Monday, June 30, 2014

It's My Party

Today is my actual birthday, but I celebrated over the weekend.  Friday night I had dinner and drinks with some of my best girlfriends - all of the girls I wrote about here.  We ate way too much, discussed our celeb crushes (mine is Ian Somerhalder, anyone else?!) and began planning our next girls trip.  Win win win in my book!

Saturday was hard to beat.  For Christmas, "the girls" had gotten me a gift certificate to a hotel and spa in Geneva, IL - The Herrington Inn.  I've been craving some one on one time with my husband for awhile now.  This was the perfect opportunity!  I left early and headed to the spa.  I started with a Swedish massage and it was probably one of the best I've ever had.  The therapish focused exactly in the areas I told her about, and I definitely fell asleep at least twice.  After waking up, it was time for my first facial.  I still can't decide if I'm a fan or not - but there was one moment when my face was wrapped in hot towels as a treatment set.  She left the room and I absolutely fell asleep again.  Either I was extremely tired (yes) or very relaxed (also true). 

The Herrington Inn, via Google

After my three (or more) naps courtesy of the spa, I got ready and went off for a solo shopping trip.  This alone would have made my entire month!  I had time to browse, go in to any store I wanted, and try things on in silence.  Perfection!

As if all of this wasn't enough, I have to share my dinner experience.  If you live in the Chicago area, or are ever in the Western suburbs - you have to go to Bien Trucha in Geneva.  I ate so much delicious food that I could barely walk out, and I'm not kidding.  But let's back up a bit.

We knew that they didn't take reservations and had been told that in order to eat there at all on a Saturday, we should get in line by 4:45 to put our name on a list when they open at 5.  So we did - and still had about 20 people in front of us!  (I also need to go ahead and apologize for the iPhone pics... didn't plan that out very well.)

Luckily, once they opened we were in the first wave of tables to be seated.  We ordered some delicious drinks - cucumber margarita to be exact - and the "Guacamole of the Day".  It's always traditional guac with fresh fruit - Saturday was watermelon.  Delish!
We ate so much food, but I only thought to take a few pictures.  Bacon wrapped shrimp, pork tacos, roasted corn, shrimp tacos, mexican rice.  All menu items are in small plate form, and so so delicious.

While walking back to the hotel, we passed a bar that advertised "200 Craft Beers".  As if we weren't full enough already, we thought that sounded like a good idea.  We ended up staying a few hours because they had a live band.  It was so fun and amazing knowing that we didn't need to get home for a babysitter.  (The girls stayed with my in-laws).
We got to sleep in yesterday morning!  And just lay in bed.  We were laughing because we honestly don't know the last time that happened.  Normally, when we wake up its because one of the girls is awake so we have to hit the floor running.
It was a perfect weekend and I'm so thankful to have been able to spend that time with my husband.  We really, really needed it.  And - I was able to cross off "get a facial" and "have a staycation" from my 101 in 1001 list.
It's Monday - which means I link up with Emily from Ember Grey for Grateful Heart Mondays.  Today I am grateful for time to laugh with my friends.  For time with my husband without any distractions.  This birthday will definitely be remembered as one of the best yet - and the actual day has just begun!
Ember Grey

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Influenster TLCVoxBox

I recently signed up for Influenster, and was pretty excited to learn that I would be recieving the TLCVoxBox.  I was pretty excited - as I spend a lot of time filling out surveys on their site - mostly when I had some downtime at work, but it was still nice to see my efforts getting me somewhere.

Here's what was inside:

Ivory Bar Soap: I'm not going to lie, I wasn't too excited about this.  I don't use bar soap, no one in my family does.  I'll have to check Pinterest to see if there are other things I can do with it - otherwise, to the garbage it goes.
Puffs to Go: I don't really have a preference in brand when it comes to tissues, so this was great.  I love this size for my diaper bag.
Shell Fuel Rewards Network: I love a good rewards program.  The gas station closest to me is Shell, so this will be used, if I remember to put it in my wallet.  I used the Cardstar app, so carrying actual cards with me doesn't happen often.
Breyer's Gelato Indulgances: This box included a coupon for a free tub of ice cream.  When I went to the store, they had three flavors: Vanilla Caramel, Tiramisu and Triple Chocolate.  I should have went with my gut here (Vanilla Caramel), but because I had a free coupon I ventured out and got Triple Chocolate.  It was too rich for me.  I usually don't like chocolate ice cream, so I'm not sure why I thought this would be different!
Neosporin Neo to Go: Another item perfect for my diaper bag.  I used it at the park about a week after I got it, and E immediately stopped crying and went back to playing.  Win for me = will be buying again.
Avon Anew Reversalist Express Wrinkle Smoother: I have used Avon products in the past, so I was excited to try this.  I don't have a lot of wrinkles, so that effect was lost on me.  It did feel a little heavy for summertime, but I think it would be better in the winter when makeup doesn't slide off your face.
Overall, I was excited to try most of these products and hope that I have another chance in the future to try more.  And, if you are a mom, nanny, big sister, aunt, spend any time with children, buy yourself the Neosporin Neo to Go!
**I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.  All opinions are my own.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Family Full of Moving Violations

I have to start this by saying that it's been nine years since I've gotten a ticket (besides the random, annoying parking ticket).  NINE YEARS.

I've mentioned a few times recently that my husband was in Canada last week.  He drove.  It took he and his cousin 18+ hours to get to Northern Ontario.  On the day he left, I got a phone call asking where my insurance card was.  I casually told him it was in the glovebox, or he could get it online.  I thought it needed it to get in to Canada - but no.  He responded with "Well, the cop wasn't too happy to hear that."  He was speeding and was pulled over.  Honestly though, I'm surprised he made it north of Minneapolis until getting caught!  Turns out he only got a warning!  Score for us.  Until he texted twenty minutes later with "The second cop wasn't as friendly."  You'd think he would have learned his lesson and actually take the warning - yea I thought so too.

Fast forward to Saturday when I was driving to my sister's for the weekend.  While in Canada, there is absolutely no cell reception, so while he is there we talk to him twice - on collect calls from the camp's small office.  So, while I was driving, my cell rang and it was Tim!  I immediately answered because I hadn't really talked to him in over a week.  That's when I looked to the side and saw a state trooper glaring at me.  I was sitting in traffic and couldn't easily conceal what he had just seen.  I got pulled over and was given a $120 "no hands free" moving violation.  In my defense - my car has bluetooth, but I was in Tim's car.  I really thought about taking a selfie while he was in his car, but didn't want to make the trooper even more mad, or give me another citation!

Two tickets in one week!

Here's where it gets interesting. In Minnesota, they give you a citation number and you have to look up your fine.  Over seven days later... his citation number is not in the system, even though the trooper told him it would be there within 48 hours!  With my ticket, I can pay the fine, put myself on probation and if I don't get any more moving violations in 90 days, nothing goes on my record.  Seems like a no-brainer, but it makes me nervous.

What would you do - in both situations?

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bachelorette Party Cookies

Bachelorette Parties are a great time to get together with your friends, spoil the bride with new lingerie, and celebrate her last night as a "single" lady. (Truth - I never really understood this, as obviously you aren't single if you are engaged, right?)  You can usually spot a Bachelorette a mile away - thanks to the huge blow-up "willies", sashes, crowns, and general garb.

If you didn't see this post, this past weekend was my sister's Bachelorette Party.  She is not the type to parade about town with the items mentioned, but I still wanted to do something that signified the festivities.

About six years ago, I went to one of my best friend's Bachelorette Party and was in awe over some cute cookies one of her friends made.  I decided to give them a go, and they were surprisingly easier than I thought they'd be!

All you need is a heart shape cookie cutter, frosting, and sugar cookie ingredients.
First, you have to have a good sugar cookie recipe.  I used this one, from In Katrina's Kitchen.  Once you've rolled out the dough, use a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut shapes. 

Before you put the hearts on the cookie sheet, use a knife to cut the bottom, pointed part of the heart off.

Bake according to the recipe you are using, and cool completely.  Once they are cooled, it's time to decorate!  I used these Wilton Ready-to-Decorate cans.  They come in a variety of colors and frosting tips, and because I don't own any cake decorating supplies, these were perfect.

I used the small, circular tip and just drew on some underwear!  Get creative - it was really fun to decorate, and the cookies were delicious!

As is the norm around here on Wednesdays, I am linking up with Anne for Wednesday Wishes.  I had so much fun making these that I am wishing for more time to bake.  And someone to eat said baked goods, so I don't eat them all. Also, I think it would be really fun to take a cake decorating class - I've already looked in to the details, now I just have to find time!

What are you wishing for today?

Love the Here and Now

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Bachelorettes Have More Fun

I feel like I have been on the go since early June.  The day I got back from Iowa was E's first tap class, then mad preperations for my sister's Bachelorette party.  Now work is being a real treat - with two big projects due this week.  But instead of killing myself over those, I've decided to relive my weekend.  (The government will be cool with me extending my deadlines, right?!)

Summer in Chicago.  There are so many fun things to do, and because half of her guests were coming in from out of town, we made it a weekend-long event.  Friday night was kicked off with dinner at Chiwowa.  We had delicious tacos, guac, churros and of course, margaritas.  (I'm bad and didn't snap any photos this night #badblogger).

Saturday was supposed to be spent on a boat in Lake Michigan, but in true Chicago weather-form, it was cold and foggy.  The captain cancelled our ride so instead we went out for brunch and got pedicures.  The rest of the day was spent just relaxing and preparing for that night - which turned out to be a good thing because we would have been so tired if we didn't rest!

That night after opening presents, we surprised the bride with a party bus to take us to Packing House for a rooftop night, where there were amazing views of the city.  Notice Willis Sears Tower!

After dancing and drinking the night away, we cabbed it back and promptly fell asleep.  It was 3am afterall, the latest I have been up since the baby was a newborn - so obviously for very different reasons!  The next morning we woke up to coffees, bagels and Gatorade in the fridge - all from her sweet fiance.  (He definitely gained some points there, not that he needed any!)

She had a great night with all of her closest friends and family, so we're counting this as a success!  I am very grateful to have her in my life.  She's technically my "step" sister, but we just call each other sisters.  It's easier that way, and why not call it how it is?  She has taught me to laugh at the stressful things in life, enjoy every moment and love deeply. 
I am linking up with Emily from Ember Grey for Grateful Heart Monday.  What are you grateful for?

Ember Grey.
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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Pretty Little Beauty Swap

One of the many reasons that I'm so glad I started this blog is the opportunity to meet new people via their blogs, link-ups, swaps, etc.  I signed up for the Pretty Little Beauty Swap and was paired up with Veronica from Adventures of D and V.  When we started emailing, we found out that we live about twenty minutes from each other, and she lives very close to one of my besties!  I also learned that she is expecting her first, a girl, this summer.  It was great getting to know Veronica and I loved picking products to send to her.

She sent me some great things too!  I absolutely loved how each product was wrapped with a cute little note:

How cute and fun!  Then I started unwrapping things and it all got even better:

I am obsessed with the nail color.  Bath and Body Works is where I get all of my soap and love this scent!  I've used the Clinique items in the past so I'm excited to try them again.  The other products will be used soon.  And she even thought of the girls - sending them dress up bracelets!  Everything was so thoughtful.

I loved this swap - and loved getting to know Veronica as well!

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Favorites Round 4

I am really enjoying writing these posts every week.  While reading blogs all week, I am constantly thinking "Ooooh, this one is great - I'm definitely adding it to my Friday Favorites post." But, then I always end up with more than five.  You ladies are too good at this!

So... here are some of my faves from this week:

"Stalker Fail" by Dancin with a Dolly.  You know how I love a good celebrity story.  Jenny is inching her way in to Khloe and Kourtney's life and I can't wait to hear the details of their first meeting!  (So what if it takes awhile?  Good things come to those who wait, right?)

"Engaged" by Ember Grey.  I mean, come on.  These two are so cute I can hardly stand it.  And those photos?  Beautiful.

"Firsts of the Date Kind" by Adventures of Bug and Boo.  Ok, so obviously I'm a sucker for love stories.  Rebecca shares her first date (that never ended) with her now-husband.  She knew from day one :)

"You Know You're From a Small Town If..." by Halfway to Fearless.  Maybe it was because I spent the week in Iowa, but Beverly's post made me smile.  I love life in a smaller town and would probably leave Chicago for one if my husband was up for it.

"Finding My Voice" by Hey Kerri Blog.  I love that Kerri is saying that she's just going to be herself.  She might swear, she might write what she wants - take it or leave it.  It's easy in this blogging world to lose your "voice", but I loved the realness of this post.

What were some of your faves from this week?  Do share - finding new blogs makes me happy.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Iowa: Home Sweet Home

Every year, when Tim disappears for a week fishing in Canada, I make the trip home to see my parents.  I am not amazing enough to last an entire week all by myself with my children - but my super parents are always here to help!  Truth be told, I'm pretty sure they'd rather have the girls than me home.  Maybe I should plan a week-long trip for myself next summer?  I'm getting off track here...

I love Iowa.  I love that I grew up here, I am proud to say I am from here, and if I could, I would move my family back in a second.  Until that day, I've put together a list of things that makes me love my home state.

-People (outside of Iowa) are surprised to hear that I didn't grow up on a farm, but rather, a city that has a population of over 120,000. I also went to a high school with a graduating class of over 400 - one of seven high schools in my hometown.

-Buying local corn from the back of a truck along the side of a highway is totally normal.  And probably the best sweet corn you'll ever have.

-Ashton Kutcher went to my high school, and also went to the University of Iowa.  He was a Delta Chi.  Whenever it was time for my sorority to steal composite pictures, his was the prize possesion.

-In 2008, the Cedar River flooded and destroyed a lot of Cedar Rapids (my hometown).  All of downtown was under water, and most places that my childhood memories are made of were ruined - including the library.  Watching the town rebuild has amazed me, but I long for the old library, I have so many memories there.

-Field of Dreams was filmed just north of my hometown.  Fun fact - Most people get this famous quote wrong, thinking it is "If you build it, they will come", when actually it is "If you build it, he will come".

-Quaker Oats is in my hometown.  Whenever I drive home, I can smell it - and sometimes you can tell what cereal they are making!

-We don't have any pro sports teams.  Most people here either cheer for the Iowa Hawkeyes (yes!), or Chicago or Minnesota teams. 

I would love to live here, close to my parents, where I grew up.  I know it is not realistic, based on the kind of work that Tim does, but a girl can dream, right?  So today my wish is to make more time to come home, spend time with my parents and take my girls to all of the places that I loved as a child.

I am linking up with Anne from Love the Here and Now for Wednesday Wishes.  What are you wishing for?

Love the Here and Now
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Monday, June 16, 2014

The Story of My Dad

I've been dreading writing this post for Father's Day for awhile now.  Not because I don't have a relationship with my father, or that I don't get along with him, or that we have a bad relationship.  It's quite the opposite.  My Dad and I are close, always have been.  I definitely am a stereotypical "daddy's girl", and proud of it.  He has always been my #1 fan and has loved me unconditionally - always. I didn't want to write this post because I didn't want to relive Valentine's Day of this year.

That day, one phone call almost changed my entire life.

It was a Friday, and the girls and I had plans to celebrate with Tim as a family. Shortly after lunch, my stepmom called.  My initial reaction was that she was calling because she got the valentine that the girls had sent - so I let E answer the phone.  Nana talked to her for a few minutes before asking to talk to me.  The next few minutes are sort of a blur, but I remember her telling me that she was in the hospital with my Dad because he had fallen on the ice outside of work. She wasn't sure the extent of what was broken, but would call back after all of the scans came back.  I thought maybe it was an arm, or a hip (both of his hips are artificial), maybe an ankle or something.  It turned out that he had broken his neck.  They weren't sure how severe the break was, but it didn't look good.  After speaking with my sister, we decided to leave right away and go back to Iowa.

The drive home was awful.  I was speeding so badly that I was anticipating getting pulled over.  I remember rehearsing what I would say to the cop - and each time I would break down all over again.  I cried the whole three hours of that drive.  Walking in to the hospital room changed my life.  My strong, confident, gentle father was in a neck brace strapped to the bed, in so much pain and sick from pain medication, not able to move. Seeing him like that is something that I will never forget. It would be two days until he had surgery on his neck.  During that time there was a lot of talk of transferring him to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics - which is never a good sign if you are in Eastern Iowa.  But, by the act of only a miracle, his blessed surgeon was able to fix the break and he has recovered beautifully. 

So, on this Father's Day, I am more than grateful to have spent it with him.  That I have more time with my Dad.  That my girls have more time with their Papa.  Yesterday could have easily been different, and the fact that it isnt is something that I will forever be thankful for. 

He joked that he couldn't feel his arm for days because I was squeezing so hard :)

Today I am linking up with Emily from Ember Grey for Grateful Heart Monday.  What are you forever grateful for?
Ember Grey. Grateful Heart Monday

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Favorites + Giveaway!

It's Friday again!  Weeks are just flying by.  Today my husband is off to Canada for a week of fishing.  Sounds lame to me but he goes every summer!  He thinks he is going to write a guest post about his trip when he comes home.  We'll see about that!

Now on to this week's favorite posts.  I love highlighting the posts that made my week, and hope that you find some new blogs to follow in the process.  Plans to make this a link-up are underway, so watch for that too!

"My Humpday Confessions" by Dancin' with a Dolly. I love these confession posts!  I especially loved hearing that I wasn't the only one that uses bribery with my children.

"This Stage of Life" by The Florkens.  Kate writes about her current stage in life, and it made me reminisce and look back at my "stages", as well as look forward to what's up ahead!

"The List June 2014" by The Grits Blog.  Not only did Ashley redo my blog design (obsessed!) but she shares her fave beauty items.  Pretty sure I need the Smashbox BB cream like yesterday.

"Coffee Cups are for Coffee!" by The Kay Times.  Another confession post!  I totally agree with Krystal on using coffee cups for only hot drinks.  Plus, she uses the best gifs in her posts, every week!

"Shop My Closet" by Hello Rigby.  Jenn has a great idea here - a place for bloggers and non bloggers to swap clothing.  Interested?  Fill out her google doc on the post.  I can't wait to see this come to life!

Don't worry... now on to the giveaway.  I've teamed up with some great ladies to give one of you lucky readers $200 in paypal cash!  That's a lot of makeup, or shoes, or anything you choose to spend it on!  Please check out these lovely ladies and fill out the rafflecopter below.  Good Luck!

From left to right: Rebekah at A Girl Awake // Gretchen at That Mama Gretchen // Anne at Love the Here and Now// Kasi at Birch Juice // Meagan at All The Joys // Beverly at Halfway to Fearless // Logan at Logan Can // Leslie at Martin Manifesto // Jamie at The Growing Up Diaries // Mandy at A Sorta Fairytale // Rebekah at Lipstick and Lullabies

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Way We Were

Tim and I have been married for almost seven years.  Four years ago, our lives changed when E was born.  It changed again last summer when A was born.  Life is really hectic these days - with our girls' schedules, his work schedule, my part time work schedule always changing, family obligations, etc.  Some days I wake up, then the day is already over.  Weeks pass by, the months change, the seasons blend together.  All the while I am saying to myself, "Slow down, please!"

You see, I miss the way things used to be.  When we were first living together, we'd both come home from work, talk about our days, hang out.  Sometimes we'd cook dinner together (ok, lets be honest, he cooked - I cleaned), other times we'd go grocery shopping together.  Some days we'd just decide to go out for dinner, why not?  Then we'd always end up on the couch together watching tv or a movie.  The key word in all of this is "together".

The days of just "us"

These days, he is gone before I wake up.  He comes home, we all have dinner, get the kids to bed.  Then I have to go grocery shopping, or do the bills, or work, or if I am lucky, spend some time on this blog.  Weekends are generally spent doing housework, yardwork, or seeing extended family.  There is no "together".

I know that making time for each other should be a priority - but in all honesty, it gets lost day to day.  We both love each other - maybe even more now than before - but we will never be the way we were.  Although I love my children more than anything, I miss those days with him.  Even if we are lucky to get a date night, it's usually a quick dinner out or running errands without the girls.  And more often than not, we talk about the girls - our family.

Do you have a busy schedule?  Children?  How do you make time for one another -  and make it count?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Life With A Boston Terrier

Charlie.  My first baby, my fur baby.  I am a total dog person - I grew up around dogs, embrace every dog I see in public, and can't imagine my life without dogs in it.  When Tim and I were dating, I was always telling him that we needed to live in an apartment that allowed pets, because a day living without a dog was not good enough for me.  The story of how we got Charlie is one of my favorites - and goes to show that my husband was always listening to me when I was whining talking about getting a puppy.

One Saturday morning, a month after we were married, Tim got up to go to the gym.  Looking back, I should have seen the flags because we didn't belong to a gym, and he rarely worked out.  But, it was Saturday morning, BC (before children) and I was half asleep so I didn't think much of it.  About an hour later, he came home holding what looked like a little black blob.  Once it registered that it was a puppy, I said "How cute!  Who are we dogsitting for?", to which he answered "No one - he's yours."  Swoon.

Life with a Boston Terrier wasn't always rainbows and cuddles, however.  Once when I walking him, a car pulled over and yelled "Don't worry - he'll be different once he turns 6 months!" She was so, so right.

He had energy.  A lot of energy.  Always needing to play, run, chew. 

Bostons can be very stinky.  Anyone with a Boston will tell you that. (Plain yogurt on their food helps!)

He ate paper towels and toilet paper.

He liked to chew on feet.  Anyone's feet! 

He has a sensitive stomach.  If he doesn't eat, he will get sick.  If I'm not home, he won't eat.  Such a momma's boy!

Once that six month mark hit, he no longer needed play all of the time, he didn't chew on feet, didn't eat paper products, but instead just wanted to cuddle.  Unfortunately the stomach issues haven't disappeared, but it's a small price to pay for his companionship.  He is so gentle with the girls it makes my heart happy.

I can't imagine my life without him.  I might be a little attached, and he might be a little attached to me.  I'm linking up with Anne from Love the Here and Now for Wednesday Wishes.  My wish is for Charlie to know how much he means to our family.  I know that time with our pets is limited, and I often wonder if he knows just how much he is loved.

Annnnd I've written a whole post on my dog.  No shame!  Now that I've totally pegged myself as a "crazy dog lady", tell me about your furbabies!

Love the Here and Now

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Reasons Why My Daughter Dislikes Me

Life with a four year old is no walk in the park.  As a baby, E was headstrong and totally independant.  Each year, she grows more and more in to her personality and that brings more and more challenges.  Some days I have no idea how I survived, others she is the sweetest girl around.  Lately I've just decided to write down the things that would usually drive me crazy - and laugh about them instead.  So, I present to you, "Reasons Why My Daughter Dislikes Me", by E.  All of the following resulted in a four-year-old meltdown, over the course of one week:

- I wouldn't let her have donuts and jelly beans for breakfast.

- I told her that bottles were only for babies. (She wanted her water in A's bottle)

- She wasn't allowed to watch Frozen more than once a day.

- I asked her to use the restroom before we left for the store.

- Her crayon broke, and I didn't have another one the exact same color.

- Dad left for work before she woke up. (This was apparently my fault)

- Charlie (our dog), ate her cracker.  (That she put right in front of his face)

- I wouldn't let her play outside during a thunderstorm.

- I told her we were going to run an errand to the post office.

- We ran out of vanilla yogurt.

I like to tell myself that her personality will get her far in life.  That her stubborness and knowing what she wants will be traits that help her be successful and make great relationship choices.  I know that most of these meltdowns are a result of her not being able to handle her emotions yet, which is why I have hope that this isn't my life forever.  My good friend told me that she is getting this out of the way now so that she will be a great teenager, so I'm choosing to believe that.

Until then, I am holding on to this sweet, sweet little girl that every once and awhile shines through.  You are welcome back full time, any day E.

Today I am linking up with Emily from Ember Grey for Grateful Heart Monday.  Even if some days E and I feel like oil and water, I am forever grateful to have her as my daughter.  Everything about her is perfect for me, for our family, and I wouldn't want it any other way.... except maybe some more "I love you"'s than toddler attitude. :)

Ember Grey

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunshine Award

I was so surprised and happy to open an email from Tabitha at A Hundred Tiny Wishes saying that she nominated me for the Sunshine Award!  Then it got even better - Anne at Love the Here and Now nominated me as well!  It's so nice to hear that someone loves what you are putting out there!

Here are the rules:
1. Post 11 random facts about yourself
2.  Answer 11 questions from the blogger that nominated you
3.  Nominate 11 bloggers to recieve the award
4.  Write your own 11 questions for those bloggers
5.  Notify them of their award

Eleven Random Facts About Me...
1.  I am scared of bridges.  If I am driving and am stopped on a bridge - I immediately plan my escape, should the bridge fall.  (I was living in Minneapolis when the I-35 bridge collapsed and have been scared of this ever since!)

2.  I used to think I would have loved four children.  Now, I might be ok with two.

3.  I won a city-wide contest in 3rd grade for making a fire safety poster.  It was featured on billboards around Cedar Rapids and I felt like a celebrity.

4.  When we got our family dog when I was younger, her previous owner had already named her "Megan".  After multiple family meetings and weeks of deciding, she was renamed "Millie".

5.  I don't like chocolate ice cream or chocolate cake, but love plain chocolate.

6.  I bite my nails. (ugh)

7.  My husband sleeps with the windows open all year round (unless the a/c is on).  Even in the winter.  I sleep with a lot of blankets.

8.  I haven't paid for a cell phone or service in six years.

9.  I love to color.  I'm talking coloring books and crayons.  It relaxes me.

10.  I despise folding the laundry.  I will "fluff" it over and over just to avoid folding it.

11.  I still use the first email address I ever had, going on 15+ years now.

Questions from Tabitha...
1.  Why did you start blogging, and how did your blog get its name?
I have been reading blogs for a really long time.  As I started commenting more, I thought "Why not do this myself?".  It was something that I could dedicate my free time to, something I could make "mine".  The name was difficult to choose!  "All the Joys" reminds me that there is always something good to find in each day, even if it's a bad day.

2.  Do you have any tattoos?
I have two.  One on my hip - a butterfly.  This was a "I'm 18 and a freshman in college - my parents cant tell me no!" tattoo.  The other is a flower on my foot.  One of my besties and I got them during Spring Break of our Junior year.

3.  Do you have any children?  Any funny stories about how they got their names?
Two girls.  No funny stories on their names, although A wasn't named for a few hours after she was born.  We were torn between two!

4.  What is your favorite food?
Mexican or pizza.  I can't pick one!

5.  What are three beauty things you can't live without?
1.  Concealer.  I've always had circles under my eyes, my children have just made them darker!
2.  Brozer/Blush.  Just a little pick me up so I don't look so tired and pale all the time.
3.  Chapstick.  I hate the feeling of dry lips.

6.  What is your favorite color?
Purple.  Any shade of purple.

7.  Name three places you would love to go, and why.
Italy - the romance, the food, the wine!
Australia - Would love to snorkel here.
Greece - Ever since "Sisters of the Travelling Pants" - I have to see it!

8.  What is your favorite blog post that you have ever written?
Probably my post A Letter to E.  I will write a letter to her on every birthday.  I hope that someday she will read them and know just how much she is loved.

9.  What is your favorite memory?
My wedding!  Just having all of our friends and family in one place was so amazing.  It makes me sad to think that we will never have that group of people together at one time again.

10.  What is something about you that people would be surprised to learn?
Tough one.  That I don't like cats.  At all.  Or anything about them.  (Sorry Jess)

11.  Name three things on your summer bucket list.
1.  Get a good tan, safely.
2.  Go to the beach, any beach!
3.  Get a night or two away for just me and the hubs.

I nominate...
Anne from Love the Here and Now
Krystal from The Kay Times
Veronica from Adventures of D and V
Leslie from Martin Manifesto
Elisabeth from My Cup of Sparkle
Emily from Ember Grey
Rachael from Lumuhand
Sarah from Seriously Sarah
Amanda from Peaches in Missouri
Amanda from Notes From a Newlywed

My Questions to You...
1.  How long have you been blogging?
2.  What is your favorite part about blogging?
3.  Do you like where you live?  If no, where would you like to live?
4.  What is your favorite tv show - of all time?
5.  Dogs or cats?  Why?
6.  What is your favorite season?
7.  Are you an early bird or night owl?
8.  What do you think is the best and worst thing about being a woman?
9.   If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
10.  If you were given the opportunity to go back in time and change one thing in your life, would you?
11.  Coke or Pepsi?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Friday Favorites - Blog Love Round 2

It's Friday again - whoo hoo! 

Last Friday I shared my favorite posts by others that week.  It was so much fun to write that I knew that I had to do the same this week.  I hope you all check out these lovely ladies and what they had to say:

The Southern Thing: How to Spot a Blogger.  Hilarious!  Most of my friends and family don't know about my blog - or so I thought.  After reading this, it might not be as secret as I was thinking!

Marry Mint: Rainy Weekend Fun.  Amanda lives in Alaska and I love seeing her pictures.  This post was about her family's trip to the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center.  It would be so, so amazing to be that close to bears and moose!

Peaches in Missouri: An Interview with Philip. I love a good interview with the husbands.  Amanda's husband did not disappoint!

Helene in Between: What Your Blog Name Says About You.  So funny, and for me - so true.  According to Helene, "I am excited about life and want to share that with others. I am a die hard Starbucks addict and use emoticons frequently. I always see the silver lining unless you get a flat tire. Then all hell breaks loose. I like to take photos looking into the distance. Pinot Grigio is my drink of choice." ALL true, except for the Starbucks.  I hate coffee! :(  (see what I did there?)

Love the Here and Now: The Perfect Blog Planner. Don't worry non-bloggers, this is totally customizable to fit any need.  I might have ordered two - one for the blog, and one for my family.  I cannot wait for them to get here.  Anne also has a discount code - and it's still valid! 

Check these posts out and let me know if you loved them as much as I did!  Last week I had some interest in making this a link-up.  Any others interested?  I love finding new blogs and this is the perfect way.  Let me know and I'll make it happen! :) (one more emoticon for good measure!)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Working on my Fitness

I am horrible when it comes to sticking with things.  I get an amazing idea in my head, make all the plans to execute it, begin it, and usually let it fade away.  This mostly applies to diets, working out, eating healthy and everything that goes with it.

When I was younger, I never had to worry about gaining weight.  In fact, I could have gained some and looked even better.  Of course, in college, I gained some of the "Freshman 15", but honestly it wasn't bad.  I didn't work out, drank ate whatever I wanted and never worried about how I looked. 

After college it all went downhill.  Suddenly I was not walking miles to class every day, and sitting at a desk took it's toll.  Add turning 25, then 30, marriage and two kids - needless to say, I'm not happy about how I look.

But it's more than how I look.  I want to be healthy.  I want to be able to fight sickness and disease if I should ever face it.  This year has been a test for a few people that are very close to me.  Through their health struggles I have realized that I need to do better with my health.  I need to be strong, be here for my babies and husband, family and friends.

I've recommitted to MyFitnessPal and have been going strong for a week now (and lost 4 lbs!).  I started a new workout program in Daily Burn and have done it every day for a week.  I am drinking more water, gave up Diet Coke (again - oops).  I am doing this for me, but also for my family. 

Today I'm linking up with Anne from Love the Here and Now for Wednesday Wishes.  This week I'm wishing for strength to continue this journey to become a healthier (and better looking, let's be honest) me.  Strength to say no to too much delicious pizza, to stop myself from buying Lindt truffles.  I'm wishing for the desire to eat natural sugar instead, fruits.  To crave water and vegetables.  I know this takes time, but it's what I am striving for.

Any other tips or words of the wise? Help me out!

Love the Here and Now

Monday, June 2, 2014


Friends are special, you all know that.  My friends are no different.  I'm so lucky to have four best friends.  It all began in college - you know, where most great stories begin.

I was moving in to my dorm on a Saturday morning when a girl, draped in a grey blanket, came stumbling in to my room.  "Please tell me you have some Tylenol", she said.  She was clearly feeling the night before and I was her only chance at feeling better.  Luckily, I did have some, and we were instantly best friends.

A few weeks later, while at a party, I hurt my knee and had to wear my leg in a brace for 6 weeks. (I'm seeing a trend here - after all, University of Iowa was named one of top party schools.  No shame here).  I no longer could hop up in to my loft bed.  Katie remembered "the girl down the hall" had a ladder, and maybe I could ask to borrow it.  Hobbling in to Lindsay's room was the beginning of our incredible friendship.

Diane and Katie went to high school together, and although she didn't live in our dorm, we saw her a lot.  She and I ended up being roommates for the remainder of college.  All of my college memories include her, and all of them are great stories for another day!

Cara, the "baby" of our group, is two years younger so we didn't meet her until we were Juniors.  She pledged Katie's sorority and instantly became a part of "us".

We are all very fortunate to live in the Chicago area.  We get together monthly for Dinner Club - where we eat, drink, reminisce and talk about life.  Between us we have 30 years of marriage and 8 kids.  We've been together for 14 years.  I wouldn't know what to do without them and am so incredibly grateful to have each in my life.

Today I am linking up with Emily from Ember Grey for Grateful Heart Monday.  What are you grateful for today?

Grateful Heart Monday

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Subscription Sunday - Love with Food

By now, it should come as no surprise that I love subscription boxes.  With two littles, I don't often have time to go shopping - so the fact that these little boxes full of surprises show up on my doorstep makes me happier than opening a new bottle of wine.  (Ok, maybe wine makes me happier some days!)

I went on a subscription box binge last month, googling different options.  I had clothing, makeup and treats covered but wanted something for snacks and other foods.  Along came Love with Food.  Not only do you get a box of organic or all natural snacks every month for $10, but for every box sold they donate a meal to book banks such as Feeding America Network.  It's the Toms of food!

One Potato Two Potato: Sweet Potato Flavor.  Loved these!  Sweet, not too salty, and my favorite part - still crunchy without feeling and tasting greasy/oily.  There are other flavors, I'm excited to try those too.
Tarallino Snacks: These were good - not heavy, tasted like a breadstick.  E stole most of these, so I was only able to taste a few!
J&M Foods - Key Lime Cookies: I love key lime.  Really really love.  These cookies did not disappoint!  Light but full of flavor.
Le Caramel - Sea Salt Caramels: I normally don't like adding salty to my sweet, but these were not overwhelming.  A tasty little treat.
Thoughtful Food Granola: I ate this plain, although I think it was meant to be more like a cereal.  Great flavor - even though I don't normally like raisins.
Revolution Tea: I'm not a big hot tea fan.  Ok, not a fan at all.  I'll probably give these to someone who does like it.
Organic Flavrz: Water enhancer - it was so good and tasty!  I was worried it would be sweet tasting, but it's not overwhelming.  Another product I will be looking for.
The Spice Lab: Hickory Smoked and Italian Black Truffle salts.  To be honest, I'm not sure what to do with these.  I sometimes cook, but follow recipes closely so I don't know when I would use these.  Ideas?
Overall, I was pleased with my first Love with Food box and can't wait for the next one.  What boxes do you subscribe to?  Tell me what I'm missing out on!
*Clicking the links will take you to my referral page.  If you decide to subscribe, I will get referral points. Thank you :)