Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter Celebrations 2016

Easter day this year was chilly and rainy but that didn't stop the fun of eggs and baskets and lots of family time.

The weekend before Easter we broke out the classic Paas kits and got to decorating.

Jack also had a little party at school on Good Friday.

Pottery Barn Easter Baskets were out and ready for the boys to rip through on Sunday morning before heading to church with my family. Both boys stayed upstairs during the service instead of going to Sunday School and did fairly well despite the pretty long service.

After church my parents, sister and her family headed back to our house where we had lunch catered from our local HyVee store. Have you all ever done this? The cost was very reasonable and no one had to worry about cooking/rushing around after church. Plus the food was delicious!
Bunny runner//Marshalls
Egg Tree//Target
Napkin Rings//Target

Thankfully while we were at church the Easter Bunny hid eggs throughout the house since it was raining outside.

That evening we celebrated with J's family and money filled eggs were a nice break from all the candy. 

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Linking up with Annie for Thoughts on Thursday
Thursday, March 17, 2016

Christmastime at Disney World {Getting There & The Hotel}

Disney is magical. Christmastime is magical. Mix them together and it's almost too much magical-ness. Almost. I can't tell you how much I loved being at Disney World during this time and seeing all the Christmas trees, decorations, and hundreds of thousands of lights on Cinderella's Castle.

This was our 2nd time at Disney World, the first being in November 2012. Read about our first trip here:
Getting There & Hollywood Studios
Chef Mickeys
Magic Kingdom
Epcot & Heading Home

On our first trip magic bands weren't a thing yet and fast passes still had to be physically retrieved from a kiosk right outside the ride by inserting your ticket and then a fast pass would print out. I was SO excited when I learned of the Magic Bands and the new way of reserving Fast Passes using Disney's My Experience website and app. Each person gets three fast passes per day that you can reserve 60 days before your trip if staying at a Disney property or 30 days before with regular park tickets. Once you use your fast passes you can reserve more in the park at kiosks located at various spots in each park.

Obviously Christmas is definitely a busy season for Disney. You'll pay more for hotels, tickets, and most likely flights.You'll also have to pay for extras within the park like Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. You can also expect more crowds and longer waits although we never thought any of our waits were unbearable, even with two small children. On this trip we went with J's mom, brother, and his daughter. We left on Friday December 18th and came back Tuesday December 22nd. Although we wanted to see Disney at Christmas, we also wanted to be in our home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We flew out of St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Frontier Airlines and our flight left at 7:00am. Because we live an hour and a half away from the airport, we had to be up super early to make sure we got through security and boarded on time. Although we were tired, the adrenaline kept us going and it ended up working out perfectly.

When flying I always try to fly direct, especially with kids. No worrying about layovers, making connecting flights, lost luggage, etc. Only two airlines fly direct from St. Louis to Orlando, Frontier and Southwest. We flew Southwest the first time we went to Disney and had a great experience, but Frontier was running a sale when we booked our tickets so we ultimately went with them. While they were okay, we definitely had a better experience with Southwest. Frontier ended up having lots of baggage fees and there were no complimentary snacks or drinks. Not usually a big deal, but when flying with kids those snacks and juice keep them occupied for a good twenty minutes. Also note that the Orlando airport does not sell gum. Anywhere. We found this out during our first trip and an employee said it's to cut down on gum on the seats and floors from all the children (returning from Disney). To get around this we just made sure to bring some with us from home. And that our kids threw their gum away in a trash can:)

This particular plane had rows with three seats on each side and with seven of us we knew we'd have to split up. We decided to do J, Jack, and me on one side, Ben across the aisle from me with his uncle and cousin, and then grandma got a solo sans kids seat behind me. The flight was pretty short at just two hours and I had zero concerns about the older kids making it since they're big enough to pretty much entertain themselves or watch a show on their iPads. Jack is such a good traveler that I honestly wasn't too worried about how he would do either, but I made sure to stock up at the dollar store before we left for all the kids. I bought small little color/craft projects, toys, and plenty of snacks. We also downloaded new movies and shows, but didn't really need them and before we knew it we were landing.

There are lots of opinions on whether staying on or off the Disney property is best but I love staying right in the heart of it all. I think part of the Disney experience is staying on one of their properties not to mention that perks that come with it including extra magic hours, free transportation, etc. Since we had such a large group I knew we would need two rooms or possibly a villa or suite with multiple bedrooms. After pricing out different options, booking two rooms still ended up being cheaper than renting a larger suite or villa that could sleep us all. We ended up staying at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort and paid a tiny bit more for a water view. This hotel is classified by Disney as a moderate hotel. Once we arrived in Orlando we checked in at the Magical Express kiosk at the airport which is Disney's shuttle to and from the airport and hotels and free to guests staying at a WDW resort hotel. 

Check in this trip seemed much longer than our previous trip and we ended up waiting 45 minutes to bored the bus. And although we were up very early, none of the kids ended up taking a nap on the plane, but as soon as the bus started rolling Jack was out. With Olaf of course. The Magical Express bus drivers are so great and funny. During the ride to the hotel,  televisions play videos of the different parks, rides, and characters which get you even more excited for your stay.

Upon arrival we were immediately greeted in the lobby and only had to wait a few minutes to check in. Since we snagged a last minute cancellation reservation for Mickey's BBQ right before we left, we also had to pick up the tickets for the show that night. Long story short, there were some very confused cast members and it took forever to get our tickets but we were finally off to our room. Like most Disney resorts, Coronado Springs has a main building where the front desk, restaurants, gift shop, sports club, etc. are located and then different buildings throughout the resort property. Our building was a pretty good haul from the main building so we excited to arrive to the rooms only to notice a strong moldy smell. Our room also didn't have a lake/water (which we paid more for) and when I called the front desk to ask about it, they tried to tell me since we were close to the pool that was the water view?!? Wait, what? Needless to say they moved us to actual lake view rooms and ones that didn't smell. The new rooms were also much closer to the main building which was nice. For our trouble we were each given 3 extra fast passes for the following day which we could use in the park on any ride and didn't have to reserve it before hand! Now that's great costumer service. Not the best start to the Disney experience, but it all worked out in the end. And the grounds at Coronado Springs were beautiful despite it being mid December. 

Stay tuned for more from Disney! Up next, Mickey's Backyard BBQ.

Thinking up with Annie for Thoughts on Thursday.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Easy Easter Dessert

I made this super festive (and easy) dessert last year for Easter lunch and it was such a big hit that I'm bringing it back this year. Click here to read about how to make this adorable cake!

Linking up Alesha for Delicious Dish Tuesday.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Creating & Using a Home Binder

You might be wondering what exactly a home binder is and why you need one? A home binder is simply one central place to store/organize various documents and important information such as bills, insurance info, and even important dates like birthdays. By keeping all this information in one place, you know exactly where you can find it and trust me, it will make your life so much simpler.

Over the years, I've tried just about every home binder/management system you can think of. I've used one big binder, separate binders for each category, pre-made systems, you name it, and none have really worked for me or my family. So a couple of weekends ago I said enough, got my life organized, and created a big ole home binder that finally makes me feel like I have everything I need in one place.

What I Used:
I started by purchasing a 2 inch binder with a plastic sleeve front as well as these adorable dividers from the dollar spot at Target. Each pack came with 5 dividers and I bought two sets. Aren't these adorable?!?

Then I did what I always do and scoured Pinterest for the best free printables. Some I had used in the past, others I just stumbled upon. If you haven't heard of Emily Ley you need to head over to her blog or Instagram now! She has a variety of free printables on her website and I used her 2016 At A Glance calendar as the first thing you see when you open the binder. I also got her Simplified Planner earlier this year and I'm OBSESSED.

Next, I organized all of our important papers into areas that worked for us. Remember, this is your binder so think about what all you will be using it for. After everything was sorted these were the categories I ended up having:
-Life Insurance
-Health Insurance
-All Things Auto (insurance, tire information, important receipts, etc)
-Recipes (includes a list of favorites and ones I want to try)
-Mind Dump

*I have a BIG separate binder for all things house including mortgage papers, zoning info, homeowners association stuff, etc. That is such a huge category that it needs it's own separate space*

Once all the categories were decided, I broke out the label maker and 3 hole punch and put everything in it's place and shredded what I didn't need anymore.

And that's it! Everything you need all in one place and a place for everything.

Linking up with Annie for Thoughts on Thursday.
Wednesday, March 9, 2016

2016 Resolutions {3 Month Update}

It's March which means we're already a quarter of the way through 2016! I thought I'd do an update on my resolutions for this year which also helps keep me in check and refocus on my goals.

1. Continue to try new recipes and branch out in the kitchen.
Thanks to Pinterest I've tried some great and not so great recipes. I also hope to make an ongoing list of favorites that I can go to when I'm feeling uninspired or can't think of anything to make for dinner.

2. Travel, travel, and more travel. Whether it's close by or far away. See something new.
Spring break's at the end of this month so I'm hoping to do some day trips close by. We also still need to plan our family vacation for the year.

3. Grow this blog.
Work in progress...

4. Create a better nighttime and morning routine with both the kids and myself. We've gotten way too relaxed with these and the lack of order and organization tends to create more stressful bedtimes and mornings.
Both are an improvement from what they used to be, but there's still lots of room to improve. I'm looking at you homework time.

5. Continue paying down our debt. I paid off one student loan completely this past year and I'm coming for the rest of them.
Why can't I spend all our money at Home Goods? But since I can't were chugging right along on this one.

6. 12 acts of kindness for strangers. I've got some great, simple ideas from Pinterest so there really is no excuse. And man it feels good to give.
I've done a few of these such as put money in an expired meter, bought someone's drink, etc but I really want to get the kids involved more. I also printed some random act of kindness cards to use and have some ideas for those.

7.  Have family game night once a week.
Do dance parties count? And we've also been playing a Wii U game together almost every night before bed. 

8. Go an entire month without repeating a single outfit. And for heaven's sake-get a new full length mirror.
With Spring right around the corner I'm thinking that would be a great time to tackle this one. I've also been on the lookout for a mirror but haven't found anything I love that didn't cost an arm and leg. 

9. Do thoughtful, unexpected things for the husband.
I got him a new Apple watch band that he wasn't expecting but besides that I've kinda sucked with this one.

10. Workout 4 times a week and no soda for an entire month. Much more doable than an entire year.
Soda goal done!! And it honestly wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Now to work on the working out...

11. Strive to be the best mom I can be. Better not perfect.
Work in progress.

12. Pray more, ask for less. Have time with the Word daily.
I was doing so good getting up and doing She Reads Truth and then completely fell off the wagon. Get it together Cortney.

13. Finish decorating the house.
Slowly but surely. I finished the laundry room this past weekend because why not?!? Off all the rooms this had the lowest priority but I'm glad it's done and organized. I actually don't hate going in there now. I've also decided we're just going to hire someone to finish painting the main living area or else it will never get done. 

14. Figure out a better allowance system for Ben.
We've tried a couple different things and stick with them for a little while but then both of us loose interest. What do you all use?

15. More cooking at home, less eating out.
We're doing pretty good with this one. I've noticed that making a plan is huge and if I don't have one I'm way more likely to just grab something than cook.

And that's it. How are you all doing with your resolutions?
Tuesday, March 8, 2016

10 on Tuesday: Long Hair Edition

I'm so excited to linking up for Karli's first 10 on Tuesday so let's get right to it.

10 Reasons I Hate Having Long Hair

1. Blowing drying it takes foorreevveeerrr.
2. I'm not one of those girls who has mastered the cute messy bun.
3. Or the top knot.
4. I always run out of conditioner first.
5. So much hair in the shower, in my brush, and I'm sure clogging our drains.
6. No matter how long it gets, it's never long enough to do a side fishtail braid. How do you girls do it?
7. Highlighting & coloring takes 3x as long and costs 2x as much.
8. Static. Especially when wearing sweaters.
9. It's way too tempting to throw it in a pony tail with a headband creating that I just worked out look when in fact, I did not work out.
10. See number one.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Weekend Recap

I could have used more one day. I know I say that most weekends, but really. Just one more. And technically I had a three day weekend since I took Friday off to head to Ikea to pick up a few things for some projects around the house.

After Ikea we headed to a local pizza place for dinner where Ben decided to practice multiplication tables. For a solid hour. But don't be fooled, come over any given night during homework time and the exact opposite can be found.

As soon as we got home from dinner we all changed into our pjs and Jack and I passed out by 8:30 while J and Ben stayed up to watch a movie. It felt so great going to bed that early. I'm an old lady and I don't care.

Saturday was lunch with J's mom and then the boys went to stay with her for the night. I decided to clean out and organize our laundry room which turned into me deciding to paint the room which turned into a whole weekend project. In between painting breaks I made this recipe again and it was just as delicious as the first time. 

J and I decided to catch a late showing of London Has Fallen and I literally got ready in 5 minutes. I put forth almost zero effort since we'd be sitting in a dark theater and of course my hair happened to be having a good night. And if you like action movies, see this one. 

Sunday was part 2 of the laundry room makeover, a little Easter decorating, and a father-son game of chess followed by more pizza and The Walking Dead.
Banner from Target dollar spot

Linking up with Biana for Weekending.