Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Package Delivery Services!

I, like billions of others this time of year, am relying on online shopping to prepare for the holidays this year. On top of normal deliveries of dog food, takeout food service, and whatever my husband needs for his latest project or hobby, we are receiving holiday-related packages on the regular.

As a token of our appreciation, we set out a bowl of goodies with a note of thanks and a request that they take water and snacks. Not everyone partakes, but when we’ve been outside playing with the kids during some deliveries, drivers have been so tickled by the offer.

And, as obvious as it seems, we learned the hard way not to include fresh fruit in the bowl. Ha! I thought I was being kind to offer something that was healthy and unprocessed, but apparently it was too tempting to the squirrels. We were eating lunch one afternoon, and we saw a squirrel scurry up a tree with a huge orange in its mouth. Too funny!

Happy Friday!

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Google Password Breach Alert

Well, I’m glad I froze my credit recently. On Monday I was notified by Google Chrome that several passwords I use for various websites were compromised in an app or company data breach. Apparently this is a new feature Google offers. So, although I’m not a fan of the data breach, my Friday Fav is definitely Google’s password breach alert.

The way I understand how it works is this. If ABC Company’s data was hacked and my online account password is now known, then Google informs me of a breach and suggests I change the password for all sites that use that same password. I don’t know where or how the data breach occurred, but Google identifies every site password I need to update.

It appears several of my passwords used across dozens of sites were compromised, so it took several hours on Monday to get all of my passwords changed. But, I’m done and feel a bit more secure again….for now.

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Schitt’s Creek

I’m late to this trending comedy show that recently ended its six season run on CBC Television. However, I binged it all this Fall on Netflix. Schitt’s Creek is an amazingly well done, funny series about a family who falls from riches and finds themselves living in the small town of Schitt’s Creek.

The show has real heart, showing how a quirky family comes together during this difficult time in their lives and accepts each other for exactly who they are inside. Every character takes turns being oblivious or over the top, but there’s always at least one other character who is grounded in reality.

The cast includes Eugene Levy (Johnny Rose) and Catherine O’Hara (Moria Rose), who are parents to two older kids (played by Daniel Levy and Annie Murphy). I love that Daniel Levy created this show with his father (Eugene Levy) and gets to star along side him and occasionally with his sister Sarah Levy (Twyla Sands).

If you are looking for a new show that is sure to produce belly laughs, tears, and smiles, check it out! Happy Friday!

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Amazon Wish Lists

Have you been in the situation as the holidays approach that grandparents, aunts, and uncles start reaching out and asking what the kids want or need as presents? In the past, I’ve given different ideas to different people, which I then need to keep mental track of so that I don’t tell multiple people the same item.

Today’s Friday Fav is my solution: Amazon wish lists. If you have an Amazon account, you can create a list. To start, log in, select Accounts and Lists from the top right-hand corner, then find the Create a List option.

We do so much shopping on Amazon that it’s easy to add something to the list at any time. When you’re shopping and on an item’s page, there’s a hyperlink under the Add to Cart button that will instead allow you to add the item to a list.

You can even add ideas to your list, so it’s easy to add items to your list you can’t buy on Amazon. For instance, I’ve added various gift card ideas for local shops for the boys to their lists.

Additionally, you can add comments, like what size or color to purchase or what other stores carry the item (and may have a cheaper price).

You can even add multiple people as editors to the list, allowing multiple parents to contribute.

Once the list is put together, you can opt to share the list with whomever you’d like. If someone buys an item off the list, then it is automatically removed so there are no accidental double purchases. Gift givers can even elect to have the item shipped right to your home, which is a popular choice for us this year since we won’t be seeing a bunch of people in person this year.

If you use Amazon’s wish lists or something similar and have any tips or tricks, please share them in the comments.

Happy Friday!

Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Benefits to Staying Home During the Pandemic

It’s been an off week for me. I’m not feeling this routine anymore.

I have to admit that I’m tired.

I’m tired of being home so frequently. I’m tired of everyone else being home with me so frequently. I’m tired of only working two-hour shifts at a time so my husband and I can trade off watching the kids. I’m tired of virtual school. I’m tired of making everyone three meals a day. I’m tired of it all.

I have been trying not to complain because I fully recognize how lucky we are here. My husband and I are each able to work from home and maintain our incomes. We have access to food so I can make us three meals a day. The weather is nice, so we can get outside and do things around town and in the neighborhood. We are all healthy, and the kids actually seem to be mostly thriving in this new normal. We have it good.

The days aren’t hard, really, just the same day on repeat – a perpetual Groundhog’s Day.

My husband has kindly suggested taking some time off of work, and I see where he is coming from. Honestly, I don’t want time off of work. I want to be able to focus on my work tasks for more than 2 hours at a time. I would like to 100% focus on something for a significant chunk of time (and not have to be up at 6am to do it). I miss silence. I would like a little more separation between work and life, but that’s not in the cards for now.

So, instead, I’m going to reground myself and focus on the benefits and my favorite parts of being home so much now:

  • Our afternoons, evenings, and weekends are a lot less hectic without a ton of after-school activities.
  • I can give my kids hugs when they want them, even in the middle of a school day.
  • My husband can make dinners more frequently since he’s not commuting.
  • I always get to go shopping alone while my husband stays home with the kids.
  • I’ve far surpassed my reading goals for the year.
  • The weather has been nice since the pandemic started.
  • At least the neighborhood pool was open this summer so we had somewhere to cool off outside in the heat.
  • The kids reading levels have improved with more one-on-one attention.
  • I’ve gotten the chance to deeply explore how my children learn best, where their strengths are, and their areas for development.
  • We have been able to have more family time playing outside, watching the Great British Baking Show, and reading Harry Potter. (We’re up to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which may take us a few months to finish.)
  • Mr. 7-Year-Old learned to ride his bike. Mr.-Then-4-Year-Old finally got the courage to regularly ride his big-boy bike rather than a tricycle.
  • We tackled home projects we’d been putting off because we finally had the time to focus on them together.
  • I have been on SO MANY walks.
  • Our house has been cold and illness free since March.
  • The boys are having playdates outside exploring creeks, playing on swings, and generally running around together rather than inside playing video games.
  • My house is now REEEALLY organized.
  • I haven’t felt the need to buy the boys new clothes. Jean got a hole in the knees? Oh well, we’re not going anywhere.
  • Our senior pup and my husband are closer than ever. She’s basically become his shadow.
  • But…we spend so much time at home now that the dog doesn’t sleep at the foot of our bed anymore. She stays downstairs, I presume, to get away from us for at least part of the day. I have room to stretch my feet out now, until about 5am when she strolls upstairs to join us.
  • We’ve all become a bit more resilient in times of uncertainty and change.

Just the act of writing out the upsides makes me feel a bit better. I still miss silence and being able to write without being interrupted fifteen times. But, the only thing constant is change. I will get silence again someday, and then I’m sure I’ll lament about the absence of regular commotion. It’s best to enjoy what you have and while you have it.

Photo by Chris Ross Harris on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Libby App Connects to Your Local Library

It’s no secret that I love to read. Over the past few years, I’ve really jumped backed into this hobby. I started the year hoping to read 25 books, and I’m currently over 50! Thanks, Corona.

What’s really made this possible is my phone’s Libby app. It allows me to access electronic resources from my local library. I can borrow ebooks and magazines with the touch of a finger and access them on my phone or e-reader.

One of my favorite features of the app is the ability to put holds on popular titles. I believe each library may have its own queue length. Mine recently increased to allow me up to 15 holds at a time. The amount of time it takes to get each hold has decreased over the year, I think in large part to people staying home more and spending time getting through their to-be-read list. I typically can get new releases delivered in a manner of weeks.

However, Libby also has this new feature that I absolutely love that is also contributing to shorter hold times. When a hold becomes available, Libby gives you the option to deliver the hold now or delay it until a future date that you set. This way, you don’t have to start your 2-3 week loan before you’re ready nor lose your place in the hold line.

If you haven’t check out Libby yet, I highly recommend it. I’m all about inexpensive entertainment, and you – in my opinion – can’t get better than free library books that can transport you to any place or time that’s desired.

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Halloween and Fall Decorations

Our kids are very excited about Halloween this year, even if it may look a bit different from previous years. I don’t anticipate we’ll be ringing any doorbells to say, “Trick or treat!” Though I’m hearing others in our neighborhood are interested in setting out stations or bowls of candy for kids to grab from instead. My boys have picked out ninja costumes already and wear them on the regular. Bonus, ninja costumes don’t look weird with masks!

We haven’t gone all out this year decorating our home for Halloween or Fall, mainly because the space I tend to dress up the most is currently the virtual school spot for the boys. There are, however, a few festive spiders and bats that the kids enjoyed placing around the house.

Outside our decor is limited to these super cute ghosts I found at the grocery store (oddly enough) years ago and a front door decorated to look like a monster. Mr. 7 year old was particularly into transforming our door into a goofy-looking monster and took over the project. It tends to fade quickly in the sun and gets wet in the rain, but it’s fun to do nonetheless.

Our minimalist Halloween decorations

But what we have really enjoyed this year even more than prior years is spending time during our morning walks, before school starts, admiring the neighbors’ decorations. There are a few homes that have really gone all out with scary beasts, spooky zombies, and blowups that we always spot something new each time we venture out. It’s a nice pick-me-up to start the day and a good reminder that even though our routines are different this year, there are unanticipated bonuses. I love our new routine and the surprises it reveals.

Happy Friday!

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Apple Recipes!

Sure, I love me a PSL on occasion. (It’s actually one of the few Starbucks drinks I enjoy.) But, I much prefer apple treats in Fall, rather than pumpkin spice. This works out well because we recently took a trip to a local orchard to go apple picking, which left me with 1/2 a bushel of fruit. I’ve been spending the past week cooking up a storm to get through them all.

In today’s Friday Fav post, I want to share my favorite apple recipes. I leaned into recipes that required loads of fruit so I could tackle my huge bag.

  1. Instant Pot Applesauce – Both of the boys liked this applesauce, especially with added cinnamon. I liked that the apples cooked so quickly in the instant pot and that I was able to use up a bunch of apples at once. Bonus, no added sugar!
  2. Dutch Apple Pie – I cheated and bought store-made crusts, which meant that my pie crust was not as deep as it should have been. I ended up with two pies instead of one, but was missing depth in the pie. No complaints from the family though as they gobbled it up! I now have one pie in the freezer for Thanksgiving.
  3. Homemade Apple Cider – I never would have thought of making this until a friend recommended it. We love apple cider in this house and always pick up some in the Fall. This year I got to make it at home. It was SUPER easy. My favorite part was, for once, I didn’t have to peel and core the apples. Just cut them into quarters and throw them into the stock pot to cook for several hours. The aroma throughout the house while it cooked for three hours was almost as good as the drink itself.
  4. Air Fryer Apple Chips – This was another recommendation from a friend. I tried using the air fryer, and it works. I think mine is too small though because even with just one apple’s worth of fruit, the slices would overlap each other. It made it difficult for them to get crispy. I’ll have to try baking them in the oven instead.
  5. Chucky Apple Pumpkin Bread – I always like a bit of banana bread in the morning with my coffee. This time I subbed in an apple bread instead. It turned out well! Next time I may try it as muffins instead of bread so they bake faster.

And I still have 20 or so apples left. Of course, we’ve been snacking on them at lunch. I may need to make more applesauce or cider too, since those were so good. I was given some tips for using the apples for games and crafts with the kids too, so I may tackle some of those ideas as well.

Happy Friday!

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: CozyPhones

Like most students these days engaged in virtual learning this Fall, my kids are getting sick of wearing headphones for hours a day. Thankfully, I remembered these CozyPhones stored away for long car rides! They are comfy headbands with headphones built into the band. They help keep the volume level down for the kids’ ears and allow them to keep wearing headphones. Plus, the band is machine washable!

At this point, my boys rotate between the CozyPhones and more regular headphones throughout the day. No earbuds though. Their little ears can’t keep them in place for very long.

Of course, the price of CozyPhones has gone up with the move to virtual school for many, but I’d still say they are worth the $10-$15 per pair price tag. They earn the Friday Fav title because they help to keep my boys engaged in class and less disruptive, which means momma has more time to get things done on her own. Win, win!

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Birthday Traditions

Mr. 4 year old becomes Mr. 5 year old this week! I can’t believe my “baby” is already five. On one hand, he feels like he’s lived with us forever. On the other, he is my baby, and he’s already so big! Stop growing, kid!

We have traditional annual rituals during birthdays in this house, like cake and presents. The birthday boy or girl gets to pick dinner and the type of cake. Presents are typically ripped open over breakfast. In normal years, we celebrate the children’s birthdays by inviting extended family over for a fun afternoon of food and play time with cousins.

However, regardless of the year, I always print 40-70 pictures of the child and put them on display. Our kitchen table has a glass top (an idea I got from a friend of mine – genius! – so easy to clean), so I slip the printed images between the tabletop and the glass. Now, at every meal, we can see a year in the life of the birthday kiddo and remember the fun times we’ve had together.

It takes me about 30 minutes to go through my phone and send them to Costco’s photo center for printing. I just pick up the prints on my next Costco run, and the whole thing costs me about $7. Win, win, win!

I love this tradition, so it is definitely my Friday Fav this week.

Happy Friday!

Photo by Becky Fantham on Unsplash