Friday Field Trip: Old MacDonald’s Farm

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The Center for Puppetry Arts is one of my favorite toddler activities in Atlanta.  We have been to several shows now, and each one has been fantastic! Munchkin was about 18 months old when we went to our first show, and I didn’t know what to expect.  But, I was very pleasantly surprised by how interactive the show was and how mesmerized he was the entire time.  

Today, we went with our neighborhood playgroup to see Old MacDonald’s Farm.  It was a blast!  The run-time is about 40 minutes, but this show will definitely hold your child’s attention!  Munchkin was singing and dancing throughout.  And, we have been singing “E-I-E-I-O” all day since 😉  It really is amazing how two actors with puppets can captivate an audience!  There have been a few shows that have a suggested age of 4+, but even those have been relate-able to my toddler. I highly recommend you check out Old MacDonald’s Farm – it runs through September 11th, and children under 2 are free with an adult ticket.  Be on the lookout for other shows this year, too.  We can’t wait for Rudolph in December 😉

Old MacDonald's Farm

Happy Toddling! 


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Throwback Thursday: Curious Colton Turns 2!

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I can’t believe another year has flown by!  Munchkin is about to turn 3!  His upcoming birthday reminded me that I haven’t even shared his 2nd birthday party, yet!  Oops!  I did share his Hole In One 1st Birthday party, and it was a huge success!  There were so many things I loved about his first party, such as the menu and the thank you notes.  But, our goal this party was to have a little less prep.  We knew early on that we wanted to have his party at the park – this kid LOVES to be outdoors!  (This meant not having to keep the house spotless while trying to prep for the party!) We threw around some ideas based on his favorite things, but we decided on a Curious George theme.  I checked around Pinterest and got some really cute ideas!  I wish I could have used all of my ideas, but I’ll just have to save them for another party. . .


Let’s start with the invitation!  I used Silhouette Studio to design these.  I LOVE how they turned out!  I downloaded a free image of Curious George with balloons.  This became our color scheme.  I also downloaded the Curious George font: Wrexham.  One of my favorite (and challenging) parts of designing invitations is font pairing.  There are some great ideas on Pinterest for this as well, but there is a never ending supply of font options.  Overwhelming, to say the least.  I just used Arial to go with the Wrexham.  It’s simple, and I chose all lowercase letters, which I thought was fitting for George.  


Curious Colton Turns 2!  Let’s Go Bananas!  This was the entrance to the park pavilion.  I used a chalkboard I already had and wrote some fun facts about 2-year-old Colton in the birthday party theme colors.  It got a little smudged on the ride from our house to the park, but I don’t think anyone minded 😉  I also made some George tissue poms.  Let me tell you, I went all over Atlanta looking for brown tissue paper.  I ended up at Hobby Lobby.  Next time, I think I’ll start there for party supplies.  That place literally has everything.  Tissue poms are surprisingly easy to make, and there are instructions all over the internet.  If you’re looking for one in particular, I used this tutorial.  I found the George face on  


We used Munchkin’s wagon to hold presents!  And, best part, we just rolled the wagon home after the party since our house is walking-distance to the park. 


We bought Munchkin a treasury of Curious George stories and asked his guests to sign it.  I didn’t get a close up of the sign, but it says “Someday when I’m older, I’ll be curious about who was here to celebrate with me!  Please take a minute to sign your name or leave a little message for our special and so very Curious Colton!”


The park pavilion includes a picnic table that we used for eating lunch and for crafts for the kiddos.  I printed out the same George face from that I used for the tissue pom; these are actually meant to be a mask craft for the kids to make.  Hubby was so helpful and cut out a bunch of these so that all the kids had to do was fit the elastic to make their very own George mask.  We also printed coloring pages that the kiddos, especially the younger ones, could color.  Our last craft was decorating birthday hats!  Here is my niece modeling her finished product:


Isn’t she the cutest?!  (You can also see the birthday banner in the background; I couldn’t get a very good picture of this either.)


The park we chose has a lot of green space – perfect for letting kids run around!  I saw a cute station idea on Pinterest and decided the park would lend itself well to this set up.  We brought over the water table that Hubby built Munchkin for his first birthday.  We set up some balloons and beach balls to mimic Curious George Goes to the Beach.  We also set out the book just in case any of the kids wanted to read, but none of the kids slowed down long enough to read a story, and instead, the book was merely caught in the water crossfire.  We ended up moving it over to the pavilion to be part of the decor 😉  For the other station, we set up a tee with a ball and bat for Curious George at the Baseball GameAll the kids loved the activities, but they didn’t pay a bit of attention to the book vignette.  Oh well!  Now, Munchkin has a few George stories for his personal collection 😉


We set out a couple other George stories that we already owned for a little bit more decor.  We also set out the favors for decor and for easy grabbing as families were leaving.  When choosing favors, I wanted to find something that the kids could enjoy that parents wouldn’t resent having to keep up with or that would just end up in the trash can by the end of the day.  I found Curious George coloring books at Party City.  I paired the coloring books with party favor crayon packs (for less than $1 a piece).  Hubby painstakingly tied each bundle with a little tag that said, “Thanks for going bananas with me!” (I thought I had a close up of the party favor bundles, but I can’t seem to find it!)  I think they turned out great, were inexpensive, and I’ve had several moms tell me their kids still love to color in that particular coloring book.  Winner!



The spread!  Hubby had the great idea to smoke a pork butt on the Big Green Egg.  He cooked it overnight so that it was ready to go at Party Time.  We shredded the pork for sandwiches.  I made my favorite BBQ Sauce to go with it:  Neely’s BBQ sauce (this is the same BBQ sauce we used for Colton’s Hole in One Birthday Menu – that’s how much I love it!)  We also served pinwheel sandwiches (Thanks to Costco!), a veggie tray, fruit skewers, and my mom’s recent party favorite – mac and cheese muffins!  The mac and cheese muffins are seriously a crowd pleaser, and so much easier to serve (and eat) than a huge casserole.  We also threw some banana chips in a glass bowl for a special treat!  For drinks, we served water, juice boxes, La Croix, beer and wine spritzers.  No one is going to go thirsty on our watch!



I’m so thankful my sister is a baker!  She offered to make cupcakes for the party (do you remember the awesome cake and cupcakes she made for Colton’s Hole in One Birthday?!)  She came up with the monkey cupcakes after doing some online research, and how adorable are they?!  On the cake table, I also borrowed my niece’s mini radio flyer wagon, stuck in a stuffed George and storybook.  I also made photo balloons of Colton’s 2nd year; they turned out pretty cute!


And, here’s the birthday boy in his monkey outfit made by his Mémé!  

Happy Birthday, Curious Colton!

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Wellness Wednesday: Dryer Balls

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Do you use dryer sheets?  Do you love that “clean” smell they give your laundry?

I don’t, and I haven’t for a long time!  My quest for all things natural began with food.  Not long after Hubby and I got married, I began transitioning a lot of our foods from processed to natural.  It was a gradual transition.  As I became more comfortable cooking on a regular basis, I also looked for ways to make from scratch and avoid store-bought as much as possible.  I started to pay attention to certain ingredients to avoid:  high fructose corn syrup, high sodium levels, caramel color.  This natural transition started to seep into other aspects of my life:  personal care products and home supplies.  It is definitely a rabbit hole where one could easily get lost!  My best advice:  take it one step or product at a time!  Don’t go through your entire house and throw out anything that may be in question.  Rather, pick a product or an ingredient to pay attention to while shopping.  You’ll slowly make a transition, and you’ll realize that that one ingredient may be in more products than you would assume.  For example, I mentioned in my G-free days that I was surprised at all the places gluten hides in our food:  seasoning mixes, sauces, and just about anything in a box!  This is true for just about anything – as you start to pay attention, you’ll find things hidden everywhere! 

So, as I started transitioning products, I realized that anything not natural smelled fake.  Any chemical fragrances are generally too sweet – just think of walking into a Yankee Candle store!  There’s a reason most people get a headache, and it’s not a good one.  Those chemical fragrances are exactly that: chemicals, and our body does not know how to handle them.  After making this realization, dryer sheets were one of the first things I ditched in my quest for a natural home in addition to a natural kitchen.  I am not a scientist, so I’ll share this article with you that is very informative about how bad dryer sheets really are: 7 Toxic Reasons to Ditch Dryer Sheets.

For years, I’ve just gone without dryer sheets.  Sometimes, clothes come out with a little static cling, but I’ll take that any day over the alternative that is dryer sheet chemicals.  But, I started to hear about safe alternatives to commercial dryer sheets.  Tell me more!  Wool dryer balls are one of the most popular alternatives.  You can purchase these, or, you can easily make them yourself.  (Who am I kidding?  I told my super crafty mom about wanting to make these, and in turn, she used wool she already had to make us both a set of dryer balls!  Thanks, Mom!)  I love to add a few drops of EO to each one every several loads.  This may sound like much, but we actually hang-dry the majority of our clothes, so it’s mostly sheets and towels.  Does it get any better than naturally scented lavender sheets?  I think not! 

Dryer Balls

Happy Drying!




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Tuesday’s Title: Defending Jacob

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I recently shared with you how much I love my local library and, specifically, how much I love their e-book system!  We were on vacation with some friends, and I needed a book to read poolside.  I had my kindle with me, but all of my holds were still pending.  I logged onto Overdrive to start browsing.  I wanted a faster read: something that I could really dive into and potentially finish in a weekend. Luckily, Overdrive has a bunch of category suggestions.  One of these happened to be “books similar to The Girl On The Train.”  Now, The Girl On The Train has been on my “hold” list for months!  I was intrigued.  I read a couple summaries and decided to give one a try.  My choice:  Defending Jacob.

This book is considered a legal thriller, but I find that there is much more to the story than law and order.  This book will tug on your heartstrings.  And, now that I have a son of my own, I couldn’t help but imagine how I would handle such a situation.  A lot of internal struggle resulted, and then, a lot of relief flooded in when I remembered that we are far away from that possibility.  You see, the main character’s son is accused of a dreadful crime.  The evidence is damning and the town starts to turn against the boy.  What is a parent to do in this situation?  What is more important:  to protect one’s child or to bring justice?  Does one trust his or her child unquestionably or does one rely on physical evidence alone?  This book reminds us that there is more to every story than what appears on the surface.  And, for every accused criminal, there is a parent at home wondering what he or she did wrong and if he or she is to blame.  As I said, I experienced a lot of mom-guilt while reading this one.  But, I could not put it down!  Please, check out the e-book, find it the library, or buy it off amazon.  Such a suspenseful read with such a deep lesson.  This is much more than a who-done-it thriller.

My rating:  Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.53 PM

As you can already see, I would totally recommend it.

I think I would put this on my list of re-reads in a couple years.  I think the lesson can be toned down to apply to more school playground altercations to be applicable to all age children.  As parents, we are often faced with a balancing act of protecting our children and teaching them to be self-sufficient in the ways of the world.  What happens when a playmate points his finger at your child:  do you automatically think your child did nothing wrong?  Do you automatically think your child is evil?  Or, do you first try to gather evidence as to how events actually occurred?  A balancing act, for sure.  You can find me answering “all of the above” on any given day!  For me, the takeaway was more of a parental lesson rather than how to create the perfect child.  Ultimately, we as parents are doing the best we can, and, at some point, our children will be required to take responsibility for their actions.  I do think this book has more to teach me about not only trusting my child, but trusting myself that I am doing the best I can.  

Defending Jacob 

Happy Reading!


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Money on My Mind Monday: Monthly Budgeting Forms

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In my last money post, I shared with you our Budget Box.  I’m still loving this new system, although, I’ll be honest in that I haven’t been quite as diligent on tracking our spending as I thought I would be.  But, still, there have been many times over the past few months when we’ve needed something, and that something has been right at our fingertips in our budget box!  I love that it sits out in our office at arm’s length.  I seem to be staying on top of filing receipts away, even if I’m not taking a second look at them, and our office has been much more organized.  Woo Hoo!

I mentioned in the last post that we decided to move away from a budget binder.  We used a binder for many years, but it just didn’t seem to be quite enough for us.  It always just felt like more work to keep it organized, so we stopped trying.  However, I did use this budget binder post as inspiration when creating our budget box.  While Hubby and I discuss almost all of our purchases – literally, almost ALL – I wanted to incorporate more of a checks and balances system into our financial routine.  One thing we already do yearly is a Tax Return Date Night.  (I know, so romantic!) But, I think it’s important that we both sit down together to go over our yearly taxes; we both know exactly where we are financially and (even less romantic) we both know how to do it in the event that the other couldn’t due to some unforeseen circumstance.  Along those same lines, I thought it would be good for us to get in the habit of sitting down each month to go over the previous month’s spending and to set goals for the next month.  I borrowed the Month at a Glance and the Monthly Check-In sheets from Thirty Handmade Days, and I tweaked them to create my own based on what categories we needed to include.  I love how they turned out!  I have manila folders for each of these forms in the first hanging folder in our Budget Box.

Month At A Glance

Fill this out at the beginning of every month and keep tabs as the month progresses.  If you have a salaried income, you can go ahead and fill in the paychecks  line item.  If your income varies, you can update according to your actual paychecks.  You can go ahead and fill in your recurring expenses at the beginning of the month.  I customized this how our recurring expenses are set up.  These are the items I know will not change (at least, not significantly, month to month.)  Your recurring expenses probably do not look exactly the same.  That’s ok!  The “Extras” column is to capture any variable spending each month:  groceries (because our amount varies), entertainment, gifts, etc.  After you have filled in all of your income and all of your expenses, deduct all of your expenses from your income.  That total is your month’s ending balance.  We choose to put any positive balance into our savings account. 

Month At A Glance

Monthly Check In

At the end of one month and the beginning of the next, we sit down and fill out our Monthly Check In form together.  This is after I have completed the Month At A Glance form with all of our transactions.  The Monthly Check In is where we grade ourselves.  We identify goals that we met as well as problem areas.  Then, we make goals for the upcoming month.  Sometimes these are general (Stop spending so much!) and other times they are specific (compare internet service rates).  This is a great place to brainstorm!

Monthly Check In Final


Happy Saving!

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