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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blogger Bash Recap!

A few months ago, I mentioned that I was planning on going to my first blogging conference - Blogger Bash NYC. Between the trip to NYC, the fun events, and free swag, I was pumped to go. Little did I know how much I would actually get out of this two day event.

Blogger Bash is the brainchild of six brilliant women who know what it takes to network and use social media to the max. With the recognition that parent bloggers are some of the most influential forces in media, the Blogger Bash team built a two day conferencing opportunity for bloggers from around the country to gather, learn, and network with some of the biggest brands around. A combination of lectures, round tables, and expo settings provided a huge opportunity, to even small time bloggers like me, to make once in a life time connections with companies I would otherwise have no access to like Lego, LeapFrog, Disney, Crayola, Fisher Price, and more.


Credit: Janice Croze for Blogger Bash
Credit: Janice Croze for Blogger Bash
Wow. Right?

Let me tell you, after two days I had a fist full of business cards, about 15 miles put on my shoes, and a powerful need to take a nap. After I recovered from my networking hangover, I took a little time to go through all of the material I'd gathered up and realized that not only did I have a list of brand reps I was super excited to contact, but I had connected with a ton of other women; about blogging, about parenting, about working....so many things. Some we just chatted about our kids and whether our husbands were surviving being at home with them, others gave me a pep talk that it's "not all about numbers." Either way, it was the first time I was around that many women, that many Moms, and didn't feel like it was a competition. There was smiling, there was sharing, there was kindness.

Now that I'm getting all misty, onto the rest of the event!

One of the larger events during the conference was called Sweet Suite. What a blast! Sweets, treats, and toys galore. I absolutely loved seeing all of the fun, new products and toys brought by the various brands and representatives! There was SO much to see! The people representing each brand were a ton of fun to talk to and I was so impressed at their ability to talk to nine billion eager bloggers and not lose their minds!

Credit: Janice Croze for Blogger Bash
But seriously, how often do you get to play without the kids around (and without getting funny looks from strangers....) There was video games, board games, coloring, stuffed animals....the works.




Credit: Janice Croze for Blogger Bash
Credit: Janice Croze for Blogger Bash
In addition to Sweet Suite, there were several other events including BabyPalooza, a brand "speed dating" session, meeting Anne Geddes (!!!), lots and lots of delicious treats, a Back to School Party hosted by KizVuz, and more. I can't even begin to describe it all. Not to mention more tweeting, instagramming, and facebooking than I've ever done in my life!




Check out the BabyPalooza interview with Anne Geddes below!


Credit: Justin Lee of Josh Strauss Studios
I can't say thank you enough to the women who worked, what had to have been hundreds of hours, to make this happen. For me, this was so much more than the business cards and free stuff. For the first time, I was immersed in the blogging community in a real way; not staring at avatars on a screen. I cannot wait to continue my contacts with everyone I met and truly see what I am capable of achieving.

Want to see more post recaps and pictures from Blogger Bash and Sweet Suite, BabyPalooza, and KizVuz? Check out the link up at A Grande Life!

Blogger

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Sangria

Nothing says summer like a cold, fruit filled glass of sangria. Mmmmmm There are a thousand recipes out there that add everything from kiwi (blech) to apples, white wine to red, but this one is by far my favorite. Simple, sweet, and so, so good.


Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup frozen lemonade concentrate
  • 1/3 cup orange juice, no pulp
  • 1 (750 mL) bottle of red table wine
  • 1/2 cup triple sec
  • 1 lemon, sliced into rounds
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • 1 lime, sliced into rounds
  • 2 cups ginger ale

Directions
  • Mix together lemon juice, lemonade concentrate, orange juice, red wine, and triple sec. 
  • Float slices of lemon, orange, and lime in the mixture. 
  • Refrigerate overnight for best flavor. 
  • Add ginger ale shortly before serving. 
Some for the recipe, some for Momma...
I bought this big glass pitcher just for this sangria recipe and I'm not afraid to admit it! It's just too pretty to be poured out of a plastic tub; it's not Kool Aid, people!


As a fun side note, this can also be frozen and made into a slushy! Just let it sit in the fridge over night as directed, then remove the fruit pieces and strain to get all the little pieces out. Then, put into a zip lock bag in the freezer for about 2 hours. The alcohol in it should keep it from freezing solid. Mash it up in the bag and spoon into pretty glasses or bowls. 

I'm making this, along with grilled peaches and ice cream, for a My 31 party I'm hosting tonight. A kid free night with sweets and wine? Sounds fabulous to me. Cheers!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fitness Friday: NYC Style!

Jen here, reporting from Blogger Bash 2014 in NYC!

According to Sarah at Sparkly Runner, you know you're officially a runner when you look up 5K's at your travel location just incase you can squeeze one in. Unfortunately, there is nothing going on this weekend in the Big Apple, but that isn't going to stop me from running anyway.

This morning I got in a run in some pretty gorgeous weather before all of the conference fun started up again. I cannot believe it, but I got my butt outta bed at 6:00AM and walked down to the Hudson River Greenway, a biking/walking/jogging path that circles Manhattan.

Can I just say that I LOVE running in this city? Not only are there a ton of other (very friendly) runners out there with you, but the running paths are flat, wide, and clean, and the scenery is amazing. Plus, you feel like you're covering so much ground! In 10 minutes, I had run past so many blocks, it felt like I'd run five miles, not one. I ran past Pier 84 and the Intrepid, which was really cool, and got a beautiful view of the city. Including my to and from the hotel, I did my own little NYC 5K.



If you think working out is tough, keeping with your routine while traveling can be even tougher. While I haven't been at this for long, I end up doing a lot of traveling and made it a goal to not let that stop my running plan. Here are my tips for running on the go.
  1. Pack your work out clothes. This sounds like an obvious one, but pack enough work out gear for the length of your trip. It is really easy to make excuses not to get out there if you're not prepared like you would be at home.
  2. Use your apps. I use MapMyRun when I run to keep track of my miles and time, but realized recently while I was visiting Mary that you can also look up the routes that other people have submitted. I found a nice little 3 mile route around her neighborhood instead of just getting lost amongst the suburbia. 
  3. Take advantage of the change in scenery! Check out what is around you that would be neat to see. If you're staying at a hotel, ask the front desk if there are recommended running routes or nearby landmarks worth passing. 
  4. Look up running clubs or races if you need motivation. I tried to do this for this trip, but didn't find much. Instead, I put the word out to the other bloggers attending the convention and formed my own little running group! 
  5. Remember to be safe. I hate that this is so necessary, but it is. Especially in an unfamiliar place,  do your research, don't go anywhere that makes you uncomfortable, and remember to bring ID incase something were to happen. 
No jogger? No problem! I borrowed this 
Joovy Zoom 360 from Mary during our visit to go for 
a run with Miss Ginny. I love this stroller!

Even though it was early, I'm really glad I got out there and ran this morning. It felt great and I started the day off in a positive way - especially after not running all week while I was sick. I consider it a huge achievement that I dragged my butt out of bed while traveling to make it happen.

If you're ever in NYC, I highly recommend checking out the Hudson River Greenway on the west side of Manhattan for a great, scenic run.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Holy Zucchini

Is your garden spitting out zucchini the size of baseball bats? Oh, just ours? Either way, we've got a LOT of zucchini coming our way and there's only so much we can give away; might as well pull up some recipes!

My favorite zucchini recipe brings me right back to childhood. I remember my Mom making huge batches of zucchini bread to give to friends and neighbors for the holidays; the smell of the spices is the smell of Christmas.

While we do make some bread during the holidays as a tradition, we end up making a ton of it during the summer thanks to our garden. 

Mom's Zucchini Bread

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup unpeeled zucchini, shredded
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon zest
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease a loaf pan, set aside. 
  • Sift flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and nutmeg. 
  • In another bowl, mix egg, zucchini, oil, and lemon zest. 
  • Add wet to dry and mix well.
  • Pour into greased pan and bake for 55-60 minutes. 
  • Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, remove from pan, and cool completely before wrapping. 
I really enjoy this recipe because of how flexible it is. You can sub oil for applesauce for a healthier version. You can also add other veggies (shredded carrots) or take out the zucchini and add apples, bananas, blueberries, etc. If you want to make muffins instead of a bread loaf, keep an eye on the oven and cook them for about 30-40 minutes instead. 


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sick Momma

The only thing worse than taking care of sick kids is taking care kids....sick. I spent all of last night up trying my hardest not to swallow, or else feel like I was being stabbed in the neck. It's....strep. What an awful feeling. Aside from the rouge pregnancy cold, it's been ages since I've been sick.

Between work and the kids at daycare, however, it was bound to happen. I just hope I don't get the kids sick, especially after the great strepademic ripped through daycare a few weeks ago. I think something like 40% of the kids ended up with it at least once? It was wild. Let's not start that again.

So, here I am - laid up on the couch with some antibiotics and probiotics so the antibiotics don't wreck my stomach, trying to entertain the kids who, suddenly, want to kiss and hug me. Let's just hope I'm better by Thursday for Blogger Bash! Too much networking to do to be sick!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Big Girl Bed Update

A few weeks ago, Ginny made the big switch from a crib to a big girl bed and I posted about my best transition tips. I have to say, it has been going excellent ::furiously knocks on wood:: She has loved her big bed and sleeps great and when baby sleeps, everyone is happy.

At first, Ginny was sleeping on a full sized mattress on the floor until I could refinish the bed frame. I refinished the matching dresser before she was born, but didn't end up getting the bed frame part until I was sure we'd use it. Luckily, it was still in our friend's storage unit and she was still looking to get rid of it. I love when things work out!


Have you ever refinished a piece of furniture? It is SO much fun. I truly enjoy getting my hands dirty and turning something old and ugly into something beautiful. Yard sales, antique shops, grandma's basement - there are pieces of furniture everywhere just begging to be given a second life. If you have a little bit of time and energy, you can do this too.


With the dresser, I worked on it while pregnant and during the winter, so it wasn't an option to work on it outside and sand it. There was also a question as to whether the paint was lead based, which we later determined that it was not. When working on antiques, lead paint is always a possibility, so it's always safer to test it instead of guessing.

With the bed, considering it is July, gorgeous outside, and I am most definitely 100% NOT pregnant, I was able to take advantage of a power sander to work out the dings and uneven spots.

Before getting started, I stopped at Lowe's to grab some important supplies - sand paper, a sanding sponge, and a breathing mask. With all of the details on the spindles, a sanding sponge is a very smart idea. It can get into all of the nooks and crannies without fighting with folded sand paper. Remember, the lower the number on the sandpaper, the more course the grit. Something like 60 or 80 are great for stripping paint and really getting a surface roughed up, while 180 or 220 are good for smoothing and sanding between coats.



To be honest, I wasn't as concerned with getting all of the paint off as I was about evening out all of the dings and nicks in the finish and wood. There were spots where the paint and finish were cracked and chipped down to the wood and it would have shown through the new coat of paint. Almost the entire head board needed to be sanded down. If your goal is to just remove the paint, a stripping agent is the way to go. A stripper, however, won't get rid of the dings - only sanding can even that out. I used an 80 grit pad on the sander at first, then smoothed everything out with a 120 grit pad. 


I used a small project sander to buff and even out the larger marks on the wood and finish. Some quick sander tips that I learned...
  • Always wear ear, eye, and breathing protection. It was 90+ degrees outside and I would have preferred to not have something strapped to my face, but it is a must. 
  • Make sure the kids are inside or far away from you. Breathing paint and finish dust, as mentioned above, is not good. Its too loud, too messy, and too dangerous. Keep the kids away.
  • When you're sanding, don't put too much pressure on the sander - only about the weight of your arm. Too much weight can cause the motor to slow down and can make very obvious and ugly swirly marks in the wood. 
  • Go slow and work on small sections. Moving too quickly doesn't give the sander enough time to get through spots and it can take longer - or at least feel that way. 
  • Take breaks! The vibrating sander can make your hand/arm go numb if you use it for too long. 
  • Don't follow my poor example - whenever you're working with power tools....wear shoes!




Once the uneven spots were buffed out, I was able to put a primer coat on everything. Since I didn't completely take the paint off, I chose a primer that would go over it all. I used the same primer I used on the dresser (which wasn't sanded at all) and it worked great. Seriously, I love this stuff. It could prime glass if you needed it to.


Always, always, always prime before you paint and always lightly sand between coats. This is a steadfast rule, like ironing when you sew. It takes more time, but its worth it in the end. Even if it looks like your paint can handle it, its not just about coverage - its about durability over time. Primer helps paint stick, go on evenly, and stay strong against day to day wear.

Once the primer was on and lightly sanded, I began the white coat. Who knew, patio furniture makes for a great work bench! I used Olympic ONE in pure white. This paint is gorgeous - it goes on smooth and is incredibly durable. It is absolutely worth the price.


 I did two coats (sanding in between with very fine, 220 sandpaper) and let everything dry. I painted light pink along the inlay design on the headboard and footboard and reattached the medallion design.  Voila! It took a long time (about 10 hours), but I attribute that to the heat and to the care I took to let coats dry before slathering on more paint. The more patient you are with drying, sanding, and painting, the better the result will be.

Here is the end result! I am IN LOVE. This is basically the bed I've always wanted and I am so happy to be able to give it to Ginny. We need to reinforce the bunky board under the mattress a little more, but overall it is one sturdy piece of furniture, ready for its second life.


Her bedding is from Target's Shabby Chic collection, found on clearance of course. ;)


My favorite part about the bed and dresser are the antique details, perfect with just a little touch of patina.


With a little help from a step stool, Ginny actually does a great job of climbing in and out. I was a little worried about that at first, but no need - she's got this. Her old crib is currently stored underneath if we ever decide *gasp* to have another, but in the meantime, everyone is nice and happy in their comfy beds.