The 4th of July Celebration by Brooke Courtney

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I can honestly say that the 4th of July is my favorite holiday, second to Christmas. Growing up, it was a time that our family would get together and I'd get to see cousins who lived far away. We'd spend hours outside, eating picnic food, running through the sprinkler and playing with sparklers. (And the terrifying "not legal in PA" fireworks that my Uncle would bring up from North Carolina every year. πŸ˜‚)

Two years ago, when June was five months old, we took her to the same parade I grew up going to, but nothing more. She was too little and it was too hot. Last year, we took her to the parade and she had the time. of. her. life. Which looking back makes a lot of sense, all of her favorite things were driving by one after another -- trucks, drums, horses, puppies, buses -- and they were throwing candy at her. After the parade we went into the park briefly, but didn't stay long, nor did I bring along my real camera. Which of course I regretted. Isn't it always that way!?!? Take it with you and you never use it. Leave it at home and you're like "THE LIGHT IS PERFECT. Myyy lifeeeeeee."

So this year I made sure to take my camera. And thank goodness I did, because I got one single image that proves June had a good time, despite being a hot mess the entire time. πŸ˜‚ I don't blame her, it was SO hot out. And she just couldn't deal with it. #bless Below is said image.

In fact, it was so hot out that I forgot to take a single picture of all the awesome food we ate. We'd finish shoving something into our face and I'd be like "Noooooo! <licks fingers> I didn't take a photo!" So, please use your imagination for the following.

<insert photo of "Ham & Cheese Soft Pretzel Log">

<insert photo of "Fresh Lemonade & Bacon on a Stick>

<insert photo of June spitting out her soft pretzel realllll dramatic like>

<insert photo of "Burger from Lancaster Burger Co. w/ Fries>

<insert photo of me considering whether or not I could eat anything else, aka Fried Oreos>

My Dad, who has been a Children's & Family musician for almost 30 years, has been playing the Lititz Springs Park 4th of July Celebration since I can remember, which is partly why I have so many memories of spending the day in the park -- winning goldfish that would die later that week, and staining circles of color around my mouth from all the snow cones.

It's so fun to watch my Dad play now that both my brother and I have kids. June, and my niece Pearl, are always a little uncertain as to why my Dad, their "Norkey", is standing up there in front of everyone singing. It usually takes June awhile to warm up to the idea... but that's the story of her life, so nothing new there.

Everyone had fun at the show and danced their pants off. Honestly, it was so hot I wish I could have danced my pants off. Also, look at how little Baby Gray is in his stroller! (My nephew.)

This year was the first year in a long time that I didn't stay/come back for the fireworks. But, I'll tell ya, growing a baby is a lot of work and I was so tired by 8pm, I was out for the night. Have you ever taken your kids to fireworks? How old were they when you went for the first time? There is just no way in heck we could take June at least for a few more years. Maybe when she's finally ready I'll be done growing babies and we can have the energy to go together at 10pm. Ha!

All in all it was a great day and I'm glad I took my camera along to capture at least some of the memories we made. πŸ™‚ Tell me, what's your favorite holiday?

Yard Work with Toro by Brooke Courtney

Well friends, you picked a good blog to read, because I have an announcement to make!

Drum roll please....

We. Did. Yard work.

Oh! And we're having another baby. That too. 😊 But I'll talk about that in another post. (Aka, newwww nursery!!!)

I'm honestly not sure which is more impressive -- the yard work or baby #2. πŸ˜‚ Life has felt crazy lately. Between getting everything ready for the grand opening of SUPPLY, and barfing more than I'd ever like to, thanks due to Baby #2, our yard got wayyyy out of control. Ferns everywhere. Tree bark everywhere. Weeds, and dirt, and chaos. See photos for proof. Even Penny was like "πŸ™€". #sorryneighbors #dontworrywetookcareofit

Enter Toro to save the day. πŸ™ŒπŸ½ I've partnered with Toro to show you their new Toro PowerPlexβ„’ 40V Max* Lithium Ion Products -- and they're just as awesome as they sound.

T.J. was pummmped up about the new Brushless Blower. As you can see we have some really big trees on our street and he is the one to handle all 1.2 million leaves that fall from them come October. The blower worked great to clear away all of the bark, leaves and dirt.

I trimmed back all of our ferns because they'd just gotten too crazy, while T.J. used the String Trimmer to edge along all of our sidewalks. We'd never done this before, but it looks so nice afterwards!! What? Are we grown-ups or something!?!

The string trimmer also rotates from an edger to a trimmer, which was perfect for the madness happening in our garden and back lot.

It was really enjoyable working outside with T.J. on this project. πŸ’• We listened to Good Old War, talked about future business ideas, and went through an entire bottle of bug spray. Poor T.J., he's just too sweet -- he get's eaten alive. Thanks for taking one for the team, babe!

We decided to mulch everything, even though it's late in the season for it, and it turned out so nice. I used the Brushless Blower to clean off the sidewalks, driveway and front porch when it was all done. My favorite part is clicking the battery into place. I feel so cool every time I do it. πŸ˜‚

After several hard days of work, I made our front porch look happy again to celebrate a fresh yard and summertime flavors -- 14 grain bread with The Peach Truck's Jam and lime/mint ice water.

Ahhh.... no more weeds. Now I'm off to daydream about a nursery for Baby #2. 

Our 2017 Garden | Step 1: Buy Plants 🌱 by Brooke Courtney

First of all, it is only Tuesday evening and I already feel like it's been a long week. πŸ˜‚ Most of that is due to the fact that June's had a rough couple of days. She just seems... off. Extra tender. Extra frustrated. Extra everything. Poor girl! Added with the fact that we'd planned to start potty training yesterday, and have since thrown that out the window entirely because she just cries and cries and says "Noooo please" when we ask her to try sitting on the potty, I am also feeling extra tender. Extra frustrated. Extra everything. Oi vey. πŸ˜‚ That's just motherhood sometimes. I am learning to lean into it and be okay with tossing everything out the window and just enjoying what the day has for me instead. One of the ways I am able to do that is by taking my real camera along for the "every day things" June and I do together. It helps me focus on how beautiful the little things really are.

Today's plan: buy stuff for our garden. 😍 Last year we ripped up part of the parking area at the back of our yard that we never use and put in four raised gardening beds! You can see those before/progress photos here!

June and I only grabbed a few of the basics for our garden today, as I'm sure I'll go back several times yet to purchase more once I've begun to fill the beds and figure out the design.

I picked up some yellow and red cherry tomatoes, a few pepper plants, green beans and cucumbers. June picked up 18 containers of Golden Lemon Thyme and had to be convinced that we only need one. "Dat one" she'd say and point to all the pots we "needed for our cart". 

I kept trying to get June to smell the herbs, but she'd either get it too close to her face and get upset (I told you she's tender these days), or she'd rub the leaves with one hand but then sniff the other! Ha ha ha! Which reminds me of this kid from America's Funniest Home Videos who licks his one hand but then uses the other to turn the magazine page. πŸ˜‚

It's been so beautiful in Manheim the last few days, so I was happy to let Junie wander around outside before we paid for our items. After all, there was a giant gravel area outside and how. can. you. not. play in it?

So, there you have it. Just a little bit of what my day looked like. I am really looking forward to planting everything we bought today and seeing how the entire garden turns out. I learned a lot last year about which areas get the best sun, what we wished we'd planted more of, and which flowers did well in the heat. I'll share more with ya'll when I've started planting!

Are you planting anything this year? I'd love to know!

Also, if you're local - check out The Flower Wagon in Manheim, PA. Crazy low prices on the best stuff!

7 Items You Should Thrift for Your Home by Brooke Courtney

If you've been around here for any amount of time, it should come as no surprise to you that I love to go thrifting. Finding amazing, unique items at second hand shops, for a fraction of their original price, is one of my favorite things to do. Digging through the bins and shelves is like a treasure hunt and I almost always walk away with something I didn't even know I needed. πŸ˜‰

In recent years, I have also come to love that thrifting supports local businesses. T.J. and I are all about our small town of Manheim, PA. We shop at our local farmers market and hardware store, and have worked hard to intentionally keep our growing business (walk in love.) in Manheim. In addition to thrifting, I'd encourage to find ways to support your town -- hire a local guy to fix your front porch, switch to local insurance, or make an effort to attend the next community event that's taking place.

Okay, enough about my love for small business, back to thrifting! Sometimes it isn't much fun at all. Sometimes everything is gross and junky, and it can be really hard to know what to look for if you don't shop often enough to have a running inventory of your house/closet and know your style. For any of you who might feel this way, I've compiled a list of 7 Things You Should Thrift For Your Home if you're a thrifting-newbie, all while you work to figure out how thrifting fits into your lifestyle! (You can also check out my original post 10 Tips To Thrift, from a few years ago!)

1. BASKETS

You can't have enough of them. Well, at least not enough of the large ones. The bigger ones might be a little harder to find, but when you do, they're usually around $6. Which is a steal compared to the large storage baskets at Target or Home Goods for $35+!

Uses: toy storage, shoe storage, blanket storage, a planter for larger plants, a laundry basket.

2. BLANKETS

For all seasons, I find myself reaching into my linen closet, pulling out blanket after blanket, each different in texture, style and color, each adding personality and warmth to our home. Just last month I used one to make a fort for June and she played underneath it for hours! 

Uses: bedspread, picnic blanket, table cloth, fort, or even used as fabric to re-cover something.

3. CATCH-ALLS

I recently had to stop buying catch-all dishes because I'd get sucked into "how cute they" are every time, and realized I had no actual storage for my belongings, but instead just cute little dishes to throw everything into. 😹 I no longer have more than one catch-all dish in each room - the perfect about.

Uses: above your kitchen sink for coins and jewelry, next to your bed for earrings, bobby pins and spare change, or on your "landing table" (where the mail, etc goes) for keys, thumb drives and restaurant gift cards. Near washer/dryer.

4. GLASS JARS + CONTAINERS

There are two lovely things about glass jars/vases. First, how differently they can be used throughout each season. I have a bunch of glass jars/containers that I've used in our bathroom for years - holding everything from nail polish to our toothbrushes, which was a $10 or less project! My assorted mason jars have held flowers, lightening bugs, drinks, food, and more. Secondly, glass always feels light and timeless. I'd encourage you to gravitate towards clear class, without etching or hand painted designs, as it will work in all areas of your home much easier.

Uses: uhmmm, pretty much anything. My personal favorite is bathroom/vanity organization. It's just so pretty! (And easy to run through the dishwasher every few months to keep 'em sparkly clean.)

5. BOOKS

I read once that "a home without books is a body without soul." And while I'm not the most avid of readers, I do agree. They have a sense of home, belonging and history to them. The act as visual weight, a way to show your personality, and if nothing else, are a relatively cheap way to fill your bookshelf. You can group books in small piles on your nightstand to add height and visual interest, or pair everything down to only a few in your favorite colors. You can put them on your shelf forwards or backwards, wrap them in paper, or only purchases ones that have beautiful typography on the spines. You can set them on a floating shelf where they forward facing, allowing the book cover to act as wall art. (Perfect for a kid's room!) It's up to you!

At least half of the books on the shelf in our living room are from thrift stores. Not to mention all the books you can't see shoved behind the closing doors!

Uses: Decoration. And knowledge. 😊

6. KID'S TOYS

For the longest time I was worried that thrifting toys for June would be, in the words of Kelly Kapoor from the Office, "digusto-barfo." However, almost anything can be washed in the dishwasher, washing machine or soaked and set out to sanitize in the sun. I would say that over half of June's toys are from thrift stores. It's allowed me to "test out" toys for much, much cheaper price. Thrifted toys have given me a way to surprise my daughter with something "new" for literally a few dollars or less. 

Look for: Puzzles, games, educational toys, cars, animals, pull toys, bath toys.

7. DISHES + KITCHENWARE

Last, but certainly not least, is kitchenware. This is probably my favorite thrifting category. 😍 For as much as I love stores like Target, I love even more the personality and history older dishes, canisters, mugs and S&P shakers bring to a kitchen. Mixing old with the new is one of the quickest and most satisfying ways to make your home feel like home. Look for pieces that align with the style of your kitchen and home -- mid century, modern, farmhouse, rustic, etc. And then find a few pieces that make no sense at all but you. love. them. That's what really matters!

Look for: flatware, canisters, cheese platter + appetizer trays, coffee mugs that make you smile, cake pans, etc.

Saranoni Blanket Giveaway! by Brooke Courtney

I normally shy away from giveaway posts, but when I got a message from Saranoni about doing one with them, I literally couldn't email them back fast enough to say "Yes! Count me in!" Two years ago, Saranoni kindly sent us a blanket for June not long after she was born. I had never heard of Saranoni at the time, but happily said yes and thought "luxury blanket? Sure!" Little did I know June would declare that blanket as her blankie - the one we take everrrrrywhere!

I did not know that luxury blankets were even a thing, but holy cow -- they are. We now have four of them in four different sizes (XL, Teen, Receiving + Mini), and June insists we lay all of them down on the floor whenever she plays with her toys. Sometimes she'll just swirl around on them and go "oooooo" for like 10 minutes... and I don't blame her. I wanna do the same thing!  πŸ˜‚

I'm giving away a $75 gift card to their shop on my Instagram -- @brookecourtney. Head over there to enter the giveaway!

Last week June realized that her kitty cat piano has a microphone that actually works. Which has lead to lots of singing realllllly hard and loud into the mic - yelling the names of everyone she knows, much like a hardcore singer. "Miiii-miiiiii. Clarrrrrrr-ahhhhhh.... Moummmmm-mmmmmmaaaaa."

The Eggplant Lush/Charcoal Lush XL is what's featured below!

June has slept with her little tan blanket since the day she received it, and now has a little "mini" version for her Baby. Every night when we tuck June into bed we have the routine of "June gets a blankie. Baby gets a blankie. June gets a lovey. Baby gets a lovey." It's the sweetest thing! She gets all excited and wiggley every time we pull blankie out of a bag, or hand it to her when she's sleepy.

We use our larger blankets every single day -- usually for story time. πŸ’• Also, how many of you feel like all you do is read Dragons Love Tacos? T.J. usually starts to read it the second or third time through in a different voice, just to switch things up, and June is never pleased. She whips around and says "No Dada! No!" (Note: the second image below, where she's giving T.J. the death stare because of his silly reading. πŸ˜‚)

And with blankets as cozy as these, story time almost always turns into games of peek-a-boo. Which turns into dancing and being silly. When June is silly and declares "I'm funny"... it's just the best -- makes my mom heart soar.

You can enter the giveaway to win a $75 gift card to Saranoni on my Instagram. Have fun and good luck! ✨

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE!

Thanks for entering!