Friday, September 16, 2016

Three Ingredient Pumpkin Muffins

It's starting to feel like fall which means all things pumpkin! One of our fall favorites are pumpkin muffins. In the past, I've always made two ingredient muffins but they always feel and taste too dense. This year we added an extra ingredient and we'll never go back.

Here's what you need:

1 box spice cake mix 
1 can pumpkin
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Here's what you'll do:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2.  Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl
3.  Spoon ingredients into greased muffin tin or cupcake liners. They won't look smooth like cupcakes. In fact, they'll be really lumpy. 
4.  Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or when a fork comes out clean. They'll still look lumpy when you take them out. 
5.  Top with your favorite cream cheese icing! 

These will work just fine without the oil, but they're much fluffier with it. They're seriously easy and yummy!

Happy Fall, y'all!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Get Paid to Try Birchbox!

This is only good for today, so if you want to try it...hurry!  I love Swagbucks and use them a lot.  Here's a really quick run down of how it works so you can quickly go get paid to try Birchbox.  You answer surveys, try new products, give a donation, even play games...there are tons of options.  But whatever you're doing, you earn "swagbucks".  Each swagbuck is worth $.01 so 1000 swagbucks = $10.  You can redeem your swagbucks for gift cards or Paypal.  I love redeeming mine for cash through Paypal or an Amazon gift card.  It's that easy and yes, it actually works.

So here's the good part!  For today only you can go through Swagbucks to sign up for a Birchbox subscription (which worked out to be $10.53 after tax) and you'll be awarded 2000 swagbucks.  Remember...that's $20.  So really you're being paid almost $10 to try it.  Of course if you like it, you keep it.  If not, you can cancel your subscription since it's monthly and you've made money.

Here's the quick scoop...

1.  Sign up for Swagbucks.

2.  Search "Birchbox" to find today's offer for 2000 swagbucks when you sign up.

3.  Follow the link and sign up to receive your first Birchbox.

4.  Your Swagbucks account will immediately be awarded 2000 swagbucks.

5.  Redeem your swagbucks for a gift card.

It's that easy!  There is also a promo code today EXTRABB.  You'll get an extra gift in your box.



All while sitting in the bathroom. I'm not sure what sparked that thought. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Peaks of Otter Shenanigans

A trip is very different when you go with adults versus going with a three year old and a one month old. Adults would visit Peaks of Otter for socialization while picking quality apples.  We visited to pick as many apples as we could (ripe or not) and scream about how we can't reach the high ones. Adults cope with being tired after walking awhile. We measure how far we've walked, how far it will be to get back and if that distance is greater than our max for fear of a breakdown. Adults probably don't even visit the critter section. We stayed there for almost an hour as sweat dripped down my back and fed a single horse two bags of feed. Adults browse the wine selections, tasting a variety before purchasing. I walked around hunched over to make sure my child's hands don't stray to a wine rack where I'm sure everything will crash down into a pool of wine. Anyway, you get the point. My review is from a very different view than the average joe. So the girls and I made a trip to Peaks of Otter Winery and Johnsons Apple Orchard today. If you want a review for going with friends, stop here. If you are interested in knowing how it feels to visit with a baby strapped to your front, everyone's bags of apples on your arms like grocery bags and the natural anxiety of traveling with a three year old, keep reading.

Here's the scoop on how it went. 

First of all, we had a great Groupon which made the whole trip pretty cheap. We got four half peck bags of apples, two bags of feed and $10 off of anything all for $32. Then I had a Groupon coupon for $10 off that making it only $22. Cheap enough that I let Emma pick two bags of apples regardless of what they looked like.

We got there, and I immediately worried as I saw two school buses parked. That's a lot of people to see my kid have a meltdown. Let's hope that doesn't happen. We went inside and I literally told the lady I had no idea what I was doing and would need her to tell me exactly where to go. She was awesome! She was friendly, gave me explicit directions and was sweet to Emma when she asked why they keep cheese blocks on the counter. Moving on. 

She pointed us in the right direction and off we went with four bags to pick apples. But first, let's take a selfie. 

Okay. Now let's pick apples. On the ride there, Emma and I talked about how you know if it's ripe to pick or not. I begged her to please don't put bruised, rotten or worm filled apples in our bags. I told her how they should be red and come off the tree with an easy twist. We were ready. Then she started picking. Or should I say tugging and pulling at the tree to get the apple off. Clearly not ripe. But she loved it. Whatever. You go girl. Pick those green, hard apples. 

We were doing great until she started to get hot and sweaty and tired. Here comes the whining. The trees are too tall. I can't reach the best ones. Lost my sunglasses. Crying over the sunglasses. Find the sunglasses. It's moms fault she lost them in the first place. Tired of red apples. Where are the yellow apples? Eww there are rotten ones. Why are they rotten? I need drink.  Done with the drink.  You carry my drink.  Why can't I eat the apples now? Left the bag of apples behind. Go back for the apple bag. Too tired to carry the bag. Mom carry the bag. BUT...we made it and when we reached the road to walk back she said, "mom we do good teamwork". Okay, so it may have been worth it. (Even if it's a one sided team effort). 

The owner was driving out as we were walking and he stopped to talk to Emma which made her feel pretty important. 

Next up, feed the critters. We got our two bags of feed and followed the signs down the road which I was already dreading walking back up. I was not too impressed by the critter barns, but Emma loved it and that's what counts. They had chickens and geese wandering around and several other animals fenced in. There was a really disgusting looking turkey, a peacock, a bunch of goats, pigs and piglets and tons of sheep. 

We looked at those but fed only a few goats because there was another animal far more important to Emma. A horse. Oh my. We fed it almost two bags of feed. 

She was in heaven as it followed her back and forth along the fence line. All of the animals were really friendly although I'll never trust those goats. I swear goats at petting zoos would steal your feed, the bag it's in and the shirt off your back at first chance. 

We finished with the animals and she cried because she was sure someone took the horses colt away from it. After promising the horse that she would come back and see it tomorrow, we trudged back up the hill. 

As we were walking back up, the owner was driving down to check on the animals. He stopped to talk and tell us about the guest house or cabin or something that they rent out a little further on the property. I could hardly listen because I was so focused on whether or not I had sweat completely through my shirt. He told us we were welcome to drive that way before we leave to see it and his llamas. So sweet but unless this house also comes with a nanny for our stay, do I look like the girl who wants to rent a cabin away from my own couch and Netflix for the night? The thought was kind. 

On the way up we passed the group of school kids which I had completely forgotten about. I have no idea where these two bus loads of children had been, but the staff did a great job separating them from other visitors. 

We went back to the shop where several moms were talking about ways to get a few bottles of wine without having to take it on the school bus. I've been on the bus during field trips ladies.  Better just take the wine with you.  We had to pick something out since we had a $10 off coupon. Emma got some kind of candy and mom got a bottle of pumpkin pie wine made at the winery. Uhhhhmazing.

We loaded up when Emma realized she'd lost her precious unicorn water bottle. Tears flowed. Refusal to sit in her seat without finding the cup. Found it in the shop. We tried again to leave. Emma talked for about ten minutes about how happy she was and how much fun she'd had. Swoon.  Then five minutes about how I wasn't driving in the right direction and she was sure I'd gotten us lost. Good grief mom.  Thanks back seat driver. Then sleep. And quiet. And peaceful. And regular radio.  For the rest of the way home. 

Happy and asleep. I'd call that a successful day. Now how long can I get her to nap. What kind of things can I get done? The dishes need to be washed. Laundry is in the dryer and needs to be folded. I could get dinner started. Who am I kidding? She napped for 15 minutes at home while I sat on the couch and watched a few minutes of How to Get Away with Murder on Netflix. Gosh I love Shonda!

If you're wondering how the little one did on this trip...

She rocked her Tula the whole time and didn't make a peep. Babywearing love people. 💕

Homemade Donuts...yummm!

We love Krispy Kreme on Sunday morning when we all go and get hot donuts. But let's be honest...I'd love hot donuts every day of the week. This morning we attempted our own version. While they weren't Krispy Kreme, they were pretty darn good! The best part is that they were simple and something Emma and I could make together pretty quickly.  I wish I'd gotten a better picture, but they didn't last long enough.

Here's what you need:

1 can original Pillsbury biscuits
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Hot water
Vegetable oil

Here's what you do:

1.  Heat vegetable oil in a deep skillet or fryer to 375 degrees. Our oil was about an inch and a half deep. It worked really well. 
2.  Prepare your glaze by mixing the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Add hot water by the tablespoon until it reaches a desired consistency. 
3.  Lay paper towels on a plate. This is where you'll put the donuts to drain the oil. 
4. Cut holes in the middle of each biscuit. We just used a spoon for this. Roll the remaining dough into balls for donut holes. 
5.  Drop donuts and holes into hot oil. We were able to put in four at a time. Fry on each side until golden. No more than a minute on each side. 
6.  Remove your donuts with tongs or a slotted spoon and lay on paper towels. 
7.  While they're hot, dip donuts in the glaze coating both sides. 
8.  Serve warm and enjoy!

These were super easy and delicious! I did find they weren't as good once they cooled so if you want to eat them later, I would heat them for a few seconds in the microwave. 

These are going to make a perfect replacement until we make it to Krispy Kreme again!  


Friday, September 9, 2016

Emma's Thought of the Day


Welcome Home Flossy

We've been looking for the past week for a monarch caterpillar. I really want Emma to see the life cycle as it turns into a butterfly.

Search 1:  Drove the parkway. Searched and searched. No luck. 

Search 2:  Never made it out of the house. Meltdown over shoes. 

Search 3:  Drove the parkway. Discussed coming another day. Found her!

It is the smallest monarch caterpillar I've ever found, but it is one nonetheless. We put it in a jar and Emma immediately began talking to it and calling it Flossy. Apparently it's a she and that's it's name. I can't believe I didn't already know. We stopped by Target to get a small pet carrier. No luck there but she did spot her Halloween costume. 

Interesting. I'll keep trying to change her mind before October 31st.

Petsmart was next door so we tried that next. Success.

We got home and Emma started to ready Flossy's "have-a-tat". A little grass. A stick or two. A couple leaves. Attempts to pour in bubbles. A bit more grass. 

Add Flossy and it's perfect! Hopefully she will make it to the butterfly stage or someone is going to be devastated. 

Fall is coming!! 

Friday Favorites #2

It's time for Friday Favorites!! Here's five things I'm loving this week!!

1. Neiman Marcus Bars

These come from Mix and Match Mama. She has tons of different recipes. We've tried a few different bars and love them all! This week we made the the original. Oh my heavens. We should've started and stopped here. Not because the others aren't great but because this was all I needed. I am not drinking or eating milk products because they mess with thing twos stomach so bad which means no ice cream. That's my go to dessert. Or even my go to meal. I've needed a replacement. Here it is. 

2.  Sling TV

I am not good with technology. I can work my phone and I can operate things at school pretty well. My smartboard and I are great friends. Other stuff...not so much. Well Andy has the computer hooked up to the tv and somehow with the help of wizardry I'm sure....we watch Netflix and Hulu on the tv through the computer rather than get cable. Those two services cover everything...except football. While I'm perfectly happy binging on Netflix originals, Scandal and Grey' seems to be pretty important to my other half. In walks sling. I don't understand it and I don't need to. I just know that now he can watch football and there's one remote to navigate me straight from Bloodline to Blake on the Voice. It's really quite awesome.  Even cooler...I don't have to watch Peppa Pig anymore because Emma now has Disney channel. I am so over Peppa, George and muddy puddles. I can also fulfill the inner child in me when I watch Girl Meets World. Topanga forever. 

3.  Wubbanub Pacifier

Cute isn't it? We had one of these for Emma, but she never wanted a pacifier and refused to take one. It ended up being taken by one of the dogs and chewed up. Ellie is a different story. She wants a pacifier all the time. It kept popping out of her mouth and rolling onto the floor so we were constantly looking for it and washing it. I went looking for a solution and remembered this little guy. Now if it pops out of her mouth, it goes nowhere. She loves it and so do we!  They have tons of adorable choices on Amazon. 

4.  Kinsa Thermometer 

Best thermometer ever! We've bought so many different thermometers in our short time as parents and never found anything we thought was reliable. Then I found Kinsa. The only thermometer we're going to need again!  It plugs into your iPhone where you can make profiles for each of your children. It logs their temperature each time you take it, asks for their symptoms then makes a recommendation of what you should do based on whether or not they have a fever. When it's reading their temperature, there are bubbles on the screen for Emma to pop. It keeps her occupied while we wait which isn't very long. You can use it as an oral, underarm or rectal thermometer. Even better...there's no batteries.  It's one of those things that you need if you don't have one! 

I'm not sure how long this will last, but I got ours free through Swagbucks. The thermometer is $19.99 with free shipping, and you'll immediately get 2000 Swagbucks for your purchase which you can redeem for a $20 gift card. You can get a Swagbucks account here

5.  Cat and Jack at Target

It's no secret that I love Target. All things Target. I discovered a new favorite on my recent trip there. After stopping at the dollar section (because it's a must) and passing the women's clothing (no time for that anymore plus new clothes means changing out of athletic shorts), we landed in the kids clothing section. Then I saw it. Cat and Jack kids clothing line. So much adorableness! They make clothes in Emma and Ellie sizes. The baby items tended to be more humorous. I loved it! The clothes for Emma had a more grown up look but still the right amount of little girl. A perfect combination for Emma and I. We got so much cute stuff! If you have kids, check it out next time you're on your weekly Target trip (because we should all be making a weekly Target trip).

Happy Friday ya'll!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

First Library Visit

We moved a little over two years ago and for some reason I've never gone to the local library. I'm pretty sure there's about 50 branches throughout the city. They are on every corner. I don't know why we've never gone. We changed that today and made our first library visit. As always, it was fun and filled with Emma.

We signed up for a library card and went straight for the kids section. She was thrilled! 

They even had a very fitting place for pictures. 

After arriving, Emma says, "mom this is the most beautiful place ever."  I'm not sure if I should feel like I'm winning for taking her there or if it's a mom fail for waiting so long. Either way, our trip was off to a good start. As exciting as the books were, she found this more entertaining. 

I managed to get her to look at a few books. Eventually I pulled out a few she might be interested in and she chose three. So many choices was too overwhelming. 

Of course thing two was along for the ride in her Tula. She slept the whole time. God knew the personality that filled Emma so he has blessed me with a calm baby so far. 

Things were going great for us. Emma was loving our first library trip. Then she saw the slide. The slide takes kids from the first floor to the second and is absolutely awesome. An inside slide? Hello Ron Clark. It doesn't get better. We asked. Yes, the slide is open and she can go down. Okay, we'd go right before we leave. We checked out our books. Pure happiness. 

She even requested photos in other fun places inside the library. 

My kid loves the library. Totally a mom win. We were done. We were ready to go. We were going to do the slide first. She went right up! This was going to be good!  But then she wasn't coming down. I waited. Still not coming down. Okay, most moms would think something might have happened and maybe something is wrong. Not me. No. I immediately wonder what my child is into that is occupying her instead of the slide. I go up. She's just sitting. Pouting about the scary slide. Okay Emma if it's too scary then let's just go home. Nope not too scary anymore. She's ready. 

I quickly go to the bottom to take her picture as she comes out. I'm there in time she isn't out. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. She's still not out. Then I see her shadow through the slide. She's in the middle and sneaking back up the slide.  Luckily there's no one around. She peeks out the top. Ugh. If I weren't wearing thing two I would pick her up and carry her out. Back down she goes. And walking back up. Two more times until down and out. There will be no more slide in our future library visits. 

Notice I never got that cute picture of her coming out of the slide. It was not cute. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Surviving At Home With A Toddler

While I'm home on maternity leave, all my teacher friends have gone back to school. Back to structure and back to new things every day. I love being at home, but the teacher in me longs for that structure. Here's how I'm doing both!

1.  Set a schedule. If left up to Emma, she would play horses all day. This is great but does get old. I created a visual schedule to keep some variety in our day. I simply laminated cards and put them on the fridge with magnets. 

She loves going to check and see what comes next in our day. It also promotes independence in her. Rather than me telling her to go get dressed, she does it on her own. After checking the schedule for a few days, it became routine. 

Here's what Emma's daily schedule consists of:  

1.  Breakfast
2.  Get dressed
3.  Walk or park
4.  School
5.  Chores
6.  TV Choice
7.  Lunch
8.  Quiet time
9.  Free play
10.  Clean up
11.  Outside 
12.  TV choice
13.  Dinner

TV choice comes before both meals so that I have time to fix food while only dealing with one child. She loves watching an episode of Sophia the First or Octonauts. 

2.  Don't let go of quiet time. Emma stopped napping this summer. It was always hard for her to lay down in the middle of the day, but was something her body needed. She plays really hard during the day so she still needs this time to rest. Quiet time arose when nap time ended. It started as letting her lay on the couch and watch something but I wasn't crazy about that solution. Now it's become time in her room. She can choose to lay down, read, play with puzzles or color. Regardless, it is a time for quiet and relaxing. She needs it. This hour also gives me some time to get a few things done around the house. It's a necessity for both of us. 

3. Incorporate learning. Emma loves playing school during our day. It's an hour of time for her and I together while Ellie is napping. I'm lucky Emma really enjoys learning. Each day I try to choose a letter or skill for us to focus on and some type of counting activity. Pinterest is my best friend!  Here are a few of our activities that I remembered to catch on camera. 

5. Structured choices. Give them choices during the day, but make them all acceptable to you. Each morning Emma can choose to go on a walk or to the park. Both will get us out of the house and into the fresh air. Both are acceptable to me, but she feels like she has control. We do the same at lunch and with TV choice.

6.  Chores. Kids need to feel productive. They also need to know they're expected to contribute. Emma's chores are very simple, but they're still a job she's expected to do. She likes knowing she's helping. Before you give a chore to your child, be sure to model for them how you'd like it to be done. 

Letting go of my 20s

In just a few short months, I'm going to turn 30. Naturally, that sparks some reflection. While there isn't a thing I'd change because it's all led me to a pretty awesome place, there are some things I'd tell my 19 year old self just to make things a little easier for her. When I write my letter, here's what it'll say. 

Dear 19 year old me,

1.  Get the truck. Don't keep second guessing yourself and settle for the car because that's what girls are supposed to have. There will never be another time in the next ten years that it will make sense. There will be life, gas mileage and babies. Get the truck. 

2.  These are not the best days of your life. Yes, college will be fun. You'll experience new things and make life long friends. You'll learn who and what matters to you. But it keeps getting better. Each year will bring something more wonderful than the last. There's a career, a friend like family and some pretty cool babies waiting on the other side. Yes, there will be hard times but they will become blurred by everything else life has in store. Hold on. It's a magical ride.  

3.  Go easy on your mom. She is you in ten years. She knows your pains and heartbreaks but feels your joys and accomplishments as strongly as you do. Her intentions are pure in everything she does. What hurts you hurts her more. She'll be one of your greatest friends and strongest allies one day. Wait it out.

4.  He's everything you'll ever want. Jump in with your whole heart and mind and don't let up. Fight for him with everything you have. The only moments you're going to regret are ones away from him. He may seem like a risk and just a crazy boy right now, but he'll grow into the man you've always dreamed of.  It's just as important to know he'll help you grow into the woman and mother you want to be. He's going to be your best friend. He'll take care of you while still making you feel independent. He will be fiercely loyal to you and the family you build together. He's going to be the center of your daughters world. He will be easy going, laid back and the greatest constant in your life. He's one of the good ones. 

5.  Relax. You'll be alright. Actually, you'll be better than alright. You're going to be really happy. 

The stronger, happier version

Here's to letting go of my 20s!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Meet Emma

I refer to my 3 foot 2 inch ball of spunk, but have never introduced her.  Emma and I sat down for this post and talked about some of her favorites.  Here we go...

Favorite Color:  Yellow

I think this is because she knows its my favorite color, but its very fitting for her.  Emma is a girl full of life.  She's energetic, outgoing, eager and passionate.  She feels things to their fullest and loves hard.  Ex.  She cried for ten minutes when we got to the park last week because our car ran over a caterpillar.  Apparently I killed her best friend.  Like I said...she loves hard.  She knows no stranger and can hold her own in a conversation with anyone.  We joke about where she came from because neither her dad nor I are this way.  She is her own independent self and we love her for it!

Favorite Letter:  E

Emma is really into "school" which is actually just daycare.  But when she moved into the three year old class, academics became more prominent.  It opened up a world of spanish class, circle time, show and tell and centers to Emma.  She has loved learning her letters and the sounds they make.  I've been really impressed by how much she remembers and applies.  If she behaved more in "school", I'm sure she could really blow me away.  Each day when I pick her up, she must ask her teacher how her day was.  On most days, the answer is positive.  However, one day the teacher just responded that she would like to talk to me.  Uh oh.  In a nutshell, this is what she said...

"I asked Emma many times today to help with clean up.  Each time I asked, she refused to clean, looked at me and began laughing.  Later she laughed at every direction I gave her."

What do you do with the kid who laughs at the teacher?  Being a teacher myself, I was embarrassed.  Several talks later...this hasn't been a problem again.

Favorite Number:  Why do I need one of those?

Oh goodness.

Favorite Toy:  Ariel 

This baby doll became a favorite shortly before Ellie arrived.  She's never been one to play with babies or dolls much, but she began pretending Ariel was her sister before Ellie came.  She's stuck around ever since.

Favorite Game:  Stick Horse Riding

It's name is Oreo, and I can't take it anymore!  She doesn't move around the house without being on the horse and galloping.  She consistently yells "Yeehaw" and "Yah".  It's intense.  So intense that she developed her own alter ego.  On occasion she transforms into Angus the horse.  (Thank you Aunt Dani).  Rather than bathing, she is groomed.  Her shirt is a saddle.  Her bed is a stable.  Rather than talking, she neighs.  She nuzzles her sister.  There are times you can say her name and she doesn't answer but yell for Angus and she comes galloping.  We certainly know she has an imagination and uses it well.

Favorite Snack:  Scooby Fruit Snacks

I guess they taste better than the princess ones.

Favorite Book:  Ponies of Ponyville

The obsession is real.  For those of you who aren't BFF with Pinkie Pie, Rarity or Rainbow Dash, Ponyville is where the "My Little Pony" characters live.  Go get the book if you want to meet them all.  Hurry.
The horse obsession has been going strong for over a year.  A few months ago her teacher apologized when I picked her up for school.  When I asked what for, she answered, the knees of her pants.  I silently giggled inside knowing exactly why she was apologizing about her pants.  Prior to getting the stick horse, Emma was a horse on all fours so frequently that the knees of all of her pants are stained.  So the teacher went on to say that she can't get Emma to walk on two legs, she'd rather crawl on all fours as a horse.  Yes, that's my child.  The teacher then reassured me that she had to draw the line when Emma began asking other children to ride on her back as the rider.  Yes, that's my child.

Favorite Day:  Days being with mom and dad and Ellie

See!  There is some sweet under that mane and tail.

Favorite Song:  ABC's

That's my girl!

Favorite Movie:  Merida (Brave)

This changes from one horse movie to another on a day to day basis.  Thank you Netflix and Amazon Prime.  I realize that Brave isn't exactly about a horse, but there was a horse.  And his name was Angus.  Coincidence?  I think not.

If you haven't watched this Disney princess, you should. She quickly became my new favorite. Merida is strong, independent and so different from the other princesses. I have issues with lots of the other princesses, but not this one. Couldn't Ariel have just written a note to Prince Eric? She can clearly write when she signed her life away to Ursula. Is she just that stupid? And Cinderella cannot be independent without Prince Charming. And Sleeping Beauty...a kiss will not save you.  Rapunzel runs away at age 16 and everything turns out wonderfully for her. Yeah. That's real safe. Not Merida. Her hair is a mess, she wipes her mouth on her sleeve, she can shoot a bow while finding loyalty to her family and pride in who she is. Thanks for finally getting it right Disney.

Favorite Thing:  Horses

Did you really think it was going to be anything else?