Author Archive

3-Ingredient Instant Pot Ribs

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

3-Ingredient Instant Pot Ribs from MomAdvice.com

I have heard from so many of you that you are so excited about your new Instant Pot purchases for the holidays, but are also feeling a little perplexed about what to do with that gadget you just scored.  I remember feeling the same way when I got mine and now that I’ve been enjoying it for the last few months, I can honestly say that it has saved us a bundle on dining out thanks to its speedy cooking.

In fact, it has helped me feel more confident taking on dishes that I normally would never try, whether it is because of time constraints or complete intimidation, allowing for a lot more variety in our rather tired menu plan that had I had been executing month after month.

Of all the dishes that we have made in our pressure cooker, I must say that the biggest hit has been these easy 3-ingredient ribs that you can make in your Instant Pot. Ribs are something I have often thought of adding to our menu plan, but I just didn’t think they could ever taste as good as what we would get out in restaurants especially on a busy weeknight. I must say though,  these ribs are BETTER than many restaurants we have been to and are fall-off-the-bone tender every single time.

3-Ingredient Instant Pot Ribs from MomAdvice.com 3-Ingredient Instant Pot Ribs from MomAdvice.com

I have done a rack of Baby Back Ribs in my 6-quart Instant Pot and I have even been able to fit up to two racks in this size cooker without any trouble, although it is a much tighter squeeze than a single rack. Cut your ribs into thirds so you can fit them in comfortably.  Add a cup of beef broth in your cooker and put your steaming rack inside (that little rack that came with your cooker!). Season your ribs generously with salt and pepper and place these on top of the steaming rack.

Lock that baby up, press the meat button on the front, and adjust the timer to 30 minutes.

3-Ingredient Instant Pot Ribs from MomAdvice.com

While the ribs are cooking, line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. In a small bowl, pour in your favorite barbecue sauce for brushing.  This one is always a Clark favorite from the supermarket, but I’d love to hear if you think there are any others we should try!

After the Instant Pot beeps, do a quick release on that valve on the top.

Don’t know what a quick release is?

No problem!

This just means that you are going to move your valve from Sealed to Venting and allow all that steam to come out quickly instead of letting it release pressure on its own. It is going to REALLY steam so make sure you are prepared for that and keep it away from your cabinets, face, and hands. Also don’t scream because you will want to the first time. It’s terrifying.

Ain't Nobody Got Time For That

 

Almost all the recipes I do usually say to do this Quick Release method, rather than a Natural Pressure Release, where you sit around just waiting and letting that pressure to come down on its own which can take on up to 30 minutes.

Ain’t nobody got time for that. We already had to wait for the pressure to build, people, we can’t sit around waiting for the pressure in this gadget to subside. We are BUSY!

After the pressure has released, remove the lid and carefully take out those ribs with a pair of tongs and place them on your lined cookie sheet. Starting with the back of the rib, brush them each generously with sauce.

Turn on your broiler on your oven and slide the ribs in for 3-4 minutes, watching them carefully so they don’t burn.

Flip them over, and repeat with the other side of the ribs.

Finish by cutting them into sections and serving with additional barbecue sauce.

3-Ingredient Instant Pot Ribs from MomAdvice.com

HELLO, HEAVEN! These are SUCH A HIT at our house and I’m guessing they will be a hit at yours too. Keep in mind, if you are new to the Instant Pot cult (totally a thing!), that it takes awhile for these to come to pressure so give yourself a 20-25 minute allowance before that stated 30-minute cooking time I’m sharing.

We have loved these so much that they have become the new birthday request and we even took a couple of racks of these and my Instant Pot on vacation so we could enjoy this yummy treat while we were renting our beach house on break. I now make it a regular habit to keep my eyes peeled in our grocery flier for any sales on racks of ribs to keep stocked in our freezer.

I hope to share many more recipes in the upcoming weeks with you! If you are on the hunt for great cookbooks to make the most of your Instant Pot this one, this one, and this one are all excellent books for a newbie Instant Pot cult member (totally a thing- I’m serious!).

I can’t wait to hear what you think of these 3-ingredient Instant Pot Ribs!

3-Ingredient Instant Pot Ribs from MomAdvice.com

3-Ingredient Instant Pot Ribs
Recipe type: Instant Pot
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6 servings
 
These ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender and can be prepared with your favorite barbecue sauce. These are just one (of many) reasons to get an Instant Pot.
Ingredients
  • 1 or 2 racks of pork baby back ribs
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • Barbecue Sauce
Instructions
  1. Cut the racks of ribs into thirds and season generously with salt and pepper. (Note- if you prefer to add a rub on your ribs, this is where you would do that!)
  2. Pour beef broth in the bottom of the pot, place the steaming rack inside, and put the seasoned ribs on top.
  3. Lock the lid, select the Meat function, and set timer for 30 minutes.
  4. Quick release your valve after the timer beeps and remove the ribs from the cooker. Place on a foil-lined cookie sheet (prepared with cooking spray) and brush on your barbecue sauce on the back side of the ribs.
  5. Broil the ribs for 3-4 minutes (watching carefully to prevent charring), flip the ribs over and brush the other side with barbecue sauce. Broil that side again for 3-4 minutes. Place on platter and serve with additional barbecue sauce on the side.

 

Don’t forget to check out my first recipe Instant Pot Korean Street Tacos for another fun weeknight meal! What is your favorite thing to create in your Instant Pot?

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

 

 

Kid Crafts: Easy Techniques for Painting Gift Wrap

Monday, December 12th, 2016

Easy Techniques for Painting Gift Wrap from MomAdvice.com

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

You may recall that last year I decided to buy a lifetime of kraft paper for wrapping our holiday gifts. It should come as no surprise that we are still using this giant roll of gift wrap in our house. I have found it is a useful item to have on hand, for all of life’s occasions,  and there is so much that you can do with kraft paper to make your gifts unique.

I also consider pretty gifts to be part of the decorating so it thrills me to come up with new ways to use the same paper each year. I love these gorgeous detail under the tree.

As a crafter, I really never got into acrylic paints until this year. It has been so much fun trying new crafts with these fun paints. I love discovering something that I have walked by for years in the craft aisle and finding my own uses for them!

Today  I wanted to come up with some creative ideas to get kids on the action of decorating the paper as a fun winter craft. I love screen-free activities with them so I thought this would be a fun one that you could have them create, even after the holiday season.

There are so many beautiful hues that you could mix and match any hue that you like. I have a big crush on a metallic Rose this year so I am demonstrating this craft with Waverly Inspirations Metallic & Glitter paint offerings in Rose Quartz (in the Metallic) and Rose Gold (in the Glitter paints!) for a pretty modern look.

Easy Techniques for Painting Gift Wrap from MomAdvice.com

 

3 Fun Painting Projects for Kids to DIY Your Gift Wrap

Easy Techniques for Painting Gift Wrap from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed (all of these supplies can be found at Walmart!)

kraft paper

Rubber Stamps

Small Ornaments (just the inexpensive ones that come in a tube!)

Waverly Inspirations Ribbon

Waverly Glitter & Metallic Paints (in stores)

Paint Brush

Plastic Cups, Bowls, or a Plate for Paints

Directions for Fun Painting Techniques

Make sure to cut off a section that will be generous enough to cover at least one gift.

Easy Techniques for Painting Gift Wrap from MomAdvice.com

Easy Techniques for Painting Gift Wrap from MomAdvice.com

Stamp Your Paper

Pour a small amount of your paint into a disposable cup, plate, or bowl. Using your paintbrush, brush the paint on in an even layer and then place stamp down and pull directly up to try to get as clean of a design as possible. Repeat across the paper or combine this with other designs for more variety. You want to use the Waverly Inspirations Metallic Paints with this technique because the glitter paint doesn’t create that clean image like the metallic paint.

If you don’t have rubber stamps in your craft supplies, you can use odds and ends around your home for stamping. Shapes can be cut into the ends of potatoes, you can cut up sponges into shapes, the eraser end of  a pencil can make adorable polka dots, the edge of a disposable cup can create rings, or a cork could create a dotted technique. This is a great opportunity for your child to explore painting in fun ways.

Easy Techniques for Painting Gift Wrap from MomAdvice.com

Easy Techniques for Painting Gift Wrap from MomAdvice.com

Create Glittered Swirls

If your child lacks the eye-hand coordination for stamping, give them a paintbrush and let them add swirls to the paper.  Paint strokes are layered in glitter thanks this fun glitter paint. I found with this one, it was best to have a fully loaded brush to bring out both the color and the glitter. Repeat your swirls throughout the paper or have your child come up with their own abstract design.

Easy Techniques for Painting Gift Wrap from MomAdvice.com

Easy Techniques for Painting Gift Wrap from MomAdvice.com

Easy Techniques for Painting Gift Wrap from MomAdvice.com

Add Painted Embellishments

Acrylic paints are so fun and make many inexpensive items look high end with modern color choices. Inexpensive ornaments can be painted in coordinating colors and tied on with string to your package. While the rubber stamps are out, stamp up your own diy gift cards on white cardstock and trim with ric-rac scissors or put your own creative spin on the tags. Finish your gift with a beautiful bow.

Easy Techniques for Painting Gift Wrap from MomAdvice.com
Easy Techniques for Painting Gift Wrap from MomAdvice.com

how-to-decorate-gift-wrap-with-acrylic-paints-4864

I hope your kiddos enjoy this boredom buster! I am the queen of craft stockpiling so I have tons of paints, ornaments, and gift wrap (BOY, DO I HAVE GIFT WRAP!) to keep the kids busy on our next snow day.

Do you want more craft inspiration from Waverly? Try these!

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions

Fabric Wreath & Matching Garland

Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints

DIY No-Sew Hand Warmers

DIY Ottoman Serving Tray

15-Minute Scrappy Fabric Trees

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

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Small-Budget Crushes 12.11.16

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Notre Dame Wine Glass

notre dame wine glass (pick a map of your own!)

Cozy Parka Jacket

cozy parka jacket

Jane Austen Books

jane austen books

Jensen Turntable With Radio

jensen turntable with radio (perfect for NPR in the morning!)

Weaving Loom Kit

weaving loom kit

fantastic cities coloring book

fantastic cities coloring book

fair isle sweater

fair isle sweater

library card socks

library card socks

On Your Bust Behavior

on your bust behavior

alexander hamilton book bag

hamilton book bag

Keep on window shopping by visiting all of my Small-Budget Crushes. This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo 

It’s the 3 Little Things: Cozy Pants, Cushy Slippers, & Christmas Tunes

Friday, December 9th, 2016

Advent Calendar Wreath

I caught some wretched bug that’s been going around so most of this week has been spent in my pajamas trying to kick this sickness to the curb. It is also the kind of week where the car breaks down,  the iPhone display screen shatters, and the house is a wreck.

Wait a minute. You came here for a happy list…..

Here is that silver lining for you! Somehow I’ve powered through all of it as I close on the last couple of hundred pages of one of my new favorite reads (the writing is just epic!), listening to this beautiful (and heart wrenching!) book on audio while I catch up on laundry from our trip,  and finishing the American Horror Story Hotel season (guilty pleasure, indeed!) on my iPad.

I also slept for a six hour stretch while my kids were at school.

LIVING THE DREAM!

The kids are loving working through our advent calendar. Since we have such a wee home with few walls, I am always trying to get inventive with holiday decorations and displays. We clipped these on our holiday wreath and the kids open it over our evening meal. We ALL are learning a lot!

I have big plans this weekend to tackle the holiday wrapping, sneak in a board game or two, ringing bells for Salvation Army, and then treating our kiddos to the holiday lights with Steak ‘N Shake Peppermint Shakes (a favorite tradition!). Let’s hope this is the last of day of feeling like garbage!!

Here are three other things that are really making me happy this week.

Fleece Pajama Pants

The Perfect Pajama Pants

As a petite woman, I hate the length and width of pajama pant bottoms because they usually end up dirty and torn at the bottom. For me, leggings and jog pants are a petite girl’s dream because I have less chance of this style of pants dragging on the ground.

I ordered these fleece pants in black and this fun fair isle print (it looks like black sold out- boo!!) and I haven’t taken them off since they arrived on my doorstep. As someone who is constantly cold, these fleece pants are the perfect answer for warmth when lounging around my house. They also make going out to take the kids to their bus stop a little more bearable.

I would recommend sizing up one on these and pairing it with your favorite sweatshirt to live in for the entire winter.  I would also recommend buying these as a gift for a friend or family member who has to suffer through cold temperatures too- at that price, you can afford to buy two! These are a winter must-have!

Ugg Replacement Insoles

 

Cushy Slippers Again

My slippers were looking pretty rough this year and the inserts were disturbingly dirty. Did you know you can replace the insoles on your slippers and boots for less than $15?  I got some new inserts for my slippers and now these feel like the day that I got them.

The nice thing though is even if you didn’t splurge for an UGG product, you can still buy the inserts and make your more affordable shoe options have these cushy bottoms. Heck, if your shoes are a little too big, I can’t think of a better solution for perfect sizing in the winter.

Confession time- I have never bought a brand new pair of UGG boots or slippers. I got my slippers on eBay and my boots were found at Goodwill. I would just buy fresh inserts for these and had no qualms at all about sinking my bare feet into them. There is no need to spend a ton if you don’t want to.

I can’t recommend a fresh insole enough for a treat for yourself!

FRESH Christmas Music

One of my favorite things is to share music with you so I created a FRESH Christmas list for your eggnog sipping and hall decking. There were a lot of great holiday albums that came out this year and I wanted to showcase my favorite tracks from these.

Fun fact, I used to be a DJ in my dorm at college. I also was well-known for my mix tapes that I used to create, in fact, my husband still owns some of them from me. Being a Spotify DJ makes me really happy so I hope you will enjoy this year’s music mix. You can also follow all my other playlists over here! I hope I can introduce you to some new songs!

Pumpkin Chili

Eating: I’m working on some Instant Pot tutorials for all of you that bought this gadget for Christmas this year (or requested it as your gift)!  I am starting with some basic preparations and working my way out for you! Stay tuned for that! For now, it’s been a Pumpkin Chili week over here as temperatures plummeted in Indiana. If you haven’t tried it yet, put it on your planner!





Loving: Today’s highlights include a Very Tired Mary (bahahaha!),  Rudolph kind of Hamilton, Madonna guesting on the Carpool Karaoke (I will love her until the day I die. Amen.), Pentatonix killing it (PS- We were ORIGINAL fans when they were on the Sing Off!),  and the movie that I can’t wait to catch! Doesn’t this film look gorgeous?

Reading: Adored this piece on Flowers in the Attic being the gateway drug to a lifetime of reading. It was for me- was it for you?

Oh, Christmas Tree

pillow source: here

Happy Fri-yay!

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things!

Amy’s Notebook 12.07.16

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Daily Goal Tracker

source: enJOY it

I love this daily goal tracker worksheet.

This Mediterranean pull-apart bread looks like a fun and easy appetizer.

The perfect person just bought the, “Full House,” house.

After hitting the art museum this past weekend, I loved this honest museum audio tour.

This is shaping up to be my dream grocery store- YES!

30 crowd-please non-awkward movies to watch with your relatives.

What it REALLY is like being an Instagram influencer. Hmmmm…?!?!

Take your salt dough ornament game up a notch.

Crispy Roasted Potatoes

source: serious eats

Great tips for nailing the perfect roasted potatoes.

I love these tips for adding completer pieces to your wardrobe.

Never accept pickle juice in your career- amen.

I love this gathering of fun holiday diy ideas.

Adding spaghetti squash to this week’s menu plan after seeing these spaghetti squash pizza boats. YUM!!!

Pom-Pom gnomes- so cute!! I love this pom-pom maker for nailing the perfect pom-poms.

Foolproof Ways to Fake an Expensive Home

source: apartment therapy

5 foolproof ways to fake an expensive home.

Reflections on a year of no-spending.

I’ve been under the weather this week so I’ve been wrapped up in my heated throw and reading one of my favorite reads this year.

Styling tips for those blanket scarves. Don’t own one? Try making one with our no-sew blanket scarf tutorial.

Did you see this year’s NPR Book Concierge? So proud that I read 12 from this list (and counting!)

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo

Our Hamilton Chicago Family Review and Experience

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Our Hamilton Chicago Family Review and Experience

It’s 4:30 in the morning and I just can’t sleep. I can admit that I am still riding on quite the high after returning last night from a, TRULY, unforgettable weekend with my family. For those of you that follow me on the interwebz, you already know why it was so exciting, but if you are just catching up, I wanted to share with you the surprise getaway I pulled off to see Hamilton in Chicago with my kids. So many people have been messaging me and asking us questions about our experience that I thought I would share it with you so that others could replicate all the fun that we had!

How We Caught the Hamilton Bug

We caught the Hamilton bug a little later than most of my friends, but when we caught it,  we we fell fast and hard for Hamilton. During a marathon on a puzzle, over our Fall break, we started listening to the soundtrack with our kids. As soon as it finished, they begged to listen to it all over again…and again…and again. It happened to be around the time of the PBS documentary, so we curled up on a couch with them and watched that too. As we drove home from our holiday (blasting Hamilton at full volume), we asked the kids IF (and this was a big IF) we could get tickets to Hamilton, would they be interested in doing this for Christmas. Our family is BIG on experiences and not big on crap in our house so this was, of course, a welcome and familiar idea for our kids.  In fact, we have done a couple of our very own Choose Your Own Adventure Christmas gifts that have been an incredible way to give the gift of experience to our children.

We did not talk about it again with them and pretended like this would never happen in a million years. In fact, they did not know until the morning we left where we were even headed, not only because we wanted to surprise them, but because it didn’t even feel real to us.

hamilton

How Did We Get Tickets!?!

We are known for being frugal so thinking about buying tickets when balcony seats are going for $600 (or more!) seemed way out of our comfort zone for pricing. This month was a crazy month for us though on the site thanks to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday content I had written. We doubled our ad revenue this past month, thanks to that burst in traffic, and we had more sales than we have ever had through the site, sometimes in just a single day!  Each time you make a purchase, we make a small commision off your purchases.  This passive revenue is nothing I ever bank on, it is always just a really happy surprise.

Basically, THANK YOU!

Just in case, I glossed over the whole the site did great stuff, this was the most work I have ever put into it this season. I actually went four days without sleep or a shower, we ate cereal for a week so I could hang out online tracking stuff, and I was pretty awful to everyone around me.

I like to live in a truthful place.

In the end, we pretended like that extra money did not exist and set that amount aside to give our family an experience of a lifetime. It was money that we did not bank upon so it made that a wee bit easier to spend.

 

Privatebank Theater Seating

Just because you have the money though doesn’t make it easier to spend especially if you are unfamiliar with a theater or its seating. PrivateBank Theater  (formerly Bank of America Theatre- VERY CONFUSING!) has some really good seats and some REALLY terrible seats.  My worst fear is to spend a ridiculous amount of money only to find that we can’t see a thing when we got there.

I spent a month scoping out tickets, but also asked for advice from a friend who frequently buys concert tickets and is just a guru in general on ticket buying. His advice was to wait until the last possible minute to insure the best deal on the tickets.

We are a two hour drive away from Chicago so we knew we could do that.

 

vivd-seats-2

After searching on a million sites, we ended up going with VividSeats for two reasons. The first reason was that they actually had the lowest priced tickets after hunting all of the other usual suspect sites. The second was that they offered a 100% buyer guarantee on those seats and it felt less risky than doing something like buying them on eBay.

I used the site,  A View From My Seat to help us figure out if our seats would be good or not. This is a great tool for ANY event you are going to and can help determine if your tickets are a good value or not. Basically, people take a quick phone shot from their seat and tell you whether it is a good one or not. This was the shot that I found from the tickets we were looking at which said, “Limited View.” Because the view was limited, it lowered the value on the tickets and gave us seats in Orchestra Row F for $300 each which ended up being less than the nosebleed seats. Spoiler alert:  the seats were fantastic and better than we could hope for! More on that later…

hamilton-day

Was the process smooth? No, thanks to the seller we bought them from. Waiting until last minute yielded great prices and a panic attack until they arrived. I logged in to check that the tickets had been sent out and Wednesday evening they still had not been sent out for us to leave on Saturday morning. I called VividSeats where I talked to a real-life person who put me on hold, called the seller on another line, and discovered he had not sent them out like he was supposed to. We made alternate back-up arrangements to have them shipped directly to our hotel and she assured me that I would be getting my tickets as soon as possible.

The tickets were overnighted and arrived on my doorstep at 4:30 PM the night before we left. I was so thankful to have them in my hands and practically kissed the delivery man who looked bewildered at the unshowered woman in her pajamas having a near meltdown at the front door. I really appreciated that VividSeats was quick to action and that they made sure that they honored their buyer guarantee to have them to us before our event.

We woke them in the morning and I think they were just stunned. I had packed their bags for them and we were a little disappointed they weren’t losing it about all of this. It wasn’t until we pulled up to the hotel that they were BESIDE THEMSELVES. Much like us, seeing is believing!
thewit chicago

thewit chicago

Where Did We Stay for Hamilton Chicago?

This was our first overnight with our kids in Chicago, but not my own first overnight there. When I did a girl’s trip, one of the gals arranged our stay at theWit. We got the room for a steal and had a really enjoyable stay so it seemed like a great place to try again. The best part is that it was within walking distance of everything so after I booked our tickets, I booked a stay again at theWit. Definitely check for deals through sites like Booking.com, Hotels.com, or TripAdvisor for scoring a really good rate.

Staying for a girl’s trip is a lot different than staying somewhere with your kids though. I was shocked when the concierge emailed me and said that he saw were coming with our children and wanted to be available to me to answer any questions. We knew our kids would love getting Chicago pizza so I emailed a request for a nearby option for gluten-free pizza. They emailed their pick (it was PERFECTION!) and a menu so we could look it over before we came.

The night before arriving the concierge called again to make sure we had everything in place. He explained the valet parking option ($65 overnight and they park it for you!), went over what time we would be arriving so our room would be ready, and assured us they were available moving forward for anything and gave me his number to call if anything came up.

Um, awesome!

We ended up getting there an hour earlier than we said and the staff was apologetic that the room was just being inspected and not ready. After we threw our diva fit about it being unacceptable (JUST KIDDING!)  they got us water and snacks and a few short minutes later, we had keys and headed up to our beautiful room. After breakfast, we came back to a gorgeous complimentary fruit platter welcoming us which was, seriously, the nicest thing ever.

This location was about a 10-15 minute walk to theater and on the way we could see all the beautiful holiday displays in the windows!
Hamilton Chicago Family Review

Hamilton Chicago Family Review

Hamilton Chicago Family Review

What Did We Think of Hamilton Chicago?

As we headed into the theater, an older couple asked if my husband and I were aware of the content in Hamilton since we came with our kids. He grinned and said that they had heard the soundtrack many a time and that we were very aware of what we were taking them to.

There are a couple of f-bombs in the show and there is a sexy number, when Hamilton is involved in a torrid affair,  that is pretty sultry. There are also a few sexual innuendos and such that I doubt went completely over their heads.

Here is what I will say about this. I’m a Christian and we have kept our kids very sheltered from a lot in life. At the same time, there are a few things that have recently happened that gave us confidence that our children had the maturity to see this show.

The first is that they are both in middle school now.

Do you remember middle school?

Hard knock life, yo!

They are already hearing this stuff from their peers and what they saw on stage, I doubt, is any worse than they get to experience on a bus ride.

I’m just having a little flashback to a good Christian girl getting down to Humpty Dance repeatedly at dances reminds me that I’m not too worried about seeing a musical with my kids- hahaha!

The second thing is that this political season has been a doozy and they have been exposed to a lot of garbage thanks to that. Many things happened that I wished I could have sheltered them from, but they still heard all that stuff from their peers, on their news at school in the mornings, and what they have heard on NPR.  This election season, as awful as it was, has created a really honest dialogue with our children about politics and our beliefs. Hamilton is about politics and it is also about a revolution.

You know, our kids are living through a revolution right now and we wanted them to see what happens when people become a part of that narrative for change.

We want to raise kids that are part of the change, part of the good, part of the narrative.

The only worry we had about the Pence drama, by the way, was that it would raise the price of our tickets.

If you thought that might be a worry for us, I encourage you to get to know our family better!

Namaste.

Hamilton Chicago Cast

source: chicago sun times

Being familiar with the original cast doesn’t insure anything though, does it? I have gone to many shows where the current cast was a world away from the original cast. Here is what I want to say, this cast is as incredible as the original cast and does not AT ALL feel like a second-rate show. Being as close to the stage as we were, certainly gave us a very personal perspective of the acting to really witness every nuance and every facial expression. I can’t begin to tell you how moving and how incredibly well done this production is.

Lin-Manuel handpicked their next lead for Hamilton and this is the first leading role for Miguel. You would have never known he hadn’t been the lead in everything he has done and Miguel adds his own flavor to Hamilton, never feeling like a Lin-Manuel knockoff ever at any point in this show.

Every single actor is incredible so it feels unkind to single any out, but I have to do it.

Joshua Henry is one of the most incredible talents I have ever seen on the stage. He played Burr in such a controlled way and the emotions he displayed had me absolutely weeping through much of the show. His voice was unreal good and a perfect rendering needed for Burr.

Ari Afasar’s performance as Eliza was the one that I was most worried about. Phillipa Soo’s voice doesn’t seem like a voice that can be replicated, but Ari’s performance was astounding and perfectly pitched too. It was so much better than I could have ever expected.

Karen Olivo made from an incredible Angelica. There is this point in the show, after her toast to the bride and groom, where the emotion is rawly displayed on her face at this union between her sister & Hamilton. For me, it was one of the moments that made the whole show. In fact, I could burst into tears again thinking about it. That one moment, for me, really showed off what caliber of actress she was.

Hamilton Chicago Cast

source: chicago times

Chris De’Sean Lee plays both Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson and adds humor and heart to this performance. He soars in, “What’d I Miss?” and had my kids belly-laughing through his portions in the show.

Alex Gemignani as King George could not have been more pitch perfect. There is so much about his part that you don’t get to hear on the soundtrack and he adds so much hilarity to an often serious show. In fact, King George ended up being both kid’s favorite in the show.

Even the stage was so cleverly constructed and set designer, David  Korins, shared that they even tried 33 different colors of brick before they found the one that matched the costumes best. Not a detail was spared on this project and it shows.

At the angle we were seated, we could look into the wing of the theater as the actors exited and entered on stage. I have done so many shows during my own time of theater so I was curiously watching them while trying to take in the show. They never once broke character, not once. Each face you would gaze upon was completely in that moment on stage and never strayed. I think that also says a lot!

Generously, after our performance, Alex shared that they were raising money to assist those with HIV. Several members of their cast stood with buckets to take our donations and it was incredibly moving as a fan to get to say, “YOU WERE AMAZING,” in a really intense stalker kind of way to them.

I hope we didn’t scare them.

As soon as we left, my wish was to do it all over again. The show felt like minutes for me, my son, and my husband. My daughter, however, was satisfied with the first act and it took a forty dollar soda to get her back in her seat for the second act.

She loved it, it was just a long day of travel and excitement for her!

At ten and fourteen, I do believe they loved and appreciated this experience. It’s like Disney…you want them to be old enough to appreciate it so you feel like you made a good investment. We really felt like this was a great age for that.

The Art Institute of Chicago

What Else Did We Do After Hamilton Chicago?

The kids were pretty wiped after the show and we were really glad we picked the 2PM one and not the evening performance because of that. We packed a collection of our favorite Christmas movies (these two for them and this one for us!) and scored a DVD player through the guest services at our hotel. We ordered our yummy pizza, got in our pajamas, and had a Christmas movie marathon.

After a lazy morning, we headed over to The Art Institute of Chicago for the day and got to see some REALLY incredible art (it was also within walking distance of our hotel!)If you haven’t been, it’s an incredible museum filled with more art than you can ever imagine. They also have a beautiful cafe to sip some warm drinks in between.

Shake Shack

Shake Shack

We finished our trip with our first visit to a Shake Shack (which was right across the street from the museum!)  and I really hope it isn’t our last. HOLY YUM!! You can get their patties wrapped in lettuce if you are gluten-free. The shakes are divine and a midday glass of wine hit the spot too for this tired mama!

Unfortunately, the weather took an awful turn and my poor husband had to get us back in the middle of a whiteout and slick roads. We were all so thankful to be home after seeing so many people in accidents. Had the weather not done that, the entire weekend would have been absolutely perfect.

The Hamilton Mixtape

We managed to make it through that awful weather thanks, in part,  to The Hamilton Mixtape that came out giving us a chance to hear songs from the show in an entirely different way. If you haven’t heard it yet, you are in for a real treat. Artists like Sia, Nas, Alicia Keys, Andra Day, Jimmy Fallon, The Roots and so many other incredible talents put their own personal spin on songs from the musical. You also get to hear the original demos as well as some original music that was created and mixed just for this project. You must, must, must listen to it!

hamilton-chicago-family-review

This Christmas will definitely go down in our memory books as one of the best we have ever had. Thank you to the incredible cast of Hamilton Chicago for making it an experience we shall never forget and making an incredible family memory that I hope will last a lifetime!

Thanks so much for letting us share about our experience with you!

Have questions? Ask me!

This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo 

 

November 2016 Must-Reads

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

November 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that there wasn’t a lot of time for reading this month with all the holiday preparations going on. Being a part of a local book club and our online book club is what pushed me to keep reading this month. I will also admit, this month’s books were a bit of a mixed bag. I am not sure if it was because I was tired all the time or if they just weren’t books that would normally grab me. That said, I do have a few solid recommendations for you for this month!

For upcoming reading, I did just purchase this book for my audiobook listening while tackling my holiday wrapping. I also, once again, believe those cheap bluetooth headphones are my secret to reading success while getting stuff done. I actually loved them so much, we bought four pairs to give as gifts for the holidays this year. I think everyone should have a pair!

Also, because I can’t wait until next month to tell you about it, this book is EVERYTHING right now. I have laughed out loud until tears streamed down my face and have read entire chapters aloud to my husband. It’s a brilliantly told coming-of-age novel that I recommend you grab ASAP for your holiday reading. It’s a BIG book, but each chapter feels like its own individual story.

Here is what I tackled this month!

 5 Must-Read Books from November 2016

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

If you are in a reading slump, this should pull you right on out. Behind Closed Doors will go down as my top thriller this year because of this tightly woven and finely crafted story.  I read this one in almost a single sitting and the author does not waste a single page from start to finish while building a plot that will send chills down your spine. This twisted tale is so vividly told that it is as though you are reading a movie with characters that are incredibly well-developed they practically lift off the pages.

I don’t want to give very much away because half of the fun is the discovery of what is actually going on behind these closed doors. A perfect marriage though is rarely what it seems and Jack & Grace are the perfect example of a marriage that looks beautiful on the outside, but is far different on the inside. From page one, you realize the cat-and-mouse game that Grace is in and the reader is pulled along from the first day that they met, giving you a chance to witness a rather unique marriage in a chilling way.

Just know that if you pick this one up, you are going to have a very hard time putting it down. I would recommend a weekend of binge-reading with this for a fantastic holiday escape! Please know that this one is DARK so if you prefer to keep your thrillers in the lighter mystery category, you might need to skip this intense read.

5 Out of 5 Stars

to-the-bright-edge-of-the-world

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eoywn Ivey

The Snow Child remains one of my all-time favorite reads (a perfect winter escape if you are looking for one!) and I was so excited to see that Eowyn Ivey had written a new book that has already gotten so much buzz this year. To the Bright Edge of the World could not be more different than her first book and is told uniquely through letters, photographs, and excerpts of other books to build a unique telling of an Alaskan expedition in the late 18oo’s. When a family member comes across journals and letters from his great-uncle and great-aunt from this time, he feels compelled to submit them to an Alaskan museum. The reader then gets to read the story of Colonel Allen as he leads a group through Alaska and the story of his wife, Sophie, who is newly pregnant and left behind while her husband makes this harrowing expedition.

The amount of research that Ivey would have to do to establish this story, I am sure, would astound us. The dialect and nailing down a historically accurate account of that era alone would be insane, but she also carves a hobby for Sophie that involves photography of birds that is incredibly detailed and astoundingly well told as well.

If you are into historical fiction, definitely pick this one up. Although letter format is always a struggle for me, this book is the first book I have read about Alaska during this era, and it really gave me a lot to think about after I finished this beautiful book.

4.5 Out of 5 Stars

Arrowood by Laura McHugh

Arrowood by Laura McHugh

Arrowood  was this month’s MomAdvice Book Club selection and since I was leading it, I had high hopes this would be a good one. Luckily for me, this one turned out to be a solid gothic mystery about twin girls who go missing and their sister who is haunted and filled with guilt because their disappearance happened when she was supposed to be watching them.

When a true crime writer decides he wants to figure out the answer to this unsolved case for a book, we begin to realize that Arden’s memories of that fateful day may not be entirely accurate. McHugh then takes the reader down a winding path of suspects to answer where these children could have gone in a classic mystery format.

I will say, the ending was not as conclusive as I would have liked and if you prefer a clearly defined ending, this might be an unsatisfactory ending for you. It did serve as an excellent book for discussion as you think about your own childhood memories and what it would be like as a family to have old wounds reopened for the sake of true crime writing.

I really enjoyed this one and would recommend it for our mystery reader fans!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

This book, for me, is a hard one to review. Swing Time was one of the most anticipated books this year and I put my name on the hold list as soon as I heard about it. As a theater nerd and dancer, I could not wait to dig into this story of the friendship formed by two dancers.  The book started solid and beautifully, Smith’s turn of phrasing was so beautiful and unique that it was unlike any other book I had read before.

This is the story of two girls who begin dancing, but only one of them ends up having the talent. Tracey begins a career working in the chorus line of Broadway shows and Aimee falls into an assistant position to an iconic pop singer, getting the chance to observe how the one percent live. The tale swings from past to present as Smith builds layer upon layer in this friendship and, ultimately, if leaving home really does help to define our success.

There are profound moments in this book. An observation on race that had went unnoticed as a child, in her very opening chapter, moved me. There were moments where the writing was just brilliant and I wanted to read more. Yet, there was a lot of lag in this story where I felt if the novel had been trimmed in half, it would have been a more solid read for me. The swinging between decades, at times, also felt confusing and did not flow. I may be in the minority on those observations, but thought I would share that anyway!

I am still glad I read it and I want to read White Teeth next month since that seems to be the book that everyone loved from her.  Have you read it? For me, the brilliant moments made it worth the read, but I am not sure if this would be a good book for everyone.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner

Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner

Missing Presumed came out at the same time as All the Missing Girls and I decided I could only handle one missing girl story in the summer so I went with All the Missing Girls. This book was selected for our local book club and it also had received a lot of buzz from critics. I would not say this was a bad book, but I will say that I discovered that I do not enjoy police procedural books very much at all. The reason I am including it though is that I know many of you do so this might be a perfect pick for you especially if you are a fan of British mysteries.

This explores the case of a wealthy college girl who goes missing and the 72-hours that are spent trying to find where this girl went. With no signs of struggle and no real evidence left behind, the police have a case that seems almost impossible to solve. They begin with her closest friends and boyfriend, looking for any information that they can to find Edith. The reader gets to go through the case from start to finish, interview by interview, leading up to the discovery of what happened to Edith.

If you love a good British mystery, this book just might be for you! For me, not my favorite!

3 Out of 5 Stars

sundays-with-writers-1

 

Read With Me This Year:

January Must-Reads

February Must-Reads

March Must-Reads

April Must-Reads

May Must-Reads

June 2016 Must-Reads

July 2016 Must-Reads

August 2016 Must-Reads

September 2016 Must-Reads

October 2016 Must-Reads

November 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

What should I be adding to my library bag? Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

Free Printable Advent Calendar

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Free Printable Advent Calendar from MomAdvice.com

From our graphic designer, MJ at pars caeli

Advent calendars are just the cutest, right? That is–until you have to fill/create/arrange them! This year we’re going simple with our countdown to Christmas, and we want to make it easier for you, too, with a printable calendar. It’s an Advent Calendar needs just to be cut, folded, and glued. Fist bump. You can even have the kids create it.

The days leading up to Christmas are both magical and hectic! We have Christmas performances and charitable shopping, Santa’s gifting and work parties galore. I didn’t want our Advent countdown to be another process on the list so we put together something light and fun.

Free Printable Advent Calendar from MomAdvice.com

 

How about Christmas trivia?! We watch Jeopardy around our house (with three kids, twelve and under), and a countdown with trivia seemed like a natural way to learn more and to laugh together as we get nearer to the 25th.

We put together twenty-five trivial (some are pretty ridiculous) questions about Christmas traditions, songs, and movies for the whole family. In fact, this calendar would be great to put next to the coffee pot at work or as a runner across the dinner table. My kids have been talking about these questions more than I imagined (“what’s your favorite Christmas song?” and “remember that time we saw…”). Our holiday experiences can be easy entryways to new conversations and insights.

To create your calendar, you need:

Paper (we chose craft paper for the outside, but you can do all white, too)

Scissors

Tape

Glue stick

A straight edge or ruler

Our printable calendar

Free Printable Advent Calendar from MomAdvice.com

STEP ONE: Print out the numbers and trivia questions. Set the trivia questions aside for now. To cut your numbers, slice the page first vertically and then horizontally, creating four pieces. You’ll then cut those four piece vertically, to make equal-sized pieces of paper.

STEP TWO: Each number paper has light gray dotted lines to show where they should be folded. With a ruler or straight edge, fold crisply along that line as indicated in two places. Once you’ve made the folds, ben them the opposite direction to create a folded piece with the number on the front and a flap on the top.

STEP THREE: Take the trivia questions back out. Cut those along the dotted edges. Glue the questions into the inside of the numbered papers. These are not numbered so they can go in any day. We put ours in randomly.There’s a question for every day from December 1 through the 25.

Free Printable Advent Calendar from MomAdvice.com

STEP FOUR: Refold the bottom and then the top flap of the numbered rectangle over top of the trivia question (we don’t want anyone peeking until the right day!). You’ll want to seal the flap shut. You can do this with glue or tape. We opted to cut up some adhesive labels into tiny strips so that we could peel back the flaps without destroying the overall calendar.

Free Printable Advent Calendar from MomAdvice.com

That’s it! Attach the questions to a ribbon and hang on the side of your fridge. Or tape them to a pantry door in the shape of a tree! Or (super simple) keep calendar days in a bowl on your dinner table, and pull one out every day. You might find yourselves amazed by how many presents you’d get if you received all of them from the 12 Days of Christmas or laughing about what the word mistletoe really means!! (Oh, I’ve said too much. You have to wait to open that day!)

Happy Christmas countdown from our family to yours!! Wishing you a simply joyful holiday.

Xoxo,

MJ

Free Printable Advent Calendar from MomAdvice.com

Grab Your Free Advent Calendar Printables!

Click Here for Advent Numbers Printable

Click Here for Trivia Sheet Printable

Scrappy Fabric Trees in Just 15 Minutes

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Scrappy Fabric Trees in Just 15 Minutes from MomAdvice.com

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

I love adding a few homemade touches to our home each year for the holidays and especially those items that can be repurposed in a variety of ways.  For example, one year for Valentine’s Day I made a festive tree from cupcake liners and it got lots of love during that season. Perhaps, a bit TOO MUCH love (ahem!) as they began to wilt and wrinkle.  The beauty in that project though,  and in today’s project,  is that the materials were pinned to the same styrofoam base which allows you the opportunity to reuse this same tree year after year in brand new ways.

I wanted to create some festive holiday fabric trees to fill an empty space in one of our corners so I created this easy 15-minute fabric tree that is so simple that you could have your kids even do it for a holiday craft.  I just know you are going to love these fabric trees as much as I do and I’m really loving the finishing touches on this one with a fabric pom-pom and a touch of shimmer on the edges.

How to Make a Scrappy Fabric Tree

Scrappy Fabric Trees in Just 15 Minutes from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed (all of these supplies can be found at Walmart!)

2 kinds of Waverly Inspirations Fabric in coordinating fabrics (I used the 100% cotton duck fabric available at the store)- this craft does not require a lot of fabric so even 1/4 yard should be plenty!

Small or Large Clover Pom Pom Maker (I used the large option for my trees)

Styrofoam Cones (any size!)

Straight Pins

Waverly Glitter Paint (in stores)

Paint Brush

Directions for Scrappy Fabric Trees

Scrappy Fabric Trees in Just 15 Minutes from MomAdvice.com

1. Begin by cutting into the long-side of your fabric by an inch or an inch and half. Once you have your cut, begin pulling the fabric with your own bare hands (ROAR!!! TAKE OUT THOSE HOLIDAY FRUSTRATIONS HERE AND IMPRESS YOUR KIDS WITH YOUR HULK STRENGTH!) and ripping it all the way down until this strip of fabric is completely separated from the fabric. If you have any loose strings (and you will!) pull them off the strip before beginning the next step.

2. Take this strip and pin it along the bottom edge of the cone to cover the styrofoam core.

3. With the remainder of your fabric strip, begin cutting notches into it, as evenly as possible, as I have shown above in the picture. Do this down the entire length of your fabric.

4. Starting at the very bottom, and layering over that first layer we laid, begin wrapping the tree, cutting once it has met the other side, and pinning into place.

Scrappy Fabric Trees in Just 15 Minutes from MomAdvice.com

4. Continue doing this layering over each layer to cover those pins and also staggering the pieces so that each layer has a little leaf peeking through. Do this until you get to almost the top of the tree. You may need to cut and repeat this process again if you have run out of material to work with. REPEAT HULK MOVES.

5. Once you get close to the top of tree, rip another strip of fabric and use that to cover the top of the tree as I have shown you in the picture. You want to criss-cross the material so that you don’t have any of that styrofoam cone showing. Now wrap more of your layers over that to disguise the pins and to continue the ruffling on the tree.

6. In your other fabric, tear a 1/2″ strip just as you did with the tree, but this time we are going to be making a pom-pom out of it. If you have not used the Clover Pom-Pom Maker before you are going to love it. It’s very easy to use and I have a great step-by-step tutorial if you are new to pom-pom making. When making this, take care to not wrap numerous times or get the material so thick that you are unable to cut it. Just a nice even layer down each side should work. Cut the pom pom out and then use another fabric strip to tie it tight to secure.

Scrappy Fabric Trees in Just 15 Minutes from MomAdvice.com

7. Pin your pom-pm to the top and check to see if you need one more layer underneath to complete the tree. I liked adding just one more ruffle to finish.

8. Using your Waverly glitter paint and a tiny paintbrush, dip the paintbrush in the glitter paint and paint just the edges of the torn fabric on the pom-pom and on the tree to add a finishing shimmer.

Scrappy Fabric Trees in Just 15 Minutes from MomAdvice.com

Scrappy Fabric Trees in Just 15 Minutes from MomAdvice.com

Why make one when you can make three?

I’m in love!

The best part is that you can switch these materials out with the seasons and make this same object look different from season to season. Who knows? You just might see these out again around Valentine’s Day with a brand new look on the site!

Do you want more craft inspiration from Waverly? Try these!

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions

Fabric Wreath & Matching Garland

Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints

DIY No-Sew Hand Warmers

DIY Ottoman Serving Tray

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

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Amy’s Notebook 11.30.16

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Organized Camera Gear Drawer

source: i heart organizing

This post is really inspiring me to get my camera equipment organized.

I did not know a lot behind the Fixer Upper success and found this to be a great read on entrepreneurship.

Old sweaters get a fun new purpose in holiday stockings- I love a good upcycle!

12 DIY gifts people will actually want. You can find some other great ideas over here too!

Listening to complaining is as bad as secondhand smoke for your health. I am really inspired by this complaining challenge.

Put leftover turkey and cranberry sauce to work in these delicious melts!

8 things all successful women do on Sundays.

Chicken, Sausage, & Sprouts One-Pot Meal

source: serious eats

I can’t wait to make this one-pot wonder for a family meal. It looks divine!

I was so excited to pick up this book today from my library. He has always been such a solid author for me- fingers crossed it’s a good one!

I haven’t jumped on the Gilmore Girls train yet, but fans will appreciate this analysis of the Gilmore Girls food.

This printable holiday to-do list is a good one to track everything floating around in your head in the middle of the night (or is that just me?).

Pretty and functional ways to style a bedside table. Love all of these smart solutions for wee spaces.

Brussels Sprouts and Breadcrumb Spaghetti? Um, yes please! I’d love to adapt this to gluten-free! This a great way to repurpose leftovers too.

How to DIY Oprah’s Favorite Things! I was so excited to see two of my projects featured in this incredible round-up!

Minimalist Holiday Decorating

source: my scandinavian home

I love this list of minimalist holiday decorating ideas- just think of how little you will have to put away after Christmas too!

My parents ordered this for me for Christmas and I’m so excited about trying a new craft this year!

This is great advice on choosing wardrobe essentials especially if your new year goal is to simplify that closet!

When your plate is full- what a good reminder about our choices during this busy season.

I love all these fall trends that are happening right now. They all feel very doable!

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo