Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Favorite Floral Shirt

My summer has been consumed with running around, sports, pools, meals, and kids...I have loved our wild, busy, and lovely summer, but it doesn't leave a lot of time for sharpening my summer wardrobe. I do not claim to be a fashionista, but I do enjoy finding and sharing easy, inexpensive, and flattering pieces when I come across them.

I recently made an impromptu mall stop (I had a couple of free minutes!) and found the perfect floral tee at JC Penney.

I LOVE this shirt! It fits loosely but is super flattering. I have tucked it into a high-waisted, tan pencil skirt for church, worn it out with fitted skinny jeans and flats, and tucked it in to a pair of white shorts. I have loved it every which way and it should transition into fall nicely. It would also be great for a newly pregnant mom or one who has just given birth...it hides and slims and the pattern is great for any age. One downside is that it runs big and the smallest option is a small which fits a lot more like a medium. The upside is it also comes in an XL.

On sale now for $21.99...find it HERE.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Eyelashes with 4 Men 1 Lady

I was recently introduced to 4 Men 1 Lady, a design and DIY blog that I adore. If only I could get Michelle into my home and work her magic, I may be able to fill up some of my bare walls and pillowless couches. Her energy and talent are enviable. You must check her out for serious inspiration.

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Today, she is doing a little review of the 3D Fiber Lash Mascara on her blog...spoiler alert, she loves it, and you can see why:

PicMonkey Collage2

I am still completely sold too. Comparing my eyes in the last 2 TV segments I did (here and here), I notice a major difference in the second one because of the mascara. These photos below look horrible next to Michelle's, but the difference is still pretty obvious. 

I wrote a rather lengthy post HERE about the mascara, but I have had a few recent questions, so I thought I would answer them today: 

Q: How long does a tube of mascara last?
A: On average about 3 months, but if you use it less frequently it can last up to 6 months.

Q: Does it work the same on everyone?
A: I have watched lots of women apply the mascara, and the results do vary depending on your eyelashes, but the results are overwhelmingly amazing for most.

Q: Is it water proof?
A: No, but it is water resistant. So, wear it while you work out or even to a sad movie, but not to the pool. It washes off easily with a little facial cleanser and water (or water and eye rubbing :).

Q: Does it ruin your lashes?
A: No! It will not cause them to fall out or break or anything at all. In fact, I think mine are in even better shape than before I started wearing it.

Q: Does it come in brown?
A: No, sorry.

Q: How many coats do you put on?
A: One coat will make a difference, but two coats is ideal.

Q: What if my eyelashes seem a little clumpy?
A: Sometimes with a new tube you may need to use a little eyelash comb separator, but the more I do it, the more I get the hang of it and they don't clump much at all anymore. Another trick is after the first coat, only apply the mascara to the tips of the eyelashes if it seems to be bothering you. 

Q: What are those fibers made out of?
A: They are Green Tea Fibers. The mascara and fibers are natural and gluten-free. 

Q: What if I don't love it?
A: 100% Money Back Guarantee. 

Q: I would love to see it in action. Is there a video?
A: This one is great, here

Q: What if I love the mascara and want to have a party, what do I do?
A: We can do parties online or in person (if you are in Utah). Online parties are pretty simple and are done through social media with photos and recommendations from you. Home parties are also really low key...I bring some mascara and make-up samples, people give it a try, love it, and you get free make-up. Contact me for more details.

Q: What if I am considering selling it...what is the company like?
A: Younique is an awesome company to work for. They pay you directly through your website (you don't have to collect money or distribute product) and it is all incredibly streamlined and simple with very little risk. Here is a link to more detailed information. This month, their presenter kit has free shipping, which saves you about $10 and comes with some pretty fantastic make-up. If you have questions, I would be happy to answer them! 

Anything I am forgetting that you need to know? Just ask! 

To purchase the mascara, click HERE

15 Tips for Making Friends After a Move

It was so much fun to be on Studio 5 today chatting about these tips! To see the video, click HERE






We have moved 9 times in our 14 years of marriage. Some moves have taken us across the country and other moves have taken us to the city next door. Surprisingly, every move is hard in its own way. Making close friends quickly and easily only happened 1 out of 9 times.

After so many moves, I realized that the faster I make friends, the better I like our new spot. The longer I wait, the more I regret not becoming closer to people sooner. That being said, making friends is a lot of work, but it's so rewarding. So, if you are new to an area (or not so new) and feeling lonely, dive in!

My 15 Tips for Making Friends After a Move

Start before you get there. If you have decided to move, tell everyone you know. You will be shocked at how many connections you already have to your new city. Use that "friend of a friend" or "sister's husband's cousin" to really acquaint yourself to your new area from afar. If people are willing, grab their email address and phone number and use them to find answers to your questions. Let them know when you will be arriving and meet up with them. It's fantastic to feel like you have any connection to an unfamiliar city.

Play the new card. This might sound funny, but people are SO willing to help people out who are new to their area. Any time we move, I ask random people every where about everything regarding our new city: dentists and doctors, fun things to do with your family, local restaurants, etc. Take advantage of being new and create easy friendships through these types of conversations. Which leads me to #3...

Get a phone number. I know, you probably thought you were past the whole, "Can I get your number" stage, but when you move it is like dating all over again. If you meet a mom you click with in the classroom, neighborhood or at a park, get her number and ask if she and her child would like to meet up some time, and then call her!

Start meet ups. After you have gotten a number or two, text your new friends when you decide to do something fun. You can give them notice for a big outing like the zoo, or you can shoot a quick text to let them know you are heading to a favorite park, lunch spot, or going on a walk and see if they want to join you. This method is so easy and pressure-free for everyone; they can come and mingle without feeling obligated to stay too long, plus it allows you to bow out when you need to go too. I have found that people are usually very happy for an invite to be social. This works with older kids and entire families on a weekend...we like to bring take out to a park or pool and let the kids and adults play and chat. I also love that it limits my investment in the get-together since the invite is casual and to a place I was already planning on going. If no one can come, it's fine; if someone joins us, it's a bonus.

Find a group. In order to make friends, you have to put yourself out there. I have always found great friends through my church and my neighbors. If you are not a church going person or don't have many neighbors in your stage of life, join a mom's group, a gym, the PTA, take a class or volunteer. Try to make yourself a part of something as quickly as possible and don't limit your friendships by age or stage of life...some of my favorite relationships have been with women significantly older or a bit younger than I am.

Start or join a club. I love to read, so one of the first things I find in a new area is a book club. If one doesn't exist, I start one. The great thing about starting something you love is that it doesn't feel like work and it's okay if only a few people are interested. If books are not your thing, how about a crafting or cooking group, a card or running club?

Don't complain about your new city. There is no better way to alienate new friends than to talk about how horrible their town is. Go ahead and share some of the differences between your new and old city or some of the funny quirks you've found, but no one wants to hear that their neighborhood is a million steps down from where you came from. See the good, and if it is hard, let your new friends help you find it.

Don't glorify your old spot. People are generally interested in what life is like in other parts of the country and world, but talking about your old stomping grounds like they are celestial gets old. Share the good and the bad about where you came from, but don't make your neighbors feel like you wish you were still there. Show them you are happy to start fresh.

Open up. I know it can be tough when you are new, but closeness comes so much more quickly when you are willing to be open (of course, within reason). No one I've met is interested in being friends with someone who is perfect or emotionless. Honestly share things that are hard for you and be willing to be open about the things you love and enjoy. In return, ask your new friends questions and take the opportunity to get to know them too. When you are new, it can be easy to forget to reciprocate that kindness and interest in others.

Say yes. Moving is busy, but take a break for a little fun. I have found that in the beginning, people are especially nice and welcoming, so take advantage of that and say yes as often as possible when you get an invitation to connect with new friends and neighbors.

Give service. Look for ways you can help in your neighborhood or with your new friends. Offer to watch kids during a doctor's appointment, drive some extra boys to soccer practice, or bring in dinner after a baby. Going out of your way to be kind really helps people feel more comfortable in making a connection with you.

Accept service. I know this sounds a bit strange, but some of our closest relationships have blossomed because we allowed others to help us out. Multiple times we have had men offer to help us unload our items from the moving truck and women offer to keep an eye on our little boys while we unpack. Their generosity was incredibly meaningful and we felt close to them instantly. That being said, don't be a drain on others' time or resources; take help when you really need it, but don't cross the line of taking advantage of kindness.

Feed people. If you really want to get to know someone, offer them food. It is rare that an invitation to our home for dinner or dessert gets passed up, and it is our favorite way to really get to know a family. I usually cook (check out my easy recipes for a crowd HERE.) and keep it simple with paper plates and utensils, or you can always just order pizza. If that seems like more than you can handle, invite people over for dessert (ice cream sundae bars are easy and everyone loves them). Breaking bread together offers entire families a chance to chat and get to know one another on a more personal level. We often have a game to play (indoors or outside) after the talking and eating just in case things are a little slow. We have found that this is the most effective way to meet new friends.

Deliver dessert. Have you ever lived somewhere for years and never met your neighbors? I am ashamed to say that we have, and it is so embarrassing. This problem can be remedied by taking cookies to your neighbors soon after you move in, if they don't come over first. It allows you to skip all those awkward encounters years later when you realize you've lived next to each other for 5 years and don't even know each other's first names. It can also be the beginning of a great friendship. It's so easy to deliver dessert and say, "Hey, we just moved in on the corner and wanted to meet our neighbors." Breaks down barriers right away.

Start a tradition. I saved my favorite tip for the end. Decide, as a family, if there is a tradition you would like to start in your new area that happens yearly and people look forward to. For example, our family, regardless of our location, has decided to do a Marshmallow Snowball Fight during December. We invite all our friends and neighbors and have the best time. We have taken part in Valentine cookie decorating nights, 4th of July BBQs with potluck fireworks, outdoor summer movie nights with popcorn and candy; a Halloweenie roast with hot dogs, s'mores and homemade root beer, neighborhood Easter egg hunts, caroling parties, water fights, Superbowl parties, etc. There are lots of fun things you can do, but make it something you love and look forward to. It is an especially great way to meet people when you are new to an area.




TWO QUICK NOTES

Reciprocity. Please realize that just because you have people to your home for dinner or invite them to fun activities does not mean that they will reciprocate the invitation. It also does not mean that they don't enjoy their time with you or your family. I did not realize this in the beginning and felt bummed that few people ever invited us to their home or to their planned fun. We have probably had 10 times as many people to our home than have ever invited us to theirs and I have probably coordinated 10 times the get togethers as I have ever been invited to, but I know that people have enjoyed our nights together and our acquaintances have blossomed into real and lasting friendships because of it. It no longer bothers me at all. People are comfortable showing friendship in different ways (and some hate to cook or have a limited budget), so don't wait around for someone to invite you back...you might be waiting forever and really miss out.

3 Strikes, You're Out. While I don't expect a reciprocal invitation, I am not a glutton for humiliation. So, we have a 3 strike rule. If I invite someone to join us 3 times and they say no without saying something like, "Invite us next time though, I'm sorry our schedules are so off!" or if they don't respond at all, I will wait for them to initiate something before I invite again. There are lots of people in the world who need and want friends, so we try to focus our efforts on people who are excited about getting to know us too!

For more moving advice, check out: 
13 Practical Ways to Help Kids Adjust to a Move
21 Great Ways to Welcome New Neighbors

To see Mom Explores Michigan's most loved articles, click HERE!

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Day at Capitol Reef National Park, Torrey, Utah

If you are looking for an incredible Utah get away that is a bit off the beaten path, our family LOVED Capital Reef National Park. We had spent the weekend in Fish Lake, so we only had one day at Capitol Reef, but we certainly made the most of it.


If you go for one day with kids in tow, here are my recommendations (forgive our "roll out of bed" look):

1. Stop at the Visitor's Center. Pop in for a few minutes and watch the video. I know, sounds like something you would skip, but it is about 18 minutes and so informative about the area. I love having historical context when we travel and my boys enjoyed it too. They were also incredibly helpful and knowledgeable. Don't feel shy about asking questions either...they gave us great pointers for hiking and exploring with kids. There are restrooms and drinking fountains at the Visitor's Center too, which we used for pit stops and to refill water bottles. There is a geological tour at 10 am that we wish we would have known about.

2. Hike Cohab Canyon Trail. We found this was the perfect hike with kids. We found a few animals hiding at the start of the trail, which always excites my boys. After the animal caves, there are some rather impressive switchbacks but the trail is well worn and easy to navigate so even little feet won't have too much of a problem hiking up or down as long as you have some patience or a good backpack. The views are fantastic from every point of the trail and we all found ourselves saying, "Look how amazing!" over and over again. After the climb to the top, you are inserted into a slot canyon where the terrain changes. One thing we have learned about hiking with little ones is the more variation the better! My boys were crazy about climbing inside the slots and we all appreciated the shade and cooler temperature. There are some areas with sand where we sat and played, buried a couple of boys and tested our own echoes.

The trail (one way) is 1.7 miles, but after you have seen enough of the slots, you can turn around at any point. There was so much beauty to take in! We all agree that Cohab Canyon is one of our favorites...challenging, interesting and fun. If you only have time for one hike, this is the perfect one.  (For a guide to all the hikes and trials, click here).









3. Try the Junior Ranger Program. Capitol Reef National Park is so family friendly! My boys participated in one of the Junior Ranger talks and thought it was awesome. They learned all about geology and how the canyon was formed. It was quick and engaging. If you are sticking around for awhile, it's a nice way to break up the day.



4. Take the Scenic Drive. If you haven't seen enough red or incredible land formations, or if your crew is not up for hiking much, the scenic drive will give you an overview of all you really need to see. Our kids thought it was a bit of a snooze, but we (as adults) enjoyed being able to see it all. 





5. Walk Golden Throne. The actual Golden Throne hike was not our favorite, but we really wanted to see the names carved into the rock from the Mormon pioneers who founded the settlement. It was incredible to see the names and dates from those who lived and settled there so long ago. We saw the names about 20 minutes into the hike then turned around because of heat, complaining children and more gnats than any of us could stand!! 


6. Things I wish we would have done but didn't have time for:
7. A few tips after our first visit:
  • Bring $5 in cash to get into the park.
  • Bring PLENTY of water bottles! It is hot and the elevation is high, so you will need more water than you think you will. You can fill up at the Visitor's Center, but have plenty for your family for as long as you will be out. 
  • Sunscreen and more sunscreen...hats too! 
  • Bring a backpack and food for your family. You can bring a cooler in your car, but a backpack is necessary to carry water and snacks for little ones. We have found that a pocket full of gummy bears keeps an almost 3 year old walking.
  • Kids can only handle one long hike per day (or that is all ours can handle). We should have done more of the other stuff instead of forcing the second hike. 
8. For more specific info on hours, reservations, and camping (there is even comfy, shady grass camping!) check out the home page here

We had such an amazing time and we can't wait to return! On our way out, we were starving and stopped at Slackers in Torrey for burgers, fries and shakes. The perfect ending to a perfect day! For more places to explore in Utah, click here






Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Good Eats: Tomato and Feta Egg Casserole

A great brunch is one of my favorite meals to eat and to prepare. Last month I hosted my mascara party and made food for a crowd. One recipe I especially loved was my Tomato and Feta Egg Casserole...it's hearty and flavorful but full of veggies and protein. Perfect if you have a garden full of tomatoes and zucchini this summer!



Ingredients

3 Tbsp. butter
2 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 zucchini, chopped
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
8 pieces of white bread torn into pieces
9 eggs, beaten
3 c. milk
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. mustard
1 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 1/4 cup feta, crumbled
4-6 tomatoes (depending on size), sliced for the top of the casserole

Directions

1. Melt the butter and saute the onion until it is soft. Add the pepper, zuchinni, and garlic salt and cook until veggies are crisp tender. Set aside.
2. Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and mustard.
3. In a greased 9 x 13 pan, layer the torn bread, the monterey jack cheese, 3.4 c. of  feta cheese, then the veggies. Pour the egg mixture over the top and let sit over night or for at least 6 hours.
4. In the morning, before baking, layer the top of the casserole with sliced tomatoes and the remainder of the cheese.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. If the top looks like it is cooking too fast, put foil over the top for the last 20 minutes of cooking.
6. Let sit, covered, for a couple of minutes before serving.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Outdoor Fun: Rolling Hills Water Park, Ypsilanti, MI

One of our favorite summer activities is spending the day at Rolling Hills Water Park in Ypsilanti. It can keep you and your little ones busy all day long in the warm sunshine. There were a few things I especially loved (all images and information via Rolling Hills Water Park):

The variety. Both toddlers and teenagers can spend the day doing everything they love...some of it together and some of it apart. If you are looking for a great place to take the entire family or extended family, this is it. You will find the following areas:


  •  White Cap Bay. The zero-depth entry wave pool allows guests to play in the surf of the shallow end and ride the waves floating in inner tubes in the deeper water. Waves are on for 8 minutes and the water is calm for 12.



  • Plunge Peak. This 32 foot tall tower features 3 water slides! Two twisting slides, each with 250 feet of wet and winding fun, and one 160-foot speed slide for more adventurous riders. Riders must be 42" or taller to ride any slide on Plunge Peak.




  • Lazy River. The river offers 750 feet of slow moving current. Guests may enjoy a relaxing float in a no-spray channel or choose an optional adventure route featuring various forms of spray, geysers or falling water.




  • Body Slide and Tube Slide. The narrow body slide offers a long straightaway and a sweeping turn before spilling into a splash pool. On the wider tube slide, guests may ride with or without a tube and carry a passenger on their lap.



  • Little Dipper. The Little Dipper kiddie slide is for children less than 45" tall The ride gently slopes into shallow water and is wide enough for several children to ride at the same time.

Kiddie Slide

  • Activity Pool. The activity pool is very popular with younger children due to its wide zero depth entry, gentle bubblers, geysers, a waterfall and the Little Dipper slide for children under 45" tall.

Kids under the Waterfall in the Activity Pool


  • Spray Grounds. There are two spray ground offered at Rolling Hills and they include open slides, tube slides, water falls and geysers.





  • Sand Playground. The sand playground is perfect for little guests who need a break from the water.


The price. Rolling Hills is a full water park, but since it is also a county park, you can't beat the price. One bummer is you do have to pay $5 for your vehicle if you are a Washtenaw county resident or $9 for your vehicle if you are a non resident. Good incentive to carpool ;). The entrance fee is as follows:  

The upkeep. Rolling Hills is in great shape and well maintained. I'm not sure I have ever been to a water park that is so clean and well taken care of. You will love it. 

If you go. 

Sleep in. The park is open 11am-7pm Monday-Friday and 11am-8pm Saturday-Sunday.

Don't bring food. One of the ways they keep the park looking so nice is by prohibiting outside food and drink. We got away with a water bottle, but they saw us sneaking a few goldfish and told us to put them away. If you don't want to buy food there, you can bring a cooler in your car and head out of the park to eat lunch and snack. They have typical grill food plus a few healthy options that are reasonably priced and can be eaten in the designated food area. Exceptions are made for baby bottles and baby food.

Bring your ID. In order to get the resident deal on parking and entrance fees, you MUST have your ID...no exceptions.

Wear your own life jacket. Rolling Hills has a few life jackets to loan to guests, but if you know your child needs a flotation device, it is best to bring your own.

Dress in swim diapers. Babies and toddlers must wear swim diapers. You can bring your own or purchase them in the front office. 

Go with a group. If you have a group of 20 or more, contact the group offices for a special discount. Group swim times are from 11-2 only. 




Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Our favorite 4th of July spot...TRAVERSE CITY, MI

Last year we had the most amazing 4th of July in Traverse City! If you don't already have plans for the weekend, get on the phone and book a place at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa! We loved every second there. See all the details of our trip HERE and HERE.




Be sure to hit the Cherry Festival,




The parade,


Eat at Aerie and 




Get Ice Cream at Moomers,


Hike Sleeping Bear Dunes, and



Relax at a Beach



You will not regret it! Hope you have a fantastic 4th!