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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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Affordable Fall Fashion {From Walmart!}

The past few weeks we have experienced much cooler temperatures and it makes me SO excited for Fall.  Don't get me wrong...I love summer. We so enjoy the lazy days of hanging at the lake, swimming with friends, and soaking up the hot sunshine. However, that first day when the weather starts to turn cool and crips, the leaves start to change, and you can walk outside without breaking into a sweat I remember just how much I love this time of year. 

I also love dressing for the fall. Lots of layers fun patterns and cozy styles. I recently ordered a few things from Walmart and was SO impressed with the quality, comfort and style. Even my label obsessed 13 year old saw the items and was said, "Walmart has stepped up their game!" 

Camo Sweatshirt (from Walmart)//Leggings//Sneakers//Earrings

Snakeskin Sneakers (from Walmart)//Bag (from Walmart)//Denim//Tee//Necklace 

The best part of all of these items is you don't have to stress about a big price tag. It's no secret that I am a Walmart lover, especially for adding a few fun pieces to your closet without the guilt of spending too much! If you check the reviews on many of these items you will see that I'm not alone.  Tons of great reviews and lots of praise.

Everything is linked below. Left --> Right, Top --> Bottom 

1. Zipper Bootie ($14.00) - These come in several colors and area also available in a wide width. 

2. Snake Skin Slip On ($14.00) - These are a great type of shoe for transitioning to fall.  You can wear the with denim, leggings or dresses when you feel like it's too late in the summer to wear sandals, but not quite time for booties. Plus the snakeskin print is still so trendy for this fall. 

3. Star Sneakers ($19.00) - I have the other version of these and they are really comfortable and give you the Golden Goose look, for much less. 

4. Sneaker Wedge ($8.00) - I believe these are left over from last year because I have something really similar that I wore a ton last winter with denim.  It gives a little more of a dressed up look, but still keeps your feet comfortable. 

5. Sleeveless Knit Dress ($9.00) - This is the perfect type of transition item. Throw a denim jacket on top and you are ready for cool mornings and warm afternoons. This one has a TON of amazing reviews and comes in several different colors. 

6. Camo Sweatshirt ($11.00) - I actually own this one, too!  It's a lightweight sweatshirt, which I like for this time of year and comes in several colors/prints.  I sized up for an oversized fit which is perfect for leggings. 

7. Denim Jacket ($19.00) - My light washed denim jacket is probably one of the most worn items in my closet. I wear it year round and it is the perfect layering piece. 

8. Sleeveless Knit Dress ($9.00) - See number 5! This is the same dress in a basic black. Dress it up with fun jewelry or dress it down with cute sneakers. 

9. Fleece Pullover ($15.00) - Last winter everyone went crazy for the Walmart fleece and this year's version is even cuter!  For this price you should stock up for everyone you know!  Monogram them, wear them with jeans or leggings, and stay warm and cozy all season long. 

10. Stretch Knit Jegging ($12.00) - Another highly reviewed item and a great basic that you'll get so much wear out of. These come in several prints and solids. 

11. Sofia Vergara Denim ($24.00) - Only available at Walmart, these jeans have been called "Magic Jeans" fitting all body types and with just the perfect amount of distressing help keep you looking trendy. 

12. Fleece Pullover ($15.00) - See number 9! We love a basic black, but the leopard gives us all the heart-eyes! 

13. Snakeskin Star Sneakers ($24.00) - I own these and LOVE them so much. I've worn them a ton, they are so comfortable, have a memory foam foot bed and I know I'm going to wear them all season long.  

14. Checkered Tote ($47.00) - A total knock-off, but I'm here for it! This is another item I personally own and while obviously not the real-deal, it looks pretty good and for the price can't be beat. It's also a great size! 

15. Checkered Tote ($47.00) - See number 14!  Same bag, different color. 

16. Lightweight Anorak Jacket ($21.00) - I've seen this one in person and it looks really nice.  It's lined with a coordinating print and just super stylish with the way you can cinch in the waist.  

      

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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Kitchen Confessions: Cream Cheese Bacon Cheddar Dip

 A few weeks ago I shared about few easy dips that were my new go-to recipes when I needed an appetizer. The Black Bean, Corn & Feta dip is delish and literally takes minutes to make.  Bonus, it's relatively healthy, too.  Today's dip is still easy to make, bakes in just 20 minutes, and not healthy, but in the yummiest way! 

It's the perfect dip for watching football, it's always a crowd pleaser, and you can make it ahead of time and just warm it up when you are ready to serve it. I made this on Saturday when it was raining and we were happy to be stuck at home watching football.  It was the perfect comfort food for that kind of day. 


Cream Cheese Bacon Cheddar Dip

Ingredients: 

  • 1 package cream cheese, softened 
  • 1 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar 
  • 3-4 green onions, diced 
  • 8 slices bacon, crumbled 
  • hot honey (optional) 
Directions: 
  • Mix all ingredients and spread into pie plate. 
  • Top with crumbled bacon and sprinkle a little extra cheese on top. 
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. 
  • Drizzle with hot honey (optional). 
  • Serve with an assortment of crackers. 
Speaking of the hot honey...I am obsessed with this stuff.  The Mr. and I went to a restaurant that served a wood-fire pizza drizzled with hot honey and it was delicious!  I searched for something similar and found this Kroger brand hot honey at my local grocery store.  We now put it on everything. We do make-your-own-pizza night and I drizzle it on my pizza, I put it on this dip, on roasted brussels sprouts...all sorts of things! I honestly don't even like honey, but I love this because it gives it just a little sweetness with a kick. If you have a Kroger near you be sure to grab this! 


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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Amazon Prime Days 2020

 Okay people - the holiday shopping season has officially begun! Sure we might not even be to Halloween yet, but this is 2020 and all the rules have been thrown out the window. Today kicked off the greatest of all shopping events - AMAZON PRIME DAYS

Really this event has happened the last few years, but this year it kicks off the holiday retail season. We can't even begin to think about where to start this year, and have browsed briefly through some of the deals. And a lot of them are really great deals. 

We noticed that a few a lot of our all time favorite products are on major discount right now. We own them already and have gifted a lot of them too! Otherwise, we'd be priming with the best of them today and tomorrow. 



We keep all of our Amazon favorites in one spot. We keep these lists on hand if we ever need to re-order something or to keep track of something we want to purchase later. But they might be helpful to you too - especially since a lot of them are on sale right now. 



Also, we have a few Amazon posts we've done that might be helpful. Things we've purchased lately, gifts our kids have loved, or decor we've found that coordinates well - all with the click of a button, and brought to our doorsteps in two days or less. You can check some of them out here: 

Amazon Fall Decor

Amazon Lately July/August

Amazon Wall Organization Systems

Amazon Lately June

Amazon Lately May

Activities for Kids 

Amazon Kindle for Kids Review



A bonus of Amazon Prime Days occurring...other retails have followed suit. Here are some other major retailers hosting their own deals or matching Amazon's:

DSW - 30% off with code FALLIDAY

Target - Online Only

Macy's - Free Shipping + 30% off with code THANKYOU

Nordstrom - Up to 60% off, plus an extra 25% off select items.

GAP - 40% off with code OCTOBER

Old Navy - 50% off everything.

IT Cosmetics - 25% off site wide. 

Rack Room Shoes - 15% off with code GREATDEAL. (This one works through 10/31.)


Happy Shopping Friends! 


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Monday, October 12, 2020

Book Club: September

 Today is Book Club Day! Some of you are super excited, and some are all "Meh. Just give me the home decor or the yoga pants I never knew I needed in my life."

To those of you we wish we had a few new Netflix shows to offer up to you. But sadly, watching Selling Sunset or Schitt's Creek in car pool line is generally frowned upon - so book reviews it is. 

And we aren't mad about that one bit. 

Especially because in September we read some good ones. Like go ahead and get your Kindle fully charged good. 





WHAT WE READ...

CARRIE BETH

I'm the reason this blog post is happening in the middle of October instead of at the beginning like it normally would. I was really trying to finish my second book so I would have something that I loved to share because my first book this month was just so-so. 

The first book I listen to this month was Kevin Kwan's Sex and Vanity

I had really high hopes for this book because I loved the Crazy Rich Asians series, but for some reason I just couldn't get into this one.  I don't know if it was because I was listening instead of reading it, but the  first half felt very long, drawn out, and never ending.  I did enjoy the crazy lavish settings and the outlandish characters made me laugh. The second part of the story had me rooting for certain characters and kept me very interested to see how things would turn out, but unfortunately I could have passed on this book all together.  

My next book this past month was a recommendation from my mother-in-law and it kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.  


The Last Flight by Julie Clark is a suspense thriller about two different women who want to escape their present lives and for very different reasons. They end up switching boarding passes at an airport and what happens next changes everything. 

This book had a lot of unexpected twists and chance meetings that kept me guessing how things would turn out.  I really enjoyed it! 


JEN

This month's book club is brought to you by Fall Break at the beach and 9,938 hours playing mom taxi. Seriously though. I calculated it and I spend at least 2 hours and 45 minutes of each day in the car between car pool, school drops offs, and sports drop offs. That logs me a lot of Audible hours each day if I don't listen to music. I still thank Carrie Beth every day for introducing me to the app, otherwise I'd be listening to the Frozen 2 soundtrack and Taylor Swift on one continuous loop the entire school year. 

My grand total for the month - six books! Five of them I loved. One I am on the fence about. 


First up for the month was 28 Summers by the queen of beach reads - Elin Hilderbrand. I finished this book and immediately sent it to a few girlfriends telling them to read it on their Fall Break trips. It was a bit controversial in material, but I think it is now one of my favorite Elin Hilderbrand books to date. It follows the two main characters over the course of 28 Labor Day weekends. The two make a pact that no matter what happens in life or whom they are with, they must spend Labor Day weekend together. No questions asked. For the rest of the year? No communication. No social media. No text. Nothing. It is interesting how this plays out over the years. The end was perfection and if it doesn't make you at least a little teary eyed, you aren't human.  


Next up is a book I had been waiting for for awhile. I loved reading The Royal We a few years ago, so when Carrie Beth told me there was going to be a sequel I was so excited. The Heir Affair is the only book out of the month I'm kind of wishy washy on. Part of that is on me. I hadn't read The Royal We in years, so some of the details were a little hard to follow at first because I couldn't remember how the last book ended. Also, for me, the first part of this book was slooooow. Like I couldn't figure out why I loved The Royal We so much and this one was falling flat. But I hung in there and the second half and the end more than made up for it. If you read the first one in the series, give it a whirl. If anything just to get some closure on the characters and a "where they are now". Otherwise, just fall in love with The Royal We


In keeping with the royal YA trend that I was on, I also read the sequel to one of my other favorite royal series in recent years. Last year I read American Royals and loved it. Now Majesty was a sequel to me that lived up to the hype. The is set in modern America, but America as a monarchy and the Washington Family became the first royal family of America after the war. What I loved most about this sequel is it started right where it left off, and then took whatever you remembered from the first story and completely obliterated every relationship and what you loved most about it. But in the best way possible. It ends up making you like it even more. All the love interests swap. All the gossip changes around. All the characters grow, change and surprise you more. It was a great sequel, and one that wrapped up everything nicely, but also left somethings up in the air that I could almost see a third book being added to it. At the end of the day the story is just plain fun, and even though it is considered YA, I really enjoyed it. 
 


The One to Watch was an Audible suggestion that popped up for me, and I'm so glad I went ahead and clicked "listen". I think this is one of my favorite listens/reads for the year. The story follows a plus size fashion blogger who gets asked to participate on a Bachelor style show after she rants about it online for not being diverse in its casting. It's a super fun read that covers a lot of topics (i.e. body diversity, eating disorders,  sexual preference, race, social media influence...), so I would deem it along the lines of a beach read with a little more meat. You fall in love with the main character in so many ways, and the humor throughout the book balances some of the tougher messages the author tries to convey. I'm also going to give this one the PG-13 disclaimer in case you're planning to listen to it while mom-taxiing too. 
(read: bring headphones)



Same with Heart Bones by Colleen Hoover. It gets the double headphones warning. All of her books are that way, but don't let that be a deterrent because she usually makes you feel all the feels by the end of the story. Okay I texted Carrie Beth after I read this one to put it on her radar since I know she is a huge Hoover fan. I loved it at the time, but as I'm reading my notes, I'm torn as to what drew me in. The story follows Beyah after she becomes homeless when her mom overdoses. Beyah has lived a rough life in every way possible, and is so close to rising above her circumstances until her mom's death. She has no choice but to track down her estranged father and ask to live with him for two months before going to college in the Fall. 

Are you still with me? 

Okay, as if all that wasn't dramatic enough throw in a rich handsome neighbor love interest with secrets of his own, a mysterious dead body, a fun step family, and a big twisty secret. I couldn't stop reading, but looking at my notes...it's a lot to unpack. :) 

If you haven't read a Colleen Hoover novel, start with It Ends With Us


Okay this might be the most random selection I have to offer you for this month, however it was SO FREAKING GOOD. This was an Audible suggestion as well. (Amazon just gets me, you know?). I'm guessing this fell into my queue because I read the two royal YA series novels and some of the things my son is reading in the middle grades category. I was intrigued by the synopsis of The Inheritance Games and pushed "listen".  

The story follows Avery Grambs who is a half homeless high school student sleeping in her car. All that changes when a boy not too much older than her shows up a her school informing her she is named in the will of a billionaire. Not just any billionaire. THE billionaire of all billionaires. And the entire fortune? Hers. But why? 

The story unfolds as a mystery, toned down thriller, and romance all wrapped up into one. I couldn't stop listening. There were so many twists and turns and new discoveries I wanted to learn more. It was extremely well written, and gives your brain a workout in some places. The love triangle is perfection. The characters are all very well written and each one is special to the story. The book finishes with a lot of answers and closure, but a clear opening to a sequel. Count. Me. In. 

WHAT'S UP NEXT...

CARRIE BETH

I just downloaded One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London and can't wait to get started on it.  I always take Jen's suggestions and am excited about this one! 

JEN

I am actually on the fence about what I want to start up next. I have Nicholas Sparks' newest book, The Return, ready to go. But...I don't know if I'm ready to sink into it just yet.


Bring on any suggestions because the carpool/mom-taxi life only increases this month with added activities and our area opening up even more from all things COVID. Pass along all the entertaining goodness you have in your arsenal - we'll need it! 


BOOK CLUB 2020

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HAPPY READING! 



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Friday, October 9, 2020

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday!  It's be a little while since I've shared a Friday Favorites so I have a random assortment of things to share today.  We've got some yard work, kids sports, football watching and Topgolf on the schedule for this weekend.  Hope you have something fun planned! 

 
Like I mentioned above, this feels like the first real Friday I've had in a long time because my son started back to school this week!!!!  


Our county let elementary kids start back and it has been such a great week. Seeing how excited he is to be back in school (despite all of the crazy rules and regulations they are following right now) was one of my very favorite things this week! 




My next favorite is fall youth sports.  My kids' sports are SUCH a big part of our lives right now. We spend a lot of time and money investing in our kids...not because we think they are going to be professional athletes, but because we know and appreciate all of the life skills sports and being a part of a team is teaching  them. 


I love seeing them each so dedicated to the sports they love and fall sports has been a much needed sense of normalcy for these kids. Watching them play is one of my very favorite things to do on the weekends! 



 
I've shared this here before, but my family loves snow cones.  As part of my Mr.'s birthday the kids wanted to get him this snow cone machine and it has been such a hit!  They make snow cones ALL the time and it's such a fun treat.  This would be a great Christmas gift for anyone trying to think outside of the box a little and it is definitely one of our new favorite things. 


Yesterday I shared about our Fall Break trip and it was so amazing.  Before we left I ordered a few new swimsuits because J. Crew was having a big sale. 

Gingham top // Gingham bottom

Even though it was at the end of the season I knew I'd get a ton of wear out of them next summer.  Plus, this is the best time to buy swimsuits and get a great deal.  J. Crew has the cutest suits and they are actually having another sale giving you 50% off of all sale items with code SALETIME so click HERE to check them all out! 


My birthday is coming up next month and it is a big one.  As an early birthday gift my family surprised me last weekend with a Peloton bike!!!  I was so surprised and not expecting it at all, but I have ridden it every single day and LOVE it.  I'm planning to do an entire post about it in a few weeks, but if any of you have one share some of your favorite classes with me!  


I hope everyone has a great weekend and we will see you back here next week! 

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Thursday, October 8, 2020

Fall Break Trip {Destin, FL} + The Best Filet Recipe

Last week we had the most glorious week in Destin, FL. I shared a bunch about it on our Instagram stories and had two things that I got a ton of DM's about. Y'all wanted to know details on the house we stayed in and how to make the steaks we cooked!  I'm sharing both of those things today along with a recap of our trip.


A few years ago our schools shifted to a calendar that built in a week off at the end of September.  While I am not a fan of starting back to school in July (during a normal school year...obviously this year was different), when Fall Break rolls around it is a much needed break.  

I love going to the beach in late September because the crowds are much smaller and the weather is amazing. This year we had a lot of trips cancelled due to COVID so when some of our friends asked if we wanted to rent an amazing house with them for the break we were all for it!  


We rented THIS house in Destin, FL and it was AMAZING!!!! We rented the house through VRBO and I would highly recommend this rental.  We had three families and could have fit a fourth family because it was just that big.  

It also had a guest house with a bedroom, bathroom, small kitchen and separate game room with bunk beds that we didn't even use for sleeping purposes.  The kids pretended this was their "apartment" and would hang out over there at night to play and watch TV. 


Every bedroom in the main house had its own bathroom, comfortable beds, a huge kitchen and a living room with the most incredible views.  It also had a deck we would sit out on in the mornings and at night to watch the sunset. 

The pool was nothing to get excited about, but the kids still enjoyed it.  The best part about the house was just being right on the water. The kids could run back and forth from the beach to the pool and if you needed something from the house it wasn't a big deal to go grab it because the house was just steps away.  

We stayed with some of our baseball friends who we've been around all summer and the boys had THE best time playing nonstop all week long. There was a lot of beach baseball happening, but also a ton of football, too. 

I'm normally a stay-in-a-hotel-and-eat-out-for-every-meal kind of girl when it comes to vacations because to me, it's just not a vacation if I have to cook and clean.  However this trip was like we had our own personal chefs traveling with us. Not only do my friends like to cook, they CAN cook!  


We ate (and drank) very well during our trip. When I shared about our steak night on Instagram I got a ton of questions and I promised y'all I would share the details.  I got my dear friend, Jaime, to send me how they cooked them. 


Ingredients:  

  • Filet size of your choice - cut from butcher shop - we frequent Whole Foods - ours were 8 oz
  • Sprigs of fresh Thyme - 1 bunch per 2 steaks 
  • Peeled fresh garlic - 1 head per 2 steaks 
  • Two sticks of Kerrygold butter - cut into cubes

Directions: 

  • One hour before cooking lay steaks out to come to room temperature and season both sides and edges with salt and pepper. 
  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees. 
  • Heat cast iron skillet with 1 tbsp of olive oil until it's smoking hot. 
  • Add two tbsp of butter to the pan. 
  • Add steaks to the pan - leave for 2 minutes. 
  • Dump butter into heat proof bowl. Add two more tbsp of butter, swirl around pan. Flip steaks to other side - cook 2 minutes. 
  • Dump butter one more time and add 4 tbsp of butter and whole peeled garlic cloves. Baste steaks with melted butter. 
  • Put pan into preheated oven. 
Cook times vary based on thickness of the steak. Ours were 2.5" and we followed: 
Medium Rare: 4 minutes in oven 
Medim: 7 minutes in oven 
Medium Well: 10 minutes in oven 
Well Done: 12 minutes in oven. 

  • Baste again in butter, garlic and thyme. 
  • Remove steaks to plates and let them rest, but not keep cooking. Rest 3-5 minutes before cutting. 
  • Enjoy! 

      


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