Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Prospice {+ a Giveaway!}

A few months ago, I was at work, business as usual when my sister-in-law sends me a message via g-chat basically saying "my mom wrote a book, would you review it on your blog?" My immediate response {in my head} was "WHAAAAAAT?!" I have known Tate {my sister-in-law} and her family for almost 10 years {she and my brother are high school sweethearts} and I was completely shocked that her mom, Karen, had written a book. Not shocked because I didn't think she could do it, but because I never knew it was something she was doing. And, the fact that it was both written and published was really cool! Not to mention I have a not-so-secret-dream of someday writing and publishing a book, so I was also a twinge jealous. 

I get my copy of the book, signed copy thank you very much, and I dive in. I'm not going to lie to you, I was nervous about this. What if the book absolutely sucked? I would hate to give a negative review but there was no way I was going to encourage my beloved blog readers to read a book that was bad. Well you guys, not only was the book good, but I couldn't put it down and absolutely loved it! No lie!
The story pulled me in almost immediately and it didn't take long to really fall in love with the characters. Karen did an incredible job of keeping the story interesting, keeping it moving {don't you hate when stories just drag on?} but she also took the time to thoughtfully build the characters. I truly felt like I knew these people and for that reason felt connected to the story. I couldn't put the book down because I was desperate to know what happened to this family - not just the main character, Dinah, but all of them. To top it off I was sad when it ended. Actually bummed that I couldn't read more about these amazing people I had gotten so attached to.
Me & Karen at the launch of Prospice!
Here's an overview of Prospice via Barnes & Noble:

Struggling to move on with her life after she loses her husband in World War II, Caroline Hunt brings her two daughters back to her childhood home in Salem, Massachusetts. Caroline's chance meeting with her college sweetheart leads to a complex union that weaves two families together, bringing both great joy and heartrending sorrow. At the center of this compelling drama is the simmering, uncontainable attraction felt by step-siblings Dinah and Tru.
A profoundly stirring story of young people on the brink of adulthood and the stark realities of family life-including harrowing grief and the consequences of long-buried secrets-Prospice is rich with psychological detail and unforgettably delineated characters. In elegant prose and pitch-perfect period detail, Karen Kelly draws us deep inside the lives of her characters, offering poignant humor along with page-turning suspense that will captivate readers to the very last, revealing page.
Prospice is Latin for "look ahead," an apt designation for this beautifully wrought debut sure to be embraced by all who love The Memory Keeper's Daughter or the novels of Julia Glass and Ann Patchett. Evocatively portraying several generations of vividly drawn women, it is the story of a family that learns, through sorrow and loss, to find happiness and the strength to look ahead.
This is the first book I have finished since having Kenley and that's a big deal because it's not the first book I started. This has really been the only one to keep my attention and I finished it in just a couple of days. If you are looking for a great book to snuggle up by the fire and read during these chilly fall and winter months, Prospice is it! 

To read a sample of Prospice click right HERE!

Karen has so generously offered to give away a book to one of my wonderful readers!!! Use the form below to enter and I will announce a winner next Friday!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you don't win, go buy it in Hardcover, Paperback or for your Nook HERE.
Kindle users go HERE.

I was given a complimentary book to review but the opinions in this post are my own. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mommy & Me Chili

Now that Kenley has pretty much free reign to eat any and all foods our life at home is way simplified. I absolutely love that I am able to make dinner for Jason and I and create a Kenley meal out of what we're having! A couple of weeks ago I made my first batch of Chili for the fall which meant Kenley got her first taste as well.
I start by chopping up my veggies - onion, carrots and celery. I move all the veggies to a large pot, cover them with Beef Broth and let simmer until the veggies are soft. While those are softening I brown my 1lb of ground turkey in a tsbp of olive oil. Once browned I add it in with the veggies, followed by a can of drained black beans and a can of drained kidney beans. I then add a 16oz can of low sodium tomato sauce and let everything simmer for about 5 minutes. It's at this point that I scoop out Kenley's portion. Jason and I like our chili spicy, so I get her nice baby friendly chili taken care of before seasoning. To finish the grown-up chili I add two packets of McCormick's Chili seasoning {usually one packet of hot and one packet of mild} and then continue to season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, Chipotle Tobasco and garlic to taste. Finally, I top off the chili with some grated cheese, crispy French Fried Onions and green onions.

Delicious! And Kenley loved it too!

Don't forget to link-up every Tuesday!!

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Makeup Obsession

A few years ago I popped into Macy's to pick up some new bronzer as mine was all cracked and nearly empty and I can't possibly go a day looking less than bronzed {keep in mind this was-pre motherhood}. I'm walking around like a lost puppy looking for the NARS counter when a lovely lady informs me that Macy's no longer carries NARS. WHAT? She does, however, suggest that I head over to the Smashbox counter. So I do because at this point I just need bronzer and I don't care where it's from. You guys, my life changed that day. 

I became a Smashbox-a-holic that day and I've never looked back. 

Since becoming a mom my daily makeup routine has changed. My mornings are spent relishing my precious sleep or spending time with my babe before heading off to work, so spending tons of time in front of the mirror is just not a priority anymore. 

Enter Adi.
Adi is the face of Smashbox at the Southdale Macy's in Edina. If you live in the Twin Cities you MUST go see her, so she can help find a Smashbox makeup routine perfect for you. She has a heart of gold, knows these products like the back of her hand AND as you can see is a mama herself. Adi has a precious daughter at home with a baby boy due in just a couple of weeks! 

Adi invited me to her Smashbox makeup event this past weekend and I was pumped to let her give me a new mom-friendly makeup routine and introduce me to some of the new Smashbox products. I showed up without a lick of makeup on and actually let them photograph me as such.
I will be completely honest and tell you that these products are not cheap and in truth I spend more money on my makeup than I do my wardrobe. But you know what, your face in the first thing people see {unless you're wearing a low cut shirt} so there's no reason to skimp on your facial products. 

In my opinion, there are 4 Smashbox products that every mom needs to have in her makeup bag.
  • Photo Finish Hydrating Primer :: If you aren't using a primer before applying your make up - you're nuts. This primer seals in moisture and makes your face a perfectly hydrated and smooth canvas for your foundation. I actually put this on every morning whether I'm wearing makeup or not because I love how it feels. Plus, it gives my skin a healthy glow without the help from any other products.
  • Liquid Halo HD Foundation :: This is a new product and I am OBSESSED. This foundation not only moisturizes your skin but goes on so smooth and light and literally looks like you aren't wearing makeup. It evens out and perfects your skin without feeling heavy. It also lasts FOREVER, I wore it all day and overnight {I'm terrible at washing my face} and my skin was still flawless when I woke up. And if that's not enough it has SPF 15, is oil-free and is sweat/humidity resistant.
  • High Definition Liquid Concealer :: I think all of us moms can agree that concealer is a must-have, especially after a sleepless night. This particular concealer is nearly weightless so it doesn't give you that heavy feeling under your eyes or leave clumps on blemishes. Dark circles and imperfections seriously disappear instantly.
  • Halo Hydrating Perfecting Powder :: This stuff is the BOMB! It's a hydrating powder that reduces fine lines & wrinkles! It's nice and light but provides great coverage. If I'm just running out to the store I'll throw some of this on with my Full Exposure Mascara so I'm not scared to run in to someone I know. 
For those of you who are interested, here are the rest of the Smashbox products you will find in my drawer that I also recommend:
and of course Smashbox Brushes

The newest addition to my arsenal is one of the holiday kits, the Wonder Vision Eye Set which is on sale now for only $32! It includes an amazing 6 shadow palette, Limitless Waterproof Eyeliner and Full Exposure Mascara.

I got the "Sparks" set and absolutely love the coral and gold colors! 

What do you think?

Those of you who are Black Friday shoppers, make sure to get your little booty to a Macy's and pop by the Smashbox counter because you can get one of their "Try It" Kits for just $10!

I did not receive any products or compensation for this review. The opinions read here are completely my own.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Art of Thank You Notes

I am a complete and total spaz when it comes to thank you cards. Jason often makes fun of me for sending a thank you card for EVERYTHING, but in my opinion if someone spends their hard earned money and precious free time getting you a gift the very least you could do is spend 2 minutes hand writing a card and throwing a $0.46 stamp on there - or whatever the heck a stamp costs these days. Gifts are never, ever, ever, ever, EVER required or expected. I don't care if it's a birthday, a wedding or Christmas for crying out loud, no one is EVER expected to get you a gift. If they are kind enough to do so, they need to be properly thanked and a verbal or text message "thank you" doesn't count! If you are opening a gift in front of the giver by all means give a verbal thank you {and a hug!}. If you receive a gift in the mail absolutely make a phone call or send a text RIGHT AWAY so the giver knows you received it. But, either way you still absolutely need to send a written thank you. It's just the nice thing to do - again, these people spent time and money on YOU. 

I've got some basic tips that really help me and will hopefully help you amp up your thank you note etiquette:

*Write down gifts! Whether you write it down yourself or have a friend do it, write down everything you open so that you don't forget someone or forget who gives you what! 

*Set up shop and crank them all out at once. Yes, it can be daunting but I've found if I just sit down, put on some Beyonce, and power through, I can get them all done in one sitting. It's also helpful if you write them as you put away the gifts.

*Send them right away! I have a rule for myself that I can't cash a check or "play" with a new toy until I've written the thank you note. Traditional etiquette says thank you notes should be sent within the week {two tops!}. Wedding thank you's should be sent within 3 months. I was so worried about getting my wedding thank you notes done, I wrote them on the plane to our honeymoon! It was a great way to kill time and I got several compliments on how quickly they went out! People really do appreciate it!

I like to use the same 6 steps for all of my thank you cards to ensure proper etiquette as well as expedite the writing process. 

1. Address...the note to the gift giver{s}
2. Express...gratitude for the gift you received
3. you plan to use the gift
4. Personalize...the note so it doesn't sound like you're saying the same thing to everyone
5. Reiterate...your gratitude
6. Regards...from you

For example: 

ADDRESS: Dear Aunt Lisa and Uncle John, 

EXPRESS: Thank you so much for the beautiful Jimmy Choo shoes.

DISCUSS: I can't wait to wear them on my trip to California, they'll be perfect with this little black dress that I have. 

PERSONALIZE: It was so nice of you to stop by my birthday party, I'm really glad you were able to make it. Have a safe trip back to Florida.

REITERATE: Thank you again, so much, for the generous gift!

REGARDS: Love your favorite niece, Kristin

See, isn't that easy? I might be crazy but I actually love to write thank you notes and maybe just maybe if you follow these simple steps you will to! Now go get to thanking....

And, yes, this is Kenley's birthday thank you card - I'm not sure it gets any cuter.
photo by Sara Jayne Photography

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tired? Teething? Or Tantrum?

When you have a newborn baby and they cry you can pretty much assume it's because they're hungry. Once they grow into the baby stage, tears usually mean hunger or sleepiness. But then, of course,  you have the curve balls - teething, colic, gas, illness - the things that cause your baby to cry {usually hysterically} with little to nothing you can do to help. Now that Kenley is officially a toddler, I find myself wondering, is she crying because...

she's tired?
she has a tooth coming in?
she's not feeling well?
she's going through a growth spurt?
Or, DUM DUM DUM, is this a tantrum?

Kenley is very much at the age where she's testing the limits. She wants to know what she can and cannot get away with and she is pretty vocal when she doesn't get her way. I know this is part of the learning process and all kids go through this stage. But, what is terrifying is that it's up to me and Jason to handle this phase in such a way that results in a good kid - not a snotty, spoiled, tantrum throwing child. 

According to our doctor Kenley has gone through a major growth spurt since her 9 month appointment. She also sprouted THREE new teeth the week of her birthday. So I know at least some of her irritability is coming from pain. She also has a limit she hits when she's tired, and you can tell she's ready for a nap or bed. But still...what can you chalk up to teething, growing and sleepiness and what is straight up attitude?
Kenley knows the word "no" and will shake her head when you tell her "no", and has been doing so for months. For the most part, if you tell her "no" she will stop whatever naughty thing she is doing and move on to the next. But then every once and a while she'll keep at it and when you remove her from the situation she'll slam her arms to her side, go limp and cry....that my friends is not teething.

Again, I know all kids do this at some point or another, so I'm not concerned right now. I'm just concerned about handling it right. Right now I just let her throw the fit and not give in. I also talk to her and explain why she can't do or have whatever it is she's angry about. Whether or not she understands, I don't know, but eventually she will so might as well start now. Right?

I guess my biggest worry about all of this is that Kenley is a VERY fortunate and loved little girl, she has two parents, EIGHT grandparents and countless Aunts and Uncles who think she is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I'm not kidding - the kid sneezes and everyone goes crazy. I am so happy that she has so much love and support and I know she will grow up with no shortage of self esteem BUT I don't want her to get such a big head that she thinks she can just do whatever she wants.

I'm getting off track. My point is that I have now reached the point in parenting where I need to start teaching discipline and I'm not excited about it. There is a lot of pressure on a parent to raise a "good" kid and it really starts with discipline.

When did you mamas start to deal with little tantrums? How did you handle them?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

DIY Marshmallow Cakes

When I saw these adorable little Marshmallow Cakes on Icing Designs, I just knew I had to try and recreate them for Kenley's Birthday Party. It was such a fun project and I'm really happy with how they turned out, so I figured I'd give you all a tutorial so you can make them for your next birthday event! 

Here's what you need/what I used {this can vary slightly based on what you're doing}...

                                                                                *1 bag of large marshmallows
                                                                                *1 bag of WHITE Wilton's Candy Melts
                                                                                *1 bag of YELLOW Wilton's Candy Melts
                                                                                *YELLOW Sprinkles
                                                                                *PINK Sprinkles
                                                                                *RED Food Coloring
                                                                                *Parchment Paper
                                                                                *Decorating Squeeze Bottle
                                                                                *Mini Cupcake Liners

STEP 1: This is important, pour yourself a nice big fat glass of wine. Everything is better with wine and cooking crafts are no different!

STEP 2: Time to get to work. The first thing you're going to do is put together your candles. I did this by melting some white candy melts following the instructions on the bag. 
I wasn't sure how many of the melts to use, so I threw in about 25 and that was more than enough.

STEP 3: After the candy is melted, pour it in to a handy dandy little squeeze bottle {found at Michaels} and then begin "drawing" the base for the candles on a sheet of parchment paper. 
 It took a few to get the hang of it and I found that tapping the top of the squeeze bottle on the counter in between each one helped eliminate air. You can tell a few of them got air bubbles, but I made a TON just to be sure I had enough good ones in the end. 

STEP 4: *CRUCIAL!* You need to let your candles dry COMPLETELY! It is if utter importance that you practice some patience {this is where the wine comes in handy} and let these suckers harden all the way before moving on to the next step. 

STEP 5: Once your candles are completely dry, repeat steps 2 & 3 using either yellow Candy Melts or adding yellow food coloring to the white {I use yellow melts}. This time you will be adding the flame to the top of the candle. You want to be sure that the flame is connected to the base creating one piece when dried. 

STEP 6: Before the yellow hardens, add yellow sprinkles creating the look of being lit! 

STEP 7: Refill your wine and once again wait for the candy to completely harden. I'd say it took about 20-30 minutes. Once the candles are completely dry, pop them off the parchment paper and move them to a plate. 

STEP 8: Melt more candy, this time use the color frosting you'd like. I just added red food coloring to the white this time to create a lovely pink color. 

STEP 9: Dip your marshmallow. I dipped it a little less than half way, swished it around and then shook off any excess. 

STEP 10: Immediately after dipping the marshmallow grab a toothpick and create a hole. Next, gently insert the candle. Because the frosting will be warm, the candle will melt, so be sure not to you're not pushing it too low. And finally, sprinkle the top with your choice of sprinkles. Then once again wait for the candy to harden.


Adorable little marshmallow cakes!

To complete the project I bought these mini cupcake liners off Etsy and used those to serve the marshmallows.