Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Bellagio Botanical Gardens

Last weekend, we had a family date night to the Botanical Gardens inside of the Bellagio. It was an amazing date, and the best part was that it was totally free! Not only did Brad and I enjoy it immensely, but Baby Girl was absolutely mesmerized by the gorgeous flowers. 

Bellagio Botanical Gardens

And the icing on the cake was that it was an under the sea theme, and Baby Girl was able to walk through a large fish tank full of beautiful "fishies." 

This is definitely a date that we recommend to anyone visiting Las Vegas. We're really excited to go back in the fall, winter, and spring. The gardens change with every season, so it's different each time you visit. 

When we first walked into the hotel, we were greeted by these gorgeous hand blown glass flowers hanging from the ceiling. 

bellagio hotel ceiling

And then we entered the gardens and found some absolutely stunning displays. 

Flowers Bellagio Botanical Garden

The Under the Sea theme was a big hit for our little family.

Sea Horse Flowers Bellagio Botanical Gardens

All of the creatures on display included live flowers.

Flowers Bellagio Botanical Gardens

In all, it was a perfect family date, and one that we would also do on our own.

And I seriously never get tired of watching Brad interact with our little one. He is such an amazing husband and father! I am truly blessed to have these two in my life!

To find the gardens:
3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109

The gardens are just beyond the lobby on the way to the dining areas. 

We have loved finding dates that work with our favorite little tag-along. It's so important that date night doesn't stop after having kids! We have definitely had to get creative since babysitters are not always an option (and having just moved to a new place, we pretty much only know two people...). From stay-at-home date nights after baby goes to bed to fun family date nights like this one, we make it happen. What are you doing to make date night a priority, even after kids? We'd love to hear your ideas! Use #datenightdoesntstopafterkids on Instagram to share your ideas and see some of ours!

Free Dates Bellagio Botanical Garden

Friday, August 26, 2016

Miracle Mile Shops and Garrett's Popcorn

We've been in Las Vegas for about a month now and finally decided to brave the strip for a date night. You see, Brad is totally obsess with Garrett's Popcorn, which he discovered on a trip to Chicago years ago. What's really amazing about this is that Brad doesn't even like popcorn. But Garrett's? He can down an entire bag pretty speedily. Garrett's has a number of flavors, but in our opinion, there is only one that's worth it: Garrett's Mix. It's a mixture of caramel and cheese popcorns, which we admit sounds less than great. When Brad first told me about the mix, I was certain that he was crazy. But the first time I tried it, I was sold after the first bite. It's this amazing mix of salty and sweet and definitely worth the calories!

The popcorn is made fresh and most definitely needs to be eaten sooner rather than later. So plan on a little overdoing it, but still go with the big bag! Worth it.

Here in Las Vegas, Garrett's is found inside the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, so we decided to make a whole date of it. Inside the mall, you will find an indoor rain storm, quaint walkways that mirror Italian villas, joke shops, magic shops, and all the shopping you could imagine.

We had a great time and definitely recommend the date to anyone passing through Vegas. If nothing else, at least stop and get yourself a bag of popcorn!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

DIY Sunburst Mirror

I've been wanting to make a sunburst mirror for about a month now, and finally got around to it this past weekend. While it's not perfect, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out and it really completes the space in our entryway.

DIY Sunburst Mirror


12 Inch Round Mirror
10 Inch Wood Circle
40-50 Paint Sticks
Acrylic Paint (or spray paint)
12 Inch Embroidery Hoop
Sawtooth Picture Hanger (optional--I used command strips instead)
Gorilla Glue
Painters Tape
Hot Glue


If your paint sticks have a curve, cut them below the curve so that they are straight.

Using the primer, spray paint the sticks and the embroidery hoop. (This step is unnecessary if your sticks don't have a logo like mine did).

After letting the primer dry, paint the sticks and hoop. I chose to use acrylic paint and paint each stick individually, but if you are choosing to spray paint, you can do the entire thing at the very end. I just couldn't find the right color I wanted in spray paint, which is why I went with acrylic paint. 

This is one coat of Mineral (Waverly Inspirations Brand) followed by a coat of Metallic Sahara Gold (Folk Art Brand). Let the paint dry well between coats.

On the back of your mirror, Draw a circle 1.5 inches in from the outside edge. 

At this point, decide how you will hang your mirror. We are in a rental, so I used command strips. If that is how you will do it too, move on to the next step. If you want to hang it with a nail, you will want to put the sawtooth picture hanger on the back side of your wooden circle at this point. Center it towards the top of your wooded circle and hammer it in to place. 

Arrange the sticks around the line you drew. Using a very thin layer of Gorilla Glue, glue the sticks down following the directions on the glue. (Dampen the back of the mirror, apply glue to the sticks. Make sure the glue is thin. It's strong and doesn't take much. The glue puffs up and if you use too much, it will seep through and show on the front of your mirror). 

Use the Gorilla Glue to glue the wooden circle to the painter sticks. At this point, you are supposed to clamp the things you glued, but I don't have any clamps, so I had to get a little creative. I probably went a little overboard, but I wanted to make sure that the glue was solid. I used some heavy books and journals and then put some weights on top of those. I put a paper towel between the wood and the book/weight combo just in case the glue bubbled out so that it wouldn't ruin my books. For a more professional use of clamping, check out THIS post. For those of you with limited resources like me, the weights work just fine. Ha! Wait 1-2 hours for the glue to set. 

Here is a shot of the glue bubbling out so you know what to expect. I used too much glue on this section, but there was no real harm done. Everything still went on well.  And yes, the back of my mirror seriously looks like this!

Next, glue on a second layer of sticks. I put one stick in between two of the first layer. You can make it however full you like. The sticks should sit flush with the wooden circle. Apply glue to the edges of the sticks where they attach to the circle as well as to the first layer of sticks so they will attach on two points. Again, keep it thin.

Return the books to the top and wait the 1-2 hours.

Flip the mirror over to the front. Cover the mirror portion with painters tape and spray the entire thing with a sealant.

Finally, attach the painted hoop to the mirror using hot glue. This does not have to be such a firm hold since it is not bearing any weight, so you won't need to use the gorilla glue and risk it bubbling out on the front of your mirror. This addition is not necessary, but I think it gives the whole thing a more finished look. Personal preference.

If you are planning on spray painting the mirror, cover the mirror portion with painters tape and spray the entire thing. If you used acrylic paint, double check for any areas that need a little touch up, and you're done!

Let me know if you'r planning on making a mirror of your own.
I would love to see your finished products!

*Update: after a great question about the cost of the mirror, here is the breakdown:
I already had the gorilla glue, which runs about $6-$10 depending on the size, and I also already had the primer, sealant, and hot glue.
I got the painters sticks at Home Depot for free. They were super nice. When I asked them if I could buy sticks for my project, since I needed way more than they usually give away, they asked how many I needed. When I told the man I needed 45, he kind of chuckled and said "just take them!" Way nice. They do sell sticks without logos for about $1 for a pack of 10.

So aside from that, I spent:
$1.80 on the mirror (usually $3 at Michaels, but I used a 40% off coupon),
$2.40 on the wood circle (Usually $4, also with a 40% off coupon),
$5 on paint from Joanns ($2.50 for each bottle--could have gone back another day with another coupon, but I just wanted to get it and get started), and
$3 on the embroidery hoop from Walmart.
So a total of $12.20 for everything!
(It would have been around $20 more if I didn't have the glue, sealant, or the primer before).

What are your current favorite DIYs?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Sidewalk Chalk and Somersaults

Somersault: an acrobatic movement in which a person turns head over heels in the air or on the ground (Google)

Basically, something my one year old should not be able to do. But try telling her that. She is pretty much the somersault queen these days. She loves to turn head over heels over and over and pop up clapping for herself. Definitely getting too big!

But it's not just the somersaults. It's the sudden desire to help mom with all the chores, especially dusting. It's the insistence on doing everything herself. It's the coloring. The talking. The desire to have book after book read to her and being able to sit through them all... sometimes for up to half an hour. It's the little smile when she knows she's done something well and the determined stare down when she knows she didn't get it quite right. In all, my baby is growing up.

Yesterday, we played with sidewalk chalk, and she didn't even try to eat it once. This is a big deal for us!

She will be 17 months old next week and I just can't believe it. I have really enjoyed this stage as she is more and more interested in the world around her. Even though nobody else would understand us, we really do have conversations. She tells me what she is thinking and how she is feeling and I usually follow (you know, aside from the scream fests that sometimes happen).

Though there are still days that I wish I could slow down the clock, I am really enjoying each and every day and the new discoveries they bring. It's amazing how quickly she is learning and growing and I feel so blessed to be able to be home with her and watch the magic happen!

Friday, August 12, 2016

To The Mother Of The Boy Who Helped Me To My Car

I wish I new your name. I wish I could thank you personally for the way your raised your son. I wish I could call you up and ask you how you did it. I wish we could sit down and really get to know each other.

But since I can't do any of that, I'll just have to thank you here. So thank you. Thank you for teaching your son to be aware of others and their needs. Thank you for teaching him to reach out and serve. Thank you for teaching him to care.

I would guess that your son is somewhere between 10 and 12 years old. He saw me in line at Home Depot last week. I had my hands full. We had just moved into a new home. My husband had to work. My baby wasn't sleeping well in the new house. The sun was streaming into her window and I needed a quick fix. I went to buy garage insulation, not realizing that it came in a huge strip. I was trying to balance the large sheet while simultaneously pushing my over tired baby in the cart. When her screams escalated, I was trying to carry her in my arms, balance the sheet of insulation, and push the cart at the same time. I was a little overwhelmed. Then I heard the sweetest voice from behind me: "Ma'am, I can help you with that." I turned to find a kind young man looking up at me. I gratefully passed off the insulation to him while I fished for my wallet to pay for my purchases. Even though the insulation was about five times his size, he offered to carry it to my car. I looked at you, and you nodded your approval. He had quite the time of it, getting that large sheet to my little car, but he didn't give up and he did it with a smile on his face. When we made it, he looked from the sheet of insulation to my little car and back. "We're going to need some help," he said, and off he went. He came back with an employee and made sure I was okay before heading back inside to meet you. The employee helped me squish the insulation in my car and tie the trunk down. As I was loading my baby in, I looked up at the sound of someone calling to me. Your son was leaning out the window of your car. You had driven him by to check on me one last time. "Everything okay now?" he asked. I assured him that it was and he told me to have a great day before driving off again.

And to me, this was a tender mercy. I had come to Home Depot, feeling overwhelmed and frazzled, and I left grateful to have met your son, and confident that all would be well.

You see, this experience left a great impression on me. I could tell that you taught your son by example. You must really care about others. You must look for and seek out opportunities to help. You must encourage your son to do the same.

I could tell that your son was genuine and sincere. He wasn't helping me to get anything in return. He was helping me because he sincerely cared. He saw a need and knew that he could meet it. He wanted to do good simply because it was the right thing to do.

This experience also helped me to see ways that I need to change. It helped me see how I want to raise my children.

I realized that I am seldom aware of the people around me while out and about. I have a purpose, get in, get what I need, and get out. Now I will be aware of those around me and notice needs that I can meet.

I want to teach my children to choose to help.

I want to teach them to see others and their needs, even when life gets busy. Maybe especially when life gets busy.

I want to live by example and do those things myself.

So thank you for raising such a wonderful young man. Thank you for letting him help an overwhelmed young mother. Thank you for showing him the way to be the difference in the world. I am lucky to have crossed his path.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Grilled Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Sadly, our summer in Arizona has officially come to a close. It's hard to see it end, but exciting to welcome the next phase of our life. We will be back in AZ full time in just one more year, so we have that to look forward to! I'm sorry for the lack of blog posts. Between moving, Brad taking the bar, and trying to fix a number of things in our new house (scorpions, leaking A/C, no car...) life has been a little crazy. I'm looking forward to getting things in order and getting back in a routine. Here's to hoping!

Our Arizona summer was fantastic! It was especially wonderful to spend so much time with out families. We miss them terribly already and are counting down the days to our next visit. We did so many fun things with the family and I'm excited to tell you all about them!

My brother came up with a pretty stellar idea one day after a BBQ. Grilled grilled cheese sandwiches. It's your typical grilled cheese, but cooked on a grill instead of on the stove. It was seriously so good!

Cook grilled cheese sandwiches on the BBQ gril

So here's how you do it: 

Prepare your grill. The sandwiches come out a bit better if the grill is not super hot. So if you are using charcoal (like we did), you will want to wait for them to cool down a bit. If you're using gas, just keep the temperature down. 
Butter the outsides of your bread.
Fill your sandwich with cheese and other fillings. Ideas include avocado, ham, tomato, cooked bacon... the possibilities are endless! My favorite combo was 1 slice of cheddar jack, 1 slice of pepper jack, avocado, bacon, and tomato. So good!
Put sandwiches in a grill basket (sometimes called a fish basket)
Cook on the grill, turning and rotating often until bread is crunch and cheese is melted. 

Cooking the sandwiches this way made for a super fun family activity and the grilled cheese was extra delicious! This would also make for a great Stay-At-Home Date Night! So fire up the grill and let us know how they turn out!

What is your favorite kind of Grilled Cheese Sandwich?

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