Monday, June 30, 2014

Favorite Things - Corn Cake & Shampoo!

I missed the last Favorite Things link up (well, my posting in the link up but I definitely checked out everyone's else favorite things!) but I am ready to share a couple of things this month!
 

Linking up with the lovely Erika at A Little Bit of Everything and
Andrea at Momfessionals for their Favorite Things Party.
 
First up, because it wouldn't be my Favorite Things link up without a food item, is Chi-Chi's sweet corn cake.  Have you all ever had sweet corn cake??  It is so stinking good!  It is a variation of corn bread but sweeter and moister.
 
Chevy's restaurants has it as a little extra with their main dishes but that always leaves me wanting more.  Not to mention that we rarely get out to dinner any more with the two little ones.  But I digress.  This little packet can bring all the goodness into your home.  Try it as a side dish with Mexican or just really with just about anything.  You just add a can of cream corn and some melted butter, mix, bake and viola, you have yourself a yummy side item!  The mix is about $1.25.
 

 

Next up I am cheating just a tad.  I am not normally one to buy my shampoo in bulk as I like to change things up and almost always have 2 or 3 different shampoos open and available to use at any given time.  However, when Beauty Brands Store has their annual liter sale and a coupon, I figure what the heck. 

I did a little research on the types of shampoo and then headed over to the store.  Is it just me or do you need to smell shampoo before buying it too??  This Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Shampoo smells amazing.  It is a fresh minty smell that I think it great for summer.  It is different from the standard flowery or fruity smells which I love.  My hubby thinks it is a little strong right out of the bottle but really likes it on my hair.  Hmm, that was kind of a odd statement!  :)

I have only used this shampoo since I bought it last week and I LOVE the results so far.  My hair feels so soft and smooth and looks super healthy. 

If you have a Beauty Brands store near you check it out.  All their liters of shampoo and conditioner are currently on sale for $12.99 or less.  It is a savings of over 50% and really puts them on par  - ounce for ounce - with the drugstore brands.  Oh, and they also have a coupon for $3.50 off a purchase of $10 or more.  So technically I purchased by liter for just about $10 ;)

Unfortunately, they don't sell this particular shampoo online but you don't have a store near you check out the website for other great options.  Sale runs until Aug 2nd!

Friday, June 27, 2014

A little of this, a little of that

Just a couple random things this week that we have been working on. 

We were in desperate need of some patriotic décor around here so I decided to get crafty.  My two projects?  A chevron flag and a material banner.  The banner was considerably easier than the flag but both were relatively simple overall.  I'm thinking these two items may become the foundation of our summer mantle - from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

 
I was inspired by Momfessionals and White Cottage Boutique but decided to put my own twist on the flag since that is what DIY is all about!
 
I forgot to take pictures of the first couple of steps but basically I was on a budget so instead of buying strips of wood, I went with a 2 ft by 2 ft piece of plywood for $6 at Home Depot.  Plus it didn't require me to use a nail gun and for that my hubby was thankful!  I originally thought I would be ok with a square flag but after looking at the board more I knew it needed to be cut.  So I asked Matt to take a little off the bottom.  I spray painted the whole board white without sanding it down.  Oops, that was definitely a no no.  The board was a flaky hot mess and kept the painter's tape from sticking well.  Lesson learned.
 
Next I painted the top corner blue.  I just eyeballed it but looking at the final product I think I should have made it a little larger.
 
From there I followed White Cottage Boutique's instructions on the tape for chevron.  I wanted a few more stripes so I went with a thinner tape.  I should have followed her instructions a little closer though....she knew to sand down the wood!  Ha! 
 After all the tape was down, I used an exacto knife to cut out the tape sections that would be painted.
 Up next was the red paint...
 After the red paint dried, I moved on to the stars.  I found a stencil at Hobby Lobby for a couple bucks and knew it was worth every penny of my sanity after completing the chevron stripes!

A close up of the finished product.  As you can see my stripes are not super straight and the red paint did bleed a little but overall I love how it came out.  It definitely has my personal touch!  Ha!  :)
I didn't take any step by step pictures of the banner making, but it is pretty simple.  You just need a mixture of material that compliment each other and the theme you are working on.  In the past I have picked up fabric bundles at Hobby Lobby.  They are the perfect size and usually offer the colors I need for $10 before the 40% off coupon.  This time I wasn't in love with the red, white and blue bundle so I decided to pick out my own fabric.  I bought half a yard of each fabric which is WAY too much - unless you want to make 3 or 4 banners!  The problem was really making sure the individual fabric pieces were long enough to tie so honestly I'm not sure if you could buy less yardage.  Anyway, it is as simple as cutting strips of fabric and tying them around twine or yarn or string in a pattern.  Voila!  You have a cute, decorative banner!

In the end I spent under $10 on the flag and around $12 on the banner.  Cheap and simple crafts that can make a big statement.   

Next to the outdoors. 

Since the day we moved into our new home almost 2 years ago, I have wanted to paint our shutters and front door.  I honestly disliked the color so much that it made me cringe every time we drove up to the house.  #realtalk

This picture is from the day we moved in but I wish I had a more recent picture because the color has faded into a more pink tone.  Yuck!
Disregard the beautiful, yellow lawn as it was one of the hottest summers on record and the previous owner thought watering the lawn was overrated.  ;)


This picture is a few weeks later at Natalie's birthday party.  It may be just me but I felt like the pink/red/maroon color was too bright and didn't blend well with the rest of the house. 

After almost 2 years of debating and nagging, we finally agreed on a color and painted the shutters and front door!!!  I absolutely adore how it looks now.  It even changed my opinion of the front door!  That is saying something since I really don't love the gold and glass look....but again, I think I was more focused on the color of the door than the intricacies of the design itself.
 
It looks more quaint and neutralizes all the yellow in our brick/roof/siding in my opinion.  Honestly, I can't believe something that cost about $20 and took about 4 hours of time took us 2 years to accomplish.  Another lesson learned - just go for it!  A small change can have a huge impact!

We decided to paint the door one step darker on the Behr color sample card.  The shutters are Scotland Road and the door is Amazon Moss.

Landscaping is up next but right now I am loving the new look!  Oh and I think the hubby did a good job getting the lawn under control  ;)
 
Happy Friday!









 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Recipe Club...and lightning strikes!

Today is a trifecta of things I love....Momfessionals, delicious tried and true recipes and a link up!
 

Now I can't whip up a meal from scratch but dang can I follow a recipe to make some yummy stuff for my family!  :)  Over the past year or so I have really gotten into cooking and have braved recipes that I never in a million years thought I would be able to make.  It has been a lot of fun and luckily I have about a 78% track record for choosing (and executing) delicious recipes.

The percentage rating comes directly from my hubby and a friend who likes to drop by for dinner when he hears I am trying a new recipe!

On Saturday, our area was hit by lightning or our house was or something.  I don't understand the logistics of it all except that it fried our internet modem, our wireless router and a module card in the computer.  Lucky for us didn't kill the whole computer and Matt was able to get us back online late yesterday with a few new items..   Or some version of this, I just know the little box our internet provider gave us had scorch marks on it and the internet didn't work for 3 days....

So anyway, I am running a little behind so I am just going to share the links of some of my very favorite recipes.

Way back in January I shared the best recipe to make if you have avocados handy.  It was a huge hit and a perfect summer meal!
Chicken & Avocado Enchiladas

Another go to item for us particularly for lunches is Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar sandwiches from Rachel Schultz.  It is super simple and only 4 ingredients (woohoo!).  I like it on a bun but my hubby likes to eat it with pretzel chips like it is a dip.  Either way it is so good!

Lastly, I love Thin Mints.  And I love light, cool desserts in summer.  This Frozen Grasshopper Pie from Six Sister's Stuff is the perfect mix of both.  Not to mention that it is way easy to make.


Hope you all enjoy! 

Friday, June 20, 2014

5 on Friday - Favorite Kindle Learning Apps for Toddlers

It has been quite awhile that I have participated in a link up with the ladies at The Good LifeA. Liz Adventures.  Hello! Happiness. Carolina Charm but that is because I love a good theme for my 5 on Fridays and lately I have just been lacking the creativity for a good theme.  No worries, today I am back with a post that I have been meaning to share for quite some time!


As a SAHM, these Kindle apps have been a godsend for us.  Unfortunately for all of us, Natalie has shown some serious push back on being taught various things (letter learning, phonics, etc) from me.  Lord help us when she is a teenager.  Not to mention that I am not an elementary teacher and need all the help I can get to keep Natalie on track with her learning. 

We have visited local teacher supply stores and picked up lots of fun tools / activities to work on together but sometimes learning is just more fun with bright colors and a cute mascot.  :)  Most of these apps have been supplemental to other projects we work on and help teach her in a different way than I can with traditional books and flash cards.  Not to mention the app allows you to repeat activities over and over which I think help instills the principles we are trying to teach.

Plus it is always fun to trick the kids into learning while playing! #justkidding #butnotreally 

All of these apps offer a LITE version for free.  Which is awesome so you can test it out and see if it is something that would truly benefit or engage your little one without having to purchase the full version.    The "22L" apps featured are $1.99 for the full version and the Tracing app is only $.99.  Not bad if you want to unlock the whole alphabet (and extras) instead of just the first 12 letters!  ;)

First up, a pretty simple introduction into letters, numbers, colors, and shapes.  The full title is Preschool All-in-One Learning - Bubble School Adventure - Basic Skills A to Z.  Whew!


The main gist of the app is to pop the bubbles to match the item indicated.  In this example, we are matching the number 2 (from the cloud).  There are varying levels of difficulty and learning tools versus games. 
 
This was one of the first apps Natalie played but she has pretty much graduated well past the simplicity at this point.  However, I loved it for a starting place.
Next we introduced an app with more advanced letter and number recognition along with some other basic skills. Hence the name, I guess!  :)  Anyway, the full title is Preschool All-In-One Basic Skills: Learning Adventure A to Z.
The main menu.  A perfect way to change up what Natalie is doing and seeing.  Plus I loved that we could introduce counting, same and different, sizes and matching.  All bundled up in fun and not overwhelming games.

 
I have no idea why but she LOVES the train aspect of this game.


This app, Tracing ABC, was awesome for Natalie getting the basics of how to write her letters.  Now it is in no way a replacement for getting out a piece of paper and pencil to write but it did help her learn the basic shapes of letters as well as the line to follow when making each letter.  I really feel like it helped her learn how to write her name and it did translate easily to holding a crayon and writing her name on a piece of paper.
 You can learn capital or lower case letters, numbers and shapes.
The outline is shown and you follow the stars when tracing.  Like I said a great way to understand the HOW of writing each letter.  After you complete the letter they offer a word that begins with the letter you just completed.
There are also 2 levels of difficulty to the tracing.  The first shows the letter perfectly traced/straight/in the lines even if your child was a little wobbly.  Though it does correct them if they traced it incorrectly.  The next level really has the child working more on keeping the lines straight and getting the letters as close to 'correct' as possible. 

One of my favorite sections of the app, allows you to start writing and spelling basic words based on skill or grade level.  Or even better?  Enter your own word to help them learn to spell and write their own name!
Totally worth $.99!

Since we have long mastered our letters and numbers, we are currently working on phonics. 
They didn't have a lot of screen shots online but one of the main games shows words and letters.  The child has to but the item in the train that starts with the letter that corresponds with the letter sound given.  If you touch the item, it will speak the name so they can hear the word and start to associate the sounds and letters.
Plus the train is back....and Natalie loves that!

Lastly, 22L offers a great sight words app.  It offers flash cards as well as a few games.  Natalie's favorite is the gears game.  You click on a button and it says a word.  From there you identify the word from the list at the bottom and move the corresponding word/gear to the button. 



I also like the option to grow within the app.  As you master each section of words, you can graduate to more difficult words.  However, if your child already is comfortable with the Pre-K words you can choose to start with Grade K or 1st Grade or wherever is appropriate.  I am pretty sure you can jump around the levels too.

 
So there you have it, my favorite learning apps for Kindle.  I have been very impressed with most of the 22L apps we have found and I would expect them to have variations for other tablets.
 
What are your favorite learning apps for your toddlers? 
 
Happy Friday!! 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Celebrating our Rookie of the Year!

Hi! It has taken over a month but I am so excited to share the details and some pictures of Chase's first birthday party!  First, I need to say that there are way more pictures of the décor than the actual party while it was happening.  I was pretty wrapped up in "hostess" mode and just enjoying everything about the day and having our family and friends celebrate Chase, that I neglected to get many pictures during the party.  Luckily I did get a family picture and some of Chase with the cake!  ;)
 
After spending more time than I would care to admit searching Pinterest, I settled on a sports theme...which quickly turned into a baseball theme.  I loved how easy the décor and the food were to support my theme.  Plus, the cutesy "first pitch" and "rookie of the year" stuff had me sold!  I'm not sure how it happened but I ended up with mostly red, white and blue decorations with some green tossed in so it didn't seem to patriotic.
 
First up the mantel.... 
 A Pinterest inspired banner, a few pictures of Chase over the year, baseballs in a vase, an apothecary jar filled with shredded paper bag filler and wood craft things (glued to kabob sticks) in buckets.
 


Chase's newborn picture and one from his 6 month session. 
 
In the kitchen I decided to showcase some of my favorite pictures from his first year.  Don't judge but I may have printed out over 100 pictures.  Allegedly. 
 The construction paper on at the bottom was courtesy of Natalie since she wanted to help with the decorations as well.  So sweet :)
 
Since all 100 pictures wouldn't fit on the window I decided to line the door frames in the living room and dining room.  Yes, I realize this makes me slightly cray cray but I just couldn't narrow down my favorite pictures any more.  He has changed so much over the year and we have had so much fun that I couldn't not document some (most) of those moments.    
On the kitchen table, I had a blue tablecloth and some baseball fabric along with the cookie cake I made. 


In the dining room we did more pictures, another apothecary jar and a 'C' with stars.  Oh and of course, baseball scrapbook paper.  Love me some cheap and cute decorations!

On the other side of the buffet was one of my very favorite DIY items.  It was actually pretty reasonable and super easy to make!  I used an 8x11 canvas that I already had around the house (don't judge but I always seem to have blank canvases around the house for crafting whenever the mood strikes!), paint, vinyl and my Cricut paper cutter.  I chose a more yellow-y, off white color than white so the baseball had a slightly more used/distressed look to it.  I also took a khaki color and distressed the edges to get the 'old baseball' look.  From there it was just cutting the vinyl and placing it how I wanted.  Easy peasy!  The best part?  Chase has a sports themed bedroom so this bad boy (and another one I made) are now hanging in his room.


The dining room table.

The front entry table.  Another DIY canvas, some stars from the Dollar Store, pictures and some kiddy favors.  I also had a baseball out that everyone could sign with their birthday wishes.

One thing I really enjoy doing for the kiddo's birthday parties is making a special wreath or front door item.  It then gets repurposed to hang on their bedroom door throughout the rest of the year. 
For Chase I found cardboard shapes that were easy to paint and apply more vinyl too.  The star and the ribbon are just hot glued to the back.  Another fun, easy and unique item for the kids to keep.
 
As I was going through all my pictures I realized in my hurry to feed everyone, I completely neglected to take pictures of the food!  Wowzers!  So the food was kind of a stroke of genius for this theme party.  I kept it super simple and TOTALLY in theme.... 
'All Star' Nachos (yes, I bought the huge container of concession stand cheese from Sam's...it was $6 and a total hit!)  with 'Grand Slam' Ground Beef.  Accompanied by jalapenos, sour cream and salsa.
'Home Run' hot dogs
'On Deck' Fruit Salad
'Strike Out' Soft Pretzel Bites (purchased from a local establishment)  As a side note, my husband and I battled over whether or not to get the pretzels bites and then how many we would need.  I argued that people love soft pretzels, they are a staple at ball parks and there is just something so right about a soft pretzel with gooey cheese.  In the end, he caved and we bought a 100 (for $10!) and they were completely gone halfway thru the party.  Not that I am saying I was right or anything....
It was more than enough food for everyone and I got rave reviews.  I think people enjoyed the fact that the food was outside the norm for a party and I loved how little I had to cook.  :)  Seriously, I cooked up the ground beef and that was ALL!  My hubby grilled the hot dogs, the cheese warmed up right in the crockpot and I convinced my mom to bring the fruit salad. 
 

Now dessert was a slightly different story....
Since I am not a huge fan of cakes, I prefer an ice cream sundae bar for big parties.  Don't worry, people are always very excited about the sundae bar and don't seem to feel to gipped  they didn't get birthday cake.  :)
We had brownies and cookie cake as a side item or the base of their sundae.  Thanks to Pinterest I have a delicious cookie cake recipe from Life, Love and Sugar.
The kiddos love the toppings!  I learned the hard way this time that you really need to keep an eye on the spoons though.  Luckily it was after everyone had a sundae, but I caught one stealthily little one scooping the M&M's right out of the bowl with the spoon....and putting the spoon back after using it.  #gross
I also kicked up the sundae bar with hot fudge, strawberry and warm butterscotch sauces.  SO YUMMY!!!  The hot fudge is my mother-in-law's recipe but I found the other topping recipes on Pinterest.  #ofcourse
Butterscotch Sauce & Strawberry Topping
Both were so easy and could be made a few days in advance.  Perfect!

Enjoying the beautiful weather on the swing set.


 On to the good stuff...Cake Smash!!
A sweet friend of mine made Chase's delicious smash cake.  In the shape of a baseball, of course!

He wanted to share at first....

Hmm, not sure about this.....

Yea, its so good I need to use both hands...


I cut a piece off once I realized that he would probably devour the whole cake.  :) 

Pondering life with cake...


Too busy with the cake to be bothered for a picture with mom and dad! 

 After a long day of partying the kiddos were wiped out but we had to squeeze in a family picture!
 
I had so much fun planning and hosting this party for Chase!  Our family and friends really made it a special day for him!  Thank you all so much!