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3.30.2015

Crush List - March

Happy Monday everybody! Let's wrap March up with a few pretty handsome items for your home. Here's what has caught my eye lately.

1 - Kiwi Bird from Crate and Barrel
2 - Periscope Floor Lamp from The Land of Nod
3 - Luxe Greeting Card Organizer from See Jane Work
4 - Mint Accent Table from Target
5 - Washi Paper Tea Tin from The Container Store

3.27.2015

Vegetable of the Month - Zucchini Part Two

For our second zucchini recipe this month, I decided to go a different route and make a main dish. I definitely went outside my comfort zone with this one, and attempted something I've never done before.

Vegetable - Zucchini
Recipe - Sweet Corn and Zucchini Pie

Here's what the pie looked like before it went into the oven.
And here's the after! It looks more like a quiche to me than a pie.
I thought it was pretty good. I didn't love it, but I ate it no problem. It was kind of sweet and kind of salty, and the egg and cheese were definitely right up my alley. Funnily enough, I didn't really taste the zucchini much. More than anything, it just added to the texture rather than the taste.
Unfortunately, the kids wouldn't even touch it...again. I'm not giving up though. Any tips you have on getting a toddler to at least taste something would be appreciated.

I'm glad I tried the one though. It was so easy to prepare that I'm sure there will be lots of yummy breakfast quiches in our future.

3.25.2015

Ch-ch-ch-changes in the Family Room

Remember here when I talked about how I had extra drapes laying around, so I donated them in an attempt to start clearing the clutter around the house? You know, because I was never going to use them.

Yeah...we had a little incident, and I really could have used them. The stomach flu hit our house and well...Madeleine got sick, and well...there was splatter. I couldn't find a tag on the drapes with washing instructions, so I decided to risk it, and well...there was shrinkage.

We had to get new drapes and fast as the sun seriously beats in this window at certain times of day and company was coming over in a few weeks. I picked up these from Target, and they're working pretty well so far. I like the color, texture, and that they are light blocking. We re-used the rod we already had up, so we'll have to change that at some point. Grommet style drapes look best on a thicker rod (something like these). The only thing I don't like is that the fabric is a little stiff and feels very much like the polyester it is, but they're fine for now.
I also added another set of throw pillows to the couch. I mentioned here how I finally pulled the trigger on some new black and blue throw pillows that I really liked. I love the look of mixing patterned pillows together, but man...that's easier said than done. Here's my first attempt.
I found these white and yellow pillows at Target and picked up two of them. Here's why I think they work in case you're wondering how to mix pillow patterns yourself.

1. The colors coordinate. Blue and yellow are both primary colors and work well together. The black in the one pillow also goes well with yellow.

2. They are not the same size. The yellow pillow is a bit smaller than the blue, which works well when layering one in front of the other.

3. The are different textures. Both pillows have a raised texture to them, but not the same texture. The more textures the better when mixing pillows.

4. The patterns give nod to each other. Although not the same at all, they are both colored geographic prints with white negative space.

The real key to styling (and what separates the professionals from the rest of us lay people) is the ability to coordinate items instead of matching them. These pillows don't match, but they do go together (at least I think they do).
I got two of them for now because I like symmetry (and because they were super cheap), but ideally I'd like to find a third style to mix in. Either a solid in a coordinating color (pink or green) or if I'm really up for a challenge - a third pattern!! 
Oh, and obviously the blue in the pillow is repeated in the new drapes. The entire room is slowly starting to feel intentional. There's still a lot more to do though. After looking at these pictures I'm thinking the orange side table definitely needs to go, but that's a whole other can of worms.

3.23.2015

10 Things I Love About...Netflix

I am just loving Netflix lately. I've been a member for years, and for a long time it was just a better way for me to rent DVDs. It's come a long way since then, and now has so many awesome features and shows that it is our most watched channel/app in the house.

Here's 10 reasons why I'm digging it right now.

1.  DVDs through the mail aka the reason I joined in the first place. It's so convenient. You make a queue of the movies you want to see, they mail you one (or two or three depending on your plan), you watch it at your convenience (no due date to return), and then mail it back to them in a prepaid envelope they provide. How easy is that!

2.  Blu-ray option. For $2 extra per month, we're able to get the Blu-ray version of the movie sent to the house.

3.  Instant Streaming. Included in your subscription is access to the tons of movies and TV shows in their collection that you can watch instantly using their app. The selection of movies has gotten a lot better over the years too, and the TV show options are incredible!  Which brings us to...

4.  All your favorite old/current TV shows. There are so many great previously aired TV shows to choose from, and almost all of them are available instantly. I'm currently re-watching The Gilmore Girls, but they have the entire series of other great shows like Friends, The Office, Friday Night Lights, Breaking Bad, Parenthood, etc. too. Again, no waiting. Just turn it on and BOOM - here's all 10 seasons of Friends for your binge watching pleasure.

5.  Great children's programming. Our kids are so spoiled with Netflix. They have a huge selection of cartoons for kids available at their fingertips with no commercial interruptions. Mine are watching My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Casper's Scare School, and most recently, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. They also have original programming for kids, check out All Hail King Julien and The Adventures of Puss in Boots. Speaking of which...

6.  Original programming. They are killing it with their original content lately. We've been watching Orange is the New Black for a while now, and recently started watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (so silly and fun) and are going to start watching Daredevil in April. I've heard House of Cards is pretty amazing too.

7.  Separate profiles. Each person in your household can have their own profile that organizes what they watch. It doesn't sound like much, but I appreciate that my page is not clogged up with lists and recommendations based on what my kids are watching. It keeps things nice and clean.

8.  Multiple devices. All the instant movies and TV shows are available on all our devices. We can watch on our TV, computer, Kindle, iPad, and/or iPhone. It's super convenient when traveling or when we all want to watch different things.

9.  Price. All of the above for only $19.45/month. We actually got rid of cable for most of last year and between Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime were able to watch everything we wanted for a lot cheaper than cable.

10. Binge Watching!! That's right...the best thing about Netflix is the ability to watch what you want, when you want it. When a new season of their original programming premiers the entire season is available from day one. No waiting for next week to see what happens. It's completely addicting, but I love it. If I didn't have a family to attend to, I would gladly spend an entire Saturday sitting on the couch watching episode after episode, season after season of all my favorite shows.

Netflix (and other services like it) have completely changed how we watch TV - for the better, I think. It will be really interesting to see how the television viewing process continues to evolve.

3.20.2015

Book Report - Big Little Lies

I recently finished reading Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and I loved it!!
Here's the premise:
New in town, single mother, Jane, unexpectedly lands smack dab in the middle of kindergarten politics when her son is labeled a "bully" at orientation. Everyone is taking sides, and she luckily finds allies in fellow mothers Madeline and Celeste. Everyone has their own agendas and secrets they're trying to keep hidden. No one's lives are exactly what they seem; and if found out, could shatter the illusion of domestic bliss they're all trying so desperately to hang on to.

I started this book and was instantly hooked. I finished it in one day! It's a story that reminds the reader how gripping every day life can be. I mean, it's about a bunch of mothers whose kids are all in kindergarten together! Okay, it's actually about a murder, but the drama is all in the school politics.

I should point out that this book is my worst fear for what I'm going to encounter when Madeleine starts school. Helicopter and tiger mothers, bullying, PTA politics...I'm dreading it all.

Anyway, I especially loved Liane Moriarty's writing style. The novel would start each chapter with an unknown reporter interviewing all the parents after the murder occurred, then would flashback to the actual events leading up to the murder. It was very entertaining to hear all the "spectators" views of the main characters, different rumors that were floating around, and their prejudices first; then jump back to see what was actually going on with the characters. It really highlighted the fact that you never really know what others are going through.

Such a good read!

Oh, and I was able to check off "A book with antonyms in the title" as part of the Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge.

What are you reading? I'm always looking for book recommendations.

3.18.2015

Vegetable of the Month - Zucchini

This month we're taking on zucchini!

I've been a longtime fan of the Crispy Zucchini Fritte they serve at Maggiano's, and was hoping to find something similar that I could make at home. It's zucchini that is lightly breaded, then fried, and served with an aioli sauce. It's so good.

I'm happy to say I found an excellent substitute.

Vegetable - Zucchini
Recipe - Crisp Zucchini Bites with Garlic Aioli Dip
Bill was kind enough to whip these up for dinner tonight. It took a little longer then the 25 minutes the recipe stated (but with Madeleine as sous chef that was to be expected). They were so good; crunchy, yet still light. The best part was the aioli dip (didn't get a picture). It was zesty and full of flavor. Besides the zucchini, I'm glad I finally found a good aioli dip recipe as well.

Bill and I loved it, and will definitely make again. Unfortunately though, Madeleine and Seamus wouldn't even try it. Well, Madeleine tasted the sauce and wanted no more after that. Part of the reason I'm doing this series was to get Seamus to eat more vegetables, and so far, it hasn't work yet. He won't even try anything, and is too young to understand our whole "one bite" philosophy. So frustrating!!

3.16.2015

Toys for Boys

It's been a while since I did a Toys for Boys post, so I thought I'd tell you about another great set of toys we all love at our house. Let me introduce you to Green Toys!!
As you can see, we've built up quite a collection already. Seamus loves the trucks, and happily pushes them all around the house. They're super sturdy, and easily support his weight (which is good because he sometimes rides on them too).
The back of the recycle truck raises up and down and opens up to store things too. The fire truck ladder goes up and down, and the side ladders are removable. 
The plane is pretty simple, but the propeller and wheels turn. Seamus will push this one around on the floor, or hold it in the air and run around "flying" it.
The toys work in the water too. The tugboat and sea plane are bath time regulars for us. They float, but can be filled with water and submerged too.
The rocket ship is actually Madeleine's, and was the one that started it all. The top part detaches, and the doors both open so the astronauts can go inside.

As you can see, tons of fun!

Here's why I love them though. They're simple - both in design and color (most have no more than 3 colors total). They're very durable. The plastic has a great feel to it, and will easily survive being banged around. Speaking of the plastic, they're made out of 100% recycled plastic, and also made in the USA. What's not to love about this brand?!?

They have a lot of toys for little girls too, so if you don't have a boy you should still check them out.

What are your boys (or girls) playing with lately?

Just for the record, this was not a paid for or sponsored post (I wish).  I think this is a good product, so I just wanted to share.

3.13.2015

Book Report: Lord John and the Hand of Devils

I have been such a fan of Diana Gabaldon's for ages now (see here or here), but have actually only read the Outlander novels so far. So, it was a no brainer for me to pick another one of her books to mark "A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet" off the PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge list.

Lord John is a great character from the Outlander series, so I decided to read the first of his series, Lord John and the Hand of Devils.
Lord John Grey is an officer in Her Majesty's Army in the 1750s, born of a noble family, and a homosexual during a time when being one was very dangerous and actually a capital offense.

The book is actually three short stories, and I enjoyed them all (as I knew I would). The stories all have a bit of mystery to them, and of course a bit of sexual tension as Lord John attempts to keep his feelings for the occasional gentlemen he meets hidden.

There are quite a few Lord John novels, and this one weirdly ends up being .5, 1.5, and 2.5 in the chronological order of them. Meaning you're meant to read the first short story from this book, then jump to the first novel (Lord John and the Private Matter), then back to this book for the second story, then jump to the second novel (Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade), then the final story in this book before continuing on with the series. I was able to follow along fine, but whenever I get around to reading the first novel of this series, I'll probably go back and re-read these before and after the first and second novels to get the full story.

What are you reading? Are you a Diana Gabaldon fan? Are you watching Outlander too? The second half of Season 1 starts back up again on April 5th!!

3.11.2015

Let's Get Dirty

I asked Seamus a little bit ago whether he wanted a dinosaur party or a truck party (his two current passions). Fully expecting him to say dinosaurs, he of course picked trucks. I started thinking about making him some sort of firetruck cake when Madeleine had the most brilliant idea - a dirt cake! I'm pretty sure she had no idea what a dirt cake actually is, or what brought it to mind, but it was perfect. I decided to make him a dirt cake decorated with some small construction trucks.
I had never made a dirt cake, but it was super easy. We used this recipe, and I put it in a clear baking dish instead of a flower pot. I also used chocolate pudding instead of vanilla. I thought it turned out pretty cute. It was good too. The one thing we shouldn't have done though was put gummy worms in it. We thought it would be cute, but the gummy worms changed the flavor of the cake around each one. I much preferred the taste of the areas that were pure cookie/pudding deliciousness.

It was only the four of us for his birthday this year, but we still wanted it to be a party. We spent the morning at the Children's Museum of Phoenix. Then, while Seamus was napping, we decorated the kitchen with streamers and balloons. When he woke up we did cake and presents right away, so that he would have plenty of time to enjoy his new toys. The rest of the day was spent playing inside and out and we had pizza for dinner (his favorite food). It was a really fun day.

I can't believe my baby is two years old!!

3.09.2015

Touring Phoenix - Children's Museum of Phoenix

We decided to take the kids to the Children's Museum of Phoenix for Seamus' birthday. We always try to take them somewhere special on their birthday to celebrate a little, and this fit the bill. First off, I love the exterior of the museum. The museum is housed in what used to be the Monroe School. It's a great old building that was built in 1913 and was the largest elementary school west of the Mississippi at the time. It actually has a pretty famous alum too - Jackson Pollock went there. The place is pretty massive and its long wide hallways are flanked by room after room that are now filled with all sorts of fun experiences for kids.

The main entrance to the museum is actually in the back, and the first thing you encounter when you walk in is the most enormous jungle gym that I have ever seen in my life. It was pretty awesome.
Madeleine ran right in, and we quickly lost sight of her. Seamus gave it a try, but the shaky floors made him nervous. He instead played with the dinosaurs on the ground level. We literally had no idea where Madeleine was in this thing, so Bill went into find her, and eventually we made our way into the rest of the museum.

There was so much to do. We rode tricycles through pretend car washes.
Drove motorcycles and pickle cars.
We also played in a pretend grocery store, went through a giant pool noodle maze, made some slime, and did a few art projects.
Both kids had a great time. Madeleine was the perfect age for this place. Seamus was still a little young yet and required quite a bit of wrangling (but when doesn't he need to be wrangled). There's nothing really for adults to do other than watch your kids have fun, but that's the point, right? I picture us going here a lot when summertime is here. It will be a great place to escape the heat and let the kids get all their energy out.

3.06.2015

Podcast - The Nerdist

I'm relatively new to the Podcast world. I jumped on the Serial bandwagon last fall (see here), and discovered I really liked them (or at least that particular one). Since most of them are free anyway, I decided to see what else is out there. I get sick of my music sometimes, and they're a nice change of pace to listen to during my 30 minute commute.

I've mentioned before that I'm a huge The Walking Dead fan (see here), which means I always have to watch The Talking Dead afterwards. For those unfamiliar, after The Walking Dead airs they immediately air The Talking Dead, a panel show dedicated to discussing the episode of The Walking Dead that you just watched. It's crazy. Is there any other show that does this? They literally have another hour long show just to talk about the hour long show you just watched. They have great guests though, that can include anyone from the actors of the show, people who work on the show, and/or random celebrities that are just big fans of the show. I love it.

One of the main reasons I like it so much though, is for its host, Chris Hardwick. He is such a great host. He talks a mile a minute, but the man can annunciate like no other. It's pretty amazing. He keeps the show moving, he's funny, and he loves The Walking Dead as much as I do. As time went by, I realized, that I had slowly become a fan of Chris Hardwick's as well.

So, I decided to check out his podcast - Nerdist Podcast (aka The Nerdist).
I'm so glad I did, because it totally rocks!! Basically, it's just Chris Hardwick sitting down with a celebrity and talking for an hour or so, but it's so much fun! What makes it special, you ask? First off, Chris Hardwick is an amazing interviewer. Combine that with the intimate Podcast setting (not in front of an audience, no restrictions), plus the long duration; and you end up with a really open and honest discussion between him and his guest. It's a far cry from the 3 minute stint on most talk shows where celebrities have only enough time to plug their latest project and maybe a quick anecdote or two. It's really a conversation, and it's just so enjoyable.

He has some really great guests too...Paul McCartney, Ethan Hawke, Jeff Bridges - all their Podcasts were great. However, it's the smaller names that I'm always amazed end up reeling me in as well. Never would I have imagined that I would be totally enthralled listening to Henry Winkler or Wayne Knight, but both their Podcasts were awesome. Everybody has a story to tell, and Chris Hardwick is great at getting people to tell it.

I'd be remiss if I didn't let you know Chris Hardwick is joined each episode by his buddies Jonah Ray and Matt Mira. They occasionally chime in with a question, story, or joke during the interview. I don't mind Jonah (probably because he rarely talks), but Matt Mira bugs a little. Chris Hardwick is so natural with the guests, and I feel Matt Mira is always trying to "perform" to get a laugh. That's probably my only complaint though, and it's a small one.

Actually, my real only complaint is that there are so many episodes that I'll never be able to listen to them all!!!   I can barely keep up with the new ones, let alone go back and listen to the archives.

What Podcasts are you listening too? I'd love to add a few more good ones to my rotation, but happy to know I have a ton of The Nerdist to listen to in the mean time.

Enjoy your burrito!!

3.04.2015

Book Report - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I've been really into reading lately. Right now, it's all I seem to want to do. I've actually read 12 books so far this year!! I think it's the Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge I've been doing. It's really motivating me and I love when I get to mark off another category. I recently read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and was able to mark off "A book that came out the year you were born" from my list.

Woohoo! Let's hear it for books from 1979!!
The story centers around average human, Arthur Dent, who is saved seconds before Earth blows up by his friend, Ford Prefect, who turns out is an alien. Ford was on Earth researching, as he is a contributing writer of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - the most helpful of reference materials for those traveling throughout the galaxy. The two go on one crazy adventure, and meet a number of eccentric characters along the way including Galactic President, Zaphod Beeblebrox; the depressed robot, Marvin; and the only other human survivor (and female to boot), Trillian.

I absolutely loved this book! It's just so silly that I really think it is impossible not to like it. The story is so insane, but when you're navigating the galaxy in a spacecraft equipped with an Infinite Improbability Drive; the most improbable things are bound to happen to you. This book is all about the details too. Every piece of information you are given serves a purpose, even if you don't find out the reason until chapters later. It was such a smartly written story, and so much fun too.

I grew up loving books like Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables. Having a son now, I've often wondered what great books for boys are out there that will make a lifelong reader out of him. This is one of those books. I cannot wait to introduce it to him (and my daughter as well).

3.02.2015

Grid Cleaning - 4 Steps to Conquering Clutter

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the clutter around our house. Seriously, we have way too much stuff. I know, #firstworldproblems.

We've been in this house a little over a year now, and although everything has been basically put away, it hasn't necessarily been put away well. Nothing is organized, nothing makes sense, and don't even get me started on the toys! They're everywhere!!

So, I had this idea to go through the entire house and evaluate everything we own. Why do we have what we have? What purpose does it serve? Do I love it? Am I really going to ever use it? Does it need to be fixed? How should it all be organized so that we know where things are and can fully utilize our stuff?

Basically, I want to purge and organize the entire house. Exciting stuff, huh?!?

That's a big job though, and I'm a woman of limited resources - the biggest one being "time". So, I'm mentally breaking down each room into smaller sections, like a grid, and tackling them here and there when I can.

The other day, I started with this corner of my bedroom.
It's looked like this for sometime. There's a bag of clothes to give away, two boxes that have yet to be unpacked since moving in, my wedding box, a random barbie, my violin, and a music stand.  Not exactly the view I want to be looking at from my bed each night.

Here's how I tackled it.

1.  SORT AND SEPARATE
The first thing I did was go through the items and quickly sort them into three separate piles: 1) Trash, 2) Donate, and 3) Keep. If you're so inclined, you can even add a fourth pile of items to sell. Be realistic though. Are you really going to take the time to organize a garage sale or post items on ebay or Craigslist? I knew I wasn't, so I didn't even bother with that. I thought, better to just donate. It helps others, and gives you a tax break.

2.  RE-EVALUATE YOUR KEEP PILE
Here's where it gets a little hard. Now, go through your keep pile a second time. This time, start asking yourself questions. Do I love this? Does it serve a useful purpose? Is it something that was supposed to be temporary that I just never upgraded? Does it have sentimental value? How would I feel if I didn't have it anymore?

The red box above was a bunch of items from my childhood. The cardboard box had a bunch of unused drapes and crochet stuff. At first I thought I wanted to keep it all, but upon closer inspection I realized I could get rid of more.
For example, I had these four packages of drapes. A few were opened and used in our last house, but some were still in the package brand new. I really liked them, and hoped to use them again in this house. But, they just didn't work anywhere. Why was I keeping them? They were brand new, and I paid good money for them. If I gave them away I'd have to admit that they were a waste of money. The more I thought about it though, it was so silly. They were serving no immediate function, so I ultimately decided to donate them. Let me tell you, it's really hard to donate brand new items. Don't think of it as wasted money though. Instead, try to think of it as helping those in need. It really helped me to think about how excited someone shopping at Goodwill would be to discover these brand new drapes.

The souvenirs from my childhood were tough too. For those I asked myself, what memory did they bring to mind? Do they help tell my story? How would I feel if I didn't have them anymore? The pig figurines, piggy bank, and statue of Mary I donated. None of them held any sort of real memory for me. Yes, I collected pig figurines as a tween, but I didn't need to keep the figurines to remember that odd little tidbit of my childhood. The rest of the items I kept. I also kept my violin, music stand, barbie, and my wedding box.

I wasn't done though.

3.  CLEAN AND MEND
Once I knew what I wanted to keep, I cleaned everything up and made a list of anything that needed to be fixed to become useful again. The figurine of the girl in pink holding a teddy bear is actually a music box my grandmother made me. It was really dirty though, so I got a Q-tip and some soapy water and cleaned it up. My violin needs new strings, so I made a note and will fix shortly. Make sure you don't wait too long follow through on this step though. Dirty and broken things don't get used, and you're just left with more clutter.

4. FIND IT A HOME
By now I was left with a much smaller group of items in my keep pile, but none of the items belonged in this corner of my bedroom. The newly cleaned music box I gave to Madeleine. She loves listening to it play, and I get to tell her stories of my grandmother. The Christmas snow globe was put with our Christmas decorations. The champagne flute and bow tie from my prom went to another souvenir box for safekeeping. The yearbooks put on the office book shelf. The wedding box went to my closet. The barbie put with my others. I have a plan for the trophy that I'll share soon. The violin went under my bed, and the music stand moved to the office. I added to my "fix-it" note to buy a decorative basket to hold my crochet supplies. I'll pick that up soon.

Finally, I was left with this! This is what this corner of the room should look like. It's not a storage area! I'm going to get a chair or a chaise for this corner. Then, instead of causing me stress, it will soon be a place where I can just read, gaze out the window, or take a good nap.
I thought I needed everything that was there, but I didn't. Everything I let go, I've been fine without. Things are now being used that were previously just taking up space, and everything else was put away properly in places that make sense. Purging is not easy. It takes a while, and is emotionally draining. I was exhausted, and I only did this one little corner!! Take your time, but start tackling it bit by bit. I was so glad I did, and you will be too!!

Now for the rest of the house!

Go purge!

Side note: I kind of want to watch that Ethan Hawke movie, The Purge now. I never saw it. This is how my mind works, and probably why I never get anything done.