Monday, August 29, 2016

Project Date Night '16: July

We did this date night/family fun night in the last part of July, but it's been crazy busy and I haven't had a chance to post about it until now! Enjoy this installment of Project Date Night!

We began this month's date night as a Family Fun Night.  I don't know about you, but July is pretty much the dog days of summer for me... it's HOT and as much as I love camping, I do not love camping when it's HOT.  [When I say 'camping', I mean tent camping, not RV-ing.]

Solution? Go "camping" indoors!

If you have a small enough tent (or a large enough room), by all means - set up a tent inside your home!

Our tent is too large for our living room, so we put together a makeshift tent with sheets instead. Ry was SO excited! He kept running around yelling, "FORT!" When you're 3, few things can top a fort!

You could totally go campfire with this date and roast hotdogs and marshmallows over a gas flame (if you have a gas stove) or under a broiler. I chose to do my food on the stovetop, but do whatever you normally do for camping food.

  • I saw this idea on Pinterest and decided to make my own version of s'mores bars. These are allergy-friendly graham cracker crust on the bottom, topped with homemade vegan marshmallow, topped with homemade dark chocolate.  Yumminess for the entire family, even with multiple food allergies. 
  • Hotdogs w/ mustard (utlimate camping food!)
  • Pan fried potatoes
  • Hibiscus sun tea

Fun Stuff
We always bring an "entertainment bag" with us when we go camping, so of course we had to do something similar. Ry was excited to play his first board game, The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game. Super cute, and I love that the box is actually the 'board'. It's a cute game that teaches turn-taking, fine motor skills, color matching, and simple strategy (ages 3-6).

After we put Ry to bed, M and I chilled out after our crazy week and just played a simple game of Pass the Pigs. This game was a gift from my BFF, Beka.  Brought back some memories of hanging out with friends and killing time back in my single days. Pass the Pigs is a fun game that requires very little skill, brain power, or strategy. It's completely a game of chance... in this case, instead of dice, you throw little plastic pigs, then depending on how they land (on their back, on their nose, etc.) you get point. First person to a certain number of points wins. You wouldn't think something that simple would be so fun, but really, it is! Recommended for ages 3 and up.

Cost = FREE (I had all supplies on hand and food was included in the grocery budget)

How do YOU feel about camping?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Project Date Night '16: June

Welcome to this month's installment of Project Date Night... 'How to do a Drive in Movie at Home'...

Our original plan for June's date night was to attend a drive in classic movie at a farm in our area. But, the event was canceled last minute, so we just did our own 'drive in' instead.

yep, we looked this good... 

First thing you need.... a location...

We had already hired a babysitter, so we actually left home this time, but you could really do this anywhere (like your garage, back porch, backyard, driveway). We parked our car in the Walmart parking lot!

Then you need... technology...

If you're DIY-ing a drive in movie, you need a way to play the actual movie. We used M's laptop computer, but you could just as easily use a tablet or phone.  For a more authentic experience, you could use a projector with your computer and project your movie onto your garage/house siding, garage door, etc. Hang up a light colored sheet if necessary!!

Don't forget... the movie!
Borrow a DVD, stream Netflix, re-watch something from your own collection, or rent a movie from Redbox (ideally, wait for a coupon code!).  We rented The Finest Hours, which we enjoyed. Not a lot of movies about the Coast Guard out there, but this is a good one! Check out the Parental Guide here.

Get Comfy
Bring pillows and blankets to make your surroundings comfy. If you're outdoors, you may want to consider bug spray! We brought a couple of blankets and my big body pillow. Since we were hanging out in a parking lot inside the car, we just flopped the back seats down and propped up the body pillow against the hatchback. Even better, wear your lounge pants, hoodie and slippers!

Bring Munchies!
Movies are always better with popcorn! I made Doritos popcorn and cinnamon glazed popcorn (I left out the nuts). I thought about making fiesta taco popcorn, but ran out of kernels.

To sip, I made a cold brewed Jamaica hibiscus iced tea. YUM. I love hibiscus tea!!!

All in all, we had a good time.  It was a different twist on a movie date. Somehow, taking things outside brings in an element of fun and makes the date more enjoyable than just crashing on the couch together.  Give it a try!!!  It also makes a fun group date with other couples. :)

Total Cost:  $26.50 ($25 for the babysitter and $1.50 for the movie.  Next time, we'll just plan to do the drive in here in our driveway and skip the babysitter - still have the battery operated baby monitor! - which will make the date significantly less expensive.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Little Blue Truck 3rd Birthday Party

Ry's favorite book is Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. He has it memorized and loves all the sounds the truck and farm animals make. To celebrate his 3rd birthday, we got down on the farm.

I wasn't as on the ball with this party as I usually am, but we had fun anyway!

Riding his new 'tractor' with some help from Dad. (Can't quite reach the pedals yet!)

I found this free printable. It was easy to download the graphic, and add it to a Word document. I added the "Moo Cluck Peep..." etc. animal sounds and the wording.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Project Date Night '16: May

So, I don't typically "celebrate" Cinco de Mayo, but it gave me an excuse for a themed menu for date night this month... and there you have it.

Side note: I didn't realize it before, but Cinco de Mayo isn't actually widely celebrated in Mexico, is more of an Americanized holiday. But anyway, Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates a big battle between the Mexican army and the French. Learn more here.

May 5th this year was also the first Thursday in May, which is the National Day of Prayer here in the USA. We love to take the opportunity to pray for our nation and it's leaders and pray for direction and discernment for our future. Learn more about the National Day of Prayer here.

I feel like it's kind of disrespectful to have a huge Mexican theme party and hullabaloo over a big battle where a bunch of people died (especially when it's not my culture or nation)... I saw one blogger refer to it as the equivalent of another country having a big drunk bash wearing Uncle Sam hats to celebrate the Battle of Gettysburg. Kind of puts it into perspective, eh? {can't find the link to it now, sorry!}

But we love Mexican food! So we ate some yummy-ness!  Later, we prayerfully considered our future and wrote our wills. Morbid? Maybe. But it's got to be done. Being a parent makes you think about those things a little more. I mean, what would happen to our child if we were both killed in a car accident (God forbid)?  So now we have one and I'm glad I don't have to think about again for a while.

My dairy-free "nachos"

We used the NOLO Simple Will Book (7th Edition) and it was pretty easy. The book includes a CD-ROM with downloadable worksheets to make it simple and easy to understand... There were a lot of things I had never really thought of before. It was also a great discussion starter. I don't think we'd ever really talked about a will before and now its nice to know we're on the same page.


  • Loaded Nachos with avocado, seasoned ground beef, pinto beans, tomato, salsa, olives (with jalapenos and Heavenly Homemakers' nacho cheese sauce for M) over corn tortilla chips
    [We LOVE Xochtil brand chips- seriously SO GOOD. The price on  Amazon is ridiculous though - I get mine at our local grocery store.) 
  • Agua de Fresa (I also added some sparkling water to ours to cut the sweetness)
  • Paleo Choco Taco (ok, so NOT authentically Mexican, but I used to love these! We did the vegan version and I sweetened it with NuNaturals Stevia since I'm still trying to cut out sugar as much as possible.)
    Oh, and I waited too long to bend my "taco shells" in half, so they broke. So we really had Choco Taco Sundaes instead. It was still good. :)

Cost: FREE
The food came out of the grocery budget and I borrowed the will book from my parents. (Thanks!)

This was definitely one of my simpler date nights but it was an incredibly important one. Read about Project Date Night here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

10 Things New Moms Need to Hear

Now that I have few years of this "mom thing" under my belt, I feel it's ok to share some things... I think sometimes we forget to be sensitive to the struggles people around us are going through. I struggled a LOT with new motherhood. A combination of new responsibilities, moving to a new state, health issues and lack of sleep made every day a challenge. Here are a few things that I desperately needed to hear in those early days, whether I not I verbalized it... and I think most moms would agree.

Back in those early days of motherhood... hard to believe now he was ever that little!

1. You look beautiful today.

All women need to hear this periodically, but especially stay at home moms that have young children. I mean, makeup? What's that? An actual hair style? Who are you kidding? Most days, it's the standard braid or ponytail... whatever gets your hair out of your face/your baby's chubby, moist grasp. But deep down, you don't want to be Frump Mom, you want someone to believe that you're still beautiful, even if you don't have the time (or let's face it - energy) to beautify. This is especially important for husbands to say to their wives. She NEEDS to know that even though she feels drained, even though she has crazy hair and may or may not have had time to shower today, even though she has stretch marks and a few extra pounds of baby weight still hanging on, you still think she's beautiful. Tell her!

2. How are you? And actually take time to listen to the response.

It's so easy to let children become the focal point of every conversation. When you see a friend (or even acquaintance), we often fall into the trap of asking about the kids only and neglect to ask, "How are YOU". Trust me, she needs to know that she's still a valuable person, not just "Mom".

And probably the most important part... actually listen to her response. How many times have you asked someone, "How are you", but didn't really want to hear an answer other than "Fine"? It's programmed in us as part of "being polite" to ask "How are you?", but think about it - do you really WANT to know how she's doing?  New Moms (especially the stay at home variety) are often discouraged, lonely, overwhelmed and need someone to truly listen and validate their feelings. You have the opportunity to be a blessing to this precious momma. Don't pass it up!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Project Date Night '16: April (Star Wars!)

For Project Date Night this month, M and I did a dinner and a movie date with a Star Wars theme. Yep, I confess...I'm a Star Wars junkie. I've been eagerly awaiting Episode 7 on DVD so I could do a date night - it was fun!

Setting the Mood
To get us in the Star Wars mood early in the day, I took a picture of my screen (high-tech, I know) with the R2D2 love note up on my screen and texted it to M... saved on printer ink! :)

I also sent him a link to the John Williams is the Man youtube video. I think I've watched this video about 47 different times, but it still makes me smile. I walked around singing the song for the rest of the day!!

I think it's fun to do plays-on-words with food and theme events... obviously...

  • Han-burgers (hamburgers) - We just ate them with a knife/fork on a plate.
  • Leia-ed salad (layered salad) - Got the idea here, but decided not to do the mexican thing. We did sort of a chopped salad with chopped mixed greens, sliced black olives, diced grape tomatoes, diced cucumber, chopped green onion, sauteed diced red bell pepper and topped with crumbled bacon and homemade italian vinaigrette....YUM.
  • BB-8's (baby carrots)
  • Poe-tato chips (Boulder Canyon coconut oil kettle chips) - Wicked yummy, simple - and can you believe it, HEALTHY - chips.
  • Wookie Cookies (chocolate macaroons) - I'm so glad I found this recipe! It's hard to find egg-free macaroons, but these are great. I did the stevia sweetened (sugar free) version. When the cookies were done I drizzled them with some almond butter for a Chewbacca-like two tone look.
  • Lightsabers (fruit kabobs) - Green grapes for the 'blade' part, blueberries for the 'handle' threaded onto a bamboo skewer.
Movie Review
As most of you know, I have a sort of obsession with Star Wars and Harrison Ford. I loved the original 3 movies (Episodes 4-6) and tolerated Episodes 1-3... So, it was 50/50 for me whether I would like the latest installment, The Force Awakens. 

*** Spoiler Alert ***

Let's talk talent... 
  • Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) gets top billing and yet he's only in 1 scene. What's with that?
  • Carrie Fisher's (Princess Leia) performance seemed a little forced, but being that she's playing a character who by now is a little road-weary and has survived quite a lot of loss, it's workable. 
  • Harrison Ford is the man. Ok, so I'm a little biased. I enjoyed his performance. He's his typical Han Solo cranky, sarcastic, charming, rakish self. And underneath that crusty exterior, he's loyal and has a good heart. 
  • Daisy Ridley (Rey)... whoop, whoop! The girl power this series needs to take the franchise forward. Loved her character and spunk! And I mean, lightsaber duel? Yes, please.
  • John Boyega (Finn) did a fantastic job. I enjoyed his portrayal of a stormtrooper-turned-hero and he plays well with Daisy's Rey.
  • Oscar Isaac... apparently, "they" decided the younger cast needed a cocky pilot, so they chose Oscar to play Poe Dameron, a rebel pilot. While Poe has his good points (loyal to the cause, cares about others), I just wasn't swooning. Sorry, the role of hunky, charming, sarcastic pilot has already been filled.
  • Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) also didn't impress me too much. He did a good job with the part, I just wasn't impressed with the character. Kylo Ren seems a little unstable and not nearly conflicted enough about the dark side/light side dichotomy and overall I felt the character was a little flat. 
  • Throw in some random droids (BB-8 is cute) and aliens and of course, the 'bad guys' to round out the cast.  
Let's talk plot...
  • Ok, so here's the rundown...scavenger/pilot desert bedouin teams up with a cocky pilot and an evil organization escapee to join the rebellion and destroy a machine capable of obliterating entire planets. 
  • The evil villain was 'seduced' by the dark side of the force, is being trained by a super-evil (and really old/decrepit) genius and is prone to fits of temper, but might possibly be convinced to return to the light side of the force. 
  • After much epic-ness, leaps to hyperspace, the Millennium Falcon breaking down, 'feel the force' mumbo-jumbo, lightsaber duels, and heartbreaking loss, the heroes emerge scarred, but victorious and we feel some sense of closure and an anticipation of the next installment.  

Sound familiar? Yep, I thought so. What's weird is that even though the overall plot is pretty much the same as the original trilogy, I truly enjoyed the movie and I do look forward to the next installment. To me it feels as if history is repeating itself in this franchise, but really, that's pretty true to life. 

Let's talk recommendation...
I give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars. It's a movie I will enjoy watching again in the future. Although I may not pull it out to re-watch frequently, and it's not quite on par with the original trilogy, I would still recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed any of the previous movies. 

Check out the trailer and more information here
And if you're interested, look through the parent guide here for information on language/violence/etc.

Additional Date Night/Family Fun Activities
We didn't add anything else to our date and opted for a plain jane dinner-and-a-movie date because that's what we felt up to. However, if you're looking for some additional "fun" activities...
Total Cost: Free
Food came out of the grocery budget, so nothing extra on that. I got a great deal on the movie through TopCashback - Free after the cashback during a special offer! I was planning to rent the movie from Redbox, but now I get to keep it!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Project Date Night '16: March

Did you know that March 14th is National Pi Day? And notice I said 'pi' as in math... as in 3.14....... get it?

Not sure who was the brainchild behind that awesome excuse for pie eating, but whoever you are, I thank you.

Any excuse to eat pie is a win in my book. Now, pie gets a little complicated when you've got food allergies. I typically cheat and eat crisps or crumbles or sloops or betties or whatever you want to call it. This month, we REALLY cheated 'pie' and just ate the filling.

In honor of Pi Day, M and I played a round of Trivial Pursuit. Why, you ask? Well, if you've ever played the game, you'd know that the game pieces look like pie. In my face. In a pan.

This, friends, is the classic, original version. We find that we prefer the old version because it has questions about literature (books, people, BOOKS) instead of pop culture like the current version does.

Here's our board. I won this round!

And I can get the original version at thrift stores and/or yard sales for ridiculously cheap. So I did. Goodwill thanks me for my patronage.

  • Triple Berry Pie Filling (M)
  • Apple Pie Filling (me)
  • Protein Packed Vanilla Soft-Serve (M)
    There's not actually a recipe for this, it's just a serving of Tera's Whey protein powder mixed with coconut milk, then blended with a frozen banana until it's soft serve consistency. Easy Peasy.
  • Herbal tea

Total Cost: $2 [for the Trivial Pursuit game]

So, that's it folks! Simple. Pie filling. Pie game. Pi Day. What wacky holidays do you 'celebrate'???
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