Archive for the ‘Money & Finance’ 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.

 

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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 

 

Small-Budget Crushes 10.09.16

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

Mustard Cardigan

shaker stitch cardigan (so many cute colors), $19.99

Honeycomb-Stitch Infinity Scarf

honeycomb-stitch infinity scarf, $16.94

Driftwood Jewelry Organizer

driftwood jewelry organizer, $22

Fur Throws

fur throws for every room, $15.88

Halloween Garland

halloween burlap garland, $9.99

Hammered Metal Earrings hammered-disc drop earrings, $9.94

Rosette Fur Pillow

rosette fur pillow, $9.97

 

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions from MomAdvice.com

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

I am so excited to share with you these DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions I made today for our kitchen. While we have loved the aesthetics of our metal chairs in our kitchen, some of the bony bottoms in this house haven’t wanted to spend too much time in them. Lest you feel lead astray, it is not my rear that is struggling, thanks to a healthy dose of Sir Mix-A-Lot genes. I just get to hear from other people in my house about their discomforts.

Since I don’t sew (and struggle with exactness and measuring of materials) I wanted to create a DIY chair cushion to comfy up your metal chairs AND I wanted that chair cushion to be able to have two prints so we could switch them around. Not only does this give you two choices, but if you get tired of the print, you can reuse your cushion materials inside and recover them again with a fresh print.

I don’t want to brag, but I also think these are SUPER cute too!

Grab your glue guns and let’s get to work!

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed (everything including these gorgeous fabrics are found at Walmart!!)

Your choice of matching Waverly Inspirations Fabric (measure the dimensions of your chairs to figure out your yardage)

Trim (I purchased two yards for each chair, but this will also depend on your own chair size!)

Fabric Glue

Fabric Rotary Cutter

Rotary Mat

Hot Glue Gun & glue sticks

Foam Cushion

Scissors

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions from MomAdvice.com

Directions for No-Sew Chair Cushions

1. Begin by place a large piece of parchment over your chair seat to create a template of the sizing of the seat of your chair. Mine had a lip that outlined around it that I followed for tracing. Cut this out and use this as your guide for cutting your foam. Using scissors, cut to the size of your template (Note- if you are worried about your template holding up, you can trace it on heavier paper and then use that as your guide).

2. Grab one of your fabrics and place the foam cushion on top. Cut (with your rotary cutter and on your mat) around the cushion, giving yourself 2″ of wiggle room around the cushioning. Repeat this same step with your second piece of fabric.

3.  Now it is time to glue your pieces. You want one fabric with the print out and one fabric on top with the print in. We will be turning these inside out once they are dry so you want to be sure your fabric is facing the correct direction. Also be mindful what direction your print is going so you can repeat that on each cushion.

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions from MomAdvice.com

4. Using your fabric glue, glue around the entire square, leaving an opening to slide in your cushion on one side. Repeat this on all of your cushions. Set the cushions aside and let them dry for 24 hours.

5. The next day, carefully open up and turn the cushion covers to the right side. Slide your foam cushion in and then either sew the opening with a needle and thread or (this is my lazy girl way!) line up the fabrics folding it in to match and hot glue that seam shut.

6. Grab your trim and carefully apply your hot glue and then secure your trim. Do this all the way around your cushion. If you have any excess, line the cushion up and figure out where to secure a tie (or two!) for it. You can either secure this to the cushion with a bit of hot glue or you can grab a heavy thread and needle and stitch it to the back.

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions from MomAdvice.com

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions from MomAdvice.com

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions from MomAdvice.com

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions from MomAdvice.com

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions from MomAdvice.com

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions from MomAdvice.com

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions from MomAdvice.com

I hope these fun cushions bring your bony butts as much joy as they have to our house. We all agree that this also warms up the space a bit and makes it feel a little more homey. I added these coordinating pillows to the end chairs to add a little more warmth to them.

Do you want more fabric craft inspiration? Try these!

How to Make a Blanket Scarf

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! 

 

DIY Snack Station

Monday, August 15th, 2016

diy-snack-station

This post has been sponsored by Jack Link’s in partnership with Ahalogy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

When I became a mom, I began to realize the beauty in one-handed snacks. When my babies were small, I had a hard time holding a baby and feeding myself so I created a basket of one-handed snacks that would keep me fueled throughout the day.

Now that my kids are older, you would think that I would have loads more time to care for myself.  I have found though that although my children aren’t necessarily as demanding as they were, their activity schedule certainly is. I am still struggling to keep myself fueled as we run from activity to activity.

If you struggle with keeping yourself AND your kids fueled, I wanted to share with you a fun snack station we created to encourage ALL of us to grab healthy snacks more regularly. This diy snack station was made with a basic small bar cart and is fully stocked for our whole family.

DIY Snack Station Tutorial

diy-after-school-snack-station-6

diy-after-school-snack-station-3

 

diy-after-school-snack-station-14

diy-after-school-snack-station-12

diy-after-school-snack-station-11

I headed to my local superstore to gather up four metal pails that had chalkboard labels on front for our little diy snack station and found this sweet little bar cart on summer clearance for 75% off. This is the perfect time to stock up on this summer entertaining accessory and keep it on budget for your family.

We then headed on over to Kroger  (check out the store locator to find one near you!) to grab some healthy options for our snack cart. The beauty in the chalkboard labeling is that you can switch snacks based on what’s in season, what’s on sale, or what you are craving that week. Have your kids be in charge of the labeling to work on mastering their spelling!

Our four pails had bananas (separated for easy grabbing), raisins/nut mixes, Jack Link’s in a few varieties, and crackers with peanut butter. On the bottom tier, I added apples and oranges, a variety of flavored waters, and some fun straws for sipping.

diy-snack-station (2)

Snacks with lots of protein are my favorite because they stop the HANGRY from coming on.

Tell me that you know a little about hangry moments too please! I need to know I’m not alone in this!

As someone who fights low blood sugar (as do my children), I have found that protein keeps me from fighting those sugar highs and lows.

Beef jerky can be a great protein-filled option and Jack Link’s is protein-packed with a whopping 12 grams of protein.  I like that you don’t have to be limited to just one flavor because it comes in tons of varieties. From the soy and ginger combo in Teriyaki, to a layer of coarse pepper in their Peppered option, to the smoky mesquite flavoring of their Original turkey, to the bold and savory offerings of their Jack Link’s Original. We are big fans of these options for keeping the hangry at bay.

diy-after-school-snack-station-12

For a sweet and savory combo, pair your jerky with fresh fruit for a balanced snack. Bananas always offer a good bang for your buck, apples can be sliced for eating on-the-go, and easy-to-peel clementine’s are always a big favorite in our house. Be sure to look for fruit that is on season for the most affordable (and freshest) options.

We are also really big fans of flavored waters in our house. It makes drinking water a little bit more fun.

A pretty papered straw doesn’t hurt either. What can I say? I am a blogger and paper straws are kind of a requirement over here.

diy-after-school-snack-station

diy-after-school-snack-station-4

We hope this post inspires you to create a snack station for your own family! We are thankful to have one at our house as we head back to the grind of school and activities. It is so nice to know that one-handed snacks are on hand for life’s busy moments!

This post has been sponsored by Jack Link’s in partnership with Ahalogy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Did You Check For Your Amazon Money Yet? It’s Also a Really Good Day For Kindle Deals!

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

kindle-deals

I don’t post too many deal posts around here, but today’s book deals were just too good to pass up especially because you might be the proud owner of some FREE MONEY right now thanks to the company settling a $400 million e-book lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed against Apple Inc. and five publishing companies for their roles in an alleged e-book price-fixing scheme, according to Hagens Berman, a class-action litigation firm. Eligible customers made e-book purchases between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012 and were entitled to a settlement for their purchases. According to the terms of the settlement, consumers will receive a $6.93 credit for every e-book which was a New York Times bestseller, and a $1.57 credit for other e-books. To see if you have credit, check HERE first (you want to be sure to do this because there is an expiration!!).

 

If you have credit, it will appear like this.

amazon-lawsuit-credit

If you don’t, you will see this message: “There is no eBook settlement credit associated with this account.”

Since I am a proud library supporter, I only had a whopping, $8.50, but I know many of my friends have had upwards of $200 in credit!! Come back and tell me if you had anything in your accounts, bookworms!

Every day I post all the best Kindle deals in our Book Club group. If you haven’t joined yet (no strings attached, free & fun!!), it is bookworm central and a great place to chat about books.

Today there are some INCREDIBLE deals on bestsellers that I didn’t want you to miss so I am sharing them here while you have a little credit burning a hole in your pocket!

those_who_save_us

My Recommendations for Spending That Kindle Credit

Here are some incredible deals that are happening today that, I believe, are smart investments for that Kindle credit!!

JUST MERCY, $3.99

PRETTY GIRLS, $1.99

THE ORPHAN’S OF RACE POINT, $1.99

BEHAVE, $1.99

THE ONE-IN-A-MILLION BOY, $2.99

THOSE WHO SAVE US, $2.99

FATHER’S DAY, $1.99

THE COVE, $1.99

THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY, $1.99

GIRL ON A WIRE, $1.99

THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN, $1.99

THE REVISED FUNDAMENTALS OF CAREGIVING, $1.99

THE SLEEPWALKER’S GUIDE TO DANCING, $1.99

THE DRESSMAKER’S WAR, $1.99

LEARNING TO SWIM, $1.99

WHEN THE MOON IS LOW, $1.99

WHAT THE WAVES KNOW, $1.99

LILY & THE OCTOPUS, $1.99-

THE ROWAN TREE- FREE!!

BEAUTIFUL LIES, $1.99

BENDING TOWARD THE SUN, $.99

STARS OVER SUNSET BOULEVARD, $1.99

HANOVER HOUSE- FREE!!

THE MOON IN THE PALACE, $1.99

LOVE THE ONE YOUR WITH, $2.99

THE COLOR PURPLE, $2.99

THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE, $1.99

FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS, $1.99

THE WITNESS, $4.99

REBECCA, $1.99

THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, $1.99

THE STORYTELLER, $1.99

FROG MUSIC, $1.99

This post contains affiliate links!

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!

The Unexpected Blessings of Simple Living

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

(pillow here)

Thirteen years ago we began a journey towards living a simpler life due to a financial crisis in our lives. It was through an absolute need, not necessarily a desire, that we began making smarter financial choices. Back then, it meant saving everything and penny pinching. Later, our simple living evolved into a wish to live minimalistically, clutter free, and to make smarter choices with our money.

It has been a path that started out hard and then became habit.

I don’t think as much about it because, for us, it feels instinctual.

good-for-her-not-for-me

We have had the privilege of watching so many we love move into larger homes and embrace some of those finer things in life. There was a time that I would have been jealous, but now my happiness is genuine for them. Amy Poehler says it best in her book, “Good for her! Not for me!”

I am proud to live in our little fixer upper, drive our old cars, and have less in my life to maintain.

But, I have never been more thankful for the choices we have made more until this year. As I have shared, my health went into a downward spiral this year and I found myself, many days, struggling to even leave my bed.  A very healthy and active woman, this sudden decline in my health was difficult for me and for my family. Although I was overwhelmed with doctor’s appointments, medications, and struggles with understanding my new illness, I was not overwhelmed with the other areas in my life because we have lived simply.

Here are a few unexpected blessings I have discovered from our simple living routines..

I’m Thankful for My Smaller Home

My home is just the right size for us at 1,500 square feet. Years ago, I considered this home to be a starter house that we would eventually sell and leave for a larger house with more room. Now, I marvel at my friends who are able to keep up with their larger homes.  Although I worry about having so many stairs in our house, due to my joint problems, I did not ever feel overwhelmed with keeping up with our home because of its modest size.

I was able to keep up with everything pretty easily, even on my worst days this year,  and cutting our cable freed up our money to have a cleaning service assist me twice a month. Once again, the cost of a cleaning service felt manageable because of the small space we had to have cleaned.

Now I would never want anything bigger than this and going through this has made it more than crystal clear, my house size is just right for me.

I’m Thankful We Declutter Regularly

There was a time where I felt it was frugal to keep everything. What if we might need this someday? What if I could repurpose this into something else? These past few years though, I have learned the beauty of letting go and even have discovered how wonderful it is when clutter is cleared for unexpectedly awesome spaces. I am ruthless about editing things now and almost weekly have things to donate. Thanks to this, maintaining and straightening up the house was easy and manageable.

If my house was filled with stuff, I can’t imagine how sad and overwhelmed I would have felt to have it surrounding me during an emotionally difficult time. Clutter-free spaces bring me a lot of peace and joy. I am so thankful that we made this commitment to keep only what we truly love in our home.

That is not to say that we don’t have spaces that need attention or drawers that couldn’t use a good weeding out. There is enough around here to keep me busy for years, BUT it does mean that those spaces all feel very manageable and I know that when I feel better, I can resume editing even more again.

I’m Thankful for My Commitment to Not Overschedule

I can’t imagine what I would have done this year if I had my kids in millions of activities. We have always told them to take one sport commitment seriously and that they can take on an instrument.  I don’t like being overscheduled and my kids seem to embrace that mindset too. Thankfully, there was very little running that I needed to do for them because of our commitment to keep our kids (and ourselves) on manageable schedules. I don’t know if things can always be this way, but I am grateful they were this way now.

capsule-outfit

I’m Thankful I Have a Well-Edited Closet

The capsule wardrobe project (Project 333) really began because I thought it would be a fun thing to explore creatively. I love a good creative challenge and I am passionate about fashion (as much as a good ol’ Indiana girl can be!). I never realized the unexpected blessings that would come from it when I was not feeling well though. When something in your life feels overwhelming, it’s nice to not have to think too hard about basic things. When I open my closet, I feel very confident about the choices I make and I don’t miss that feeling of being overwhelmed with an overstuffed closet. Not only did it free up mind space, but I have a heck of a lot less laundry to do to. This creative project for me has turned into something that I can’t imagine not having in my life.

I’m Thankful We Pretend My Income Mostly Doesn’t Exist

We live well below our means and sock away almost all of the money that I earn in our savings. My income only exists if we have saved enough for a major household project or for the occasional vacation.  I was struggling to sit at my desk for long periods of time and typing was extremely difficult for me so I was only able to maintain my existing jobs and I wasn’t able to take on any new freelance projects. Thankfully, we live below our means and have only considered my income as an unexpected blessing for our savings. I  missed working creatively, but I can’t imagine how hard it would have been if I couldn’t work and we needed that money for our daily expenses especially if we bit off more than we could chew financially. I am so grateful that we have savings because there was a time where we were knee-deep in debt and I would have never been able to take a break, even if my health wasn’t its best.

I’m Thankful I Embraced Some Smart Shopping Habits

As silly as it sounds, I was really thankful for a couple of things that I shipped to our house regularly so I didn’t have to think about it. Grove sent me all of our toiletries and household cleaners each month that saved me a lot of time at our grocery store. I also did Prime Pantry for my unreal amount of supplements I now have to take. I set up a schedule that we had what we needed when it ran out and it saved me countless amounts of hours over the months to not have to hit natural food stores or run out to a wholesale store to get what we needed. It all just showed up on my doorstep.

I-Like-Big-Books-Book-Bag

(book bag here)

I’m Thankful I Had a Good Escape Every Single Day

Never have I been thankful to be a reader more than I am now. I consider reading one of the ultimate simple living pleasures and I would, dare say, that books have been an unexpected crutch during this difficult time. Unable to craft, knit, type… I felt a little lost. I escaped this time often through a good book. I can’t imagine my life without good books and this escape helped me so much when I was unable to do much else. Thank you, amazing library system!

Not only did books provide comfort, but I’m finding joy in new routines. Walks with a neighbor or a good walk with my husband, a good hot yoga class, a little dabbling in meditation, hot baths in epsom salts, and the always reliable glass of wine after a hard day.

anniversary-1

I’m Thankful I Married the Right Guy

You know when people make their marriage look awesome for social media, but it’s really falling apart? Yeah. I don’t have that kind of marriage. My husband might be mortified that I am sharing this, but I have never been more thankful that I have someone this incredible to help our family through this.  He didn’t know what he was signing up for, but he has pulled through in really big ways. He helps us stay on track with our simple living routines,  he works hard when I am not able to pull my weight, and he has been my best friend since we were kids. I’m so thankful I married the right guy.

I’m Thankful I’m a Work in Progress

Our simple life isn’t perfect and I can see the glaring errors of things I need to work on. I need to rely more on simple meals. I need to say yes when friends ask if they can help me instead of defaulting to no. I need to decline doing things when I am not feeling well. I need to let my family help me more. I need to stop being so angry at God about how hard things have become. I need to let go of some of my perfectionistic ways.

All that said, I have never been more aware how lucky we are to live the way we do and I wanted to share that with you today!

What are some of your biggest blessings you have found from living a more simple life?

How to Make Bubble Snakes

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

These Indiana girls couldn’t be happier that summer is around the corner and today we wanted to show you how to make bubble snakes with our homemade diy bubble recipe. If you haven’t tried our bubble recipe, you are in for the best bubbles ever this year. This fun activity is brought to you in partnership with Tum-E Yummies today.

Have you made your own bubbles or a bubble snake before? If you haven’t, you are going to be amazed at the difference in this solution versus what you buy at the store and the staying power of your bubble snake. Not only are making bubbles and bubble snakes fun, but they are also a lesson in science.

According to Steve Spangler Science, “Bubbles form because of the surface tension of water. Hydrogen atoms in one water molecule are attracted to oxygen atoms in other water molecules. They like each other so much, they cling together. When you blow air through your Bubble Snake maker, you are creating hundreds of tiny bubbles. As the air wiggles through the fabric, bubbles are continuously being made. The bubbles attach to each other when they come out of the fabric. It’s all thanks to the same hydrogen bonds that make bubbles possible!”

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t really understand the science behind bubble making. I love a bit of science with our crafts. Let’s get mixing!

How to Make Bubble Snakes

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed

Dishwashing liquid soap

Glycerin (we found this behind the pharmacist’s counter at our local superstore. Can also sometimes be found in the first aid supplies section)

Pitcher (we love the kind with a plunger to mix the bubbles)

Liquid Food Coloring

1 plastic bottle

Box Cutter

An old sock or a washcloth (secured with a rubberband) Bubble tray or a disposable plate or bowl

DIY Bubbles Recipe from MomAdvice.com

1. Mix up your homemade bubble solution in your pitcher (recipe below). We halved our recipe to fit in this two quart pitcher, but you can definitely mix up a full gallon too. Set aside.

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

2. Today, we are using a Tum-E Yummies container for the base of the craft, so let your kids drink their favorite flavor to get the container ready to be used! If your kids haven’t tried these, they are fruit flavored waters that come in five flavors (Very Berry Blue, Greentastic Apple, Fruitabulous Punch, Orange-arific, and Sour-sational Raspberry). Each of these have 100% daily value vitamin C, B6, B12 and only 50 calories and 13g of sugar. You can be assured, you will need all those vitamins for the bubble blowing that will be happening once we are done creating this craft!

3. Take a box cutter and carefully remove the bottom of the container. Once this is removed, secure a sock or a washcloth (secured with a rubber band) over the newly opened end.

4. Take your liquid food coloring and create a stripe of each color (red, yellow, green, and blue) across the bottom of the sock or washcloth. The more you add to the bottom, the more vibrant the colors.

5. Dip the rainbow end into the bubble solution. Be sure to get a good soak of bubbles on it to create your snake.

6. Blow on the other end of the container to blow out that colorful bubble snake. Be sure to stress to your kids to not suck in their breath (who wants to swallow bubbles? yuck!).

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

 

How fun is that? I guarantee amazing bubble snakes with our diy recipe! While you are at it, be sure to purchase some big wands for this fun project. You really won’t believe how big these bubbles are or how long they hold their shape before popping.

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

A huge thank you to Tum-E Yummies for partnering with me to create this fun summer activity idea. You can find these flavored waters in many convenience stores, grocery stores, and drugstores. My kids really did love this fun twist on water and I know they will make a fun addition to our pool bags this summer after a long day of swimming!

DIY Bubble Recipe
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Keep these items on hand to make bubbles all summer long. You won't believe the size or the staying power of this amazing solution.
Ingredients
  • 1 gallon water
  • ⅔ cup dishwashing soap
  • 2-3 tbsp. glycerin
Instructions
  1. Mix all these ingredients in a container. DONE!

For more fun family ideas, follow Tum-E Yummies on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!

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10 Top Grocery Hacks for Busy Moms

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

How to save money on groceries is one of the most common questions I get, so I’m happy that Andrea Woroch is sharing these 10 terrific grocery-saving tips with us that anyone can do!

10 Grocery Hacks for Busy Moms

It’s common knowledge that cooking every meal at home is a surefire way to reduce money spent on food, but finding the time is usually the biggest battle families face. Most nights, it’s just so much easier to pick-up prepared food or order take out when you’re shuttling from school to soccer practice to dance recital.

And, forget about clipping coupons or driving around town to hunt down the best grocery sales—what busy mom has time for that? Luckily, there are a few simple grocery shopping and meal prep strategies that you can follow to reduce spending on food while keeping everyone in your family healthy and satisfied, and keeping you sane.

Read on for my top grocery hacks to keep food on the table and more money in your vacation fund!

Newspaper inserts

1. Browse weekly circulars- digitally.

Creating meal plans based on sales cycles featured in your grocery store circulars is the premier way to save money on meals. However, you don’t have to settle for the Sunday inserts to find out what’s on sale this week; you can also scan weekly ads digitally using Flipp. This website and mobile app features the latest circulars from grocers, drugstores and big-box stores, ranging from Albertsons to Sprouts to Walmart.

2. Print the coupons you need.

Reviewing Sunday circulars for manufacturer’s coupons is a tried-and-true method for saving on groceries, but who has the time for such a tedious task? Instead, consult your grocery list and search for specific brand coupons online through sites like CouponSherpa.com. For example, you can currently find $3 off Tide PODS from Kroger, $1 off any two boxes of Cheerios, and $1 off any one-pound package of Jennie-O turkey breast. You can even find savings for fresh produce like cucumbers using healthy offers grocery coupons.

Ibotta app

3. Use money-saving apps.

Cash-back apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51 are great tools to save money during your grocery trips. Walmart’s Savings Catcher takes the work out of comparing circulars between grocers, offering store credit whenever something you purchased is advertised for less elsewhere. And Target’s Cartwheel offers additional savings on rotating products, some of which can be applied after purchase if a coupon becomes available within a certain timeframe. In most cases, these apps only require a couple minutes of your time, which you can easily spare while waiting in line at checkout. (Bonus: using these apps will keep you from any impulse buys at checkout, too!)

Stock up on grocery store sales

4. Stock up during sale time.

You don’t have to be an extreme couponer to take advantage of sale and coupon match-ups. When you find coupons for products you typically buy that are also on sale, stock up so you can spend less on these staple items and reduce your trips to the grocery store. Since you likely don’t have time to research these match-ups, consult experts like TheKrazyCouponLady.com to find out what you can buy on the cheap each week using sales and coupons.

5. Look for manager markdowns.

Meat takes the biggest bite from your grocery budget, but it’s not exactly something you can cut out from your family’s diet. You’re growing kids need protein and energy to stay healthy for their active lives! To save on your family’s favorite meats, always search for manager markdowns to find big savings of up to 50% off on steak, chicken, pork or even fish nearing it’s expiration date. Cook what you want to eat right away then freeze the rest for later so it doesn’t spoil. You may even consider implementing “Meatless Mondays” to cut back on the cost of meat once a week. There are plenty of unique recipes that allow you to get creative with new foods without skimping on taste.

Buy frozen foods to save money

6. Don’t forget frozen.

Shopping in season for fruits and vegetables is key to saving money on fresh produce. If tonight’s dinner calls for product that’s not in season (and therefore exorbitantly priced), head to your frozen foods’ section for a less-costly alternative. Produce is flash frozen at peak ripeness and nutrient level, making it just as healthy as fresh for much less cost. March is National Frozen Food Month, so look for deep discounts on frozen produce and meals, and stock up on your family’s favorites! They key to avoiding the need to dial for pizza delivery, is keeping some healthy frozen foods in the freezer for meals on the fly!

7. Opt for boxed over baked.

Pre-made goodies from your grocer’s bakery represent some of the industry’s highest markups, with cakes, cupcakes and cookies often costing 300% more than their ingredients. Since making these items from scratch is time-consuming, consider picking up a few boxed mixes for an inexpensive alternative that yields fresh-tasting confections in a fraction of the time. You can often find boxed mixes for muffins, cakes, brownies and cookies for $1 each, and only require the addition of household staples like eggs, oil and water.

8. Try generic brands for basic ingredients.

Everyone has their favorite brand of ketchup or peanut butter, but some ingredients can easily be purchased as non-brand names without sacrificing flavor. Canned goods, dried pasta and even spices are good examples of generic or store brands that are just as good as name brands. In some cases, you may need to conduct a taste test, but typically basic ingredients that are mixed in with other flavors to prepare a meal can be purchased as store brands. This strategy can save you 30 to 50-percent!

Batch cook dinners like spaghetti

9. Prepare more than you need.

Even if you only have a family of three, prepare meals like you’re cooking for double the amount so you can save leftovers for later. These large portions can be used as lunch for parents, an afternoon snack for teens or as a ready-made dinner for kids when you’re short on time. Not only does this strategy trim your time in the kitchen, but it also reduces the amount of food waste since many recipes designed for just a couple people only use a fraction of the ingredients you purchase.

10. Freeze leftovers for quick meals.

If your family isn’t a fan of leftovers, freeze whatever you don’t eat for use later in the month. Most meals can save for six months and are great for those evenings when you’re tempted to do takeout. For all the planners out there, this tip is especially welcome: designate one weekend day a month to prepare several meals and freeze most of what you create for later consumption. That way, you not only have meals available, but a variety of choices to boot!

 

How to Create Vignettes in Decorating

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

This is a guest post from Mo Breden, a local designer who stages the most fun spaces. I asked if she would share some of her knowledge with us on how to easily create some spaces that make us happy in our own homes.  How lucky are we to peek into some of their beautiful spaces? I hope you love this as much as I do! xo

affordable-vignette-ideas

The holidays are over and your home looks as though the Grinch visited. The tinsel, garland, and lights are tucked away for next winter, and your home has an empty and cold feeling. The pages of home magazines entice you with their perfectly decorated rooms. How can you get your space to look like that on a budget?

The answer is in a fancy word with a simple concept. – vignette.

A vignette (pronounced: /vinˈyet/) is a decorative design which creates a pretty picture by using an arrangement of several objects. In a nutshell, you’ve got to accessorize with the right pieces and in the right ways.

All you need to create a vignette is a flat surface. They come in all shapes and sizes; mantles, entryway tables, nightstands, end tables, desks, ottoman trays etc. Vignettes can be the focal point of a room and make a big statement or they can be as simple as placing a few beautiful pieces together on a side table.

Follow our DO and DON’T tips below and you’ll be vignette-ing your home in no time:

vignette-cocktail table

DO: Add some of your favorite pieces!

A vase you received for your wedding, a hand-me-down lamp or picture frame of you and your girlfriends. You’re the one walking by it every day so use the things you love. Just because the magazine showed a series of accessories that are pretty all together, add some things that have a story and add character to your spaces.

DON’T: Overcrowd your vignette to the point it loses its function.

Remember to leave room for that coffee cup and spot for your book.

vignette-mantle

DO: Create height!

Whether it’s a vase with sticks in it or a slender buffet lamp, add something that is taller than your other accessories to create pretty visual layers. For added balance use 3’s and 5’s. Either use 3 large accessories/objects in your vignette or bump it put to 5 items. Working with these odd numbers helps in creating balance and offsets the height of your tallest pieces.

DON’T: Break the bank on accessories.

Although you may not think you have an eye for pulling it all together without starting from scratch, sometimes all it takes is one inspiring piece! Grab that gold sunburst accessory from Target and place it on top of an old stack of books, a wooden box or a glass vase. Re-invent some things you already have and your wallet will be thanking you too.

vignette- long buffet

DO: Include light!

A lamp is a great thing to add to your vignette but there are ways to use natural light too. Hang a mirror, use a mirrored tray or add in a mercury glass vase to reflect the natural light and add some sparkle.

DON’T: Forget to add in some unexpected color.

Using colorful pieces adds flare to your vignette and grabs your eye as you pass by. Fresh flowers are another way to bring beauty and color in you your space.

vignette- long buffet

DO: Use textures.

One of our favorite things to do is mix textures into our designs! Mixing woods, silvers, golds, blacks and whites adds a really cool look. Find an old tin box and place it on a white washed night stand, then add in a chrome sphere or a glass table lamp.

DON’T: Expect perfection on your first try.

Whenever we create a vignette we bring options to choose from. You may have to try a few different items to find that perfect piece!

Now you have the tools to kick out the Grinch, and make your home the warm, beautiful space
you desire. Happy Vignette-ing!