FIVE PLACES TO SHOP FOR HOLIDAY DECOR

The holidays are here! I don’t know about yall, but I’m so excited for this time of year. It’s been a beyond crazy year, and I think we could all use some holiday cheer. I actually got started really early with my Christmas decorating. I don’t normally do that, but hey, its 2020 and there are no rules right?! Since I began shopping in early October, I’ve been able to find a lot of good deals on holiday decor and I wanted to share some places I’ve had great luck at.

FIVE PLACES TO SHOP FOR HOLIDAY DECOR

Dollar Tree

If you’ve never shopped at Dollar Tree during the holiday season, you’re missing out! You will be surprised to see what kind of stuff you can find. If you’re into crafting, this is definitely the place for you. I love recreating more expensive pieces using supplies I find here. If you search “Dollar Tree Christmas Decorations” on Youtube, you’ll find tons of ideas to make for the season that won’t break the bank. So before you buy that $75 wreath or that $40 centerpiece, take a trip to Dollar Tree first. Not into crafting? Don’t worry there’s plenty of decorations for you as well. Some of my favorite finds have been mini christmas trees for the kids, tacky Christmas party supplies, and lots of beautiful ornaments!

All the decor on this wreath is from Dollar Tree

Hobby Lobby

What I love the most about Hobby Lobby is that at some point whatever it is you’re looking to buy, it will be on sale at some point. There sales ad changes week to week. So if the candles you’re looking at isn’t on sale this week, more than likely it will be on sale the next. You can also grab a 40% off coupon off their website to use on any regular priced item.

I love these Christmas flowers I found at Hobby Lobby

Target

When it comes to Target, I think they’re the best when it comes to more trendy and fun decorations. I like to checkout out their Instagram page for inspiration. I think in general, a lot of the decor at Target is reasonable priced. The biggest issues is getting what you need before it sells out. I learned my lesson last year with the mini holiday waffle makers, and got mine early this time! Even if you don’t plan to decorate until after Thanksgiving, it’s never to early to go shopping. A few things I’ve purchased that I loved was a gingerbread waffle maker, disposable Christmas plates, and a gingerbread house kit.

Walmart

So Walmart was actually my first stop when I started stopping for decorations. I really need an affordable Christmas tree, and I knew I would more than likely find something there in my price range. And I was right! I snagged a 6 foot tree for $22. You can’t beat that! It was the perfect size for my apartment. I also found a basic wreath to use a base for my decorations from Dollar Tree, and it was only around 10 bucks. I liked how there was such a wide range of decor that could fit any budget. So if you’re looking to save some money, definitely add Walmart to your list.

My $22 tree I purchased

Michaels

Honestly the best time to shop at Michaels for the holidays is when it’s all over. They put all their decor on sale for really cheap. Now granted by then a lot of stuff is gone, but you can still find some great stuff for next year. If you do decide to shop now, definitely keep an out on their sales. I know right now they have 40% off Christmas decorations and floral. Also checkout the app or their website for a 20% off coupon to use on regular priced items.

I know the holidays may look different this year, but don’t let that steal your joy. I’m trying to grasp on to all the positive things going on in my life, and really be grateful for them. Honestly, I don’t usually decorate, but this year has brought out a side of me I didn’t know I had. I’m looking forward to starting new traditions with my family.

Where do you guys like to shop for holiday decor? Let me know!

How To Tame Your Grocery Bill…

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When it comes to groceries and eating out, I feel like that’s the one line on my monthly budget spreadsheet that I can control the most. I remember a time when my husband and I were spending around $900 a month on food just for the two of us! It was insane. Those days are over though. We have some financial goals we want to meet, and one way of doing that is controlling our spending when it comes to food. I know with COVID things are a little crazy, but I want to share my top 5 tips that I believe will help get your grocery bills under control.

Shop the Weekly Ad

So every Wednesday grocery stores post their weekly sales ad. One of the best ways to save money is to make your meals based around those sales. So if ground turkey is on sale, I’m grabbing that for some spaghetti or for taco night. The same goes for steaks as my husband is a huge ribeye fan. He knows if steaks are on sale, then he’s eating good that week! When it comes to produce, my go-to spot is definitely Aldi’s. I check their ad each week, and whatever fruit they have on sale is what we’re snacking on for the week.

Use Digital Coupons

Most grocery stores offer discount savings in the form of a loyalty card and digital coupons. It’s easy to do and a great way to save some money. I use my Kroger app to add coupons to my loyalty card. They also send me paper coupons in the mail for items based on my shopping history. Sometimes I luck up and I’ll have a paper coupon and a digital coupon to use on the same item. A win-win. It does require some effort, but I’m fine with it if it helps me get that much closer to my financial goals.

Cash Back Apps

If you haven’t downloaded a grocery cashback app like Checkout 51, Ibotta, etc, you’re definitely missing out on free money. I’m a big fan of Ibotta. It has all the stores I shop at, and I’ve been able to get back over $200. You can’t withdraw until you have at least $20, but you’ll get that in no time. You just add the coupons you want, upload your receipt, and you earn cash. I mean, it’s free money!

Limit Takeout

I know thanks to COVID things have changed a lot, but I would challenge you to write out how much you spent on takeout in one month. The number might surprise you. We did this pre-COVID, and I couldn’t believe how much money we were spending eating out and on drinks. Granted, it’s nice to have a break from cooking and order takeout from time to time, but you gotta keep it in check!

Carbs Carbs & Carbs

If you have a husband like mine (or kids) that eats up everything, it can be hard not to spend a lot of money on food. When I meal plan I’m thinking about how I can get everyone full without breaking the bank. That’s where my true love, carbs come into play. My go-to favorites are whole wheat pasta, wild rice, and sweet potatoes. Making sure each meal has a good balance of carbs helps keep my greedy little family full!

  

My Favorite Quarantine Activities

Summer is here! It looks a little different than usual, but it’s here. With it being 100 degrees every day here in Houston, there’s no ignoring it. I’ve been trying my best to stay sane, and find new things for my family to do during this pandemic. Not seeing friends and family, and being couped up in the house can really take its toll. So I’m sharing my top 10 favorite activities for you to try out this summer!

1. Visit new parks

Now I’ll admit that daily trips to the park can start to get a little mundane. If you live in a big enough city, my suggestion is to visit a new park each week. You’ll be surprised how having a new thing to look forward to makes such a difference. I truly believe being outdoors is a great mental health booster. One of my favorite parks in Houston is Buffalo Bayou Park. The views of downtown are beautiful. Pack a picnic and you’re good to go!

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Buffalo Bayou Park

2.  Try some new recipes

You know all those Pinterest recipes you have saved on your boards? Or all those Food Network recipes you always say you’re gonna try? This is the perfect time to do it! Being quarantined definitely has me cooking a lot more. I’ve been doing lots of experimenting with my family and exposing them to new foods. There have been some definite fails, but it’s been fun crossing some recipes off my list. One thing we’ve discovered is how to make deep dish pizza. I linked the recipe below. It’s a little time consuming, but man is it worth it!

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Deep Dish Pizza

4. Happy hour

Boy, do I miss happy hour! One of my favorite spots is Blanco Tacos & Tequila in Houston. Their margaritas are pretty hard to beat. I’ve been trying though! My home edition of happy hour includes my own version of their margaritas that I’ve been tweaking for the past couple of months. It’s finally perfect now though. I think it’s safe to say during this quarantine we’ve all needed a drink or two. So why not make it fun? Recreate your favorite drinks at home!

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Blanco Tacos & Tequila

5. Beach trip

We’re lucky enough to live less than an hour from Galveston beach. It’s a great day trip option, and a great way to wear out the kiddos! In my opinion, the best time to go is early in the morning when the crowd and the temperature are low. And don’t worry, you can easily social distance yourself, and still have a great time. If you’re feeling a little stressed and needing a break, I think this is a great option!

 

6. Movie Night

So I’ve seen these elaborate backyard movie nights on Instagram lately, and they’re pretty impressive! I personally don’t have that kind of space, but I have been shopping around for a mini projector for my own version of an outdoor theater. I’ve seen some on Amazon that run between $80-$100. A great early birthday present if you ask me!

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7. Fruit picking

I think this has to be one of my favorite things we’ve done lately. After hearing a lot of good things about Froberg’s Farm, we decided to check it out. We went early that morning on a weekday so there wasn’t a lot of people; which was perfect for social distancing. Because the farm is so big, it was easy to keep our distance for other people and enjoy our day out. We actually missed strawberry season, but we were able to pick blackberries, zinnia flowers, and sunflowers. It was the perfect day!

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Frobergs Farm

8. Dine alfresco

Now that I’ve spruced up my balcony, eating outside has become my new favorite thing. I honestly wish I had added seating along time ago. It’s like a mini escape. I can pretend I’m eating out at my favorite restaurant with great food and even greater company. Hubs and I love to have our date nights out there at night with my string lights overhead. It’s romantic without any effort whatsoever!

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Check out my last post for patio deets!

9. Game night at home

Who doesn’t love a good game night? And with the help of Zoom and apps like Houseparty, game night can even be virtual now.  I’ve been obsessed with Monopoly lately even though I’m terrible at it! I just don’t know what the key is to winning. I’m literally always the first one to lose. If yall have some tips, help a girl out!

10. Take a virtual trip 

Okay, I know a virtual trip is nothing like the real thing, but a girl can dream right? There’s nothing like traveling and exploring new places. It’s a high that I’m so addicted to. However, with all that on pause, I think taking some virtual trips can be a great substitute. If anything it will give you some new places to add to your travel list. I can’t wait to travel again, but in the meantime I’ll be exploring the world through my computer.

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Virtual Tour of the Grand Canyon

I hope I was able to give you guys some new ideas for this unique summer we’re going to have. I would love to hear some ideas that I missed. Let me know in the comments what yall are up to!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sprucing Up My Balcony…

Hey guys! It’s been a minute since I checked in with you guys. Hope you all are staying safe! Like everyone else, I’m over here adjusting to all the change. I decided since we’re spending so much time at home, this was a great time to spruce up my balcony. It’s something I’ve talked about doing for a while, and I couldn’t think of a better time to do it! I’m literally starting from scratch seeing that my balcony was completely empty before this. I’m not finished just yet, but I wanted to share my progress and some deals I’ve been able to find.

Facebook Marketplace

Over the past year, I’ve been able to find some really great deals off Facebook.  I mean, people are selling pretty much anything you can think of! I actually found this bistro set off there for $65. It was still in the box! You can’t beat that price. Don’t be afraid to make an offer. Marketplace is just an online garage sale. Most people are motivated to sell.  I usually offer less than the price they have listed unless they post that the price is firm; which was the case with the bistro set. Like most sellers, they offered porch pick up so we didn’t have to worry about actually coming into contact with anyone. A win-win!

Before I painted it…

After…

World Market

I’m always so surprised at how much rugs costs. I was hoping to find a black and white rug for under $75, but I wasn’t having much luck. That is until I checked out World Market. I’m actually new to this site.  I knew about it, but never actually shopped there before until recently. I purchased a 6 x 9 floor mat that was on sale for a little for $20. It’s thinner than an actual rug, but it’s perfect for my balcony.  Oh, and shipping is fast!

TJ Maxx and Marshalls have always been my go-to stores, and with them being closed I think World Market is a great substitute.  They have similar, unique items that are reasonably priced. So for all my sad, fellow TJ Maxx shoppers out there, definitely check them out to get your fix. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

A steal at $23

Michaels

So if you didn’t know, you can now order curbside pick up from Michaels.  I ordered a few things in the morning, and they were available for pick up later that day. You just call when you get there, and they bring your order to your car! My local store has tons of spring decor for half off right now. I snagged the heart-shaped hanging below for 70% off since it was part of their leftover Easter decor, and filled it with some of their 50% off floral garlands. The hanging hexagon shelves are thanks to Michaels as well. I saw a Youtube video recently of someone making these using popsicle sticks and tacky glue.  It was so easy and cheap to make! I added some black and white cardstock to the back to go with my theme. All in all, this cost me less than $10 to make!

Target

Do you guys ever check out the dollar section in Target? It’s right at the front when you come in the store.  You can also shop this section on their website. It’s called the Bulleye’s Playground. I was able to snag two patio pillows for $5 apiece, as well as some little planters for $1.  With most of their pillows costing around $20 apiece, I’m so happy I checked out this section first. There’s definitely some splurge items that I won’t be able to pass on though. I mean, their home stuff is just way too cute!

I love these $5 pillows!

I absolutely love how my balcony is coming along. It’s been a little challenging finding exactly what I want online, but I’ve had pretty good luck so far.  I’m looking forward to when things are back to “normal.” I’m ready to shop at my favorite bargain stores like TJ Maxx and Dollar Tree again. Oh speaking of Dollar Tree, I forgot to mention these hanging shelves are actually some old pencil holders I purchased there awhile ago. They made perfect shelves for my $1 Target planters!

Let me know where you guys shop for your patio decor. I’d love to hear some of your ideas!

 

Journee’s First Birthday

Hey guys! I can’t believe it, but Journee is 1! I swear I just had her though. It’s crazy how fast the time goes. I honestly didn’t plan on doing much of anything at first. I thought I wouldn’t be able to do things how I really wanted to without spending a ton of money. You see tons of posts and Pinterest boards of these extravagant birthday parties, and it can be overwhelming. I know that Journee won’t remember her first birthday party, but it was important for me to celebrate the miracle baby that she is! So I figured out how to do it my way without it the huge costs.  So let me share some of my tips!

Skip the theme                                                          So in the beginning I was all about a donut theme. The decorations were so cute! My favorite was the “Donut Turn One” birthday banner. Cute! Once I started to price all of this, I realized how expensive this was going to be. Once you have a theme, everything has to match that! It was just too much. I decided to pick a few colors and stick with that.  It’s a lot easier and cheaper to go this route.

Get crafty!                                                                 

I know that the idea of making your own decorations can seem intimidating and very time consuming, but it is totally worth it! Youtube was my best friend. I made everything including the backdrop, the monthly birthday frame, and the birthday banner.  Each of those cost no more than $10 for supplies. For me, adding these personal touches was my gift to her. I like that when she’s older I can show her all the work I did to show my love!

Check out Dollar Tree

This place is a must! I’m always amazed at all the stuff you can get here.  A lot of the supplies I used for the decorations were from here as well as the plates, napkins, utensils, and cups. Every store is different too. I checked out two different locations near me, and found that one was definitely better than the other. All the other supplies were from Hobby Lobby and Michaels, where I was able to use coupons on all my purchases.

Ask for help

I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a lot of things I needed for the party from family members. Before I purchased anything, I asked around first. I was pleasantly surprised by how much stuff I was able to borrow. You never know until you ask!

Have the party midday                                           

By having the party midday, you can get away with serving snacks only versus a meal. I kept the food simple.  Along with the cupcakes and cookies that I made myself, we had chips and salsa, cheese and crackers, fruit, and some baby-friendly snacks. It was perfect for a 2 o’clock party.

Shop consignment for a birthday outfit   

When I mentioned to my Husband that Journee was going to need two outfits for her birthday, he just rolled his eyes and walked away.  Ha! I really wanted to have an outfit for her photoshoot (which was a week before the party), and another outfit for the actual party. So I checked out my go-to spot, Once Upon A Child and found two outfits for $13. Even Hubs couldn’t be mad at that price!

Listen, the first birthday comes with a lot of different emotions. Not only is your baby hitting a big milestone, but you survived your first year of parenting. So however you decide to celebrate that, enjoy it!

 

Date Night on a Budget…

Date night is one of the many things I took for granted before having a baby. There wasn’t much work required to make it happen.  If we wanted to go out somewhere, we’d just up and go and not think twice about it. Things are just a tad different now with Journee (ha!).  Date night takes some planning now that we need a babysitter.  It’s a must though! We need that adult time for ourselves and for our marriage. So yes, it takes some effort but I appreciate it so much more now.

Let me share with you guys some of my favorite budget-friendly date ideas.  I love that my husband is so open to trying different places.  It opens up a lot of options that fit well within our budget.

Happy Hour:

Happy hour is definitely our go-to option. It’s a a great way to check out different bars and restaurants without spending a lot of money. Our ideal place is somewhere with outdoor seating that has deals on food and drinks.  One of our favorite places in Houston is Blanco Tacos & Tequila near Galleria Mall.  They have cocktails for $7, and appetizers starting at $5. There’s one thing on the menu that is a must for me: the queso! It’s amazing!

Topgolf:

My Husband and I are very competitive! We actually spent our anniversary this year at Topgolf. We usually go the steakhouse route for those types of celebrations, but we decided to switch it up! Even if you don’t like golf, this place is a lot of fun.  Think of it as a more grown up version of putt-putt. You get to have some friendly competition, along with some really good food and drinks.  If you can, check them out on Tuesdays when games are half off!

Brewery:

I’ve always loved breweries. If you’re looking for something low key, this is the way to go. Houston is home to some great breweries and beer gardens. Our favorite, Saint Arnold Brewery is perfect for our day dates we like to do. No babysitter? Well like most breweries, this place is kid and pet-friendly! There’s a massive outdoor patio and no shortage of great views of the city. If you visit during the week take advantage of their $20 lunch plates that include a drink (FYI the orange show beer is the way to go).

Honorable Mentions:

Discount Tuesdays at the movies

Picnic in the park

Free museum admission day on Thursdays

What’s your go-to for date night? Let me know in the comments!

Budget Friendly Holiday Activities

The holiday season is here! It’s that time of year for family, new and old traditions, and making lots of great memories.

I will admit that I can sometimes be a grinch during the holiday season, but not this year! I’m excited to celebrate Journee’s first Christmas with all our family and friends. I’ve made a list of holiday activities that I’m going to attempt to do before the month is out. Most of these are budget friendly ideas, and baby friendly (minus the boozy hot chocolate!).

1. Christmas crafts- baby’s first ornament

2. A night in with matching PJs and Christmas stories

3. Take Christmas themed pictures

4. Send out Christmas cards

5. Visit tree farm

6. Ugly Christmas sweater party

7. Sensory boxes with bows and wrapping paper

8. Find some holiday lights throughout the city

9. Bake Christmas cookies

10. Visit hotel with Christmas decorations

11. Christmas themed day at library

12. Play Christmas music

13. Unplug and enjoy family time

14. Find boozy hot chocolate recipe

15. Binge on classic Christmas movies

Am I missing anything? Let me know your favorite holiday activities below!

Baby Fall Fashion

So I’ve been on the hunt lately for more fall clothes for Journee. The weather has been up and down here in Texas for the past month at least. Lately thought it’s been more down so I’ve noticed just how sad her fall wardrobe is!  I wanted to share with you guys a few places I’ve had the best luck.

Walmart

So I haven’t been shopping at Walmart very long, but I’ve definitely been missing out! They have lots of options that are super affordable.  My favorite is their baby sweatsuits.  You can usually get the top and pants for about $9, and a lot of them are lined with fleece to keep them extra warm.  I decided to go up a size for Journee to give her a little room to grow in them this season. The only problem I’ve had with Walmart is finding her size.  If you don’t have any luck in the store, be sure to check online!

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Kohls

I just recently checked out Kohls for baby fashion.  It’s not somewhere I normally shop, but I got a coupon in the mail and decided to check them out.  The great thing about Kohls is that you can use multiple coupons (paper or digital) on the same purchase.  For example, on my last visit I used a $10 off paper coupon, $10 off $25 digital coupon, and a 15% off digital coupon! You can’t beat that.  It was all Carter’s brand items, and everything I bought was on sale to begin with.  With those kind of deals, I will definitely add Kohls to my regular shopping list for baby clothes.

 

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Better Baby Boutique

So I discovered this boutique on Instagram a few months ago, and I’m so happy I did.  They have the most chic baby clothes! They have sizes from newborn to toddler.  I can usually get most of their stuff for $10 or less, and their clothes are true to size.  It’s nice to have some one-of-kind items that you can’t just get anywhere.  So check them out and be sure to use code “JOURNEESAVE25” to save 25% off your next purchase!

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Once Upon a Child

This place is definitely my go-to!  I always find the best deals here.  I recently got the cutest fleece pullover my location for $6!  You can also sell your old baby clothes or gear here as well.  I recently sold Journee’s old rocker and used that money to buy her some fall clothes.  Every location is different so you never know what you’re going to find. Be sure to follow your location on social media to keep up with their current sales.

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I hope this helps. Again, these are just some of the places we shop and find great deals. Let me know in the comments where you guys like to shop for your kids!

 

September – NICU Awareness Month

Hey guys! It’s been a while. Journee is SO active these days! It’s hard to get everything done that I want to do some days. I know I’m not the only one right??

With it being NICU Awareness Month, I wanted to share our NICU story with you guys.  Journee had a combo of heart and glucose issues she was dealing with after she was born.  We knew about the heart stuff during my pregnancy, but her glucose issues were a surprise. We spent a whole week there at Texas Children’s Hospital. It was a pretty scary experience.

One of the best things they have at Texas Children’s is access to the Ronald McDonald House.  I stayed there every night after I was discharged.  It was right around the corner from the NICU so I had easy access to Journee.  After my unplanned c-section and limited mobility, having that access to her was so crucial! That place was a blessing!

My heart broke for all the babies in the NICU, not just my own.  There were some tough days in there for sure, and you could hear and see the tears of these families.  I really admired their strength.  I mean, some of the babies had been in there for months!  We were just there a week and it seemed like forever!

I can’t say enough about the NICU nurses.  They were the best! They taught us so much! Of course as new parents, we had ALL the questions.  The nurses showed us everything from how to change her diaper, how to bathe her, how to hold her, etc.  They also had a very calming presence that helped in those moments of anxiety.  Just seeing all the cords and machines Journee was hooked up to would get me all teary eyed. They were always there to console and reassure us she was fine. A true God send!

So although the NICU can definitely be a sad and scary place, it’s also a place of strength.  Babies are such fighters!  They’re so much stronger than we realize.  Seeing the fight in Journee kept my spirits up each and everyday.  I’m grateful that God saved her, and gave me a testimony to help encourage others!

 

 

Beat the Heat Deals…

I think I speak for all of us when I say summer has outworn its welcome! I hate to have Journee out in this heat, but also know that staying inside too much will drive us both crazy. So I wanted to share a few FREE things I have found in the area to do with her; a couple I have tried this week and a couple on my list to try!

The Library – Check our your local library for some baby and toddler classes. I tried out a baby bounce class at my location where they had songs, story time and lots of toys to play with. It’s also a great way to meet other moms.

Children’s Museum of Houston – This place is pretty cool! We went on Thursday since that’s the free family day! If you go from 5-8 admission is free. Parking is also discounted at $3 in the garage. They have a special area on the 2nd floor just for the smaller babies and toddlers.

Baby Yoga – This is on my to do list. I keep hearing good things about it. I know some locations charge a fee for this, but turns out the Heights Neighborhood Library (Houston) has a free class every week! I will definitely let you guys know all about it when I go!

Houston Zoo – From Sept to May the zoo will offer free admission on the first Tuesday of every month. Its from noon to close, and you can get tickets online. Click the link for more info!

What are y’alls go to free activities for the kiddos? Let me know in the comments!