Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Book Club: March

We know we are getting a little ahead of ourselves and that March 1st isn't until tomorrow, but since we had a gloomy, rainy day yesterday, we wanted to look forward to spring and that means we're sharing our March book club a day early this time around!
  


WHAT WE READ...

JEN

First up for the month was a book I actually started in January - The Assistants by Camille Perri -  but couldn't finish because I was too busy binge watching a few new shows. I was also having a hard time originally getting into it.


Once I took a break from it and came back to it, I actually really thought it was a fun book. The Assistants follows Tina who accidentally receives a check for a work expense. Instead of tearing it up and reporting the clerical error she wonder what she could do with the money instead? Would anyone miss it? She dreams of how it could help her and ultimately how it would be life changing. It is interesting to see what choices Tina makes, what happens to the money, and ultimately learn who comes out ahead.

The characters are fun, and I'm not sure you love with Tina until closer to the end of the novel, but it's a good quick read.

It took me awhile to grab a new book. After being "sucked into" It Ends With Us last month, I realized I missed that feeling. Everything I picked up seemed boring, and I just couldn't get into it. We put a few feelers out on social media and someone on our Twitter suggested  One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins.


After reading the plot and the reviews I was intrigued. After about a 1/3 of the way in I texted Carrie Beth and told her to download it for her trip. I was instantly drawn into the story!

The novel follows Emma after she lost the love of her life in a tragic helicopter accident. You learn how she falls in love, looses this person, recovers, and falls in love again. However, what Emma isn't expecting in her life is for the person that has been lost for years to suddenly reappear.

I agreed with the reviews that said this novel reminded me of the movie Cast Away, but from the wife's perspective instead of the Tom Hank's character trapped on the island. The novel had a few slow parts, but ultimately I couldn't put it down and wanted to see what love Emma would choose in the end. If you enjoy love stories with a twist I would recommend placing One True Loves in your "to read" pile, and I will definitely be grabbing a few more of Reid's novels to read in the future.

The last book up for my month is just as yummy as it's cover...


Seriously, I totally picked this book up because it cover looked so good. Then I read what Sugar by Kimberly Stuart was about and was simultaneously intrigued as well as hungry. I packed this book for my Winter Break trip, and it was just what I was looking for in a car ride read.

Sugar follows pastry chef Charlie Garrett on her rise to the top of the restaurant industry. Mix in a little reality TV, a little romance, and a lot of yummy food references, and it was the perfect light read for a road trip. I loved Stuart's witty style of writing and will definitely be looking for more novels from her in the future.


CARRIE BETH

I had been holding onto this book for a while and was waiting to take some trips to read it.  I mentioned last month that I started reading on the Nook app again and it really has helped me read more frequently.  However, because I knew I'd be taking a few trips this past month I wanted a hard copy book I could take on the plane with me and not have to worry about the charge running out on my iPad or phone.  


It took me a little while to get into Truly Madly Guilty at first, but that is a pretty common things for me.  It was annoying me a little that all the characters kept referring to this big event that happened, yet Moriarty took her time finally revealing what that was. However, once I figured out what it was, I was hooked. Chapters jump between 6 characters, 3 couples, and also jump back and forth between present day and the events that took place on a normal day at a normal backyard barbecue.  It was good, but not great, in my opinion, but I'm not giving up on Moriarty just yet!  
MARCH'S PICK'S

JEN
I plan to start March off reading a new novel by one of my favorite fun authors, Sophie Kinsella. I love the comical style of Kinsella, and am excited to dig into her latest My (Not So) Perfect Life.



CARRIE BETH

Because so many reviews I read said that Moriarty's Big Little Lies was WAY better than Truly Madly Guilty I decided to add this one to my must-read list.  


And when I asked my very avid reader mom what she would suggest she told me I'd like Danielle Steel's newest book, The Mistress.  I told her I wanted something that was a page turner, that hooked me from the beginning and something I couldn't put down. Danielle Steel books remind me so much of my grandmother. My mom would always buy the newest ones for her as soon as they were published and I have many memories of her reading them on her porch and then passing them on to my mom when she finished.  You always kind of know what you are going to get with her books and I'm a sucker for a good love story, so I'm excited to read this one.  I'm hoping to get through both of these books next month, so we will see!


BOOK CLUB 2017
January | February |

Happy Reading!
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Friday, February 24, 2017

Better Beauty with Beautycounter

Happy Friday, friends!  If you follow along on Instagram you will know that my family has been on a winter break ski trip in Colorado.  We got home at 3:30 AM this morning and are all dragging a bit. I plan to share lots and lots about our trip next week, but today I wanted to share about some amazing beauty products that we recently tried from Beautycounter.  I'm sure most of you have heard of Beautycounter, but if you are like me, you might not really have known what they were all about.  My childhood best friend and the maid of honor in my wedding, Kristen, started working with Beautycounter a few years ago and since then I have learned a lot of information.  

Their company was started by woman who learned the truth about many of the toxic chemicals in beauty products...from shampoos to soaps to make up and even baby products.  There is little regulation in the United States when it comes to these products and she wanted to help develop products that were still just as effective, but that were safer for your health.  I absolute loved that and learned so much from this video HERE.  

I've tried a variety of products from Beautycounter and wanted to share some of my favorites with y'all!  Plus, make sure you read to the bottom of this post for a special discount offer from Kristen

I love make-up, especially lipstick and lip gloss, but I'm really picky about my lipgloss.  I don't want it to be too thick and sticky, but also, not to watery and runny.  Also, I can't stand when it gets all goopy around the edge when you twist the top back on. All of that to say that I just LOVE the Beautycounter lip gloss.  It is the perfect consistency and it has Vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant with hydrating ski and conditioning elements.  This one is Blossom, which is a perfect pearly pink!  Also, the applicator tip is at an angle, which makes putting it on that much easier. It's the little things people!  


While we are on the topic of lips, I have a confession to make. I am obsessed with chapstick. I can't stand to have my lips dry and I am constantly adding some sort of moisturizer to my lips.  About a year ago I started having all sorts of problems with my lips. At first I thought my lips had gotten sunburned at the lake so I kept applying more chapstick. The problem didn't get better and it became so painful that after a few months I finally went to the dermatologist and they confirmed what I had already been suspecting...I was having an allergic reaction to something in one of the many chapsticks/lipsticks I was using. Because I had them stashed everywhere...in my car, in my desk, in my purse, on my nightstand, everywhere...I had no idea which one was causing the problem. My dermatologist suggested that I stop using all products on my lips except one so that I could figure out what was causing the problem.

All of that to say, now I am VERY careful about what type of products I use on my lips and this lip conditioner has been wonderful. It soothes and softens my lips with peppermint and rosemary oils and I don't have to worry about having any awful allergic reactions.  I've really been putting this to use this winter when my lips are even more dry than normal.


Another thing that I have loved using this winter is this nourishing cream exfoliator.  I feel like my skin is always a little dry and blah this time of year and this exfoliator helps take away impurities with non-abrasive jojoba beads.  Doesn't that just sound luxurious?!  It's like a spa treatment in the comfort of my own shower.


I mentioned that we were skiing earlier this week and we had the best time!  We were lucky because it was actually really warm for skiing (like upper 40's warm) and very sunny most of the time we were there.


Those are always the times that the sun sneaks up on us and causes sunburn though. I made sure to bring the Beautycounter stick sunscreen with me on our trip so I could easily apply and reapply on the kids and myself.  I use this stick face sunscreen all year long.  It goes to the beach, pool and lake with us all summer and it was spotted on the ski slopes with me this winter.  I'm sure you have all read the articles about all of the unsafe sunscreens out there, but I have found the safe ones usually are very thick, white, and hard to rub in.  It drives my kids crazy, but actually this stick they love because it goes on CLEAR!!!  Yes, it is the best stick sunscreen I have found and it smells great, too! An added bonus is that it was small enough to keep in my ski jacket pocket all week long.


My vacation just ended as Jen's was beginning.  She was so happy to have this jet set travel pack to take with her so she knew she would have safe products to use for her family, even while away from home!


And one last product I am super excited about is this Lustro Shimmer Oil.  Here's the thing. We just got done with a cold winter vacation and next week we're going to be on a little warm weather weekend getaway.  I already dreaming of warm, sunny weather and I'm planning outfits with shorts, tank tops and sandals. BUT, my skin is pretty pale and plain after winter so I'm excited about getting a little hint of shimmer with this dry oil.  It creates sun-kissed radiance and a bronzing effect that can be used on the face and body.  My white legs and arms are going to NEED this. 


Side note...these sandals are a Jack Rogers look-alike from TARGET! I could never wear Jack Rogers because the soles are so hard, but these Sam and Libby ones are SO comfortable and I love that the gold color will match practically everything.  They always sell out so fast so I would order quickly if you want to find them in your size! 

If anyone is interested in ordering any of these or other Beautycounter products from my friend, Kristen, she is offering 15% cash back on all orders (pre tax and shipping) for our readers through the end of February.  No promo-code needed, but for all orders she will either PayPal or Venmo your cash back!  Can't beat that deal!

For anyone interested I would highly suggest you like Kristen's Beautycounter Facebook page.  She is always sharing lots of tid-bits and special offers.

Learn more about Beautycounter: 

Have you tried any Beautycounter products?  Which are your favorites?  I'm always on the hunt for more products to try!  
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Thursday, February 23, 2017

"Donut You Know It's Our Birthday!" Party

Earlier this month we celebrated not one, but TWO birthdays in our house. Cute turned six at the end of last month, and Baby Cute turned one! How are they getting so big?!? I feel like B.C. was born yesterday!

Since their birthdays are only a week apart I decided to host a small combined birthday party for our close family. Cute really wanted to have a Star Wars themed party for the two of them, but I just couldn't wrap my mind around that for a one year old. So I came up with the next best thing - donuts!

We planned a "Donut You Know It's Our Birthday" themed party, and let me tell you - easiest party to host ever! Considering this was also my theme for most of my pregnancy with B.C. it was totally fitting.


The party decor and food was super easy. So much so that I might recycle this idea for future parties or for hosting slumber parties.


For food I simply placed an order with Dunkin' Donuts for a variety of donuts and donut holes. Just before the party I sent Mr. Cute on sole task for the party - picking up the donuts. And with that food was done.

Done. No cooking, baking, or any kitchen clean up what so ever. Done. And it was ah-mazing.


I did put my culinary skills to use by masterfully creating donut kabobs out of donut holes with lollipop sticks. It was a super brutal recipe, but I somehow managed to pull it off flawlessly. ;) All kidding aside, the kids absolutely loved these!


For drinks I kept everything super simple. Everybody loves Dunkin' coffee so I just ordered a large box of that and set up a coffee bar for all of the adults. 


I kept everything well organized with some crystal serving pieces I had on hand and our favorite multipurpose southern glassware


For children and non-coffee drinkers I set up sweet tea and water in my double beverage dispenser. I also found the most adorable donut themed party decor. From confetti cups to sprinkled napkins and plates to cute party hats, I was able to inexpensively and easily round out my theme.


They had some adorable matching donut confetti, but I opted to use coordinating colored M&Ms instead because I liked for the kids everything was edible and why not add a little more sugar to the blood system? :)


I failed to take pictures of all the little details, but one of my favorite things was the Donut Shoppe Photo Cardboard that I set up as my centerpiece. I put my Polaroid camera out and let everyone pose for pictures that wanted to leave one with a message for the birthday boy and girl. It was super fun, and the kids have enjoyed playing pretend with it post party. It is super sturdy, and will be great to use for future parties as well.

Carrie Beth and her crew swung by post party after some errands, and I was able to take this quick snap of our middle girls. I was also able to hand off a large amount of leftover donuts and drastically limit the intake of sugar LC was inhaling at a rapid pace. Those donut kabobs were her jam.


Another one of my favorite party details was the attire. In year's past I had always ordered special coordinating party outfits or shirts, but this year I decided to go low key. I found adorable themed pajamas for all of the kids and let them be cozy and cute for all the party fun. B.C. looked absolutely adorable in her donut pjs! They also made for a super easy clean up post smash cake (a sprinkled donut themed one that I failed to get a close up of - yikes!). L. C. rocked her "I Love Donut" pjs, and told us she was never taking them off, but Cute's didn't show up in time even though I ordered way in advance. Luckily it bothered him none as long as presents were involved.


The party was so much fun, and so so easy to put together. I loved that I was able to stress less, enjoy the day more, and really soak in that my babies are one year older.

And when this made me a little teary I was able to eat my emotions with all of the left overs. Best. Party. Theme. Ever.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Easiest Way to Teach Your Kids to Tie Their Shoes

Today's post is all about teaching your kids to tie their shoes!  One of my biggest pet peeves is when kids walk around with their shoes untied.  It drives me crazy.  I'm constantly tying kids shoes when I'm volunteering at the school and it baffles me how they can run around all day with them untied and it not even bother them.  


I have now successfully taught 3 kids to tie and each time has been a little more difficult than before.  Little Mama was a breeze.  She learned in like a day.  Blondie learned how, but couldn't get them tight enough for her liking so still asked me to tie her shoes for her for a long time.  Boo-Boo.  Well he was another story.  


I tried using this Melissa and Doug Learn to Lace and Tie shoe that I used for both of the girls before they owned tie shoes a while ago, but the laces just ended up in a jumbled mess.  

Fast forward a few months and all of the sudden we were owners of new tie shoes and I just had to tie them for him everyday.  Then recently his teacher started talking about the shoe tying club in her class.  If they could show her they knew how to tie their shoes they got to be in the club.  New members would receive a Shoe Tying Club Membership Card and they got ice cream at snack time.  That was all the motivation my little guy needed.  We practiced the traditional way, but it was just not happening so then I saw THIS video my mom had shared with me and I taught Boo-Boo within just a few days.  He could do it and got into the club.  Woo Hoo!  He was so proud.  




Then I learned of a new way to teach him and it was even easier than the first trick.  I couldn't believe my eyes when I first saw it and I really didn't think it would work, but it did!  
#mindblown 

I am not kidding when I say this is the very easiest way to teach your kids how to tie their shoes. I shared this video on my personal Facebook page and had SO many friends comment that they showed this way to their kids and they learned to tie in a day.  People who previously had not been able to help their kids master this skill.  I knew I wanted to share it with all of y'all, too!  

Click HERE to see the video with my Boo-Boo explaining and sharing the method. It is easy for them, their laces are tight, double-knotted and totally tied by themselves! 

Now I thought I'd also show this fun braided laces video also.  Blondie learned this method on the bus last year and apparently it is pretty popular among the 1st and 2nd grade girls.  


To see how to do your laces like this, watch the video HERE.  I love her little quote that my friend pointed out to me.  "Sometimes it will turn out wrong, but mostly it will turn out right."  As my friend noted...those are some wise words that can be applied to much more than just tying shoes.  

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Cocktail Confessions: Baking With Booze

February has proven to be such a fun month so far. Typically it's a quieter month for us, but this year we've been taking our New Year's goal to heart and have seriously been consolidating down on our schedules. This has freed us up to do a lot more fun things, including entertain more!

As you know, we love us a good cocktail when we entertain. But here's my little confession for today - sometimes I like to mix a little booze with my baking.

Sneaky...yes.

Delicious? Absolutely!

{Photo Credit: Delights by Dawn}

When I came across this super yummy Dutch Caramel Vodka Bites recipe from Atlanta native and baker extraordinaire, Dawn from Delights by Dawn, I just had to give it a whirl on my own. Dawn makes the absolute best treats, and her speciality is infusing alcohol into decadent desserts. If you are local you might have been lucky enough to taste one of her treats when you've attended an event at the Georgia Dome or Phillips Arena. (If you aren't local - no worries - you are able to order all of Dawn's delights online too!)


My mouth was watering for caramel bites the moment I read about them, and I was equally excited to that the recipe called for one of my favorite infused flavors of vodka - caramel! Van Gogh Vodka has an awesome variety of flavored vodkas and the Dutch Caramel is one of my favorites (It's like dessert in a glass!).


It such a delicious flavor in cocktails that I couldn't wait to see how it would be used to create a fabulous tasting dessert.


After putting together the quick and easy recipe that Dawn provided we were smitten upon the first taste. These Dutch Caramel bites are are dangerous in such a good way! The combined flavors create such a decadent taste and we had to stop ourselves at just one or two because - eat responsibly. ;) But we could have easily gone through the whole batch!

Try them for yourselves!


DUTCH CARAMEL VODKA BITES

Ingredients

  • 1 12oz pkg of vanilla wafers
  • 3/4 cups of confectioners sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup of Van Gogh Dutch Caramel Vodka
  • 7oz of melting chocolate (dark or milk)
  • wax or parchment paper
  • Optional: Sprinkles or other desired topping

Directions

  1. Put vanilla wafers in a food processor and process until fine. (If you don't have a food processor available, stick vanilla wafer in a large ziplock bag and roll with a rolling pin until fine in texture.)
  2. Place crushed wafers in a bowl and mix with sugar, corn syrup, and vodka. Mix until well combined. 
  3. Using a small cookie scoop, or heaping tablespoon, scoop a ball of your wafer dough into a ball and place on wax paper. 
  4. Melt the chocolate according to the package. (We always choose to melt in the microwave at 50% in 30 second increments. We stir in between each heating and repeat until smooth.)
  5. With a fork dip the bites into the chocolate until covered and then place back on the wax paper. 
  6. Place sprinkles or garnish on top before chocolate cools. 
  7. Let cool or place in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. 
  8. Enjoy!

Note: Dawn suggests for the best possible taste to let these sit for a day or two before serving. This allows the flavors to truly combine for an even more delightful treat. 


Do you bake with booze? Share with us some of your favorite boozy desserts!

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**Some of these products were provided by Van Gogh Vodkas in exchange for a review. All thoughts and opinions are our own. **






Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Favorites: Feeling the Love

Today I am doing back flips, jumping up and down, and cheering from the rooftops that it is finally FRIDAY! Nothing is better than a Friday, especially a Friday before a week long break - wahoo!

We had a ton going on this week, and I feel like I blinked and we were already at the end of the week. Here's hoping we put the warp speed on pause for next week, and savor every single day the alarm is turned off. 
Linking up this Friday as always to share some of our favorites with our favorite blogging ladies. What were some of your favorites this week? 




Top of my list this week is that it was a week filled with LOVE. We celebrated Valentine's Day full out. When I wasn't eating my way through all of our Cupid Crunch, I was hopping from class to class for parties, and then soaking up all the gifts my little valentines made me. 


The homemade cards and handprinted crafts are always my favorite! I know I am going to miss the day when I don't tiny little feet and hands on my gifts any more. 


The weather this winter has been so wishy-washy, and this week had a little bit of everything. Hot. Cold. Rainy. Hot. Freezing. 

Sunday we enjoyed dinner in our shorts on the porch. 


Monday we were in hats and gloves. Tuesday was back to warm, and I wore this cute little spring outfit, but definitely could have done with out the sweater. 

| Sweater | Tee | Jeans | Bag | Watch |
Our Mox shoes are still some of my favorites to wear, especially in the in-between temperatures. They are just so comfy! 


By the end of the week I gave up, just wore my normal yoga pants and carried a fleece around with me. Yoga pants are the universal season pleaser. And they go perfectly with my new obsession...


My new Apple Watch!


I bought one for Mr. Cute for Valentine's Day and decided to get a matching one for myself. 


I am still getting used to it and learning all the features it has (which is a little overwhelming!), but I've loved it so far. 

Do you have one? What are some of your favorite features/apps? 
Share with me all your Apple Watch Wisdom!!


The Apple Watch isn't the only watch I've been obsessed with lately. I love love love this leopard watch Mr. Cute purchased for me for Christmas. 


It's so fun and matches my leopard print shoes perfectly. 

| Top | Jeans | Shoes (older) | Clutch | Bracelets

We love a good leopard print item, and I love how this watch just adds a fun little detail to any outfit. I also like that it is a little smaller so that I can stack it. I have a large watch obsession, but I find it's hard to pair cute bracelets with those without seeming uncomfortable. 



I am still obsessed with watching Victoria. This week on my run I caught up to the wedding episode. 

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I am such a nerd, but I can't stop watching. 

It makes me want to take a trip to a castle...and wear an obscene amount of diamonds. 

We stumbled upon the most darling thing for the kids, and I think it might be the kids new favorite activity. We were introduced to a local pen pal program called Ben the Rooster


I remember participating in a pen pal program in elementary school, and how much fun it was to get mail of my very own. When I learned of Ben the Rooster Pen Pal Program, I was so excited to sign the kids up.  


The kids were so excited when they received the mail from Ben and followed his instructions to write back. 


Everyday they have rushed to the mailbox to check to see if his response has come yet, and most days they check multiple times. I love seeing how enthusiastic they are about the program!

Stay tuned...but seriously such a cute and super fun activity to do with kids!


In an effort to drink more water (and less Dr. Pepper) I decided to give one of Carrie Beth's favorites a try. 


And I'm so glad I did! She drinks this water all the time, and even includes it in some of her cocktails so I figured why not give it a taste test? Um, yum! I've been missing out!

Strawberry Watermelon and Coconut Pineapple have been my favorite flavors so far. Carrie Beth told me the Grapefruit is her favorite so I'm going to try to pick up that one to taste test soon. Do you drink these waters too? Share with me which flavor I should try! It's going to be hard to knock out Strawberry Watermelon as a favorite, but I'm willing to try!


And that wraps up my random list of favorites this week. Now it's time to officially begin the countdown to the weekend and a week long break. Cue more backflips!

Share with us your favorites for the week!

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