Friday, August 31, 2018

The best Labor Day Sales!

Shopping is seriously something that I live for!  I always get so excited when all of the new seasons clothes start rolling out.  Labor Day is usually a big shopping weekend for me because it falls right in that transition period from summer to fall.  Fall clothes are probably my favorite to wear.  I love comfy and cozy clothes but it's also important to me to still look cute wearing it!  There is so much great stuff out right now and most of it is 40% off.  Nordstrom and Abercrombie are my go-to's right now and they killed with their fall line!
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11

So far this fall, I am really into neutrals and comfy chic.  This sweatshirt with either jeans or leggings and a cute pair of sneakers is most likely what I'll be wearing on most weekdays.  It's just so comfortable and easy for early morning school drop-offs and errands.  I bought my first pair of Zella leggings during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale and I definitely see now what all of the hype is about.  They are amazing!  I'm grabbing a second pair because they are 40% off again.  I'm all about the utility look right now and especially all of the army greens and camo prints.  I got these camo jeans (super flattering!) not long ago and will be on repeat throughout all of the fall months.  This green utility jacket is now on clearance and looks so similar to the camo one (also on clearance!) I got in the spring!  I'm obsessed with it and the quality is great.  If you have been eyeing these Marc Fisher wedges all summer, now is the time to get them because they are such a good price right now.  Perfect for skinny jeans and cardigans!  I wear Bourbon & Bowties bangles pretty much every day.  I have a Summer/Spring set as well as a Fall/Winter set.  This neutral set is on sale and would be perfect year round!  Ok, I saved the best for last.  THIS DRESS.  Umm, hello!  Is this not gorgeous?!  It's on sale.  You need this, I need this, let's all get it and wear it on the same day, ok? :)

Have a happy and safe Labor Day, friends!

A family travel guide to St. Simons, GA

With Labor Day coming up this weekend, I thought this would be a great time to share our family travel guide to St. Simons Island.  We took a family trip to St. Simons this past Memorial Day weekend and this gorgeous town is perfect for a long weekend getaway!  With the oak lined streets and stunning landscape, everywhere you turn gives breathtaking views.  There is so much to do and see on this fun little beach island and my favorite thing about it is that it is all so family friendly.  I included in this guide everything that our family did over the weekend that we were there as well as the things that we wished that we had more time for.  I hope you enjoy this family travel guide that I put together for you!

Like any other beach town, a beach day is an absolute must!  We did the beach 2 out of the 3 days that we were there and it was nice to get out and find some other things to do on our last day.  The weather was overcast which ended up working out perfectly.  We dined, we shopped and we walked around, all without getting hot and sweaty!  St. Simons is a great town for those who like the outdoors as most of their attractions are located outside.

The Beach
While I realize that this is pretty self explanatory, especially being in a "beach town," I wanted to explain a little about the actual beach and why we went to St. Simons.  Unlike the panhandle, the beach here is very flat and hard compared to the white powdery sand in and around the Destin/30a area.  The ocean is shallow and stays shallow for a good ways so we felt super comfortable with the boys and our one year old running out into the water.  When we went to Seaside, FL earlier this year, the ocean got deep pretty quickly when my daughter ran out.  We needed a little more peace of mind this trip.  So if you have never been to an east coast beach and have little ones that you are worried about in the ocean, this is your answer!

St. Simons Lighthouse Museum
There is just something so charming an picturesque about lighthouses in beach towns.  The beauty and architecture of each towns unique lighthouse providing panoramic views will always be a must see for me when I visit.  St. Simons Lighthouse is right along the water and with only 129 steps to the top, this would be a great activity for families.  I might not recommend for young toddlers but children and teens would enjoy this!  

St. Simons Island Pier
The pier is located right beside downtown and is close to many of the islands attractions.  This location makes for a great and convenient place for the kids to play.  Walk down the pier and watch the waves roll in and the boats pass by while the fishermen reel in their daily catch.  Surrounded by playgrounds and beautiful landscape, this is the place to be to sight see and let the kids burn off some energy!

Neptune Park Fun Zone
We didn't get a chance to go here but this is right off of the downtown area and looked like so much fun!  Neptune Park offers swimming, splash pads and putt putt.  This park comes with many options that accommodate all ages.  They have a zero entry area, lap lanes, splash pad fun and a wadding pool.  

The Tree Spirits of St. Simons
This was probably the highlight of our trip and one of the most unique activities I have ever done on a vacation.  There are over 20 faces carved into the oak trees that cover the St. Simons, all hand carved by a local artist.  You can pick up a map of the public trees at the Welcome Center and go on a scavenger hunt to find them.  This is a great activity for kids and also to check out parts of the island!
I posted a guide to finding the Tree Spirits here.

Rent Bikes and Explore the Island
What better way to take it all in than to cruise around the island on bikes throughout your stay!  St. Simons is relatively small so you could easily bike to the beach or to dinner depending on where you stay.  The island is absolutely beautiful with the most charming beach homes and picturesque streets.   This would be a great way ride through neighborhoods and really take in the beach aesthetics!

There were so many great places to eat during our visit and of course, we were craving all the seafood!  

Mullet Bay
Out of our entire trip, this may have been my favorite place that we ate at!  From the scenery to the large patio along the street, it was the exact beach vibe we were looking for.  We had dinner on the patio and listened to cool toned live music while we ate.  The kids danced, Loyal and I enjoyed frozen drinks and we all had the best time!  The menu had a lot of great seafood options and we honestly loved every single thing we ordered.  Get the coconut shrimp!

Gnats Landing
Located in Red Fern Village, Gnats is one of a few fun restaurants surrounded by cute shops all within walking distance from each other.  Gnats is super eclectic with bright, vibrant colored tables and scenery.  With great food, a fun atmosphere and a big patio, this  is a great stop either straight off the beach or for dinner one night.

Bubba Garcia's
Another restaurant in Red Fern Village, this is a fun Mexican restaurant with great food and fantastic drinks!  We are big on Mexican food and Bubba Garcia's did not disappoint. I would recommend getting there early for dinner.  There aren't many tables so we did have to wait a little bit but service moved quickly!

Sandcastle Cafe
This is a cute little breakfast and lunch shop in the downtown area, right near the pier. They serve a breakfast buffet 7 days a week as well as a full menu.  The food is great and this is a really convenient place if you are traveling with hungry kids.  We were able to get our plates as soon as we were seated which helped tremendously with our kiddos.  Make sure to get there early because there was already a line before it opened!  

Southern Soul Barbecue 
This was probably the #1 most recommended place on the entire island!    Unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to go here during our visit.  We tried but it was raining and standing in a line that was out the door with kids just wasn't going to work.  We will definitely go on our next visit!

And now for the sweets!

St. Simons Sweets
I can not say enough about this place!!!  We went twice!  They have such a wide variety of sweets from fudge to candy to incredible ice cream flavors that are to die for.  Located right in the middle of downtown, this sweet shop makes it super convenient for grabbing a treat to sit on the front porch with or take to walk around!

Moo Cow Ice Cream
This was our runner up ice cream.  It's a cute little shop right outside of the downtown area (still in walking distance.)  They have a lot of great homemade flavors and a great front patio to enjoy your ice cream.

There are a few hotels on the island but I would say that the majority of lodging is with home rentals.  There is only one beach front hotel so most of the beach access is public making it very easy for all hotel guests and house rentals.  The benefit of staying in a hotel would be a pool but there also the public pool mentioned above. 

Hampton Inn St. Simons
This is the hotel that we stayed at which is located in the center of the island.  Even though our hotel was not on the beach, the island is pretty small so everything was still in close proximity.  We were about a 5 minute drive to the beach and 10 to downtown.  The continental breakfast was a huge plus for us with the kids.  

For beach house rentals, I would look on Home Away, VRBO and/or Air BnB.


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Salmon Kale Salad with a Spicy Honey Glaze

I have recently started taking my diet much more seriously and really giving my body the nutrients that it needs.  I began researching the best foods for your body and one of the biggest takeaways was incorporating more green vegetables.  At the top of almost every list were the leafy greens that I hardly ever ate, brussel sprouts and kale.  I learned how to cook brussels in a way that I really enjoyed so next up was conquering kale!  I have made roasted kale chips in the oven, sautéed it and used it as my salad base.  This Salmon Kale salad is absolutely packed with health benefits and amazingly delicious too!  
I recently discovered cooking my salmon on the stove with the skin on, both of which were new concepts to me.  I have always cooked salmon in the oven but it would often times come out over cooked.  I have more control with the temperature of the salmon when I cook it on the stove and it takes a third of the time.  Pan seared salmon comes out perfectly crunchy on the outside with a temperature of medium that will just melt in your mouth!
My favorite part about this salad is the honey glaze over the salmon.  It has just the right amount of sweet and spicy to really compliment the salmon in the most flavorful way.  Drizzling the excess over the rest of the lemon soaked salad is so good that you won't even need to add dressing! 

Olive Oil
Shredded Parmesan
Red Onion
Sesame Seeds

Honey Glaze:
1/2 tsp Honey
1 tbsp Hoisin
1 tbsp Soy Sauce
1/2 tsp Sriracha (more if you like it spicy!)

The first thing that you are going to want to do when making this dish is prep your kale.  Kale can be a bit tough and crunchy unless prepared correctly so I did this step first while I made the rest of the meal.  I started with washing my kale and cutting the leaves off of the middle stem.  I chopped the leaves into bite sized pieces and placed them in a large bowl.  Drizzle a little bit of olive oil all of kale and toss together.  Squeeze half of a lemon, sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix together.  The lemon will help to soften up the leaves which is why I started here.

While my kale softened, I prepped the salmon by rinsing it and patting it dry with a paper towel, leaving the skin on.  Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.  Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.  Place salmon in pan, skin side down and cooking for about 3 - 5 on each side.  Once salmon is cooked to your desired temperature, set it aside and wipe out any excess oil left in the pan.

While my salmon cooked, I diced all of my toppings for my salad and set them aside.  Next I prepared the Spicy Honey Glaze by mixing together honey, hoisin, Sriracha, soy sauce and a tablespoon of water.  Add this mixture to the pan after the salmon is done.  Cook for about 1 - 2 minutes or until glaze thickens.  Pour over salmon, saving any excess.  

Add toppings to salad, sprinkle with shredded parmesan and toss together.  Place the salmon over top of the kale salad and drizzle any remaining glaze over kale and top with sesame seeds.   


Monday, August 6, 2018

Hello, Kindergarten!

Last week was a huge milestone for our family as we sent our first born off to Kindergarten!  It feels like just yesterday that Loyal and I were nervously driving home from the hospital and now here we are, 5 years later.  We have anticipated this day all summer and Loyal was just ecstatic and so so proud!  I have watched so many of my friends send their kids to kindergarten and now that I have experienced it myself, it is such a mix of emotions.  I am so beyond proud of Loyal and excited for him to start this next chapter but it is so hard to see your baby slip away right before your eyes.  He is growing up so fast and has become the sweetest and charming little boy.  I love watching him grow and learn and go through life even if it breaks my heart a little.  Where did my baby go?!  
We made Loyal's first day a big family affair.  We loaded everyone up in the car so that we could all go and send him off on his very first day.  The drop off went really well!  There were nerves but excitement too.  Loyal bravely walked right into his classroom making us all so proud!  Once he was in and getting settled with the rest of the kids, the 4 of us made the long and quiet walk back to the car.  It was definitely weird without Loyal but we all made it with dry eyes!  From that point on, our day went on as it normally does.  We stayed busy and went through our normal routine until it was time to start stalking the schools Facebook for departure updates and loading up the wagon.  We were all so giddy with excitement waiting for Loyal at the bus stop.  After what felt like a lifetime, we finally saw that big yellow bus turn the corner and come down the road!  Loyal was the last one off the bus and had the biggest beaming smile!  The littles were squealing with excitement to have their big brother back.  We all took turns giving him the biggest hugs and telling him how much we all missed him.  On the walk home, my husband and I took turns firing off all of the questions.  "So, HOW WAS IT??!!" "What did you learn today?!" "Did you like the bus?!" "How was the cafeteria?!" "Do you like your teachers?!"  We wanted to know everything and all we got were very tired one word answers.  Loyal was absolutely wiped out!  All in all, he said his first day was "AWESOME!"
It's funny how we go through the cycles of the school year.  Every Spring we wish so hard for school to be over and summer break to begin only to turn around and be so ready for the school year once again.  This summer seemed like a constant battle of "Do I attempt to take the kids out for a fun day when no one listens or behaves in public and we all end up in tears on the drive home?" and "Lets just stay home and see how long it will take for the screaming, fighting, whining and crying to drive me up the wall today!"  I never did come to the conclusion of which one was easier (or dumber!) and instead decided that you're just damned if you do and damned if you don't.  I will say though, the summers do get easier as they come.  With Callie a little older this year, we had a lot more fun this summer than last and I am a little sad to see that go.  All in all, summer break was good to us this year!
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