Favorite Summer Moments!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Happy Monday!! How was your weekend?? I hope it was a great one :)

I am excited to be joining Erika and Andrea for their "Favorite Things" link up party!
The "theme" for today is: "Your Favorite Summer Moment"
So I don't know if I am breaking the rules by doing this- but I couldn't just share one favorite moment from this summer!! We had such a wonderful summer break!
So here are a few FAVORITE moments :)

All things POOL related!!
We lived at our pool (we belong to an awesome YMCA) this summer! My kids absolutely love the pool and never got sick of going. Hands down, it was our favorite summer activity!!
July 4th was such a FUN day for us!! We stayed up really late and got to enjoy several firework shows from our back yard. The girls had a blast doing sparklers and their excitement about everything was SO precious. Definitely one of my favorite days this summer!!
Celebrating our precious baby boy's FIRST birthday!! The girls were SO excited about James' having his first birthday "party."  Aaron took the day off work and we celebrated all day long as a family.  It was one of our FAVORITE days this summer!
Going to my friend Michaela's lake house!!  The lake house is actually owned by her dad's company- but every summer- he gets a week where he has the house.  Michaela invites a bunch of her friends to come spend the week with her and her family and it is a BLAST.  My girls were SO happy the whole time we were at the lake.  It was hands down our favorite little family trip we took this summer!
Our family vacation to Kure Beach!! My mom has 7 sisters and every other year, all of her sisters, their families, and my grandfather get together for one week at the beach. I think there were 37 people on this vacation?!?  It was SO MUCH FUN.  Our girls were OBSESSED with the ocean and had such a blast playing with their cousins!! I loved being with all of my was such a special week!!
I have to say...this has been one of the best summers we have ever had!! We did so many fun things and I loved spending every day with all of my kiddos home with me.  
So thankful for such a beautiful summer!!

Friday Favorites!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hi!! It is FRIDAY!  Yay!  We travelled up to Cleveland yesterday and are here today, while my husband attends a residency event where he went to podiatry school.  I thought it would be fun to feature some of my Cleveland favorites in honor of us being up here for a visit!

Just some quick background info- we lived in Cleveland for 4 1/2 years while my husband went to podiatry school.  We moved last May to Indianapolis, where my husband is now doing his residency.  I have to be completely honest and say that there were many parts about Cleveland that were not "favorites."  The biggest one being: THE WEATHER.  It is SO cold and snows so much during the winter....and the cold, gloom and yuck seem to last for about 6-7 months.  Dealing with the weather, with 3 very young children, with no family in town, with a husband who was always working or studying...well...that made for some loonngg days.  HA!  So- the weather really was a big thumbs down for us.  

BUT- there were so many things we loved about are just a few!

Melt Bar and Grilled. Hands down our favorite restaraunt in Cleveland!! I have talked about Melt before here on the blog. OMG. SO YUMMY!! We actually ate there last night!! Their claim to fame is outrageous grilled cheese sandwiches.  Everything is made from scratch...including their french fries, salad name it.  You feel totally gluttonous when you are done eating there...but it is SO worth.  If you are in the Cleveland area or in Columbus (they have a couple Melts down there now too) EAT AT MELT.  And wear elastic pants- HA!

We LOVED going to the Cleveland Zoo!  The zoo is HUGE, beautifully maintained and they have an indoor rain forest zoo- that is perfect to walk around during the winter!  A couple of years ago, they opened a huge elephant exhibit and it is SO neat.  You can even watch the elephants get their shower in their stalls!  One of my favorite parts about the Cleveland Zoo is Monday is Free Admission for all residents living in Cuyahoga County (the county which encompasses Cleveland and surrounding suburbs).  This was SO nice for us!  We would pretty much go every Monday during the summer!  We showed up right when the zoo would open, walk around for a couple hours before it got busy and then head home for lunch and naps.  Definitely one of our favorite things to do while we lived in Cleveland! 

Fall in Cleveland...Northeast Ohio for that matter, is SPECTACULAR.  The winters are rough- but man- fall is absolutely breathtaking. There are SO many beautiful orchards, fall festivals and anything and everything you could imagine fall is "supposed to be like."  One of our favorite things to do was just walk through all the beautiful, local parks and just take in the scenery.  The girls LOVED collecting leaves- there were so many colors to find!
Here are just a few pictures I took one year...they really don't even do the true colors of the leaves justice!

One of our most FAVORITE things about living in the Cleveland area was the Cleveland Metroparks.  There are 18 park reservations spanning 23,000 acres!! We lived right by the Brecksville Reservation and went hiking and running there all the time.  We are big nature people- so it was WONDERFUL having so many amazing parks and trails to explore!  

Sooo...the purse strings were pretty tight (well...they still are-HA!) while Aaron was in school.  We had to get really creative with our money and were always on the look out for "deals."  One super awesome deal we found was at a Cleveland based frozen yogurt shop called Lemonberry.  On Monday's, they had "happy-hour" from 5-7pm and your frozen yogurt was 1/2 price. It totally became our "thing" to eat an early dinner, then head to Lemonberry for a fro-yo treat every Monday!  I have so many sweet memories of us loading up in the van, even in the dead of winter, to go get our frozen yogurt.  It was one of my girls' favorite parts of the week.  DUH! HA!  Even when it is not happy hour at Lemonberry, it is CERTAINLY worth it...I think they have the BEST frozen yogurt, TONS of toppings and it is always super clean.  And the girls working there never got mad when I asked for 5 different samples.  That right there makes them the best frozen yogurt shop! HA!

By far the best thing about living in Cleveland was the wonderful friends we made.  It took us a couple of years to find them and we didn't have a ton of friends...but the people we ended up becoming close with are still some of our best friends!!  While I don't miss the Cleveland winters...I do miss our friends- A LOT. I have to know- if you are from the Cleveland area (ahem Laura)...what are some of your FAVORITES?  I know I only skimmed the surface on things to do and places to go...I would love to hear what you think!! 

Here's to a fabulous weekend ahead! Today is my precious Cora Maye's 5th birthday and we are off to have a fun day celebrating her!!

Hope you have a wonderful day and a great weekend!

I am linking up with Andrea and Erika for their Friday Favorites Link Up!
I am also linking up with April for Five on Friday!
Joining Karli for her, Oh Hey Friday Link Up! too!

Thoughts for Thursday!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hi! Sooo...we were supposed to be leaving for a fun little trip to Cleveland today...but my oldest daughter came home from school yesterday feeling awful and went to bed with a 102.5 fever.  My 2nd oldest daughter came into our room at 4:00 am this morning..saying she couldn't sleep- which she NEVER does- and low and behold...she has a 101.5 temperature!! UGH.  Sooo...yeah.  NOT fun. Poor girls- I know school germs are just part of the territory- but I really do hate when they decide to attack at a time like this!  

Anyway...trip to Cleveland or daughter Cora's birthday is tomorrow!! 
At my girls' school- you are allowed to bring a "birthday treat" to share with the class...but it has to be a NON food item!  I don't know about you- but every birthday treat I think of- is a FOOD item- HA!
I really had to do some thinking about what she could bring her class...because I am NOT a fan of just buying little, cheap trinkets at the dollar store.  I know it might not sound very nice- but I always cringe when my girls come home with some tiny toy that is going to break within 5 seconds of touching it. So- with that thought it mind- I wanted to get a treat that her friends could actually use.  The idea we came up with was FUN SOCKS!
We totally utilized the Target Dollar Spot for these treats.  It can be SO hard to find BOY and GIRL treats!  Girly stuff is SO easy to find...but cute boy stuff- man- I have a hard time finding it!  
We got the 8 boys in her class a mix of Cars, Dragons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle socks!  
The girls got Hello Kitty Socks!  
About 9 months ago, I was shopping the Dollar Spot at Target and saw a LOAD of girl socks on clearance! Honestly- I was SO surprised that things would be on clearance- in the DOLLAR spot!  Anyway- I picked up enough socks for Cora and Charlotte to give away as favors at their birthday parties for the upcoming year and just tucked them away.  Well...Cora has decided to have a family party this year- so we didn't need the socks as favors.  We were able to use them for her birthday treats at school and we had enough left over that she can give a pair to her sisters :)  

All that to say- I got the girl socks for $0.50 each and the boy socks for $1.00 each. For 12 kiddos- I spent $10!  SCORE! :)

We put the socks in a clear little gift bag, Cora made her own name tags and we tied them up with a little ribbon.  They turned out so cute and she was so excited to give them to her friends!  

If we hadn't ended up doing socks as the birthday treat, here were a couple other ideas that I thought would be cute...

My girls are ALL about coloring- especially with markers.  I thought a fun idea would be to give each kiddo a pack of markers along with a little notepad.  These WASHABLE markers are $0.50 each at Walmart (and I think they are just as great at Crayola!) and a pack of 4 little notepads is $1 at my local Dollar Tree.  Such a fun little treat- that won't break the bank if you are having to buy for a larger sized class or party!

I thought this idea was so cute!  I am sure you can find sunglasses, probably on clearance now, since summer is winding down at Walmart, Target or your local dollar store!  Also- I love that this is an easy unisex treat.  All neon colors, minus hot pink, work for both boys and girls! And honestly- some boys might even rock the hot pink!! I know my husband would- HA! :)

Here are a few other ideas I had for NON food birthday treats:
- bubbles/bubble wands
- coloring books
- set of watercolor paints for each child
- play-dough

Now it is your turn- does your kids' school require birthday treats to be NON food?  If so- give me some ideas!!! My oldest daughter's birthday is up next and my youngest daughter will have to bring treats next spring- I need to start stockpiling ideas!! :)

Hope you have a wonderful day!! 

I am linking up with Annie and Natalie today!

What's Up Wednesday!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hi!! How has your week been going so far?  We are just trucking along...the weather has been gorgeous...which has meant lots of time outside for us after school! is the last Wednesday of the month...which means it is time for another What's Up Wednesday Post! I am joining Mel, Shay and Sheaffer for their super fun link up party!

What we're eating this week...This week is all about SUPER simple meals because we are leaving for a quick trip to Cleveland on tomorrow morning!  My husband is at a meeting tonight- so I really only had to cook Monday and Tuesday night! YAY! I am definitely not mad about getting a little break from making dinner every night! :)

What I'm reminiscing parents were here this past weekend and my mom was talking about how my dad and her planned out the vacations we took as a family when my siblings and I were kids.  It brought back SO many FUN, HAPPY memories talking about camping, LONG road trips, my dad forcing us to get in the cold thankful for everything my parents did to give us such a beautiful upbringing!
Just for is a picture of my sister and I when we were young girls!! I LOVE this picture!! :) You can tell we were really unhappy kids-HA!

What I am loving....I have mentioned it here on the blog several times already..but I am loving the new grocery store that opened RIGHT by our house! It is called Fresh Thyme.  My mom and I walked there this past weekend to pick up a few things and we had so much fun just walking around, checking everything out!! They have awesome sales- which makes me love them anymore. I don't know- I am kind of a nut- but I LOVE smaller scaled grocery stores- I could easily spend a couple hours just wondering in them! 

What we've been up to...SCHOOL. We are back in the full swing of our school schedule.  Our girls go to a Catholic school about 20 minutes away from our house...and I have two girls in preschool from 8 - 11 am and my oldest daughter is in school from 8-3:30.  Sooo...I am in the car A LOT :)  The driving back and forth from school is definitely a downside to sending our girls to a school 20 minutes from our house...but we LOVE their school- so I am happy (not all the time- HA) to make 3, 40 minute round trips a day to drop them off and pick them up :)

What I'm dreading...So...I know everyone is REAL excited about Fall being just around the corner! Pumpkin Spice Lattes! Leggings and Boots and Scarves!  Yummy soups for dinner! But you know what? I am NOT one of those people.  (I am really sorry if I am coming off as a debbie downer right now- HA!) I am totally dreading the colder months.  Don't get me wrong- Fall is so pretty and you can still do a lot outside.  But after Fall comes Winter. I can handle November and December because they are filled with holiday excitement...but come January...UGH.  I am desperate for sunshine, flip flops and NOT having to bundle 4 kids up in coats, boots, hats and scarves.  So there- I said it- I am dreading Fall because it means Winter is coming! 

What I am working on...As always...I seriously ALWAYS write this in this section of "What's up Wednesday," I am working on photo books for my two younger kids.  I am ALMOST done with Celine's book!  Then I need to get James' first year photo book done.  Then I need to get started on Cora's 5 year photo book- so I don't fall behind again!! It really is NOT that big of a deal- especially if I just make myself put together a few pages every night- I can have a book done in about a week.  It has just been a little crazy with getting back from vacation, starting school back up, and having my parents' come visit us this past weekend.  Once we get into September things will calm down a little bit!  I am also needing to work on finishing up my required CEUs (continuing education units) for the year!  I am about half way there- and I do NOT want to be cramming those in at the end of the year!

What I'm excited about...Well...we are leaving for Cleveland tomorrow and we are going to see several really good friends that we haven't seen in a year!! Also- this Friday is my daughter Cora's birthday!! We are going to celebrate in Cleveland by doing a bunch of fun things....donuts at our favorite grocery store cafe up there, visiting with our old next door neighbor who was like an adopted grandmother to our kids, a trip to Build A Bear!!, dinner at Chick-Fil-A and cupcakes at my friends' house on her back deck!  It will be a little different to not be celebrating her birthday at home with a bunch of decorations and a "friend" party- but I am looking forward to having it be a bit more relaxed and about us being together as a family versus all of the birthday you know what I mean?!  
Just for is my precious Cora Maye on her FIRST birthday!! How she is turning FIVE- I really have no idea!!

What I am watching/reading...oh my gosh. I am SO boring in this department!! Besides my daily devotionals I read and my favorite blogs...I am embarrassed to admit I am reading nothing.  As far as shows I am watching- you guess it- I got nothing!! HA! We don't have cable and right now, with the Fall shows not coming on for another month- there is NOTHING on TV right now! Combine that with the fact I can barely make it to 10 pm without passing out on the couch...well- let's just say it is a good night if I can stay awake to watch an episode of Diners, Drive-In's and Dives on the computer, in bed, with my husband! HA!

What I am listening girls' Vacation Bible School CD from this summer and a CD I made when Aaron and I first starting dating.  I titled the CD, "Songs that make me think of Aaron."  WOW. So inventive Justine! HA! But seriously- it is crazy how listening to a song can make you FEEL like you are back in a specific moment!! I love listening to "my aaron" CD because it brings back SO many amazing feelings...and the songs on the CD are just really good:) 

What I'm wearing...the same ol' thing!  Workout clothes in the morning and my FAVORITE shorts and t-shirt once I get home and showered. I will probably continue to rock this momiform as it gets cooler and just switch over to a long sleeve t-shirt with my shorts.  I am going to wear my shorts and flip flops for as LONG AS I CAN! HA!  I am looking at this dress as a possibility to wear for our upcoming family pictures.  Since it will be cooler when we get our pictures taken, I was thinking of wearing a fitted denim jacket and cowboy boots with it.  What do you think? I am not sure about the asymmetrical hemline?!

What I'm doing this I previously mentioned...we are headed to Cleveland tomorrow and will be back just in time for Charlotte's first soccer game on Saturday morning.  Aaron is her coach and it is Charlotte's first time playing soccer- so we are really excited to see how she does! Sunday night we are going over to a friend's house for dinner- they have quadruplets and are SO fun!! We met them at our YMCA earlier this summer and immediately hit it off with them! We are really excited to have met some people who we get along with- who are in the EXACT same stage of life as we are! It is nice to hang out with people who "get" the craziness (and actually enjoy) that comes with 4 young kids :)

What I'm looking forward to next month...We actually don't have much going on next month...which is exactly what I am looking forward to!  This past month has been VERY busy and it will be nice to just have some open weekends to catch up on life :)  My oldest daughter is playing soccer for the first time and her games are every Saturday morning.  My husband is the coach for her team- so it will be a family affair watching her play! My girls have a couple Monday's off of school in September, so I am thinking we might take a quick trip to visit my parents!  

What else is new...NOT MUCH! Which is totally fine with me! :)

Bonus Question: What's your favorite back to school tradition? Our favorite back to school tradition is to get a milkshake at Steak N Shake on the way home from the first day of school!  We have done it two years in a row and it is just a fun, little treat that celebrates getting through the first day of school!  (And it is conveniently "happy hour" from 2-5 pm and milkshakes are half price- score! :)

A Quick Tip on Tuesday!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hi!! Hope you have had a great start to your week!
Sooo...last Friday I wrote about getting a chalk pen and loving it!  Several of you commented, saying you were worried the chalk pen would stain your chalk board.  A couple of you asked how I clean my chalk pen off of my chalkboard??  Well I replied back to everyone in the comments- but thought I would post it here too...only because it is like the simplest thing ever and it works! :) I use baby wipes to clean my chalk pen off of my chalkboard!! I KNOW. Please don't think I am a big weirdo...but the baby wipes really do work SO well!  
So here is the chalk pen I use- I got it from Hobby Lobby and Laura mentioned in the comments section she got her chalk pen from Walmart!  
So here is my chalkboard sign.  I really used my chalk pen making this sign- I went over each of the letters several times because I wanted them to stand out.  So- there is definitely a lot of chalk pen on the chalk board.  Also- this particular message had been on the chalk board for about 4 days- so it definitely had some time to "set in."  
(Please don't judge my handiwork- HA! I have a loonnngg way to go when it comes to my chalk pen penmanship!!)
So I used two baby wipes to clean this particular chalk board.  After using the first baby wipe, you can see that there was still some writing on the board and it wasn't totally clean.
I took a second baby wipe and firmly wiped the board down again.  I definitely had to use a little elbow grease to get all the words completely erased!
Here is what the chalk board looked like after using the second baby wipe!
I tried to take an up close, angled shot to show you that all the words totally got erased and there wasn't even a "shadow" of what was previously written.  Do you know what I am talking about?!

So there you have it! My super technical method for cleaning my chalkboards! HA!
Now- since I am NOT a crafter- I am probably totally breaking some rule and it could not be the best thing for your chalkboard to be cleaning it with baby wipes.  I personally don't care! HA!  But- if you're chalkboard is VERY special to you or it is an antique- you might want to do a little further research to see if baby wipes are an acceptable way to clean it.
I know some of you might not have baby wipes readily available at your house...but you can pick up a small pack to have on hand just for when you clean your chalk board.  I tell you what- baby wipes are one of my FAVORITE household items :)  I have been known to get finger prints off my fridge with them and totally use them to do quick wipe downs of our half bathroom that we have on our first floor!  They can do so much more than just clean cute little babies' bottoms! :)

Do you have a specific method for cleaning your chalk board?? 
And please tell me I am not the only one who uses baby wipes for EVERYTHING!?! HA!

Have a fabulous day!!

Our Favorite Sandwich!!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hi!! Happy Monday!  
How was your weekend?? We had a great time with my parents!
The weather was gorgeous the whole weekend and we just had a ton of fun!

I am taking a week off of posting my menu plan because we will be out of town for the 2nd part of the week.  We are going to Cleveland because my husband has a residency event where he went to medical school.  Since we have so many friends we haven't seen in over a year in Cleveland, the kids and I are going to tag along and shove in as much visiting and playdates as we can!!

Sooo...instead of our weekly menu plan...I wanted to share with you one of my favorite "meals" I make when we are having people over for lunch.  A classic Italian sub sandwich!!
I made this while my parents were here and they loved it! 

This is obviously not a recipe as it is more of a method :)
First- I gather all of my ingredients: zesty Italian salad dressing, pickles (totally optional!), light mayonnaise, mustard, your favorite deli style cheese (we like muenster), a big loaf of French bread, thinly slice onion, romaine lettuce leaves, avocado  (forgot to include those two items in the picture!) and your choice of fresh deli lunch meat.  We like thinly slice salami, smoked turkey breast and either ham or another type of turkey- this time I used a cajun turkey breast- YUM!
 I would say the KEY to this sandwich is the bread.  I have mentioned this bread several times before- we get our French bread from the Walmart bakery and it is ONE DOLLAR.  It freezes beautifully and is SO good!
 So- first cut your bread open leaving it connected on one end.  Then, I spread a VERY thin layer of mayonnaise on both sides of the bread.  After that, on one side I layer some romaine lettuce leaves and on the other end, muenster cheese slices and some mustard.
 Next, I layer my lunch meat. For this sandwich, I put some cajun turkey breast on first, then some salami, then mesquite smoked turkey breast.  After all the lunch meat was piled on, I added just a little salt and pepper.  Then I drizzled on Italian salad dressing over all the lunch can go as light or heavy on the dressing as you like!
 Now- after the sandwich is made, I wrap it up tightly in saran wrap and put it in the fridge.  I think the key to making this sandwich is letting it sit in the fridge for at least a half hour.  But- you can totally make it several hours ahead of time! If I am having friends over for lunch, I will make this as early as 8:00 in the morning! The longer all the flavors and dressing meld together- the yummier the sandwich!! :)
 When it is time to eat, I just unwrap the sandwich, put it on a cutting board and slice up individual sizes.  If I am having more of a buffet style lunch, I will put all the individual sandwiches on a pretty platter and let people help themselves! 
 Doesn't it look SO yummy?!? If your family loves sandwiches- you should totally try this "method" out!! With football season coming up- this would be the perfect thing to make if you are going tailgating or having people over to watch the game!  I LOVE that making the sandwich ahead- actually makes the sandwich better and it is so easy to transport in a cooler or insulated freezer bag!  Or- if you are like me- and sometimes just want to make an "easy" dinner- this sandwich is perfect for a busy weeknight when you have multiple activities and practices to get everyone to!

So- I would love to know- are you a "sandwich" person??  If so- do you have a favorite sandwich?  If you have a "recipe"- share it with me!!

Hope you have an awesome Monday and fabulous week!!

Friday Favorites!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Hi!! Happy Friday!! We have survived our first FULL week of only about 34 more weeks to go- HA!  How has your week been?  Are your kids back in school yet?  Or are you still enjoying your "summer" schedule?  If you are- I am a tad jealous- HA!

We have a fun weekend ahead of us- my parents are coming to visit us!! SO excited!!
The weather is supposed to be gorgeous- so I know we will be outside A LOT. And we will be eating a lot of yummy food. Pretty much two things needed for a perfect weekend :)

Now- time for my Friday Favorites! Here we go!

Aaron took this picture of our girls when we were at an outdoor concert in the park last Friday....and I.can' You would think that after being a parent for close to 7 years- it wouldn't catch me off guard sometimes that: these are MY CHILDREN.  But it does! I still sometimes can't believe I get to be a mom!! It truly takes my breath I have been gifted these precious lives to guide and love. SO thankful!
I had to go to Hobby Lobby this week to pick up some supplies for a little project I was making.  OMG. I seriously started getting hot, sweaty and having heart palpitations when I walked in there because there is SO. MUCH. AWESOME. STUFF.  I really do NOT get out to stores, other than the grocery store and Walmart, that often- so it had been awhile since I had been in Hobby Lobby.  They seriously have AMAZING items. It was so fun to look at a few things...not much- because my sidekick James was with me and we had about 30 minutes before pre-school pick I had a limited amount of time to get in and out of the store. I told my husband I need to go- VERY SOON- withOUT my kids-HA! I know a lot of women say strolling through Target is their "therapy," - well give me Hobby Lobby any day over Target- HA!  I just love that place!!

I know I am about 5 years late to this party...but I picked up a chalk pen while I was at Hobby Lobby and oh my goodness- I am in love! Talk about making things easier! While I have to admit- I think I like the "look" of real chalk is SO much easier to write with the chalk pen! I have a feeling I am going to be changing my chalkboards around my house a lot more now that I have my handy little chalk pen!
My precious girls are all back in school!! Charlotte is finishing up her first FULL week of school (she went for two days last week) and Cora and Celine had their first week of Pre-K and preschool!  I am so proud of our girls for jumping right back into our "school" schedule! I have to wake them up at 6:00 am and we are out the door by 7:05 am- they have been ready to go- with smiles on their faces! LOVE THEM SO MUCH!
I mentioned my parents are coming into town for the weekend....and there is a special reason why! We are celebrating their FORTIETH wedding anniversary with them!! They are very private people and didn't want a big party thrown for them- so instead- I invited them to come spend the weekend with us! We are going to have a lot of fun- and after church on Sunday we are having a special anniversary brunch for them!  My parents' love and commitment to each other is a living testament of God's unconditional love for all of us. 
I will be forever grateful for their example, guidance and love!!

 I am linking up with April for Five on Friday!

I am also linking up with Andrea and Erika for their Friday Favorites Link Up!
Joining Karli for her, Oh Hey Friday Link Up! too!