Photo Friday: Independence Day 2018

We celebrated Independence Day this year with a shrimp boil at Aunt Haley’s House with the Graves family, minus Will and Anna, who were at Joe Daddy’s house for the holiday.

Aunt Haley had a sprinkler going, fully loaded bubble guns, and poppers (since we’re in a burn ban, plus two year olds and real fireworks aren’t always the greatest combo).

The girls sported their red, white, and blue outfits. Frugality tip: wait until a few days before the holiday and resale stores usually run great sales. We got these shirts for $1 each. New stores often do the same thing. My friend, Paige, scored adorable ones for $3.99 from either Gymboree or the Children’s Place (I can’t remember). Plus, unlike some of the other holidays, these are easier to wear throughout the year.

I love buying clothes from the resale store. It’s almost always in great shape and it makes me feel very “green.” You know, like I’m saving the world, one preowned outfit at a time?!? The downside to buying clothes at a resale shop is if you want your multiples or even singles to match, it’s not always easy. Every once in a while I’ll find two of something in the right sizes and I snatch them up. Even though I’m a “matchy-matchy mom,” I’m ok with them just coordinating to save a few bucks. Oh, the sacrifices I make to save money…

Or, if you really want to save money, just put your kid in clothes they already have. That works pretty well too and is obviously a lot easier!

Enough of the frugality tips…..

As you’ll see below, we had a fantastic, fun time on the 4th. So fun, in fact, we didn’t even stay awake long enough that evening to see any fireworks. Yet, even without the fireworks, it was still a wonderful day. I hope everyone had a great holiday as well!

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Mommy Review Monday: Panera Bread App

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Mommy Review Monday but was spurred into thinking of it today because this app is something I feel I should share. Since I’m on the road this week, I enjoyed a lovely meal from Panera Bread. (Half Turkey BLT and Half Green Goddess Salad). I pulled out my phone and opened my Panera Bread app. I quickly placed my order for rapid pickup and it was ready for me, bagged up and ready to go within minutes. It reminded me that there may be a few of you out there who don’t know about it and how great it is.

Here’s what I like about it:

  • Easy to use app with good layout
  • Choose whether to order for rapid pickup, delivery, or order from your table
  • Rapid pickup allows you to pick it up in a bag, packed and ready to take out
  • The delivery is super convenient
  • The “order from your table” option allows you to go secure a table during busy times and order there rather than waiting in line to order- even though their new kiosks are quite convenient.
  • I can order assorted boxes of bagels with cream cheese options for pickup quickly for an easy breakfast meeting snack/light breakfast.
  • It shows you where the nearest cafes are.
  • It keeps up with your Panera Bread rewards and shows you what you’ve already used and what you have available. I’ve already earned a free drink, free cookie, and a discount.
  • You can look up the menu. The menu shows you the nutritional facts. If you’re tracking your calories or nutrition, this is very helpful.
  • You can easily customize your order to include what you do and don’t want…even things you didn’t know were options.
  • You can save your credit card on there for fast ordering. I think you can use Apple Pay too.
  • You can see some of the screen shots below.

What I would change:

  • I’d love to see the option to order for in-house dining (like rapid delivery but instead of being packaged to leave be ready to eat at your table.) Sometimes I’ll order online for rapid pickup but feel guilty having it in disposable takeout bowls rather than the reusable ones.
  • I’d love to see them add more group meal options for box lunches, drinks, etc. It’s easy enough to just call those in but, in true millennial-style, I’d live to just do it online or on my phone to get a quick confirmation. I agree that this is very much a first world problem.
  • That’s honestly all I can think of right now to be improved.

Like I said before, it’s pretty fantastic. If you eat at Panera Bread on a somewhat regular basis, this app is totally for you. It’s my go-to for when I’m on the road because I can consistently get a good meal, both from a taste and nutritional standpoint. The convenience of it, along with free WiFi available when I need to pull out my laptop for work, makes it an amazing cafe choice, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

If you like this app, you’ll also live the Starbucks app. Check out my post about it as well.

Happy Mommy Review Monday. I hope yours was as awesome as mine!

Mommy Review Monday: Full Focus Planner

I have mentioned in a few of my previous posts that I use the Full Focus Planner.  I happened upon this wonderful thing on one of the many podcasts that I listen to.  It’s been wonderful for me.

Here’s what I like about it:

  • It’s black and non-discrete.  There’s a lot of flashy journals out there and, for some folks that’s awesome, but I prefer something low-key.  It’s not too big, allowing me to fit into most of my medium size and larger purses.
  • It’s got two built-in ribbons that help in keeping your place like a bookmark.  I typically keep one on my current day and one by my quarterly goals list.
  • It has an elastic band to keep it shut, which is nice.  I sometimes will also use this as a third bookmark.
  • It’s got enough for 90 days to complete a whole quarter.
  • It has daily quotes that are inspirational, etc.  I have shared quite a few of these because they’re usually pretty wonderful.
  • It has your daily “Big 3”:  The 3 biggest things that are most important for your day’s to-do list.  There’s also a weekly “Big 3.”  Example:  My “Big 3” this week are- Stay on Noom, Work-out 3 times this week, and Stay Focused at Work and Don’t delay (yes, I know that last one sounds funny but sometimes I lose focus).  So far, I’m doing well on #1 and #2….it’s only Monday though, so I’ve got time to get back on track for #3.
  • There’s a checklist and system for deferring, delegating, checking off, or cancelling.  For a check-list lover like me, this is perfect.
  • Everyday is two pages- 1) The date, your “Big 3,” your checklist and 2) Notes- where you can either put more to-do items, as I usually end up doing, and/or write notes.
  • There’s an index and all of the pages are numbered to make it easy to find things.  I honestly would not have ever considered this but if you’ve got something really important that you know you want to know what page you can find things in that topic about.  For example:  I’ve got a project called “Grapevine Stadium” and I had a few meetings about it with notes on pages 4,6,20, and phone calls on 8, 10, and 24.  I can quickly go to these without flipping through every page.  You have full control over how you structure your index.  I only index things that I feel are really important.
  • There’s a goal setting portion in the front where you list your SMARTER goals.  Then you break your goals down by finding out why and what you need to do to make it happen, along with setting frequency and due date, etc.  It breaks it down into achievement goals and habit goals.  These are all important for making sure that you achieve the goals you have.
  • Each week you look over your goals, your “Big 3”, etc. and it asks you how you did and what you could do better.  It’s a really good reflection.  It also asks you to set your “Big 3” for the following week.  I take this time to look at what I have on my calendar for the week to help me with them.  Then I try to pencil in my “Big 3” for each day of the week, knowing that these will likely change throughout the week but at least I have a general idea of the most important things I need to get done.
  • There’s a full year calendar in there, which is nice to put the most important things you have on your calendar in one place.
  • There’s the option to buy a “subscription” and they will automatically send you a new journal every quarter.

What I would change (there’s not much):

  • I’d add a pen holder, although I’m sure I could buy one for it.
  • I’d change the layout of the calendar.  It doesn’t give enough space to write hardly anything in there.  There are often times more than one thing I need to add in a day.  Now that I think about it, I might start noting the page number that items are on to make that easier.  But I still wish it was more in traditional calendar form so I could see what day of the week it was.  I’m sure it was done this way to save space and have fewer pages.  After all, you don’t want a planner that is too large.
  • I would’ve bought 4 journals at once rather than doing the subscription so that as I get closer to that next quarter I can start putting my to-do lists into their assigned days.

Overall, this is the best planner I’ve ever had and it really has helped me.  I’m slightly ADHD, so I need all of the (Full) focus I can get.  Pun intended.  I’ll continue to use this and I’m hopeful that I’ll see the change in the calendar maybe someday but, even without that change, it’s awesome.  I definitely recommend it if you’ve got a lot going on in your life and you’re into setting and achieving goals, whether personal or professional.

Happy Mommy Review Monday!

Snacking Healthy: Salted Chocolate Coconut DeLight

My adventure on Noom and my new healthy lifestyle continues. (if I was saying this out loud I would’ve used air quotes around healthy lifestyle) And as I continue to Noom right along, I’m learning how to better use my very limited calories to the ensure I’m satisfied from not only a hunger standpoint but also a craving side as well.

You see, I have a sweet tooth. Actually, I’m pretty sure all but about five of my teeth may be sweet teeth- two for breads and carbs, one for burgers, one for seafood, and one for prime rib. You get the picture though. I need my sweets.

And I don’t mean fresh fruit….although I do enjoy that.

Because of my sweet teeth, I’m always looking for a good way to satisfy them. And I found one that I’m currently obsessed with. I actually plan the rest of my day’s meals around this sweet snack.

Yes, I really think it’s that good. And I’m going to share it with you because, unlike the two toddlers running around my house, I like to share things. So here it goes.

I call it Salted Chocolate Coconut DeLight and it’s only two ingredients:

  1. Dannon Light and Fit Greek Yogurt- Toasted Coconut Vanilla (only 80 calories)
  2. Endangered Species Chocolate Bark- Salted Hazelnut (about half a serving or two larger size pieces) crumbled

That’s it. You probably thought as much as I praised this sweet treat that it would be something complicated. Instead it only takes a few minutes to put together. And even less to clean up. That’s a winner in my books.

Plus, I buy these Greek yogurt cups at Sam’s in a box with Lemon Merengue and Strawberry Cheesecake, which are also pretty fantastic. The bark came from Walmart and wasn’t cheap but was worth it.

Enjoy and happy snacking!

Mommy Review Monday: Batiste Dry Shampoo, Dark & Deep Brown

It took me a long time to break down and try dry shampoo, mostly because I always assumed it only worked for blondes. As I was getting my hospital bag ready for delivering the twins, one of the things I kept seeing on many new moms lists was dry shampoo. So I figured it was worth checking out. And I found that they make it for us dark haired beauties too. Duh. Of course they do. So, I went to Amazon and read a few hundred reviews before I decided to try out Batiste Dry Shampoo in Dark & Deep Brown.  It actually says Divine Dark on the spray can.

Mommy Review Monday- Batiste Dry ShampooAfter I got used to it, I was hooked. Here’s why I agree that it is divine dark:

  • It freshens my unwashed hair up. Obviously. That’s the whole purpose, right???  Second (or third day) greasy hair, be gone!  Don’t judge me….
  • It’s easy.  I saw online that there are some powders out there that you sprinkle on, which seems like (a) a mess for someone clumsy like me (b) time consuming (c) did I say a mess???
  • It smells good but isn’t too strong.
  • It doesn’t show up once you brush it out.  See comment below.
  • It provides camo for my stray grays that I’ve got peaking through.  I’ve got at least one for each kids growing right now…. plus one for the cat, Garen, the kitchen remodel, the yard sale….need I go on???
  • It’s reasonably priced.  $23.05 for a three-pack.
  • It’s available on Amazon.  Available in 2 days, which is usually plenty fast.
  • It’s not a huge can.  When you travel as much as I do, you consider things like the size of your cosmetics and products.
  • It gives me a bit of extra body.  Disclaimer- some people may not like this because it does make your hair a bit stiffer and full.  I, on the other hand, can use all the help I can get with my super-thin hair.

Here’s what I’d love more:

  • I’d love it more if it didn’t show up at all when you sprayed it on your hair.  Yes, I’m lazy enough to say that I’d rather not to have to brush it out.  However, you do need to brush it or you’ll look like you walked into a cloud of baby powder.  Once you brush it out, it’s as good as new though.  It’s still faster than washing and drying my hair….
  • I wish it was readily available at more stores.  Even though it’s on Amazon, there are times that I get somewhere and I’ve forgotten to pack it.  Dun, dun, dun…. Most stores don’t carry it and I’m just stubborn enough not to try another brand so I just have to wash my hair.  First world problem, right?!?
  • It gets your hands (see photo below) and can get your clothes dirty if you’re not careful.  It will also wash out brown in the shower.  The first time that happened I had forgotten about it and thought to myself, “Man, how did I get that dirty???”  Then I remembered.  Duh….Mommy Review Monday- Batiste Dry Shampoo

There you have it.  Now any of you beautiful dark headed ladies can enjoy dry shampoo too if you haven’t already.  And if any of you have a brand you like more, please let me know!  I’d love to try it out compared to Batiste but I’m hesitant without a recommendation from a fellow dry shampooer….

Happy Mommy Review Monday!

Hippity Hop-pity, Easter’s on It’s Way: Easter Bunny Garden with Peeps

My Mom always sang us the “Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail” song around this time. And, between her and Grammy, we were sure to have plenty of candy, including Peeps! I honestly don’t think you can have Easter without these sugary, marshmallowy, packages of cuteness.

Yesterday, I needed to make a run for some labels at Dollar Tree and, as I expected, the Easter section sucked me in. Have I ever told you that I’m in love with the Dollar Tree? So many wonderful things only priced at a dollar. I got some extra-fun goodies for Easter baskets so it was a successful trip, especially since I managed to get the labels, which is what I made the trip for.

I also bought some peeps and some gummy carrots. I have been waiting on an opportune time to make “dirt cups” with pudding and some crushed up brownies I had leftover in the freezer for a while. The moment I saw the peeps next to the carrots, I knew it was the perfect time to put these gardens together for the kiddos.

Easter Bunny Garden with PeepsAnna was super excited and helpful with our fun little project. Thank goodness it was an easy one…. although we did have quite a bit of “dirt” on the floor.

We made the chocolate pudding together and processed the brownies. Anna got to scoop the “dirt” (processed brownies crumbs) into the bottom and top of the dishes. Then she got to top the garden off with a gummy carrot and a Peep.  You can use processed Oreos too but I needed to use the brownies and they were tastier than the Oreos I’ve used for this in the past.

Anna’s last job was to lick the bowl. I wish I’d taken a picture of her chocolate-covered face because it was adorable and disgusting at the same time!

Easter Bunny Garden with PeepsEveryone except Kate dug into their cup o’ dirt (She oddly enough doesn’t really like sweets much. It’s mind boggling that she’s mine!). Kate actually spit it out and said “Yuck, dirt!”

Even Garen enjoyed them. Ok, maybe not the Peep or the gummy carrot but he quickly ate the rest of it. The smiles and laughs made it all worth the time…and honestly, this was a pretty easy dessert/craft project. That’s the best of both worlds!

Enjoy!!!

This post is all my own opinions.  I’m not getting a kick-back from Peeps or Dollar Tree.  I just happen to be a satisfied customer.  

Mommy Review Monday: Ceramic “Non-stick” Instant Pot Bowl

After the first two times cooking in the Instant Pot, Garen, who usually cleans the kitchen after I cook, suggested that we look for a “non-stick” version.  Sooooo….I went to Amazon.  Where else?

Ceramic "Non-stick" Instant Pot BowlHere’s what we found and purchased:  Genuine Instate Pot Ceramic Non-Stick Interior Coated Inner Cooking Pot- 8 Quart.

Positives:

  • It is lightweight.  I read some reviews that people thought the lightweight properties made it not as great to use but I’ve had no issue with that affecting our dishes so far.  This could be a issue later potentially if it bends but I think being careful with it will prevent that.  Only time will tell.
  • It wasn’t as expensive as I expected, ringing up at $24.99 at the time I purchased it.  I really think it’s worth that much just to have a second bowl should I need one with a meal that requires multiple dishes cooked in your Instant Pot.
  • It seems to cook just as well as the original for the dishes I’ve used it for.
  • It fits fine into my Instant Pot even though I did read some reviews that some people got pots that would not fit correctly.
  • It cleans better than the regular pot it came with.  Yes, I am the mom that hates having to soak and/or scrub dishes.  And I married to a man that hates it too and since he does most of the kitchen clean-up when I cook, I’m going to make his job as easy as possible when I can.

Negatives:

  • I wouldn’t say it’s still completely non-stick but it’s still way easier to clean that the original pot.  See above comment. 
  • This isn’t really a negative so much as an added requirement- you must use non-metal utensils.  This isn’t an issue for me since I rarely use metal anyway due to almost always cooking in non-stick pots and pans.
  • You can’t use the metal steamer insert your Instant Pot comes with.  Actually, you can but I don’t recommend it because it will scratch the coating, just like metal utensils would.  Because of this I’m still using my original pot for boiling eggs, steaming, etc. but you can be assured that this silicone steamer set is my next purchase.  I’ll let you know how it works!

Ceramic "Non-stick" Instant Pot BowlWhat are your favorite Instant Pot accessories?  I’d love for you to share!

Happy Instant Potting!

For the record, I’m not getting any compensation or free stuff for writing this review.  These are strictly my opinions.  I’m just a crazy, working mom, trying to share ways to make your life easier!