Friday, June 30, 2017

As Southern As It Gets

Let's talk about all things Southern today.  We lived in the South for two years - Arkansas for one year and Mississippi for one year.  We LOVED so many things about living in the South and the people/traditions of the South.  It really is a super special place and unlike any other area of the country.  It just has a different feel.  Different than out west, different than the Midwest.  It's a special place that will always hold a special spot in my heart.

(Trip to Savannah 2014)

My Favorite Southern Things:

1. Their love for college football, the SEC and tailgating.

2. Southern people know how to throw a good party with so much attention to all the details - the linens, the menu, the cocktails, the dessert.

3. The accents

4. The slow pace of life.  I'd always heard about this, but things truly do move slower in the South.

5. Southern food, Southern cookbooks and the love of enjoying delicious meals together

6. Southern homes and bold decor

7. Friendly conversations everywhere you go

8. Churches everywhere

9. Southern Style.  Big bows, smocked dresses, bold patterns and really dressing up for church.  Sundays in the South really made me smile.  Think hats to church, fancy dresses, special church clothes, etc.

10. Beach access!  I miss living three hours from the ocean.

11. A heart warming abundance of God Bless Yous

12. The flowers and landscaping

13. The Bible studies going on at every single church

14. The manners - yes ma'am and yes, sir - everywhere you go

15. Amazing Chicken - fried chicken, Chick-fil-A, Popeyes

(Olive age 1 in Mississippi posing by our Azaleas)

So naturally, I was excited to dive into As Southern As It Gets: 1,071 Reasons to Never Leave the South to see what he deemed the best reasons to never leave the South.  The book is darling with the plaid cover and it's the perfect size to flip through.  I'm sure any Southerner would enjoy the Southern quotes and reading the list of things in this book.  I found myself nodding my head and smiling throughout the book.  It's nostalgic and current.  You feel heartwarming pride for all of the special Southern traditions that you either grew up with or are able to enjoy when you visit.  The South is special and this book reminded me of all the reasons why I love it.  It's the perfect book to add to your coffee table collection.
*This book was gifted to me in exchange for an honest review from Booklook.

Are you a fan of all things Southern?

What are your favorite Southern things??

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

My Summer Style

I wanted to share my go summer outfits with you today.  I've always loved the idea of doing a capsule wardrobe and the idea of only having things hanging in my closet that I love to wear.  I have been working on cleaning out and weeding out clothing that no longer fits or that I don't love wearing.  It's a work in progress, but it feels so good to have less hanging in my closet and knowing that I really enjoy the things that are there.

These are my must haves for my Summer style:

Olive snapped this picture of us last weekend in the backyard.  I love it and love that she's getting big enough to take pictures.  She was so proud of herself and I appreciate her skills.  I have found some really cute ones at Gap, JCPenneys, Old Navy and TJ Maxx.  I'd always recommend trying on a printed top before judging whether you'll like it.  It's hard to tell how the fabric will flow or how the pattern will look on you without a visit to the dressing room.

top - JCPenneys
skinnies - Walmart
shoes - Sperrys

Kimonos are my summer cardigan of choice.  I love layering them with basics underneath.  I have several and just rotate them.  This is my newest kimono and I think the colors are so pretty!  You can expect to see me wearing this every week from now until it gets cold.  I have had great luck finding kimonos at JCPenneys, TJ Maxx and Wal-Mart.  Check out the junior's sections, swim cover up sections and accessories departments instead of the clothing sections.  Sizing is so very strange on these so be sure to ignore the size and just start trying them on.  I own a variety of sizes and just buy the one that fits me the best.

kimono - TJ Maxx jr section
top - GAP
jean - Old Navy
flats - Target
earrings - Kate Spade

I've got stripes, polka dots, aztec patterns and pineapple prints.  I have found some really cute options at Old Navy, GAP and Target.  I pair them with shorts and skinny jeans.  I'm no fashion blogger so my real life snapshots will have to do for showing my love of patterned tops.

I tend to go for patterned pants and solid tops.  That way I can mix and match in all combinations.  These floral pants from GAP are some of my favorite work out pants.  They're fitted and don't stretch out and they look brand new after lots of wears.  I wear these when I'm home playing with the kids, working out and make sure that I end up wearing real outfits more than yoga pants every week.

top - old?
floral pants - GAP
shoes - Asics

I'd love to add some new distressed skinny jeans to my summer wardrobe or some colored denim, but I haven't found any that fit me well.  I'm looking for pants with a higher waist with some stretch that hold their shape really well.  None of this stretching out huge after one wear business.  Do you have any pants you LOVE right now??

Linking up with The Pleated Poppy today.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Preparing to Be Spontaneous

I've mentioned before that no one would ever describe me as a spontaneous person.  I'm not good at last minute and it's hard for me to be flexible.  I've gotten better over the years because I force myself to say yes to fun things that come up.  I almost always end up having a great time so it's a good motivator for me to be spontaneous.

I love to plan.


All the lists.

It's my happy place.

Parties, trips, dinners, play dates, etc.  I will usually write out a to do list, supply list, timeline or at the very least make a mental list.  I have learned over the years that I am better about being spontaneous if I've prepared for it.  The planner in me just has to plan in some way.

I know that sounds a bit ridiculous, but let me explain...

I really enjoy baking for other people and bringing something when we're invited somewhere.  I have learned that I can stir up cookie dough, scoop and freeze it out in scoops so that if we have to take a treat last minute I am prepared.  It takes 15 minutes from freezer to done.  It's so handy!  This saves me from having to stop and pick up a store bought dessert last minute.

I also have my pantry stocked with some favorite things to help me say yes to last minute play dates.  Snacks, muffin mixes, easy things to take on the go like granola bars, rice krispie treats, etc.  I'll pick up steaks when they're on sale and surprise my husband with a fun steak dinner during the week.

I have a bag of extras in my car for those last minute things that come up.  Snacks, books, towels, hoodies, extra diapers and wipes just in case.  My Ergo baby carrier and stroller are always in my car.  I can say yes to last minute things if I have those things with me all the time.  My gas tank always has at least a half a tank of gas in it.  That way I'm not having to get gas last minute.  Not a huge deal, but it's nice to know that's already taken care of.

I try to schedule doctor appointments for first thing in the morning.  That way the rest of our day is free to do other things that come up last minute.

I buy cute gifts when I see them and save them for birthdays.  I find great kid items at TJ Maxx so I snatch up any cute Melissa and Doug toys and save them for when we get invited to a birthday party.  I also will buy things when they go on super sale on Amazon.  I keep an eye out for my kid's favorite toys to go on sale and then pick them up to give as gifts throughout the year.

I pack our swim bag ready to go in case someone makes last minute plans to head to the water.  I don't have to round up every swim thing we own for all three of us - I just grab the bag.  This also comes in handy if Kevin gets home from work and wants to head to the pool.  Everything is ready!

I'm not a morning person so I stock my freezer & pantry with easy breakfast options for my family.  I make a big patch of pancakes and freeze them, buy french toast sticks at Sams that bake in 15 minutes and have lots of cereal/cereal bar options.  All of these help me come up with fun breakfast options on a whim.

Is there anything you do in advance to help you be spontaneous??

It's time to link up with my favorite Tuesday Talk ladies!
Be sure to join us with your favorite post.
FYI We are not having Tuesday Talk next week - enjoy the 4th of July with family and friends!

Monday, June 26, 2017

June Recipe Round Up

It was a delicious month at my house.  Lots of colorful meals, lots of home cooking and lots of variety.  I end up cooking 5-6 nights a week and we get takeout a time or two.  I'm excited to share my favorites with you today:

Boil in a bag white rice
Grilled chicken w terikyaki sauce + some to drizzle on top of bowl
zucchini, yellow squash, purple onions, carrots, yellow onions, broccoli, sweet peppers, edamame

Grill the chicken with teriyaki sauce and slice it.
Saute the veggies all together with soy sauce.
Boil the rice in a bag.
Let everyone build their own bowls.

We've been grilling chicken a lot this month.  And by we... I mean Kevin.  I do all of the marinating and he does the actual grilling.  Teamwork dinners are my favorite.  I have been using Zesty Lime Vinaigrette dressing by Kraft for my marinade and it's so good.

We added all the grilled veggies - peppers, onions and corn along with our favorite taco toppings to make these yummy tacos.  Everyone built their own tacos based on what they liked.

Remember this from last month?  Here's that dressing I've been talking about nonstop.  Go and get some today!  It's less than $2 a bottle.

These have been the best lunches this month!  We grill extra chicken for dinner and then have lunches taken care of.  I added cheese, corn, black beans, grilled chicken, lettuce, avocado and a drizzle of Zesty Lime Dressing to my wraps.  They were filling and delicious.  We mixed pepper jack and sharp cheddar cheese.  Yum!

We had small salads with our dinners a lot this month.  I'd buy lettuce in bulk and then either do a berry salad or a veggie salad.  I learned NOT TO BUY the Kroger brand Poppyseed dressing because it was gross and we all liked having fresh salads each night.

This was definitely the best dessert I made all month long.

We made lots of muffins this month because they're so easy and my whole crew loves them.  These banana muffins were a big hit.  I prefer to make MINI muffins because A. they bake faster than big muffins and B. they're the perfect size for little hands to eat.

Have you tried any new recipes lately??

Now I'm starving!!  Which recipes are you anxious to try???
I'm linking up with 2 of my favorite cooking ladies today
and we're all sharing our best recipes from the month.

Linking up with Southern Plate

Katie @ Cup of Tea
New Recipes to Try

Whitney @ Come Home for Comfort
What We're Eating June

Head over to their blogs to see what delicious meals they are sharing this month!
 We've also started a Pinterest Board called
New Recipes We've Tried and Loved!
Be sure to check it out and get some great ideas for meals at your house.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Best Parts

We've had a busy week full of fun things at our house!  We kicked off the good times with Father's Day, had friends over, took a quick road trip and enjoyed all things summery this week.  

Here are the best parts:

// 1 //
One of my summer projects was to learn how to braid my own hair.  Thanks to several youtube videos and practice my skills are improving.  

// 2 //
Speaking of skills that are improving... Fletcher's climbing skills are a little too good.  I found him hanging out on the couch this week and he's the master of figuring out how to get where he wants.  I found him standing on top of our picnic table and spend my days saving him from himself.

// 3 //
Once the kids were in bed Kevin headed to McDonalds to grab us sundaes.  It was a yummy treat.  It was nice to enjoy it and catch up on our days.

// 4 //
I whipped up a batch of this chunky salsa and we've been enjoying it all week.  We've dipped chips in it, put it on tacos and made Mexican pizzas with it.  It's delicious and SO COLORFUL!

// 5 //
These two love helping me in the kitchen and they especially love the taste testing part.  We made some chocolate chip cookies for our neighbors this week and they loved eating some dough.  I posted a cute video on instagram of them baking with me (@polkadottyplace)

// 6 //
We ate Kevin's favorite foods, did his favorite things and enjoyed a fun time with him for Father's Day.  He requested watching the US Open and relax on Sunday and that is just what we did.  Fletcher thought it was super interesting.  He kept pointing and saying What's that???  

// 7 //
Kevin taught Olive how to catch lightning bugs this week and she's obsessed.  Our backyard is FULL of lighting bugs for about 20 minutes at dusk so it's the perfect summer night game.  She's gotten really good at it :)

 // 8 //
Justine from Full Hands Full Heart and I have been bloggy friends for a couple of years now.  She's darling, has the best Wal-Mart and Aldi shopping tips and she keeps things real being a mom to five cute kiddos.  We planned a meet up in her town, had to reschedule a time or two and finally got to meet up this week!!  It was so much fun!!  Her kids are darling and my kids had the best time playing with them.  This splash park was so neat.  It made me wish we had one in our city.  

// 9 //

We received God Bless My School by Hannah C. Hall in the mail this week.  I was so excited for the school version of the God Bless book series because my daughter is struggling with back to school anxiety.  It'll be her first year to head off to school so the timing was perfect.  The book was wonderful!  The characters so sweet, the illustrations so happy and the message of the book was so encouraging.  I loved the reminder that God is always with us, there are new friends to be made and that there are so many things to pray about for heading back to school.  My daughter loves the book and we have started reading it daily.  She loves the rhyming text, seeing all the moms and kids and really enjoyed seeing some images of what school will be like.  It's the perfect book to get for your kids to get them excited for school.  I would highly recommend it and am thinking of giving a couple of copies as gifts.
*I was gifted this book in exchange for an honest review of it from BookLook.

We are having the best summer!!!

Hope you had a great week :)

Linking up with

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Stars and Stripes

The 4th of July is less than 2 week away and I'm so excited!  I love decorating for it - you can head over to instagram to see some of my red, white and blue decor @polkadottyplace - and I love preparing festive food for the holiday.  I thought I'd share some of my favorite foods for years past along with a link to my pinterest board full of ideas for the 4th.

Are you hosting or going to a fun party on the 4th?  I think we'll have a low key day with our family and do some little fireworks.  My kids are still too little to stay up for fireworks so we'll have to save that to look forward to in a few years.  I'm still hoping to do a patriotic craft with my kids, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

Prepare for some delicious RED, WHITE & BLUE foods:

We had mini apple pies one year to celebrate the 4th and they were so cute!  Everyone loved getting their own pie.  You can find the details here.

Monster cookies are a huge favorite at my house and they're so easy to make for any holiday.  Just switch up your m&m colors and they're the perfect treat to take to a gathering.  You can find the recipe here.

I'm not a huge fan of scones, but these were delicious.  I loved the berry flavor and the berry icing.  I'd definitely love to make these again soon.  You can find the recipe here.

Dip all the things in white chocolate, add some sprinkles and you're set!

Fruit is so delicious this time of year so even if you don't want to spend a lot of time baking, you can still make some a festive fruit salad.  I just used mini cookie cutters to make my fruit salad.

A friend told me that she made this recipe twice this month and it was a huge hit everywhere she went!  You can find the recipe here.

Add sprinkles to your favorite cake!  Pick up some patriotic Funfetti in the stores for an easy dessert option.

It's always fun to do crafty projects with kids for the holidays.  Last year we painted some fireworks using bundles of straws and then did a hand & foot print flag.  I love decorating my house with their art each year.  Here's a little throwback picture of the kids from last year :)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Daniel Tiger is an Excellent Teacher

My daughter has LOVED Daniel Tiger since she was a baby.  She adores his show, his songs and his lessons.  I have never felt bad for letting her watch his shows.  She has watched him almost every day since she was little.  I know some people are anti TV or really strict with their TV watching.  I feel like there is a time and place for PBS, cartoons or TV for kids.  I grew up watching and loving Mr. Roger's Neighborhood so it's fun to see that show get a revamp to be Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.

Daniel Tiger teaches such great lessons with catchy songs to go along with them.  The cartoon is not annoying, the characters are relateable and I'll be sad when the day comes that Olive outgrows Daniel.  We rounded up her favorite Daniel toys above and most are from Target.  They've all been really well loved.

She imitates Daniel Tiger, sings his songs and has now begun to apply his songs to her real life situations.  That transfer of learning is amazing!  She takes to heart the lessons that she sees on TV and is better off for them.  I loved the article that I read recently about the kids who watch Daniel Tiger learn a variety of social skills that are great for a developing child.  Fascinating read promoting Daniel Tiger.

Here are the catchy tunes I've caught Olive singing when Daniel Tiger is no where to be seen:

1. You've got to try new things 'cause they might taste good.
This one comes up at meal time

2. Try try try try it again
She uses this one a lot when she's trying to build or making things.

3. Grown ups come back
We talk about this one when she's getting dropped off somewhere.

4. Thank you for everything you do
She sings things as her thank you regularly.

5. It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
As we're walking through our neighborhood she'll sing thing.

6. Close your eyes and think of something happy.
She says things when she's scared and the other day she told me she thinks of me when she closes her eyes because I'm her something happy :)  Made my day!

7. Stop and listen to stay safe
We were waiting for our walk signal when we were downtown one day and she sings me this tune.

8. If you have to go potty stop and go right away
She still sings this regularly when she has to go to the bathroom.

9. When you're sick rest is best
Anytime someone is sick

10. Take care of you makes me happy, too
Anytime she's helping take care of me or her little brother

11. When you get hurt find a grown up to help you feel better
She sings things anytime she gets hurt

12. There are so many feelings for you to feel.
This comes up anytime big feelings come up.

(And she sings all of these tunes in the right situations!!)

It really is amazing how many things she's learned from Daniel Tiger's show.  The lessons Daniel and friends teach really stick with the kids.  We have lots of conversations after the shows processing the information together.  I really love their episodes on adding a new baby to the family, sharing, potty training, getting sick, school, taking turns, making friends, etc.  The episodes are super relatable for preschoolers and they are packed with good information.  We've been watching the school episodes and talking about going to school in the Fall.

Do your kids watch Daniel Tiger?

Olive's current favorite shows:
Daniel Tiger
Paw Patrol
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
Little Einsteins

What do your kids love to watch??

It's time to link up with my favorite Tuesday Talk ladies.
Be sure to join us with your best post of the week.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Marriage Matters

Happy Monday, friends!  Hope you had a great Father's Day weekend celebrating those special guys in your life.  We did lots of fun things for Kevin and were excited to celebrate him.  I thought I'd share some of the ways we've been working on our marriage to let each other know they're important, they are a priority and time together is special.  It's takes effort on both of our parts to make these little things happen, but seeing your spouse feel loved, appreciated and special makes it all worth it.

I saw this idea from another blogger and knew I had to copy it.  They make time for a sweet treat together after their kids to go bed.  We don't do this every night, but I've been trying to do it several times a week.  I will bake something, pick up something at the store or we'll have a little ice cream together.  We catch up on each other's days, talk about the highs and lows of our days and just enjoy a little bit of peace and quiet.  My Meijer store has the yummiest prepared desserts and they come in packages of 1-2 slices.  So I picked up this brownie cheesecake on markdown to surprise Kevin with one day.  He loved it and appreciated that I'd planned something fun for him.  

I love potted plants and planting our landscaping.  Kevin loves the way it looks, but knows it's a lot of work to make it happen.  So for Mother's Day we went to Lowes a couple of times to pick out flowers, soil, etc to do some planting.  The kids helped and now we've got the prettiest pots on our porch, deck and our landscaping is coming together nicely.

I planned a surprise date night from start to finish when Kevin's semester was over.  I did it all in secret and then texted him an invitation the afternoon of.  He was SO SURPRISED!  I never do things like this so it was a great reminder of how much he appreciates things like this.  We dressed up a bit, left the kids with our favorite babysitter and headed to a fancy restaurant for dinner.  We took our time, enjoyed all the courses of food - drinks, apps, salads, bread and shared the main course.  It was so much fun :)  It did feel slightly strange to be at a nice restaurant, eating quietly and not having to share or worry about the kids making a mess.

The food was AMAZING - lemon, blueberry acai mule, crab cake, bread, feta salad, steak and sides.  I think this place might end up being our go to fancy date night spot!

We headed to a local spot to split some fro-yo.  It was delicious and I think we'll bring the kids with us next time.

Kevin isn't super crafty, but he knows that I appreciate a good craft.  So every year for Mother's Day he helps the kids stamp their hands in my card.  It's so sweet and I just love it.  I also know how hard it is to stamp hands so I avoid doing it with little kids :)

A few other things we've been doing together:

The kids are happy to ride in the stroller as long as we have snacks so it gives us an opportunity to catch up on our days.

The kids play and we grab a drink to sip while they are busy.

Kevin loves to grill.  He's good at it and knows that it makes dinner so much easier for me if he does the main course.  We had these delicious grilled chicken tacos recently and they were so good!  Teamwork on dinner really does make everything go faster.

Kevin stopped at the store and picked up some surprise treats for us to enjoy one night after the kids went to bed.  We'd planned to watch a movie so he figured popcorn would be a perfect treat.  Never mind the fact that the Jiffy Pop was a flop and it all burned to a crisp.  Sometimes things don't go as planned, but I really appreciated his thoughtfulness.  So we ended up eating ice cream instead.  Worked out just fine and we still had a great time. 

What fun things have you been doing with your spouse lately??