Out and About + A Gratitude List

Getting out of the house these past few weeks has been a treat in and of itself. The combo of a new baby and freezing temperatures, does not for frequent outings make. We've ventured out a few times -- this weekend we even got crazy and took Linc on his first Target & Chick-fil-a run. With the nearest ones being 45 minutes away, we always hit both and its always a big deal (clearly its a big deal for Linc too - he slept through the whole thing).

In addition to getting out of the house, here are just a few things I'm feeling incredibly grateful for this week:

  • Benjamin: Not only does he work so hard all day long, but he comes home, takes care of me, and then helps take care of Linc in the middle of the night. On Saturday he made breakfast, insisted I get out of the house for some "me time," cleaned, and came home later with flowers. Of all the things though, mostly I'm just grateful for the naps I get to take on weekends and the pictures I snap of him playing with Lincoln.
  • Family within driving distance: After two weeks on our own, I'm ready for more visitors and can't wait for my family to get here! It isn't the fastest drive, but I am grateful for a mother who has been willing to make it monthly for the past little bit (she'll have clocked over 72 hours driving to visit me this year when this trip is done). 
  • Friends who bring me lunch: As much as I love getting out, sometimes it doesn't happen, so I love people who give me the excuse to put on something other than pajamas and bring me something I don't have to cook. Days with visitors are always better than those without.
  • Clothes: Specifically, the couple items I can add back into my rotation each week. Slowly (and hopefully surely), I'm starting to fit into a few pre-pregnancy pieces. It is a wonder the power getting up and getting dressed can have. 
  • Music: When I'm home alone all day with a little baby, having something playing in the background has been a game changer. Also, Linc is going to know all the words to T.Swift before he can talk. 

And a few pictures from an outing downtown a few weeks ago:

jacket: Sheinside, c/o (similar below)
denim: American Eagle
boots: Michael Kors
bag: Kate Spade
baby wrap: Husband & Co, c/o

Buffalo Plaid & Tax Returns

It feels a little bit like time has stopped for the past month, or like it should have because everything other than this baby and his simple needs has been put on hold (it's the middle of February, WHAT?). The one thing (okay, one of many things) I did not take care of before baby was born was my taxes, along with deep cleaning my closet, having lots of blog posts drafted, and cooking plenty of freezer meals. If only good intentions got things done.

Anyway, not having filed taxes doesn't mean I haven't thought of fun ways to spend our tax return already. Tell me I'm not the only one? We've been quite frugal over the past few months between buying a house, paying off loans, and saving for a baby so it'll be nice not to be on such a tight budget for the next little bit (but a budget nonetheless).

Here are a few things I've come across, probably during a late night feeding or while holding a sleeping baby, that would be lots of fun to spend a tax return on:

1. A last minute cruise: With this frigid weather, I am dreaming about warmer temps on the daily. It was about this time last year that I talked Ben into taking advantage of our new found free time (turns out there are perks of sudden unemployment) and booked a last minute cruise out of Orlando. We picked a week we wanted to go about a month and a half ahead of time and kept an eye on the last minute cruise deals while keeping an open mind about ship and destination options. We ended up booking our fair six days before the ship sailed a 70% off.

2. A down payment on a car: Every time I put Lincoln's car seat in the car I wish we had something a little bit bigger (and especially when we took Ben's parents to dinner last week...with all five of us in our little hatchback we were a little squished).

3. This Tufted Rocker: Now that I spend one third of my day (and night) feeding or rocking a baby, I have comfortable seating on the mind. I've been eyeing this upholstered rocking chair for months now and I love how it's a great nursery piece that wouldn't look out of place anywhere else in the house. Plus, how gorgeous is the linen color?

4. The Perfect Skinny: Granted, I'm not quite ready (or close to ready) to splurge on denim this very second with most of my baby weight still hugging my thighs, but when I do this pair I wore for a shoot with Saks last spring is on the top of my list. These pants are not only the most comfortable jeans I've ever put on, but also the most flattering.

5. The Classic Tote: While most of my bag carrying these days requires a large diaper tote, I can still eye this gorgeous classic piece. While I usually gravitate toward Kate Spade's great colors and fun designs, the color and silhoette of this bag would make it a staple in any girl's closet for the next decade.

6. A Simple Timepiece: I've been looking for a great watch for Ben for over a year now and think this one is perfect. It is simple, classic, and elegant (plus, I would totally steal it on a regular basis :)

7. A New Lens: I love my 50mm but I can't wait to add this little beauty to our family (he names Ben has vetoed for our children become the names of my cameras...). Right now I shoot almost everything with a 50mm 1.8 prime lens and while I love the idea of this 35mm, do any of you photo enthusiasts have any other suggestions or lenses you just love?

8. A Family Portrait Session: We take so many pictures around these parts that I usually hate the idea of paying someone to take our pictures but I've been looking at quite a few family portraits on pinterest lately (and at photographers for a fun destination shoot next year) and love the idea of splurging on a session with someone like Jon.

outfit details:
shirt: GAP
skirt: c/o (under $20)
shoes (my favorite pumps - I have them in a few colors)
bag: thrifted

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of DriveTime. The opinions and text are all mine.

4 Ways to Dress Up a Box Brownie Mix

Now I love a fancy dessert as much as the next person, and probably more if it involves chocolate, but these days I'm all about finding ways to make things simpler (maybe something about having a tiny baby that needs almost constant attention). Hours creating delicious individual desserts? No thank you. Adding a few things to my trusted brownie mix for a taste bud treat? Yes please.

I've shared a few variations on the boxed brownie mix on the blog before like
but today I'm partnering with HP to show you four ways to dress up any boxed brownie mix (I just buy whatever is on sale) to go along with the four ways to use their new HP Pavilion x360 laptop I've been loving for the past few weeks. 
1. The Batter

In addition to the instructed ingredients, add an extra egg, 1/4 C of chocolate syrup, and a few tablespoons on cream for an extra rich batter. 

2. The Mix-ins 

These also go in the batter, but think candy pieces, chopped nuts, chocolate chips, or peanut butter. My favorites include Oreo pieces, Reeces cups, Snickers, Junior Mints, and Almond Joys or swirling in peanut butter, nutella, or caramel sauce (once you've poured the batter into the pan). 

3. The Frosting

Now, generally brownies go unfrosted at our house. I may sprinkle on a bit of powdered sugar, but more than likely the brownie goes under a large scoop of ice cream and frosting is a bit unnecessary. However,  if you're serving the brownies alone, a fun frosting can make all the difference. I love pairing the frosting with a mix-in. For example, one of my very favorites is adding chopped hazelnuts to the batter and then whipping up a nutella frosting. Other great combinations include Almond Joy pieces with coconut frosting, Junior Mint pieces with mint frosting, and peanut butter M&Ms with a whipped peanut butter frosting. 

If you're less concerned with presentation, just create a runny frosting from powdered sugar and milk, add a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter or nutella, or a dash of extract (coconut, vanilla, mint, almond) and drizzle on top of the brownies to serve from the pan. Or, you can cut out individual brownies and make a thicker frosting by using room temperature butter to pipe onto each piece. 

4. The Toppings

Don't forget to add candy pieces, sprinkles, or little embellishments to the top of your finished brownies! 

I love that this laptop flips over into a tablet and that whatever mode I'm using it in (tablet, laptop, tent, or stand), it has a touchscreen! Its been a lifesaver for attempting to get work done while holding Linc (sometimes he'd rather nap in my arms and sometimes he's too cute to put down).

^the cutest nose snuggling little guy (who is wearing a SIX MONTH outfit in these not even six week old is in six month clothes...)

^sometimes I'll cut up cute straws and add them to the frosting 
^This picture basically sums up nap time these days (minus the curled hair and the real clothing ;). Using the laptop as a tent is really just an enabler for my late-night netflix watching (why am I just discovering Gilmore Girls?)

Also, did you know HP is on tour with Meghan Trainor? They're bending all sorts of rules by sharing behind-the-scenes looks of the tour and capturing a "fan generated documentary" of concert footage. Are any of you seeing her in concert? Or just singing "Lips are Moving" on repeat in your head?


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