15 Fun Things to Do With the Kids in August

July 31, 2015

Coming up with new ways to keep your little ones entertained can seem an impossible task at times, so each month I will offer up a few fun ideas that you and your children might enjoy. Have fun!



1. Make and share a milkshake together.

2. Make up a silly song that includes a verse about each family member. 

3.  Put together a Welcome Back to School care package for their teachers. 

4.  Fill up all the buckets, water balloons, and squirters you can find for one final and epic water war before school starts.

5. Buy a backpack to donate or give the money  to an organization that purchases them for donation. Check your local area to find out where you can donate.

6. Take one last summer road trip, even if it's not an overnighter.

7. Host a game night and invite the neighborhood kids over for a boardgame tournament.

8. Declare Backwards Day and do as many things as possible in reverse, including eating dinner foods for breakfast.

9. Have a family read-a-thon and read as many books as you can in a designated time frame.

10. Make musical instruments out of household items and have your own battle of the bands.

11. Have ice cream sundaes for dinner. 

12. Watch Frozen, or whatever their favorite movie is, for the zillionth time and sing all the songs at the top of your lungs (and don't pick up your cell, or find any other excuse to leave the sofa).

13. Make bathtub paint and let them get creative as they get clean. 

14. Play flashlight tag in the backyard.

15. Go for an evening stroll and talk about plans, hopes, and goals for the upcoming school year.

image via

Friday Favorites

July 31, 2015

My baby turns two today! While I can barely contain my excitement (birthdays are a really big deal to me) I can't help but feel a little sad that she's no longer, and will never again be, my tiny baby girl. When I kissed her goodnight last night I said to her, "This is your last goodnight as a one-year old.." and I nearly burst into tears. To celebrate her big day, (and combat any melancholy feelings I'm having), we're spending the day at the happiest place on earth. I'm looking forward to lots of giggles and excited squeals, and I can't wait to spoil both of my babies with all things Minnie Mouse and Disney princess. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. God bless!

The first picture I posted of my little angel about a week after I had her. Happy birthday, sweet girl!


Cute little cake toppers


Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.


The perfect crab boil. I'm still determined to have one before summer's end.


This lovely door. (I'm telling you, I'm obsessed. I never could have imagined I'd fall in love with a door!)

10 Best IKEA Hacks for Kids' Rooms

July 30, 2015

For anyone who loves to DIY, it doesn't get much better than a good IKEA hack; there are dozens and dozens  and dozens out there, and probably even more than that if you're willing to search. Lately, I've been itching to make something really sweet and special for my little girls, and since I'm not a master builder I'm trying to find an IKEA hack that is equal parts adorable and easy to execute. Here are ten projects that I know my babies will love. 

A painted Fado table lamp becomes the cutest nightlight ever. 


A special little table for coloring, playing with Play-Doh, or building with Legos. 


The most adorably colorful stepping stools for little feet.


A basic and, let's face it, boring rug literally becomes the sweet spot of the room when it's painted like a donut covered in colorful sprinkles.


An angelic face painted on an IKEA Skurar vase makes it totally appropriate for a child's room or play area.


A custom play kitchen built from IKEA furniture. 


An IKEA Expedit bookshelf turned banquette makes for an ideal reading spot. The baskets below are perfect for storing books and small toys.


Painting the drawers of the IKEA PS 2012 gives it a girly and whimsical feel. 


Bekväm spice racks as an unexpected but totally genius way to display books.


The sweetest little dollhouse made from a cabinet and some imagination.

Comfort Foods: Macaroni and Cheese

July 29, 2015

There are few foods as comforting as macaroni and cheese. For me, it evokes memories of  special moments with family; whether it was a Thanksgiving at my grandparents' home, Soul Food Sundays at my aunt's house, or a random Wednesday night out at a chicken and waffle joint with my husband, macaroni and cheese was always on the table. And while I love the versatility that a pot of pasta, butter, milk, and cheese provides (lobster and bacon are favorite additions), the simplicity of a humble bowl of macaroni and cheese, sans the gourmet treatment, is often the best part of a meal. This recipe is completely unfussy--just a quick cheese sauce that is so incredibly creamy, you may want to serve it straight out of the pot (that's how my daughter likes it best) and a crunchy breadcrumb topping. Simple, and so good. 





Macaroni and Cheese
1 lb. elbow macaroni (or any small pasta of your choice)
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded (I used an aged white cheddar)
salt and pepper

Topping
2 tablespoons butter
¼ - ½ cup Panko bread crumbs, depending on your preference

Preheat oven to 400°. Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain, and set aside but keep it warm. While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large pot over medium heat, then whisk in flour. Whisk until it's smooth, then cook for another minute. Add milk and cream, and whisk until it gets bubbly, then add the cheese and reduce the heat to low. Stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is creamy. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the cooked pasta and stir until it's well combined. Spread evenly in a casserole dish.

For the topping, melt the butter and mix in the bread crumbs. Sprinkle buttered crumbs over the macaroni and cheese and bake for 20 minutes. Eat and be comforted!



Friday Favorites

July 24, 2015

It's been kind of a go, go, go summer and we haven't had a whole lot of down time, so when my husband suggested we sleep in today and pick up breakfast burritos from a little joint around the corner, I was all for it (especially since my Zumba instructor killed us last night). "Sleeping in" with two small children often means we're up by 7:30, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that after our busy week they're as exhausted as their mama and daddy. We've got another busy week coming up because my baby is turning two next week, so I'm looking forward to a somewhat relaxed weekend before the birthday festivities. I hope you have a fantastic weekend. God bless!

Food as fashion--Resort 2016 designs from Givenchy, Jason Wu, Wes Gordon, and Sonia Rykiel reimagined by Gretchen Roehrs. This is seriously one of my favorite things ever!


60 facts about Disneyland, one of my favorite places on earth.


A disco ball hood ornament.


This ridiculously adorable pup.


Burrata peach salad

13 Really Cool Kitchen Tips

July 22, 2015

I started cooking when I was in the seventh grade. It started off simple enough, with me tweaking a box of deluxe macaroni and cheese, and before long I had graduated to homemade meatloaf and chicken parm. I loved to experiment with food, and my eagerness to try new things was a great learning tool--it took an embarrassingly long time for me to figure out that serrated knives are for cutting bread and not tomatoes, but I quickly learned that wax paper is not oven-resistant. Through all my years of trial and error, and the hours I spend watching Food Network and The Cooking Channel these days, I've seen and discovered a few handy tricks that make my time in the kitchen more enjoyable. Here, thirteen tips that make my life easier.

1. To keep foods like rice, beans, and pasta from drying out in the microwave, cover the plate with a dampened paper towel.

2. Slap fresh herbs between your palms to release the oils before adding to foods. It will really amp up the flavor.

3. Keep brown sugar soft by storing a couple of marshmallows with it.

4. To keep ice cream and frozen yogurt from getting freezer burn, press parchment paper directly onto the surface before putting the lid back on. 

5. Use a Bundt pan to cut fresh corn kernels off the cob. Place the corn cob on the center, use one hand to steady it, and use the other hand to cut. The pan will catch the kernels.

6. To shake the smell of garlic from your hands and cutting board, rub them with lemon juice.

7. Mix chocolate chips with a splash of vegetable oil before melting. This will thin it out a bit to make dipping much easier and give it a gorgeous shine without altering the taste.

8. When adding nuts, dried fruit, candies, or chocolate chips to any kind of cake batter, dredge them first in a little flour to keep them from sinking to the bottom of the pan.

9. Use ice cube trays to to freeze anything from coffee to leftover gravy. Here are ten things you can and should be freezing

10. To keep your coffee or tea from cooling too quickly, fill your mug with water and microwave it for a minute or two, then dump the water and replace it with your beverage. 

11. Spray measuring cups with cooking spray before measuring out sticky liquids like peanut butter and honey; the food will just slide right out. (If you've ever had to measure peanut butter you will totally appreciate this one.)

12. To extract the most juice from citrus fruits, roll them between your palm and the counter, applying just a bit of pressure, before cutting them.

13. Pizza cutters aren't just for pizza; use one to cut everything from puff pastry to quesadillas to long pasta noodles (for the little ones) with precision.

Wanderlust

July 21, 2015

Since coming home from Hawaii I've been itching to get back on a plane and head out of town. I'm hungry to taste new spices, to lick melting gelato off my hand, to peel open some exotic fruit. I want to wake up in a cozy hotel bed with nothing but adventure ahead of me. But, since this is real life and my little one is turning two in a couple of weeks and I have to go school shopping for my oldest, who is starting first grade next month, a trip to Paris or Morocco or Santorini or even Pensacola is out of the question right now. I can't bear the thought of not taking one last trip before school starts, so a quick road trip to San Diego might be in my future, but in the meantime I've been pinning like crazy to my Wanderlust board on Pinterest to help cure this travel bug I seem to have caught. I'm filling it up with gorgeous pictures of Parisian architecture, remote beaches, bustling New York City streets--all the things I would love to see, smell, taste right at this moment.

Have you done any, or plan to do any traveling this summer? 

image via

Monday

July 20, 2015


image via Instagram (@iamlisaprice)

Friday Favorites

July 17, 2015

July is halfway over and the long, lazy days of summer are rapidly coming to an end (yesterday we passed by a Hallmark store that already had a Christmas ornament display up!). Since school starts next month, I'm going to do my best to make the most of these last days and have as much fun as I can with my family. I'm hoping my 5-year old will remember this summer when she's older and have wonderful memories to cherish. Have an incredible weekend, and God bless!

Pretty little tarts



An important reminder



These epic milkshakes which I shall have to try to recreate as they are from a cafe in Canberra.


This gorgeous shot of Columbus Circle I spotted on Instagram via @Misshattan.



The cutest DIY clay and rope pot that would make a great gift. 

Chocolate Zucchini Loaf

July 15, 2015

When one goes out and buys a Veggetti after seeing a commercial, one is inclined to also purchase several, rather large zucchinis because one is so excited about the aforementioned Veggetti. But then one gets sick of eating zucchini "pasta" and is forced to find other uses for all the zucchinis that are hanging out in the vegetable bin. Like chocolate zucchini loaf! Originally, I set out to make zucchini brownies, but after extracting from several different recipes to create my own, I ended up with a cake (albeit a delicious one). Round 2, I baked my chocolate zucchini batter in a loaf pan and topped with a simple glaze and mini chocolate chips, and the results were perfect--a soft, tender cake with just the right amount of sweetness to balance the rich chocolate. And if I ever want to make it dairy-free, I can just omit the glaze and this loaf cake will still be fantastic.

Chocolate Zucchini Loaf
½ cup vegetable oil
1½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded zucchini
½ cup chocolate chips

Glaze
¾ confectioners' sugar
¼ heavy whipping cream
mini chocolate chips (optional)


Preheat oven to 350° and grease and flour a 9x5 loaf panIn a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar and vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt, then stir into the sugar mixture. Gently fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until cake springs back when you  gently press on the top.

To make the glaze, whisk whipping cream and confectioners' sugar together until creamy.
Drizzle over cake once it's completely cooled, and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips. 

Life Lessons From Clueless

July 14, 2015

It's been two decades since Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash shared the screen as fashion-conscious besties Cher and Dionne and influenced an entire generation to use phrases like "As if!" and "ensembly challenged." And you wouldn't think that a film titled Clueless would offer anything more than entertainment and style inspiration, but the cult classic actually holds valuable and beneficial lessons that we should all remember and try to adhere to, no matter how old we are. 

1. Go after what you want.
Cher may have gone about things the wrong way when it came to her pursuit of the elusive Christian (sending herself flowers and trying to make him jealous--wrong answer), but her persistence in going after what she wanted has to be admired. And even though things didn't work out as planned, she ended up with a great friend and had not a single regret. 

2. Don't be afraid to take a risk--fashion or otherwise--once in awhile. 
You don't have to wear a Dr. Seuss-inspired hat like Dionne (and you shouldn't!), but taking a fashion risk, or any kind of risk, can be exhilarating. The key is to do it with confidence.

3. Be kind.
It's simple really--instead of being a jerk, choose to be nice to people. Cher and Dionne were popular and could have taken the mean girl route with newcomer Tai, but instead they took her under their wings and tried to help her feel more at home. 

4. Never stop learning. 
Cher was really on to something when she told ditzy Tai to learn a new word and try to use it in a sentence. It's always cool to learn new things, whether it's a word to add to our vocabulary or an interesting factoid to share at a dinner party. 


images via 1, 2, 3, 4

Friday Favorites

July 10, 2015

It's been a great summer for my girls so far, and I know it's only going to get better because next week they'll be starting their swimming lessons. We'll be in the pool every day for the next two weeks, which means 1) they'll have a blast (good for them) and 2) they'll be exhausted come bedtime (great for me). We're keeping our weekend low key, save for a luau birthday party.  It should be a good one; I'm hoping your weekend is good too. God bless!




The Perivolas Hotel in Santorini. Have I ever mentioned my obsession with Santorini? I can't wait to go someday. 


This sweet little pineapple necklace




DIY Textured Vase

July 9, 2015


I love a good DIY project and am always looking for inspiration or dreaming up ideas I want to try. This textured vase was actually inspired by a lamp I saw at Target awhile ago; I immediately fell in love with the textured glass of the lamp base. I wasn't in the market for lighting at the time, but I'm always looking for pretty accent pieces for my home, so I decided to make a vase for my workspace instead. Using a tall drinking glass from the dollar store (yes, the dollar store), I simply applied gems and paint to create, what I think, is a vase that's pretty and cool and unique. It took a few days to make, but only because of the necessary drying times for the adhesive and paint; other than that, this was one of the simplest projects I've ever completed.

DIY Textured Vase
1 vase or glass container with no bumps or texture 
studs, beads, or gems with one flat surface
2 oz. tube industrial-strength adhesive
1 can spray paint, any color











Apply adhesive to both the flat side of the gem and the vase, and let set for 2 minutes before sticking gem to the vase. I started at the base and worked my way around; then did the next row above, etc. Repeat with remaining gems until your vase is as covered as you'd like it. Let the adhesive cure for at least 48 hours. Once the vase is dried and adhesive cured, stuff the inside of the vase with newspapers and spray the paint all over to completely cover the gems and fill in all the nooks and crannies between them. Let the paint dry for 24 hours. Add water and fresh flowers, and enjoy the loveliness!
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