Friday, December 13, 2013

Updates...

Well hey! Hello out there!!

I don't know where the time goes, but I'm pretty sure there's a time bandit out there. My last post was in April...That was a long time ago!

SO a few updates:

1. Alexis turned TWO in May!!
2. We vacationed to Suncadia, Washington in July. It was amazing!
3. Found out we're expecting baby #2 in August.
4. Got a new job in September.
5. As of November 2013 we're having a BOY!

All caught up!? LOL.

Just so whoever is still following...www.nexttoheavenblog.com doesn't exist anymore so you'll have to go to valeriecesari.blogspot.com to find me or read :)



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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Photoshop meets Instagram

I don't know about you, but I love me some Instagram. I love the tiny little square photos with nifty filters that help capture my everyday life. They can take a ordinary photo and breathe some real life into. But I love photography and filters so maybe that's just me.

Well I also love Photoshop and wanted to be able to apply some of those awesome Instagram filters without losing the original quality of my photo. Thanks to Google I found some FREE actions to do just that!

And I give to you the two best ones I found:

Freebie: 10 Instagram Photoshop Actions
Instagram Filters as Photoshop Actions

I'm so excited! Check out the pictures I edited from Easter using the actions.*
(* I also adjust other things like exposure and brightness before applying the filters. I'll share some of my secrets in another post.)



 I think these actions work with Photoshop Elements as well. *THINK* But they are free so just download them and see.

OH and to get the actions to show up, open Photoshop, click Window then actions. Along the top bar of your actions tab to the far right will be a series of lines with a upside down triangle. Click that and scroll down to Load Actions then select the actions file from wherever you saved it to when downloading.

Feel free to email me or comment if you need help. This was too good not to share if you're a lover of Instagram like myself.


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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

No.

Oye.

It's happened. She's learned the dreaded word "No" and in what context to use it. AND she's good at it. Little stinker.

Mommy: "Alexis, can you please pick up your toys?"
Alexis: "No."
(sigh)
Mommy: "Alexis, do not tell me no. Please pick up your toys right now."
Alexis: {big intake of breath and a quick staredown} "OK Mommy."
(finally)

There's been a lot of banter and I'm certainly not going to argue with an almost-2-year-old. Not happening.

So I guess I've just been putting my foot down and am stern with her. Don't be fooled to think that sometimes even after I say "Don't tell me no" that she doesn't break down into full on toddler tantrum mode. because she does. And it's not pretty. At all.

But I take everything in strides, or at least I try.

Being a parent is certainly the HARDEST but MOST REWARDING job...ever. Seriously.

I just don't want to have that child that is disrespectful. That to me would be devastating. My children will be polite and have manners. But most important...they will mind and respect their parents. My husband and I say all the time that these are the impressionable years so we have to be consistent and firm.

So we continue to work with our sweet toddler.  I understand her age and what she is most likely seeing from her perspective. I understand she's trying to exercise her right to independence and control...and she can do that....but in different areas lol. It's not always easy and I certainly have learned to choose my battles wisely.

Outside of "No" she's also learned please and thank you and uses them almost every time they are needed. It's so cute :) 

I also try not to read too much because I've learned in my short 22 months of parenting that everyone HAS a different opinion. Everyone is eager to tell you how or how not to do something. When really you should go with your gut. It's right 99% of the time :) I have a pretty amazing kid who minds pretty well and is overall a joy...so I have to be doing something right! You don't need a book to tell you how to be a good parent :)



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Friday, March 22, 2013

Babycakes

For Christmas, I received quite a few of the electronics from the Babycakes line. To say I was pumped would be an understatement. Now when I say all I mean almost all of them haha. I got the waffle maker, cupcake maker, cake pop maker and the donut maker. I also got this recipe book and this one, which have some seriously good recipes like french toast doughnuts and apple pie doughnuts...like seriously delicious.

So I've been searching Pinterest for Babycakes recipes since I love all my makers so much. The dounut maker rocks for easy breakfast by the way! Yesterday I stumbled upon Moscato Mom, who apparently has the same love for this line as I do. Seriously check out her website though, great stuff, and she has LOTS of babycakes recipes.

One that she had was Corndog Cake Pops. I have this weird love of corndogs but sometimes when you buy the frozen ones the hotdogs taste strange and the cornbread is greasy. Kinda takes the fun out of my craving. Anyway....I saw her recipe and knew right then what we were having for dinner last night! Even better I knew I had everything to make it :)

First I whipped up a batch of homemade cornbread. I'm sure you can find a recipe on the internet if you don't have one and if I was thinking clearly I would have brought it to work today (yes I'm blogging from work. Ooops) so I could share. I could probably recite it for you thanks to my photographic memory, but I'd feel terrible if I got it wrong and your cornbread ended up funky. Ha! Wait....a quick Google search led me to my "exact" recipe. Here you go my friends. The only thing I do differently is I use a 1/2 c. sugar. I like my cornbread sweet :)

So carrying on....then I cut up about 5 turkey hot dogs into tiny pieces and added that to my cornbread mixture. I took tiny spoonfuls and loaded them into the cakepop maker and let them bake about 6 minutes.


Golden, delicious perfection! It made a ton too. We're going to be eating Corndog Cake Pops through the weekend I'm sure. I threw some tater tots in the oven (also Moscato Mom's idea) and bam. Easy peasy dinner for a busy work weeknight.

A huge THANK YOU to Moscato Mom for posting this recipe on her blog. I'm in love! And so was the family. The little one loved them as did the husband. Winning!

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Felt travel mat for boys

In this Pinterest-era it's so easy to find gift ideas and inspiration for DIY things. My best friend's son was turning 3 and they have quite a few trips this summer so I wanted to make him something fun, boyish and travel friendly. I found a few felt travel mat ideas on Pinterest which sparked my design and I added a few tweaks :)






You know I just had to embroider his name on it! I wanted something he could carry or that could fit easily into a carry on or tote for the car. Everything is made of felt for durability.





I wanted it to be neat and organized too....go figure.



So the little play mat rolls out, but the construction trucks are packed neatly away in a little velcro pocket so they can't fall out or get lost.





Let playtime commence! Can be great for travel, playtime, the diaper bag...anything really. I really love how it turned out and am going to make a girly one for A with My Little Ponies :) I'll post that one once I actually get around to making it!


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Bloglovin

Kind of like Mclovin but for blogging. LOL.

I've been using Google Reader for YEARS and now sadly they are going away. At first I freaked out because how on EARTH would I remember all my favorite blogs?? And would anything measure up??

A very good friend told me about BlogLovin so I decided to try it. It was so EASY and seamless. You can import your Google Reader feeds with the click of a button and bam....all your blog loving goodness in one spot.

I think I actually like it better. I like that you can hide blogs with no new posts so you only see blogs that need to be read. AND they are like snapshots of the blog so you don't have to scroll through the whole thing if you don't want to. You can also mark the little screenshots as read very easily.

So while I'm always hesitant to change because the "new" won't measure up, this one is great. I highly recommend you giving it a try. OH yea, and add my blog to your feed.

Happy blogging y'all :)

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

So it's March...Mid-March actually

I keep feeling this pull to come back to blogging and I know I've said this before! Maybe tip-toeing is the way to go. Writing is very therapeutic to me and while not everything needs to be written out in the public eye, some things are OK :)

Let's see....an update shall we?

New Year's Goals:
Going well actually! We're staying on top of the budget. We've managed to pay extra on debt so most will be paid off a few months earlier than actually planned. I'm doing better about working out and by better I mean I worked out for like a month BUT I've pinned some exercises on Pinterest. That counts right? Yes. I was even telling my hubby this morning that I needed to get back on the wagon starting either this weekend or Monday. I've been doing extremely well at reducing clutter!! I've gotten several bags and boxes as well as unused furniture out of the house!! I still have a long way to go, but I'm getting there. Progress!! The no shopping thing fell completely out the window. This may sound silly, but I feel like I work too hard to not give myself some slack. So I've made a very conscious effort to stay within my budget. It helps me really determine what is a need, what is a want and what is a reasonable want. I also look at how early in the month it is and that keeps me from spending :) Also, thanks to FlyLady I've managed to at least get a handle on some aspects of the house. It stays picked up a lot more!

Ohemgee...we got some pictures taken of Alexis last weekend. To die for. God I love this child...





She seriously is the most wonderful child (when she's not throwing a tantrum, of course) and she makes hubby and I so very happy! What a blessing she is.

Because I am who I am and planning is my middle name, I've been working on her 2nd birthday party. It's going to be ADORABLE! We're going with a vintage farm theme since this child LOVES cows. Like loves. Cows and Elmo and Abby Cadabby. LOL. I took the picture for her invite this past weekend. Dying. Such a cheeseball :)



I've taken tomorrow off and Hubs is on Spring Break so we're taking the little one to the Houston Rodeo. I can't wait!! It's going to be so fun and she's going to look absolutely adorable!! And lawd help us when she sees the animals. She's going to go absolutely nuts.

I hope all is well and maybe I still have a few readers. Maybe...


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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year!

I can't believe it's January 2013 already. Where did 2012 go? It really flew by for me. Like I blinked and it was gone. How does that happen?

2012 was a wonderful year for us. It was tough here and there financially as I think we're still adjusting to the shock of daycare and other expenses. All in all, though, it was a really wonderful year and we are incredibly blessed.

Like everyone else, I have goals for 2013 - ways to better my life, our finances and my family's life. You know...the usual. To hold myself accountable and to find a way to get back into blogging, I'm hoping I can use this as a forum! Here's to hoping :)

Here are a few of my goals for the new year...

1. Budget, Budget, Budget
We've lived on a budget for awhile now, but sadly we haven't always stuck to it. In some categories we do great and in others we're notorious for going over. I want to really stay within our budget so that money left over at the end of the month can go towards debt!

2. Exercise (in some form)
I have not exercised since I got pregnant...in 2010!! How gross is that? I bought Jilian's 30 Day Shred at the end of the year and I'm hoping to work it in at least 2x a week for right now. Then as it becomes more routine, add in more workouts. I'm on the lookout for a jogging stroller at our local kids consignment, so once I get that I can start running in the evenings with my little one.

3. Reduce Clutter
Our house seems to be bursting at the seems with clutter. It drives me insane. I worked some over my vacation to clean some spaces out and was successful at that, but I still have a ways to go. I want to work one room at at time so that by June (6 month mark) my house is clutter free! Then the next 6 months of the year I can work to maintain my clutter free home!

4. No Shopping
In an effort to help our budget and allow more money to pay off debt, I want to stop shopping as much. In the past I've given myself $100 a month to play with and while that's not much, I want to try to reduce that. I'm setting a goal of 6 months no shopping for clothes, shoes, jewelry or accessories unless a key piece wears out - like pumps, flats, etc. I'm giving myself two specials and that's a new shirt for my birthday in May and a new bathing suit. Other than that I'd like to really stray from shopping for myself. Same goes for my daughter! I'm terrible about shopping for her. So I'm not to shop for her until she needs Spring clothes and then when I do I'll go consignment. ThredUp is great for all you mamas out there looking for cheap but amazing duds for your little ones. Hopefully this will force me to wear items in my closet and really asses what I do and don't wear so I can donate unused items.

5. Pay Off Debt
If we want to think about another kiddo this year then we'll have to really save so we can pay off some debt. Our goal is a baby next Spring, but my husbands truck and motorcycle needs to paid off and we can't have any credit card bills. With an infant and a 3 year old, daycare will be upwards of $1200 a month! So we have to account for that now. By December of this year I'd like to only have his truck payment and be down to just a few thousand that we can pay off by the time a new baby comes.

6. Get on a Good Cleaning/Straightening Schedule
I started a home management binder that I've only been half using. My goal is to get better about picking the house up at night before bed so there's not as much to do the next evening after work. I also want to get better about putting laundry away. I'm terrible about letting weeks of laundry sit in the laundry room. On top of that I want to get on a good cleaning schedule for the house. I'm really bad about letting it pile up to do on the weekend, but when the weekend actually rolls around all I want to do is spend time with my little girl. I need to space it out so I don't get overwhelmed.

These are my major goals for the year and I don't think they're to outlandish to actually accomplish. Hopefully anyway. I know it will take some work, but I'm up for the challenge. I figure every baby step will help me get to my goals, which will only better my family (and me!) I know some of these will take time to see progress, but I'm thinking a monthly update for now will help keep me on track progress wise. I'd say bi-weekly, but I'm afraid that might be pushing it.

Happy New Year friends!! What goals/resolutions have you set for yourself?

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