Archive for the ‘Celebrations’ Category

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 

 

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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Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Turkey

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Turkey from MomAdvice.com This post is sponsored by Honeysuckle White. All thoughts and opinions are my own! 

For many years I have been dreaming about creating a Thanksgiving turkey that could be prepared in the slow cooker. I have a small kitchen and my oven doesn’t offer a lot of room for multiple dishes so my frustrations often mount when it is time to figure out timing of the bird and all the sides. If you are struggling too, I have come up with a slow cooker Thanksgiving turkey that looks beautiful AND saves you some space in the oven.

I’m partnering this year with Honeysuckle White and, believe me, it isn’t a stretch at all. Our bird every year has been from their company because it always cooks up beautifully. I was so excited to give my dream of slow cooking a bird a spin and wanted to share with you how I did that.

Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Turkey from MomAdvice.com Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Turkey from MomAdvice.com

As you can see from these early morning shots, I got this started first thing in the morning so that it would be ready for our dinner hour. You are going to want to aim for an eight to nine pound bird to make sure that it can fit into your slow cooker. The slow cooker that I have is called the Ninja Cooker. Since we are finishing the bird in the oven to give it a golden skin, I love that I can just pop this insert right into the oven without transferring the bird.

One year I did a beautiful turkey using Ina Garten’s herb roasted turkey breast recipe and our family absolutely loved it. I wanted to recreate that delicious flavoring, packed with fresh herbs while swimming in wine, and make it using the slow cooker method.

Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Turkey from MomAdvice.com   Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Turkey from MomAdvice.com   Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Turkey from MomAdvice.com

I am not flashy with my turkey and usually have it already sliced before our guests arrive, but I know that many love to have a beautiful golden bird to carve right by the table. Maybe I saw National Lampoon’s turkey scene too many times and that may be why I am so scared.

Anyone else?

Rest assured, a slow cooker bird can still be beautifully displayed and you can even achieve a golden skin. As I’ve gotten more familiar with pressure cooking, it has opened my eyes that it is possible to start something in your gadgets and finish it somewhere else. The slow cooker turkey can be started in the slow cooker and finished under your broiler, but WATCH CAREFULLY. I found that it needed to be moved around quite a bit as it broiled to achieve an even color and to avoid burning the skin.

Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Turkey from MomAdvice.com

Although I have always loved the flavor of the Honeysuckle White Bird, I am ashamed to say that I did not know very much about their company until I had the opportunity to work with them.  I know that knowing where our food comes from is such an important thing and that’s why it’s good to know some of their business practices better. Honeysuckle White turkeys are raised on 700 independent family farms by farmers trained on animal handling practices that meet or exceed industry standards.  They even have a spot on their site where you can virtually meet the farmers- how cool is that?

They also realize that good quality food shouldn’t cost a fortune and believe everyone should be able to access it. They try to offer their products at a price point that would be comparable to other products, but with higher quality standards.

I hope this post inspires you to give slow cooking your Thanksgiving turkey a try this year and to look for a Honeysuckle White turkey (available in most states) or for the Shady Brook Farms turkeys, Honeysuckle White’s sister brand, available over on the East coast.

Don’t forget to visit this post to find out how to make ALL your side dishes ahead for your Thanksgiving feast

Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Turkey from MomAdvice.com

Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Turkey from MomAdvice.com

Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Turkey
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Honeysuckle White whole bone-in turkey, 8-9 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (5 cloves)
  • 4 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice to make a paste. Loosen the skin from the meat gently with your fingers and smear half of the paste directly on the meat. Spread the remaining paste evenly on the skin. Pour the wine into the bottom of your slow cooker.
  2. Place the turkey carefully over the wine and cook on LOW for 5-7 hours. The turkey has a pop-up timer on it that you can watch for gauging when the turkey is done. Turkey is done when breast meat is 165˚ F and dark meat is 175˚ F.
  3. Once the turkey is done, remove and put in an oven-safe dish (unless your slow cooker insert is oven-safe). Broil under your broiler for 3-5 minutes, watching the turkey carefully to make sure not to burn the skin.
  4. When the turkey is done, cover with foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Slice and serve with the pan juices spooned over the turkey.

This post is sponsored by Honeysuckle White. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

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Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29th, 2016

Stranger Things Couple's Costume

We hope you have a wonderful Halloween! I can’t tell you how much I love dressing up for Halloween with this guy, but I feel like this year wins all the years. We are a bit Stranger Things obsessed this year so this costume was so much fun to put together. If you haven’t dove into the series, may this costume inspire you to look into this show. You will not regret it!

Barb, Stranger Things

We didn’t want to be basic with this costume (it was swinging in that direction after all my traveling) so Ryan suggested that he go as Barb.

Maybe you don’t remember Barb. No one seemed to care about her. She was the fallen hero in this show. Everyone is crying over Will and poor Barb goes missing and no one hardly notices.

Barb Missing

Barb Missing

My husband put together a Barb costume that made me laugh all evening long. He actually designed a Trapper Keeper cover for an old binder and we blouse shopped for DAYS to get the right ruffled blouse. An old pair of jeans for snow plowing made the perfect “mom jeans” and he snagged some glasses on Amazon for his look.

My old Thelma & Louise wig from a Halloween past (doesn’t everyone have an entire bin of wigs laying around in their house?) was hacked down to a Barb length.

In short, he NAILED IT!

Eleven, Stranger Things

Eleven, Stranger Things

Eleven, Stranger Things

Eleven’s dress was almost impossible to find. We walked the malls for days, found a poor substitute for a dress, and sat down in the food court with our kids to tell them about our terrible luck. That is when Emily (who has NEVER SEEN THE SHOW, but I am sure has photographic memory) said that she thought she saw the dress we were after in Hot Topic while her and her brother were shopping.

After we got over the shock that our kids were walking around Hot Topic while we were dress shopping, we ran into the store and she was absolutely right.

It was the real Eleven dress.

I borrowed her blue rain jacket, we sprung for another wig for the wig box, bought some waffles, and I rocked my husband’s socks and a pair of sneakers.

We both debated on the blood and leeches bit. You totally could do that too!

I hope you will indulge me and let me reminisce about our other couple’s costumes for a bit…

Mary Poppins & Burt

Mary Poppins

Where's Waldo & Carmen San Diego

Glee Halloween Costume

Glee Halloween Costume

Glee Halloween Costume

'50's costume night Marilyn Monroe Costume

Vikings

 

I know. SO. MUCH. FUN!

halloween-stranger-things-costume

Every year is my favorite year and this is no exception. I hope you have a fun Halloween!!

And if you need a good laugh, here is a video for you. If you were wondering, this was my first glass of wine. Can you just imagine how much my dancing improved after that? :)

xoxo

 

 

 

How to Enjoy Autumn to the Fullest

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Tips to Enjoy Autumn at MomAdvice.com

Every year, as I sprint (or limp, depending on the year) toward Labor Day and long for routine and cooler temperatures and colorful leaves and pumpkin everything, I vow that this will be the year I really enjoy fall. Summer is, quite simply, not my favorite season — but my reward for surviving it each year is autumn. So you’d think I would enjoy it, right?

Ahhhhh, autumn.

Brisk air and comfy sweaters and crunchy leaves and hot drinks and apple picking and pumpkin carving. Autumn, the season of change and preparation as we gently roll toward the holidays and a colder, more hectic time of life. Right? It sounds so romantic, doesn’t it?

[Speaking of romantic, don’t forget to date your husband this fall…]

But the reality of September and October and [hold me] November is that this season is just as crazy chaotic as every other one. We have practices and games and rehearsals and concerts to add to the calendar, not to mention dentist appointments and counseling sessions and family dinners and book club and Bible study and craft projects. (Seriously. Is there another non-Christmas season with SO MANY craft projects?!)

In my family we have a birthday on top of all of the “usual” stuff, and more often than not, as we dive bomb into the holidays I realize that I missed it. I missed my favorite season, the best season of all (in my unbiased opinion!). I missed autumn. Again.

Well, not this year! I’m determined to enjoy every bit of fall this year, and I want to encourage you to do the same. I have a few ideas for making this happen, and I’m happy to share them with you. Just in case you have missed an autumn or two, but long to truly enjoy this beautiful season.

2 ways to enjoy fall to it's fullest at MomAdvice.com

2 Ways to Enjoy Autumn

1. Pick three things. We all know the temptation of bucket lists, and heaven knows I’ve made my share. But this fall, instead of adding every fall-type activity to your to-do list (not to mention printing it out and putting it on the fridge), why not keep it simple? We’ve already discussed how busy regular life is before we begin adding field trips to the apple orchard. So just pick three things. Pick one special autumn food to make (my all-time favorite is this DELICIOUS pumpkin bread), pick one craft to make (I’ve already bought the supplies to make this wreath from Amy), and pick one trip to take (and if it just happens to be the church fall festival, THAT’S STILL GOOD AND FUN AND ENOUGH!).

Pick three things – a food, a craft, and a trip.

And then? Use all that extra time you’ll have (hahaha!) to simply walk outside and breathe in the crisp air. Or watch a football game. Or let your kids buy pumpkins on your next run to the grocery store. (Believe me, they are still festive when they come from the grocery store and not the pumpkin patch.)

2. Count your days. Time flies when we’re busy or when we’re looking forward to big events, and fall is full of both those things for me. So this year I’m going to make sure I am intentionally taking note of each individual day. (I mean, probably not EACH and EVERY day. Let’s be realistic and accept that even every other day is still better than letting an entire season pass in a blur or parties and costumes and crafts and meetings!)

A few ways you might make your days count this autumn are with a daily photo challenge, reading a seasonal quote or a scripture each day, or keeping a gratitude journal. Or, if you’re feeling really ambitious (or unable to make a choice…something I am quite familiar with!), you could do one of those each month of the season. Start reading a Bible verse each day this month, then take a photo challenge next month, and finish up with a daily gratitude exercise in November.

However you do it (and, really, keep it as simple as you need to), just do something to intentionally appreciate your days.

When it comes to enjoying every season, I sometimes struggle between committing to carpe-ing the diem out of life and remembering that, more than likely, there will be another opportunity to carve pumpkins if we don’t do it this week, this month, this fall. But this year, I’m determined to let all of that struggling and striving and regretting go.

I am going to LIVE and LOVE and ENJOY this autumn. Will you join me?

 

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints

Friday, September 30th, 2016

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with MomAdvice.com

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

Have you ever painted pumpkins with acrylic paints before? This was my first time painting our pumpkins this way and it could not be easier. I wanted to create a pumpkin display that would be perfect for the entire fall season and wanted to show you a cute way to display your pumpkins this year!

I am not big on decorating for Halloween and would prefer to skip right on over that part of the fall decorating. This month’s challenge was to create a Halloween display so I wanted to create a minimalistic display that would give a nod to the season, but complement our decor until it is time to deck the halls.

Let’s get painting!

How to Paint Pumpkins With Acrylic Paint

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with MomAdvice.com

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with MomAdvice.com

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

Any size you like of their faux pumpkins- the small ones are just $.98!! (you could also do real pumpkins!)

Waverly Inspirations Acrylic Paints in Elephant, Plaster, Pool, & White

Waverly Inspirations 4-piece wide brush set

Cup with water, paper towels, and something to cover the surface while painting

Wooden Crate (I got this one with a chalkboard on the side)

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with MomAdvice.com

Directions for Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints

1. Remove the labels from the pumpkins and protect your surface with cardboard while painting.

2. With a clean wide brush, begin painting your pumpkins,using the stalk of the pumpkin as a handle to work around the surface. Paint the entire pumpkin and then set it aside to dry. Drying time can take anywhere between 15 minutes to one hour, depending on how thickly you applied the paint. Repeat this process as many times as you like to achieve the hue you are going for. I found the gray pumpkins only required a single coat, while the white pumpkins required two coats. Once dry,sprinkle these pumpkins throughout your house or create a crate display like I have done.
Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with MomAdvice.com

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with MomAdvice.com

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with MomAdvice.com

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with MomAdvice.com

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with MomAdvice.com

I love how these pumpkins spill out onto some of my favorite childhood reads. The chalkboard side on this crate gives me the chance to make this display feel a little more Halloween and then can be replaced with a different label later in the fall.  I added my knitted leaf centerpiece to the side of the table- I can’t believe how well these branches have held up over the years!

For a corner in our home that used to have nothing, this has quickly become my favorite focal point in our living room.

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

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions

Fabric Wreath & Matching Garland

Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial

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

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Handmade Autumn Burlap Wreath Tutorial

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

Handmade Autumn Burlap Wreath Tutorial

I am so excited to be sharing another tutorial for how to make a burlap wreath today! I can’t begin to tell you how happy this wreath makes me hanging our front door. The pop of orange is just what our door needs for the holidays and this wreath is perfect for all fall through Halloween and Thanksgiving.

If you haven’t made a burlap wreath before, this tutorial is for you! It outlines step-by-step how to recreate this wreath with my picture tutorial.

Handmade Autumn Burlap Wreath Tutorial

The crisp coolness of fall is moving in here in the Midwest and with it comes the urge to decorate every square inch of my home to honor it. Dare I say that we do more fall decorating than we do Christmas decorating? With simplifying as our goal, though, instead of decorating for Halloween and decorating for Thanksgiving, I am trying to create pieces that can double for both holidays and be appreciated until it’s time to break out the Christmas decorations.

The best part is that this burlap wreath requires no crafting skills, no cutting, and is very inexpensive to create.The one thing I will say with making burlap wreaths is that you need to have a little patience with yourself in the beginning. My first wreath, I took apart three times before I got the hang of it. Once you get the bubbling of the burlap down though, this really is a quick and easy craft and such a great way to dress up a door. (Note: affiliate links are included)

How to Make a Burlap Autumn Wreath

Fall-Burlap-Wreath-Tutorial-Supplies

Supplies Needed:

fall-burlap-wreath-tutorial

Directions:

1. Begin by folding your burlap in half, like I have shown above, and keep the fold going as we go along. Select one section of the wire wreath to start in. Feed the beginning end through the wreath as shown above: over the outer ring, under the next, over the next, and under to finish. Leave a little loose end to tuck in or you can wire it to the wreath with a little floral wire in the back. Now you have started your wreath- super easy!  This is the technique we are using throughout.

Note: I am showing it to you tightly so you can see how this will work, when you do this, you will actually be pulling out the burlap a bit to give it to that bubble effect that we are going for. 

2. Using the working end of the burlap (the working end is the side that isn’t the final end of the burlap, but the end you are working with), we are going to begin making the bubbled burlap right next to this row, within the same section of that metal wreath, but we will begin weaving in the opposite direction, continuing to pull out and bubble the burlap as we go, moving the working burlap into each section, weaving one direction than weaving the other direction.

4. When you run out of burlap (it should be when you are about halfway through covering the wreath), tuck the end towards the back and pick up where you left off. Again, you can wire these ends with a little floral wire on the back.

5. Once the entire wreath is covered, secure the final end with floral wire on the back of the wreath to make sure everything is held into place, twisted around one of the metal strands of the wreath.

6. Now you can fluff your burlap out to create that bubbly effect and to cover any of the metal you can see peeking out..

7. Clip small stems of your greenery to weave into your wreath. Starting with the front, add bits here and there, but not in a pattern, to make it look natural. Repeat this process with the middle layer and then finally attach a few towards the back to add texture to this wreath.

Handmade Autumn Burlap Wreath Tutorial

I don’t want to brag, but doesn’t this look like something out of a magazine? Weaving in the texture of the greenery really makes this wreath pop and looks professional. Thanks to catching some half-off sales at our local craft store, I was able to make this beauty for less than $20 which also makes me very happy!

Handmade Autumn Burlap Wreath Tutorial

I hope you can dress your home up simply and beautifully for the fall holidays with this fun idea!

 Disclosure: affiliate links are included in this article, if you use them, thank you -they help support the site!

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Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite sleepovers ever included a beautiful breakfast buffet for us in the morning. The parents got up early to make stacks of waffles and laid out a variety of toppings to make our own waffle creation. It was the stuff that little girl’s dreams are made of,  piled high with whipped cream, strawberries, and unlimited syrup.

I want to be that mom who rises early and makes these sleepover dreams come true, but often I am the mom dragging her tail out of bed after telling the kids to PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE, GO TO SLEEP IT IS THREE IN THE MORNING mom.

Are you her too?

That’s why I wanted to create a REALISTIC buffet that can be made in advance so you can just stumble into kitchen, put everything on the table, and curl up with a cup of coffee in bed with a little sweet silence.

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

Today I am partnering with  Florida Department of Citrus to show you how to make this fun make-ahead sleepover breakfast buffet table complete with glasses of  FLOJ for everyone at the party.  Although waffle parties are fun, I wanted to create a healthy breakfast complete with a glass of Florida Orange Juice that provides 5 amazing nutrients in every glass for our guests. Not only are we loading our table with fresh fruit, but we are also getting, in just one single 8-ounce glass of 100% orange juice,  our daily recommended serving of fruit! Winning!

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

Instead of spending your morning flipping pancakes, take a peek at my make-ahead recipe for breakfast burritos. This recipe yields eighteen delicious burritos and you can even make them gluten-free with the use of a gluten-free wrap. They are filled with eggs, turkey sausage, spiced potatoes, and cheese- yum!

Make these ahead and tuck them in your fridge or use these instructions for popping them in the freezer until the morning. The beauty in this one is that no matter what time they rise, each person can have a hot breakfast!

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

I made a simple breakfast bar with burrito toppings like olives, sour cream tomatoes, avocado, salsa, and sriracha. You can just chop and set this in the fridge on a cookie sheet for the big morning.  

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

 

After warming their burritos, they can fill it with all of their favorites or simply put the toppings on top and dig in with a knife and fork.

Putting this spread together took me under an hour, even with all the chopping, and the best part is that I got to enjoy a hot cup of coffee even with a house full of kids. WINNING!

Thank you so much to Florida Department of Citrus for letting us share a make-ahead buffet with you. Be sure to kick back a glass of FLOJ for us and may your bedhead game be as strong as your coffee.


This blog was sponsored by Florida Department of Citrus. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable)

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from MomAdvice.com

I am so excited to be partnering this year with the Florida Department of Citrus to celebrate National OJ Day today.  In celebration of this fun day, I wanted to create an interactive way you can enjoy a glass of FLOJ and craft up a cute funny faces cup with your kids.

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from MomAdvice.com

Did you know that one glass of Florida Orange Juice provides a total of 5 amazing nutrients in every glass? In just one glass you have Taste, Vitamin C, Folate, Potassium and No Added Sugar!

More importantly for me, as a busy mom always striving to get our fruits and veggies into our diet, it’s good to know that a single 8-ounce glass of 100% orange juice counts as one of your daily recommended servings of fruit.

We wanted to celebrate National OJ Day in an interactive way so we have loads of cute printables for you to decorate your own Florida Orange Juice cup. A serving of fruit AND a fun way to keep kids busy? #winning

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed:

Free Funny Faces Printable (DOWNLOAD HERE!!)

Scissors

Glue Stick

Clear plastic cups

Florida Orange Juice

Directions:

  1. Print out our funny faces printable and have your child cut out the different mouths, shapes, noses, & Captain Citrus action graphics to decorate their cup. This is a fantastic way for your child to practice cutting.
  2. Have your child flip each piece over and cover it in glue using their glue stick.
  3. Finish by applying the pieces to the clear cups. Don’t forget to fill your glass with Florida Orange Juice

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from MomAdvice.com

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from MomAdvice.com

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from MomAdvice.com

How fun is this? We hope that this post inspires you to celebrate today with your family. If that wasn’t fun enough today we are giving away a Florida Department of Citrus kit to one lucky reader. Follow the instructions in the widget below to enter to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This blog was sponsored by Florida Department of Citrus. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

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