Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Easy, Kid-Friendly Treat for the 4th!

Kate, one of my most favoritest bloggers ev-er, is hosting a Stars and Stripes Party today and I just had to join in!

We're getting into the patriotic spirit around here, and I let the girls help me in the kitchen yesterday. I told them we were going to make Chocolate Dipped Pretzels as a surprise for Daddy, and they were stoked. Natalie did sort of break the rules and told T "not to look at the pretzels on the counter because it's a surprise," but they kept the overall secret pretty well.

Chocolate Dipped Pretzels are the perfect blend of sweet and salty!
(Hit Target's Dollar Spot for red, white, and blue sprinkles!)

I melted milk chocolate and white chocolate in separate glasses. Juice glasses work well because they are short and skinny. Then I let the girls dip until their hearts were content...or until I couldn't take the chocolate splatters anymore.

Before the chocolate hardened on wax paper sheets, we topped the pretzel treats with sprinkles and swirls of chocolate.

Stacked on a Stars and Stripes platter from The Dollar Tree, they made for a delicious treat!
Shockingly, T didn't put the sight bags of chocolate chips and the pretzels on the counter together, and he was surprised when he got home from work last night.

Do you have a favorite dish to share around Independence Day? Check in for Friday's Weekend Bloggy Reading for some great recipe links!

If you stop by tomorrow, I'll have a post up with some fun summer activity ideas. If I remember to, I'll include a linky so you can join in if you have a similar post to share.

I am officially counting down until my Eclipse movie night tonight at 7 with my friend L. We're looking forward to drooling over Jacob and Edward. And don't forget the popcorn!

Happy Wednesday!
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Red, White, and Blue Outdoor Makeover

It's Red, White, and Blue Day over at The CSI Project! (I am so sorry about the font sizes today, guys, I can't figure it out!)
I don't have anything earth shattering to share, but I did want to give you all an update on the T house.

A few weeks ago, I shared a few pictures of my kind of bland front door area. I haven't had a chance to implement some of the bigger transformations (vinyl lettering on the front door, painted light fixtures, etc), but I wanted to share the little tweaks I made just in time to celebrate the 4th of July.

Here's the Before again:
Here are a few Afters:

Front door--I usually put up a really cute wreath with red, white, and blue berries but couldn't find it up in the attic. It was also about eleventy billion degrees up there and I didn't feel like suffocating. (The white box is covering my house numbers, stalkers!)

My old flag "Welcome" sign usually hangs to the right of the door, but it's got center stage right now.

Found this fabulously glittery "America" sign at The Dollar Tree and hung it to greet the mail lady.

My window boxes need some filling out, but I found some marigolds and wave petunias on sale at Wal-Mart a couple of weeks ago and brought them home. I stuck a tiny flag in each box.

More stars and stripes in the flower beds!

It's coming together, bit by bit. Somewhere, I have a patriotic bunting to hang on the center flower box, but for now passersby can smile and sing "The Star Spangled Banner" when they drive by the T house.
Not bad for shopping the house and spending around $2 on Red, White, and Blue decorations.

{Do you have an area in your home that you've been making Progress on?}
Consider linking up to the next Progress party on July 28th! don't have to have a complete, finished Delightful "After" photo to link up. Progress can be anything as small as listing the ideas from Decorating Dilemmas comments you received that you really liked and want to implement. If you haven't linked up a Decorating Dilemma here before, then think outside the box and share something you've made strides with: weight loss, organization, finishing a craft project, etc.) This party is all about encouraging others in their efforts! (You can view the last party here)

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Mini Chick Flick Club

If you've been reading this blog for a while, then you know how much I love my Chick Flick Club. We've been on a bit of a hiatus, but I hope to revive it soon. This girl needs her chick flick nights!

I've been promising Natalie that we'd go to see Toy Story 3 in the movie theater when it came out. After being tortured by commercial trailers for ages, the movie finally came out a week or two ago and I had to make good on my promise.

I think I was even more excited about our little date than Natalie was. We left Michaela Byrd in the care of T, wisely leaving the house before she woke up from her nap and discovered we were missing. The temp outside was hovering around 101, making it the perfect day for a movie date.

I was pretty sure that 3D would give me a major headache, so we drove over to the fancy new theater that boasts a restaurant, bowling alley, and VIP lounge/bar because it was the only one in town playing the film in good old fashioned 2D.

Natalie asked me every 5.7 seconds if I would buy her some popcorn. I think she was more excited about the popcorn than the movie.
 See how she clutches it close to her body, almost as if she's afraid someone might take it away?

The movie itself was absolutely precious. Only Disney can make an adult feel sympathy for inanimate objects. They combined hilarious characters with bittersweet moments. I found myself crying at the end, but giving myself a headache from trying not to cry so Natalie wouldn't look over and exclaim, "Mommy, why is your face leaking?" in front of the whole theater.

Two. thumbs. up.

We ended our date by dining on 5 star cuisine at Chez McDonalds. Eeer...her choice.
We had so much fun that I thought it might be a neat idea to try this as a Mini Chick Flick Club with some of her little friends this summer. Several of the movie theaters in our area offer free kids' movies once or twice a week. It would be fun to do a movie and lunch...

As long as the other moms come too!

I'm doing a STRIVE class at the gym this morning, trying not to die, so I'll leave you today with a couple of fun clips with my two favorite characters from the movie: Barbie and Ken. (Ken really stole the show! The second clip isn't from the movie, but it's funny.)

The winner of the Giveaway from one9designs is Paula from Sweet Pea. Send me an email, Paula, so I can get you in touch with Kristin!

*one9designs is generously offering you, my readers, 20% off of your purchase between now and Wednesday. Just be sure to type "serenitynow" in the message to seller area upon purchase!*
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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Recess (and Thrifty Treasures)

I had my own little Recess yesterday morning, and it was awe-some.

I'll share about my 5 days of VBS later this week, but let's just say that my "Recess" time was well-deserved and much needed.

Mimi (my mom) came to pick up the girls around 11 am, and she could have taken them to a resort in Mexico for all I cared. I was so ready to have a leetle break from the screeching and running and fighting and the throwing of the doll house people. Bleh.

So Mimi took the girls to her good friend's M's house to play with M's grandkids. I thought about warning them that Natalie and Michaela Byrd seemed to be perched on the precipice of a major meltdown after a very long week, but I thought better of it and decided to save myself.

I began my free time with a stop to Dunkin Donuts so that I could grab a café mocha without tiny little people begging me for a "chockit donut."
It was not as delicious as usual, but I enjoyed it because I was able to drive on the highway without listening to a back seat argument on whether or not Michaela Byrd actually is a princess.

I ran a few errands, ran into a friend at Old Navy, treated myself to lunch at Panera Bread (!), and made a stop in Target to buy frozen waffles, and was lured by that siren of a Dollar Spot which is sort of the main point of this post anyways.

I figured that since I didn't make it to a yard sale this weekend, I could share my Dollar Spot finds with you. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to find them in your Target too!

First up:
Found a neat little Crayola workbook and a dry erase board for practicing handwriting for Natalie (Dry erase markers were from the office section, but a steal at $1.99)
Some garden shears.
I realize that these will probably be sharp enough to cut a couple of blades of grass before they fall apart, but I don't really need to do a lot of pruning right now.

Love these patriotic plates and napkins! We rarely do anything for the 4th because of T's wonderful schedule, but I figured the girls and I could at least enjoy some holiday cupcakes with these babies.

By the time I got home, it was time for Mimi and the girls to be back, except my mom is the queen of not being punctual ever, and I ended up having a whole extra hour to myself. I read a classic caught up on a DVR show and put some 4th of July decorations up outside.

It was glorious. But I was starting to miss the girls, and they pulled into the driveway just in time with sleepy, I've-had-no-nap-today eyes and tales of pink lemonade and cookies.

I enjoy getting some time all to myself every now and helps me unwind a little bit so I don't have to be Cranky Mommy. I bet the girls enjoy that too!

{Did you come across any thrifty finds this weekend?}

Linking to Rhoda for her fun Thrifty Treasures party!

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Friday, June 25, 2010

::Weekend Bloggy Reading::

Hellooo, Friday! Today is the last day of Vacation Bible School, so while I am frantically filling 5 gallon jugs of Fruit Punch, you can read some of my favorite posts I found around Blogland this week. And please don't forget to enter the awesome one9designs Giveaway before Sunday at 5 pm!

~If you need a 12 step program for your magazine hoarding, Megan's Magazine Solution might be for you (and me).

~Beth is such a fun mama! Take a look at her Flowerpot Brownie Cakes!

~If you love Glee as much as I do, you are going to freak out when you read this new blog: What Would Emma Pillsbury Wear?. I linked to a very funny post about the pilot and Emma.

~Love Kierste's Burlap Chore Chart

~Designer Blogs shared 4 Things Not to Do to Your Blog.

~Check out Rachelle's Master Bedroom Makeover.

~Victoria showed her readers how she crafted her own "Bon Appetit" Sign.

~Beckie wrote about making her bread do double duty: Uncrustables and Croutons!

{ you have any big plans for the weekend?}

I'd love to hit a yard sale or two on Saturday. I am desperate to find some plant stands or a metal shelving unit for my deck, but it's SO hot...I don't know if there will be any sales this weekend. We'll definitely spend some time at the pool, and I am halfway through my giant pile of ironing. Maybe I'll treat myself to some ice cream when I finish.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

one9designs Giveaway!

I don't mind telling you that I'm a little bit bummed out today...I'm bummed because lovely Kristin from one9designs is hosting a fab Giveaway today for Serenity Now readers and I can't enter because that would be just plain tacky.
I introduced you to this super-cute Etsy shop last month, and I was so excited to show off some of Kristin's hand-crafted, hand-stamped creations.
I think one of the coolest things about one9designs is that the shop doesn't only showcase necklaces, charms, and rings, but also really neat personalized gifts and items for pet lovers!'s the exciting part...

one9designs is graciously giving away a $50 Gift Certificate to the shop to one lucky reader.

If you win, you can choose any personalized piece you'd like. Think Christmas (yes, I know it's June), birthdays, or even a little gifty for yourself.

Here's how you can enter. Please leave a separate comment for each entry. :

1. (Mandatory to enter!) Visit one9designs, check out Kristin's fabulous work, and leave me a comment here telling me which piece is your favorite.
2. Sign up to Follow me here at Serenity Now or let me know if you're already a Follower.
3. Tweet OR Facebook this Giveaway with a link to this post.
4. Mention this Giveaway on your blog with a link to this post.

The Giveaway will remain open until Sunday night at 5 pm (ET). Good luck!
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Eighty-Three Percent

"The home is eighty-three percent of your child's world, and you have only one opportunity to make it of maximum benefit."
-Dr. Howard Hendricks

That quote, offered during this year's Mother's Day sermon, is looming at the front of my mind as I type this post up. Gina asked me to share my thoughts on balancing blogging and mothering young children last month, and I thought I'd repost it here in case you missed it....But first I have a little confession.

I'm not a perfect blogger, and I'm certainly not a perfect mother. Most of the time, my floors look like this:
Clearly, I can't boast a home worthy of a feature on Apartment Therapy. And I don't have thousands of Followers clamoring daily to leave comments on my posts. But I have had some experience in juggling the daily demands of being a stay-at-home mom and struggling with the desire to express myself and grow my blog.

For me, my blog started as a chance to talk about something other than sippy cups, Disney princesses, and the potty. I finally had a place to share some of my creative endeavors, air my thoughts on fashion and TV, and even to vent some of the frustration that comes with staying home with two small children every day.

Blogging is slightly addicting. I have totally been the mom who put all the frozen groceries away and left the rest on the counters so I could check my email to see if anyone left a comment on a post that I spent a lot of time on. I let my girls watch a cartoon so I could finish up a certain guest post. Ahem.

You've probably realized that Blogland exists by the notion of Quid Pro Quo. You have to do some visiting, linking, and commenting to grow your blog...unless you're some sort of blogging star whose material is so good that it exists on its own. If you know of a blog like that, please let me know. The point is that getting your blog out there does take time and effort.

I suppose my best advice would be everything in moderation.

Try to set up a blogging schedule that works for your family.

  • Early Bird: Can you wake up early enough to check a few emails and read a few of your favorite blogs before your kids are up? I've found this is also a great time for my Bible study.
  • Quiet Time: Are you a believer in Quiet Time? This is a must for our family. My girls need the rest (even if my four year old just plays quietly in her room), and I have another chance to respond to comments, work on a new blog post, and catch up on any chores I can't get done while the kids are out and about.
  • Night Owl: We have a set bedtime in our house, and it's just as much for my benefit as it is for my kids. Once the Kitchen sink is clear, I can sink into a sort of stupor for a bit. If my husband is not at work, I'd like to make a goal of spending more time with him, even if it means reading a book while he watches The Discovery Channel. If you're a Night Owl, this might be a good time for you to blog, leave comments, or check out some blog parties. 
  • Pull the Plug: Know when enough is enough. I am learning to shut my laptop when my girls are awake. This way, I can't be tempted to refresh my email account every hour or be lured into the temptation of reading just. one. more. blog. We spend more time together reading, playing, and sometimes cleaning up. 
If you are beginning to feel overwhelmed with writing new posts, replying to comments, and linking to blog parties, that might be your signal to take your own Time Out. I am so appreciative of the wonderful faces I see in my "Followers" section, but I also know those readers understand that I won't have anything to blog about if I'm not out in the *Real World* experiencing life.

The pressure to "make it big" in blogging is so prevalent, especially with the influx of new blogs, Sponsors, the 4757563 blog parties out there, and the desire so many of us moms have to please everyone.

Your computer will still be there at the end of the day (unless your toddler spills milk on the keyboard). The comments left on your latest post aren't going anywhere. Your blog can wait around for you to finish up that post in your drafts file.

Our little ones won't always want us to play Barbies with them, or walk down the street to the park, or help water the flowers in the back yard. Let's make our "one opportunity" count and make sure the kids remember us as moms who invested time in them

In the light of eternity, it won't matter if I had 500 Followers or 5000, but what will matter is what I did with that "Eighty-Three Percent."

I'll take a little breather after a long morning at VBS, and then Natalie and I are going on a date to see Toy Story 3 this afternoon. Michaela Byrd gets to stay home and play with T. My four year old is really looking forward to having one-on-one time with me, and I'm excited to spend time with her.

{What are some special things you do with family members to let them know you care?}

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Older Man

My girlies are pretty friendly, and they can find a playmate or two just about anywhere we go.

As a reward for good behavior during the first day of VBS, I took them to the pool after naptime yesterday. Michaela Byrd was a little wary when we strolled through the gates and she spotted "E" splashing around.

E is an adorable, round, little red head who's actually Natalie's age, but he apparently has a thing for younger women.

He fell in love with Michaela Byrd last summer on the steps of the big pool and had a hard time getting through his swimming lessons because he wanted to tickle her, hand her copious amounts of toys, and follow her around. Michaela Byrd found E's attention a bit overwhelming and spent a lot of her summer running away from E as the lifeguard blew his whistle at her to stop running. I think she plays hard to get.

It seems that the passing of three seasons didn't wane E's feelings for my younger daughter. He did his best to show his affection for his long-lost love by doing what any normal 4 year old boy would do...he followed us around the pool, took her Barbie and threw it in the water, asked her a million questions, and "helped" her jump to me off the side of the pool by giving her a little gentle shove.

I wanted to ask his mother if maybe she thought it was E's dinnertime yet.

Her older sister took the whole situation in stride, but she has her own string of little boyfriends.
I don't know what the summer holds for Michaela Byrd and E, but I imagine it will include a lot of splashing, some screeching, and maybe a few dirty looks from me to E's mother.

But can you blame him? Who can resist those ruffles?
*Stay tuned for a fabulous Giveaway from one9designs later this week!*

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Monday, June 21, 2010

I Was Framed

I'm working VBS (Vacation Bible School) at church this week, serving Kool-Aid and snacks to surly 4th-6th graders. I planned a quick post today to link up with some bloggy friends....

The topic for this week's party over at The CSI Project is "Frames, Art, and Wall Decor."
I've shared before that my favorite things to display in my home are family photos, whether they are recent snapshot sessions or old family heirloom portraits.

I don't think I've shown you the wall that runs next to the staircase. Don't you love the popcorn ceiling?!

I mixed some shabby-ish white ceiling tiles with framed photos.
Yep, it's kinda scratched up and dented a bit...I like it like that!

I alternated the ceiling tiles with framed photos that cover several different generations of family:
Natalie saw me taking a picture of that last one and asked me, "Who is that young person up there?"

She was pointing to a picture of me circa 1997. Great. I must look like I have one foot in the grave to her.

And who says you can only frame photos?
My made-over memo board holds all sorts of mementos: a ticket from Girls' Night at the SYTYCD performance, a Metro card and Tiffany bag from my fabulous annual I {Heart} New York trip, the rad invite from my Totally 80s Birthday Party, and a bunch of stuff that I find inspiring or pretty.

So there you have it...just another look at a few of my walls. I'm hoping to have something new in the kitchen to show you soon!

{Do you have any framed photos or mementos that mean a lot to you?}

*Special thanks to today's Sponsor, The Shabby Chic Cottage.
treasures to transform your cottage, castle or casa

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thrifty Treasures: Dollar Spot Deals!

I've been meaning to share a few of my recent Target Dollar Spot acquisitions with you, but time got the best of me. Our area Targets still have most, if not all, of these awesome $1 items.

The Dollar Spot is always my first stop when we go to Target. Occasionally, I'll visit my friends at the Starbucks counter first, but it's a very rare occurrence for coffee to win out over amazing deals.

Right now, Target boasts a whole shelf of adorable gift wrap, cards, and gift bags. I brought home several cupcake gift bags and matching cards for some of the 362 parties my girls will be invited to this year. I also grabbed a few rolls of super-cute wrapping paper.
Don't you love the damask-looking print?

I knew my girls would flip if we could have a family night to make S'Mores on T's firepit. The roasting sticks from Target are telescoping, which I think is pretty cool!
The Dollar Spot also featured some cute water rings for kids who like to dive. Natalie prefers to keep her face out of the water, but I bet I might convince her to do some water recon. work with these rings.
If you think a couple of Barbies and a fish toy would be enough to occupy two small children at our neighborhood pool, you'd be wrong. Natalie and Michaela Byrd normally tire of our toy collection after awhile and then go trolling for other kids' stuff. We can sometimes arrange a swap, but I guess it's better to be prepared, like the Boy Scouts. Hopefully those rings will keep them busy for 5 or 2 minutes. And hopefully we won't have to use any of the bandages in the little $1 first aid kit, but I'll have them handy in my bag nonetheless.

Am I alone in my love for the Target Dollar Spot? Have you come across any amazing finds there lately?

Happy Father's Day to all the daddies out there! Any big plans for today? I just snuck out to buy T a few Boston Creme-filled donuts...I guess it couldn't hurt that I got a mocha for me.

Enjoy the last bit of weekend!

Linking to Rhoda's Thrifty Treasures party this week.

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