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: 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!

Photo Friday: A girl and her doll

We got Anna her first American Doll for her birthday. She loves it. Garen got this photo of us “doing hair.”

I love it. So real. So special.

Here’s another great one that Garen took.

Happy Photo Friday!

Brunswick Stew- Instant Pot Style

This recipe was Garen’s request for me to make in the Instant Pot so it was the first recipe that required more than 3 ingredients. I was a little leery since I’d never had Brunswick Stew and didn’t even know what to expect. As I always do when cooking something I don’t have a go-to recipe for, I went to Pinterest. I didn’t find an Instant Pot version I liked but I did find this slow cooker version from Rosie at i heart Recipes. I used this for an “outline” and tweeked it to work for what I had and to cook in the Instant Pot.

This recipe is fantastic. Really. I can’t make it up. Garen thought it was the best recipe I’ve ever made. The littles even liked it, making it even better in my book!!!

I used the Easiest Pulled Pork Ever recipe and shredded chicken that I made earlier in the day for it. You could easily use another recipe or even store-bought pulled pork.

Here it is- Brunswick Stew, Instant Pot Style

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Pulled Pork
  • 2 Cups shredded chicken
  • 1 Red onion, diced
  • 1 Can Roasted Diced Tomatoes
  • 6 Cups Chicken broth (I substituted 1 cup for juice from the pulled pork to use what I had)
  • Frozen okra, 12 oz
  • Frozen peas, 6 oz (half bag)
  • Frozen corn, 12 oz
  • Frozen lima beans, 12 oz
  • 3 Small sweet potatoes, pealed and cubed
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Cup BBQ sauce (I used half Rudy’s and half Sweet Baby Ray’s since that all I had)
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-1/2 tsp Seasoning salt
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Black pepper

Instructions:

  • Add all of the ingredients into the 8 qt Instant Pot bowl (if your Instant Pot is smaller, you may have to adjust the recipe to not fill it past the max fill)
  • Mix all ingredients very well
  • Put the lid on, close it completely, and close the vent
  • Press Manual setting and set for 15 minutes. It will take a long time to get pressured because it will be almost to the max fill line. It will shift from On to the number of minutes remaining to cook
  • Once time is up, let it natural release for 10 minutes before opening the lid.  This ensures the meat is tender and juicy.
  • Open the lid. Check to make sure the potatoes are cooked completely. The meat was already cooked so the main thing is that you’re letting the veggies cook and that everything soaked up the wonderful flavors.
  • Enjoy.

Like I said, this stuff is wonderful. It’s not your typical soup/stew and I’m soooo glad Garen wanted me to try this recipe out!

Happy Instant Potting!

Getting Started with My New Toy, the Instant Pot

On Friday I turned 35 and one of the awesome gifts I got was an Instant Pot.  Garen got it for me.  He also got me a new diamond bracelet so he’s officially the best husband EVER.  He knew that I’d never buy one of these myself.  Plus, he also knew that I’d never get it out of the box and going on my own.  Technology and I have a love-hate relationship.  I love it but hate how intimidating it is to me.

We got it going yesterday afternoon with the water test and I cooked my first frozen chicken last night.  It worked like a charm.  And just like that, I was hooked…. just like everyone else that has one and has tried it.

Getting Started with my Instant PotToday I took advantage of the day at home and cooked up a round of food to get us started including:

Click on the links above to check out the recipes, all of which turned out great!  I’m just getting started so stay tuned to check out my experiments with my newest toy.

Happy Instant Potting!

Mommy Review Monday: Stride Rite made2play® Phibian Sneaker Sandal

Are your kids hard on play shoes? Mine are. That was really a stupid question. What kid isn’t hard on shoes???

We go through a lot in our house. Fast.

I had been watching Facebook ads for Stride Rite made2play® Phibian Sneaker Sandal for a while but, being the semi-tightwad that I am, I wasn’t wanting to spend that much on a pair of shoes that looked like a glorified mixture of Keens and Crocs.

Finally, I was in Kid to Kid, my favorite local resale shop, when I spotted a pair of pink ones in Anna’s size that looked barely worn. They were still asking $15 for them, which is more than I really wanted to spend for a pair of gently used shoes…. even if they were Stride Rite. I went ahead and did it so I could try them out though.

stride rite made2play® phibian sneaker sandalAnd I’m so glad I did. Here’s why I love the Stride Rite made2play® Phibian Sneaker Sandals:

  • They held up beautifully! That used pair…I actually packed it away to save for the littles- even after Anna wore them for a year and who knows who wore them before that! I have since bought Will a pair. We bought them in the spring last year and they still look pretty good, which is amazing because he’s the hardest on shoes of all of my kiddos.
  • They clean easily. They’re kind of plasticish (I know that’s not a word but you get what I mean) so they wash off easily with just plane water and soap. I’ve never tried washing them in the washer because I haven’t ever needed to, although they say their machine washable so it must be ok!
  • Parents who hate tying shoes over and over again for kids that should be able to tie their own darned shoes- rejoice.  No laces!  Easy-on-and-off is a wonderful feature.
  • They come in pretty cool colors that aren’t all that crazy… or with cheesy characters on them- which is a little rare for easy-on/off shoes.
  • They can wear them with or without socks comfortably.
  • They seem super comfy because my kids wear them all the time….or they can’t find their other shoes.  One of the two is correct.
  • They dry out quickly.  If your kids like to stomp in water or you’re going somewhere wet (think the beach or an amusement park), these are perfect.  Or…if your kids have sweaty, stinky feet like mine do, they’re pretty good for that too.  They smell less than any other pair of tennis shoes we’ve ever bought the kids even though they are being worn more.
  • The price is right.  $35 may seem high but it really isn’t for a pair that lasts an entire year to constant activity and wear, stays comfy, looks good, and can be worn in wet conditions.  Oh, yeah- and can still be handed down to the next lucky kiddo in line.  If they wear them for only 130 days, that’s just over $.26 a day.

Stride Rite made2play® Phibian Sneaker SandalsYou got it “rite” this time, Stride Rite.  Yes, I know…. cheesy.  Will would be embarrassed of that cheesy mom joke!

But seriously, I the Stride Rite made2play® Phibian Sneaker Sandals will be the next pair of shoes I buy for Clara and Kate- in the new metallic purple and pink since those are “their colors.”

For the record- I bought these shoes and am receiving no payment, etc. for this review.  The rambling review is mine, all mine.