Tuesday, November 24

Christmas at the Carters

I heart Christmas.

Growing up, we had a lot of fun Christmas traditions.  We did the classic ones - Christmas light drive, visits to Santa, cookie baking, etc.  But we did some different things also.  On Christmas Eve my brother and I would make pallets on the floor at the foot of our parents bed & sleep in their room.  I don't know how they managed to sneak out for their "Santa duties," but they did.  My brother and I always had a pact to take shifts and stay awake to try & listen for Santa's reindeer.  Of course, one of us always fell asleep during our shift & was to blame when we both awoke Christmas morning and we hadn't heard those famous bells!  Oh, the magic of childhood Christmases.  

We also learned at a young age how important it was to serve others, rather than being served.  We were fortunate to grow up and not really want for anything, but I knew there were many people that were not as fortunate.  My mom always took us and a few friends down to a homeless mission between Thanksgiving and Christmas to serve lunch one day.  A few of us would help in the back with the food preparation, and the rest of us would serve.  It was definitely an eye-opening experience.  I would love to continue this tradition, or something similar, with my little family as it grows.  Right now we participate in our church's Angel Tree ministry, which is a well-known Christmas ministry.  Our church puts up various trees in different locations that have paper angels written with a child's name and one or two gifts.  These children have one, or both parents in prison...which just breaks my heart.  You choose your angel, purchase the gifts listed and turn the wrapped gift in to be delivered.  It is a wonderful program and I am excited for Dane to choose his own angels as he grows.  

Another fun (& unique!) tradition we had was started by my Dad - and is so easy!  He would "disguise" our gifts so we never knew which ones were ours.  For example, one year all of the tags that said "Abigail" were actually my brother's and vice versa.  Another year all of mine had the bow in the right corner, his in the left.  So we always had to try and find out the puzzle of whose gifts belonged to who.  So fun!  

Below is the Carter Christmas list of 2015.  Fun family activities I would love to do this holiday season.

What are your favorite family traditions for the holidays?  I am always looking for new ideas to add to the list!

Merry, Merry to you!

Monday, November 16

All-American Chili

Happy Monday!  Need a quick & cozy dinner for this week?  Try my "All-American Chili!"  It is a Carter family favorite + so easy!

All-American Chili

* 2 lbs lean ground beef (or turkey)
* 28oz can diced tomatoes
* 28oz can tomato PUREE (not tomato paste or sauce)
* 1 can light red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
* 1 can dark red kidney beans, drained & rinced
* 1 yellow onion, diced
* 1 red pepper, diced
* 1-2 t garlic powder
* 2 T chili powder
* 1/4 cup brown sugar
* salt & pepper 

Directions: Brown your ground beef (or turkey) and add in chopped onion & red pepper.  Drain.  At this point, I add everything else into a crock pot, throw in the meat, and simmer on low for a few hours.  You could also put everything in your stock pot and cook on high until it is heated through.  We always top ours with oyster crackers, cheese, sour cream & green onions!  I like to serve ours with veggies & dip + a poppyseed mozzarella bread that I make.  YUM! Enjoy!  

Friday, October 2

Friday Favorites

Three cheers for FRIDAY!  Linking up with some blogger favorites...here are some of my favorites from the week!

These bars.  Oh my.  I am a bit of a pumpkin snob.  I know every company from Pop-Tarts to Tootsie Rolls breaks out a pumpkin version for the Fall, but trust me - all pumpkin is not equal.  For example, I was so excited about some pumpkin english muffins last year, but they tasted like a cross between Windex & nutmeg.  Definitely not winning a gold medal at the Pumpkin Olympics.  However, my pumpkin radar was on full force in the grocery the other day & I saw these babies on sale.  I like the other kinds that Fiber One offers, so I thought I would "give 'em a whirl." (Home Alone, anyone?)  They passed my pumpkin test.  I guess I'll go stock up since they are out for a limited time.  Sigh.

Awhile back one of my favorite bloggers posted about this Evian facial spray & just raved about it.  You spray it over your make-up and it is supposed to set everything, minimize pores & just waken you up.  I was a little skeptical because I figured my spray bottle and tap water would do the same trick.  Plus, I didn't want to spend $12 on it.  Wellllll, I don't know what I was thinking.  Last weekend I attended the DotMom conference with my friend Adrienne & she had some.  And, I made her spray me about every hour.  I'm a believer now.  I also happened to get a $10 gift card in the mail from Ulta, so $2 instead of $12?  Yes, please.  Go spritz yourself today.

A favorite book of mine this week.  This Christian mama is hil.ar.ious.  She talks about everything from surviving the 90's stirrup phase to the best fried chicken in the south.  Check it out if you need to smile.  

Another favorite book this week - more for people less than 2 feet tall who wear diapers, though.  Sandra Boynton has been a long-time favorite children's author of mine & Spooky Pookie is just adorable.  And Dane pronouncing "Spooky Pookie" is even more adorable.  

A fun Fall nail polish for Fall, "Over The Taupe".  I have had it for years.  Sometimes it looks gray, and sometimes brown.  Kind of like a mood ring for nail polish.  It made the list this week, too!

What are your favorites this week?  Happy Weekend-ing!

Tuesday, September 29


Last weekend was INCREDIBLE (caps totally needed).  

My friend and former co-worker (wah), Adrienne and I decided to head to Nashville, TN for a girls trip/Mommy conference.  Last year one of the bloggers we both stalk follow posted about a conference called DotMom that was a Christian based conference that focused on marriage & motherhood.  Not sure why it is called "DotMom"...it has nothing to do with computers or blogging.  But the decor is all dots & all sorts of cute, so I guess I get it now.  Anyway, we registered months ago and have been counting down the days for weeks.  Both of us were Nashville rookies...now how or why is still unknown.  Nashville is the Los Angeles of the South.  Being that both of us are obsessed with all things celebrity, it was the perfect location for our weekend away.

We kissed our babies & daddies goodbye & headed out Thursday morning.  Only 1.5 hours behind, but I call that winning.  We loaded up, grabbed Starbucks & got on the road.  Who doesn't love 5+ hours in a car with your best of friends?  We listened to our favorite tunes, caught up on life, made sure we were headed in the right direction & had a lot of snacks.  Like a lot of snacks.

Almost 6 hours later we pulled into our hotel & unloaded.  Our hotel was in Franklin, which apparently is the most visited town in Tennessee (even over Nashville).  Just picture the nicest place you have ever visited...and then multiply by 100.  That's Franklin.

We might have left the kids at home, but we brought their snacks.  

Thursday night we were pretty exhausted & decided not to venture out too much.  But, the conference didn't start until Friday morning, so we wanted to do something around the area before the next day.  We tried to make it to the Grand 'Ol Opry, but the traffic was bad & we don't like traffic or lines so we passed.  And we went to Target instead.  Hey - you can take the girls out of Indiana, but you can't take the Target away...or something like that.  Multiple dollar bin purchases later, we headed back to the hotel to change for dinner.

Adrienne found an adorable restaurant in downtown Franklin that we wanted to try.  Brick walls, live band, kid-free, & bottomless drinks.  Ok, not bottomless - but wouldn't that be nice?  Taylor Swift recently had dined at this restaurant & we were pretty sure we sat at her table.  So basically she should have given us free tickets to her concert (that was in Nashville that weekend...what are the chances?!)  The best part of Thursday night was our dessert.  It was indescribable.  We are still talking about.  It was made by a local pie company called "Papa C's" & we had the waiter surprise us on what flavor to choose from.  And he did a dang good job.  He brought the Ghirardelli Chocolate Fudge Pie & we were both sure we haven't tasted anything better.  But lucky for us Papa C ships his pies across the country, so we hope Santa is reading this post.  We walked through Franklin a little bit after dinner, and headed back to our hotel for the evening.  Both asleep in less than 10 minutes.

Friday morning we woke up early, showered & grabbed Starbucks to go shopping before the conference started at noon.  Again downtown Franklin was calling our name.  The whole town is very faith based & everywhere we went we heard "Have a blessed day" and saw signs of Jesus-loving people on every corner.  So refreshing.  Our favorite store was called "Philanthropy" and was just the most adorable boutique.  One whole wall in the boutique was a dedicated "prayer wall" covered in candles and soft music.  You could choose a ticket to write a prayer request on & then take someone else's to pray for.  Some were even written by children.  I chose one written by a sweet person asked for prayer in starting her family either biologically or through adoption.  Such a neat, neat idea.  We left Philanthropy with matching shirts which didn't surprise us because we left Chicago with matching Hunter boots when we were there a few years ago. #justcallusMaryKateandAshley

We ventured into a precious toy store next to grab something for the kiddos.  We ended up talking to the store owner for a good 30 minutes about the celebrities she has come in her store.  Faith Hill? Yes.  Carrie Underood?  Saw her at Whole Foods last week.  Eric Church?  Just in a few days ago.  But the best story was about the local locksmith who was recently called to hurry and unlock a rental car that was locked in the parking garage (that we were in!).  The rental car was being driven by none other than Johnny Depp.  Oh my.   Like I said - the L.A. of the South.

After a quick lunch in Franklin, we were on our way to Brentwood Baptist for the start of DotMom!  After checking in, we headed in to the worship opener and the first speaker.  After the keynote speaker, we had both signed up for the same two sessions: Kids & Emotions and Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys.  Both were AMAZING and so informative.  The leader of the breakout, David Thomas, is a Christian Family and Child counselor & author.  He was just incredible to hear.  We could have heard him speak all day.  We both were furiously taking notes & trying to take it all in.  David spoke about kids & their emotions and how we, as Moms, can handle the different emotions that arise in different stages of their development.  We also learned so much about the development of boys and what they need from us.  A lot of the ideas and advice he spoke about really resonated with me & I am already changing some things I do and say with Dane.  Even something as simple as giving directions needs to be different with boys than girls.  If you ever have the chance to hear David speak, DO IT.  And tell me when you are going.

The conference broke for dinner that evening & we ended up making our way to downtown Nashville on the "strip."  Otherwise known as Nash-Vegas.  Talk about fun.  We ate at a local bbq joint that was highly recommended by several friends & it was good.  Not good was me throwing away my credit card in the trash.  I blame the newspaper and paper towels covering my tray.  After digging through  the trash for about 2 seconds, we threw in the towel & Adrienne said she had my back the rest of the night.  We tried a few other places & ended up at a fun place on the corner where the band played everything from Garth Brooks to Gretchen Wilson.  We headed back to our hotel around 1am and dropped.  Such a fun, but long day.

Saturday we woke up super early, packed everything and headed out to the last morning of the conference.  But, we forgot to pack the 100 boxes of Kleenex we would need when hearing the keynote speaker.  Karen Kingsbury is a New York Times best-selling author of Christian fiction, and I had heard of her but hadn't read anything of hers.  Well, that is about to change.  Karen spoke for almost 1.5 hours and there was not a dry eye in the house.  She is a story-teller, so naturally would be an excelled speaker as well.  She spoke about our "lasts" with our children, and how we need to hold on and cherish those little moments.  The last bottle your baby takes, the last time they sit on their daddy's shoulders, the last high school game they will play, the last cuddle in their bed.  I couldn't handle it.  Her speech was focused around creating our own best-selling novel.  The characters in our story are our family and the hero is God.  What a wonderful best-seller that would be.  We could barely see straight to make it to the first session after Karen was finished.

Adrienne and I split up for the next session and she attended one on raising girls, while I went to one on Mothering From a Place of Rest...or slowing down.  We might not all be able to stay home with our children, but what are some areas that CAN slow down so that we can spend more quality time with these precious little people?  She definitely had some great ideas and advice to share.

The conference ended later that afternoon & we were back in the car.  The weekend was almost over. We spent the next hour or so just debriefing everything we had learned over the weekend.  Who else is better to talk to than another sweet mama?  No one.  We promised we would come back next year because there were so many other sessions we wanted to attend.

This blog post would be about 1,000 pages long if I listed everything we learned about motherhood &  marriage.  But something that David Thomas said has really stuck with me, and I keep thinking about it.  I love analogies so it is simply perfect.

Raising children is like shooting a bow and arrow.  If you do not have precision and focus, when you release that arrow it will go all over the place...perhaps even causing major damage.  But, if you release it with strength and are pointing it in the right direction, it will hit that bullseye every time.  Dane is my arrow.  God is our strength & I plan on hitting the bullseye & offering him the best little life possible on Earth.  

Thank you to Lifeway Christian for offering such an incredible conference.  Thanks to Nashville for being...well, Nashville.  We weren't prepared for all of the fun you had to offer.  Thank you to our hubbies who didn't complain (to our faces, at least) for leaving them with the littles all weekend.

And thanks to Adrienne for just being you.  An incredible wife, mommy & friend.
Just 359 days until next year.  ;)

Tuesday, September 15

Show & Tell Tuesday...Who's coming to dinner?

I am joining in this Tuesday's "Show & Tell" topic with Momfessionals!  A few weeks ago I joined in with "Who were you in High School?" topic & it was so fun!  This week's Show & Tell is What 5 people would you invite to dinner?

I decided to go with people who are all living for my dinner party.  I can immediately think of SO many non-living people I would love to invite, but no way I could narrow that down to 5.  I also went a little Hollywood with my choices - ha!

1) Kate Middleton
I mean, no brainer.  Is there anyone who is not a fan of Princess Kate?  Her style, her beauty, the way she carries herself, etc.  She just seems like an amazing woman to have dinner with!  Plus, I want to hear all the dirt on the Queen.  When she and Prince William were married my bestie Adrienne & I had a Royal Wedding Party and put our old prom dresses on (we served pizza, not exactly royal but whatever) and had the best.time.ever.  So, of course she would definitely be on my dinner invite list.  And Dane could play with George & Charlotte! :)

2) Jimmy Fallon
I have loved Jimmy Fallon since his SNL days.  He is obviously hilarious, but not in a mean way.  If there were any down times at dinner you know he would fill that space.  Especially with the next person I would invite...

3) Justin Timberlake
Ahhh, JT.  You had me back in the 90s with your blonde curls & matching denim outfit with Britney.  Justin can literally do it all.  Sing, dance, act, anything!  He should be on SNL himself, he is SO funny.  And Justin with Jimmy?  I doubt any dinner would be eaten with those two cracking jokes!

4) Jennifer Aniston & Courtney Cox
When Devin & I were first married, we spent one of our ENTIRE Christmas breaks watching Friends from beginning to end.  We still watch it all the time.  Chandler & Monica's adoption process is so similar to ours & I love that a popular television show decided to finally portray adoption as the amazing experience it is.  I couldn't pick between Jennifer or Courtney, so I would just invite them both & call it a package deal.  I want to know all of Friends secrets & beg them to sign-on for a reunion show!

5.  Oprah
Another no-brainer here.  I know there are a lot of Oprah haters out there, but I ain't one of 'em.  I would run off the bus growing up, grab a snack and watch it every afternoon with my mom at 4:00.  Interestingly enough, she was actually asked to appear as a guest on the show back in the 90s!  Oprah was planning a show on people who never go anywhere without make-up on.  After every show, they asked audience members about upcoming shows and if they knew anyone who would be good for that particular topic.  One of the audience members was a friend of my mom's and knew she never went anywhere without make-up!  Oprah's producers called my Mom and she agreed, but then they ended up going with a different topic.  Her consolation prize however, was a front row ticket to one of the tapings and she met Oprah as well!  Not bad!  Oprah would just be a fabulous dinner guest & I could probably talk to her for hours!

Those are my 5 dinner guests!  Who would you invite?

Monday, August 31

Toddler Snacks!

Happy Monday!  In order to chase away the Monday blues, I thought it would be fun to talk about snacks!  Toddlers love snacks.  And mommies love snacks.  ;)  Dane is offered a snack mid-morning before lunch, and then when he wakes up from his afternoon nap.  Sometimes he eats it, sometimes he can't be bothered.  I mean - who refuses to eat a snack?? #toddlerprobs

We eat pretty healthy in the Carter house - or at least try to!  I would say that our meals throughout the week are usually on the healthier side, and then on the weekends we are a little more relaxed.  Dane has been an EXCELLENT eater so far, and I am really hoping that continues.  So with that, I try to offer healthy snack options...but keeping in mind that kids like kid food & sometimes Goldfish or a trip to DQ do the trick!

Below are some of our favorite toddler snacks.  Things that I know Dane will go for 80% of the time.  I would love to hear your favorite toddler snacks, too!  I am always on the lookout for variety.

Happy snacking!

If your toddler loves fruit, cha-ching!  My little D loves pretty much any kind of fruit, so I know he will always eat some diced apples, banana or clementine for a snack.  He loves peanut butter also, so sometimes I will add that to his apples or bananas for a yummy treat.  

I like the Sargento brand.  Dane is just now getting to be able to "string it" himself which he thinks is fun!

Kind of like a Fruit-Roll up, minus the 100+ grams of sugar.  Stretch Island is the brand, and there are a good variety of flavors found in the natural foods aisle of the grocery.  They are easy to throw in the diaper bag and perfect for a sweet treat!

I just started offering granola to Dane as a snack and so far he has approved!  Another mama friend posted that her tot likes granola with or without milk and I thought it sounded like a fun option.  This brand is called Love Grown & is gluten-free and non-GMO.  Of course there are a TON of granola options out there you can choose from!  I just give Dane a little bowl or cup of it and he goes to town.  I also like to make Chocolate Covered Katie's chewy granola bars for all of us Carters....so good & you wouldn't know they are healthy!  

We love Stoneyfield Organic yogurt and have been buying it for meal times also.  But it is great for a snack alternative if you are in a bind.

Popcorn is one of mama's favorite types of snacks...and now Dane's as well!  I love the Skinnypop brand because it all natural - no butter, salt, etc!  It sounds gross when you have grown up on movie theatre popcorn, but it is actually really good!  Skinnypop now has several different kinds of popcorn out too.  It is great for movie theatre smuggling too - oops!

Veggie Stix are perfect for road trips, or just a quick snack when needed.  They are a better alternative than chips & Dane just loves them.  Found in the natural foods aisle in the grocery.  Veggie Stix also has an "Apple Stix" as well, which is yummy!  

What does your toddler love to snack on?  Please share!

Friday, August 21

Friday Favorites

Woohoo FRIDAY!  Here is what I am loving this week!

I mean, everyone loves Chick-Fil-A, right?!  #mypleasure  We really don't eat there much because it is expensive.  However, Dane and I stopped after a Children's Museum visit on Thursday and I was so impressed.  I was by myself with him, and after ordering I had about 3 workers follow me to the table, get a high chair, set out his placemat, put on his bib & deliver our food.  Definitely a Friday Favorites this week.

I snagged this little gem for Dane at Barnes & Noble the other day.  I was planning to wait and put it out with his Fall books, but I went ahead and gave it to him.  There is a series of these "First sports" books, and he LOVES this one.  The pages are simple with just one word and a photograph.  For example, "team" (picture), or "coach" (picture).  Currently Dane's favorite words to say are "huddle, coach, tackle, and football...so I guess the book is helping.  I am excited to get the basketball, baseball, golf & soccer books soon!

I have been using this mascara since high school & it really is the best you could ever find.  I keep meaning to put it on the Friday Favorites list.  It makes my short, blonde eyelashes stand out.  I have gotten a few friends hooked on it as well, so Lancome can go ahead & cut me a check.

Fall is almost here.  I am just waiting on September 1st to come around, so I can throw pumpkins & leaves everywhere, light my Fall candles & turn on Hocus Pocus.  Love this quote about October!

What are your favorite things this week?