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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Christmas PJs!

Even though it feels like March 285th, Christmas PJs are already out and available for purchase! When the kids were young we started the family tradition of receiving new Christmas PJs every Christmas Eve. In the beginning, I didn’t know where to find what I wanted or I’d forget and wait so late that I couldn’t get the sizes I needed.

Not this year!

Arriving today are these plaid hooded moose onesies. I don’t know what it is about the onesie PJs, but the boys love them.

I’ve found The Children’s Place to have nice quality PJs that are cute and comfy, which earns them the title of my Friday Fav this week. I’m extra excited to have one Christmas present purchase crossed off the list.

Happy Friday!

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Friday Fav: Free Magazines

Years ago I stumbled upon the knowledge that you could get access to many popular magazines for free. They arrive at my door every month as a nice surprise and a reminder to unwind and perhaps end the day curled up on the couch with a cool beverage and some freshly printed reading material.

Sites like Mercury Magazine and ValueMags offer free subscriptions to many popular magazines. You either pick a free magazine currently available on their site or sign up with your email address to receive email alerts when free subscriptions become available. Over the years, I’ve gotten subscriptions to Popular Mechanics, Men’s Health, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents, Family Circle, Redbook, Southern Living, Martha Stewart Living, and HGTV magazine. It’s been great!

What’s the catch? Well, you obviously have to give the company some of your personal information to get the subscription, and they try to upsell you on other magazine subscriptions. (“Get X now for only $2!”) It just takes a few clicks of saying no before you can order the free subscription. For me, it’s a price I’m willing to pay to have free reading material delivered to my door.

I highly recommend checking it out if this sounds like something that might interest you.

Happy Friday!

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Self-Care Products

Given the sameness of every day, I have found that “spoiling” myself with some self-care products has been a nice stress relief. Here are some of my favorite products for an at-home spa day.

  • Sally Hansen’s Diamond Strength nail polish, particularly the Brilliant Blush color. It’s under $4 at Walmart! I love how long this brand lasts and its light shade with a shimmer. I’ve even attempted my own french manicure with this color as the base. I need some practice, but it’s certainly cheaper than a spa manicure.
  • Baby Foot Exfoliation Foot Peel is awesome! Stay with me here. It is kind of gross, but it’s so worth it. This is the best brand I’ve tried. You wrap your feet in these booties with “6 types of natural extracts” for one hour, wash it off, and wait for your feet to peel over the next several days. (You’ll want to wear socks.) Afterward, your feet are extra soft and worth the gross peeling feet stage.
  • Jergens Wet Skin Moisturizer keeps my skin moisturized without feeling sticky like you can sometimes with lotion. It is quick and easy with a sweet subtle scent.
  • Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Water Gel is a great facial moisturizer that is light and feels hydrating. A little bit goes a long way, which makes the small bottle last a while.
  • The Bow Ties and Bourbon scent from Bath and Body Works is one I love that my husband even tolerates well. It’s a seasonal scent, which means when I see it, I need to grab it immediately. I particularly like the “wallflowers” room air freshers and leave them in my bathroom so every time I walk in I get to smell the scent.

Husband, if you are reading this, bookmark this page for Christmas! *wink*

Happy Friday!

Photo by Camille Brodard ~ Kmile Feminine Creative Designer on Unsplash

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Friday Fav: Weighted Blankets

I am a huge fan of weighted blankets. So much so, that the 15 lb. one I use comes with me on road trips so I don’t have to sleep without it. They are often noted as a tool to help people relieve their anxiety, which I could see being helpful. I didn’t purchase one specifically for that reason. I had just heard they are relaxing and wanted to see for myself.

Given my addiction to it now, I’d say it works as described! It’s not like you put it over you and immediately feel calm. It is more that it feels like a hug….or perhaps like the weighted cover that the dentist puts over you before an x-ray. The first time I used it, I declared it did nothing for me and then feel asleep on the couch 15 minutes later.

Now I have my own 15 lb. weighted blanket, and I purchased two other 5 lb. weighted blankets for the kids. It works really well for one of them, but less so for the other kiddo. However, if either one of them starts to stir a lot when they have snuck into bed with my husband and me, throwing a weighted blanket on them keeps them still. That alone makes it worth the purchase to me!

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Comfy Outfits 24/7

I’m so behind on this “fashion trend” of wearing loungewear or athletic gear as the day’s outfit. Even though I’ve exclusively worked from home for years in my consultancy role, I’ve always taken the time to put on a decent outfit, perhaps a touch of makeup, and “put myself together” before logging into work for the day. It has helped me feel confident and ready to tackle my work tasks.

Once COVID hit our area in mid-March, I ditched all of that. I’m rolling out of bed at 5:55am to get a few hours of uninterrupted work time in or some exercise before the house begins to stir. I’m lucky if I’m out of my pajamas by 9am. I never wear makeup anymore.

When I get around to throwing on fresh clothes, it’s all leggings, sweats, t-shirts, and hoodies. I’ve purchased several of Costco’s 32 degrees clothes in the past few months, including the lightweight hoodies and ladies shorts. They are great for working out in or just wearing around the house. Who is going to see me anyway?!?

The 32 degree shirts work well for work video conferences. I can throw a nice blouse on overtop for client video conferences, and they work just fine alone for my video calls with colleagues who don’t care what I’m wearing as long as I’m dressed. (I totally have a nice shirt stashed in my office space that I can quickly thrown on if I need to unexpectedly join a video conference.)

I doubt I’ll keep this trend of wearing exclusively comfy clothes every day when some more formal sense of “normalcy” returns, but it works for today. Whatever gets us through each day is all that matters to me right now. I might as well be comfy while I transition from making erupting volcanos with the kids one minute and presenting a multi-faceted plan for teaching a three-day training exercise the next.

I’m so glad it’s Friday. I may need to celebrate the end of the work week with some dessert…. Yet another reason I love my comfy clothes. They stretch.

Photo by Mnz on Unsplash