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!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Shop North Iowa: New Kids Line at Real Deals

Guess what, north Iowa! Real Deals in Mason City has launched a new kids/pre-teen/mommy and me line and I couldn't be more excited! Last week I attended their fashion show launch in the store (this was actually my first visit ever) and was excited at all the unique items in store. If you follow my Instagram, you know that I've been ordering from some online boutiques and small shops to try and diversify the baby's wardrobe from the standard Target lines (which we all know are super cute, but sometimes it's fun to have something special that not everyone else owns).

The $10 ticket I purchased got you into the opening, early shopping privileges after the show, snacks, and a swag bag. Just the swag bag was worth the $10! Here are a handful of the items in mine. I was super excited about the bows, and even more excited to see that the bows were from one of the online shops I had just ordered from online, Bailey's Blossoms!

The show featured a fun mix of girls and boys clothes (which can be so hard to find!), mommy and me, and some pre-teen clothes. As the mom of an almost-12 year old, it was exciting to see styles that were age appropriate. It's tough at that age because things so often seem too young or too old. The princess wears a lot of leggings and sweatshirts to be comfortable, but she enjoys dressing up, too. I bought her one shirt (stay tuned to Instagram for that picture, she hasn't had a chance to wear it yet), a mix of stripes and florals with a cold shoulder design, but wanted her to be able to come and pick out some of her own clothes.

There were lots of florals, which I love right now, and some flannel and lace, also very popular. I bought Evelyn a red lace body suit that I can't wait to break out around Valentine's Day and a few other special occasions coming up! Prices seemed reasonable, pretty comparable to most of the online boutiques I was ordering from - and WAY more budget friendly than some of the online boutiques I didn't order from! We'll be headed back, for sure, but if you're not in the Mason City area, you can shop their stuff online.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Winning at Chore Charts

One of the things we've been working on at our house is figuring out how to do chores. We only have the older kids every other week and I've always preferred that my kids just do what I ask versus have specifically assigned chores. I also struggle with the concept of an allowance, because I feel like doing your part at home is just something you should do. But I also like the idea of teaching kids to value money and thinking about earning and saving.

I started my research on Pinterest, like any good millennial mother would do. 😉  I found two ideas that I particularly liked for format (pictured to the right, link here), and then started looking at ideas for age appropriate chores. There were a lot of ideas, but finding age appropriate chores for my 4 year old was kind of tough - I'm totally open to your suggestions! I knew I wanted to combine the two in some way, because it gave me both things that I'm looking for. It gave the kids a list of items that they were expected to do because they should help out around the house, and it gave them a chance to do extra jobs to earn some money for things like vacations, shopping, or book orders.

My next step was to go to Amazon. I ordered a large white board/bulletin board combo. This one is a little pricey ($42), but it was a decent price for the size, and came with markers, magnets, and pins to get me started, along with all the mounting materials. Since it was large and a different format, I knew I couldn't do the clothes pin idea. I decided to use magnets, instead. I found some really cute push pin magnets, threw some extra markers in my cart, and called it good.

I decided on 4 chores for each kid, although with the space I have I could probably go up to 5 per kid. Until I add the baby... I used notecards that I had from school, cut in half, to make the extra chore cards. I write the chore and the dollar amount on them, and when they are completed the kids stick the card in their pocket at the bottom. I made the pockets out of notecards, but those old library pockets would have been awesome! At the end of the week the kids receive the amount that they have earned.

We put in a couple of rules. The first rule is that "watching the baby" has to be done when an adult asks you. The times that you just play with the baby for fun do not count toward earning money. I use this one when I have housework or a workout to get done. That way I'm around, but can focus on some of those daily tasks that need to be accomplished. We also talked about whether or not you could do "money chores" before "required chores." I decided that for now, the answer is yes - unless it gets abused. Some of their chores have a "due date" on them - like helping to collect the garbage on Thursday night or making sure rooms are picked up on Saturdays. It didn't seem fair to give them a chore late in the week and not let them earn any money until then. For now, we haven't had any issues.

We chose to hang ours up in the kitchen since it's a central location. I also added some meaningful quotes and a space where I can write them messages at the bottom. I like the colorful pins and notecards because I think it keeps it a little more fun. The kids like to compete to see who can get their chores done first, and Monkey thinks it's awesome to get to move his magnets!

I'm super excited to keep using our chart, and it's working well for us, but I'd love to know how you organize for your kids, or what types of chores you have them do! I'm always looking for new ideas!

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!