Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Life Lately, Christmas Style

It's Christmas Week, Friends!  While I felt pretty confident that we were prepared for the holiday season, it still never fails that we are running around for last minute gifts or ingredients for treats.  

Our last week was full of activities.  Last Sunday, started with my husband and dear friend's husband being conned into moving a piano for me.  I found a great deal on a pre-owned piano that was only four miles away.  We always wanted to get a piano, but never planned on buying one new due to the cost and the fact that no one is Mozart.  I took lessons a few years as a kid, and love the memories of my dad playing the piano especially at the holidays.  Now having a piano in our living room with our tree, just feels so homey and right.  The girls are loving it and so am I.  Turns out I can still play twinkle twinkle little star and jingle bells.  I used youtube to find a guitar hero like video for piano's to learn Let it Go, so that's been a hit. 


My dad officially retired and moved out of his temporary home here in the mid-atlantic to his home in South Carolina.  He came by on his drive down and stayed two nights to spend time with his daughter and granddaughters.  While Ashlynn was at school Monday morning, we took Kenley out for some errands and then headed out for lunch.  K fell asleep in the car and ended up sleeping through the whole meal, waking just in time for us to go pick up A.  


Ashlynn had her last gymnastics class for the year and pajama day at school on Friday.  



Saturday we hung around the house all morning since Santa was taking his annual ride around town with the fire department.  After an entire month of spring like temps, it was COLD.  So we bundled up and waited to wave to the big guy and get a candy cane from a volunteer.  




After all that Mrs. Claus got busy in her workshop putting together the girls Christmas present.  Santa watched a lot of football, typical.  Stay tuned, hopefully you'll get a sneak peek before the girls!

I hope everyone is enjoying all the magic that this week will bring!

Friday, December 11, 2015

F-I-V-E

Okay, Five for Friday, here we go!


ONE:

I got Ashlynn's school pictures back this week and have died over the adorableness.  These are all three proofs, but we decided to just keep the standard classic school photo shot.  Love her little smile.





TWO:

Mini-Me.  I think I was a bit younger, 2.5-3 not 3.5 like Ashlynn, but still it's fun to compare.



THREE:

I just finished my latest book last night and now am deciding what to read next.  I love biographies/memoirs, but mixing in some good fiction is a nice break too.

We really haven't binged on any shows since finishing Friday Night Lights and Masters of None a few months back.  The husband has been slowly making his way through the monster of a book "The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life" and I've been reading the following,


"Why Not Me", Mindy Kaling -  I love her sense of humor and learning more about the behind the scenes of her shows and Hollywood.  I think I enjoyed her first book "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me" better, but this was a great follow up and shed a lot of light on the status of The Mindy Project being cancelled on Fox and picked up on Hulu.

"The Girl on the Train", Paula Hawkins - The book has received a lot of hype as the new "Gone Girl" and book of the year, it's definitely worth reading if you are interested and I enjoyed it, but I wasn't so blown away that I'd compare it to Gone Girl.

"Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology", Leah Remini - I never watched King of Queens and really only knew most about Leah Remini through my celeb gossip shows as a public Scientologist and friend of Jennifer Lopez.  I mean I knew some of the work she did, Old School obv, but didn't know much about her otherwise.  Her book is nice window into her life growing up in Brooklyn, her parents divorce and subsequent mother joining the Church of Scientology and moving the family to Florida prior to her success in the entertainment industry.  She did a lot of promotion for the book during it's release and I had already read or heard most of the Tom Cruise stories and Scientology exposé, but I was intrigued to learn more and read the whole book as I'm always fascinated learning more about religions and beliefs.

"The Short Drop", Michael Fitzsimmons - I ordered this through Kindle First for free.  If you are an Amazon Prime member, every month the Kindle shop selects six books to offer for free before their release.  I was really happy I got this book.  It's definitely your classic political thriller, but it was a page turner.  The story never slowed and the twists and surprises were actually not predictable.   I would love to see this turn into a movie.

"Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and my Harrowing Escape", Jenna Miscavige Hill - I promise I'm not a Suppressive Person, though maybe I am for reading two books on Scientology by ex-members.  I got this book after finishing troublemaker, there was a deal with books for $1.99 and this was on it. I was interested since I knew the author was the niece of the current leader of Scientology and was curious what she might add to what I already read in Remini's book.  If you are looking for details inside what it's like to grow up a Scientologist, this was such an interesting read. Probably not the most popular topic to want to learn more about it, but it was really eye opening.

In the same way I grabbed Beyond Belief, I downloaded Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and the Devil's Deal last night from the Kindle Deals section for $1.99.  This is the book (true story) that inspired the movie that was released this past September starring Johnny Deep. However, I'm also interested in reading "The Nightingale", "Orphan Train", and "All the Light We Cannot See".  What has been your favorite book of the year??


FOUR:

It's cookie time!  Mrs. Claus and her little dough eating elves will be sprinkling the kitchen in a fine dusting of powdered sugar snow this weekend.  I like to stick with what I know and are traditional for us - buckeye balls, ribbon cookies, sugar cookies, cocoa cookies, and peanut butter blossoms.



A few weeks late on my Halloween cookies, but here's last year's post about my sugar cookies, I'll be sure to recap this year!


FIVE:

Also, super over due.  The kitchen!  I promise to share more when I actually clean it up.





Happy Weekend, Friends!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

J.Crew Factory 50% Off Finds and Stocking Stuffers



I ran into J.Crew Factory Store today to make a return, sadly this skirt didn't fit, and I wanted to check out some gifts for either stocking stuffers or those hard to shop for friends and relatives.  The camp socks were a steal and I'll be sticking a pair in my own stocking.  The tech gloves are the perfect gift for extended family like stepmoms, aunts, cousins, or even friendly coworker.  Jewelry paired with a trinket dish is always a nice idea, too.  And winter cozies - scarves, sweats, slippers, and ear muffs - would be perfect for any woman sixteen to sixty. 


The men's section is full of stocking stuffer and gift ideas too.  Tie for dad, sweats for the hubby, flask for the brother in law, and gloves for grandpa.

Right now everything in store and online is 50% Off and you can get an extra 30% off clearance items with code EXTRA30 and 5% cash back when you shop thru Ebates.




Nothing like knocking out most of the shopping list in one click!  How's everyone doing with their holiday shopping?  All finished?  Haven't started?



***this post contains affiliate links

#HowWeFamily


***I have received information from the makers of TYLENOL®. The opinions stated are my own. This is a sponsored post.***


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Peace. Joy. And Love.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Dear Santa,



And the 2015 trip to Santa is in the books.  Of course, only one of our two children would sit for a photo, Kenley climbed me like a spider monkey and wouldn't even let me get in the photo with her. Oh well, next year.  Although, I have a sneaking suspicion this won't be the last time we see the big guy this year!




KK's "nope to Santa" face

Santa visit sister picture since Kenley bowed out, promotional Minion hat included.


Of course, Ashlynn was excited to tell Santa that she wanted an Elsa umbrella for Christmas, a line she's been rehearsing since July.  I love holding on to these keepsakes and watching the girls grow.








Thursday, December 3, 2015

[Bookworm] Books for Cooks, Bakers, Hostesses, and Husbands

With all my 'bookworm' posts and repeated mentions, it's no surprise I love giving books as gifts and the holidays are no different.   Even the people who are non-readers, could still love to receive a great book, just maybe a coffee table or cook book instead of a novel.

I rounded up a five picks for a few different gift recipients...


1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5  - -  6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

Are you hungry yet??  I love cook books not only for their function of delicious recipes, but also their ability to provide eye candy in decorating.   


11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15  - -  16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20

For the guys, I think I hit all topics MAN topics - money, mob, military, and sports.  



Are you giving any books as gifts for the holidays? (outside of the kids that is!)

Kenley's Loot

With Christmas right around the corner, it's hard shopping for Kenley.  I know the 'holiday baby' crap well having been born on January 1st. However, Kenley is 2 not 12, so the stink attitude of being cheated of presents is likely to go unnoticed for a bit.  On the other hand, Ashlynn's birthday present was a bed, so we really aren't setting the bar high on the fun or quantity front.


We actually only got the Radio Flyer big wheel and The Wizard of Oz pop-up book.  Both were hits, but unfortunately she can't quite reach the pedals yet, oops.  I had actually delayed buying for Ashlynn last Christmas because of the reviews saying that smaller children had trouble, but since K is about the size Ashlynn was last year, I thought I'd go for it.  Hopefully by Spring it's okay!

Mimi hooked little girlfriend up in the PBK department.  She's now all set for school in the spring with backpack and lunch bag.  It's the same as Ashlynn's just different colors.  What's nice about these bags is that they are perfect for long car rides or child watch at the gym too.

And of course, the microphone is a hit because well, Frozen.  And the girls already love using the xylophone mallet as a microwave, now they can belt out all their favorites.   

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Kenley Drew is TWO

I dropped the ball on finishing out KK's last few monthly updates, mostly because I felt like I was writing the same thing.  Most major milestones had been accomplished and interests were pretty much the same.   Of course, her personality continues to strengthen, and it's definitely a strong personality at that.


As I mentioned in my instagram post on Monday, her birthday, this spunky girl is as sweet and as she is stubborn.  She is the best cuddle buddy, but do not try to do anything for her because she must do it all herself.  And if it's something she can't do, like pour some milk or turn on a light, then it better be mommy who does it if you don't want a completely irrational fit to ensue.


We are positive that her strive for independence and determination is going to serve her in big ways as she grows.  While it's still hard for her to grasp and control her emotions, she's definitely a
'thinker' as she loves solving puzzles and building with blocks.  She doesn't quit easily and will continue to try things until she succeeds.  She loves to color - crayons, markers, or chalk, and watercolors too.  Art is a daily activity.



She loves physical play, running, jumping, dancing, climbing, she's a kid who loves to be active and will not tolerate sitting in a stroller and watching things pass her by.  There is no playground structure is won't attempt to climb even if it's meant for kids two times her size.


Speaking of size, she's been deemed perfectly average by her pediatrician weighing in at 25.6lbs (34%) and 33 1/4" tall (32%).  She's smaller than I expected since she basically is sharing clothes (mostly tops) with Ashlynn, but Ashlynn is very small for her age.

We've recently had a huge spark in potty training interest.  She's used the potty a good 6 or 7 times in the last couple of months, but now she insists on trying every time she has a diaper change or wakes up.  She's dying to wear undies and will put them on over her diaper.  I was planning to bootcamp her over the holiday break since we will be home, but she might have plans to start sooner.

She's still sleeping in her crib, although most nights she'll end up in our bed.  She goes to bed and takes naps willingly, but still usually wakes by 6am.  Last Saturday she slept past 9am.  She broke any and all records in this house.  Typically she sleeps 10 hours at night and naps a solid 2-3more during the day.




She loves books, singing songs, and Little Einsteins.  It's the only show she'll watch and when Ashlynn picks something else, a tantrum usually ensues.  Dressing up is one of her favorite activities, and loves a good dress that twirls.  However, don't try to touch her hair because bows and ponies will not be accepted.



She's my little buddy and I'll miss her when she starts school in a few months, we always have so much fun together on the mornings we share together.  It's amazing how much easier both kids can be when they are alone.  But when they are together, there is nothing that makes my mama heart prouder than their love for each other.  They can't be without each other and love playing together.  It's not always rainbows, but they are my sunshine.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Things My Kids Love

I always love to hear what other children are really into, sometimes it's classic things like dolls/action figures and legos, but other times I'm surprised at what is played with the most.  For example, hands down the best present from last Christmas was our little trampoline.  It has been used daily and I can't complain about having an indoor energy outlet for the days it's too cold or wet for the playground.





In addition to the physical jumping, that I'm able to redirect from the couch, the girls love art.  They will paint, color, draw, you name it.  I've completely stocked our art drawer with all WASHABLE items, because we have seen crayon on the chairs, markers on clothes, and paint on the table.  The girls seem to pick markers over crayons, but chalk is a big hit too.  Similarly, WaterWows seem to occupy the girls way longer than I would have ever imagined.  They use them until they become warped and I have to replace them.  I think these new Splash Cards will be loved just as much.

Both girls really like doing puzzles, and their favorite one is giant Frozen floor puzzle.  I told Santa to stick this Traffic Jam one under the tree.

For outdoor toys, nothing is used more than our YGliders.  The bikes, ride ons, etc, pale in comparison.  I love these scooters, they are well made and super easy for the girls to manage (steering).  Kenley was an old pro riding hers at 18 months.

And finally, clothing favorites.  I have two big cuddlebug homebodies.  These girls would stay in the pjs all day, and sometimes do.  While expensive, we love our Hanna Andersson jammies.  Today they are all $20 too if you want to grab some holiday ones!

And finally, rainboots.  I think it might just be the ease of putting them on - no tongues, no buckles, no laces, but Ashlynn has completely outgrown hers, but still insists on wearing them.  She's been asking for a purple pair and I'm so so so thankful they released this lavender "thundercloud" color in time for Christmas.  Kenley will get her last pair and Ashlynn will definitely be surprised Christmas morning!


Do your kids have any favorite toys that surprise you?






Scroll through for some more favorites....


**this post contains affiliate links

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thankful

We spent our Thanksgiving with my in-laws and five nieces, yup seven little girls, six of which are under 4 year old!  We helped with some dinner prep, stayed busy with bubbles, got in some family bonding, and stuffed ourselves silly.












sweet cousins, two months apart


Per tradition, we didn't do any Black Friday shopping - aside from ordering another Kindle Fire for $35 from Amazon (deal is still good!) and a little something to myself from Santa. We decorated for Christmas, and Ashlynn has begun asking when Santa is coming approximately 75 times a day.  



Our decor is a nice mix of old and new.  Lots of things passed down from my mom from my childhood to our family for our children's.  I always try to clean up and grab some things during After Christmas sales, so it's always nice finding some new things I've forgotten about when pulling everything out of storage.  Target did have a special today (Saturday), $50 Off when you Spend $100 in Holiday decor, so I grabbed a few things we needed (extension cords, shatterproof ornaments, and star for our second tree) and few things we didn't (one, two, three, and four).  

In other news, now that Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is set, it's time to prepare for Kenley's birthday on Monday!



I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Did anyone score any deals on Black Friday??

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Black Friday / Cyber Monday Preparation

I'll first say, I am no Black Friday veteran.  Last year was the first time I ever went shopping on Black Friday and I didn't wake up early, I just hit a few local big box stores after breakfast.   We usually spend the day after Thanksgiving decorating for Christmas.  However, you know I love scoring a deal and I figured posting some tips would be timely.



> Make a list and a plan.

Write down exactly what you are looking to purchase. If you just plan to browse for steals on Black Friday you will get caught up in the savings and waste your budget on things you don't want or need.  Typically, the biggest savings are on large ticket items - TVs, appliances, computers, cameras, etc.  So if you are planning on getting something like that, find the models that interest you, and prepare to price compare a number of sites that sell the item.  As for the small stuff, stick to what you want and avoid being tempted by price drops on things you don't.


> Set a budget.

If you are mainly shopping for toys and clothes for family, make sure you set a budget and stick to it.  Discounts won't be as great as the price slashing on big items, but do look out for BOGO deals, and sales on top of items already marked down.  That's where you'll save the biggest.   Also check for items that are usually excluded from sales, since they might be included in umbrella savings (i.e, "Everything in store or online is 30% OFF")  Remember a lot of the sales will repeat throughout the month, so make sure the items you are grabbing are things are truly being offered below their typical prices, not their retail prices.  Meaning, GAP and J.Crew constantly rotate 20-35% OFF promo codes, so just because something is marked $39.95, remember you'll normally find it around $30.  Make sure your savings is even greater if you really want a deal.


> Get a Team.

If you are making your way out to shop the stores, divide and conquer.  Whether that's within the same store or different stores all together.  Reference your list and set priorities.  So if you want a new TV and a must have toy, make sure you split up so you can get them early, which also bring us to...


> Do your Research.

Almost all the big box stores - Target, Amazon, Best Buy, Toys R Us, etc have released their Black Friday Ads.  Do your research, find out where the best savings is and use that to help you plan out your attack.  Use stores that price match to your advantage if you want to get things done efficiently.  Don't forget you may be able to get the same savings online and use ebates too for extra money in your pocket.  Also don't forget to use apps to your advantage, whether to price compare/match or find additional coupons, don't forget them in the hustle and bustle!


>  Think Outside the Box.

Two things here.  One.  Think outside of your go-to stores.  If you always buy toys at Target and Toy R Us, try to think about other retailers.  Last year, I cleaned up at Kohl's of all places (somewhere I would never think of "toys" first).  Many items were BOGO 50% Off and other items marked way down.  They had lots of Melissa & Doug, Play Doh, Mattel, Fisher Price, V-Tech, etc.  Macy's, Nordstrom, and even Michaels carry things like puzzles, doll houses, and games.  Macy's usually offers stackable discounts, free shipping  and returns, and ebates too.  Also think outside of the big 'box', as in big box and department stores.  You may find good deals at local businesses, like small toy and book store or even gift shops.


Good luck my fellow deal hunters!  Please share your tried and true tips too!!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sale of the Day: 50% Off All Footwear --> booties & boots

I know Land's End isn't the first place people think of for clothing or shoes, but today they are offering 50% off all footwear.  My gray suede Harris Ankle Boots are from Land's End and are so comfortable and so cute, I love the color and the cut of the ankle, it's a bit more flattering since it dips in front.

booties - $69.50 with code THANKS and pin 2323 + Free Shipping


Also worth checking out are the snow boots.  Bean boots are typically sold out by the time you need them, and Sorels can be awfully pricy especially if you are only going to get a few snows a year.


Land's End has a duck boot and a fur lined tall boot that are both $49.50 with the 50% Off promotion.  All other items are 30% Off and you can get 6% back if you shop thru ebates.

And don't forget the kids!


** this post contains affiliate links