Friday, January 29, 2016

Weekday Date Night

I can't believe it is Friday already...where has the week gone?!

Well, last night my husband and I had a weekday date night. We try to do these a couple of times a month, actually. It's often the only time during the week that we are actually able to talk uninterrupted during the week (remember we have 5 kiddos so we are super outnumbered at home!).

I thought I would share my date night outfit with you. It was a very casual date night so it involved some of my very favorite elements: a tunic, boots and leggings. *Gasp* I know, leggings on date night?! Seriously, I thought the same thing but we did a painting class so I thought they would work and I was happy to see 3 other very stylishly dressed ladies at the event also in leggings! :)  It would have been far less comfy to sit perched on the stool in front of my canvas in jeans for hours for sure! 

Please do give me some grace for the poor quality selfies in the mirror. The lighting was terrible in the full length mirror in my bedroom so I had to resort to the bathroom - sorry again!

Tunic/ Leggings/ Watch (Fendi "Zip Code" not available) other styles here/ Zara Boots (no longer available) similar here & here/ Stella & Dot Necklace "Sanibel" reversible pendant/ Coat (Loft - sold out) similar here & here

Soooo, I did make this work for our mid-week painting date night, but I also love wearing this to pick up the kids, run to the grocery, a quick girl's lunch date, etc. This is such a comfortable and easy outfit to wear and really works almost anywhere :) 

This tunic has been featured by about every fashion or style blogger out there so it is nearly sold out, but there are still a FEW sizes and colors available so I wanted to alert you in case you haven' yet heard about it.  
For me it is about a perfect tunic. Even though I am 5'10" you can see that it covers my bottom completely (see above pic)! It is very light weight which I love to have when I wearing a coat because otherwise I start burning up in the car, etc. And really you need it just because it is now on sale for just under $26.00! No kidding!
Note: for size reference mine is a small and I am not a "small" girl. I typically wear a medium in a tunic and sometimes I will go for a large even. I am 5'10" and have a pretty good sized chest so take that into consideration when choosing your size. They do run big.

Leggings (must get yourself a pair if you haven't already!) and boots are old standards of mine.  I LOVE these Zara boots from a few years ago and go back to them time and time again. I own several pairs that are so similar (like the ones I linked above), but these are just a favorite no matter what! 

My coat was a purchase from Loft a few years ago and I get more compliments on this coat than about any of them in my closet (I have a "few";)! And, it is by far the most comfortable one to wear. The perfect weight, length and cut for me.  I referenced a couple above that look very similar since Loft no longer carries this. 

Oh, my watch.  I can't say enough about how much I love this Fendi watch. Although it is no longer available through Fendi you can find similar ones.  I have had this for years and it continues to be my favorite one to wear. It dresses up or down easily and I love the size and uniqueness of it. 

And finallly, I wanted to let you see a few pics from the actual date. We spent 2 hours in an art studio, sipping wine, eating cheese and crackers and getting instruction on how to paint the Cincinnati skyline. It was so much fun! BIG points scored by my husband who arranged the entire thing....he did very good :)  

Our station set-up. Instead of going out to dinner before or after we just took our dinner with us. Merlot soaked Sartori Bellavitano  (Ah-mazing cheese that you must try!),  my favorite Genoa Salami (similar here) and a few of my favorite Carr's Table Water crakers. Seriously soooooo good!

My super good looking date; aka my husband, Derek :)

And here is my finished art (yay).  It was so much fun and I left feeling very artistic :)

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I Declare!

So for today's blog I really wanted to share with you one of my very favorite things I do everyday.....I declare! And I use Joel Osteen's book "I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life" to do it. It is an amazing, amazing book with incredible truths that you NEED to know and have declared over you every. single. day. And the best part about spending my mornings with "I Declare" is that my children are also a part of my "I Declare" mornings!

I actually stumbled upon this book for my mornings so I can't take credit for this. My husband had bought it for himself (he is a huge Joel Osteen fan) and was reading it daily on his own. When the new daily devotions book I had purchased to do with the kids ended up being a dud he suggested that we just try and read this with the kids each morning instead. Our kids get up and leave in shifts (5 kids in 4 different schools and 3 different buses!) so it would mean he would read it with one "shift" and I would read it with the other. 

We read the declaration that coincides with the day of the month that it is. So for example today we read the "Day Twenty-Six" declaration.  I am typically reading with my 9 year old and my two 3  year old (almost 4 y/o) daughters every day.  I have my son read the actual declaration (you can see how it is laid out in the pic below) and then I read the short message that comes after it (usually a page or two with an uplifting message and/or practical application of the declaration).  My son really loves this and has come home several days this month excited to tell  me that he remembered what he declared before leaving school and he knows it helped him in a specific situation. **Oh, be still my heart**

We plan to continue to read this through each day of every month throughout 2016.  I do believe in the power of your words and how much more powerful can your words be when you are speaking God's Word into your heart. And to do it out loud with your children in a deliberate way like this is absolutely life changing! In just under a month of doing this we have seen my once very negative, always thinks the sky is falling child turn into a very positive, life speaking little man. 

We keep it here - a basket in the center of our breakfast table. Easy to go back to anytime of the day that you need to repeat the message to yourself!

I  can't recommend this book enough and specifically when reading it with your children - whatever their age. It is never too young and it is never too late to begin declaring greatness in their lives!

Have a fantastic day!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Bust the "Snow Day" Boredom

In light of all the snow being dumped on many parts of the country right now I thought it would be a good time to share my "snow day boredom busters".  In our family we have a mix of 5 girls and boys ranging from 14 years old down to 3 years old so we need a variety of ideas to appeal to everyone.

When we get the call and school has been cancelled it can be a little terrifying to think of being locked down at the house for the entire day. Alone. With five kids. Did I mention alone?!  Okay, well it's really not that bad...really.  I actually quite like a snow day and I enjoy the break from the normal routine...the excuse to sleep in a little, stay in pjs and take it easy, and the best part is really just having an entire day to make memories!  These days are so fleeting and I realize as I look at my 14 year old "man-child" that I really need to cherish all the time I get with them while they are growing up.

I don't think we do anything to earth shattering on our days snowed in, but I am excited to share what we do with you and hope that your families can use some of these ideas to enjoy your next snow day together.

Our 4 youngest checking out their first "snow day" of the year just a couple of days ago!

  • Get outside! Okay, so maybe this is pretty basic, but since you can't beat the snow you might as well get out there and join it, right?!  Build a snow man, have a snowball fight, make snow angels. Or maybe do you have a hill nearby that you can sled on?  And for the more practical; get out some shovels and start shoveling driveways!  Once you have tackled your own maybe you could offer to shovel a neighbor's driveway that could use a helping hand?  My oldest sons grab shovels and even a friend or two and will traipse around the neighborhood knocking on doors and asking if they can shovel driveways for a few bucks. They split $75 up 3 ways last snow day for a little under 2 hours of work....not bad!
Our oldest son (far left) and two of his friends going out to shovel neighborhood driveways.

We get everyone in on clearing the snow around our house - even the 3 year olds and our poodle, Tuscan, gets in on the fun!

  • Make Snow Ice Cream.  What is snow ice cream you ask? It is a time honored tradition in our family!  My husband and his family made it while he was growing up and he would even make it for the two of us before we had kids (seriously, he is obsessed with the stuff!). And now our kids BEG for snow ice cream anytime there is even the slightest hint of a flurry outside.  Try it with your kiddos - I think it will become a hit for your family, too!                                      

           How to make Snow Ice Cream                                                                                 


            Vanilla extract
             Gather up a couple of large mixing bowls of fresh, white snow. Mix in about a 1/2 cup of                     sugar, a tablespoon or so of vanilla extract and a few splashes of milk.  We just add in the                   ingredients until we get the right consistency and taste. SO easy and SO yummy! :)

Our Family Making Snow Ice Cream - Lily, Morgan (our Au Pair), Parker, Tanner, Max, Derek(my husband) and Gabby

  • Have a Treasure Hunt! Too cold to venture outside? How about an indoor treasure hunt? When I was a kid I used to play a game called "Huckle Buckle Beanstalk" with my dad all the time. Any one else play this? He would hide a small object (we often used this small horse trinket that I loved) somewhere in the family room. It has to be within sight (think not putting it inside, under or in something). As I would get closer he would say "you're warm, warmer" and "you're hot. On fire!" or if I was looking in the wrong areas he would say "you're cold. very cold." It is truly one of my favorite memories of time with my dad. So simple, but truly so much fun. Think your kids are too old for this one?  You might be surprised!  I add incentives - like the kid that collect the most "treasures" can pick what kind of cookie we will make (see the next tip :)  or I will add 50 cents to their allowance for winning or they get to choose a piece of candy when they win, etc. Sometimes it can be hard to get the older ones to participate and I am not above incentives so we can have a fun, all in kind of time together. When playing with multiple kids I will usually switch up the game a bit and actually write out a list of things they need to find around the house that they have to check off as they go and then bring the completed list back to me once it's finished.  Sometimes we do "teams". It can really be fun and  such an interactive way to spend an afternoon together. 
Here are a few ideas that I found online that maybe could give you ideas (I make my own, but they are nearly as pretty as these!).

  • Make some Homemade Cookies.   I don't always make cookies as an "event". As a matter of fact, I usually try to make them alone so I can get it done, get them baked and get out of the kitchen.  Anytime I involve the kids it can be quite a mess and I can get a *little* frustrated (sigh).  At any rate when stuck in the house for a snow day it can be a great opportunity to get everyone together and take the time to let everyone participate in baking and then enjoying some yummy cookies! We love to make cookies and then some hot cocoa to enjoy with them. The two together can't help, but warm you up! 
Here is a recipe my family loves. We call them "snowball" cookies. I hope you enjoy! 
1 cup of butter, softened
4 teaspoons of vanilla extract
3/4 cup of powdered sugar
1 cup of powdered sugar (set aside for decorating later)
2 cups of flour
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Cream butter in large mixing bowl. Add vanilla and gradually add in the powdered sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add flour into the butter mixture and mix until forms a ball. Roll dough into about 1 inch balls onto a cookie sheet and bake 15-20 minutes - until the edges are very light brown. 
Remove from oven and while still warm, roll in the powdered sugar that you sat aside. place them in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes (should be solid to the touch) and then roll again in the powdered sugar and serve. These are truly delish with a mug of hot cocoa! Enjoy :)

  • PJs and a Movie. So with my family this is a biggie. We have a home theater in the lower level of our home and we love family movie nights. This is a snow day twist on our family movie night!  Everyone gets in pjs, we usually pop some popcorn and get cozy in front of a fun "snowy" movie. Some of our favorites are Home Alone, Polar Express and Elf. 

  • Play "Heads Up"! Okay, so this requires an iPad, iPhone or other smart device.  The app is free to download. You can play many fun categories including "just for kids" for free and add others for a minimal one time charge. This is a kind of electronic version of  "Head Bandz" game but WAY more fun!  We LOVE to play this game and it is as fun with 2 or 3 people as it is with huge groups of people. It can also be a really active game, especially when choosing the "act it out" category and is always a ton of laughs from adults and kids alike! 

  • Surprise Ride box.  This is an amazing craft box that you can have sent to your family monthly with a subscription.  We aren't always able to do our monthly box so we store them in our front coat closet and when we have a snow day or a low key weekend day or evening we pull one out and work together as a family.  There are several activities in the box so typically my boys will each pick something they want to head up and we will all help with each part. The boxes have crafts, books, snacks, etc. and they are really well thought out.  We often provide these for birthday gifts to our kid's friends. They really love the Surprise Box so much and often want to introduce their friends to it.  This is something you will have to order in advance so do it now and be ready for the next snow day :) You can check it out here.
This pic is actually almost 2 years old of my boys with a surprise ride box. We have been enjoying these for a long time! 

Well, I hope that my list helps inspire you with your kiddos on your next snow day and if you have a fun activity that your family does on a snow day please share it in the comments below!  I would love to have some new ideas to add to our list. With my youngest two at just 3 years old I think I am going to have many many more snow days in my future and your can't have too many boredom busters to chose from.

Happy Friday! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I'm Back?!

Wow, it has officially been "A WHILE"!  Okay, so nearly 2 years....I think that qualifies as "a while".  It has been a very busy 2 years in our family to say the least.
We welcomed our youngest daughter and fifth child in Sept. 2014 and even though that seems like a long time ago I am truly not quite "adjusted" yet. I have had a really difficult time managing my time over the last year and a half and decided that had to change. Call it a New Year's resolution if you will.  It IS my resolution and I am sticking to it. There, I have declared it and now it MUST happen (can you tell I am trying to convince myself here? :)

And, who can blame me for not being able to manage my time away from this cutie? Could you?!

I have documented much of our family life over the last several years including the addition of our little Lily on my adoption blog here. If you would like to see what we have been up to you can catch up there.
(This was taken about two months after she came home - I was heading to a costume party - obviously!)

Now for this blog! I have really really missed writing and want to get back to it. I have also vowed to stop wasting my time on Facebook (not that you are wasting your time if you use fb, but I do - trust me!) so I thought this would be a much better outlet for my daily musings, recipes, lifestyle and beauty posts than signing into Facebook much too often.  I can't and don't post most of what I want to there anyway so the blogging world is a much better space for me. So after the encouragement of a few of my friends and readers over the last few months I have decided I am going to do just that.

I truly do hope that you will enjoy reading this blog. I intend to update it several times a week using my daily life experiences with everything from COOKING (I am constantly creating new recipes and dishes that I would LOVE to share with you and I am a self proclaimed foodie and home chef!), BEAUTY (what woman doesn't want some good tips for this?!), FAITH (I strive every day to grow my relationship with God and be more of who He wants me to be and sometimes I could really use a place to write out my struggles and successes in this walk and I am just starting up a new women's bible study in my home and can't wait to share some of the principles we learn through this!), STYLE (yes, as a mom with young kiddos I spend many days in yoga pants and a tee, but I love having an idea of what I can wear instead to feel just as comfortable and a little more pulled together so I hope to share some of those with you that you!), NUTRITION/HEALTH (I am kind of a nutrition and health/wellness nerd and my ipod is filled with dozens of health & wellness podcasts that I listen to daily), MOTHERHOOD (I am NOT an expert, but I do have five kids ranging from 3-14 and I am sure I can give you lots of pointers on what NOT to do at least and that's half the battle, right?! :), LIFESTYLE (we are a very busy and diverse family and I run across things I want to share from a helpful and inspirational standpoint almost daily and this is where I can share those things!), TRAVEL (as a family we traveled more than 40 total days this year. That may not be a lot to some and to others it may be a ton, but suffice it to say I love to travel and we do so as often as we can!) and MARRIAGE (my husband and I have been married for almost 19 years and I am more in love with him that I have ever been in my life and I am more than happy to share how I think anyone can accomplish this - plus one of the companies we own just happens to be a "relationship growth company" with an app out right now and a couple of more currently in the works! We are kind of really into this happy healthy relationship stuff :).

Okay, well, I think that about wraps it up for today. I hope to be back with a "real" entry before the week's end.  I am really so excited to be back!
Bye for now!