Military Mondays at the Georgia Aquarium

Our favorite place to visit in Atlanta is the Georgia Aquarium. I love looking back at our pictures to see how much has changed in the short time we've lived here.

The Georgia Aquarium is the best we've ever been to and I'm excited to share that in honor of November being Military Family Appreciation Month, the Georgia Aquarium has launched Military Mondays!

As a token of gratitude, each Monday through December 28, plus November 7 and November 11, active and former military members receive free admission and their family members receive 30 percent off admission!

If you haven't been yet, or even if you have, be sure to take advantage of this wonderful offer from the Georgia Aquarium! You can find all of the details here.

Memorial Day Memories

It was our first day of summer vacation with weather that was the best combination of warm, sunny, and breezy so I was determined to take the kids strawberry picking. I texted a few friends to see if they wanted to come and when no one did I hesistated for a second about going. I'd have the stroller, the camera, two kids, a backpack, and maybe it was too sunny??  I'm so happy that I didn't let anything stop me from going.

We had a day that I'll always remember; the perfect way to start our summer vacation and Memorial Day weekend- making memories.

I can imagine what I would've done if we'd stayed home. Grocery shopping or cleaning, maybe a trip to a playground where the kids would've been occupied climbing or playing with the other kids there. We would've had fun but probably not a day to remember over the others.

I wonder about the memories we have of the nearly fifteen years since September 11th and think about how different things were for me as a child. Memorial Day meant bringing flowers to the graves of grandparents, maybe a parade, and always a cookout. It's hard to accept that for so many children of the last decade, it means remembering a parent lost fighting a war and hard to avoid worrying whether my children will grow up with a different experience of Memorial Day than I had.  

Someone posted recently that parents should make childhood magical for their kids and I thought about it for a long time after. Even though so many people seemed to find that idea ridiculous, why shouldn't there be a little magic in each day while we're here to experience it with them?

Many friends are posting reminders that this weekend isn't about parties or a summer kick-off and I agree that sometimes the meaning of the holiday is forgotten by the lucky few not affected by loss but I can't think of a better way to honor those who are no longer here or those who are missing them than by making happy memories with our families.

Celebrating the End of the School Year

Summer vacation is here and we're so ready! It was really hard saying goodbye to the teachers this afternoon, even harder than I thought it would be. As often as we move and have to say goodbye to people, it truly doesn't ever get easier. The flowers were pretty but couldn't come close to showing how grateful we are to the teachers that cared so much for our son this year!

For the school picnic I made the kids' desserts and had fun making these very simple 'sand' buckets.

I used vanilla pudding on the bottom of each bucket, topped with a thick layer of cool whip, and then covered the tops with crushed cookies to look just like sand. The buckets were a perfect size for the preschoolers and two packages of both the pudding and cool whip made 24 buckets. They're so easy to make (at 11:30 at night because that's the only time I can fill tiny toys with whipped cream and cookies in peace.)

The kids were excited to eat the sand and I will definitely make these again this summer for parties.

For a non-dairy option I also made some little blue jello 'pools' with beachball cupcake toppers stuck in them.

Unfortunately for all of the parents, most kids tried both and ate the other desserts at the party as well. I have a headache from all of the sugar. 

In the fall, I made this sign with the idea that I could reuse it on the last day and I'm happy that I actually remembered to do it! Here is the photo from the first day of school in August.

And here is a photo from today with the new year and the word First changed to Last.  He wanted to hold it in front of his head after it made me laugh but I did get a few pictures that show just how much his face has changed from baby to boy.

Now bring on the pool parties, road trips, family visits, backyard barbecues, and sleeping in (just kidding I have a toddler.) 

A PSA for Vacation Rental Owners: What Every Parent Wishes You Knew

You know that feeling you get when you walk through the door of your vacation rental after a long road trip to get there? It's the sort of relief for parents that comes with knowing it's time for worry free days filled with fun and relaxation, maybe for the first time all year.

Now imagine walking into that house and seeing a sign on the wall as your 15 month old is scanning the room for his first target that reads:

"Please DO NOT Move Furniture or Decorative Accessories! Things MUST remain in their original location! Inspector will check house upon checkout and you may be charged damages if things are not in their original location"

For a second I looked at the framed warning, its font playfully encircled by colorful butterflies, and laughed at the absurdity but the thud of a glass flounder hitting the carpet scared me back to reality and the beach house went from a vacation to a nightmare before we’d even carried in the suitcases.  As I frantically searched for the flounder's original location wondering what the fine would be for moving him, I realized my vacation was going to be work.

Summer is fast approaching and as rental property owners prepare for a busy season hosting guests, many will overlook the fact that their decor is a nightmare for parents.

So just how can a rental property owner ruin a parent’s vacation?

Don’t Skimp on the Foliage – Arrange fake plants, silk flowers, or even decorative palm trees if space allows, throughout each room of the house but don’t dust them or worry about accessibility to little people who may try to tip, rip, or even eat them.
Assume Everyone Loves Glass Tables - Each room needs at least one, preferably train table height, and with very sharp corners.
Believe There’s No Such Thing as Too Small – Provide numerous choking hazards for rainy day entertainment such as dice, marbles, and jax and store them where children can most easily reach them.
Don’t Think it’s Possible to go Wrong with Pastel - All furniture should be a pale pink, satiny fabric that the tiniest drop of liquid stains and even so much as sneaker Velcro creates a pull in.
Forego Function for Whimsy – Litter the home with beach themed decor that resembles children's toys but is in no way designed for children to play with like painted baby blocks or decorative metal shovels that look like sand toys.
When in Doubt Use Carpet- Even the bathroom needs it
Equip the Home with Poison- Make sure parents know that ants and roaches frequent the home by placing poison traps in the corners of rooms and keep insect sprays within easy reach.
Relax When it Comes to Safety- Opt for nautical themed roping instead of railings or sturdy boards to prevent falls from decks, docks, or terraces. Always resist the urge to mar the beauty of the landscape with safety fencing whether around a pool or near a busy road and if in doubt, always just assume the house is kid friendly.

Parents deserve to relax on their vacation so if you happen to own one of the many vacation houses about to be rented this summer please consider these ways your decor ruins a parent’s vacation. No house needs a glass flounder.

Heart Art for the Nursery

\Pink and red nursey decor

When I saw a hot pink animal print heart on clearance at 90% off I knew I could turn it into something a little less wild that would fit perfectly with the pinks and reds in the baby's room. 

Even though we'll probably move again before it's finished, I've been trying to decorate her nursery with homemade artwork and crafts. I made this canvas sign:

I loved this trim so much and knew I was going to use some bright pink eyelet trim that I found on sale a while ago. Because the center of the cheetah heart is raised, it provided a nice border all around it to fasten the eyelet trim to.

The first step was to cover the wild print and I used several coats of white paint to do it. The finish wasn't perfect but I wasn't expecting it to be after rescuing this piece from the cluttered clearance section.

I glued the fabric trim around the center heart and tried to trim the pieces in a way that made them fit together. 

I really didn't love the look with the heart painted white so I mixed some fuscia, red, and pink paints and colored the inside of the eyelet trim area.

I painted a small letter A red for the center of the heart for my daughter's first initial and covered it with tiny paper polka dots before varnishing it for shine.

I really like the bright happy look of the red and pink combination in her room!

Seeing Spots in the Foyer: My New Animal Print Lampshade

As much as I liked the gallery wall in our foyer, I was never happy with the lampshade that came with the black lamp I used on the table. It's a sort of flat looking shade of gold and I knew I wanted something else.

I found a black and white animal print from Ballard Designs that was exactly what I wanted and waited for months to find one in the right size at the outlet. They often had it in the chandelier shades but it took a few trips and several phone calls to find the large drum I wanted. Here it is:

I got such a great deal on it and love the new shade so much it's hard to resist looking for more to use somewhere else in the house.

One last look at the table with the old lamp:

And a look at it now with the new lampshade:

What do you think? Do you the like the new look better than the old gold shade?

Deviled Eggs Easter Appetizer

Trying to think of something to bring to your Easter gathering?

A deviled eggs platter is an appetizer that signals the start of warm weather eating to me and goes so well on Easter brunch or dinner menus. But let's face it, it's not always the prettiest looking part of the table. To fix that problem, I make a normal batch of deviled eggs and then top them with a variety of colorful toppings.

I always mix horseradish into my filling and pipe the filling on with a frosting tip but also top some of the eggs with shredded beet and horseradish. It adds a nice bit of flavor and color.

I also like to chop dill, chives, pickles, and green onion and sprinkle the eggs with all of the different toppings. Just a little extra effort makes what can be an overlooked dish more interesting to eat and look at.

Everyone has seen the platter of deviled eggs sprinkled with paprika so next time jazz it up and bring these on your egg plate. I found this egg plate at TJ Maxx and love the honeycomb like pattern!

What do you like to top your deviled eggs with?


Baby Shower Gift Card Bouquet for the Mom to Be

I was looking for an idea for a baby shower gift that focused on pampering the mom to be and loved the idea of gift card bouquet.

I thought about some of the things that became my reality when my babies were born. Aside from a Starbucks habit to combat my sleep deprivation, I spent time wondering how to make myself look presentable by way of beauty shortcuts and exercise. I decided to find some gift cards to meet those needs for her!

The Starbucks gift card is great for any mom but especially for the mom of a newborn. Because I know this mom is super fit and anxious to start getting back in shape, I included an Itunes gift card so she can download some new workout music for days that only new music will motivate a tired body off the couch. 

I included a Sephora card because I remember searching the site myself when my littles were newborns for new makeup, concealer, and moisturizer to hide the new mom face that I'd find in the mirror after a long night of no sleep!

I also included a gift card for Buy Buy Baby so that she could grab something from her registry.

Instead of buying a gift card to a spa or for a massage, these cards could all be used from home. I know when I had a newborn, as nice as a massage sounded, I just didn't feel like I'd be able to enjoy myself going out and leaving him. I was always up for online shopping though!

To make the bouquet, I used a small yellow bucket and fit a yarn covered styrofoam ball inside. I cut flowers from scrapbook paper with my Silhouette Cameo and attached them to stick 'stems' pressed into the styrofoam ball to look like flowers.

I wrote this little ditty to go with the bouquet and explain why I chose the cards that I did:

Your new baby boy will be here in no time,
So I got you some cards and wrote you some rhymes
And as your nights run into your days,
I hope this bouquet helps in a number of ways:

When you’re tired, dragging, and been up all night,
These ‘bucks’ will revive you and make it alright

When your patience is dwindling and it’s all going wrong,
Just login to Itunes and buy some new songs

When it’s time for a shower but the baby won’t let you,
Use the Sephora card to buy dry shampoo

When all else has failed and the madness non-stopping,
Just go to BuyBuy Baby and have some fun shopping!

I  love that the gift card bouquet was a way of treating the mom after the long months of pregnancy and to help her ease into the new schedule that is sure to be a challenge. 

The poem I wrote might be a little on the silly side but what better way to welcome her new role than with a sense of humor?!
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