Monday, March 31, 2014

[Giveaway] Urban Walls Decals

Ahh!  Get excited!

(photo credit: Amanda Sharp Photography)

Wrapping up the last of the Kenley's Nursery inspired giveaways for month, I've teamed up with Urban Walls to give away one decal set of the mini hearts, mini polkadots, mini stars, or mini triangles of the winner's choice!

Kenley's closet is definitely one of the most reader loved details of her nursery, or at least the most repinned!

I detailed my experience with the decals here, but they were super easy to apply and are great way to make a non-permanent impact to any room.  I love the variety of colors to choose from and all the different shapes they offer (as well as murals and quotes).

As always, enter to win using the rafflecopter widget below.  Happy Monday and Good Luck!

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Five

Maybe it was just this endless winter of polar vortices and snowstorms, but we pretty much live in jammies.  I'll have to do a separate post about Ashlynn's jammie obsession, but I'm going to chat about the snuggly baby.  Kenley babe is pretty much always in a sleeper or bodysuit and baby legs.  With the amount of diaper changes and spit up episodes, she usually goes through two sometimes three outfits a day.  And while I love an adorable sweater romper or cotton dress, they really aren't made to be washed a gazillion times, so the prettier and cuter clothes are 'special occassion' (read: leaving the house for an event other than errands) only.   I'll probably start breaking out the more stylin' outfits once she's sitting on her own, I think that's when Ashlynn got a bit more style, too.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4
5 | 6 | 7 | 8 

Ashlynn has a pretty standard morning routine if we don't have any plans.  After her light turns yellow at 7am, she's allowed to climb into bed with me.  The Husband has been studying for a professional certification and gets up around 5:30am and studies for 2 hours before getting ready for work.  I try to keep the girls upstairs for a bit so he can get his work done without us distracting him.  I get Ashlynn some milk and myself some coffee and usually end up nursing Kenley while I watch the Today show and Ashlynn plays 'games' (ie mostly educational toddler apps) on our Kindle Fire.

Her first need is her necessary cup of milk.  We previously bought these Tommee Tippee Explora Drinking Cups to hopefully help Ashlynn transition from her sippy spout and straw cups to drinking from a regular cup, since there is no pronounced spout, just a raised rim.  They are pretty much leak proof as long as you make sure you put the parts in the cap together correctly, so they've been a favorite of mine for that reason and pretty much the only way a sippy can be spared a trip to the recycle bin.  And the new Animal Antics line, graciously sent to us by Tommee Tippee, has been a favorite of Ashlynn's, she asks for her Ellie cup almost daily, she loves her "phants".   And since it's white it's the designated milk cup and she gets pretty upset if it ends up with water.

Speaking of water,  she usually gets water in one these cups, especially if we are leaving the house. However, I grabbed two of these tumblers from Target earlier in the month for smoothies.

It's hard for Ashlynn to drink them from her sippies and I'm too nervous to give her anything without a lid.  They were super cheap and are totally doing the trick.  Even better, she's so obsessed with the straw and the fact it looks like mommy's cup that she's finally drinking more water.  Girl had been on a water strike for a month or two, I think I talked about it in a monthly update, but now it's all become a game.  Yay for hydration in style!

How I Met Your Mother.  It's ending.  Anyone as excited to see the finale as me?  I'm actually watching the Inside The Actor's Studio with them right now.   Definitely one of my few routine non-netflix'd shows.  

Finally, a little sneak peek at the party planning progress.  

Happy Friday!

FTC Disclaimer: Tommee Tippee generously sent us the Animal Antics line of Truly Leak Proof Drink Cups, but all opinions expressed are solely my own.  All other products mentioned were purchased with my own money, including our first set of Tommee Tippee Drink Cups. The Animal Antics collection can be found exclusively at Babies R Us.

If you'd like to learn more about my sponsorship policies and opportunities, please click here!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fireplace Update - Part 1

After weeks (months?) of talking about it, we finally took naptime by the horns and started our fireplace makeover.  This might have been one of the few projects we went out for the supplies in the morning and somewhat completed in the same day.

We love our (gas) fireplace, but there has always been something off to me.  I think its the proportion of where the mantle falls and the actual thickness of the mantle itself, so that makeover will be Part 2... I just can't promise when it'll happen. 

So we decided to paint the fireplace.  We didn't want to full out paint it white, or another color, so we took the halfway ease into approach and whitewashed it.  This way we still retained a bit of the brick character without the out of place brick color.  

We followed YoungHouseLove's whitewash tutorial and used 50% water and 50% paint.  We also used Valspar Exterior Paint in a flat finish in Bistro White.

First, we removed the fireplace insert.  Which we have to thank my Father in Law for asking how it was attached, because we probably would have just painted around it, not even realizing how simple it was to remove.  The previous owner's must not have realized how easy it is to remove because it was FILTHY behind it.  We made a mental note to clean behind it every few years.  (The house is 21 years old).

So after we gave all the bricks a nice wipe down with a wet rag and vacuumed up the remaining dust, we got to work.

We painted the brick and followed with a dry rag catching drips (the paint mixture is runny since it's 50% water) and rubbing the paint in.  Turns out our brick isn's as porous as old school traditional red brick.  Ours is (was) a more muted red and seemed to be a bit more similar to paver stones in texture.  So it was slightly more opaque than we expected.

We have since put the insert back on and are looking into our mantle options.  I would like to have a reclaimed wood mantle with at least 6" width to help balance the space between the insert and the mantle.  Also to give it more character and jive with the whitewash look.  I've also suggested to the husband that now we need to repaint the room to make the fireplace "pop" a bit more.  I received a nice eye roll to that request. 

And because who doesn't love a good before and after, here is the family room shot from the house's listing and what it looked like a year ago, without the teal paint.  Slowly this room is coming together.... slowly.

Hopefully I'll be writing Part 2 soon!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

[Recipe Share] Whole Wheat Banana Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

I almost started this post saying we have been on a muffin kick, but unless you consider a "kick" a lifetime affliction, then it really doesn't apply.  Muffins were actually the first thing I can remember baking all by myself.

I would wake up early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons and make chocolate chip muffins, with boxed blueberry muffin mix (I hated draining the blueberries and naturally preferred chocolate) and would make them all by myself, hot oven and all.   I can't remember exactly what age I was, but I was still watching cartoons.

Anyway, I love that Ashlynn has so much fun helping me make muffins.  My step mother in law sent me this recipe, and I decided I would make it next time we had a two ripe and spotted bananas (we usually eat them all before they get that ripe.)

I adapted the recipe for items we had at home (whole wheat flour for regular, greek yogurt for sour cream, and chocolate chips for fresh blueberries).  These came out so good and were really easy to make, we'll definitely be making them again soon!

Oh, and best of all they are low fat!  I love when my guilty pleasures can be slightly less guilt inducing.

1 C unbleached whole wheat flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 nutmeg
1/2 C dark chocolate chips
2 mashed ripe bananas
1/3 C sugar
1/4 C greek yogurt
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat over to 350 degrees.
Grease muffin pan (I used a jumbo muffin pan and made 6)
In a large bowl mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
In another bowl, beat banana, yogurt, sugar, egg, and vanilla until blended.  Stir into dry mix until just combined (do not over mix!)
Fold in chocolate chips and divide mixture into the muffin tin.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until golden brown cooked through to center.

Share with a little one and enjoy!

PS - Thank you to every one who left a comment on my post yesterday!  I really appreciate hearing from everyone, whether in the same boat or not!  Thank you for taking the time, it really meant a lot to hear everyone's stories.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Two Under Two'sday - Week 16

Time is running out, I don't have many of these left!

For the most part, things are routine.  Recently, we did cancel the Husband's gym membership and join our local YMCA.  Ashlynn is signed up for gymnastics and I got familiar with their childcare.  Now I just need to work up the cajones to use it.  So that's where I'll tap into for this week's 2U2 post.... anxiety, because this house is full of it!

Ashlynn has been clingy from the start.  As a baby, she was attached to me and being somewhat of an attachment parent, I didn't care.  And I still have zero regrets, however it does make it harder at times.  Honestly, I can barely go take a shower on a weekend when she's being watched by her own daddy without her trying to hunt me down.

She's always gone in different phases, her first separation anxiety phase kicked in around 8 months or so.  After she hit a year old, she became more social, smiling and "talking" to the check out ladies at the grocery store and being a bit of a ham.  She's never been, what I call, a "runner".  She sticks to my side when out in public and prefers that people don't enter her bubble.

A week or two ago, an older woman entered her bubble at Target.  I was browsing the $1 spot with my hand firmly on the shopping cart, Ashlynn was riding and K was in the rear in her carrier.  I saw the woman looking at Ashlynn, but I tried to politely ignore and just browsed the aisle of junk for hidden treasures. Then I heard it  "Mommy?" Ashlynn's quivering little voice and the old woman realizing she's looked at her too long.  She let me know how beautiful they were and apologized for upsetting her and walked away, but Ashlynn was done.  Her "Mommy!" grew louder and the tears welled up, I gave her hug and said it's okay, I'm right here, it's safe.

A week later, it happened at music class.  At first I thought it was the little boy who was melting down sitting next to us.  Throwing the cliche kicking and fist pounding tantrum because his grandma returned his shakers after the song ended. "Mommy?" As she sat in my lap, I assured her it was okay, I'm right here and we can dance and sing.  The little boy left and she did it again at the end of the class.  I realized she may have been scared when the class instructor (musician?) was looking at her while singing.  He's a younger man, but has a beard, so maybe that scared her?  She did enjoy the music and had fun and we will continue to go back so she gets used to environment and learn to feel safe, especially while I am around.

She's had a few other moments since, and just generally needs me around all. the. time.

Kenley is turning into another mama's girl.  So far, I feel they are really similar babies.  I really can't say one has been more "colicky" or "chill" than the other.  Kenley also seems to be hitting the 4 month sleep regression a few weeks early.  I ended up getting a cold last week, most likely from lack of sleep the week before.  I also think she hit a growth spurt because there was another day she spent attached to me almost non-stop.

The semblance of a routine we had started has gone completely out the window.  I'll get more into it for her 4 month update next week.   However, the lack of sleep, the lack of exercise or sunshine (winter you can end now, thanks), lack of time with other adults, and a slew of other issues has lead to my own anxiety issues.  Not something new to me, but something that has seemed to return full force given the circumstances of this long and awful winter.

So now that I've recognized it creeping back in, I'm looking to stand to it face to face.

First up, we are getting out. Wegmans and Target are pretty great (necessary) trips, but not quite the fun we are looking for.  Resuming our weekly trips to the library (it's free!), standing playdates, gymnastics, and hopefully fingers crossed, the park once the weather warms up. Mix the park with running with the BOB on the trail and we all win.

I'm going to give it a go at leaving kids with child care at the gym.  Baby steps, people.  Even if the first time I just give Ashlynn ten minutes while I go run and work her up to actually being okay for me to take a class.  It just breaks my heart knowing she's scared and crying, but I don't want to enable her either.  I realize lots of moms deal with this on the daily with daycare and this isn't a mommy wars starter.  It's just not something I have to deal with being the caregiver, so trying to find some "me time" to clear my head, get a break from juggling the needs of toddlers and infants, and work on my own mental and physical health is something new for me.

Any tips or words of encouragement would be appreciated.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

[Giveaway] Littlest Pretty Things

Woohoo!  We're back with the giveaways!

This week Heather from Littlest Pretty Things is giving away a Metallic Dot Boppy Cover.  She was sweet enough to send one for Kenley as a gift and as ridiculous as it sounds, it kind of makes me love our boppy so much more.

I really never used the boppy much with Ashlynn or Kenley for nursing purposes.  More often than not, I would use it as a backrest (for me) while nursing, instead of baby support during the newborn phase.  After that it would usually end up in some corner and I'd promptly forget about it or see it and think, I should just store it away.  Once I put the new cover on I find myself looking for it way more often for Kenley to sit propped up it in.  Which is really silly, but it's true.

And seriously, how great of a baby shower gift would this be?!  I never thought of custom print boppy covers, but it'd be such a sweet and thoughtful gift if you found something that matched the nursery linens. 

I hope everyone had a great weekend, as usual, use the rafflecopter widget below to enter!  Good luck!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

[Shortcakes] 23 Months

This is it, Ashlynn's last monthly update.  Of course, I'll probably get wordy (shocker!) for her 2 year update, but I can't believe we are nearing two.  Just a year ago she was taking her first steps, now she's running laps around the house, literally.

(I finally had to bribe her with goldfish, s'mores flavor nevertheless, to sit for a few pics)

Two worded sentences (if that counts as a sentence, which I'm pretty sure it doesn't).  She's finally pairing words together.  While I know she isn't behind in her language, I do seem to read quite a few updates with girls younger than Ashlynn speaking in fuller trains of thought.  Ashlynn has a ridiculous vocabulary, the amount of words she knows I could never try to count at this point, but she's been slow trying to place them together.

A few weeks ago, when the Husband pulled into the driveaway I said "Daddy's Home!".  And from there she started "Daddy's (highpitched)..... hooommee (low pitched)". Rinse and repeat.  She said it over and over, and still now sits at the table saying Mommy, home.  Sissy, home. Doggies, home.

She's moved on to "Daddy's hat","Bear Hug"and yesterday "happy Patty day".  There have been some other short strands I can't remember, but it's like a lightbulb went off and she's just exploding putting her vocabulary to use.

I've been working on having her try to sing more songs, since that should help her with saying more words at once, but she still just likes to call out words as I sing "itsy, up, down, sun, rain, itsy" with lots of jibberish in between.

Lastly, not new but more perfected.... knows all her colors, counts to ten, identifies circles, squares, triangles, stars, and hearts.   Getting there with the alphabet.  Also calls out the Little Eistein team , Sensational Six, and her must have friends (see below) while in the car.

A hell of a lot better than last month!!

Whatever the sleep regression she was going through, finally ended.  I detailed I think what we were doing to slowly back out of having to stay in the room until she fell asleep. We finally can just put her in the crib turn on too many distractions and say good night, but whatever works.

The first thing we turn on is her Tot Clock.  I've been reading about how the Tot Clock was working for Julia for years now at her blog.  Impressed that her son Truman stays in bed until it turns yellow in the mornings, made me think it'd be the perfect way to some day transition to a toddler bed and Ashlynn learn that she just can't leave the bed in the middle of the night or when she feels like it.  So far she eats it up. So much that she calls me up as soon as dad tucks her in to tell me the clock is blue (BLUE!) every. single. night.  Then she tells me her stars are purple, and we find the moon.  And last we turn on the jungle and I tell her I'll tuck her in, but I'm leaving (otherwise she'll just point out Blue! Purple! Moon! Jungle! over and over).  She lays down, I tuck her in, say good, shut the door against the jam and that's it.  About 50% of the time she wakes once during the night, usually needing help finding a paci, her blankie, or turning back on her stars.

During the morning, she still typically wakes before the "goal time" of 7am.  If she calls out, I usually go in and tell her it's still blue so it's nighttime and mommy is sleeping. I'll see her in the morning when clock is yellow, even if it's 6:45.  Mostly now, she just hangs out and knows it's still bedtime.  But when that clock turns yellow, watch out!

"Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!... :: I walk in::  YELLOW!  YELLOW!  HOORAY! ::fist pump::"  Every day and after nap.  It's like a game. It's amazing.  And yes, I set the nap timer on the clock to end around 2pm.  She usually goes up between 11:30-12 and takes 10-15min to go down.  She's usually awake by 1:30, but likes hanging out, which is why I have the clock set for later.  Plus, I enjoy the extra time too.

Also has to sleep with Bunny. Blank, and Bink (the "three Bs" which have been must for over a year) and now also needs Bear (Beanie Baby Erin Bear), Cat, and finally welcoming Mira back into the gang even though she's been in her crib all along,

Solely at her booster seat. We stored the highchair back in the basement, of course we'll be bringing it back up for Kenley in 3 months, but it's nice having the extra space.

As far as food goes, she's into requesting smoothies but not drinking them.  Guess I need to find "the" recipe.  Loves peanut butter on waffles, cereal, beans, peas, dipping (anything in anything), cheese, raisins, noodles, and the rest of typical toddler fare.

She's also been cutting teeth, the rest of her canines came through so she gets picky sometimes I think because of that.  However, I can get a few bites in of a dinner she's refusing by letting her use my fork. I actually gave her a old silver smurf spoon from my childhood to use, she loves it.

Traveled to her cousin's 2nd birthday party and had fun playing with her cousins, pointing out Elmo (Sesame Street theme) and playing with their toys, natch.  We started back at storytime and music class, thankful to be getting out of the house.  And took the maiden voyage in our BOB dualie the one day it neared 60.

Showers.  Joined me for a shower instead of a bath one night, definitely still loves herself a bubble bath, but showering is just as fun (and faster!).
Nemo.  Mickey is losing steam.  These days it's all Little Einsteins (ANNIE!) and Finding Nemo.  Not sure what's going to happen when we finally watch Frozen that arrived today.  Princess phase is probably days away.
In addition, to being a little mommy, she likes helping me with Kenley.  Getting her toys, bumbo seat (or sitting in it herself), turning on the bouncer, and holding her bottle when she gets one.
iPad/Kindle.  We finally set up our Kindle Fire about a month ago or so, and now I let her play "games" for a few in the morning while I fed Kenley and get us ready to head downstairs for breakfast. I haven't been able to find a bunch of great toddler apps suggestions for Kindle Fire, so if you got some please leave them.  Right now she's really liking puzzle apps (made her actually want to do her real puzzles finally!) and apps with counting, colors, and animals. She also loves the Strawberry Shortcake cake baking app, girlfriend loves to bake. So we've been doing that in real life too.
Also loves helping me clean around the house, especially the windows.

The Three Little Mermaids.  Van Fleet books are the best!  Touch and Feel, with flaps and things to push and pull.  A friend gave us the Alphabet book and I love that it will grow with her with all the things that are included and hidden on the pages.
She also loves Flora and the Flamingo, our secret santa gift from Jessica and Harper (great pick girls!), Green Eggs and Ham, and lately The Giving Tree.

In other news, she had her first bloody lip.  She bite it some how, came out of no where.  I can't wait for her 2 year stats because she's really tiny. Which I always forget at home, thinking she is so big, then I see kids younger than her at her height or towering over her.  Her 18m stats were in the 31" and 22lb category, I'm guessing we'll be around 32-32.5" (she's short, really short... just like her vertically challenged parents) and maybe 25lbs??  We don't have a scale, so that's just a total shot in the dark.

Can't believe my little baby is turning into a little kid!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lucky Link Up - "Irish" Buckeye Balls

Happy St. Patrick's Day and Erin Go Braugh my friends! I'm so excited to see how the recipes turned out for everyone!

I was matched with Vanessa from Sunflower State of Mind.  She made Irish Buckeyes, which I was oddly excited about.  Not because chocolate and peanut butter is the best combination ever, but because I'm sort of a pro at Buckeyes.

(FYI, for the non-Ohio/northeasterners, buckeyes or buckeye candy resemble the nut of the Ohio Buckeye tree... hence the Ohio State University Buckeye mascot)

Growing up my mom always exchanged Christmas cookies with our neighbors, which each had our own family specialties.  Our one neighbor always made Buckeye Balls and chocolate fudge.  At some point my mom asked for the Buckeye recipe, I started making them myself in college and the rest is history.... or fat on my thighs.

While I still make other Christmas cookies, I always make Buckeyes each year (my recipe here).  I wanted this recipe swap to be a bit of challenge, so I challenged myself to find a way to make them food dye free, since greening them up was the whole St. Patty's Day kicker.

I was also excited to try Vanessa's Buckeye recipe since it yielded a smaller amount than the giant batch I make at the holidays (an entire 12oz container of peanut butter vs just a 1/2C this time).

Naturally, I turned to spinach. As anyone who's had a green monster knows, you really only need a littler to turn everything green and it's usually tasteless.

I'll be honest up front. This didn't quite turn out the way I planned.  Personally, I think the butter to peanut butter ratio was a bit off, I would use less butter next time, but that's just my preference.  I also prefer chocolate to white chocolate, especially when paired with peanut butter.  So I made both.

I used the same recipe as Vanessa, I just omitted the green food coloring and added spinach.

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 bag white chocolate chips
1/2C frozen  spinach


I followed my usual routine, mixing the butter, peanut butter, sugar, and vanilla. I prefer a pastry blender to a mixer since over mixing can cause the peanut butter and butter to become too fluffy and soft.  At that point, it's almost impossible to roll them into balls without them being a sticky mess and holding their shape.  (At least that's my experience)

Once rolled into balls, stick them back in the fridge.  I like to keep them as cold as possible since it helps when getting them to stick to the tooth pick when dipping them in the melted chocolate.

Now here is where I went astray.  I decided to use spinach to color the white chocolate chips.  First mistake was my impatience.  I knew I should have used thawed or fresh spinach, but I was trying to get this all done during naptime and waiting it out wasn't going to happen.

I used a 1/2 Cup of frozen spinach and blended it.  I added a little bit of water to help.  I melted my chocolate chips in the microwave in a glass dish stirring every 30 seconds.  Additionally, I didn't use the whole bag since I was going to be experimenting here and there and the recipe only yielded about 25 balls.

I also like to add a teaspoon (or tablespoon depending on the amount of chocolate) of crisco to keep the chocolate thin and easier to dip and coat.  I've also heard olive oil will do the same.

I mixed in a little of the spinach at a time.  As you can see, blending it frozen left it rather chopped.  If it was pureed fresh it might have smoother in texture, or you can just say it's little clovers if you are lazy like me.

I ended up doing a few different attempts.  Peanut butter balls dipped in green white chocolate, peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate with green white chocolate drizzle, and peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate with festive shamrock sprinkles incase the spinach flavor ruined the rest.

For the drizzle, I just poured my melted chocolate in a ziploc and cut a hole at the corner.

In the end, I wasn't a fan of the "Irish" green buckeyes.  I don't think the spinach was noticable, but I think it was the white chocolate and peanut butter combo that just wasn't right.  The chocolate versions were definitely up my alley, I would just use less butter or more peanut butter next time to kick up the flavor a bit.

Have you ever tried to substitute natural ingredients for food coloring? Tell me the secrets!  

And don't forget to link up your recipe below! I can't wait to see how everything turned out!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Randoms

1.  Anyone else super intrigued/obsessed with the missing Flight 370 drama?  Maybe because I was complete LOST fanatic, I just can't stop reading or watching any news stories unfolding more details.

2. Oil Pulling.  Have you tried this?  I've been doing it for about a week, except I do after Ashlynn goes to bed instead of in the morning, so not sure if the effect is the same, but there isn't a way I could stay quiet for 20 minutes in the morning with a toddler.   I definitely noticed some whitening, but waiting to notice more with my overly sensitive teeth and TMJ.

3. Congratulations Sara!  You won the Oh My Charley giveaway, can't wait to see the garland in Mim's nursery!

Next week, we'll be taking a giveaway break, but get ready for the next round of them coming.  I have a bunch lined up that will be sure to make you break out your lucky charms!

4.  Oscar Season.  Okay I realize the Oscars are over, but this is the time of year we switch our netflix queue over from tv shows to movies.  We have Dallas Buyers Club ready to go tonight and American Hustle and Wolf of Wall Street waiting in the wings.  And Hunger Games Catching Fire, because you know, duh.

True story, the husband and I have only gone to the movies once.  Ever. Back when we first started dating we saw Superman Returns.  With one of his friends as a third wheel.  We just prefer sitting on non germy couch, without the sticky floor, free snacks, and pause bottom.

5.  Bake-a-thon.   Last week, I made chocolate chip muffins with Ashlynn (boxed, like I always make), and she's been baking up muffins in her kitchen since.  Yesterday, we made some Irish Soda Muffins and today we already made some cookie dough.  Not totally sure if I'll actually get around to baking it.

6. Don't forget, if you entered the Lucky Link Up, please make sure you've checked your match and post your experience with the new recipe this Monday!  Spoiler alert with mine, went off track and got lost.  Hopefully, I'll get some points for creativity!

I hope everyone has a great weekend tossing back a few green beers or shamrock shakes!