Monday, January 15, 2018

Date Night Log 2018: Olde Boston's, Fort Dodge

Last weekend we went out to dinner with Evelyn and another couple to enjoy an evening at a new restaurant and with friends we don't see often enough. I had posted on my Gym Mom Facebook page asking for recommendations, and a former student of mine came through! We decided to head to Olde Boston's in downtown Fort Dodge. Since neither of us had ever been, Shon and I spent the night before checking out the menu. Despite both being on our pre-wedding diets (woohoo for being down 5lb of baby weight!), we wanted to give the restaurant a real shot. He chose the "Boom Burger" (a burger between two grilled cheese sandwiches, while I opted for the "Boston Bake." Mine consisted of mashed potatoes, corn, gravy, ribeye pieces, cheese, and sour cream, with a bread stick on the side.

We realized on the way over that maybe we should have made a reservation for 6:30 on a Friday night, but the bitter cold must have kept most Fort Dodge citizens inside that night, because downtown was pretty quiet and we were able to get right in. The restaurant was split into three main areas. There is a party room off the the left, that was being utilized, a balcony that looked like it was hosting another party, and then general seating in the bar area that was about 2/3 full. While service was a little slow from our two waitresses (I'm guessing one was training), they were very friendly and made sure to keep drinks full when we needed it, which is a big deal to me.

Our food was pretty good. Shon didn't love his burger, but to be honest, I have yet to find a place that makes a grilled cheese burger that tastes as good as it sounds in my head. You know how when you diet and you decide to splurge and then you're super disappointed that the food didn't taste as good as you wanted it to taste if you were going to use up all those calories? I think that sort of happened here. Mine was good, though I couldn't finish it all. It was very rich. Then there was a bread stick. Now if you know me, you know carbs are my weakness. The breadstick was one of my favorite bread sides I've ever had. It was slightly sweet and sort of reminded me of funnel cake, but not in a way that was gross with a savory meal. I would go again just for the breadsticks. It was also very reasonably priced, which always gets bonus points with me!

Overall it was a nice experience. We were able to sit and talk without feeling rushed, and without it being too loud around us. I didn't feel awkward bringing the baby in, and as I mentioned, the breadsticks. I'd had trouble in the past finding non-chain restaurants when I visited Fort Dodge (we usually end up at Applebee's or Buffalo Wild Wings), so this was a nice treat.

I'm taking recommendations for our upcoming date nights! I definitely want to get to the Field House in Clear lake, and we were told to check out the bar in Owasa to head east. Where are your date night favorites?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Learning From Four: Baby Must-Haves

When the princess was born in 2006 (how did she get that old?!) I was young and learned the mom thing as I went. As time has gone on, and I've raised a few more kids, I'd like to think I've gotten a handle on this mom thing. I don't know if that's actually ever true of anyone, but I definitely have gotten a handle on the products I like and need! So here it is, my list of must-haves for baby #4 (or probably any number baby. Things have changed a LOT in the last 12 years!

1. One of the items we absolutely love is the Fisher Price Rock n' Play Sleeper. It's light weight, portable, and super cute. But the best part for me is that Ev *loves* to be snuggled, and since the design is sunken in, she feels more enclosed and (I assume) safer in the smaller space without the health risk of snuggling her into blankets.

2. Let's talk bottles. I've tried pretty much every major bottle on the market, Avent, Playtex, Evenflo, Mam, etc (although not Tommee Tippee). After hearing great reviews from my sister, we chose Dr. Brown's Natural Flow and we won't look back. We've had zero issues with spit-up, no real issues with the seal, and the nipple transitions well with Ev's favorite Soothie pacifiers. Our only complaint is that the numbers are hard to see on our pink ones, so Shon prefers to use the blue for measuring purposes.

3. By the time you're on baby number four, it's pretty common (I assume? I only polled me) to have hand-me-downs galore. Between older siblings and an awesome aunt and older cousin who has super awesome taste, we didn't buy a ton of new clothes. This saved a ton of money, so one of the things I did was subscribe to a "Bow of the Month" club. After checking out several, I chose Little Poppy Co. I'm waiting to do a full review until we've been in it for a couple more months, but I love that even though her clothes aren't all brand new that she has something special that is hers to make her outfits pop. It alleviates some of my mom guilt and saves a ton of money! Although I will say that finding all these super cute online boutiques and Shon shopping as a new dad, we're not saving quite as much money anymore on new clothes as when we started ;)

4. When my older kids were born we'd throw a blanket over the carseat in the winter. You want to keep your kids warm, but there's this dilemma that lies in the recommendation to not put kids in coats in car seats and -20 wind chills where I live. You've got to do something. Blankets worked, but they definitely didn't stay put. Now all these fancy covers are way more common. I've seen several different styles, and I'm still thrilled that I picked the one I did. It's got stretchy fabric, so it fits over the whole seat, snaps at the top for easy removal, and the front flap zips on two sides so you're not messing with velcro and have plenty of room to get baby out. It's also super soft and fuzzy, and has a flap on top to cover the opening/serve as a pocket! I also love the cute chevron design and the price! I know that I could have posted a better picture, but this one was too cute not to share. Click the Amazon link above for more views!

5. Finally, I'm combining about 50 products into one recommendation - 31 products! Both my last two diaper bags and all of Ev's totes and organizers are 31. I love that they can be personalized, there are always great deals and sales, and the designs are super cute and unique. I personalized a couple of her items, but mostly I left them plain so that they could be repurposed as she grows up. For our diaper bag this time around I opted for the New Day tote over the Zip-Top Organizing Utility tote. It's a little roomier, and while I miss the squared shape that allowed me to find things a little more easily, I got over it for all the pockets that I have now. Although, my sister has the zip-top and put in a divider and that works awesome!  I have the Hanging Traveler bag as her emergency diaper bag, since it's smaller and you don't always need to lug around the full size version, the Double Duty Caddy for bath-time supplies, a Hang-it Pocket Organizer for odds and ends like burp clothes, fingernail clippers, brushes, etc. I decided on "Oh Snap" bins for her socks and a Your Way rectangular basket and liner for toys and books.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Peanut Butter Honey Protein Balls Even A Mom of 4 Has Time For

Shon and I are kicking off our pre-wedding diets this week, and I spent my entire day googling low-carb (my diet preference) peanut butter protein balls to try and a) give me a pre-workout boost, and b) satisfy my obsession with peanut butter M&Ms. After sifting through recipes for longer than I'd like to admit, I found several problems.

One, there were a lot of weird ingredients I wasn't interested in - let alone pronounce. I really just wanted stuff I keep in my cupboards. I like normal stuff.
Two, I ruined our blender several years back, and a lot of them called for a blender or food processor. Three, they all seemed to have a ton of carbs with the different grains they included.
Four, I didn't want to cook things.

So I set off to make my own. I've never really made my own recipe before, but hey, all foods started somewhere, right?

I used a basic rubber spatula to mix all my ingredients together. Who wants to dirty more dishes than necessary? Definitely not me, I hate doing dishes. Also, again, broken blender. BTW, a new one is sitting and waiting for me in my Amazon cart, in case you were wondering!

I wanted to use honey as my primary sweetener because not only am I a huge fan of the flavor, but also because it's a great natural energy source and tons of antioxidants. I threw in a little Stevia because while nutritionally it's basically nothing, a lot of other recipes I found suggested it as an added sweetener. I wanted to give mine a little sweeter taste without continuing to add too many extra carbs with the honey. I know carbs before a workout are considered good for you, but I didn't want my protein snack to totally throw off my macros for the day.

Definitely make sure to toss them in the fridge before you start forming the balls. Some other recipes I saw said to freeze the mixture. I might try that next time because the dough was getting pretty soft by the end, but I have a tendency to forget things mid-project when I'm taking care of the baby, so I didn't want to end up with a frozen chunk of peanut butter dough!

The consistency for me was sort of a soft fudge like texture. Since it's mostly peanut butter it doesn't necessarily stand up like one with oats might, but I like it because it seems like more of a treat than an energy snack with the fudgey-ness.

When I compared my nutrients with other protein ball recipes, I was happy with where it came out, but I'm definitely open to tips to making it better! They ended up being what I guess are about 1 inch balls? About the size of an avocado pit.


2 c Hy-Vee Low Sugar, Low Sodium Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 c (ish) GNC Pro Performance Mass XXX Vanilla Milkshake Protein Powder

  • Start with about a 1/2 cup, adding more if you'd like different nutrients and/or a thicker consistency. 
2 TBSP Whipped Honey
2 Packets Hy-Vee Stevia

1. Scoop all the ingredients into a medium size mixing bowl.
2. Mix together with rubber spatula.
3. Refrigerate approximately 30 minutes. 
4. Roll dough into ball, cut into 1/4ths.
5. Cut each new ball into 1/4ths again, creating 16 chunks.
6. Roll back into balls and store in refrigerator.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Date Night Log 2018: Iowa Taproom, Des Moines

One of the things that Shon and I agree on 1000% is that we can best take care of our family if we are taking care of our relationship. That means we invest in making sure we have plenty of quality time to stay connected and keep our soon-to-be marriage strong. Sometimes that means choosing a new show to watch together on Netflix (things I probably won't blog about - unless it's a crazy awesome show) and other times that means going out to fun spots - old favorites and new surprises. Last night we headed down to Des Moines to enjoy Krunkwich, one of our favorites, and found out it was closed on Sundays. The good thing about Des Moines is there are a couple more options...

We switched gears and went to another favorite of ours, Iowa Taproom. The rustic feel, focus on local beer, and some classic Iowa food options make this a great stop if you haven't been. We opted to start with the Philly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls, two of Shon's favorite foods combined into one! I'm a little bit obsessed with the honey sriracha sauce that comes with them. They're fantastic, though we'd prefer less onion. Yes, I know, onion is typically a staple of a cheesesteak, we just aren't huge fans. But we order them anyway because they're delicious. Other appetizers include Iowa Ham Balls, Fried Pickles, Poppers, and Tenderlings (tenderloin strips). We've had the pickles, they're also good.

For the main course, and the main reason we decided on the Taproom, Shon chose the BBQ meatloaf that he'd been wanting to try forever. I went with the peanut butter bacon burger and sweet potato fries. My fries weren't super hot this time, but I've never had this problem in the past. I added my own little upgrade to my burger with the remainder of the previously mentioned obsession of honey sriracha. If you like a little heat with your burger I definitely recommend trying it!

I'm not a huge beer connoisseur, so I'm not going to pretend that I am. I know what I like, which are pale ales and things you can put fruit in. I opted for the Peace Tree Grapefruit. As far as IPAs go (which Shon loves and I can sometimes tolerate), it's pretty mild I think. It just has a little bit of a bite. There are tons of options that a true beer connoisseur would appreciate, and the setup of the taps around a Sukup's grain bin make for a uniquely Iowa drinking experience.

Since our pre-wedding diets begin today, we indulged in one final treat and tried their new bread pudding. It comes with vanilla ice cream and a bourbon caramel sauce that you get to pour on yourself (which is always fun), and it was excellent. I prefer my bread pudding a little bit hotter to really make the ice cream melt into the dessert, but since I've had bread pudding twice in my life now (the first time as my surprise birthday dessert on our trip to Orlando last month), I'm not going to say I'm an expert by any means, and I would definitely order this again.

Overall we had a great evening. We had the baby with us, so they sat us at a four-top that was spacious enough to set the carseat on one side (I kinda hate leaving her on the floor if I can help it) and she slept about 99% of the time. I think she knew it was date night when she opened her eyes and decided to continue her nap. Since we were there at 4:00 on a Sunday it was fairly quiet and we were able to sit and talk over our meal. The staff was friendly and helpful, the bathrooms are clean, and we will definitely be back again in the future.

If you're not already sold on a visit, I'll give you this extra incentive. Last July they hosted a Harry Potter birthday party that my sister and I attended. They had Harry Potter themed beers and a Sorting Hat cake. So... there's that.

Remember, having four kids, having a new baby, job stress, wedding planning, house cleaning, all of it - they're important parts of your life. Definitely take care of those. But you and your spouse, future, current, whatever, are a team that tackle those things together. Keeping your relationship strong is one of the most important things you can do for your family, your mental health, and for each other.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Top 5 Games for 2018

Friday nights in our house are reserved for family game night. The princess has piano in the evenings, making it hard to make other plans, so we decided we'd make Fridays our family night. Knowing that it's game night, we invested in several new games for Christmas! We broke them out again for New Year's Eve with friends and family, and had a blast. If you're looking for some fun, age appropriate games for the whole family, here's my list (with Amazon links) of new favorites and old classics!

1. Forbidden Island - this is a game of strategy where the group works together and either everyone wins or everyone loses. The idea is that you are on a sinking island and everyone has a special talent or skill to offer the team. You have to collect all the treasures and get off the island before it sinks. I love that it encourages us to work together instead of focusing on a competition, and it's a family favorite. Monks (age 4) doesn't play with on this one, but it's still at the top of my list.

2. Sushi Go - This matching card game is another fun one and all the kids can join in. Trying to create sushi dishes as you pass cards around the table and earn points may not sound like a go-to game, but it's a lot of fun and gives you the opportunity to yell "Sushi Go!"

3. Bingo - I never would have thought this would be a favorite game, but the kids love it. Everyone can play, it's great for my youngest to practice numbers and letters (sometimes he even just plays alone pulling out the balls and placing them on the master card in the correct space), and we can play with as many people as necessary. I linked the one we have, but I'd try another one if I were going to do it over because we have trouble with the cage - the balls escape out of the openings and it doesn't quite work the way it's designed. I'm not sure if that's specific to ours or a design flaw. There are tons of models, though!

4. Apples to Apples* - I give this one an asterisk because while the kids had a ton of fun playing this word association game, I thought a lot of the phrases were inappropriate for my kids' ages. It says age 12+ and mine are 4-11. Even with 12+ being on there I still found a lot of cards of things I didn't know or understand! I'll be investing in Apples to Apples Junior in the near future!

5. Twister - We all love Twister! It's a little harder as an adult I've found, but I like this one because it's more physically active. The newer versions have some fun "twists" (yeah, I went there) that allow you to make up your own rules and have added elements.

Honorable Mentions:
6. Uno Wild Jackpot - We loved this twist on the classic where you get to make up your own cards and pull the jackpot handle! We played it a ton last Christmas, but it's been a while since we got it back out.

7. Jenga - Another classic favorite, but it didn't rank higher because I think it's hard to play with as many people as we have. Giant Jenga is a lot of fun too!

I'd love to hear what games you and your family enjoy!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Time for a Mommy Makeover

Okay, I'll admit it. Since I've been on maternity leave I've been spending most of my time in sweatpants and sweatshirts with no makeup. What's the point? I don't go anywhere, and if I do go out, it's to get groceries, and on the off chance I see people I know, they really only care about the baby anyway, right? I mean we've all experienced that as moms - that invisibility cloak that you apparently put on when you have a new baby? I'm kidding, sort of, but as I get ready to go back to work, it's time to think about how to put my best professional foot, and face, forward in 2018. For me this means updating my Mary Kay makeup collection!

For me this means picking up a few essentials.

1. Mary Kay Timewise Repair VoluFirm The Go Set - Since my job is primarily on the road, and I still want to be able to take great care of my skin, this travel size set is perfect to throw in my bag.

2. Stocking up on Lash Intensity mascara! If I put on no other makeup, I still take care of my eyes. My number one is eyeliner (I use MK Black) but next up is for sure the mascara that takes me to my happy place. For an uber thick lash look I layer the MK Lash Intesity with the Bare Minerals Lash Domination. With these I also stay stocked up on MK Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover!

3. Because I'm looking for a color pop during winter and something exciting for my fresh mommy look, I'm swapping out my traditional MK True Dimensions Lava Berry and going to try out the new MK Gel Semi-Shine Lipstick in Apple Berry and Luminous Lilac.

4. Because I'm a little insecure about my post-baby body still, I'm trying out two products I've heard fabulous things about - the MK Smooth Action Cellulite Gel Cream and the MK Targeted Action Toning Lotion.

5. To finish the look my go-to is the Finishing Spray by Skindinavia for an all day hold that makes sure I don't feel like a hot mess by 3:30!

Can't wait to share the new look with you when I head back to work!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas In The Tropics

Ramada Tropics, that is... Okay, so we didn't exactly go somewhere warm this year, but we did take a quick trip down to Des Moines for Christmas because the kids asked for a water park. This is something we did even when I was little, and while it isn't a tradition we celebrate every year, it's definitely a great one. Baby Evelyn had her first swim experience (because I was able to buy a swim diaper in the gift shop), the kids enjoyed the slides, and we spent the whole rest of the night playing games and ordering room service. We didn't spend a ton of time in the pool, even though that was the part they asked for, but it does include a huge pirate ship play area, a "regular" pool, hot tub, sports pool (basketball and volleyball), and then the area at the base of the big water slides, as well. The staff to swimmer ratio was also something I noticed - they were definitely ready for the influx of family Christmas parties

If you haven't been to the Ramada Tropics in Des Moines I'd definitely recommend it. The breakfast in the restaurant is really good, the price is reasonable, especially on the off-days, and the facilities are clean. They also have an arcade where we spent about 45 minutes and the princess won two jackpot prizes! While they don't have a ton of games, it was enough to keep the kids happy. It's also conveniently located near several restaurants and just a short drive from Merle Hay mall, which has really stepped up it's game from the slightly sketchy place it was when I was younger. They have some great stores and, if you're without the kids, be sure to check out Flix BrewHouse while you're there!

The other waterpark hotel we love in Iowa that we love is King's Pointe in Storm Lake, but their waterpark wasn't open on Christmas day, so we skipped that one this time. We also can't wait to try out the new Great Wolf Lodge in Minneapolis! What are your favorite places to stay with kids?