Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Luscious List

I haven't done one of these in a while and I haven't been posting as much as I have in the past as we settle into a routine with Ellie starting school. She is going 2 days a week. I signed Summer up for a Library story time and we are thinking about the Little Gym. Ellie is doing ballet and the other mornings are for playground visits or outings (zoo, children's museum, music class, play dates). I also started a part-time job in which I work from home on my computer. It's an ideal job for me as a stay at home Mom and I really enjoy it. It's with a reputable company and everything is done on my home computer. No phone calls, which is wonderful since it's almost impossible to talk on the phone these days with the girls (even with my friends). I recently finished three weeks of training and now I am on more of my own schedule.

The girls and I went to the Elmwood Zoo yesterday and fed the giraffes. We did this last summer, too. I love giraffes- they are such cute animals and I love that the girls can feed them themselves. We met friends here so the girls had fun running around with them (and nice for me to catch up with a friend).

I'm sure you've seen Christmas being advertised already in stores and catalogs. I saw these knit stockings at Pottery Barn Kids and they reminded me of mine as a child. We all had knit stockings just like these and it makes me want to replace our current ones!

I'm obsessed with these hot pink Ikat pillows. I really want new ones for the couch in our front room. We currently just have these from Pier 1, which I love because they are so soft, but I want a few more. The pink may be too bright, but I love the pattern. 

I've been seeing so many dessert recipes on Pinterest. I have to wait for a party to make one so we don't eat it all. They are dangerous, especially the no-bake ones like this one. Anything with peanut butter I'm in. 

I know I just mentioned Christmas, but back to Halloween and Fall. If you saw on Instagram I stocked up on the pumpkin cereal bars at Trader Joe's that sold out so quickly last year. Stocked up meaning I bought five boxes. After eating one I decided I wasn't that hooked on them and ended up returning three boxes. The woman at the cash register was shocked I was returning the ever so popular pumpkin bar. Instead I bought a box of the pumpkin waffles after trying a sample (with ice cream). The girls don't like them, but I do. I definitely recommend them with ice cream or without.

The girls and I are headed to watch their cousins' soccer games, then while Summer is napping Ellie and I are going to decorate the house for Halloween. The girls put the decals on the windows this week and it's very festive. Then, we will have to make a plan for dinner since my husband left at 7:30 this morning and won't be home till 10 tonight. Dinner = take out. Tomorrow my friend is having an Arbonne party in the afternoon and I'm hoping to get some errands done alone since my husband is off from work. Nothing too exciting, but it's going to be a beautiful weekend in the 80s here. Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shopping: Toy Storage

Toy Storage

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10

We are in the market for more toy storage. I feel like we have so many toys and so little storage space. We already have one Ikea shelving unit, but we may need to add another. I love the 3 Sprouts baskets. We currently have the pink elephant holding some of the girls' stuffed animals. We definitely need something else to contain all of them. I love the small clear containers (#4) to hold tiny pieces and what I call "chokable items." Another box I also really like is this, which is on wheels and can be stacked. We currently have the pink one and I'd like to buy a few more. They hold so much stuff. I recently just donated some toys the girls don't play with anymore, as well as a few stuffed animals I knew they could part with. I also like to rotate toys. I will put a bunch of toys in the back part of our basement (out of view) and rotate them back in every few months. This helps with toy overload and it can be exciting to have a "new" toy to play with. All of their toys are primarily in the playroom and in our great room. I was hoping once the playroom was finished all of the toys would be in there, but they slowly have made their way upstairs. Big baskets work well in our great room (Home Goods purchases) and I'm shopping for a storage ottoman. I really don't keep many toys in their bedrooms. I brought up a small dollhouse that the girls will play with while we are getting ready in the morning. Other than that, it's just books and a few stuffed animals (they are everywhere!). 

I know I'm not the only one in which toys drive me crazy when they are scattered everywhere. I hope these storage options provide you with some sanity relief, too!

* some items contain affiliate links

Monday, September 22, 2014

Recipe: Pumpkin Muffins with Cinnamon + Sugar Topping

This pumpkin recipe is my favorite and I make them often throughout the fall and winter seasons. I will bring them to Thanksgiving dinner so my family can take them home and enjoy the next morning. I recommend eating them right out of the oven or warming them in the microwave and enjoying with a mug of coffee or tea. Last week I had one with vanilla ice cream and it was amazing. They are also great snacks for toddlers. I love the cinnamon and sugar topping. If you love pumpkin you will love these.

Pumpkin Muffins
1 dozen

1 1/2 cup flour (I usually use at least 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup canned pumpkin (15 oz can)
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/4 cup sugar (I usually only use 1 cup) + 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees (oven rack in middle)
2) Whisk flour and baking powder in a small bowl
3) Whisk pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, 1 1/4 cup sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth. Then, whisk in flour mixture until just combined
4) Stir together cinnamon and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small bowl
5) Divide batter into cups (3/4 full)
6) Sprinkle tops with cinnamon and sugar mixture
7) Cook for 25-30 minutes (puffed and golden brown)
8) Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack

This is also a great recipe to involve your kids. Ellie loves helping me bake the muffins. I do the measuring and she does the pouring, mixing, and sprinkling.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ellie's First Day of Pre-School + Other Updates

Ellie started pre-school (and her first time at school ever) last week. I knew eventually she would love it if she were timid at first. She said to me, "I don't want to go to school by myself, Mommy. I want to stay with you because I love you." Of course, it made me a little sad, but I had confidence that she would adjust well. We had talked about it all summer and even more so the few weeks leading up to it. I kept telling her that I would drop her off and pick her up everyday. The first day was orientation and the class was split and each group went to school for an hour with a parent. My mother in law stayed with Summer so I could have that one on one time with Ellie. We met her teachers and saw her classroom. She met some of the kids in her class and played with the cool, new toys (a big dollhouse and dress-up!).

The second day she went to school for an hour alone with the same group of kids and the third day was a full day with all of her class (12 kids total). I really liked the transition into a full day and I love that it's a small class. I also love her two teachers. So far it has been great. The first day she was alone she was first to arrive and Summer and I gave her a kiss and hug and she was all smiles as she sat down to play with Play Doh. And, all smiles as we picked her up. She has been excited on school days (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and talks about it on non-school days. I'm so happy she loves it and that she didn't shed a tear (that would have meant I would have shed lots of tears).

 Confidently walking into her classroom. She looks so small here!

Last Thursday I think Summer had the hardest adjustment after dropping Ellie off at school. She had quite a few meltdowns and I think she missed her big sister. We did a few errands, then went to the Library (one that we had never been to before) and she had a blast. There was a great kids area with lots of toys to play with. I checked out some books for the girls and signed Summer up for a Thursday storytime starting this week. On Tuesday we are trying out a class at the Little Gym and if it works with our schedule I will sign her up. It's nice to have one on one time with Summer. After school we have been playing at the playground for a while before heading home for lunch and Summer's nap. I thought I would never say this again, but Ellie has been napping, too! I cannot tell you how wonderful it was last week to have both girls napping at the same time! Quiet time for myself during the day? It's been happening and I love it.

Ellie also started her first ballet class last week. If you follow me on Instagram you have seen the pictures and video I'm sure. Oh my gosh, it's just total cuteness. A group of little girls in ballet outfits. Half of the class is tap and half, ballet. It's a small class and the teacher is great. Ellie is the youngest, but fit in well and she loved it. Last week was an open door for parents to watch, but the rest of the class will not be until their recital at the Holidays. I can't wait for that!

Ellie is in the black leotard and pink tights. I took entirely too many photos on my iPhone before realizing I could take video. I got a couple really cute videos that I watch over and over.

We are finally settling in to a routine with school and classes. I'm back to making dinners during the week (no more lazy summer dinners or eating at the pool). I've been hooked on my new favorite comfort meal and I even dusted off my Crock Pot and used that last week to make our favorite Chicken Tacos. Ellie and I also made our first batch of pumpkin muffins of the season. How cute is this little apron I got on eBay? Ellie was so excited when I gave it to her. She had been wearing one of mine, obviously a little big. She loves helping me in the kitchen. And, it's our quality time while Summer is napping.

Next on my list is to go through the girls' clothes and rotate their clothes for fall. I am starting to create a fall checklist with fun things to look forward to with the girls. Apple picking, of course, and our second annual pumpkin painting party in October are a couple things I am excited about. What is on your fall list?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Delicious Meatloaf Recipe

Growing up I never liked meatloaf, but I do now and this recipe is delicious! My Dad made it for a family dinner last winter and I finally made it myself. The prep time isn't long and I even had Ellie help me pour in the ingredients. Side note: she then went to play and I heard her pretending to shop for "the ingredients to cook dinner." I love her pretend playing! So back to the recipe- the meatloaf cooks in the oven for an hour and if you really want an easy dinner (me, for sure) you can buy roasted potatoes from Whole Foods and heat in the microwave. I also bought fresh broccoli and steamed it. I only put barbeque sauce on half of the meatloaf in case the girls didn't like it. And, as predicted, Ellie thought it was too spicy. I cut into the middle to make sure it was completely cooked before serving.

Best Meatloaf Recipe

1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 chopped onion (I used sweet onion)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup barbeque sauce (I use Trader Joe's Bold & Smokey)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

2. Mix all the ingredients except the barbecue sauce together, then spread the meatloaf mixture onto an ungreased loaf pan. I did this once and it did not cook all the way through in my oven. This time I molded it into the shape of a long loaf onto a cookie sheet. It came out perfectly.

3. Spoon barbeque sauce on top of the meatloaf and bake, uncovered, for an hour. 


Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Birthday Weekend Recap

My birthday weekend celebration started Saturday morning when I went shopping alone. It was actually my husband's idea, which was so sweet of him. I had planned to buy a dress to wear to dinner that night, but I didn't find one I loved. I still made out well and had fun trying things on by myself. Details coming in another post.

Saturday night we had reservations at Talula's Garden, but after looking at the menu we decided to leave and go to another Steven Starr restaurant, and one of our favorites- Buddakan. So glad we made the switch. We ordered our favorites- chicken and shrimp spring rolls with a dijon wasabi dipping sauce, sea bass, cashew chicken, and lobster fried rice. We had the "dip sum" doughnuts with dipping sauces- blackberry jam (my favorite), gingered cream cheese, and chocolate sauce. It was amazing. I'm still thinking about those doughnuts!

Sunday morning, my birthday, I woke up to "surprises" from the girls. Ellie made me a few paintings and I received cards from my husband and the girls. I also got flowers and a framed picture of the girls. I was impressed my husband downloaded the picture and printed it all by himself. That's normally something I do. My gift from him is a watch, but it's something I want to shop for and try on.

We continued with good food and went to my favorite brunch spot, Cake, in Chestnut Hill. I had the best french toast I've ever had and a warm chocolate croissant.

Afterwards, I enjoyed a pedicure at Diamond Spa and it was the best one I have had in a while. I didn't feel rushed and the woman took her time with massaging and making my feet look very pretty. I chose the color, Wicked by Essie. Perfect for the fall weather we have been having.

My parents had us over for dinner tonight, along with my Nana and my brother and his family. My Mom made fish tacos (one of my favorite foods) with Velvet Sky cupcakes and pumpkin ice cream for dessert. Delicious! It was a wonderful day and the best birthday! 

So thankful for this wonderful family I have. Nick was so great this weekend and really helped out a lot with the girls today and spent over an hour with them at the playground while I was getting my pedicure. He is such a great Dad!