July 11, 2017

Today is 7-11 Day and Chick Fil A Cow Appreciation Day!  Apparently it is also Amazon Prime Day with  some awesome deals on Amazon products.

I found a free and easy printable cow mask from Elle & Co which can be found here!

My kids cut them out and we brought them to Chick Fil A to snag a free entree!


Stanford University

I took the kids to visit Stanford University and while there are many places at Stanford to choose from I needed ones that were kid friendly so they needed to be locations that were easily accessible, short and quick and preferably outside.

Rodin sculpture garden outside Cantor Art Museum was at the top of my list.  There's easy pay for parking right across the street and wheelchair sidewalks that were convenient to walk on with my stroller.  Kids loved running around and seeing the different sculptures and were impressed with the big door.

Hoover Tower was up next and bonus was the little museum in the lobby filled with things about him and his wife.  They clearly state on their website no strollers or backpacks so I carried Luke in my ergo baby carrier and left the baby bag in the car.  We parked in front of Encina Hall and walked the short distance to the Tower.  There's a pretty water fountain across from it where we snapped a few photos.  The elevator ride is quick up the 14 flights and there are safety covers on all the Tower openings.  The docents were wonderful and patient with the kids pointing out a few different buildings and a few historical facts.  The kids liked looking at the campus from each Tower opening and were impressed by the bells.  

Afterwards we walked through the quad and visited the Stanford Memorial Church.  My cousin was married there about 8 years ago so it was neat to show the kiddos the beautiful inside and outside.  The kids really liked the large quad and running around.  


8th Birthday Party at the Park!

We celebrated K's 8th Birthday Party at our local park.  It was super easy to set up and clean up as well as invite as many guests as she wanted!  I stuck with her favorite colors of teal, hot pink and white for decorations.  For food, I picked up some bagged chips, go gurt yogurt tubes, capri sun juice boxes, and bottled water.  I made pb&j and ham and cheese sandwiches and my husband grilled up some hot dogs.  We also had a snow cone machine which was a big hit on this hot day!

For favors, I picked up tubes of bubbles, water guns, and a canvas tote.  She wanted to decorate canvas totes so I sewed up about 25 bags using two rectangles of 13' x 15' and two strips of 2.5' x 17' for the straps. I bought a rainbow of colors in fabric paint and markers.  In retrospect I should have skipped the paint since some kids used too much and their artwork didn't dry before leaving!

I made a 3 layered cake of chocolate, red velvet and white cake in my 9' circular springform baking pan.  I decorated it with buttercream frosting in the 3 party theme colors trying to make little rosettes. 

The kids had a blast and it was awesome to not have a mess at my house!  We will definitely continue going back to the park for birthday parties.


Independence National Park

Philadelphia has many historical attractions but on the top of the list is Independence National
park where the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are located.  

The kids enjoyed the quick tour that explained Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed.  

The park rangers also had Junior Ranger packets for the kids to fill out and Kayla completed it for a badge and certificate.

We finished off our visit at Sonny's for a Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwich.  


Lotus anywhere crib

Traveling with kids or babies is no joke!  Especially if the kids range in age from 7, 4, 2.5 years old and 4.5 months.....

Packing the car (we have a Honda Pilot) for overnight trips can be a challenge and I'm always worried I don't have enough diapers, change of clothes, toys, snacks, books, etc.  I also prefer bringing my own portable crib for my babies to sleep in.  Hotels don't guarantee having a crib or pack n play available and I don't need the extra stress of not having a place for my baby to sleep!

Guava family has a portable crib called the Lotus Anywhere Crib and it is amazing!  It's easy to set up, more compact than a traditional pack n play and the mattress pad lies on the ground.  This makes the Lotus anywhere crib handy for both my 4.5 month old or my 2.5 year old!  Before the arrival of our 4th child my then 2 year old slept in it comfortably.  This past weekend my 4.5 month old slept in it.

If you don't have a portable crib I highly suggest ordering one of these!  It's a little more expensive than most traditional pack n plays but I think it was worth it.  


Virginia Beach/Yorktown

This weekend we went to explore other parts of Virginia so we drive down to Virginia beach and Yorktown.  

This was our first road trip with baby Luke and in our new car (Honda pilot).  We were able to fit the Yeti cooler and double stroller in the trunk as well as their sand toys and swim bag.  Our overnight bags and baby bag fit inside the car with a little leg room to spare.

Virginia beach is about 3.5 hours away from us so it wasn't too far of a drive.  It's been really hot and this weekend was no exception!  The beach was super crowded and the sand was so hot you could feel it through your sandals.  Not super baby friendly but thank goodness we brought a canopy cover to hide in.  The kids had the best time splashing around since the waves were gentle.

We stopped at Yorktown on our drive back the next day to explore a few historic sites.  It was too hot for baby Luke so we only walked the waterfront area while Chris took the kids to their small beach. 


DIY flip flop cookies!

This is a super easy no bake cookie platter.  I saw a few of them on Pinterest when I was looking for food ideas for my daughters birthday pool party.  Aren't they so cute??

What you need:
1 pkg of Nutter Butter cookies
1 tube of decorating frosting (you can buy a smaller one that has a tip at the end)
40 pieces of sprinkles or pieces of candy

Lay out all your butter butter cookies.  Attach a frosting tip on the end of the tube of frosting or just open it if you bought the smaller one with a tip at the end.  Draw a 'V' in the bottom half of the nutter butter cookie.  Press a sprinkle or small candy at point on the bottom.  Let the icing harden and then stack them onto a platter!

Voila!  Wasn't that easy?  I did them the night before and Saran wrapped the platter so it was all ready to go for her party the next day!


Make It Yourself! Easy pasta salad

I love a good pasta salad!  Who doesn't love a quick and easy recipe?  There are so many variations you can do but my absolute favorite is this Italian pasta salad.  I've seen pre made tubs of it at Whole foods, Costco, etc and I always think 'hey I could make that'.  Well I finally got around to doing it and it really is easy!

What you'll need:
1 pkg pasta
1 can black olives (sliced)
1 can artichoke hearts (cut into smaller pieces)
1 English cucumber (sliced and cut into quarters)
1/2 onion (diced)
1/2 jar sundries tomatoes (sliced)
1/4 pkg sliced salami (cut into quarters)
1/4 c shredded Parmesan cheese
Italian dressing about 1/4 c

There is a little prep with dicing or slicing the ingredients but it can all be done while your pasta is cooking.  

Cook pasta al dente according to instructions.  Drain and pour into large mixing bowl.

Add in your veggies and Italian dressing.
Mix well then add in salami and Parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle some black pepper and serve.  If you prefer it cold then pop it into the refrigerator for a couple hours before serving.  

The best part of making pasta salad is you can always add other ingredients or omit ones that I used to suit your tastes or those of your guests.  This served 6 people.  Enjoy!


Car Shopping

Recently I delivered our fourth child and that meant we had outgrown my SUV.   So it was time to go car shopping!  The idea of getting a new SUV was exciting but the actual process of test driving and negotiating gave me a headache.  Over the last few weekends my husband test drove almost every third row SUV on the market today.  Some were instantly crossed off while others remained possibilities.  

My requirements:
-seats 7 passengers
-4 car seats (1 booster, 1 forward facing car seat, 1 rear facing car seat & 1 infant car seat) preferably with latch attachments
-safety driving sensors 
-city select double stroller fit in the trunk
-large cooler (yeti) fit in the trunk
-kids could get in and out themselves

It was a tall order and our preferences came down to the Ford Explorer sport and the Honda Pilot touring.  In the trunk both SUVs impressively fit our yeti cooler and city select double stroller.  Both SUVs fit all 4 car seats however the ford explorer only had latch attachments for 3 car seats.  In terms of safety features and pricing they are very comparable.  The Honda Pilot touring has a rear entertainment option included, a couple extra ports for charging gadgets and more cup holders however the Ford Explorer sport drove a bit better feeling more more powerful and tighter handling.

In the end the Honda Pilot was the winner because they have a push button that moves the second row seat forward so my kids could climb into the third row.  The second row could also fit 2 rear facing car seats (peg perego infant seat and Diano radian car seat) with latch attachment which we found no other third row SUV could accommodate.  The latch attachment wasn't a deal breaker it is just easier for me to install or rearrange car seats.


Make It Yourself! Easiest homemade bread

This is seriously the easiest homemade bread recipe!!  If you have ever wanted to try making bread at home this is your go to recipe!  You must try this beautiful golden crispy goodness.  

found the recipe on a blog called It's always autumn and here is the link:  http://www.itsalwaysautumn.com/2016/02/12/homemade-artisan-bread-easiest-bread-recipe-ever.html

All you need is:
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water

Mix it all up, cover and let the magic happen.

After 6 hours or more or after the dough has risen transfer it to a floured baking sheet and knead a few times.  Let it rest for 30 minutes or so.  

Preheat oven to 425f and warm Dutch oven or oven safe container for the bread to cook in.  Coat with oil and transfer dough from cookie sheet into warm container.  Cut a cross cross on top.

Bake for 30 mins covered and 15 mins uncovered.

Tada!  Now grab some butter or jam or whatever your go to spread is for bread and dig in.  Enjoy!!


Luray Caverns & Shenandoah National Park

My family and I drove out to West Virginia to explore the Luray Caverns. 

The caves were easy to navigate since there was a tour guide and paved walk ways.  It was just under 2 miles so my kiddos 6, 4, 2 were able to do it.  My 2 year old got tired towards the very end and hubby had to carry him.  I was also 37 weeks pregnant and did just fine.

Afterwards we took skyline road to drive through a small part of Shenandoah National Park.  

The trees were still mostly bare and we didn't do any of the trails.  We stopped at a few overlooks but mainly we just wanted to check it out since it was on our way.  Next time we will have to plan to do some hiking!


DIY Fancy X Farmhouse Dining Table!

I've been wanting to build some new living room/dining room furniture for a while now.  I have loved looking up plans on Ana White's site as well as Shanty2chic to get ideas.  Their collaboration for a fancy x farmhouse table was #1 on my list.  I love the look as well as the reasonable price especially compared to anthropolgy's $$$ retail store price tag!  Check out their free wood plans here.  

Well it was a total shock when last month my hubby looked the plans over and decided to help me build one!  I was over the moon thrilled since I'm about 7 months pregnant and most everyone thinks I'm nuts for wanting to build new furniture now.  My reasoning is, well that's why I want my hubby to do it!

The plans were pretty straight forward and we just followed it step by step.  He picked up the wood from Home Depot and got to work on the cut list.  It helped to work as a team so one person could square off when needed, glue and hold the x feet pieces in place while the other person screwed or nailed it together.  Our only big hitch was when we built the matching longer benches we didn't check the placement of the feet.  When it was all done we weren't able to push the benches under the table!  We wanted to be able to tuck them in so we had to remove the feet and redo that step.  Otherwise this wasn't a hard first wood furniture project to do together!  Here are a few pics during the building process (ignore my messy garage):

It was also the first time either of us had used a kreg jig and it was definitely worth buying!  We bought the small junior kit and it worked well for the steps that suggested using one.  I picked up the kreg jig R3 kit from lowes or you can always order it off amazon which can be found here.  We used it to attach the table top to the base instead of using L brackets underneath.

He planed a few areas to make it more even and sanded everything down really well.  Next, he applied wood conditioner before staining to help the wood absorb it more evenly.  I bought this minwax pre stain wood conditioner (pictured below) and that can be found here.

Then we applied two coats of red oak 215 minwax stain (we waited 24 hours between coats).  The wood conditioner did help out with staining it more evenly.  We tested it before hand on scrap wood to see if it made a difference and it did!

 He applied three coats of minwax semi gloss polyurethane to seal it. iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=stylesipler-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B000LNTXUO&asins=B000LNTXUO&linkId=7c477ed31a15c97df896b237ee365966&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066C0&bg_color=FFFFFF">
    </iframe>   He waited 24 hours between coats and he lightly sanded in between too.  We left it out to dry for two or three days before setting it up inside our house.  

Overall it cost us a bit more than $65 as suggested by Shanty2Chic since we needed to buy the kreg jig, wood conditioner, and a second can of both stain and polyurethane (I had 3/4 of a can of each already) in addition to the supply list.  I love our new dining table!  It'll fit our soon to be family of 6 plus a couple of guests.  Now I've just got to figure out how to decorate it!