& celebrating two.

What truly feels like a few months has actually been two years, and this past weekend, we celebrated the second birthday of our sweet boys.

We kicked off the celebration with what is now officially a tradition – pancakes with sprinkles and whipped cream. In true toddler fashion, they ate the whipped cream & sprinkles, but did not touch the actual pancakes.

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Unfortunately the rest of the day was pretty boring for them, as we were preparing for their party the next day. To add to the chaos, our kitchen remodel is only semi-complete. Last Monday, when I arrived home for the first time in almost a week, I thought there was no way it could all come together by Saturday.

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But we worked our tails off, got very little sleep, and spent the boys’ actual birthday putting finishing touches on everything, so for them it was just a regular day.

On Saturday though. On Saturday we HAD. A. PARTAAAYYY. Of course because I was playing hostess, my picture taking was nearly non-existent, but despite photographic evidence, I think all 50+ guests had a great time.

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The birthday boys ran and ran and ran until they couldn’t any more, crashing into a late afternoon nap, waking to eat dinner and then back sound to sleep within a couple of hours. Justin actually went to bed before them, and I had a splendid date with the couch, birthday cake, & ice cream before heading to bed around 10pm. Birthday parties are hard work!

Sunday morning we continued the celebration with a quick trip to Merrimac to ride across Lake Wisconsin on the ferry.

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We followed it up with breakfast at a greasy spoon, where I inhaled a much-deserved plate of biscuits & gravy. I earned that meal, dangit!

A quick nap on the way home meant no “real” nap for the boys, so instead we set up their new pool & had an afternoon pool party! J & I may or may not have done our part to clear out the leftover beer cooler from the party the day before. I mean, this pool didn’t come with these built-in drink holders for nothing!

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Dinner outdoors included root beer floats for the boys & was followed by an early bed time for the whole family.

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We had a such a great time celebrating with friends and family on Saturday, but we’re equally grateful for the time spent on Sunday, just the four of us. With all of the kitchen cabinet building, Justin has worked every weekend for the past five weekends, meaning family time has been pretty limited. It was nice to reconnect as our little family of four while celebrating such a special day!

I have two two year-olds. They are sweet, intelligent, handsome, funny, charismatic, silly, stubborn, and so much more. How did I get so lucky?!

boysphoto credit: Amber Hopkins Photography

 

related: first birthday 

 

currently | 5.21.17

You know, I can never finish these posts in one setting, so I’m forgoing the old format and just blabbing about what’s going on over here lately.

|| naps are winning. This week the boys decided they were professional crib escapees and so ended my days of working out, prepping dinner, relaxing, or doing anything productive during nap time. Instead I’m now glued to the monitor, hoping to witness any sort of activity that might result in a broken limb, and thus prevent broken limbs. It’s cool that they want to sleep together and all, but putting them in the same crib at the same time apparently just doesn’t cut it, because you can believe I tried that yesterday and…NOPE. For now, nighttime sleep is unaffected. But I’m not holding my breath.

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||working. I started working one more day at the office so now I’m home two weekdays, at the office three, and at my night job 1-2. This was the first week with my new schedule and I know it will take some getting used to, but I think it’s good for everyone. I know the boys get bored with me and need other stimulation and other people around them. I still can’t get over how much more grown up they seem every time I get home from a full day at work. Seriously, why does that always happen?!

|| working out. Not since high school/organized extracurricular activities have I been consistent with workouts. Not when I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on gym memberships. Not when I’ve had a beach vacation on the horizon. Not when I planned to have the healthiest pregnancy ever (LOLLLL). It just hasn’t been a regular thing in my adult life, no matter how hard I’ve tried. But lately something has clicked and I feel more like working out is just a part of life. It doesn’t seem like a chore, and I actually enjoy it most days. That doesn’t mean fitting it into my schedule is always easy, but I’m getting it done. I’m feeling strong and flexible and trying not to get frustrated with the fact that my body is not reflecting the way I feel. Like, at all. It’s particularly frustrating because I’ve also significantly improved my diet. One of these days…right??

|| two words: KITCHEN REMODEL (plus all of the exclamation points) Our kitchen is, quite literally, falling apart. When we bought this house, seven years ago, we intended to gut it out and completely update it. But then we started with smaller rooms, laid wood floors throughout, had two babies, and well, the kitchen remains untouched. With the exception of new appliances, everything (paint, cabinets, countertops, floor) is original from when the house was built in 2000. And just like Ryan Cabrera’s hair, kitchens that were cool in the early 2000s, just. aren’t. anymore. Sooo, Justin has been spending every weekend tirelessly building our kitchen cabinets with his own two hands and we’ll start demo and then rebuilding the week after next!


||party planning. My babies are going to be two next month *audible sob* and as much as I don’t want to talk about it, I also can’t wait to celebrate my baby sharks. Plus, I love a theme, and shark/beach party may just be my very favorite kind of theme.

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That’s all I’ve got for now, friends. I hope wherever you are, the weather is better than it is here. On Tuesday I turned on the air conditioning. Yesterday, I turned on the heat. It will all be worth it for summer in Wisconsin though. I hope. 🙂

& sunshine & bubbles & amoxicillin 

Life with two almost two year-olds is mostly sunshine. I’m being totally serious. These past few months have been primarily sunny in our little world, with these little guys.


Their personalities have become so distinct. Their likes and dislikes are obvious and communicated. Their sleeping through the night has become consistent, with very few exceptions. And you know what? When you finally get to sleep through the night, for more than one night, for the first time in years (literally), you can sort of look over all of the other not-so-sunshiny stuff.

Like temper tantrums, refusal to eat,  and strep throat. Amoxicillin still tastes like bubblegum but falls into the refusal to consume category too, FYI.


After talking about it for nearly seven years, we finally fenced in our backyard. Since it’s completion on Sunday we have eaten dinner & stayed outside until just before sunset each night. It feels so great to let the sun tell us when to go indoors!


Bedtimes have become more of a suggestion than a rule, but all of the outside play followed by necessary nightly baths has the boys basically begging to to go bed at 8:15, which isn’t far off from their usual time anyway.


We might as well buy stock in bubbles since the boys don’t totally understand the concept of keeping them in the bottle. We could also probably forego laundry detergent since we all end up completely covered in bubble solution.


And while completely unimaginable that these two will soon be TWO YEARS OLD, I’m so thrilled that they are mine and that we get to spend all of our sunshiny, bubble-covered time together. They are my favorite people in the entire world. 

But I could do without the amoxicillin.

11 Toddler Easter Basket Ideas (That Aren’t Candy)

Easter is just over a week away…are your little ones getting a basket filled with goodies? Are you going to dye eggs?? As a kid, Easter was one of my favorite holidays. I loved Easter basket gifts, getting a brand new dress for church, and especially getting together with my cousins to hunt for eggs. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles would always fill plastic eggs with money; some coins, some dollar bills, and there were always a few big winners with tens and twenties. They would then hide them outside and we’d all go nuts searching. As we go through this second round of holidays with the boys I grow more and more excited about starting our own traditions with them. This year we’ll be doing Easter baskets and hiding a few treat-filled eggs around the house. I’ve had so much fun searching for little gifts with which to fill their baskets (actually these Lands’ End totes).

Let me start by saying that I think you should put candy in your toddler’s Easter basket, but it does not need to be the main attraction. Particularly if candy is truly an occasional treat, rather than the norm, as it is in our household. That said, there are so many cool, inexpensive things that you can put in toddler Easter baskets that will hold their attention for far much longer than a bag of Butterfinger eggs. I would say Reese’s eggs but I have a strict no sharing rule about Reese’s eggs. In my opinion, they are the best Reese’s holiday treat– they contain the perfect peanut butter to chocolate ratio.

I love the idea of Easter baskets containing fun, small gifts to enjoy outside as warmer temperatures surface. I also like to think outside the box for the actual “basket”. Easter backpacks, storage totes, and laundry baskets are all great ideas that will be useful beyond Easter.

Below is my round-up of Easter basket fillers for your little one(s), mostly geared towards ages 1-3, but generally fun for all ages!

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  1. Flash cards | We have a few sets of these flash cards, and while they are called “My First”, they provide learning opportunities for all ages with different questions about the animal or item, as well translation of the word in four languages.
  2. Magna Doodle | You know why Magna Doodles are so awesome? Because they allow your little artists to be creative without the mess. This mini Magna Doodle is perfect for little ones.
  3. Hooded towels | You probably already have some hooded towels, but Target has a bunch of different character towels that your little ones are bound to love. The end of bathtime can be a bit dramatic around here but climbing out and into one of these fun towels definitely helps!
  4. Bubbles | We tried some bubbles last summer but they must’ve been a bad batch because they weren’t at all bubbly and did not at all keep the boys’ attention. I can attest (thanks to Aunt Lexi & Uncle Adam!) that these bubble sticks are super bubbly and fun! There are actually a ton of awesome bubble machines/toys if your kids are a little older and regular old bubbles might not capture their attention.
  5. Toddler Bible | I like the idea of giving a bible for an Easter gift rather than Christmas, because Easter gifts are generally smaller and less distracting than Christmas gifts. It seems like a bible might get lost in the hustle, bustle, and shuffle of Christmas gifts, ya know? There are so many great, picture-filled, bibles out there to help toddlers learn about God’s word.
  6. Bath crayons | I’ve read a lot of reviews about bath markers, but I see far too many horror stories about permanently stained bath tubs. We have these bath crayons and they have been super easy to clean up. Plus the boys think it’s the coolest thing to draw all over the tub. We’re down to just one yellow crayon now so we’ll be throwing these in an Easter basket for sure.
  7. Special smoothie cups | We have a clear version of these bottles and as soon as they come out of the cupboard, the boys know it’s smoothie time. Every once in a while I’ll also buy whatever straw cups are in the Dollar Spot but make sure that we don’t use those cups or bottles for anything other smoothies. It makes smoothie time extra special!
  8. Slinky | I legit remember receiving a tie-dye Slinky in my Easter basket one year as a kid, and spending hours sending it down the stairs to our basement. These things are timeless!
  9. Finger puppets | Stuffed animals are, of course, a great Easter basket option, but finger puppets take up less space and are guaranteed to provide entertainment. The animal puppets are not only cute, but provide a great opportunity to work on animal names and sounds, which is a pretty big deal in our house right now.
  10. Sidewalk chalk | Chalk was something new for the boys when they first experienced it last weekend (again thanks to Lexi & Adam!) but I know it won’t be the last time. I foresee lots of driveway murals in our future this summer. This set from Melissa & Doug includes triangular pieces that seem like they’d be easier for little toddler hands to grip. There are also very beginner sets with chalk holders but in my opinion that’s just one more thing to break or get lost.
  11. Shoes | Okay, according to your kids, this might be the boring one on the list. But when do toddlers NOT need new shoes? Especially with increased outdoor play in sight, new shoes are a necessity. I’m a total sucker for TOMS kids shoes (and not gonna lie- kinda wish I had a girl so I could buy these pink glitter watermelon shoes!) , but of course there are plenty of cheaper options out there- some of my other favorites are Nordstrom Rack (absolute best for kids’ shoes!), Kohl’s, Marshall’s and Target.

Right now Target is offering $5 off when you spend $25 in the Easter shop, as well as $10 off when you spend $50 on toys. And if you think you deserve to buy something for yourself after all that Easter shopping (I think you do!), they are also offering $10 when you spend $50 on clothing and accessories (promo code: STYLE10)!

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation and/or discounts on purchases as a result of you clicking these links.*

 

& Friday Favorites | 3.10.2017

Hello! With any luck this post will find you well on your way to an enjoyable weekend, leaving the hustle and bustle of the work week behind. I put in my 20 hours of work away from home before my head hit the pillow at 2am Wednesday so now it’s the usual work of cooking, cleaning, and entertaining toddlers for me until Monday Tuesday (I just remembered I’m off Monday – woo hoooo!)

I’m attending a fundraiser tonight, a brunch/shopping get together tomorrow morning, and it seems like one of those weekends where Sunday will probably become a busy one too, though we do not currently have plans.

Anyway, it occurred to me last week that there are a number of items/products in our household that make my every day a little easier. So as the weekend approaches and you might set out to do some shopping or product searching of your own, I thought I’d share. I am an absolute sucker for product recommendations, reading through dozens and dozens of reviews before making purchases, so in the event that you might be in the market for one of my favorite things, here are my thoughts!

Shark Rocket TruePet – I pull this vacuum out of the closet at least once a day, sometimes more. It’s super lightweight, takes up very little storage space, and it is incredibly efficient. We have hardwood floors throughout our entire house (except the stairs to the basement), which means we have a lot of area rugs. This Shark easily transitions from the hard floor/low-pile rug setting for most of the house, to the high pile carpet setting for some of our rugs. But my ABSOLUTE favorite feature is the light on both the upper handheld part and the main vacuum base. We have a white, shedding dog, and our floors are light in color. His hair settles in the corners and on our baseboards and it can be difficult to see in regular lighting. But with that light, his hair doesn’t stand a chance! It also has a bunch of attachments (and a handy, hanging storage bag), most of which have gone unused for us, but a few that are super helpful for corners, carpeted stairs, etc. Added bonus: the boys LOVE when I vacuum.


We ordered ours from Amazon but I did see that a very similar model is $30 off on Costco.com right now.

nutpods – I discovered nutpods when I was attempting a Whole30 before the holidays. Even though I wasn’t suuuuuper successful with the Whole30, I have made some changes to my daily eats, and have eliminated a LOT of junk from my diet. I said see ya later to traditional coffee creamers a long time ago (with a few occasional exceptions) but this is by far the cleanest thing I’ve ever added to my coffee. Nutpods is dairy-free, paleo-friendly, soy-free, non-GMO… nothing but good stuff in here. If you like an ultra sweet cup of coffee, this is not for you. But if you want a perfectly satisfying cup of coffee without any added junk, give this a try!

I buy mine in the natural foods section at HyVee (buy it on Wellness Wednesday for 10% off!), but it’s also available at Whole Foods and you may even be able to find it at your local grocery store.


Nuby sippy cups – I can only assume that sippy cup companies advertise their “no leak” cups as such because they’ve never actually tested their own product. Amiright?! We’ve tried dozens and they all start out great but turn into Niagara Falls eventually.  So when we first discovered the Nuby cups with straws I thought we’d hit the jackpopt. But I hated cleaning and trying to keep track of the straws, so on a recent Target trip I found these and they are perfect. As long as the inner rubbery seal part of the lid is on correctly, they don’t leak a bit! We use these for our pre-bedtime, wind down “bottle”, then brush teeth, then put a little water in these for them to take to bed.


We also still really like these Munchkin Miracle 360 cups. Also found at Target, of course!

Ninja Blender System – Smoothies have always been a hit around here but since they boys been on a bit of an anti-vegetable kick lately, I’ve been making them almost daily and sneaking in cauliflower, zucchini, spinach, kale, etc. and they have no clue. The blades are super sharp and this thing has got some power! I’ve always dreamed of having a VitaMix but I really love this system.

We purchased ours at Costco last summer but it doesn’t appear they still carry that exact model. This one, from Target, is the exact model that we have.

& a follow. If the aforementioned Whole30/Paleo lifestyle is of interest to you, please click over to my friend Emily’s blog, Whole Life Handbook. You know what, even if it isn’t, take a look. At the very least, follow her on Instagram for some seriously drool-worthy food pics.

Alright, friends. I’m ready to start weekending! Tell me about your favorite products right now and have yourself a great weekend!

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation and/or discounts for purchases as a result of clicking these links.*

 

 

& HelloFresh tips

I expressed my frustration with meal planning recently, so I figured it was time to finally pull this post together and share my experience with HelloFresh, as well as some tips I’ve learned along the way.

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Towards the end of the summer, a friend of mine shared a promo code for a free HelloFresh box. I had been intrigued by these meal subscription programs for quite some time so I decided to go for it.

I was immediately impressed with the packaging. The ice packs were more than sufficient for keeping the meat cold, the meat was safely separated from the rest of the food, everything was definitively labeled, and most importantly, the packaging for refrigerated items was long & sleek, making it storage friendly until used.

I was equally impressed with the quality of the food, and the ease of the recipes. That said, I ended up cancelling after two boxes. It just didn’t seem cost effective, and I was still doing so much grocery shopping because I wasn’t doing any planning ahead.

HelloFresh then called me just after the new year, and offered me a lower rate. So I went for it again. But this time I made it a point to browse the website, download the app, and really educate myself on how to get the best value from this service.

Because I know that we could all use a little break from doing all of the shopping, prepping, cooking, etc. I thought I’d share my tips for getting the most out of your HelloFresh subscription:

  • Download the app. If you’re anything like me, having an app available means that I might actually remember to do something with it as I’m scrolling through my phone, looking for excuses not to get out of bed in the morning. Instagram, email, Facebook, Snapchat, work email, HelloFresh.
  • Pause menus that don’t interest you and/or are cheap to make on your own. At the very least you can use the meal idea as inspiration, but I tend to pause weeks that include pasta as a main dish, particularly if it doesn’t include much in the way of vegetables or proteins. On the other hand, I almost always opt for meals containing beef, as it tends to be rather expensive to purchase at the grocery store.

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  • Think about the full meal. One of my very favorite HelloFresh meals was Apple Turkey Burgers. Not only were the burgers great, but it included 4 buns, potatoes for roasting as one side, and the makings for a sizeable salad. If I were making this meal with ingredients purchased from the grocery store, I would have undoubtedly ended up with too many buns, leaving me scrambling to find a way to use them or (most likely) tossing them in the garbage later that week. So I like to choose menus that involve a meal, a side, a salad, etc. rather than just one dish I’m throwing everything into.
  • Customize your menu. If you have the family plan, you get to choose two out of three weekly options. If you go with the classic plan, you get even more options to choose from. Again, this was something I didn’t realize I could do at first, so when I got the full menu card with three awesome looking meals, but didn’t get the one that looked the best, I was always a little disappointed. Then I learned that I get to pick, by simply clicking on the meals that I want in my box! You can make changes up until three days prior to receiving your box. *I initially went with the family plan, but recently switched to the classic plan for a little more variety. The boys may or may not eat what we’re eating, depending on the day, so I decided to go this route for a bit and see how I like it.*

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  • Work it into your regular meal plan. If you’re already pretty great at meal planning, but have some busy days on the horizon, you can totally work your HelloFresh delivery into your regular plan. You choose what day you’d like it delivered, and you can plan that around anything that might interrupt your usual meals. Additionally, there is a “Quick” option under the Subscription info that will ensure the recipes you get are as quick as they come!
  • Manage your subscription. If your current plan isn’t working for you, you can change it up. Not in the mood for seafood? Want some lighter options? All can be managed through the website or the app.

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PROS:

  • the instructions are clear & concise
  • once you have the recipes, they are yours…some of them are pretty run-of-the-mill, but others are something I may not have tried
  • the meals come together quickly
  • the packaging is clean and storage friendly, and includes food tips that don’t necessarily pertain to your current meals, just general tidbits of info
  • fresh, long-lasting meat and produce
  • common allergens are clearly listed under the weekly menus

CONS:

  • the packaging isn’t super environmentally friendly, however, it continues to improve with each box we receive. It seems I’m not the only one that took issue with it.
  • the cost. The convenience is obviously the key here, and you certainly pay for it, which is worth it sometimes. But it is definitely possible to buy all of these ingredients at your regular grocery store for cheaper, but then you have to do all of the measuring and prepping yourself. And time is money!

So I’ve decided to keep my subscription, especially now that I have a better understanding of the website and pausing/customizing my boxes. I think that, occasionally, it’s okay to get not just groceries delivered to my doorstep, but the exact amounts of everything I need, neatly packaged, and ready for me to easily prepare. We have to cut ourselves some slack sometimes, right?

Grab one of the promo codes for a free box below to try it yourself, and let me know what you think!

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*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive discounts on future orders. However, I did not receive compensation for writing this post, and as always, all opinions are my own.

 

 

& the weekend | v. 4

*I realize it is now Wednesday (and even warmer!) and we’re halfway to the next weekend, but I’m hitting Publish anyway.*

What you see below is not fake news. It was, in fact, 60 degrees here in Madison.


We’re having a stretch of record breaking temps so you as you can imagine, the entire state was outside over the weekend. Many people probably wearing shorts because… Wisconsin.


No shorts here. But we did have our share of outdoor time.

Unfortunately it started with a trip to the clinic because these sweet boys of mine just weren’t getting better & I needed a little peace of mind.

I consider this trip “outside time” because I forgot the stroller so we had a toddler-led, leisurely walk into the clinic. Theo wasn’t wearing shoes because we didn’t have time to get them on before leaving annnnd we were 15 minutes late anyway.

A one-time steroid was prescribed to help clear the boys’ croup. But my super sleuthy ways of hiding the crushed up pills in a smoothie did not work so we just continued on with two raspy, coughing, runny-nosed toddlers who now seem to finally be turning a corner.


Nonetheless, we did not let the croupiness keep us from having an enjoyable weekend.

The boys’ Aunt Lexi & Uncle Adam came for a visit, so J and I got to run errands & have a lunch date, while the boys entertained Lexi & Adam!


Sunday involved beer brewing, a visit from Grammy & Grampy, and a trip to the park.


Naturally it’s supposed to snow next weekend so we’ll be back to the usual February in Wisconsin programming.