Saturday, June 30, 2012

Red, White & Blue {on a Budget!}

Hello friends!

My friend, Samantha, is here today to share her ideas for having a great 4th of July on a budget!


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One of my absolute favorite holidays has to be the Fourth of July. Our summer is filled with parades and fireworks displays and Independence Day is the pinnacle! Over the years, I've learned some tips and tricks to keep the festivities huge while keeping the dent in your wallet small.

1. Start the day with a {nutritional} bang! 

Who doesn't love a delicious & festive breakfast? My favorite tradition is to make whole wheat pancakes, top them with blueberries and cut strawberries (both favorites in this house) with a few dollops of whipped cream. The perfect oomph to give you the energy to enjoy all those celebrations!

2. Dollar stores and Target's Dollar Spot are treasure troves.

Inevitably, as we hit the evening hours, the boys catch sight of all the beautiful glowing sticks, bracelets, and fancy whirling lights. We hem and haw over the outrageous price tag as vendors walk by. In the weeks leading up to the Fourth, I head out to my local dollar store and Target's Dollar Spot to spy items that my boys will love, keep them occupied and keep us from going broke! This year, I've picked up a few small packages of flags, 2 glow stick flags, 4 packages of glow necklaces (my niece and nephews occasionally join us) and some festive dessert cupcake liners and toppers - all for around $5. It pays to plan!

3.  Pack snacks and drinks!

When waiting around for the fireworks, the time seems to go by so slowly and we always seem to get an extra burst of hunger. Instead of opting for the overpriced park fare, we bring our own bags of fruit, crackers, bottles of water, and the candy from our local parade satisfies our sweet tooth.

4. Prepare for anything!

Bug spray, sunscreen, sweatshirts (yes, one year it was FREEZING), blankets, chairs, strollers, and all the regular child essentials. Whether you are headed to a friend's house or out for the day to a festival, you never want to be stuck without what you may need!

5. Coordinate your wardrobe (using what you already have!)

In the past, I've been a sucker for complete red, white, and blue (usually matching) outfits. I'd snag the Old Navy shirts for $5 and call it a day.  But inevitably, the boys would grow out of them, the year would no longer be relevant and I'd find myself wasting money. Now, I dress our family up for the day based on what we already have in our closet (blue) jean shorts for the boys and white/blue/red shirts for the boys with what we already own. It's usually cheaper (and reusable!) throughout the year.

6. Save a little, so you can splurge occasionally!

Who doesn't love enjoying ice cream while watching fireworks light up the night sky? Save money throughout your day to enjoy some ice cream as a family later. 

The most important thing to remember is that memories are made as a family, not necessarily with your pocketbook. I have fond memories of these same activities with my parents and am thrilled to now share that with my boys.

Happy Independence Day!

I'm an almost thirty-something mom of two little fellas that married my high school sweetheart. I love the following in this order: God, family, friends, coffee, iPhone, chocolate. I'm not afraid to try new things unless it involves exercising. I hope to one day live on a beach with feet in the sand every day. For now, I blog over at The Peanuts Gang and consider myself a lady of all trades.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Just Had to Share!

Hi Friends!

I'm not at home right now. Want to know where I am??

I'll give you a few hints....

We're at the beach!!! Abbey, my mom and I are spending a few days at a family friend's lake house (Lake Michigan, if you're curious). Matt, my dad, and my brother will get here Friday afternoon, and then Matt, Abbey and I are headed up to Grand Rapids until the 5th. Hooray for vacation!
You won't be seeing many posts from me over the next week, but I do have a couple of fantastic guest posts lined up. You're going to love them!

My main reason for popping in today was to share our latest batch of family pictures! It had been so long since we've had anything other that "portrait gallery" photos, so I am thrilled with these!

I'm heading back to the beach!

Be blessed!


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Toddler Box 6: Counting Ducks

Hi friends!

Abbey and I have been playing along with the Readathon at MeMeTales. It is so much fun! MeMeTales is a children's e-book app that is available for iPhone, iPod and most e-readers. The app gives you access to tons of books, some for free, and some available for purchase at great prices!
During the readathon you get to "borrow" books each week that fit a certain theme. Every week, new books become available.
This week's theme was animals. Abbey's favorite!! We read The Donkey and The Wolf, The Lion and The Mouse, and 5 Little Ducklings. Abbey was having so much fun counting the ducks that it inspired another Toddler Box!

This one takes a bit more prep work than the other boxes, but I think it's worth it.
I started with some yellow foam, and a duckling outline I found through Google Images.

I cut out the ducks, decorated them with a little fabric paint, and added dots from 1-5. Then I cut out some numbers and glued them onto clothes pins.

This game works in the same way as the Paint Chip Matching Game. Find a match, clip it on!

Abbey loves counting, and this game lets her practice that while working on her fine motor skills. It's simple, and she get's to say "I did it!" all the time while she plays.

I plan on adding 5 more ducks and making the game go up to 10, but I didn't have enough foam for that, so I'll have to pick up some more.

Be Blessed!


I'm linking up, come play!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rainbow Birthday Party

Hello friends!

My baby turned 3 last week.

um.....what?? I don't remember signing off on that.

I wanted to have a big party for my big girl this year. Last year we had just moved and most of our life was in boxes, so I didn't have party planning in me. We had a day at the park and a Cars cake, and it was great, but this year I really wanted to do it up!

This was my first time doing a "theme" party, so I went with something that I thought would be pretty simple, and threw Abbey a Rainbow Party!

The first thing I found was this tutorial for rainbow cake at Omnomicon. I showed the picture to Abbey and she told people for weeks that she was having a rainbow cake! No turning back now!

Let me just say...this cake was awesome! I might just make this a birthday tradition. The tutorial was easy to follow, and while it's a little tedious, it is totally worth the effort.

I made some cupcakes too.

I went super simple for the food table. No fancy decorations, just some simple rainbow balloons.

I thought the cake was so pretty on the inside that I kept it simple on the outside. White frosting. Done.

I used my Valentine's Day Treat Tray did double duty as a cupcake tray. I put some rainbow candies in the bowl at the top.

 I was inspired by QuickDish's rainbow fruit skewers. Aren't they pretty?! We made a stack of these, and then a huge bowl of fruit salad with the rest of the fruit. Again, easy peasy.
p.s. apparently taking pictures of your messy rainbow batter bowls is mandatory! haha!

The backyard was where all the fun happened.  Decor was simple. The only thing I hung up were these pretty rainbow twirlies I found at JoAnn's for half off!
They're really pretty. I think we're going to leave them up for the summer!

We knew it was going to be a hot day, so we planned on lots of water play. At this age trying to do anything structured is like herding cats, and since simple was the name of the game, we just didn't bother. We set up a whole bunch of simple activities under the shade of a tree, and just left everything open in a very invitation-to-play style.

We had an art table, which got lots of action!

There was a wading pool with rainbow squirters and sponge balls. I used the tutorial at One Charming Party to make the sponge balls, and they are so much fun! 

The kids had tons of fun. We had a hard time getting them to stop playing so they could eat!

We put the sprinkler under the trampoline. If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend it!

This might be one of my favorite pictures from the day. This guy found Abbey's Paper Jamz guitar and would not put it down. I'm not sure why the trampoline was his spot of choice, but it was. He's a Worship Director's kid, can you tell? Haha!

All of Abbey's friends got to take home a goody bag. Again, simple stuff. A mini-notebook, some crayons, and some rainbow candy. They also got to pick out one of the squirters from the pool.

Anyone who follows me on Instagram (@heather_kate) saw this picture:
I had this great idea to put Tootsie Roll of each color in the bag to make a rainbow. Um...about that. There was one blue in the whole bag! Rainbow fail. Rainbow Twizzlers it is!

I think the party was a success. Don't ask me, just check out this face:

Be blessed!


Monday, June 18, 2012

Mommy Mondays: Eating Clean

Hello friends!

I wanted to share something with you that I am absolutely loving! 

I mentioned in a recent Week In Pictures post that I've started to "eat clean". The short story of that is that I'm avoiding refined sugars and carbs. Lots of fruit, veggies, lean protien and nuts. I also shoot for 5-6 small meals during the day instead of 3 and a snack. I know! What a concept, right??

I started out with this book by Tosca Reno. She's kind of the Clean Eating guru.

Let me just say, that I am definitely one of those "tried it all" people. If there is a diet plan out there, I've tried it. My weight has been up and down for most of my teens and adult life.
We've never been a huge processed food eating family. My mom has always stayed home, and as a farmer's daughter has passed her whole ingredient cooking skills to me. My biggest thing was sugar, both real and artificial. I drink way too much diet coke, and artificial sweeteners have been my "free ride" foods. I know it's not good for me, but I did it anyway.

Here's what I know about eating clean. I know that I have eaten more colorful, delicious food in the past 2 weeks than I usually eat. I know that I feel better throughout the day with no sleepy afternoons and blood sugar dips. I know that I've only had one Diet Coke in 2 weeks (!!!). I know that agave syrup and almond milk in my coffee in the morning is might be my new favorite thing. I also know that in the last 2 weeks I lost 7 pounds without counting a single calorie, carb, or point.
That, my friends, is liberating!

If you've struggled with your weight, I encourage you to look into clean eating. You don't need to go out and buy a book, but I like having "the rules" on hand. Who knows, maybe I'll start sharing my favorite clean recipes here on the blog. Would you guys like that?
I'm not affiliated with The Eat Clean Diet or Tosca Reno in any way, I just want to share something that is making me happy!

Be blessed!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Being Intentional: Date Night Edition

Hi friends!

I'm taking a break from birthday party planning (more on that later!) to talk to you today.

Even though the weekly updates have gone away (sorry about that) I'm still working on my One Little Word for the year: Intentional.
One area that Matt and I have never been very good about being intentional is Date Night. We value our marriage, and know that we need to be spending more fun time together, but it always seems to end up at the bottom of the budget priorities. Sad, but true.
However, date night doesn't need to be pricey, so we really have no excuse! My problem is thinking of fun things to do. Pinterest to the rescue!!

Small Notebook has a great list of  "Pocket Change Date Night Ideas"

I love this idea for a Date Night jar from Life In The Green House! Each stick is color coordinated, and means a different level of planning and expense. Some are at home dates, some are simple, and some are more expensive. I love that it takes the thought out of planning. All I need to know is my budget for the month, and what color to pick! Sweet!

This idea could be expensive to put together at first, but it definitely takes care of all the planning. A whole year of pre-planned and pre-paid date nights! This has the potential to be really pricey, but I think it could be don very well on a budget. Or, you could commit money to it from something like a tax refund or a Christmas bonus. Maybe the adult couples in your family could exchange date nights for Christmas!
Side note: How great would this be as a gift for new parents?! Get some friends together to donate Date Nights with babysitting included! Love it.

Sometimes all it takes is changing things up a bit. Take a normal, every day activity and tweak it a bit to make it feel special.

A great outfit could make a trip to a casual restaurant feel fancier.

Summer time
Summer time by bbs25 featuring an espadrille wedge

And how about some fancy popcorn to make movies on the couch more fun?
Herbed Garlic Parmesan Popcorn via Our Best Bites

I'm off to go plan some dates!

Be blessed!


I'm linking up with Gussy!
Gussy Sews Inspiration Workshop!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Our Week In Pictures

Hi friends!
I'm not completely sure where this week went! All the sudden it's Saturday, and I'm wondering how that happened!

We went to a local air show on Sunday. It was small, but Matt got to get up close and personal with some airplanes and that's always a good day.

Abbey was not quite as thrilled...

Now these she enjoyed a bit more. I finally got her some water beads! She had so much fun playing with them!

In addition to being wheat-free, I am now trying my best to "eat clean". Basically, no refined sugar and carbs. I'm loving it! I lost 4 pounds my first week! I'm sure that will taper off soon, but I'm happy with it!

 My favorite dinner for the week was turning all of these...

Into this! Yum!!

One of our favorite farmer's markets opened this week! Hooray!

Every week there is a breeder there selling puppies. Abbey loves it!

 I'm not completely sure what to say about this one... ; )

Abbey had her first pinata experience at Matt' work BBQ. This pinata would. not. die. Seriously. It bent one of Matt's golf clubs...

It is amazing to me how sleeping children can look so big and so little all at the same time.

Be blessed!


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