Friday Favorites 7/27

Swim lessons, play dates, Summer activities at home, slumber parties and preparing for baby boy have been on the agenda lately.  Don't mind the craziness of work but that's so not fun to share so I'll keep it to the former, lol!

Santa Cruz Vacation Guide

Santa Cruz Vacation Guide

We've had an annual girls trip to Santa Cruz that we've been doing since Emily was 8 months old.  We always go to the beach and the Boardwalk but we've always struggled with where to stay.  We've tried places in Santa Cruz and Capitola and have never been really happy.  Last year we ended up staying in Monterey and driving over to the Boardwalk.  Since the Santa Cruz area was majorly lacking in hotels I was so excited to hear that a Hyatt was being built in town.  It wasn't open last Summer during our vacation but I knew exactly where to stay this year.

We just returned from our girls vacay and not only did we have a great time but we absolutely loved the Hyatt Place Santa Cruz.  The hotel is well appointed; modern and sleek.  The amenities were phenomenal including a complimentary breakfast, bar, snack shack, business center, gym and pool and jacuzzi spa.  The breakfast was extensive and delicious.  We loved taking advantage of it both mornings and not having to load up in the car to find a breakfast spot.  We also took advantage of the snack bar for treats for the pool.  Speaking of the pool, we splashed around both days.  The girls loved playing in the pool and spa and they had great lounge areas around the pool for my mom and I.  The fitness center was ample size and I was able to get workouts in both mornings.

Great amenities are one thing but the rooms need to excite as well and the rooms at Hyatt Place Santa Cruz did not disappoint.  The rooms were very spacious with two queen beds, sitting area with sofa sleeper, desk, mini fridge and large dresser and armoire.  The room was just perfect for all of us.  My mom and I got our own beds and the girls slept on the pull out couch.  The bathroom was equally nice but the counter space was lacking a little bit.

Santa Cruz Vacation Guide- Hyatt Place Santa Cruz

Summer Activities & Toys

Summer is my absolute favorite time of the year but this Summer has proved to be super challenging because my girls are used to being in school.  From a very young age they have been the type that has to know what's on the agenda, where they are going and who they are seeing.  Sitting at home is never an option for them.  So I find them stir crazy and driving me crazy all too often.  I shared a  Summer schedule with you in the past but I also wanted to share some activities for the play time that we have in that schedule.

1. Independent Play with Toys
2. Bingo
3. Dot Paint
4. Marshmallow Toothpick Challenge
5. Tie Dye
6. Board Games
7. Scavenger Hunts

1. Playing with Toys

There are times when I'm working at home and the girls need to play independently so I can get things accomplished.  The girls just received new Sunny Day toys which is from Nick Jr's latest preschool series.  Sunny is a hairstylist and has the help of best friends Rox, Blair and puppy Doodle.  My girls were in love with the Sunny Day Glam Vanity where they could place their dolls and curl, cut or style their hair.  They also loved switching off wearing the accessory apron.  All the toys were vibrant and fun and captured their attention.  Thank you Mattel for sending these to my girls!

A tip I have for toys is rotate them in and out so they stay fresh for your kids.

Mattel- Sunny Day Toys-Summer Activities & Toys

Taco Casserole

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 jar of salsa
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 2 cups broken tortilla chips
  • 1 medium bell pepper, sauteed
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
  • 1 small can sliced olives


Brown ground beef and drain.  Mix in refried beans, salsa, taco seasoning and heat to boiling, stirring occasionally.  In an ungreased casserole dish place beef mixture, top with bell peppers, cheese and olives.

Bake uncovered 20-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Top with tortilla chips and more cheese if desired and bake for 3-5 minutes.

The Child Finder: Book Review

During the Winter there's nothing more relaxing than a good book and hot a bath.  In the Summer my favorite pastime is reading by the pool (with a cocktail but that's on hold this Summer).  I'm so happy I've found my way back to books and I have another one to share with you: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld.  A five year old girl went missing in the forest while looking for a Christmas tree to cut down with her parents several years ago.  Three years later Madison's parents have found Naomi, a private investigator who has become known as the child finder.  She exclusively takes missing children cases and searches tirelessly until she has an answer.  The story is told between the rotating voices of Madison and Naomi and we find that Naomi's past is pretty dark.  She was a missing child herself and can't remember her early years.  As Naomi uncovers the truth about Madison's case more and more memories surface about her past.  Will Naomi find Madison and will she learn the truth about her own past?

I recommend this quick read that draws you in.  I thought some questions were left unanswered about Naomi but still worth the read.  I'd also like to note that parts of the book are very hard to read.  As a mother to a little one (named Madison no less) it hit very close to home and was difficult to stomach.

Infant Essentials

As I sit in a nearly empty nursery I seriously can't imagine that baby boy is going to be here in less than 3 months.  The feelings of this pregnancy are so different from the first two.  I'm not sure if it's because it's been awhile since having a baby or knowing that it's definitely the last baby but something is just so wildly different.  It seems more surreal than ever before.  It also doesn't seem real that in a blink of an eye he will be here in our arms.

Since he'll be here very soon I'm starting to prepare for his arrival.  With the help of my best friend we are working on the nursery and I'm gathering up new baby essentials.  

One of the first things I think about when I start gathering the essentials is the baby's first outfit.  I found the cutest personalized items from Jennifer Ann and knew this would be perfect for Jackson's first outfit.  A soft swaddle is absolutely necessary as well so this personalized one is perfect.  No matter the time of the year a baby is born I think they need something to cover their head in the first few weeks.  But since Jackson will be born in the Fall he will need a beanie even more so.  I love this set of footed onesie, beanie and swaddle blanket; it's the 3 key all in one.  I also grabbed adorable baby brother leggings and bandana bib.

We already had a neutral car seat but I needed a car seat cover.  I wanted one of those multi-use ones that also worked as a shopping cart cover and high chair cover.  I found the Mom Boss 4 in 1 Cover from Itsy Ritsy and I think it's going to be perfect.  I love the black and white stripe and the softness of the fabric.  It's so easy to use and since Jackson will be born in the Fall I can even wear it as an infinity scarf so it's at my fingertips. 

I nursed my two girls and plan on nursing the baby.  Nursing is probably the most time consuming part of having a new baby.  It's also the most difficult part.  Any tool or trick that helps with nursing I'm all about.  So I'm excited to try out the Mom Boss Infant Feeding Pillow which positions the baby perfectly to prevent acid reflux and keeps your arm from getting tired.  After feeding it works to burp the baby.

The essentials include bath products of course.  I'm giving a starter gift set from Noodle & Boo this time a try since I've heard such great things about them.  The set includes an 8 oz. Body Wash, Shampoo and Lotion.  Noodle & Boo only uses natural and safe ingredients so no parabens, dyes, GMO's, BPA, etc.  It's safe enough for daily use and mild enough for even sensitive skin.  Both my girls battled eczema and very sensitive skin so I'm so excited to use Noodle & Boo on baby boy.

Any essentials that you recommend?  Check back to see the nursery reveal and other baby related posts.  As I start working on those I would love your input.  What did you take in your hospital bag?  What should you have left behind? What were your must have items in the first few weeks?  What are your best nursing tips?  I want to hear it all!

This is a sponsored post.  All opinions expressed are honest and my own.  Thank you for supporting the brands and companies that have received my stamp of approval.

The Perfect Girl: Book Review

My favorite books are mysteries and The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan is a bit of a mystery about a teenage girl, Zoe.  Zoe is a brilliant pianist and has a genius IQ but has had a major bump in her road.  She was a underage drunk driver who caused an accident and killed three people.  Despite telling the truth at her trial she was found guilty and sentenced to time in prison.  The story begins once she is out and has started a new life, in a town, with a new family.  Her mother has made it her mission to erase the past and keep it a secret.  The story is told from several characters points of view which makes it very interesting.  Another tragedy happens in Zoe's life and as the story unfolds we find out what happened and who is at fault.

This book is an easy read but is a fairly long book.  I thought that the story ended somewhat abruptly but that overall I liked the book and would recommend it to others.

Bold Stripes, Bright Stars, Brave Hearts.

My two brightest shining stars make every holiday that much brighter and our 4th of July was no exception.  We started with a lake weekend in Shaver with great friends, worked for a couple of days and then spent the holiday at a swim bbq again with amazing friends.  When you combine swimming, good grub, great company and cute smiles you just can't go wrong. Thank you Marsh Family for hosting an amazing weekend and thank you Wiegand's for a great BBQ!

Pregnancy Workout Routine

This post is sponsored by Degree Women but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Pregnancy changes everything including my workout routine.  I've been in love with High Fitness since January but a couple of months ago I had to back off because my body could no longer handle the high intensity.  I'm very sad about it because it wasn't just for my body but also for my mind.  High Fitness gave me an energy like no other and it was a release for me.  In the meantime, I have to keep moving because this pregnancy is wildly different from my first two.  I don't know if it's the age or because it's a boy (probably both) but the weight just came quickly from the start. 

Fourth of July Crafts & Treats

Make your holiday extra sweet with these Firework Show Fun Bags and Firecracker Cupcakes!  Both are simple to do with a big impact.  I made these bags for the kiddos on our 4th of July Lake Trip this last weekend and they were a hit.  The firecracker cupcakes were even a bigger hit when the kids got to the surprise inside.

Fourth of July- Firework Show Fun Bags