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Casual Friday: Today's Outfit - 1.29.16

Today's Casual Friday fashion #OOTD is contemporary, yet still professional, with zipper-on-zipper details. 
The diagonal zipper-detail dress is from Banana Republic Factory Store.  The shoes are the Nine West Felycia Pump from DSW.
I love the bold color of the dress!  It's a great way to brighten up in the winter.

The peplum makes this dress very flattering!

 The height of the pumps is just right.
Don't forget to follow @fabeverydayblog on Instagram for more of-the-moment style inspiration. 


Travel Tuesday: Choosing the Right Luggage for Children

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive commission if you make a purchase using the link.
In our journey to the journey (the planning process for taking our kids on their first big international trip), we needed to find decent luggage for the kids.  We needed something sturdy (that could handle the long trip to Kenya), something small enough for the kids to handle, and something easy to maneuver.  The timing worked out well too, as we got these right before Christmas, so while they were a necessity, they also doubled as Christmas presents.  #ParentingWin.
We decided on this Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds 20" 4 Wheel Upright from Amazon (in red for our Iron Man fan, and cobalt blue for our Captain America fan).  The reviews were good, and the size seems just right for the boys, who will be 6 and 4 at the time of the trip.  They are essentially standard/adult carry-on size luggage pieces, but since the handle has an adjustable height, they can easily be pulled by older toddlers and young children.  The 360 degree rotating wheels make them easy to maneuver, and the hard shell will allow them to stand the test of long, multi-plane journeys. 
To up the fun ante, we decided to get them cute luggage tags with their favorite Avengers characters (Iron Man and Captain America).  Since we couldn't find decent luggage with the characters on them, we decided to go the route of choosing their favorite color for the bag itself, then adding the character luggage tags.  They love them!

Our two bed-head, pajama boys enjoyed opening these big box presents on Christmas morning!

And they're ready to travel!  Well, not quite, but we are one step closer.  More to come on our journey to the journey!


Better Bakery Artisan Melts and Guilt-Free Baked Ranch Zucchini Chips Recipe

This blog post was sponsored by Better Bakery, but the opinions are completely my own. 

As a busy mom, I am always grateful to find good things that make life easier.  It is a challenge to find pre-made food that is both reasonable in price and tasty, so I find myself cooking most everything from scratch.  Since my family is also health-conscious, I also find that cooking my own meals is the only way I can trust what is going into my meals.  Unfortunately, scratch cooking takes more time, which does not always help with the balance most busy moms need to get through the week. 

Enter Better Bakery artisan melts!  These are frozen food products that you can find in your local grocery store (more on that below).  The difference is that these sandwich melts are hand-crafted in small batches with real ingredients (like the ones I would use if I was making them myself).  The result is something that doesn't taste like re-heated frozen food once baked at home, but without the higher price tag of the fresh, pre-made meals in the grocery deli! 

For this review I tried two different type of Better Bakery artisan melts: Cheese & Pepperoni Pizza and Chicken & Bacon Club.  With the melts being made with great ingredients, I decided that I needed a wholesome side dish to accompany them, so I decided to go guilt-free and make some homemade baked zucchini chips on the side.  You will find the recipe for my Baked Ranch Zucchini Chips at the end of this article. 

I was able to find Better Bakery products in my local HEB grocery store (though they also carry them at Kroger, Wal-Mart, and other retailers) in the "quick meals" area of the frozen food section.  Click here to find a retailer that sells Better Bakery items near you.

The price for the package was great considering it included two large melts (they are 25% bigger than the average pocket sandwich), and made even better with this coupon from the Better Bakery website.  Click here to print the coupon and save $1.50 on Better Bakery artisan melts.

Finding an all-in-one lunch like this made shopping easier (especially with these two trouble-makers), as I didn't have to hunt for multiple ingredients:

The package instructions included oven-baked or microwaved options for preparation.  I decided to go with the oven option, which takes longer, but was worth the wait. 

First, I tried the Chicken & Bacon Club.

This was really good.  The breading seemed fresh (not chewy like bread can sometimes be when frozen and re-heated), and the meat tasty.  I was a little surprised in the overall quality.  I am not sure I have had a pre-prepared, frozen meal like this where the bacon tasted this fresh.  I would try this again, for sure.  The kids loved it too!

Next, I tried the Cheese & Pepperoni Pizza.

I personally liked the Chicken & Bacon Club better, but this was also really good.  It reminded me of pepperoni pizza rolls that you can get at some pizza parlors, but with a crispy baked breading as opposed to a chewy, doughy wrap.  The parmesan and seasoning blend sprinkled on top was a nice complement to the mozzarella and pepperoni on the inside.

The freshness and care put into the lunch entrée demanded more than some re-heated, frozen fries as a side dish.  I decided to make some homemade zucchini chips to go along with them.  I decided on a ranch flavor to complement both the club and the pepperoni pizza melts.  Since I decided to bake the melts, I also decided to make the zucchini chips better by baking them.  These low-fat zucchini chips were satisfying, but without the guilt!

Baked Ranch Zucchini Chips

  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (1 oz.) package ranch dressing mix
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 2 zucchinis, sliced to 1/4" thick pieces
  • 1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese

  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  • Mix salt and pepper (to taste) with flour in a shallow bowl. 
  • In a second bowl, beat the two eggs.
  • In a third bowl, mix ranch dressing mix and bread crumbs.
  • A few at a time, dredge zucchini in the flour mixture, then dip in the beaten eggs, making sure to coat completely.  After dipping in the eggs, press the zucchini circles into the bread crumb mixture, coating both sides, before placing onto prepared baking sheet, until the entire baking sheet is full.
  • Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the zucchini circles on the baking sheet.
  • Bake on the center rack for 15 minutes.
  • Move the baking sheet to the broiler, and broil for 1-2 minutes until desired crispness.
  • Let zucchini chips cool slightly before serving. 

When dipping the flour and egg-covered zucchini circles into the ranch and bread crumb mixture, it is helpful to press the zucchini into the mixture to make sure both sides are evenly coated.

Once the baking dish is full, sprinkle parmesan cheese on the zucchini circles, then place onto the center oven rack.

The final result are guilt-free, baked zucchini chips that are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.  The tangy ranch flavor pairs nicely with Italian or American-flavored sandwiches.
You'll want to share this recipe and pin for later when zucchini season is in full swing.  In the meantime, don't forget to download your coupon and try a Better Bakery artisan melt yourself! 


Travel Tuesday: Tips for Applying for a US Passport for Your Child

We are so dang excited for our upcoming trip to Kenya with the kids.  While Explorateur Journeys took care of the itinerary planning for us, there are still a lot of details to consider while planning a big international trip.  With all the travel that we have done, the hubs and I have gotten pretty good at planning, but the game changed for us once we decided to bring the two littles along.  As a way to help inspire other families like us to see the world with their young kids, I want to bring you along with us during our planning process (which I refer to as "the journey to the journey").  This starts with today's post on obtaining passports for the kids.  Please note: I am not a passport expert; I am just sharing my advice as a citizen that has recently gone through the process of applying for passports for my children. 

Grayson's passport expired last year, since minors' passports are only good for five years (he only had one stamp in his first one - Canada), and Sawyer had never had one.  So we had to start fresh, with photos and everything.  Here are some tips based on what we had to consider for applying for US passports for the boys.

It is important that you plan for passports as early as possible before your trip.  Not just because they can take up to eight weeks to arrive (and yes, there are options for quicker turnaround if you are willing to spend the money), but because the length of time your passport is valid (and conversely, the amount of time before expiration) matters depending on where you are visiting.  Some countries require your passport to have been valid for at least six months, or require that your passport's expiration date be no less than six months from the start of your trip.  Kenya is one of these countries, so it is a good thing we planned ahead!  This is a helpful article if you would like to know more.

You should make yourself aware of the passport photo requirements and guidelines before submitting your application.  The full list of requirements is here on the US Department of State website.  In general, you need to be able to see your entire face in a straight (not angled) shot.  Your hair should not cover your face, and ideally, your ears should also be visible. 

If taking the photo yourself, note that you will need a plain white background.  If you want to avoid any chance that you aren't doing it right, you can get professional passport photos taken at Wal-Mart or Costco for a reasonable price.
Sawyer was excited to take his passport photo at our local Wal-Mart in his favorite Captain America t-shirt...
...But in true Sawyer fashion, when he realized he was being photographed, he changed his expression to his signature "mad dog" look.
The resulting passport photo was so classically Sawyer.

Before going to apply for a US passport for a minor, you should familiarize yourself with the process and the requirements.  To do this, visit the Department of State's web page Passports for Minors Under 16.  It is key to note that whether the minor has had a passport before or not, the application must be submitted in-person (with the minor present).  Furthermore, both of the child's parents/guardians must be present at the time of the application, along with photo ID and proof of parental relationship.  If both parents can not be present, a separate parental consent form must also accompany the application.

I also recommend bringing your checkbook when you apply.  One or both fees (there are separate application and execution fees) may only be accepted via check. 

Make it Fun!
As one way to get our boys excited about receiving their new passports, we got them fun passport booklet covers.  We chose covers with their favorite Avengers characters from Etsy.  G got Iron Man, and S got Captain America:

Next week I will share more about the luggage we chose for them for their travels.  Stay tuned for more from our journey to the journey!


Casual Friday: Today's Outfit - 1.15.16

It's been a while since I did a Casual Friday #OOTD post!  But today I was excited to show off my new blanket scarf, so a post was definitely in order. 

Today's look features a blue long-sleeve V-neck trapeze dress and black tights from Express, along with an oversized plaid fringed blanket scarf from Peach Couture.  Boots are Anne Klein from last year (but here's a similar pair from JustFab).  If you're not a member of JustFab yet, click here to join and get boots like this at the VIP discount rate (disclosure: this is an affiliate link, which means I receive commission from JustFab if you sign-up using the link)!


Lego Movie-Themed Birthday Party

Both our boys are really into The Lego Movie (remember our Halloween costumes?), and I'll be honest, I don't mind.  It's actually a really clever movie, and if they are going to binge-watch something, thank goodness this is one that the hubs and I actually enjoy too. 

I also didn't mind in the least when G decided on The Lego Movie as a theme for his 6th birthday party this year.  Lego is a super fun party theme to work with, and inspiration seems endless (you can check-out my Lego Movie Birthday Party Inspiration Board on Pinterest to see the pins that inspired me).

Lots of fun (though not overly difficult) DIY projects were involved in the preparations for this party.  In addition to including the characters from the movie, I was able to incorporate Lego bricks into the theme, and kept it all in a standard Lego color palette of green, red, blue, and yellow.

Here is how it all turned out!  Details and links can be found in the photo captions.
Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a commission.  This does not cost you anything additional, and helps me to keep the rest of my content free, so thank you!

Lego Movie Party Favors:

I got paper favor bags (red, blue, and green) from Amazon, and used a circle punch to make them look like Lego bricks.

Contents of the favor bags included Lego crayons (see more details on this DIY project below), brick-shaped bubbles, brick bracelets, brick candy, Lego Movie stickers, candy wrapped with Lego Movie character art (see a close-up in the Food section below), and loose bricks (see a close up below).

I got a bunch of loose bricks from our local Lego Store and bagged them up in plastic treat bags with a label that said "You are the Special! Master-build your own special creation."  It was so cute to see the kids' creativity with these!

I made Lego brick and minifigure crayons with silicone molds following the same instructions I used for the DIY dinosaur party crayons here.  This is much easier than you'd think, and DIYing them using silicone molds and bulk crayons is a lot cheaper than buying custom-shaped crayons.  You can do these for almost any theme, and the silicone molds can be reused for other party projects (candy, Jello, etc.).

Since I also had brick-shaped candy in the favor bags, I found it important to make sure each was labeled so that the kids knew which were candy and which were crayons!

These free printable Lego Movie character masks were a big hit!  I just needed to print them, cut them out, and attach ribbons to tie them.

Another favor came as part of one of the activities where the kids got to build (and keep) their own minifigure (see Activities section below).

Lego Movie Party Food:

I was inspired by The Mauve Dinosaur's Lego brick sandwich idea, and made turkey and cheese sandwiches as a party snack.  Instructions can be found here.

Guess what?  Pepperoni pizza can also look like Lego bricks, and are a kid-friendly party snack!

I had to balance out the pizza with something a bit healthier, so had a "Master-Build Your Own Fruit Salad" station as well.  In addition to chopped and bite-sized fruits, I had vanilla and strawberry yogurt for the kids to make a sweet, creamy fruit salad.

Like I did for the previous year's Minions party, I designed Lego Movie character candy wrappers to wrap Hershey's Mini candy bars.  I included these in the favor bags for the kids, as well as in a bowl in the dessert station.

These didn't turn out as cutely as I'd hoped, but I made red bricks out of strawberry Jello as "Pieces of Resistance."

Another inspiration from Pinterest (from One Artsy Mama) were these rectangular sugar cookies decorated as Lego bricks in the party color scheme.  I used cake frosting and M&Ms for decoration, and my all-time-favorite Classic Sugar Cookies recipe from Betty Crocker.  Seriously, I have been making these fool-proof cookies since first finding the recipe in my mom's Betty Crocker Cookbook as a child.

The Lego brick silicone molds I used for the DIY crayon favors came in handy for the cupcakes as well.  Using colorful candy melts, I used the brick molds to make candy cupcake toppers.  I was also able to find these building bricks candles on Amazon to top the birthday boy's cupcake.

Another party supply that gave me a lot of mileage was Lego wrapping paper (found on eBay).  I used it to wrap the water bottles instead of purchasing custom party bottle labels.  The wrapping paper was thick and strong, and withheld better than a printable wrapper on standard paper.

The other beverage at the party was lemonade (the yellow color matched the theme), or as G called it, "Legonade."

Lego Movie Party Décor:

I made this sign using clip-art and Legothick font (which you can download for free here), along with a quote by Princess Unikitty from the movie.  For those of you who don't have the movie memorized like we do, these are the rules at her home, Cloud Cuckoo Land.  They seemed to be appropriate rules for an awesome Lego Movie kid's birthday party too, don't you think?

The centerpiece for the food display was this 6 made out of some of G's Lego bricks. While he appreciated the gesture, I don't think he liked that I used up so many of his bricks on décor...

Also using the Legothick font, I was able to make a few other party signs, such as this "Everything is Awesome" sign, and the "Happy Birthday" banner seen below.  The frame for the above was a reasonably priced find from Ikea.

I used more of G's bricks to make a crayon holder for one of the party activities (see more on the activity below).  I also used more real Lego bricks for sign holders.  Thankfully for G, I purchased these at the Lego Store and didn't raid his stash, since I hot glued them onto green, red, and blue Ikea Tolsby frames.

This napkin holder was another DIY using my son's bricks, and the beverage napkins came from Oriental Trading (they carry a few cute products for brick-themed parties).

I ordered utensils in the party color scheme and large napkins from Party City.  I wrapped the utensil/napkin bundles with a small strip of the Lego wrapping paper I found on eBay.

Other party décor included bundles of helium balloons in the party colors (red, green, blue, and yellow), which you may be able to see in the background of some of the photos in this post.

Lego Movie Party Activities:

This DIY "Pin the Pants on the Guy" game was fun for the kids!  Honey... where are my paaaaannnnttss?

Another inspiration from Pinterest was this brick bean bag toss game (original idea from Stamp with Heather).  Though I cut corners and used pre-made bean bags with felt dots (instead of DIYing the whole bean bag).

As a party activity that doubled as an additional party favor, we had a Build Your Own Minifigure station.  I got the inspiration from an in-store activity at our local Lego Store, however, made it more cost-effective by purchasing the parts in bulk from eBay.

I purchased assortments of heads/faces (both male and female), hats and hair (both male and female), torsos, legs, and accessories from eBay (various sellers).  Kids were to choose one of each to create a custom minifigure of their own to keep.  The kids absolutely loved this activity, and it was great to see their creativity come out!

Coloring pages (using free online printables) and crayons are always a cheap way to keep the kiddos entertained!

 What's a Lego party without a station for building?  We brought out a few of G's buckets of loose Legos for kids to become Master Builders and just sit and build to their hearts' content.

Finally, we had the Lego Movie playing on the TV in the background.

That pretty much sums up the party details.  As always, if you are inspired please pin and share! 

Edited to add: All printables for the party are available in this post here.  These printables are free, but I would appreciate a follow for @fabeverydayblog on social media (you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Snapchat with that username) in return.  If you post pictures of your parties, tag @fabeverydayblog in them so we can see what you do!  Finally, if you blog about your party, please link back to in your blog posts to credit the printables and inspiration.

Next up is S's birthday in April.  As of now he wants a Halloween-themed birthday, which should be fun!