Blog Archives for category Recommendations
Hallelujah and Amen.
Let me give you some advice of what you can do instead: Just spend time with them. Take them out for ice cream, or a date to the zoo, or even to the park down the street. They will love that more than any toy, I promise. They will remember it longer too.
Our kids just had a birthday party and got lots of gift cards. The plan is to let them but one thing and then trade them experiences for their cards. Would you rather go to Target and get a Barbie or would you rather go to the zoo? A new Lego set or a baseball game? Fingers crossed my plan works.
Mine can! Here’s a Before & After teeth cleaning. The color looks exactly the same—I’m just missing a bit of gloss! I’m telling you LipSense is amazing.
So, Katie has been doing “homework” lately—we bought her a workbook like Owen gets for his Summer Slide and she has fun with that, plus she also has a few educational iPad apps that she enjoys. She saw a commercial for ABCmouse.com the other day and asked if she could have it on the iPad again.
First, huh? She remembers? It hasn’t been on the iPad for probably two years now!
Second, well, why not? Owen really enjoyed it and if she wants to do it…it certainly can’t hurt! (And in the back of my mind I keep wondering if maybe that’s one of the reasons why Katie is a touch behind as compared to Owen—even though I know I shouldn’t compare the two.)
So the thought was in my mind but on the back burner since we’ve been busy. So imagine my surprise when out of the blue I get an email from someone at ABCMouse saying my site came up as one that linked to them and—long story short—would I want to become a full-fledged official referral source. Well, sure, why not?
So Katie was EXCITED to start her “homework” and she kept asking to do it. Before I knew it, she was 14% done with the pre-k level. Hopefully her excitement continues! And hopefully I make some money off referrals!
Since we planned on drinking, we took a Lyft to the restaurant, and since it was a chocolate restaurant (The Chocolate Sanctuary), I obviously had to start with the German Chocolate Cake martini…Vodka, Amaretto, cream of coconut, chocolate, caramel, and toasted coconut.
Then Jami took over on the pictures.
- Chicken and Goat Cheese Wrapped in Cocoa-Candied Bacon with Cocoa-cranberry sauce.
- Cocoa Pan-Seared Scallops with Zucchini chips, truffle mash potatoes, miso beurre blanc
- The Sanctuary Chopped Salad: Romaine, field greens, sweet corn, avocado, cocoa-candied bacon, tomatoes, hearts of palm, cheddar cheese, herb-parmesan croutons, chocolate vinaigrette
Elderflower Aperitif: Sparkling Moscato D’Asti, St. Germain, and fresh raspberry
Beignets! Light and airy chocolate filled doughnuts served with mixed berry compote and crème anglaise
We will definitely visit again and bring out of town guests…
Ladies, listen up. I’ve discovered a game changer if you straighten your hair—you have GOT to check out the Dafni. I got mine on QVC because at the time it was cheaper than Amazon, but less than a week later Amazon now has it cheaper. This cut my straightening time from 45 minutes (including blow drying with a round brush and then ironing) to 10 minutes (15 tops). I can’t gush about this thing enough: DAFNI The Original Hair Straightening Ceramic Brush.
This result took me TEN minutes:
My review can be found here but here it is. (Sidenote: I learned you can’t say HOLY $H!TBALL$ in a review. LOL)
I have long naturally wavy hair that takes me, on average, 35-40 minutes to blow dry straight and then another 15 minutes or so to touch up with a steam iron (actually a Maxius Maxiglide MX-597 One Step Hair Straightening Iron with Steam Burst Technology). But I am always on the lookout for a revolutionary hair straightener and I’ve tried a bunch of them. I’ve actually been using the Maxiglide for 10+ years because it was so awesome–until now, I would have said it was revolutionary. But this? The Dafni? HOLY SMOKES. This might just be the best money I’ve EVER spent!
I went into the first use with some trepidation as products like these generally have big claims and then generally don’t come through. But what you see in my photos literally took 10 minutes. TEN MINUTES! I then spent another five going over some sections a few more times and trying to get the ends better, but still…15 minutes?! FIFTEEN MINUTES?! ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.
Is it perfect? No. Obviously your hairdresser doing a salon blow-out will get it smoother and it will look better, but for an average person doing this at home? Yes. You can recreate your own efforts in a fraction of the time. My after photo with the Dafni is what my hair looks like after I blow it dry with a round brush for 40 minutes!
Also, my arms aren’t tired from holding a blow-drier and/or iron for 40 minutes and I’m not sweating from blowing hot air at my head for 40 minutes. I used to seriously plan ahead when I was going to dry/straighten my hair because it does take so long, but now? I can pretty much do it whenever I have a spare 15 minutes! The longest part of the process for me today was waiting for my hair to dry because I wanted to do it naturally but that’s no big deal because I do that some days anyway.
I am just completely blown away. My first thought once I finished in ten minutes was HOLY COW. This might be the best money I’ve ever spent on a hair product–kicking the Maxiglide to second place.
I get nothing for referrals—I just love this product!
We needed to pick up some stuff we forgot in Michigan that Beth brought back for us…so we met in Fredericksburg for lunch! A friend who lives here recommended Castiglias and it was DELICIOUS!
Our local friend Leslie gave us such a great recommendation for our anniversary dinner last year that we went back to her again. And she knocked it out of the park again with this kinda hole-in-the-wall Modern European/German place called Cosmopolitan Grill (Yelp). Unbeknownst to us when we decided to go there, they were recently voted “as one of 100 Best Bargain Restaurants by the Washingtonian Magazine as well as Young and Hungry’s 50 Best Restaurants by Washington City Paper.”
For the appetizer we had Ćevapčići With Ajvar and Onion (little sausages with a red pepper and garlic relish) and since we knew the portions were huge, we split the Stuffed Veal Schnitzel (Breaded veal schnitzel stuffed with cheese and spicy peppers, served with roasted potato). It was all very, very good and even though we split the dinner we still brought home leftovers!
I discovered we left the chocolate-covered cashews in the garage and it was one big glob. I spread it out to make it into brittle but had to taste it as is and OMG I’m pretty sure it’s heaven. I never tried them originally but warm and gooey is a winner.
It seems like everyone and their brother told us we HAD to stop and eat at Darrows in Mackinac City—but that it was often crazy busy with long wait times. So we decided to check it out on our way back to Grayling. There were open parking spots so we lucked out with barely a five-minute wait.
They’re known for their whitefish so Tom and I split a dinner and while it was quite good, I’m not sure it would be worth a long wait. That said, we saw the pies and cakes on the way out and both got a piece—Tom got pecan and I got a peanut butter chocolate cheesecake. [We didn’t end up eating them until that night and HOLY HELL were they delicious!]
So I joined another monthly clothing delivery company on a free month…and their clothes are awesome—much more my style and somewhat cheaper. This dress was the third thing I’ve purchased (out of six sent items). Tom loved it, too, which is why it’s now hanging in my closet.
Unfortunately (fortunately?) I’m only doing the one free month, otherwise this could get very expensive!!
Tom and I had a lunch date today at a cute little place called The Secret Garden in Occoquan. (The kids were both at a play date.) The setting was, well, a secret garden (!) and we got seated right next to the waterfall. I could have sat and relaxed there all day!! The food was absolutely delicious…and we will be back!
Today we took the kids to the Big Apple Circus! Tom and I had watched a PBS special on them years ago and always wanted to go…so when I found out they were going to be local, it was a no-brainer. Owen was SUPER excited to go and knew all about the circus, though I honestly have no idea how because I don’t think we’ve ever talked about it, read books about it, or anything.
We opted for the cheap seats since they claimed there was not a bad seat in the house. They were pretty truthful and I was happy with our seats—they were perfect for us because we were right at the top of the steps in the very outermost ring with no seats in front of us right below the A/C! (As it turned out, there were lots of empty seats and we likely could have moved closer, but we just stayed where we were.)
This is where Katie sat to watch about a third of the show.
Another third was from Tom’s lap. And the last third, well…you’ll see a picture later.
We all oohed and ahhed as one girl got into the little box. AND THEN A SECOND GIRL CRAWLED IN WITH HER!
Goats riding on ponies! They also had dogs riding on the ponies!
Spinning brothers! Amazing!
The last third of the show was her running around in that section of seats. She did really well overall and I was happy to let her run there since she sat still the whole first part.
Amazing balancing act. All of those pieces she’s standing on wobble and roll.
The final act—trapeze artists! Owen LOVED them.
The butterflies on the walls at the end.
As we were waking out, I asked Owen what his favorite part was.
Owen: The boing boing at the end!
Which, of course, referred to the trapeze artists doing their final jump/dive into the net to get down from the high wires.
Then we stopped to eat and didn’t get home until almost 8:00. At which point Owen was still talking about it.
So, we’ve been seeing commercials for ABCmouse.com for quite some time, plus Owen has some apps on the phone that are by ABC Mouse. I thought it would be a good thing, but honestly…Owen has never used a computer, our desktop is too hard to get to easily so we’d have to set up a laptop downstairs, then teach him how to use a mouse, etc., and lastly, pay the monthly fee and hope he’d use it. So it just never got done.
Fast forward a few months, and Tom brought it up again. So I just signed up for emails and quickly realized that they always send out deals. So I waited and waited…and finally there was some deal (I honestly don’t even remember what it was—maybe half off) so I signed up. And then we were getting the house ready for flooring and then we were on vacation and then we were cleaning up after the flooring…and I was getting annoyed because I had paid for it and we weren’t using it! Every time Owen had “free time” he was playing with his Legos or watching TV or on the weekend he’d be playing his video game.
So today after breakfast I declared it was time. I said “Owen, do you want to try ABC Mouse?” And got a resounding happy YES! So Tom set up my laptop at the kitchen table, hooked up his wireless mouse, and we started. (Big whoop, it took all of five minutes!) I was a little concerned that Owen would have issues with the mouse because A) he’s never used one (and he’s very used to the touch screen of the iDevices) and B) sometimes he has issues with fine motor control. But he did pretty good—the only mouse button somewhat tripping him up was the center scroll button so I told him just to avoid that button…but within about 10 minutes or so he was USING the button correctly (the laptop screen isn’t quite big enough so it helps to scroll). Wow. I was floored.
And he flew through the first few lessons and was thrilled to be earning tickets and white stars and prizes for his hamster and aquarium (on the site!). He probably sat there for 20-30 minutes! Then just like that he was done. And he complained that it was too easy. I told him I know it was too easy, but we started him on stuff for younger kids just until he got used to how the mouse worked and how the website worked. I told him when we did it again it would be for older kids and he was cool with that.
So fast forward about an hour and he was ready! I had moved it from age 2 to age 4 and he loved it! I wish I could watch over him as he does everything so I can see what all is involved, but I like that he’s doing it by himself and I don’t HAVE TO watch over him. He did say that one page was too hard so I replayed it so I could see what it was but by then he was already DONE and couldn’t give me a clue why he had thought it was too hard. (He had completed it, though, so it wasn’t too hard to finish.)
So, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that he keeps enjoying it!
So back in February, a friend of ours posted about this really cool family portrait he had commissioned by KateWhitmoreArt on Etsy. Everyone RAVED over it and said they would love one…including me. And then a few months later, I finally said YES, I’M DOING IT! But it was going to be a pre-deployment surprise for Tom.
I worked with her for about six weeks before we had a final product—sending ideas, evaluating sketches, changing details, etc.—and I managed to keep it a secret up until the very end, when I needed his input on something (though, honestly, I could have decided on my own—but you know how I am about surprises and the final reveal would only be a day or so away anyway).
And I have to say that for someone who doesn’t get choked up too easily…I think Tom was actually a bit choked up.
In it, you will notice all the small details of our family that I gave her to make it perfect…
- Owen driving his police car.
- Me taking a photo of Owen with my iPhone.
- A replica of our favorite Troy playground/park in the background.
- Tom wearing an MSU shirt.
- Katie wearing pink and grabbing my hair. The artist did the hair-grabbing thing on her own. I did NOT provide that detail.
- Owen is wearing blue.
- All pets are accounted for—and Charlie even has the nose dot.
- Owen’s drink is his actual cup.
- We have USMC Tervis tumblers. (I wasn’t expecting them to have a visible design, but I can tell they are the USMC one that I sent her the sample photo of.)
- Our exact diaper bag is under the table.
It turned out more perfect than I could have imagined. But, it did take a bit to get there. Here’s the first draft, when she was trying a Christmas theme (I told her we loved Christmas):
She sent it with this:
I thought it was a little too ‘out there’, possibly. I thought it would be cute to have you guys in the tree, surrounded by your ornaments and lights! I just felt it might be a little fun—the ornaments would have either icons/colors for your interests, the USMC, Cars, things like that, and something a little more unique than a standard portrait. Something you can’t get a photo of, you know? If you don’t feel this one, though, just let me know and I can take another crack at it!
So, while I did really like her unique take on us INSIDE a Christmas tree (I had told her we LOVED Christmas) I just wasn’t loving it enough…so I gave her the suggestion of a park or the ocean and sent a few more pics, after which she came up with this:
My thoughts were more YAY! but it wasn’t QUITE there yet. She said she didn’t do a slide (as I had suggested) because the spacing/sizing didn’t work out right. So to me it didn’t look like we were really at a park but more just having a picnic—which we haven’t really ever done. And I wasn’t sure about the kite as he’s never flown a kite so that’s just not him. I thought I might be over-thinking it but my online sounding board assured me I wasn’t…and that the artist DEFINITELY wanted clients to be happy. So I asked her to put Owen in his power wheels police car, have me taking a picture with my iPhone, have our actual sippy cup/Tervis tumblers on the table instead of a pitcher of lemonade, and change the picnic basket to the diaper bag (a long story, but it took trying/buying/returning about 15 bags before I settled on that one, so it’s kind of a running joke).
She was fine with all the changes and then sent this, which was IT.
Then came the color version and it was almost perfect. Bonus points if you can see what the last missing detail was.
Highlight this text to see what it was: The white S on Tom’s shirt.
So overall I’m absolutely and completely THRILLED. I’ve already ordered artwork for our walls (I had bought a Groupon ages ago unsure of what I would use it for…and I’m glad I saved it for this) and I’ll just say that I’m sure this will turn into Christmas presents…
I highly recommend this sandwich from The Grilled Cheese & Crab Cake Co. that mom and David brought back for me today!
I also found this magazine article about the restaurant.
I figured since she’s been gnawing on her hands for awhile now, I’d introduce Sophie (the Giraffe Teether).
And then some live action—with some crying, even—just to show you she does get cranky!!
Happy Mothers Day to five new mothers who will benefit from the Clean Birth Kits I just donated…
Bloggers for Birth Kits is a simple initiative to rally bloggers to reach out and help mamas in Papua New Guinea. These women may seem very different to you… but they are mothers with the same heart—mothers who desire to deliver healthy, thriving babies just as we do.
Every minute a women dies of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in developing nations. For every woman who dies in childbirth, another 30 women incur injuries and infections, which are often preventable. (Source: World Health Organization.)
Photo from http://themommyhoodmemos.com/bloggers-for-birth-kits/
- Soap (for the birth attendant to wash her hands). Use a hotel-size soap or cut a regular bar of soap into 1/8-sized pieces. (Microwave the bar of soap for 30 seconds to soften it for cutting).
- One pair of plastic gloves (for the birth attendant to wear).
- Five squares of gauze (to wipe the mum’s perineum and baby’s eyes). Gauze pieces should be about 10×10 centimeters or 3×3 inches.
- One blade (to cut the cord). You can buy individually wrapped sterile blades at the pharmacist or buy utility blades (much cheaper) at the hardware store. We teach the women to boil the blades for sterilization, so utility blades work just fine.
- Three pieces of strong string (2 for tying the cord, 1 for “just in case”). String should be about 30 centimeters or 10 inches long.
- One plastic sheet (for a clean birthing surface). Sheet should be approximately 1×1 meter or 1×1 yard and can be purchased at your hardware or paint store.
- One sandwich-size ziplock bag (to pack the contents).
I strongly urge you to visit the site and make a donation for yourself…and other mothers who are less fortunate than you.
Since we got rid of “monsters” this was Owen’s first experience with a dancing game. He loves the Backyardigans, so he really loved dancing with Pablo! The game is VERY forgiving which is a good thing…
The Gazillion Bubble Machine is a HUGE hit!! Thanks for Owen’s birthday money, Aunt Rose!
I originally saw the basic recipe on Buns In My Oven and then added onion and garlic to make it more me. But all credit for this recipe goes to Buns—including being the impetus for making my first ever from scratch sausage gravy. Delish! And so easy! I cant believe it took me this long!
Yeah yeah yeah, my Aunt Marge has told me for YEARS how easy it was but I just never believed her. I even searched recipes but for some reason they just seemed like too many steps. But now that I can make regular gravy from pan drippings—and I happened to run across this very simple recipe—I figured it was time to try. And I’m so glad I did! YUM!
The so-simple recipe? 1# sausage, 1/2 cup onion, 1/4 cup flour, 2 cups milk, spices to taste (S&P, garlic). Of course I cheated on the biscuits and used frozen Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits but let’s just take things one step at a time!