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!  ๐Ÿ˜‚

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. ๐Ÿ’• 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. ๐Ÿ˜‚)

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! โœจ

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE!

Thanks for entering!

Longwood Gardens - Orchid Extravaganza! by Brooke Courtney

I love taking June to new places, or watching her experience new things. Last week she ate a Skittle for the first time and I honestly thought her mind was going to explode. ๐Ÿ˜‚ She just looked at me, wide-eyed, and said "Yummmmmy!" It was precious. So naturally, it was loads of fun seeing her experience Longwood Gardens for the first time last month. Technically she'd been to Longwood Gardens before, but she was only a few months old at the time and had no idea what was going on. I mean, she was incredibly adorable during the visit, which was enough to make some old ladies stop and take a photo with her ๐Ÿ˜‚, but other than that, she basically just sat in her stroller while my Mom and I pointed out every other plant and flower, saying "Ohhh, look!" or more often, "Ohhh... why doesn't mine look like that?" Our most recent visit was much different, however! June looked at everything, while sprinting from one room to the next, barley giving us adults time to look at anything.

If you haven't been to Longwood Gardens before, you've gotta go. And you've got to go during different times of the year, too. Last month was the first time I'd had the chance to go and visit their Orchid Extravaganza. And holy cow, it was incredible. On the drive down there I thought to myself, "I mean, it'll be pretty. But like, I've seen lots of orchids at weddings and they're cool and all..." But no joke. It was mind blowing how many orchids there were - both in quantity and variety. My photos from our day do not do it justice!

This past November my Grandpa passed away at the beautifully old age of 95, leaving behind a family member/descendant for every year he was alive. Yes, you read that right, 95 people -- between his children and their spouses, their kids (my cousins) and spouses, and now their kids (like, June). How amazing is that! After my Grandmother passed away, when I was little, my Grandpa got remarried to a lovely lady by the name of Liz. My Grandpa and Grandma-Liz were married for a little over 22 years before he left us last fall. That is amazing, in and of itself.

I tell you all that to say, Liz was a major part of our family and loved Grandpa, and all of us, so well for all those years. She was even the inspiration for our Easter Egg Roll, where we literally bowl our Easter eggs down their long driveway every spring! Her children and family, however, live in New York and she is currently in the process of moving there now. Our trip to Longwood Gardens, with Liz, my Mom, June and I, was to honor Liz in a non-formal way, and spend a little more time with her before she packs up all of her things and starts fresh in New York, at the age of 74.

I think I can speak for all of us when I say we had a wonderful time walking around the gardens, breathing in that fresh "greenhouse air", annnnnnd chasing after June.

Several times throughout our visit I just had to strap June into her stroller so we could walk at the pace we wanted to. ๐Ÿ˜‚ She was like a little rocket flying down the paths at full speed! And both my Mom and I dressed way too warm, so were sweating like crazy in the warm gardens, trying to keep up with sprint-legs-mc-gee!

One of June's favorite parts had nothing to do with the orchids at all, but was the puddles on the floor in one of the main gardens. She was insistent that my Mom run through them with her, back and forth, back and forth. (Insert another reason we were incredibly sweaty!)

You can imagine how thrilled she was when we ended our visit at the actual Children's garden and water play area.  They have little bugs you can scoop up out of the fountains, "paint brushes" you can use to paint the water on the walls, and loads of animal fountains that spout water across the distance of the entire garden!

Note: June totally thinks she's splashing me in the images below. ๐Ÿ˜‚ Even though I was a good 4 feet from her with my camera at the time. She was giddy with excitment over "splashing Mama".

I would have let her really play and get wet in the fountains had it not been so cold outside! (We had a long walk back to our car, too.) I definitely want to go back in the summer when she can get as wet as she wants. I think I'll even bring her a change of clothes!

After watching the pelican fountain (below) blow bubbles in the water for what seemed like forever, we convinced June to leave the kid's gardens with the promise of lunch! We grabbed food at the cafe, which is delicious by the way, and eventually headed back out to our car and drove home.

It was a beautiful and refreshing day that I will remember for a long time. I am so glad I took my camera with me to capture those moments for us to look back on.

Also -- June and I are sending so much love to Grandma Liz on her new adventure in New York!

Keeping Busy on Cold Days by Brooke Courtney

Does anyone else feel like a total crazy person when you have to be inside all day with a toddler!?!? There's no way it's just me, right? Last week we had this unusually warm spurt for February weather in Pennsylvania. It was crazy warm. Like, June and T.J. were wearing shorts warm. Like, we played with bubbles and went for walks all hours of the day warm. And it spoiled us all!

It's cold now, like normal winter weather, and we're stuck inside all over again. My neighbor/friend Kim text me and was like "I know its only been a week, but I can't think of anything to do with Clara now that outside isn't an option." ๐Ÿ˜‚ But... f'rills.

So, June and I have been stretching everyday things -- like brushing our teeth and reading books --  into much longer activities. For as creative as I can be, playtime with June is not something that I'd say comes naturally to me. That's T.J.'s department. I will make the house out of cardboard, and then T.J. and June will play in it. #teamwork

But I'm getting better. Learning to play with June in ways that come more naturally to me, and show myself some grace when I literally can't think of a single. thing. we could do.

June loves to read books, so one of my favorite things to do is pile all of her favorite books onto our bed and let her "read them" to me. ๐Ÿ˜‚ Which sound a lot like, "Apple. Fall. Boom. Ohhhhh. Tacos. Dog. Click, clack Moooooooo!"

We've also been brushing our teeth together, simply for something to do. June has learned to climb up and sit on the back of the toilet, so she can reach the sink. We wet our toothbrushes together, put on the toothpaste (her favorite part) and "brush, brush, brush!" for like 15 minutes. She's also learned to "spit" in the sink, mimicking me when I brush, and it's so funny. She's not even spitting anything out, just making a spit sound in the general direction of the sink!

Also, note her "crazy eyes" below. ๐Ÿ˜‚ She does it all the time now!

Too often I can be someone who thinks "This shouldn't take so long!" or "This is a waste of time." But, being a parent has gotten me (honestly: forced me) to slow down, and not feel like I need to be in a hurry all the time. On these cold winter days I literally have no where else I need to be, so brushing our teeth for 15 minutes is a perfect use of our time. ๐Ÿ’• Or when she wants to sit on her changing table and count her toes 800 times in a row, I don't feel like I should be doing something else anymore. This is it! This is life and parenting and it's awesome. Highly repetitive at this age, but awesome nonetheless. ๐Ÿ˜‰

June and I also spend lots of time playing with the kitchen she got for Christmas. She pretends to cook eggs for me, and often serves them with mustard and a stick of butter. She'll place things in her microwave and then go "beep beep!" when they're "done cooking." It's so fun to watch her play and mimic what I do in the kitchen - which I assure you isn't serving eggs with mustard and a side of butter. ๐Ÿ˜‚

The other thing we do is use our bathtub like a ball pit! T.J. ordered a bag of cheap "ball pit" balls from Amazon last year and they're so much fun. (They're easy to clean up and store in a big trash bag too!)

I let June play in our bathtub a lot, especially when I'm getting ready. It keeps her in one place, where she can still be in the room with me, but not near my makeup or hot curling iron! She loves to point out all of the colors of the balls and play with her trains and cars along the edge of the tub. And I love watching her play, while I paint my nails or pluck my eyebrows for the first time in 3 months. ๐Ÿ˜ณ

(Notice the cat toys that are mixed in with all of her toys below. ๐Ÿ˜น)

Hopefully there aren't too many weeks left of this cold windy weather, and before we know it we'll be outside again, playing on the front porch, and sippin' iced coffee in the sun. 

What are some of your current activities for toddlers when it's too cold to be outside? I'd love to know!


This post was sponsored by Primary -- an amazing clothing company for kids featuring brilliant basics that play well together. While this post was sponsored, all opinions are my own. There isn't a day that goes by where June isn't wearing an item from Primary. We really do love, and wear, their stuff all the time! ๐Ÿ˜ 

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Sweet Potato Pancakes with Cinnamon Cream Syrup by Brooke Courtney

I cannot believe that my little June is two years old. Last Sunday we celebrated her 2nd birthday with friends, family and a potato head themed birthday party. ๐Ÿ˜‚ June adores her potato head, which she affectionally calls "Yatwo". Since her party was potato head themed, I decided to stick with potatoes for the food as well. For our gathering with friends in the morning, I made these sweet potato pancakes! And for dinner with our families we had a loaded baked potato bar, and cupcakes with the eyes, lips, and noses from potato heads as toppers. 

I told you guys I would figure out how to make the sweet potato pancakes I had in Nashville, and with the deadline of June's party set, I figured it out.

If you've actually had sweet potato pancakes from Pancake Pantry before, I will tell you right know that these are not nearly as sweet or sugary. As completely delicious as those were, it was literally like eating cake and icing. I cut way back on the sugar, so I wouldn't feel bad eating an entire stack of them for breakfast.

I also used my KitchenAidยฎ Artisanยฎ Mini Mixer to speed up the process.  (Let's be real though, I use it whenever I can because it's so cute.) It's literally just a lighter and smaller version of the iconic Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I love that it stores easily in my small cupboards, and how it's small enough to sit on my counter and not hit my upper cabinets when I lift up the paddle/top part to add more ingredients. Again, did I mention how cute it is?!

INGREDIENTS: Makes about 16 small pancakes

  • 1 cooked sweet potato (1 cup, mashed, give or take)
  • 1 1/4 c. milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • splash of vanilla
  • 1 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg (or just a dash)
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves (or just a dash)
  • pecans - optional topping

CINNAMON CREAM SYRUP 

  • 1/2 c. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon

First, cook your sweet potato however you prefer. On the day of June's party, I was already baking other potatoes in the oven, so I did it that way. However, when I tested this recipe earlier in the week, I peeled my potato, diced it into cubes and steamed it until soft. (Poke with a fork to make sure it's soft enough to mash in your mixer.) One time I even peeled, diced and microwaved it. So really, any method works!

Once your sweet potato is soft and fully cooked, dump it into your mixing bowl and mix until smooth. Scrape down the edges of your mixer, and then add the milk, egg, vanilla and brown sugar. Mix on medium high until well combined. It should look like a very runny sweet potato soup at this point.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Mix well.

Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and mix until combined. Don't over do it! Just go until its totally incorporated and then stop.

Heat your griddle or pan to a medium heat. If using a non-stick cooking surface, there is no need to spray it with oil. Using your tablespoon from earlier, scoop pancake batter onto griddle. I know it seems like way too small of a scoop, but just try it! It creates the perfect little pancake size - just right for stacking 3-5 on your plate.

While still keeping an eye on your pancakes, combine your sweetened condensed milk, syrup, and cinnamon in a microwave save bowl. Heat it in the microwave briefly before you serve it on your pancakes!

Finally, stack hot pancakes on a plate and drizzle them with the cinnamon cream syrup! Top it all off with chopped pecans. Then dive right in and enjoy. ๐Ÿ˜

This post was sponsored by KitchenAid. As always, all opinions and recipes are my own.

A Girls Trip To Nashville by Brooke Courtney

I thought about naming this post "How to eat-shop-walk-Uber-and-Lyft your way through Nashville in four nights, five days, with six friends at the end of January for your friend's 30th birthday." Buuuuut, then I realized that's pretty specific and the title would most definitely be cut off. ๐Ÿ˜‚ So, instead, a "girls trip to Nashville" it is!

It all started several months ago when my friend Kim asked a bunch of her friends and me if we'd like to accompany her on a trip to Florida to celebrate her birthday... annnd also go to a horse show. ๐Ÿ˜‚ But, Florida ended up not being the place for us, and when Nashville was suggested as location instead, everyone was in! Kim and I picked out the cutest Airbnb in East Nashville, and after communicating with our amazing hosts, I knew the trip was going to be so much fun.

Before we knew it, Kim, Kristen, Jenn, Korina, Jenna and I were packing our bags for almost a week away from home without kids! I'm pretty sure we were each feeling all the feels the night before we left, considering that our group text was filled with everyone going "just put <insert kid's name> to bed, and I totally didn't cry at all...๐Ÿ˜ญ".

Within fifteen minutes of landing at the Nashville airport, we had our luggage and were in a car headed towards Pharmacy to grab lunch before we checked into our Airbnb house. When I was in Nashville two summers ago, I had a Pharmacy burger and loved it! But this time I ordered their chicken sandwich with a side of black bean and corn salad and it was amazing. So were all the fries I ate off of everyone else's plates.

After lunch, we checked in to our house, claimed rooms and beds and roommates, followed by plopping down onto what is probably one of the comfiest couches of all time and space. Seriously though, how cute is this house!

Some of us took naps, some went to get coffee down the street from Bakery by Frothy Monkey, but it was a pretty chill afternoon overall, which was welcomed after our early morning flight. I also tried to eat the largest gumball ever... which didn't work. At one point, I was actually jumping on it with shoes and it wasn't moving.

I texted a friend from college who lives in Nashville and asked where we should go for dinner, and he suggested Bar Taco. And OH MY GOSH! The tacos were so stinkin' good, specifically the fish one and the pork-belly one, and the cauliflower one, and the guacamole and the key lime pie in a jar! Seriously, it was all so good that we actually went back for lunch the next day. And apparently just missed seeing Dierks Bentley by a few minutes! He'd just been there for lunch, sitting in the same booth we'd sat in the night before. Crazy! Even crazier was that Connie Britton was there the first night we were, celebrating her son's birthday with friends. Her son was dressed as The Flash and Jenn wanted so badly to go up to their table and ask for an autograph - from the kid, not Connie. ๐Ÿ˜‚ It would have been awesome. We totally should have done that. #regrets

We topped off our first night in Nashville with Jeni's icecream.

The next morning we ate at The Pancake Pantry, where they brought Kim a mini stack of pancakes with candles for her birthday! And I'm not kidding when I say I am still dreaming about the sweet potato pancakes with cinnamon cream syrup I had. This blog as my witness, I will figure out how to make them and they'll be just as good.

After breakfast we walked over to 12 South and wandered through loads of cute shops, sipping sweet tea and taking our necessary photos by the I Believe in Nashville sign, and the white and blue striped wall. If you're looking to shop while in 12 South, make sure you stop in at Imogene + Willie, Whites Mercantile, Craft South and Draper James. Oh, and at some point during our time in 12 South we popped in at 5 Daughters Bakery, where I got their famous 100 layer doughnut and ate the whole thing before our Lyft driver even showed up. ๐Ÿ˜‚

Apparently I missed the memo that Jenn was taking a picture of the bakery. ๐Ÿ˜‚

Having been on our feet most of the day, we decided to stay at the house for dinner. We ordered pies from 5 Points Pizza which was right around the corner from our house, and Kristen and I went to pick it up while the other girls got the coffee table set up for our dinner. The pizza was delicious, and the garlic knots were HUGE! Jenn had found birthday candles earlier that night in our Airbnb house, so we shoved them down into the garlic knots and sang Happy Birthday to Kim as a surprise! ๐Ÿ˜‚ Hands down one of my favorite parts of our trip is that we were staying in an actual house. It was so enjoyable to be able to do things like birthday celebrations, long naps and movie nights, and not feel like we were in some small (probably gross) hotel.

On our second morning in Nashville, we stood in line to eat at Biscuit Love. And it was worth every minute of the wait. Plus, our very kind waiter felt bad that we couldn't push two tables together, so he gave us a free cake! We almost sang Happy Birthday all over again, but c'mon.. the whole trip wasn't just about Kim. ๐Ÿ˜‰ My fried chicken and biscuit was incredible, and their signature Bonuts (biscuit/donuts: fried biscuit dough, lemon mascarpone + blueberry compote) were legitimately out of this world. Had I known how good they were going to be, I would have just ordered a plate for myself as my meal. I suppose I'll just have to go back.

After breakfast, we walked around a few of the shops, and then stopped to take the #WhatLiftsYou wing photos. While I took photos of everyone in front of the wings, we booked an Uber and got a ride to a Starbucks down by Broadway. We sat at the Starbucks for quite awhile, enjoying our drinks and warming up before heading out to walk around the famous country music bars and shops.

Earlier in the week, we called Pinewood Social to make a reservation for bowling, but they were all booked up. We were so bummed! But, we knew it was more than just bowling, so we walked about a mile through town to go see it anyway, and I'm so glad we did. Turns out the next people didn't have a reservation until 5pm, and we got there just before 4:00 -- leaving us with an hour window to bowl one game on their vintage lanes. (Bonus info: I totally broke 100 while bowling. Pretty sure the epic neon Pinewood Social sign was giving me extra powers.)

While we could have eaten at Pinewood Social, we decided to walk back towards downtown to eat at Acme: Feed & Seed. And yep, you guessed it, it was amaze balls. Kristen and I shared an amazing salad (kale, squash, apples, golden raisins, spiced pecans, bleu cheese, maple vinaigrette), as well as sushi (fresh Philadelphia roll, deep fried Godzilla roll!) We sat at a long family style table right next to the band who was playing that night.

After dinner, we were ready to go back to the Airbnb house and go to bed, until we checked our phones and realized it was only 6:09pm and that would be incredibly lame. ๐Ÿ˜‚ So instead, we went to The Big Bang - a dueling piano bar that takes all requests. We sat there and listened for over three hours, requesting everything from Bob Dylan to Baby Got Back. #classy

Considering that we'd walked almost seven miles throughout the day, we happily fell into our beds after the piano bar. We woke up slowly the next morning, and eventually walked to the Bakery by Frothy Monkey (for the second time) where we got our morning coffee and food. We spent the rest of the morning back at the house, taking long showers, talking about how impressive the piano bar musicians were, and planning our last day in Nashville.

For lunch we walked to Mas Tacos Por Favor - an authentic mexican resturant with an assortment of tacos and other standards. Everything we ordered was delicious and exactly what we were in the mood for. On the way to Mas Tacos we stopped in at Two Son, the coolest shop owned by my friends James + Aubrey.

After lunch, everyone else went to get drinks at Pharmacy (literally across the street) and then walked to another mural for photos before heading home. I, however, walked to our friend's house to visit for a little bit. It was so wonderful seeing Stephen, one of T.J.'s good friends (one of his groomsmen, actually!) and Jessica (who I hadn't seen in like 6 years!), and catching up about life, business, kids and everything in between. Stephen and Jessica own/operate The Peach Truck and no joke, their peaches are the best. THE BEST.

I only snapped one photo while I was at their house, and it was in a text to T.J. ๐Ÿ˜‚ (To which T.J. replied, "Is that a deep v?")

Stephen and Jessica suggested that we should grab drinks and appetizers at Urban Cowboy (a B&B) before dinner, and like every other thing we did on this trip, I'm so glad we did. The place was incredibly cool, and everything was wood-fire cooked and crazy flavorful. ๐Ÿ˜ 

The only place remaining on our list was Hattie B's hot chicken. But we'd heard the lines could be crazy, so thanks to a tip from one of our drivers, we called ahead, skipped the line, and brought our food home to eat around the table. We spent our dinner talking about our favorite parts of the week, while drinking sweet tea and trying to save room for the cupcakes that somehow had made it back in the car with Kim, Kristen, Jenn and Korina.

We spent our last night in the house playing "Fishbowl" (sometimes called "Celebrity") and laughed so hard that we fell of the couch, cried, and maybe even farted a little bit. WHAT????? Ballerinas can fart too, you know.

Our entire trip was so fun -- start to finish. I am truly honored that Kim asked us all to go, and that we all said yes, took off work, and made it happen. It's a trip I will remember forever. ๐Ÿ’– #kims30thbashinnash

If you're looking to take a trip or vacation to Nashville, I would highly suggest staying in the little house we did, and pleassse feel free to comment with any questions you might have about where to eat or shop!