Vtech Kidizoom Review.

12/05/2014

For Olivia’s birthday, Dominic and I decided to buy her a camera. Our girl is a budding photographer, so it only made sense.

At first, we didn’t know which way to go. Dominic wanted to get her a cheaper Nikon digital camera (his reasoning was sweet but she’d just drop it way too quickly) and I kinda wanted to just get her a Polaroid camera. Both of those didn’t really seem to makes sense to either of us in the long run so I researched and researched for weeks and finally landed on the decision to purchase the Vtech Kidizoom. It had the best reviews, the best features, unbeatable price and it wasn’t an awful hot pink color.

As much as I researched, I couldn’t wait to see the camera in the flesh. Right off the bat, you could tell it was very durable, which is perfect for toddler hands, but my biggest concern was obviously the quality. I was insanely eager to upload her pictures onto my computer to see how they’d come out!

When Olivia first opened the camera, she was so excited. She took pictures like crazy almost immediately!

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Here’s what the pictures looked like directly off of her camera:

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Our 2014 Advent Calendar.

12/01/2014

Happy First Day of Advent!

Every year when I was younger, I’d get a chocolate advent calendar for Thanksgiving. I honestly loved getting a chocolate every morning before school and knowing that I was that much closer to Christmas.

Fast forward to now, with Olivia in the picture, I wanted to break that tradition and do something a little different.

I kept an open tab on my notes app and wrote down ideas to use for Olivia’s advent calendar. I think I started at the end of October (I’m really trying to keep my sanity this holiday season!) And had an entire list of 25 things by the second week of November. The hard part came next: planning out each activity to fit each day. For instance, I know we’re going on the polar express on the 6th, so I made sure to put that activity on that date and so on and so forth.

I really, really want to make this an even trade- half acts of service, half fun activities/little gifts. I don’t want Olivia to think for one second that the holiday season is just about receiving, and no giving. Dominic and I don’t think like that and we definitely don’t want Olivia to grow up with that mentality either.

With that being said, we kind of agreed that she was a little young to do some of the acts of service we had in mind. Sure, she can help us help out at our local church or go caroling in exchange for canned goods for the homeless (I used to that when I was younger), but we just want to make sure that she really understands why she’s doing those things. We want her to feel that sense of appreciation for what she has and that even better feeling of being able to give back. I think next year we’ll definitely be able to put a few of those into her advent calendar, but this year we went the more playful route (with a couple acts of service).

When I planned out the advent calendar, I had two things in mind: mostly inexpensive (or no money at all) and holiday oriented. In case you were curious, I decided to write down exactly what I do have planned for her each day. I copied and pasted exactly what I wrote to her:

December 1st
Happy First day of December, Olivia! Enjoy your new Christmas books and get ready for a fun month!

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December 2nd
Here is a new ornament for you to hang on your baby tree! (She has a little tree for her room that she specifically calls “my baby tree”)

December 3rd
Today we are going to go to the store to buy a toy for another little child that may not be so lucky this Christmas. Christmas isn’t just about receiving gifts, but also about giving them as well.

December 4th
It’s very cold outside- today we’re going to take a nice, warm Christmas bath! (Lush has really cute Christmas themed Christmas bath bombs! We got her this one. And, okay, I bought this one for myself!)

December 5th
Today we’re going to build a very special gingerbread house! (we bought her a Frozen themed gingerbread house)

December 6th
Today is going to be extra fun- we’re going on the polar express to see Santa! (The town that we used to live in sets up a train ride every year that they turn into the Polar Express where the kids get to drink hot chocolate, ride the train to pick up Santa Claus and then on the way back home he reads the book The Polar Express!)

December 7th
Here are some things you’ll need to make candy canes for your little baby tree! (Pipe cleaners and red and white beads!)

December 8th
Let’s color some window clings to put on the door! (Target has a few fun, cheap kid’s activities and I chose the window clings because Olivia loves those things!)

December 9th
Here is a new Christmas doll for your collection! (We picked one from the Land of Nod.)

December 10th
We know how much you love snow globes, let’s make some today! (The ol’ baby jar craft!)

December 11th
Today we’re going to visit someone special— Santa Claus! (One of our nearby malls set up an entire “Santa’s Village” this year so we’re going to take her there for a visit)

December 12th
Today we’re going to visit BIG horsies and go for a ride! (A horse and carriage ride through downtown Chicago!)

December 13th
Let’s make some chocolate covered pretzels today and then wrap some up to give to our neighbors!

Click here to see the last 12 days!…

What We Eat: Tortellini Meatball Soup (and truffle garlic bread!)

11/26/2014

I am VERY excited about today’s post for one reason and one reason only: it’s a very very very VERY delicious soup.

My father in law is a pretty awesome cook. Since I’ve been with Dominic, I have broadened my food horizons significantly because of my in-laws. Before I met them, I would never dream of eating some of the stuff I love today like ribs(!), for example. Or ground turkey (I grew up on ground beef and now I can’t eat it!). Or this soup.

(Actually, a quick sidenote: I wasn’t really one to eat a lot of meat at all until I met this family.)

Anyway, The first time I had this soup, I was literally in heaven. I requested it all the time because I couldn’t get enough. I am a huge fan of tortellini by itself, but I never thought to put it in a soup. With meatballs. And I absolutely never considered putting it in with some spinach and tomatoes.

Gross.

But this soup quickly changed my mind and I am a better person because of it.

(Too dramatic?)

When I asked my father in law if he would mind passing the recipe over to me, to share with all of you, he replied “Of course, this soup is too good to not share with the rest of the world.

He’s right ;)

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A Third Birthday Party.

11/24/2014

I really feel like I have to prefix this by saying that the lighting in my house is awful. I know I always say that but no amount of lamps in my home helps this awful lighting situation. It’s a first world problem to have, I know, but these pictures kinda kill me because they are so dark and just not that cute.

Luckily, the birthday girl makes up for the lack of cute in the photo department. God, she was so happy that day. Everyone was there to celebrate and love on her and she felt it, I know she did. We all did!

I really wanted this party to be a little more laid back. Once we hit September in this household, all hell breaks loose and I feel like it’s one event after another until after New Years. This year, I wanted to still obviously make her party special, just without all the stress and overwhelming-ness, and need to make it as pinterest-y as possible. I can’t promise I’ll always be this laid back, but I am definitely going to try!

Her birthday party theme was a Birthday Brunch. I was so excited for this, I love brunch! I was pinterest-ing up the wazoo, it was great. The food was the biggest part because I truly kept the decorations to a minimum.

I am so sad to admit that I FORGOT to take a picture of the waffle bar. Yes, you read that right. There was a waffle bar. We had a nice little waffle station that my aunt so graciously took over and we had a bunch of toppings/mix-ins: blueberries, bananas, chocolate chips, sprinkles, walnuts, peanut butter chips, and whipped cream.

We also served meatballs, sandwich wraps, mini pigs in a blanket, bacon, eggs, sausage (thank you to my in-laws!), we had vegetables, and fruit. Oh my goodness, the fruit! One of my best friends, Daniel, surprised me and made fruit skewers that were in the shape of Olivia’s name! It was awesome and he definitely deserved all of the praise he got! He made soooo much fun of me for wanting those in the beginning but they were seriously such a hit.

And then for dessert we had cake pops made by Dani, of course (I made the heart toppers!), mini eclairs, muffins (thank you, grams!) and a doughnut cake for our doughnut-loving girl. She was so surprised and it was obviously the easiest cake ever. It  came out so cute!

Another hit of the party was our little drink bar. We had iced coffee, pink lemonade and a mimosa bar that included cranberry, pineapple and orange juice, champagne, and berries to put inside your cups (blueberries, strawberries and raspberries!) They were so good!

Pretty much all of the decorations were from a shop called Shop Sweet LuLu. I cannot say enough good things about that place. The prices were reasonable, the product was not cheap looking, the customer service was great and I have never gotten anything shipped to me so quickly. Originally, I had intended to get the fringe garland from a different company on Etsy and unfortunately they were super unprofessional and disorganized but I’m glad everything worked out the way it did because I love this one more and I was also glad to give my business to a company that actually deserves it! I still have that fringe garland hanging up in my living room but my plan is to move it into Olivia’s room! The giant balloons were everyone’s favorite and I also got the number 3 balloon, the long candles, the heart balloons, paper straws, and the gold glitter scalloped banner from them too.

I made the Happy Birthday banner, along with the centerpieces that held down the big balloons and the gold glittered three. A little tip, if I may? ALWAYS save your jars (candle jars, butter jars, pickle jars, mason jars). My favorites are the candle jars from Bath and Body Works. I stick them in the freezer for a few hours so the excess wax comes out easy, throw the jar in the dishwasher and store them in my top shelves! Just put a little modge podge on the outside of the glass, cover them with any color glitter that matches your event and then when you’re done, soak them in water and the glitter comes right off! It’s one of my best secrets!

Anyway, back to the party. Our girl got some really thoughtful gifts, wayyyy too much sugar, and enough hugs and kisses to last her until her next birthday.

That won’t stop us from hugging and kissing her anyway ;)

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What Olivia Wore: Birthday Dresses Edition.

11/22/2014

Happy Saturday!

In an honest attempt to not drag on these birthday posts (one more! And then I’m gonna post about pie! And the whole30! Oh the irony is just too much!), I thought I’d share a quick Saturday post on Olivia’s birthday dresses because they are seriously too perfect not to share.

Between the two, I have to say that the one she wore on her actual birthday was my favorite. Dominic and I were out one afternoon at the beginning of the summer, just the two of us (I cannot for the life of me remember why Olivia wasn’t there!) when we came across this dress. I think it’s my favorite because Dominic actually picked up the dress first and we both immediately fell in love. It was on sale, it was the perfect shade of blue and I am such a sucker for a good peter pan collar.

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