Archive for the ‘Frugal’ Category

March: No Spend Challenge Results (Week 1)

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

march no spend challenge

Haven’t you always wanted to read someone’s diary?

Oh, wait…is that just me? In all seriousness, I’d love to share with you my weekly reflections from my month of intentions.

Since March was designated as my no-spend challenge month, I thought it would be a great one to share with you as I embrace this month of getting my spending habits back on track. Truth be told, the savings will be used for our Spring Break trip and I’m hoping that we won’t feel the pinch at all from taking a vacation.

The first week is no big deal because, honestly, how hard is it to do for one week?

Here is what I learned from week 1:

No-Spend Challenge Results

Week 1 of the No-Spend Challenge

Day 1- I’m going to be honest and tell you that I had expected the launch of this challenge to start with an expense. I had planned to take my neighbor out for her birthday dinner (after she had taken me for a fantastic birthday meal where I claimed I had coupons, but actually did not) and I was going to add this feast to my monthly expenses since it had been planned.

I received a text though that said she would prefer just meeting for a glass of wine and had been eating out a lot lately.

She suggested that it might be better to just hang out in my She Shed.

I offered to make her a birthday dinner though and discovered three sweet potatoes, a bag of Brussels Sprouts, a bag of spinach, and just enough arborio rice to make a risotto dish. Balsamic roasted veggies, risotto cooked in white wine and vegetable broth, and a cranberry & almond salad were all birthed from the pantry that had nothing.

It was delicious and, upon a generous amount of wine, she did confess that she saw I had planned this challenge and refused to sabotage my first day out of the gate.

What a great friend, right?

Surprise, surprise, I made it through day 1 without an expense after all.

Day 2- I am at the gym and get a peek at my girlfriend’s amazing boots she is wearing.

“Where did you get those?”

“TJ Maxx! Can you believe they are water resistant and everything?”

“Oh, I need those.”

I begin to contemplate how I can swing by TJ Maxx on the way home from the gym and then remember my no-spend commitment.

I arrive home and glance at the dusty basket filled with oodles of boots…

Three pairs, just for me, that are water resistant.

No Spend Challenge

Day 4- I know a lot of people get buried in weekend spending, but my homebody nature really pulls through on the weekend.  I have been discovering I had quite the stockpile in our freezer so a night of mussels was on our agenda for our usual pizza night.

It’s been ages since I made spaghetti sauce, relying upon the jar for convenience, and I was reminded the beauty in a homemade sauce for a spaghetti side.

It really is the little things.

A couple of months ago, I had splurged on this expandable coffee table and it is now our favorite weekend spot to have dinner and watch a show together.

 

When We First Met

Date nights were spent catching up on Netflix- yes, we are that fun!

The original programming from Netflix has really been delivering so it was easy to do a movie night at home together and this one was adorable. Many times I find myself running over to Redbox or the library for movies when we have PLENTY to watch already at home.

Seriously, you should see how long my list is.

No Spend Challenge

Day 5- Since we were eating our way through our pantry, I thought I’d give gluten-free pizza dough a try to see if I can’t replace that take-out pizza moving forward. I wasn’t willing to chance it on two pizzas because gluten-free flour is expensive.

Surprise, surprise, I NAILED IT! I was so proud of myself that I made several more, just to make sure I could share a really good recipe with you.

It must be elastic pants weekend.

Day 6-7- It was really fortunate timing that I figured out a supplement that could help with my pain management just as this challenge was beginning. (P.S.- I promise to share more tomorrow!) so I was able to keep to a consistent gym routine which gave me the opportunity to socialize and to get in some good endorphins.

I dusted off my stationary bike and got back to using my CycleCast app so even in moments I was working out a lot, I still felt like I was a part of something.

Overall, week one was AWESOME and I can’t wait to what else I learn in the next three weeks!

Money Spent- $0

Memberships Used During Week 1-

Scribd- 1 audiobook

Gym- 3 classes

CycleCast- 1 session

MoviePass- 0 movies

5-Ingredient Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Recipe

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

5-ingredient gluten-free pizza crust recipe from MomAdvice.com

I have been gluten-free for years, but I have only really jumped into gluten-free baking this year. The one recipe that I just couldn’t seem to master was a delicious gluten-free pizza crust. This week I decided to try to crack the code on a simple, one-bowl dough that could be made from a gluten-free mix and that had simple ingredients that I always keep in my pantry. Does this seem like too steep of a request to make from myself? You bet!

You could say this no-spend month has been quite motivating!

I am SO excited to share with you a foolproof gluten-free pizza crust recipe that is as easy to put together as your standard crust. The thing that I need to stress though is that you MUST, MUST, MUST follow my advice on which flour to purchase and the steps that I have outlined to create it. If you use another flour mix I can’t guarantee these results for the perfect airy crust that will rival any pizzeria you have been to.

It’s worth it to take the time to buy the right product, amiright?

Are you ready for this EASY recipe?

Let’s get baking!

5-ingredient Gluten-Free Pizza Crust from MomAdvice.com

A Few Quick Suggestions for the Perfect Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

The Best Flour Blend for This Recipe

To nail this perfect crust, you MUST use this gluten-free flour mix.

Period.

I’m linking to the best price on this that I’ve found (at least in our area). The cost (currently) is $3.97 and this will yield two large pizza crusts for your family.  It has to be the cup-for-cup so make sure that the label says that since other gluten-free blends exist. Although I am telling you it yields TWO crusts, this recipe below is for ONE crust. Double it if you are wanting to make two pizzas.

And you will want to make two pizzas. I just know it!

Anyone who eats gluten-free knows what a steal this on two large crusts. I can’t tell you how much money I have spent on tiny terrible pizzas that left me hungry.

A little over two bucks per large pizza crust is unreal awesome.

The Yeast Must Be Active

Do you know the best way to check if your yeast is active? Sprinkle your yeast and a pinch of sugar over the top, give it a stir, and let it stand for a few minutes. If the yeast is still active, it will dissolve completely into the water and the liquid will start bubbling. If your yeast isn’t active, it will yield a dense and heavy crust.

I buy a large jar of yeast because it is cheaper than buying the yeast packets. This is the jar that I purchase for our family.

You want to make sure you don’t grab the bread machine yeast, just the regular ol’ active yeast.

Parchment Paper Makes Everything Easier

This crust shouldn’t be too sticky (if it is, add a little additional flour until it comes together without the stickiness factor), but I prefer to press out my crust on a parchment paper lined pizza stone. I buy these squares (awesome stuff for easy clean-up on sheet pan meals) and place it on a diagonal across my stone.

Speaking of pizza stones, they are such a wonderful family investment. I bought mine about twelve years ago and it has paid for itself over and over and over again. This size stone is perfect for all your pizza needs.

5-ingredient gluten-free pizza crust recipe from MomAdvice.com 5-ingredient gluten-free pizza crust recipe from MomAdvice.com

I have a feeling you are going to love this recipe because of its ease.  Mix it up, let it rise, and then pat it out on parchment paper.

Yup, that’s pretty much it.

I like to brush the crust edges with olive oil because it helps the edge to crisp up a bit more.

Once you press the crust out, bake it for a bit, add your toppings, and then finish your baking.

That’s it!

The best part is that you can make a few crusts at the same time and place them in the freezer for your future pizza nights. Simply allow the crust to rise and then place the dough ball in a freezer-safe plastic bag. Once you are ready to use it, let it thaw overnight in the fridge, and then prepare as usual. These crusts can be kept frozen for up to four weeks.

Another make-ahead option is to to mix all the dry ingredients and store them in a bag or jar to make preparation a little easier.

Or, heck, just wing it!

You got this!

5-ingredient-gluten-free-pizza-crust-recipe (7 of 8)

5-Ingredient Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Recipe
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 large pizza
 
An easy 5-ingredient one-bowl gluten-free pizza crust recipe. I dare you to say that three times fast.
Ingredients
  • 2¼ cups Bobs Mill Cup-For-Cup Baking Flour NO SUBSTITUTIONS
  • 2.25 teaspoons active yeast (if purchasing in packet form, it will be one packet)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup warm water
Instructions
  1. Please Note- This yields enough for ONE crust for ONE large pizza.
  2. In a large mixing bowl mix together flour, yeast, and salt.
  3. Add honey, olive oil, and warm water (you want this warm, but not SO hot that it kills your yeast).
  4. Mix well until the dough pulls away from the bowl. If your dough feels too sticky, you can add a little additional flour to it until it pulls into a ball.
  5. Knead the ball of dough a few times and then cover with plastic wrap.
  6. Let rise for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  8. On a parchment paper lined pizza stone, turn out the dough and shape into a pizza.
  9. Once it is patted out, brush with olive oil on the edge of the crust.
  10. Bake for 12 minutes.
  11. Remove and add sauce and toppings. Place back into the oven and finish baking (approximately 7-9 minutes). If you like your cheese bubbly on top, you can finish the process by broiling for a couple of minutes. Be sure to keep your eye on it so your crust doesn't burn.
  12. Slice and enjoy!

 

Not gluten-free? I’ve got you covered with this easy Bread Machine Pizza Dough! You can also use my pizza sauce recipe (all the way at the bottom of the post!) for both types of pizzas.

I can’t wait to hear what you think of this recipe and hope it is as big of a hit at your house as it has been at our home!

This post contains affiliate links.

 

 

 

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March Intention: No-Spend Challenge

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

march no spend challenge

I feel like it is January 1st instead of March 1st with all this excitement about setting monthly intentions. For March, I have challenged myself to a no-spend challenge. I had shared about no-spend challenges in my book and in an article on our site,  but was inspired again when I read (again) this transformation article from my dear friend, Shanna. I happened to be on Facebook when she shared that she was planning to tackle another challenge recently and I love hearing that this had become a part of her yearly routines.

You know how your spending habits increase as your salary increases? Our expenses have definitely expanded, since we worry less about money, and I know that we could be saving so much more.

As soon as I shared my no-spend challenge with my family, the first thing my daughter said was, “Does that mean you won’t buy us any groceries?”

Yeah, I should probably review what a “no-spend” month looks like.

no spend challenge

What Spending is Allowed?

Gas

Groceries (I am also going to be looking with a critical eye at how much we have been spending in this category because I, honestly, haven’t been very good about paying attention)

Normal Bills & Memberships (including normal business expenses)

My hubby’s birthday meal (I am not going to be a Scrooge if he wants to go out)

What Do I Plan to Do Differently This Month?

No dining out (OUCH- that should save A LOT)

Use up what is in our freezer and pantry- we have a lot of ingredients that I haven’t been putting to work

Be MORE thoughtful about my grocery purchases and get back to ALDI

Go over our current spending and see where we can cut corners

Get back to using Mint to track what’s happening in our accounts

Use the memberships I have (gym, Netflix, Hulu, CycleCast, Spotify, Scribd, & MoviePass) and REALLY analyze if these are being used enough to justify the monthly expenses

Work on my taxes- we can’t leave for Spring Break until this is in order

NOT make frivolous purchases for Spring Break & Easter

NO Kindle deal buying- I do love a cheap book purchase

I am really looking forward to sharing my results from this financial fast and and I’m excited to see how much we can save this month. It will be a great way to reset this year for our family. If you want to follow our adventures, you can catch me on Instagram documenting through their Instagram Story feature and a little on my feed too.

I am also journaling my experience to share with you at the end of the month. Stay tuned for my reflections on this one.

Would you like to join me this month? Leave a comment below (because I can’t pay for a link list subscription- hahaha!)

This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo

 

 

7 Things I’ve Learned That Save Us Serious Money

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Amy Clark

Hey, hey! Today is my big 4-0 and I keep wondering how I got to this milestone so quickly. In many ways, I wonder when I will feel like an adult. In other ways, I can see how much better I feel in my own skin and the wisdom that has been gained, especially in this last decade of years.

Before I launch into my list, I’d love to share that I am doing a birthday fundraiser on Facebook. I’m asking for donations to Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation. The diagnosis of myself and my children has made the research from this organization an important one for us. I am donating this occasion in hopes that more funding can help provide those needed answers we are in search of.

If you have a buck or two to spare, I’d be thrilled to share this with the Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation

In honor of this day, I wanted to share 7 things that I’ve learned that save us some serious money. As we continue to embrace our simplified path, I can see how being open to learning new skills and continuing to research new strategies has really paid off for us. As I get older, I find more and more joy in the life we have chosen and I’d love to share some of my favorite strategies today. 

birthday reflections

7 Things I’ve Learned That Save Us Serious Money

Restaurant-Style-Steak-Recipe-3

I Nailed a Restaurant-Worthy Steak

Steak dinners and fancy date nights were hard on our budget and learning to master making a perfectly restaurant-worthy steak has saved our family oodles of money. I’m not pro enough that I can touch it and distinguish its degree of doneness, but I do know how to work my digital meat thermometer like a boss and that’s almost the same thing. Our cast iron skillet (another frugal and wise investment) really sears our steaks so beautifully and the butter finish is a decadent treat.

Instead of paying over a hundred dollars for a filet dinner out, my hubby and I take trips to the supermarket and purchase a couple of steaks and a bottle of wine for less than the price of one meal at a restaurant. This recipe has been a go-to for our dates and for special occasions when we are celebrating our kids. It takes about ten minutes to pull this off (with a little roasted asparagus on the side) and everyone gets so excited about this meal.

My secret?

Loads of Kosher Salt, baby, and a screaming hot pan.

Let me know if you can give this technique a spin in your kitchen!

flipster

I Gave Up My Magazine Subscriptions

Magazines have been a weakness of mine and discovering our library has the Flipster app has made me SO incredibly happy this year. Basically, you can get a digital subscription to just about every magazine, check them out digitally, and read your magazines on your tablet or phone.

The best part has been being able to take screenshots of recipes and ideas for myself and as inspiration for our site as I page through them (soooo handy!!)

So far the only catch has been the length of time that you are allowed to check them out (it varies per magazine), but usually I can plow through one in a day and it costs ZERO bucks.

brunch

I Brunch Like a Boss…At Home

Brunch used to be a big weakness for me, but we rarely go out to brunch anymore now that I finally have a few smart brunch recipes up my sleeve.

I call this year the year of the egg because mastering a few techniques was on my cooking bucket list. The omelette, for example, was something that I just couldn’t get the hang of. It usually ended up into messy scrambled eggs over here.

brunch

Not anymore though.

Here’s a little picture proof because I know you don’t believe me!

I watched a YouTube video tutorial, found the perfect skillet for the job, and discovered how awesome coconut oil is for creating a nonstick surface for my omelette making. This has become a go-to for busy nights when I don’t feel like making dinner and is the new tried-and-true for a satisfying weekend brunch at home. It’s also a fantastic way to use up the odds and ends in your refrigerator.

If we aren’t in the mood for an omelette, this Chicken Pesto Frittata, Sausage & Vegetable Frittata, Gluten-Free Overnight Waffles, or these Light & Fluffy Pumpkin Pancakes (I just sub with this flour now to make them gluten-free) are all in our brunch rotation.  Don’t forget this diy drink mix recipe for a delicious drink (with or without alcohol!)

Movie Pass

I Go to the Movies All the Time For Cheap-As-Heck

I’m wondering how long this offer will last, but this girl got on the Movie Pass train really early and it has been a highlight of the year. A membership is $9.95 a month and you can see a movie EVERY SINGLE DAY of the month at a REAL theater (should you so choose!) by only paying the membership fee.

If you haven’t heard of it, I’ll try to explain it as briefly as I can. You sign up, they mail a card that looks like a debit card (can take awhile, fyi!), you download the app, head to your theater to check-in on the app, and it says something like, “enjoy the show!” When you head to the counter, you just use the pass instead of your debit card and that’s it.

Obviously, the big catch is being at the theater to check-in and the availability of seats. I aim for the weird times (like 1 PM in the afternoon) and don’t see the movies as soon as they come out. You also can’t see 3D flicks, but that’s NBD because I’m not into action films.

My goal this year is to start feeling brave enough to go to movies ALONE since my work schedule is so quirky.

It is accepted all the theaters near me and I bribed my sister and neighbor to get a pass too so we could have movie dates together for cheap-as-heck.

Capsule Wardrobe

Honey, I Really Did Shrink My Wardrobe

If you would have told me five years ago that I would embrace a minimalist wardrobe, I would have laughed until I cried. Seriously, I was a dedicated fashionista that loved a good deal. What I’ve learned though is that shrinking my wardrobe has brought me a lot of peace and calmness to my mornings. It feels so good to have everything working together and to look in my closet and have it make absolute sense.

Was this hard? Absolutely!

Was it worth it? Absolutely!

One of my biggest inspirations is this lady and her beautiful book just might be the ticket for you to whittle down your wardrobe (and a few other things!) in your life this year.

I have been documenting my journey on the blog and you can see where I started and where I’m at now over here.

My one smart investment has been Rent the Runway for special occasions. This girl isn’t into one-trick-ponies anymore so I enjoyed their Unlimited services for the holidays and it was a blast, without taking up a lot of closet space as a commitment.

blue-apron

I Learned to Cook New Things For My People

If you think bloggers don’t get into meal plan ruts, you are quite mistaken. I think burnout happens a lot with this job and we often ended up repeating the same meals over and over again so we don’t have to invent one more thing for the day. I got a subscription for the summer to Blue Apron and it has widened my perspective on so many things and brought me a ton of joy.

How does spending money on a meal subscription service pay off, right? I know! I didn’t think it was a good use of money either.

I *may* have made fun of people who did these.

The thing is,  it REALLY broadened my perspective on fruits and vegetables we had been neglecting at the grocery store and taught me some valuable cooking techniques that I would have NEVER tried or figured out on my own.

Blue Apron

The night that my kids and hubby were raving about eggplant about knocked me out of my chair. I was like, “WE ARE DOING THIS FOREVER.”

The biggest lesson I learned is how invaluable high heat is for roasting our veggies. I am now cranking my stove up to 450 degrees to roast everything and it has made everything taste like it is roasted and not steamed.

We have taken a break until next summer on this subscription so that I have the time and slowed down day that I need to get my most enjoyment out of this, but I enjoyed almost every minute of it.

Tackling the challenge that I’m showing you, in the picture above, nearly did me in while they were doing the Master Chef challenges promo for their customers to try at home. This TEAM challenge was pulled off by ONE sweaty mom, but was declared the best meal of the bunch.

I’m not sure if that was true or everyone felt sorry for me after I tackled a TEAM challenge SOLO. I did that challenge though, LIKE A BOSS.

By the way, if you use this link, it should give you $30 off your first box and you can pick all the quick meals so you don’t look crazy like me.

It is almost like it’s your birthday too, amiright?

family

I had coffee with a friend and she shared such a valuable piece of wisdom with me that I wanted to share it with YOU too, as I wrap up my birthday post today. She said that 40 is where you are easing into the second half of your life and you realize who and what is important as you move into this second phase of your life. Who wants to spend the second half of their life keeping up with the Joneses, investing time into shallow relationships, making small talk, and living a life of overcommitment?

Nope, not this girl.

I want all the good stuff- the deep and the meaningful stuff. I want to savor these moments with my kids. I want to be present in this lucky partnership I have with my hubby. I want my friendships to be real and not flighty. I want to continue to give myself grace that life has looked differently, in many sobering ways, but I still have the ability to transform lives by sharing our story. I want to allow people in to see the cracks and brokenness, both online and offline. I want to work on my commitment to believe in God’s plan and timing… even though it looks nothing like the timeline I’ve drawn up.

My word this year is MINDFUL- mindful of my time, mindful of my words, mindful in my role as a mom and wife, mindful of where I invest my time (in my personal life AND business), mindful of our money, and mindfully being my authentic self.

I hope you’ll stick around because having you here has given me purpose in my steps MANY, MANY days!

Can you celebrate with me and share what’s one way you have learned to save your family money or a fun tip that has changed a routine? It would be a fantastic present today!

This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo 

 

DIY Breakfast Caddy

Monday, June 19th, 2017

DIY Breakfast Caddy for Car from MomAdvice.com

This blog was sponsored by Florida Department of Citrus. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

Well, hello there! I hope your summer is off to a lovely start! We are trying to soak in as many carefree and unscheduled days as we can, but it is funny how life gets in the way of this. This week we tackled doctor’s appointments, the dentist, running a kid back and forth to a sleepover, and we are signing up for a couple of fun summer programs and camps that are happening around town.

All of that leads to busy mornings so today I am partnering with  Florida Department of Citrus to show you how to enjoy your breakfast on-the-go, complete with a glass of Florida Orange Juice! We are sharing a breakfast caddy idea that you can assemble on the weekends to get your kids off to a great start, no matter what is on the to-do list!

I will admit, I got the inspiration for this from Pinterest where there were numerous pins of fast food meals in totes to make it easier for kids to eat their meals. I wanted to translate that idea into a healthy one that is perfect for busy mornings.

Supplies Needed

Lightweight Plastic Shower Caddy (exact, similar, similar)

Small Plastic Containers or Jars for Food Assembly

Drink Holder

Water Bottle

Food Supplies (as listed below)

DIY Breakfast Caddy for Car from MomAdvice.com

diy-breakfast-caddy-for-car-4

Directions for a DIY Breakfast Caddy

The beauty in this project is that you can fill your tote with whatever you think will help fuel your kids that day.  I can’t stress enough how much I LOVE these make-ahead burritos because they save me on many busy mornings in our house. Once heated, they can be wrapped in tin foil to keep them warm. Of course, if burritos aren’t your thing, a breakfast sandwich made on an English Muffin,  peanut butter on rice cakes (a favorite in our gluten-free home), or even a slice of frittata (try this one, or this one) can be other great options for the main course.

For fruit, I follow the rule that it must be in season and on sale that week to make it in our produce drawer. Today’s fruit selection are blueberries and strawberries in mason jars, but grapes, bananas, cantaloupe, or watermelon also make great options. You could also do a package of easy-to-eat veggies like baby carrots, celery sticks, or red & green peppers if you struggle to get your kiddos to eat fruit.

DIY Breakfast Caddy for the Car from MomAdvice.com

Of course, a surefire way to get your kiddo’s to consume fruit is a little juice, isn’t it? Did you know that an 8 oz. glass of 100% orange juice counts as one of your daily recommended servings of fruit? Pretty cool! Not only that, Florida Orange Juice provides 5 amazing nutrients in every glass: Taste, Vitamin C, Folate, Potassium and No Added Sugar.

Since mornings can be long in the car, I added toasted edamame in a small container for munching before or after our morning activities. You could also do nuts like almonds or cashews to add a healthy crunch to round out the meal or as a great in-between snack once hunger strikes again. You just know it will!

Oh, and don’t forget the water! It has been a scorcher out there so we are trying our best to stay hydrated. It’s also so nice to have a water bottle in case we forget it for the next thing on the agenda.

DIY Breakfast Caddy for the Car from MomAdvice.com

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diy-breakfast-caddy-for-car-7

diy-breakfast-caddy-for-car-9

diy-breakfast-caddy-for-car-10

Wouldn’t this be so great for your next family trip too? I have a feeling that our mornings would start out a lot better on trip days if I had a few of these items prepped and ready to go in my fridge for our next adventure.

Well, we are all packed up and off to our next thing probably. I just want time to s-l-o-w down, but I blink and another summer is over. Do you feel that way too?

I hope this idea can be one you can use to fuel the family and maybe squeeze in a good chat with your kids while they are enjoying their breakfast on-the-go. I have, honestly, had some of my best talks with them in the rearview mirror. It is one of those ways that I have found it helps to keep an open dialogue between us as we navigate these new waters of being teens and tweens.

Thank you so much to Florida Department of Citrus for letting us share our fun little diy breakfast caddy with you. We hope you find this idea inspiring.

Cheers, mama, to surviving another summer!

PS- I hope that you made some room for some FLOJ in that mimosa over there!!

Love this idea? Be sure to visit these fun posts too!

Funny Faces Printables

Gluten-Free Orange Creamsicle Pancakes

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet

Follow the rules below to enter to win a HUGE prize pack from Florida Department of Citrus today!! Follow the rules in the widget below- good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DIY Breakfast Caddy for Car from MomAdvice.com

This blog was sponsored by Florida Department of Citrus. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

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The Life-Changing Device I Found For My Chronic Pain

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Quell for Ehlers Danlos

It is hard to explain what a day looks like with chronic pain, but I will do my best to try. Imagine that you are in a quiet and pleasant room and you begin to hear the buzzing of a fly. You are trying to read a book, but all you can hear is this soft buzz and it is distracting you from this beautiful story. You try to deal with it, but can’t locate where the heck it went and it continues to buzz all day long.

You try a variety of homeopathic methods of ridding yourself of the fly, but it has found its way in somewhere and it won’t go away.

You go about your day and the fly is still buzzing along while you are trying to concentrate on your job. Instead of focusing and producing good work, you find yourself on Google trying to find a solution AGAIN.

If you could just find the source, you could swat it out of your life.

You will try anything at this point.

Tonight you are supposed to have friends over and you have this lovely evening built up in your mind, but you are afraid that they will notice the fly too. Why can’t you just have one normal evening without this annoyance? You enjoy your company so much so the buzzing deadens a bit, but that fly is still in the room.

You go to bed and it is now it has followed you to your bedroom. You lay there tossing and turning and praying for this thing to get the hell out of your life, but you wake up and guess what?

That jerk is still there.

Yeah, chronic pain is like that annoying fly that will never leave.

In an answer to many a prayer though, I finally have found relief and a solution that I can live with. You see, I was at the end of the interwebz when I happened upon a device called Quell that has been transformative for my day-to-day existence and I am SO excited to share about it with you.

Amy Allen Clark

Before I begin sharing my story,  I should probably let you know a few things (especially if you are new here!):

1. I am in no way affiliated with this company at the time I am writing this. That means I purchased this product with my own money and all of these thoughts are my own personal experience with it. As always, I write from an authentic place, but I think it is important to share that today especially because most of the reviews that I read were from bloggers that were given the device by the company. I will say since I love the product so much, I’d love to reach out for their ambassadorship to see what new features they decide to test launch so I could be a part of that process as they develop it. Fingers crossed on that!

2. I am not a doctor and I don’t even play one on television! You guys, bloggers are awesome, but doctors are a better source for medical information. If you are considering using this device than please discuss this with a medical professional for your own personal pain relief needs.

3. My chronic pain is linked to a condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Type 3. Due to my joints being overly flexible, it causes a great deal of pain and discomfort since the joints  are loose and unstable. This means they are prone to frequent dislocations and/or subluxations and that I don’t always have a normal range of motion since my joints are hyperextensible and can move beyond those normal ranges. If you want to learn more about my diagnosis, I shared about it over here.

4. I am 39 (!!!) and was relatively healthy before diagnosis last year.  I also had tried EVERYTHING including OTC meds, Vicodin, steroids, and prescription anti-inflammatories all with little success. I also tried homeopathic things with mild relief, particularly from CBD oil, massage, and acupuncture. Most options were expensive as were the co-pays for all these doctor visits and fancy massages.

Let’s also note, I was probably doing a bit of damage to my bones and organs to be taking so much medication and I was getting less relief on the lower dosages that were prescribed.

Quell Pain Relief Device Review

Basically, I was at the end of my pain rope when I went searching on Google for pain relief that wouldn’t involve drugs. Thanks to my most recent joint issues, I was down to typing with just my middle finger because all my other fingers hurt too much. My elbow pain also had increased to an uncomfortable level so sitting at my desk was unbearable. I even had to order a device to hold my books for me because it hurt so bad.

It was a late night search (pounded out with that poor middle finger)  that lead me to a pain relieving device called Quell.

Specifically, I watched this video on YouTube and thought maybe this device might be able to help me too. Although the person in this video is dealing with different issues, she is young and dealing with widespread pain throughout her body that causes joint pain.

I am lucky to know several doctors and nurses (including my incredible sister!) and asked their opinion and if this device might be worth a try. The consensus was…it could work or not. Basically, there was no guarantee it would help with MY pain or how my body would respond to this type of pain relief. The company even shares that it has helped 81% of people manage their pain and 67% reported a reduction in pain medication use. That means it doesn’t work for everyone.

I just knew with my luck, I’d be the one that it didn’t help with. 

I was so very wrong. 

Fifteen minutes after I slipped this device on my leg, my pain levels went from an 9 to a 3. Was it because I wanted it to work so bad or was it real? After a few weeks of wearing it, I am telling you it is real and it has been life-altering.

I am sitting here typing with all my fingers while this little gadget is doing pain therapy and I haven’t taken any meds since I got it.

I am in awe of this technology and how much it has changed my day.

I want to dive deep for those of you that are struggling with pain and explain what Quell is, how I am using it, and a few hurdles I have had with the device.

 

Quell Review

What is Quell?

Quell is a newer technology, a wearable intensive nerve stimulation device, that is clinically proven to help manage chronic pain. It is 100% drug free, doctor recommended, and FDA cleared for 24/7 use, during the day while active and at night while sleeping, so you can get relief when and where you need it.

This device is worn just below the knee and activated by simply clicking a button. This position (on the calf)  is where a lot of the sensory nerves are located so the pain can be blocked at the spinal cord, which helps you feel widespread relief from your pain and not just relief in a specific part of your body.  These sensory nerves send neural pulses to your brain that then trigger a natural response that blocks pain signals, leading to widespread pain relief for many people.

The company refers to it its intuitive abilities as “OptiTherapy” technology that can automatically adjust therapy and dose to ensure you receive optimal pain relief.

The best part is that you can start and stop therapy sessions, as well as adjust the intensity of therapy from the Quell app on your smartphone (app works for both iOS and Android). You can also review therapy and sleep trends over time. Advanced sleep insights allow you to monitor 8 important dimensions of sleep such as sleep quality and time asleep as well as your body movement and position during the night, giving you even more insight into your chronic pain management.

If you aren’t a smartphone user, they also have ways that you can manage your device just from the button on the side with instructions on that too.

What does the Quell App Look Like & What Does It Tell You?

Let’s take a peek at a few things I took a screenshot of from the app on my phone…

Quell Review

Here is a screenshot of a session that I was in the middle of when I was grocery shopping. I have my settings set so I can visually see the level of intensity instead of just a plus or minus for intensity.

Going along the bottom of the screen, the far left is the battery life. The battery has lasted four days for me before I had to plug it in for a charge. It is easy to do and takes a couple of hours to fully charge with a cord, kind of like your phone!

The person icon is telling me that I have completed five sessions that day. Most days I am averaging about seven sessions. The sessions are for one hour on and then one hour off. They say that the positive effects of the therapy usually carries over for about 40 minutes so there are about 20 minutes where I start to feel like crap. Every single time, I look and it says 20 minutes ON THE DOT. It’s manageable though because I know relief is coming in 20 more minutes.

The bandage icon is telling my pain levels. It also has lots of other things you can input in the tracking screen that can help you analyze the good and the bad days. On this day, I was at a level one so that’s pretty incredible for someone who has been between a 7-9 on a pain skill.

The last icon is how many more days I have on the electrode I am using. We will talk about that a little later because that is one thing you do have to maintain.

 

Quell Review

 

Here is that tracking screen I was telling you about. I can look at this and tell you why my levels were this way.

Thursday I drank too much wine with my husband (hahaha!) so I slept like crap. We also had a lot of family stuff going on that day. The next day was my daughter’s dance recital which was beautiful, but tiring. Sunday was MY DAY (yay for Mother’s Day!) so I took a nap and felt awesome because I did nothing. Monday was back to the grind and another family thing came up so I was tired.

This documentation tells me 1) stop drinking so much wine 2) that would have been a hard week for any mom 3) Every day should be Mother’s Day.

Quell Review

You can customize it a lot and one of the things you can do is put it on Sleep Mode and set it up to the intensity levels you need. I tried sleeping with it and it drove me crazy since I sleep on both sides and I found the device to be too bulky for sleeping. The analytics didn’t really tell me enough or help my quality of sleep enough to wear it so I slip it off at night and this is when I can charge it if needed.

What Is the Cost of Quell and Is It Covered By Insurance?

This device is not covered by insurance. The starter kit comes with everything you need for one month and costs $249. The electrodes last for two weeks each and come with a reusable liner that you can also jot down the date of when you started to use the liner so you know how many days, particularly if you aren’t using the app. I have found the durability on these to be great, BUT I am not sleeping in mine and I also have adjusted my wardrobe a bit to accommodate the device.

I would imagine if you sleep in it, the electrodes might pull a bit and the same would be the case in a tight pair of skinny jeans so to help these last the full two weeks, I choose to do neither.

It is important to register your device because the company does offer a sixty day return policy. That means if you discover this device does not work for you, you can contact customer service for a refund. Please don’t send your requests to me, I cannot help you!

Who Can This Device Help?

They clearly state that it will not help migraine sufferers so I am sorry if that is the type of pain challenge you are dealing with. On the site it says it helps with chronic nerve pain, chronic joint pain, leg and foot pain, lower back pain, and widespread pain for people like me!

dance-recital

What Are the Negatives With This Device?

Well, as streamlined as it is, for a girl who lives in skinny jeans and short a-line dresses this has been a bit of an adjustment. As you can see, it is peeking out on the right of my leg in our family photo. Yes, this is a complete vanity thing, but that’s also a dose of honesty. I ended up buying a couple of midi skirts and am looking at pants a little differently to accommodate the side bulk of this device.  I know at some point I will feel more confident with wearing it out, I just need to get used to it.

You do need to move the device around and the app will let you know that it is “time to air out,” those electrodes.  I did skip it on the recital day and I got a little rashy under those spots where the electrodes were. It’s important to heed their advice on that to avoid a skin reaction.

It has a light-up display that I didn’t realize you could disable that flashes as a session is happening. At my daughter’s recital, it looked like a disco globe going off, under my dress, when the stage went dark. Now that I know I can turn off that display, I’ll feel a little better about going to the movies- ha!

I wish there were no maintenance things to buy, but the electrodes must be replaced every two weeks. Broken down the maintenance cost is roughly over $7 a week and I know I was paying a lot more than that and would have continued to pay more to treat the pain with doctor visits and medications.

This does not cure the pain, it just breaks the pain cycle so you your body can rest and do what it needs to do for the day. It doesn’t mean that I am healed, but it means that I can function. I don’t want to give anyone any false hope that this will rid you of what is ailing you, it just helps you manage and reduce the pain in a drug-free way.

Quell for Ehlers Danlos

What Are the Positives With This Device?

I have broken the cycle of pain. This weekend I sat through a beautiful graduation, watched with tears in my eyes as my daughter danced, and was present for a family member when they had surgery. I couldn’t have done that if I was still at that level of pain I was in.

Going off medication is rough. I felt blue and foggy before and now I feel like me again.

I’m sleeping better.

I am clear-headed and present again in my daily life with my family.

I feel like I can manage this again.

I am grateful.

Technology, you can be a beautiful thing sometimes!

I don’t know if this will help you, but I pray that if you are dealing with chronic pain that you can find the right answer for YOU.

Please feel free to ask me any questions and I will try to answer them for you!

Please note, this does contain affiliate links that help maintain our site. Thank you so much! 

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Fabric Flower Wreath for Spring

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Fabric Flower Wreath for Spring from MomAdvice.com

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

You will rarely come to my house and not find a wreath on the door, but I must admit that my DIY wreaths (after MANY years of use) are looking a little shabby. Working with Waverly Inspirations was just the push I needed this month to spruce up my front door. This fabric flower wreath tutorial is just what you need to get your door ready for spring. If you haven’t made fabric flowers before, I’ve got you covered with a step-by-step picture tutorial.

I am a big fan of recycling and reusing my craft materials so I cut all of the materials off this DIY yarn wreath and reinvented it into a spring wreath. Six years ago I purchased that straw wreath for $4 and it is STILL going strong.

Pretty amazing!

Also, if you have ever priced out purchasing a wreath, you know how much you are saving by making your own for your front door.

Today I wanted to put some of their fresh spring fabric to work to wrap and decorate our wreath. Although I will be doing these fabric flowers with a needle and thread, they can also just as easily be pulled together with a little hot glue. The best part? This is a craft you can do while getting in a good Netflix binge.

This craft was cranked out with a little American Crime Story. PS- LOVING it.

Fabric Flower Wreath for Spring from MomAdvice.com

 

Supplies Needed (all of these supplies can be found at Walmart!)

1/2 yard of two (or more!) Waverly Inspirations Fabric in coordinating patterns

Straw Wreath (whichever size fits your door the best!)- leaving the plastic intact on the wreath to cut down on the mess.

Needle and strong thread

1 piece of cardstock and a circular object (I used an oatmeal canister) to create your flower template

Straight Pins

Fabric Rotary Cutter (or you can use scissors)

Rotary Mat

Pinking Shears

How to Make a Spring Fabric Flower Wreath

Fabric Flower Wreath for Spring from MomAdvice.com

1. Begin by cutting fabric into 1 1/2″ strips with scissors or a rotary cutter. Wrap the fabric around the wreath, securing with straight pins. Once you come to the end of a strip, simply overlap with the next strip to try to camouflage those pins. Repeat this until the entire wreath is covered and set this aside.

How to Make Fabric Flowers from MomAdvice.com

2. Using a round object in your home for a template, trace a circle on cardstock to create your template for your fabric. The larger the diameter of the item, the larger your flower so size it according to your wreath or how dramatic you want to go!

3. With pinking shears, cut 9 fabric circles for each fabric flower you will be making. I made five of these flowers (that means 45 cut circles) for my wreath. In floral design, it is always advised to go with an odd number to create a good design for your project so I stuck to the odd number of 5.

4. With one fabric circle as a base, begin creating the petals for your flower by folding a circle in half and then in half again (it will look like a little triangle)  and aligning it to the fabric circle. Using your needle and thread (or a glue gun) secure this in place with a stitch. Repeat all the way around the flower for the base of these petals.

How to Make Fabric Flowers from MomAdvice.com

5. Layer another layer of petals on top and finish with the last one being in the center and swirled, as it would in a rose. Tie off and cut the end of your thread to finish these. Using a straight pin, pin your flower into place and then repeat with the rest of the flowers.

Fabric Flower Wreath for Spring from MomAdvice.com

Fabric Flower Wreath for Spring from MomAdvice.com

Fabric Flower Wreath for Spring from MomAdvice.com

You guys! I’m in LOVE! This is such a fun pop of color on my door, cost practically nothing, and I can switch out materials with the seasons if I get bored. I hope you love it as much as I do and feel inspired to make a wreath of your own.

My door is awfully happy this month!

Fun Wreath Ideas from MomAdvice.com

Want to try some other DIY wreaths? Check out these tutorials for decking your door!

diy peep wreath

easy burlap wreath tutorial

how to make a yarn pom pom wreath 

handmade autumn burlap wreath

fabric wreath with matching garland

yarn wreath for all seasons (fun felt flower tutorial on that one!)

How about more craft inspiration from Waverly? Try these!

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions

Fabric Wreath & Matching Garland

Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints

DIY No-Sew Hand Warmers

DIY Ottoman Serving Tray

15-Minute Scrappy Fabric Trees

Kid Craft: Easy Technique for Painting Gift Wrap

DIY Phone Charging Station

DIY Roll-Up Jigsaw Puzzle Mat

Fabric Flower Wreath for Spring from MomAdvice.com

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

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Who is the CFO in Your Household?

Monday, February 6th, 2017

household-cfo

This post was created in partnership with Chase. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

The entrance of a new year often comes with a renewed focus towards financial goals and a quiet respite after all the holiday spending. Perhaps, you are dreaming of the same thing as me, to be a wiser spender and tracker of funds.

I am curious, as a busy mom, who holds the CFO reigns in your household and if you have found this role has evolved for your family over the years?

My husband and I have been married for sixteen years and I have always had the CFO duties in our house.

There are times where I am nailing it as a diligent tracker, an oh-no-you-didn’t-charge-me-that-much customer service caller, and a fierce barterer on rates.

As our life has gotten busier though, I am ashamed at how poorly I have been keeping up this role on top of every other hat I’m wearing.

I find myself, a negligent CFO who needs to get her ducks back in a row.

It’s not that I lack confidence with money; it is that I often feel like I lack time.

Chase Mastery recently ran a study called the, “Chase Generational Money Talks Study,” to see how this evolution of CFO has shifted through the generations. Much like me, they discovered that 78% of Millennial women agree they are able to make good financial decisions, even if they are new to them, compared to 71% of Gen X and 67% of the Boomer generation.

My Millennial confidence is great, but how can I implement better follow through for my family this year?

365-4

This year, as our Household CFO, I would like to focus on four goals with our finances!

Track My Money Better

I can admit that my first instinct is to grab my phone and do a little scrolling. If that instinct is already there, wouldn’t it be great to replace my social media time with a quick analysis of our family finances?

I’m a big fan of Mint as it does a really great job of tracking and helping you visualizes where your money is going, but I had fallen off the bandwagon with my daily tracking.

I am a nerd when it comes to pie charts and graphs so why not geek out a little bit over my morning coffee again? I am hoping this tool can help me to be a better monitor of our funds.

Removing Those Slow Leaks

It is so easy to get caught up in monthly memberships to things from our music to our television watching to our digital consumption to the gym memberships.

I really want to revisit where these slow leaks are happening and be serious about canceling the memberships to things we are not using. We can ALWAYS come back to these subscriptions, should we find we really miss them, but I’m wondering how many of these things we would truly miss.

Embracing No-Spend Weekends

I don’t have a lot of down time during the week, but I do on the weekends. What inevitably happens is that those periods of laziness often gets filled with online shopping, dining out, and boredom busting activities.

I want to start replacing those impulses with commitments to not spend on the weekend.  Making dinners together, playing board games, watching documentaries, and really enjoying my kids without spending money needs to be my new jam.

Talking About Our Financial Goals

The “Chase Generational Money Talks Study,” shared that couples often have conflicts regarding their household finances. Three-quarters of Millennials and GenXers have conflicts with their spouses over money, compared to 62% of Baby Boomers, the study found.

Although I believe the CFO roles have changed, I feel like conflict about money is something that has carried on for generations.

I’ve been lucky that we don’t have conflicts about money, but I can remember the difficulties and struggles when we were sinking in $13,000 of debt and how awful it felt to feel our financial future slipping away.

I want to always have an open dialogue with my spouse and I think we need to start talking about our retirement goals and figuring out what we can do now to prepare for our future.

To learn more about the Generational Money Talks series, you can watch it here:

A huge thank you to Chase for sponsoring this conversation today and spurring a much-needed conversation in our own home about our financial future!

Tell me, who holds the CFO reigns in your household and has this role evolved at all for your family? I’d love to hear!

This post was created in partnership with Chase. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

 

Our Hamilton Chicago Family Review and Experience

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Our Hamilton Chicago Family Review and Experience

It’s 4:30 in the morning and I just can’t sleep. I can admit that I am still riding on quite the high after returning last night from a, TRULY, unforgettable weekend with my family. For those of you that follow me on the interwebz, you already know why it was so exciting, but if you are just catching up, I wanted to share with you the surprise getaway I pulled off to see Hamilton in Chicago with my kids. So many people have been messaging me and asking us questions about our experience that I thought I would share it with you so that others could replicate all the fun that we had!

How We Caught the Hamilton Bug

We caught the Hamilton bug a little later than most of my friends, but when we caught it,  we we fell fast and hard for Hamilton. During a marathon on a puzzle, over our Fall break, we started listening to the soundtrack with our kids. As soon as it finished, they begged to listen to it all over again…and again…and again. It happened to be around the time of the PBS documentary, so we curled up on a couch with them and watched that too. As we drove home from our holiday (blasting Hamilton at full volume), we asked the kids IF (and this was a big IF) we could get tickets to Hamilton, would they be interested in doing this for Christmas. Our family is BIG on experiences and not big on crap in our house so this was, of course, a welcome and familiar idea for our kids.  In fact, we have done a couple of our very own Choose Your Own Adventure Christmas gifts that have been an incredible way to give the gift of experience to our children.

We did not talk about it again with them and pretended like this would never happen in a million years. In fact, they did not know until the morning we left where we were even headed, not only because we wanted to surprise them, but because it didn’t even feel real to us.

hamilton

How Did We Get Tickets!?!

We are known for being frugal so thinking about buying tickets when balcony seats are going for $600 (or more!) seemed way out of our comfort zone for pricing. This month was a crazy month for us though on the site thanks to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday content I had written. We doubled our ad revenue this past month, thanks to that burst in traffic, and we had more sales than we have ever had through the site, sometimes in just a single day!  Each time you make a purchase, we make a small commision off your purchases.  This passive revenue is nothing I ever bank on, it is always just a really happy surprise.

Basically, THANK YOU!

Just in case, I glossed over the whole the site did great stuff, this was the most work I have ever put into it this season. I actually went four days without sleep or a shower, we ate cereal for a week so I could hang out online tracking stuff, and I was pretty awful to everyone around me.

I like to live in a truthful place.

In the end, we pretended like that extra money did not exist and set that amount aside to give our family an experience of a lifetime. It was money that we did not bank upon so it made that a wee bit easier to spend.

 

Privatebank Theater Seating

Just because you have the money though doesn’t make it easier to spend especially if you are unfamiliar with a theater or its seating. PrivateBank Theater  (formerly Bank of America Theatre- VERY CONFUSING!) has some really good seats and some REALLY terrible seats.  My worst fear is to spend a ridiculous amount of money only to find that we can’t see a thing when we got there.

I spent a month scoping out tickets, but also asked for advice from a friend who frequently buys concert tickets and is just a guru in general on ticket buying. His advice was to wait until the last possible minute to insure the best deal on the tickets.

We are a two hour drive away from Chicago so we knew we could do that.

 

vivd-seats-2

After searching on a million sites, we ended up going with VividSeats for two reasons. The first reason was that they actually had the lowest priced tickets after hunting all of the other usual suspect sites. The second was that they offered a 100% buyer guarantee on those seats and it felt less risky than doing something like buying them on eBay.

I used the site,  A View From My Seat to help us figure out if our seats would be good or not. This is a great tool for ANY event you are going to and can help determine if your tickets are a good value or not. Basically, people take a quick phone shot from their seat and tell you whether it is a good one or not. This was the shot that I found from the tickets we were looking at which said, “Limited View.” Because the view was limited, it lowered the value on the tickets and gave us seats in Orchestra Row F for $300 each which ended up being less than the nosebleed seats. Spoiler alert:  the seats were fantastic and better than we could hope for! More on that later…

hamilton-day

Was the process smooth? No, thanks to the seller we bought them from. Waiting until last minute yielded great prices and a panic attack until they arrived. I logged in to check that the tickets had been sent out and Wednesday evening they still had not been sent out for us to leave on Saturday morning. I called VividSeats where I talked to a real-life person who put me on hold, called the seller on another line, and discovered he had not sent them out like he was supposed to. We made alternate back-up arrangements to have them shipped directly to our hotel and she assured me that I would be getting my tickets as soon as possible.

The tickets were overnighted and arrived on my doorstep at 4:30 PM the night before we left. I was so thankful to have them in my hands and practically kissed the delivery man who looked bewildered at the unshowered woman in her pajamas having a near meltdown at the front door. I really appreciated that VividSeats was quick to action and that they made sure that they honored their buyer guarantee to have them to us before our event.

We woke them in the morning and I think they were just stunned. I had packed their bags for them and we were a little disappointed they weren’t losing it about all of this. It wasn’t until we pulled up to the hotel that they were BESIDE THEMSELVES. Much like us, seeing is believing!
thewit chicago

thewit chicago

Where Did We Stay for Hamilton Chicago?

This was our first overnight with our kids in Chicago, but not my own first overnight there. When I did a girl’s trip, one of the gals arranged our stay at theWit. We got the room for a steal and had a really enjoyable stay so it seemed like a great place to try again. The best part is that it was within walking distance of everything so after I booked our tickets, I booked a stay again at theWit. Definitely check for deals through sites like Booking.com, Hotels.com, or TripAdvisor for scoring a really good rate.

Staying for a girl’s trip is a lot different than staying somewhere with your kids though. I was shocked when the concierge emailed me and said that he saw were coming with our children and wanted to be available to me to answer any questions. We knew our kids would love getting Chicago pizza so I emailed a request for a nearby option for gluten-free pizza. They emailed their pick (it was PERFECTION!) and a menu so we could look it over before we came.

The night before arriving the concierge called again to make sure we had everything in place. He explained the valet parking option ($65 overnight and they park it for you!), went over what time we would be arriving so our room would be ready, and assured us they were available moving forward for anything and gave me his number to call if anything came up.

Um, awesome!

We ended up getting there an hour earlier than we said and the staff was apologetic that the room was just being inspected and not ready. After we threw our diva fit about it being unacceptable (JUST KIDDING!)  they got us water and snacks and a few short minutes later, we had keys and headed up to our beautiful room. After breakfast, we came back to a gorgeous complimentary fruit platter welcoming us which was, seriously, the nicest thing ever.

This location was about a 10-15 minute walk to theater and on the way we could see all the beautiful holiday displays in the windows!
Hamilton Chicago Family Review

Hamilton Chicago Family Review

Hamilton Chicago Family Review

What Did We Think of Hamilton Chicago?

As we headed into the theater, an older couple asked if my husband and I were aware of the content in Hamilton since we came with our kids. He grinned and said that they had heard the soundtrack many a time and that we were very aware of what we were taking them to.

There are a couple of f-bombs in the show and there is a sexy number, when Hamilton is involved in a torrid affair,  that is pretty sultry. There are also a few sexual innuendos and such that I doubt went completely over their heads.

Here is what I will say about this. I’m a Christian and we have kept our kids very sheltered from a lot in life. At the same time, there are a few things that have recently happened that gave us confidence that our children had the maturity to see this show.

The first is that they are both in middle school now.

Do you remember middle school?

Hard knock life, yo!

They are already hearing this stuff from their peers and what they saw on stage, I doubt, is any worse than they get to experience on a bus ride.

I’m just having a little flashback to a good Christian girl getting down to Humpty Dance repeatedly at dances reminds me that I’m not too worried about seeing a musical with my kids- hahaha!

The second thing is that this political season has been a doozy and they have been exposed to a lot of garbage thanks to that. Many things happened that I wished I could have sheltered them from, but they still heard all that stuff from their peers, on their news at school in the mornings, and what they have heard on NPR.  This election season, as awful as it was, has created a really honest dialogue with our children about politics and our beliefs. Hamilton is about politics and it is also about a revolution.

You know, our kids are living through a revolution right now and we wanted them to see what happens when people become a part of that narrative for change.

We want to raise kids that are part of the change, part of the good, part of the narrative.

The only worry we had about the Pence drama, by the way, was that it would raise the price of our tickets.

If you thought that might be a worry for us, I encourage you to get to know our family better!

Namaste.

Hamilton Chicago Cast

source: chicago sun times

Being familiar with the original cast doesn’t insure anything though, does it? I have gone to many shows where the current cast was a world away from the original cast. Here is what I want to say, this cast is as incredible as the original cast and does not AT ALL feel like a second-rate show. Being as close to the stage as we were, certainly gave us a very personal perspective of the acting to really witness every nuance and every facial expression. I can’t begin to tell you how moving and how incredibly well done this production is.

Lin-Manuel handpicked their next lead for Hamilton and this is the first leading role for Miguel. You would have never known he hadn’t been the lead in everything he has done and Miguel adds his own flavor to Hamilton, never feeling like a Lin-Manuel knockoff ever at any point in this show.

Every single actor is incredible so it feels unkind to single any out, but I have to do it.

Joshua Henry is one of the most incredible talents I have ever seen on the stage. He played Burr in such a controlled way and the emotions he displayed had me absolutely weeping through much of the show. His voice was unreal good and a perfect rendering needed for Burr.

Ari Afasar’s performance as Eliza was the one that I was most worried about. Phillipa Soo’s voice doesn’t seem like a voice that can be replicated, but Ari’s performance was astounding and perfectly pitched too. It was so much better than I could have ever expected.

Karen Olivo made from an incredible Angelica. There is this point in the show, after her toast to the bride and groom, where the emotion is rawly displayed on her face at this union between her sister & Hamilton. For me, it was one of the moments that made the whole show. In fact, I could burst into tears again thinking about it. That one moment, for me, really showed off what caliber of actress she was.

Hamilton Chicago Cast

source: chicago times

Chris De’Sean Lee plays both Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson and adds humor and heart to this performance. He soars in, “What’d I Miss?” and had my kids belly-laughing through his portions in the show.

Alex Gemignani as King George could not have been more pitch perfect. There is so much about his part that you don’t get to hear on the soundtrack and he adds so much hilarity to an often serious show. In fact, King George ended up being both kid’s favorite in the show.

Even the stage was so cleverly constructed and set designer, David  Korins, shared that they even tried 33 different colors of brick before they found the one that matched the costumes best. Not a detail was spared on this project and it shows.

At the angle we were seated, we could look into the wing of the theater as the actors exited and entered on stage. I have done so many shows during my own time of theater so I was curiously watching them while trying to take in the show. They never once broke character, not once. Each face you would gaze upon was completely in that moment on stage and never strayed. I think that also says a lot!

Generously, after our performance, Alex shared that they were raising money to assist those with HIV. Several members of their cast stood with buckets to take our donations and it was incredibly moving as a fan to get to say, “YOU WERE AMAZING,” in a really intense stalker kind of way to them.

I hope we didn’t scare them.

As soon as we left, my wish was to do it all over again. The show felt like minutes for me, my son, and my husband. My daughter, however, was satisfied with the first act and it took a forty dollar soda to get her back in her seat for the second act.

She loved it, it was just a long day of travel and excitement for her!

At ten and fourteen, I do believe they loved and appreciated this experience. It’s like Disney…you want them to be old enough to appreciate it so you feel like you made a good investment. We really felt like this was a great age for that.

The Art Institute of Chicago

What Else Did We Do After Hamilton Chicago?

The kids were pretty wiped after the show and we were really glad we picked the 2PM one and not the evening performance because of that. We packed a collection of our favorite Christmas movies (these two for them and this one for us!) and scored a DVD player through the guest services at our hotel. We ordered our yummy pizza, got in our pajamas, and had a Christmas movie marathon.

After a lazy morning, we headed over to The Art Institute of Chicago for the day and got to see some REALLY incredible art (it was also within walking distance of our hotel!)If you haven’t been, it’s an incredible museum filled with more art than you can ever imagine. They also have a beautiful cafe to sip some warm drinks in between.

Shake Shack

Shake Shack

We finished our trip with our first visit to a Shake Shack (which was right across the street from the museum!)  and I really hope it isn’t our last. HOLY YUM!! You can get their patties wrapped in lettuce if you are gluten-free. The shakes are divine and a midday glass of wine hit the spot too for this tired mama!

Unfortunately, the weather took an awful turn and my poor husband had to get us back in the middle of a whiteout and slick roads. We were all so thankful to be home after seeing so many people in accidents. Had the weather not done that, the entire weekend would have been absolutely perfect.

The Hamilton Mixtape

We managed to make it through that awful weather thanks, in part,  to The Hamilton Mixtape that came out giving us a chance to hear songs from the show in an entirely different way. If you haven’t heard it yet, you are in for a real treat. Artists like Sia, Nas, Alicia Keys, Andra Day, Jimmy Fallon, The Roots and so many other incredible talents put their own personal spin on songs from the musical. You also get to hear the original demos as well as some original music that was created and mixed just for this project. You must, must, must listen to it!

hamilton-chicago-family-review

This Christmas will definitely go down in our memory books as one of the best we have ever had. Thank you to the incredible cast of Hamilton Chicago for making it an experience we shall never forget and making an incredible family memory that I hope will last a lifetime!

Thanks so much for letting us share about our experience with you!

Have questions? Ask me!

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Small-Budget Crushes 10.09.16

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

Mustard Cardigan

shaker stitch cardigan (so many cute colors), $19.99

Honeycomb-Stitch Infinity Scarf

honeycomb-stitch infinity scarf, $16.94

Driftwood Jewelry Organizer

driftwood jewelry organizer, $22

Fur Throws

fur throws for every room, $15.88

Halloween Garland

halloween burlap garland, $9.99

Hammered Metal Earrings hammered-disc drop earrings, $9.94

Rosette Fur Pillow

rosette fur pillow, $9.97