Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Watch It Wednesday: City Museum in St. Louis

It's been a *long* time since I did a "Watch It Wednesday" and shared a video, so I thought I'd post the one I put together for Monks to share with his class of our visit to the City Museum in St. Louis! Everyone said that this was *the* place to go in St. Louis, but I still wasn't sure what to expect! At $75(ish) for the family (the baby was free) it was probably the most expensive activity we did, but we spent over 3 hours there and could have done a whole lot more!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Top 5 Reasons to Workout With Your Spouse

Or boyfriend, or partner, or whatever person you have in your life that loves you and motivates you.

Since Rampage season is only something like 6 weeks away and our wedding is only 120 something days away Shon and I have been working really hard to be in shape, motivated, and our best version of ourselves. I'm not going to lie, I don't necessarily always love it, but I do have several things that are awesome about having a workout partner that lives in your house.

1. Even when I want to quit, he doesn't let me. Now this sounds like one of those cheesy motivational, in love things, but hear me out. When I'm on the elliptical and I get bored, I get annoyed. I usually ask Shon to play Play Station or something so I at least don't have to be in the basement alone, and he not only obliges (I know, huge sacrifice when you're asked to play video games), but he also watches the baby (we take turns). When I get annoyed, he lets me take it out on him and doesn't get mad! It's not uncommon to hear things like, "I hate this. I'm quitting." "No you're not, keep going." "Shut up, I hate you." "I love you, too." I have not once quit, even when I really want to, because I have someone who is willing to let me complain and still love me while I get it done. Sometimes complaining helps. It really, really does.

2. Cooking meals for people who are on the same "healthy living" kick is soooo much easier. When I've tried to eat healthy in the past sometimes it's been hard to cook one meal for myself and something else for everyone else. When it's both of you, it makes things simpler. And when you can find meals that even the kids like, you can help the whole family make healthy choices and know you're supported in that! This week I've been cooking meals from subscription grocery companies like Hello Fresh and Home Chef and I discovered that we both enjoyed Swiss chard and green beans and some other vegetables that I rarely make. I'm not sure I can get the kids to eat Swiss chard, but it's nice to know we have options and are committed to eating well together.

3. You get fitness presents that motivate you. A couple weeks ago Shon bought me a new FitBit. I'd had one before, but hadn't stuck with it. He let me pick out the style I wanted and the color band, and now each week we participate in challenges with family and friends. I didn't think it would be that motivating for me, but when I see that Elkin has passed me yet again, I will sometimes jump back on the elliptical. I know that the nature of my job and the nature of Shon's job leave a huge discrepancy in our step counts, but I try to hang in there with the rest. And if you're lucky, you got a massage chair (you know, like the ones in the mall?) for Christmas and you can get a back rub after your workout!

4. Because on the off chance you get time to set the baby down and the kids are playing nicely and you can work out together, it's nice to spend time together doing something healthy. It's great bonding time, it's good for you, and it's nice to be able to feel like you've accomplished something together. Sometimes the older kids even join in and we have family workout time, which I love.

5. Finally, because you're striving for the same goal. We want to be better for ourselves, and for our family, but also better for each other. We want to present each other with the best possible versions of ourselves, not just for a wedding, but for life. And it's a journey we can take together, a journey that will help us grow stronger physically and in our relationship. Yes, there's your cheesy "in love" reason. You knew I had to get it in there somewhere.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Date Night Log 2018: Train Wreck Winery

When we went to Living History Farms: Farms Uncorked event, one of our favorites from the day was Caboose from Train Wreck Winery in Algona. Knowing that we loved the blue bottles to go with our wedding theme, and that we really wanted to check out the space (especially since my mom and I both often work in Algona), we decided we'd take a family trip up to the abandoned train station turned winery.

They're only open from 12pm-5pm on Fridays and Saturdays, but starting this week they'll host live music on Friday nights from 5:30-7:30. We started out on our day trip date with my mom and Evelyn in tow! When we arrived we saw Jean, who remembered us from LHF, and started our wine tasting adventure. For $5 we were able to taste all their wines, which Jean walked us through, and got to take home our keepsake "Train Wreck Winery" glasses! We tasted approximately a dozen different wines and between the three of us ended up taking home a dozen bottles! We definitely had our different tastes, but our favorites included Kate, their signature (award winning) sweet red wine, Caboose, which we already knew, and Hooterville (part of the sales from this one are donated toward breast cancer causes). Another one of their wines, Orphan Train, also donates part of the proceeds to charity.

The actual space itself, the train station, is fantastic. It's super relaxed and has space for groups or couples to enjoy a glass of wine on the weekend. While I didn't take a picture (because I assumed the people sitting there would think I was awkward and creepy), there are also couches and chairs to sit back in and enjoy your time together. The art is fantastic, too. While some pieces are made by children in the family, which I adore, there's also a mural that the Algona High School art teacher created of the train wreck that is such an important part of the history of the space. The vineyard is actually at the site of the wreck!

Neither Shon nor I have ever really considered ourselves "wine people," but now that we've taken some time to educate ourselves on some of the different types available, we've actually changed our mind. Last weekend Shon actually said, "I don't feel like beer, I feel like wine today. It seems like the better option." I love this. I love that we've found something we can learn about and explore together, and I love that we can enjoy a glass of wine with dinner once in a while and bond over something that we got to pick out together. I also like that I've started to learn enough about wine and even the types of grapes that I can pick out something I like in a restaurant! For example, I know that I'm a fan of Edelweiss grapes and generally the wines made from them. Do I sound like I know things yet? Two wine tastings and I think I'm an expert... (insert eye roll emoji here, I know).

 We also picked our wedding wine that day! I think we've chosen four that we'll order to share with our guests, though you'll have to wait until closer to the big day to find out what those are!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Date Night Log 2018: Playing Catch Up, The Drake and West Towne Pub

Okay, I'm failing at keeping up with our date night log right now, which is a good thing, right? That means we're spending lots of quality time together. However, it means I'm not sharing enough of the great Iowa places we're visiting, so I want to catch you up on a couple.

A few weeks ago we visited Burlington, and while the circumstances surrounding our visit could have been better, we did have a chance to visit a new restaurant with great friends while we were in town. This time we visited The Drake. The Drake is right on the river, you can see my favorite bridge from the front door, and is a little more upscale atmosphere. I had a sirloin and baked potato (still trying to stay true to that wedding diet), while Shon had the most ridiculous plate of macaroni and cheese (five types of cheese, brisket, and he also added chicken and bacon). The owners sat at the front table and greeted us when we came in. We had the baby, and the friends we met had their baby, but it was a family environment where they didn't necessarily feel out of place, which is always something I worry about when we're eating at a nicer place. In fact, Evelyn cried a little when we were getting her out of her car seat and one of the waitresses stopped to tell us how much she loved hearing the sound of babies in the restaurants. While I'm sure our fellow diners were glad she stopped crying, it was really nice of her to say and make us feel welcome!

The other place we visited recently, after seeing 12 Strong, is West Towne Pub in Ames. This is one of my long-time favorites, as I mentioned in a previous post about some of my favorite places in Ames, and if you go in, make sure to say hi to Tim, who is often working at the bar or, on a busier night, running around managing things. They have *the best* burgers. While I was a little disappointed to learn that they were using a condensed menu for game night (even though I completely understand why), Shon and I both enjoyed the Skippy burger and fries, along with some beef rib egg rolls. Usually I order sweet corn bites that come with an awesome honey sauce, but it was great to try something new. They have a ton of TVs and it was super fun to enjoy some Olympics (since we don't have cable) while we enjoyed our meal. I think they Cyclones won that night, but I don't actually know - we arrived after the game! The other fun part about this night was that we dressed up for Valentine's Day and Evelyn got to wear her red lace onesie from Real Deals - Mason City!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Date Night Log 2018: Farms Uncorked

I'm behind on some date nights, but one of the ones I wanted to be sure to share with you was from our trip a few weeks ago to Living History Farms to their "Farms Uncorked" event. Each winter, LHF does a Cabin Fever series where each month they pair a food and adult beverage combo. This year I bought Shon and I tickets to the entire series as one of his Christmas presents - what could be a better gift than time with me?! Obviously one date has already passed, but they have tickets available for $20/person in advance to each of the following still:

Feb 24: Cocktails and Comfort Food
March 24: Beer and Bread (I've been to this one a couple times and it's great)
Apr 21: Festival of Cheese

As I mentioned, the first event in the series was Farms Uncorked, and I have to start by telling you - we are NOT wine people. This year their billed winery partners included Annelise Winery, Country Barn Winery, Della Viti, La Quercia, Machine Shed (with food for the win), Penoach Winery, Soldier Creek Winery, and Train Wreck Winery. We had beautiful weather and started our day with a selfie.

One of the things I knew going in was that I don't love red wine. I was, however, open to trying new things. I'm going to be really honest with you and not even try to pretend to "speak wine" to you, but rather share some of our favorites (I'm a moscato kind of girl), and tell you more about the experience so that maybe we'll see you at an event in the future!

When you walk into the main entrance they have the tickets set up (be sure to have your ID, I had to turn around and go back to the car and get mine), and then a big ring of vendors, for lack of a better word, around the outside. They each had samples of 4-8 different wines, and then they were able to offer 2-3 (ish?) of those wines for sale in the gift shop if you were interested in taking some home. La Quercia had an awesome meat and cheese spread set up, and The Machine Shed had some awesome Iowa-themed appetizers available - think pasta and brisket - we came back about three times! It was nice to have some food options with the alcohol intake, because while they are small samples, when you try several from each winery, it's nice to have something to eat in the middle. And you know... insert wine talk about cleansing your palate...

We worked our way around the room in a somewhat organized fashion and had a few highlights. Soldier Creek Winery (near Fort Dodge) we learned as live music on Friday nights even through the winter! We plan on this being a date night in the near future. They also had a wine called Geneva Red 7 that had this hint of bell pepper taste that would be amazing when grilling during the summer. This was by far my favorite red of the day because it just had this interesting flavor you didn't expect.

Country Barn Winery and Annelise Winery had some of the fruitier and sweeter wines we tried. Country Barn Winery had a dry, raspberry wine that was interesting called Black Beauty. Annelise Winery, near Indianola, had one of our favorites, Dipsy Doo. It's a sweet red and we actually just enjoyed that bottle this week while celebrating!

The Cellar (near Cambridge) had another of our favorites. Edelweiss (my favorite song from The Sound of Music) is a semi-sweet table wine that had a nice flavor but wasn't so super sweet. It was a nice way to finish out our day and it was our Valentine's Day wine this year!

One of the very first wines we tried, and the one we'll be going back to taste again this weekend as a potential wedding option, is Caboose by Train Wreck Winery. First, it comes in a gorgeous blue bottle which fits perfectly with our wedding colors. Second, the winery is in an old train depot in Algona and the grapes are grown on the site of an actual train wreck. Third, and much less important to Shon, it's Dallas Clark's winery, so as a Colts fan it seems only fitting that we find such a special wine at this location. Don't tell him that, though (Shon, not Dallas), because I don't want him to change his mind. Caboose is a sweet white wine with enough acid to keep it from being "too sweet." Many of their wines can be found at stores near you, and honestly, many of the wines we sampled can be found at places like your local Fareway or HyVee, both of whom I love for being committed to carrying quality Iowa products.

For people who aren't "wine people" we walked away with three bottles, a fourth that we plan on picking up for grilling this summer, and three future dates! We'll have live music at Soldier Creek, a wine tasting at Train Wreck, and I didn't mention yet that in March we're heading to Della Viti in Ames (there's also a Des Moines location) with friends, which is actually a wine bar and we'll do a tasting all over again to try and find some new things we like! Basically, from what I understand, you load up a card, much like a children's arcade experience, and then you sample different types of wine. I'm particularly looking forward to that new experience.

If you aren't sold yet, I still think you should check out the Living History Farms events because clearly that's where the cool people hang out! See you there!

Monday, February 12, 2018

O.M. Peanut Butter Noodles

I'm pretty much obsessed with Thai Peanut Butter noodles lately, but a) I like my meals to be easy, and b) I've been trying to diet. So here's what I came up with.

1 Block Ramen Noodles
3 TBSP PB2/PB Fit (powdered peanut butter)
2 TBSP Sesame Oil
2 TBSP Soy Sauce
1 TBSP Brown Sugar
1 TSP Minced Garlic
1 TSP Rice Wine Vinegar
1 TSP (ish) Sriracha

1) Cook Ramen noodles (thanks for that tip, mom) according to package.
2) Throw away the Ramen seasoning packet.
3) Combine all other ingredients in a container, stir with fork.
4) Pour sauce over noodles.
5) Devour.

Health Info:
Calories: 732 calories
Fat: 43.5g
Carbs: 63.7g
Protein: 19g

I had all these ingredients in my cupboard/fridge, so that part was easy for me. I'm sure there is a healthier way to do noodles, but like I said, I like simplicity. Substituting the peanut butter with PB2 cuts out over 100 calories. I tried to take the sesame oil back a bit, but the proportions didn't work, and it's a fairly heart healthy fat according to what I've read (similar to EVOO), so I just go with it now. Seriously, the step that takes the longest in all this is boiling the water for the noodles. Is this overly healthy? No. Is it a healthier version? Yes. I don't eat it every single day, but I would if I could!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

#ShopSmall and Online Boutiques: Part 1

One of my followers on Instagram posted about wanting to see clothes from online boutiques and small shops because she was tired of having all the same clothes as everyone else. I took that as an opportunity to do some shopping, and now I want to share my experience with you! In this post, I ordered these pieces on a Friday afternoon while waiting to pick the Monkey up from Pre-School, and they arrived by the following Thursday morning in the mail. A couple of things I looked for while shopping:

1) Unique designs
2) Affordable prices (babies grow way too quickly to spend a fortune)
3) Shipping costs
4) Evelyn is currently wearing size 3 month clothing pretty consistently, so I'll also compare the fit of the size I bought. She is about 12lb and 25in (long and skinny).

The first outfit is a 3-6 month one piece outfit from Joules. My step-sister shared this brand with me, and while it can be a bit expensive at times, they have great sales. This floral piece, the Tabitha Floral Creme Razmataz Babygrow, has stunning colors and sort of a water color painting vibe, and I absolutely adore the grey chevron patter on the inside and on the bottom of the feet. I got this piece on clearnace for $13.90 and it shipped a day faster than expected. I love the bright colors as I think spring, but I think the purples keep it appropriate for winter, too. This outfit is a little long yet, as I would expect a 3-6 month size to be on a 3 month old. It seems pretty true to size. Shipping was $4.95.

Sparkle in Pink is a site I've been following on Facebook for months now. My complaint right out of the gate is that the majority of their incredibly cute outfits are only sold in toddler sizes, so clearly the only reason it's a complaint is that my daughters are in infant and pre-teen sizes. However, I did find a handful of infant size outfits, and ordered two to share with you. This Valentine romper was $14.99 and perfect for the upcoming holiday. I ordered a 3-6 month outfit, which is a little wide for Evelyn, but the length is about right. 

The second outfit I ordered was a light pink lace dress, also $14.99 and a 3-6 month size. I'm saving this one for spring, but I love the beautiful pink color. The headband featured here is actually a piece from my swag bag from the Real Deals fashion show. It is from Bailey's Blossoms, which I'll share next! When I was going back through my emails, I realized I had previously ordered from Sparkle in Pink for the princess and my niece. They each got a fringed football dress that I also love. I paid $5 for the shipping of both pieces. Quality, "cuteness," and cost make this one of my favorite places to shop! Even if I have to wait a couple more years to be able to purchase most of their stuff...

My final shop for today is Bailey's Blossoms. As I mentioned, the headband in the photo of the pink dress (above) is also from Bailey's Blossoms, and I was excited to see the brand at Real Deals in Mason City. This site had some great sale prices, too. This blue top with white belt was only $7.99. I'll probably use it more like a dress now (with leggings, Iowa is way too cold for dresses, right now) and a shirt a little later. I'm not sure it really matters if she's wearing leggings either way, but that should give you an idea of length on the 3-6 month size.

The other piece I ordered I am completely obsessed with. This pink pea coat was on sale for $19.95 and also available in a mint color. It had a couple tiny spots on it when I opened it, that I haven't tried washing yet, but it wasn't noticeable enough for me to attempt a return process (although maybe that's something I could have written about...) because I like it too much and I wanted her to be able to wear it. The first picture is the coat in natural sunlight in the evening, with no filter. You'll see it looks a little peachy compared to the picture of Evelyn wearing the jacket. I also want to note that you'll definitely want to size up on this particular jacket. I don't think it's going to fit her very long - it's a little tight through the chest and shoulders compared to some of the other 3-6 month size pieces I ordered. Shipping for these two pieces was $4.95. The bow in the picture of Evelyn is from the Little Poppy Co January collection.

Subscribe to my blog so you don't miss part two of this post, the shops that took a little longer to ship!