In Mom Life

Traveling with a Toddler

We took our daughter Isabella on her very first vacation when she was just 9 months old. We were new parents filled with excitement for a much deserved vacation while also a bit nervous about how certain parts of the trip might go. Would she be fussy on the plane? Would security even allow her baby formula through? Would she have a hard time adjusting to sleeping in a travel crib that we bought just before? Well I’m happy to say, No, Yes, and No! We flew 4.5 hours to California having zero issues with her on the plane, in fact she slept most of the time. We had no issues bringing her formula through security, and she had no issues sleeping in her new travel crib during our stay. Since that first vacation, we have not slowed down! Now 3 years old, Isabella has been to Florida twice, Disney World twice, Tennessee twice, California, and all over Indiana and Michigan!

As we prepare to head to Hawaii in less than two weeks, I am packed and ready to keep our daughter happy! If you’re traveling with a toddler, these are some things that you may want to consider to make your vacation as smooth as possible and enjoyable for both you and your little one!

  1. Flights : Weigh Up Your Options, Nonstop or Layover

Flying can be hard for little ones, babies, toddlers or young kids. It’s a new experience, your ears are popping, you have to remain in your seat for the majority of the duration, and a longer flight can quickly grow boring to an energetic and very awake child. Not to mention in the current times we live in, a mask is required for the duration of your time in the airport as well as on the plane.

For us, a Nonstop flight is the best option for any flight durations under 5 hours. I would personally rather pay a slightly higher amount to ‘get the flight over with’ all in one go than chop it up with layovers if I don’t have to. This way, once you board the plane you know you’re nearly there. Your child can get settled into a movie, a nap, or an activity, and you’ll know when you land they will be ready to go!

Layovers are great options to break up a really long flight, if available. For us, going to Hawaii seemed like a long all at once flight, so we opted for a Layover on the way. An hour and a half layover, cutting up our two flights to 4.5 hours each. The layover will be just enough time to stretch our legs, use the bathroom and grab a snack for the next flight, and once we board the second we know we’re half way there!

2. Snacks & Activities

Is your toddler a snacker? Of course they are, right? Isn’t that in the description for being a toddler? It is for ours! Before going on a trip, whether flying or driving, I always make sure to get Isabella a small variety of snacks that we can easily take with us. Snacks like teddy grahams, gold fish crackers, and cheerios always seems to make it into our bag. Not only are these cheaper than what we might find at the airport or along the way on a road trip, but it saves time in having to find something you know your toddler will eat, and is readily available when they ask for it!

As for activities, it’s always great to have things in your car, or in your bag for a flight that will keep your child or toddler happy and quiet. Before a trip we try to make sure we get Isabella a couple little surprise items and activities that we know will keep her engaged for awhile.

Some of our favorite items that we recommend would be,

Magic Ink • Mess Free Marker Books –
We love these! There are endless options out there available, but we tend to lean towards the Disney ones most! The only con for these is that once a page is colored in, the page is done. But these are always some of what we choose for our trips, and we have these 2 ready for the flights to Hawaii!

Magic Water or Water Wow Books –
These are great books too, mess free and easy to use. You just fill the little pen with water and your child paints the water on to reveal the colors in the pages. Plus once the page dries, the color fades away so they can do it as many times as they want. I mean, how convenient is something reusable that only requires a tiny bit of water? We love these not only for road trips and on the plane, but also as a keeping busy activity while waiting for food at a restaurant on vacation. Just take a bit of water from the table to fill up the pen and your toddler will hardly notice the wait for the Mac and cheese!

Magnetic Books –
Another great book based activity is magnetic books. So far our daughter just has two, but she takes them and uses them everywhere, even just playing at home. The book comes with different scenes and magnetic characters to play with in the scenes.

Drawing Pad / Doodle Board –
Perfect for car rides long or short, for sticking in a backpack on the plane or even for playtime at home. Isabella is on her second one of these and loves drawing pictures and showing us.

iPad or Tablet Device with Downloaded Movies –
Our daughter will never turn down the opportunity for quiet time to watch one of her favorite movies, and as her likes and interests continue to expand, so will our digital movie library. Although most parents prefer to have as much screen-free play as possible, this is a great option to quiet your child down on a long flight or road trip for an extended period.

3. Make Sure Your Rental Vehicle Comes With A Car Seat

One thing we didn’t know when we first had our daughter was that you have to request or pay for a car seat additionally when you get a rental vehicle. Although it is always an option to bring your own car seat from home, if you are flying to your destination it can be a pain to lug around, and you might find the additional daily cost to rent one with your rental vehicle worth it, like we do. If booking online, most rental companies show an option to add one, but if you’re spontaneously getting a rental from a hotel or rental agency on a trip, you may want to call ahead and reserve one.

4. Sleeping Arrangements

When planning where you’ll stay, don’t forget to have your toddler in mind. Are you taking a travel crib with you? Does your toddler sleep in an actual bed now? Will you need to make sure there is a pull out sofa? Maybe, you plan to co-sleep on your vacation? What ever your needs, it’s always good to consider this when planning your trip and booking your stay. We’ve found that most hotels, resorts and even some AirBNBs are happy to provide a crib or pack n play. We’ve both experienced using a resort’s crib as well as taking our own travel crib, which we have done a lot. Our daughter now uses it when she stays the night at her grandparent’s house and has even used it to sleep in our bedroom when she hasn’t felt good.

For our upcoming trip we will be using a blow up toddler bed which we have found is also a great option. Our daughter couldn’t wait to snuggle up in it and check it out when it arrived, and it’s less to carry through an airport than the travel crib.
It comes in a carry bag and easily inflates and deflates, folding back up to fit in the carry bag. The whole thing only taking up half the size of a normal duffle bag.

5. Vacation Fun For The Whole Family

When we plan a vacation, we like to take in account what all of us like to do. Of course my husband, Andrew and I love checking out all the sites, taking scenic drives, walking around the areas, stopping to take photos, etc. But it’s also important to factor in what your little one enjoys. Of course for babies, they’re just along for the ride and can’t really express their opinion yet, but by the time your baby is a toddler with a voice, they can! For our daughter, vacation fun looks like swimming in the hotel pool, picking up sea shells along the beach, finding a playground to run around at, and even having ice cream. She’s fairly easy to please, but when planning our itinerary we still try to think of what all she might enjoy.

For our upcoming Hawaii trip we are surprising her with a Disney character breakfast at the Disney Resort Aulani, where she’ll get photos with Minnie & Mickey dressed in Hawaiian outfits, Goofy will ‘make’ her some breakfast, and she’ll get to pick out something from the Disney shop there! We also have so much swimming planned for this trip, along with some other fun things such as visiting the Dole Plantation where we will get to go in a maze, ride a little train, and of course what she keeps telling everyone, have pineapple ‘ice cream’!

Wherever your vacation or trip will take you, there’s always something you can find to excite even the youngest family member, and remember, even the smallest thing can be the most exciting; and at the end of the day, it’s all about the memories you made together!

1 In Mom Life

15 Easter Egg Stuffer Ideas

Easter is almost upon us, and you know what that means.. Easter baskets, Easter eggs, bunnies and Spring welcoming fun! Of course along with that, also comes the fun of filling and putting everything together, the part I love! This year will be Isabella’s 3rd Easter, and just like the previous two I will be on the hunt for the perfect candy alternative Easter egg stuffers for her basket, that are not only exciting and fun for her, but also age appropriate!

This year I’m happy to have somewhere to share some of the great stuffer ideas I’ve found, some I’ve used before and some I plan to use this year!

1. Hair Clips, Hair Ties, Headbands and Bows
There are so many options when it comes to hair accessories, and for girls of all ages – baby and up, little hair items are always fun and exciting, not to mention you can find them almost anywhere! Isabella especially enjoys bows and hair clips from Baby Bling Bows, and will be so excited to find those in her basket this year just as she has for the last two Easters!

2. Small Stuffed Toys
One thing our Isabella absolutely loves is smaller stuffed animals such as Hallmark Itty Bittys , which we will definitely have as a couple egg stuffers this year. There are so many different options when it comes to these that you could choose exactly what your child will like. These could be great for an array of ages too seeing as though they can be played with our even just collected for the characters of different shows, movies, etc.

3. Socks
How fun are colorful or cute little socks?! Ones with colors, symbols, sayings, characters, or animals. I have always loved fun socks and it’s something Isabella has begun to love too, even more so now that she can put them on herself!

4. Loose Snacks
Though the focus is to create Easter eggs filled with candy alternatives, there are many snacks that could be considered healthier options than your typical Cadbury eggs or jelly beans.. Goldfish crackers, corn puffs, yogurt melts, Teddy Grahams, fruit leather, and fruit snacks are just a handful of snacks that most any little one would be excited to open and munch on while opening the rest of their basket.

5. Chalk or Crayons
Something I myself find fun and exciting are shaped chalk and crayons. Easter being the gateway holiday into the start of Spring, the promise of sunny play and days spent outside is what chalk is made for! I especially love that around Easter you can find so many stores carrying the egg shaped chalk which seems to last longer than chalk sticks and doesn’t break as easily.

6. Bracelets, Necklaces & Kid Friendly Jewelry
Just like with hair accessories, there are so many options when it comes to jewelry for all different ages. Older little girls might enjoy beaded bracelets or items for some they can make themselves, while toddlers would need something sturdier and age friendly. For Isabella, we purchased a couple child size bracelets from Flourish Leather that fit perfectly as egg stuffers. We also got her one in her Valentine’s Day gift a couple months back. We love their colors and quality materials!

7. Play-doh
Although my mom was never fond of me having play-doh, worried I would get it stuck somewhere it shouldn’t be.. I do love anything that can be used to be creative with, and I think it’s a great option for an easter egg stuffer. There are so many colors you can find in tiny containers that would fit in larger eggs, and around Easter you can even find bunny or chick shaped eggs that are already filled with play-doh and have little stampers on the bottom of their feet. Of course this is a more age specific stuffer idea, as it is something that requires play supervision for younger toddlers, but it’s still a good one. I’ve even found actual easter eggs already filled with Play-doh here on Amazon!

8. Balls
What kid doesn’t love having a new ball, big or small, to kick, bounce or toss around!? Bouncy balls, squishy glittery balls or foam balls could all be great options as egg stuffers. Even a small deflated beach ball or water ball that soaks up water to throw around outside would bring lots of exciting outdoor fun for later in the year!

9. Finger Puppets
Have you ever been at the check out in Carters and not glanced at the adorable little soft animal finger puppets? No? Me neither.. They are downright adorable, and you know what else? They are the perfect size to be Easter egg stuffers! The best past, is that you can find finger puppets at so many different places too, even all over Amazon. They come in soft material or flexible plastic, and they come in so many different shapes, colors and characters if you look around. Great for babies to toddlers!

10. Stickers
There are few things our Isabella or most toddlers in general love more than stickers. It’s not that they collect them or would even understand what that means, but for our Isabella specifically, she just loves getting them and sticking them all over place.. On herself, in books, playing with them like their small toys by sticking them on her fingers and decorating them all over anything she can put them on. Stickers make an easy, cheap, and great easter egg filler for any child!

11. Target Dollar Spot Finds
Right before Valentine’s Day I came across these grow hand towels in the Target dollar spot finds that I knew would be perfect to save as egg stuffers. I’ve also come across so many other small items from blind bag toys to tiny puzzles, slime, cute shaped erasers and more throughout the year. So many great options that you could buy and save for your Easter egg stuffing!

12. Bath Toys
Bath squirter toys, mini rubber duckies and foam bath letters would all make for great stuffers that could be used throughout the year. Most are small or flexible enough to fit in various sized eggs and great for bath time fun amongst many ages.

13. Small Plastic Toys
One thing our daughter Isabella absolutely loves is smaller toys and figures! She loves Fisher Price Disney Little People, Disney Jr TOTS babies, and all sorts of Disney figurines from princesses to Disney Jr show characters like Bluey and everything that could possibly go with them. This year she will definitely be excited to see some of these in her Easter eggs and basket! Small plastic toys could have so many different options though for all ages and either gender – Legos, Lego people, Little People, Hot wheels or similar matchbox cars, Figurines of all kinds, or even just small toys such as wind ups or push down pop up toys.

14. Grabease Utensils
Perfect for any baby’s first Easter or toddler that still loves using hand sized utensils. Though these are a bit bigger than the normal sized Easter egg, we had fun finding eggs big enough to fit some of these for Isabella’s very first Easter! We have loved Grabease, and they come in a bunch of fun colors that make it all the more fun!

15. Kid Nail Polish
As a very girly-girl toddler our Isabella loves sparkles, glitter, and definitely nail polish! She is only 2, but loves when mommy does her “pretties” as she calls it. In her Easter basket last year we included Ella + Mila nail polishes in her eggs, and the Easter before that we purchased Piggy Paint for her tiny baby toe nails! Both great options as egg fillers!

In Lifestyle

Our Basement Remodel

After starting the process to finish our basement last year with a contractor framing out the walls and replacing our basement stairs in August, we thought we could see the end in the not so far away future as the drywall began in mid October. Of course though… 2020, and with that came not only COVID, but delays and obstacles aplenty. Being the largest home improvement project we’d ever done before, we really didn’t know what to expect, and much like when we went in to be induced with Isabella, we expected somewhat immediate results. Definitely not the case!

After the framing was finished, my husband Andrew was all hands on deck with the electrical work. He wired and installed wafer thin puck lights throughout, regular and dimmer switches, and outlets in various places that we had mapped out beforehand. Previously hung basement lights were moved to the storage area that would remain unfinished and the one smoke detector that was originally there was moved and more were purchased to create a safer downstairs environment. The drywall was then hung by my husband Andrew, brother Tommy and nephew Kaleb. My brother then did all the mudding and sanding, and my nephew helped with sanding and odd jobs around the basement. By January 24th, the drywall had finally been completed and the basement was cleaned up and ready for the next step!

We wasted no time the very next day getting to Sherwin-Williams to buy primer, paint and painting supplies. We chose the colors, Sea Salt for our laundry room, Slate Tile for the media room and stairwell, and Mindful Gray for my office and the bathroom. For the playroom we wanted to match the creamy color, Almond Paste that we had around our main floor, purchased previously from Lowes. Sherwin-Williams was extremely helpful and happy to create a matching color for us from the color mix details we had on an older can, which was great!

The primer went up quickly in all rooms followed by the white ceilings, and before we knew it we were a week out from the day the drywall had been completed, and already had 4 rooms fully painted and ready for flooring. My office, the laundry room, bathroom, and Isabella’s playroom! The next week brought with it the finishing of painting entirely, rounding out the basement with our media room and stairwell.

Finally, with time on our side, we found ourselves ahead of schedule, waiting for our vinyl flooring to come in so it could be installed before trim and doors. With some extra time, I decided I would start painting the half rainbow mural in Isabella’s playroom I had been planning along with another mural to blend the media room and playroom walls since they all ran along the same main wall. This in theory sounded like a great idea, but once I started the rainbow I quickly decided that I would Not be doing a blending of the walls mural.. along with not pursuing any future career in mural-ing either!

You can read all about the process for the Rainbow Mural, HERE!

Though it was quite a task and isn’t perfect, I am definitely happy with the overall outcome of the rainbow mural, and it makes for a very cute corner in the playroom!

Once the mural was finished, the rest of the outlet and switch covers went on and we took our time doing small paint touch ups in the corners where the walls and ceilings meet.

Our vinyl plank flooring finally went down next! Originally we had planned for this to only go in the playroom, and have a darker grey flagstone sheet vinyl laid in the bathroom and laundry room, but changed the plan after finding out the sheet vinyl would be laid directly onto the concrete and not on a subfloor. Wanting to make those floors a bit softer on our feet, we decided to match the flooring we had chosen for the playroom in the laundry room and bathroom, and after seeing it with the paint colors we chose, we were so glad we did!

The following Monday our contractor’s crew came back out to start on the trim and doors. They painted the trim and doors and installed them over the course of the next few days. At this time since we had some touch ups and fixes to do, we made the decision to reschedule our carpet installation and couch delivery out one more week.

Soon enough, the day arrived; the day marked ‘CARPET!’ on our calendar. We were so excited to finally see the carpeting go in, and we both breathed a huge sigh of relief when the installers left. The carpet was like the icing on the cake, and in a couple swift moments of walking around and taking it all in, all the stresses, from the issues, the rescheduling, the delays.. it all faded away. The basement was finally finished minus a couple small things (a few pieces of trim, the bi-fold doors for in the laundry room, and the window casings which we hadn’t gotten in yet).

Officially at the 7 months mark since starting the basement remodel, the relief of being finished was real!

You can read about each room fully coming together with all design and organizational aspects in separate posts to come..

In Lifestyle

30 Years Young

How can I possibly be 30?! I remember turning 21 like it was yesterday.. 18 like it was last week, 16 like it was last weekend.. heck, I remember celebrating my 12th birthday with chocolate chip muffins for breakfast and being surprised with Backstreet Boys concert tickets from my parents! Now, I’m a parent! 

It’s like time flies and somehow in our minds, stands still all at once.
For me, certain people I can’t even think of without picturing them at a certain age or certain point in time.. and now here I am, 30 years old, wondering at what age or certain point in time others might picture me. 

3 decades is a long time, and I’ve done so much in those 30 years.


  • Traveled all over with my parents, around the U.S., Europe, Caribbean, Mexico and Canada.
  • Did concert photography for BuzzMedia all over IL and MI for a handful of years which I loved!
  • Started a business, Tara Ashlee Photography!
  • Was the youngest photographer to professionally photograph Lollapalooza in 2010.
  • Had my concert photography published nationally and internationally in various magazines, as well as on a billboard and on concert tickets in Vietnam.
  • Had my work displayed at 3 different galleries in Chicago and even some purchased.
  • Finished school and graduated college with a Bachelors Degree of Fine Arts in Digital Photography.
  • Met my now husband, eventually got engaged and later married!
  • Became a fur baby mom to our Pug Minka, and fluffy kitties Maiya and Marmalade.
  • Traveled all over with my husband!
  • Changed our business to Tara Ashlee Photo & Design, and added to what we offer.
  • Gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Isabella, and became a Mommy & parent!

…and that’s just some of the most notable stuff!

This year, unfortunately COVID was an un-ignorable factor.. and unlike last year when we were able to go on a normal vacation for my birthday (which literally happened the week before all hell broke loose around the world and the pandemic began..) we weren’t able to do something quite as extravagant.

Photos from that last real vacation before the pandemic…

Instead, this year we planned a partial weekend away for the 3 of us to Nashville, Indiana in Brown County for Saturday through Sunday, and a full day out of shopping around Oakbrook, Illinois for on my birthday, March 1st, just the two of us, Andrew and I!

The entire weekend and my birthday were really fun, though not everything went as expected! When we got to Nashville we expected the sun to be shining along with the 60 degree weather, but what we were greeted with on our full day there after staying the night nearby the night before, was wet sidewalks and gloomy cloudy weather.. We walked around all the shops, enjoyed a couple slices of pizza, and did a short drive through the State park, but ultimately decided to not stay a second night based on how the day was going.

We checked out of our hotel and were on the road by around 2 in the afternoon, and the journey home was what actually made the entire getaway!

On the way home we decided to take the more scenic route, but accidentally turned the wrong way somewhere around Bloomington.. This is what brought us to eventually coming across a sign for a Safari Park Drive Thru! From experiencing one of these before, years before Isabella came along, Andrew and I knew this would be something super fun to check out so I looked it up immediately. They were close to closing soon so we knew we wouldn’t be able to do the drive thru that day, but they had so many cool animal encounters and the safari drive thru looked amazing so we decided to go check out how it looked and get some information. It was at that time that we realized we were going South and that we had made a wrong turn somewhere, but we decided to still check it out.

When we got there, Isabella was just waking from her car nap and Andrew ran in to get a pamphlet. We saw some guys trying to get the kangaroos in for the night in a fenced in area and walked over to watch. Isabella thought they were so funny. The guys were really nice and said they were closed now but we were welcome to walk in and see the animals if we wanted real quick. How could we say no?!

Stepping inside, we knew we were going to have to plan a trip to come back! We were able to get up close to the kangaroos, some goats and some funny fluffy chickens. They also had an area inside with a sloth, lemurs, hedgehogs, a tortoise, snakes, birds and parrots. Isabella ran around excitedly squealing at the animals and we all absolutely loved it.

On our way out the door, a big face came towards us from a nearby room, and we were taken aback to gigantic Giraffes walking towards the doorway of the room. It was their feeding time! We asked if we could walk in to see them (knowing that it was a paid encounter after looking at their site on the way there), and they said Yes! So we walked in and watched them get fed. Isabella was a bit worried so they stepped outside not long after to get ready for the drive home, but they definitely were part of the magic of the day.

Once we were back in the vehicle, we decided it was time for the GPS to get home, and that’s when we realized we were much further from home than we had been when we started back at the hotel! So we peddled to the metal, and got on our way back with minimal stops. That was until we were about 2 hours from home.. and came up on and passed a sign for the Doctor Who Store of North America!!! Andrew and I both let out an “Oh My God!” and He said “are we?”, I said “YES!” and we did the fasted U-turn ever!

Another incredibly exciting surprise of the day! We didn’t even know this place existed!
I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who since just before the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith began, which I believe was around 2010, so this was a special treat for me on my birthday weekend!

Andrew treated me to a semi-expensive collectible TARDIS, a little Dalek figure, some Jammies Dodgers and a cute little Polaroid camera keychain they had. They were close to closing, so we didn’t get to look around quite as leisurely as we wanted, but we definitely plan to take a trip back!

Monday finally came, and it was My 30th Birthday!!

After waking up to two lovely cards from Andrew and Isabella, we got showered, dressed and ready for the day out. We went to my favorite store in Chicago, Rotofugi and spent over a hundred on blind boxes, mostly Tokidoki! Then we went over to Sprinkles and picked up cupcakes for my birthday dinner celebration with Andrew, Isabella and my parents for that evening. We then drove out to Oakbrook, IL and went to the World Market, Nordstrom and walked around Oakbrook Center where all the designer stores are. We went into Tiffany & Co hoping they would have a small accent ring I wanted in my size, but unfortunately it was going to take them ten days to get it sized and back for pick up, so we decided to wait and save it for another occasion when Andrew could order it and have it ready for the occasion!

After shopping, we picked up our dinner from Maggiano’s Little Italy and my parent’s dinner and some rice for us for the following day from PF Changs! It was our first time trying Maggiano’s, and let me tell you.. WOW. We will be back!

Once we had picked up dinner, we went straight to my parent’s house where we had dinner with them and celebrated with cupcakes afterwards. Isabella helped me blow out my candles (twice!), and it was a great end to a perfect day and weekend!

In Crafting

Playroom Rainbow Mural

When I planned out Isabella’s future playroom in our basement remodel, I knew I wanted to give it something special. I looked at numerous ideas on Pinterest and even browsed loads of wall decals for quite some time before settling on the idea of painting a rainbow mural! I initially thought a full size rainbow would be great, but after laying out just how I wanted her playroom to look on Photoshop, because I’m just that type of person.. I decided that wouldn’t be necessary and would probably be a lot harder to do.

Little did I know, doing half of a rainbow was just as challenging!

But I’m here to tell you just how I did it, and what worked for me..

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Paints for your rainbow stripes (I used 6 pastel-ish colors)
  • Smaller rounded tip paintbrush
  • 1″ and 2″ paintbrush
  • Blue painter’s tape
  • White chalk
  • Something to wipe chalk with

All of our supplies were purchased from our local Hobby Lobby, except for the blue painter’s tape, but i’m sure you could find these or something similar at any craft store, and the painter’s tape at any home improvement or paint store. 

The first thing we did was decide on colors. Initially I had planned to purchase a small quart for each color from Sherwin-Williams at the same time as purchasing our other paints for our basement walls, but after seeing the size of the smallest paints they offered, I knew I would have a lot left over. So that led me to Hobby Lobby to choose my colors from their acrylic paints. (You could use paint from anywhere, but I prefer these and they worked great for us) From there I just chose colors coordinating to the rainbow I had created in Photoshop. Once I got them home I did a test spot on a separate sheet of paper to make sure they all matched up.

Next it was time to decide just how I was going to get the rainbow outline on the wall. I thought about doing a light pencil marking, but was worried it may show through the paint, so quickly nixed that idea. I borrowed a projector from my in-laws, but that didn’t project the image large enough and was going to be hard to trace. After some research I came across a trick where you put a thumbtack in the bottom corner with string and tie it to chalk and then create a half circle and keep moving the chalk down the string to make the bigger or smaller half circles. For someone with no patience.. or thumbtacks and string handy, I decided chalk was the way I was going!

Before we started, we did a test spot on the wall where we did a small mark with our daughter’s sidewalk chalk, and with a light wipe from a paper towel it was gone with no trace left behind. That helped us decide that this was definitely the right route for us. My husband help me draw on the first chalk half circles, since he has longer arms than I do, and I stood back to help him adjust where needed.

Once we had our chalk outlines, it was time run blue painter’s tape down the adjoining wall in the corner so not to get paint on that side. We stuck the piece about 2 or 3 inches above where our top chalk outline was, just in case I ended up adjusting it further, and ran the tape down the corner to the bottom of the wall. After that, it was time to start painting! I decided to start from the bottom color up. I used the rounded tip paintbrush for the outline, and the 2″ paintbrush for the inside, filling in the color.

After getting the 3rd color on from the bottom I decided that manipulating the blue painter’s tape to follow the curve of the first color was a genius idea to make the bottom line crisper. I ended up deciding to do this again later on for the final top color to get a crisper line there as well. I would highly suggest using your painter’s tape for the top and bottom lines from the very start if you can!

After finishing the first coat of each color, I did edge touch ups and the second coat of each color with my 1″ paint brush, going much slower and making sure to be super precise. Once the second coat of the bottom color was done, I removed the tape and once the second coats of the other colors were all finished I removed the corner and top tape I had added, and admired the work!

After a few hours it was all completely dry and looked great! Even better than I had imagined, and although it was challenging, it was definitely worth it!

A couple weeks later our playroom flooring and trim was in and we were able to get some photos of it completed with the rainbow being a gorgeous corner focal point!

In Mom Life

Toddler Tasks

Since Isabella turned 2, she has been in full toddler mode! She wants to help us do everything she can, and many things that she still needs help with, she loves to try doing herself! She has become quite the independent, though extremely lovable little girl and amazes us all the time with her constant flow of new words and tasks she can do or nearly do on her own. Well, with supervision of course!

Though I know every child is different; growing, learning and advancing at different speeds, this is a list I’ve compiled of Toddler Tasks that I feel are some of the best ones to start with.

1. Brushing Teeth

Of course learning anything to do with good hygiene is a great task! Since Isabella started brushing her teeth herself, she has been obsessed! She promptly asks to brush her teeth every time she wakes up, whether in the morning or just after a nap, and sometimes she even asks at other random times during the day. Although we don’t want brushing teeth to become more like a game, we do occasionally let her brush more than twice in a day, and we take it as a serious win since many kids fight brushing their teeth. We always start off by brushing them for her to make sure she gets all the spots needed, and then we let her continue to brush and end with her washing her face, and drying her hands and face.

2. Washing Hands

Once the pandemic hit, this became a super important task for Isabella to learn! She was just 16 months when we started helping her at the sink wash her hands with soap and water, and now at 2, she tells us when she feels they need washed, and when we ask her if she’ll wash her hands, she is always excited to do so. She has been wiping her own hands with wet wipes just as long as washing in the sink, but this is definitely another of those really great hygiene tasks that we love that she loves to do!

3. Putting Toys Away

What mom doesn’t want her child to put their own toys away!? Of course this can be a challenge when helping them, but we find making sure specific toys have specific places that they always go in helps. Isabella loves smaller toys.. blocks, Disney TOTS babies, Fisher Price Little People, Disney figures.. So because of this we have made sure that every group of toys has its own place to go at the end of the day, so when we ask her to clean up, she knows what it means and where to put them. Of course bigger toys or ones with no specific place we still help her ‘put away’, because that may be harder to grasp at just 2, but this is definitely all a step in the right direction!

4. Choosing Snacks or Drinks from Choices

Like most parents, we wish the baby stages could have lasted much longer.. However, we also wished many times that we knew what Isabella wanted when it came to food and snacks, amongst other things. When Isabella started talking it was easy for her to ask for a Baba (bottle). Although we only ever put milk or water in it, it was still easy, as we knew when she tossed it down that she wanted whatever wasn’t in it instead. As her vocabulary and understanding advanced and her Baba turned into numerous different sippy cups, we began to give her choices. We believe it’s important for her to get to make some of her own choices, and snacks and drinks are something we let her decide on every day. Milk, juice and water are common choices we give for drinks, and veggie puffs, a cheese slice, or a GoGo Squeeze (we call them GoGeeze) are her common choices for a snack. By making small choices likes these, we waste less, and she is a lot happier to enjoy what she wants.

5. Putting Socks On

Coming from someone who loves being barefoot and isn’t much of a socks wearer, I love this one. I have loved those tiny toes and washing those tiny socks since Isabella was born, and watching her put them on all by herself now is super sweet. You can see so much pride in her face when she finishes putting her socks on all by herself when getting ready to go out somewhere. Not to mention, my OCD is even ok with how often she takes them off and switches one out with another pattern or color. No matter matched or mismatched, this is one of those tasks that shows how much she has grown, and I just love!

6. Giving Treats To or Feeding The Dog / Cat

Nothing creates more responsibility than having something or someone else to look after. Of course we aren’t letting our 2 year old fully take care of our animals, but we do let her give them treats and feed them occasionally. Isabella has become great at putting our Pug in her crate and rewarding her with a treat before we leave the house to go anywhere. She also promptly lets us know when the water dish for them is empty! Both, very helpful.

7. Throwing Trash Away

If you have fluffy pets or a sticker obsessed toddler, this is another great toddler task! Isabella is often sticking stickers to each other, balling them up, finding fuzzies or tuffs of cat fur in the places.. and bringing them all to us when we are lounging on the couch watching a movie. She has learned that when we say, “it’s trash, go throw it away” she goes into the kitchen, steps on the pedal of the can and does throw it away. Now, once in awhile she’ll see something intriguing in the trash can and want to take it back out, but baby steps.. right? Teaching your toddler to throw trash away can be a great thing, and we intend to let this one expand into a great habit of making sure trash goes in the garbage and not on the floor or ground wherever we are or go.

8. Buckling Themself In

For awhile Isabella would get so excited about a sweet treat, a special snack or meal that she would run over and climb into her booster seat and buckle herself in. Though the novelty of buckling herself in has worn off a bit lately, it does still re-emerge here and there, and when I’m busy in the kitchen and ask her to go get in her seat, it helps out a bit when she can do it herself and be ready for me to just push her chair in. Although we haven’t mastered this for the stroller, I could see this also being a great helpful task for buckling in a stroller or even a car seat in future if you’re comfortable with letting your toddler do that.

9. Carry Dishes or Cups To Kitchen

This one is similar to the throwing trash away task. It’s another task to start and set the tone for your toddler to know where things go and when. This is a more recent task for us, but when Isabella finishes a drink or a snack that is in a dish and after she announces it’s “all gone”, we ask her to go put it on the counter or drop it in the sink. She used to just hand them to us when she would finish, but now she knows exactly where they go each time she is done, and it has already aided in a much tidier kitchen.

10. Clean Up Small Messes

Just before Isabella turned two, we started letting her clean up small messes she makes. Messes such as crayon marks on table or floor, or a small spill on the table or floor are easy for her to wipe up. She enjoys cleaning up little messes, and often asks us for a wipe to wipe her table, slide or toys down, after watching us cleaning the counters or wiping down the kitchen table. No objections here!

In Mom Life

What to get your 2 year old for Valentine’s Day

I will be honest with you. I never knew I would be that mom.. the one who tries to make her child’s snacks look all cute, gives their toddler gifts for Valentine’s Day, and starts to decorate for every holiday and just can’t stop.. But, here we are. 

I found myself over a month before Valentine’s Day looking at online shops and ideas of what I could give my daughter in addition to a card (which of course is purely for keepsake reasons). What I came up with included a few items from small shops and a couple items from bigger known stores. I went with a pink color scheme and even found a cute little bag to put most of it in.

Ideas I had for her gift included,
Something to…

  • Play with
  • Snack on
  • Wear
  • Snuggle
  • Color
  • Read
  • Accessorize with

I ended up compiling a selection of 5 items for her special little Valentine’s Day gift..

The first being a new bow from Baby Bling Bows that has the perfect Valentine’s Day colors!
From their 2021 Valentine’s collection, it is the Pink with Red Dot Shabby DEB Skinny.

The next item was from a small shop we absolutely love and I’ve been a fan of for years, Flourish Leather! Every month they open their shop for a limited time with restocked and new items. When I seen the Rose Sparkle Braided Leather Bracelet available in both adult and child sizes, I had to get Isabella and I matching ones! Naturally hers had to go in with her Valentine’s Day gift!

Of course after adding a bow and a bracelet, both fun accessories, I wanted to include something we could do together. After being invited to some Color Street parties on social media and having a successful time putting some sparkly Color Street polish on Isabella’s fingers at Christmas, I decided that was the perfect addition! I chose the Petite style called ‘Glitterally Can’t’, and it pairs so perfect with the other items!

Something else Isabella loves, other than girly, sparkly things, is books! She is obsessed. Sticker books, finger puppet books, board books, look and find books, color books, books she can snuggle beside me and I read to her.. All books are a big win with Isabella, so I had to choose a book! I ended up finding The Sweetest Dream Come True by Mercedes Lucero at Hallmark while getting her card there. It looked so cute that I just couldn’t pass it up, and I can’t wait to read it to her!

The last part of her gift had to be something to wear. Anyone who knows Isabella really well knows she could be wearing the cutest outfit and an hour later, wants to know where her jammies are, so the choice was obvious! These adorable blush pink footie pajamas came from Carters and I just know she will love them for spring as she transitions out of her winter fleece jammies.

I’m so excited for Valentine’s Day and to give Isabella her little gifts.
I just know she will love all of them!

I hope if you’re looking for ideas for your 2 year old daughter or child, this also gave you some great ideas! No matter what, I know whatever you choose, big or small your child will love it!

In Crafting

Toddler Crafting • Valentine’s Day Magnets

There’s nothing like watching Isabella have so much fun painting, and being so proud of the final results! This year for Valentine’s Day I decided we’d up our game a bit and instead of making cards, we would make something that could be used and enjoyed all year long, magnets!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Wooden hearts
  • Adhesive Magnet
  • Paint
  • Glitter paint
  • Paint foam brushes
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Paint palette or something to put paint on
  • Something to protect table (placemat or other)

All of our supplies were purchased from our local Hobby Lobby, but i’m sure you could find them or something similar at any craft store. 

The first thing we did was decide on colors. I knew I wanted these to have a monochromatic scheme of pinks so I brought out all the paints we already had in those colors and the new ones we had purchased and let Isabella choose 5 of them. After all, I always try to let her make decisions and choices about the crafts she does, so they feel genuinely hers.

After she had picked her colors, I laid down a placemat for her to work on. This is optional. In the past I have let her paint things on paper plates, white computer paper or on large pieces of cardboard. Really anything to protect your table will work! 

Next I squirted a little of each chosen paint onto a plastic reusable container lid, as our plastic paint palettes were missing in action (MIA) somehow at the time of this project. By the time the paints were in place, Isabella was excited and ready! With her hair pulled up, an oversize crafting shirt on in case she got messy or had any splatter, she was ready to start!

As she would finish a heart, I would ask if she wanted to do another and give her a fresh one while I set the other on the counter to dry.

Depending on how many you are having your child do, you may need to take a break at some point or plan to do half one day and half the next! I’ve found either of these options will keep them excited about the project and engaged in wanting to do it!

Once the main painting of the hearts are finished and they have all fully dried, you can either begin to add the glitter paint over top, or you can add some extra cute fingerprint hearts! 

For the fingerprint hearts, I held Isabella’s little index finger out and painted it white. I then pressed it down twice crossed at the bottom to make a little chunky (sorta) heart shape. You can do this as many times as you’d like on the hearts, or use this as just a sort of signature of your child if you’d like and just do it once. I added it 3 times on each heart as just an extra little stamp of Isabella!

Once the fingerprint hearts are fully dried, it’s time to add the sparkle! Take a small brush and cover it with your glittery paint. The one we chose from the store was a mostly transparent, pinky toned one. This just adds a little something extra and acts as a somewhat clear coat seal on top. I have found doing this step myself to be much easier than letting Isabella. Since it is mostly transparent she doesn’t have the same interest as she does when seeing colors go on and mix together. After the glitter has been added, let these dry awhile longer.

When your hearts are smooth and no longer sticky to the touch you can open your magnetic adhesive and grab your scissors. Flip over your hearts and eyeball the length you want your magnet to be on the backs. Cut to size and stick on in the desired place!

Now your Valentine’s Day magnets are complete, you can keep them for keepsakes or give them to your Valentines!

In Lifestyle

Dreamy Farmgirl Flowers

Researching flowers for delivery, they all look the same, don’t they? Roses, lillies, carnations, babies breath..

But after stumbling upon Farmgirl Flowers a year or so ago, I had to have some!! Every bouquet offered was unique and stunning and came in the cutest little burlap sack, totally instagrammable!

I immediately began dropping hints for every possible flower suggesting occasion. Admittedly the price was a bit daunting at first.. after all, my husband could take me to my favorite Michigan flower cart any time in the summer to handpick an entire bouquet for $.50 to $1 per stem. But unfortunately for him, our wedding anniversary falls in the winter on December 24th (Yes, Christmas Eve!), and not only is my favorite flower cart definitely closed for the season, but typically its location is also under at least half a foot of snow by that time of year, and lucky if not. 

So after hinting and hinting, my husband Andrew finally caved and fully surprised me for our anniversary! By fully surprised, I mean I totally thought I was getting them, and he kept perfectly poker-facing me saying that he hadn’t until I believed it! He won.

We arrived home after my parent’s annual Christmas Eve party and there they were at the house! In the gorgeous Farmgirl Flowers box that builds excitement just by carefully cutting the tape to open it.

They were stunning and I loved them, but after waiting in their box for us to get home and free them, some were slightly wilted and after a week they were done. Bummed and disappointed we contacted customer service.

This is where the entire experience really began! Their customer service was incredible. 
They apologized for the flowers being less than perfect and offered to send an entirely new bouquet, and this time, I was ready for the moment they arrived!!

Friday morning they were delivered and let me just say, wow! This bouquet was even prettier than the other, and absolutely perfect! 

As I mentioned before, opening the box to reveal the bouquet inside is an experience in itself! Farmgirl Flowers does an amazing job at creating the most exciting, dreamy experience ever of receiving a flower delivery. 

Their flower selections are like none other. Which is what attracted me to their company to begin with. Their bouquets aren’t just the usual flowers and babies breath, but have more exotic looking stems and greenery than you’d ever see from a local florist. The florists who create the Farmgirl Flower bouquets, definitely know what’s up!

All in all, if you haven’t tried Farmgirl Flowers yet and love having fresh flowers in your home, it is definitely worth a splurge! By the time they arrive, you will already be planning when to order your next bouquet. I even kept the first delivery box for storage use in my office closet! They really spare no detail, and just like my experience, you can be sure that the customer service is no exception!

In Mom Life

These are a few of my favorite things.. My Top 8 Baby Things List

When Andrew and I were expecting, I did a lot of research. We wanted to have all the best products and items for our baby girl.. and I wanted them all to be pink! Yes, really. Did that happen? No, of course not. Obviously, they weren’t all available in pink, but we did make sure to get the best products we could that would be the most useful to us as new parents. With that in mind, at the same time, there were a lot of items we thought we needed and realized we didn’t… I’m looking at you Pink Diaper Genie, and you, Baby Bullet..

While I’m sure items like those might be great use to a lot of new parents, from our experience we found they just weren’t things that worked for us. So I’ve compiled a list. When Isabella was a newborn through about 6 months of age, there were many times I recommended these products to other expectant parents, and after recently being inspired to make a gathered list, I’ve decided this is something I felt compelled to share!

  1. Owlet Smart Sock
    Retails for $299 HERE
    As an anxious person one of my biggest worries after Isabella was born was the scariest thing you can hear about, SIDS. The owlet helped us sleep easy by monitoring Isabella all through the night and every nap, constantly keeping us up to date on her heart rate, oxygen level and sleep patterns via their handy app from the night she came home from the hospital until a week before she turned 18 months! The peace of mind is more than worth the price!

  2. Dockatot Deluxe+
    Retails for $195 HERE
    The Dockatot was another item that helped this anxious mama, and gave peace of mind. It stopped Isabella from rolling to her side or over when setting her down, and she even slept soundly on her back anywhere we laid her, while in this. Though it is advised that babies do not sleep in this in a crib, cot or bassinet; we didn’t know that until after she was old enough to roll out of it, and by then we had retired it to keep nice for our next future child. While sleeping in this however, she always had her Owlet sock on, so had there ever been an issue, we would’ve known immediately.

  3. Peg Perego Prima Pappa Zero 3 High Chair
    Retails for $249.99 HERE
    This Peg Perego high chair is what pink baby girl expectant mama’s dreams are made of!! We had previously picked out a different high chair until we seen this in person at Buy Buy Baby, and knew we couldn’t leave without it. It is the Rolls Royce of high chairs. The first thing I loved about this, was it didn’t just go up and down, and by down I mean that seat goes all the way down, down enough to let your baby girl sit eye to eye with you as you fold clothes on the floor… But it also tips back! It was great as a safe place to lay Isabella with a bottle while I did things around the kitchen, and when I was working on projects on the computer, I often had my sweet baby girl right beside me with a toy. Also, for being white, this high chair wipes down and cleans up so wonderfully that you could never tell it had been used after cleaning up a spaghetti mess!

  4. Binxy Baby Shopping Cart Hammock
    Retails for $49.95 HERE
    Of course having a baby pre-pandemic was a thing of sheer luxury when you could show off your adorable new baby while shopping. The Binary Baby hammock was something we constantly were giving people information on. Isabella would lay in hers and coo away, as we shopped and placed groceries and such beneath her. It is the perfect way to keep your little one safe in a shopping cart without taking up the entire cart with their car seat.
  5. Electric Baby Nail Clippers
    Retails for $21.99 HERE
    While looking for things to make taking care of a newborn just a little easier before having Isabella, I found these electric baby nail clippers on Amazon. So often baby kits come with little tiny nail clippers, and I wasn’t even aware there was such a thing to make such a daunting task easier, until I came across this! The device is fairly quiet and so easy to use. We often trimmed Isabella’s nails while she napped with this, and even the times she was awake, she was mesmerized by the little light on it that helps you see what you’re doing. It comes with multiple file heads that are each different levels from newborn to older baby and plenty of replacement heads so you’ll never run out. This made trimming her nails quick and painless every time!

  6. Magnetic Me Jammies
    Retails for $38.00 HERE
    Before we even knew whether we were having a boy or girl we had found these jammies in one of the cutest children’s boutiques in Michigan! We seen their magical potential with the lack of zippers and thank goodness – snaps. These magnetic closure jammies are just the tip of the absolute goodness that Magnetic Me offers, but we loved them so much that by the time Isabella was 6 months, the bulk of her jammies were all magnetic. After all – they made middle of the night and sleepy early morning changes a breeze. They have the most gorgeous prints and patterns and they come out the wash looking just as good as new. The one in the photo is one of our most favorite prints we ever found for Isabella, and she wore it the very first time she napped in her crib.
  7. 4moms Breeze Plus Playard
    Retails for $249.99 HERE
    Much like our high chair was basically the Rolls Royce of high chairs, this is the Rolls Royce of playards! The ease of opening for use and closing for storing was what really caught us. For quite some time it was kept open in our living room as a safe place for Isabella to play when she was smaller, and even as she got bigger and started to walk, we found it as a great place to put her in to play safely while we ran to get something from another room, used the bathroom or let our Pug outside. Of course the day finally came when she could climb out, but we used this heavily until that time came. We even used this outside with a bug net/ sun shade over top at cook-outs a couple times, and Isabella found it so comfortable she even fell asleep in it many times.

  8. Guava Lotus Travel Crib
    Retails for $249.99 HERE
    This travel crib is more than just a travel crib, but also acts as a travel playard! Ours specifically has been through 4 flights, and has been used not only on 3 separate week-long vacations that included multiple hotels, resorts and airbnbs, but it also has been used here at home. When Isabella napped more often as a small baby, there were times I would go visit with my mom during the day and we’d lay her down in this. We found it so easy for her to fall asleep in our arms and slowly lay her down inside without waking her due to being able to put her in through the side and not down from the top. When Isabella began crawling she would also play at their house, crawling in and out with toys, just as she would do when we went on vacation! The ease of folding and carrying this was one of the biggest factors in our purchase decision, and the idea we could stow in the overhead during a flight or have it compact in the trunk of our vehicle for a road trip was a huge plus!