Christmas Vacation 2014 Recap


We had a wonderful time visiting my parents and family for Christmas.  Christmas Eve we got together with my brother and his family to hang out, open gifts, and enjoy dinner.. my mama made lasagna.. and of course it was delicious.. and dessert was her always loved chocolate pie.  Clara and her cousin decorated Christmas cookies.  They definitely enjoyed each others company!

On Christmas we woke up about 8am (the perfect amount of sleeping in for me these days, since I normally wake at 5:30am).. Clara crawled into bed with us, and I asked her if she wanted to go wake up Nana and Papa so we could see if our stockings were filled.  In her sweetest voice she said, "No, I'm just a little sleepy."  And so we cuddled some more.  But it didn't take her much longer after that to decide to get up and snoop around the tree.

I had so much fun watching her open the gifts she received, and seeing the joy on her face while she discovered what was under all the wrapping paper!  One of the gifts we bought for her, was a toddler board game.. called the Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game.. and I'm pretty sure it ended up being one of her favorite things.  After all of our morning excitement, we headed out to GG's house (my grandma).. for some more family fun.

I always enjoy going back to visit my parents and even though we don't live super close to them.. I sure am thankful we live as close as we do.. the closest we've lived to them in 6 years.  It was definitely a nice, laid back vacation... minus Clara getting sick the last two days, but it's inevitable when we travel up there when it's so much more dry and cold.

Christmas Vacation Pt 1


This year for Christmas we were able to head up north to visit my family.  It's been about 2 years since we've been up here for Christmastime, we try to get with them every other year if we can.  The drive is about 11 hours, and it's the closest we've lived to them so we try to take advantage of it while we can!

I was especially excited this year because they're able to see my baby bump - they didn't get to see me pregnant in person with Clara at all since we were living in Korea at the time.  So being closer the second time around is a nice treat!

I didn't bring my laptop with on the trip, because I just wanted to relax - but thought I'd do a quick update (and I'll update more when we return home!).  But Clara is enjoying being spoiled by Nana and Papa and visiting her cousins.. there's been lots of food, relaxing, Christmas music and cookie decorating.. it's nice to be back!  I've been posting to Instagram a bit, so you can follow me there if you'd like!

My mama & I sippin' on some Starbucks (decaf for me, of course)!
Clara making Christmas cookies with her cousin!
I hope you all enjoy the rest of your Christmas week!!  Merry Christmas!

Everyday Cinnamon Rolls {recipe}


This cinnamon roll recipe is hands down a favorite in our family.  They're fairly easy and they turn out great every time.  They're so good, I can't even get a picture before they start getting eaten (as you can see).. but hey, I'll take that as a compliment!  I love cinnamon rolls all year long, but really there's just something about a sweet, warm roll with a hot cup of coffee when it's chilly outside.  It just kind of gives me the warm & fuzzies!

We had these for breakfast on Thanksgiving, and they would be yummy for a Christmas morning treat also.. or an any time treat.  My husband has to have cinnamon rolls as a dessert on the days that we have chili for dinner.  I'm not quite sure why, but it's what he always requests!  Ain't nobody complaining around here.. well except baby my OB Doctor who tells me I need to slow my roll.. but I just don't think he understands how good these are.  ;)

So if you decide one day you're going to up and make cinnamon rolls, look no further.. you need to make these ones!

Cinnamon Rolls
Source - Our Best Bites

  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 Tbs butter, cut into chunks
  • 3 1/4 – 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package instant or ‘rapid rise’ yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 2 T melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 Tbs milk

For the Dough-- Place milk and 4 tbsp butter in a a bowl and microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds. Butter should be at least partially melted; stir and set aside. In a large mixing bowl whisk together 2 cups flour, yeast, white sugar, and salt. When milk mixture has cooled to warm, add it to the flour mixture along with the egg while the beater, with paddle attachment, is running.  Beat about 1 min.  Switch to dough hook and add remaining flour only until dough just lifts from side of the bowl. It should be soft and a little sticky. Continue to let the dough knead for 5 minutes. If you are not using a stand mixer, turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 5 minutes by hand. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and let rest for about 10 minutes.

For the Filling--  Mix softened butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon together in small bowl.

For Assembly-- Roll dough into a 12 x 14 inch rectangle. Spread filling over the dough. Roll up from the longer side of the rectangle and pinch edges closed.  Score the roll into 12 equal pieces and then cut into rolls. Place in a 9 x 13 pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Cover pan with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes (I like to turn on the stove and just leave it sit on top of that). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  When rolls have finished rising, bake for 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool a little then spread with icing. Makes 12 rolls.

Christmas Reads


Last week I realized my child only owned one Christmas book.  ONE.  Out of all of the tons and tons of books on her shelves.. all she had was the Polar Express.  So I had to hop onto Amazon and order her some more ASAP.  I was so excited to give them to her, and decided to wrap them up to make it a little more fun.  I threw in an extra gift for her too.. something she could wear Christmas morning, if she wanted!

Lately this girl is obsessed with anything that is Frozen, Madagascar, and Rapunzel.  I really couldn't help myself when I saw this super soft Frozen robe at the store the other day.. she thinks it's the coolest thing since sliced bread.  Mama win for me!

The three books I bought for Clara are:
  1. Humphrey's First Christmas by Carol Heyer - I wanted a fun book for her that also included the true meaning of Christmas.  This story is adorable.. about a silly Camel and his journey to Bethlehem.  He realizes the importance of giving when his journey ends.
  2. Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner -  I'm loving the illustration in this book!  This is just a fun book about Snowmen and what they do when no one is around, and why they might not look quite the same the day after you make them!  ;)  This author also has a couple other Snowman books that look equally cute.
  3. Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson - This book is probably Clara's favorite of the three right now.  I love the rhyming in it and it's a sweet story about friendship during the holidays!

I could have just bought up all the Christmas books!  I might even have to order a couple more.. I love books and love reading with Clara, and I just can't help myself.  What's everyone's favorite Christmas books for children?  I could use some more ideas!  ;)

Thankful 2014


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!  Ours was relaxing, quiet, and included way too much food for just the three of us!  It was perfect. 

We, of course, had to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade - Clara was pretty excited about all the balloons.  And I made homemade cinnamon rolls to indulge in while we watched (if you follow me on instagram, I posted a few things from our day there as well!). 

Normally we decorate for Christmas on Thanksgiving or the day after.. however, this year we will be out of town for Christmas so we decorated everything about a week ago so we could enjoy it a bit longer.  :)  The only thing we had left to do was put up the lights on the outside of the house.. it was a perfect 70 degrees that day, so Clara had to go out and supervise her daddy..

Everything seems very exciting this year, since Clara is really "getting" it all now.. and she gets so excited!  Christmas music, lights, Santa, presents, etc.. we've really been getting into it over here too.  We've done a couple Christmas crafts together already, which I will blog about very soon! 

The little lady got a ton of fresh air on Thanksgiving and kept herself super busy... she fell asleep before it was even time to eat our dinner!  So I just let her sleep on through it.. she was so peaceful.  :)  I'm so thankful for the time we had together as a family, and for this sweet sleepy baby girl..

It was just us three and for dinner we had all of our favorite holiday go-to's.. ham (for me), smoked turkey (for my husband), scalloped corn, green bean casserole, dinner rolls, mashed potatoes with turkey gravy, stuffing, chocolate pie, and pumpkin pie.  We couldn't narrow down the menu any more than that.. ;)  We did pretty good at finishing most of it off the past couple of days, I must say..

What did everyone else have for Thanksgiving dinner?

24 Week Update... Boy or Girl? {pregnancy}


Oh, week 24...  I feel like the past month has just been a big blur, and then I wake up on week 24 and.. oh, hey there.. it's my belly.  If I look at a photo of myself, I still feel like I look pretty small for how big I feel.  Does that make sense?  I'm totally feeling all the aches and pains though.  Sitting on the couch makes it hard to breathe, so I'm getting a lot of use out of my husband recliner.  I'm finding it harder and harder to get comfortable, and I swear I'm catching every cold that passes me by.. already being uncomfortable + trying to sleep with some major congestion.. is awful.  But I've been feeling baby boy a ton more lately.  He's pretty active in mid-afternoon as soon as I get home from work.  And as far as eating.. Still no aversions, however I'm definitely not as hungry as I was.  Right in the middle of 2nd tri, I swear I was just eating constantly!!

And I realize I haven't even "revealed" on the blog if we are having a boy or a girl!  Well I'm absolutely thrilled to tell you...

...we will be having darling baby BOY.  And the very first piece of clothing he received was this sweet sleeper with cute little puppy dog feet, thanks to Nana.  :)  Having a boy will certainly change the dynamic in our household.. I'm anxious, excited, and nervous!  Clara was not thrilled with the news at first, as she was so sure she was getting a sister.. but she's getting used to the idea now and occasionally gets excited about it.  Though I'm pretty sure she has no idea what's in store!

We've been doing a lot of things around the house to try to get ready.  We have a little over 3 months left before his arrival, and with all the holidays I just know that it will go by so fast.  We've started clearing out the spare room which used to serve as a guest bedroom/craft room.  We got rid of the bed and moved my desk to the "dog room" (which is a bonus room.. more like an oversized closet).. and then I started cleaning out the closet in baby boys new room.. which ended up making the room look worse than when I started clearing it.

So there you have it.  The work in progress.. in all it's glory.  And that sweet little bear is baby's first stuffed animal, that I had picked up at Marshall's the other day.. it's this pretty burnt orange color, and super soft.. I couldn't resist.  But I have lots of plans for this nursery and I'm pretty excited to show you how it comes along!

Light it Up {decor}


If I'm honest, choosing lighting/lamps for home decor is hard for me.  Almost so hard that it's annoying... because I'm extremely picky (just ask my husband;).  There are so many fun and and different style lamps out there, and I think picking out the "right" one is important to the ambiance of the home!

Wayfair has just about any style you could look for - modern, traditional, contemporary, rustic.  I'm more of a contemporary gal myself.. a good mix between modern and traditional.  They're a fun way to add pops of color to a room as well.. here are some of my favorite lamps from Wayfair..

If you're in the market for some new lighting in your home, I highly suggest searching around on Wayfair first.  They have a great selection, with so many different style.. and they are providing my reader a 15% off promo code for lamps, which is valid 11/6 through 11/10.  Just enter the code WFLAMPS15.  Happy shopping!  :)

This post is sponsored by Wayfair, but all opinions are 100% my own.  :)

Pumpkin Painting


I've been battling this super awful cold the past couple of weeks.. I swear it was the longest lasting cold I've ever had, and of course being pregnant doesn't help with that.  I really hope this isn't a taste of what's to come this winter - my immune system is awful while pregnant!  However, I'm pretty much over it now.. just trying to catch up on my rest.  ;)

So the last weekend we went out to the pumpkin patch to let Clara pick out a couple pumpkins.  We decided not to do any carving this year.  Clara can't really participate in it, and she had just as much fun smearing paint all over the pumpkin anyway.  The girl loves to make a mess.

Custom Upholstery with Wayfair


I have to say... I love Wayfair.  They have all kinds of fun home decor items that I just "have to have".. great toy selections for kids, which has actually been helping me with my Christmas shopping list for Clara.. and great things for baby too.  I have my eye on a couple of their gliders for the nursery!

But what I'm loving at the moment is their custom upholstered furniture.  Whenever we get to move into a different house, I need a set!  Particularly the Felicity collection.  They have at least 8 different collections in their custom upholstery line, and your really can't go wrong with any of them in my opinion.  The Felicity collection is just the one that spoke to me.  ;)  I love how cozy and casual it is. 

I ordered some of the swatches from this line (they'll send you swatches for free, by the way), and I love the different textures and color choices.

I would love to have a white/off-white couch.  I love the look of it, however, I know that is is a horribly bad idea when you have a kid (about to have two!), and a dark haired dog.  So that I'd have to nix.  I am actually loving the swatch on the right.  It's a gray-blue color.. called "Lizzy Graphite".. and has a nice linen type texture to it.  Yep.. love it.  And right now you can save 10% on a piece of custom upholstered furniture if you use the code WFCustom10.  This code is good until October 20th.. and I'd use it while you can because Wayfair hardly ever offers up coupon codes!

The Felicity Sofa in Lizzy Graphite.

What do you think?  Do you have a favorite collection from their custom upholstery line?  Let me know!  :)

I am a Wayfair Homemaker Featured Blogger and I received compensation for writing this post. All opinions and love for this furniture is my own.  :)

18 Week Update {pregnancy}


So now I'm into week 18.. nothing major has gone on between now and the first trimester recap.  I still feel pretty good, all things considering.  ;)  Of course always tired, but I don't expect that to change.. for a long time.  Excuse how horribly exhausted I look in the photo.  But that's real life.

My bump has gotten a little bigger, and a tad more rounded out.  I have a few maternity shirts that I'm wearing.. but otherwise I'm still in my regular clothes.  I'm determined to stay in my normal jeans as long as I can with the use of a belly band.  And as soon as I get home for the day it's yoga pants or pajama pants (not that that's any different from when I'm not pregnant, ha). 

Still no aversions, no sickness.. though lately I've been getting some incredibly strong headaches that start in the afternoon and make me useless for almost the remainder of the day.  The past week I've been going to bed at 730/8.. which is super early for me.  But my body must need it.  Today I decided to wear my glasses instead of my contacts, hoping that will help my headache problem - and it seemed to be a little better today.

I still have a sweet tooth, and will eat all the ice cream I can.  ;)

My favorite thing lately is vanilla ice cream with my homemade chocolate sauce, and a spoonful of mini m&ms.  Yep, that's my jam.  And I've only gained 6 lbs since being pregnant.. I call that a win.

I've been able to feel the baby squirm around here and there, but no full-on kicks or anything yet.  But they are getting stronger now, and they're definitely a bit more than just flutters at this point.  I'm anxious to be able to feel/see them on the outside, so Clara will be able to feel - I cannot wait to see her reaction!

Bedtime with Eric Carle


My favorite time of the day, is bedtime.. when Clara's clean from her bath, we're snuggled up with our jammies on, and we read some books together.  I've always been a book worm and I hope that she becomes one as well!  She has a good collection of books from when I was little, and even a couple from when my dad was a kid.. and then a lot of new ones, of course.

Eric Carle has always been one of my favorites, and I love that The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of her favorites.  I also love that the World of Eric Carle and Gymboree have come together to create an awesome line of clothing and pajamas.  I got these super sweet PJs the other day, and I just can't even handle the cuteness.  They have all kinds of fun designs available for boys and girls!  I let Clara pick these out and she really liked the balloons on this pair.  ;)

We also snagged up this sweet flower shirt from the Eric Carle line.  It was hard to decide between this flower one and the butterfly design!

Some other fun things...

You can print out some super fun Eric Carle printables and coloring sheets for your kiddos here.  And from 9/2 - 9/30, they will be hosting a photo contest, where they are encouraging parents to help their little ones take a photo of what they see (inspired by Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See).  You can submit a photo via Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr using the hashtag #WhatDoYouSee.  Inspired by Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, from 9/2-9/30, we will be hosting a photo contest, where we are encouraging parents to help their little ones take a picture of what they see.

Entrants of the #WhatDoYouSee contest will have the chance of winning one of ten Eric Carle gift baskets including: A House for Hermit Crab book, a signed copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar book, figurines, stickers, The Very Hungry Caterpillar Sippy Cup, Chunky Colored Pencils, Match and Munch Game, Place Mats Book, and Stage & Play (Approximate Retail Value $144.99).

This is a sponsored blog post, I received compensation from Gymboree.  The opinions and text are mine.

Potty Training Must-Haves


Potty training Clara was, thankfully, way more easy that I anticipated it to be.  I can only pray that the second child will be as easy!  But I know that every child is different and they each may need a different approach, may be ready at different times, or need different things to help them along.  These were the must-haves for Clara...

  • 1.)  A little potty.  We used the green froggy potty that you can get pretty much anywhere, and it's cheap!
  • Pull Ups!  I love that these adhere at the sides also.
  • M&Ms.. these were our incentive candy of choice.  Two for #2 and one for #1.
  • A princess potty seat.  Super affordable, and it helped when Clara was ready to sit on the "big potty".. she was scared of it at first.
  • A stool!  It helps my munchkin be able to wash her hands independently and get up on the potty by herself at first.
  • Big girl panties.  She thought she was pretty special when she got her first pair.  ;)

Clara was potty trained shortly after she was 2 1/2, though I did try a little bit earlier - she just wasn't ready before that.  The biggest piece of advice I can give someone who is thinking about starting to potty train their child is to just wait until they're ready.  For some that might not be until they're 3.  For some, maybe that's at 2.  Every child is different, just try not to get frustrated with it!  Clara was terrified of the toilet for the longest time.  And then one day she just up and told me she wanted to sit on the potty.  Obviously I knew she was ready to start then!

She did really good, and actually only had a couple accidents since we potty trained her.  It took not quite a full week and she was wearing big girl panties at all times, and only Pull Ups at night.  The Pull Ups were super nice at daycare also, because these ones are able attach/detach at the sides.. which made it much easier on her teachers.  :)

The scariest part, to me, about the whole thing.. was taking her out in public in big girl panties.  I just really did not want to go through the mess of an accident in the middle of the grocery store or something.  But I'm proud to say, she hasn't had an accident in public.  Whew!

If you need some extra tips or help with potty training, I suggest enrolling in the Pull Ups Big Kid Academy!  If you're absolutely stuck and are about to lose your mind, this website has a lot of resources and strategies you could be taking advantage of.  It also has a nice collection of some fun activities for you to browse!

Thanks to Pulls Ups for sponsoring this post and creating a great product!

First Trimester Recap


Since I didn't announce this pregnancy until I was well into the 11th week... and as of today, I am 13 weeks and welcoming the second trimester.. I thought it would be fun to do a little recap of the first trimester.

This pregnancy, so far, has been completely opposite from when I was pregnancy with Clara.  I really have nothing to complain about so far.  I have not once gotten sick (where with Clara I threw up about 3x per day in 1st tri).. the only time I feel a little nauseous is when I'm hungry, and as long as I eat right away I'm good to go.  I've been a little sluggish lately, which is to be expected when you're growing a baby and chasing a toddler - though I haven't been overly exhausted.  Going to bed a little earlier than normal helps usually.

I haven't really had any food aversions yet, but what sounds good to me majorly depends on my mood which makes my meal planning very hard.  I normally have a big sweet tooth.. and still have one.. though I can't seem to handle as much sweets as I used to (probably a good thing, ha!).  And the one thing that I love the absolute most... ice cream... seems to be not agreeing with me, although it's gotten a little better the past week.  Almost like I've been lactose intolerant or something! 

Other than that, I've been feeling pretty awesome - and I'm very thankful for that!  Clara seems to be excited about having a baby in the house.  Every now and again she'll stop and say, "Mama, you have a baby in your belly!" and she will touch my stomach.  So sweet, she will be such a good big sissy!

As for other baby related things... no one will know the name until after baby is born.. which is how we did it with Clara also.  :)  I'm not 100% positive if we are going to find out the sex yet or not - my husband really wants to and a big part of me wants to also.  However, there are only so many things in life that are really a surprise, and I just think it would be amazing to be surprised like that!

Pineapple Upside Down Cake {recipe}


My birthday was last week.. and I had fun making myself a sweet birthday treat.  And for once in my life, I was craving something sweet, but not chocolate (that never happens.. who am I?).  I haven't had Pineapple Upside Down cake.. in.. a long time... and that sounded just perfect.  Clara liked helping put the cherries into places, too.  You know what else is good?  Peach Upside Down Cake... just sayin'!  If you want to keep up with all the fun things I'm making, baking, and cooking.. be sure to follow me on instagram!

Just a side tip.. when you put your cake pan on a cookie sheet, I would lay down some wax paper or aluminum foil.. otherwise you're going to have a super fun time trying to get that pan clean if anything leaks out.. as you can see from my pan above..

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
recipe from Averie Cooks
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • One 20oz can pineapple slices
  • Maraschino cherries
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
  • 3/4 granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (if using powdered buttermilk, use 2 tbsp with the dry ingredients, and a 1/2 cup water with the wet ingredients)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream (or greek yogurt)
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Pour the melted butter into a 9-inch springform cake pan, making sure it's well greased.  Sprinkle brown sugar over the butter.  Add a whole pineapple slice to the center.  Halve the rest of the slices and stagger them like the photo shown.  Place any remaining slices around the side of the cake pan with the curved side point down.  Place 1 cherry in the center of the whole pineapple and 1 in each center of the sliced halves.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the next 5 wet ingredients.  Add the wet mixture to the dry, mixing lightly until just combined.  Be careful not to overmix.. there may be small lumps and that's okay.

Gently pour batter in cake pan, being careful not to mess the pineapple and cherries on the bottom.  Place pan on a cookie sheet line with aluminum foil, and bake for 40 minutes, or until center is set.

When done, allow cake to cool for at least 30 minutes before inverting.  Keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

A Happy Announcement


We have a little something to share with you all...

That's right, Clara is going to be a big sister!  I've been waiting for our second ultrasound to let our little secret out, however Clara has been telling people left and right.. so for some, they knew far before I was ready to let it spill!  I guess she was just too darn excited.  ;)

We found out around the second week in June... and was able to get into my first appointment at 7 weeks, and we first saw our sweet baby then.  But I was feeling cautious, although happy, and was trying not to get too excited.  My miscarriage last year (which was my second miscarriage)... happened after our first ultrasound.. where we saw a perfectly fine baby.  So I was nervous, and hesitant.. but prayed every day for this baby.  We had the second ultrasound at 11 weeks.  I was so nervous, I felt sick.  I didn't even look at the ultrasound, until he said everything had looked good... and I looked and saw a growing baby.. a strong heartbeat.. a cute little noggin, and teensy arms and legs.  I shed a happy tear or two.. or three.  I still continue to pray for this baby, that he/she continues to grow to be strong and healthy.

And now, I feel excited.

And obviously Clara will just be the best big sister in the world.  She has such a big heart, and a sweet soul.. and I am excited to see how she will interact with a new brother or sister.  And according to her, she's getting one of each... hate to break it to you, girlfriend... there's only one baby in there!!