Today.

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Outside My Window: The snow has been falling all night and all day – resulting in our first actual snow day of the year. Last week we had a “the roads are, like, icy” day which isn’t really as fun.

I’m Hearing: My daughter watching The Jetsons Movie (streaming on Netflix) while the dog barks at all the people out snow blowing their driveways. My ten year old boy child is next door frolicking in the white fluffy with his BFF.

28818314I’m Reading: Roseblood by A.G. Howard which came in my last Owl Crate. The timing for this one is kind of incredible because it’s kind of a modern day spin on The Phantom of the Opera, which the hubster and I are going to see next weekend. I decided the timing was too good to put off reading it and luckily it’s supremely compelling so far. YA / Fantasy readers should dig right into this one nicely.

I’m Watching: The Mary Tyler Moore Show for the first time in my life, speaking of timely. I can’t believe it took me this long to watch it consider I was already a Dick Van Dyke Show fan. And I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around her passing. If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s incredibly funny and just good tv. Also you can totally watch all the episodes on Hulu. Streaming television for the win! I’m also finally catching up on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and I have so many feels about this season.

I’m Thinking About: After school programs and summer camps and future vacations when the weather starts playing nice again. BB just finished up her ballet semester and we’re planning to put her in gymnastics in the spring. Despite being totally full plate life, I’m also looking into robotics clubs for MM, probably just a summer camp for now because life.

This summer I’m hoping to jam every last outing I can into our annual summer trip and super excited to visit new nephews and catch up with all the peeps that have the nerve to live so far away from me. I’m also debating whether to book a campground yet for our annual summer camping trip – something about snow days makes the wander lust me in kick into overdrive.

I’m Cooking: taco salad tonight thanks to my amazing hubby who is stopping at the grocery store. Tomorrow I’ll be trying one of the meals from the Hello Fresh meal delivery service that I started trying. First up will be a tortellini with kale and parmesan dish, then this weekend we’re trying Shawarma Meatballs with Bulgur and Sumac Veggies. I don’t know what that means yet but I’m excited to find out.

I’m Looking Forward To: Our last Cub Scouts Pinewood Derby this weekend. It’s the end of an era and that’s really hard to believe. Next month he’ll be crossing over the Boy Scouts. I’m also looking forward to the previously mentioned date night coming up.

What’s in my purse?

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Carrie Willard wrote a post last week about the things in her purse and I kept meaning to snap a picture and join in the fun and then life got busy and I forgot, until today! Better late than never, right?

Here are the things I found in my purse minus a not terribly exciting receipt or two.

  1. MONEY STUFF Obviously, my wallet and checkbook. I love my checkbook case which I found on etsy a million moons ago – it’s the blue rectangle with a mustache on it.
  2. DRUG STORE The bag next to them with the glasses on the cover is actually where I store my Lactaid and allergy pills. Other medicinal objects found included Advil, tums, kids’ Dramamine for my drama queen, cherry chap stick (oh la la) and hand lotion. All the necessities for motherhood these days.
  3. SUNNIES Obviously I never go anywhere without my sunnies. The case I keep them in isn’t in the photograph, but they are prescription sunglasses, so they live in a hard case in my purse.
  4. SELF DEFENSE There is a small flashlight attached to the strap of my purse that my husband bought me to ward off predators because he doesn’t trust me with pepper spray. His theory is that the insanely bright flashlight will startle an attacker and draw attention to myself. I showed a friend how bright it was when I was telling them about it and they shrieked, so…
  5. PENS I found three pens (all Pilot G2s, my fave) and a highlighter so I am prepared for note taking situations in multiple colors.
  6. BOOK LIGHT In addition to my sunglasses, I also keep my book light in the hard plastic case so that I can read in the dark if necessary. I suppose the flashlight would also do the trick but the book light can be clipped to my book and won’t wake the dead.
  7. BOOK (OBVY) My aunt gave me a book of poems by Emily Dickinson in the photo above and I stuck it in my purse so I can read it during school pick up, etc. It’s really cool – all the poem were found on envelopes and scraps of paper, hence the title.
  8. MULTI TOOL I literally do not remember putting that Leatherman in my purse but it was a good idea – my husband always has one with him and I have moments of jealousy about all the things he can open, cut and fix while on the go. Apparently I can do those things, too, and I just didn’t remember.
  9. RIBBON I bought that spool of red ribbon for my women’s group so that I can tie a red ribbon on my bag to help new members find me at public events. It was a little bit of a failed experiment for me as the ribbon kept coming loose and eventually I took it off and always forget to put a new one on for events. I’m trying buttons now instead.
  10. What’s missing? I was surprised that there were no journals in my purse at all when I took this picture. I’ve since remedied this problem.

What’s in your purse?

What Would The First Lady Say? 10 Quotes for Moving Forward.

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Is anyone else just exhausted with the world right now? I’m not going to get political because ugh my heart is just not hearing it right now and I think that you can already find those kinds of words on literally every corner of the internet right now.

But if you are running low on motivation and momentum and just need to hear something to pick you back up again so you can log onto Facebook without hurting somebody, keep scrolling. I’ve often found that many of the first ladies of our country’s history are the real rock stars in the White House.

I’ve found myself turning to them a lot these past few months – they are a wellspring of motivation and as I dug into the internet this morning I found loads of amazing quotes from First Ladies over the years. Here are some of my favorites:

Michelle Obama

To get yourself off the floor and moving forward.

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Eleanor Roosevelt

For when you are feeling down on yourself or feeling the need to defend your opinions.

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Martha Washington

For when you can’t seem to find that happy anywhere!

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Abigail Adams

When you find yourself in discussion with people you don’t agree with.

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Laura Bush

Because we are more united than the Media wants us to believe.

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Rosalynn Carter

For when you want to know what you can do to make a difference.

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What do your clothes say about you?

I was folding my daughter’s laundry last night and chuckling to myself over the absolute cuteness and chaos of the various patterns of leggings she has amassed lately.

Being a terribly fashionable seven year old diva, she has a lot of opinions about her wardrobe these days and other than financing her endeavors, I don’t have an awful lot of involvement over her outfit selections these days. She’s a spunky risk taker with a love for vibrant colors and sparkly patterns.

16114083_10101111748668966_3215905868438196703_nIn some ways I feel like this description doesn’t just describe her fashion sense, it describes her whole personality. Everything about my daughter is sparkly and colorful. She’s a vibrant person from her headband to her tippy toes. She laughs hard, dances always and can’t even brush her teeth without singing. She makes her own rules and lives by her own ideals – for better or worse some days!

I snapped a picture of her leggings and posted it on Instagram and Facebook, and then kept folding but I also kept thing…. If her wardrobe could be considered an extension of her personality – is the same true for the rest of the family? Does my husband have a plaid / khaki personality? Is my ten year old essentially a pile of t-shirts and running pants on the bedroom floor? What does my wardrobe say about me?

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Curiosity piqued, I went upstairs and took a picture of the blouses in my closet. If legging are the defining statement of my daughter’s wardrobe, my tops are definitely mine. And while the colors are more muted (I’m going through a black and gray season and I’m not sure if it’s because of the weather or more permanent – time will tell), I’m also really proud of this little wardrobe of mine. I’ve been working hard to curate a closet of clothes I love, even going so far as to find hangers that I love so they can have the luxe treatment while they wait for their day in rotation.

It’s true, I love a black t-shirt and the colors that sneak into my wardrobe are somewhat rare these days but I also see a closet full of shirts that are buttery soft and well fitting. They are carefully selected team players that don’t shout for attention but spend their day taking care of the not unimportant task of making me feel comfortable and well cared for while I take care of the people around me.

What do you think your wardrobe says about you?

2017 Family Interviews.

interview-bb-2017I totally blanked and forgot to do these interviews with my kids two weeks ago for New Years – but we’re trapped inside seemingly forever because of majorly icy road conditions and I thought I’d do them now. Better late than never right?

I asked the kids specifically to use their best hand writing so they wouldn’t be too difficult to read. You might think this is excellent handwriting for a 7 year old but for my 7 year old this is indicative that she doesn’t listen to me.

Answers of note:

  • The coolest thing she learned last year was to print her letters neatly… not that she did here.
  • She doesn’t really say anything in a typical way. “Valentines gives” means “giving Valentines to all of my friends.
  • Her list of best friends is apparently only a small sampling – she verbally listed off at least six more names so if you are a mom of one of BB’s friends and you are reading this, don’t worry, she totally named your kid, too – she just ran out of room.
  • Disney princesses basically run my daughter’s life so it’s not surprising that her two current faves, Moana and Elena of Avalor were her top picks for changing her name.
  • Clearly I’m the superior parent because she loves everything about me but only “how special her father’s kisses are.” He’s good for nothing else.
  • Her favorite game is the game she last remembers playing – a board game called Shopping $pree that I won for her at a White Elephant party. So major thanks to Cheryl who brought it.

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Here’s big brother’s interview. I promise he doesn’t look nearly this evil in real life. I don’t know why he wanted to scar the internet with this terrifying self portrait.

Things of note:

  • This is actually really good handwriting for him. I thanked him profusely for putting in the effort to make it readable.
  • Where his sister will go into massive detail on every answer, MM only has time for the most basic responses. Typical boy.
  • He must really like the name James, it’s the same answer he gave last year.
  • I don’t think it’s fair that my husband gets to be the video games parent and I’m only good for my cooking.
  • I think Blue Dog Lego Running Pants would be a fun, irreverent band name.
  • Can you tell our family is really into Moana? Seriously, the whole family was hooked. Like ‘Bought the Soundtrack‘ hooked. If you haven’t seen it yet, make that a priority.
  • I find it interesting that his favorite restaurant doesn’t serve tacos or pizza.
  • Final note: I was surprised by how different their career ideas were this year compared to last. If I end up with a teacher and engineer for kids, I think I can count myself lucky but who knows maybe next year it will be ice cream taster and career vagabond.

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Here’s a link to last year’s interviews along with a free printable in case you want to use the same template to interview your kids!

What would your vision board look like?

I was reading this post at the Picmonkey Blog about how to make a digital vision board and immediately became intrigued and set to work making my own:

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Have you made a vision board before? What things are on it? Mine is filled with pictures and phrases that visualize a life of travel, yoga, writing more and maybe a new Subaru?

My mantra for 2017 is about saying no more often so that I can say yes to the things I love – or to put it more simply “less is more” – these are some of the “more” things that I’d love to embrace along with more game nights with friends, movie marathons with the kids and date nights with my hubby.

Those three things are easily tangible and clearly within my grasp – but the things on my vision board are goals that feel a little harder, that will require a little more planning, motivation, mindfulness and lottery winnings. Hence, vision board material.

What things would be on your vision board?

Cutting the Cord: Cable Alternatives and What Worked For Us.

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Last summer Dan and I started brainstorming ways we could save some money and our cable bill was quickly mentioned along with “stop going out to eat as often” and “lose Target’s address“. Since those last two are unlikely to happen anytime soon, we decided to start thinking about whether we could ditch cable without cramping our style too much – and whether we’d actually end up saving money in the end.

It took about six months to figure out the logistics AND commit to actually doing something about it. I thought I’d share with you the switches we made to save you a little leg work.

The first thing I did was figure out what tv shows we watch on the reg and how much we were spending for our TV. We are admittedly hardcore TV watchers.

Here’s what we had to begin with and how much it costs us each month:

  • A second tier cable plan packaged with our Internet: $200ish dollars
  • An HBO subscription (we’re all about that Game of Thrones life): $15
  • Netflix Streaming: $9
  • Amazon Prime (for more reasons than TV, but still): $8.25

As for the TV shows we watch, I was really surprised to find that about 75% of the TV shows we watch are actually on network television, not Cable networks. And the Cable shows we watch were largely in the “not essential to my life” category.

Exceptions for us included:

  • The Walking Dead (AMC)
  • Doctor Who (BBCA)
  • Archer (FX)
  • Dirk Gently (BBCA)
  • Game of Thrones (HBO)
  • Westworld (HBO)
  • Project Runway (LIFE)

Technically my kids also consume a lot of Disney Channel shows but truthfully they are more into watching shows on their Kindles these days and I know there are plenty of other channels in the sea so I decided that Disney Channel wasn’t a priority. Sorry, kids.

Cable Alternatives We Considered

Next I started researching all of the Cable alternatives and what channels / shows they offer. Here are the ones I looked into:

  • Playstation VUE – One of the few cable channel alternatives that offers a cloud based DVR. We were leaning heavily towards VUE but found their navigation confusing. [starts at 29.99 / month]
  • Sling TV: streaming only – Sling has most of the Cable channels we love but no ability to record. We still may give them a try at some point. [starts at $20 / month]
  • HULU: streaming and on demand for a wide assortment of shows – integrates beautifully with a TIVO. Had way more of the shows we love than I originally expected. [starts at $7.99 / month]
  • TIVO: This isn’t a tv service provider so much as a DVR / software to organize your TV life. It integrates with a lot of streaming services so you can have one list to rule them all. You pay for a TIVO box (approx. $200-500). After that you pay $15 / month for service OR you can pay $150 for an annual service plan or $500 for a lifetime plan.

TIVO is the only service in this list than includes any kind of contract because their monthly plan requires a 1 year commitment. However, they have a 30 day money back guarantee. The other services all tend to offer a 1 week trial but have no contract at all.

What We Have Now

We decided on a TIVO box because recording shows was kind of a deal breaker for our TV watching lifestyle. We are kind of madly in love with the TIVO setup and I’m glad we splurged but if watching recorded shows isn’t important to you, you could totally save some dollars here.

We added a HULU subscription to bridge the gap for shows we’d be losing because of cutting our cable plan. We are not doing Sling or VUE as of right now because the handful of shows that aren’t available on HULU are available to watch on the channel’s website or App. This includes Lifetime and AMC for us. This isn’t a one size fits all decision though – the shows we watch might be totally different than you – check the channel line ups and see what service is the best fit for you.

So far the only channel that we haven’t accounted for completely is BBC America, which we could get on Sling or VUE but most of those shows we watch can be found on Amazon Prime and other places. So we’re considering this a future problem for right now.

We’re keeping Amazon Prime, obviously, and also Netflix and HBO which you can buy without a cable plan at all. 

When we cut our cable we also switched internet providers because we found a different provider that was offering faster internet for less money, at least for the first year. Cord cutters – do your homework and make sure that your Internet provider is still a good deal after your package is gone.

Here’s what our rundown looks like now:

  • TIVO Plan: $15 (obviously we also paid a one time price for the DVR box itself, too)
  • Internet: $40
  • Hulu plan with no commercials: $13
  • An HBO subscription: $15
  • Netflix Streaming: $9
  • Amazon Prime: $8.25

So we are saving over $100 per month and giving up almost nothing. Heck, I’m even finding some new shows to love on Hulu that I couldn’t have watched before.

The moral of the story is: Do your homework, decide what is important to your family, make sure you are getting your money’s worth and if you are ready to try something new – take advantage of those free trials and just see which services you like the best. We ended up with totally different services than we originally expected.

Have you cut the cord yet?

What services does your family use?

All The Holiday Stories I Meant To Tell You.

My in laws came into town to celebrate the holidays with us and now there is almost too much to share. This is what happens when I don’t blog regularly for a couple of weeks – too many pictures and not enough time to do them justice. Let’s try and clear through the backlog a bit with some mini stories, k?

In no particular order.

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  1. I took the kids to my favorite coffee shop on the last day of vacation and my ten year old was  kind of “meh” about what to do for fun at first – he’s finally maybe too old for the play kitchen and whatnot. But he quickly got sucked into designing epic pictures on an Etch a Sketch they had lying around and made this message to send his Portal loving father.
  2. The kids got a build your own melting snowman kit in a recent subscription crate that I ordered them (a one time buy of Owl Crate Jr. because I couldn’t resist being such a big fan of their regular crates which boast a new release YA novel along with a box full of bookish goodies)
  3. The kids’ crate also came with a copy of The Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig. The ten year old read it first and gave rave reviews so I snagged it shortly after the holidays and blew through it. Such a cute story with awesome illustrations and so much #lifegoals. I definitely recommend this one for your kids and I think it would make a good read aloud, too.
  4. We took the kids to my hubby’s office on New Years Eve for our annual family photo fest which involves a lot of walking through various buildings while I mutter about lighting and tripods and ask the kids to stop giving each other bunny ears.
  5. lately1My in laws always stay at awesome hotels while they are in town so that they can squeeze in some pool time. Our kids were veritable fishes for the week, joining them every chance they got. Their swim skills are really coming a long way and my seven year old might have fins now.
  6. The ten year old got his first camera for Christmas. It’s one of those Fuji film instant cameras because everything old is new again. It’s so much nostalgia waiting for the pictures to develop and I kind of love the pictures he’s taken so far, even if they are tiny and blurry. I think he has a good eye for the framing of his pictures. #momblebrag
  7. We took the in-laws to my favorite brunch spot and my kids continued their quest to try and draw a recognizable Mickey Mouse which soon devolved into drawing Minecraft Mickey because obviously. My seven year old actually churns out some really nice drawings – they don’t look anything like Mickey but she draws a mean teddy bear which Mickey aspirations.
  8. We also went to the local botanical gardens to see their holiday train exhibit that they put on every year. This year was LEGO themed and kind of a dorky paradise with lots of Star Wars and Minecraft legos and even a TARDIS spotting in a far corner.
  9. lately3I’ll finish this off with some outtakes from the two days we spent taking pictures at Dan’s office. The second day was just squeezing in one more building and giving the ten year old some more chances to try out his new camera. So many buildings, so little time.
  10. One of the new buildings has a nod to moving pictures like from Harry Potter which was way too amusing. The ten year old was obsessed with this picture of a brave knight that was largely uninterested in us. The kids pretended they were knights, too, and showed off their sword fighting skills.
  11. I posted about the giant tractor last week so you already know how my ovaries feel about this one. The seven year old was just a giant bag of sugar for both outings and would not stand still for a picture to save her life which was super for my patience level. But in spite of her absolute lack of playing along (for the most part, unless it suited her) she continues to look fabulous in general.
  12. My favorite building was Alice in Wonderland themed. Someday when I’m really bored I might share with you the thirty million pictures I took there. For now enjoy this mad tea party that went down in a small nook or cranny of some such thing.
  13. Lastly, behold the very best family photo that my kids were willing to sit still for a hot second for. Thanks to my father-in-law who took the picture for us:

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And now, we are mostly caught up. Enough. Happy 2017 guys. Is it redundant to say that yet?

 

 

Then and Now: Family Photos

Every year we go to my husband’s office on New Years Day (sometimes New Years Eve) and explore some of the new buildings and take some family photos. Each building has a different theme and their artwork lends itself to some fun pictures. Back in 2014 we stumbled across this giant tractor and the kids were obsessed with it.

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We stumbled upon the tractor again this year and the kids were, once again, all over it. I snapped a bunch of pictures and had to share one here along with the photo above so we can all oooh and ahhh and clutch our ovaries over how much the kids have grown in just a couple years.

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Seriously. I literally cannot even.

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If 2017 looked like New Years Eve…

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This week Mama Kat wants to know: If the way you spent your New Year’s Eve is any indication of how the rest of the year will go, how would you say your future is looking right about now?

For us, it would look slightly blurry and upside but full of joy and wonder.

It would involve Doctor Who marathons, take out pizza and telling each other silly jokes. 2017 will look like saying yes to random fun but no to following through on traditions that leave us drained or don’t bring us true joy. It will involve a lot of family time and delicious breakfasts. Good chocolate and sweet wine.

What will 2017 look like for you?

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