Pinot’s Palette Party!

Last Friday night, we got to celebrate my Aunt Dot’s birthday.  She decided it would be fun to try out Pinot’s Palette for her party.  If you haven’t heard about Pinot’s Palette, it is a venue where you can pay to take a 2 or 3 hour painting class, resulting in a beautiful painting at the end, all while enjoying your favorite drinks (basically an art studio + bar in one!)  Classes cost $35 for weeknights (2 hour classes) and $45 for weekends (3 hour classes).  Which painting is being taught is pre-scheduled and can be signed up for in advance.  Since we were celebrating a birthday party, we chose to have a private party and got to pick out which painting we did.  The painting we chose is called Midnight Moon glow, and is supposed to turn out like this:

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Our party consisted of people with a wide range of both art experience and art interest, and I can say that, while not everyone’s picture turned out just like the painting, no one’s picture turned out badly.  Also, everyone had fun while they were doing it.

Our party was held in the Gasparilla Room, a cute pirate-themed room, where we were allowed to bring our own food and drinks for the event.  Our instructor’s name was Jessica, and she was great at getting us through the steps of the painting, while still making it a very fun and relaxing experience.

Here we are all ready to get started:

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The instruction was given in steps.  We mixed the paint for the background first, applied that, then had snacks/drinks while the background dried.  We then added each layer to the painting – moon, tree, water, until it was finished!  The process was very enjoyable and relaxing, without being too difficult.

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Here’s the finished product – I was very happy with my painting, although I felt like the colors dried darker than I thought they would…I know, I’m picky.

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I would definitely recommend this experience!  I think it is perfect for a girls night, or maybe a date night (if your boyfriend/husband is somewhat artsy, or it’s your turn to pick the date…haha),  It has sparked a painting bug in both myself and my sisters, which I haven’t done much of since high school.  As I have said before, I am easily impressionable and like to pick up new hobbies.

Have any of you guys tried this?  Which paintings did you do?  I had so much fun!

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More Freezer Meal Experiments

I’ve been trying to be really good about cooking these past few weeks.  By good, I mean trying to cook new, “real food” meals at least twice a week (usually Wednesdays and Sundays) and trying to make extras to freeze.  So far, I have been having pretty good success at making meals my family likes/will eat, and – maybe more importantly to me – does not involve me spending a whole day, or even a whole afternoon in the kitchen.  The past few meals I have tried have been chicken pot pie, stromboli, and tacos!  In all of these cases I have yet to try the frozen-then-thawed version yet, but i will update once I do in case any don’t thaw well.

Stromboli (sorry I don’t have pictures for this one)

Recipe here from Fabulessly Frugal

Ease to make: Very Easy (I was able to assemble two strombolis (is that the plural of stromboli? haha) in about 25 minutes)

For my pizza crust, I used the pillsbury pre-made pizza dough in the canister, which I loved because I really HATE spreading out pizza dough.  I love all things pizza and would probably make all sorts of pizzas except for the step of spreading the crust.  I had never tried the pillsbiry pre-made dough, and was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to use and the final taste.

I made one stromboli for dinner that night and wrapped one in plastic wrap and tin foil to freeze.  The one I made for dinner tasted great, even V (the toddler) ate a little bit of it, and it tasted good left over and cold for lunch!

Verdict: Success!!

Chicken Pot Pie

Recipe here from Fabulessly Frugal (totally didn’t realize that these were both from the same blog until now, one was from Pinterest and one from Google Search)

Ease to make: This recipe took about 1.5 hours to make from start to finish, so pretty time consuming, but it doesn’t take much longer to make several than to make one.

I made a few modifications to this one.  The recipe is for chicken pot pie but the only crust is on the top, none on the bottom.  I think this is so you can make more pies with fewer pie crusts, maybe?  I was describing this to Mark (husband), who is the expert in southern cuisine in our house, and he was not a fan of the “crust on top only” idea.  Since he loves chicken pot pie way more than I do, I figured I should cook it to suit his tastes so I added crust on the top and bottom.  For the container I also used the regular pie containers that came with the pre-made crusts rather than the meatloaf container (I used deep dish pie crust).  I also didn’t measure my vegetable amounts at all, which resulted in the pot pies being very vegetable heavy, in particular very pea heavy.  I like peas, and I like veggies, so I thought it was good, but Mark would prefer more chicken.  I made 3 pot pies total, and wrapped the other 2 in plastic wrap and tin foil for the freezer.

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Verdict: Will probably make again because Mark likes pot pies, but a lot of work…

Taco Meat

 Ok, confession – this recipe is so simple you probably don’t need a recipe, but I have such cute pictures to go along that I had to share it.  I did, however, discover that it is possible to make taco meat in a crock pot, so it was a learning experience!

Recipe here at Passionate Penny Pincher

Ease to make: very easy – throw the meat and ingredients into crockpot, stir occasionally, done!

I didn’t read the recipe right and added the taco seasoning at the beginning of cooking rather than at the end.  This resulted in my meat being under-seasoned once it was done, but I just added more seasoning and it worked out ok.  It also turned out a little more soupy than my typical taco meat, but there were no complaints about it.  I served the meat on tortillas with typical taco dressings, and it was definitely a hit.  V thought it was amazing and ate soft tacos/burritos for dinner 2 nights in a row!  I put half of the taco meat in the freezer for later.

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Her first experience holding the burrito herself – she DID NOT want mom to help her 🙂

Verdict: Success!!

Hope my experience helps anyone trying to come up with meal ideas for their family.  I really prefer meals that take minimal prep work and that I can make extras of so Mark can heat them up for dinner when I work late.  Any good recipes you know of?  Feel free to let me know!

Weekend Pumpkin Festival

So this past weekend my sister, her husband and I decided to take the girls to the Pumpkin Festival at Hunsader Farms in Bradenton.  We figured that this would be a nice fall activity, and a great photo op!  The girls each wore their favorite dress-up dresses so we would have even cuter pictures – V was dressed as a fairy (sans wings), A was dressed as Rapunzel and L was dressed as Minnie Mouse.  We all decided to drive over together in my brother-in-law’s extended cab truck (yes, 3 adults and 3 babies/toddlers in 1 truck – all were buckled in safely!), which was surprisingly not bad.  We parked in their “parking lot” – likely a plowed hay field which served the purpose – and walked into the festival.  Cost is/was $5.00 for parking and $10.00/person over 12 years old (children under 12 years old were free).

First impressions – IT WAS SOOOOOOOO HOT OUTSIDE!  Not even kidding.  By the time we got to the entrance of the festival, I was already wondering how long we would be able to stay until the heat got the best of us, and my fair-haired, fair-skinned Miss V was already flushed.  The festival was actually much larger than I anticipated, almost like a mini state fair!  There were games, pony rides, corn mazes, pumpkin patches and tons of fair food.  There was also a small craft fair!  One of the first things we came to was a kid-sized corn maze for <5year olds – here’s V:

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At first she was feeling adventurous and explored a bit, but then some bigger kids needed to pass her, so she followed them back to the entrance.  After that she was only interested in pulling hay out of the bales…so we moved on.

We came across a pumpkin patch next, and thought it would be a great photo opportunity. Plus, the girls were having a blast climbing all over the pumpkins like a jungle gym, and it was in the shade…

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Believe it or not, I did not have to do any positioning to get these shots, V was just happy to be playing with/standing on/picking up the pumpkins.  The owners of the pumpkin patch did not seem too concerned, although I kept her from picking any of the up.  I thought she was just the cutest little fairy 🙂

We did some exploring of the rest of the festival, tasted some fair food – V loved roast corn on the cob!  We rode their tractor train, which was a little scary for me – I was sure that V was going to jump out at any time (although it was moving so slowly that we could have caught her), but she loved it!  She was laughing and steering the whole time!

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There was also a small petting zoo, and we walked around the craft fair for a bit until it was closing time.  In total, besides for the heat, it was a pleasant way to spend a few hours.  We thought it was very fairly priced at $10.00/person, considering the kids were free, although several of the activities, and obviously the food were extra expenses.  If you looked at the experience like going to a fair, most of the activities were very reasonable.  The only extra activity we paid for (besides food) was the train, which was $2.00.  I wish we had purchased a pumpkin, because they were very nice and reasonably priced, but the parking lot was a fairly long ways away, and we didn’t want to have to carry it around.

Any fall activities your family can’t go without?  How about fall activities for toddlers?  Let me know!

September 2014 Citrus Lane Review x2

I told you guys I signed up for a couple of subscription boxes, right?  Well, Citrus Lane is another subscription box I decided to try out.  This is a box for kids 0-5 years old.  You enter your child’s age and gender, and every month they send you age appropriate toys, clothing, etc for your child.  They also usually include something for mom in there too (so I’ve seen in other reviews).  I love the idea of a box for kids, especially if it’s not too expensive.  V quickly loses interest in a lot her toys, and I never really know which toys are best for her stage of development, so the idea is perfect.  I have heard some kid boxes also have an area to tell which milestones your child has mastered to further identify the best toys/activities for them, but this one does not.  Citrus Lane usually costs $29.00/month, with lower prices (as low as $19.00/month with longer subscription plans).  I have found, however, that if I am willing to wait, I can find much better deals on them with coupon codes. For instance, I paid $14.50 for my first box with a coupon code, and then Living Social was having a deal for a 3 month subscription for $45.00, so I did that as well.  Unfortunately (for me), shortly after that order, they were also offering a box for $5.00!  I think it’s a fun idea, I’ll leave my conclusions for the end.  Since I did the coupon code and I did the Living Social deal, I inadvertently received 2 September boxes (I thought I did the Living Social deal late enough that it would start in October…I was wrong).  Here’s the review!  I lost the cards that come with them, so some of the prices are from searching online.  Again all of the citrus lane links are referral links…but why not?

Box #1

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Initial look, with V’s hand in it, she was very excited to see what was in the box…I liked that it was packaged nicely.  The outer box was also a little bit pretty.  I like when boxes wrap things nicely (as you heard in my Fabletics blog), so they passed this test.

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First look after unwrapping, still pretty and something colorful!  Lots of coupons on top.

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They included a list of everything included in the box and some additional details (this is the paperwork I can’t find, so I don’t remember if it included price.  I think it did…I’ll let you know when my October box gets here).  Ok, enough packaging, onto the goods!

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Tea Collection Body Suit, size 18mo – $26.50 on their site

 I like the pattern on this body suit, it’s very pretty.  Without trying to sound dramatic, that’s about all I really liked about this piece.  I feel like V is pretty old for onesies…aka “body suits” and she is very tall for her age, so she is in almost entirely 2T clothes at this time.  I did find out after the fact that you can customize your clothing size – I guess at the beginning of the month they send you an e-mail with a sizing chart and ask which size to include if their box is going to include clothes.  I signed up part-way through the month so I guess I missed the e-mail stage.  I feel like, as a new customer, it should have been important to make sure they sent me the right size in my first box to make a good impression.  However, there is more to this story in my next box, so I will not complain too much.

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Happy Tot Organic Baby Food Stage 4 – Green Bean, Pear and Pea flavor – approx $1.39 (could only find in a 16 count multi-pack, so probably more costly individually)

V loves these things.  In fact, she grabbed this one out of the box and asked (demanded) it eat it immediately, which I allowed.  I don’t mind them either, although sometimes I think she should eat only solid food…but then I think I’m crazy because look at all the good stuff in these pouches!  These particular ones even include Chia, which is supposed to be the “new” old superfood, but even the regular ones have veggies in them, and I’m all about getting veggies into that girl…I thought this was a nice bonus for the box, but I didn’t exactly think it should count as one of the guaranteed 4 items…

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Boon Links Bath Appliques – $9.99

Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Dish Soap Radish Scent – $1.00

 The “bath appliques” are sea creature shapes (vaguely) made from a foam type of material for play in the bath.  I feel like $10.00 is pretty pricey for these “toys”.  They feel pretty flimsy and the shapes (as mentioned before), are only vaguely sea-creature-y.  V has pretty much ignored them in her bath.  The one positive on them is that (so far), they have shown no tendency to grow mold after getting wet and drying out.  I think they are supposed so encourage your toddler to assemble the creatures themselves, but V is either not at that level or just not interested.  I think it’s also hard to be interested in assembling things when you cant tell what they are when you’re done…but maybe I’m being too harsh.  The dish soap was fine, again I felt like it was just a filler item, which was a little disappointing considering the site “guarantees” 4 items in the box, and this seemed like a sample sized item with a very low value (the label on the bottle said it was $1.00).

Overall impression: the issue I have with this box is the same thing that keeps me from trying a lot of these boxes.  Although the value is somewhat there ($38.88 worth of items for usually $29.00), if I were to see these items in the store (namely the “body suit” and the bath toys), there is no way I would pay that much for them.  Plus the inclusion of 2 “filler” items left me a little dissatisfied.  I was happy I only paid $14.95 for this one, although I actually cancelled my 1 time subscription after receiving this box.

Box #2

This box subscription was under a different e-mail from the previous box, so to them it is likely I’m a different person.  This is the box enrolled in a 3-month subscription.  This time, before receiving my box, I e-mailed them asking about their sizing policies and customization abilities.  It’s a good thing I did too, since I didn’t realize I would be receiving my second September box.  Their customer service responded immediately with a sizing chart and allowed me to request 2T sizing for V.  The e-mailed me back later stating they were out of 2T, and I told them 3T would be fine.  I was very happy with the quickness of their response, and wished I had known to do it for my last box.

The packaging was exactly the same as the last box, so I wont re-post that…

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Tea Collection Top – size 2T – $24.50

 I was surprised to see a 2T size, since they had told me they were out of them.  I was way more happy with this piece than the “body suit”.  I think cute tops are more appropriate for a walking toddler than onesies, as I mentioned before.  And this pattern is really cute.  V already wore this to church and looked adorable.

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Boon Links Bath Appliques – $9.99

Ahhh, these bath toys again….boo.  This was the one item I hoped would be replaced by something, anything else…I think i will save them and give them as part of a christmas present to some nieces…maybe they will like them better.

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Bumkins Disney Baby Reusable Snack Bag, Minnie Classic, Large – $4.95

This is cute, and it’s Minnie Mouse (V’s favorite!). I think V will use it more as a toy than I will use it as a snack bag, but it was better than the soap or squeeze pouch from last box…

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Ouchies Mr. Men and Little Miss 4 girlz Band Aids – $3.25

I was actually pretty happy with this, we need fun colored band aids as we only have boring ones at home.  Also I used to read books with these guys in them when I was a little kid, so it was a fun blast from the past.

Super Surprise:  About 1 week after receiving this box, a second package (plain packing envelope) came in the mail from Citrus Lane.  Inside was a copy of the Tea Collection Top only in size 3T!  I’m guessing they had already sent my box when they thought they were out of 2Ts, so they went ahead and sent me the extra 3T.  Score!  This really went a long way towards making up for the first box, although they did it with no knowledge of my first box experience…a happy coincidence.

Overall Impression:  Even without the “bonus top”, this box was much more promising for me.  The overall value was $41.99, and I paid $15.00 for it.  I also did not feel like there were filler items in this box, although I still do not like the bath toys.  I think I personally would prefer 4 small toys versus 1 large clothing item with 3 smaller items, but I was more satisfied with this box.  Either way, they have 2 months to make it up/keep it up!

What do you think?  I like the idea, I’m just really hoping it will be as good as I’m hoping it could be!  Anyone else have kid subscription boxes they love?

Welcome to My Blog!

Hi, My name is Morgan and this is my first ever personal blog post.  There, I said it.  I have been wanting to start a personal blog for a while but wasn’t sure I had enough to say.  Then I started a wordpress blog while on maternity leave like a year and a half ago but never wrote a post.  I think I got bogged down by all the details and adding stuff to the blog that I thought it was too complicated – but really, it’s not 🙂

As a fairly new mom (My daughter “V” is 18 months now) I find that my life is pulled in many different directions.  I of course want to be the best possible mom to V, but I have a professional career that I also want to be the best at.  Not to mention, I have always been a person that likes to try new trends and hobbies, and that part of myself has not gone away just because I have less time.  Now that I mention it, this blog is probably indicative of that part of myself!  I want to use this as a space to talk about whats interesting to me at this time (well, that sounds selfish!).  Here are some previews of general topics to expect from me:

1. Toddlers – I am always looking for stuff to do with V.  I love finding new play ideas and new meal ideas.  Anything I can do to get her to eat more “real” food and watch less Mickey Mouse.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a little Mickey Mouse, I just love seeing her play instead of sit in front of the TV.  Toddlers are much harder to feed and entertain than I would have ever guessed before becoming a mom.  BTW that’s her in my profile pic, in case you hadn’t guessed.

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Husband Mark and toddler V

2.  Veterinary Medicine/pets – I am a small animal veterinarian, and it takes up a big portion of my life and attention.  I love, love, love my job and could never see myself doing anything else.  I love it so much that I actually missed my patients when out of maternity leave and was ready to get back to work (I feel bad just saying that).  Of course, I also missed V once I started working again.  I have a professional/business blog for my more serious education articles and stories from the clinic but I can’t imagine I’ll be able to keep them totally separate.

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3.  Running/fitness – I am a distance runner.  Right now I am into marathons, but before that I did a lot of half-marathons.  So far I have only run 1 marathon (Disney World marathon!), but I am in training for 2 more this season.  I started running in undergrad when a lot of my friends were endurance exercise junkies, but took an unofficial hiatus from about mid vet-school until after V was born.  All of the enforced inactivity of my pregnancy/ankle fracture sparked the running bug again, and I haven’t looked back.  Running is my time.  I get to think about my day and make plans, I get to let out my stress, I get endorphins.  I also like trying out various new diet trends, because I want to see what they feel like to do, although I know most of them probably aren’t that healthy or aren’t going to be something I can keep up.  Although I do run to lose weight as well, I am generally pretty happy with my looks and like that I can mostly eat what I want so long as I run.

4.  Food – Just like toddler food ideas, I am always looking for, and trying out family meal ideas.  I am really not that great of a cook, even when following recipes, so be prepared for some failed dinners.  Usually my poor husband, Mark, eats it anyways, although I can usually tell he’s not crazy about it if he only eats one helping.  Still I sometimes come across great and easy to use recipes, so I will share them if I do.  I also sometimes go on a food dehydrating/jerky making kick.

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5.  Fashion – Ok.  I am just not that fashionable.  I try to look cute, professional, put together, but if an outfit has more than 2 pieces chances are I wont know how to wear it.  I try to stick with a few basic pieces and combine them in predictable ways.  However, I did just recently sign up for Stitch Fix and I am super excited about it.  Basically a personal shopper picks out clothes for you based on a style profile you fill out and your pinterest pins and sends you 5 items in the mail – like surprise Christmas!  It does cost $20 for them to send it to you but that $20 can go towards any clothes you decide to buy.  If you don’t like the clothes, they give you a pre-paid envelope to send back.  And, if you refer a friend you can get referral credit, so let me know if you’re interested 🙂  I haven’t gotten any clothes yet because my first shipment is not until October, but I am excited about this adventure.  And I really like reading Stitch Fix blogs, so I wanted to do my own as well.  I know this sounds like an advertisement, but I really am just that excited lol.

Well, I think that’s all for today, but expect to hear from me again soon!  Let me know what you think!