Saturday, July 16, 2016

Christmas in July and Back to School

I guess most bloggers would consider the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Christmas in July, but there are some other really good deals going on right now.

Target always has a major toy sale this time of year.  It's not really the best or most in demand toys, but definitely great deals for squirreling away some extra toys to stick in stockings or to give as gifts to nieces, nephews, friends, or any birthday parties you might have in the future.  The girls were so good on our drive down and back from SC and while tagging along on my appointments to the doctor and getting new tires that I told them they could pick out a toy.  Of course they picked Doc McStuffin's Pet Vet (50%off), which is seriously the toy they beeline for when we kill some time browsing the aisles.  I guess because it has a few buttons you can push through the packaging, but they seriously are always playing with it.  Most of the toys are 30% off, but I did fine some My Little Pony figurines for 50%.  I also grabbed the girls the Doc McStuffin's doctor kit because most of the pieces from their's have fallen apart over the last 4 years, and at less $10 it would be the perfect gift to go with the Big Book of Boo Boos.

Kohl's is having a Christmas in July Sale for cardmembers with code SUNTAN30 and free shipping JULY4FREE on all orders.  Non-cardmembers can get 15% off their entire purchase with BIGSAVER and all Melissa & Doug toys are 20% off with PLAYTIME20.


And for those of you with the back to school countdown going, Pottery Barn Kids is having 20-60% backpacks and lunch boxes.  I swear every year their prints get better and better and I'm always itching to get the girls new ones.  Their stuff is still in really good shape, so I'll probably wait until A is in kindergarten to pick a new one, but definitely crushing on so many styles!




Am I alone or does anyone else play Santa in summer?  Happy Shopping!





Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Our Backyard Campout with #kohlscampguide + Giveaway

 Thank you to Kohl's for collaboration on this post. I was compensated and received products from Kohl's Camping department for my review, but all opinions and experiences are solely my own.


Since this is our last summer in Pennsylvania, we've created a bucket list of sorts for things we'd like to do as a family before we make the move to Charlotte next year.  While the list is full of our favorite places and local annual traditions, we wanted to add in some activities we've always talked about, but never got around to doing - like camping!  Since we are definitely camping novices, we decided to take the girls for a test drive in our backyard.

We were so lucky to be able to partner with Kohl's to shop their camping department and get ourselves ready for our first camp out with little kids. We barely had any gear, so Kohl's really came through with a diverse camp and outdoor selection including tents, cookware, grills, coolers, sleeping bags, fishing gear, the list goes on.  With trusted brands like Coleman, Stanley, Columbia, and Stansport, we knew we were getting the right gear.



I was able to set up the tent, all by myself, in about 15 minutes, maybe less? It was so simple and I can't get over how spacious it is for having been packed up so small.  We decided on a Coleman Monterey 6-person Dome because the value at Kohl's could not be beat.  I had been looking online at a similar 4 person tent for a Christmas present for Pete and it cost just as much.  I love that we aren't cramped in there with the girls, and we have the ability to camp out in the future with family members or even the girls' friends as they grow older.


We packed up our Stanley Adventure Cooler with some juice pouches for the girls and some craft brews for us.  The 30 quart cooler is legit, tall enough to hold two liter bottles and be used as a makeshift seat.  It keeps items cold for up to four days!  I've seen other high end brand coolers tote the same thing, but cost more than twice as much.  We've already used it for a concert tailgate, to keep bowls of pasta salad and fresh cut fruit chilled on our drive to the cousins, and for all our drinks and snacks on our 10 hour drive to Myrtle Beach. It was also perfect for storing some watermelon slices and our overnight chia seed pudding, which was the perfect post camp breakfast.



We made some s'mores over at our fire pit, but the Stanley Adventure Prep + Cook Set (shown above), would have been perfect cooking a camp friendly dinner for when we finally venture out past our backyard.  The tiny sleek pot that can easily be stored in a backpack, and contains a pot with lid, two bowls, a spatula, slotted spoon, and lids that can double as a cutting board.



Afterward, we had the girls snuggle into their new Glow-In the Dark sleeping bags and we set up our ol' faithful air mattress to watch a movie on the laptop. The girls are obsessed with the sleeping bags, they pretty much pull them out every time I put them away and you've probably seen them as a dining room staple in my snap stories ever since they arrived last month.  They are super warm and made really well.  I love that they were only $20 each and from trustworthy camp brand, when cheap cartoon nap mats can cost twice as much. I know these sleeping bags will last the girls years.


The girls did a great job once they finally fell asleep.  The woke with the sun, which is standard for them, and then went on a hunt to find some bunnies.  We created our #kohlscampguide to help inspire any other backyard campers.





Now, the exciting news, Kohl's wants to GIVEAWAY a $50 GIFT CARD to one lucky reader! To enter the Kohl’s $50 gift card giveaway, click on this link to enter your information for a chance to win.  NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends 8/1/16 11:59:59pm P.T.  Open to legal residents of the US/DC who are 18+ yrs of age.  Official sweepstakes rules can be found here.

Good luck! Winners will be contacted on or about August 8th.



This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

the need for seeds

I recently jumped on the chia seed bandwagon.  I finally started working out again and while I consider myself a fairly healthy eater, as in I don't eat a lot of junk, I also don't eat enough protein or  veggies #carboholic #sugaraddiction.  I always feel tired and lack energy, I know exercise will help, but I need to do a better job fueling my body.

I picked up chia seeds, knowing I can add them to my green shakes, but also wanted to try some of the overnight chia seed puddings that I always see on pinterest.  I'm terrible about eating breakfast, and usually resort to eating cinnamon crunch cereal, which is basically sugary empty calories.

According to the internet, chia seeds are high in fiber, fill you up, balance your blood sugar, and are high in antioxidants.  They are rich in calcium, iron, potassium, and omega-3s.... so yes, a superfood.



Basically if you are telling me I can have something that resembles dessert for breakfast, I'll be all over it.   I'm going to try a few recipes, but would love to hear how you add to chia seeds to your diet if that's something you're into!



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dog Days of Summer

It's been just us three girls lately, so we've been finding lots of ways to stay busy that don't necessarily involve bathing suits, sunscreen, a variety of packed snacks, cries for ice cream, and 500 trips to public pool bathrooms.  I actually do enjoy taking the girls to the pool, but when the previously mentioned happens in the first hour, it's not something I look to repeat daily. 

On Friday, I bravely took both girls to see Finding Dory.  It was both their first experience in a movie theater, and overall I'd give them A- for their effort.  To be honest, I blame the neverending previews.  One, why are they so loud?? and Two, the 15 minutes they took up gave way to the girls antsy-ness in the final fifteen minutes of the movie.  Though, they both really enjoyed Piper... possibly more than Finding Dory.  It was still a fun experience for them and I look forward to seeing another... in probably six months.  


On Saturday, I snuck out for some solo time.  I headed to the outlets in search of new sunglasses.  I had been wearing my Tom Ford pair since before Ashlynn was born.  They are scratched so bad, but they fit so well and are so light, I never cared enough to find new ones.  For my birthday in January, I was going to finally get a new pair, but ended up grabbing a pair from J.Crew factory for less than $20.  They were cute, but once the weather warmed up they would slide right down my nose, and recently stretched more at the ears that if I looked down they'd fall right off my face.

I was hoping just to find a pair I liked and come back to hunt it down online for cheaper, but The Sunglass Hut got me.  I couldn't decide between two pairs, so I made use of their Buy 1, Get $50 Off the second promotion.  I have 90 days to make a return if I find one doesn't fit comfortably.  I have a thing for oversized frames, but I love the bone color and fit of these aviators.  I've never been into aviator styles for myself, but I've been converted.


After we decided to get an inflatable pool for the girls instead of dealing with the Saturday crowds.  The girls splashed to their hearts content and we enjoyed so backyard brews and cooked dinner without being rushed. 

Yesterday, we headed over to a local zoo.  It's pretty small with only a handful of exhibits, but the highlight is definitely the giraffe feeding.  The girls loved getting a chance to get up close and hand the giraffes their leaves of romaine.  We wandered around the other exhibits, before hitting up the playground, and heading out for water ice. 






These two clowns always keep me laughing.











Monday, June 20, 2016

Celebration Weekend

We had quite the weekend.  Perfect weather and an agenda full of fun activities.  Ashlynn last gymnastic class for the year was last Thursday.  We let Kenley participate to see if she was ready to listen to the coaches and participate so she can join the tots class this summer.  She did awesome and it was so cute watching them in class together.  After class ended, Ashlynn received her medal and was ready for Saturday's exhibition.  


Since we don't do dance, the year end gymnastics exhibition is our version of a recital and crazy proud mom over here was getting all sorts of emotional watching her participate in her level's events. The adorableness of it all, getting to relive a bit of my own childhood, and get to see the excitement and joy on her face.   It was also really great to see all the levels, up to level 10, perform their routines.  





Oh, and of course she was super stoked for her trophy at the end!



Afterwards, we celebrated and went to Iron Hill for an early Father's Day dinner.  On our way home, one of our neighbors who just graduated was having their graduation party complete with a giant inflatable obstacle course, so of course the kids couldn't resist crashing.

For Father's Day, we took the girls to the playground before heading back to get their things for their sleepover at Nanny and Pops house.  Pete had concert tickets, which he hadn't realized were for Father's Day, so he was stuck bringing me ;)   We headed out early to grab some beer and eat at Troegs before the show over at Hershey park.  We had an awesome night, I had less of a great Monday morning, but was ready to see the girls... who had a blast at their sleepover.

So thankful for the family time we had this weekend to celebrate this amazing dad.






Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sunshine and WellieWishers


There is nothing I love more than a beautiful day... except for maybe uninterrupted sleep.  

Yesterday we spent the morning at the park, playing on the playground and taking the scooter and balance bikes for a spin.  Kenley finally let me teach her how to the brake on her scooter and Ashlynn is has been taking off on her new balance bike.  We picked up a second bike so Kenley could have one too and let Ashlynn take the new one.  It's the "as seen on" Shark Tank Kazam bike and we love it.  Compared to our Radio Flyer version, it's few differences - a lower cross bar and centered foot rest, make a huge difference.  Since she's learning to cruise with her fit in pedal position due to the foot rest, she won't have to learn to change her center of gravity when adding in pedals.  With her other bike, she'd just let her legs fly out to the sides since there was no where for her feet to go. 

We've been spending warmer days at the pool, and a while back I was generously sent So Cozy's Splash line, made for post swim hair.  The All in One shampoo, conditioner and body wash is perfect for throwing in the pool bag and I might even use the swim leave-in conditioner for myself because it detangles and smells coconutty amazing.   The products are carried online and in stores at Target, and I really can't rave about them enough. 



Did anyone see the line of dolls that American Girl is releasing?  Wellie Wishers, they appear to be the American Girl version of Disney Princess Toddler dolls.  Not quite as fancy, special, or large as an original AG doll, and a bit more versatile (in characteristics) than a Bitty Baby.  These seem like the perfect doll for girls (like Ashlynn) who would love an American Girl doll, but really isn't quite old enough to care for it properly.  AG dolls are recommended for ages 8 and up, and while I've contemplated giving A one (I have one saved) I know the hair will be a tangled mess and and she'll get too banged up.  Poor Bitty is ready for a trip to the AG Hospital for a neck retightening. Not too mention, AG dolls are an investment.  These dolls will be released in one week, June 23, and I'm pretty sure it might be hard to resist picking one up... our girls do love their wellies after all! ;)

Update: Just learned there is an Ashlyn, and that these dolls and their stories are in fact geared to the 5-8 year learning to read crowd.  (more here)


Now, off to Ashlynn's last gymnastics class before her big exhibition this weekend!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Things, Stuff, Lately, etc

Hello, out there! Let's jump right in shall we?


> With trips to the pool at an all time high, seriously, I wasn't able to handle taking the girls solo the last two years, I needed a few extra suits for myself.  I still love my buys from last year, (one piece, bikini) but wanted a few more in rotation.  Over Memorial Day, I was able to score some Old Navy separates from 30% Off.  I know from experience Old Navy suits aren't going to go the distance (like the ones I invested in last summer and still look great), but to add in a few extras that won't break the bank.   I also highly recommend the flutter top of you are small up top, and plus now I can twin with Kenley. 




> After we finished Mad Men, we've been on a break from good tv.  Pete is a closeted Voice fan so we caught up on this past season on Hulu and I just finished the first season of UnReal.  It's definitely a bit trashy, but as I told my husband, it's the best tv since Gossip Girl.  I also loved Roswell back in high days of the WB, so Shiri Appleby is definitely welcomed back.


> Summer bucket list.  I don't really have an official list or little graphic, but we do have some fun plans for summer.  We will be heading back to my hometown to hit the beach and boards. We will also take a road trip to Myrtle Beach, SC to visit my dad.  The girls are looking forward to lots of swimming, sandcastles, fishing, backyard camping, and s'mores, and popsicles. 



>  And finally, in other (actual) life changing news, we will be moving within the next year to the greater Charlotte area.  I would love to learn more from any southern bells who can help guide us Yankees in our transition below the Mason Dixon.  It's an exciting time, definitely bittersweet as we love where we live, but it's a career and life opportunity that is too great to pass up.  We are positive this will be an awesome adventure for our family and looking forward to all the things the South has to offer.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Kenley 2.5



Kenley is officially two and half and she's made some major leaps in the last six months, naturally, the developmental milestones of dropping her "babyhood" by the wayside, but also just blossoming in her already big personality.  She ditched the crib and got her big girl bed in February, we broke the insane paci attachment around Easter, and she's been rocking undies for a solid month.

The bed transition was pretty easy.  She has a tendency to wake during the night, and before it was usually me just sleepwalking, getting her, and bringing her back to our room where we'd both go right back to sleep.  Once she got her full size bed, I would just jump with her and return to slumber.  Overall, bedtime routine didn't change too much, instead of reading in her chair, we read snuggled in bed.  It wasn't until recently, around the time we broke the pacifier (just like Ashlynn), that she started to ditch her naps.  Lately, I'm able to get a nap out of her on the days she wakes before 6am.  I usually have to bribe with the promise of going to the playground, pool, or pop pops house after.  Most days she does fine skipping it and it makes bed time much easier.



For the paci habit, we had been down to one remaining.  I had been itching to break it, but was afraid it might trigger the nap strikes like it did with Ashlynn, but Kenley was much worse with needing her bink than Ashlynn who would leave it in bed.  Kenley would leave it at home, but if at home, she usually wanted it.  One day, we couldn't find it and that basically started it.  After a night and nap without it, she found it and I immediately grabbed it and hid it away.  It was a long week of telling her it was lost every time she laid down, but she actually did okay.  We did start a new routine of me cuddling with her before bed and rubbing her back, so now "cuddle me, cuddle you?" is a nightly must.



As for potty training, it was pretty much a breeze.  However, unlike Ashlynn who is my camel of a child (like mama) she can always hold it and not need to go while out and about.  Kenley is the kid that seems to have to go where ever we are, but luckily she has no problem which is at least worth the trip instead of a germ infested fake out. I gathered up all our diapers and passed them on to friend and while I thought being rid of cribs, diapers, and pacifiers would trigger some 'loss of baby sadness', I definitely am not feeling any which definitely makes me feel content with the fact we are a completed family.



Kenley's personality has always been strong.  Fiercely independent (MY DO IT!!), stubborn, only accepting help or anything from mama, loud, and rough... however, she is also hysterical, so girly (loves dresses, dress up, chapstick, nail polish, twirling, pink, and can't leave the house without some necklaces or bracelets), athletic, and loves playing mama to her bears and babies.  She is definitely destined to accomplish anything she puts her mind to, and we are all excited to see her grow.



She is still connected at the hip with me, only allowing me to pour her milk, buckle her in the car, or give her a bath.  She will be starting pre-school soon, and it will definitely be the best thing for her getting socialization with other adults, some discipline and learning to follow some rules.  She's been getting better with being able to be talked down when she's in hysterics, but she still gets away with so much just because I choose my battles.



As far as her interests, she loves her sister and most of her sister's friends and talks about them as if they are her own.  She is still OBSESSED with Daniel Tiger and demands only chocolate milk.  However, I'll just put plain in her cup and she doesn't have a clue.  She loves any kind of art and can quietly color for long stretches of time.



She loves banana shakes, pancakes, and hummus.  She isn't crazy about veggies outside of carrots and peas, but would eat fruit all day just like big sis.  She's also finally starting to eat more protein and attempts to eat her dinner.



She loves riding her scooter, and has gotten so fast I have to ride my bike now to keep up otherwise she'll leave Ashlynn and I in the dust.  She loves water and has been doing great at the pool.  Independent as always as she won't accept help learning to float on her back, but she's doing a great job figuring it all out on her own.

We've finally hit a really sweet spot with the girls.  While we still have our fair share of toddler emotional drama, but the girls generally play really great together, and don't need me intervening 24/7.  They love to color and paint, play dress up, play in their kitchen, and chase each other around the house.

We've already hit the pool the last 3 of 4 days, and have spent all last week enjoying time outside.  I'm so excited to have the summer with them and it be truly enjoyable and not a chore or stressful as it has in years past.

Kenley, we love you so much.

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***