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!