Real Life with Rita: MAY the Madness begin

Summer is a crazy time of life–for everyone. May is the springboard month for that craziness. It was great to start getting out more in April, but this past month, the pace definitely picked up–and I don’t even have the wild aspect of the “end of school” in m life right now!

Every weekend in May has had activity (as will this coming Memorial Day weekend) and with the exception of a chilly week of 50-60 degree days (What was that all about??), we were out and about and it was for the better. It was complete with many of the to-do’s that make up many people’s summers: holidays, road trips, swimming, picnics, and weddings.

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Road Trip: We took our first summer road trip the first weekend of the month, traveling to North Carolina to visit family and see my cousin graduate from UNC Chapel Hill with her Masters in Accounting. What could have been an 8-hour drive with my Mom was, of course, closer to 10-11, thanks to two kiddos. I definitely took advantage of all toddler road-trip knowledge I have at this point in my motherhood ‘career’ and the kids did AMAZINGLY well for 15 months and 2 1/2 years. It actually gives me a lot of hope for our trip to Myrtle Beach later this summer (and some ideas on how to make it go even smoother.)

If you missed it before, here is a quick vlog I put together of the NC trip.

Mother’s Day: We made it home in time to celebrate Mother’s Day in the best place I can imagine–our home! It was a beautiful and perfect day and this mom could ask for nothing more than time outside with the kids and seeing them spend time with their Pop. (Who, by the way, added awesome flower beds to the front of the house while we were gone on our trip.) We had our first supper on the porch–a Mingus special: fried chicken. (And believe me when I tell you WISH you could be treated to his homemade fried chicken!)

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Baby Shower: The following weekend was our most low-key and the dreary, cooler weather also made it more uneventful. Dot and I attended the baby shower of a close friend right here in our county. She’s the mom of four beautiful boys–the youngest being Jacob’s age–and she is expecting her first daughter any time now! I am beyond excited for her! So while Lou and I had our mommy-daughter time, Hubs took Jake-O to do some “man” things and picked up some plant starters for the garden.

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Wedding: The third weekend we were fortunate to have some of our favorite visitors stay with us: Mingus’s parents. We are so blessed that, despite being four hours away, they are more than willing to regularly make the drive to visit us and the kids. While the weeks’ cool weather wasn’t quite gone, it was a little dryer, so ‘Mamaw’ got the kids outside with her and later on Saturday, Mingus and I took off for Louisville for our first wedding of 2016. Primarily a friend of mine, BK graduated from Bellarmine with me and then spent the next year being a part of almost all of my great memories in Louisville. He then took a job to teach English in South Korea and, believe it or not, has been there pretty much since. He moved back a little less than a year ago and just married the love of his life whom he met during his South Korean adventures.

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The wedding itself was such a joy for me. I always appreciate seeing the little details a couple uses to create what is their perfect day, but to top it off, this was the first sans-kids getaway with Hubs since December, AND I got to see nearly all of the people I spent my post-college days in Louisville with. Some of them I see and catch up with regularly  (like my younger brother Deutsch who was in attendance), while others I have not see since Deutsch’s wedding last May. It’s incredible to see the paths all our lives are on, now that we’re ending the “20’s era” and on to our 30’s. Mingus and I enjoyed hashing memories of them all (as these are all friends of his too) on our 2-hour drive to and from the event, laughing at the little details we know and love about our friends. I am beyond blessed to have such an array of people in my life that I can call TRUE friends. It is actually how different we are that makes our circle special. We can love and admire the passions that drive each individual couple’s journeys and live vicariously through each other.

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Gardening: I have to give all of the credit to Mingus on our garden’s status. Everything is planted and seems to be growing, if not thriving. We’ve divided up crops with my parents since we are sharing the garden plot and will share what each produces. I’m thrilled over the fact I have actually gotten to spend some time in the garden already. Weeding was always a chore assigned to my brothers and I growing up, but now I find it relaxing and therapeutic and am grateful I’ve been able to contribute in this way. Our lettuce greens are ready for the picking and we enjoyed our first garden-fresh salads last weekend. Dot even helped her Pop with the picking.

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Swimming: We had our first visit to a pool; although it was a bit of a fail, depending on how you look at it. We visited HJ and the Johnson house for the first time in MONTHS. Lou could hardly contain her excitement. We were really looking forward to a dip in the pool, as the day before was 80-degrees and sunny, but the day of the trip was very overcast (although still warm). We would have skipped going out to the pool all together, would it not have left Lou so disappointed. The worst of it was the fact the heater had not kicked on properly so the water was FREEZING! Fortunately, for me, my kids were content on the steps, meaning I didn’t get more than my feet in. Jo was not so lucky, but she was a good mom and didn’t little little SJ down and embraced the frigidness. I truly am looking forward to pool trips with these kiddos this summer, knowing the fun Dot had last summer. Sure, they are at an age where I have to be on high alert constantly, but experiencing their joy is priceless.

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Also sprinkled throughout the month were doctor appointments for both myself and the kids, park and library visits, and numerous walks and picnics. I already know summer is going to fly by and I have to do all I can to cherish every moment. There will never be another summer like it, and I am realizing more and more how quickly this era with my kids will pass. I definitely have days where I want to pull my hair out, but sometimes I stop and think about how these will be memories one day and the adorable things they say and do right now will feel like a blip on the radar and I’ll miss it so much.

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For some insider looks at the month of May… Enjoy my vlog (below) and you can tune into HJ’s beach vacation and more here.

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10 Things Tuesday: Beauty & The Beast, Disney on Netflix, Puddle Jumpers & Burberry

1. Bentley’s Barkery
You guys!! My long-long-long time friend wrote a BOOK! And a kids’ book to boot, titled Bentley’s Barkery. It looks adorable! I can’t wait for my copy to arrive and to send copies to all of my friends with kids. Get your copy on Amazon! -Rita
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2. Blake Brags on Bluegrass Babes
WE know Kentucky women are awesome, but apparently even big timers get the drift. Blake Shelton was recently quoted on a radio interview talking about women from Louisville, Ky, saying they have “the entire package”. I think it’s safe to say that is the case for every Bluegrass babe, amIright??

3. Simplest Salad Dressing
Want the recipe to the simplest salad dressing ever that is impossible not to like? It came from the book I’m currently reading: Apron Anxiety. Just combine equal parts extra virgin olive oil, white vinegar, and sugar. That’s it! But it is REALLY good. Now that our salad greens are ready in the garden, I’ll definitely be keeping this on hand. -Rita
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4. Puddle jumpers
If it’s your first summer with kids and pools/water/lakes/oceans, and your trying to figure out what swim gear you need, here’s the simple solution: Get a Puddle Jumper. I always saw kids wearing these and didn’t know if it was kind of just “the thing to buy,” but they honestly work great. They come in different weight sizes, so check what’s right for your kids, but they will make water play much less stressful for everyone. (They are sold at most basic retail locations or Amazon.)
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5. Wedding Season Begins
Hubs and I attended our first wedding of 2016 last weekend and had a blast. It’s that phase of life where sometimes you feel like there is a wedding every weekend, but the beauty of it is the fact life is SO busy that without such events, there are friends and family you may never see otherwise! We had a great time catching up with a lot of our Louisville friends. Tune into my blog/vlog this Friday for more. -Rita

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Congrats BK & Kate!

6. No Burberry in the Bluegrass?
I wanted to try the new Burberry foundation. However, none of the stores in Kentucky carried it. I reached out to customer service and after multiple emails, the Customer Service Senior Manager, Darren, sent me three foundations to try, for free! Amazing Customer Service! (Stay tuned for review and feedback on the vlog!) -Holly Jo
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7. Beachin’ with HJ
It’s almost officially summer and school is finally letting out. Get a peek at the Johnson family fun in Destin, FL last week in the vlog coming this Friday! -Holly Jo
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8. Beauty & the Beast
THIS is exciting and even if you’ve already seen this preview, you know you want to watch it for the 2,826th time! Emma Watson is living all our dreams by actually BEING Belle! And the fact this teaser has THE Beauty & The Beast music just MAKES it. Why must March be so far away?!

9. Disney on Netflix
Speaking of love for all things Disney… Netflix recently announced that they will become the EXCLUSIVE streaming service for Disney beginning in September. That means… If it’s Disney, Netflix will be the place to find it. They will also exclusively carry all films Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm.

10. Biscuits on a Stick
Any  Memorial Day weekend plans? Here’s a tasty snack for the campfire you may not have tried before: Biscuits on a stick. All you need is a can of biscuits(Like Pilsbury) and squeezable jelly. Wrap an individual biscuit on your roasting stick (that you’d use for a hotdog or marshmallow). The trick is to not roast it too quickly so the outside burns/gets cooked. Do a slow roast. When it’s done and you pull it off your stick it will leave a hole from the stick. Squeeze your jelly here… Enjoy! You can obviously add other things like butter, honey or peanut butter to the center and some people get really fancy by adding eggs, cheese, etc. Happy Memorial Day and please remember why we have this holiday to honor those who secured our freedoms. -Rita

Who is expecting? Family of 5 coming this Fall!

Once upon a time… five years ago around this time… a guy and a girl got engaged…

Fast forward to today and that same couple is preparing to become a family of FIVE! 🙂

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You never know what can happen in five years!

Mingus and I are expecting an addition to our family this fall and we couldn’t be more excited.

Yes, you did the math right… Three babies in three years. Dorothy will turn three in October. This baby is due November 10–three months before Jacob will turn two.

Did you catch all of those numbers?

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But the truth is, we wanted our kids close in age. Jacob came a little faster than we would have planned ourselves, but I’m so grateful he is with us and I now get to see him and Dot developing into little playmates already. Seriously. Every day I’m in heart melting awe watching them. Now we have their next little amigo on the way.

We’ve known since early March, but we like to keep the news to ourselves and fairly low key for the first few months. It mostly has to do with the fact I simply I find an intimacy in having this special ‘secret’ to share with my husband when it’s just about us and our family. It’s such a miraculous thing and that will never be lost on me. Reflecting on that and sharing it with the person who is on this parenthood journey with me holds meaning beyond words for me. I do love to share the joy with family, friends and loved ones (and all of you!), but I also get a little self conscious making too big of a deal out of it for whatever reason.

For those of you who do love knowing any and all details available… Here is a rough video vlog of some of the initial updates on the pregnancy–including thoughts from Hubs and Lou and reactions from Jo and my sister when they heard my news. (Apologies in advance for poor video/lighting quality–many of the videos were shot late at night when I’d randomly think to do it! That also means I look pretty rough in some of them–eek!)

I’m also extra excited about this pregnancy because I have two of my closest friends on the road with me–both due with their first babies in November! Sara and Michelle (and their respective husbands) are very close friends to Mingus and I and my family in general. Our group of friends was together for the first time in probably six months (at least for Mingus and I to see them all) for a low key hangout of brats on the grill at our house on night in April. Both of my brothers and their wives were there as well. The news of each couple came out one by one, shocking the group with more excitement each time. We are all due within about two weeks of each other. It brought a whole new meaning to the term “crazy night” in that group of friend.

Also crazy (or maybe more coincidental), the night we all found out about each other’s news was exactly THREE years after the date when my sister-in-law, Holly Jo and I shared the news that the three of us were expecting within two weeks of each other. That time, we all had three babies in 24 hours. Both Sara and Miche (as we call her) were there the night of that big announcement and I am sure they never imagined then that three years later they’d be making the same announcement!

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Myself with Sara and Miche (as we call her) after finding out about our November “triplets”.

I am currently 14 weeks along–or just over three months and out of my first trimester. (Which was not all that bad… Some queasiness around weeks 6-8 but that’s about it. Plus exhaustion–pregnancy with two tots wears you out!) Oh, and in case you didn’t know… 14 weeks shows A LOT more the third time around than the first!

Dot’s excited and claims she is getting a baby sister (typical little girl prediction). I’m still/always faithfully taking my Juice Plus+ to guarantee, despite any pregnancy cravings or lack thereof, this babe is getting a full daily dose of 30+ fruits and vegetables every day. I truly believe (and know from the research specific to pregnancy) it has done wonders in my extremely healthy pregnancies and deliveries, as well as these healthy kids I am now raising. THIS is also why I did my One Simple Change smoothie challenge back in April. Trust me when I say  that trying to eat enough and eat well when keeping up with two toddlers is no easy feat, so I love getting that wonderful macronutrients in a smoothie and know I’m nourishing this nugget. (And I have done a good job continuing smoothies this month.)

We appreciate any and all prayers for this new little soul in our family. We are so blessed.

10 Things Tuesday: Reasons to Love Kentucky Summers

A different variation of 10 Things Tuesday… The last few days have been unusually cool here in Kentucky for this time of year. It makes me that much more anxious for summer to arrive. With summer on the brain, I’ve compiled a list of 10 things I love about Kentucky summers!

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1. The Lake
Our proximity to the ocean may not be ideal (8-10 hour minimum), but we’ve got some killer lakes and marinas. From my central Kentucky location, I can travel an hour or less north or south and be at my choice of Lake Cumberland‘s Jamestown Marina or any number of marina’s on Lake Herrington, plus a few lake houses owned by close friends. Oceans and beaches may scream summer to many, but in this area, we dream about packing coolers for weekends on the lake.
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2. Drive-in Theaters
Movies on the big screen are great and, sure, the IMAX is pretty snazzy, but there is nothing quite like a movie under the stars at the drive-in theater. It reflects a simpler time where summer nights didn’t include gadgets and devices. There are two one-screen theaters nearby, one a simple 20 minutes from our middle-of-nowhere Valley in Stanford, Ky. There is another just north of Husband’s place of work in Harrodsburg, KY. Aside from the actual theaters, a lot of parks have movie nights on the lawn. I can’t wait for the kids to be old enough to stay up late for outdoor movies.

3. Ballparks
I never played any form of baseball or softball, but even I love the ball park in the summer time. You can hit up a MLB game with a drive north to Cincinnati to see the Reds play, but you don’t even have to do that for a good baseball experience in Kentucky. The Louisville Bats and Lexington Legends are both great group/family activities.
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4. Bluegrass State Games
No matter your age or your sport of choice, Kentucky gives everyone a chance to live out their dreams for some summer fun and competition and even bring home medals. Seriously, I don’t think there is a sport not offered in the Bluegrass State Games. It even gives the opportunity for numerous ages to come together to compete, as well as boys and girls. I personally have a fond memory of running a medley relay with my brother and dad many moons ago.

5. Farmers Markets & Fresh Produce
Whether you keep your own garden or not, everyone can live like a European, cooking with fresh produce on a nightly basis, because the goods are plentiful in Kentucky. The farmers markets on Saturday mornings hold a great vibe. And if your community does not have one, it’s probably because everyone, or their neighbor, has their own plentiful garden. More or less, Kentucky has a great growing season where you can grow everything from peppers and tomatoes to corn and beans to watermelon and berries.
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6. County & State Fairs
Perhaps more crazy than classy, there is nothing quite like hitting up the county fair–and you can basically find one any weekend of the summer across the Bluegrass. And then the big finale comes in August with the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville. Again, it reflects simpler times and I think summer holds a lot of potential for putting away the gadgets and devices and instead making real memories with people you care about. Check out the livestock, ride rides and eat junky food, run into people you haven’t seen in ages, let the kids run. Enjoy being outside.

7. Dairy Dips
The simplicity of this state can be found in the state highways that wind through knobs and horse country. And you never know when you’ll happen upon the perfect summer stop off: a dairy dip with enough soft serve flavors to compete with Baskin Robins. You know it’s summertime when the dairy dips begin to open. What a depressing time when you have to pass them by to see them closed in those frigid months.  So when you see one, scrounge the change in your car and grab a tasty treat.
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8. Horse Racing
Technically the ponies don’t race all summer, but they race at Churchill Downs into July and in the Bluegrass state, horse racing is a fun exciting event anytime–not just for Derby. Besides, getting a ticket to millionaire’s row or any box seats is actually affordable. So make it a fun day with friends and splurge for the nice seats–maybe even a meal included. Who knows, one right bet and someone will have the day paid for!
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9. Lightening Bugs & Late Nights
I won’t say bugs aren’t annoying during Kentucky summers, but we also get the magic of lightening bugs on summer nights. Nothing adds magic to the outdoors like the twinkling of those little bugs. Days are long, and whether they are full or work or play, relaxing with good  food and drinks on the porch, backyard or around a fire are the way to end any day, especially on a clear night with those magical bugs twinkling all around.
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10.Celebrating Freedom
Being patriotic in the summer time just feels right–especially in a state like Kentucky that shines with small town pride. We love summer and we love our country and priding Old Glory. Seriously, can you imagine if our Independence Day was in February? Bombpops and parades in February? I don’t think so… Freedom and summer go hand-in-hand. We kick off the season with Memorial Day cookouts and camping and carry it straight through  to the 4th of July. Even my small town enjoys activities, a parade and a spectacular fireworks show.
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BONUS: 11. It’s just long enough
We look forward to summer like crazy. We get the killer snows and freezing temps that make everyone dream of the poolside and backyard grilling, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the hot humidity of June and July didn’t wear us out to the point of being pretty pumped to put on our boots and sweaters to tailgate through fall football season. Summer in Kentucky lasts just long enough to love it but be OK to see it go. And then we are always anxiously awaiting it come January or February
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What are some of your favorite parts about summer in Kentucky or summer where you live? Share! I want to know what I’m missing!

Experiencing Kentucky: Bourbon Trail & Distilleries

Kentucky has a lot more than just horses and fried chicken to offer, but one thing any native is proud of is the bourbon! (Not to be mistaken with whiskey!)

While I have tried an array of Kentucky’s bourbons, I have only been on one of the distillery tours: Maker’s Mark.  The distillery tours weren’t really something my friends did in our early to mid-20s. (We were still more interested in drinking the bourbon than knowing anything about where it came from…) By the time it was of true interest I’d gotten on the baby-train. (Dot came along to the Maker’s tour actually. She was six weeks old and we were celebrating my brother’s 30th birthday! Hubs dipped a bottle for Lou, though, and we’ll bust it out in 2034 when she turns 21!) Fitting bourbon tours in over the past three years when I’ve been breastfeeding or pregnant just haven’t been on the list.

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But hitting more of these distilleries over time is something I’d love to do and a great activity right here in our back yard.

The Bluegrass has over 20 working distilleries with more than 200 brands. Only some of the distilleries offer public tours, but even those that don’t typically offer guests tastings and gift shops. Most of the more famous bourbon brands can be found on the Bourbon Trail.

In 1999, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association formed the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour to give visitors a firsthand look at the art and science of crafting Bourbon, and to educate them about the rich history and proud tradition of our signature spirit.

For full history on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, visit the website.

The trail is a great adventure to take on as a group–whether it be friends or family. Even better: most of these tours and tastings are free! Visit Maker’s Mark, Four Roses, Jim Beam, Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, and more all within less than a 100 miles of each other between Louisville and Lexington and beautiful horse and farm country.

Having said that, it is a drive between distilleries and often a lot of twists and turns on two lane roads. (Basically I’m saying, don’t get too carried away on those tastings–you might not make it to the next distillery!) For more tips on covering the trail, read here.

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But you definitely do not need to commit yourself to completing the Bourbon Trail to make any one of the distillery experiences worth while. Just last weekend Holly Jo and her husband treated their out of town guests to a visit to Maker’s Mark, as well as a stop at Woodford Reserve and the Taylor Made Horse Farm before attending the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

Kentucky may not be the travel hotspot on most people’s list, but it’s a gamble worth taking and experiencing it’s horse and bourbon country showcase our beauty and uniqueness well. Even if you are simply traveling through Kentucky on I-75, I-65 or I-64 (Virginia Beach anyone?), make your road trip an experience and plan a detour in Kentucky for one of the distilleries.

Looking for a distillery in a particular area to visit in the near future. Here is a quick list with links to each distillery’s website. 
Bardstown
Barton’s 1792 Distillery
*Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center
Willet Distillery
Bowling Green
Corsair Artisan Distillery
Crestwood
Jefferson’s Reserve at Kentucky Artisan Distillery
Frankfort
Buffalo Trace
Lawrenceburg
*Four Roses
*Wild Turkey
Lexington
*Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company
Barrel House Distilling Company
Loretto
Limestone Branch Distillery
*Maker’s Mark
Louisville
Angel’s Envy
*Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience
Derby City Spirits
*Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
Grease Monkey Distillery
*Jim Beam Urban Distillery
Old Forester
Michter’s Micro-Distillery
Peerless Distillery
Northern Kentucky Region
New Riff Distillery
Old Pogue Distillery
Pembroke
MB Roland Distillery
Shepherdsville
*Four Roses Wharehouses & Bottling Tours
*Jim Beam American Stillhouse
Versailles
*Woodford Reserve
*: Kentucky Bourbon Trail

10 Things Tuesday: Makeup tutorial, road trip, perennial flowers & sparkles

1. Planting Perennials
My flower beds are in! Hubs did an awesome job of getting the railroad ties and fixing my front porch beds while I was gone over the weekend. I’m so excited. He planted a few annuals but primarily left them empty since we hadn’t talked about what we wanted to plant. I’d love to add perennials that will come back every year. What do you have and love? Share your suggestions please! -Rita
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2.  Magic Ink Pictures
My mom picked up a great little surprise/activity for Dot in the car during our 10 hour road trip. It was a small coloring pad with one marker that brought out the colors on the pages when used. It wasn’t messy at all, the book was small enough for her to hold and color, and she was obsessed! Given, my daughter does like to color, but the thing kept her entertained a HUGE portion of the drive home on a 10-hour ride. They come in all sorts of varieties and can be purchased just about anywhere (Walgreens, Amazon, Target, Babies ‘R’ Us…) I will definitely be getting more of these before vacation. -Rita
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3. Mapping a Road Trip
Speaking of long trips with littles, I wrote this blog post about road trips with kids, but it primarily focused on survival in the car itself. When we travel to the beach this summer, Hubs and I are not aiming to”make good time”. I want to plan some stops that will break up the drive best for kids. (Both in spacing but also in what they can do when we stop.) We made a lunch stop last weekend and decided to take food to a park. Successfully finding one definitely added time, though. (Our first attempt was a bust!) Planning in advance will help, so if you have suggested stops between central Kentucky and Virginia Beach, let me know.  -Rita

4. Business Socks
My husband wanted some snazzy socks to wear with his work suits. I found some super cute ones at Steinmart for only $1.98/pair. Can’t beat that for this kind of fun variety! -Holly Jo
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5. Summer Cut–Check!
My cut is done! I really liked what the stylist did with it. She did a great job from the pictures I showed her and seemed to get it just short enough for my liking but long enough for a ponytail. Thanks for all the feedback and tips! -Rita
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6. Easy Train Cake
I have such crafty and creative family members! Our cousin’s little guy, Rory, turned two this week and she made him the cutest cake! I’ve seen lots of cake pan molds, but this one was individual train cars–very detailed. To top that off, she decorated it superbly! My kids were lucky enough to get a few pieces (“cars”) themselves. What a fun idea for a little guy’s birthday! -Rita
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7. GAWM Makeup Tutorial
For those of you who have hyper-pigmentation, oily skin, large pores and lots of stress this makeup tutorial is for you! I love this look for summer days when I know I will be sweating. It is also perfect for long days and if you are going to be photographed, such as weddings. -Holly Jo

8. Roll-on Sparkles
Dorothy gained a new sparkle obsession over the weekend when my cousin-in-law Jenny introduced her to NYX Cosmetics Roll On Shimmer. Her daughters think it’s the bees knees and it really is! It’s not wet or sticky but rolls right on and even comes off easily. You can use it for yourself, but it’s perfect for little girls too and comes in all colors. You can find it at Ulta. -Rita
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9. Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day has come and gone–hope all of you fellow moms had a wonderful day but I especially hope you took time to be grateful for the opportunity to be a mother. The day sometimes gets focused on praising mothers–which is good, but the fact we get to be mothers is a privilege many, many would love. Hold those kiddos tight and tell them you love them every day. -Rita

10. Road Trip Vlog
Here is a snippet into the adventure we took last week to see my cousin graduate from UNC’s Masters in Accounting program at Chapel Hill. The 10-hours to and 10-hours back from Apex, NC was interesting with two kids, but well worth it! -Rita

One Simple Change: Summer Reading

Last Month’s Review: April

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

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Fail/Success? Success! I did not track my smoothies intake as well as I set out to do in order to make sure I was getting my count every week, but in the end, I know the regularity was there. I started out really well (because once the kids started having smoothies regularly, they expected it and requested them almost daily!) The only thing that threw me off, ironically, was Mingus starting to make smoothies. He would make his for breakfast in the morning and the way we tend to do it is by using the largest cup with the Nutri-Bullet. There is always plenty to share; however, I’d tell him to use his excess to fill the kiddo’s cups before mine, sometimes resulting in me not having much smoothie. So I will admit sometimes my smoothie was rather small.

What I got out of it: What is there NOT to get out of this? Good nutrition. Great way to add fruits and whole foods to the kids’ daily diets. Much better snack than most options. It’s also a great thing to feed myself and the kids on the mornings when we hadve to get moving quickly to get out the door. It was quick to make and clean up. It doesn’t cause messes all over them, but it is a solid meal and no matter what else is eaten for that particular meal of the day, I know something good was involved. 

Moving Forward: This is something I know I want to continue. If anything, I want to continue to improve. I’d even like to branch out on what types of recipes I concoct. I’m kind of in my groove of using frozen fruits, but I see recipes for fun things like mint chocolate, pumpkin spice, mocha java, peanut butter cup… on and on. It’s mainly a matter of having the right ingredients on hand, so I’ll aim to look up a few recipes and add things to my shopping list. Perhaps by changing it up and finding some new favorites I’ll stay motivated to make regular smoothies.

New Challenge: May

Goal: READ A BOOK!

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Motivation behind the challenge: To some people this may sound pretty lame–like all my book worm friends that I know I have! But those same friends also know that I’ve never been the avid reader I’d like to be. The last time I can remember reading a book was the one, still near my bed halfway finished, that I was working on through my pregnancy with Dorothy. She was born… and there the book sits. In my defense, it was a VERY long book. (Book 3 of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.)  I know I could find time to read, but because it’s never been a part of my routine with kids, it still isn’t. When I am not running circles with toddlers, I have other projects and things my hands are busy with… I blog, I have my part-time job with MoneyPath and my Juice Plus work. There is garden work, daily meal prep, cleaning, and other projects I enjoy and take up–and of course enjoying Netflix if possible. 

With summer upon us, I’m hopeful to incorporate reading into some of the time I spend outside with the kids. I had a sneak peek of creek play a few weeks ago and realized that, it was the perfect place to get in real reading. A book at the creek is much safer than an electronic device–so bringing my computer for work doesn’t make sense. Plus, I’m hopeful for pool visits this summer and while I know it will be a little more hands on (except at places with ‘baby’ areas), I like the idea of reading pool side–not to mention we are going on a beach vacation in August with Jon’s family. I feel like if I get back into the habit of reading, I’ll get myself hooked. You know how it is when a book sucks you in… you can’t stop! Then it’s over and you feel a little empty inside, not knowing what to do with yourself, so the only solution seems to be to find another book! That’s what I want!

So, reading a single book may sound lame, but it would be a huge accomplishment for me.

What to read? I have a few ideas, but because the movie You Before Me, based on the book by Jojo Moyes, comes out in June, I’d like to read it. I tried to find it at our Casey County Library, but it’s checked out (not surprising with the movie release around the corner), so I need to check the other library I frequent. I know I could buy it, but I love that libraries are this free resource we have access to and love to take advantage of the gem that they are.

However, since I haven’t gotten my hands on the book yet, I have some other options. I recently stumbled upon a forgotten box from our move to the new house that was full of books and there was a whole stack of them that I have never read that belong to me. (Sort of… Friends may recognize a few titles in the stack pictured above as ones the lent and never saw again!) It made me realize that if friends gave me these books, they must be worth the read, so I should probably start with my own library!

Wish me luck and if all goes well, next month at this time I’ll be asking you to provide me with a summer reading list!

See how Holly Jo’s letter writing went in April and her plans for May on the vlog!

10 Things Tuesday: Summer reading, Teacher appreciation, nude lips & Mother’s Day

1. Freebie Books for Kids
Barnes & Nobles is hosting a summer reading program for kids called the Barnes & Nobles Summer Reading Triathlon. By completing eight books through the summer a child receives a free book. Check the details in signing up and the requirements. (More summer reading programs listed here.)  -Rita
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2. Skin So Soft
Summer is great for a lot of things but one of its downfalls? BUGS! My bug spray of choice–for myself and for my kids–is Avon’s Skin So Soft bug guard line. I’ve used it my entire life and the smell makes me think of summer time and it is deet-free. -Rita
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3. Teacher Appreciation Week
It’s Teacher appreciation week!  Don’t forget to show all those teachers out there how much we appreciate everything they do. My girlfriend showed me how to make a cute bouquet by using peonies in our backyard. An inexpensive and super cute gift! (If YOU are a teacher, check out these great deals for you here!) -Holly Jo
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4. Summer Time Baby Hack
You may have seen this or used this hack before but it’s too clever not to share. This is a great way to have your little babe outside with you this summer–whether it’s poolside, vacation, or when you’re working your gardens. Put a crib sheet over the pack and play! -Rita
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5. Fresh Summer Look
If you are needing a light and fresh makeup look for the summer I always use the Tarte tinted moisturizer as my go to base.  It covers redness, evens out skintone, has 20 SPF and looks extremely natural.  The finish of this product gives the, “your skin, but better”, look.   And the best of all, it is a natural product!  Love it!! -Holly Jo
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6. Final Prayers
While school life may be far removed from my current routine, I know many of all ages go through the rigorous week (or two) of final exams at this time. I love that my alma mater Bellarmine University, a Catholic university, puts out this  graphic to support its students in their studies. I truly believe prayer for a clear head, focus and guidance helps during the pressure of studies. -Rita
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7. Spring Cut!
As much as I love long hair, I’m going for a spring chop tomorrow. (For me a chop means you can still ponytail-it!) My hair grows so fast anyway, and even though I dream of having it nice while long, my top knot pretty much rules my life. Even when I leave it down for something nice, I’m lucky if I had a chance to blow it dry. Here are a few of my past short do’s. (As you can tell, it’s not too varied, although the bottom left is actually much shorter in the back than you can see.) Suggestions or links to cuts you think would fit my face shape/hair would be appreciated! -Rita
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8. Front Yard Facial
We’re ready to put in flower/herb gardens off our front porch! We’ve talked about using railroad ties to edge them, but rock is a viable and cheap option as e we have such an abundance right here of large stones! Since our porch is a concrete slab, I’m curious how the ties would appear, but I’m also trying to decide which will require less management/upkeep as far as trimming around. Thoughts? Remember we live OUT THERE so a very natural look goes well. -Rita

9. Nude Lips
If you have been looking for a great nude drugstore lipstick check out the Maybelline nudes! They are amazing! The shade I have, pictured on the left, is in Bare All. This color is for fair skinned and those who want an extremely nude lip. Love it!! -Holly Jo
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10. Mother’s Day Cards
My love for sending cards is quickly rubbing off on Dorothy. Right now she thoroughly enjoys taking cards (or just paper) and covering them with colors and stickers and getting to send them in the mail. However, in a year or two I’m sure we’ll upgrade our methods. Try some of these card ideas for you littles to create for their grandmothers and more. -Rita
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