Thursday, January 19, 2017

GIVEAWAY: Win a $150 Gift Card to Gaia Conceptions!

GIVEAWAY: Win a $150 Gift Card to Gaia Conceptions from Bubby and Bean!

We're almost three weeks into the new year you guys. This is a bittersweet time of year for me. The holidays have come and gone and there is a new, much more boring normal to which we have to adjust. The weather in the Chicago area is pretty miserable, and all those gray skies and short days can be depressing. And after a couple of months with Robbie home and our family all together, he leaves for several months (with many stops home, but still) of touring with the band in mid-January, which is always rough. All of that said, it's also the beginning of a new year, which brings a renewed excitement and refreshed feeling that just doesn't come any other time. That alone is cause for celebration, and what better way to celebrate than with a really incredible giveaway?

We are teaming up once again with our pals and long time Bubby and Bean sponsors Gaia Conceptions to give one lucky Bubby and Bean reader $150 to spend in their online shop, which features some of the most beautiful eco-friendly clothing around. They have hundreds of styles to choose from, each one of which is custom created to your size, color choice, and fabric selection. As I've mentioned before, Essley (yes, they make kids' clothing too!) and I are proud owners of several Gaia pieces. They're the best, and I'm thrilled that one of you is going to get to own their beautiful apparel as well.

Use the form below, and/or, because the main methods of entering this giveaway (worth the most points) involve Instagram, you can also enter directly on IG, right here. There are several options for extra entries as well.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway will run through January 27th, 2017 and is open to Bubby and Bean readers worldwide. All entries from the Rafflecopter form above and Instagram will be combined. A winner will be randomly chosen via and announced here shortly after the end of the giveaway.
naxela (Instagram entry)! Please contact us with your name and email address.

A huge thank you to Andrea and friends over at Gaia Conceptions for giving our readers the chance to win another gift card to their amazing shop! Good luck!


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sunny Morning Smoothie Bowls (+ How I'm Getting Back Into a Healthy Morning Routine)

Sunny Morning Smoothie Bowls (by Bubby and Bean)

I'm going to be honest with you guys and just spit it out right away - I let my health go (in a big way) in December. Now to be fair, I think this is a pretty common occurrence around the holidays. For me, I'd worked really hard to exercise regularly and eat well leading up to our trip to the Dominican at the beginning of the month, and when we returned, I just wanted to be a little gluttonous, man. (So many croissants. So much chocolate.) But I've posted here many times about my efforts to take care of myself, and with the new year I decided to get back on track.

My first task was to ditch the sugar-filled, processed breakfast in which I'd been excessively indulging and replace them with a more health conscious alternative that I know I'd still love eating - smoothie bowls. My regular readers are already well aware of my fondness for smoothies and smoothie bowls, but this one is my newest favorite so clearly I had to share the recipe. I call this the Sunny Morning Smoothie Bowl because even here in Chicagoland, where the skies are covered with dreary clouds pretty much everyday this time of year, my mornings feel sunny when I start the day with this breakfast. (No really, they do.) It's also incredibly quick and easy, with just a few ingredients. You're going to love it. Just wait.

Makes 2 bowls

1 cup Trop50 juice beverage
3 cups baby spinach
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup frozen mango or pineapple (I like mango because it's slightly less sweet)
granola for topping (optional)

Add all of the ingredients except granola to a blender and blend until spinach is pureed but mixture is still thick. Pour into bowls and top with granola. (My dad makes an incredible homemade granola at Christmas and gave us a ton, so I've been topping with that.) It's that easy. And so good. You can also let it blend for a minute longer and drink in a glass as a regular smoothie if you want something to take with you.

I tend to use Greek yogurt, mangos and/or pineapples, and baby spinach or greens as the base for most smoothies and smoothies I make, but my secret ingredient for this particular one is Trop50. The thing I really love about Trop50 (other than the fact that it tastes freaking delicious, and adds just the right amount of sweetness to these bowls without being overpowering) is that it has all the goodness of orange juice with only half the calories and sugar. Since I'm trying to cut down on sugar, it's the perfect ingredient to assist me in my goal of getting back on track health-wise for the new year. It also has no artificial sweetener and is squeezed from fresh oranges. The fact that is provides 100% of your daily vitamin C is a bonus too. It's definitely a big part of the sunny in these Sunny Morning Smoothies, but I like to drink it on its own too.

In addition to being more mindful of what I put into my body for breakfast (and other meals as well), I've also started doing yoga again almost every morning, and (this one is the hardest) trying to take a few minutes each day away from work and my kids and everyday life to sit and meditate. And I stretch for 2-3 minutes every morning, followed by drinking a full glass of water. I truly believe that they small changes add up. My goal is to get to a place where self care becomes habit again and a regular part of my life for the rest of 2017.

Who else let their health routine slip over the holidays? What are you guys doing to bounce back in terms of healthy living? Any other good smoothie bowls I should try?

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hey Guys!

It's been a while since one of my regular old "hey guys!" posts, so here we are. Although there were many partnered posts throughout 2016, I really did try to check in with some simple personal posts as well, and I'd like to do the same in 2017. I'm very grateful that this space allows me to support my family through teaming up with brands and companies I genuinely love, but I also always want it to feel authentic and real - because it is. Social media may be the place for quick personal check ins these days, but this blog remains my baby and my home.

That said, it's been quite a start to 2017 you guys. I've briefly mentioned this a few times, but starting a couple of days before Christmas I got the worst case of the flu of my life. It took me about three weeks to feel completely normal. And in those three weeks, both of my kids got it, my mother got, Robbie's parents who flew all the way here from Arizona to come to Emmett's birthday party got it and couldn't come, and Robbie, Essley, Emmett, and I, along with my sister, brother in law, and dad, got the stomach flu as well. (I mean, you can't make this stuff up.) There were three hospital visits and all sorts of missed events (from Emmett's birthday party to New Years Eve plans a year in the making to Essley's birthday party, which ended up being canceled completely), and it was just, well, a lot. Everybody gets sick this time of year but this was truly excessive. I was so ready to say goodbye to 2016 that I refuse to admit that 2017 started on a bad note because I don't want to jinx it. I'm just telling myself that 2016 ended badly and the crappy start to 2017 was just the lingering effects because it's actually going to be amazing.

Health issues aside, life is good. This is the time of year where Robbie begins to be gone pretty nonstop again, and I have a hard time with winter weather, but January (my least favorite month) is almost half way over, and after February comes the month where spring begins - and there is something about having that to look forward to that brings me a sense of peace. Truly, the day I walk into the store and first see the seasonal section full of seeds and gardening stuff and outdoor furniture (which is admittedly many, many weeks before anyone is using them around here) makes me feel renewed and excited. It's a great feeling, and I can't wait for that.

I'll check in with you all again soon. And as always, you can find lots of updates over on my Instagram.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Game Day Mexican Style Loaded Baked Potato Dip

I'm not a football fan (I figured I should just come right out and admit that), but I actually really look forward to the Big Game. And while this is partially because the commercials and half time show are usually quite entertaining, the main reason is that I love the food. My regular readers have likely noticed that I'm not big into creating elaborate meals (although I do like to eat them), but I've gotten pretty decent at making simple dishes and snacks. I think is probably why I enjoy cooking so much for Big Game Sunday - it's a day full of snacks and party food. For me, it's also a day to experiment with traditional game day foods in an effort to come up with unique recipes. And that's exactly what I did when I combined two of my absolute favorite foods - Mexican food and mashed potatoes. This Mexican style loaded baked potato dip is so good you guys. It's also incredibly easy.

Game Day Mexican Style Loaded Baked Potato Dip

Serves 10

1 package (3.74 oz) Idaho Spuds Country Buttered Mashed Potatoes
2 cups water, boiling
1-1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
2 cups salsa
2 cups shredded Mexican style or cheddar cheese
1/3 cup black olives, sliced
2-3 scallions, chopped
1 avocado, cubed
chili powder
black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Measure 2 cups boiling water into a large bowl. Stir in entire pouch of Idaho Spuds potatoes and mix well with a fork. Add Greek yogurt, cream cheese, salsa, and a couple of dashes each of chili powder, cumin, and black pepper. Stir until blended. Scoop mixture into a baking dish and top with shredded cheese and sliced black olives. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is slightly browned. Top with chopped scallions, cubed avocados, and a sprinkle of chili powder. Serve hot with tortilla chips.

If you're having a game day party, you have to try this recipe. You'll be surprised at how simple it is to put together, and your guests will be absolutely wowed. Promise. You'll never want to make regular loaded baked potatoes or Mexican layer dip again. And thanks to the Idaho Spuds, featuring creamy mashed potatoes as the star of recipe is a snap. Speaking of Idaho Spuds, be sure to go big on game day with the Idaho Spuds Game Day sweepstakes! Choose your favorite Game Day recipe right here, and get a chance to choose your own Boise adventure. Woohoo!

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby & Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Emmett's Space Themed First Birthday Party

A Space Themed First Birthday Party (Bubby and Bean)
A Space Themed First Birthday Party (Bubby and Bean)

Some of you may remember the big sparkly gold and pink themed first birthday party I threw for Essley two years ago. It was probably a little over the top, and it involved many late nights of DIY projects and list making, but ultimately it was more than worth the work involved. I did tell myself that I would never do it again, but then on January 9th, 2016, Emmett came along. And after the first year he had (if you're a new reader, you can read all about his story, his epilepsy diagnosis, and his miraculous triumphs here), there was never a doubt that he deserved an equally over the top party to celebrate his awesomeness. So I did it again. It was actually even more work this time, because due to timing (and lots of sick people) I ended up having to do everything myself (aside from some much appreciated help the morning of from my mom, sister, and friends Dee and Jess - thank you!). It was my choice though, and once again, it was worth every 3 AM glittery rocket cupcake topper making session. Emmett was thrilled with all of the shiny decorations (as was his sister) and balloons (his first word, a couple of weeks ago, was "balloon" by the way) and, most of all, all of the friends and family who came to be a part of his big day.

A Space Themed First Birthday Party (Bubby and Bean)
A Space Themed First Birthday Party (Bubby and Bean)
A Space Themed First Birthday Party (Bubby and Bean)
A Space Themed First Birthday Party (Bubby and Bean)

When I was brainstorming party ideas a couple of month ago, I came across an image of a rocket, and suddenly I'd found the ultimate symbol for Emmett - our strong, brave, curious explorer. I decided to go with a rocket/space theme, and over the weeks that followed I collected and created space-themed decor. As with Essley's party, we held the festivities in my mom's and stepdad's finished basement (we have a small place and we had a big guest list), which was perfect for transforming into a planet/star/rocket-filled night sky. I found the ideal sized dark blue table cloth for $11 (that food display "table" you see in these photos is actually a ping pong table I folded in half). I ordered a bunch of balloons (48 total, plus the same gold mylar number one I used for Essley's party) in shades of blue, black, silver, gold, and white to represent the sky. I also purchased spiral hanging planets, planet and rocket ship garland, gold star garlands, a variety of hanging tissue honeycombs/pom poms/balls in gold, silver, blue, and black, and other miscellaneous spacey decor. I picked up some space themed napkins, gold napkins, and gold and silver plates. (See end of post for links to places I got some of the purchased decor.) I made a tassel banner in the theme colors to hang and another for Emmett's high chair with a big gold number 1 in the middle. I also drew several signs in rocketship and planet themes, which was a lot of fun for me - I don't draw much anymore but I really love it. For favors, I bought plain blue paper bags and decorated them with different sized gold and silver star stickers to look like the sky, and filled them with stickers, wooden yo-yos, mini bubbles, crazy straws, and lollipops. Both Emmett's and Essley's eyes lit up when they entered the finished room, and one of the little guests said, "wow, we're in a whole solar system." And that was all I needed. The best.

For food, we ordered pizzas and made big bowls of salad. We also served up chips with salsa and guacamole, goldfish crackers, frosted animal crackers, chocolates, and a fresh fruit bouquet. There was beer and wine and water for the adults, and juice boxes and water for the kids. Robbie and I also made yellow cupcakes with vanilla frosting for the guests, and a vanilla smash cake for Emmett. Despite the fact that they were edible, the cupcakes were one of my favorite parts of the decor. We baked them in gold and silver wrappers and topped them with mini edible gold stars. Some of them also got the cake toppers I made - gold stars, silver stars, and blue rocket ships. We dusted Emmett's cake with gold sprinkles and topped it with another big gold number 1. Unlike his sister, who very delicately approached her smash cake, Emmett went for it. I mean, he dove in face first. It was bad ass.

I wanted Emmett to have a special outfit for the party, and I found this adorable personalized onesie on Etsy. The fact that the color theme matched the party decor actually wasn't intentional (I'm Type A, but not that excessive, I swear), but I certainly wasn't complaining about it. I also had a gold crown for him, with which he wanted absolutely nothing to do after approximately 15 seconds - but hey, it was his party and his rules. He looked adorable and perfect to me, with or without a fancy crown.

Designing and putting together the decor and food and outfits and all the details was a lot of fun (I mean truly, as much of a pain in the ass it can be, I love this stuff), but the best part of the celebration, by far, was all of the people who came out to pay tribute to our boy. Every first birthday is special, but with what Emmett went through this past year and his nearly miraculous recovery, there was an element to this party that was especially emotional. I gave a choked-up impromptu speech before we did the cake about how grateful we are to have had the support system we did during the worst of his diagnosis and in the months that followed, and it really hit me right then how absolutely wonderful it was to have so many people who care about Emmett in this space for this special day. The only bummer was that Robbie's parents, who flew in from Arizona to be there, ended up getting the flu that we all had the week prior and couldn't be there. Since we had to cancel Essley's birthday party a few weeks ago due to her being sick, I'm thinking we'll just have to have a sun-filled belated double celebration when we visit them next.

Thank you, to all of my readers, for following Emmett's story this past year. It was a bittersweet journey, but how lucky we are now to be in a place where we were able to honor Emmett on his first birthday in a way that was optimistic and happy and hopeful. Not a day goes by where I don't look at our brave, curious, joyful little boy with a profound sense of gratitude - for all of it. It's his story and it's a remarkable one. Happy birthday Emmett Hunter, my little warrior! May your second year be magical (and deservedly carefree) in every way.

Oh, and for those of you looking to throw space themed parties of your own, here is a list of some of the supplies I purchased: personalized first birthday onesiespace themed napkins, space themed confetti (on gift table), solar system hanging whirls, planet and spaceship garlands, gold star garlandstable cloth, hanging honeycombs, hanging tissue poms, glitter cardstock (for cake toppers), gold number 1 balloon (we got ours at Party City), gold and silver plates.