Welcome to 2015… Finally!

Okay, okay, okay. I suppose I fibbed a little. Who noticed?

My intent on getting back to blogging early January simply didn’t happen… clearly.  The craziness of the holiday, the fun of having 2 wild munchkins running around with their heads cut off, the transition back into “real life” just required a little more down time. But, I’m here! I’m finding my “new normal” for 2015 when it comes to blogging, too.

Welcome to 2015… finally! We are gearing up for a fun year in our house and are celebrating the chaos that was the holidays.


So what was the Wise Crew up to during our time off? Here’s the down and dirty:

  • watching Finn perform (stand still) during his school Christmas program
  • celebrating Christmas with both our families
  • holiday nails (the kids flipped!)
  • falling asleep on NYE at 9:15p (pretty sure Justin made it until 10p)
  • getting some house decorating goals accomplished (the mirror and print will not stay)
  • agreeing on plans and color schemes for other rooms (timeline is still debatable)
  • hosting my neighborhood Bunco group
  • Cedar Falls trip with good friends for a UNI basketball game and trip to The OP
  • celebrating my dad’s retirement with a company party
  • flashlight dance parties
  • regular morning stand-off with Evie about wearing pants (our max time was 90 minutes)
  • working on potty trainingimage1

I know I’m probably a day late, but I’d love to hear the highlight of your last month!

Grocery Shopping Staples: Trader Joe’s

Hands in the air if you’ve heard Garth Brooks new song, “Mom.” If you haven’t, the song starts around 2:25 in the video below.

I think in the addition to the lyrics, the reactions of the women watching is just the best! Just sheer weeping! :)

Garth Brooks holds a dear place in my heart for so many reasons. One reason is one of my favorite memories from high school.  A group of my 6 best girl friends and 4 best guy friends all road tripped to Lincoln our senior year to see Garth Brooks on his farewell tour. We had nose bleed seats until (long story short), some old, strange man came up behind us, started chit-chatting and offered the girls FRONT ROW SEATS. (Sorry, dudes!)

Can I just say this was the concert of concerts?!?!  We were all hoarse by the time we drove back to Omaha and on cloud 9 for months after. Heck, I’m still on cloud 9! (Sweet corduroy overalls, right? I’ll just say it for you!)


Anyway, I was reminded of that story as I heard 2 gals talking at Trader Joe’s the other day about going to one of Garth’s shows up in Minnesota recently. One of my favorite 17-year-old memories!

I used to shop more regularly at Trader Joe’s, but now probably only go once every 6-8 weeks. It seemed when I was going on a regular basis, they were ALWAYS out of something I needed and I ended up having to make a trip to another store… the whole issue I’d been trying to avoid.

So, I have my TJ’s staples and usually buy 3-5 of each when I go there so we are well stocked until I return.

Ezekiel Bread: While I normally buy this at Hy-Vee, this is $1 cheaper at Trader Joe’s, so I always buy a loaf or 2 while I’m there for the freezer.


Buns: There is a whole wheat hamburger and hot dog bun at Trader Joe’s that have far better ingredients than those at Hy-Vee (and that the kids will eat). I usually buy a few bags and throw them in the freezer, especially in the summer.


Shrimp: Wild caught shrimp is insanely expensive, but I refuse to buy the farm raised Thailand crap that seems to be everywhere. (This is basically fish from the sewer.) This shrimp has gone up $3 in the last year. Trader Joe’s used to carry wild caught scallops that we loved, but they have been out for at least 9 months. Augh. (Beware of that seafood blend in the image. I think those are farm raised. Much of the cooked shrimp is also farm raised.)


Animal Crackers: Finn loves these animal crackers like it’s no one’s business! Again, certainly not the most healthy option, but not filled with high fructose corn syrup and strange additives.


Organic Pops: The kids LOVE suckers, but I always cringe when I see the long list of crazy colors added to them. This version doesn’t have that, so the kids don’t bounce off the walls and lose their mind after a sucker. It’s a treat I actually enjoy giving them. (By the way, the kids equate the bank with suckers, so I keep a stash of these in the car for when we hit the drive-thru.)


Crackers: I don’t really understand why these are “reduced guilt.” Usually anything like that (low-fat/no-fat), I’m suspicious of  because they’ve normally replaced the real flavor (real fat) with fake flavor (fake fat). Maybe I’m missing something on these? They also say 50% less fat than their original woven crackers, which I’ve never seen. Do you have the original in your store?


Crackers: The kids aren’t fans of these crackers, but I love them!


Chips: Totally calling my husband out, he DEVOURED these recently with avocado and salsa and then declared, “these are the best chips ever.” Maybe he was just super hungry?


Banana Chips: Every once in awhile Evie and I love to snack on banana chips in the morning while Finn is at school. Sweet and crunch all rolled into one.


Olives: My obsession with black olives continues…


Spaghetti Sauce: I always have a few jars on hand of this clean sauce for an “oh crap, what’s for dinner” night. It’s great with noodles or a sauce for chicken. The mushrooms are tiny, so if you’re anti (like my kids), you won’t even know they are there. Win win!


Black Beans: Awhile back I started soaking beans overnight for dinners. Of course there are plenty of times I’ve forgot to soak them, so I always have a few cans on hand for last minute additions to dinners.


Soup: While this soup is not dairy-free and OK for the kids, it’s a staple for me in the winter months especially when Justin is away or for quick weekend meals for the adults. It’s not chunky, just incredibly smooth and rich in flavor.


Mustard: Lots of mustards have weird ingredients and colors. This is a better option.


Ketchup: Like mustard, so many ketchups are filled with lots of sugars and high fructose corn syrup. This is a better option. (Note: beware of “sugar-free” ketchups as most store bought sugar-free ketchups are replaced with another corn product that is likely GMO and what I would consider the cousin of HFCS.)


Pickles: Like olives, I love me some pickles! So do the kids. Most pickles are filled with crazy colors to give that bright, neon green color. These are not.


Almond Butter: While we’ve started making our own almond butter (“super butter”), there are times we are in a pinch and need to have a pre-made jar on hand. I always have a few for those moments. The Trader Joe’s brand is far less expensive than any almond butter at Hy-Vee.


KerryGold: I love KerryGold! Not only does it come from my motherland (fun fact: I was named after County Kerry, Ireland), the cows are grass-fed and the cheese is delicious. We love the Dubliner. (If you belong to Costco, this is also available cheap.) Although I try and limit my dairy intake, I do like some cheese every now and again. This cheese with the woven crackers and some apples slices – heaven!


Oatmeal: The kids are on an oatmeal kick. Nearly every morning when I ask what they’d like, the answer is “OATMEAL!” This is my go-to oatmeal (it’s also gluten-free for those who need a GF option). The kids favorite additions are chia seeds, coconut flakes, almond butter and local honey. Every so often I make an extra serving for myself!


Whole Foods staples to come.

What are your Trader Joe’s staples?

Finn Turns FIVE!

It doesn’t take much for time to fly by and our kids to grow. I seem to blink anymore and Finn grows an inch and spits out a new word.

Finn turned five earlier this month. We celebrated with our first “friend” birthday party, followed by a family BBQ and gift opening. Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like a huddle of little kids dressed up to remind you how simple life should really be.

Finn Turns Four
Finn Turns Three
Finn Turns Two

Finn started his big day with new books…

Morning 1

… and a mom and dad who demanded a photo with their growing superhero.  (The stickers were a gift from Finn. I proudly wore them all day, even grocery shopping and to Evie’s library time. Needless to say, I got some looks.)




The rest of the day included school, presents, skipping quiet time to hang with mommy, pizza and more presents.

We also did our annual “question ask.” We started at three asking Finn the same questions each year. Finn wanted to get through this part quickly (presents were waiting), but I think someday it will be hilarious to go back and read his answers.  For instance, this year he’s certain he will be married at 10 :)

Birthday week continued with a family and friend gathering Saturday morning.  Finn invited his best pals over and asked them to dress up. Superhero, princess, ninja… we love them all! Evie, I kid you not, layered FOUR costumes on top of one another. Talk about super princess!

We played a handful of superhero games:

  • Bataring Toss – Each child got to wear the Batman mask and throw the Bataring through hula hoops. We had 4 different sizes of hula hoops. Each time they made it through, they had to try for a smaller hoop. (Cost: $4. Already had mask and Bataring. Hula hoops, $1 each, Dollar General.)
  • Catch the Villains - The kids chased and captured the 2 villains, Justin and my cousin Andy.  There were 4 streamer rolls (should have had more). The superheros wrapped up the villains to haul off to jail. Somehow Grandpa got thrown into the villain category! (Cost: $6, 4 streamer rolls and 2 black villain masks from Party City, each $1.)  And, yes, that’s my dad as Superman. What a sport!



  • Web Shooting - a silly string fight. Why not? (Cost: $14, $1 each silly string from Michael’s. They ran out rather quickly, but the ones at Party City were each $3. Eek!)


  • X-Ray and Heat Vision – Use your Superman skills (blindfolded) to guess what’s in each bowl. (1/2 tomato, grapes, peas, spoons, dice, noodles, etc.) (Cost: $1 piñata blindfold from Party City. All supplies were common household items.)


  • Bomb Hunt – We spray painted Easter eggs black so the kids could save the universe by locating all the bombs. (Cost: $2.99, black spray paint from Lowe’s. We already have a million Easter eggs and spray painted 30 as “bombs”.)

Bomb Run

There was more chasing of the villains and popping balloons which led to the most quiet time of the whole day: cupcakes and juice :)


Finn had a great time and was so happy to have all his favorite friends over to play and celebrate.  His friends picked an activity book from Michael’s to take home. We found Lisa Frank for the girls and the boys could choose from Angry Birds, Spiderman or Despicable Me 2.


Following the friend party, our families stuck around for a BBQ of hot dogs, brats, burgers, fruit, veggies and chips. We topped it off with cupcakes and cookie cake and ended the bash with the best time of day for any birthday boy: gift opening! Lots of Legos and superhero toys to last us awhile. (BTW: I forgot how much I love Legos!)

Although party hosting is not really my jam, Finn was in heaven so it was worth the near panic attack pulling it all together. Whew. Until Evie’s 3rd…

Have you done a themed birthday party with your kids?