Friday, November 13, 2020

Lordy Lordy Look Who's 40!


I turned 40 last week and I guess I'm now officially over the hill!  For over a year now we had been planning a big trip to California with our friends to celebrate our 40th birthdays. We were going to do Napa for a few days and then golf and spa at Pebble Beach for a few days. Needless to say, thanks to Covid we cancelled those plans.  It was going to be too difficult to get childcare for the kids because at the time we didn't even know if they would be back for face-to-face school and with all of the limitations it just made us lean towards to canceling. 

However, it was certainly the most memorable birthday I have had in a long time. On my actual birthday I got surprised with balloons, champagne, gifts, and more.  

It was a low-key day and I was home, in my pajamas, with wine in hand before 8 PM (which NEVER happens). We got takeout for dinner and just enjoyed a quiet night at home.  

I got the sweetest note from my little guy and my favorite Halloween candy from the kids.  People joke that this is the cast-off Halloween candy, but they are my favorites so it works out for everyone. 

The next day some of my closest girlfriends planned a special lunch for me.  They went above and beyond to help me celebrate.  

Cards, balloons, cake, flowers...

And they made all of my fortune cookie dreams come true. 

 

A few weeks before we were at our house for supper club and I had fortune cookies kind of as a joke. When I opened mine it said: 

A new pair of shoes will do you a world of good!

I was all excited to have that good fortune, because who doesn't love a new pair of shoes, but my friends were secretly kicking each other under the table because they had already planned my birthday gift and little did I know that the snuck that fortune off of my plate and put it in my birthday card. 


They surprised me with a pair of shoes that I had been eyeing for a few years now, but would never buy for myself.  I was SO surprised and texted them all later saying that I know material things shouldn't make me that happy, but those shoes really do make me that happy. 


I feel so blessed and thankful to have such amazing and thoughtful friends who made my birthday extra special and made turning 40 super fun!  I was kind of dreading it, but kept reminding myself that I have never been happier.  My family is healthy, I'm surrounded by the sweetest and most supportive friends, and despite the crazy year this has been, life is SO good. 

  

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Book Club: October

It's Book Club Day!!!  How are we already almost half way through November?  The first two weeks flew by and now we are looking at Christmas right around the corner.  We definitely need to get on it when it comes to Christmas shopping, Christmas decorating, and just prepping for the holidays in general, but we'll worry about that later because day the talk is about books! 


We've got a wide range of books to share with you today! 



WHAT WE READ...

CARRIE BETH

As soon as Jen finished reading One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London she texted me to put it on my list and it was the very next book I listened to.  


I loved it!  This book was so cute about a plus-size young woman who ended up on a reality date show similar to the Bachelorette.  It focused a lot on on body image, showed a bit of what behind the scenes would be like on one of these shows, and had me rooting for the main character the entire time. She was very relatable, funny, and it was great to see her journey through this experience. I would definitely recommend this one! 

Next up for me was another book Jen read. I'm quite the follower this month if you can't tell. I'm not sure what I was expecting with The Inheritance Games by Jenniver Lynn Barnes, but I was pleasantly surprised. 
 

This book follows a girl named Avery who is homeless, living in her car, and going to school just to try to get ahead and all of the sudden she finds herself inheriting the fortune of a BILLIONAIRE she didn't even know.  However, in order to get the money she must move into the estate with the grandsons of the late billionaire. The story follows her interactions with them as they find and solve riddles, games, puzzles and codes throughout the house that their grandfather was known for. They believe these clues will help them find out why the money was left to Avery. It turns into a real life game of trying to solve the mystery and it kept me listening just to find out the back story.  I was SO surprised by the ending and the reasoning for her being the chosen one to inherit the fortune! 

The end of this month I binged The Royals book series by Erin Watt and this is my total guilty pleasure.  This series is classified as Young Adult Romance, but as I told Jen, there is nothing very young adult about this except the fact that the main characters are in high school.  


It's very rated R, very cheesy in parts, and has nothing to do with actual royalty like I assumed from the titles.  But, oh my, I could NOT stop listening and finished each book in about two days.  It was one of those that I listened to every second I possibly could just to find out what happened.  

Paper Princess is about a 17 year old girl, Ella, who grows up without a father and who's mother died of cancer a few years ago. She is living on her own, supporting herself by stripping, and all of the sudden gets swept away from her hard life by her new guardian, a friend of her father's that she never met. She finds herself living in a mansion with her guardian and his 5 teenage sons. They all have more money than they know what to do with and enough issues to match due to the recent overdose of their mother. Ella has a hard time navigating the super posh prep school she has to start attending and her new role as "sister" to these 5 boys. One of the brothers, Reed, she is drawn to and ultimately becomes romantically involved with. There is SO much going on in one book, but it is SO good! 

Broken Prince follows the the same characters, Reed and Ella, and switches back and forth between their points of view as their relationship develops.  More of the same as book one, and more for me to love.  Again, this book is for sure rated R for language and romantic content, but I couldn't put it down. 

Twisted Palace keeps the story going as Ella's gets introduced to her biological father (who everyone thought was dead) and the two of them try to figure out their father/daughter relationship.  Without giving too much away, one of the characters is killed and the prime suspect the police are targeting is Ella's boyfriend, Reed.  I couldn't wait to see how it ended up and the person who ultimately admitted to committing the crime shocked me. I got so sucked into these characters and just wanted to know more about their relationships and how things ended up for them so I finished them all very quickly. 

JEN

Last month I was on a reading roll. This month...not so much. I read two books and neither one of them I was really "wowed" about. They were good, but not "can't put them down" great. After last month's selection, I think my expectations were a little high. 


First on the reading list for the month was Troubles in Paradise. This is the third book in the series and I was excited to see how the story wrapped up for the characters. The plot follows Irene and her sons on St. John after they learn her husband/their dad died in a mysterious helicopter crash. The crash holds a lot of questions for them, including a secret family and millions of dollars. Intriguing right? The first two books I loved, but Troubles in Paradise kind of fell a little flat to me. I can't put my finger on why. I like how it ended, but getting there was kind of tough. I remember thinking throughout the series that the husband and his island girlfriend would just pop up at some point. But, everything wraps up in a nice little bow, and while not every question is answered about the mysterious crash, you do get a lot of closure on the story. 


Second for the month was One By One by Ruth Ware. This story follows the board members of a music app on their annual company retreat. This year they decide to go to a French mountain chalet to enjoy skiing the Alps in between board meetings. An avalanche occurs and one by one the board members seem to be disappearing or dying. I enjoy Ware's books because the story usually keeps the murder parts pretty light (gruesome is not my thing), and keep you guessing until the very end about the whodunit part. One By One held to the same recipe, but I figured out the whodunit part about half way through the book. The cast of characters is huge and there are a ton of secrets and new information given as the story unfolds, but the murderer becomes obvious early on. I enjoyed it, but it didn't keep me on the edge of my seat like the last few of her books did. 

WHAT'S UP NEXT...

CARRIE BETH

I might sound like a broken record, but I'm 3 books in so I figure why not go ahead and finish series by Erin Watt.  Fallen Heir focuses on one of the other brothers, Easton. He deals with addiction issues, can kind of be a jerk, but is also lovable and wants to win the attention of a new girl in school. The new girl, Hartley, has no interests in him at all because she says he needs to grow up.  


Cracked Kingdom, the final book in the Royals series, follows Hartley's story.  After this one I might finally be able to get something else done in my life, but I have to finish it and see how things end! 



JEN

I had Nicholas Sparks' newest book - The Return - ready to go for last month, but I just never picked it up. I'm going to try to dig into that one over Thanksgiving Break. Until then I'm going to try to keep it light I think. I have this Audible ready to go...

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman. It was recommended to me and after reading the synopsis, and seeing the reviews, I went ahead and hit "download".  


What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations for something we absolutely need to put on our reading list? Share with us! 


BOOK CLUB 2020

Follow along with us on Goodreads!


HAPPY READING! 


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Friday, October 30, 2020

A Spooky Charcuterie + Happy Everything

 

Whew - what a week! Hurricane Zeta left us all with a lot of tricks and no treats. But that's okay...from where I stand (and thankfully it's no longer in the dark) we still are having lots of spooky fun. 

Due to the hurricane canceling school, we found ourselves with a lot of extra playtime and Halloween activities we could sneak in. To make everything extra festive I decided to break out my favorite Happy Everything serving pieces and have a fun Spooky Charcuterie set up for everyone to snack on while the kids were busy turning their playhouses into haunted houses. 

| Black Stripe Bowl with Large Haunted House Attachment |

Even with the hurricane damage everywhere, this little spooky set up was super easy to put together. Most of the charcuterie items and drinks I already had on hand. And the Happy Everything serving pieces made my theme come to life with just a quick switch of the attachments

One minute these pieces were set for a football get together we hosted, but within seconds I had my spooky bat, large haunted house, and candy corns put on all my bases for a completely spooktacular setting. 


Charcuterie boards are always so fun to put together and they are usually crowd pleasers no matter what age the crowd. I also like the idea that you can do theme boards or mix and match different snacks to make holiday themed boards. 


For the Spooky Charcuterie I grabbed a variety of cubed cheeses and crackers as the base. Then I filled in with some pumpkin themed treats (Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and Peanut Butter Pumpkin No-Bake Cookies) and some Fall themed candies (candy corns and pumpkin gum drops). It was a good mix of salty-sweet snacks that leaned a little more kid friendly. 



For the rest of the food we had Monster Funfetti cupcakes the kids decorated and a pretzel platter with both soft and hard pretzels to dip into mustard. This time of year it is so easy to find themed snacks. Just like the ghost chips above, I was able to find pretzels that were in bat and pumpkin shapes. 


Between the Happy Everything bases with fun attachments and the easy snack idea, I was able to put together an entire spooky spread with in minutes. I love being able to host, and when it is low stress - even better!

We are hosting another small gathering of neighbors Halloween night so all my Happy Everything plates and platters will stay in their Spooky modes for now, but after this weekend...

 Like everyone else, I'm tempted to get all things - even my serving pieces - ready for the holidays!



To learn more about Happy Everything and their line of fun bases and attachments, you can visit their online store or see where you can shop locally.  


Happy Halloween everyone! 



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Monday, October 26, 2020

Join the Fur-Ever Bad Kitty Read-A-Long {Giveaway!}

 

I am lucky that my kids love reading as much as I do. I remember the days that it was a struggle to get my oldest to read. It was a process and part of the switch was due to finding books that he really enjoyed. Now having several readers in the mix, it's always fun to find books - or series - that the whole group enjoys. 

Topping the list lately is the Bad Kitty series by Nick Bruel. 


L.C. is cat obsessed (that might be the understatement of the year), and was instantly drawn to the idea of reading a series about a silly kitty who wrecks havoc on her owners home. Over the summer she read Bad Kitty Joins the Team, and since it has a soccer ball on it (and soccer is his favorite sport), Cute picked up the book and read it too. 


The stories are laugh out loud funny, and have the best illustrations to accompany the hilarious antics of Bad Kitty. 

The kids love them so much that when I saw there was a fun activity they could participate in leading up to the latest release in the series, I instantly reached out to the Bad Kitty team to ask if we could have a little fun of our own. 


FUR-EVER BAD KITTY READ-A-LONG


In anticipation of Bad Kitty's newest release, Bad Kitty Goes on Vacation (out December 29, 2020), Macmillian Children's Publishing Group is hosting a fun read-a-long. It started a few weeks ago, but there is plenty of time for kids to pop-in when ever they want and join in on the fun. 

Here are some fun check lists they created to follow what they will be chatting about each week. 








BAD KITTY BOOK GIVEAWAY


When I reached out to the Bad Kitty team I also asked for a little something for you guys. I know lots of parents are always trying to find ways to encourage their kids to read, and seeing how much my two (very different) children enjoy this series, I know yours will too! 

One lucky reader will win a set of Bad Kitty books from the series!


 Leave a comment letting us know who you are excited to give the books to and you are all entered! 
Winner will be announced on November 2, 2020.


To learn more about the Bad Kitty series visit HERE




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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Home Sweet New Home: One Year Update


It's been one year. ONE. I can't even believe I'm writing this - but it's been one year today since we purchased our new home

We didn't really have a plan other than we knew we were going to renovate it, and it would be some time in 2020 when we moved. If you had told me on October 22, 2019 what the next year would have been like I would have laughed and laughed and laughed at you. Here's why...

New House Thought #1: The bulk of the renovations will be done by end of January, so we will move February Winter Break. 

Reality: We moved in June. Into an unfinished house. 


New House Thought #2: Our current home will sell quick. What will we do about the kids schools? 

Reality: A major pandemic hits the world and we need not worry about things like schools. 

Or homes selling too quick.


New House Thought #3: It will be so nice having a GC (that is not us) taking care of all the details. 

Reality: "Hi. We're GC Mr. Magnolia, his assistant Jen, and our three tiny foreman. Welcome to our remodel!"


New House Thought #4: We can't wait to go pick out all the new shiny home things!

Reality: Is it available on Amazon? (See pandemic comment above.)


New House Thought #5: "Hey kids grab your masks! Mom's painting something."

Reality: "Hey kids grab your masks! Mom's talking to the contractors, picking out flooring, grabbing new towels at Target, standing in the driveway with the landscapers..." 


In short, the things we were most stressed or worried about never came to fruition. Things we weren't even thinking about became the largest hurdles. However - and I'm in the minority of this thinking - I actually think the slower pace and limitations we faced actually made it a more enjoyable process. 

2020 cut out a lot of extra in our lives for a few months. So that freed up a lot of time that Mr. Magnolia and I normally wouldn't have to concentrate on the remodel. Granted lead times, shipping times, and quarantines dragged out the process in some portions of the build (especially towards the end), but having the time to focus on it all made it less stressful. 

It also gave us more time to stare at the house and add an extra project. Or ten. 

All that extra free time allowed us to tackle projects we didn't think we would have time for until next year or the following. 

So pandemic remodeling...honestly not that bad.

From start to finish, construction/remodeling took us about nine months. We still have a few small things to tweak and a few outdoor projects that seem to be dragging, but otherwise we're done! 


Out of all of us, I was the most hesitant about moving and doing a major remodel. In the end, I think it was one of the best decisions we could have ever made. It was fun to do as a couple and as a family. It has been a dream to let our kids have so much space to run around and play. And it has been a much easier transition in terms of schools/activities/lifestyle than I could have ever planned. 

I'll try to share some fun before and afters soon of all the different rooms. It's amazing how much some of the spaces have changed! 




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Monday, October 19, 2020

Fun 2020 Advent Calendar Options for Kids

 Okay, so we know this post is a little early. We know it isn't even Halloween yet, and it's crazy we're sitting here thinking of Christmas. But... as we were going down a rabbit hole online to avoid the baseball loss that happened last night (we don't want to talk about it), we stumbled upon the fact that our favorite Advent Calendars we get each year were on major sale. 

Needless to say we clicked "add to cart". 

But also saw some other fun options as well. And most on sale! 

We're tempted to change things up this year and get one for each child. Do you do that? Or do you just do one option for all the kids together? 

Here are some of the ones we found...

Advent Calendar Ideas for Kids


1: Disney Storybook Collection Advent Calendar - This book themed calendar contains 24 fun stories from the kids favorite Disney and Pixar characters. Each book is individually wrapped and contains a 24 page holiday themed story. 

2: Lego Advent Calendars - This is the calendar our kids have loved the most over the years. Each day they open a mini-figurine or small build to do. We've done the City version over the last few years, but there are also Lego Friends, Harry Potter, and Star Wars holiday themed Lego Advent Calendars as well. It's the perfect countdown for any Lego lovers! 

3: Thomas & Friends Calendar - We remember when our kids were obsessed with trains and Thomas. We would have loved this back then. This fun calendar has 24 mini train figurines, including 6 exclusive holiday themed designs. 

4: Nickelodean Storybook Advent Calendar - Similar to the Disney version, but with the kids favorite Nick shows. Twenty-four individually wrapped books featuring Paw Patrol, Dora, Butter Bean's Cafe and more!  

5: Crayola Christmas Countdown Calendar - If you have a craft loving little one - this is the perfect calendar! Each day opens a new window to a craft, art supply, modeling dough, or coloring page. 

6: Purple Cow Countdown to Christmas with Science - Of all the calendars we thought this was unique and so fun! Each day contains a new science experiment for kids to do. The box contains 24 individual experiments and detailed instructions. Recommended for ages 8+. 

7: Charm Bracelet Advent Calendar - This is a calendar we might actually steal from the kids for ourselves. Comes with a bracelet and each day opens to a new charm for kids to create their own Pandora style holiday themed charm bracelet. This would be a great option for tween/teen girls! 

8: Hot Wheels Advent Calendar - Oh how many Hot Wheels did we own back in the day?! Our boys would have loved this calendar! Contains 24 cars and accessories. We love the holiday themed car-sleigh!

9: Wire Puzzle Advent Calendar - Have older kids? This one is for you! Our older elementary schooler has just gotten into these wire puzzles, and we can't lie - we find them fun/difficult too! With 24 different puzzles (ranged from easy to super tricky) we think this is a calendar the whole family could get into. 

10: Barbie Dreamtopia Calendar - Barbie obsessed little ones will squeal in delight. Contains a Dreamtopia themed Barbie and each day opens to a new accessory or part of an outfit to dress Barbie for the big day. 



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