Tagged: 11 Questions (Sunshine Blogger Award)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Happy Wednesday!

This week started out rough, but here we are midweek and things are going a bit more smoothly. My laptop went haywire on Monday and then Steve's phone broke yesterday, so between us technology has not been kind! Let's hope things are a bit less "exciting" for the rest of the week. :)

I was tagged by the lovely Joanne who blogs over at Europafox to participate in the Sunshine Blogger Awards "11 Things" challenge. We answer 11 questions that the blogger who tags us poses, and I'm honored Joanne thought to include me because I think she is just so smart, thoughtful, worldly and yet down-to-earth. Here's what she asked:

 1.If you had 15 minutes in a super-market sweep to grab what you could, what would it be?
Ooooh, super market sweep! I remember that show! Honestly, I'd probably grab all of my kids favorites first because we all know a hangry toddler/preschooler ain't pretty. So I'd stock up on yogurt ice pops, raisins, goldfish, and all of the fruit. Boring but true! ;)

2.If you could invite 5 people to a diner party (can be from history), who would they be and why?
Such a great question. I'd invite my dad, for sure. He passed away when I was little and I'd love to just talk to him and pick his brain about everything: the current state of the world, parenting, business, etc. I'd also invite my mom, because she's just the best and I'd love to see her and my dad interact. :) Barack Obama would be on the list for obvious reasons, and I think MLK Jr's insight would be so powerful in these times, so let's invite him too. We need a woman to balance this out, so for our fifth guest let's call Ellen. She'd keep us laughing all night long.

3. Describe your ideal party.
It would be outdoors somewhere beautiful (the beach?) in perfect weather, with lots of food and all of my favorite people there. And dancing. Always dancing.

4.What is your favourite Christmas film?
I have a slight obsession with Christmas movies, but I think my all time favorite would have to be The Holiday. I just love it! 

5.If you could institute one global law what would it be?
Oh, this is so hard. There are so many. Perhaps -- education for all. Regardless of race, gender, location, socio-economic status, all children are entitled to an education.

6.If you could belt a tune out on karaoke better than the original artist what would it be and where would you sing it?
Definitely not better than the original artist... so incredibly far from it! But I could belt Adele's "Hello" with some serious soul.

7. If you had to choose between living without make-up for a year or a smart phone for a year what would it be?
No smart phone!  Haha. Make-up would be way easier, but a smart phone would be better for me, I think; almost a relief.

8.Who inspires you most in your day to day life?
My kids. They inspire me to be a better person, to set a good example for them, to think of others first, to be more creative, more playful, more open minded. 

9.If you could pick any epitaph for your life – what would you choose?
Hmm. I first think of the quote from Charles Dickens, "No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another." So, maybe, something along those lines.

10. Who was your first famous crush on?
Oh, this one is easy... and hilarious! Michael Jackson. True story! I would pretend he was pulling me onto stage and write letters to him. Such a 90s kid.

11. Do you have a hair or fashion faux-paux from the past you would like to obliterate with a magic wand, if so what would it be? Photos appreciated haha!
I'm a bit of a wimp with my hair, so it's pretty much always looked the same. But I just came across this photo of me (and my cousin, hi Gina!) in Las Vegas 9 years ago and I am literally wearing a SHIRT as a dress. So there's that. Enjoy! ;)

The Classics (5 Pieces to Take You From Winter to Spring)

Monday, February 26, 2018

It's no secret that I enjoy shopping (mostly filling up my online and IRL carts and then not actually purchasing anything, but you know). ;) But as much as I appreciate, and have always appreciated, keeping up with what's new and interesting in fashion, over the years I have found myself turning to the same several pieces - or types of pieces - in my wardrobe. Here they are, and each is perfect for spring.

I have striped shirts and sweaters that have been in my closet and get worn regularly for well over a decade. I never hesitate in picking up something new with stripes because they've proven to be such a classic staple that can be mixed and matched with almost any pattern (I love them with plaids and florals). 

I'm not a purse person. An expensive or trendy bag doesn't really excite me. But when I first came across these bags, I was sold. I've been using the same crossbody bag for years and it's held up perfectly -- I always get questions about it when I'm out. I love it for running around with the girls since hands free is a must! And my favorite part is that these beauties can be embossed with your initials. They're not cheap, but they're so well made and will last for so many years that it makes it worth the investment (and if you love green, this bag in a bold green is on sale for $100 off).

I picked up my own anorak jacket on a whim off the sale rack about 8 years ago for less than $40 and it's still something I wear almost every day, especially in the transitional seasons of spring and fall. It's just so versatile, casual, and cool. And I hate to say it because #imold but it's just so damn practical. 

These are the best tanks, come in a ton of colors, and are usually on some kind of sale -- right now they're 2 for $14. Why are they so great?  They're a great length, stretchy and soft, wash well, and you can (and will) wear them with everything. I'm actually wearing one as I type this!

I love how these comfy kicks will take you from winter to spring. Everyone who I show them to is sold -- they're affordable and so. comfy. These are the exact style I own (mine are tan).

Everyone has their own version of "classic," which I love. What's yours? Do you have any of these in your closet?

Tested & Approved: Weeknight Meals

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I've talked about meal planning here quite a bit because it really has helped the flow of our week so much. Like most families, we have a mental list of favorite meals that we all (or most of us ;)) enjoy that are on rotation, but we also like to switch it up and try new recipes every week or every other week. Some recipes are a hit and some are a miss, but the only way to find new favorites to put into rotation is to try, right? 

My favorite places to go for new recipes are: my Cooking Light-Comfort Food cookbook, Pinterest  (follow my "Favorite Recipes" board!), and SkinnyTaste

Here are some recent winners in case you're stuck in a recipe rut and need something new to try that has already been tested and approved by a family with two sometimes-picky little kids (photos are not mine because I never think far enough in advance to take pictures of our own meals!). 

We subbed dried basil for fresh simply because we didn't have any on hand, and we served with wild rice. Really easy, and so fresh tasting. Image via Well Plated.

This was super easy to make and both of my girls will actually eat all of their peas, so... win win! Image via Saveur

We're loving our Instant Pot and I think this has been my favorite meal from it so far. The kids liked the chicken because it tasted sweet. Image via Six Sisters' Stuff.

Can you ever really go wrong with pasta? We have a crockpot meat sauce that we make regularly with sweet Italian sausage, but this was a nice change up and I'm just a fan of anything that's cooked all in one pot. I feel like it made the pasta really soak up the flavor. Image via SkinnyTaste.

So. Good. If you like the Olive Garden version, you have to try this... it's even better. We've made it at least every other week since we first tried it. Serve with crusty bread and a salad and you've got yourself a dinner. ;) Image via The Chunky Chef.

Hope this has inspired you a bit! Please, please share any of your recent tried and true favorite meals in the comments -- we're always looking for new ideas. Happy Tuesday, friends.

Monday Musings

Monday, February 19, 2018

Did you enjoy your weekend? And do you have off today? Steve does so Monday didn't hit quite as hard this morning. 

This weekend I got to meet one of my dearest friend's new baby, a handsome little peanut named Grant. He was just the sweetest thing. Yesterday we ran Home Depot and Target errands and then ate lunch at a new pizza place by us. I even took an afternoon nap -- so I will call this weekend a win. :)

So, shall we chat? Confession: My day job and life in general has been extra busy and I have so many ideas for this little space but limited time to execute them. I know; excuses, excuses. I could give up sleep but in order to be a nice person and good mom I need that, so... I'll continue doing my best! Thanks for sticking with me.

After last week I'm feeling a little drained. I hate feeling helpless and although I know we're not completely -- there is always room to do something and help somehow -- this just feels like such an incredibly steep uphill battle and in the meantime our babies live in a scary world. But I found this resource to be really helpful: full of tools, ways to take action, and even local meet-ups. I also found this speech so inspiring. I'm sure you've heard it, but if not, check it out.

As always, even in the most frightening times, there are always things to be grateful for whether big or small. Here are a few fun things I've been enjoying lately:

My absolute favorite recent purchase (move over dust buster, which was in first place until this arrived, HA!)! I finally jumped on the letter board band wagon and am so happy I did. This one is double sided (the other side is grey) and came with white and black letters. I am so impressed by the quality and even the packaging was thoughtful and pretty. It currently lives in the playroom. I plan to do a full review on it soon because it's that good and I like that it's made by a small, personal company.

Has anyone else tried these? They come individually packaged and you can grab them at Target. I picked them up the other day as a quick snack and they were so good, and zero calories, which is a lot less calories than my typical snack! 

You know those little things you do - like mini rituals - that are absolutely inconsequential other than they inexplicably make you happy? Well, fun paper straws for my morning iced coffee is one of mine. I like to change them up each season, along with a seasonal mug that hangs out here next to the Keurig. I was cracking up a bit, because Steve usually uses the mug that sits here while I side-eye him because hello it's supposed to be decorative :) ...but for some reason he hasn't touched this one. ;)

And this hair tie for C is just darn cute (another Target find), so I had to share. 


Hoping your week is off to a wonderful, inspired start. XO

How I (Attempt To) Stay Organized

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I couldn't write today without acknowledging the absolute devastation that occurred in Florida yesterday. Those families are all of us. Those kids are all of our kids. Thoughts and prayers are a given, but now action is required. 


This chapter of my life could be titled "Organized Chaos." Haha, but really... it is so often chaos but in the midst of it all, I try so hard to stay organized. Keeping some sense of order in a season of life that is messy and busy (and oh so fun!) is truly good for my mental health and overall sense of wellbeing. I hope it helps my family in the same way.

Today I'm linking up with some fabulous women to share some ways I (attempt to) stay  organized. You can also reference some other ways from this post.

1. My planner is my holy grail. I'm a good old pen and paper gal, so I always have my trusty planner by my side. I fill out important dates throughout the year (birthdays, major holidays, vacations, etc.) as soon as I get a new planner and then will fill in each monthly calendar as things come up. I also use the daily part of my planner every day to plan the work I need to do for my job, plus every day to-dos like school days, kids' activities, grocery shopping, even a loose cleaning schedule. 
2. All of the bins. Question: Can one ever have too many baskets and bins? Answer: Nope! I use them for everything from toy storage to blanket storage, even to tutu storage in the girls' rooms. My favorite place to find them are not surprising: Homegoods has the best prices and Target has good ones too -- I just found such a pretty basket for our family room on clearance! 

3. Toy storage. One non-negotiable to maintaining sanity in these early stages of motherhood is finding good solutions for storing away toys. If you don't, they will inevitably take over. Every family and house is different, but for us it works to keep the majority of toys on one floor. We keep 90% of toys on the first floor of our house so when we clean up/organize, we don't need to worry about every. single. room. The bedrooms stay clear of toys (except for stuffed animals). Our favorite tools for organization are (bins of course) and: this and this(picking this up at Target today and can't wait!).

What are some ways you stay organized? 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day! <3 

How are you spending your day? C has a PJ party at preschool this morning (confession: I sent her in Christmas jammies because we don't have V-Day jammies -- they're red, so that works, right?) so I can't wait to see her at pick-up and hear all about it! When the girls woke up today, we surprised them with this tent as their gift (plus a book and one piece of candy each). It was a bigger gift than we planned for (I usually just go crazy in the Dollar Spot at Target) but their play castle broke a few days ago so it worked out well to replace it for Valentine's Day. So far, they love it!

I have some work to do this afternoon and we'll play, and then tacos are on the menu for dinner. We get real fancy for this holiday over here. ;) Tacos are my love language!


However you're spending your day, hope you're surrounded by those you adore most. XO

5 Fun Websites that Make Life Easier

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

I didn't really plan to post today, but I've used all of these resources within the last week and thought hey, that might be something fun to share! Any little tip or tool that makes life easier, happier, or fuller is always worth passing along if you ask me. Here are five websites that you may or may not have heard of, but that I think you might enjoy:

For my work as a publicist and just my knowledge as a human being, it's important I'm up to speed on the latest news. But with my little girls in tow, I don't always have a chance to read article after article, full papers, or even watch the news. I've been subscribed to The Skimm for years now. When you sign up, you receive a daily newsletter highlighting top news stories in digestible ways. It's am quick, easy way to catch up on what's going on in the world while you're still in bed or eating breakfast.

2. Rover.
This one is for my friends with fur-babies. :) If you're like me and don't like the thought of boarding your pup at a typical kennel while you're away, you need to check this website out. You can search for dog sitters in your area using a number of different criteria (for instance: no kids, no other dogs, years of experience, fenced yard, etc.). There are sitters available to take your dog for multiple nights at their house, come to your house for visits, simply take your dog for a walk during the day, and more. We found a wonderful local dog sitter this way years ago and will still have her come to our house to check on Layla and take her out, feed her, and walk her if we take a long day trip.

While we're on the subject of dogs... But really, don't laugh. If you're one of those people (like me) who cringe more when an animal gets harmed than a person in a movie, this is my secret weapon. I'll quickly search the movie we're about to watch to find out if an animal dies or gets hurt and be able to prepare myself. There's nothing worse than that sort of sadness surprising you mid-movie. My fellow animal lovers will understand. ;)

Do you ever look in your fridge and think, hmm, how can I piece together a meal with this stuff? As you know, I try to meal plan for the weeknights, but by the end of the week we're usually running low and might have a few leftover ingredients on hand. For instance, I had some leftover kale and uncooked chicken breast so the other night I used this website to search recipes using both. It's easy to just click on the ingredients you have on hand and instantly receive lots of tasty-looking recipes to use up what you have!

If one of your resolutions this year was to volunteer more, this is a fantastic place to start and a resource I use for coordinating volunteer events for my company. Search tons of volunteer opportunities in your area and connect with a local representative who will set it all up for you. What I love about United Way is that they work with organizations of all different types, so chances are whatever it is you're interested in helping with, their team members will be able to help coordinate it. So far I've worked with them to set up a corporate volunteer event at a local food bank and am working on setting up an event with Habitat for Humanity now.

What are some online resources that have made your life easier, better, richer?

Valentine's Day Gift Guide: For the Kids

Monday, February 5, 2018

How is it Monday already? And how was your weekend?

Steve and I had a little day date in Philly on Saturday to celebrate his birthday a few days early. We stuffed ourselves with delicious food, took a lap around Rittenhouse, and ducked into a couple of stores. It was so nice! On Sunday we just hung around the house and watched the Super Bowl after the girls went to bed. Neither of us are huge football fans but we were rooting for the Eagles since we live right outside of Philly and grew up in PA. I always go for the underdog, too. ;) After they won, our neighborhood was going crazy with fireworks and people celebrating so (with the exception of the excitement waking H up for a few minutes) that was fun. Plus, free coffee today in these parts! GO BIRDS! After that was over, I cried through watched the latest This Is Us episode. If you're keeping up, this was the episode where we found out exactly how Jack died. It was terribly sad, but not as excruciatingly sad as the last episode, in my opinion. Why do we do this to ourselves? I think I'm going to have to put a full This Is Us review post together to unload all of the thoughts and feelings I have about this show.

I can't believe next week is Valentine's Day! For the past couple of weeks, I've shared a gift guide for the ladies and for the guys, and today I wanted to share some ideas for your littlest valentines at all different price points. As for our family, the girls will each get one treat (actually, I got that exact Pez for C this year!), one small toy, and a Valentine's-themed book. Growing up, my mom always made each holiday feel special and I love doing the same for our girls. 

Valentine's Day Gift Guide: For the Kids

I'd love to hear how you celebrate Valentine's Day with the littlest loves in your life! Hope your week is off to a great start. XO

Layla, A Love Story

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Dani Almond Photography

For me, it all began with Penny. Penny was a copper colored (surprise, surprise!), curly eared Cocker Spaniel who my family found cowering in a field behind my grandma's house. She'd obviously been mistreated, but she sensed she could trust my gentle-handed family members and we were eventually able to lure her with treats and love. The rest is history. Penny was a year younger than me, and we grew up together. She was 16 and I was 17 when she passed away and it was years until we were able to even consider welcoming a new furry friend into the mix.

I actually started poking around looking at dogs when I was a sophomore in college. There were a few that I thought might be "the ones," and even one white, fluffy girl who we visited a couple of times. One time, we went back to see her and she wasn't there -- she had been claimed by a different family. At the time I was pretty devastated. I should have known that things usually have a way of working themselves out.

The first time I laid eyes on Layla (whose original name was Jade, by the way, and then she was nicknamed "Goldie" at the shelter) was in her profile picture on the local humane league's website. She was laying on her back, her big Golden Retriever tongue hanging out to the side, a smile on her face. Her description read, "Goldie is a silly girl." I remember thinking that we'd be perfect for each other. We made arrangements to see her the next day.

The following day we arrived to the shelter and started walking down the row of dogs in their cages, looking for Layla. Most of the pups were jumping and barking by their gates, and then we came to her cell. She was curled up by the back with bits of vomit stuck in her fur. She had just been spayed, we would find out, and apparently had experienced a bad reaction to the anesthesia. She looked up at us out of the tops of her big, brown eyes. We asked to see her.

In the visiting room, Layla seemed to come to life. She sniffed every corner and laid right down in our laps as if she'd always known us. We really did instantly fall in love with her. A staff member came to get her and said there was a line to see her outside. We told them that minute that she was ours... we wanted to bring her home.

In the almost eleven years since we've adopted our Layla girl, we have been through so much together. I was in college when we rescued her, and I'm now married with two kids. She's was alongside us as we moved states, from apartment to townhouse to our current house, on vacations (her furthest road trip was to Charleston, SC!), and so much more. She was the first one to find out I was pregnant with Carrie ("Do you see this, Layla? Does this look like a positive to you?"), the one whose thick, golden fur has caught so many of my tears, beside me through the hardest losses and the happiest gains.

Layla howled when my newborn babies cried (at the time I thought I might go a little batty, but looking back it was actually pretty adorable). She curls up with me for my girly tv at night. She loves nothing more than a walk around the block, an afternoon nap, a Greenie treat at bedtime. Honestly, in the thick of parenting tiny children, this twelve year old girl is so often my quiet, steady sanity. I whisper "you're my best friend" to her every day, and if that makes me a crazy person, then so be it.

I share updates about my girls here sometimes, but rarely about my first girl, my Layla. I thought she deserved the spotlight today, and I also figured many of you might be able to relate to the kind of companionship I'm trying so desperately to put into words. I also thought it worthy to share our little love story to sing the praises of rescuing animals. Before Layla, "adopt, don't shop" didn't mean much to me. But there is something so powerful about knowing you've saved a life and given a homeless pet a loving home. I promise you that in return they will give you so much more.

KM Photography

Dani Almond Photography

Studio 161 Photography

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