Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Basement Inspiration

Some of you may remember that when I shared my goals for 2017 one of them was to complete some BIG house projects including finishing our basement and a big yard project.  We're currently in the middle of both and it's been going on in parts and pieces for almost a month now, including lots of trucks at my house on a daily basis and a lovely construction dumpster in front of the house.

I'm trying to be patient because these things take time, but there is still a lot to be done.  Today I thought I'd share my inspiration for the basement project and I hope to share yard inspiration soon and then updates for both along the way!

First though...a little background.  When we bought our home several years ago it was a 1966 ranch that we pretty much took down to the basement foundation and rebuilt.  We wanted to be in a certain school district and in a certain area, but finding a house we loved was tough so instead we took on a major project.  We loved the property.  It felt like we were in the middle of no where, but we are literally minutes away from everything.  There is a small creek running through the property, right beside the house, so we had to keep the existing foundation during the rebuild. If you walked in our front door you'd think everything was new and for the most part it is.

However, the basement still looks like 1966.  It's like a deep, dark dungeon that we didn't use except for storage.  And when I say storage, I mean all of the stuff we never needed, but held onto just because we had the space to store it.  Before we could get started on the basement we had to tackle cleaning it out.  We moved a bunch of shelves to the garage so I could store all of my holiday decorations and other things we were keeping.  The rest of it we either donated or tossed at the dump.  We had SO much stuff down there.  Teaching supplies I hadn't used in 10 years, old furniture, a pressure washer that had NEVER worked in the time we owned it...just so much stuff.

I'm lucky that the Mr. is really handy and he also is very knowledgeable about construction and design so he drew out our plans for the basement and with a little feedback from me he finalized the layout.

When we were first getting started I did what I always do when I have a home project to make decisions about.  I consult my favorite design source...Pinterest!  When we were building our house a few years ago I had so many people ask me if I had a designer to help me, but I didn't.  I always tell people who are building or remodeling to use my method. I pinned a bunch of things I liked or that caught my eye and then looked for a trend in what I had pinned.  For example, when we were picking out things for the kitchen I looked at my Kitchen Pinterest board and saw that I loved a certain type of cabinet, a certain style of tile back splash, a wooden counter top, etc.  I printed off pictures, took them with me to the design appointments with those vendors and tried to recreate what I saw in the pictures I had pinned.

For this basement project I'm basically doing the same thing.  We're planning to have a kitchen/bar area, a tv space, a workout room, bathroom and bedroom so I've been pinning things for those spaces.  Here's some of the trends that I've narrowed down in all of my pins that I just love and plan to incorporate in one way or another!

I blame Chip and Joanna for my love of shiplap, but it adds such interesting detail and I just love the look of it.  I really love any unique paneling, woodwork, trim and shiplap falls into that category for me.  Anything besides just plain ole drywall gives me big heart eyes!

Interesting Island 
While I'd love to do a fun color on the cabinets in the basement, I'm leaning towards an off-white like we have in our kitchen just because I feel like it is pretty classic and will last with the times.  However, we plan on having a very large island in the basement so I'm hoping to do something fun with it.  Maybe a different color or some interesting details on it?!  I really wanted an X on the end of our island in the kitchen, but it just didn't work out so I'm hoping to do that for the basement.  Love all of these details!

Barn Doors 
Another thing I really wanted in our house that we couldn't work in anywhere were barn doors.  I'm literally obsessed and love them so much.  I think we have the perfect space for them in the basement so I can't wait!

Neutral Tones 
One of the main reasons we ended up rebuilding our house instead of our original plan to renovate was the low ceiling heights in the original home.  Tall ceilings just make everything seem so much more open, but we won't have that option in the basement.  The ceilings are 1966 low so I'm going to be doing everything I can to trick the eye into thinking they are higher than they are.  One of the big things is to keep everything neutral.  I plan to paint the walls and ceilings the same light color, keep the furniture and accessories pretty neutral.

These are obviously just some of the many ideas floating around in my head and there is no telling if we'll be able to do them all, but I'm really hopeful! I want this space to be inviting and comfortable for our family and our guests because I see it as the place where we will do a lot of entertaining.  I'm excited to share the progress with anyone who is interested in following along!

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Amara Organic Baby Food

I am continuously amazed at how genius some people are. When I stumbled upon these organic dried baby food packets from Amara Baby Food, I had an "aha!" moment. I only wish I had found these a little sooner. Like six years sooner. They would have made life so much easier when I started this little journey called motherhood. Now I am making up for lost time though, as they have quickly become one of my favorite healthy ways to feed my children children on the go.

(Parents of older children, stay with me - because even though these dried baby food packets and for tinier tots, I have a sneaky way or two on how to make them useful for older children as well.)

These organic dried baby food packets make feeding baby so easy! Imagine getting all the healthy benefits of fresh homemade pureed baby food with out any of the time, effort, or the huge mess and clean-up in your kitchen. All you have to do is add a little water, formula, or breast milk to the contents of the packet and you have an amazing meal ready to go for your little one.

Not to mention the packets are light weight and mess free. Say goodbye to those cumbersome baby food containers! You can free up all that space in your diaper bag, and no longer worry about any accidental spills or breakages that might have previously occurred.

Now Baby Cute is just beyond the age of baby food, but I've loved feeding her a serving of the Oats n' Berries packet with her breakfast. It makes for a quick, easy, and healthy addition to what finger foods she might be eating.

We've been working on her utensil skills lately and clearly she's in love with the taste as much as I love feeding it to her.

And apparently so is L.C. Queen Elsa.

As for Cute, and L.C. they have no idea, but they love the Amara Organic Baby Food packets too! While I've tried my best to get my children to eat great right from the start, sometimes they need a little boost now and then. And never in my life have I heard either one of them utter, "Mom, I would absolutely love a large serving of kale right now! And can I get that with a large side of broccoli, please?". Not in my wildest dreams would that ever happen.

Long ago I was given a sneaky little trick to get kids to incorporate more fruits and veggies into their diet. A friend told me to mix baby food into their smoothies or into certain recipes. I love this little healthy hack because I feel like I'm totally beating them at the "anti-veggie" battle.

So when I received the dried baby food packets, I realized using my sneaky trick would work a lot easier now for some of my favorite recipes.

After school I mix up a quick smoothie of some fruit (usually a banana or strawberries), yogurt, a little ice, and then blend in a little dried baby food. Voila! Healthy snack that everyone is happy about. 

Later I realized that I'm not the only one who has thought of this genius idea. Upon visiting their website, and social media accounts, I noticed the lovely people at Amara also have some fabulous ideas for how to use their packets in other yummy recipes. 

If you're interested in testing out the Amara Organic Dried Baby Food, I was able to find the packets at Whole Foods, but spotted all the flavors on Amazon as well. 

Now tell me, what mom hacks do you have for sneaking in extra fruits and veggies into your children's diets? Inquiring minds want to know!

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The easiest way to feed baby and kids a healthy meal while on the go.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday!  So happy the weekend is almost here.  It's been a doozy of a week and our weekend is going to be even crazier, but tons of fun.  We have a birthday sleepover party, a company-wide family picnic day at Six Flags in the morning, then we travel an hour for a soccer game and then back to our side of town for a baseball game.  Then I can guarantee I am going to crash.   

As usual, I'm linking up with some of our favorite bloggers for Friday Favorites and have a fun assortment of stuff things to share.  

First up one of my favorites is when my family wears coordinating outfits!  When my kids were little I dressed them in matching and coordinating outfits almost daily, but now it is very, very rare.  However, for Easter this year it all kind of worked out.  I had bought my dress at the Lilly Pulitzer sale at the end of last summer and knew I wanted to wear it for Easter.  The girls dresses are Lilly Pulitzer for Target that still fit them from a few years ago because they ran so big and the Mr. happened to pick up a pink striped polo for Boo-Boo at the Masters this year.  It was like it was meant to be!

After church on Easter we changed into comfortable clothes and made our way to my in-laws' home for the afternoon.  The kids hunted for eggs, we played outside and even enjoyed a quick boat ride.  Their favorite thing from that day that they loved playing with was this Super Duper Spinner.  It's like a giant disk swing and it is so much fun!

Gigi bought it and has it hanging in front of her house. You can sit or stand and it holds up to 650 pounds so the kids can all climb on it.  We're in the middle of a big yard project, but when we are done I'm planning to order one (or more) of these and have them at home in our yard, too! 

Are anyone else's kids obsessed with Fidget Spinners?  It's the new craze and my kids would say this is certainly their new favorite thing.  I would say it is a favorite of mine because it keeps them happy and entertained in the car.  I had no idea what they were when my kids were telling me "everyone at school has them."  

Let's just say we can add this to the list of things I wish I'd invented.  They are small hand-held gadgets that you hold at the center and spin around.  Yep, that is it.  And for $20 you can have one of your own.  Seriously, why didn't I think of this.  They are apparently nothing new.  They were originally invented to help people with anxiety, ADHD, people with bad habits like nail biting and other focusing issues.  Well somehow this little gadget exploded in popularity overnight and now every kid around wants one.  We found ours at a local toy store, but Amazon has them, too! 

Anyone have kids that play sports?  If so that probably means you deal with your fair share of stinky shoes, cleats and equipment.  Last week I came across this Stink Stoppers spray and it is my new favorite thing for keeping my kids sports equipment smelling fresh.  I'd tried lots of other methods, but this seems to work the best so far.  After they take off their cleats, shin guards, etc. I just give it all a quick spray and it really freshens them up and eliminated the odors.  So much better than it smelling like a sweaty locker room!  I will probably be buying this spray in bulk over the next few years!

This is kind of random, but my new favorite spot in my bathroom is this little corner. I used to have my jewelry, lotions, and other stuff all spread out all over my counter, but I decided to put it all on a silver tray to kind of contain it all in one spot.  The result is a much tidier bathroom counter.  The silver tray was a wedding gift and we used it when entertaining, but not that often so now I get to put it to great use every single day.  I did the same thing for the Mr. on his side of the bathroom, but used a painted clay bowl instead so it would look a little more manly.  He keeps all sorts of things in the bowl and empties his pockets there each evening so it has worked out great.  

My last favorite this week is this amazing letter.  My daughter is taking the statewide standardized test this week.  Last year she felt stressed, pressured and overwhelmed by what she thought was such a big and important test.  Her teacher this year is taking an approach that I completely agree with.  She wrote this note to her students and when I read it I was brought to tears. I am so thankful for wonderful teachers like this one that make such a positive difference in my kids lives.  This was definitely my favorite thing I read all week long.  

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!!!  

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Atlanta Attractions: Chattahocchee Nature Center

It looks like Spring is finally here to stay. The temperatures are remaining steady and here in Atlanta we've all moved our party outdoors. Our Spring Break was a few weeks ago, but rather than make way for the nearest beach we decided to check out some of our favorite local spots (and even try a new adventure or two).

Atlanta offers so many fun family activities, and there are tons of fun places to celebrate Spring outdoors. We thought about making a trip to Stone Mountain, or heading back to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens since we had so much fun their during our visit in the Fall, but The Cutes desperately wanted to do something with animals. While we love the Zoo, I-85 had just collapsed before the break and Atlanta traffic was not something we were willing to battle. Even for adorable animals. After brainstorming we realized one of our favorite places a little closer to our neck of the woods would satisfy everyone. The Chattahoochee Nature Center is a great little gem, and an easy place to let kids explore and enjoy a lot of hands on activities.

One thing I love about the Nature Center is that it never seems to be crowded. Even on a beautiful sunny day during a school holiday it was enjoyable, and felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. 

For those of you not familiar with the center, or who live in Atlanta, but haven't been yet, I would say if you have a nature lover in your crew it is definitely a spot to put on your radar. It is located in the heart of Historic Roswell right off the Chattahoochee River, and is a large park, garden, rehabilitation center for wild animals, and an education center all rolled into one. Not to mention it is located right across the street from several large playgrounds, bike trails, and more!

You enter through the center's main building and on the ground floor there is a fun space for kids and adults to explore and learn about everything from fossils to rocks to animal wildlife and everything in between. The children's area has nature centered books, coloring materials, and even a real microscope for kids to check out up close and personal some of the things they see everyday.

Most times we've visited there are special scavenger hunts and challenges the children can try. The Cutes had a blast trying to build there own Fairy home. Even Baby Cute was getting into trying to make something out of the tools they provided. 

On the same floor is a theater where you can attend one of the center's Creature Feature sessions, as well as the Explore area where you can interact with several exhibits to learn more about Georgia's watershed, forests, and how things are all connected to one another in nature. The Cutes love this area!

Explore has a few animal inhabitants (fish, turtles, opossums, and snakes), that the kids love. It reminds me of a mini aquarium and zoo wrapped into one.

A lot of the excitement in this area though comes from the interactive exhibits along the way.

Most things are hands on or have something that kids can take with them as the explore the property and trails.

The Nature Center is self guided so you can take as much or as little time as possible in each section. We always make our way around this area and then head outside, and then come back again at the end so the kids can circle back around and explore anything a little deeper than they did the first time around. 

One thing I think is neat, especially if you have older children, is that you can borrow these backpacks filled with activities and tools to get a more hands on experience while you are outside on one of the many trails. Seriously, they have thought of every single way to make learning fun and to get everyone more involved.

Once we were outside, we made way for the main reason we came - the animals! All animals at the center are rehabilitated local animals. Some are rehabilitated and returned to the wild, and some make the Nature Center their new home.

The Cutes love visiting each and every one. L.C. calls the eagles "her eagles" and even has names she  has given each animal on site.

Aside from the eagles there are several different species of owls, a few hawks, and even a vulture.

While still inside the center we got up close and personal with one of the scalier inhabitants at the center, but this mommy is thankful that those stay mostly hidden.

Along each nature trail there are several interactive educational outposts. I love these because they spark conversation and make little ones think a little more about what they are seeing than just trees, flowers, or animals.

The Cutes favorite one on the whole property is the bat one. It's a large tree with different species of bats molded into it. There is an information stand close by for them to learn about each one, but they have a blast just playing around in it.

During our visit two different events were going on. The Roswell Azalea festival was just wrapping up, but we were lucky because some of the azaleas were still in full bloom.

And they were gorgeous! I am so jealous and wanted to cover my back yard in these pretty orange ones!

The second event that was (and still is) going on was the Fairy House trail. At the head of the trail kids (and adults) can find materials to build their own fairy houses. Then along the trail there are little homes that the fairies have hidden and the kids (and adults) have to find. 

I wasn't sure what to expect, but The Cutes had a blast during this activity and thought it was so fun when they spotted one. They came in all shapes, sizes, and decor. 

Some were elaborate and well hidden, and others were a little more natural in their furnishings. Either way my two were smitten with the idea, and couldn't wait to get back to the center to re-build and even better fairy house than they came up with the first go around.

We ate snacks, and soaked up every bit of sunshine we could.

(Looking at one of the bat boxes on the trails.)
Before we knew it, it was late and time to head home - before the real bats came out.

We love that this special place is practically in our backyard so that we can visit again soon, but even if you aren't as close I would definitely say it is worth the trip.

Have you been to the Chattahoochee Nature Center? Or do you have something similar in your hometown? Share with us!

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Explore Atlanta: The Chattahoochee Nature Center located in Roswell, GA