Halloween Gingerbread House

I was in Trader Joe’s the other day and noticed one of those boxed gingerbread kits in the “impulse buy” section. I’ve never seen one for Halloween before! But the thought of it excited me. I contemplated, as I stood in line, whether or not to buy one. Every time we attempt building one, it falls over, or the kids eat all the candy, or our giant dog knocks it off the counter and eats it. But I sure do love building them! So I grabbed one and put it in my basket.

I told Turner that we would build it after school on Monday. He was counting down the seconds! Yesterday, after Gracie’s nap and his quiet time, we started the festivities. We put on our Fall Music (a.k.a Nat King Cole), lit our pumpkin spice candle, and got to work! They were each in charge of kneading the bags of icing which they thought was extremely thrilling. Once they were finished, I assembled the house. We had to let it sit for a few minutes to dry before decorating. That’s the mistake we’ve always made in the past! We would start decorating, and the whole thing would collapse. I finally learned my lesson. So we sorted our candy and waited!

I put the icing on, and the kids added the candy. I think Gracie ate more than she put on the house. At one point she had shoved so much candy in her mouth that she looked like a chipmunk! I kept trying to push everything farther away from her so she would stop eating it. But she literally climbed on the counter so she could reach!

I fought the urge to try to control their decorating, but every part of me wanted to tell them what to do. You know, the way my older brother did to me as a kid? So, instead, I decorated my side and let them decorate theirs :o)

And Stew walked in just in time to get a photo of me giving them the Mom Eye threatening their very existence if they ate another piece of candy!

I’m not sure what I expected. Giving kids three bowls of candy and expecting them not to eat it is just setting them up for failure. But we finished our house! And we had a lot of fun doing it which is all that matters, right? Here is the finished product!

Now that the weather is cooler and it’s October, we’re officially ready for the holidays!

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Mom’s Selling Her House

I have to say, I am pretty lucky to have my mom so close to me! Not only do I get to see her all the time, but our kids get to see her! They love their Gigi. But even more, they love going to Gigi’s house for a sleepover! My mom and stepdad have decided to sell their gorgeous house in Summerville, SC that they built back in 2006. They are going to stay in the same town but build a smaller version. I know their new home will be just as beautiful!

We have SO MANY memories in their house in the short time they’ve lived there. I remember being in college and going there to see all the different phases of building. Stew and I started dating when they built it in ’06. We then got married and had our reception there!

We had our baby shower for Turner there and our maternity shoot when I was pregnant with Gracie!

And, of course, countless Sunday night suppers and holidays! I’m excited for whoever gets this house! It is so beautifully designed. It has the perfect balance of farmhouse meets shabby chic. Every inch of it was thoroughly thought out! Here’s to closing one door and opening another!

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Gracie’s Second Birthday

And just like that, my baby is two! I always hear people say “time flies” but this was warp speed because I truly don’t remember the past two years! I feel like she was born yesterday! What a wild ride it’s been! She is such a real person now. She’s hilarious, sassy, super confident, sweet and so smart!

She loves her “Bubba” and he loves her. It’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. They’re such besties and I hope they always stay that way!

Today we had her party, and what else do all two years love, but unicorns? Ok, maybe I selfishly picked the theme because she really isn’t “into” anything in particular, and the pictures on Pinterest were so dang cute!

Because life is super busy, and we recently had Hurricane Irma pass through, I decided on this party about 4 days ago. I wanted to see what the weather would be and drum up the energy to host a bunch of toddlers! I’m usually on top of these things with paper invitations and all. But in true “second child” fashion, I sent out a group text to a few of my closest friends to set up a little celebration! I kept the menu super simple: PB&J sandwiches, hot dogs, fruit salad, popcorn, and of course the unicorn cupcakes! It was perfect and so much fun (despite the 95 degree weather).

I found the cutest unicorn party products at a local store, got a girl in the neighborhood to do some face-painting, and ordered a pony…yes you heard me…. A PONY! I got the idea from my friend’s daughter’s birthday party (thanks Kirsten). But apparently they come in pairs, so not only did we have ONE pony, but we had TWO PONIES! It was so awesome! Every little girl’s dream!

What a fun day! It was so fun that Stew and I cleaned up, put the kids down for a nap, and passed out for two hours! We laughed at how old we’re getting that we can’t even host a party without feeling totally wiped out. But it was worth it. Celebrating this girl was the best! I can’t wait to see what she does in life. She is one of my favorites :o) Gracie Girl, you are loved by so many people! Thank you for being the (second) best thing that ever happened to us! We are the luckiest parents ever!

 

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Immune Boosting Gummies

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have some hippy tendencies! I hate taking my kids to the doctor. I mean, I’ll go if I need to. But I try to avoid it at all costs. A) it’s expensive and B) I feel like they’ll contract some other illness while they’re there. So instead, I focus on building their immune systems rather than always being on the defensive and curing the sickness after it’s hit!

The gym we go to has an amazing childcare facility. That being said, there are lots of children and LOTS of colds and viruses going around all the time. The most recent was hand foot and mouth. I heard about kids dropping like flies over a period of two weeks. And after going through it with Turner two years ago, I started having post traumatic stress tics just reliving the terror in my mind. He had the worst case I’d ever seen. Like, the kind you google and cringe when you see the photos. It was more like “Hand Foot Mouth Butt and Entire Body”. This is what he looked like ….

I’m sorry you had to see that. But now you understand my fear! With HFM running rampant, and school starting this week, we have kicked our immune boosting remedies into high gear! These are some of the things we do!

1. Probiotics in the kids’ milk or yogurt every morning.
2. Turmeric and cinnamon in their yogurt. Turmeric has a lot of antibacterial and antiviral properties. It’s actually quite amazing. You should google it! When I start to feel sick I take a tsp of turmeric mixed with a tsp or two of local honey. I’ve started giving that to Turner too (1/2 the dose) now that he’s older and can handle it. I call it his “honey medicine”.
3. Immune Boosting Oils–You can read more about oils HERE. I’ve been using them for a few years now and I just love them! I could talk about them forever and describe every kind I love and why! But for now, I’ll stick to the topic. In this glass roller bottle I combine 10 drops thieves, 10 drops frankincense, 5 drops lemon, 5 drops purification and fill the rest with a carrier oil. I roll it on the bottoms of their feet morning and night, put socks on, and apply pressure for a few seconds. They love it! I also diffuse Thieves during naps and bedtime for an hour or so. Keep in mind, this is when we’re fighting or trying to prevent something! I don’t go this overboard on the daily.
4. And last, but not least, I make these gummies packed with everything but the kitchen sink! They’re delicious and they really work! The kids haven’t been sick in ages. And if they do get a cold, it seems milder compared to how they used to be! I put turmeric, Spinach Powder, Beet Powder, Elderberry Syrup, Gelatin (similar HERE), and local honey in them.

Let me know how you like these! Feel free to comment with your favorite booger busting tricks!

Elderberry Gummies
Yields 115
Immune Boosting Gummies
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Ingredients
  1. 1/3 cup tart cherry juice
  2. 3 Tbsp gelatin
  3. 1 tsp spinach powder
  4. 1 tsp beet powder
  5. 1 tsp turmeric powder
  6. 3 T honey
  7. 1 tsp arrowroot powder
  8. 4 oz elderberry syrup
Instructions
  1. Microwave cherry juice in a large bowl for 30 seconds.
  2. Whisk in the gelatin until completely combined.
  3. Whisk in the rest of the ingredients, in order, one at a time until completely combined.
  4. Pour into molds and refrigerate for at least two hours. Store in the fridge.
Notes
  1. *Molds-I used 100 small gummy bear molds and 15 larger silicone molds that I had on hand. If I give them gummy bears, I'll give them about 5 or 6 as one serving. If I give them the larger gummies, I give them one or two.
  2. *The gelatin is grassfed collagen. It has great health benefits. Most ingredients can be found on Amazon (linked above) or Thrive Market App.
Little Baby Watson http://littlebabywatson.com/

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Total Solar Eclipse

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had the song “Total Eclipse of the Heart” stuck in my head for weeks! Today was the big day! People have been buzzing about it for weeks! Warnings about traffic jams, millions of visitors, and running out of water and milk …. ok maybe not that last part. But, for real, people have been going nuts! Charleston is smack in the path of “totality” and we were the last spot the eclipse would be seen! So on top of being a hot tourist spot to begin with, we had a lot of visitors to witness this once-in-a-lifetime-event! You could imagine that being an owner of a vacation rental company would keep me quite busy for this event, and it has! But today, for about 2 minutes and 40 seconds, I was able to soak this in with the fam!

Photo credit for the last one of “totality” goes to my amazing friend and photographer Judy Fairchild!

It was breathtaking to say the least. Experiencing it live was amazing! A hush came over us as the day quickly went from dusk to dawn to daylight in a matter of minutes! Hard to explain. It was AWEsome! We hung out with our neighbors and awaited the big moment! Turner was especially into it (yellow shirt).

Turner couldn’t keep his eyes off it! He was entranced. He screamed with updates every three minutes to make sure we all knew the moon was still moving. He just told me before bed that it was his favorite part of the day. Sweet boy! It was mine too! There was something so humbling and special about it! I’m so glad we got to witness it!

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NJ Visit

We’re back from our whirlwind of a trip to NJ. We took two days to drive to and from and had 3 full days there. The first day, we drove 8 hours and then stayed at a hotel just below DC. We actually did pretty well! We wanted to get a majority of the driving over with on day one. The kids were really good! In the beginning of the trip we gave them a bunch of books to read.

We had tons of snacks being passed around the car, which helped distract when they started getting antsy! And then, of course they would nod off at one point or another.

We saved our secret weapon for last….the Portable DVD Player! My girlfriend let us borrow hers, and it was a lifesaver! About 6 hours in, they were so ready to be done. But just about that time, we popped in Beauty and the Beast and they totally forgot that they wanted to get out of the car! I don’t know how our parents did this when we were kids!

After a long day of driving, we got a nice big supper somewhere close to our hotel. This time it was Cracker Barrel. And of course, the kids loved this! Pancakes for supper!! CHEEEEESE!

On day two of driving, we got up at 5am and left the hotel by 5:30 so we could beat DC traffic. We zipped to NJ in under 4 hours. It was great! The return trip was similar. Except 8 hours landed us in NC instead of DC. We love getting the hard leg of the trip over with on day one!

Our time there was wonderful and, as always, too short. Being with our family makes us realize how much we miss them! We got to do all of our favorite things in that short amount of time.

A day trip to Princeton…



A pool day and BBQ with my Big Italian Family where everyone laughs constantly, talks loudly, and there are at least 4 conversations happening at once. The night always ends by singing hymns with about 50 different harmonies going on. Did I mention everyone is a musician at this table? There’s nothing better!

And lots of time at Pop-Pop’s house for snuggles, reading, and playing…


It’s always hard to leave. We love our routine at home, but we can’t get enough of our family! The trip really isn’t bad, so we will just have to find little windows throughout the year to make the trip! But, for now, we’re home and settled and ready to get back into our school year routine!

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Summer Bucket List

I can NOT believe it’s August! What happened to this summer!? Turner was in camp pretty much all summer, which he loved, but it left me missing him! I definitely had some quality time with Gracie which was wonderful! But now that we have less than a month before school starts, I want to soak up the last few weeks of summer with our babies! Here’s our bucket list of what we MUST do before school starts!

We already got a jump start on our list since we don’t have much time! AND, we’re taking a trip to NJ next week to visit our family and friends! It was a last minute decision. We’re feeling extra spontaneous these days! We can certainly hit some things on our list while we’re visiting the fam. That will be all the more fun! Can’t wait to share our adventures!

 

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We Did It!

And just like that, we successfully completed Whole 30! I feel like the month flew by! I quite enjoyed the challenge. It made me stop and think before mindlessly shoving food in my mouth.

Some things we will take with us:
*Our new obsession with homemade cashew creamer (recipe HERE).
*Lower sugar intake– for instance, when sugar can be avoided, we will do so! That means reading labels. Things like almond milk, peanut butter, & salad dressing with sugar as an ingredient get a big HECK NO!
*Ice cream will be a luxury and not a nightly occurrence.
*I’ll have healthy snacks & desserts ready to eat so we’re not inclined to eat sugary snacks & desserts.
*I like carbs and grains. They don’t have an adverse affect on me, so I will keep them in my diet (whole wheat, whole grains, brown rice, etc)
*I love a good glass of wine at night, so unless I’m pregnant or nursing, I will indulge.
*Planning for the week is necessary. Here is a shot of our fridge set up for a week of deliciousness! I will continue the meal prep over the weekend so our weeknights are easy, especially with school starting in a few weeks!

And now, our final week of meals (here are weeks ONE, TWO, and THREE)! It was a great month of recipes. We will keep a lot of these meals for dinner ideas because we really enjoyed them!

Saturday: Meat Sauce on zucchini noodles (meat sauce left over from this recipe because it made a ton)
Sunday: Egg Roll in a Bowl (Thanks Rachele!) This was a great one! We left out the mayo and it was just as tasty.

Monday: Pork Carnitas
Tuesday: Crock Pot Chicken Chile

Wednesday:Fajita Sweet Potatoes
Thursday: Stir Fry (yes this is the third time because it’s seriously delicious and super easy! Thanks, Kait)
Friday: Egg Frittata Tart (tart recipe below. I just followed the recipe and pre-baked the tarts earlier in the day. Then when we were ready for dinner, I whisked 4 eggs, salt & pepper. Filled the tarts. Topped with prosciutto and tomatoes and baked for about 8 minutes at 350*F until the eggs were firm.

Grain Free Tart
A grain free version of a classic tart. Can be used for savory or sweet dishes.
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups blanched almond flour
  2. 1 egg
  3. 1/4 cup arrowroot powder
  4. 2 Tbsp melted coconut oil
  5. 2 Tbsp cold water
  6. 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325*F
  2. Lightly grease 11x7 inch tart pan
  3. Combine almond flour, egg, arrowroot, coconut oil, water, and salt in standing mixer with beater attachment.
  4. Beat on medium speed until loose dough forms.
  5. Gather dough and press it into the bottom of the pan and up the sides.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden on the edges.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool.
Notes
  1. I filled the tarts with eggs, prosciutto, and tomato. I baked for an additional 8-10 minutes and served warm.
Adapted from Celebrations
Adapted from Celebrations
Little Baby Watson http://littlebabywatson.com/

A friend of mine asked me what our next challenge would be. She mentioned something called “Fright Camp” where you sign up for 12 hours of “pure hell”. You’re dropped in an abandoned camp and chased through the woods by zombies… I think I’ll stick with something less petrifying ;o)

 

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House Projects-Mantel

We’ve been wanting to replace the mantel in our house since the day we moved in! The trim work and attention to detail in this house are so beautiful, and it didn’t quite fit. We did our best to work with it, but it’s been on our to-do list. Here’s a shot of the old mantel.

This past weekend we finally did it! Stew worked for two days tearing down the old and rebuilding the new. Here’s the progress:

Once he finished his part, it was my turn. I did all the caulking and nail hole filling. I sanded it down and painted over the brick and wood to match our trim. It came out perfect! It was exactly what we envisioned! Now I’m counting down the days until I can start decorating it for the holidays!!

 

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Whole 30 Week 3

Ok. I’m ready for a glass of wine. The first three weeks weren’t too bad. At this point I’m forgetting why I did this in the first place! But now it’s about willpower! I didn’t come this far to quit now! Stew and I are going on a date tonight for the first time since this thing started because, what the heck do we eat at a restaurant that’s not cooked in butter or loaded with cheese?! So, we’ll get a burger bowl or a salad and bring our own vinaigrette because, side note, did you realize EVERY dressing has sugar in it!? Every. Single. One.

I have made some changes that I actually enjoy and will keep: I’ve had more veggies the past three weeks than I’ve ever had in my life, and I like it. I feel like I might even roast up some sweet potatoes dusted in cinnamon during the day rather than pour a big bowl of starchy cereal. I don’t miss ice cream like I thought I would. I might even be able to do this no dairy thing … the jury’s still out on that one.

I’ve learned a few things along the way: cashew butter is great, but could never replace my beloved peanut butter. Sugar is literally in everything. I will read food labels even closer than I already did, which I didn’t think was possible. Maple syrup and honey are necessary when making baked goods. I made my favorite pumpkin muffins but replaced the honey with applesauce (my desire for fall is full on, but that’s for another day) and they literally tasted like cardboard. But I ate them anyway, because 1) I made the effort and 2) these ingredients ain’t cheap.

Now, for the good stuff! Our meals were GREAT this week! Here’s the menu:

Saturday: Burger on a bun (I’d actually skip the bun next time) with sweet potato “fries” (tossed with some olive oil and cinnamon and baked at 415*F)
Sunday: Chicken Stir Fry

Monday: Loaded sweet potatoes

Tuesday: Zoodles with Meatballs

Wednesday: Lemon Chicken (similar HERE just add the juice of a lemon to the marinade) with roasted sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts

Thursday: Bolognese over sweet potato noodles

Friday: Date night! We’re about to get us a nice big salad with homemade vinaigrette! Couples who Whole 30 together stay together??

Feel free to comment with must-try recipes for our final week! Have a great weekend!

 

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