Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Hello lovelies! I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving last week! We traveled to Ohio to celebrate the holiday with my mom's side of the family, which we do every year. Victor and I were prepared to get up early on Wednesday and be on the road as close to 7 AM as possible...and then God laughed in our faces. 

Firstly, I stayed up late watching Gilmore Girls Tuesday night since I knew I wouldn't be able to watch much over the holiday. Then Max woke up at 3:30 AM to vomit all over his bed, a surprise I wasn't anticipating (duh...who anticipates their kid barfing all over his bed?). By the time I got him into new PJs/stripped the bed/started the washing machine/got us settled on the couch, it was after 4:30 AM. Max seemed to be feeling better but it took him a while to wind down from the early-morning excitement, so he didn't fall asleep until close to 5 AM. My 6 AM alarm was ignored, and I slept until a little after 7. We were on the road by 9 AM (we tend to run about 2 hours behind for these big trips, with or without midnight vomit), and despite one more barfing incident in the car (poor Max!), we made pretty good time and arrived around 6 PM.

My poor sick boy

On Thanksgiving morning, we watched the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade, which is broadcast from Chicago. My cousin, Lauren, was dancing in the parade with her dance group. I actually got to see the beginning rehearsals for this performance during our visit to Ohio back in August, so it was extra exciting to see it all come full-circle. I may or may not have teared up a bit. After Lauren's performance, we of course switched to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Max loved all the balloons!

We went to my Aunt Sue's house for Thanksgiving dinner and had a great time catching up with my aunts, uncle, and cousins. I ate way too much food and gave myself a gum blister playing Speak Out, the game where you put those mouth pieces in your mouth and people have to guess what you're trying to say. It was pretty comical (my sister loves imitating me saying "brown as a berry") but I think I've had my share of that game for a while. We headed back to my mom's house around 10 PM and Max fell asleep in the car. He stayed asleep until 10 AM the next morning!

Three generations

He didn't even eat that sandwich. His tummy still wasn't feeling too great

Too much Thanksgiving fun for this first-timer!

Max is playing with my aunt's cute penguin toy, which all of us cousins remember playing with as kids

On Friday, we got a slow start (I won't complain about getting to sleep in till nearly 10 AM for the first time in years!), but then Victor and I left the kids with my mom and sister to enjoy our traditional Black Friday outing: lunch (at Piada; we don't have those restaurants in Maryland so we like to indulge when we're in Cincinnati), Starbucks, and wandering Walmart (we don't have one near us in MD either, so we like to explore in OH). We only picked up some gloves and hats to add to the "blessing bags" we put together to hand out downtown that night. We headed to downtown Cincinnati for Light Up the Square at Fountain Square, another yearly tradition for the Friday after Thanksgiving. We had a nice dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery right on the square, then we enjoyed some live music and people-watching at the ice skating rink. We handed out four "blessing bags" to some very grateful people, and my mom got Max a cool light-up sword, which my sister's boyfriend used to show Max how to be a ninja. After we returned to my mom's, I got the kids ready for bed and let my mom babysit while Victor, my sister, my sister's boyfriend, and I joined our cousins for bowling and Skyline. We also spontaneously recorded a Mannequin Challenge video! I posted it on my blog's Facebook page in case you missed it! It was such a fun night. I love those kids.

Bowling gals

Bowling dudes

On Saturday, my mom was able to secure a suite at the Cintas Center for a Xavier University basketball game. It was Max's first basketball game and he was so excited about it! Some of our extended family joined us for the game, as well. After the game, we went to Habits Cafe in Oakley for lunch and watched the Michigan/Ohio State game (what a nailbiter! I'm a Michigan fan, though, so it was a sad loss...we almost had it!). Victor, the kids, and I headed back to my mom's for naptime while my mom and sister explored more downtown. After dinner, we watched Finding Dory in the basement and ate Graeter's ice cream before heading to bed.

On Sunday, we made the long journey home. It took us over 10 hours to return to Maryland due to traffic and busy pit stops, but we made it home safely, which is the most important thing. We're looking forward to another Ohio visit around Christmastime!

Walking into Cabela's for our 1.5 hour pit stop (we didn't intend for it to take that long but it was so busy!)

Have a great week! Have you entered the Gilmore Girls giveaway yet??? You don't want to miss it!

Friday, November 25, 2016

"Oy with the poodles already!" A Gilmore Girls giveaway!

It's Gilmore Girls Revival Release Day! If you're a fan of the show, you're probably curled up with a cozy blanket, sipping coffee and bingeing on the newest 6 hours of our favorite fast-talking mother-daughter duo. Personally, I'm not prepared to watch the newest episodes as I'm trying to get caught up on the original seven seasons, but I'm so excited to experience the revival...hopefully next week! No spoilers, please!

To celebrate this most joyous of days, I've teamed up with a group of fabulous bloggers today to bring you an absolutely amazing Gilmore Girls inspired giveaway! More details below!

I love Gilmore Girls because of how relatable it is for me. After my parents divorced when I was in 4th grade, my sister and I were with our mom a majority of the time. Rory and Lorelai's relationship reminds me a lot of my relationship with my mom. There was an underlying friendship but also a respect of my mom's authority as my parent. Now in my 30s, we're best friends and she's the first person I go to for advice or with happy news. I also identified with Rory as a teenager because I was a bookish, more studious girl. I enjoyed learning and took my education very seriously, but I also had good friends and knew how to let loose in a responsible manner (in a word, I was nerdy. There. I said it.)

Stars Hollow is the small town I wish I lived in! I grew up in a small town during my elementary years, and I walked or rode my bike everywhere. I also went to college in a small town. I love the quaint familiarity that such a close-knit community provides. We live in the suburbs now, but I always have dreams of living in a smaller town again one day.

Binge-watching the entire series as an adult is very nostalgic for me. It's also inspiring. I'm watching from a different perspective as a mom. I have a daughter of my own now, and I hope I can have a similar relationship with her in the future. I just recently watched the episode in Season 3 where Rory tells Lorelai she thinks she's ready to go "all the way" with Jess, and I was so inspired by Lorelai's reaction. You could tell she was freaking out inside, but she remained composed on the exterior and let Rory know that she respected her decision, but that she also wanted Rory to talk to her before it happened. Watching it as a teenager, the same age as Rory, was a completely different experience for me compared to watching it last week as an almost-32-year-old mother of two (I guess now I'm the same age as Lorelai was in those early seasons...weird!). I'm really looking forward to watching the remainder of the series, and hopefully soon, the revival episodes!

So now, without further ado, please feast your eyes on the items in this giveaway, and get yourself entered via the Rafflecopter at the end of this post!

Items in the giveaway:
+ Twine and Cotton Market 'Stars Hollow' Candle (etsy shop)
+ Snowman and Star Ornament
+ $20 Shop Credit to LulaRoe | Janelle Monaco (shop link)
+ Rose Gold Clutch
+ Mini Brush Trees
+ Milkglass Coffee Creamer + Sugar Set 
+ "Hot Stuff" Coffee Mug
+ 2 Art Prints
+ Darling Magazine 
+ Rose Gold Necklace (shop link
+ Darling Nightingale Knitted Donut (etsy shop
+ Poptarts
+ Journal 

Visit the other ladies sponsoring this giveaway at the links below:

Get yourself entered! Giveaway runs from November 25 until midnight December 3.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving Eve

Just popping in here to wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones! We will be spending the holiday with my mom's family (which we do every year), and I'm so looking forward to some quality time with my mom, sister, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Thanksgiving cousins 2015

I had hoped to get a few other posts up this week, but I just haven't had the time. I've been so busy doing mom things and watching Gilmore Girls (not joking. I'd watch it all day if I could, but alas, I'm limited to naptime) that I haven't devoted much time to blogging, and I really miss it. I hope to be around more regularly in the near future, because I love sharing here!

Speaking of Gilmore Girls, if you're a fan of the show, you're going to want to swing by here this Friday for a special Gilmore Girls-inspired treat! I know most super-fans will be watching the entire revival on Friday, so check here when you're finished...but don't spoil anything! I won't be able to watch the new episodes until I finish watching seasons 4-7.


Happy Thanksgiving! Eat all the food! Give all the thanks! Take all the naps! Do all the shopping! Hug all the family! Watch all the Gilmore Girls!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Vegetarian Chili

I promised weeks ago that I'd share the recipe for the vegetarian chili I made for the Fall Extravaganza and I'm just now getting around to it. Sorry for the delay...just trying to teach you all patience (I just know you've been waiting on pins and needles for this lol).

All jokes aside, this chili is pretty darn delicious. I've always been a meaty chili girl, but this 3-bean, meatless version gets the job done! I found the recipe in my All Recipes magazine, and I made it once before I made a triple-recipe version for the party. It's easy to increase this recipe for a large group, and the leftovers are just as good as eating it straight from the pot. We had a good amount of chili leftover from the party, so we just froze individual servings in freezer bags. When we want to enjoy it again, we just thaw it a little, then heat it on the stove. It's great with a side of cornbread (or you can throw the cornbread on top like me) and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, as well!

Vegetarian Chili

What you'll need:
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, cut into small dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into small dice
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into small dice
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (add the seeds if you like it spicy!)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 (6-ounce) can tomato paste (5 tablespoons)
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 3 (15.5 ounce) cans beans (a mixture of black beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas)
  • Optional: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and fresh cilantro leaves 

What you'll do:
  1. Heat oil in a heavy 6-quart pot over medium heat. Cook onion, bell peppers, jalapeno, garlic, and salt, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in spices, tomato paste, tomatoes, and water and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes.
  3. Drain beans, reserving liquid, and rinse under cold water. Add beans and 3/4 cup reserved liquid to chili and simmer, stirring occasionally, until heated through, 5-7 minutes.
  4. Top each serving with sour cream, cheese, and cilantro, if using.

This is great for the cold-weather months we have in store this winter! I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Grateful Heart | November 7, 2016

I'm so excited to be linking up with Emily of Ember Grey for the first time for Grateful Heart Monday! 

I've heard/read from many different sources about how gratitude can totally change your mindset and set the tone for better days. I've even read that you can potentially lower your blood pressure by jotting down a few things you're grateful for at the end of each day! (I can't remember where I read that, I just know that after reading it, I started a Gratitude Journal during my wonky blood pressure days when I was pregnant with Louisa--I was trying anything and everything to regulate it!)

Taking time to express gratitude is truly life-changing. Even on the crappiest of days, you can always find something to be grateful for. It naturally leads you to a more optimistic outlook and can even bring a sense of calm to the day.

I like to jot down at least three things I'm grateful for before tucking myself into bed each night. It's a great way to reflect on the day and find the beauty in the little details. My friend Janelle of Simply Love has enlightened me in the past with her Grateful Heart posts, as she typically lists simple things that bring her joy in her day-to-day life. I've used her as my example when I think of all I'm grateful for each day.

What I'm grateful for this week:

+  Halloween is over! (not a huge fan)  Also, how was Halloween just last week? It feels like it was a month ago!

+  my fall decorations materializing in the garage (I have yet to decorate for the season)

+  second-hand baby costumes

+  November and all it represents: family, tradition, home cooking, gratitude, coziness, etc.

+  late-afternoon walks with my babes

+  guacamole

+  roasted potatoes (I don't know how people can swear off potatoes. They're worth the extra pounds, in my opinion)

+  apple cider with dinner

+  the innate sense of joy I feel when I think about Christmastime

+  a nap for mommy

+  Gilmore Girls

+  York Peppermint Patties

+  red leaves

+  the way Max says "Good night" and "I love you" (pronounced "goo nyigh" and "me nyah voo"

+  having too many clothes for my kids (this also stresses me out, but we're so fortunate to be able to provide for them and to also have lots of family and friends who love to spoil them)

+  lightweight sweaters

+  white chocolate mochas from Starbucks

+  chunky baby legs

+  red-headed babies (Saturday was National Redhead Day!)

+  a long-overdue visit with a good friend

+  Sweet Clover barn sales

Have you ever seen anything like this? STUNNING!

My haul

+  family outings (specifically long walks together)

+  our BOB double stroller--a game-changing investment

+  bright blue skies

+  crisp fall weather

+  Bruno Mars is making music again

+  each day gets me closer to Thanksgiving in Ohio

+  LuLaRoe leggings

+  snuggles before bed

I hope you all had a lovely weekend!

A Grateful Heart with Ember Grey

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Family Photoshoot | October 2016

Last Tuesday, we met our friend Dottie, who is also a local photographer (check out her website!) at a nearby public mansion (one which Victor and I toured for a potential wedding reception venue) to take some family photos. It was a beautiful day (albeit a little chilly and windy) so I had high hopes for some cute, well-lit, golden-hour photos.

Well ladies and gentlemen, Dottie delivered ten-fold! I am OBSESSED with these photos! She told Victor and I as we got everyone out of the car, "Okay you guys, your job is to forget that we're friends and just do what I say. Always look at me, not the kids, unless I tell you otherwise." I loved her no-nonsense pep talk! She took off with Max while Victor and I woke Louisa up from her catnap and got her situated. At Dottie's suggestion, I waited to fully dress the kids until we got to the mansion, just in case there was some sort of disaster during transportation (in Louisa's case, it could have been a projectile barf or diaper blowout situation). Thankfully no damage control was required.

The next 20 minutes were pleasant and fast-paced; Dottie didn't allow for anyone to get restless or bored, and she was skillfully armed with pre-planned locations, special poses, silly noises, and crazy angles to make sure she got some amazing shots. She stops at nothing to ensure that everyone looks bright-eyed and happy.

And now, without further ado, please feast your eyes on yours truly and my 3 favorite people on this planet.

All these smiley photos of Max more than make up for the fact that he's been quite uncooperative with posed photos for the past year. We've got several keepers!

If you're local, I couldn't recommend Dottie more for your family photography needs, and I'm not just saying that because she's my friend! She goes to great lengths to get your kids to smile!