Five on Friday: Favorites

Today I’m linking up with Smidge of This and Carolina Charm for Five on Friday.

Y’all know I talked HERE about how I was on the search for a good drugstore liquid eyeliner that actually delivered? Well, I think I found one. I’ve used it about 10 times now and it doesn’t smudge or fade! I’ll be updating soon with a full review, but I wanted to let you know this is GOOD STUFF. The best part? It is only $3!

Essence Eyeliner Pen Waterproof: Amazon / Ulta / (It’s $4 on Amazon vs. $3 at Ulta)

 So I’ve been living under a rock. I admit it. While the rest of the world was been Netflixing and chilling, I’ve been Amazoning and Priming. I guess I just figured that Amazon Prime Video and Netflix were virtually the same thing? Well, THEY ARE NOT, says the naysayer herself. I finally started a free trial of Netflix and I won’t be quitting it anytime soon. With that said – I need your Netflix suggestions! What should I be watching? I asked this same question on Instagram last week and this show was recommended.

Can’t stop won’t stop. Jason and I are obsessed. I know it’s a teenager show (please don’t tell me actual teenagers are watching this; it’s so not appropriate) but I love the suspense and the plot! We finished the first season within a week and since Season 2 isn’t on Netflx or Hulu (boo Hulu – get CW shows!), I ended up purchasing the season on Amazon.

I stumbled upon an incredible Instagram account the other day and I wanted to share it with you. Hello Jesse Martin is a photographer and a mom, and she has some amazing photo editing tips on her Instagram page @hellojessiemartin.

I’ve always considered myself hopeless with photography, and I can’t begin to understand how to use Lightroom, Photoshop, and the like but her tutorials have helped me to break out my big girl camera and try my hand at editing.

I’m using two apps she recommended – VSCO and Lightroom. Both are free with in app purchases. I actually find VSCO easier to use, and I purchased a preset library for $8.99 that I can see totally meeting my needs for the foreseeable future.

This is a picture I took with my Canon Rebel EOS SL2 and edited in VSCO and Lighroom, using a tutorial I found in her Instagram highlights.

I obviously have more to learn, but I think this is pretty darn great for my first time ever editing a picture outside of Instagram filters.

So this is so random… but I really love Entenmann’s chocolate doughnuts. Is that weird? I can’t help it; I yam what I yam and all that. Recently Jason went to Walmart for me to pick up a few groceries, and he sent me this picture.

It’s part brownie, part cookie and TOTALLY DELICIOUS. The man loves me.

This crazy weather has my skin SO dry. Confession: I scratch at my legs during the night while I’m sleeping and don’t even realize I’m doing it. I wake up the next day with terrible scratches on my skin.

I absolutely have to apply lotion every single day when I get out of the shower, and these are my two favorite lotions.

 

 

This Eucerin Skim Calming Lotion is a heavy cream, but it sinks into your skin quickly, without leaving a heavy residue. It’s a little expensive in stores (around $10 a bottle) but I found it on Amazon HERE for $7. Tip: Target and Walmart also make a generic version of this lotion, so look for that to save a little money as well.

This is my favorite lotion ever. I know, I know, Johnson’s is supposedly bad. But my skin loves this lotion. It’s marketed as a creamy baby oil, but it applies like a lotion. It sinks in immediately and your skin feels soft and moisturized. I love the smell, too.

This is really hard to find in stores. My Walmart doesn’t carry it anymore, and it is hit or miss at Target. When I find it, I buy multiple bottles. It’s HERE on Amazon for $12.75 (pack of 2). If you can find it in stores, it is usually around $5 a tube.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What have your favorites been lately?

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Coffee Chats – Super Bowl Edition

Happy Monday, friends!

Let’s chat, shall we? If you are anything like me, you read blogs while you drink your coffee. Grab a cup and join me!

I don’t have any specific topic in mind – this will be a brain dump of sorts. Please feel free to join in – either by linking your blog post in the comments or by leaving a comment with your thoughts.

So…. let’s discuss the Super Bowl. Keep in mind I’m writing this just after halftime and thus I’m missing out on the second half of commercials. I plan to make Jason do a quick recap/rewind once I’m done.

 

Food:

Every year I usually do a smorgasbord of appetizers, but this year I wanted to keep it simple. I made buffalo chicken in the Instant Pot and served it on sweet rolls. SO GOOD. I put mayo on the buns and top with a thick slice of extra sharp cheddar cheese. On top of the chicken, I serve a dollop of blue cheese dressing.

Want the recipe? It could not be any easier.

Instant Pot Buffalo Chicken

  • 4 chicken breasts (I use frozen breasts; your time will need to be adjusted if you use thawed)
  • 1 cup Franks Red Hot sauce
  • 1/2 stick butter

Cook on manual pressure for 30 minutes. Quick release pressure immediately. Shred chicken and serve.

This is great on rolls, in lettuce wraps, on salads, and on baked potatoes.

 

Drinks & Dessert:

I made beer-aritas every year for Jason. I’m not really a drinker anymore – I went without for three years while pregnant and nursing Poppy, and it just has lost its appeal for me. But Jason loves this and it’s so easy to make! I made a big pitcher and he drinks out of it all week.

Beer-aritas

  • 1-2 cans of frozen lime-aid concentrate (you can use lime margarita mixer, found in the frozen foods section, if you can’t find lime-aid. Just omit the liquor.)
  • 6 cans of beer. Jason prefers Bud Light Lime.
  • 1 lime, juiced

Combine, stir, and store in the fridge.

Dessert was a vanilla cake with fudge icing from Publix – if you’ve never had this, IT IS AMAZEBALLS. They keep them in the frozen section by the bakery. It’s a 7 layer cake with fudge icing – the kind your grandmother probably made. You know, the icing that scrapes against your teeth as you eat it because you can feel the sugar granules? It is so good. Get you some.

 

Commercials

Like I said, I’m writing this having only seen the first half, but so far I’ve loved the Toyota amputee commercial. I also really liked the Doritos/7 Up fire and ice commercial.

Are we excited about Jurassic World? I’m a huge Chris Pratt fan, and I’ve seen every Jurassic movie, so the answer is yes from me. Question: why do they never just blow up the island that the dinosaurs are on? It’s a never ending cycle with these Jurassic people. {shakes head, mainly at myself because I think about these things.}

I also thought the Danny Devito M&M commercial was spot on – I mean, if ever there was a person I would think of as an M&M, it is Danny Devito.

 

Halftime Show/ Justin Timberlake Concert

I’ve been unbelievably pumped about this performance for weeks. I love Justin Timberlake and I think he puts on a great show. However, I was the teeny-ist bit let down.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a great show. I just… expected more, maybe? I’ve gotten used to guests so I was surprised that he didn’t have anyone join him. I think in the back of my head I thought he was going to bust out NSync for some Bye Bye Bye and obviously that didn’t happen. BOO.

Beyonce, you have ruined me for halftime shows.

I did LOVE that he closed with Trolls, and his interaction with the little boy was so wonderful – I bet that boy is on top of the world today.

 

Football

No clue. I’m not your girl for that. I spent the first half of the game (minus commercials) working on my bible study.

 

This Is Us

I’m not emotionally prepared. I’m going to give everyone time to watch and process and I’ll discuss my thoughts in my Friday Favorites post this week.

What was your favorite commercial? What did you think of the halftime show?

Women’s Ministry Kick Off Dinner

If you read my 2017 Year in Review post yesterday, you may have seen me mention the Women’s Ministry Kick Off Dinner that my church held back in August. This is the first dinner I’ve ever attended, and I had no idea what to expect.

Our church Women’s Ministry has activities/bible studies from August – May of each year. As a church, we take a break from Wednesday night activities from mid-May until school resumes in August. Every year in August, our Women’s Ministry team hosts a kick off dinner to jump start the year. They bring in a speaker and ask ladies of the church to host tables. Hostesses are responsible for decorating the table according to a theme of their choice, inviting ladies to sit at their table, and performing official hostess duties the night of the dinner.

As I said, I had never attended a kick off dinner before, so I didn’t know what to expect. We were told we could decorate according to whatever theme we desired, and we could use china or paper plates – the choice was ours. We would need to provide a centerpiece, napkins, silverware, cups, and coffee cups. The dinner was being prepared and served by the men of the church, so we used the church’s plates as it made service easier. A lot of women did bring in plates for decorations, simply because a table setting looks better with a plate, but they removed the plates when it was time to eat.

I wanted to host but I was nervous – while I’m great at tablescapes, they usually have a childish theme, and I always use paper products. My friend Wendy is far more classier than I 😉 so I asked her to co-host with me. She comes with her own china. 🙂

(Wendy is laughing at this, y’all. We have our own friend humor.)

We brainstormed a good bit and initially thought we would do a Back to School theme, but as we made concrete plans we discovered it would take more effort and money than we really wanted to put forth. August was a busy month for me, and for Wendy as well, and we didn’t want to become best friends with our glue guns. We ultimately decided to go with a fall theme – simple, appropriate, and between the two of us we had everything we needed.

We used the church’s white tablecloth, and layered Wendy’s blanket scarf on top. For chargers, we alternated cooper chargers with wooden chargers, and used gray plates, cream napkins, and gold napkin rings.

For the centerpiece, I used assorted size mason jars and filled them with white flowers, wine flowers, and baby’s breath. (I actually have no idea what type of flowers the white and wine flowers are. They were on sale at Publix.) Kroger had greenery on clearance and I used the greenery to beef up the arrangement.

We filled in the centerpiece with candles and pumpkins Wendy found at the Dollar Spot.

For the gift, we gave each girl a fall hand towel (not pictured – it was on the seat). Wendy had spotted these wooden blocks with inspirational sayings at Cracker Barrel, and her husband said he could help us recreate them for cheaper. He cut the wood, Wendy painted the blocks, and we worked on the lettering together. They all have shortened bible verses or words from scripture. We used paint pens and Sharpies.

Here are a few of the other tables. I was blown away! The ladies at my church are so creative and y’all know I eat this sort of thing up. I did not get pictures of each table unfortunately. Some ladies decorated the afternoon of the dinner and it was too crowded to get pictures once everything started.

This table had a succulent theme. How gorgeous is the centerpiece and those wooden chargers? The gift was a succulent to take home.

I loved this sunflower themed table with pops of turquoise. This entire arrangement was so layered and textured! The wicker chargers, the gorgeous cups, the burlap, and the greenery. Just gorgeous.

This table had a sunny yellow bee theme. The flower arrangements tied in perfectly, and I loved the stainless chargers.

This was a Christmas theme with a tree and Christmas china! LOVE! My wheel immediately started turning for next year, because you know I’ve got Christmas decorations galore.

This beach table was so incredibly creative. That was actual sand on the table, which they had to carefully scoop back up when the dinner was over. The guests got to take home bubbles!

I really loved this fiesta theme, and the hostess used a trick I often use – scrapbook paper as a place mat! The gift was a cactus sugar cookie.

This picnic table was super creative. I believe the guests got to take the red stainless cups home, and the hostess actually glued a line of ants to the tablecloth! So cute!

This “Abide” themed table was decorated by my friend Julie. The centerpiece was mainly greenery with a few flowers, and the color palette was neutral with that pop of lime green. I was in love with Julie’s silverware… it was gold and beautiful!

I really wish I had been able to get pictures of each table! We had 20 tables, I believe, and each were beautiful and creative.

The highlight of the evening, besides spending time with friends new and old, was that I got to meet Karen Ehman! As I mentioned, I co-led a bible study this fall. The study was Karen Ehman’s Listen Love Repeat. Karen was our speaker, and I got to have my bible study signed and take a picture with her.

Also pictured is my co-leader, Linda, who is also my Mentor Mom this year for Lily Moms Table 7.

Does your church do anything similar? I would love to see pictures if so!

2017 Year in Review

Hey friends! I can’t believe we are well into January 2018 already. If I still wrote checks, I would definitely still be writing 2017 on them. Cooper just went back to school yesterday, so in the absence of our normal routine I’m just getting to the point where I really feel I can look back on the 2017 and set some goals for 2018.

I want this blog to be a way for me to look back on family memories as well as a way for you to get to know me and my family better, so I thought I would do a little 2017 recap! Warning: this is a picture heavy post, at least more so than normal.

2017 was a good year for the House family. It was not without its challenges, but it was overall a very rewarding year for us. Jason was promoted and pinned to Chief Petty Officer, we joined a church, Cooper was saved, and both Cooper and Jason were baptized. Those were just a few of our blessings!

JANUARY

{Left} January is a birthday heavy month for our family, as we celebrate Cooper’s birthday, my dad’s, my sister in law’s, my brother’s, and my birthday. Cooper’s 7th birthday was a Pikachu affair and as you can see, he was quite excited.

{Top Right} I hesitated to add this to our review, but as this was a huge learning lesson in 2017 and I’m big on transparency, it makes the list. About a year ago, we found out all three kids had lice. LICE. Yep, it is as horrible as it sounds. I know some moms are very laid back about lice – and we are proof that it can happen to anyone, especially if your child is in public school – but I have to say this totally rocked my January boat. Picture was taken the morning we found out…. at church…. in front of all our friends. I told you it was traumatic.

{Bottom Right} On January 29th, we celebrated my 38th birthday!

FEBRUARY

{Top Left} I started letting Cooper help out in the kitchen more. His specialty is tacos!

{Top Right} Sister was looking extra sassy this day – the day we found out Cooper had the flu. He was out for a week and dropped 5 pounds, which is 10% of his body weight. February was spent working on his eating and increasing his calories so he could gain the weight back.

{Bottom} Valentine’s Day! It’s always a celebration at our house. Jason and I don’t go out to eat or anything like that, but we do like to get a few presents for the kids and have a special dinner at home.

MARCH

{Top Left} My nephew turned 16! If that isn’t enough to make you feel old, I don’t know what is. I remember driving from my college dorm to the hospital to meet him during my sophomore year.

{Top Right} St. Patrick’s Day is always a day my kids look forward to. Our leprechaun visits and plays tricks throughout the day, and he also leaves small presents, like Lucky Charm cereal for breakfast. My kids always have a blast trying to catch him, but he’s a wily fellow.

{Bottom} Our MOPs group (Mothers of Preschoolers – we have since changed the name to Lily Moms) always has Tea & Testimony during our March meeting. It’s such a special time! The table leaders create a gorgeous tablescapes with china, and our leadership team brings in tea party themed food. We have several ladies who come in and share their testimony. It is for sure the most special, emotional, spirit filled meeting of the year.

This year, I was one of the ladies who shared their testimony. I was absolutely terrified and to be honest, I don’t remember much about what I said, but finally speaking out about my struggles with PPD and depression were so freeing. It was SUCH a good day – definitely in my top 10 of 2017.

The picture on the right is my table, Table 7. These ladies were such a blessing to me in 2016-2017 and I’m so very happy God put us in each other’s lives.

APRIL

At this point I started using a collage for my pictures, and they loaded not in order. Bare with me! I’m not going to detail every single picture, but hopefully you can look and link them to the happenings.

Jason worked the outage in March in Votgle, which meant we didn’t get to see him much (he worked 12 hour days, with a 2+ hour commute, 6 days a week). In April we made up for that with lots of quality time! We attended the rodeo and our local children’s museum {middle top and middle}.

We also had lots of fun Easter activities! My dad’s company puts on a breakfast and Easter Egg hunt, we dyed eggs at home, and we had an Easter egg hunt with our Sunday School class.

On Easter, we went to church and then had lunch at my parent’s home with my parents and brother’s family.

My niece turned 12 and we celebrated with dinner at a Hibachi restaurant {top right}.

Cooper had a musical performance at school called Awesome Animals {top left}.

Not pictured: In April was when we found out that Poppy has alopecia.I’ll tell this story in more detail in a future blog post, but this was a challenge as well, and one that God has used to teach me that I am not in control and yet – He still works all things for our good.

MAY

May was filled with more family fun! We celebrated Cinco de Mayo with embroidered dresses (for Poppy) and margaritas (for me). For Memorial Day, we went up to Columbia and my brother rented a boat for the day. The top left picture is of me and Cooper, right before I lost my hat to the wind! We also celebrated Mother’s Day with church, lunch of my choice, and NAPS – every mother’s dream, #amiright? {bottom middle}

May was a bit of a bittersweet month, as it was the last month of MOPs, and it meant saying goodbye to Table 7. Our friend Mo moved way, and we lost two other girls who were unable to return to Lily Moms this year, so this goodbye celebration was extra special {middle left}.

Another top moment of 2017 – THE DAY COOPER WAS SAVED! {Middle right} I had prayed and prayed about this, and I had asked God to let me be the one to have the conversation with Cooper. The is nothing like the feeling of pride and thankfulness of knowing your child has made the most important decision of his or her life. You can see I had been crying (happy tears) – I am blessed beyond measure to know I got to pray that prayer with my son.

We rounded out May with the last day of school, and celebrated our summer days with trips to the lake and to play putt putt.

Not pictured: We joined our church! We had been attending for year, and made the decision as a family that this was where we wanted to make our church home.

JUNE

More summer fun – trips to the zoo, to the movies, eating doughnuts at Dunkin Doughnuts, and play dates with friends.

We also went on a beach trip with my parents and my brother’s family, which was so much fun. My kids love their cousins, and my niece and nephew are absolutely fantastic with my kids. We spent every single day at the beach, tooling around in the golf cart, eating delicious meals, and occasionally going out to eat for dinner. It was low key and utterly glorious.

In June, I decided to cut Poppy’s hair into a little bob {middle right}. Her hair had gotten so thin you could see her scalp, and her hair was scraggly. I decided to cut it off and it instantly added volume! Shortly after I cut it, it started to grow back in and thicken up.

The saddest part of June was that my precious chihuahua George {bottom left, the dog on the left} passed away. He was 14 years old and passed away peacefully in his sleep.

JULY

July was really low key. We didn’t really do anything for the 4th of July besides swim and do some sparklers in our yard. We did go to see Despicable 3 at the movie theater, we visited a snow cone stand that opened down the road, and Sullivan started indoor t-ball!

AUGUST

August is when things really started to get busy! My mom’s birthday is on August 1, and Poppy’s in on August 8th. We knew Jason would be headed out of town for 2 weeks for his Navy Annual Training, so we had Poppy’s birthday on the last Saturday in June. It was low key, just swimming at my parent’s pool with my family, but she had a blast.

On August 3rd, we went to Open House at Cooper’s school. Cooper got to meet his teacher and we got to register for the year. This was the day that we found out Jason had made Chief! We had no idea what they entailed at the time. {Bottom left} Poppy was wearing her anchor dress in honor of the occasion.

Jason left that Saturday to head to Maine for 2 weeks, and my solo parenting gig commenced. That happened to fall during the first day of school, Sunday School promotion, and Poppy’s birthday. We made sure to celebrate big – I did a Back to School decorated table and dinner, and of course there were lots of pictures taken to be shared with Daddy.

The t-ball league that Sullivan participated in requires parent involvement – you basically stand with your child and coach them. This was quite challenging as I also had Poppy, so Cooper stepped in and helped me coach Sully {middle}.

AUGUST, CONTINUED

Poppy loved Trolls, so I used that theme to decorate the table. As you can see, she was THRILLED with her Trolls costume.

While Jason was gone, he was also participating in Chief Season, which is a 6 week period where you go through trials and training of a sort to be accepted by the Chief’s mess. At the end of the season, if you are accepted, you are pinned Chief Petty Officer. Jason came home mid-August and immediately stepped back into work (during the day) and his Chief duties and training (nights and weekends) so we really only saw him in passing. He basically only slept at the house. It was tough, but very much worth it.

Another top moment of 2017: Jason and Cooper were baptized! {Middle right} is Poppy blowing dandelions at the baptismal luncheon, where they explain to the kids what will happen during their baptism and let them put their feet in the baptismal pool (which is outdoors, and is fed by a creek on church property). {Top middle and right} Jason was raised Catholic, and was baptized as an infant. When we joined our church, our church requires that if you are transferring from a different denomination you be baptized. Jason was happy to do it, and it was such an incredibly special day to be able to be baptized with Cooper.

Yet another top moment of 2017: Overcoming my anxiety to co-host a bible study at church! I led the study, Listen Love Repeat by Karen Ehman, with my Lily Moms Mentor Mom, Linda. {Bottom left} This was our first night of the study!

{Top left} Our Women’s Ministry Kickoff Dinner took place in August. We have table hostesses that decorate tables to match a theme of their choice, and the church brings in a speaker, who happened to be Karen Ehman, the author of the bible study I was leading {middle}. It was such an honor to meet her!

{Middle left} I told you August was busy! We had leadership training for Lily Moms, which is always so fun. We kick off with a dinner on Friday night and then train all day on Saturday. This was one of our ice breakers. This year I served as Social Media Facilitator and a Table Leader.

SEPTEMBER

September was less busy than August, hallelujah! Our kickoff meeting for Lily Moms was postponed because of bad weather, but we were able to enjoy a Lily Moms popsicles play date in the park {bottom right}. Jason was working crazy hours, so the kids and I amused ourselves by picking out Halloween costumes {bottom left}, attending the fall carnival at Cooper’s school {top left}, check ups for Sully and Poppy {top middle}, and cheering on on Gamecocks.

We also celebrated Sully’s 4th birthday {middle}.

Jason was finally pinned Chief Petty Officer, and we celebrated by attending the Khaki Ball {bottom middle and middle right}. This was another top moment of 2017!

Since we had to postpone our first Lily Moms meeting, we didn’t kick off until the end of September, but it was a wonderful meeting with tons of faces, old and new {top right}!

OCTOBER

The temps finally began to cool down the slightest bit in October. Jason went right from Chief season into an outage at work, so we didn’t see much of him again until the beginning of October. We celebrated his Chief achievement with a quick trip to Charleston {bottom row} where we ended up bringing home Saylor!

If you’ve followed Saylor’s story, you know we got her from a dishonest breeder, and she got sick just days after we brought her home. When I took her to the vet, she was diagnosed with giardia and parvo. It was very touch and go for a while, and I spent several days getting up every 2 hours to give her food and water by syringe, but she pulled through! My girl is a fighter and we are so happy that she’s part of our family.

We took family pictures in October {middle left} and Poppy had her first dentist appointment {middle}, which she handled wonderfully.

We attended lots of Halloween events in October – a pumpkin painting party with our Table 7 Lily Mom friends {top left}, a Halloween party at my dad’s work {top middle}, and Spiderman Sully even went to get ice cream with us one night at Dairy Queen.

OCTOBER CONTINUED

We continued our yearly tradition of visiting Steed’s Dairy {bottom right}. That same night, we attended our friend Andrew’s birthday party and the kids bobbed for apples for the first time {bottom middle}.

Other fall traditions included our Boo To You Halloween Dinner and carving pumpkins {bottom left and middle right}.

Grandma Mary visited from Illinois and we went to Boo at the Zoo {middle left}, Halloween story time {top right}, our Halloween Lily Moms meeting {top middle}, and the fall festival at our church on Halloween night {middle and top left}.

NOVEMBER

I participated in a Jesse Tree Advent ornament swap at church and had to prep 25 ornaments representing a candle/light {bottom right}. At the actual exchange {middle left} I was blown away by how creative the other ladies at my church were. Everyone really did a phenomenal job!

We had tons of fun at the fair – Cooper was old enough this year to ride some bigger rides, and Sullivan and Poppy thoroughly enjoyed the kid rides {bottom left and middle, middle right}.

Poppy developed quite a fondness for her brother’s too small crocs. She didn’t even care if they matched one another or her outfit – this girl is all “rocks” all the time {middle}.

We were invited to a friend’s birthday party and the kids got to ride horses for the first time {top right}.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with family, and the next day I started putting up Christmas {top left and middle}!

DECEMBER

December was busy! Of course it always is, but with Cooper being in school now I have to add in school commitments and parties to an otherwise packed Christmas schedule.

{Bottom left} Cooper did a presentation on Mexico and Jason and I got to attend. Here he is, giving his presentation to his dad. He was SO funny. The teacher had the rooms set up in stations and the kids had to visit each station and find a fact to add to their “passport.” Cooper spoke SO softly and kept his eyes on his paper the whole time, and kids kept saying “what? what?” I had to have a talk with him about the importance of speaking up in the right circumstances. He is LOUD at home but is so reserved in public.

Our church held a family night in December with a Narnia theme. I had no idea what to expect, but I was blown away! They had photo booths and characters, plenty of crafts, games, bounce houses, food, and even smores. Our children’s ministry has been doing a series on Narnia and its biblical parallels, so this was a great way to wrap up the series {bottom left and middle}.

We visited Santa {middle right}, attended a Christmas party at my dad’s work {bottom middle}, and Jason and I attended our Lily Moms leadership Christmas party {middle left}.

I ended up cutting Poppy’s hair once again into a short bob… she started to lose hair again and it just looks fuller when I lose some of the length {top right}.

We had our Women’s Ministry Christmas party and they always give out prizes for the most festively dressed. I was determined to win! I did some deer makeup with a red glitter nose, and I wore Poppy’s reindeer antlers in my hair and my most sparkly sequin jacket. I did win a prize! {top left and middle}

DECEMBER CONTINUED

We attended a Polar Express event at our local museum! They got to sit on the museum’s train and have a simulated train ride with a conductor. They finished the even with a visit from Santa, milk, and cookies. {bottom middle and right}.

Cooper was part of the children’s Christmas choir this year and sang with the adult choir during our Christmas musical {bottom left}.

We held our Lily Moms Christmas party and it was a blast! We had a tacky Christmas sweater theme, so naturally I wore a Christmas sweater, plaid leggings, and Mickey Mouse crocs. {middle right} What’s more tacky than crocs? Adult sized Mickey Mouse crocs.

Jason and I attended his work Christmas party. We go every year because not only do they host an incredible party, but they also give away some incredible door prizes. This year’s prizes includes Roombas, iPads, grills, and gift cards galore. Sadly, we didn’t win, but maybe next year. We did have fun in the photo booth though! {middle}

Our family Christmas get together also had an ugly Christmas sweater theme but I think most of my family forgot to participate, ha! Poppy dressed up as a gingerbread woman, and I put back on my reindeer getup minus the makeup. {middle left and top left}

We enjoyed our annual How the Grinch Stole Christmas night – I always decorate the table and do some fun food and activities – and we wrote our Christmas lists on special shrinking paper {top middle and right}.

DECEMBER CONTINUED

{Bottom middle and left} These are more pictures from our family Christmas celebration.

{Bottom left} I love little girls in sweet Christmas dresses. Poppy has worn this dress two Christmases in a row.

{Middle left and right} Another one of our traditions is to dress up in Christmas pajamas, go to eat at the Steak and Shake (yep, in Christmas pajamas!), and then drive around drinking hot chocolate and looking at Christmas lights. This year I found matching pajamas for the whole family, and to my surprise Jason was completely on board for Operation Christmas Jammies. We had an absolutely blast and I love sharing this sweet tradition with my kids.

We managed to fit in a few more annual Christmas activities – Lights at the Zoo {top left and middle} and Lights of the South {top middle and right}. Checking out Jason and Poppy in the Cinderella carriage. Daddy will always be your first prince, Poppy Grace!

DECEMBER CONTINUED

We finally made it to Christmas! We attended church that morning, and then headed home for quick naps before returning to church for the Christmas Eve service {bottom right and middle}. My parents spend the night at our house on Christmas Eve, so we returned home to eat dinner, decorate cookies for Santa, and help Santa put together some gifts {bottom left and middle right}.

Christmas Day is always so wonderful when it is experienced through the eyes of a child. The kids had tons of time to enjoy their gifts before my brother’s family arrived in the afternoon. We spent the evening opening presents, eating dinner, and playing Minute to Win It games.

I have no pictures for the time between Christmas and New Years – we laid low and hung out at the house. We took lots of naps, watched movies, played games, and in general just enjoyed our time off school and work! On New Year’s Eve we picked up groceries before returning home to eat our traditional cheese and fruit plate. Jason set off a few fireworks and we talked about our goals for the year. We were all in bed and asleep well before midnight!

If you made it to the end, thanks for sticking around! It was an amazing 2017 and I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings.

Cast Your Net, Part 2

For the past two weeks, I’ve been doing endless research on cameras. YouTube, articles, websites, purchase reviews – you name it, I’ve read or watched it. I’ve looked at comparison charts. I’ve created my own Excel spreadsheets. Honestly, at this point I just want to twirl around in a circle and buy whatever my finger points to, because my head aches and it all looks the same at this point.

I want to be able to create quality video tutorials. It’s something I’m passionate about, and it’s something I’ve dabbled in with good reception on Instagram. When I had this idea of re-launching Tickled Peach, it was always with the hope that eventually I would also launch a YouTube channel and offer makeup tutorials on the blog and on YouTube. I don’t have an expectation of being a star, but I think I have a voice, and an audience, and I want to share what I know.

But it’s become clear that my iPhone 6s will not cut it. I don’t even have the newest and fanciest model! Ha! I knew eventually I would need to get better quality equipment, and so lately I’ve been researching what some YouTubers use and what is recommended for creating quality blog photographs and video tutorials.

And the list is endless. And expensive. $3000 DSLR cameras. Ring lights, umbrella lights, reflectors. Microphones. Editing software. Backdrops. Sets. Last night as I watched yet another video titled “Equipment Every YouTuber Needs!” I started to feel discouraged. I don’t have the budget to buy everything on these lists. Even if I did, I certainly don’t know how to use what I would buy. It started to seem silly. Pointless. And I wondered if maybe I should just give up.

See, this is one of my character flaws. In my head, I shouldn’t do something if I don’t have every single thing I need to do it. I will have a goal, but I set roadblocks for myself in the form of lack of knowledge, lack of ability, lack of financial means.

I’d really love to learn how to embroider children’s clothes! But those machines are expensive, and I don’t know how to use them. I don’t even know how to sew!

I should start exercising! But I don’t have any workout clothes, and I don’t have a gym membership, and I don’t even have an tennis shoes.

I want to go back to school and finish my Master’s degree. But we don’t have the money, and I don’t have the time, and who would watch the kids while I went to school?

Jason will tell you that if it were up to me, we probably would not have children. We were married for 6 years before I got pregnant with Cooper. We had talked about the timing of starting a family, but there was always something I thought we needed. We needed to have a certain amount of money in the bank. We needed to live in a house and not an apartment. We needed to be closer to family so we would have help if we needed. We needed to wait until we were ___ years old. Jason is the one who finally had enough of my “we will do it when” and that’s how we had Cooper. And Sullivan. Sweet Poppy was a surprise, so I guess even God knew I would have found a reason we should have waited to have her.

You know what? I’m so incredibly thankful that my husband did insist. Because those three babies are the very best thing that have ever happened to me.

I originally launched Tickled Peach in 2014. I took a break in 2015 that turned into a 2 year hiatus from the blog. “Blogging is dead!” I told myself. No one would read my blog. What would I talk about? I didn’t have time. Why bother?

But the idea just wouldn’t go away. In the summer of 2015, I did a bible study, The Best Yes, by Lysa TerKeurst. I still to this day say that bible study was one of the most transforming studies I’ve ever done. In the book, she talks about how we make time for things that are really important to us. She says that sometimes when we have goals or dreams, we have to be very intentional about creating time to accomplish those things. She shared about writing her first book, and how she would carve out these little pockets in her day to work, because it mattered to her. It was her Best Yes.

As I read that book, I felt God saying “your blog is your Best Yes.”

I ignored it. Because it seemed crazy! Did God know that blogging was dead? I don’t think he got the memo that Google Reader died and a lot of blogs went with it.

That voice continued. I told you HERE about how, during a study of the book of John, the story of the disciples casting their net just blew me away. A very simple act of faith led to a huge blessing from God. They did what they were asked to do, and they were blessed for doing it.

And still I ignored that voice. I acknowledged it, sure. If you follow me on Instagram you may remember me sharing my reaction to that study, and how I felt like God was calling me to blog. That was back in April.

In June, our pastor was out of town, and our friend Ray preached the sermon one Sunday morning. Again, he referenced the disciples casting their net. “Go!” he said. “When God put something in front of you, DO IT.” After that sermon, my friend Wendy even texted me and said “hey – remember you talked about casting your net?” At that point I began to accept that this was something I could do and wanted to do. I set a goal of launching on September 1st.

And there I went, creating roadblocks in my own way. I didn’t have the right blog design. I don’t understand how to use Pinterest to promote my blog. What is SEO? How does one use affiliate links? Do I use ads? I began to make a list of all the things I needed and quickly became overwhelmed.

That’s when Satan steps in, friends. He senses your discouragement. He feels your fear. He knows you do not feel equipped. And he will magnify those feelings until you just want to give up. Because that’s what he wants! Satan wants you to walk away from that net God is telling you to cast.

It took my husband finally saying “Go! You’ll never have enough knowledge. You’ll never know every single thing you need to know. You will learn as you go, and that’s OK.” for me to actually take the leap and re-launch the blog.

Here’s the truth: there will always be a million reasons why not. You will never feel perfectly ready. You will never have a perfect body, or the exact right amount of money in the bank, or live in the perfect house, or have every bit of knowledge that you need to know. That just isn’t how life works. But I can tell you one thing – God tells you why. Even better, he tells you how.

Cast your net, he says. Jump. Go. Do.

Tickled Peach was a big leap of faith for me. I had a million reasons why I shouldn’t do this. I had one reason why I should: because God told me to. I want to have the faith of Peter, John, and the other disciples who heard some stranger on a beach say “Cast your net!” and just throw my net off the side of the boat. I want to go forth, boldly, trusting in his provision and equipment. Because he will give me every single thing I need. Maybe I don’t have every single bit of knowledge or equipment, but I have a voice. I have an audience. The rest will come at some point. I’ve got to stop being so scared of the “what ifs” and “but I needs” that I never even step foot onto the boat.

I don’t know how many of you are in the same boat right now. Maybe there is this lingering goal, or dream, or calling in the back of your mind that you are telling yourself that there is no way you can do.

Maybe you want to go back to work after staying at home.

Maybe you want to go back to school and get a degree.

Maybe you want to start a business.

Maybe you want to have a baby.

Find your why, friends. Listen to that calling. Step into that boat. Cast that net. Believe, just as I have, that if you are called to do it, you will be equipped to do it. God can see infinitely more than we ever could about our future. Trust and believe that if he has put something on your heart, there is a reason. You never know where it can lead.

Cast your net. Throw it with abandon. Know that He is the one who called you, and He will be with you every step of the way.

25 Days of Christmas for your Husband

So Jason and I don’t really do Christmas gifts for one another. It’s just what we have found works for us. We don’t really have a hard and fast rule on this… typically we may buy each other one small gift, or we skip gifts entirely. We just buy what we want and need throughout the year, and we choose to put the focus on our kids at Christmas time.

However, I always like to do something special for him. I’ve done a few creative advent type countdown ideas over the years, and I thought I would share what I put together for him last year in case this is something you’d like to attempt this holiday season!

The basic idea is that we had an advent style countdown, and he got one gift or activity per day. It would be so easy to customize this to fit any budget, and you could honestly make this completely free by using things you have on hand, free community events, baking treats, doing chores he dreads, etc.

Here’s what I included:

  1. I re-started the Sirius XM subscription in his car. It had lapsed, and it was one of those things he said we didn’t really need to worry about, but he did enjoy listening to a certain station every morning on the way to work. The note on the back of the countdown led him to turn on his car radio, where he discovered I had renewed his service. // This first gift is for your ears, listen well and news you’ll hear.
  2. Build a fort in the living room and watch a Christmas movie. I had popcorn and candy on hand for snacks. // Let’s cozy up this Christmas night. Popcorn, candy, blankets tight.
  3. I gave him a $10 iTunes card to buy some new music or games. // New tunes are what you need to hear. Use this card and get some cheer.
  4. Movie – you could buy a DVD or just rent a movie on Amazon. // This movie was once a favorite sight. Sit down tonight and watch it with some tasty bites. 
  5. Bubble bath – my husband rarely takes bath, but on this night I set up a bath with candles and fancy bubble bath. // Bubbles, salts, lotion oh my. A bubble bath ends your day on a high.
  6. Scavenger hunt – I set up a scavenger hunt throughout the house for him to do with the kids. Each stop had a piece of candy. // Our elves have set up a little hunt. Go find you some candy. Don’t eat it for lunch!
  7. Conversation starters, which we talked about while we enjoyed a glass of wine. // Grab a glass and pour you some wine. Let’s have a chat and a really good time.
  8. On this day, I sent him one text each hour, with things I loved about him. // Today you’ll hear from me, once every hour.
  9. Snack box – I filled a large box with all his favorite snacks and had it ready to go to work with him. // These are a few of your favorite things.
  10. $10 Starbucks card for a coffee date // Let’s use this card to go on a date. Some coffee and chatter; please don’t be late.
  11. We were planning on going to the zoo to walk and see Christmas lights, so this day was gloves and a hat. // You’ll need these to stay warm tonight!
  12. This day was a coupon to make his favorite meal. // Bring your appetite!
  13. Smore night! I had graham crackers, marshmallows, and tons of different chocolates. // Gooey and ooey and delicious and warm. Let’s make a fire and have us some smores!
  14. He needed a warmer jacket, so that was delivered this day. // The high of today is 45. This gift will keep you warm inside.
  15. I made hot chocolate and we drove around and looked at Christmas lights. // An annual tradition we just can’t miss. Let’s make some cocoa and look at some lights!
  16. New PJ pants and a Christmas shirt – we had a movie date after the kids went to bed. // Cuddle, cuddle, toil, no trouble – meet me at 8 for movies and snacks.
  17. Breakfast in bed // Get back in bed. No work for you! You breakfast, dear sir, is coming soon.
  18. Game night // After work you are due some fun. Let’s play board games hun!
  19. CD // Check your passenger side seat for today’s surprise.
  20. New dress socks // These are part of your daily uniform. They aren’t very sexy but they sure are warm!
  21. I made his favorite cookies. // This is a coupon for your favorite treat. Text me your preference and they will be waiting when you get home!
  22. Santa underwear // I think y’all can probably just make your own version of what this clue would be. LOL.
  23. I had the kids use index cards to make him a coupon book. // The kids have been working, working hard. These coupons are meant to do all your jobs.
  24. An ornament for the Christmas tree // Look on the tree and a new ornament you’ll see.
  25. His Christmas stocking, which was filled with some of his favorite candy, snacks, and a Yeti cup

I never once claimed to be good at rhymes. Ha!

I began planning this out in early November. I looked at our calendar and planned gifts or activities around things we already had scheduled. For activities, I just made sure we had what we needed on hand (for example, if I was making homemade hot chocolate, I put the ingredients on the grocery list for that week). I went ahead and ordered any presents/gifts. For the gifts, I made a notations on the card itself that it was a present, and the present was kept under the Christmas tree in our room.

For the actual physical countdown, I saw these card stock Christmas trees at Hobby Lobby. They came in packs of 10, I believe, so I picked up a few. The day numbers were written on the front with a metallic Sharpie, and on the back I typed up the clues, printed them on computer paper, and glued them on. I used twine which I anchored to the wall with push pins, and clipped the stockings and trees on with mini clothespins. I ended up putting this in our bathroom, over our bathtub, because that was the place our kids were least likely to mess with it. Ha!

Jason really loved this – he said it made him feel special and gave him something to look forward to each day.

Here are a few other ideas you could include:

  • Community activities: tree lighting ceremonies, church musicals, the Nutcracker performance, etc. Facebook is a great resource for community events!
  • Do some chores that your husband doesn’t like to do or doesn’t always have time to do: clean the garage, get his oil changed, detail his car, organize your filing system, go buy presents for his staff or family, etc.
  • Make some of his favorite things: cookies, meal, cake, snack food, etc.
  • Give him time to do something he loves, uninterrupted. Take the kids somewhere while he watches football. Let him go hunting and don’t complain about how long he is gone. Send him to the bookstore with instructions to buy a new book.
  • Talk to his mom and find out what some of their family favorites and traditions were. Recreate them! Did they get new pajamas each Christmas? Did they have a night of stringing popcorn for the tree?
  • Go old school. Play his favorite card game or board game.

I’ve also done this before, but for a shorter duration. I’ve done the 12 Days of Christmas, and just do 12 gifts or 12 activities.

Please let me know if you decide to do this! I’d love to compare notes!

Instant Pot Sausage Mac and Cheese

I shared my intense love of the Instant Pot with you a few weeks ago and since then I’ve left you hanging with recipes! Well, no more. I’m going to be sharing some of my favorite recipes that are adapted to or made for the Instant Pot with you in the next few weeks.

First up, what is an Instant Pot? Well, it’s a pressure cooker, but it’s so much more. It can pressure cook your meals, saute meats or vegetables, make yogurt, make the best dang hard boiled eggs you’ve ever had in your life… I could go on and on. Read my post HERE where I talk about how it took me a long time to jump on the Instant Pot bandwagon and how once I did, I was hooked!

Need an Instant Pot? I’ve got you covered.

Instant Pot LUX60 V3 6 Qt 6-in-1 Muti-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Sauté, Steamer, and Warmer: This is the Instant Pot that I own. It’s plenty big enough for my family, but I have friends (and my mom) who have the 8qt and they love the extra room for big roasts, soups, ribs, boston butts, etc.

Instant Pot DUO80 8 Qt 7-in-1 Multi- Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Sauté, Yogurt Maker and Warmer: This is the bigger Instant Pot. There isn’t a HUGE price difference so if I had to do it all over again, I would probably buy the 8 quart.

Now on to the recipe! The very first thing I ever cooked in my Instant Pot was Macaroni and Cheese. I shared how I was super intimidated of the Instant Pot at first, and I asked my Instagram friends for advice on what I should cook first. My friend Sarah sent me this recipe, and it was amazing.

Dads Cook Dinner: Pressure Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

I mean, you could make it exactly as it’s listed in the link, but I wanted to try and make it into a one pot meal. Adding sausage to the recipe and switching up a few ingredients gives it a little extra protein and a much needed calorie boost for Cooper (don’t worry, you can skinny it down some if you want).

Instant Pot Sausage Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:

  • Butterball Turkey Sausage (not an affiliate link, but so you know what to look for)
  • 1 pound dried elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha (or 1 teaspoon hot sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 12 oz can evaporated milk OR 8 oz milk OR 8 oz heavy cream
  • 16 oz extra sharp cheddar
  • 6 oz parmesean cheese

Directions:

Cut up your sausage and add to the Instant Pot. Hit the SAUTE button. The inner bowl will begin to heat and you can brown your sausage on both sides.

While your sausage is browning, add your Dijon mustard, Sriracha, and salt to a measuring cup filled with 4 cups water. Whisk together ingredients. If you do not have Dijon mustard, you can use regular, but I’m telling you that the Dijon mustard does something amazing to this macaroni and cheese. I use Sriracha but you can use another hot sauce (I’ve successfully used Frank’s before because that was what I had on hand!).

Pour into the Instant Pot and add your elbow macaroni and butter.

Lock the top into place and hit the “Keep Warm/Cancel” button. Make sure the pressure valve is turned to “Sealed”. Hit the “Manual” button and adjust the time to 4 minutes. The Instant Pot will briefly show 4 and then will turn to On.

It will take about 10-15 minutes to come to pressure. Once it does, you will hear a beep and the timer will turn to 4 and begin to count down. Once the cycle is complete, do a Quick Release – this means turn the valve to the right and the pressure will release. Keep your hands and face away from the valve until no more air is being released. Once this is complete, you can open the lid.

Note: you will not be able to open the lid unless the pressure had been released. It is a safety feature of the Instant Pot.

While the Instant Pot is coming to pressure and cooking, I get my cheese ready. I like to get blocks of cheese and shred them myself. Yes, it’s extra work, but somehow it just tastes better. This is two 8 oz blocks of extra sharp cheddar. You will see in a picture below that I didn’t end up using all of this cheese. I probably used a block and a half, but the actual recipe I adapted this from calls for 16 oz of cheese. It’s up to you how cheesy you would like for this to be! You will also need 12 oz evaporated milk and 6 oz Parmesan cheese.

Note: I switch out the evaporated milk for whatever I have on hand. I’ve used whole milk and cream before. If I know Cooper didn’t have a great calorie day (we struggle with his weight), I will make this with all the cheese and heavy cream. It’s something I know he will eat and the calories are good for him. However, once I made this and Jason said “oh my gosh, this is amazing, what did you do different?” and I realized I never even added milk. Apparently I used 5 cups of water instead of 4, and I just mixed in the cheese. It still tasted amazing, and Jason actually prefers me to omit the milk now.

This is what it looks like after you’ve removed the lid. All of the water has been absorbed and the pasta is cooked perfectly. Now add in the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses, and the milk. Mix together and pop the lid back on. The Instant Pot goes into warming mode once you’ve completed the timed cycle – let it stay on warming mode. Walk away for a few minutes, clean up, and when you come back the cheese will be melted.

This is what it looks like after the cheese has melted! I’m telling you, this is a HUGE hit at my house. It’s the one thing I can make that I know every single person will eat and love. Is it perfectly healthy? Eh, no. But we don’t make it every single week.

I like to serve this with a salad – arugula is our favorite, and it’s the easiest salad ever. I just use arugula, Parmesan cheese, a little pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice. The acid of the lemon and the natural peppery taste of the arugula help to balance out the intense creaminess of the macaroni and cheese.

If you try this, please let me know what you think!

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I will receive a small percentage of the sale if you decide to purchase the products. Thank you for supporting Tickled Peach!

Hotels Helping Heroes

Hey friends! How are you? I took a little break from blogging in order to spend some much needed time with my family. Sometimes I think my phone is permanently affixed to my hand – I seem to use it for everything. The past couple of days I have made a true effort to put down my phone and just enjoy my husband and children. I didn’t even take that many pictures! (Who am I?!)

I blogged before about how the past few weeks have just been insane for us. Jason was participating in Chief season, and he was gone every single night and weekend until mid-September. He barely got to see the kids because he usually would arrive home after their bedtime. Since he gets up and leaves before we wake up in the morning, it had started to feel as if we were ships passing in the night. One day after he was pinned as Chief, he started working the outage at his plant, and he was on a schedule that had him working 6pm-6am six days a week. Again, we just kind of saw each other in passing. It was tough, I’ll admit, but it was necessary.

All that to say – we were way overdue for family time. This past weekend was the first weekend since July that he has not had either Navy commitments, Chief commitments, or work. We had talked about going out of town but finally decided to put it on hold for a few weeks. Last week, a great opportunity was dropped in my lap to review a hotel in exchange for a free stay, and we jumped on it!

Hotels Helping Heroes is an organization that aims to greatly reduce the cost of staying at clean, safe, and friendly brand properties for veterans and military members who might not otherwise be able to afford the cost of travel. Hotels Helping Heroes reaches out to hotels and offers social media marketing in exchange for free or reduced hotel stays.

In a nutshell – if you are a veteran, current military member, retired military, Reservist or National Guard, or a military spouse, you can complete a registration form that lists your pertinent information and possible dates of travel. You indicate which city you wish you travel, and Hotels Helping Heroes will reach out to hotels in the area on your behalf. Hotels will then barter unused rooms in exchange for social media promotion. You are asked to provide at least 3 reviews on websites such as Yelp, Google, Trip Advisor, the hotel’s Facebook page, etc. It is expected you will write an honest review.

Hotels Helping Heroes then charges a small percentage of the room’s rate per night. Just to give you an idea – our hotel room, had I booked myself, would have been $140 a night. I paid $75 to Hotels Helping Heroes for two nights.

Another military spouse posted about this opportunity, so I reached out, figuring that I didn’t really have anything to lose. I’m so glad I did!

Note: Hotels Helping Heroes did not require me to write about this on my blog. I completed my “requirements” by posting on my social media and placing reviews on several travel websites. I am writing about this because I understand that as a military family, sometimes it is hard to make money stretch to include vacations. However, vacations are much needed, especially after deployments or other separations! I really appreciate the idea behind Hotels Helping Heroes. I would not mention this had I not tried it and had a positive experience myself.

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Charleston, South Carolina. We are frequent travelers to Charleston but this is the first time we have ever stayed at the Crowne Plaza. It was clean, safe, comfortable, and affordable which is really all we are looking for as a family when we travel. I should note that we are not a family who typically stays in “fancy” or boutique type hotels. Generally, when I search for hotels I am looking for something that is budget friendly yet is clean, family friendly, and is located in a safe area of town.

Crowne Plaza really met all our needs! It is located right across the street from the Tanger outlets, and there is also a Walmart within walking distance. There are tons of restaurants – Steak and Shake, IHOP, Denny’s, Chili’s, Mellow Mushroom just to name a few. Downtown is a 20 minute drive, and we made it to Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island in less than 30 minutes.

The hotel itself is really modern in decor. You walk into a lobby, and just past the lobby is a restaurant, a bar, and a sitting area. There is also a small shop – we didn’t visit but it looked as if it housed travel necessities, toiletries, snacks, and drinks.

I was especially pleased with the room – we were given a standard room with two queen beds, and I was worried about the five of us fitting comfortably. However, the room was really spacious and the bathroom was huge! We had plenty of room, even with a pack and play for Poppy Grace. The beds were crazy comfortable. The room had a settee, two double beds, a nightstand with a lamp and alarm clock, a chest of drawers, a mini fridge, and a desk. The TV is mounted opposite the bed. There was a safe, a coffee maker, coffee fixings, cups, and there were toiletries in the bathroom.

The bathroom was huge… you know how sometimes you can only fit one person into a hotel bathroom? It was plenty big enough for one person to shower and the other use the sink or get ready. Jason’s favorite feature was that they had this really amazing magnifying mirror… I found it frightening (who needs to see your wrinkles that close?) but to each his own. The shower was really modern, with subway tile and a seamless glass door. I always love and appreciate the lighting in a hotel bathroom and wish I could bring that back home for getting ready purposes!

The hotel has an outdoor pool with tons of lounge chairs and tables. There is even an outdoor fireplace! The kids really wanted to swim, and we could have (the pool is heated) but I forgot their puddle jumpers and Jason said no.

The hotel also had an exercise room and a guest laundry, but I didn’t personally try either out.

I did mention the hotel has a restaurant, which served a buffet breakfast. We ate elsewhere, but the restaurant was packed each morning. I also looked at the room service menu, and the prices seemed very reasonable to me (like $8 for a breakfast meal).

We were very pleased with our stay at the Crowne Plaza, and would definitely stay there on future trips!

Note: I know this post sounds like a sponsored review, but I was not required to post about either the hotel or Hotels Helping Heroes. I always appreciate reading hotel reviews because you just never know what you will get sometimes. I would definitely stay at the Crowne Plaza again.

Giveaway Winners Announced!

I want to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart – THANK YOU for supporting Tickled Peach. It honestly means to much to me to have others support this blog. I cannot grow this community without your readership, so please share Tickled Peach with your family and friends. These giveaways were a small measure of my appreciation for supporting me, and I sincerely hope you will continue to read.

Please continue to read on for details on why I chose the products I did to giveaway, and at the bottom…. the winners!

  • Psssst! Dry Shampoo: this is my favorite dry shampoo. I’ve been using it for years, and it is definitely a budget bargain. I love that it doesn’t leave a white cast on my brunette hair, and it also doesn’t have a strong scent.
  • Wet N Dry Ionic Ultra Detangling Hair Brush: this brush is just the best for detangling wet hair. I use it straight out of the shower before I apply products, and it is also great for little girls with long, tangle prone hair.
  • Tropical Shine Nail File: I buy these in bulk from Sally’s. My kids, for some odd reason, are obsessed with nail files. I find them crumpled and chewed on (WHY?) quite often. So, I stock up and buy 5 or more at a time. These files do a great job with your at home manicures.
  • Wet N Wild One Step Wonder Gel Polish in It’s Sher-Bert Day and All That Jazzy. This is probably my favorite drugstore gel polish. You do not need to use a base or top coat with these polishes. Just paint two coats, let dry, and hit the town! The brand claims you will receive 2 weeks worth of wear, but it is more like one week for me. Still, one week is awesome for a $5 polish!
  • Ion Keratin Smoothing Mask: I get this from Sally’s and it is a really great deep conditioner for coarse, frizzy hair. I really see a difference in both the condition of my hair and the amount of frizz when I use this conditioner.

AND THE WINNER IS……. @leannemyhill!

 

The second day of giveaways focused on skincare. If you’ve been following me for any amount of time on Instagram, you know how important skincare is to me. These are a few of my favorite products.

  • Tony Moly I’m Real Sheet Mask: Sheet masks are the new skincare craze. It’s simply a piece of cloth that is saturated with some sort of treatment. You unfold the cloth, conform the mask to your face, and relax in a hot tub or soft bed for 15 minutes or so. When you are ready to remove, lift off the cloth and massage the remaining product into your skin. (In most cases, you do not wash off whatever product remains on your face, but read the instructions to be sure.) Click HERE for a pack of 11 Tony Moly sheet masks for $17 – that is a great price, considering these are $4 a piece at Ulta.
  • Josie Maran Argan Oil Light: Argan oil is a moisturizing treatment for hair, nails, or skin. I like to combine 2 drops with my nighttime moisturizer.
  • Up & Up Makeup Remover Wipes: These Target brand makeup remover wipes are a dupe for the more expensive Neutrogena brand wipes. I love how well these remove your makeup without leaving behind an oily residue.
  • Sephora Purple Clay Mask: I haven’t personally tried this product, but was intrigued when I saw it in the checkout line. (Darn those check out product bins!) This pouch contains four applications of the mask.
  • SkinFood Egg White Pore Hot Steam Pack: This is a well known Korean beauty brand. I picked this mask up on a whim one day in Ulta, and I’m so glad I did. This is a wet mask that heats initially as you apply it to you face. It draws out impurities, particularly blackheads and sebum, that clog pores. This is a fantastic mask that will cost you less than $14. You can buy it on Amazon or at Ulta.
  • Tony Moly The Green Tea Watery Essence: Essence is a Korean beauty staple. In a nutshell, essence is the product you apply after you cleanse a tone your face, before you apply other treatment products. The essence is designed to help your other products really sink in to your skin and do their jobs. Green tea contains powerful antioxidants, so that is an added benefit of this product.
  • Pixi Glow Tonic is a AHA toner. Again, if you follow me on Instagram you know I am an advocate of using acids as part of your daily skincare regimen. AHAs are wonderful for chemically exfoliating your skin, brightening your skin tone, and clearing up blemishes and blackheads.
  • EOS Lip Balm: I keep this in my bathroom and apply it at night as I am applying my skincare products and in the morning before I apply makeup. I also always have one in my purse!

AND THE WINNER IS… LAUREL FALCON!

 

When I definitely decided to relaunch Tickled Peach, I reached out to my followers on Instagram and asked if anyone would be interested in participating in the Week of Giveaways. Lovely Rachel contacted me, and I was blown away when she offered up this amazing prize.

This is a ONE MONTH SUPPLY of Shakeology! Y’all, this prize has a cash value of $130!

I’m not the only one blown away by Rachel’s generosity. It seems y’all were blown away by her offer, too. Since only one person can win, I wanted to give you her contact details so you can get in touch with her about her products. In addition to selling Shakeology, Rachel also offers clean eating plans and assistance on creating fitness plans. Please contact her for more information!

Rachel’s FB group

Rachel’s website

Contact Rachel by email at rhuggins819@gmail.com.

AND THE WINNER IS… CRYSTAL STUBBS!

For Thursday’s giveaway, I wanted to focus on accessories. What tired mom doesn’t need a cute hat to hide her bad hair days? Although, in hindsight, the text of the hat might give your secret away…

I also love these earrings from Walmart. Yes, Walmart! At $4 a piece, you can afford to buy more than one, so I did!

I finished this giveaway off with a cute makeup bag, perfect for your purse or diaper bag to stash a few necessities.

AND THE WINNER IS… @beccadalgety!

The last giveaway truly contains some of my most favorite and most used drugstore makeup products. I promise if you can to my house and peeked in my vanity, you would see all of these items on heavy repeat!

  • Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer smells amazing and is the perfect way to add a little color to your complexion. Buy it at Ulta (but Amazon is a bit cheaper).
  • Makeup Revolution Shimmer Brick is my go to for highlighting. I mainly use the top two shades on a fan brush, but swirling all the colors together would make a great blush.
  • Wet N Wild Ombre Blush is a beautiful soft pink blush that adds just a hint of color to light complexions.
  • MAC Paint Pots are perfect as an eyeshadow primer. Soft Ochre is a great nude that compliments most skin tones.
  • Real Techniques Complexion Sponges: when I bought this package, I got one for myself. This are my go-to makeup sponge. I love the sharp, angled side for blending out my undereye concealer. There is a 2 pack on Amazon for $9 or one sponge at Ulta for $5.
  • Loreal Voluminous Lash Paradise is a cheap drugstore dupe for the more expensive Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara. Y’all, I’ve tried both, and I prefer Loreal’s version!
  • Wet N Wild Gel Lip Liner has turned into my favorite lip liner. They line so smoothly, and the color stays put for ages. It reminds me a lot of a MAC lip liner, but at a better price!
  • ELF Lip Exfoliator should be on every girl’s bathroom counter! Use it every night to exfoliate and soften your lips.
  • Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Dark Circle Eraser is the BEST drugstore undereye concealer in my opinion. I’ve gone through at least 10 tubes in the past couple of years.

AND THE WINNER IS… MEGAN GUNTER!

Winners, please reach out to me within one week with your mailing address. Local winners, I will be contacting you to arrange a time to give you your goodies!

This post contained affiliate links. This means that if you click the link and purchase the product, I will receive a small percentage of the sale. I did research which links were less expensive, and in most cases, Amazon is your better bet. However, most products listed above can be found at Ulta, Sephora, Target, Walmart, or a drugstore. Thank you for supporting me!

Welcome Back & a Podcast!

Hello friends! I’m sorry it has been so long since my last post. I’m looking forward to diving back into to regular posting here at Tickled Peach!

To kick off this month’s content, I wanted to share a recent interview that I did over at Me Being Crafty. Tess is a good friend of mine from my submarine wife days. It was so fun to do this interview – there’s lots of laughter and memories, but I also touched on my recent struggles with depression and anxiety (the main reason for my recent absence, which I’ll be discussing in length a little later). I talk about my attempt to find balance and creative time in my life, and my holiday decorating, party planning, and crafting with my children.

My interview is actually available as a podcast on iTunes HERE (free!) or you can access Me Being Crafty directly and download or listen on the website.

Please visit Me Being Crafty and take a look around. Tess is a phenomenally talented quilter and sewer. She’s currently living in France and her blog is dedicated to the creative journey of crafting. Find Me Being Crafty on Stitcher HERE.

I’m so excited about the blog post I have coming up this month. Take a look at what you can look forward to in December:

  • Advent Calendars and Activities for Preschoolers
  • Elf on the Shelf Ideas for the Lazy Parent
  • Christmas Decor
  • Christmas recipes
  • The Kindness Project for Young Children

I hope you’ll follow along! Thank you for reading!