
3 T. minced garlic, divided
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 T. olive oil
2 tsp. Balsamic vinegar, plus a little for de-glazing your pan
1/2 cup water
1 package sliced mushrooms
1 package cherry tomatoes, halved
1 container feta cheese
whole wheat pasta (I used spiral but you could use ziti, bow ties, whatever!)

Heat a frying pan on medium high. Melt 2 T. butter. Sauté 1 T. minced garlic for 2-3 minutes. Salt and pepper your chicken breasts, then add them to the butter and garlic pan. Sear on each side for 2-3 minutes, getting them nice and brown (not completely cooked through.) Transfer the browned chicken breasts to a casserole dish, cover with foil. Splash your frying pan with a little Balsamic vinegar (maybe a tablespoon or so) and use a wooden spoon to scrape all the chicken bits up. Then add another tablespoon butter and melt with the Balsamic. Add your sliced mushrooms and your halved tomatoes. Allow them to cook for a good 7-8 minutes on medium high. While they are cooking, mix together your olive oil, your 2 tsp Balsamic, water, chopped basil and the other 2 T. minced garlic. After the mushrooms and tomatoes have cooked for a few minutes, sprinkle them with salt and pepper then pour them over your chicken breasts. Top with your olive oil/Balsamic mixture that you mixed up and then top everything with about half of the feta crumbles. Put it in the oven and bake it for 30 minutes.
While the chicken is baking, salt your pasta water and cook your pasta. Drain and set aside.
When the chicken is done you can mix everything together. Add the rest of the feta cheese. You could also add some Parmesan at this point if you wanted.

This turned out SO yummy. It's a little more work than the original recipe requires, but I promise you will NOT be disappointed. And you can mix up your olive oil/Balsamic mixture in advance! (I also think it would be good to marinate the chicken in an extra batch of the Balsamic/olive oil/basil mixture, so if you want to mix up a double batch and use half of it for a marinade, go for it!)

We served this with a simple salad.
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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Disney 2013: Prep and Packing

I am going to try and write in detail about our trip on the blog; mainly for my memory, but also because in preparing for our trip I have absolutely loved reading about other families' trips to Disney and gathering tips from each and every site. There is something so fun and magical about seeing a family standing in front of Cinderella's castle or seeing a little girl meet her favorite princess for the first time (and in real life!) It really doesn't matter if I know the family or not; I get a little teary-eyed seeing those pictures. It is truly a magical place and I can't wait to experience it as a mama! Agh! Ok, enough before I burst into bloggy tears.

Like I said before, I've gleaned hundreds of tips from Pinterest (you can visit my Vacation and Travel board here) and from various blogs that I've found just by googling "Disney tips." I'm so thankful for parents who take the time to write it all out and make it somewhat easier for me to pack and prepare. I've had so much fun planning outfits and gathering goodies and now we're on the final countdown and I can hardly wait.

Disclaimer: Pretty much ALL of these things have been done by thousands of other mamas too; I got the ideas from the sites I mentioned above; and I realize that most of it is probably unnecessary. You don't HAVE to do any of this to go to Disney World, obviously. I do it because I love it and I know my kids will too!

Here is what we've done so far to get ready!

I purchased lots of glow sticks from Dollar Tree and Walmart so the kids wouldn't be begging for a $25 glowing spin stick at the parades. From what I hear, they are also useful to tie around your strollers so that you can spot them easily. You'll also notice the Mickey and Minnie lollipops in this photo. Those were on the Walmart party aisle and you can bet they will be used for long lines and for bribery. Oh yes they will.


The Dollar Tree is packed FULL of Disney stuff. We're talking coloring books, jump ropes, yo-yo's, chalkboards, paint-by-numbers, just about anything you can think of; so I got the big kids a little 'gift from Mickey' for every day when they wake up.


Spotted these Tummy Tickler juices at Walmart; I'll probably take the labels off and put the kids' names on them (the Thomas one is for our cousin Charlie.) We will refill them in the parks and enjoy them with our snacks.




And speaking of snacks, we bought most of them at Sam's. There are 3 families going (us, my parents and my aunt and uncle and their 3 kids) so we just divided the cost. (The grape juice was not for Disney.) We bought Capri Suns, granola bars, Chex Mix, puffs, baby food, sweet and salty trail mix, crackers, Goldfish, the list goes on. I also purchased diapers and wipes there.
And the BEST part is that I SHIPPED all my diapers, wipes and snacks to our resort, so they will be waiting on us when we arrive. I shipped about 80 diapers (way too many), 3 huge packs of wipes, 3 boxes of Capri Suns, and the rest of the snacks in a huge box for around $30. This probably sounds like a headache, but I would have had to pack all of that in an extra suitcase and check it, which would've cost $50 round trip, plus I would have ended up with an extra (empty!) checked bag on the way home. So when I found out that the resort would accept packages up to 10 days before our arrival, I headed to Fedex and sent my stuff to sunny Florida. :)  It will be nice not to have to worry about that. (Please pray it gets there safely and that, more importantly, no one eats my trail mix.) 



Now, I have to admit, planning the clothes has been one of my favorite parts. Yall know I love a good matching set of cute sibling outfits. Especially when they involve a monogram or an applique. So Mom and I went to town on some already-purchased blanks and now we officially need an intervention. I have to give all credit to Mom; she has the best ideas and we work well as a team! I'm good with scissors and she's good with everything else so we cranked out a week's worth of Disney attire in about 3 hours flat. I'll give details later.


I'm pretty proud of myself for these carriage appliques. Love how they turned out. Mary Ella's dress was a Patsy Aiken knit dress I purchased at Giggles and Grace consignment in the fall and it was monogrammed with someone else's initials so it had to be covered anyway. And Emma Kate's pink blank is from Fireflies and Fairytales. Love this line and love the sisters who make them. They are sold at several places in Birmingham and you can also get their outfits at Nellie Mae and Goodman's Sports if you are in the Shoals area. Most of the proceeds go to their foundation which supports children who have lost a parent to cancer, which I think is so sweet and special! Anyway, that's where the pink outfit came from (and it came blank.)



I also did this one at the last minute. My Toy Story loving boy had to have a Toy Story shirt!
The claaawwwww...


Have you heard of  Sweet as Shuga? Her designs are some of the cutest and most original designs I have seen (besides Mom's of course, hehe). These are heat transfer shirts and the quality is exceptional. Even her packaging is top notch. You won't find screen print designs like this anywhere else and she has them for every occasion. She did the pirate ship and princess shirts for us and they are so sweet. I can't wait for the kids to wear them.


Do you see those sweet chubby fingers in this photo? I could eat that baby up!

We have a few more outfits in the lineup and I've been trying to get them all packed up and ready to go! Another tip I read is to pack each child's outfit for the day in an individual gallon ziplock bag - not only the outfit but the socks, undergarments, bow, accessories, whatever goes with that outfit - pack it all in the bag; that way you can just pull out the ziplock and have exactly what you need for that day. (And this will be great since we are taking my parents! I'm thinking 'Hey Papa! Catch!' and throwing him a kid and a bag. Easy peasy. And who wants to dig for socks each day? Not me.)
So my dining room has been a central packing area for the last few days.



To make sure I didn't miss anything, I made a list of what should go in each bag; shirt, pants/shorts, socks, and bows for the girls. (Since Mary Ella is the only one that wears panties and since she'll most likely be changing into new ones at night, I packed all of her panties in their own bag.) As I packed them, I'd cross off every item one by one. Still not there yet but we're making progress.


I packed each of their PJ's in separate bags as well. I only packed 4-5 sets of PJ's for each kid and even this is probably excessive. They will probably take baths at night and sleep in clean PJ's every day. I just put as many pairs as would fit. 


Despite having been to Disney several times, I've never been the one to actually plan the trip, so I had no idea about Mousekeeping! They are the people who come in and clean your room, make your beds, and create all sorts of fun towel animals, etc. each day while you are enjoying the parks. Lots of people recommended making little envelopes to leave them tips each day since they really do go out of their way to make your trip special. (You can Google "MouseKeeping" and see about 1,000 versions of these Mousekeeping envelopes, 99% of which are way more elaborate and creative than mine are! But hopefully they won't mind my Target envelope/sticker and Sharpie versions. I did try my best to replicate the famous Disney font.)



Our friends Mark and Larissa were sweet enough to bring us maps of the parks after their recent trip, and Mary Ella has loved looking at them. Poppa took the girls on a virtual guided tour through each park last weekend. Emma Kate ate half the Epcot map so we're hoping that's not a bad sign.


Poppa has also downloaded the Disney Wait Time app and every morning I get text messages regarding the wait times on various rides. The texts will just say something like:

"Test Track - 25 minutes."

Or sometimes it is a weather update:

"Rain on Wednesday. High 70's the rest of the week." He's all about the extended forecast.

I'd say he's a little bit excited. :)

And so are the kids! Mary Ella talks about it all the time and she's constantly telling me what is on the agenda; Chef Mickey's, Test Track (which she says is her 'fravorite ride ever.' And yes I said 'fRavorite' because that is how she says it.) She has loved looking at pictures with me online and planning out what she wants to do. One night we even set up our own little Disney World in Sam's room, complete with Aladdin's magic carpet ride...


Test Track...


and the famous Teacups.


The wait time on the teacups was dreadfully long on this particular night.


And Mary Ella has been sure to educate little sister on all the wonderful princesses she is about to meet.



And lastly, just to prove how cool and awesome it is to plan and coordinate your kids' outfits at Disney World, allow me to take you back to 1992. Hello Kelly's Kids. Hello knee-length shorts. Hello fanny packs and white Keds and white socks. Ah, those were the days. (Yes these were taken at Disney World, and yes, even the parents matched the children. Including the dads. So actually it was a wee bit worse back then.) This is Betsy, Adam, myself and my cousin Katie.


Here we are again with my mom (left) and aunt Kristi (right.)
Annnd hello visors. Look closely and you will notice my aunt Kristi does not have the appliquéd tropical fruit shirt (gasp!), but she DOES have the coordinating tote bag. 
And just to let you know...
I'm almost 11 and I'm wearing a one-piece outfit here. 
El-ev-en.
Times. have. changed.


Hope everyone has a magical week! :)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Goodbye Wrinkles.


If you have followed me on Instagram for a while, you know that I complain a lot about my forehead wrinkles. They are baaadddd. I mean, really bad. Like, the kind where even if you completely relax, you have giant craters running along your head. Gross. And they are even worse when I make a frowny/confused/surprised/excited/angry face... which of course is about 90% of my day. I've tried different makeups and creams and nothing has worked. So it was time.
I've had pretty much the same haircut for a long while now... long, layered, shorter almost-bang swoop close to my face (I've always been scared to go full-on bangs because as a mom I didn't want anything to be in my way or in my eyes or just annoying me all the time.) But after careful consideration and browsing lots of Pinterest pictures, I knew it was time to tell the wrinkles goodbye and the bangs HELLO!

So I went to see Peter, who I'd met last fall through my dear friend Jenny Fine.
I gave him 2 choices. He could give me:

a) bangs, or
b) botox...

Which really only left him with one choice seeing as he is not a supplier of #2.
He cut the bangs first thing while my hair was still dry. Like, immediately after I sat down.
I will admit, I freaked a little - or maybe a lot - when I first saw them. But once he washed my hair and cut and styled it,  I was soooo happy. The wrinkles are gone AND I pretty much look like a whole new person. Which has given me some pep in my step and I've felt a little better about my still-holding-on-to-tons-of-baby-weight self. All thanks to a new hairdo. Amazing what a new look will do for you. I've even worn real clothes this week instead of my usual oversized t-shirts and 5-year-old yoga pants. (Part of that is because I haven't quite figured out how to not look like Joe Dirt in a t-shirt and yoga pants and bangs... ?) But it's been fun to wear 'outfits' and to go out in public and not be recognized right away by people that know me. :)

Here's a quick before and after shot:

(And I realize I am not smiling in the BEFORE picture, but I wanted you to get a good 'relaxed' shot of my face and those horrible CRATER CREASES. Ugh.)


Lots of people have asked me if I was inspired by Michelle Obama. Well, I didn't watch the inauguration until after it aired and didn't learn of her bangs until my mom called me the day after. But it's so funny how so many people have asked me about that. She's a trendsetter, that's for sure! (I loved her clothes and accessories!) And I'm sure there will be lots of bangs cut this week because of the First Lady's new 'do. But my bangs were inspired by one word: wrinkles. 

The end.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

No more sweeping.

It is no secret that I look for short cuts when it comes to cleaning. Doesn't everyone?
I have to admit, I'm a little bit obsessed with this here gadget for several reasons, all of which can be summed up in one big fat statement:

I WILL NEVER HAVE TO SWEEP MY FLOORS AGAIN.

Ok, sold.

Seriously, if you are in the market for a hardwood vacuum, or perhaps (like me) you had no idea there was such a thing, then please allow me to introduce you to the Electrolux Ergorapido 2-in-1 bagless vacuum. It is a cordless vac for your hardwoods. It also works on rugs and even has an automatic 'hair removal' cutting button that cleans the brush and cuts off any hairs that get tangled in it. (Which is another task that I absolutely abhor.) It comes with a charging stand that plugs into the wall. The small dust-buster part of the vacuum is also removable so that you can clean your couch cushions or other hard to reach areas. The swivel and the suction are both amazing and it has a light as well so that you can see under the furniture as you are vacuuming in dark areas. It takes me about 10 minutes to vacuum the entire upstairs and on a full charge it will give an easy 20 minutes of vacuuming. So easy to use and SO easy to clean! Win win!

If you have a Swiffer Sweeper Vac, you will give it away after using this jewel.
I promise!

Follow it up with this home made floor cleaner from my friend Sandahlyn and your floors will be looking shiny and new! Ok, I gotta get back to the laundry... Happy Friday!
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Snow-M-G.

The title is very appropriate considering we get snow about once a year (at most) here in Alabama.
And believe me, at the sight of the first flurry falling from the sky, we Alabamians are immediately sent into a frantic frenzy because we are no doubt going to starve and freeze and forget how to drive... it is actually quite funny. Hide your bread, hide your eggs... and apparently we hide our driving skills.

I say this all in fun, really. I love snow; we had a few 'major snows' (as in, 4+ inches) when I was little  and so I always get excited. Especially now that I have kids of my own and I get to watch them experience something they don't get to see very often. I love the way it makes the neighborhood look so peaceful and quiet and I love making snowmen and having snowball fights and making angels in the half inch blanket of white. I love hot baths and hot chocolate and warm fires after being out in the barely-32-degree temps and I love looking back on the photographs I keep of the once-a-year snow days.

This year I really wasn't expecting to get any snow, which always makes it better. I had planned to drive to Florence immediately after I picked the kids up from school; Chad called me while I was in the school building and said, "Ummm have you looked outside?"
And I was like, "Yes. Same thing all day. Light flurries but nothing is sticking. We're good."
"Wellll... downtown it's a blizzard."
"Ok. Well we're fine."
I was picking up the kids at that point and by the time I had gotten out to my car it was really coming down. And within about 5 minutes we went from having zero snow on the ground to at least a couple inches. And of course people were driving like bats out of you-know-where. So I decided I'd stay at home one more night and put off seeing my nephew until the next day.


So we drove home and I let the kids play for a while before it melted (like, an hour later.)


















And here are some of my favorite snow pictures from past years...

2009 
(Mary Ella, 9 months old) See a video here.
And I love that EK is wearing this same coat. 


2010
Mary Ella, 20 months




2011
(Mary Ella 2.5, Sam 8 months)




I hope everyone else had fun while it lasted! I'm officially ready for spring now. :)

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