Saturday, August 9, 2014

Daily Baby - A surprise!

The surprise just might be that I'm back after a long and unintended hiatus.  The bigger surprise is that I'm 16 weeks pregnant with baby boy #2.  I was as surprised as anybody to see those two little lines pop up on the pregnancy test.  That surprise has turned into excitement that we're preparing to welcome another little man into our world.

Those first weeks were rough, to say the least.  The constant nausea sitting in the pit of my stomach all day long, kept at bay by shoveling food and hard candies in my face at frequent intervals.  My OB/GYN said happily "oh good, you've gained some weight!"  While I love him for putting a positive spin on it, I still felt huge very early on.  The exhaustion kicked in pretty quickly too - even more so from having to chase Owen around too.  It's true that pregnancy is a whole different kind of worn out when you already have a toddler in the house....and then there were the poopy diapers.  Husband is my savior for handling all of those between weeks 6 and 13, when the immediate need to hurl finally abated.  I think the hardest part about the first trimester is keeping all of this under wraps while you're waiting to feel confident enough to go public.  

I'm now considered of "advanced maternal age" having turned the grand old age of 35 this year.  The one upside of that being that I got to do one of the fancy new blood tests (MaterniT21) that cover both genetic screening as well as gender.  I don't even think that test was available just 2 short years who when I was pregnant with Owen.  It was pretty remarkable to know at 11.5 weeks pregnant that I was having a boy.  I think our families were a little disappointed as they all had their "think pink" banners waving proudly.  I'm actually pretty excited about a mom to boys though - they'll probably try to kill each other (lovingly of course) and we may have to bubble wrap the house, but I'm thrilled to see how they form their brotherly bond. 

Meanwhile, Owen, who I don't quite think has caught on to what's happening with mommy, is just the sweetest boy.  He's growing up so fast and the milestones he's achieving are much more subtle than in the first 18 months, but amazing all the same.  Being able to understand his words and getting a better idea of what he wants is a huge relief.  His love for books and puzzles makes me so proud.  The stories from daycare of how he gave one of the babies a toy they dropped, or handed them their bottle, make my heart full with love for the wonderful big brother he's going to be.  The flip side is that I also get the occasional story about how he sat on one of the babies thinking he could play horsey with them, which make me nervous for the inevitable time when the words "don't sit on your brother's head" will come out of my mouth.

There has been so much going on that I've missed coming here and sharing with you.  I am hoping I can get some momentum back despite all the craziness.  The next chapter begins!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Daily Ramblings - Shark Tank Swag Box!

Not sure if any of you remember my review of Groovebook from a little while back.  They're a company that was funded, and seems to have had some decent success on account of the show Shark Tank.  I got a pleasant surprise last week when I was contacted by the folks over at Shark Tank, who read my review.  Turns out that the show is now going into syndication on CNBC and they offered to send me a swag box for being an avid viewer.  I wasn't going to say no to an opportunity to try out some of the products I've seen on the show!

My box arrived this week and here's what was inside:

- Gobie Water Bottle - This is a cool water bottle with a filter to turn any water into safe drinking water.  I'm super excited to have this and can't help thinking it would have been handy while we were at Disney this month to filter the cloudy looking water from the water fountains!  This will definitely be something that gets regular use.

- Origaudio Fold N Play Speakers - These are self-powering, folding (thus portable) speakers made from primarily recycled materials.  Supposedly they work with our phones, so perhaps that's how I'll test them out.  Husband immediately found these interesting, from an audiophile perspective.  He's very curious to know how they sound.

- Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce - As it turns out, we needed BBQ sauce anyway, so this was a perfect addition to the pantry.  Who doesn't love a good BBQ sauce?  This one seems really well reviewed online, so can't wait to give it a try.  The company has a variety of different sauces and spice rubs available, working out at about $5 bottle + shipping.  Also, there's quite a few recipes available on their website to try, so now it's just a question of deciding what to make.

- Reboot Energy Spray - Admittedly, this is the one item that I doubt I will end up using.  I'm not really into energy products in general, so I suspect I'll let the water cooler fairies at work find it a new home.

- Nuts 'n More Chocolate Peanut Butter - We should all be impressed that I didn't just open this up and start eating it the second I opened the box.  Instead I showed a modicum of self-restraint so that I could take the picture and do this write up first.  I might just go straight back upstairs and dive in with a spoon when I'm done though.  I remember the episode where this was featured and I'm very grateful to have this decadent peanut butter in hand!

Thanks for the folks over at Shark Tank for sending the swag.  I can't wait for more episodes, and to catch some I may not have seen yet.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Daily Ramblings - Surviving Disney with a toddler

Reading the park map, ready to roll.
Now that Owen is comfortable walking and exploring, Husband and I decided it was time to brave the crowds and take advantage of the So Cal resident deal for Disneyland/California Adventure.  I will admit that I was a little nervous leading up to the trip - How was he going to handle waiting in line?  Would he last the day without his usual 2-3 hour nap?  Would he decide to randomly run off into the crowds?  It didn't help that every time we checked the weather leading up to the trip, it got increasingly hotter, seeing as we're in the middle of an unreasonably warm May.  I was not relishing the idea of a crowded theme park in 100 degree weather, but off we went!

The good news is that we had a great time.  I'm not entirely sure what Owen thought of everything.  There were definitely moments when his eyes were bugging out at trying to figure out his surroundings.  Other times, he'd let out an "oooh" when something clicked in his head.  He had moments where he was analyzing his surrounds, other times when he was being a goofball (like when he decided to blow kisses to all the ladies in line behind us).  While we were mentally preparing ourselves for a tired toddler meltdown (and you will definitely see and hear the tired, over-stimulated, screaming toddlers around the park), he made us proud and was a pleasure to travel with.

Before we went, I consulted with my close friend and Disney guru (lifetime season pass holder) on the best way to handle the park with toddler in tow and was given some excellent tips and tricks.  After my experience, here's ten "Surviving Disney with a toddler" tips.    

Waiting in line isn't so bad
when there's so much to look at
1)  Get a hotel right around the park.  They may not be fancy but, for the main part, they're reasonably priced and comfortable enough.  We've stayed at the Camelot Inn and Suites before, and were at the Ramada MainGate this time around.  The hotels in the area will provide cribs free of charge, some have Disney themed rooms/suites that you can rent, and being walking distance from the main park entrance is great if you need to duck out for nap time or to grab a bite to eat off property.

2)  Travel as light as possible!  We took our stroller into the park (although baby wearing is also a great option), stuffed it with diapers, wipes, snacks, change of clothes etc.  Strollers at Disney are kind of amazing - they get left all over the place but nobody messes with them.  I still wouldn't recommend leaving anything valuable in there though.  We had a backpack to carry all essentials that we wanted to keep on us while in line (primarily consisting of the DSLR and some snacks in case Owen got hungry), but our hands were free otherwise.
3)  Bring more snacks than you think you'll need.  We tried to keep it to things that would survive the heat, with resealable packaging!  You can always make "snack packs" with ziploc bags.  In our case, we took popcorn, jerky, dehydrated fruit, raisins, and squeezable pouches.  You also want to make sure to bring plenty of water.  You'll be doing a lot of walking around the park and it is thirsty making.  You can ask for a cup of water at the restaurants, and there are also water fountains around the park (although be warned that it may be a little warm and cloudy looking).  While snacks and bottled drinks are readily available in the park, you will pay a premium and that can add up quickly.  I do recommend the fresh fruit stand by the Jungle Cruise, and anybody that's been will tell you to get some Dole Whip!

4)  Bring comfortable shoes.  This may seem obvious, but appropriate shoes are going to be important and, if you are going to be going for more than one day, I would recommend bringing more than one pair.  I actually changed shoes three times over the course of the two days and was able to escape the park without sore feet.  Definitely look for shoes with arch support and break them in beforehand.   We threw some band-aids in the backpack just in case.
Paradise Pier
California Screamin', ready to roll!
Astro Orbiter
Fist bumping a Storm Trooper
5)  Check height restrictions.  While there are plenty of rides that have no height restrictions at all, it is nice to know which rides with height limits are ok for your child.  32" is the lowest height restriction and Owen, at 32.5", was able to go on a whole set of rides seeing as he met that.  It wasn't always easy to get him to stand up straight so they can check him, but it was worthwhile.  The height restrictions are actually noted for each ride on the park map so you can prepare yourself that way, and hopefully avoid the meltdown that I witnessed from one kid, upset at being the only one in his party too short to ride Indiana Jones.

6)  Download an app.  There's a whole variety of apps out there that will give you approximate wait times for rides.  We used Mousewait.  Seeing as our plan was to limit waiting in line to 20 minutes if possible (which we figured was the upper limit on keeping Owen entertained in a confined space), this was a great way to see what rides were relatively free at any given time.  The beautiful thing about Disney though is that they do try to keep the lines interesting at least, so there should be various things to look at while you're waiting and you can turn that into a game to keep the little ones entertained. 
7)  Use FastPass wisely.  The rides where you can get a FastPass are clearly marked on the map, but keep in mind that the FastPass distribution isn't always right next to the ride.  The great thing about FastPass is that you can go do something else before your scheduled return time, thus avoiding lengthy waits.  There are some rides where the FastPass is really in demand (such as Radiator Springs in Cars Land) - FastPasses were sold out within the first hour and the line to even get one was over 25 minutes.  We actually decided it wasn't worth our while, so we skipped over it.  The FastPass we got for Roger Rabbit ended up being a happy accident because we rode it twice in a row, once by waiting in the regular line, then we immediately hopped back on with our FastPass.

8)  Single rider is a great option.  Not every ride offers single rider.  We used it for California Screamin' and Indiana Jones.  You get a ticket from one of the cast members, and they will direct you where to go (which in the case of Indiana Jones is actually through the exit).  When you get to the front, you wait until they call for a single rider, then you give them your ticket and go!  Both times I used it, I was on the ride straight away.  This meant that one of us could stay with Owen and do a toddler friendly ride in the meantime. 

Checking out Flik's Flyers
Owen rode the carousel three times while we were
taking advantage of single rider on California Screamin'
9)  Trade something.  You can trade both pins and Vinylmation figures in the park.  Pins can be traded with cast members, which I got to witness a couple times and it was very cute.  In our case, we had some Vinylmation to trade, which can be done at specific locations in the parks, and Owen had a good time picking his mystery box number, then carried around the figures he received in his trades.

10)  Take your time.  Gone are the days when Husband and I could go to the park and knock out everything we wanted to do in a morning.  You don't need to see and do everything to have a good Disney experience.  Pick a few things you'd like to hit and consider everything above that a bonus!  Don't forget to get a little down time for relaxation and take cues from your child.  Simple things, like watching the horse drawn trolleys go by on Main Street, or spending a little while cooling off in the theater, was time well spent.  In our case, sitting and watching the ducks for a while, then a short stroll, is what eventually got Owen to nap.  There is so much to do that it's impossible to do it all in a day. 
We probably won't be going back again for a little while, and there's no shortage of theme parks in So Cal that we might visit before heading back to the Magic Kingdom, but I left the trip excited to take Owen again.  I guess we did something right!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Daily Art - Foto Friday, Meerkat Edition

Why meerkats?  Why not.  Here's some meerkats I photographed at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.  They look like they're having a great time.  Hope your Friday is just as fun!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Daily Bargain - Library book score!

When I was a kid, my parents would drop me off at the local library and I would read books until it was time to walk to my tap dance class.  It was a Saturday morning ritual that I enjoyed, being the avid reader that I was.  Currently, I'm a member of two local library networks and it's become somewhere to take Owen, who I've been reading to since he was born.  He seems to have inherited a healthy enjoyment of books and we share a nice, long story each evening before bed.

This week, the Burbank library annual book sale was happening and I took the opportunity to head over there on a lunch break.  All children's books were $0.25 - can't beat that for a bargain.  20 books and $5 later, I hauled 2 gigantic bags of books back out to the car, half expecting for somebody to stop and accuse me of theft!  Including the 5 books I bought at a different library branch the week before, Owen's bookcase is definitely a lot more packed this week. 

As it turns out, I'm attracted to beautiful illustrations, especially if they involve dragons.  One of the books was signed by the author, so a definite collectible, while another was signed by Mickey and Minnie Mouse back in 1998.  We're debating taking it back to Disneyland with us when we go in a few weeks and seeing if we can get it signed again!  Not only was this a vast assortment of books, they were also in excellent condition.  Owen has been carrying around the two Thomas The Tank board books since I got them, even insisting he take them to daycare, where I was informed he shared them with the group. 

So, if you have a library near you, I highly recommend looking to see if they have a book sale coming up.  It's a great way to expand your book collection without breaking the bank, plus you get to support your local library, which is never a bad thing.  I've included the full list of books we purchased below as they are highly rated and we've really enjoyed all the ones we've read so far!

That's All Folks: The Art Of Warner Bros. Animation by Steve Schneider
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame  Disney
Ignis by Gina Wilson
Hieronymus Betts And His Unusual Pets by M. P. Robertson
Lucia And The Light by Phyllis Root and Mary GrandPre
Magic & Mischief: Tales From Cornwall by Shirley Climo and Anthony Bacon Venti
Olivia by Ian Falconer
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and William Nicholson
Something Special by David M. McPhail
Garfield Stories by Jim Davis
Dancing Dinos At The Beach by Sally Lucas and Margeaux Lucas
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
The Cat In The Hat by Dr. Suess
The Cat In The Hat Comes Back by Dr. Seuss 
Stop, Train, Stop! by Rev. W. Awdry
A Crack In The Track by Rev. W. Awdry
The Train Of States by Peter Sis
About Dinosaurs: Little People Big Book by Time-Life Books
Baby's First Library ABC by Yoyo Books
The Enchanted Forest by Ben Marcus
Uncle Lester's Hat by Howie Schneider
Twenty One Elephants And Still Standing by April Jones Prince
Once Upon A Cloud by Rob D. Walker and Matt Mahurin
Paddington's Loose End Book by Michael Bond
The Sea Serpent And Me by Dashka Slater and Catia Chien

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Daily Dish - Chicken, asparagus pizza

Well, now that the kitchen is done, we're back to being able to cook in it regularly.  It's a joy!  I'm making a conscious effort to keep the excessive number of appliances we have off the counters as much as possible.  I'm also making an effort to use them more! 

My little brother is general manager of a very high end restaurant, so qualifies as a mega-foodie.  As it turns out, he has been known to sneak around our kitchen, when visiting, to evaluate what appliances we might be missing, and then fills in the blanks for holiday gifts.  That is how we ended up with our bread machine.  We weren't particularly happy with the pizza dough recipe that came in the instructions booklet, so gave this one a shot, which turned out nicely.  I made a double batch so that we could freeze half for later.  I definitely enjoyed the convenience of being able to attend to the little one while the machine worked it's dough magic - hands free!  Of course, you could make your own pizza using a store bought dough or base as well.

Chicken asparagus pizza

- 1 cooked chicken breast, cut into cubes
- 4oz skinny asparagus (cut into 2" pieces)
- 1/2 medium onion (thinly sliced)
- 1/2 red bell pepper (sliced)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup grated mozarella cheese
- 4 tsp olive tepenade

Pre-heat the oven to 425.  If using raw dough, roll out the dough and put onto the pizza pan.  Once the oven is at temp, put the prepared dough in the oven for about 5 minutes to crisp the top.  This prevents it from becoming soggy once the toppings are added.  Remove from oven and add toppings - use the olive tepenade as your base, then top with mozarella cheese, chicken, veggies, and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes.  Enjoy! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Daily Ramblings - Kitchen Reno Completed aka I'm A Slacker (Part 2)

I must apologize for my unexcused absence.  I've had photos of our kitchen renovation on my camera for a few weeks now and just never got around to taking them off, or posting about anything at all.  So, here we are and I do want to share these, seeing as you got to see the before photos!

The project took a little over 2 weeks total.  We kept the existing cabinets and all the appliances, except the dishwasher, which we switched to stainless steel to match the rest.  We added new ceramic floor tile, "tan brown" granite, glass mosaic backsplash, stainless steel sink and faucet, cabinet hardware, and under cabinet lighting.  We ended up getting a new water heater installed, adding a light above the pantry, refinishing the ceiling, and removing the garbage compactor which served no purpose other than to remind us that the 1980s happened.  I can hardly recognize the white/bland kitchen that was there before now it's been replaced with a warm and happy space.

Renovations with a toddler in the house?  Not the most fun thing ever, but this was the biggest and most inconvenient one we have planned.  Unlike doing a bathroom where you may have other bathrooms to use in the meantime, most houses only have the one kitchen, which makes life hard when you don't have access to it, especially considering we cook a lot in our house.  

We still have a bathroom and living room space to work on, but for now, we'll take a break in our (finally) dust free space!  Back to regularly scheduled programming...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Daily Baby - Owen's First Year

We just got the photobook of Owen's first year in the mail.  I'm really proud of myself for weeding through the couple thousand photos, keeping it down to only 88 pages, and actually finishing it before he started Kinder.  I know I can't bring the book around to share with everybody, as much as I'd like to (although if you're ever at our house, you're more than welcome to peek), so I made a short video from the scrapbook pages that I created.  I really hope I captured the essence of the tiny little goofball I'm proud to call my son!

The scrapbook pages were created using My Memories digital scrapbooking software.  I ended up ordering the book through Winkflash, who were having a flat page book sale (up to 100 pages for a flat rate, which saved me $66 according to my checkout receipt).  I'd say they run that sale a few times a year, so worth looking out for if you have a big book in the works.  Winkflash seems to be a lesser known printing company, but they do good work and the only complaint I have about their photobooks is that they don't print the album title on the spine.  

Anyway, enjoy!  I'll be back soon with those kitchen before and after photos!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Daily Art - Foto Friday, Jellyfish edition

Today, I wanted something soothing and pretty to share, as a contrast to the mayhem that's happening in my house.  So, here's some pictures of jellyfish that I've taken in the last couple of years.  Happy Friday all!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Daily Ramblings - So that's what was under reno (Part 1)

Welcome to March. So far, the month has been taken up by dust and home improvement, so here's a quick breakdown of what's been going on! (Right now, I'll share everything via Instagram photos, but proper before and after shots to come later...)

Here is the original kitchen. That's a lot of little white tiles, right? In fact, our kitchen table (not pictured) also featured little white tiles on the top, a leftover gift from the previous owners that we never bothered to remove. The problem with little white tiles everywhere is that they are impossible to keep clean....and, without anything on the counters, it's quite apparent how bland this looks!  We've upgraded the appliances in the last couple of years, but notice the beautiful trash compactor in the lower left corner?  We don't even know where the key for that thing is, so it's mostly been taking up space.  We had it removed and I can't say I miss it.

Whomever laid the tile previously never bothered to do the laundry room, or under the dishwasher or stove.  The gap between where the tile stopped, and where the dishwasher was placed, was about a half inch collection point for things that had been swept over time.  Gross, I know, but I certainly wasn't about to go fishing around in there to get things out.  To be honest, when we first moved in, 5.5 years ago, we knew that the kitchen would eventually have to go.  I'm surprised it took us this long!

One advantage (if you want to call it that) of the bad tile job, was that it wasn't a complete shock when the tile was pulled up to reveal this beautiful linoleum underneath.  The building was built in 1981 I believe, which means that's probably the original.  Gorgeous isn't it?  I thought about keeping it, I'm kidding.  That stuff had to go asap.  Three guys spent an entire afternoon scraping it off the sub-floor.  I was at home that day, and not at all jealous of what they were doing.

The counter-tops were demolished on day two, after the floor was pulled up.  Needless to say there's a lot of eating out/ordering for pick-up going on right now, and I'm grateful for the paper plates and plastic cutlery left over from Owen's birthday.  Our fridge is also in the living room, which makes for easy access at least...and we'll just say that's a silver lining.

The cabinets are the one thing that we're keeping, although we will be adding hardware.  Our new floor tile is a slate color with brown tones that match the cabinets, which they are starting to lay down today.  The granite is going in this weekend along with a new sink and faucet.  We're finishing everything up with a pretty glass mosaic back-splash, which will be started next week and is likely to be the most complicated part as it is the most intricate.  It might also be the part that I'm most interested to see come together as the granite and flooring are quite dark, so the back-splash (and paint) is where we decided to bring back some lightness.  

I stood in the kitchen this morning to take a look at/admire the paint color in daylight. As I was contemplating how much I enjoyed our chosen color (BEHR "Sculptor's Clay, which is essentially a neutral somewhere between brown and grey), I laughed at teenage me who would have undoubtedly thought being excited about such things was lame.

Any kind of remodeling can be stressful, even more so with a toddler in the house.  We've had various adventures this week just trying to keep him out of the house as much as possible.  When we did our bathroom, there were at least other bathrooms available to use.  Not having access to the kitchen, as a household that cooks 5 nights a week, is definitely a unique situation that I'll be glad to be done with.  It's a small price to pay for getting to cook in my new, awesome kitchen soon!  I'll be back with an update next week...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Daily Craft - A paint swatch color book

We have a kitchen remodel coming up that is about to invade our house for the next couple of weeks.  This means we've been in and out of home improvement stores the last couple of weekends and, as a reward for his patience while we pick out backsplash and floor tiles, I decided to make Owen something using the paint swatches we'd given him to keep him entertained in the shopping cart (because it seemed safer than handing him power tools). 

Using this as inspiration, I set about making Owen his own color book.  I picked up a few sets of stickers at Dollar Tree (who carry a pretty decent selection of laser, 3D, and foam stickers) then went about matching the sticker colors to the swatches.  Once I'd decided on the color order, I used double-sided tape to stick the swatches to each other back to back.  Then I punched holes and bound them together using loose binder rings.  Finally, I personalized the front page for him.  I'm so happy with how it turned out!

I'm hoping that over time he can even add his own choice of stickers to the ones that I already included in the book.  That way it really is even more personal to him, as well as having the advantage of teaching him about his colors in a fun way!

There seem to be tons of paint swatch crafts out there, and I can kind of see why now that I've made this for Owen.  Very fun, not complicated.  Have you tried any yourself?  Please share if you have!

I'll be sharing photos of the kitchen remodel shortly as demolition starts on Monday - yikes!  In the meantime, I would also like to give Home Depot props for this sweet shopping cart, complete with steering wheel!  Owen loved "driving" like a big boy while I made our tile order.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Daily Dish - Let's talk spaghetti squash

Growing up in England, I can't say I ever really ate winter squash.  It wasn't until recently that I decided to try a spaghetti squash and it has quickly become a favorite in our house.  A lot of recipes for spaghetti squash use it as a substitute for noodles, which makes perfect sense given the name right?  Nutritionally (courtesy of, a cup of spaghetti squash has 31 calories (1g fat, 7g carbs, 2g fiber, 1g protein), whereas the comparable amount of regular pasta has 200 calories (1g fat, 42g carbs, 2g fiber, 7g protein).  It is certainly a low-calorie, low-carb substitute.  If you're looking for an identical texture, you'll be disappointed, but spaghetti squash has proven to be versatile, delicious, and filling. 

The trick is to bake the squash at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes.  At that point, the shell is easy to pull away and you can either use a fork to pull out the inside as "spaghetti", or fill it with toppings. 

Last night's adventure was Pad Thai.  We used this recipe, which was enjoyed by everybody in the house, big and small!  The recipe was good, although I'd probably add a little more lime juice next time around.  The squash was also a little softer than I'd have liked to create the spaghetti strands.

Another really enjoyable recipe was this one, for a Southwest Spaghetti Squash. We added some lean ground turkey to the recipe, which also meant that we had a ton of leftovers.  The possibilities are really endless with what you can put inside.  Did I mention that there's broiled cheese?  Automatically makes it a winner in my book!

Having just bought another couple of squash at Costco, I think we'll be trying this spaghetti squash primavera next.  Seriously, so good.  Have you tried it?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Daily Art - Feeling the love!

It's Valentine's Day.  Here's my love, photo edition!

Love heart

Love is....Deuce "Bag", the smug, furry one


Love is....cousins

Love is....creation


Whether or not you celebrate Valentine's Day with a special somebody, or think it's the worst kind of Hallmark holiday, your love isn't just about a relationship, or just one day.  Go out and spread the love!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Daily Review - Groovebook (plus a free one for you!)

I suspect that Shark Tank is one of those shows that a lot of people watch but don't usually talk about.  I love it, personally.  There's always that moment of "that's brilliant, why didn't I think of that", or the eye-rolling at Mr. Wonderful's royalty based deals.  Recently, the owners of the Groovebook app were featured.  I'd actually heard of Groovebook before they showed on Shark Tank, but their appearance inspired me (and I'm sure many others based on how slow their servers were the weekend after the show aired) to give it a try. 

For those of you that haven't seen it, Groovebook is an app for printing pictures off your phone.  If you're anything like me, you have hundreds that may or may not get uploaded to Facebook/Instagram but then just sit in your phone memory.  For $2.99/month (incl. S+H), as a subscription service, you can upload 100 photos a month to Groovebook, and they send you a printed book with those photos.  The photos are 4x6 and perforated so that you can pull some out to give to friends and family, pull out to put in a scrapbook, or frame.  I just got my first book and I love it!  I just uploaded the photos for my second book (which was quick seeing as I think their servers recovered from the post-Shark Tank rush) and I'm already excited to receive it.  On the show, they did make a deal with Mark Cuban and Kevin O'Leary, so I'm curious to see what happens next, but I really hope they hold on to this original model.

The photo paper feels a little thinner than prints you might order from other services, but at $0.03 a print, they're a great value (compared to the $0.10 or $0.12 you might pay elsewhere).  I also love that each photo has the time and date stamped right above the perforation.  The app itself is pretty easy to use.  I like the advanced photo option where you can pick how many of each image you want in the book.  There's a little "ticker" at the top of the screen to let you know how many photos you have left.  Once you've selected them all, you simply upload to the service and a couple weeks later your book arrives.  I also like that you can order additional copies for others, which is great if you're being harassed by family members for new photos of the little ones!

I did notice that there was a coupon code (JACOBS87) for a free Groovebook in the back of mine, so I wanted to share it with you all.  Overall, this is definitely one I'd recommend to anybody looking for an easy, and inexpensive, way to get those photos off your phone and into your hands.  With a free coupon code, there's no excuse not to try it!

DISCLAIMER:  I received no compensation for this review.  I just think it's a neat product and wanted to share because I like you guys!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Daily Art - Griffith Park Observatory

Today's Foto Friday takes us to the Griffith Observatory here in Los Angeles.  I consider myself very lucky to have access to the Observatory.  Not only does it have beautiful views all across L.A., including downtown and the Hollywood sign, it's a pretty cool place to go, even without the aspect of being able to learn things about space...for free!

What do you consider to be a local treasure in your area? 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Daily Dish - Lemon chicken with roasted cauliflower

When you co-worker gives you lemons, make a chicken dish!  That's pretty much how this happened, and it was good! 

This recipe (from the Barefoot Contessa) for lemon chicken not only highlights the lemon really well, but it also contains a ton of garlic, which is always a winner for me.  We used chicken without the skin, although I can imagine that the skin-on version is pretty amazing.  The prep time is very quick and then you just pop it in the oven and forget about it for 30-40 minutes, which makes it weekday friendly. 

As a side, roasted veggies are one of my favorite things - not only super simple but they taste amazing.  I broke a head of cauliflower into florets, then tossed with olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and parmesan cheese.  They went into the oven, with the chicken, for about 25 minutes.  That gave me ample time to clean up and be able to eat knowing the kitchen was already clear. 

Overall, this was an easy to prepare, healthy, low calorie meal with a nice punch of flavor.  Highly recommended!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Daily Art - Foto Friday Redux

Recently, I joined the Instagram bandwagon and, although a little late to the party, it's definitely got me remembering to snap photos frequently, even if only on my phone.  That being said, I'd like to restart the Foto Friday thing that I was doing a couple years ago, each Friday sharing photos I've taken that I love.  They may be new photos, they may be old, taken with my DSLR or just on my phone.  In the meantime, feel free to follow me on Instagram @dailydoseofdeuce.  My photos there are as random as my blog posts - everything from pics of the little one, to food, nail polish, and more.  :)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Daily Dish - Oatmeal in a jar

Before the holidays, I'd been on a pretty fantastic weight loss curve.  Then the holidays happened and I may have over-indulged just a little.  Time to get back on track though.  I've been looking for some healthy food hacks that are quick, simple, tasty, and don't take much time to prepare.  I think it's fair to say that Pinterest will always offer up something I've never heard of before that is just crazy enough to try....and that is how "oatmeal in a jar" happened.

The beauty of this is that they're quick to prepare, easy to make ahead, healthy, inexpensive, and the possibilities are endless!  I used an 8oz mason jar and filled it with:
 - 1/4 cup uncooked oats
 - 1/4 cup almond milk
 - 1/4 cup plain whole fat yogurt (which is what we have in the house for the little one but could obviously be substituted for a low fat or greek yogurt instead)
- a dash of vanilla extract
- half a pear (which is all that would fit into the container when I was done)

Give it a good shake, then leave it in the fridge to "cook".  By my calculations, before adding the fruit, this 8oz serving was only 136 calories, but more filling than a granola bar or similar breakfast item that you might grab while heading out the door. 

Seeing as these keep for several days, it's easy to make a few days at a time, mix and match what the fillings are, then grab and go in the morning on the way to work.  I would even say that these are kid friendly so could easily be made for the whole family to enjoy.  Here's a link with some flavor combinations to try.  Enjoy!