Thursday, May 19, 2016

Meet Nature Cat

We recently had the opportunity to meet Nature Cat, PBS Kids newest animated series premiering Monday, May 23rd.

Nature Cat tells the story of Fred, a house cat who dreams of exploring the great outdoors. In each episode, once his family leaves for the day, Fred transforms into Nature Cat, “backyard explorer extraordinaire”. Nature Cat can’t wait to get outside for a day of backyard nature excursions and adventures, but there’s one problem: He’s still a house cat with no instincts for nature itself. With the help of his animal friends, Nature Cat embarks on action-packed adventures that include exciting missions full of nature investigation, “aha” discovery moments and humor, all while inspiring children to go outside and “play the show.”  Nature Cat’s adventures take him through his family’s big backyard, into the woods, and then into the “four corners” of his natural world: parks, ponds, caves, gardens, marshes, ravines, swamps, canyons, nature preserves and mountains.

We were lucky enough to preview two episodes, Fall for Hal and The Great Grasshopper Race, prior to the premiere and both girls really enjoyed it, especially Ashlynn (4 years).  The animation is bright and classic two dimensional, similar to the old 90s nicktoons of my generation, as opposed to the three dimensional animation you see in most of today's popular shows.   In the episode Fall for Hal, the animal friends go on a First Day of Fall scavenger hunt.  Scavenger hunts are something we love to do when playing outside.  As much as the girls love riding their scooters and playing ball, they have as much fun looking for different items when we walk our dogs around our neighborhood.  It's always a great way to keep them entertained and screen time free.

Of course, Nature Cat had to tag along for our exploration and we also used the cute folding binoculars and note pad PBS kindly sent along for us to get learning. Ashlynn loved pretending to take "notes" on her findings and write down things like what color the rocks she found.

Adding to the rock collection, checking out on how our flowers are blooming, or counting the rings in a tree stump to figure out how old a tree is are just some from activities we can do in our (literal) backyard.

Be sure to check out Nature Cat premiering May 23rd on PBS Kids!  You can learn more about the show at the Nature Cat facebook page.

*** A huge thank you to PBS Kids for allowing us to check out Nature Cat before it premieres, and sending us the Nature Cat plush, activity note pad, and pocket binoculars. We did not receive compensation for this post and all opinions and activities are solely our own***

Monday, May 16, 2016

Sewing 101: Getting Started

This should be titled, tips from a novice to a novice.  My mom was a fashion design major at University of Arizona in the late 60s and yet, I never saw her sew more than a button or a few hems (#shortpeopleproblems), sorry mom.  So the idea of sewing something for myself, never really past further than buying the Singer Stitch Sew Quick in college because I wanted to make long fabric headband scarves things, fashion term.  I also remember visiting the sewing rooms in the design college building so we could work on our togas for Greek Week. (insert hashtagtheshame).  I'm not sure I ever considered making baby clothes, even when I found out I was have a daughter.  However, I do know the inspiration spark that is Pinterest, let me believe on more than one occasion that "hey, I could do that!".

It really was the teepee that did me in.  I knew it was something that could be made for a fraction of the price I could buy.  My mom gave me a sewing machine for my 30th birthday.  She taught me to thread it and basically sew a straight line.  I made a few items, had lots of discussions with a blog friend who sews, and basically learned what I needed through pinterest, my manual, and youtube.  I still consider myself a novice, and just lately would give myself a bit more credit with sewing button holes, making clothes, and using fancier stitches.  But hey, let's not get crazy, I've yet to insert a zipper.

Learning to sew can definitely be intimidating if you have no where to start.  Here are some items that definitely make life easier when getting the ball rolling.

Outside of the obvious essentials of a sewing machine, needle, thread, your chosen fabric, some scissors, and an iron, get yourself a seam ripper.  You will need it and it will get used.  If you are like me, it'll get used A LOT.  

Invisible ink pen.  This will let you mark your fabric/trace your patterns and will disappear and wash out.

Sharp scissors.  Get a pair of real sewing scissors and lock them up somewhere secret.  Use them only on fabric so they stay sharp.  Pinking sheers (the zigzaggy scissors that make little triangle edges) are great too for finishing hems before getting comfortable with fancier stitches or a serger.  They will keep the fabric from fraying, and just make the edges look neater if visible.

Self healing mat and rotary cutter.  This isn't necessary, but you'll be so happy you have it.  It will make cutting your fabric a breeze and keeps it much more accurate than cutting with scissors alone.  Being precise with your cuts is really important and having your edges perfectly straight will make sewing a straight line much easier.

Things to know when starting: 

> there are different types of sewing machine needles based on what kind of fabrics you are using, make sure you are using the proper needle to prevent it from breaking or snagging your fabric (ie, denim and canvas vs knits and gauze)

> how to properly thread your bobbin (the understitch)

> how to properly thread your needle (the topstitch)

> adjusting tension (this can be affected by not properly threading your needle or bobbin and cause all sorts of issues)

> how to backstitch to lock your thread in place

Do you sew?  Any tips to add for those who are just starting out or want to learn?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Life Lately

A little life lately recap....

... starting with Mother's Day because why not?  This was definitely the best yet.  Nothing big or fancy, but just awesome quality time with those who made me a mother.  We started by heading out for brunch, natch. After some chocolate chip pancakes for the girls and eggs benny for us, we came back home and attempted a family nap, with was more like mini 'massage' with the girls jumping all over us.  So we made our way over to the J.Crew factory store to take advantage of their weekend promotion, which left me with this, this, and this. After we came back and played outside to enjoy the gorgeous (but windy) weather.  

We found a frog in a yard and after letting the girls poke and name him, we brought him back to the pond.  We ate dinner and then headed out for ice cream.  Which any day is good in my book if it ends in ice cream.   It was one of those days I wish all weekends could be like... did you notice there was no cleaning?

Tuesday, the girls and I baked a cake for daddy's birthday.  It wasn't a masterpiece, but it was delicious.  And the girls were proud to help, and lick beaters and eat the crumbs. 

In other super exciting news, we are done with diapers!  I should probably do a whole post, but basically, we are officially officially officially out of babyhood.  Kenley is about to turn two and half at the end of the month and since turning two, we've transitioned into a big girl bed, ditched the pacifier, and now are done with diapers.  At the holidays we attempted to capitalize on a potty training streak, and she had a solid week using the potty for number one, but after a week decided she was over it and didn't want to bother anymore.  Since she had just turned two, I dropped and figured we'd try again when she was ready.  I've tried bringing it up a few times, since she does go here and there, but she never seemed to show enough interest.  With all the rain we've been having, I capitalized last week being home bound and indoors and just switched over to undies and she's been awesome ever since.  Holla!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Insta-spired: Photo Dump #9

It's been a long time since my last (september) insta screen shot photo dump.  To be honest, I haven't been saving as many pics, mostly because I haven't been as active on instagram as I used to be.  Some time over the holidays, I stopped checking in every few hours and pulled back on my social media addiction.  I used to be obsessive about making sure I saw every picture and would scroll until I saw things from before, but thankfully now I just typically check in once a day and go through as many as I can until I get bored.

Since the algorithm started, I make sure to like my favorites 'grammers photos so they'll keep coming up and I've been slowly weeding out a lot of accounts that really don't relate to me anymore.  As much as love cute, well designed, handmade baby products... I'm no longer in the baby phase so while following accounts that focus on clothing or products for the 2 and under crowd, is just wasted real estate and time in my feed.  Which is shame because I adore the baby wraps, swaddles, blankets, rompers, and other products that are available these days, just not quite enough to open up the baby factory. ;)

Pretty obvious, coastal interiors are my favorites.  I love the idea of finding an old school dollhouse and painting it all white to make it modern. Faux healthy buffalo bites made with cauliflower, Natalie has the best recipes and food porn pictures.  But seriously, I'd eat cardboard if it had buffalo sauce on it. Lastly the dress was a reminder to check out the pattern to try something new. 

Do you have a favorite feed lately that you love??

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Last Minute Mother's Day Ideas

I was pretty sure the blogisphere was nuts with posting Mother's Day Gift Guides the last few weeks, but lo and behold, it's upon us this weekend.  And while I totally pulled a last minute (and cliche) purchase to my own mama, I know I can't be alone in waiting until there is barely time left for shopping.

I went traditional with sending my mom some blooms.  She's retired in Woodstock and is quite the flower child turned flower lady.  Her garden is something the fairies envy and her house a makeshift nursery, and I'm talking greenhouse, not babies.  So going with classis flowers will not be wasted.  I wanted to stay away from the usual FTD/1-800 route and go with a more modern bouquet.  I checked out both Farmgirl Flowers and The Bouqs.  I actually had a chance to do a review with The Bouqs when they were just getting started, but never went through with it.  I still love their mission and operation (Free Shipping!) and volcanic farm fresh flowers cut the day you order and arriving at your destination 2-4 days later.  Right now, you can get 15% Off and Free Shipping with code MDAY15.

(farmgirl flowers)

I really also loved the mission behind Farmgirl Flowers too, however they were sold out of the Lavender Fields plant, so I'll just have to use them next time (before last minute).

You can also get 7.5% cash back with Ebates when shopping on The Bouqs.

Some other ideas in case you want something to last longer than flowers, ShopBop is currently having a surprise 3-day sale with select items up to 40% off and has free 3-day shipping - get to it!

Have flowers all year with a new phone case, mom-bag organization with a credit card holder, or a summer vacation tote bag perfect for babysitting ;)

Personally, I'm hoping for a surprise pair of sunnies.

Anyone else wait until the last minute???

*** this post contains referral and affiliate links

Monday, May 2, 2016

Frozen Fever Snowgie Snacks

I know I'm super late to the party, but Snowgie Snacks we made for Ashlynn's Frozen Fever birthday party was insanely good.  Just a spin on muddy buddies, but this stuff was dangerous.

Frozen Fever Snowgie Snacks

Frozen Fever Chex Mix (Snowgie Snacks)

6 C Corn Chex
3 C Chocolate Chex
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 C peanut butter
1/4 C butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C powdered sugar
1 C blue M&Ms or candy coated chocolate
1 C mini marshmallows
2 C pretzel sticks

Pour nine cups of preferred Chex cereal into large mixing bowl.  In microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips, butter, and peanut butter. Microwave on high for 30 second intervals, stirring between each until melted and smooth.  Add vanilla.  Pour over chex, mixing by folding in gently with rubber spatula. Once even coatly, pour into large ziploc bag, add powdered sugar, seal, and shake to coat.  Spread on cookie sheet with wax paper to dry.  While waiting, draw faces on marshmallows with food decorator pen.  Add candy, pretzels, and marshmallows store in airtight container. Enjoy!

Frozen Fever Chex Mix

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Love List

Sharing a short little love list this Sunday morning.

Ashlynn received a few board games for her birthday, and she got this one from her cousins.  Her aunt said it was one of her 4 year old cousins favorites.  We finally played it the other day and it's such a great game.  I hadn't heard or known about it, but it really is the perfect game for her age group.  It combines matching, counting, and a similar strategy to Connect4.  Highly recommend it for the pre-school or kindergarten crowd.

I love this black one piece I spotted here and here, it's a little pricier than I like to spend on a suit, but fortunately for my wallet (and husband) it's not available in my size.  Unfortunately, these ones are and they are all $118 or less. 

Now time to find my beach body, eeek!  What's on your current love list?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

[Bookworm] Bitty Book Club

this week's kid lit shelfie

Kenley and I hit up storytime this week while Ashlynn was in school and brought back some extra books to enjoy.  I always try to keep Ashlynn's book shelves a mix of her favorite books with some  extra new ones.  She can be weary of trying new stories and routinely requesting the same ones.  I feel like the compromise of a well loved with a something new is the best way to get new stories in the rotation.  She also leaves her light on after we say goodnight and 'reads' her books to Bitty Baby.  If she were to read you Dragons Love Tacos, you'd be convinced she could actually read.  She's got the whole thing memorized.  As she says, she has a 'great remembory'. ;)

And, worth noting, she loved our library picks! I should have know Wolfie the Bunny was going to be good since it's a blogger fav and seen on every pinterest bookshelf out there, but for some reason I never cared much to add it to our list.  She actually had me read it two times in a row and then had dad read it to her before bed.  Dog Days of School is a book I previously included in a Back to School Book round up, so I was excited to find it hiding out on a shelf. 

Lastly, I posted on instagram a bit back about the hashtag #bittybookclub.  I would love if any kid lit lovers would tag and share their favorite kids books.  I have tons saved to my Amazon Wishlist, but always find it hard remembering what I want to pick up when actually at the library (I should open my Amazon App), but I take recommendations seriously!  It would be such a great reference to search the tag and see what everyone is loving.  

**this post contains Amazon Affiliate links

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

[Crafty Lady] Coffee Filter Flowers

A little fun paper craft if you're looking for something easy to do with your toddler or need some Mother's Day flower decorations. 

We made these dyed coffee filter sunflowers for decoration for Ashlynn's Frozen Fever themed birthday party.  You could dyed the flowers any color or use mess (and stain) free "water colors" by having your child color the filters with markers then painting them over with water and brush.   

We used a large tupperware container and added a bit of water, about a 1/2" full and added a few drops of food coloring.  We dipped them in a few at time and placed them on some paper towels to dry.  Beware the food coloring will stain, so prepare and protect your area and clothing if kids are helping.  After letting them dry out overnight, fold them in half four times (shown below).  Similar to making paper snowflakes, cut the folded filter into the shape of a petal.  I would cut three at a time since we made a bunch, but you can have your tot follow a line with safety scissors.  Ashlynn tried, but since she is a lefty her righty scissors didn't work too well so I did it for her.  

After cutting, I let her unfold the flowers and they we layered them together by brushing modge podge into the centers.  We layered three together setting the petals off center to give the flowers a fuller look.  

Since we wanted sunflowers to match Anna's birthday dress and decorations, I used a q-tip and some brown acrylic paint to paint the seeded centers. Markers, crayons, or gluing constructions paper to the center would work just as well.

And that's it!  You could make a garland for a mantle or even lay them over a table cloth as a table runner.  The best part was we had everything on hand so this was a FREE activity that doubled as party decor.

Do you have a favorite easy and free craft you do with kids??

Monday, April 25, 2016

Stitch Fix #10

It's been close to 6 months since my last Stitch Fix, if you remember, I was less than thrilled with my fix and have slowly been losing interest in the service.  I find the majority of the items' quality doesn't match it's price point.  A lot of times, I'll receive something that I would buy, but know I could find something similar for less elsewhere, sometimes in better quality.  I also have really been getting tired of the plethora of mixed material and surprise back tops.  I feel as if I can spot someone wearing a Stitch Fix item a mile away due to the back of their shirt.   Still, I have a handful of items I've kept over the last two years that I really have loved and have held up well.  Then there are a few that unraveled or crazy shrunk in the wash.

After pushing my Fix back twice, I finally decided I'd have it ship now as I'm in major need of casual spring/summer tops.  I wrote to my stylist requesting no shoes (I know it's their new thing and they've been sending them to everyone), and tops only.  That I wanted something I can wear while running errands with the kids and still feel like I dressed myself for the day.  I requested natural fabrics, cottons vs polyester, and that I was looking for preppy or unique tops similar to what I could find at J.Crew or Anthropologie and referenced my pinterest board.

My new stylist, Heather, said she saw of boho inspired tops on my pinterest board, and sent me the following items. (FYI, it was sheet washing day)

Alice Blue Gilderoy Embroidery Detail Top $48

| AB 2/11 Women's

Heather mentioned this one first saying it was 100% cotton (check!) and would be great with jeans for a weekend outfit.  My first thought is that it could be worn to a Seattle Seahawks tailgate, and they are not my team.  The cotton was nice and it felt well made, but it was too short and hit me awkwardly at the waist.  Aside from the neon green embroidery, I wasn't crazy about the tribal inspired design.  If I'm going"boho" I'm going more the feminine floral and lace, not tribal or Aztec....

Verdict: Returned

Papermoon Charla Crochet Sleeve Swing Knit Tank $44


Generally, I am not a fan of chevron print.  It's just been dead and feels super played out.  I do like blue, green, and white, but something about this less than thrilled me.  I guess I felt it looked cheap?  It's 95% rayon, but is breezy and would be nice with shorts running around on a summer day. Once again, I didn't really find it worth it's price, but I did think it had a flattering fit.

Verdict:  Returned

Papermoon Sarasota V-Neck Pocket Knit Top $44

| 3/2 LJ

Basically no.  I don't care for the print, and the fit was off.  Too short in the front and fit weird at the inseams on the sides.  Like it was almost trying to be a dolman sleeve, but not really. It felt like a lightweight sweater knit, but was 72% rayon, 23%, 5% spandex.  I don't think it'd be very breathable during the humid summer months and basically it just was way off the mark for me.  (Oh, and because I mention it every time.... in no way would I pay $44 for a v-neck tee.)

Verdict: Returned

Brixon Ivy Willand Lace Overlay Blouse $54


I had requested a similar blue lace top I had seen in someone else's fix.  Heather said it wasn't available, but that this was similar.  I'm probably one of few women who rarely wears black, but that killed it for me.  The fit was okay, I love the royal blue, always been a favorite color to wear because I feel like it makes my eyes look bluer, but I wish the back was blue, not black, and the lace white.  It reminded me of something I would have picked up at The Limited or Express back when I worked and paired it with black Editor pants.   Just doesn't really fit my current style.

Verdict:  Returned

Pixley Indianan Graphic Print Mixed Material Tee $44

| 3/22 LJ
(stock photo in blue)

Ugh, ok... yes, this shirt is basically all the things I'm tiring of with Stitch Fix.  Mixed materials, surprise backs, overpriced polyester, and chevron.    But but but, I kept it.  Only because I had a credit and I hate paying for the styling fee and not getting anything out of it.  Without the styling fee, I probably would have returned it all, but it was "free to me" so I kept it.  I love the fit and length in both the front and back.  Grey v-necks are definitely a go to, and while I'm not crazy about the pattern, I don't hate it.  It's definitely a shirt I can throw on and go.  So yes, I totally went back on my word above paying $44 for a v-neck tee.

Verdict: Kept

I think I might put my fixes on hold for a while.  I definitely tend to like their winter options, blouses and sweaters, better than the tops.  I also think I need to be even more specific in what I'm looking for and possibly try to request specific SF items.

What are your thoughts on this Fix?  Do you use Stitch Fix, how have you felt about your recent fixes?

*** this post contains referral and affiliate links

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ashlynn's 4th Frozen Fever Birthday Party

Please prepare for photo overload.  I figured I'd just make one big old post so if any of this makes it's way to Pinterest it's all in one spot for those who've been requested for similar Frozen themed parties.  Ashlynn had initially just asked for a Frozen party, but since she has a spring birthday, I talked her into Frozen Fever.  I figured it'd be easier to use sunflowers and the movies' birthday party theme.

Knowing Ashlynn can be overwhelmed in large group settings and I knew I wanted her to enjoy her birthday relaxed and happy. So we nixed the idea of going to the local trampoline park, bounce zone, and her gymnastics gym with her whole class for a party at home with her cousins, our close local friends including a friend from school and a friend from gymnastics. It was just the right amount of kids in the house (10), but since they were mostly over 3, I knew we needed some activities to keep the kids from getting crazy or getting bored. 

I decided to take the Frozen Fever theme past just the decorations and cake and interpret the movie (more like music video) into the actual party.  We had a string tied to the door and it literally wrapped around our house with different activities for the kids based on all the gifts Anna collects from Elsa.

Of course, the table was the star of the party, I mean don't people just come to parties for the cake? ;)  Some cheap yellow and sunflower paper fans and an easy DIY project that I did with Ashlynn one afternoon to make the rest of the sunflowers for the backdrop.  I'll share more on those another day.

Anna | Elsa (under $10) | Mini Frozen Fever Figures (currently over 60% off)

I ordered the cake from a pledge sister of mine who now has her own cake business. I typically would have made a cake or cupcakes myself since it's a huge savings to do so, but Ashlynn was really excited about her birthday cake, and I just knew we had to thee Frozen Fever cake and there was no way I'd do it justice.  Some Frozen Fever toys doubling for decor and kid friendly snacks and we were all set.

I did manage to make some royal icing cookies, sunflowers with chocolate jimmies for the centers, some snowgies and number 4s

Variety of hoagies for Anna's love of sandwiches, and cheese that resembles the Rapunzel flower more than a sunflower, but I tried. And 'Follow the String" string cheese for kids like Kenley who only eat cheese sticks. 

The melted snowman water cracked Ashlynn up and was way easier than making a punch. ;)  The little pom pom snowgies you see hiding around the table were made with craft store pom poms, hot glue and black puff paint.  We gave them out to the kids as they left.

I brought down the kid tables, Ikea Latt and Ikea Kritter,  and set up a bracelet making station for the first activity.  Since Anna's first gift was a bracelet, I thought this would be a good way for the kids to "break the ice" since children can typically be shy when entering a party.  The girls loved beading the pony beads on the plastic bracelets and it was a great way to get everyone involved right away as they arrived.

After, we moved the tables aside to play a game of musical chairs.  Ashlynn has played at school and I know it's a favorite.  Naturally, they dance around the chairs to "Making Today a Perfect Day". 

We also had a great game of Pin the Nose (Carrot?) on the Olaf.  Not sure if the kids have been blindfolded before because they all thought it was the funniest thing.  The string had gone to Oaken's Trading post, where everyone could have gotten a Frozen tattoo, but the excitement was too much and the kids were all having a good time.  No need for extra activities if everyone is content.  The string then rounded into the dining room to the kid sized photo booth (kid sized being extra low backdrop) for some silly pictures with some Frozen Fever printable props. If you're still relating games to gifts, this was inspired by the portrait Anna receives. 

The string ended at the platter of sandwiches everybody filled up and after we all sang Happy Birthday and cut the cake.  Which, if I haven't mentioned, was amazing.  The top tier was purple vanilla cake, a big surprise for the birthday girl, and bottom chocolate chocolate chip cake.  After we opened presents always a highlight for the kids.

Each child was treated to a Disney Little Golden Book and Frozen Ring for their party favor.  There is nothing I love more than children's books and hate more then plastic junk in a cup for a party favor. I'm pretty sure it was one of the best days ever for Ashlynn and will be quite memorable too, since she's still talking about it non-stop. It was the perfect party for our daughter, in the comfort of our home with she wanted there. I had said I had gone all out since this would be our last at home party, but I'm not so sure.  I mean, Kenley is only 2...... ;)

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