Thursday, June 27, 2013

Great Family Vacation Tips and Tricks- Guest Post by Kendra Thornton

I am pleased to introduce Kendra, my latest guest blogger! Kendra has this to say about herself:
"My name is Kendra. I am 37 and a mother of 3. Before being promoted to the full time position of mommy, I was the former Orbitz director of communications where I was able to travel all around the world. I’ve personally been to 28 countries on 6 continents and have been quoted in the news about seasonal travel trends and destinations all over the United States.  I still love to write about travel trends and tips, and I think this blog is the perfect place to share some of my favorite tips on traveling healthy with your kids. (Especially with summer vacation coming up!)"
Kendra has some GREAT tips that I plan to use on our next family vacation! I hope you enjoy reading her article!
Great Family Vacation Tips and Tricks

Who doesn’t like taking a vacation with children? My family can travel to a warm beach or the cool area of the mountains. Some people take vacations to an area that has a lot of shopping centers. Whatever type of vacation I choose, I like to take some time to plan ahead and prepare how to stay safe while away.  

1. A Healthy Start to the Day

Before I take my family out for the day, I make sure they eat a healthy breakfast. I try to find a hotel that offers a continental breakfast. This is perfect because it gives my children a wide variety of things to choose from that they enjoy. If we stay at a hotel that has a kitchen, then I try to prepare something in the room that they like such as pancakes or eggs. I use Gogobot to sort through their reviews and find these little added amenities when it comes to hotels. I found a great list of Orlando hotels that and found a free continental breakfast for the entire family.

2. A Full Refrigerator

I love staying in rooms that have at least a small kitchen. This allows me to spend more money on fun activities with my kids. However, the refrigerator needs to stay full of snacks, water and juice. I try to avoid sodas while on vacation because they seem to drain the energy from everyone during the day. Some snacks that my children enjoy are cheese sticks, crackers and pudding cups. These snacks are usually easy to open so that while we are at the pool, in the car, or walking around at an amusement park. All the kids have to do is grab something from the room and eat before we leave!

3. Travel Kits

The last thing I want to do is use the small bottles of shampoo in a hotel room that you can only use one time. Does the hotel think you will only bathe once while on vacation? Before leaving home, I pack small travel kits for myself and my children. They can take their own body wash and shampoo, and I have everything I need from razors to shaving cream. TorkUSA suggests making kits that include hand sanitizer and wipes as well.

4. Comforting Thoughts

While I am not a big fan on taking a lot of things from home on vacation, I let my children take two things that they can sleep with. This could be a pillow, blanket or stuffed animal. As long as they keep up with what they take, I have no problem.

5. We all know that sometimes eating healthy and nutritious when you are at a rest area or theme park isn’t always ideal. Sometimes, you will need to make those last minute foodie grabs for your kids. However, always will make healthy decisions even if you’re at a fast-food stop. You don’t to suffer any repercussions!

I hope these little tips and tricks will be of benefit to your family this summer vacation. Travel smart and safe and enjoy the summer months!


"Former Orbitz Director of Communications and promoted into full time position in the care of Motherhood"

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mexican "Lasagna"

This "lasagna" is made with strips of flour tortillas, creamy cheese sauce, taco meat, salsa, and refried beans.

Cut four 8" flour tortillas into four strips each. These are your "lasagna noodles."

Melt 8 oz velveeta cheese in a bowl with a splash of milk.

Brown 1 pound ground beef, turkey, or chicken with taco seasoning.

Spray an 8x8 casserole dish with non-stick spray. Lay four strips vertically in the dish.
Layer taco meat, cheese sauce, beans, and salsa. Repeat with two more layers of tortilla strips. Top with remaining layer of strips, cheese sauce, and shredded cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until everything is heated through. Serve with additional salsa or sour cream if desired.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Breasts

The other night I asked my husband what he wanted for dinner...

"Something with buffalo sauce."

Well, alright then. Buffalo sauce for dinner.  But what with it?

"I don't know. Just make something up."

Very helpful.

I already had chicken thawed, and chicken and buffalo sauce are a natural combination, so I had my main two ingredients ready.  I ransacked my pantry looking for something to go with it.  I grabbed my very favorite Panko breadcrumbs.  They are much much better than regular bread crumbs: more flavorful, extra crunchy, and just really good.  I had some grated parmesan cheese, so I grabbed that, too.  Then I went to the fridge and got the buffalo sauce and I picked up the ranch dressing as well.

I rinsed the chicken breasts, patted them dry, and put them in a Ziploc bag. I poured in some of the ranch and buffalo sauce and coated the chicken breasts.

In a shallow bowl, I poured the Panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, mixed them together, and dipped the sauce-coated chicken, covering them with the crumbs.

In order to get the heat to circulate nicely and avoid a "gummy" condition on the bottoms of the chickens, I lined a baking sheet with aluminum foil and placed a cooling rack on top.  I baked the chicken on top of the cooling rack at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

The house smelled delicious within minutes. 

When it was done, I plated it and served it.  I was anxious for my husband to try it, but he eats his side dishes first, so I had to wait.

Finally he tried it and said it was exactly what he had been wanting.  Score one point for the wife!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What I know now

So many of my friends have either just had babies or are about to have a baby.  A friend that I've known since kindergarten actually just had her sweet baby girl today!

Elizabeth Leigh- 8 lb, 1 oz- 21 inches long

It seems so wild that my own baby girl is already 3 and a half months old! It flies by! The sleepless nights and 3 am feedings now seem like a distant, blurry dream.  But while you're living it, it seems like it will never end. I remember one night when Parker would not stop crying. I just cried right along with her. Sometimes that's all you can do.  And that's ok. You don't start out being a parent getting everything just right. You are caring for a brand new person. A person who has never been in the world before. You will make mistakes. You will feel exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally.

You will also feel more joy and love than you ever thought possible.  You will wonder what you did with your life before the baby was there. A friend of my husband's told him that when his little girl was born, he knew the first time that he saw her that he would not hesitate to give his life for her. My husband knew what he meant the minute Parker was born.  He went with her while the doctors cleaned her up and checked her out.  She held his finger the whole time.  He was in love with a tiny 8 lb, 20 inches long person: his daughter.

The first few weeks were the hardest.  People said it would get "better," but I didn't like that. It implied that something was "bad."  What we had, our baby, was great. Instead of getting "better" I said get "easier."  And it did. We learned what worked and what didn't.  I am by no means a parenting expert.  I've only been doing it for 15 weeks! But what I know now would have been great to have known in the early days, so I'm writing it down just in case it helps someone else.

1.  Newborns have their days and nights backwards.  You know how when you would lay down for bed at night while you were pregnant and baby would start to kick and squirm? That doesn't change just because she's been born.  She will sleep soundly during the day and party all night long. It takes some time to adjust, but you can help her. During the day, don't let her nap for too long.  Parker would sleep for 4 or 5 hours sometimes, right through a feeding.  Instead, wake her cute little butt up!  We started a 3 hour feeding schedule.   If she was awake when it was time to eat, good for her.  If not, we woke her up.  Change her diaper, take her clothes off, talk to her... whatever you have to do to keep her awake, DO IT! She will probably fall right back to sleep afterwards, but at least she was awake for a little bit. And the awake periods will get longer and longer.

They're so peaceful when they sleep... It's even MORE peaceful when they sleep at NIGHT!

2.  Along the same lines, keep the house bright and noisy during the day, and dark and quiet at night. This will help her internal clock get set and she will learn that day time is for play and night time is for sleep.

3. For night time feedings, keep them very quiet and the lights very dim.  At first we would turn on a small lamp on her dresser to feed and change her by.  But even the lamp was too bright.  We started using a small flashlight.  By keeping the lights down so low, she would stay sleepy and fall back to sleep easier. When you get up at night and turn on a big light, it hurts your eyes and wakes you up. Same with a baby. Keep those lights LOW!

Lamp: good for day time, too bright for night.

4.  Set up a bedtime routine early and keep it up! We started Parker's bedtime routine at around 3 weeks.  She gets a warm bath every night. (We only use soap every other night so her skin doesn't get too dry.) After bath is time for lotion, which she loves! We dress her in a nightgown, turn the lights out, and feed her. It's the same every night. She has learned that the routine means bedtime is coming.  It helps get her settled down for the night. Plus, it's a great way to bond.

She splashes all her energy out!

5.  Swaddle. Swaddle. Swaddle. Parker is 3 and a half months old and she still gets swaddled. Not for naps anymore, but still for over night.  She sleeps better that way. When she doesn't like it anymore, I won't force it, of course, but for now it really helps her sleep.  When she's not swaddled, she moves her hands around a lot and hits herself in the face and wakes herself up.  Being swaddled, she feels secure and can't startle herself awake.

Sweet dreams are made of these... Swaddles, I mean.

This is just some stuff that we found that works for Parker.  And it works REALLY well for her. At around a month old, she started waking up only once during the night. By week 7 she was sleeping at least 7 hours a night. The last couple weeks she's been sleeping even longer. We had to wake her up yesterday morning because we had to be somewhere by 9 am. She slept for 11 hours!

I know that every baby is different, and like I said, this stuff works for mine. I hope it works for you too, but if not, you will find what does. You will be rewarded with love and giggles and smiles. It is the hardest job, but so worth it! Good luck, Moms!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The LA Shop

Recently I was contacted by a representative from The LA Shop. She said she had seen my blog and thought that I would like some of the items they have on their website.  I had never heard of The LA Shop before, so I went on their website and was shocked by the variety of items they sell! Pretty much, if you name it, they have it! Gardening and outdoor supplies perfect for summer time, tools and hardware for Father's Day gifts... a little bit of everything!

What caught my eye immediately was, of course, the PHOTOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT!! I was in heaven! Backdrops, soft boxes, and umbrellas abound on this website.  For our photography business Image 1:27 Photography, my partner and I have been looking to purchase some basic equipment.  Normally we shoot outdoors, but recently there has been a baby boom, and for newborn portraits, we shoot indoors in the baby's home.  For backdrops, one of us has to hold the fabric up while the other one shoots.  Needless to say, this is not the best way to get it done.  I selected the 8x10 Portable Backdrop Stand.

It is extremely light weight, yet incredibly sturdy.  It comes with a free carrying case to make it even easier to tote around to our photography sessions.  Now instead of being stuck behind a backdrop, we can capture sweet baby faces like this one

It was quick and easy to assemble and disassemble. We attached the blanket at the top and draped it over the beanbag, laid this sweet angel down, and took her picture. So much better than what we had been having to do.

As a gift to my readers, The LA Shop is offering 10% off all orders! Just use the promo code BLOGGERS.  What a great deal! I will definitely be ordering from them again!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

2 cans condensed tomato soup
1 tsp minced garlic
1 beef bullion cube
2 tbs cream cheese
1/4 c Shredded cheddar cheese
Italian Seasonings
1 package dry tortellini pasta prepared according to package
Brown the garlic in the butter while preparing the tomato soup according to the directions on the can.
Add the garlic to the soup, along with the beef bullion cube, cream cheese, and shredded cheddar. Heat until the cube has dissolved and the cheese has melted.
Add salt, pepper, and Italian Seasonings to taste.
Add the cooked pasta.
Serve with garlic bread and more shredded cheese on top.

Monday, June 10, 2013

PEP Talk- 3 months

Wow, do I have a lot to fill you in on about last month! It was filled with vacations, growth spurts, and everything in between. I guess I should get started...

I have been getting extremely good at holding my head up! I'm still working on it when I lay on my tummy, but if you hold me by my sides, I can sit up and look all around.  That's  my favorite thing to do.  I don't like to be held like a "baby;"  I'm a big girl! I want to see the world around me. Unless I'm sleepy.  If I'm sleepy, I want my mom or dad, and possibly my paci, and I like to sway back and forth. Other than that, I want to sit up, and sometimes even stand! My legs are getting so strong.

After mom and dad got out of school, we left to go see Aunt Marijane, Uncle Nick, and their little boy Stephen; he's four.  They're not really my aunt and uncle, but Dad has known Aunt Marijane for 13 years, so they're practically family.

This is me with Stephen. Check out my awesome Batgirl pajamas! Stephen really liked to help Mom and Dad take care of me. He would bring them my bottles or my Pooh Bear. He told Uncle Nick that only my mom, dad, and he could take care of me. He's going to be so fun to play with once I'm older!

Uncle Nick and Aunt Marijane live in Mobile, so while were visiting, we got to go to the beach! Dad and Uncle Nick filled my bath tub up with water and left it in the sun. Then, when the water had warmed up a little bit, Dad put it back under the canopy, put me in it, and I loved it! It was just like a bath at home. Mom carried me down to the water and let me put my toes in it. It was a little chilly, so we didn't stay down there. When I started getting sleepy, Dad wrapped me in a towel and rocked me to sleep. I really loved my nap on the beach!

 When we got back from our vacation, I wasn't feeling my best.  I was sneezing and coughing, so Mom called my doctor and we went for a visit.  Turns out, I have my first cold.  I don't act like I feel too bad, but I want to be held more often, and since my nose is stuffy, it takes me longer to eat. It's hard to suck and breathe at the same time.  Also, I have a tooth coming in! I know I'm only just now three months old, but it's coming in! The doctor said it's not normal, but it's no cause for concern. I'm just ahead of the game.  Also, I weigh 13 lbs, 6 oz. Almost time for size 2 diapers! There's just a lot going on with me right now.  I hope Mom and Dad can keep up!

On Saturday, Aunt Ryan took some pictures of me.  I was starting to get sleepy, so I wasn't in the best mood to take pictures, but she's such a good photographer that she still got some good ones.  Mom is going to take some pictures of me one morning this week.  I am definitely a morning person!

Also, I have recently discovered that I am famous. I am a cabbage patch kid. See the resemblance??

Anyway, I hope you are all having a wonderful summer. Until next time...


Oven Roasted Whole Chicken

This last weekend, my mom and brother came into town to visit, and the weekend before was my husband's birthday, so while they were here, we invited his parents over to eat a birthday dinner to celebrate!

I bought a whole chicken since it was a lot cheaper than just buying the breasts (only $0.89/lb!), and planned to cook it in the crock pot.  I've done it that way before, and it always comes out really well.

The only thing about making a whole chicken in the crock pot is that it tends to fall apart.  I wanted my chicken to come out whole, so I roasted it in the oven instead.

I buttered the entire chicken, including under the skin, and threw a few tablespoons of butter into the cavity. Next I coated the chicken inside and out with seasonings: salt and pepper, onion powder, and seasoned salt. I put a few cloves of garlic into the body cavity.  I baked the chicken at 350 for 1 hour and 50 minutes (20 minutes per pound... my chicken was 5.3lbs).

The whole house smelled absolutely delicious, and the chicken came out beautifully.  The skin was nice and crispy, and the meat was incredibly juicy! I'll definitely be making more of these!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Deal

For our wedding, my grandmother bought me a bread machine.  She makes the most wonderful bread and has since I was little.  I can't smell bread baking without thinking of her. So for her to buy a bread machine for me? I was just a little nervous.  That thing was big and shiny and intimidating.
My husband, whom I love dearly, mocked me recently because I had never used it. We recently celebrated our 3rd anniversary.  For three years, this bread machine has stared me down on my countertop, taunting me. 
Second part to the story:  I want to paint our kitchen.  Pinterest has taken me over, and my house is seeing the ramifications of this.  I am hoping to paint it over the summer.  My husband had previously made a "deal" with me.  Until I use the bread machine three times, I cannot do ANYTHING to the kitchen.
That deal sat untouched for several months. Until this week.  This week, I summoned up my courage and bought 3 packets of yeast.  I found a French Bread recipe that seemed nearly fool proof, and I dusted off the old bread machine. We eyed each other for a moment, almost in a standoff (insert tumble weeds and wild west music).  I got to work.
3/4 cup of water + 2 tbs water (slightly warmer than room temp).....  Into the bread machine pan
1 tbs oil..... Done
1 tbs sugar....... Easy. Next?
1 tsp salt........... Got it.
2 and 1/4 C bread flour........... (Does All-purpose flour count?? Yes?? Moving on then)
Make an indention in the four and add 1.5 tsp  of active dry yeast into the indention (don't let it touch the water).
All the ingredients were in my machine.  Next step? Select loaf size (1 lb), crust color (medium), and press start.
Really? That's it? THAT WAS SO EASY!!! Why had I been so scared?!

Look how pretty that turned out! And seriously, it was so simple.  I made another loaf two days later that was even lighter and fluffier than the first one!  One more to go, and I get to paint my kitchen =)
I can't believe I put it off!