Archive | April, 2013

Family Trip: Outerbanks, NC!

30 Apr

We normally take a big family vacation with my step-dad’s family since 2006.  Sometimes it is the only trip we go on for that year, but other times it is our bonus trip!  This year it was our big vacation trip with a couple long weekends for the summer.  We keep coming back for more big family trips because for the funness of each trip, so planned out in detailed (which I love), and most of the planning is a little hands off and done by others so I can enjoy a great trip with little planning on our end.  Now that we have a baby I wasn’t sure if our plans would change as usually we head out of the country for our vacations with them (Mexico and Dominican Republic usually).  I wasn’t sure how toddler-friendly the trip would be and we were worried as the night-time adult festivities started one of us would have to be in the hotel watching Lexi while she slept (plus she normally naps 2 hours mid-day so hotel bound we would be as well during those hours).  This year though the families wanted to do something different as one of their children was graduating from high school (wow we are getting old!) and wouldn’t be able to make the usual vacation timing since he would be in college studying doing his own partying at the time.  So they opted for high school spring break timing and to stay more locally at a beach house in Outerbanks, NC! This worked out so well for our family this year because 1. the trip was cheaper and we weren’t sure how much money we would have for a big vacation this year 2. it was local and so we wouldn’t need to worry about passports and extra travel arrangements 3. I wouldn’t have to worry about international waters and if digestively Lexi would be okay with the food at a different country 4. beach house meant that Lexi could still sleep, but we would be able to enjoy the nighttime festivities with everyone 5. We could travel by car, which would help in cost–but this also allowed us to bring items in our car that we would have had to rent or find in another country. Less hassle we thought.  We do hope that we can one day become expert world travelers with our kids because we love to travel, but the last two vacations we have had with Lexi have been so über family friendly we are a bit spoiled with traveling and having so many baby/toddler items at our fingertips.

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We stayed in this beach house beach mansion right on the water in Salvo, NC (right over the dunes was the water).  It had so many amenities (kitchens on each floor, pool table, theater room, two playscapes for kids, gates for stairways, pack and plays, balconies for every room, fireplaces, card game table, wireless internet, etc). There were about 20 of us living in that house and not once did I feel that we were on top of each other and all cramped.  I am not going to lie this place was the most amazing house that I have ever stayed at and I truly felt like I was living the sweet life-celebrity style.  I mean I completely understand that money doesn’t buy happiness, but if this is how I lived on a daily basis I’d find it really hard not to be happy! Seriously it was breathtaking and our family found such a killer house for an amazing off-season price (you don’t want to know the on season price for this house…).  Well if you do want to know to plan your own vacation, email me and I can get you the details and the information to contact the rental property company.

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IMG_8161 So as you can see with all these pictures we hit up the beach a lot while we were on vacation! It was in our backyard so it was hard not to take the stroll to the beach every day.  I learned a few things while we had the experience with the beach because it can be very very very messy with a toddler.  The first thing I learned was to put sunscreen before you put on the bathing suit with the strong lotion as you will know that you will get all the nooks and crannies that could burn (made this mistake and waited til we got on the beach the first day–big no no–sticky sand everywhere! #momfail).  Then during the peak hours we sprayed her and used a stick every 30 min- 1 hour and put a timer on to keep track of time! Once the lotion was out-of-the-way we had a ton of fun digging in the sand, chasing birds, and looking for rocks and seashells.  Keeping sand, rocks and seashells out of Lexi’s mouth half of the time.  The water was really cold so she didn’t love going in the beach water so she never really ran for the water except a couple of times and even then she stopped as soon as water even was 100 feet from her.  We had a blast on the beach with her and really loved all the sand activities and playing with the kids.  Something that worked for our family since we had the option of both the beach and the pool was that we hit up the beach in the morning until lunch time and then came home, gave her a bath and then ate lunch.  She goes down for a nap after lunch and so we would put her down for a nap clean and then when she woke up we would re-lather/put on bathing suit and then head to the pool.  Getting into sand twice in one day was a lot of work and by mid-day the sun was strong and so we could shade her more at the pool area.  We also had a small sand pile right outside the fence of the pool so some days I would fill a bucket with sand and bring into pool area and let her go at it, which she loved but at least sand wasn’t everywhere! The mornings together as a family were so peaceful and enjoyable–some of my favorite parts of the trip! She even let us dig a hole and put her in it!

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Well when we weren’t at the beach we were then at the pool! I am more of a pool person (don’t like to go in the ocean), but having a kid now I think I enjoyed the beach more than the pool this vacation (besides the messiness of the sand).  I think we would have done the beach more in the afternoon if it wasn’t such a hassle with the sand, but it was nice to have a different scenery for Lexi after her nap.  There were two playscapes that she was able to play with outside of the pool and an area for her to play with her bucket of sand off to the side without getting it in the water.  She loved to play with these playscapes although with the pool area it took her longer to warm up to than the beach.  She stayed pretty close to us the first day and hated the pool (I was worried!).  By day two though she was romping around the playscape and playing peek a boo and going down the slides and finally enjoying the water! The pool water scared me as I didn’t really know what protection to put on her as we brought floaties and a jacket tube thingy to put on her and in the end we just watched her very very very closely near the waters edge and in the pool we just used a bogey board that was provided to us at the house.  I think we will invest in a bogey board as it was a great way for her to enjoy the water without us always having to carry her in the water! Glad we found something as both of our families have pools and she will be around them quite often this summer.   Others have any suggestions for 1 year olds around the pool?  You see that enormous beach ball in one of the pictures? Yea I thought I was buying a normal size beach ball that Lexi could play with and the thing was massive! She could care less about the thing but the bigger kids had a ball with it! (pun totally intended! haha!).  See that hat picture? Yea we got a total of 2-3 hat pictures the whole trip because she hated wearing hats! She doesn’t have much hair on her head and even with all the suntan lotion we were applying her head would get the reddest at the end of the day.  By mid-week we had her wear hoodies and this cover all that had a hoodie on it as she would wear that on her head all day long, but just not a hat.  GO FIGURE! It was a great way to keep her out of the sun, but still let her play.  By the end of the week we had to drag her away from the pool/play area and she was just so happy all week-long finally being able to enjoy the outdoors.

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When we weren’t at the beach or the pool or eating we were hanging out on the many many balconies this house had to offer.  Lexi just loved being at bird’s-eye view of all her surroundings.  There was so much to look at, point to, and she even was feeding the birds on the balconies.  As a mom I was totally frightened of these balconies (and the ones inside the house too!).  Is it just me or does every mom freak out that a railing is loose and she was going to fall off the edge, or her body to wiggle through the planks of wood??!! Most of the time Steve had to go out with her because I was a hot mess watching her near railings and balconies at the house! With that said no one was hurt and Lexi had a blast hanging out in these areas at the start and ending of her days.  Momma just had to close her eyes while doing it!

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Lastly my favorite picture of my two favorite people on the trip.  It was early morning before most people were up and we were hanging out on one of the balconies facing the water.  Lexi and daddy were looking at the water, watching birds fly around, and pointing out sand and bushes on the ground.  She was mesmerized by the scenery and this was just a beautiful picture taken of a beautiful morning.

We had a wonderful trip and I would do a beach house again with Lexi in a heart beat! We had such a blast and although it wasn’t a read by the pool for hours kinda trip–it was just the trip our family of three needed during a really busy month of work.  It was a great way to kick off Spring (we live in New England and spring is just hitting our state now)!!  I of course still have the vacation blues now that it is over, but it has been so fun looking back on the pictures and seeing the big smiles on her face with all the fun we had that week! Hooray for a successful beach trip with a toddler!

I am thinking of participating in this blog.every.day.in.may challenge! I may be really setting myself up to fail as it is still busy at work and my personal to-do list is a long one outside of blogging, but I really enjoy a good portion of the topics that will be blogged about this month…I have less than a day to decide! Check back tomorrow to see if I am going for the plunge and taking on this challenge!

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25 Apr

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Hellloooooooo….so it has been about 2 weeks since I last posted on my blog! WHOA NELLY.  I have some good excuses of work being busy (high peak season), prepping for vacation, going on vacation, getting back to work and unpacking, etc. There is some truth to all of these “excuses”, but in reality some of them are just excuses of why I haven’t been blogging.

Part of me hasn’t been blogging because what I have really wanted to write about has been all sad stuff.  I am a pretty happy go-lucky person and so being sad, thinking of sadness, and writing about sadness doesn’t come easy to me.  I have started posts and then deleted because it just seemed so deep, too personal, and just plain sad who would want to read it? I was finding though that I was getting stuck in what to write because I was stopping myself from writing about what I really wanted to talk about–sadness.  From the Newtown shooting that occurred steps away from my hometown and killed a friend from high school, to two children that I supported from a distance died of cancer (one on Lexi’s birthday and one the day after), and now the Boston Marathon bombing.  There is just sadness in the world that is happening really close to my back door and although I am not a survivor of any of these events as I was not there they have all deeply impacted me personally and how I look at the world.  It has impacted me in how  I look at my family and how I am moving forward to see the good and not the downright evil in the world.  Don’t get me wrong there has been good that has come out of these tragedies (shining a bright light on gun control and mental health issues, communities coming together for the common good, people literally giving the shirts off their backs for people who were running the marathon, fundraising for important causes like cancer, etc)–but my mind just keeps swirling around the word senseless.  Small children dying of bullet wounds, cancer, and bombs just seems so senseless. Really, ANYONE dying of these acts seems senseless. So before I went on with writing about less important topics (in my eyes) I just had to acknowledge the sadness that is happening very close to where I call home.  A dear friend who was actually running in the Boston Marathon Bombing wrote an incredible blog post about the day and this paragraph struck a chord in me: “I don’t want this to turn into a saga of “Oh, God, how terrible, because it was almost me,” because it wasn’t me and it isn’t about me and I was not victimized in any way. It was terrible because of what happened, not because of my role in it or lack thereof. This is simply an observer’s tale, because I’m a writer, and when stuff happens, I write.” So much truth in this statement for people who are on the edges of all these tragedies happening.  It is hard not to feel you are in the tragedy when it is happening all around you, but this statement made me realize that although it feels sad and I do feel changed by these events it has certainly not impacted me in the ways it has to all the victims and their families.  My hope that sooner rather than later I can spend my time helping others and promote change in my family/community rather than spending the time being sad.  Right now though it still feels right to grieve for the victims and the communities that I love. #Newtown #fucancer #Bstrong

So to bring this post back to a lighter note I wanted to share other things that are on my mind.  A brain dump if you will [also known to family/friends as my Top 5]

1. I read The Storyteller over the past month (NO SPOILERS PROMISE!), which was completely ironic since the overall theme is good vs. evil and if people can change.  It took me awhile to read the book and some of it just had to do for the shear fact I had to stop reading because of the tears flowing down my cheeks.  It was an emotional book outside of the events that were happening in the world, but put both together and wow it was just such an intense book.  I love Jodi Picoult and I actually went to a reading at the launch of this book back in February and seriously she sucked me into the story for the moment she started reading.  It is gripping and I felt a pretty fast read (especially the Minka parts) and really kept my attention.  I am not even going to try to review books because this lady puts my reviews to shame–but thankfully for you she reviewed this book and she was very accurate! I don’t think I minded the technology as much when reading, but once I read the review after I read the book I could see that point.  The thing that I had trouble with during the book was this underlining story of a fictional book that one of the characters was writing.  Maybe I didn’t read carefully enough at the beginning or was distracted, but I swear I didn’t figure out this book plot until three-fourths into the book. (Yea way to be perceptive!).   It really didn’t matter though because with or without understanding the book part I thought the entire book was brilliant.  And even with knowing there would be a twist (because don’t all Jodi’s books have one?) unlike my brilliant BFF I was floored at the ending.  Go and read it you will not be disappointed. Bring tissues! Update: Okay I was driving in the car yesterday and was thinking about my review and I take back the whole “if you don’t get the book inside a book plot it doesn’t matter” because in reality it does.  The book inside a book is intertwined throughout the story all the way to the end.  You will get more out of The Storyteller if you get this aspect of the storyline.  So I am telling you now one of the main characters writes a book and this book is in italics throughout the book.

2. I brought a scale on vacation. No she didn’t.  Okay okay hear me out! I was doing the DietBet talked about here and so I needed to record my weight on the weekend of the trip anyways plus I always always come back from vacation 5 pounds heavier.  ALWAYS.  Even if I am trying to control my portions and drinking it just happens (yea “just happens”).  So I really didn’t want to add these 5 pounds back because then I would be pack at a number I desperately was trying to stay away from (even before I had Lexi).  So it was either bring a scale and hold myself accountable or gain these 5 pounds. I am so dramatic.  The hubs was appalled at the fact that he had to find room in the car for my scale and told me this was a really stupid idea.  I of course batted my eyes and say pretty pleaseeeee find room and he did and off we went on vacation with my trusty scale.  I checked here and there and then mid-week I jumped a couple pounds up (GAH! 5 pounds stay away!).  I adjusted a few things like not having such heavy breakfast foods to start the day off, not starting the day with a drink in my hand by noon, and not going back for seconds for dinner (because I knew that snacks and drinking at night would be involved to fill me up if I was still hungry).  Yea they were adjustments while on vacation, but once I thought about it for a hot second they were easy to manage and I didn’t feel that I was depriving myself of food or beverages–trust me.  And at the end of the day I came back to EXACTLY THE SAME WEIGHT AS WHEN I LEFT.  I mean to the exact tenth of a pound exact weight.  I did the happy dance and have been busting my booty trying to make up for the week I didn’t lose for my DietBet competition (the pool is over $5,000 dollars so I am in it to win it people!!)

3. So I went on vacation. To an amazing beach house with 35 family and friends.  Future post with pics and details to come, but I just had to comment on one thing I was not expecting to feel on vacation. Jealousy.  We went with individuals who had older kids, single individuals, older couples, and a newly engaged couple.  I was surrounded by individuals who were able to sit at a table and hold an adult conversation, a girl who could hang by the pool and read a book all day long, a sister who took naps in the middle of the day, and kids playing nicely with legos together as I batted tiny lego pieces out Lexi’s hands all afternoon long. Man I was completely jealous of all my beach house mates as they were at the stage that at least on vacation I longed for so desperately.  But the funny thing is that people in the beach house were also jealous of us.  The individuals with the older kids missed the toddler stage and them thinking sand is the most amazing thing they have ever laid eyes on, the snuggles that the toddler gives to parents, how freaking cute toddler bathing suits look, the expression on their face when going into a swimming pool for the first time, the newly engaged lady looked longingly at our baby hoping one day that would be her future, and the older adults remember the times that their kids were that young and how different life use to be.  There is truth to the saying that we always think the grass is greener on the other side (and usually it is NOT!).  When I think back at my vacation though I don’t think about the books that I didn’t read, the laying at the beach I could have had, or the sleeping in I wanted to do (okay okay maybe I think about the sleep a little, but I love sleep!).  Instead I think about how proud the hubs was that Lexi was loving swimming with him in the pool, the excitement that Lexi had over sand and the water, the hole we dug for her and then place her into and giggled the entire time doing it, the morning walks on the beach as a family of 3, the junk food my mom snuck to Lexi when we weren’t looking, the dive bomb I took to keep Lexi from falling into the pool, the crazy games of cat and mouse we played over and over in the big entertainment space, and the big kid friends she made at the beach house (future babysitters!).

4. My husband signed us up for a 5k at the end of May with our good friends.  I agreed and then realized that the end of May is in like I don’t know 4 weeks away? 5 maybe? And I haven’t really done any regular running since maybe late 2011??!! I panicked a little bit as I signed into my Couch to 5k app I had used prior and it told me I would be ready to run a 5k in mid-July. Bahahahahahaha.  No the app really did laugh in my face.   I also felt that I had a bum knee after running a half marathon in October 2010 as my knee just never had felt “right” since that run.  Of course I haven’t had it looked at and so I was worried that running would aggravate it. So joy did not come to mind after the initial yes and so I laced up my running shoes yesterday and the hit the pavement with the family.  I will say it wasn’t as bad as I was envisioning, but I am not entirely confident that I made a good decision signing up for this 5k so nonchalantly.  My knee feels good, I got through the first run, and I didn’t collapse on the side of the road. So that is progress, right? I know it will be fun once I get a few runs in, but when my husband asks me if I want to do something I probably should listen more closely rather than being on my phone and answering him when half listening.  Lesson learned.

5.  Lastly we got professional photos taken while on vacation! I will post more pics when I get my hands on them–promise! The one at the top of the post is a sneak peek. How adorable, right???!!! It was my first time doing a casual family photoshoot (that I wasn’t doing myself) and it was totally worth it BUT it was also totally expensive.  I tried to get into the photography business (another post for another time), but I have some of the equipment needed for a photoshoot (did Lexi’s 6 month photoshoot) and I got some great pictures of her at 6 months and then of us individually, but I really wanted pictures of us as a family.  With a running toddler I just didn’t think I could do a good family picture of us together (I tried each month and they were in the “eh” department).  From a non biased person my husband said (who isn’t as passionate about pictures as I am) of the experience, “you [meaning me] could have done these pictures of Lexi with your talent, but I am really glad we have really awesome pictures of us as a family. It would have been hard for you to get these pictures of us as a family.”  I agree with this statement completely as her style of photography was very similar to my style, but I am so so so thankful for the pictures of our family together on the beach.  Those are pictures I could never have achieved with doing it myself and hands down would pay the price again for the pictures.  This is a time in our lives that I want to look back on and see our family of 3 growing and the memories we had going to North Carolina.  Lexi will not remember these moments, but through these pictures she will always be able to look back on these times.  I would do it again although with keeping cost in mind I think I would do it a little less regularly as I intended at the beginning of me looking into family photography.  I first thought I would do this once a year for my family, but I think now looking at it from all angles I would continue to get photos done professionally with a little more time in between than it becoming a yearly event.  I have the luxury of being able to take pictures of my family with a professional lens and so I can be a little more flexible with the time-lapse between professional pictures.  In the end I think all families (if they can swing it) would not be disappointed in getting pictures done professionally (and think about doing it on vacation when people are more relaxed and have more free time!), but to prepare to shell out money and then more money for actual pictures, CDs or other accessories of pictures you may want (Canvas, mugs, etc).   If you are in the Outerbanks, NC area and are looking for a family photographer I would hands down give Beach Productions  my recommendation.  Julie was friendly, easy to talk to, was great with our baby, patient, gave great direction for getting us to pose and capture moments, got us a sneak peek in like a day (unheard of!), and we had pictures to view in a week (crazypants awesome!).  I do see getting pictures taken as a luxury, but I also see the important and the value of getting pictures taken of not only your baby but the entire family together as well.   Just like your feet are worth a good pedicure, and your body is worth a great massage–your family is worth a good picture taken of them to cherish forever (at least that is what I told the hubs when he was writing the check!)

Healthy Living Update :)

8 Apr

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So almost a month ago I posted this about my 20 pound weight loss and then I had a month of celebration.  Glass half empty mentality and I could say the scale hasn’t budged since this post.  That would be old me and my dieting ways.  The new me is trying to look at the glass half full and even though the scale hasn’t budged this means I am maintaining and not adding to my weight! Even with all the celebration and stress and less time to focus on eating healthy I was able to maintain for the month.  For me in the past I was either on a diet or I just didn’t care and did/ate what I wanted–both spectrums not the healthiest.  This month it was all about smaller portions, stepping away from appetizers at the party, one plate at a party, one glass of wine rather than 3, etc.  Increased my workouts the days I was feeling sluggish or I knew I would be tempted to eat more than usual.  I did weigh myself more frequently because I felt I was spinning a little out of control and had to rein it in a few more times a week than usual.  If I had a big lunch then I ate a small dinner early and no snacks–not even a healthy apple.  With all the celebrations it really felt similar to a Christmas holiday when it comes to gaining weight and I am happy that I maintained through the month when the focus was on my daughter and not on weight loss.

But now that month is over and I’m not ready to be just in “maintaining mode” yet as I have a lot more to work on and so it is time to kickstart the next set of goals I have for myself in the health department.  My first goal is to lose 4% of my body weight, which would take me right to the weight I was back in 2009.   I actually signed up to be part of That Wife’s Weight Loss Challenge as I think this will be a great motivator to have a set of online “friends” to pull me closer to my ultimate goal.  I have never done any sort of group weight loss challenge before and so I thought since I am kickstarting myself up this month it was perfect timing for That Wife’s blog challenge to be starting up too.  Fate perhaps? I am all about trying something new especially if it will help me get results! I signed up to be part of the DietBet (which is where the 4% goal comes in), which might have been a little crazy as I am taking a week long vacation with my family this month.  If you are looking to lose weight you should join us as it is an awesome concept of helping each other lose weight–through a competition!   I don’t want to gain 5 pounds and go backwards while on vacation and I am competitive and I want to win and so I hope those two things will help me with the vacation pounds that can easily be put on.

My second goal is to stay regular with my exercise and start to develop a plan of action for each week  4 days would be ideal, but 3 days is the goal each week.  My night/weekend commitments change with my job from week to week and so it is tough to get into any “routine.” I have been starting to think about where I am going to incorporate working out starting Sunday nights for the week and what my goals are for each of those days.  It is my first week doing it this way and I think it will help out having a plan so I don’t talk myself out of working out (I am a planner and I like to stick to plans even if I don’t want to do said plan. If I said I would do it well dang I am going to do it.) So even though the days I work out will be a little different each week this month I want to focus on Zumba (love it!), Yoga (beginner), Cardio HIIT workout (kicks my butt every time), and jogging with Lexi in the stroller now that it is getting warm out!  I also have been doing the RipDeck app with the hubs about twice a week, but that is about a 10 minute workout and so those will be done in addition to these 4 workouts I have planned out.

So there you have it! A little update on me and where I am at in the healthy living department! Keep you posted next month if I win the competition and reached both of my goals.  Anyone else have any health goals this month? Any apps or blogs you follow to keep you motivated?

Easter Blessings

5 Apr

Easter to me represents a time to be with family and similiar to Thanksgiving a time to be thankful for what we have been blessed with.  This year our family has been blessed with so much and although I wouldn’t rate Easter in my all time favorite holiday category this Easter was my favorite holiday with Lexi to date.  The weather was great, the timing of our plans worked out great, and our overall sense of gratitude all weekend was just so uplifting and great.

We planned on doing nothing that weekend, but in the end we did a lot! No plans set so it was nice to have everything on our terms! We visited one of our favorite towns in the area (Portsmouth, NH), had two Easter egg hunt, ate lunch at a cute (and very kid friendly) resturant called Me & Ollies,  fabulous Easter dinner, played on multiple swing sets, tried to eat sticks and leaves and dirt and stones and everything else on the ground, and took a nice family walk.  Overall, I can’t think of a better weekend we have spent together as a family and it had so much to do with the weather and the fact we had no plans and we did exactly what we wanted when we wanted.  We need to do that more often! So to end the week I thought I would share some of my favorite pictures from the Easter weekend and for the most part almost all were taken outside! I am so excited for the weather to become regularly warm for us so we can do more family outings that involve OUTSIDE! Spring I am ready for ya!

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Review Series: Iphone Apps

3 Apr

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Another installment of my review series and this time I am going to review a few Iphone Apps that I have purchased.  I purchased these all on my own (and well most of them freee!) and this is not a sponsored post.  I recently cleaned up my Iphone and there are still Iphone apps that I have on my phone that just keep lingering on my phone (some for years!) for no real reason except I think one day I will use this precious app (isn’t that what hoarders say???).  I didn’t focus on the usual apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, and Instagram because I think most people are aware of these apps and commonly use them.  I always enjoy going to a blog and reading about a new app I can download and so I hope you can find at least one new app that might make life a little bit more fun..healthier…0r easier!  I will warn you that this post is a bit long! I figured I would do a good/bad app in each category of Iphone App that I review so here goes…

Foodie Iphone Apps

Fave: Grocery IQ (free): Now before I started using my favorite organizational app (a review down below) this was my go-to grocery list.  I could type in what I needed, scan what I needed, and even speak what I needed to add to the grocery store.  This was easier for me as I always had my phone with me and so if I stopped in the grocery store I could have on hand my grocery list.  There is a section where coupons is attached and I didn’t take full advantage of this aspect because I did more of the odds and ends grocery shopping rather than the full fledge grocery shopping that my husband does.  I can even email the list to my husband although he still prefers a paper list and so we didn’t use the emailing as frequently as I would like.  You can also put in your location and find all the grocery store/convenience stores in your area which could be helpful if you moved to a different area or were taking a roadtrip and wanted to see where you could stop. Overall I found this very useful and kept me organized when it came to grocery shopping (it also kept me on task with not buying outside items that were not on the list).

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Rant: All Recipes.com Dinner Spinner (free): This is one that I have had for a very long time and I sometimes go to it just to get new ideas for dinners and recipes and each time I leave without finding anything for dinner! I believe it is their scaled down recipes from allrecipes.com and so the variety is just not there and some of the recipes are a bit obscure.  I have had this app for probably 3 years and I think I have made 2 things off of this dinner spinner app.  They do have a pro version for $2.99 and so maybe that one would be better than their free version.  It has more recipes (40,000 recipes), can attach a grocery list (which then you wouldn’t need grocery IQ), share grocery lists, and view in a kitchen friendly format.  Since I don’t love the free version I am not sure I would spend the money to pay for the pro-version especially with having a computer that faces my kitchen I could just look up the recipes on my computer at home.  I love their website, but not a fan of their app.

 

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Photography Apps

Fave: PicFrame ($.99): For as many photographs as I take I rarely use a photography app as I am on the go and just click and share pretty quickly.  I was obsessed with this app for quite some time and I love using it (although never think to on a regular basis).  I think for the price it is a great collage resource and being able to share multiple pictures at once or even side by side pictures.  It is a fun tool and I think I don’t use it more because it is in a folder rather than it isn’t a great app.  I love you can shift the pictures to fit the frame and select how many pictures you want in a collage.  You can also change the style of the pictures and even share pictures! I really should use this more often! I am pretty impressed with this app and even though I don’t tend to spend time using photography apps this is the one I use the most over the year.

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Rant: Photoshop Express (free): For the caliber that Photoshop is on the computer I just had high expectations for this app when I downloaded it.  I thought it would have more tools like the regular Photoshop and one the main reasons it is on my rant is that it doesn’t allow you to add text to your picture.  I think this additive would do wonders for the app and I would use this app more frequently for sure! You can do most things on other popular photography apps and although I do like that you can share with FB it isn’t very user-friendly.  Some of the buttons are hard to use and overall I am just not as impressed as I thought I would be in the name of Adobe attached to this app.

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Music Apps

Rave: Shazam (free): Now I think most people would say Pandora for this category and I do have a love for that app–but I just loveeee what Shazam does for me and my music collection! Now that I have a little commute in the morning I hear songs on the radio that I really love and if they stick in my brain for about a week or I wish that during my commute I will hear the song again I know it is time to add it to my iTunes collection.  Most times I have no clue what the song is or the artist who sings the song so this comes in handy! I have used it for the radio and TV shows/movies for years and still to this day its my go to music app.  It stores the songs that I have “tagged” to find out who the artist is (first tag was on Sept 19th, 2009 for Make you Feel my Love by Adele-a little factoid) and with a click of a button you can add it to your itunes catalog! SO SO EASY! I LOVE IT! My last song I shazamed was just the other day (March 29th) and it is Next to Me by Emeli Sande’–check it out!

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Rant: Songza (free): Now this app is free so once again I shouldn’t complain too much because I didn’t pay anything for it–but I totally went out on a limb for Songza and then it burned me!  So I kept telling my husband that Songza was better than Pandora and he needed to make the switch and I tried for a good couple weeks to convince him (he is a Pandora die hard) and then finally on a weekend I convinced him to try it out on a roadtrip and IT WAS SO BAD! We had to skip most songs and it didn’t really go with the genre and since I had been listening to Songza for about a month at that point some of the playlists didn’t change from one day to another! The hubs looked at me like…THIS IS WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN RAVING ABOUT??!!! Then I had to take a second look at it and then tried Pandora again just to see if Pandora was superior to Songza and….it was (hang head low).  I very rarely use this anymore because when I need to stream music I tend to head towards Pandora.  I will say though that their Workout playlists are really good and upbeat and help me keep a good pace of working out.  So it is free and if you are looking for some new workout playlists I say hit this app up! (I will also say that the hubs and I do gravitate towards certain genres of music so if you are more open to music choices you may like this app a bit more than what I am reviewing it as).

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Travel Apps

Rave: USAToday Auto Pilot (free): I will say that I don’t travel very frequently and I don’t have to travel for business so these reviews are for apps that travel more casually.  Whenever I am going to fly I always input my flight into this app as it gives me information about boarding gates and if we are on time/delayed and also a directory of hotels in case we do get delayed overnight.  It is a very simple travel app that doesn’t do a whole bunch of things, but if you are taking a flight I would recommend downloading this app as it has saved us some headaches while traveling before.  My husband is a bit of an anxious flyer so any and all information he can get about the flight put him at ease a bit when we do fly and this app has helped in easing some worries as well.  A great app to just have in your pocket if you are flying.

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Rant: TripCase (free): This is a very similar app to the USA AutoPilot as it checks for delays and gates and other items–but you can also check for other items like weather, money converter, trip directions, sharing itinerary.  Now most would probably think I would like this one more because it is still free, but has many more gadgets.  Well I think it just has too much going on in one app that it can get confusing to navigate and at times I can get lost in the app trying to figure out flight information.  I don’t use the app for really anything more than just checking to see if the flight is delayed so everything else gets in the way.  I love that the USA AutoPilot is quick and simple and I don’t need to type in a password and I can get my information fast.  For others who like all those additives this might be a rave for you and it is free so why not try both and see which one you like!

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Health App

Rave: Calorie King (Free): Now before I had a baby I enjoyed FitnessPal immensely because I counted calories and was being motivated to get healthy with my sister who was using the same app.  People love this app and I would highly recommend it as well I just don’t have the time/energy to count calories.  What I do like to do though is to make healthy choices when it comes to food.  With the Calorie King App I can look up almost any store/product to see what the calories and nutritional value is to the food.  I use this mostly when I am eating out so that I can make sure I know what I am going to eat and how much physical exercise I would need to do in order to burn off most of the extra calories.  It gives you the food by least amount of calories to most amount of calories and once you have the information it can be easier to make smart decisions in a restaurant/take out.  This has helped me out tremendously and it is quick and easy and something I can easily do right before I head out to eat.

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*Bonus Rave: Fooducate (free): I have been using this one more and more as I get away from only focusing on calories and really focusing on healthy foods that don’t have as many toxins in them (especially for my daughter).  This one isn’t my rave at the moment because it’s not on my iPhone at the moment (just my Ipad) and so it isn’t as readily available as Calorie King is and so I do need to fix that! What I love about this app is that you can scan a product or type in a product name and it will give its nutritional value, a grade A-D, and also give you alternative choices to increase the grade.  In one instance I was getting scan happy one day and I scanned our spreadable butter and I found out it was on the FDA watch list (YIKES!).  Now for individuals who don’t want to know what is in their foods then this isn’t the app for you–but it has helped us pick better choices for our daughter and gives me alternative items to feed her.  I had to add it in even though I haven’t used it as much as I should recently!

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Rant: Lose It (free): Once again a Rant that is a free app! I downloaded this app before I downloaded FitnessPal and I set it up and got ready to use it and then just…never did.  It sits on my phone not have been used since …I don’t even know! I think it was just too detailed and too much work for me to really keep up with it or even want to start “the program”.  I know a bunch of people who really loved this app, but in my opinion FitnessPal is so much more user-friendly and helps motivate you better than with Lose It.  It is an app that I was hoping to love, but just never kept me motivated to use and I think it lasted about 2 months of me using it and then I just stopped going to the app.  Once again it is free and it is a tool to lose weight, but I think there are better apps out there to help you achieve your goals.

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Fitness Apps

Rave: Sworkit (free)/Sworkit Pro ($.99): I have the Free Sworkit as this is more of a recent download in the past few weeks.  I really enjoy the variety of workouts that I have been getting with this free app! You get to choose a length of workout, type of workout, and even the exercise program you want! You can listen to music while you are doing the workout as well.  I am considering purchasing the Sworkit Pro because I do enjoy the Free version a ton! One of the main reasons is that in the Free version you don’t get any audio clues to when a new position is happening so you have to keep your eye on the screen at all times where as in the Sworkit Pro there are audio clues for the workouts.  You can on the Free version though see what the exercise is supposed to look like which has been helpful when the picture just isn’t doing the move justice.  On the Sworkit Pro there are bonus videos, goal setting, stat tracking, and an optional 30 second break (for those water breaks you need!).  I really have loved this app as you don’t need equipment to do the program, you can do them at home, and they have some quick workouts that are really helpful.

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Bonus Rave: RipDeck (.99): So I bought this when I had insomnia one night and wanted to add something more to my workout routine that I could do at home.  I found this app and decided to purchase it at 3am.  When I woke up in the morning I was like ummmm…what did I buy???!!! Well I am pleased to say that the couple of times I have done this workout it has KICKED MY BUTT.  IT HAS KICKED MY HUSBAND’S BUTT! The kicker…WE DID IT ON BEGINNER LEVEL!! Not even a full deck!! HOLY MOLY! It is fast pace (beginner took us between 10-14 minutes) and we were sweating and hurting at the end of the session.  It is definitely a strengthening/cardio routine.  I would say that it is also a HIIT (High intensity interval training workout) routine just by the quickness and different challenges we had to do.  I am really glad that I purchased this as it isn’t a full workout, but for little amount of time you can get a huge impact.  Our goal is to get to the full deck (that includes Jokers and when you land on a Joker you have to do 20 burpees. oh.em.gee.).  I have become a little stagnant in the weight loss department and I think this will kick-start it back up again! Well done 3am self!

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Rant: RunKeeper (free): I haven’t used this app in a while and so I am using old information on reviewing this app.  It may have updates that are better or maybe there is a Pro app that is superior to this app as well. Even looking at the picture of the app below my old version doesn’t have the mph/cal on it so that is an improvement to the one I used! I don’t run very option anymore, but when I use to I tried to find an app that would help me keep track of my mileage on the road.  I wasn’t ready to buy a GPS watch and so I was just looking for an app that would track my mileage.  This one worked well most days, but found it hard to use indoors and on cloudy days.  It would stop working and I wouldn’t realize it until I was mid way through the run and I didn’t know how far I went and so I found I had to guess at the length of my runs.  It kept track of the time, but I couldn’t tell the pace I was going for each mile which would have been really helpful.  The free version at least was very basic and didn’t give me all the needs I wanted in an app to use on a regular basis and the information was shotty when using the app.  It also drained my battery significantly when I had it running.  I never found a great running app and I think if I kept up with the long distance running I would have broken down and got a GPS watch to make life a little easier and my runs easier to track.  I was disappointed with the app, but it was actually one of the better apps I found out there back when I was running.  I still have it on my phone to look back at old runs I did in the past, but I don’t use this app at all anymore.

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Pregnancy Apps

Rave: Sprout (free): I must have downloaded a million apps when I found out I was pregnant and then I really only used 2 apps the entire pregnancy.  Most I found to be not very useful or the information I got from the app I could easily get from my two favorite apps.  This one was my favorite because I actually still use this app to keep track of my weight.  I was actually really sad when I did a switch over to my new phone because I lost weight loss data from July-March and I enjoyed looking at my progress and months that I may need to worry about with weight gain.  But I digress… I really enjoyed the weekly updates and seeing the baby grow and what it would look like each week.  I appreciated the technical information about the growth and quick information I loved to get from this app.  I actually used this app to track my contractions and to keep information about questions for the doctors and other information.  I utilized the to-do list and was able to keep track of most items through this app!  For a free app it was really well-rounded and definitely a favorite throughout my entire pregnancy.

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Bonus Rave: Baby Center My Pregnancy (free): I loved this because I was involved with the forums online through BabyCenter and so I was able to connect with the forums through this app.  I enjoyed getting to scroll down through the weeks and see what was happening with my baby/body and to see what I had to look forward to.  It was attached to a strong online presence so I used this app and website quite frequently through my pregnancy.  I think it would have won over Sprout for information and use because of the forum, but the fact that I still use the Sprout app to keep track of weight it won over this app.  Both are equally great and I used both apps for different reasons and glad that I had both of these on my phone.

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Rant: When doing a clean up of my Iphone I deleted all of my pregnancy apps because I just didn’t find them helpful at all pregnant and so I don’t have any specific ones that I wouldn’t recommend.  I would just say stick to the free pregnancy apps because I don’t think any would be worth it (although I haven’t been pregnant in over a year and so apps might have gotten increasingly better since then!).  Wish I had more specifics to rant about–but overall wasn’t overly thrilled with the pregnancy apps that were out there in 2011-2012.

Miscellaneous Apps: 

I had two additional apps I wanted to talk about, but didn’t really have a category for the last two apps.  They are both raves and thought that they should be talked about in this raves review.

Rave: Period Tracker Lite (free): No one likes to talk about periods or have a period for that matter. Flowers and butterflies aside I think this is a great period tracker. This will be a brief review, but I tried a couple different period trackers and I found this one to be the most resourceful for me.  It sends a reminder of when I will potentially get my period (hey I am a busy mom sometimes I forget!), how long my periods have been, and a calendar that I can track all sorts of data like mood and symptoms and sexual activity.  I can see people utilizing this as a way to get pregnant, but I use it more for keeping track and making sure that there isn’t anything irregular happening with my body.  It has been a great tool since pre-baby!  There is a deluxe version, but for what I use it for the lite version is enough for me.

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Rave: Awesome Note ($3.99): This app has a bit of a hefty price tag on it!  I really only buy apps that are $1.99 or less, but I made an exception for this app.  I read some reviews by bloggers–this one most helpful and then some information on their website.  At first I thought it was going to be one of those apps that I bought thinking I was going to use it to stay organized and then never use it, but I am happy to report I have been using it and it has been extremely helpful! I haven’t been utilizing it to its fullest capacity, but I now keep a to-do list similar to Andrea’s blog showed, my grocery list, to-do list(s), and the calendar (one of my favorite parts!).  I also keep a work to-do list separate from personal list that I check to make sure I am on track for some of those things I think about in the shower and then forget by the time I get to work.  Something I saw on Andrea’s was a gift idea list and I think this is an awesome idea! People are always asking me what Lexi wants/needs and if I have a running list then I can be more useful rather than staring at them blankly and being like ummmm… So overall I am really loving the ease of this app and glad that I got this app (even for the price tag).  I wish there was a lite version so that people could see if they would use it and implement it into their daily lives, but I say if you are looking for something to get you a bit more organized and you are on your phones quite frequently this may be the app for you!  I know I don’t use it to its fullest capacity yet, but I wanted to make sure I kept it simple so that I would continue to check and add to it every day and stay productive.  Hope I can learn more about the app and streamline more items in my life!

So there you have it! My roundup of Raves/Rants for Iphone Apps that I have been using/not using! Any you would add to the list? Do you have an all time favorite app?

Easter Basket: 1 year old Edition

2 Apr

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I have to say that this was one of our favorite holidays even though we have been celebrating all month long.  To be honest I was actually kinda dreading another fan fare weekend of celebration as I was feeling a little celebrated out.  Once we got closer to the weekend and I realized it was going to be a really nice weekend out I started to get into the Easter celebration mood! We did some traditional Easter holiday activities such as Easter basket, two egg hunts, ham for dinner, Easter dress. There were some things we just didn’t get a chance to do though such as dyeing eggs, Easter brunch (no such thing as “brunch” with a baby–but always my favorite), church (haven’t found a church near us we like), and no eating of the deviled eggs (gasp!).  Overall though Lexi got to enjoy the outdoors both days and really soak up what Spring/Summer is going to feel like in the next couple months! She lovvveeeeedddddd every second outside and exploring and really found an adventure at every corner! It was a complete joy to watch and it felt great to get some fresh air for the entire family.  What a difference the weather can make on a weekend! I am really thankful for all the blessings we have been given this year and I am truly thankful for a wonderful weekend with my family.

With all the celebration that has been going on all month I felt that we needed to go easy on the Easter basket because we were running out of space to fit all the items in our apartment! I still wanted Lexi to experience opening up a few new gifts–but I really tried not to go overboard (especially with two sets of grandparents who spoil her too!).  I went back and forth with my Amazon shopping cart (which is where I purchased all these items) and at one point my shopping cart was at 100 dollars! Shopping online can be really dangerous sometimes! I switched and deleted and switched again until I was satisfied with my variety of selections. I went with more of an Easter theme for my basket such as chickens, bunnies, eggs. I love a good theme!  She hasn’t had candy yet and so as tempting as a chocolate egg in her basket was I decided against it and went more with gifts rather than a basket full of treats.  I don’t think she missed the candy one bit!

So here was my Easter Basket Selection (for a 1 year old):

1. Kidoozie Peek N’ Peeps Egg: I heard rave reviews about this gift and how it occupies toddlers for a good chunk of time.  When it arrived I was a little skeptical because it didn’t doo much and the chickens inside the eggs barely made a “peep” sound.  I was wrong though because this is the first toy that Lexi will head to when she wakes up/comes home (besides her baby dolls).  She loves taking the eggs off and the tops of the eggs come off too and she just loves pressing down the chickens and putting them into the carton again.  I guess simple is best when it comes to toddlers because it has been a hit since Saturday! I also like that when she gets a little older she can use this as a tool to learn her colors and the bottom of the eggs have a shape and you have to match the shape up with the shape in the egg carton so this gift will be used for a solid couple years I would imagine.  Only downfall is there are 12 pieces to them and so it can turn into a mess quickly in your living room and trying to keep to track of the tops of the eggs can be a full time job! Worth it for the time she spends playing with item.

2. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: This came from a review from my BFF who has a book review blog.  I think it is awesome she has a section called Small Fry Saturday in which she reviews books that her toddler (almost 2–OMG WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN!?!) is reading.  I never really thought about good vs. bad when it comes to children’s books–but there is a difference and it is great to get some awesome options from her blog! She spoke about this book and daycare had a theme surrounding this book last month and so I had seen it a couple of times and thought this would be a great addition to her book collection.  I really love this book and it will be great when she is starting to learn her ABCs, but at the moment she is a little young for the book as it is a bit long for her attention span.  She is also really into animal sounds/animal books/animal puzzles right now and so she has been gravitating towards these type of books at the moment.  I enjoy reading it (I love most books that rhyme!) and it is fun to have somewhat of a “plot” to the book as some of the books we read to Lexi can get quite dull/annoying.

3. EeBoo tot Tower Alphabet & Numbers: This one I found on my own although I heard good things about nesting blocks in general. Nesting blocks were on her Christmas list and she didn’t get them and so I thought Easter was a perfect time to pick her up a set!  She really loves knocking down really any tower we make so I knew she would be in love with nesting blocks! I chose these because they will help with numbers/alphabet in the future, but at the moment she loves they have animals on the blocks! She is just starting to realize she can stack the blocks herself although she knocks them off to quickly to make a tower.  I would say this was a hit in our household and when we need to distract her from something she can’t have we simply just make a tower and she runs over and knocks it down and forgets about the item she couldn’t have. GENIUS! I think this is a toy she will grown into as well and we will have around for a good while.  The blocks are sturdy (she has tried to sit and stand in them) and they have withheld her pretty well so far!

4. Bunny Slippers: This was the bust of the Easter Basket! There is a story behind it though as her former teacher at daycare since she was 4 months old has a pair of bunny slippers that look just like these.  She is obsessed with them and constantly wants to hold them and feed them and carry them around the daycare center.  She has to say good morning and good night to them as we walk past them and it is just this running joke at daycare how they are Lexi’s pet bunnies.  She loves these bunnies! She will throw a fit if we are running late and can’t say morning/night to them and has thrown tantrums in the hallway trying to take them home with her.  So I thought a solution was to buy her a pair that were identical to the ones at daycare.  UMMMM….bad choice as she hasn’t even looked at them once.   Apparently she knowsssss that those are not her original bunnies and she will have none of it trying to replace her bunny slippers at daycare.  I have used them more than she has!  Oh well I tried.  Can’t win them all!

5. Alphabooks: These books came as a recommendation as well.  They are board books and each letter of the alphabet has their own book with pictures and words that go along with the letter.  It has been a great learning resource for parents teaching them the alphabet, words, and for younger kids the pictures are great and bold.  I didn’t realize but apparently I was on an alphabet kick when making this Easter basket as 3 items can help her learn the alphabet (slow down mom! I need to learn how to talk!).  This is another book she will grow into, but she loves board books and really simple picture books at the moment.  They haven’t arrived yet and so I don’t know if they are a hit with Lexi, but they have been a hit with other toddlers around in blogland so I think they will be a great addition to bookcase!

5 books that Lexi loves: Moo! Moo! What are you?, Have you ever tickled a tiger?, Where is Baby’s Puppy?, Counting Christmas (Steve hates this as half the book rhymes and half of it doesn’t–drives him bananas!), and High Tide,

Next two books I want to buy her: Hand Hand, Fingers, Thumb (read this to her at my in-laws! I love the rhymes, Lexi loves the monkeys, and she is learning her body parts right now so this would help, a really fun book!) and my favorite as a child: Ten Apples Up on Top

Sweet Dreams

1 Apr

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I have started a couple posts and think…well that was dumb and just delete the post.  Probably not the best use of my time nowadays.  So today I will leave you with this grainy not so great Iphone picture that was taken right after she woke up from a nap.  I just love how excited she is about waking up and starting fresh and always having a smile on her face when we walk in the room to get her.  It is one of the best times of the day with her and both the hubs and I always are trying to get to her door first because nothing beats a hello like this smile.  She loves her crib and will normally want to play run around the crib and babble on (which I think is her telling me what her dream was during her nap).  Love her so much and all the happiness she brings to our family!