Monday, January 31, 2011

10 Tips!

I'm dreaming of a house with a nice backyard for my kids to run and play in. I'm dreaming of a house with a backyard so that we can have a dog, a picnic table, a swingset, a trampoline, a firepit, and a really gorgeous garden.

I may not have a yard right now or the space for a garden, but there's one thing I'd like to try out in my front entryway. . . using planters to display some beautiful flowers. It seems easy and low-maintenance, totally perfect for me right now! Before I go buy some outdoor planters and flowers, I've been doing some research so I don't kill my little plants.

Here's a sampling of what I've learned. . . 10 tips on using planters in your garden!

1. Use planters to soften hard edges. Place containers where they'll disguise harsh edges or angles, either by direct concealment or by creating a focal point that acts as a distraction.
2. Frame an entry! Doors, gates, and other entrances are natural focal points. Make a great impression by framing them with attractive, colorful containers. I really want to do this around my door! I need to find some really great stone planters and the perfect flowers to go with them!

3. Pots and containers always require more frequent watering than plants in the ground. As the season progresses and your plants mature, their root system will expand and require even more water. Don't wait until you see the plants wilting. Check your containers daily to judge the need for water.

4. Add height! Gardeners often overlook vertical space. Use freestanding or hanging containers to give your garden some three-dimensional color.
5. Provide good drainage. Always have drainage holes or at the very least, a 1-2 inch layer of gravel at the bottom of the container. If you are using a decorative pot without drainage holes, consider planting in a plastic pot with holes that is one size smaller than the decorative pot and using the plastic pot as an insert.

6. Use a good potting soil mix, not garden soil. A mix with peat, perlite or vermiculite will retain moisture longer and yet be well draining. It will also be lighter and won't compact as the season goes on. Using a chunky-style potting mix in container of 5 or more gallons will help the soil mix remain loose even longer.

7. Choose similar plants. Select plants that will be happy with the same amounts of water, sun, heat, and food. Avoid aggressive spreaders that will compete with neighboring plants and consider dwarf varieties.

8. Unify the landscape. Employ a strategy used indoors, where repetition of color unites the decor. Outdoors, use similar or identical containers throughout an area to pull it together.
Isn't this arrangement gorgeous? SO elegant!
9. Balance the sizes. Container gardens look best when the plants are in balance with the container. Try to make sure your tallest plants are not be more than twice the height of the container and that the fullness of the plant material is not more than half the width again as wide.

10. Keep them fresh! Don't be afraid to switch out plant material for the change of season. No plant can go on blooming forever. When one plant starts to fade, look for another to take its place.

Container garden veterans, I'd love to hear from you! What other great tips do you have for me before I start my new little venture?

Fabulous Finds: Some Stuff Worth Mentioning

One of my goals for the new year is to educate myself about things that I don't know much about but should. Here's a few examples:

*I'm really not great at financial stuff. REALLY not. Thank goodness I married a man who's very good at finances and puts up with my ignorance about it. And even though we do own a townhome, I have only a vague understanding about mortgages, home loans, financing, and that tricky thing called refinancing. We've definitely considered refinancing our home but have been freaked out by the out of pocket expenses it requires. A new thing I just learned about is called a Streamline Refinance. I don't really see why we shouldn't try this out. The benefits include no additional paperwork and no out of pocket expenses! I'm really anxious to see if we can lower our interest and our monthly payments. I'd very much love to have extra money to put towards our goal of saving for a bigger house!

Some of my friends who are military wives might be really interested in this. . . the VA Streamline Refinance or the VA cashout refinance. These are for active duty and prior service veterans, and they are at record low levels. Worth checking into for sure!

*Here's another thing I have limited knowledge about. . . electronic stuff. As far as cables and wires that are all tangled up in our TV cabinets, I have absolutely no idea what any of them are for. If my husband were to suddenly disapppear, I'd have to pay somebody to come over and sort through all the cables for me. How sad is that? When we got our HDTV last year, I learned that you actually need special HDMI cables, or else the TV would just show in standard definition. And in my recent quest for knowledge from my husband's brain I learned that you need a DVI to HDMI cable to be able to connect a computer to an HDTV. Confusing to me, yes, but also useful to know!

Oh, and also on my mind. . . are 3D TV's really going to be the new exciting thing??? Is everyone going to have one soon? I can hardly imagine our nice HDTV becoming old technology anytime soon, but it does seem that way in comparison to these Mitsubishi TVs. What do you think?

*Another cool thing. . . I just found It's a great website that automatically scans your blog for the word "Giveaway", and all your Giveaway posts will appear in their widget and newsfeed. Since I sometimes forget to promote all my giveaways, it's great to see something that will do it automatically! All they require is that you post about it on your blog with a link to them. So whether you want to find out about all the latest giveaways or submit your own, this is a great option!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fabulous Finds: Enjoy Flameless Candles Review and Giveaway!!!

I seriously LOVE candles. I'm kind of addicted. I love the mood they set in a room. When I have one burning, it instantly makes the room feel cozier and warmer, and just sets such a nice tone for my home. If you've been to my house you know how often I have candles burning, especially at night. I was really excited to review some flameless candles from Enjoy Lighting. I got a set of three in varying heights. Just look at how pretty they are!
Why you'll love Enjoy flameless candles:

-You don't have to worry about children or pets burning themselves or knocking them over! There's also no risk with placing them too close to curtains or furniture. So much safer!
-With my traditional pillar candles, I never end up burning them because they get melted down and no longer look pretty. These last for YEARS! The LED lamp will operate for up to 10 years and they run on batteries.
-These really do look real! The lights flicker, and the pillars are made from real wax!
-You can use them outdoors and the wind won't blow them out.
-One of my favorite features: It has a timer mode! You can set them to flicker for 4, 6, or 8 hours. It's perfect for a high shelf or someplace hard to reach, because you can just set the timer and you won't have to worry about turning them back off. Such a cool feature!
You can choose to buy the candles scented or unscented. *It's worth noting that they are lightly scented, and will not give off a strong fragrance. Mine are vanilla scented but I barely notice the scent. I will continue to use my favorite Bath and Body Works candles because I love the strong scent that comes from those, but I really like combining those with the Enjoy Flameless ones to create even more of a mood in my home!

*The candles come in a whole variety of sizes (they even have flickering tea lights!), and they also come in many different colors and textures to match your decor. I love these textured holiday candles! And you can buy them from some of your everyday stores like Target and Michael's!

One winner will receive a set of three Ivory Smooth Vanilla Scented Pillar Candles just like the set I received!!!

Here's how to enter to win these flameless candles:
*Become a follower of my blog! Or let me know if you already follow me. Just leave me a comment and tell me you're a follower! (Click 'Google Friends Connect' on my sidebar!)

Get extra entries (up to 10 this time!!!) when you:
1. Like me on Facebook! Just click the button on my sidebar to become a Facebook fan!
2. Go to the Enjoy Lighting website, and tell me which candle set you'd love to display in your home the most!
3. "Like" Enjoy Lighting on Facebook over here.
4. Go here and follow Enjoy Lighting on Twitter.
5. Answer this question: Have you ever used flameless candles before? Do you like your candles to have a strong fragrance or no scent at all?
6. Talk about this giveaway on your Facebook status and link to this post!
7. Tweet about this giveaway and link to me.
8. Mention this giveaway on your blog and link to me!
9. Grab my button off my sidebar and display it somewhere on your blog.
10. Leave a new comment on any of my other recent blog posts (doesn't matter which one, I just love to read your comments!), and let me know you did.

*Please leave a separate comment for EACH entry, and make sure I have a way to contact you if you are the winner! This giveaway will close on February 13'th. Good luck!!!
(If you have previously won a giveaway from Enjoy Flameless Candles you will not be eligible to win this one).

My Disclaimer: I received free products in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated and the opinions are mine!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Go Ahead. . . TRY To Watch This Without Smiling!

Aren't baby laughs the cutest thing ever??? Here's Brooke at 2 1/2 months old!
(Make sure you have the volume turned up!)

Stephen posted this video on YouTube with this comment: "As all that have had babies know, they can be difficult and extremely stressful; HOWEVER, it is times like these that make it all worth it."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Adorable Etsy Shop Alert. . . Heavenly Handmade Fashion Giveaway!!!

Fashion accessories for moms, teens, gals, and babies. . . we've got it all covered here! And all handmade??? Yes please!

We've got three separate designs up for grabs in this giveaway, so you'd best get to entering!

Design #1. . . A gorgeous flower headband just perfect for newborn photo shoots from Bellasma! Yep, that's my own precious little Brooke modeling this flower, and you can get one exactly like it!

I love the color of this flower, and I love the thin little headband. The thin band is perfect for photography, since it draws attention to the flower and your baby's sweet face.

Bellasma's Etsy shop is full of beautiful and unique designs that are perfect for photo sessions or to wear every day. My little girls have a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of flowers and hair accessories, and many of the ones sold in Bellasma's shop I've never seen before.
I'm in love with this one! The color is simply delicious!

Oh, and she's got amazing prices! This incredible vintage-inspired headband is only $10. I seriously might order the whole entire shop!

Design #2 is perfect for this time of year. . .
A snuggly pair of hand-knit mittens from Black Capped Crafts!

If you're the winner you can choose a pair of mittens in an adult or child size, and can customize them to be any color you want! I received such a cute little pair to review for my girls. I'm loving the whale adornment on this pair. Simple but oh so cute!

Oh, and add this Honeycomb Cowl to my birthday wish list.
Seriously, love it.
This would add the perfect spot of sunny color to my dark coat in this dreary January weather.

Ready for more sunshine in the dead of winter? Brought to you from the land down under (where it really IS summer right now!) is design #3. . .

A $25 gift certificate for magically funky clothing made in Australia at the EvieGreenPixie Etsy shop!!!

This shop just screams fun! EvieGreenPixie creates unique and one-of-a-kind pieces from a mix of vintage recycled and new fabrics, trim, buttons, you name it. No two pieces are ever the same, and she loves to take custom orders. There's tons of patchwork and quilting done on many of her skirts, and she makes them in all sizes for all ages! Her style is bohemian and eclectic and just SO unique.

Here's how to enter to win all these incredible designs (yes, there will be 3 separate winners!!!):
*Become a follower of my blog! Or let me know if you already follow me. Either way, leave me a comment and tell me you're a follower! (Just click 'Google Friends Connect' on my sidebar!)

Get extra entries (up to 14 this time!!!) when you:
1. Like me on Facebook! Just click the button on my sidebar to become a Facebook fan!
2. Check out the Bellasma Etsy shop and let me know which of her designs you love the most!
3. Add Bellasma to your Etsy favorites ("Heart" her shop).
4. Let me know what your favorite thing is from the Black Capped Crafts Etsy shop.
5. Add Black Capped Crafts to your Hearted shops on Etsy.
6. Check out the EvieGreenPixie shop over here and let me know which design you like the most.
7. "Heart" EvieGreenPixie on Etsy.
8. Go over here to "Like" EvieGreenPixie on Facebook!
9. Leave me another comment and tell me which of these 3 designs you'd be most excited to win.
10. Talk about this giveaway on your Facebook status and link to this post!
11. Tweet about this giveaway and link to me.
12. Mention this giveaway on your blog and link to me!
13. Grab my button off my sidebar and display it somewhere on your blog.
14. Leave a new comment on any of my other recent blog posts (doesn't matter which one, I just love to read your comments!), and let me know you did.

*Please leave a separate comment for EACH entry, and make sure I have a way to contact you if you are the winner! This giveaway will close on February 9'th. Good luck!!!

My Disclaimer: I received some free items in exchange for writing honest reviews. All opinions are totally mine and I was not compensated!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fun Finds and Adorable Etsy Shops Alert: For New Babies!

*For photography. . .
I've gotten SO many compliments on the adorable pom pom hat Brooke was wearing in her newborn photos. Here's where I got it. . . from Ashleys HomeSpun Etsy shop (not my shop, she just happens to have the same name as me!) If you're looking for all kinds of fun hats and props for a newborn photo shoot, look no further!

Every hat is handmade and her prices are really awesome too! The pom pom hat Brooke is wearing is only $15, and you can choose your own colors! The quality of the hat is wonderful and the yarn is super soft.

*For a gorgeous, eco-friendly baby gift. . .
The Green Ostrich is an entire website completely dedicated to eco-friendly gifts. They have TONS of great stuff, not just for babies but for all aspects of your life! I received this beautiful 4-piece newborn layette set made of organic cotton. The fabric is SO soft and perfect for sensitive baby skin. It also stays soft no matter how many times you wash it. This set would make a perfect gift for any baby shower, and it's gender-neutral as well.

The Green Ostrich website is so full of great finds, like these blocks made from recycled milk cartons!
*For sleeping. . .
Anything that helps a newborn baby to sleep better and longer gets a huge gold star in my book. And swaddling definitely does it! I LOVE the Kiddopotamus velcro swaddle wraps and have been using them for all of my babies with lots of success. I also got to try out a new swaddle wrap for Brooke. . . the Woombie!

Why I like the Woombie:
*It keeps your baby's arms and hands snug and warm inside, so she won't flail around or scratch herself. But it also allows some space for her to gently stretch her limbs. It mimics the womb (hence the name!)
*The cotton is soft and breathable, and prevents overheating.
*The Woombie comes in tons of colors, and several different sizes and fabrics for warmer or cooler weather. The original Woombie sells for $25.99.
*It's the easiest thing ever to use! Just put baby inside it and zip it up!
*It's won awards from PTPA, Moms Best, and Creative Child.

Here's another swaddling option. . .
BabySewPretty is a really cute shop that sells a bunch of handmade, customized outfits for little ones. I was sent one of the handmade Swaddle Blankets to review, and it's really great! Mine doesn't have the cute bunny ears on the top like this one does (such an adorable idea, I love it!), but it does have velcro closures and makes a nice, snug swaddle for my little baby. BabySewPretty loves custom orders and can create something for you in the colors or fabrics of your choice too!

*For your baby's room (or any room where you need a nightlight!). . .
Purely Products Healthy Night Light. This is so cool. . . an air purifier and night light combined! It's an LED night light, so it only costs pennies a year to operate, and the built-in ionizer cleans the air all day and night, whether or not the light is on. It's an automatic on/off light, and cool to the touch. This is by far the coolest night light I've ever found.

It sells for $19.95 or in a 2-pack for $29.95. A portion of every purchase goes to diaperLove- a non-profit organization donating diapers to children in need. (This is a Mama Buzz review, and the product was provided by Purely Products).
*My disclaimer: I was provided with free products to write these reviews. I write honest reviews, and all opinions are my own!

Friday, January 21, 2011

From the Mouths of My Babes

From Kirsten (age 3 1/2):
*After I told her it was time to take down all the Christmas decorations. . .
"But we need to have more parties first!"

*While catching a glimpse of the Biggest Loser weigh-in. . .
"He needs to put his clothes back on!"

*Randomly asked the other day in the car. . .
"Where's Santa? Is he wrapping presents at the North Pole?"

*After she followed my friend Carrie into the bathroom. . .
"Can I see your tushy?" (Yeah, tushies are really funny at the moment. She also shouted out, "Grinch tush!" when she saw a picture of the Grinch from the back in the original Dr. Seuss book. I never noticed it before, but it really does show his tushy!)

*After I heard a crash. . .
Me: "Kirsten, what happened?"
Kirsten: "I didn't break anything."
Me: "What did you not break?"
Kirsten: "I didn't break the snow."
I went in the other room to discover her next to a shattered snow globe.

*Tonight during dinner, when she really wanted a popsicle. . .
"I finished all my chicken!"
And what was on the floor under her chair? Every single piece of chicken. Where does she learn this stuff???

From Natalie (age 21 months):
*She just started to nod her head and say yes. But instead of yes, she says "mmm-hmm!"
*Her very favorite sound effect. . . "Ho ho ho!" in the cutest voice possible
*When she needs a drink. . . "I want wa!"
*The one-syllable names are popular with her right now. Daddy is "Da!" Grandpa is "Pa!" Kitties are "Key!"
*Said while she has an entire fist full of snacks. . . "More?"

From Brooke (age 2 months):
*Laughs!!! Oh my gosh, tiny little baby laughs for no apparent reason are the best!
*Big smiles! That photograph only captures a half smile. Her smiles are huge!

I need to write these down more often. I've already forgotten so many!

Super Bowl XLV: The Ultimate Man Date

The following post is a guest post by Beth Feldman:

Ask any football loving fan what their dream date would be and nine times out of 10 he'll say tickets to the Super Bowl. As my father-in-law always says, "you can't put a price on a good time," so if you're considering biting the bullet and treating your significant other to the ultimate "Man Date," follow this game plan and you'll come up a winner:

Super Bowl Tickets - You can reserve seats for the big game on StubHub - Ticket prices start at $2200 all the way up to nearly $400,000 for a coveted spot in the Hall of Fame Suite. If you've just won Powerball, then the Super Bowl Hall of Fame option is definitely for you. The best thing about Stub Hub is that fans are constantly buying and selling tickets on the site so you should keep checking back to see what's available or hedge your bets, and lock in right now!

Flights - While you can always hit the websites for your favorite airlines, my suggestion is to head over to Trip Advisor where you can select whether you'd like to take a non-stop or connecting flight and they arrange everything by price. Plus, there are ratings by customers on which flights they prefer.

Hotel Reservations - Head on over to the Arlington, Texas website which has detailed information on hotels in the area. You can aim for the Ritz Carlton, Hilton or a motel (if you've blown all your cash on the Super Bowl tix.)

Rental Car - If you're flying into Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, then head on over to for a breakdown of all the rental car facilities near the airport. That way, you can choose from a diverse array of options and price points.

Parking Finding parking at a football game is never easy, and the Super Bowl is no different. Luckily, has the scoop on Cowboys Stadium parking with over 40 Super Bowl parking locations for you to choose from. The site is super easy to use, and you can print you parking pass instantly - no worrying if the Postal Service will deliver your ticket on time.

You can even win free parking for the Super Bowl by entering ParkWhiz's Twitter contest. Follow @ParkWhiz on Twitter, re-tweet this link and be entered to win. One winner randomly selected.

Things to Do While in Arlington - If you're in town for the weekend, visit the NFL Super Bowl website for details about some great charity events taking place throughout the weekend that feature appearances by NFL players. Plus, the City of Arlington's official website also offers suggestions for attractions and dining options in the area.

So there you have it - treat your significant other to the ultimate "Man Date" and by the time Valentine's Day hits, you should be on the receiving end of something big and sparkly.

Disclosure: The post was sponsored by the Role Mommy Writer's Network.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Celebrate the Small Things

In life, you've got to celebrate the small things. Like the fact that THIS small thing named Brooke has been sleeping 8+ hours straight at night for the past 4 nights in a row. Hallelujah!!! May it continue!

Here are some pictures of our cute little babe at about 3 weeks old, from 2 different photo shoots. Which one is your favorite?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010: Year In Review

2010 brought some crazy and unexpected changes to our house. . . like a new baby! I didn't think I'd be having a baby in 2010, that's for sure, but Brooke had her own agenda. :) And so we are now a family of five. I checked in on my new year's blog post from last year to see how I did on my new year's resolutions.

I wrote:
"1. Lose 10 more pounds by March. . . and then maintain that weight all year long."
Obviously, pregnancy changed that plan in a hurry. :) I did get back to my pre-pregnancy weight, just in time to get pregnant again. And now I have to start fresh with another "lose the baby weight" resolution. I want to lose 20 pounds by the start of summer. I gotta admit, I'm not looking forward to another diet. But it's got to be done.

"2. Be an even better mother and wife. Laugh harder, play harder, work harder!"
I think this one can be an ongoing resolution. Every year, I want to try for that!

"3. Make some new friends."
I did! And I'd like to keep this resolution for coming year as well.

"4. Learn how to use my new camera and take even better photos!"
Hmm. . . I partially did this one. I know more about photography than I did last year, but I still have lots to learn. I still struggle with how to take great no-flash pictures in low lighting, so I'd love to nail that one this year.

"5. Go on lots of fun new adventures! (Now that's at least ONE that I know I won't break)"
Haha, I know myself too well! Of course I kept this resolution, and I'm renewing it for this year too!

Here's the main resolution I want to add for 2011:
***Save up enough for a down payment so we can buy a new home! We are outgrowing our house in a major way, and I've been dreaming of a house in Samammish with a big, open kitchen and family room with tall ceilings and lots of windows, tons more living space, and a nice yard full of pine trees. *Sigh*

Here are some highlights from the year 2010 for our family:

*January* *Took Kirsten sledding for the first time ever in the beautiful snowy mountains* *Natalie's love affair with her mobile began when she learned how to turn it on herself. She still adores her mobile (it's pretty cool, plays a light show and music) and falls asleep to it* *I spent a kid-free weekend in Vancouver, BC with my friend Miranda*

*February* *I turned 28. It was pretty uneventful* *Natalie started standing up* *Winter Olympics!*

*March* *Stephen turned the big 3-0 and became officially old* *Found out I was pregnant. Didn't believe it at first*

*April* *Went on our big South America vacation for our 5-year anniversary!!!* *Had a fun Easter with Kirsten's very first Easter egg hunt* *My little baby Natalie turned 1!*

*May* *Kirsten turned 3! We celebrated with a fun party at a beautiful park* *Watched the LOST finale* *Announced to the blog and Facebook world that we're expecting baby #3* *Took the kids to the Seattle Folklife Festival and saw Shrek in Imax3D at the Pacific Science Center for Memorial day weekend* *Had the rainiest May I can ever remember*

*June* *Found out that baby number 3 was, indeed, another girl* *Finally got Kirsten to be fully potty-trained*

*July* *Went camping with friends at an awesome lake at Steamboat Rock State Park* *Took the kids to the Lilith Fair concert at the Gorge* *Discovered how much both the girls love fireworks!*

*August* *Natalie finally started walking, at 16 months, proving that second children do not always walk earlier than the first one* *Went swimming whenever we got the chance, and spent time at the splash park* *Took the kids to Northwest Trek Animal park* *Spent a weekend in Utah for my cousin's wedding, and then drove with my parents to San Diego for a week*

*September* *Went to the Evergreen State Fair* *Went to the John Mayer/Keith Urban concert at the Gorge* *Kirsten started a cute little preschool a couple of days a week, plus some gymnastics and music classes at the community center*

*October* *Took a nice little weekend roadtrip through North Cascades National Park* *Went to the pumpkin patch and decorated for Halloween!* *Brooke was born! She came the day before her due date, and was born on October 29'th. The biggest highlight of our year, for sure (and it's pretty hard to beat South America, but she did!)*

*November* *Learning (still in the process) how to adjust to life with three kids under four* *My family came to visit and we had a VERY snowy Thanksgiving* *Cut down our Christmas tree from a tree farm and decorated our house for Christmas!*

*December* *Brooke learned how to smile!* *Saw some gorgeous Christmas lights at the Bellevue Botanical Garden and Warm Beach Camp in Stanwood* *Rode the Christmas Carousel in Seattle* *Flew to San Diego for our Christmas vacation (where we still are!)*

There it is. . . our year in a nutshell. It's had ups and downs, moment of pure exhiliration, plenty of surprises, and a lot of laughter and love.

I haven't uploaded any of my new year's pictures onto my parents' abysmally slow computer, so here are some leftover pictures from December of my two "dancing princesses." Pretty cute!

So long, 2010!
2011. . . Bring it on! I hope it's a great one for me and for everyone who reads this!!!