February 26, 2014

It's The Little Things Part 5

Yesterday we were hanging out at home in the morning since my husband's shift didn't start until later in the afternoon. Miss A was running back and forth between us as I paid bills and my husband studied for an exam he has tomorrow. She was a bundle of energy and feeling guilty, I got up to play with her.

She shot across the room giggling and I thought, why don't we play hide and seek? She's just started to get the concept and when I say "Go hide!" she bolts out of the room laughing hysterically and I pretty much always find her in the same spot, standing in the middle of our bedroom. My husband got up and joined in on the fun, which she looooved. As we played more and more she started to hide in our hiding spots and thought she was completely invisible. Oh it was just so cute!

I don't have any pictures of her hiding since we were so involved in the game but I'll definitely have to take some now. It's moments like these I cherish so much. My cheeks were starting to hurt by the end of it, from smiling and laughing so much!

Which brings me to something else I want to talk about today. Every day when Miss A and I have these special moments I remind myself how lucky we are that she is a healthy, beautiful, spirited child. Did you know that every three minutes a child is born with a cleft lip? I had no idea. I also didn't know that many of these children will not make it to their first birthday. Operation Smile is working to prevent that from happening by providing patient evaluations and free surgeries, FREE, to so many children whose parents can not afford them.

Campus Book Rentals has partnered up with Operation Smile and donates to the cause every time a textbook is rented. If you are or know someone in college, this would be a great site for you to check out. Textbooks are 40%-90% off bookstore prices, shipping is free, highlighting is allowed, and they are flexible with how long a textbook can be rented. They also have a new program called Rent Back which allows you to rent your textbook to other students. Take a look at how it works!

I wish programs like this existed when I was in college. It sure would've helped with those expensive textbooks!

Disclaimer: I was contacted by Campus Book Rentals to raise awareness of their programs and was compensated for this post. 

February 25, 2014

A Week With Daddy

Last week I mentioned, several times I believe (because I was so excited), that my husband was off work for a whole week. It started off great with us getting out of the house and having delicious cake and tasty dinners...until we all got sick. Yep. Every time. Every time my husband has time off he gets sick! No joke. He was sick for Christmas. He was sick when we went to the beach. He never, ever gets sick and he somehow manages to get sick when he's off. The body and mind are a powerful thing. He knows he can't be sick at work and the minute he's able to relax, it hits him.

So from Wednesday-Friday we hung out at home. I started coming down with something and then soon after Miss A had a runny nose. Thankfully she seems to have gotten my sick fighting traits because I never stay sick for long and neither does she. We were fine after two days and were itching to get out of the house. My husband, being the trooper he is, said he felt better on Saturday and wanted to enjoy his last two days with his girls.

It was gorgeous here in NC over the weekend with sunny, blue skies and 70 degree weather. So we decided to go to the park! We needed fuel first to keep up with the toddler and stopped at a coffee shop. Can you guess what I contributed to the chalkboard? ;)

I got a Berry White Mocha and my husband got a Turtle Mocha. They were both SO good. We will definitely have to go to again. Miss A was being an absolute doll that I had to reward her with a chocolate chip cookie. Gathering our drinks and treats, we headed off to the park. 

She went down all five slides and yelled "weeeee" every time. It's a treat for her to be with her Dada at the park and she was so happy to run around with him. After playing for a while we ate our snacks and decided to check out a local toy store, where we spent an hour playing with all the toys out on display and ignoring her to play with things ourselves. We're such kids. 

On Sunday I ran some errands and then we hung out at home putting up our gallery wall in the family room. It still needs work and more odds and ends but I'm liking how it's turning out so far. I'm sad that our week came to an end and I'm already looking forward to his next vacation, which is in June! We'll be taking our first family vacation and I'm SO excited. Let's say so excited that I almost bought this and this swimsuit but held off because I'm not sure what size Miss A will be. I just love summer shopping!  

Have a great week!

February 21, 2014

Five on Friday

I'm actually not glad it's Friday because that means there are only two more days left of the hubby's vacation. We are both coming down with colds now so that isn't helping us make the most of our time together. Why does it always seem like you get sick at the worst possible time? As usual, I'm linking up for Five on Friday today!

One. This Dinner

I rarely make macaroni and cheese as a side dish for dinner. Occasionally I will if what we're eating isn't going to go well for Miss A but last night I wanted chicken legs, mac and cheese, and roasted broccoli. Simple, easy, delish!

Two. This Cake

We had company over for dinner earlier this week and any time we are having guests over I immediately scroll through Pinterest looking for something sweet to make. I've had this cake on there for ever and had everything I needed in the house. I didn't make the chocolate ganache or peanut butter frosting as indicated. Instead I melted half a stick of butter, poured in half a cup of milk, and a bag of dark chocolate chips. I poured that over the cake and then melted some white chocolate chips I had to use as a drizzle. Best cake I've had in a LONG time!

Three. The Dentist

I went to the dentist yesterday and was happily entertained by two TV's. One in front of me, one above me. Mind. Blown. Does your dentist have TV's?!

Four. This is How We Watch Cartoons

With our feet in the air and possibly in our mouth.

Five. Spring

This weather is such a tease. Beautiful, sunny skies with temperatures in the 70's. A look a head shows us back to the 40's and 50's. Ugh. Who's ready for March!

February 19, 2014

It's The Little Things Part 4

We are lucky to have my husband home all week and we're making the most of our days together. We've played at home, took a trip to the mall, had a blast at Barnes and Noble and at the mall play area, went out to lunch, and took a long walk on a beautiful Spring-like day.

Yesterday while we ate at Panera, Miss A wanted a sip of water from my cup, not her sippy cup. I let her have some but she wanted more so I got up to get her an empty one to play with, thinking the cup alone would be a source of entertainment. Nope, she wanted it filled with water, of course, so we poured a little bit in so she could drink it.

Water never tasted so good! She was SO excited. She kept asking for more and more water and every time we filled her cup with more she had a huge smile on her face. It was the cutest thing! At one point she got too ambitious and tipped the cup way up high and ended up swallowing too much water. Her eyes went HUGE and she started coughing and laughing at the same time. I was lucky to have gotten some of it on video to send to our parents!

It really is the little things for her too, anything new or exciting or feeling more grown up is so fun for her. We were laughing so much, I'm sure there were plenty of people staring! With her in our lives, there is never a dull moment, we are constantly entertained, amazed, and enlightened by her!

February 18, 2014

Kitchen Shortcut: How to Make Crispy Bacon!

We are all looking to save time in the kitchen, am I right? While we're doing so, we don't want to sacrifice flavor or the quality of ingredients. We want to find the easy way out, yet we want to have it all. Isn't that a metaphor for life, haha. Life brings you bacon.

I don't know about you, but I love bacon. I try not to buy it too often since it's not exactly the greatest thing for you...and when I do have bacon in the house, it tends to disappear pretty quick. I like to throw bacon in everything: pasta, salads, on top of sandwiches, and as a breakfast component. The one thing I don't like about bacon? The mess. The popping oil, the splattering, and tell me if I'm alone on this...sometimes, it doesn't turn out as crispy as I want it to. 

Like this.  

This is crispy bacon. How bacon should always be, if you ask me. There's only one way to get your bacon to be this crispy...by baking it in the oven! 

Here's how you do it:

1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Layer bacon on a lightly greased bacon sheet
3. Bake for 6-7 minutes

I'd start checking after five minutes on your bacon to see if it has reached your desired crispness. My bacon is usually done after six to seven minutes. 

This is a great kitchen shortcut. You're saving time, by having less to clean up (which is in itself a win, there's no scraping your pan to get those stubborn bits and pieces off, no cleaning up your oil splattered stove) and by having crispy bacon much faster than you would if you cooked it in a skillet on the stove. 

After the bacon is done, I lay it on a paper towel lined plate to soak up the excess oil. 

Then I crumble it up in the paper towel...

...and sprinkle it on top of my favorite salad: hard boiled eggs, chopped tomatoes, cubed chicken, mozzarella cheese, and croutons with honey mustard dressing!

Viola! If you have a moment, I would love it if you could check out Golden Grain's Facebook page and vote for my "Share Your Shortcut" idea. AND while you're there, you can enter for a chance to win a $100 American Express gift card! 

Have a great Tuesday!

February 17, 2014

Weekend Ramblings

I've been attempting to write this post all morning! I'm just now able to sit down at my desk, as I listen to Miss A chatting to herself in her crib, occasionally shouting out, "A cat!!" (even though there isn't a cat in her room, we don't have a cat, she doesn't have a cat stuffed animal...) and my husband is downstairs sleeping peacefully. He's off for an entire week. This is huge folks, first year residents are worked to the bone and to have him home for a whole week is the greatest gift you could give us right now. We miss him terribly and there are no words for me to explain how happy Miss A is whenever her Daddy is around.

Miss A is in her crib right now because I'm trying, really really hard, to not give up on naps. Thank you for all your suggestions and comments, we are hoping this is a phase and not the end of naps! As I mentioned last week, she's been on a nap strike for almost two weeks now and the only place she has been falling asleep is in the car. Yes, I have spent many afternoons sitting in my driveway with a book or the iPad soaking in the quiet time. I'm not sure if her lack of naps is what's affecting her night time sleep but lately she has been a wreck. Up screaming three or four times a night, shouting "MAMA" at the top of her lungs and won't stop unless one of us goes in there to lay her back down. I've tried standing at her door and telling her to lie down and go back to sleep but she FLIPS out and it just breaks my heart. We're really at a loss here, and really sleep-deprived. Who knew my child would hate to sleep so much when her father and I LOVE sleep so much!?

In other news, Valentine's Day was pretty low-key around here. We celebrated earlier in the week with our first date night in six months and spent the evening curled up on the couch watching a movie and eating chocolate strawberries.

Miss A loved opening her gifts and was so excited to receive a package from her grandparents and great grandmother with a few of her favorite things- a Mickey Mouse card, a stuffed dog, and a new book. There were also cards and chocolates for me and the hubby, I love that my mom and grandma still think of us! Getting a sweet card or package in the mail can really make your day.

I tried to recreate her photo session from last year and while it didn't work so well I'm glad I did get a few decent pictures. Mama can't help it, I love taking pictures of you!

Hope you're having a good start to your week!

February 14, 2014

Five on Friday- Valentine Goodies, Snow, and More

Happy Valentine's Day! How are you celebrating the day of love? I've got a couple of goodies for Miss A and we sent out our Valentines earlier in the week. I just love holidays and every holiday is so much fun now that I have a little girl to share them with.

One. Date Night

Earlier this week my husband had the night off and our friend graciously offered to babysit so that we could have a date night! It has seriously been six months since our last date night and it was looooong overdue. We went out for sushi and ice cream, chatted the night away, and enjoyed each other's company. It was so nice to feel like adults again!

Two. V-day Goodies

For her Valentine goodie bag I didn't want to go crazy. I got her two new books, a Minnie Mouse necklace, and a new shirt (with hearts!) to wear for the day. I loved the "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" books when I was a kid and was so excited to pick this one up for her. The other book is from Target's dollar spot and I found the necklace at Michaels.

Three. Making Valentine Cards

I was inspired by a Valentine craft I saw on Strawberry Swing and Other Things for Miss A's Valentines. We used washable markers (very important for everything to say "washable" when dealing with a toddler), a giant art pad, and vellum paper to make them. Miss A scribbled to her hearts content on the paper, switching to a different color every ten seconds, and then I traced a heart onto the back side of the page using a heart cookie cutter and cut them out. I then traced hearts on the vellum paper, cut that out, and glued it to the marker heart with a glue stick. Later I added a personal message to each Valentine, we decorated the envelopes with stickers, then signed, sealed, and delivered them away! I hope our families enjoy them.

Four. Snow Day #2

We had another snow day here in the North Carolina. This time the meteorologists were right and the storm came right on schedule, dumping 5 inches of snow and freezing rain. Our front yard is a massive block of ice and our deck is covered in icicles. We tried taking Miss A out in it again but this time she wasn't as thrilled about it, probably because it wasn't as soft and fluffy like last time. It's so pretty out there but I can't imagine having more, let alone an entire winter of the white stuff.

Five. No Naps for the Toddler

What else, what else...oh, I know, I fear I've entered the land of no-more-naps. Say it isn't so! Miss A hasn't napped in the last four days, unless it's in the car, and that nap lasts for about 30 minutes. I'm so sad to see nap time go. The days will feel longer now, that's for sure. Mama's with toddlers who already stopped taking naps, how old were they when they stopped? I'm curious to know if my 19 month old child is stubbornly abandoning ship.

Happy Friday! Be sure to link up for Five on Friday here.  Enjoy the love!

February 12, 2014

It's the Little Things- Part 3

As I sit here to write this post, I can think of so many little things that have happened in the last few days. Cuddling on the couch while watching Mickey. Picking out stickers to decorate our Valentine envelopes. Going down a tunnel slide. Taking a family walk. Watching Miss A pull out an old dog toy from her baby days and falling in love with it all over again.

This weekend was one for the keeping. Memories that I will keep close to my heart and bring forward whenever I'm having a bad day. On Sunday, we didn't do anything special. Daddy was home, for two days (Sunday and Monday) and that was all that mattered to this little girl. She is crazy about him. I swear she gets bored of me and is so happy to see another face, especially her Daddy, and she can't let him out of her sight. She plays in whatever room he's in and constantly runs up to show him something or to be tickled or tossed into the air. There's just something about being a daddy's girl.

The little thing we did on Sunday was get into the car right after lunch to grab donuts. I've wanted to check out this donut place since we moved here and we never seemed to find the right opportunity. With twenty minutes to go until they closed, we bundled ourselves up and picked out three kinds of donuts: creme brulee, chocolate cake, and chocolate pudding. My oh my was it worth the wait!

That's all we did on Sunday. Left the house for a total of 30 minutes and hung out the rest of the day at home. Games were played, movies were watched, and coloring on the floor with markers occurred. There's just something about a lazy Sunday.

Be sure to link up for It's The Little Things with Ashley and Jess!

February 11, 2014

Our Proposal Story

It's the week of love! I thought it would be fun to share a story about us. Instead of taking about how we met (a story for another day) I want to talk about how he proposed! That is more romantic after all.

I was eighteen years old when my husband proposed to me. I had just graduated high school, six months ago to be exact, and it was the day before New Years Eve. We had been dating (does anyone still use that word, we used to say "going out") for four years (high school sweethearts, yes indeed) and had talked about getting engaged while we were in college. He was already in his third year, I was in my first.

Actually, now that I think about it, we even went to look at rings a few months before he proposed. I picked out a few that I loved, including the one he ended up getting, a gorgeous white gold ring, with a heart stone in the middle. I still love it as much as the first day I saw it. I'm so happy he picked the right one!

It was a chilly evening, at least, it was for us Miamians. I didn't know what was in store for that night, only that we were going somewhere new, and that I should wear something nice. I remember looking through my closet thinking I had nothing to wear (very little fashion sense back then, so yeah, that was true). I settled on a black and white sweater and black pants. If I knew what was about to come, I think I would have chosen something better!

We drove up to Miami Beach, crossing the massive bridge into the city, flying by the Port of Miami. The city was aglow with twinkling lights, at eye-level and above. Midnight blue clouds swirled about the sky like puffs of smoke. The air was light, breathy, and crisp. It was a beautiful night and I was a very happy girl, sitting beside my future husband in his ice blue Kia.

The restaurant was on the water, inside the Mandrain Oriental hotel. Our table was outside and overlooked the city skyline. We could hear the splash of the waves crash ever so softly against the rocks. I can't tell you what we ate that night, but I know it was ridiculously expensive and overpriced, but what I can tell you is that my husband got up from the table at least five times! Must have been nerves. The second time he got up, I knew something was up. I told myself not to expect anything, just in case.

After dessert we walked along the shoreline and sat on a bench. At this point I was doubting a proposal and tried not to let my disappointment show. He was still acting kinda funny so I wondered if something else was up his sleeve. It was still really cold and it had started drizzling. We talked for a few minutes on the bench before he suddenly got down on one knee, took my hand and told me all kinds of sweet things (a video camera would have been handy, I would've loved to remember everything he said!) and asked me to marry him. Without a moments hesitation I said "yes!" and there you have it, history was made.

Four years later we were married. A year after that we moved to Michigan. Three years after that we had a baby. Less than a year after Miss A was born we moved to North Carolina. Whatever is next, I'm ready for it! 

All photos credited to Studio by Carmen unless otherwise noted.
For more photos, see Snapshots.

February 10, 2014

Classic Fudge Brownies a La Mode

If you're still looking for something sweet to make for Valentine's Day (which is this Friday, yay!), I've got the perfect thing for you. Last week I mentioned that we had a last minute date night at home. We ordered take out from a great italian place, put the toddler to bed early, lit some candles, and ate in our dining room. It was perfect, low-key, and exactly what we needed.

We decided to do this about two hours before we normally eat, so I went to see what we had in the pantry o and for dessert. I always keep the essentials well stocked- flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and chocolate chips. Chocolate chips are a necessary staple in our house. I saw that we also had cocoa powder and semi-sweet chocolate. All the things you need to make brownies!

I got to work and the brownies were in the oven in no time. Miss A ate her dinner while I measured, poured, and stirred. I checked to see if we had ice cream in the fridge and wouldn't you know it, we did! Brownies a la mode, my husband's favorite dessert. Seriously, he wants to order it every time he sees it on a menu when we go out. Me, I like to get something I wouldn't normally make at home, like cheesecake or something. Anyway, I knew he'd be thrilled to have it at home.

I've made these brownies twice before, and I have to say, they are definitely my go-to recipe. They're everything you want in a brownie- fudgy, chocolatey, and not too rich. A great dessert for Valentine's Day, or any special occasion, like a random Tuesday night!      

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks (that you see for baking)
1/3 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add 1/2 of the bittersweet chocolate and milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 1 minute, then stir. Microwave on HIGH again for 30 seconds, then stir. Chocolate needs to be completely melted before you can move on to the next step, microwave more if needed. 
Pour the melted chocolate into the dry ingredients. Add the butter, vanilla, eggs, and the rest of the chocolate chunks into the bowl and stir until all is combined. Pour the batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 22 minutes, brownies are done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean, or with a few crumbs. 

February 7, 2014

Five on Friday- Shopping, Play dates, and Inspiration

It's the end of a long week and I'm so happy it's over. We've been up, we've been down, we've been trying to keep ourselves occupied and waiting for that fresh start of Spring. I'm loving all the brights colors arriving in the stores, aren't you? So what if Easter candy is already on the shelves, bring it on I say, I'm ready for the flowers and cute rosebud pink dresses! Shop talk begins the start of my Five on Friday this week.

1. Dollar Tree Shopping

Yesterday we went to our local Dollar Tree and found lots of goodies. I want to start doing more educational activities with Miss A, like animal sounds, numbers, letters, shapes, etc. We were following along with Leah when she did the farm unit with her daughter. I know she might still be a bit young to grasp these concepts, but it doesn't hurt to start soon!

2. Play dates 

This week we had two fun play dates, to the life and science museum and to a local coffee shop (that is very kid friendly).  The butterfly greenhouse is my favorite part of the museum. Miss A clung to me and buried her head in my shoulder whenever one got too close. ;)

As any SAHM will tell you, it's so good to get out of the house and chat with another mom. Boiling off steam, bouncing ideas off each other, and offering a ear to listen are the best forms of therapy!

3. There will be good days and there will be bad days..

I was also happy to get out of the house this week because I'm starting to feel like Miss A is tired of her ol' mama. I'm pretty much the only person she sees lately and I don't blame her for wanting to see other people! We've had some rough days and thankfully yesterday she was in better spirits and I was able to get this sweet picture of her. 

4. Finding Inspiration

On Wednesday I read a post on one of favorite blogs about inspiration. She talked about how she finds inspiration and wanted to know how others get inspired. After reading her post I immediately jotted down everything that came to mind about how I get inspired. It was such a good reminder and something I desperately needed to read. I feel like there is so much I want to do, all the time, and I can't seem to figure out how to do it or feel guilty about wanting to do it. Something has to change! How do YOU get inspired?

5. Dinner

My favorite meal we've had this week- Chicken with Feta Cheese Sauce. I bathed my veggies and roasted potatoes in this sauce too! So good.  

Happy Friday!

February 5, 2014

It's the Little Things Part 2

I'm quickly falling in love with this new link up I've decided to enjoy, It's the Little Things. It's almost therapeutic to sit back, late at night to write this post as everyone else is sleeping (why am I awake?), and think about any small moments that stood out in the last few days.

Since my last "it's the little things" post, we had a snow day, Miss A came down with a virus, and we had a spur of the moment date night at home.

...decorating cookies on a snow day

...getting dinner inspiration from a friend and having it turn out amazing

...cuddling, the only sweet part about having a sick baby

...throwing together a date night at home to cheer us up after being cooped up in the house with Miss A

...rummaging through her box of bows and sticking as many as I could in her hair 

...sitting outside on our deck in the warm sun 

...getting this adorable picture of Miss A 

...catching up with my husband after a long day of work on the couch 

...finding the perfect shirt for Miss A to wear on Valentine's Day

Those are the little things.