Real Life with Rita: April at it Finest

Oh spring time, how happy were are to have you in our lives again! 

April has been a wonderful month. We’ve been outside a lot in the 70-80 degree days and fully enjoying watching the world come back to life. 

It did not take me long to realize something that will make this spring/summer extra exciting (for me). It will be the first time in three years that I will not be carrying a baby. 2013 was the last year I wasn’t physically toting a baby with me everywhere. In 2014 Dorothy ranged the age 6-10 months. (She started toddling in September at 11 months.) Last year Jacob was an infant and got mobile (crawling) by September at 8 months. This year they are both biped little people!

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I know I’m still going to be chasing them everywhere, trying to keep them out of all sorts of trouble. When you live where we do, trouble is just about everywhere—the same way exciting adventures are everywhere. Unfortunately, toddlers don’t know the difference too well! (mud puddles, creeks, critters, bugs…)We really need to choose an area to fence in with a gate for outside play. That would put my mind at ease some, but that has yet to happen… So many projects on the list since moving into this house.

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In many ways a baby would seem simple, because it can’t wander and get into that kind of trouble, but managing one around here? Easier said than done. Let me paint you a picture…

For Dot, she was past the age of sleeping much and wanted to be moved around, go-go-going… And we were building a house. Not too safe of a place to have a baby crawling and exploring. 

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Dorothy in her (now) bedroom, 2014

The next summer? Jacob did sleep a lot, but it still meant having to wear a carrier or have a stroller nearby and sometimes the heat got to him. Speaking of carriers and getting hot—yes, having a little person wrapped to you in 90+ degrees (plus humidity) is not too enjoyable. Add to that the fact you’re chasing a toddler under the age of two who sometimes needs carried over ditches or grabbed before falling in the water, etc. Tricky business. 

Then there is the whole breastfeeding aspect. You never know when that little babe is going to cry with hunger, which means stopping what you’re doing to nurse. Obviously, where I live “privacy” isn’t much of an issue, but, consider nursing (stuck sitting in one place and trying to be comfortable) when out at the garden or at the creek with the other kid. It’s kind of hard to manage the other tot while nursing.

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Summer 2015

We’re about a month into spring, but it feels like a little more with how much nice weather we’ve had since the end of February. We’re definitely enjoying the outdoors a lot, and I love seeing BOTH kids on their feet and entertaining themselves. It helps that our home is settled more than last summer. The grass has grown into the yard more and we’ve added both a play set and a sand table for the kids, plus I have a tub of ‘outside’ toys. The current outdoor issue near the house is the area we leveled for our future garage. (The plan was to have it done by now, but you know…  Life happens and the project has been on hold.) It tends to be a mud hole—heaven for kids, right? Not so much for the mom. Don’t get me wrong… I am all for letting a kid get muddy, but having to worry about it every time outside? Sometimes you just DON’T want to have to do a full change of clothes and mud cleaning before coming back inside.

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On the flip side… There is the creek. We’ve been lucky to have already had some hot, sunny days that allowed for water play. Like anything, the kids need monitored, but for the most part, the creek is not too deep so, unlike a pool, I don’t have to worry about them falling in and being over their heads. The rocks, sticks and nature in general provide for endless entertainment at this age. My most recent trip definitely told me I need to commit to some summer reading and take advantage of our creek trips by bringing a good book with me.

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Our garden is in its youth right now, so we haven’t spent a lot of time there, but I am SO hopeful I will actually help in the garden this year. It’s been hard in the past to be there for too long for previously stated reasons. The limited times we have been down there this year, Dorothy (sort of) understands what the garden is all about, so she wants to participate. That doesn’t mean she is really good at it yet, but it’s a step in the right direction. Keeping Jacob out of the wrong things will be an ongoing challenge, but I think he’ll keep himself much more entertained with the rocks, weeds and dirt than she did last year. I’ve even considered blocking off an area to be “theirs” where they can be free to dig, “plant”, whatever.

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I’m not fooling myself into thinking I won’t be on kid-duty all summer when outside, but I am hopeful about having my hands a little less tied. Plus there is the fact Jacob is developing like crazy and each week my heart is melted by seeing them play together more and more. By August he will be 18 months! I have a feeling their time of play outside this summer will only encourage and nourish their relationship as best buddies and to say I am looking forward to that is an understatement. Knowing they will be such close friends friends has filled my heart since the moment I found out I was pregnant with Jacob.

Bring on the warm weather and adventures. Bring on the messes and dirt. Like always with quickly growing children, this summer will be a special era of our lives that will never be repeated, so I plan to cherish it for all it’s worth.

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Want to see some of the outdoor madness in my life this April? See it in my April vlog on our YouTube channel.

Check out what’s been happening in Holly Jo’s world the last month, too! Check out the first part of April here and the latest few weeks here.  Always something exciting going on in the Johnson family!

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10 Things Tuesday: New Instagram, Greeting Cards, Summer Style & Prince

1. Insta-Beauties!
We’re on Instagram now with our very own Beauty in the Bluegrass IG account. We’d love for you to follow! We’ll share great deals we find, fashion and beauty ideas, motherhood inspiration and a little bit of good ol’ life in the Bluegrass. We want to keep up with you all too, though, so give us a follow or tag us when you find something you think we’d love so we can share it on our account too! –Holly Jo & Rita
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2. Cards
I am mildly obsessed with sending cards in the mail–birthdays, anniversaries, thank you’s… The list goes on. My friend is fundraising right now and selling these adorable greeting cards for The Kids Center for Pediatric Therapies… You get 30 cards for $30–that’s $1 a card! (If you buy cards you know that is CHEAP!) I am getting the kid birthday collection, because the number of little ones on my list these days just keeps growing. But there is a great set of ‘thank you’s and blanks’ as well as a couple of variety sets. The sale goes through Friday. If you’re interested let me know and I’ll connect you. -Rita
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3. MotherHOOD 
Being a SAHM who likes to stay comfy all day, the fun graphic tees for mom life are growing on me. Esepcially since you can dress them up with the right jewelry. This MotherHood tee by Malyn Logic is one of my favorites. (Maybe because I just enjoy her so much on Instagram!) It’s a great gift idea for a mom friend this Mother’s Day. –Rita

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4. Last Call!
These Kendra Scott earrings are super cute whether you are wearing jeans, a dress or have your hair up or down.  And the best part, they are on sale!  You can find them at Neiman Marcus Last Call, on sale! –Holly Jo
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5. Ear Relief for Littles
Do your little ones suffer from ear infections or swimmer’s ear during the summer?  We have been using the, Auro, Homeopathic Ear Relief Drops on our girls and they have been a lifesaver.  We put a couple drops in their ears twice a week.  It helps loosen up ear wax and keep ears from getting too clogged. –Holly Jo
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6. Calling on MOTHERS
With Mother’s Day just around the corner… What would you LOVE to get? Go ahead and dream or wish here without feeling bad. We know you love being MOM and you don’t need gifts more than time with your family BUT we’d love to share ideas in next week’s 10 Things Tuesday post. Sometimes moms like to treat their mom friends (or their moms) to gifts and your ideas could help. Something cute. Something tasty. Something fun. Leave your suggestions in the comments! –Rita

7. Memories of a Prince
Here’s a tiny corner of the internet to hold my sadness over the loss of Prince last week. I have fond memories of cruising with the windows down in the summer time, listening to “Raspberry Beret” (and more) with my then-roomie (and soul-sista-wife). Few mix CDs didn’t feature some Prince. Then there was the time my wedding DJ chose to play “Kiss” as the song to kick off the dance party at the reception… Having a college friend DJ your reception is an awesome thing. Thanks for the awesome dance parties, Prince! –Rita
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8. Hairband Bangles
Who else is infamous for ruining a classy, nice look by having an elastic hair tie on your wrist? My only saving grace right now is the fact I almost always have my hair UP, but when I don’t, I have to have a handy hairband. This bangle bracelets by The Bangle Bear help you keep your essential where it needs to be but give it a cute look to go with the rest of your arm candy! I discovered the on Instagram, but you can purchase in the Etsy shop here. –Rita
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9. Keep the Kiddos Close
With summer upon us… and the many fun outings and trips that come with it… this is a friendly reminder to keep your kiddos close. It’s not always just about keeping an eye out–it’s remembering the tiny world in which they live. I had a mild reminder recently when leaving the grocery. I carried my bags in one hand and Jacob in the other. Instead of trying to also hold Lou’s hand I simply walked slow and said things like, “Stay with Mama.” While she was right there with me, though, a young lady–about my size–in workout clothes (similar to mine) and a dark ponytail (similar to mine) walked past Dorothy, heading toward the parking lot. I was still headed further down the sidewalk, but Lou began to turn toward the parking lot and follow the lady. I tried talking louder and more firmly to shift her attention back to me since my arms were so full and I couldn’t grab her, but she (as usual) was in her own little world. It was a slight panic that she was walking into a parking lot (with traffic) with no guidance AND that I couldn’t just grab her. After a moment she did hear me but her confusion of thinking she was following me and now hearing my voice in another direction kept her from seeing me, even though I was only about 10 feet away and it wasn’t crowded. A slight look of panic hit her face for a brief moment before I was by her side to get her back on track. I then had her “help” me carry the bags (hold on to them) the rest of the way to the car. With Jake being the ‘baby’, it’s easy to think of my 2 1/2 year old as ‘big’, but she’s not. Remember the difference in their perspective and play it safe while out and about this summer. –Rita

10. Tank Dress 
I picked up this cute cozy racerback tank dress at Walmart today: $6.84. How cute is this to throw on for a walk with the kids or over your swim suit? -Rita

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Summer Essentials & Wish List

Summer is starting to show itself with some 70 and 80 degree days and we are LOVING it. Time to pack up the sweaters and boots and pull out the sandals and sun dresses. Here’s our checklist of essentials and a few wish list items for 2016!

Wardrobe

Sundresses and maxi dresses for days, my friends! What’s great about summer dresses is the fact many of the ‘in’ styles can be used for both dressing up and casual occasions. It’s just a matter of how you accessorize them.

T-shirt dresses are cozy and simple but with the right shoes and jewelry–maybe a cardigan–you can make them look perfect for fun summer gatherings that require a little class.

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Old Navy

Maxi dresses are a must in your wardrobe and the beauty is the array of styles and looks. Much like the t-shirt dresses, they can be dressed up or down, but they are always comfortable and cool for the warm weather.

Solids

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Color Blocking

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Prints

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Cardigans aren’t your first thought when it comes to summer-wear, but we’ve all experienced the frigid temperatures of a place that keeps their AC way too high. Or there is the occasion to dress up your sleeveless sun dress with sleeves. Cardigans are perfect for this. Your neutral colors are always handy, but bright colors that pop are perfect for summer. Check Nordstrom, Banana Republic, and Ann Taylor for a great selection. (And don’t forget to check around for coupons, special offers or sales on these sites before buying!)

Shoes

Who isn’t always ready to add a new pair of shoes to their closet? Shoes are a key part of dressing up some of the above mentioned dresses to take them to the next level.

Wedge sandals are always a summertime win. With events from weddings and barbecues to horse racing taking place outdoors, having a a sturdy wedge heal makes getting around with a glamorous look no problem.

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6PM (Zappos)

Flats are always a great essential. The standard neutral colors are staples in a closet, but summer is the perfect time to add some sparkle, color or pizzazz to your flats.

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Ann Taylor

Flip Flops go far beyond cheap plastic shoes you slip on for the pool. In fact, you can even snazz up the pool these days with super cute flip flops. Perhaps a little on the high end (especially in cost) but you’ve got to have a wish list item, right?

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Tory Burch

Mules can make for a super cute summer look. Mix the open toe bootie with good jeans or dress for just the right look.

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Jewelry

Hot summer weather makes dressing comfortably and simple a necessity. Sometimes it’s just too darn hot to put on too many layers or something that isn’t super breezy and comfy. That’s where jewelry is the magic ingredient. The right necklace can spruce up anything from a plain dress to even a t-shirt. Take advantage of using jewelry to ad a pop of color.

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Bauble Bar Ynez Y-Chain 

Swimsuits

Picking a new suit (or four!)  for summer is one of the most exciting parts of summer. Whether you plan to sit out at your own poolside, you’ve got a beach vacation planned or you’ll be hitting the lake on weekends, find the suit you feel most comfortable in. Solids are always a classy look and don’t be ashamed to go for a tankini. My post-baby body needs one and the styles available are beyond cute and flattering.

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Victoria Secret

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Sunglasses

I’m notorious for buying a zillion cheap-o gas station sunglasses, simply because I love to mix them up constantly AND I’m terrible about losing them, but having a nice pair you take care of is a great way to go. Pick something classy, like gold, that goes with everything and can be worn for any occasion.

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Ray-Ban Aviators

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Make-up Essentials:

Just because you’re suddenly outside 10x more and the temperatures rises, you don’t want your stunning glamorous look to change. While you may keep the same overall look, finding products that last all day and through water (and possible sweat!) are crucial. The Estee Lauder Double Wear accomplishes this and looks great on camera. Summer is also the time to add some pop to those lips but keep them looking smooth and moist. Nobody needs chapped dry lips out in the sun! Try  this Clinique lip gloss and for something fun, check out this Christian Dior Lipstick (Tromp L’oeil 123)

Nail Polish

Have fun with those nails this summer, girls! If you ever want to do something bright, fun and new, this is the season for it. Check out these current favorites: O.P.I.’s  bright coral “My Paprika is Hotter Than Yours”; L’Oreal’s purple “Royalty Reinvented”; and Essie’s pastel blue “Bikini So Teeny.”

We want to see your must-have and wish list items for the summer! To be honest, I also have on some new cozy running shorts and tanks. (Not that I’ll be doing much running excepting the kind that results in chasing kids!) Happy shopping, friends!

10 Things Tuesday: Summer shoes, Water Play, Aloe Plants & Day of Giving

1. Infant Self Rescue
Summer is just around the corner and that means swimming pools will be opening sooner than later! Lots of fun, however if you have little ones and they are often around pools you should look into the Infant Self Rescue (ISR) program. The instructor teaches the child how to float and yell for help if he or she accidentally falls into the water. This program could save a child’s life and we plan to start the class this month. -Holly Jo
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2.Creek
It was our first VERY warm weekend–sunny and temperatures in the 80s–so with lots of little cousins together there had to be some fun in the creek! Sure, everyone loves the pool, but I am telling you, there is something whimsical and amazing to youngsters about a creek bed full of cool, running water and lots of rocks. -Rita

2. #GiveBellarmine
From today at noon until tomorrow at noon, Bellarmine is having their annual “Day of Giving”. They are aiming for 419 donors this year, and you better bet I will be one of them. To begin putting into words what my college experience brought to my life is not really possible (especially on a 10 Tuesday post), and I may dread paying my student loans every month, but what I gained at BU was worth every penny. I am grateful for those who gave before and helped get it where it was for me, and I want to pay it forward.
Click here to join the action! -Rita
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4. Summer dresses FTW!
I’ve decided I may keep Dorothy in dresses all summer long–they are so easy! For one, it’s one item of clothing instead of two. Secondarily, I’ve gotten a slew of them at next to nothing prices second-hand, which is perfect for play around here. Third, she loves them so it makes dressing her easy. She’s always excited to put one on. I highly recommend keeping summer wear simple for your toddler girls and having plenty of dresses for all occasions. -Rita

5. Water shoes for toddlers
What kind of water shoes do you keep on your toddlers for the lake/creek/rocky terrain? I have a pair of hand-me-downs Dot is wearing and they are great–once they are on. Getting them on is the battle, though. The openings are SO tight we’ve had to use a butter knife as a shoe horn to get her feet in! Once they are on, though, they are perfect for staying on her foot, giving her grip and protection, and keeping rocks and whatnot out. Do you have a preferred water shoe for toddlers that is perhaps a little easier to take on and off? -Rita

6. Flip Flops Galore!
Wal-Mart has the cutest flip flops for little girls and they are only $0.98!  The smallest size is a little big for Sadie Jo, but she loves them nonetheless and for under $1 you just can’t pass them up! -Holly Jo
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7. Diaper Clutches
I’m hearing more and more moms who love carrying a diaper clutch. Super cute and just big enough for the must-have diaper-changing items. This way you don’t have to bring the ENTIRE diaper bag into the store with you on every run. Those pictured below came from this shop-Rita
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9. Jamberry Autism Awareness
Continuing on the theme of Autism Awareness Month… Last week I shared a way to support through a jewelry purchase; this week, here’s a way to get your Jamberry Nails fix AND support autism awareness. I’m not sure if this link to the Facebook event will work, but here is the direct link to the party. -Rita
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10. Burn Relief: Aloe
Summer, pools, warm weather!  That means there could be the possibility for sun burns.  Hopefully you wear enough sunscreen.  But if by chance you or your little one gets a little too much sun it’s always great to have an aloe plant at home.  My mom always had one and there is nothing better than fresh aloe gel on a burn.  They are super easy to maintain and bring a little green to your home. -Holly Jo
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I challenge you…

Yesterday was Mingus Man’s 30th birthday—the start of a new decade. I’m sure, whether you’ve hit this milestone or not—or if you’ve far surpassed it—you feel the same way in that time has flown and it’s also hard to believe how much you’ve experienced.

When I turned 30 this past year, more than anything, it again made me count my blessings for what an amazing life I’ve led so far. Sometimes I’m in awe over the opportunities I’ve had, the friendships I’ve made, and the kind of family I’ve been blessed with. 

I think we all know how easy it is to desire “more”, despite how blessed we are. The internet has us ruined, as we see so much “good” that others have and, naturally, we compare. Does our home look that nice? Do our clothes measure up? Are our kids as well-behaved? As smart? 

Take a moment and reflect on your life and what is WONDERFUL about it. In particular… Think about TODAY and how much you should be grateful for… Ask yourself these questions and let your heart be filled with whatever your response may be…

  • Where did you wake up today?
    Be grateful it was warm and dry.

  • What did you eat today?
    Be grateful you are nourished.

  • What are you wearing today?
    Be grateful you are clothed for the season.

  • Who was the first person you talked to today?
    Be grateful for the people in your life.

  • What method are you using to read this?
    Be grateful for the resources you have in your life.

  • What’s something you are going to do today?
    Be grateful for the freedom to do so much any and every day.

  • Have you bought anything today?
    Be grateful for the money you had to spend.

  • Did you work today?
    Be grateful for a job–whatever kind it is.

  • Did you tell someone you loved them today?
    Be grateful for the love in your life.

  • Did you go anywhere today?
    Be grateful for a means to go places, to do things and to see people.

My challenge for you over the next week is twofold…

First, take a minute to run through these questions every day. Be grateful for every answer you come up with.

Second, find something spontaneous to do each day. Maybe it’s jumping in the car and going somewhere; it could be dropping what you’re doing to play a game with your kid; it could even be a random night out (for some that means drinks with friends—for some (like me) it means leaving the hubs home once the kids are in bed and doing some shopping!) Either way… Make your day an adventure. That’s what life is about.

10 Things Tuesday: Jewelry, Firepits, Tents and Sephora

1. The Pits
Since moving to the new house we’ve made all sorts of plans of how we’ll build out the yard and exterior. A permanent fire pit/grill is a no-brainer. We’re looking at completing this project soon and I’ve been doing a little research. This is a pretty thorough tutorial by a ‘real’ couple. We’ll probably use stone from around here for a less conventional look. If anyone has suggestions, please share! -Rita
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2. Tent time!
Who loves to camp? I’ll tell you who: your kids! Turns out I had a pop-up tent hidden under Dorothy’s bed I had no idea about! It was a hand-me-down toy and I thought it was something different and had yet to get it out after having it for over 3 months. Got it out last week to realize it was a pop-up dinosaur tent and my two have had the BEST time ever inside with it. Even reading books is more fun in a tent! -Rita
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3. Bum Genius
I mentioned in this post that my preferred cloth diaper is the Bum Genius brand. Some styles are currently on sale on the Cotton Babies website, $14.95. It’s also worth joining their mailing list. They have major ‘seconds’ sales where you can find perfectly fine and new diapers that have a small error–like a wrong stitch. I have never noticed any problems with the seconds I have bought for half the cost. -Rita
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4. Garden much?
Has anyone else started their spring garden? We are doing ours with my parents… So far we have greens and beets in the ground… Broccoli plants are finally in after being under grow lights. The seed potatoes will go in soon and Mingus’s garlic plants are looking good. Next? Peppers will be soon and the sweet potatoes have been ordered! -Rita
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5. Qalo Rings
Mingus turns 30 this week! Eek! One thing he requested is a Qalo ring to wear in place of his wedding band. Mingus does a lot of outdoor work with his hands (from gardening to cutting wood–now fire fighting…) The Qalo rings are made of medical grade silcone and meant for those with an active lifestyle where the traditional bands can be disruptive. Mingus would like to save his nice band for nicer occasions and wear the Qalo ring for daily use. They are super cheap and if you husband does a lot of work with his hands–or works out often–good chance he would appreciate this ring! -Rita
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6. Fancy Nails
I’ve never been the one to doll myself up so doing it to my daughter isn’t part of my M.O. either; however, that is what Dot has her Auntie Rach around for! My sister painted Lou’s fingers and toes last weekend and Dot LOVED it. She saw it on a Max & Ruby cartoon and has always mimicked painting her nails. Last night in bed we asked her to show them to us again and she had a minor panic when she thought her nail polish color had turned black (because the room was dark). -Rita
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7. Shop for a Cause
Early in the month my Facebook feed was flooded with Autism awareness, but it’s kind of died down even though the entire month is dedicated to Autism awareness. Here is something small and simple you can do: shop for a cause on Stella & Dot style. Proceeds go the the Holly Foundation and the original bracelet chosen this year sold out in a matter of days! They added a few more options to continue it through the end of the month. Only $19–get one for yourself or a friend. You may know a stylist or click here to support my friend’s business. -Rita
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8. Catch the flu–Before it catches you.
The flu is in full swing right now.  If you feel like you might have the beginning symptoms of the flu, head to the doctor immediately.  When diagnosed within the first 24 hours they can give you a prescription that will shorten the length and severity.  Nobody wants to be stuck in bed for over 5 days! -Holly Jo

9. Sephora Sale!
Need some new makeup?  The Sephora VIB sale is going on now!  April 12th, today, is the last day for you Beauty Insiders to get 10% off your order.  Beauty Insiders use code BINOTE.  April 13th, is the last day for VIB customers to get 15% off.  VIBs use code VIBNOTE.  Happy shopping! -Holly Jo
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10. BFF Time
If you tuned into last Friday’s vlog, you saw Jo & I got together. It was the first time in far too long and it was so much fun! It was also wonderful to see our little mini-me’s having a blast together! Here’s to hoping the warmer weather brings us together more often and allows time for YOU to get together with friends and family you haven’t seen in awhile!
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Derby Eats: The Louisville Eatery Guide

Spring is in the air and in horse country that means big hats, bourbon and the Kentucky Derby. I joined Jo on the vlog today to talk about some of our first-hand experience as former Louisvillians and the insider scoop on Derby, how to dress, and all of the events throughout the two week festival. Check it out here.

But the number one rule for anyone visiting Louisville is you EAT WELL. There is way too much good food in the ‘Ville to consider visiting a chain. 

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You can obviously go to TripAdvisor and get some great tips, but here is a rundown on the direction I suggest you take when choosing your meals during any Derby-ing you may do.

Breakfast

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If you’re up for a full scale eggs, bacon, pancakes—the works—breakfast to start your day, check out one of these locals. Most are located in great areas of town, so you can walk off that full stomach with some local shopping.

North End Cafe is a personal favorite of mine. There are two locations in Louisville, it has a great menu and prides itself on the wholesome options. (If you choose somewhere else for your breakfast needs, this is a great option for any other meal of the day.)

Toast on Market is a one-of-a-kind stop. The menu is less extravagant than some may want if really wanting to do breakfast big, but everything is made from scratch. It’s in the East Market downtown area and close to NuLu, a great place to head for some local shopping after breakfast.

Highland Morning is another local favorite, but I have never eaten there myself. It touts numerous awards and a full breakfast menu. It’s located in the heart of the Highlands, a Louisville-centric neighborhood full of some of the best shopping.

Wild Eggs is a favorite primarily found in the Ohio Valley region and several locations in the area. The service and atmosphere are top notch and the menu is full throttle and even includes a gluten free menu.

Coffee & Pastries

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If getting up early enough to get a table for breakfast isn’t the way you want to start your day (or big breakfasts just aren’t your cup of tea), but you still need your java and a little something… Louisville’s coffee and donuts are not to be overlooked. If you’re a sucker for small, local coffee shops like me, these don’t disappoint.

Heine Brothers can be found in nearly any corner of the city–it’s just that well-loved! It’s a must-stop any time Mingus and I are in the area and we almost always keep their beans in our freezer for our Sunday morning coffee. It’s perfect for grabbing a cup and running (several have drive-thrus), or for starting your morning with some relaxation in the cafe.

There are numerous small coffee shops throughout the city. Quills Coffee is in the Highlands and the epitome of a cozy coffee shop–and not to mention good coffee. Please and Thank You has a downtown (East Market) and a Frankfort Avenue location. It even offers breakfast options beyond pastries.

If a sweet start of pastries is more your thing, DONUT worry… Nords Bakery is family owned–but we warned! The donuts can sell out fast in the morning. It’s a favorite by any donut lover in Lou. Plehn’s Bakery, has been around since 1924 and is still going strong and for good reason.

Dining

I’m not going to sit here and pretend I know all there is to know about dining in Louisville or that I’m some sort of restaurant reviewer. Honestly, there really are so many great places and it’s all dependent on what you’re in the mood for and what kind of price you are looking to pay.

My top tip for choosing a place is to use the LEO Weekly Reader’s Choice List. These are the top picks in every category imaginable by the REAL people of Louisville. Who better to trust? Want steak? Sushi? Pizza? Mediterranean? Check this list. (You can also find great ideas for other entertainment and shopping on this list.)

Fine Dining

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Ramis’s Cafe on the World is my personal favorite place to take anyone visiting the city. It’s in the Highlands–an area close to my heart– has a unique and great atmosphere and the menu is one-of-a-kind. I’ve never had a single thing that left me disappointed. Much of the menu is vegetarian-friendly and all of it is very affordable.

Proof on Main is where you’re going to pay top dollar, but it prides itself on both the food and the artistic culture. Part of the 21c Hotel and Museum, Proof will give you much to talk about–even its bathrooms. You definitely need a reservation if you plan to dine here during derby.

Lilly’s Bistro in the Highlands is another fine dining experience that does not disappoint no matter what you order. The menu changes frequently, so be up for anything. Mingus and I personally know the family who own this business. They don’t just cook incredibly for business, but it’s just in their nature. They can’t make bad food!

Brews, Burgers & Lunch

Beer and Burger

BBC (Bluegrass Brewing Company) is a favorite local distillery. If you want some all-American food options and a great brew, you can find BBC in two locations, both differing slightly in their offerings. And if you’re going for a burger, get a bison burger.

Cumberland Brews is where we would take someone who wants a small-shop brewery. Enjoy a meal and a brew–or just a brew–and even sit on the streets of Bardstown Road to take in what it feels like to be a local.

Hammerheads is not the easiest to find, but once there it’s affordable and hard to choose which direction to go with your order. The good news is, it’s all SO good. It’s small and doesn’t take reservations, so you may find getting a table a little tricky. The menu has a wide variety of unique options.

Frank’s Meat & Produce is not one you will simply stumble upon (or perhaps that’s the only way to find it?) Consider this my hidden gem I’m sharing you that you won’t find on other lists. It’s so off the radar, but the best bang for your buck. Seriously, you pay $5-$8 and get SO much food! (Also, it’s not far from Churchill.)

Ice Cream & Treats

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Where are you most likely to find something unique and different to crush your sweet cravings? Given, a lot of the restaurants you are likely to dine at will have a fabulous dessert menu, if you’re just out for a treat, these all have numerous locations in the city.

Homemade Pie and Ice Cream Kitchen, is our favorite swing through stop for something sweet these days. Why? Not only is it homemade and delicious, but it will fill whatever craving you and anyone in your group has. They offer everything from ice cream and pies to cookies and cakes and more. Honestly, the hardest part is deciding what to get!

If you know you are in an ice cream mood, though, Graeter’s and Comfy Cow are both stellar options with a wide variety of unique flavors. I wouldn’t be surprised if they even added some specialty options during Derby festivities.

If you’re more of a frozen yogurt person, there are options for this throughout the city. And for those of you with food allergies–like my husband–check out Annie May’s Sweet Cafe. An amazing selection of allergy-friendly treats.

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Be warned, even on a non-eventful weekend, some of the best breakfast spots will have a decent wait, so Derby weekend will only mean for that much more of a crowd. Get there early, plan for a wait, or try for a reservation if they take them.

Enjoy your Louisville experience, and make sure the food is part of it.

If you’re a Louisville native/local, leave your top choices or recommendations in the comments!

10 Things Tuesday: Holly Jo & Rita Friendship Facts

It’s a busy time for me with several things on my plate, so here is non-traditional 10 Things Tuesday list for you. Learn a little more about mine and Holly Jo’s history and how close our lives have always been.

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[1988]

1. We rode the school bus together for seven years.
We were on a crowded and smelly bus before 7AM practically every morning through our entire elementary school years and we always shared a seat. Sometimes we had a third person in our seat… Including someone who bullied us! We eventually upgraded and locked in our third seat-mate as another one of our cousins. 

2. We were hostesses from an early age.
In college we loved to host parties. As adults we love hosting events at our homes. As kids, we were always ready to put on a show. Seriously… One time we went to the extreme of sitting our teachers down after school and requesting that there be an assembly in the gymnasium so that we could put on a special singing and dancing show for the entire school body. We were serious about these things from an early age.

3. We were once in the same class.
Although a grade apart we shared the same teacher in 2nd/3rd grade. It was a dream come true. By then we both had our own friends–many of which were in our class as well–but even that did not matter. We did EVERYTHING together that year and USUALLY let our other friends be included. (#meangirlsalert)

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[1995: Easter with our cousins.]

4. We did every class and activity together in childhood.
Dance. Drama. Peewee basketball. Swim lessons. We did it all together. And I cannot think of anything one of us did alone. Neither of us ever cared to play tee-ball/softball. We never took any kind of music lessons. (Ironically, our shortest endeavor was dance–something she and I both love to do, to this day. Too much structure, I suppose. We have our own style!) We even shared the same crushes. But don’t worry, MJ and Mingus… We grew out of this years ago!

5. We shared hairstyles at one point.
There was a year or two where we both only wanted to wear a single french braid in our hair every day. Jo was much more insistent about it than I, and I cannot say I ever saw her at school without that braid. She was also very particular about the tightness and smoothness of the braid. (Yes, this is the same big, beautiful haired Holly Jo you know. There was a time she wanted her hair as flat to her head as possible.)

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[1997: Collage made by me for Jo before she moved.]

6. We were “out of touch” for about 5-6 years.
Our most out of touch point in our lives was when she moved a county away, after living a mile down the road, and attended a different middle and high school. It was a pre cell phone/texting/social media era and, with both of us being involved in sports and activities, time together was infrequent and phone calls were non-existent. Even with this, we somehow managed to be close–I even knew most of her closest friends. Getting to a driving age definitely helped and I was able to spend time hanging with her new friends.

7. We attended the same college.
For completely our own motives, we both ended up choosing Bellarmine University for college. Unlike second and third grade, we did a better job of maintaining our own lives and circles of friends, (I ran track and was a newspaper editor/she was president of the activities council.) Still, we had weekly dinner dates in the cafeteria, shared numerous friends, had our first drinking experiences and made a million hilarious memories.

05.03.23 Peat&Holly
[2005: My freshman year at Bellarmine.]

8. We lived together for a year and then shared a room for 6 months.
We shared an apartment for a year while both working in Louisville. Our now husbands (then boyfriends) both lived out of town, so we spent our week nights together and were typically both off to see our men on weekends. Once engaged, we both moved out of Louisville, but my brother and his wife rented us a room to stay in, as needed, since our jobs were both still in the ‘Ville. So a few nights a week, we even shared a bed! When you grow up like sisters, it’s not weird at all.

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[2010 – My 25th birthday at mine & Jo’s apartment.]

9. We got engaged and married within the same year.
Although she started dating MJ a little over a year before Mingus and I got together, we were engaged within a few months of each other and then our weddings were within the same year. Her’s was in the city at the cathedral and a reception at Keeneland. Mine was in my tiny hometown church with a reception in a field. Both were awesome celebrations with a TON of dancing.

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[2011: At the salon the day of my wedding.]

10. Our daughters and 1st children were born less than 3 hours apart.
Neither of us were trying to get pregnant when it happened the first time, but it happened and when we told each other we found out our due dates were 4 days apart. If that wasn’t crazy enough, we ended up with very similar (LONG!) labors at the exact same time and our daughters arrived within 3 hours of each other.

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[2013: SJ & Lou at 2 months old]

BONUS: We moved into our “forever homes” within a year.
She bought and I built, but we both moved into the homes we are in today within a year of each other–pretty overwhelming and scary events for single-income families. We pray for each others’ families every day and hope we are following God’s will. We hope these are our forever homes, but His will be done.

One Simple Change: Shake It Off

Last Month’s Review: March

Goal:Pack a lunch for the hubs at 3 out of his 5 work days

Fail/Success? Call it even? Mingus did take lunch at least 3 days a week throughout the month; however, I didn’t do it to the extreme I’d hoped. In my defense, Mingus doesn’t like ‘fancy’ or different lunches. If I’d mixed it up too much he probably would not have been excited. I know… That’s weird. He prefers the staples. So we did a lot of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, canned soup and leftovers. I usually added in crackers, chips or pretzels as a snack, and an apple or carrots. He began to really prefer having an apple in there. He also started taking bars for breakfast—mainly the Juice Plus Complete Chocolate bars.

What I got out of it: It was a great reminder in how easy it can be to throw a lunch together. It’s really just a matter of not being lazy and getting out of bed to do it. It also helped us use up leftovers that sometimes end up going bad in the fridge. Additionally, of course, we saved a good amount of money on Mingus not hitting up places like Wendy’s, Arby’s, and Subway on a weekly basis. They really add up! And the other great thing about that is that he was eating much healthier than what he gets at almost any fast food place. (This coupled with the fact he gave up sugar for lent, so he hasn’t been drinking or buying soda is wonderful!)

Moving Forward: I know I prefer, as does Husband, to keep sending him lunches frequently. It’s also good for his sensitive body and all of the weird reactions he has. Even when eating “safe” foods, oftentimes fast-food ends badly. There is butter in something or it’s cooked on the same place where beef was cooked—thing like that affect him highly. The “packed lunch” train is something we’ve wanted to be on for awhile, so I’m planning to stick with it.

New Challenge: April

Goal: Fix smoothies/shakes at least 4x a week

healthy-smoothie

Motivation behind the challenge: This is for me and the kiddos. They love smoothies. Seriously… One day I made smoothies for them, which they finished in no time. They mooched mine immediately following. Later that day we visited my aunt who’d made one for herself… They mooched it. That night, they saw their Nana (who had a smoothie) and they mooched hers. They honestly can’t get enough. But I cannot complain.

What I love about a smoothie is that even if I don’t get tons of fruits/veggies into the kids in a meal, I know the smoothie does that for them… Not just the fruit I put in, but the Juice Plus Complete full of its whole food nutrition. 

But what about me? Why do I need this in my life? Two big reasons:

  1. Rounding Out My “Meals”
    While I do love smoothies, I’ve never gotten into a habit of making them for myself regularly. As a stay-at-home-mom, sometimes you don’t get complete meals. You graze the kids leftovers (sometimes very gross) and nibble as you put their lunches together. Getting smoothies into my daily routine will help guarantee good nutrition AND fill my tummy.
  2. Late Night Cravings
    I found that during my sugar-free lent streak, a chocolate shake or smoothie REALLY hit the spot. Obviously lent is over, and sugar is open for business, but that doesn’t mean I need to jump back on that bandwagon. A chocolate shake at night will also be my easy avenue for getting my count in at the end of the day when smoothie-making just didn’t happen!

I’ll be using my Nutri-bullet and following the basic guidelines I laid out previously in this post.

When’s your favorite time of day to make a shake or smoothie? Share your favorite recipes in the comments!

See some new recipes Holly Jo tried last month and check out this month’s challenge on the vlog!