Happy Valentine's Day! Love, Marleigh and the homeless kid we picked off the streets for a photo shoot ;)
This past weekend, I kissed my kiddos and Luke goodbye and ventured to Medina for a little Galentine's Day getaway with some friends. I know what you're probably thinking: Medina? Really? And the answer is, YES. We checked into the Hart House Hotel and I was immediately impressed and intrigued with the seemingly sleepy little town.
The girls and I started the evening by popping a few bottles of prosecco and cheers-ing to a kid-free, worry-free night of fun. We met up with Scott and Al of In a DC Minute who snapped some photos of us enjoying our time at the hotel, enjoyed a glass of mead (or 3) at 810 Meadworks downstairs, and then took their recommendations to head to Zambistro for dinner and drinks.
The food at Zambistro was phenomenal and the blackberry bellinis were even better! We all kept commenting that we couldn't believe a restaurant of this caliber was hiding in this tiny town, but we were definitely happy to have discovered it. We took Al's recommendation to try the mac & cheese and our waiter gave us the royal treatment with an extra appetizer of mini quiches and a spare bellini to share: all completely crave-worthy.
After dinner, we ventured across the street for a quick drink at the newly opened Fitzgibbons and then headed back to the main floor of the hotel for a "night cap" and s'mores back at Meadworks. Since we had sampled a few glasses of mead earlier in the evening, we all opted for "The Redhead" off the cocktail menu which was a refreshing, sangria-like concoction complete with frozen fruit garnish.
The Hart House was gracious enough to comp us two rooms for our weekend excursions, the Astor and Churchill, and they were both equally impressive! The owner of the hotel, Andrew, really has a knack for interior decor and each room's theme was executed perfectly. (It's also worth noting that the beds were extremely comfortable – very important in my book.)
When we all woke up Sunday morning, we ventured out into the frozen rain to bring our things to our cars and tried to grab a latte at The Shirt Factory Cafe, but much to our dismay, no one was there to open up shop. After waiting a few minutes, we decided we were too starving to hold out any longer and went to a family restaurant down the street for some good old fashioned diner breakfast to cure any side effects of Saturday night's cocktails ;)
The main takeaways from our visit? Galentine's Day is 100% worth celebrating, kicking mom guilt in the face is completely necessary every once in a while, and Medina knows a thing or two about wining and dining!
If you're in the market for a quick trip for an overnight stay, I can't recommend Hart House Hotel enough! Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on current promotions and special events.
While I'm far from a parenting expert, I do think that Luke and I make a pretty good team when it comes to raising our kids to be kind, compassionate, contributing members of society. A few weeks ago, we decided – after a few too many days of slipping on random Hotwheels cars in the hallway and a meandering through a sea of Legos on the playroom floor – that it was time to introduce the "C" word: CHORES.
I will admit, I felt like a mean mom forcing Marleigh to grow up too fast and assume too much responsibility at the ripe age of four years old – and for some kids, four might be too young to start enforcing chores – but Marleigh has always been wise beyond her years and we thought this would be a great learning experience for her.
One night, she and Luke sat down at the kitchen table to write out her "chore contract" (an idea that Luke stumbled upon online) and together, the three of us determined a list of simple tasks that Marleigh now completes each night before bed: cleaning the toys up in the play room, helping to put her laundry away, and making sure none of her things are out of place throughout the house.
Each night she completes her chores, she receives a check mark (or, as we've decided recently, a sticker) and at the end of the week, she gets 4 quarters as her allowance to divvy up as she chooses between three separate mason jars: Spend, Save, and Give. For whatever she puts into her Save jar, we match the funds, showing her the importance of being smart with her money.
So far, we have noticed a few things:
1. Marleigh genuinely looks forward to completing her chores every night. With the exception of a couple times where she has been "too tired," she does her tasks with little to no complaining.
2. Huck has even joined in on the cleaning! After seeing Marleigh excitedly running from one end of the house to the other to put things away, our little guy has gotten the "chore bug" and carries his weight in the clean-up most nights. (Because of this, we've also been giving him a small allowance at the end of the week - 2 quarters. One for each year he is old!)
3. Both kids have been making less messes throughout the day. This is probably my favorite result of chores thus far! The kids haven't come right out and admitted that they've been making mess less so they have less to clean up at the end of the day, but the change has been noticeable. When they're playing cars in the playroom, they only have cars out. Same goes for Legos, Lincoln Logs, puzzles, etc. Before they started doing chores, they would get everything out at once, which was a complete disaster (that Luke and I usually ended up having to tidy up at the end of each day because it was too overwhelming for the kids to clean it all).
4. Marleigh is her father's daughter! Financially speaking, this is a very good thing. I often joke that we would be bankrupt and living on the streets if I were the one in charge of our family's finances. Luke is wonderful at saving money and sticking to a budget, and apparently Marleigh is following in his footsteps! So far, the majority of her allowance has gone into her "Save" jar, which we match at the end of the week. The least amount of money has gone into her "Spend" jar, and she was so excited to bring her "Give" money to church to put in the offering this past weekend!
5. A little responsibility is a good thing. While I was concerned initially about seeming too strict in implementing a chore list, Luke and I have both agreed that this has been a really great learning experience for both kids. While we have always urged our kids to clean up after themselves, it usually came with a bit of a struggle at the end of the day. Since we've started daily chores, cleaning has become a part of their bedtime routine rather than a nightly annoyance (for all of us!).
Almost four weeks later, chore time is one of the best parts of the day around here lately. Going to bed each night with a (relatively) clean house without having to clean up the same toys multiple times a day has been a real sanity saver. And that, my friends, is what we call a Parenting Win!
How do you teach your little ones to be responsible with their things?
Share your best tricks with me in the comments!
Special thanks to Hatchets + Hops for offering us a discounted rate to experience the throwing fun firsthand!
I'm back with another great Valentine's gift idea for the guy in your life! I've already mentioned Jord wood watches and Mr. + Muse boxer briefs, but if you're a Buffalo local and looking to treat your guy to some interactive fun, consider gifting him with a guys' night out (or triple date night!) at Hatchets + Hops.
How it works: You book your lane at Hatchets + Hops in advance on their website. Cost per person depends on how many people you want throwing (maximum of 6). For a group of six, it ends up being $40 per person, with a $100 lane deposit. Each throwing session lasts around two hours and includes an interactive "how two" with a throwing instructor to get started.
Luke gifted his dad and brother in law with a night out at Hatchets + Hops for Christmas and they cashed in on their "guy time" a couple weeks ago, each bringing along a friend to make up the 6 person lane limit. For their session, they enjoyed a round-robin throwing session and throwing tournament paired up with another group of 6 people.
After the session was over, Luke came back scheming about how to set up his own ax throwing targets for backyard parties (oh boy)! If your guy isn't typically one to get excited about Valentine's Day (and really, what guy is?), tell him you'll take care of the reservations this year and sign up for Hatchets + Hops "Axes and Os" Valentine's mixer on Tuesday, February 14!
Luke and I typically enjoy low-key celebrations for smaller holidays. Our plans for Valentine's Day usually consist of revving up our fondue pot or treating ourselves to take-out, which is completely fine by me! Since getting dressed up for a fancy dinner out isn't really our style, it can sometimes feel like the holidays pass us by without a second thought, so it's nice to make more of an effort to show my appreciation for him through small gifts, even if it feels cliché!
When I was approached by Mr. + Muse to share about their product, I was a bit hesitant at first. Who really wants to read about men's underwear, right? But as soon as I looked into their brand, I was sold. Their product is well-made, their packaging is witty and wonderful, all of their boxer briefs are made in the USA with eco-friendly bamboo fabric, and as an added bonus, these boxer briefs are seriously the softest ever!
I mentioned before that Luke is not easy to buy gifts for, mainly because he loves saving money and never wants for anything. Practicality is key for surprising him with something, so these were right up his alley!
Along with being a practical gift item, another thing I love about Mr. + Muse is that while their products appeal to men, the vision behind their brand is focused largely on women, AKA the "Muses." You know how the saying goes: Behind every great new pair of boxer briefs is a great woman forcing her husband to get rid of his old, worn-out underwear!
If you decide to gift your guy with Mr. + Muse, you can customize a gift box with boxers and a note of your choice (I went with a classic "Happy Valentine's" message, but if you want to spice it up a bit, there are plenty of scandalous options, too)!
As a special Valentine's treat for you, enter promo code MUSE20 at checkout for 20% off your order!
Cheese ball-stained shirts. Pajamas and messy bed head well past 11AM. Cereal crumbs on the carpet. Cars and trucks always in plain sight. A giggling game of Ring Around the Rosie.
These are the good old days.
This past week, I crammed my hours into four ridiculously long work days and treated myself to a "Fun Friday." I took the day off from (most of) my responsibilities and while this might go against my goal of being Intentional and giving myself a typical work day, giving myself a day off to give my mind and body a break from being at my computer for eight hours straight was a welcomed escape.
After the talk, Tay and I had some time to spare before so we ventured to Elmwood for some Spot coffee. We grabbed a seat on the couch in the corner and talked shop while snapping photos and sipping lattes.
From there, we met up with our dad at Oshun (I got the pulled pork flatbread because fish is not my friend) and treated ourselves to manicures before venturing back to my parents' house to meet up with our mom and the kids. The night ended with pizza and wings and I made it home just in time to tuck my little loves into bed! It was a wonderful day and, as always, so great to spend time with my sister who I am fortunate enough to also call my best friend!
Moral of the story? Take time to treat yourself every so often. "Me time" is good for the soul.
Luke and I met at the ripe age of 9 years old. We were in the same 5th grade class and while I would like to say we had an instant "puppy love" connection, that isn't so much the case (or at least not for both of us). Little did I know then that the blue-eyed boy in Mrs. Mangino's class would someday become the daddy of our two blue-eyed children!
Although we didn't immediately hit it off in the love department, for the last 18 years of my life, Luke has been one of my very best friends. We dated briefly in sixth grade (until he insisted on walking me to my bus at the end of the school day and I decided I just wasn't quite ready for that level of commitment), we flirted through middle school, and consistently found ourselves at the same parties and waiting for the morning bell to ring together throughout high school. We would bump into each other between classes (although Luke would tell me later that he memorized my schedule and those meet-ups weren't quite so coincidental!) and use up our cellphone minutes sending each other late night text messages throughout our senior year. (t9 word 4E)
Eventually, Luke managed to make his way out of the "friend zone" and I found my 17 year old self suddenly head over heels for one of my lifelong best friends. We officially started dating on June 19, 2007.
Now, 18 years after we first met, we have been together almost 10 years. Four years of college, a 9 month engagement, five years of marriage, and two kids. We have shared every up, down, and adventure together for 1/3 of my life, and, like the best things, our relationship has only gotten better with time!
A little more about Luke: anyone who knows him knows that he isn't one to treat himself. I mean... the man keeps an Excel sheet budget and gets his kicks from checking our bank account! So when I was looking for a meaningful gift to buy for him, I knew it would need to be thoughtful and practical in order to earn his approval. He's adventurous, loves working in his shop in the garage, and is a technology and wood shop teacher, so whatever I found couldn't be too fancy or fragile, either. Not exactly the easiest parameters. When I found JORD wood watches, there was no doubt in my mind that the Delmar Sandalwood and Obsidian Carbon would make the perfect gift for him!
JORD watches are stylish, functional, and completely unique. I opted to get Luke's engraved on the back with a quote from one of his favorites, John Muir. He absolutely LOVES his watch and I'll admit I was a bit jealous that I couldn't order one for myself, so I was thrilled when JORD reached out to me and offered to send me a women's watch in exchange for a review! I chose the Frankie 35 in Zebrawood / Navy and I am obsessed. If you're looking for a unique watch, I can't recommend JORD highly enough!
Now for the fun part: JORD is graciously offering my readers a chance to win $100 towards a wood watch of your own! The best part? Everyone who enters gets at least a $25 credit to woodwatches.com at the end of the giveaway period on 1/29/17! Enter here, and good luck!
I've been absent from this space for far too long, but it's not for lack of topics to write about. A lot of things fell into place for me professionally at the start of 2017, which has been amazing, stressful, and empowering all at the same time. I'm adjusting to my new routine while trying to stay afloat of my other responsibilities – maintaining a somewhat-clean house, being the world's okay-est wife, and that minor detail of keeping our children alive.
With a few more balls added into my juggling act, I've decided upon a word for 2017. Not a resolution, not a specific goal, but rather a way to keep myself in-check as we venture through these next 355 days. For 2017, I want to be INTENTIONAL.
Intentional with my purchases. This past weekend, we sorted through every cupboard, closet, and drawer in our home and came up with upwards of 12 garbage bags to donate or throw away. It was a slap in the face to both Luke and I that we have too much stuff. I recently watched the documentary "Minimalists" on Netflix and it was a real eye-opener for me. Not that I could ever see myself living in a tiny house or getting rid of all but two outfits, but a realization that more things means more to clean and tidy up on a daily basis, and thus less time to do other more important things. More things also means more money spent more often. Fixing things. Replacing things. Relying much too heavily on things. I want to be intentional on making purchases that really matter – like taking a family vacation or going out to a fancy dinner with my husband – and less on miscellaneous impulse buys while browsing the aisles of Target.
Intentional with my relationships. This includes both business and professional relationships. I want to put more effort into building my relationships with my husband and my kids. Be more willing to meet up with girlfriends on a whim for a night out. Put in the hard work to nurture and grow my existing business relationships while branching out to network myself more often. Be a better daughter, sister, friend, mother, and wife in every way possible. And that leads me to the next, perhaps most important aspect of being intentional.
Intentional with my time. I've decided that I am going to give myself normal business hours this year, starting work at 9AM and not checking my email after 5:00, whenever possible. I realize this will be difficult to get used to since I'm answering client emails or "putting out fires" and replying to followers on social media at 10:00 most nights, but I also realize that this habit is not healthy for me or my family. I need to be more intentional with the time I have. Put my phone down to get down on the floor and play with my kids more often. Spend more time in quality conversation with Luke instead of immersing ourselves in The Office every night. Take time for myself, because "an empty cup cannot fill others." Going to more barre classes. Getting a massage every once in a while. Grabbing a good book and relaxing in a hot bubble bath more often. Being really there for my family when we're together.
I know that these changes are going to take time, but I'm feeling really committed and anxious to see how I grow through being more intentional. Did you set resolutions for yourself for 2017 or is there a word that sums up what you hope to achieve this year? I'd love to encourage you as you work towards your goals! Drop a comment below!
Let me just start off by saying that my husband is the best. He has taken this sad little ranch house with its dated rooms and turned it into the home of my dreams!
When we first looked at the house while we were on the hunt, I immediately pictured two things for the living room: a big fat Christmas tree sitting in front of the large window and a built in shelf / fireplace feature wall.
While we both agreed on the vision, it took a little while to jump in on the project. Since I apparently avoided taking "Before" photos of the wall like the plague, here is what we had for the last two years: fresh paint on the walls, a mantle that Luke built from our old house, and a faux-fireplace entertainment center. Not terrible, but not exactly what we knew the room could be.
Jump to the "after." Custom built-in shelves, Timberwall feature behind the TV that is now mounted on the wall, a vent-free gas fireplace insert with brick face surround, and a beautiful rustic mantle – all built by my very talented husband!
Please also note the beautiful florals upping my shelfie game c/o BloomsyBox!
To say I am obsessed with the end product is the understatement of the century. It makes our house feel so much more like a home and truly brings the room together. My dream was to be able to cozy up near the warm fireplace with a mug of cocoa (or glass of Baileys, if we're being honest) and the glimmer of the lights on the tree this Christmas, and – like always – my man delivered!
Special thanks to Timberwall for supplying us with the materials for the TV feature wall! We used the Landscape collection in Arctic for this project, and you can see how we used Timberwall to build a platform bed for our bedroom here!
Whew! Life has been crazy busy these last two weeks. I picked up three new clients for my marketing business, Write On (shameless plug), Luke finished our biggest home improvement project since the kitchen renovation, and we've been scrambling to order and make gifts for Christmas since our first family gathering is this Saturday!
While I've been pretty quiet on this little space lately, it feels like I've actually been spending more time than ever on my computer.
You can find one of my favorite "cheat" DIY methods with a fun Christmas decor craft over on the Valu Home Centers blog here.
Here is a post I wrote for the Collective Bias blog on the importance of storytelling for influencer marketing.
And, in a matter of a few days, I'll have our full recap and reveal of our fireplace project and custom built-in shelves featuring Timberwall!
On top of that, we've been spending time as a family playing in the snow having winter bonfires, snowball fights, and building snowmen, and we've even squeezed in a couple meet and greets with the big guy in red!
It has been a wonderful December so far, and I can't wait for it to get even better when we get to experience the magic of Christmas morning through these cuties again in a couple weeks! Check back soon!
I'm back and breaking the radio silence here with a quick glimpse of life lately! It always seems that when it rains, it pours in terms of full calendars and busy schedules, and I'm forcing myself to take a minute to breathe and have some "me time" which usually translates to sitting down at the computer editing photos, taking some time at my sewing machine, or – more accurately for this week – binge watching Gilmore Girls.
Anyway, back to it. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We filled our bellies with delicious food and filled our hearts with great memories with our families all weekend long. This was our first married holiday where we had to split days between houses, and while it was chaotic, it made for a fun-filled family day (especially since the kids took solid car naps in-between!). We ended up spending the night at my parents' house Thursday night in order to have more time with everyone, and because you're never too old for a slumber party!
Friday morning, we woke up and went with my parents to get their Christmas tree and came back to help them decorate for a bit before we ventured home for naps and a somewhat normal day, and Saturday we started the festivities all over again with lunch and more Christmas tree hunting in the afternoon!
While I am firm on waiting until after Thanksgiving to pick out our tree, bringing it home and decorating it with the kids is one of my very favorite nights of the year. I love seeing their little faces lit up by the glow of the twinkle lights, and even managed to keep my ornament OCD at bay (a little bit) by letting Huck hang the majority of the Christmas bulb ornaments on the same three bottom branches.
Our calendars are quickly filling up with holiday festivities and every day is a beautiful reminder that it truly is the most wonderful time of the year! I'll be back here soon sharing a fun DIY for Christmas gifts, and we have some fun news to share about our house (you can see the unfinished product in that last photo) that I'm excited to show you, too! Stay tuned!
If your kids are anything like mine, they ask for snacks approximately 1,958,918 times per day. We have a few favorites around here: Yogurt bites, lil' crunchies, and lil' beanies. The only downfall I can think of with our favorite Gerber snacks is that the kids devour the entire contents of the can in less than 10 minutes, which is equal parts disgusting and impressive!
To help stretch the lifespan of our beloved lil' Beanies container, I decided to switch things up a bit the other day with a Toddler Trail Mix.
What you'll need:
- Goldfish or similar snack
- Honey Nut Cheerios or similar cereal
- Gerber Lil' Beanies (we chose the original flavor, but they also come in Cheddar Broccoli)
Mix a handful of each ingredient together in a small bowl and serve to grabby toddler hands! I actually stole a few bites of the trail mix to sample and it is the perfect blend of salty, sweet, and savory! The Original Lil' Beanies bring a unique texture to the snack and we even had enough left in the container to make seconds!
FYI – We typically buy our Gerber snacks at Walmart. (Pro tip: Buy a can of Lil' Beanies or Lil' Crunchies as soon as you get to the store to ensure happy shoppers as you cruise the aisles.) Get your hands on Lil' Beanies at Walmart and save with this special offer!
Let's rewind a bit to 2010. I landed a full time job in advertising the day after I graduated college. For three years, I was able to express my creativity every day working on concept development, advertising campaigns, social media campaigns, and public relations work. I spent time at recording studios for radio spots, wrote scripts for announcements at professional sporting events, and saw my words come to life on television commercials. It seemed like the perfect place for me.
Two years into my career, Luke and I welcomed Marleigh into the world and when I returned to the office after taking an extended 10 weeks off for my maternity leave, the job that once made me feel so fulfilled was now holding me back from my true "dream job" of being a mother. I started to dread my alarm clock going off each morning, feeling guilty every time I had to buckle our baby girl into her car seat for my hour long commute, and even more guilty when I had to leave her for nine hours at a time five days a week. I started feeling like I never got to spend time with her while she was awake. The mom guilt quickly consumed my every thought.
I knew that something had to give. I had to "Own my Tomorrow."
Two months after being back at work, after a lot of sleepless nights spent praying and soul-searching, I walked into my boss' office with tears in my eyes and butterflies in my stomach to put in my notice that I was leaving. My boss wasn't surprised at all with my decision, and he even offered to have me help with some PR work on a freelance basis to get me started, which I graciously accepted.
With nothing else but a part-time retail job and a few hours of marketing work at a gift shop lined up to take the place of my full-time salary, leaving the agency was a total leap of faith – but the end goal was worth it to me, and I was determined to land on my feet.
Now, almost four whole years later, December will mark my 1/2-year anniversary of becoming a full-time, self-employed business owner. Don't get me wrong. Deciding to quit something stable to fulfill my dreams was not something that came easy. I still have setbacks along the way, but owning my tomorrows and being able to look forward to each work day is something that I will never take for granted.
Moral of the story? Don't settle for anything that isn't fulfilling you on all levels. Your "dream job" DOES exist. You just might have to work a bit harder to create it for yourself. For inspiration, head here to see how other people are working to "Owning their Tomorrows" courtesy of Charles Schwab.
One of my very best friends is patiently waiting for the arrival of her second baby, a sweet little girl, who is due to arrive on this side of the world in just a few short weeks. Since baby showers for second babies aren't really a common thing, our girlfriend and I decided to treat the momma-to-be to a relaxing girls' day this past weekend, complete with a maternity massage and lunch of her choice.
Of course, I couldn't NOT buy the baby a few things to celebrate the occasion! I turned to Baby Cubby (one of my favorite go-to sites for baby gear) and shopped sweet pink gift items to my little heart's content! Side note: shopping for second babies is way more fun than firsts. You can forego the more practical buys (bottles, changing pads, etc.) and go for the fun stuff instead.
If you or a loved one are expecting a new bundle of joy this winter, here are a few things I would recommend:
- The softest blanket to cozy up with. I also love these lightweight muslin swaddles!
- Owlet baby monitor. Where were these when my kids were teeny? I would have slept so much better at night with this little contraption!
- Soft headbands. Good luck choosing a pattern / color. They have SO many adorable options!
- For breastfeeding mommas: an all-in-one cover. This functions as a nursing cover, a scarf, a carseat carrier cover, and a cart cover for the grocery store. Genius!
- Dock-a-Tot. Again, why do they come out with the good stuff AFTER I have babies? Such a great idea to keep little ones feeling cozy at nap and night time!
- A fabric infant carrier. Lightweight and versatile for keeping baby close.
Now that the celebrations are through, all that's left to do is wait eagerly for my phone to ring with the news that baby Addison is on her way! I can't wait to snuggle her and get my baby fix! And being able to have a glass of wine with her mommy again will be nice, too! ;)
Special thanks to Baby Cubby for sponsoring this post! While I may have been compensated for this post, all opinions and thoughts are strictly my own.
Ever since we've been married, our master bedroom has taken the back seat to other house projects. In our first home (a rental), we didn't have a whole lot of liberty to revamp the space, and since we moved into our current home a little less than two years ago, we've had so many other projects to work on that our bedroom, as per usual, has been basically forgotten.
I'm almost embarrassed to show you this "before" picture of our room. I didn't realize it until now that it's on its way to being redone, but oh my gosh. It was SO bad. Taupe walls (which seemed like a good idea at the time), an unfinished bed, a comforter that didn't even fit the mattress, no headboard, and random wall decor just to make the room feel a bit more "lived in."
Enter Timberwall. These rustic little planks (and a couple fresh coats of dark gray paint on the walls) have really helped to bring some more character to the space. Luke, once again, made all of my Pinterest dreams a reality by building us a new platform bed, complete with this beautiful Timberwall headboard and Timberwall-wrapped frame. I am obsessed with how it turned out, and I don't know if it's a coincidence or not, but I have actually even been sleeping better at night since our little room revamp!
We used the Landscape collection for this project in "Desert." The Timberwall planks are packaged 30 per box in three different widths to add dimension to your project, and each box covers approximately 12 square feet. (For reference, we used almost all of three boxes for this project.) You can find Timberwall products to purchase at Lowes and view their entire catalog online here.
We still have some work to do in our bedroom: painting our dressers (or ordering new?), installing a new light fixture/ceiling fan, and hanging an eclectic gallery wall; not to mention installing some sort of new flooring to all of the bedrooms in the house eventually. But having this cozy new bed to crawl into every night sure has helped make the space feel more like home.
Stay up-to-date with all of our home projects on Instagram at #GillsEdenEstate! (Spoiler alert: we have another project in the works with the Arctic colorway for the living room that I am seriously giddy about!)
This Halloween, we decided to let Marleigh choose what she wanted to dress up as. She chose to be a Minion, and not just her – the whole family had to be involved. "A family of minions," to be exact, and daddy as Gru.
Amazon came through, as always, with the goggles, yellow shirts, and Luke's mask. This was one of the simplest (and cheapest!) costumes to throw together. I found my beanie in the Dollar Spot at Target and we all already had the overalls at home. The kids were hilarious staying in character all night saying "Banana" to anyone who asked them what Minions say. Too funny!
We had a great time trick or treating and the kids have enough candy and presents to last them until next Halloween. "Gru" and I may have snuck a package of Smarties or two from their loot, just to make sure it was okay, of course!
An added bonus, my camera actually made it home with us this year! (Remember the tragedy from last Halloween?) And now... we are fully prepared to start celebrating the GOOD holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas. Bring on the pine trees, pine cones, and the only Christmas movie acceptable to watch before Thanksgiving: ELF!
I think I've mentioned here before that Marleigh has a pretty serious peanut allergy, which has been life-altering for us in more ways than one. We don't keep anything containing peanuts or tree nuts in our home which means no peanut butter (obviously) but also nothing with that pesky bold "Manufactured in facilities with peanuts and tree nuts" warning on the box. I always giggle to myself while shopping in the grocery store that anyone watching me must think I'm really health conscious, checking the labels thoroughly on everything I pick off the shelf, when in reality, I'm just reading the allergy information. It's on more things than you would ever think!
Anyway, back to my main point. One of the things we didn't think to take into consideration with Marleigh's allergy was trick or treating. When we took her out for her first official Halloween, she was super excited to go Moo-ing around in her little cow costume, shyly knocking on doors and asking for candy. We had a great time trick or treating around my sister-in-law's neighborhood with all of the cousins, and the kids excitedly headed back to the house with their loots to enjoy their candy afterward. Everyone but our Mar Mar.
It didn't take long for us to discover that she couldn't eat any of her candy, with the exception of one little package of Smarties. Mini candy bars, M&Ms, and unmarked candies were all off limits. Luke and I felt horrible that we didn't consider this beforehand and made a promise to ourselves that we would always bring a "back up" treat bag from that point forward.
Here are a few "Pro Tips" from an insider's point of view on how to make Halloween allergy-friendly for your kids and all the little ghouls and goblins that ring your doorbell:
- Consider non-candy items. This might seem like a cop-out, but Marleigh loves the treats she gets that were non-edible! Think mini coloring books, crayons, pencils, stickers, temporary tattoos, etc. These items will become little keepsakes that the kids can enjoy much longer than a chocolatey treat.
- Keep a separate "Allergy-friendly" bowl. It might take an extra 5 minutes of prep time, but I can guarantee you will make parents' days if you put some peanut-free treats in a separate Trick or Treat bowl (and mark it as such). Marleigh's favorites have always been Sour Patch Kids, Smarties, Skittles, and Swedish Fish. Things like fruit snacks, pretzels, and juice boxes would work well, too!
- Hit up the neighborhood beforehand. This is a tip for the parents of kids with allergies. If you live in a smaller neighborhood, try to prep your neighbors and make them aware of the fact that your little one has an allergy to certain foods. You would be surprised the lengths people are be willing to go to in order to ensure children's happiness on Halloween! (Looking at you, E. Amherst crew! You guys are the best!)
- Set out the teal pumpkin. Last year, this initiative really took off! Signal to Trick or Treaters that you're an allergy-friendly and inclusive stop by setting a teal pumpkin out on your doorstep. You can learn more about the teal pumpkin here.
- When in doubt, bring an extra Treat bag! Another one for parents. In case you can't convince your neighbors to go out for extra candy and treats (or don't feel comfortable even asking!), bring an extra treat bag for your kiddo to enjoy when they get home. Pack the spare treat bag with their favorites and try to make a smooth transition from the treats they actually got and the treats you're exchanging them for – just in case they have their minds set on eating the treats they earned for themselves.
I never thought much about kids with allergies until Marleigh was diagnosed with hers, but seeing how sad she was on that Halloween night was a game-changer for me. Taking these few simple steps can help ensure your little ones can enjoy the holiday and not feel left out of the fun!
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #CatchMoreData #Ghostbusters #CollectiveBias
This year, we're celebrating Halloween with not one, not two, but THREE different Halloween festivities. Since I know my kids and their impeccable ability to get dirty and stained, I decided to plan ahead with a backup costume option for them.
Last month, I made "Dragon tails" for Marleigh's 4th birthday party and they made for the perfect jump off point for this tutorial – a simple, 5-step method for crafting your very own Dinosaur Hoodie and/or Shirt! All you need are a few basic materials, a beginner's knowledge of sewing, and a way to peruse Pinterest for the best techniques!
Let's get this party started!
Scroll through the photos below for a full step-by-step tutorial.
These costumes are not only simple to make, they're also comfortable for the kids to roar around in for Halloween parties, while playing dress up, or – our favorite – family movie night! Not to mention, they're super inexpensive to make (around $20 each), which is a huge plus.
Speaking of inexpensive – I scored the Samsung Galaxy On5 I mentioned above at just $119.99 using Walmart Family Mobile Plus. All I had to do was purchase my phone and the Nano Starter Kit on rollback for $19.88 (usually $25).
With a Walmart Family Mobile Plus plan, you get unlimited talk, text, and data, up to 10GB of 4G LTE each month, plus a free movie rental ($7 value) on VUDU! Family Mobile Plus is just $49.88 per line each month, and since Family Mobile bills you later, you only have to pay the starter kit price of $19.88 when you sign up... which will leave you plenty in the budget to splurge on more Halloween treats and no need to worry about "who you're gunna call"! We're all looking forward to turning on the Roku to enjoy our free New Release Rental on VUDU for our next family movie night!
Be sure to check out your local Walmart for more details on the Family Mobile Plus plans, and don't forget that the EXTENDED "Ghostbusters" movie is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD at Walmart, with 15 minutes of film not seen in theaters and over 3 hours of extras – just in time for the holiday!
To enjoy the Sony Ghostbusters Virtual Reality Experience:
1. Get a code from your Walmart Store from a user demo or purchase of Walmart Family Mobile product
2. visit GhostbustersVR.com
3. Register and redeem code
4. Download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play to access content
Head to the Walmart Family Mobile page to find an event in your area for a brochure with details on the Family Mobile plan, Virtual Reality experience, and a plastic 3D hologram!
What are your little ones dressing up as for Halloween this year? Did you opt for store-bought or DIY? Drop a comment below!
Last night, my birthday week continued with a Succulent Pumpkin Workshop at Henry's Gardens. My sister and sister in law joined me in the fun, along with a Bota Box of wine (of course). The class started by choosing a pumpkin from the store – I chose pastel orange and Rachel and Tay both opted for white – and we got started!
Barb, the owner of Henry's Gardens, was super helpful in showing us the ropes of how to properly plant and propagate succulents. Surprisingly, we didn't plant the succulents inside the pumpkins but rather on top of them using a special moss/soil, spray adhesive, and hot glue.
An hour and a half later and we all walked away with beautiful pumpkin creations – and maybe a few blistered fingers from the hot glue guns (#WorthIt). We were told the pumpkins should last us through Christmas, but I'm looking forward to re-potting the succulents after autumn passes us by.
Henry's is hosting the Succulent Pumpkin Workshop through the end of October with classes on Thursdays at both 10:30 AM and 6:30 PM! You can check out more workshop information and get the links to pre-register on their website here, or visit their shop in Eden for more fall and pumpkin goodness!