February 28, 2013

What We Do For Family Time

This year for Christmas my sister came up with the idea that my brother, sister, and I should do family gifts.  So one gift for an entire family.  At first I didn't really get it, but then as my sister talked about some ideas it clicked.

So Pat and I brainstormed what we would like from my brother and sister's families.  One gift was easy to come up with.  We got a zoo membership for the small zoo in our city.  Unfortunately we haven't gone yet since it's been so cold, but I know that we're going to use it a ton this spring, especially because it is so close by.  I love going to the zoo with the kids.

For the other gift, we knew we wanted something that would promote family time.  We enjoy spending the evenings in the family room all cuddled up on the sectional watching movies.  So when Pat was talking about popcorn, we decided a popcorn popper would be an awesome gift for us.  After reading reviews on several we decided on this one, and it has not disappointed.
I was hoping we'd keep it healthy by popping our own popcorn, but that hasn't happen so much.  Our favorite popcorn to make is with melted butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.  If you haven't tried that yet, you haven't lived ;)  We all love movie nights with popcorn.

As much as we love our popcorn nights, we realized we couldn't do it every single night.  After all, how much popcorn can one family eat, right?  So we wanted more options for family time.  I told Pat that I was thinking that maybe we should get an Xbox with Kinect.  We agreed and found a good deal on one.  A couple weeks ago we set it up and have tried many games.  At first I was super disappointed as many of the games were much too hard for the kids to control.  I began thinking we had wasted a lot of money.  However, through a lot of trial and error we've finally found a few games that our boys can really use.  Here are our favorite games:

1.  Nickelodeon Dance 2  This game is totally geared toward the kids.  You do what the characters on screen do.  Two people can play together.  It's kind of like a mini aerobics workout.  I love playing with the kids and it gets me moving a little bit.  The boys even love playing it together, and it helps get their energy out.

2.  Sesame Street Once Upon a Monster  I figured a Sesame Street game must be age appropriate for our little boys to play.  Ryan and I played this game together the other day.  It was really nice to play together, and the activities were fun like dancing, jumping, flying.  There was a good variety of movements and stories.

3.  Carnival Games: Monkey See Monkey Do  Our whole family really enjoys this game.  Our favorite activity is skee ball.  There are so many different games to play on this like ring toss, roller coaster, strength test, crash test dummy, etc.  This game is used almost every single time we play.

There are a lot of other games out there for kids.  We've tried several, but these were the best for our 3 and 5 year old so far.

What does your family do for family time?

February 27, 2013

Cara Box Reveal

I'm linking up my Cara Box reveal today.  If you don't know what a Cara Box is, go check out Kaitlyn @ Wifessionals.  She started this as a way for bloggers to connect, share happy mail, and encourage one another.  Read all the details of the Cara Box here.

This was my first time participating.  I sent a box to Kem, and I hope she liked it.  I received a box from Elizabeth.  It was great to "meet" both of them from visiting their blogs.

Elizabeth sent me a really cool box of goodies.  I'm not sure if she knew it, but I have a soft spot (maybe obsession) with makeup.  She sent me tons of samples of lip glosses, eye shadows, and blush from Mary Kay.  I may have found the perfect color of lip gloss and cannot wait to test it out.  And I did apply some eyeliner midday yesterday when the package arrived because I was so excited.  She also included the Satin Hands set, which is perfect for me to use in winter.  My hands and nails get so dry.  There were two great smelling candles.  But best of all was the book All About Us to spend time filling out and bonding with the hubby.  Elizabeth had no way of knowing that a very long time ago (possibly 8+ years ago) Pat and I had filled out that or a similar book.  I have never gone back to read my answers because I know they'd be very different now.  I think I may still know where that book is.  I also think it would be a really fun date for me and Pat to fill it out now and see how much our answers have changed over the years.

It was really fun sending and receiving packages from other bloggers.  I look forward to participating in the Cara Box Exchange again.  

Cara Box

February 26, 2013

Confession: I am afraid...

I am afraid...to drive.

Driving has always made me a little nervous.  I was never all that excited to get my license.  When I think about my first time driving alone I cringe and dread when that day comes for my kids.  I hate driving places I've never been before.  If I can I like to do a practice trip a few days before.

Now that we've moved back to an area where the people are referred to as Mass-holes especially about driving, my fear has increased a bit.
I've noticed since moving back here that people are pretty mean on the roads here.  They're not afraid to use their horns, they don't like to let others go first, they are aggressive, and they often make up their own rules.  I don't quite fit in with these practices.

But the culmination of my fear happened a few weeks ago picking Ryan up from school.  Ryan's pre-k class is released 15 minutes before the rest of the school.  So by the time the three kids and I are back in the car ready to leave we are usually pretty trapped by all the parents double parking and waiting in cars for the regular school release.

On one particular day I could see it was going to be difficult to get out.  Cars were parking all over the place.  One car in the waiting line backed up so I could pull out of my aisle and make it to the exit.  Unfortunately it was such a tight turn and the other cars were not going to move for me.  I should have just stopped and sat there for those 15 minutes, but I felt pressured.  More cars had come and were waiting on me to move.  I felt like now I was the one blocking the one and only "moving" lane.  And that is when I made the big mistake.  I continued to try to inch forward.  Except the side of the minivan had become too close to the car next to me.  I hear a bump and I know I've hit the car parked next to me.  Cue the expletives coming out of my mouth.  I tell the kids to hush down.  At this point one of the cars in the waiting line that would not budge for me has now pulled forward.  I jump out to see the damage I had done.  There was a scratch on the rear bumper of the car.  I am panicked and embarrassed.  Everyone just saw me scratch that car.  I knew what I had to do, but I was so wishing this hadn't happened and that I wasn't alone in that parking lot right then.  I called my sister.  She is amazing and can talk me through anything.  She helps me write a note to leave on the car's windshield.  Yes, I was the poor fool leaving an "I'm sorry I accidentally scratched your car" note.  My handwriting looked like I was in third grade because I was shaking so badly.  Tears were pouring from my eyes as I drove off.  This day had become a bad one for me.

In the end, the person never called me.  Although for at least a week after I was terrified waiting for the phone to ring.  Actually, there is still a part of me afraid I'll get a call.  The scratch was just a tiny little bit of missing paint on their plastic bumper.  It probably wasn't a big deal, but in the moment it felt like a huge ordeal.  I learned a few things, like I'm never going to try to squeeze my minivan through tight spots ever again, even if that means everyone has to wait.  I now go to the school parking lot way earlier than release time in hopes of getting a spot that has easy access to the exit.    But the biggest thing this whole situation left me with is a renewed and greater fear of driving.

Have you ever been in a similar situation?  Have you had to write a note like that?  Have you ever received a note like that on your car?

February 25, 2013

Catching Up on Monday

I've been posting lately, but I don't feel like I've talked about what's really been going on around my life.  So here is a quick little update to catch you up on my life lately.

Friday night Pat took the boys to a hockey game at the college where he works.  The boys loved it!!!!  I was a little worried because before the game Ryan kept talking about how he was going to play, and I kept explaining that he was only going to watch.  They enjoyed seeing all the people and watching the game though.  They definitely want to go again.

While the boys were out, I enjoyed some quiet time with Leah.  After her dinner she knocked out for a long nap.  This did lead to a late night once the boys got home, but the quiet cuddles were so worth it.

Speaking of Leah, remember this photo with her two little bottom teeth?  This girl is quickly going from two teeth to six!!!  She's cutting all four of her top front teeth at once.  Two have broken the skin and the other two are starting to make the holes in her gums.  She's been so good about it.  Once in a while she has a bad night but tylenol helps.

While I've been lucky that teething hasn't interrupted her sleep too much something else has.  Leah has begun to Army crawl.  She's been rolling all over the place for a while, and now she's able to drag her self around.  This has interrupted her sleep because instead of napping/sleeping she'd rather get up on all fours on my bed and rock back and forth in the craziest and cutest way.  She's so excited about this new found mobility.  Here is a short video we took of her Army crawl.  It isn't the most beautiful way to move about, but it is functional.

I woke up this morning to a fresh dusting of snow.  This picture doesn't do it justice, but my back yard looks so pretty when the trees have the white dusting on them.  It really looks like a winter wonderland.  I'm kind of happy to be back in an area that gets snow.  I'm also hoping for one last snow storm before spring.

Sean starts speech today.  I'm really happy that we got him evaluated.  It's getting to the point where we aren't able to easily understand much of what he says.  I'm hoping he has fun with it so it is something he looks forward to.  Ryan goes back to school today after a week off for February vacation.  So we're getting back into the swing of our normal schedule this week.  

That's what is up with us.  What have you been up to?

February 21, 2013

A Homework Date

I don't think I've mentioned yet that my husband is taking some classes to begin working on his Masters Degree.  I am very proud of him, but I will admit at first there was a tiny bit of jealousy.  You see, my husband was a History major, and I was a Marketing major in college.  Before we got married, I pictured myself working for a big company and climbing the corporate ladder in the business world.  That is not how my life happened though, and I don't have a single regret about the path my life has taken.  That said, it is a bit weird for me to sit by and watch my husband getting the Masters Degree in a business program.

At the beginning of the semester, talking about school brought tension to our relationship.  I felt like my husband was talking down to me like I don't understand since I'm not in the classes, and in a defensive response I was probably talking down to my husband because he has no "business" experience.  We were both so wrong, but we are imperfect and flawed.

This past weekend though we had a bonding experience that changed our attitude toward each other with regard to my husband's school.  Pat had gone upstairs to do some homework online.  He had been gone for much longer than he originally intended.  I called up to see how things were going, and it was clear he was frustrated.  I asked if he wanted to come downstairs so I could help him with it.  I never expected him to take me up on my offer, but much to my surprise he said yes.  We started working together just like we had done years ago in college together.  We listened and explained.  We talked calmly.  We figured out answers.  Sometimes I was right, and it felt great to be able to actually contribute.  I felt like I was able to show him that even though I'm not in the Masters program, I still know some stuff.  He appreciated the help, and he probably doesn't realize how much I appreciated being included.

I talked on Valentine's day about how the husband and I need more bonding time.  As silly as this may sound, the homework date this weekend was exactly what we needed.  It fed my soul that my husband was able to see me as more than just a SAHM.  We had something in common to work on.  We challenged each other, discussed things, and at the end accomplished a goal.

Who would have thought that doing homework together would mean so much for us as a couple?

**Don't forget to enter my giveaway**

February 20, 2013

WIWW Valentine's Week

I made it a point to wear red/pink around Valentine's day.  It was a good excuse for pretty colors.

I didn't feel much like getting dressed one day.  It is the day my husband has night class so I didn't expect to see him or really anyone.  But since I wanted to put in some effort, I threw together a comfy outfit from my casual pieces.
But my husband forgot his cell phone at home and needed me to bring it to him at work.  It always seems to work that way.  I always end up seeing people when I haven't dressed up.  You would think I'd learn my lesson.  At least this outfit was semi put together with the scarf .

On Valentine's day I got to wear this new pink button down shirt.  You can't see in this photo but it has little polka dots.  Pink and polka dots!  It doesn't get much better, right?  Oh wait but how about if I tell you I got it for $2.99 (including shipping).  That's pretty amazing, huh?

Friday morning I pulled a muscle in my neck and spent the entire long weekend hunched over and in sweats.  I figured that if I was walking around like Quasimodo, that was excuse enough to be comfy in sweat pants.

pleated poppy

February 19, 2013

Easy Chili with No Beans

I love a hot bowl of soup.  However, I haven't really made many myself.  I find that I spend all the time making them and then I feel underwhelmed when I taste it.  I have had success with this super easy No Bean Chili though.  I'm not a fan of beans.  I'm sure you could add them in, I just prefer not to use them.

I like this recipe because it is warm, hearty, and super easy.

1 lb ground beef or ground turkey
1 onion chopped
1 (14.5 oz) can stewed tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
garlic powder
chili powder

Over medium head combine the onion and ground beef.  Saute until meat is browned.  Add the stewed tomatoes with juice and the tomato sauce.  Season with a pinch of garlic powder.  Add chili powder to taste.  I like a lot of chili powder to give the soup the warmth with a tiny kick.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

It doesn't get easier than that.  I like to serve it with some cheese on top and with homemade bread.  

I'm linking up on Wednesday for:

You still have time to post your soup recipe for the link up too!

P.S.  Don't forget to enter my very first giveaway!

February 18, 2013

5 Years Blogging, A Few Favorites, and a Giveaway!

Tomorrow marks 5 years writing on this blog.  I have never marked the "blogiversary" before.  As I said before, I don't like to look back and read too much of what I wrote.  Until I just recently checked, I never knew when I started writing here.  Normally I wouldn't make any deal out of it, but I figured 5 years is a long time.  So for those that have been around a while, thanks for reading and encouraging me.  If you are new, thanks for stopping by, and I hope you'll continue to follow me on this journey.  While I blog for me, I also enjoy connecting with all of you.

Now I just wanted to talk about a few of my favorite things lately.

I blogged about Benefit's They're Real mascara last month.  I still really love it.  I recently had a sample of Korres Volcanic Minerals Volumizing Mascara.  I made my husband take before and after photos of my lashes.  I was going to post a comparison the two, but honestly, you couldn't see much of a difference in the photos.  Up close my husband liked Benefit's They're Real a little more.  I like the smoothness of the application with They're Real too.  They're Real is creamy and thick, whereas the Korres was a bit drier during application.  So for right now Benefit is my go to mascara.
Winter is hard on my skin.  I am always looking for something to keep it hydrated.  Also, I'm getting a bit old and need to worry about wrinkles and lines.  So anything with anti-aging properties is on my list to try.  A few weeks ago I purchased Josie Maran Argan Oil.  They should just call this miracle oil.  There are so many ways you can use this:  in the bath for total body moisturizing, on your face as a moisturizer/treatment, on your cuticles, on split ends, pretty much for anything dry.  You can even use it on your baby as it is 100% pure Argan oil.  Leah had a very dry area on her lower belly, probably from the diaper wicking moisture.  I had tried several diaper creams and nothing was working.  After one day of Argan oil, the red, dryness was gone.  I'm not joking.  After that I was sold on this product.  Seriously give it a try.  And if you are afraid of oil breaking out your skin, most of the reviewers say that it hasn't for them.  Plus the other reason I love this is because of the Josie Maran Cosmetics company; their slogan is "Luxury with a Conscience".  Not only does she have an organic beauty line but she also gives back.

For Valentine's day Pat surprised me with an iPod Nano.  I had a really, really old ipod shuffle from about 8 years ago....seriously old school.  One of my goals this spring/summer is to get running.  I hate running, but I love music so hopefully that will keep me moving.  Pat also got me some iTunes gift cards to load some music.  It was so much fun to pick out music.  I think I may be addicted to iTunes now.

Since I'm celebrating my 5 years on the blog, I wanted to do a giveaway in appreciation for those of you that take the time to read what I write.  I sincerely appreciate each comment/e-mail you leave me.  While I don't blog to have "followers", it is nice to know people care about what I have to say and what is going on for me.  So as a thank you, I'm giving away a .5 oz Josie Maran Argan Oil, a travel size Benefit They're Real Mascara so you can try it yourself, and a $15 iTunes Gift Card.  You don't have to "follow" me to enter, but I would love it if you did stick around ;)

February 16, 2013

Mason Jars for Organizing in the Kitchen

I have a board on Pinterest called Mason Jar Love.  Mason jars are so popular, and like everyone else, I love the look of them.
But until last week I didn't have a single mason jar in my house.  I am not one to collect things unless I have a use for them.  I try to avoid clutter because no matter what I do it accumulates anyway.  With the new year, I've been motivated to organize my home.  While playing around on Pinterest last week I saw my mason jar board and felt inspired.  I made a special trip to the store to find some jars, and have been brainstorming functional ways to use mason jars in my house since.

I have found that they are great for storing my brown sugar and confectioners sugar.  Since both of these come in bags, they are awkward to store in the cabinets, and I do not want anything else on my counters--remember I said things tend to get cluttered.  I also like to make a cinnamon sugar mixture to have on hand in a small jar.

labeled with washi tape

Oh and a little tip for keeping your brown sugar soft is to put a couple marshmallows in with the sugar.  

Next time I buy rice it will be going in a jar too.  I feel like it is easier to organize my cabinets using mason jars.  Any other ideas for mason jars to organize the kitchen?

February 15, 2013

Apple Chicken Loaf

My blog friend Kari shared a recipe recently from her weekly meal planning that sounded really good.  I checked out the ingredients, and it seemed like something I could make too.  I get a bit intimidated by too many or weird ingredients.

This is the recipe for Apple Chicken Loaf.

Okay, I freely admit that it doesn't look as good as it tastes.  The seasonings blend into this loaf so well.  The apple, onion, and celery remind me of the stuffing I make for Thanksgiving.  The dijon mustard in the glaze gives it a little tang.  The kids and my husband all approved this meal, so that says something.  What I enjoy the most though is that it uses a lot of fresh non-processed ingredients.  This is definitely on my keeper list to add to my meal rotation.  

I'm thinking of doing a blog giveaway next week.  It would be my first time ever doing a giveaway.  I hope you'll come back next week to enter.

Have a great weekend!

February 14, 2013

You Know The Romance Is Dead...

You know the romance is dead when the only thing your husband says to you on Valentine's Day is "Do you want to go to BJ's Wholesale Club tonight?"
umm...sure, why not, I have nothing better to do than take our three kids shopping for bulk items.

One of my goals this year is to resuscitate my marriage.  It has been hit hard from our separations due to the Army and moving.  Plus three kids give us very little adult time.  Our idea of a gift is doing the dishes so the other one doesn't have to....Hey, I thought that was a great surprise.

We have forgotten to nourish our relationship.  It's hard to figure out where to begin.  I feel like we need to start dating again and get to know each other.  Right now it seems like we don't have any common interests anymore.  The problem with long separations is that as you grow and change, you aren't doing it together.  We certainly aren't the same people we were almost 9 years ago when we got married.  I'm not sure how we'll rekindle our relationship, and I know it will be a lot of work.  It is a work in progress and completely worth it though.

So whether you have a valentine or not, just remember no matter what your plans are, you could be buying paper towels and toilet paper tonight like me.  ;)

Happy Valentine's Day!

February 13, 2013

8 Months Old

So look who turned 8 months old today!  My little girl is not quite a baby anymore.
Leah was totally not feeling this morning photo session.  Not many smiles to be had today.  I'll blame it on the upper teeth that will hopefully cut soon.   
 She did smirk a lot for me.  
 I guess maybe she'll perfect playing hard to get.
Here is a little bit of smile.  She is so cute with her expressions.  My favorite thing is when she raises her eyebrows at us.
She does enjoy clapping with her brother, Ryan.  If I clap she just looks at me, but when Ryan claps, she's all about imitating him.
 Oh these pictures are so tiring!
 Clapping again for Ryan.  Look at those little dimpled fingers.
 Check out those two bottom teeth!
 Sometimes we call her chicken little because of her crazy hair sticking up.
 I love my little cutie pie.

February 12, 2013

WIWW: Casual-Preppy

I only have one outfit this week, but you can blame that on the blizzard.  I mean, really, who gets dressed when they are snowed in?  Not me.  We haven't had school since Thursday, and I haven't left the house for days.

I wore this last week.  It is pretty much a typical outfit for me.  I'm kind of a mix of casual and preppy I guess.
Sweater-Gap Outlet//Denim Shirt-Target//Jeans-Lands' End Canvas//Flats-Target
Until recently I never would have worn the denim shirt with jeans; they're two different colors.  But I am branching out and realizing just how versatile that shirt can be.
I've always wanted to take one of these OOTD shots looking down from the cell ;)
These flats I got last year at target.  I love the ruffles.
Happy Wednesday!
pleated poppy

February 11, 2013

Using the Bread Machine

I've been using my bread machine again lately.  I love making fresh bread.  I still have to work on slicing it though.  Any tips or tricks?  

I made a Sun Dried Tomato with Rosemary and Thyme loaf.  It didn't turn out as good as I had hoped, but I didn't want to waste the remainder of the loaf.  I turned it into bread crumbs for meatloaf/meatballs.  I think it will be delicious for that.  
The night before the big storm I made Money Saving Mom's Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls.  I think it is the best thing I've ever tasted.  It was so easy too.  I couldn't believe how nice the dough from the bread machine was.  These cinnamon rolls are my new indulgence.  And let me tell you, they are even better the day after you make them when you reheat them.  Seriously you NEED to try these.  
Here they are with the frosting.  Cinnabon who?  I'm not joking when I say these are the best I've ever had.

Do you have any bread machine recipes to share?  

February 10, 2013

Blizzard 2013

We survived and had quite a bit of fun in the Blizzard of 2013.  I'd say our little city got over 20" of snow in a 24 hour period.

Massachusetts put a driving ban into effect on Friday afternoon and for about 24 hours anyone caught on the road faced a $500 fine and up to a year in jail.  They were serious.  I actually think it was one of the best deterrents for people to go into the storm.  As far as I know, no one was cited.

I've seen some people from climates that receive large amounts of snow on a normal basis mocking how seriously New England took this storm.  That's fine, but I think they're making themselves look pretty silly.

Right now there are 400,000 people without power (which also means without heat) because of this storm.  My parents and brother's family are both without power.  There have been deaths because of the storm.  The coasts were battered and flooded.  National Guard was mobilized, and there were forced evacuations.

Overall, I think Massachusetts' preparation and reaction to the storm was instrumental in keeping people safe.

So here are a few photos from my house. It's hard to see just how much snow we got because everything is white.

View from my side door.
In the foreground is where my driveway is.  You wouldn't know Pat had already snow-blowed twice the night before.   
 Can you see that neighbor's minivan covered in snow by the telephone pole?
Third time snow blowing in 24 hours.  
 And Pat had been worried about not getting to use the snow blower this year ;)

Pat and the boys have enjoyed playing outside with all the neighbors.  I've been staying warm inside with Leah making hot meals for the boys when they come in.  So I don't have many photos of all the fun, but believe me, they are having it.

This was Pat pulling the boys on their sled this morning.

What were you up to this weekend?
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