Friday, October 13, 2017

Coffee Talk Confessions...and a few faves

It's time for another session of Coffee Talk Confessions. I need to keep it light around here because we've had a bit of a rough week,health-wise. Both the girls and myself have been feeling pretty crummy with various colds/stomach bugs going around so we've been trying to rest and take it easy as much as possible. If we had to be sick, I'm glad it was this week because Monday we're going on a CRUISE! We are beyond excited and little by little this week I've been packing and getting the house clean. I hate coming home to a disorganized, less-than-clean house after a long vacation. As soon as I walk in I can feel my stress level skyrocket, so I try to get the house as tidy as possible before going out of town.

So anyway, let's get to it! What have I got on my mind today?

Psst... toward the bottom you'll also find a few of my favorites right now AND some big changes to my hair!

//Here's something I never used to think about before having kids - the back stall in the restroom. IF the baby changing table is in the back handicap stall and IF you are neither handicapped nor have a small child to change, please try to use a different stall if there are others open. Like I said, I never even thought about it until I had to wait to change a baby with a blowout diaper because someone was taking their time in the back stall and all of the others were empty. It's just a courtesy to moms of young children, as well the handicapped who need that extra space.

//I am more. than. ready. for cold weather to come to Alabama. I have a fall wardrobe I'm excited to wear, my dog is shedding his summer coat like crazy, and I'm just plain tired of sweating. I want to walk out of the house with an oversized sweatshirt, leggings and boots and be comfortable.

//I'm going to confess something really stupid I did in college. (I did alot of stupid things in college, but we're just going to talk about this one, mmkay?) Up until probably our junior year of college we had one of those big box TVs in our dorms/houses. But then all of David's roommates decided to go out and get fancy new flat screen TVs to go in their bedrooms. For some reason we decided that David needed to get one too. (And they weren't as inexpensive as they are now.) We went to Best Buy and looked around and they happened to be having a deal where you could finance it for 60 months no interest if you opened a Best Buy credit card. So we thought "Oh we'll just go ahead and finance an $900 42'' flat screen TV because we can't afford one otherwise."
    Fast forward about five months. Over Thanksgiving break David's house and the house next door got broken into and guess what they took? Every one of those flat screen TVs along with every other piece of electronics they had in the house. And of course he didn't have renter's insurance because he's in college and when you're young you just don't think about things like that. So we ended up paying about $20/month on this TV that we no longer own for the next couple years. And sure, $20/month isn't much but every time we would have to make a payment, it was just so frustrating to think we had to pay for this expensive thing that we only got to enjoy for five months. Once I graduated and started making money we ended up just paying it all off so we didn't have to fool with it anymore.
    I wish that we had taken a Dave Ramsey course in college, or even high school before going to college so we would have a better idea of how to manage our money because we weren't very good at it.

//A sweet new employee at work told me the other day that she puts a few shakes of pumpkin pie spice in with her coffee grounds before brewing it and yall....it is so good! I actually prefer that over pumpkin spice flavored coffee.

//Speaking of pumpkin spice - I think my family and friends know me well. In the picture below I'm wearing a shirt that my mom got me that says "You had me at pumpkin spice." And my friends Liz and Sara snagged this ceramic coffee mug from Target because it was "just so Heather." What can I say, I really like pumpkin.
Oh hey, SURPRISE! A little (err, big) change in hair color!😲
A few new favorites:

//Cartwheel shorts from Primary.com. Since Raley's been potty trained, I didn't like the idea of people being able to see her panties when she wore dresses. Let's face it, preschool girls aren't the most lady-like. I would sometimes still put bloomers over her panties but I don't think she liked the feel of wearing, essentially, two pairs of panties. Luckily for me, Instagram advertising just gets me. An add for cartwheel shorts/under shorts popped up on my Insta-feed and I was sold. They've been the best thing and they're super cheap. Although she was almost 4 at the time, I ordered a 2-3 for her because her waist is so tiny and they fit great

//A New Day, the new line of women's clothing at Target. Specifically these two new pairs of leggings. They are both different, which is why I bought two pairs of black leggings at the same time but they are equally as comfy/durable.

This first pair is a more casual/yoga-like pair of leggings and I love the silky material. One problem I have with cheap leggings is that they stretch too much and they end up being see-through. These are made of polyester and spandex and are very flattering. I'm self-conscious about my hips and thighs and when I'm shopping for any pair of pants I look at how well they hold all that in (ladies, yall get me right?)

These Zipper Ponte pants are thicker, more like a "jegging" material, so they tend to hold everything in well also. They are high-waisted, which I'm not typically crazy about, but I actually really like these! I'm short and have a short torso so high-waisted pants just don't tend to look good on me, as much as I wish they did! (I took a photo with the shirt tucked and untucked so you can see the zippers - so cute!)


This entire line is adorable, and very reasonably priced! Oh and another great thing about both of these pants is that they don't pick up my huskey's hair hardly at all. That's one thing I hate about wearing black clothes and having a hairy dog is that you can't get out of the house without wearing what seems like half his coat. These pants have been great though!

That's all I've got for today! I'll be taking a little hiatus on the Caribbean Sea so you won't hear from me for a couple of weeks. I hope everyone has a great weekend! As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Family Fun Things to do in the Fall in Huntsville

This time of year is my absolute favorite. The air starts to get cool (hopefully soon), the leaves change colors, the Tide is rolling, and our community has so many fun activities going on.

Some of these are events that we have enjoyed the past few years and some we have never been to before, but hope to give them a try this year!

FALL/HALLOWEEN

Madison Street Festival - October 7
Downtown Madison
Hours: 9:00am-4:00pm
Admission: FREE
More information: http://madisonstreetfestival.org
This is one event I've been attending since I was a kid and look forward to every year. The day kicks off with a parade at 9:00 am.  There are several unique vendors, local artists, a car show, and entertainment by bands and local dancers (when I was young our dance company performed in the gazebo and I thought it was so fun!). There is an arts and crafts area for kids, a petting zoo, pony rides and bounce houses. Be sure to bring your appetite because there are several local gourmet food trucks lining the streets. Mark your calendars - it's THIS Saturday!
There are several princesses and superheros walking around to take pictures with kids

Pumpkin Patch
For the past 3 years we have gone to Tate Farms and have had a great time, but we have heard very good things about Lyon Family Farms in Taft, TN as well. We have been eager to give it a try and plan on doing so this weekend. Both have a petting zoo, bounce houses, playground, tractor rides, concession stands, and you get to pick your own pumpkin. My kids' favorite is the corn pit! Tate Farms is open through October 31 and Lyon Farms is open until October 29. Follow the links for admission pricing, hours and more information.
Tate Farms: www.tatefarmsal.com
Lyon Family Farms: www.lyonfamilyfarms.com
We love picking our pumpkins!

Beirgarten Stein and Dine - Every Thursday through October 19
US Space and Rocket Center - Davidson Center
Hours: Thursdays 4:30-7:30pm
Admission: FREE
More Information: www.rocketcenter.com/Biergarten
We finally got to go to the Beirgarten at the Space and Rocket Center a couple of weeks ago. This is a free event to attend and there are food and drinks for purchase. They have German cuisine and craft beer and wine. It was very tasty! There is a play area for children and a live German band. Plus it is for a good cause because a portion of the proceeds goes toward a different charity each week.


Huntsville Botanical Garden Scarecrow Trail
September and October
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00am-5:00pm; Sun 11:00am-5:00
More information: http://hsvbg.org
I've mentioned the Botanical Garden several times on this blog and how much we have loved having a membership this year! During the fall there are neat scarecrows set up all over the garden. It's beautiful as the leaves begin to change. When we went a couple weeks ago there were SO many butterflies in the Purdy Butterfly House. The children's garden is our favorite area so be sure to check it out if you have young kids.


Huntsville Botanical Garden Bootanica - October 28
Hours: 10:00-12:00 (The event is from 10-12, regular garden hours are the same)
Admission: $5 plus garden admission
More information: http://hsvbg.org/event/bootanica
This is a fun little event where kids can trick or treat, paint pumpkins, get their face painted, take a hay ride, and just play in the children's garden. We had a blast last year, although we'll be out of town this year so we'll have to miss it.


Hangry Hour at The Camp
Mondays 11:00-2:00
Admission: FREE
More information: https://thecamphuntsville.com
This is a new venue in front of where Madison Square Mall used to be (beside the Holiday Inn). You may have seen their tower while driving down University Drive. It is still in the works and right now they are only open for certain events. On Mondays they are open for Hangry Hour with a different food truck each week. Alchemy Lounge coffee will be coming soon, which I'm super excited about because, well, I just love coffee. Next week Beast Mode food truck will be there. I think this place is going to be pretty awesome once it's done. We actually went to Hangry Hour today and it has a very cool, laid-back, outdoor atmosphere, similar to several of the places we visited in California this summer. Huntsville needs more places like this! Be sure and make a trip over there one Monday on your lunch break to show them support and help their business grow!


Halloween Bash - October 27
Huntsville Depot Museum
Hours: 4:30-7:30
Tickets: Early Bird Tickets (Now-Oct. 26) - $5/child; At the door - $8/child. Adults are free.
More information: http://www.earlyworks.com/halloween-bash
Last year was our first year going to this event and we had alot of fun. It was at Constitution Village last year but they ended up at max capacity so they had to stop selling tickets. I'm guessing that's why they moved locations this year. There will be games, crafts, and trick or treating so dress up and bring your trick or treat bags! I love going to multiple Halloween events each year so that I know we get our money's worth out of our costumes! Plus, I always tend to get a little sad when it's all over and we don't get to dress up anymore.
Last year we were Snow White and the Evil Queen, and Belle and the Beast

Fall Festival - October 28
Madison Church of Christ
Hours: 10:00-2:00
Admission: FREE
This is an event our church puts on for the community each year and it's always tons of fun! There are all kinds of games for kids of all ages, inflatables, hay rides, live music and free food.


North Alabama Railroad Museum Train Rides - Punkin' Pickin' Extravaganza and Fall Colors Special
Visit their website for train schedule and pricing: northalabamarailroadmuseum.com
This is something that I hate to say we have never done before! It's been on our list of things to do but we've just never had a chance. These are two different train rides that they offer in the fall. The Punkin' Pickin Extravaganza takes you to a little pumpkin patch where kids can pick out their own pumpkin to take home with them. The Fall Colors Special takes you on a scenic ride to see the beautiful fall foilage. Both sound awesome to me! They also do a train ride with Santa at Christmas time that seems magical! (see below)
photo

CHRISTMAS

Under The Christmas Tree - November 3-5
Admission: $8/adult. $5/senior. Children under 18 FREE
For hours and more information: Under the Christmas Tree
This is one I look forward to every year. There are some things for kids to do (some you have to pay extra for) but mostly this is my not-so-guilty pleasure. It is an event put on by the Randolph School and there are over 100 vendors selling anything you can possibly think of. Be sure and bring your Christmas shopping list! My favorites are the boutique shops and the gourmet food vendors. I love to walk around and sample the soups, dips and pepper jelly. If you decide to bring your kids, Santa is available to take pictures with. They also offer Breakfast with Santa, arts and crafts, gingerbread making class, and an elf academy (see link for prices.)
Raley's first picture with Santa at Under the Christmas Tree. How sweet is this!

Galaxy of Lights - November 10 - December 31
Huntsville Botanical Garden
For pricing and more information: http://hsvbg.org/galaxy-of-lights
This is another event that we enjoy going to each year. It is incredible what people have created out of lights! Early in the season you can walk through, which I actually enjoy more than driving. There are a couple different stations set up with coffee and hot chocolate (you can even have your coffee spiked if you're into that). Its fun to just stroll through, in the crisp air, enjoying the scenery. There are some nights that they even let you bring your dog.

Then starting the day after Thanksgiving (November 24) they start the driving nights, where you simply load your family up in the car and drive through and look at everything. I like doing walking nights better for two reasons - 1. My kids are still little and have a hard time seeing everything through the window. 2. When you're walking you can set your own pace. You don't have to keep moving along because there are people right behind you. If you want to slow down you can move to the side. If you've never checked out the Galaxy of Lights before I highly recommend it this year!
photo

North Alabama Railroad Museum Train Rides - Santa Train and North Star Limited
For train schedule and pricing: northalabamarailroadmuseum.com
Again, we've never done the train ride but it's something we would really like to try. The Santa Train is exactly what it sounds like - a train ride with Santa. Each child gets to visit with Santa, get their picture made and they get a treat at the end of the day. These rides are during the day time.
The one that we've really wanted to try is the North Star Limited. This one has a Polar Express feel. The train departs at night, under the stars. Kids are encouraged to wear their PJ's and on-board everyone gets a snack and gets to visit with Santa, just like on the Santa Train. Raley loves the Polar Express movie, which is the reason I think she would love this ride.

Santa's Village - November 24-December 23
Hours: 5:00pm-9:00pm nightly
Admission: $5/person (children under one free)
More information: http://www.earlyworks.com/santasvillage
This is for sure one of my favorite Christmas traditions. There is so much to do there - gingerbread cookie decorating, arts and crafts, story time, pictures with Santa, a light maze, and tons of decorations to enjoy. It even snows every 30 minutes or so. I would suggest getting there early and seeing Santa first. The line gets pretty long and in my experience, young kids don't like to stand in line. In the past, if the line is long, we would switch out who would keep our place in line while the rest of us see everything else that there is to see. A lot of times we've seen and done everything just in time to hop in line to see Santa.
Raley and little Payton!



Thursday, September 28, 2017

Favorite Toys - Ages 4 and 1.5

Are you ever stumped on what to get a child for their birthday? Because I am quite frequently. Today I will share what my girls' favorite toys are right now and hopefully this will help next time you're shopping for a young child! (A lot of these items are girly, but you will find a few options for little boys too!)

RALEY'S FAVORITES

Barbies/Princesses: This is probably her favorite thing right now. Last year for Christmas she kept asking for "a big ol' pile of princesses" which we figured out meant the big set of Princess Barbies. She probably plays with these more than anything else. She likes regular Barbies too, not just princesses. My mom got her a little fold up Barbie house for her birthday and she loves getting out all of her Barbies and pretending to play with them in the house. She has a cute little high pitched Barbie voice and when I'm playing with her she wants me to talk in that voice too. It's pretty precious. Audrey likes to play with Barbies too, but I think that if it weren't for big sister she wouldn't be as interested.

Dress up clothes and accessories: She's been obsessed with dressing up for almost two years now. It is something she has done nearly every day since then. She loves all of it - the dress, the tiara, the jewelry, the shoes, the purse. She even has some gloves that she calls "hand-in-gloves" which is pretty adorable.
Last year for her birthday we converted her little cubbie that was in her nursery into a dress up station. We just took some of the boards out, added an adjustable shower curtain rod to hang the dresses on and voila! We left one vertical board on the right hand side so that we could still use that as storage. She has all of her skirts and some of her shoes in those boxes and also some other toys. To the left hand side there is a trunk that my sister gave her for her birthday that she calls her treasure chest. It has all of her jewelry, tiaras, purses and other accessories in it. I also finally got a mirror put up! It only took a year...#slacker

Sticker Books: Raley has been super into these Dress-up dolly books lately. They're more advanced and she's just recently gotten the hang of how to do them. They have specific outfits for the fairies on each page. I have to help her figure out what outfits go with what pages, but once I tell her she loves to dress all the fairies and put shoes/bows/hats/whatever on them. She has even caught onto the fact that some fairies have both arms up or one up and one down so you have to pick an outfit where the arms match. I love watching her play with these because it's just a good, quiet playtime activity.
There are several different books and most of them are $3-5 on Amazon. I ordered a couple for Raley for her birthday and a few extras to give out as gifts.

Princess Cupcake Party Game: Raley's Aunt Lindsey and Uncle Brian got her this Disney Princess Enchanted Cupcake Party Game for Christmas last year and it was a HUGE hit! She loves this game. Right now it is mainly a game that we play when Audrey is asleep because I still don't trust her not to put the pieces in her mouth. But Raley loves lining her princess dolls up, putting the cupcakes together and then passing them out. Each princess has a card and it shows which pieces go together to make her cupcake and she's gotten very good at looking at the card and matching which pieces go together. It's been fun to see her learn through this game. If you're shopping for a 3-4 year old girl who loves princesses, they're sure to love this game!


AUDREY'S FAVORITES

Little People: Both of my girls love Little People, but right now this is definitely one of Audrey's favorites. If you don't know what they are, they are these short little plastic figurines that come in all kinds of different characters. They make a Disney princess castle, Mickey Mouse house, a bus with a driver and passengers that sings "Wheels on the Bus," a barn with a farmer and all kinds of animals, and so much more! Both the Princess Castle and the Princess Garden Party have a spot where you can put each princess on it and it knows which princess it is. It says sayings and sings in that princess' voice, which I think is pretty cool. 
The best thing about these toys is that the pieces are not so small that a child could choke on them. Both of my girls have loved these toys since they were under a year old.
Audrey loves animals so this is her favorite right now. It's so cute to listen to her say what animal it is and make animal sounds. This one is great too because it folds up and all the animals fit inside. You can buy extras separately.

Kitchen: Again, this is one that they both like, but Audrey has been very into it lately. She likes to play with the different foods and pretend to eat them or serve them to us or her baby dolls. Raley still plays with this one a good bit too, so this would be a good investment for a 1-2 year old. You will probably get several years of play out of it. This play grill is a good alternative for boys.



We have this adorable Kid Kraft pink vintage kitchen

Books: Audrey loves to look at books, especially books with animals. I like to find books that have lots of different things in them and as we're reading point out the different things in the book. One of our favorites is "On the Night You Were Born" by Nancy Tillman. I started pointing out different things on each page - moon, stars, baby, scarecrow, dolphin, ocean, tree, bird, polar bear, etc. After doing this a couple nights in a row she started picking up on different items. It's incredible how quickly kids pick up on words at this age. Their minds really are like sponges soaking up everything that is going on.
Most mornings the first thing she asks for is a book.

THEY BOTH LOVE

Baby dolls and accessories: They are just too cute playing mommy to their babies. Raley has loved babies since she was around a year old and Audrey is starting to get more into them now. She loves to copy big sister, which is so sweet. The other day Raley had a baby in the cradle and was rocking it and singing songs to it. As soon as she was done and took her baby out, Audrey put a baby in the cradle and did the exact same thing, singing the exact same songs. Oh it was just so precious.
They love all kinds of doll accessories as well. They like to change their clothes, sit them in a high chair and feed them, wrap them up in a blanket (or an old burp cloth) and rock them to sleep, pack a diaper bag for them, put them in a stroller and take them shopping. The kitchen comes into play frequently when they're playing with dolls. They like to pretend to cook them food and then serve it to them.
When Raley was 2 all she wanted for Christmas was a "dolly." So Santa brought her this dolly that she still plays with today and Audrey gets to enjoy as well.

I love the soft bodied dolls. This one is similar to the one Santa brought Raley for Christmas
She also loves her Bitty Babies from American Girl.

Puzzles: This is another one that they both have enjoyed doing for quite some time. We started with the ones that have the pictures underneath each piece. Audrey still likes doing this type while Raley is able to do more advanced puzzles like this Disney Princess 6-in-1 cube puzzle. (Note - Walmart used to carry this one and a Mickey Mouse puzzle just like it but in doing research for this post it seems that they are about to discontinue it. You can get it on Amazon though, if you're interested.) 
Anyway, I love puzzles. I think they're a great learning tool for all toddler and preschool ages.
Audrey doing puzzles at MMO


Blocks: Raley has had a bucket of Mega Blocks since she was around a year old but up until recently was not super into them. All she wanted to do for a while was dump them out and play in the bucket, but then after a while she just ignored them all together.  It got to the point that I was seriously considering selling or donating them. But then all of a sudden she started wanting to play with them every time we played upstairs in our playroom. Then Audrey decided that she wanted to play too (because she has to do everything big sister does.) So, we kept the blocks and I'm sure they will be sticking around for a while!

I hope you find this list helpful when shopping for a child's birthday, or Christmas coming up!

What are your kid's favorite toys? If you have older kids I'd love to hear from you as well. Because I'm always stumped when it comes to buying toys for kids older than mine. 

Stay tuned for a list of ideas for gifts other than toys! 

*This post contains affiliate links. If something is ordered using one of the links provided I will receive a small percentage of the sale. All opinions are my own and I am not being paid to review these products.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Happy 4th Birthday, Raley!

My, my how the time has flown! FOUR! I spent four years in high school. I spent four years in college. But neither of those compare to how quickly the last four years have flown with our first born. I know I say this every year, but it's true. Time does go by so much quicker with children and you have to do everything you can to soak it all in and make the most of it.

I told her that we would do whatever she wanted to do on her birthday. I made it a point to be extra patient\ - she has been testing her limits lately and has been getting in trouble more than usual. But on her birthday I wanted her to have a good day so we talked about it that morning and she did very well most of the day. I've heard people say that 4 is the best age and that "they wake up 4" meaning they just all of a sudden act better. In a way I hope this is true.

The night before her birthday, after she went to bed, I made streamer garland to hang in her door way that she could run through when she got up in the morning. I had some extra streamers so I also hung some from the ceiling. Audrey was actually the first to notice them. She said "wow! cool!"

For her birthday breakfast I made some sprinkle pancakes with whipped cream and sprinkles on top. She mostly just ate the whipped cream. 

She decided she wanted to go to Let's Play in Huntsville. (She had a hard time deciding between Let's Play and the park.) It didn't open until 10 so we did a little playing at home before heading that way. 

They both love this place! It is so much fun! There is a ropes course, which is super cool, but difficult to try and get Audrey through it. Toward the end there is a zip line and until today Raley has not wanted to try it. But after going through a few times she ran up to me and said "I did the jyew thing" (that word is supposed to be the noise that the zipline makes....no clue how to spell it but that's what she kept calling it.) 

After playing for a while we met David at Bridgestreet for lunch. This is a little birthday tradition - we eat pizza at Pieology, ride the carousel, then get ice cream. These are some of her favorite things and I love this tradition that we've made.
Raley at 2, 3, and 4 years old
She was eating her pizza like a big girl!

The carousel is one of our favorite things. If you live in Madison/Huntsville, it's for sure worth the money to get an unlimited pass. This was a Christmas gift to the girls from my parents last year and it has been great! I love experiences as gifts. We have more toys than we know what to do with and we have been able to ride the carousel and go to the botanical garden (David's parents got us a membership for Christmas) more than we ever would have gone if we had to pay for it each time.

Of course we let her pick out her ice cream and she chose blue cotton candy with sprinkles. Her mouth was so blue!
This was the first year baby sister got to join in on the birthday fun. I am so glad to celebrate as a family.

We let her walk around the fountain for a few minutes. She was so cute holding David's hand walking on the edge. She told him "This is the best day ever!"

On the way to the car she was holding my hand and kept looking up at me with this sweet, beautiful smile. I had to pull out my camera and capture it.

After we got home, Raley got to have "rest time" while Audrey napped and I took a shower. I don't usually let her look at the iPad during rest time, but it's her birthday! She picked a movie to watch on the Disney Anywhere app and laid in our bed while I got ready. Something I've learned to do if I'm not sitting there watching what she's doing on the tablet is to turn on the Guided Access lock so she can only stay in the app that's open. She loves to surf YouTube and there is just so much weird stuff out there, there's no telling what she may come across, so I lock it to try and keep that from happening.

When I asked her where she wanted to eat for her birthday she told me she wanted "the chips and salsa where you throw the pennies" which we know means Rosies (which was fine with me...it's my favorite too!!)

We met both sets of grandparents at Rosies for her "Trolls birthday party." She told me a while ago that she wanted a Lilo and Stitch birthday party AND a Trolls birthday party. So this was our version of a Trolls party.  I ordered a Trolls cake from Kroger, brought a few presents, and my parents picked her up some balloons.

She was very excited and just too sweet. She was even telling everyone "thank you" for the gifts without being prompted.
The cake was adorable and I forgot to get a picture before cutting it!
Audrey was excited for some cake too!
After eating we let the girls play outside for a few minutes and throw pennies in the water. We even got a couple of good pictures out of them, which is hard to do these days!
 

By the time we were done at Rosie's it was bed time. We read Raley her Dr. Seuss Happy Birthday book and put her to bed. She only got out of bed twice and then crashed. I hope that this will be a turn around and she will start staying in bed again.

We had such a wonderful day! I wish all days could be like this. Making my kids' birthdays special is something I hope to be able to do every single year. It's their one day a year when it's all about them!
Just for fun - each year since her Birth Day! What a fun past 4 years!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RALEY! We love you more than you know!
"Today you are you, that is truer than true. There's no one alive who is you-er than you." -Dr. Seuss