An Uncomplicated Life Blog: October 2017

Monday, October 30, 2017

DIY Bath Salts Ornament

This easy DIY uses bath salts and essential oils in a pretty packing that's perfect for hostess gifts for all your holiday parties

Recently, I was at a fundraiser with a bunch of girlfriends. We were sitting around discussing how full all of our calendars were becoming for the upcoming holiday season with births, birthday parties, family coming into town, holiday parties and so on. One of my friends mentioned how she stock piles cards and little hostess gifts so that she's always ready to go somewhere or meet someone. No last minute shopping, scribbling in the card as you sit in the parking lot or driveway (please tell me I'm not the only one who's ever done that)! She keeps things like little bracelets and earrings, nice hand lotion and other small gift giving items on hand at the ready. After I made these, I thought - hey! These fit perfectly into that category too. You can make them all at once and keep them on hand as a small, thoughtful gift to give throughout the season. These DIY bath salts ornaments are really easy to make and cost effective too, for those on a budget. Affiliate links used.

I have to tell you a funny story about making these. I put them all together, cut the ribbons and attached the bows  - the whole nine yards right - and was like, wow, that only took about 10 minutes! This is great! Then I picked one up... And the weight of the salts was too much for the wire attachment of the top of the ornament. Luckily I caught it before I had a floor full of salt, but if you're gifting these away, I suggest you hot glue the top on or use the ribbon to add a gift tag on how it's not a real ornament for hanging but instead full of delightful bath salts and should be kept near a tub. Or you'll have gifted the messiest hostess gift ever.

Here's what you need: 
DIY Bath Salts Ornament
- decorative ribbon and perhaps some bows, gift tags if you'd like
- essential oils: I used Christmas Spirit, Balsam Fir, Peppermint and Northern Lights Black Spruce (you could use the lavender/lemon staple oils too but I wanted these to smell "like Christmas")

Either outside or over a sink (second pro-tip of this post, in addition to gluing the lid on!) pour the Epsom salts into the plastic ornament containers using a funnel like this one. Trust me, the funnel is key! Fill only half way, then add your desired essential oil combinations. I used 3-5 drops of each, and used two different kinds per ornament. Then fill the rest of the ornament with salts, leaving about an inch of room at the top. Put on the top of the ornament, and shake vigorously to distribute the oils throughout the salts.

Again, if using the ribbon for hanging purposes, hot glue the lids on! Use a hot glue gun and put two dots on either side of the metal lid. The metal is very malleable so whomever you gift the ornament to will be able to bend up either of the non-glued sides to pour the salts out. If not gluing, use a gift tag to explain the gift to your host/hostess. The little bows I found really dressed up the ornaments. You could also get colored Sharpee markers and write what the gift is on the actual ornament, if you've got pretty penmanship. Festive stickers or appliques could also be fun. Get creative and make the gift unique!

This easy DIY Christmas or hostess gift is perfect for the holiday season and cost effective
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Literally pouring in the salts, adding the essential oils and giving it a shake is all you have to do to make these DIY bath salts ornaments. It's so easy and your hostess will appreciate the personal touch of a handmade gift. Trust me, he or she has gotten enough treats to eat, the bath salts will be a welcome change.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Getting Into The Halloween Spirit

Get into the Halloween spirit by making Playful Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies

This post is sponsored by Pillsbury™. All opinions are my own.

One of the craziest things about moving to Dallas was the lack of a transition to fall - my very favorite season that holds my very favorite holiday and birthday. In Minneapolis, it was easy to "get into the Halloween spirit" since the weather would cool off dramatically, the leaves would start changing and there were apple orchards and pumpkin patches everywhere. Here in Dallas, it's still close to 100 degrees (it's literally over 100 as I write this, AC is blasting my shorts and tank top clad self), there isn't a single turned leaf and there won't be for another two or more months, and there is not one apple orchard I'm aware of within driving distance of me. Needless to say, I've had to get creative on how I get myself (and my family!) into the Halloween spirit.

One of those ways is to decorate. I only decorate for two holidays - Halloween/fall and Christmas. Hubs won't do the outside of the house until it's October, but he'll appease my love for all things pumpkin by bringing down the Fall and Halloween decorations at the end of August. It's helped becoming a blogger so that I can look at him and use a post as my excuse to decorate ridiculously early. "Honey, I have to have something to photograph! I need a good backdrop. Please bring down the Halloween decorations so I can decorate, mmmmk?" Can't argue with that, can you?!

The other thing I love to do is make "fall" or Halloween-inspired foods. I've confessed before that while I'm a great cook, I'm a terrible baker. There's science involved with the leavening ingredients that means I have to follow a recipe just so, and I prefer to take a recipe as a suggestion, not a demand that needs to be followed.

While Halloween is notorious for trick or treaters, it just so happens that my kids actually hate chocolate. I kid you not, these kids will attempt to pick out the chocolate chips of a chocolate chip cookie. Granola bar with chocolate on it? They spit it out! In fact, they don't like candy. I'm sure this will change eventually, but for now I'm winning at motherhood with "those kids" who prefer to eat fruit over candy... And I'll hold on to that winning hand for as long as I can! A treat they DO enjoy, however, are cookies. Good old fashion sugar cookies are a big hit with these kiddos.

This year, I got my kids into the Halloween spirit by not just baking them Pillsbury Ready to Bake!™ Pumpkin Shape™ Sugar Cookies, but my upping it a notch and making them sandwich cookies! Henry's new favorite thing is to tell me how he loves "sam'iches" - whether they be of the cookie variety, PB & J variety or grilled cheese variety. I think it's adorable when he says, "Mommy, can I have a sam'ich? Let's have sam'iches!" So to get him excited for Halloween and pumpkin season, I made this super easy baking recipe:

Playful Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies
- 1 container Pillsbury™ Halloween Funfetti® Vanilla frosting

Bake the cookies per the instructions on the box. Allow to fully cool before slathering on a decent amount of frosting. Make the cookie a "sandwich" by adhering another cookie to the frosted side of the frosted cookie. Roll the edges in the sprinkles for a fun effect! Makes 12 sandwich cookies.

We took our cookies outside because this isn't my first rodeo: Messy sweets and toddlers means outdoor consumption is necessary to save frosted hand prints from getting EVERYWHERE! Henry ate half of one, then grabbed another cookie off the platter and ate half of that when I wasn't looking. Otto came to the rescue and ate his cookie and both of Henry's half eaten cookies, no problem. That kid is a eating machine.

Because we live in a "non-fall" city, we have to go out of our way to get into the Halloween spirit! Decorating early and baking fun pumpkin sugar cookies from Pillsbury™ (which are affordable and already stocked at your local Walmart!) are two of the ways I hope to foster a love for fall in my kids.

Super easy sugar cookie recipe that's fun for fall and Halloween treats

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Pizza Wings Game Day Tailgating Recipe Idea

Make your next tailgating party fun and easy with Pizza Wings featuring Red Baron deep dish singles

This post is sponsored by Red Baron Pizza through my work with The Women Bloggers and its advertiser. All opinions are my own.

We're in Dallas Cowboys country, but as Minnesota natives, we're not switching teams! We still cheer on the purple and gold in this house. As transplants, it's harder to find tailgating parties that aren't covered in stars with blue and silver (are those even the Cowboys' colors? I think so?) so we create our own fun in our backyard. There's two foods to be that are quintessential tailgating food: wings and pizza. So I thought, why not combine the two? I love to dip my pizza in ranch (learned that skill in my sorority) and hubs likes to cover his in hot sauce, so Pizza Wings with Red Baron pizza is the perfect combination for our family.

For our backyard tailgate, I like to keep things simple. Corn hole/bags (I've learned people are passionate about what you call this game! I use both terms interchangeably) gets set up for the kids. Henry is pretty good at it, but Otto still thinks the holes make better slides. Maybe next year we'll actually be able to have teams and get a real competition started.

Now for the food - Pizza Wings. I used Red Baron's single serving deep dish pizza because I love the flavor of their sauce. Sam's Club has these in a combo pack of cheese and pepperoni, which is great because the kids like cheese, the hubs like pepperoni, and I'm just being that mom who eats off everyone's plate. Mom's, you know what I'm talking about.

Pizza Wings - Tailgating Recipe Idea
First, I preheated the oven and popped the pizzas in. While they're baking, I cut up some celery and used baby carrots for the traditional side crudites that come with wings. Then I used ranch (although blue cheese would also be great) and combined it with hot sauce (not salsa - I recently learned that some parts of the country call salsa hot sauce! I mean corn hole, bags, hot sauce, salsa... Can we all just get on the same page here?!) to create the Buffalo flavor of traditional wings. Once the pizzas were ready, I cut them into dippable strips to mimic wings. 

And voila! You get the spicy flavor of wings with the cheesy deliciousness of pizza and keep it healthy with a side of veggies. My kids aren't down with celery, so they had carrots and strawberries as their sides. It's the perfect way to have an easy backyard tailgating party - all the fun with minimal fuss!

Pizza Wings combine the best of flavors for traditional tailgating, and are super easy to put together using Red Baron's deep dish singles! Pick up a box on your next run to Sam's Club and you're ready to easily and tastily feed a whole tailgating party for your next football game. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

What I Think When...

Unedited thoughts in real life situations

I wrote this post almost a year ago, and it exploded on the Internets. It was so fun to read people's comments about it my inner thoughts! Since some time has passed, there's been more real life moments that I have some real thoughts about. So friends, here's the second installment of What I Think When...

I hear Sam Smith's "Too good at goodbye's" on the radio:
Dude, get a f**king therapist! Get over your past bro. Stop whining about it and making yourself (and everyone else listening to the song) miserable. Ahhhh, stop it Sam, stop it! Ok, I'm turning the station now, I can't take your sh*t.

The face of a woman who's judging Sam Smith's emotional intelligence 

I drop Otto off at preschool, and *that one mom* beats me to the drop off door:
AHHHHHHHH DAMNIT WHYYYYYY! Kids you dragged your feet and now we're going to have to stand here while she tells the teacher every detail about her daughter, and hugs her and kisses her for a full five minutes which makes her daughter scream and cry which means Otto is going to cry. I want to punch this woman. Tomorrow, we're leaving five minutes earlier so we beat this chick to drop off. Most annoying mom in the world. Plus she's short. Why are short people SO ANNOYING? No, don't fix the bow in your daughter's hair, move out of the way! Your turn is done, like five minutes ago. You've created a line and every other parent is annoyed with you, bish get to steppin'.

(I've seen this woman for almost three years and we still don't say hi to each other so I'm more than sure my disdain for her shows on my face! Oops.)

I'm getting gas at the gas station:
Ok, which side of the car is the thingy on? Oh man, wrong side. Now I look like a dumb blonde. Ok, why isn't it reading my card?! Oh, oops I cancelled the transaction. Everyone is staring at you, stop being dumb Paige! Just put the pump in the car like a normal person. Why won't the pump go in the car? Is that man laughing at me? Ok, got it. Hopefully this is the hardest thing I have to do today, and the stupidest I look... Why did the gas stop after $7, my car was almost on empty? Ughhhhh gas stations I hate you!

I'm feeling a cold coming on:
Ok, which one of you rugrat kids got me sick?! Y'all use me as your personal Kleenex all day long so obvi this would happen. Nooooooo go away sickness!

These cuties will get you sick.

I'm the only mom in a mom group/at a play date who doesn't use her phone for her calender:
Yeah, I'm 33 going on 70 guys. I use a paper planner. It's color coded. *Lowers head in Type A shame* No, it's cool, I'll remember the next play date until I get home and write it in. Actually, I totally wont remember a date for that long, so I'll text you when I'm by my planner. Obnoxious, I know.

I've waited three weeks too long to get my hair done:
*Looks in mirror* Oh God, why?! Paige, go make the appointment. Go. Make. It. Right. Now. *Doesn't make appointment* PAIGE GO MAKE YOUR HAIR APPOINTMENT! Ugh, whatever, dry shampoo will lighten it up a bit.

I'm in a public restroom with my potty training three year old:
Please, Henry, just go potty. Just do it now. *Waits 10-15 minutes, attempts to keep Otto entertained* Henry: "Mommy, I POOPED!" Me: Looks around to see if there are any other feet in the stalls "Good job Henry!" But crap! I don't have any wipes and this public bathroom toilet paper is for sh*t. *Gets poop on hands* UGHHHHH why don't I keep wipes in my damn purse?! First thing I'm doing when I get home is putting some wipes in here *Forgets wipes upon getting home, repeats entire exchange on next outing*

That's a glimpse into my distorted mind, guys. Please tell me I'm not the only one who hates looking at her roots but struggles to actually make the hair appointment to get it colored?! No, just me? Awesome.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Total Lies Told To Me About Parenting

Every parent thinks they know best. These are the best lies I was told from other parents about parenting!

Just like every soon to be parent, I thought I knew exactly how things would go when my child was born. I thought I'd breastfeed for at least a year (hahahahaha) and I thought we'd co-sleep (aaaaahahahahaha hell no) and I thought a whole lot of things. In addition, I had people tell me a whole lot of things about my thoughts on parenting. These people could see my ignorance, and they also wanted to take out their own short comings on me. These, my friends, are the biggest "I told you so" parenting lies I was told!

Common myths and lies told to new parents about parenthood, babies, toddlers and children

"You'll end up letting your kids eat in the car."
I was adamant about never letting my kids eat in the car. Have you ever seen a car where the parents allow the kids to eat in the car seats?! It's a wreck. The car stinks. There's literally crap and food particles everywhere! I told all my friends and family that I'd never let my kids eat in the car, and they laughed at me. "Oh, just you wait!" they said with creepy glee, as if they were waiting for me to fail. Well wait on, jerkholes, because my kids still aren't allowed to have anything other than water in the car! Yup, I've made it 3 and a half years and there's no snacking in my car. See, I like nice cars. I drive a nice car. I like my nice car to actually be NICE. As in, clean, maintained, conditioned leather, washed, etc. And it is. What's the point of driving a luxury car if you treat it like crap?! Two kids later, and my car is still immaculate. We have snacks before we go places and I've actually taken food out of their hands and tossed it in the trash. My three year old will toss his own snacks because he knows there's no eating in the car! (I also don't eat in my car, ever, because you can't tell your kids not to do it then do it yourself.) So... That was a lie.

"You'll end up feeding your kids fast food."
Y'all know I don't do fast food. And by do, I mean eat it. I don't see a reason for it, honestly: Why can't you wait to get home to eat? Why can't you pack healthy snacks if you're going to be out and about for a while? Why don't you get healthy food at a sit down restaurant? This also plays into never eating in my car - we just don't eat and run or eat on the go. Ever. But when I told my friends and family that, they laughed. They said, "Oh just wait! You'll have a hungry kid and stop through a drive through!" Well, think again guys. Maybe I care too much what goes into my and my children's bodies, but I don't go to the drive thru. Like, ever. No eating in the car, and no fast food.

"You'll get your baby on a schedule, then have to break it because you want a life."
Now what is true is that I want a life... But what is not true is schedule breaking! Otto is the only napper left, so we do things in the morning before nap or in the afternoon after it. If we go out to eat, we go at 5pm so that we're home in time for a 7pm bedtime. We do NOT miss a nap and we don't do late bedtimes, ever! My kids (and me) are really into routines and while our daily activities change regularly, the structure of the schedule never does. When we do date nights we leave after 7pm (and are home well before 10pm, haha!) and if we go to a birthday party or some kind of daytime social event, it fits in with nap. Period. Why so crazy about the schedule? My kids walk themselves to bed at night and fall to sleep without issue. All I do to get Otto to nap is lay him in his crib and walk out. These kids know exactly when to sleep, thankyoubabyjesus.

"iPads will be your best friend when you have a toddler!"
NOPE. No. I've been against screen time since the beginning. My kids KNOW/were trained not to even touch my phone. In fact, Henry asks if he can carry it and put it in my purse and acts like it's a special treat when I say yes. We don't have the TV on until the 5:30 news and the boys get 20-30 minutes of a movie to watch as they drink a sippy of milk before bed. That's literally the extent of their screen time during the week. On weekends, Henry can play iPad games for an hour while Otto naps, and many times he plays with it for a half hour, then asks to go outside or simply puts it down to play with his real toys instead. I've been against over-stimulating musical/flashing light/noise making toys since day one. Personally I think it negatively impacts their social development, over stimulates them, and is bad for eye and brain health. So, ugh, yeah. I don't rely on screens, and that was a big ol' lie.

Why are these grown ups telling you all this rubbish, mommy?

Here's the thing about parenting: We all have our priorities. Some people will tell you total lies about YOUR parenting because you have different priorities. Clean car not your thing? Then you'll let your kids eat in it and it won't bother you. Healthy food not a major concern? Then you'll hit up the drive thru. Don't need good, consistent sleepers (and sleep yourself)? Then you'll throw off the schedule to attend that party or stay out late for a good supper. See what I mean? I'm sure I've told some mega lies about parenting to my own friends, because we prioritize differently.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What Pregnancy is REALLY Like

Some women love it, others can barely stand it. Here's what pregnancy looked like for one woman with two very different experiences

This is a sponsored conversation my Mums The Word and The Stork OTC. All opinions are my own.

If you saw my post a few weeks back, hubs and I are on the fence about adding to our family. The thought of having a newborn again is frightening! It's also gotten me thinking about the two very difference experiences I had while pregnant. One was a breeze and one was extremely challenging. What if I get another challenging pregnancy?! Ahhh, there's so much to consider when family planning, isn't there? I've shared both of my birth stories here before (see here and here) but I haven't really talked about what those pregnancies were really like.

Henry was a surprise baby. Everyone thinks Otto was because he came so close after Henry, but oh no - it was Henry! It was October 2 and I was on a flight home from a day-long work trip to Houston. My period should have come at 10am that morning (yeah, I know even to the time of day when she's due to arrive) and it was now after 4pm. I had just run a half marathon a week before, so I figured that could be the cause of the delay. I ordered a glass of wine on the flight because I thought, "Oh girl, you better enjoy this while you can just in case!"

Next morning, I took a test and the test came back positive before the pee could even reach the control line. Well, hell! I thought. I'm going to need to figure out what to do about that wedding dress... And my bachelorette was planned for the following week. I wasn't immediately thrilled because of the timing, but hubs and I were planning on starting a family right away anyway so I got over the sober bachelorette and got excited about having a baby instead.

I felt nothing - no symptoms, nothing - for the first seven weeks. Then it was light a freight train hit me. I was nauseous, and had a non-stop headache but worst of all was the exhaustion. I remember being in my office at work and literally having to hold myself up at my desk, because sitting was too much work. I'd often leave work at 1 or 2pm and work the rest of the day from my couch, laying down. Soon, I developed such bad heartburn, I'd vomit my own stomach acid several times a day. I had serious food aversions and couldn't even let my husband eat meat around me or I'd heave and gag. I basically lived off avocado and cheese sandwiches and berries.

At 28 weeks gestation, I quit my job. The baby was breech and I swore he was going to head-butt his way out of my bellybutton. I was sick constantly. My face had changed shapes (my nose got HUGE) and I was retaining water everywhere. At 29 weeks gestation, I went into labor. My midwives put me on bed rest. At 35 weeks, I was referred to a MD to attempt an external cephalic version to turn the baby. It was unsuccessful and I was left covered in bruises. My midwives told me they were sorry, but there wasn't anything more they could do for me. I started the process of being transferred to an MD for a hospital birth, even though I had spent the last eight months preparing for a natural birth at the birth center.

At 36 weeks, my water broke. I called my husband to tell him he needed to come home and we googled directions to the hospital. We didn't even know where we were going because we didn't have time between the failed version and learning our way to our new birth location. We got to the hospital at 5:00 on a Friday, and had Henry four weeks early at 10:15pm via emergency c-section (they checked before they operated and yes, he was still stuck breech). My biggest memory was laying on the table, and having all the back pain immediately disappear as they pulled him out of me. I was SO glad to no longer be pregnant. Henry was, surprisingly, extremely healthy. He nursed right away and needed no NICU time despite his early birth date and being a white male, who notoriously have under-developed lungs.

Just 10 months later, we were ready to expand our family. My sister and I are only 18 months apart and were so close growing up, I wanted to provide that for my kids too. We tried for one month with no success. I talked with my mom, who was an infertility nurse for over 20 years, and she told me this was how she recommended women attempt to get pregnant: Have sex every other day the day your period ends. Keep your stress levels as low as possible and just have fun with it! My mom and I have the kind of relationship where that conversation wasn't awkward at all, and I took what she had to say to heart. I knew a part of my job would be managing my husband's stress levels too, since males play an equal role in conception. Since our kids would be so close and we had just started trying, we were able to keep things light and as "fun" as attempting conception could be!

The following month, I took a pregnancy test on Day 29 (the same day I found out when I was pregnant with Henry). It was negative. Dang it, I thought! Ok period, just get here so we can start again. My sister came into town, and we had a couple of late nights with wine. But my period never showed up. On day 35, I was super annoyed and went and bought what I thought was a bulk pack of pregnancy tests. I open them up, and wouldn't you know, I had just spent a fortune on ovulation tests! I became even more annoyed. I couldn't return an open box of tests! Luckily there was one pregnancy test in there. I took it, and again, the positive line turned before the control line.

With Otto, I became bloated and nauseous pretty much the day after the positive test. We had a big party planned for Henry's first birthday, and I spent a good amount of it sitting outside in the fresh air, trying not to get sick, sitting by myself! All of that started to clear up by 15 weeks and I felt much better.

I felt amazing in fact. I didn't have any heartburn. I had no back pain. He wasn't trying to create an escape route from my belly button like breech Henry did. He was head down. All was perfect! As far as pregnancies go, it was a breeze. I was able to work out the whole time and only put on 19 pounds (partially, I believe, because I was chasing after Henry the whole time). After the first trimester, I had no food aversions and could eat everything. In fact, I even loved spinach salads and all the other things "they" tell you to eat for a healthy pregnancy. 

My midwives welcomed me back to the birth center, but since I was only 19 months out from my c section, I decided to attempt my VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean) at the same hospital with the same MD I was transferred to with Henry. I really liked the staff and loved the OB. I was 38 and a half weeks when my water broke at 2am with Otto, and 16 hours later I had him just the way I wanted, via VBAC.

The two pregnancies could not have been more different! One was a surprise and full of issues and massive discomfort. The birth went literally 180 degrees from the way I had wanted and planned. The other was planned and relatively easy. It was a textbook pregnancy and resulted in the birth I wanted. See, that's what pregnancy is REALLY like. You can do everything right and everything can get derailed. You don't get to know or prepare for how it will go. It could be easy and you love it, or it can be a long, hard nine months.

Trying to conceive? Check out The Stork OTC! It's available at CVS and Target (as well as through their website) for less than $60. It's used at home with no shots, so scans, no prescriptions or procedures. The Stork OTC assists you in your chances of getting pregnant and is a drug free option in the next step towards conception. Want to learn more? Check out their Twitter party on October 19 at 8pm EST!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Which Car Seat To Get For Your Little One?

There's so many choices to make as a new parent! Here's why we chose Graco car seats to protect our most precious passengers

I can still clearly remember it: I was 28 weeks pregnant with Henry and we were standing in a big retailer, looking at all the car seat options with glazed eyes. "Babe, how on earth do we know which one to get?" I asked my husband. He immediately whipped out his phone and called his brother's wife, a soon to be mom of three (and now she has four!) She gave us the two brands she preferred, then we looked at consumer reports and safety ratings for the two. Graco won by a landslide! I ended up letting my husband pick the color since we both agreed on the brand and the style, and since he was so proud he was having a boy, he went with a blue. Good thing our second baby was also a boy, because we were so happy with the Graco seat we didn't want to replace it! But it's a tough question new parents have to ask themselves: which car seat do you get for your little one?

There's a few tips I have as an experienced mom for new parents. First, look for great safety. That is, after all, the reason for the car seat! Consistently high ratings, few to no product recalls, and meets or exceeds US FMVSS safety standards are great things to look at in regards to safety. Second, look for excellent quality. Is the fabric washable and will it hold it's color? Is the plastic durable? How heavy is the seat? Heavy, by the way, does NOT indicate quality. And if you're getting an infant carrier, I recommend going as light as possible because when that baby comes, it's amazing how heavy the seat gets so quickly! Our Graco infant carrier was super light at just 7.5 pounds and made getting baby in and out of the car much easier. Finally, look for affordability. Just like weight doesn't indicate quality, price doesn't indicate the car seat's safety or quality either! Graco has so many options, you'll be able to find one whatever your budget allows.

Graco Forever 4 in 1 car seat
Fast forward from Henry's birth to today, and I have two toddlers. Clearly we've outgrown the infant carrier car seat style and had to look for new options for the boys. I picked the Graco Forever 4 in 1 car seat for both the boys for several reasons. First, we were familiar with the brand and very happy with our infant carrier seat, so we knew we'd love a Graco convertible seat. These seats are good for children from birth through the booster seat phase, so this would be the last car seat we'd have to buy them. There's built in, easy to use (and understand!) safety features, like the side level that tells you when your seat is level (and therefore safe to travel in). It has five different reclining positions from rear facing to forward facing, so the seat will grow with the boys as they grow. And the LATCH system makes them super easy to install in my car or a car rental if we travel.

We have the same seat for both boys - Henry is forward facing, Otto rear facing. This car seat grows with your kids!
LATCH system FTW, y'all

Funny side note about LATCH systems: When we first had Henry, my husband had a 2006 SUV that didn't have a LATCH system. I guess they became standard in all cars in 2007. Anyway, he attempted to install the infant carrier seat in his car so he could take Henry somewhere. He was in the garage for so long, I thought he'd gone off somewhere. Nope! It just took him about 30 solid minutes to figure out how to get the seat in his old SUV! Let's all take a minute and be glad we live in 2017 when car seats are super easy to install, shall we? :)

One of the easiest ways to buy your car seat once you've picked out which Graco seat fits your style is on They have SO many Graco car seat options in so many different colors, you'll find exactly what you're looking for at a great price. Since I let hubs pick out the blue infant carrier, I went ahead and selected the boys' convertible seats - a nice neutral dark grey! You can buy it online, and then go and pick it up at the store, most the time that same day, and get it, or get two day shipping. I live three miles from two different Walmart's, so I opted for the in-store pick up. I have to be honest with you. I was seriously impressed with this feature! There were signs in the parking garage where to park and arrows directing me where to go to get my online purchases. The location was clearly marked in the store, too. It was truly a seamless process, and I had a gentleman carry the car seat to my car and load it in the back for me to boot.

Picking out a car seat is overwhelming as a soon to be parent. There's so many styles and brands and colors to chose from. We've been thrilled with our Graco car seats from the very beginning because of their safety, quality and affordability. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Flavors Of The Season: Thanksgiving Appetizer

This tangy and sweet appetizer is perfect to serve your guests on Thanksgiving as you wait for that turkey to be done

This post is sponsored by Bonterra Organic Vineyards. The recipe is my original creation and all opinions and photos are my own.

The holidays are upon us! Soon your home will be decorated and your kitchen full of all those great smells of the season. Thanksgiving happens to be my favorite meal to actually cook for others. I like to start things at 9am, and slowly get everything together as I sip on a glass of wine. One of the keys to making this holiday as stress free as possible is to prepare what you can ahead of time. I like to have one casserole done and the potatoes peeled and waiting in water the night before so I just pull it out of the fridge and get it heated up when the timing is right with the turkey. This appetizer is another one that you can make mostly ahead so that its an easy addition to your holiday meal line up.

I've found that the better I plan the menu and am familiar with cooking times of all the various dishes, the more organized I am on Thanksgiving but most importantly the more fun I have cooking it all. And as much as tasty food is important, having fun with friends and family is the most important thing of all during the holidays! 

Personally, I don't think there are many things as fun as cooking with a good glass of wine. Bonterra has an amazing selection of even more amazing wine. Literally, I haven't tried one I didn't like and would be proud to serve any of them at my Thanksgiving table! Even the chardonnay was great and I don't typically care for chardonnay. This recipe is versatile in that it pairs well with a red or a white, so no matter what your preference is, it will taste great. Want to try Bonterra for your holiday table? Get 30% off your first order with code BLOG30. The only thing better than good wine is good wine and a deal!

Sweet Potato Crostini - A Perfect Thanksgiving Appetizer
- two large sweet potatoes, peeled and ends discarded 
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2/3 cup chopped pecans
- 3 tablespoons salted butter
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon Pumpkin Spice seasoning
- 4oz package goat cheese
- sea salt
- chopped chives to garnish

First, in a medium sized skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the brown sugar. Allow the sugar to cook for several minutes so that it melts into the butter, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is fully combined, add the pecans and pumpkin spice seasoning. Stir to coat the pecans in the butter-sugar-spice seasoning evenly. Pour mixture onto wax paper to cool, leveling it out to a single layer. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees. Slice the sweet potatoes in about 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices. They should be thick enough to hold the topping, but not too thick to dominate the flavor. Pour the olive oil on a large sheet pan, and arrange the sweet potato slices in a single layer, so that every slice is touching the pan. Bake for about 17-20 mins, or until the side facing the pan is golden brown and the top side is soft but not mushy. Remove from pan and allow them to cool on paper towels or a cooling rack. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Allow the sweet potato crostini to cool COMPLETELY before applying a thick layer of goat cheese to each crostini. Break up the cooled candied pecan topping and sprinkle on each piece of sweet potato. If you prefer a sweeter appetizer, use more of the nuts per piece; if you'd prefer a more tart appetizer, use fewer nuts. Garnish with chopped chives, and serve at room temperature. 

I hope you enjoy this easy Thanksgiving appetizer! Bake the sweet potatoes the night before to make it easier and to ensure they're cool enough for the goat cheese the day of Thanksgiving. Pre-making parts of dishes also means there's more time to spend with friends and family, and more time to enjoy some amazing Bonterra wine with your holiday meal.

This easy Thanksgiving appetizer is sweet and tangy. It can be made ahead of time for easy entertaining, too!
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Monday, October 2, 2017

Weekend Update

What we were up to this weekend

I used to write these kinds of posts all the time! Since I've monetized/turned "professional blogger" I rarely get the chance to just talk about normal, everyday life. We had a pretty fun weekend with lots of fall-like activities, and the weather was almost fall-ish (by Dallas standards, anyway). In the words of Henry, "I had a fun day!" And we did - we had so many fun days, back to back. Here's what we were up to, complete with semi-blurry snaps from my iPhone:

Friday night we watched more of The Handmaiden's Tale, and finished the season. O. M. G y'all, I can totally see why this show won all the awards. Also, I feel like I need some therapy after watching it. It is MESSED up. It's like the wreck you pass on your morning commute that you can't stop looking at, but wish you could, but not really. Does that make sense? If you haven't watched it, do yourself a solid and start. You'll be hooked.

Family Oktoberfest selfie. The least blurry one out of the bunch.

Saturday had a slow start, but we went to our neighborhood's Oktoberfest celebration after Otto had a good long nap and it didn't disappoint! Some community festivals can be pretty boring, but this had live music, a bajillion food vendors, tons of beer that wasn't overly priced, a huge park for the kids and about 20 different bounce houses. My kids LOVE bounce houses! 

We bounced, drank and met up with friends who all have kids the same age as ours. Otto discovered his love for German food and Henry ate about two bites of a pretzel before he decided he'd rather stick with the conventional snacks we packed. This kid will be the death of me with his picky eating! At least he tried a bite of a pretzel, right? Ugh.

I caught Otto stuffing his face...
Then he threw me some major shade. Don't interrupt this boy's eatin'!

Sunday brought in a new month, and hubs finally got around to decorating the outside of the house for Halloween. I've had the mantel and a few things up around the house since the beginning of September, but he says we have to wait for October to get the outside set up. Whatevs. Henry loves all things spooky, just like me. Otto... Not so much. We were at Target this past week and I always take the kids to the holiday section to look at stuff. There was a blow up pumpkin head man and I tried to grab it's hand to spook Henry a little. I ended up pulling the whole damn thing over, right on top of Otto, who screamed in terror. Oops! Henry thought it was hilarious, but Otto was legit shaking, poor boy. I won't be grabbing those things again.

Graveyard landscaping
The lighting was too good in this one not to share! 
Spooky entryway

Otto had to play with everything before we put it up

Since the weather was so nice, we ended up going to a neighborhood burger joint that has a huge patio and play area for kids for dinner on Sunday night. The boys play in the dirt with trucks and it allows us to eat in (mostly) peace. It was a nice, mellow end to a very fun weekend! The only thing we didn't get around to was visiting the pumpkin village at the Dallas Arboretum, but there's always next weekend for that.