Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Magical Winter: Disney's FROZEN Review

Disclaimer: I received tickets to attend the advanced screening of FROZEN. All opinions are honest, and my own.

Grace is obsessed with Disney princess movies. So when I got the opportunity to attend an advanced screening of the new Disney film FROZEN, I decided to make it a special date night for her and I as her very first movie in a theater. I showed her the preview hoping it would get her excited and sure enough, all she would talk about that day was going to see the "princess ice movie!"

I was a bit concerned when we arrived and were handed 3d glasses. I was worried about her sitting through the entire movie anyway, now she would have to keep glasses on too?

But once the movie started, my worries melted away. She was mesmerized. She kept her glasses on the entire time and when I tried to talk to her, she shushed me and told me to watch the movie. I'm sad I wasn't able to take any pictures of her, but cell phones weren't allowed in the theater.

The verdict? The movie was delightful. Honestly, I wasn't expecting much. The previews didn't impress me and looking back I don't think they did the movie justice at all. I was pleasantly surprised by how funny and heartwarming it was. The animation was gorgeous, especially in 3d.

The movie features an all star cast including Kristen Bell as Anna, Idina Menzel as Elsa, Jonathan Groff as Kristoff, and Josh Gad as Olaf. I won't give away any major plot points, but we quickly got wrapped up in the story of the two sisters. The songs were a nice addition to the movie although I doubt any of them will be lasting hits. The song that Anna sings to Elsa at the beginning of the movie as a child was charming and has been stuck in my head the past couple of days.

I was a huge fun of Elsa's transformation song (of course I could listen to Idina Menzel sing all day!) Her entire transformation scene was amazing and I want to visit her castle. I have no doubt it will be a great ride at Disney soon!

Grace's favorite parts of the movie involved the adorable reindeer Sven and the hilarious snowman Olaf.

She laughed and clapped during their scenes and has been talking about the snowman non stop. Olaf's song was by far the comic highlight of the movie.

Spoiler alert: While I love the older Disney princess movies, I really appreciate the new goal of making princesses strong women instead of damsels in distress. Anna and Elsa don't need men to rescue them. While the movie features a love story, the bond between the two sisters is really the true focus.

I would definitely recommend taking your kids to see Frozen this holiday season. While there is some mild fantasy violence, Grace didn't find it scary at all. I know that we will be adding it to her Disney collection and I have a feeling we might be adding two new princess dresses to her dress up closet as well!

Disclaimer: I received tickets to attend the advanced screening of FROZEN. All opinions are honest, and my own.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Potty Training Take 2

When I started potty training Grace back in August, I never imagined that I'd be writing another post about it over 3 months later. I figured within a couple of weeks, she'd be fully potty trained. She was doing fairly well, but then she got a bad pneumonia and it all went downhill. With her being so sick, I couldn't expect her to run back and forth so we put her back in diapers. Well, it's been a couple of months since then and I kept telling myself we needed to get back to using the potty. But honestly, I haven't been looking forward to it. Because every time I asked her if she wanted to use the potty, she would say "NO! Grace diapers!" meaning that she prefers to wears diapers. 

She's a stubborn little thing and I know that the older she gets, the harder it will be to get her away from her beloved diapers, so I threw down the gauntlet yesterday. Mike and I talked about it all weekend telling her how much fun it was going to wear "big girl panties." So Monday morning, I put her in a pull up and she hasn't worn a diaper since. It's going......okay. 

It's a slow process with lots of setbacks. And honestly, as much as the parenting experts tell you not to get mad or punish them for accidents, it's REALLY hard not to. There are moments that I just have to walk away for a few seconds to calm myself down. She still won't tell me when she needs to go so I have to remind her. If she's busy with an activity, she gets really frustrated that she has to stop. We've had some success with singing the song from Daniel Tiger "if you have to go potty, stop and go right away!" If you've seen that show at all, you know that song. It gets in your head and never goes away. Plus, Connor is obsessed with trying to play in the toilet right now. So trying to keep him away from her while she's in the bathroom is difficult to say the least. 

Thankfully, today has been going much better than yesterday and I hope it continues to go well. We're using a sticker chart and a bag of prizes to help keep her motivated. I think it's going to work this time. She seems much more into it. I need to think of a big prize to give her at the end when she's fully potty trained.

Do you have any great potty training tips? I think most parents dread this phase and advice is much appreciated! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Toddler Feeding Trick!

Connor's favorite food is bananas. That shouldn't be a problem right?

But it is. A young toddler eating a banana is gross. Unless I feed it to him, he ends up mashing it everywhere and it gets all over his face and hair. Grace did the same thing and I fed them to her until she was old enough not to make a massive mess. But Connor LOVES feeding himself. He wants to be independent and therefore it always ends up being a huge ordeal to give him his favorite food.

But the other day I remembered a tip I had seen on the internet somewhere. I honestly don't remember where. The tip was to mash up cheerios and roll the banana in it to give it a coating. That way it won't get all mushy when the child picks it up. Simple right?

So I tried it, and guess what? It worked!

He was amazingly clean when it was all gone. I was amazed. Yes, it's a simple trick but I just had to share :) It's the little things in life!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Minted Holiday Card Collection

Have you ordered your holiday cards yet? I always have great intentions of getting them done early, but I feel like the holidays are sneaking up on me this year. Luckily, we've taken our pictures, I just need to get my cards ordered! Christmas is only 6 and a half weeks away, I have to do it soon!

This year, I am ordering our cards from Minted's 2013 Holiday Collection. Minted is an online stationary store unlike any other I have ever seen.

Minted is the world's premier marketplace for independent design. Their mission is to find exceptional artists and designers all over the world and bring their work to consumers who appreciate great design. Minted crowd-sources design and art from a global community of independent designers, then sells their best designs as fine products such as stationery, wall art, and d├ęcor for the home, holidays, and occasions. They only use fine paper stock, rich inks, and crisp printing methods and they stand behind their products with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Minted offers so many gorgeous holiday designs. Here are some of my favorites: 

I am obsessed with all of their new foil pressed cards. They are simply gorgeous!

To help choose your card, Minted offers the "Find It Fast" feature which allows you to upload a photo to view it in hundreds of designs. It's quick and easy! It allows you to easily see which design will work best for your photos. There are so many to choose from that there is sure to be one that is perfect for your family! After you personalize your design, each order includes a personalized digital proof for your approval done by a professional graphic designer.

Are you rushed for time? If you don't have an hour to sit and hand address all of your envelopes, Minted will do it for free! Minted Address Assistant will address your card envelopes for no charge on select products including holiday cards (Excludes express service holiday cards and holiday postcards.)

If you order by 11/18, use code BELLS to receive 15% off holiday card orders of $150 or more, or 10% off holiday card orders of $100 or more! 

Disclaimer: I received a credit from Minted in exchange for this review. All opinions are honest, and my own.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

When did she become a "preschooler"??

My baby girl is growing up fast. I'm starting to look at preschools for her for next fall. I know that she will love going, but the thought of leaving her that long makes me extremely nervous. She still has some separation anxiety and we've been really working hard to find opportunities to help her practice being in a school type setting. She goes into the toddler room at church every week and has been doing great the past month. Mike takes her in to her room and she doesn't complain at all.

So after kind of a rough week full of tantrums, I decided that we were going to try to have a better day today. I rushed around to get us all ready to go to story time at the library on time. We haven't been in weeks (former librarian mom fail.) In my hurry, I failed to realize that the toddler story time started an hour later than I thought. Instead, we arrived just in time for the preschool story time. This story time is aimed for 3-5 year olds, and my initial thought was to just head home, but since she is so close to 3, I figured we would give it a try.

At first she wasn't sure about it all. The kids were all sitting on mats on the floor and she seemed nervous. She climbed up onto my lap. But after a couple of minutes, she decided to get down and sat on one of the mats. She listened intently to the stories.

While she wouldn't participate in any of the songs, she seemed to enjoy herself. One of the big differences between the toddler and the preschool storytimes is that the preschool one has a craft project at the end. She was really excited to do the craft and has been carrying it around since then.

Showing me her crayon rainbow
Now I just have to make sure we're ready earlier enough in the morning to go every week!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Zaycon Foods Chicken Review

Disclosure: In exchange for my post and review, I received an order of chicken. No other compensation was received and all opinions expressed are honest and my own.

One of my goals this year was to start cooking at home more often, both to save money and to feed my family healthier meals. With some serious meal planning and my freezer meal cooking, I can happily say I’ve come a long way since last year. But I’ve come to find out that creating healthy meals can be expensive if you don’t plan ahead. Produce and meat are always my largest grocery expense and I look for deals constantly to help stick to our budget. When I heard about a company called Zaycon Foods, I was intrigued. By delivering food straight from the farms, they eliminate the stores and help their customers save money. They offer lots of different products including ground beef, bacon, ham, milk, strawberries, peaches, and honey. Check out their website to see all of their product offerings.

I had the opportunity to try an order of Zaycon's trademark fresh boneless skinless chicken breasts. Each order consists of one 40 lb case of 100% natural chicken with no added hormones, additives or artificial ingredients. It is fresh, not frozen and comes directly from the processor.

When you order, you choose your pick up location and a 30 minute time frame. You can arrive anytime during that 30 minute time frame. When I pulled up, there was no line. I didn't even have to get out of my car (that's a huge deal for me having 2 young children!) I told the lady my name, opened my trunk and she put the box in for me. She even put down a plastic trash bag so that if the box leaked, it would not get on the carpet (my box didn't leak at all.) That is amazing service!

When I got the box home, I opened it to find four bags of chicken.

First, I separated the breasts and cut off the small bits of fat. I was surprised by how large each chicken breast was!

I filled ziploc bags with one or two pieces each to make it easy to grab out of the freezer.

I was concerned about fitting it all in my small side by side freezer, but luckily it all fit with no problem.

We tried the chicken the following day and I was impressed by how fresh it tasted! It was juicy and tender. I made the mistake of cooking up two pieces and we had tons of leftovers. One portion is plenty for our family.

For the price and quality, I think you can't beat Zaycon Food's chicken. We will definitely be ordering again! To find out more and to find out what foods are available in your area, check out Zaycon's website!

Disclosure: In exchange for my post and review, I received an order of chicken. No other compensation was received and all opinions expressed are honest and my own.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Trying to Slow Down

I have a long list of posts to write. I have so many things I want to update about but honestly I feel like life is going at about 100 mph right and just won't slow down. October was CRAZY for us. In one month:

  • Mike was hit by a semi truck on the highway. Thankfully he was OK but his car was totaled.
  • We shopped around a TON and eventually bought a minivan. 
  • Mike changed jobs.
  • We had Connor's 1st Birthday Party and he turned 1.
  • I turned 30.
It was a lot of major life stuff all in one month. Between getting ready for Connor's party, van shopping, and making Halloween costumes, I feel like I barely sat down the entire month. Connor is teething with his 1 year molars and pretty much refuses to sit still. I spend my days chasing him and trying to keep Grace entertained as much as possible. Neither one of them is pleased when I try to sit down at the laptop and Connor's naps have been hit and miss lately. Just trying to keep my house at an acceptable level of cleanliness is difficult right now, so my laptop generally sits lonely on the table. 

Unfortunately life doesn't seem to be slowing down for us anytime soon! We had water in our basement last week that soaked some of the carpet, our microwave is broken (cooking without a microwave takes sooooo much longer,) and today during a day of dedicated potty training (yes, again) our toilet handle broke. Luckily we have other bathrooms, but it's just one more thing that has to be dealt with around here! 

So hopefully I'll have time for a real update soon. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Train Party: Connor's 1st Birthday

For Connor's 1st birthday party, a train theme was the obvious choice. He is fascinated by the toy trains at papa's house and he loves anything with wheels. When I looked online for inspiration, most things I found were for Thomas the Train parties. I'm not a huge fan of character parties at this age, I normally try to pick generic or book themes, such as Grace's Very Hungry Caterpillar 1st birthday party. I decided to stick with generic trains so I designed a train in Photoshop and based the party around it. I chose the color scheme blue and red and I love how everything came together!

I designed the invitation in Photoshop based on a couple of invitations I liked on the internet. If you are interested in a customized invitation, email me at and I can customize it for you to print yourself for a small fee.

1st Birthday Train Party

I used card stock and my Cricut to make his birthday banner. I made the engines by hand and now have a post that includes a free printable template for both the engine and the cars

Train Party

I made another engine for a monthly pictures train display.
Train Party

I made train cars out of wipes containers with the lids removed and wrapping paper to hold the food. I lined each container with plastic wrap to create a coal car (black olives,) a hopper car (ranch dip,) a produce car (carrot and celery sticks,) a log car (pretzel rods,) a dairy car (cheese cubes,) and a grain car (crackers.)

For a free printable for the food and drink signs, check out this post.

Train Party
Train Party

I also made Caboose Kabobs (Fruit Kabobs) and Station House Cookies.

Train Party
Train Party

I created cupcake picks (free printables) to stick in cupcakes that I won from a local gourmet cupcake shop.
Train Party

I made the train cake using the Wilton 3D Choo Choo pan set. I had to rush the night before to get it done so it wasn't exactly what I wanted but I think it came out okay. The "smoke" is made of white gumballs.
Wilton Choo Choo Pan

For drinks we had Diesel Fuel (tea) and the Water Tower.
Train Party

Each child received a train conductor hat and a homemade sugar cookie as favors. Just a note, I ordered train conductor hats from Amazon and found that they were really poor quality. I returned them. For a couple of dollars more, I ordered a set from Birthday Express and was really impressed with the quality. They fit the kids well and the fabric seemed very study.  Free printable choo choo tags and thank you tags here!
Train Party

For decorations, we added some model trains borrowed from Papa and set them up high on a ledge away from destructive little hands.
Train Party

We also set up a wooden train set that the toddlers enjoyed playing with and the babies enjoyed destroying.
Train Party

There were a ton of the kids at the party and a great time was had by all. 

I wasn't sure what Connor would think of his cake because he'd never really had sweets before.
Train Party

Sure enough, he had no idea what to do with it. He started fussing and pointing towards a spoon. He seemed to think that he needed the spoon to eat it so we let him try.
It didn't take him long to taste the frosting on the spoon. He figured out pretty quickly that using his hands was the best option.
 By the end he was covered in cake.

He was not happy with me when I took it away.

When it was time for presents, I was pleasantly surprised by his attention span. He especially loved the cards and the books. His favorite gifts were his Little Tikes Basketball Goal and his Fisher Price Crawl Around Car. 
 He felt the need to give the book a kiss.

After a while, he was done sitting still and daddy took over.
I really wanted to get a good shot of him with his hat on, but he had no desire to keep it on. I do love this series of shots though.

I also wanted to get family shots. Yeah, I should know better than to try that with a one year old and a two year old.

Grace was not impressed
And there was so much going on that Connor was pretty distracted.

He had an amazing time and was smiling and laughing almost the entire party. 

I love the way the party turned out and I am so glad that we had such a great turn out of family and friends to help us celebrate our little boy!

Gray Train Shirt: Leo & Lyla
Cupcakes: The Sweet Tooth
Conductor Hats: Birthday Express
Photography: THANK YOU JULIE!!!!
Train Banner Printables


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