easter baskets

i try to be creatively proactive with the holidays because if i don’t make a conscious effort, it seriously slaps me in the face unexpectedly. hahaha! then, honestly, i get disappointed i didn’t fair better. innately, i have always loved holidays.

growing up catholic vietnamese, my parents were very religious. so, holidays were all about church, jesus, mary, and celebrating the life of. absolutely nothing wrong with that because i am all about being catholic, respecting my religion, my faith, and the idea of just doing/being a better person and preaching the word of the Lord. easter is all about jesus being resurrected and that is it in a nutshell.

buuuuuuuttttt, i have always looooooved the frilly aspect of it. the commercial, american way of celebrating religious holidays. i love it for the fun, whimsical notions. i like easter baskets, the easter bunny {i adored the easter bunny as a kid!}, and the cute, fun decorations that come with it!

so, with that being said…i had the best time creating easter baskets for the girls. it’s definitely hard to shop for them when they are with me! i had to hide stuff or tell them that they don’t get what they did see until easter. olive was like, “okaaayyyyy”. i am so blessed olive is so compliant and sooo freakin’ well behaved. she just plain listens to me!

i created their baskets the other day and was so pleased with how they turned out! i wanted to limit the candy {although they still get a few treats!}…because i tend to go overboard every year with that and focused more on fun things they would use or like.

voila! useful, fun, pretty, reusable easter baskets! i’m in love. i can’t wait to give these baskets to the girls!

happy creating my friends!

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counter clockwise: garland: hooray everyday // book: little owl’s colors // bunny: target // unicorn horn chalk {not online but in stores}: nordstroms // mini melissa’s unicorn shoes {they’re not available online but similar ones here}: nordstrom // macaron bath bombs: nordstrom

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https://www.target.com

xoxo

valentine’s day ’18

one day, maybe a month or so before valentine’s day, olive asked me if we could have a valentine’s day party. well, ok! i thought it was so cute that she asked! i then inquired who she would like to come to this party, and she, without hesitation, said, “reagan, bennett, and terry!”. alrighty then. i thought it was hilarious! so i text my sisters and let them know what olive had asked and who she wanted to come to the party. my sister kim said, “well, i didn’t want to come anyways!” hahaha!

so, we had our family over for a fun little party! of course we kept it simple. wink. wink. in all seriousness, it really was a simple and easy party to get ready for! olive and i did some food prep before everyone came over. we cut up some ingredients for the apps and olive helped me cut out heart shaped pepperoni for the heart shaped pizzas hc was going to make!

i decorated the kitchen area and we waited for hc to come home from work. he started pizzas while i started apps. we had mozzarella sticks, jalapeños filled with cream cheese, and guac dip. the heart shaped pizzas turned out so cute and delicious and after dinner, we served a yummy cake!

after dessert, we gave the kids their valentine’s day gifts and the kids played and had a ton of fun. olive is always excited to hang with her cousins! our evening was short for it was a school night. so after a couple hours of visiting, we wrapped up our evening and said our farewells.

the party turned out so cute {if i do say so myself} and a good time was had by all! it was definitely a day of love indeed!

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[kid’s table]

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[she’s such a ham!]

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[heart pepperoni]

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[hc and terry]

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[my girls]

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[cousins]

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[hc and kim twinning]

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[look at that pout face]

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[present time!]

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xoxo

holiday program

olive’s pre-k holiday program was this past week! the last day of school before winter break. i was looking forward to this for weeks. olive practiced her songs with us, at home, several times. although, at first we didn’t realize all the songs she sang were part of her holiday concert! we just thought she was learning fun songs at school.

well the day had come and i dressed olive up in the cutest, most festive holiday outfit i could rummage out of her closet. she looked so darling in her tutu playsuit and reindeer antlers.

 we scurried to her school as early as we could because we wanted to nab a seat as close to the stage as possible. we were close…we scored second row! the kiddos paraded in and olive looked so confused and nervous. the teachers sat the kids down and after an announcement, the concert began.

olive had stage fright! to make matters worse, her nose was runny {we’ve been dealing with a little cold} and she was very bothered that she couldn’t wipe her runny nose and it tooooootally bothered me that i couldn’t get up there to wipe it for her!!! poor olive just stared blankly out at the crowd when they started singing their first song. she stared and stared throughout the first few songs and then finally started to warm up and sing along.

the concert was a success! olive was too cute and subdued during the whole concert but sang along for a majority of the songs. it was so fun to watch all the kiddos. of course there was a run away boy who circled the stage and the girl sitting next to olive was so excited and animated! it was hilarious to see how reserved olive was and how boisterous her classmate was! total opposites!

once the concert was over, we were able to take photos of our babe and then she was able to join us and we were able to leave for the day. although olive was really bummed there was no school after the concert! she wanted to stay for school and was a bit upset…awwww, that was too cute.

i was so happy to see her first holiday school program. it completely warmed my heart to see my baby girl perform! it was a great moment that filled my soul with joy.

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[i forgot that i had left her with her bunny!]

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[she was nervous!]

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[she’s not quite sure what to do yet]

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[finally warming up and joining in!]

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[they’re all done! hurray! it was an awesome holiday concert!]

xoxo

christmas popcorn

every year, i kind of do the same thing. maybe one day i will switch it up and make something different but as of now, making christmas popcorn for the neighbors is so fun and easy!!! i stress easy because this mama doesn’t have much time anymore, especially during the holidays!

this treat requires very simple ingredients: 2 microwavable popcorn packs, 2 bags of white chocolate, pretzels, m&m’s, and christmas sprinkles. i popped the popcorn and then melted the chocolate. my favorite way to melt chocolate morsels is to boil two inches of water in a pot, put a broiler on top and then another small pot in it to melt the chocolate. i melt small batches of chocolate to ensure it doesn’t coagulate or seize, plus i prefer to make small amounts of christmas popcorn to ensure each nook and cranny gets coated with yummy goodness!

i put out a large sheet of wax paper and spread the popcorn out, poured copious amounts of m&m’s, dumped a handful of the broken pretzels, and then drizzled the chocolate in a zig zag pattern across the mixture. after the chocolate, i then dumped a generous heaping of sprinkles all over the popcorn. it transforms into a yummy, sweet, decadent treat for the holidays! mmmmmmm

after the chocolate dries, i then packaged it into mason jars…wide mouth mason jars are best but i only had regular mouth jars on hand. i had pre-dressed them up in festive paper, ribbon, and string.

ta da! yummy, easy gifts for your awesome neighbors! {we are so lucky to be surrounded by awesome neighbors!} i love the holidays – ’tis the season of giving out sweet treats and fun gifts!

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[dressing up the jars]

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[the simple easy, unhealthy ingredients]

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[melting chocolate]

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[i would turn around and this candy thief would sneak m&m’s off the counter! i had a picture of her totally laughing, sneaking the candy but it was so blurry…wahhhhh]

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[before mixing]

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xoxo

turkey day ’16

it was turkey day! yay! i love thanksgiving! it kicks off the holiday season and i love the holidays!

i took a pretty long break posting on the blog. one, i was soooo busy with thanksgiving coming up, planning olive’s birthday, hosting olive’s birthday party, and just living life. things just got a little hectic but i am finally catching up!

we did our usual routine – hc’s aunt wendy always has turkey ‘dinner’ ready by 1:30pm so we always head over there first to visit with his family. we got there a bit earlier and hung out and visited with everyone. olive was, of course, a bit shy and quiet around everyone but as soon as her sister grace showed up, she was all giggles!

once food was served, we just sat around and chilled. we ate, talked, and caught up with life’s happenings. olive started to warm up with everyone and really took to kait! kait is sooooo darn sweet with the girls and had so much fun playing with olive. olive’s giggles and smiles were proof she adored kait too!

after a few hours at aunt wendy’s house, we had to leave and drop grace off so she could continue on with her festive celebrating with her step dad’s side of the family.

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[how adorable is kait with ellie?!]

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[chef wendy]

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[not yet warmed up to anyone]

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[daddy is hungry and ellie is bored]

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[trying to hide from the world]

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[gramma jane]

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[my baby]

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[sister besties]

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[auntie missy]

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[giving thanks to the chicago cubs]

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[kait and morgan]

***************************************************************

we then headed to my parent’s house to continue our thanksgiving tradition of eating dinner at 7. we do that every year and our holiday always works out so perfectly. once we got there, i dove into helping my sister with the cooking {as much as i can because i am no cook!} and drinking! thanksgiving would not be complete without a good bottle of wine! yum!

we drank, we cooked, we laughed, and the kids played. it was a cozy, fun, warm evening together. my brother dan decided, this year, to fry a turkey! it would be our first time doing it! it was the highlight of the night…putting a turkey in a deep fryer and boy, that sucker cooks that bird super fast!!

olive was quite spent from a few active days with very little naps that she was totally agreeable to a nap at my parent’s house. baby girl slept for several hours but she so needed it as it would be another late night for her!

more family came by and soon it was a full house {close to 20 people}. it was pretty awesome because i don’t think i held ellie once. all the ladies and gents took turns holding the baby…who doesn’t love a cutie baby like ellie? she’s so darn sweet!

dinner was ready by 7 and we all sat down to eat! my dad said a blessing and we got to chow down. the food was super good, as usual – my sister always does an amazing job with the menu and the delicious dishes!

overall, it was a wonderful, wonderful thanksgiving. the holiday feelings were all there. i love how festive it feels and looks, i love seeing family, i love being together on this special holiday, and i love eating and drinking together…hahaha, who doesn’t?!

i am thankful for our health, our family and friends, our blessings in life, and most of all, thankful for our two beautiful, healthy girls.

happy thanksgiving indeed!

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[super auntie thuy]

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[yummy turkey stuffing]

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[working hard in the kitchen]

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[kitchen cooking shenanigans]

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[family time]

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[face time with huy]

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[dad loving the face time with huy]

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[olive being grumpy from her nap]

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[i love this babe…i know, i say it all the time but she’s amazing]

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[these two…so sweet]

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[our first time frying a turkey…well, dan fried it and it turned out awesome!]

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[mama]

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[thuy brought home sake from japan]

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[yummy chocolate silk pie]

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[he’s sooooooooo sweet with her]

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[i love these two]

xoxo

easy vday treats

oh time. it’s always so limited in my life but i always want to be creative and do something special, festive, and fun. i really wanted to whip up something sweet, simple, and cute for valentine’s day. i used to be obsessed with pinterest but now it’s an outlet for me to quickly find creative ideas or get inspired.

i jumped on pinterest last week and found a pic of valentine’s day chocolate dipped wafers. yummy! i just remembered seeing the pic but never clicked on the site nor did i dig any deeper. so, one day, while grocery shopping, i decided to make them! i mean, they are that simple that i didn’t even need to know what the ‘recipe’ called for.

i picked up vanilla wafers {i liked how the strawberry flavored ones looked but i am not the biggest fan of the taste…i am partial to vanilla!}, a bag of white chocolate morsels, and i already had different shapes of sprinkles at home.

i melted about a cup of white chocolate {maybe just a tad more than a cup} in a double broiler. i dipped some wafers and drizzled the others. i alternated between the two. as i coated the wafers, i placed each one on a large sheet of wax paper to dry. before i dipped the next wafer, i sprinkled each one with just enough fun and used different styles of sprinkles.

one after another, i coated each one and actually had a lot of fun doing so! they were turning out so lovely! i finished dipping the entire package of wafers and stepped back to look at all the festive prettiness going on. it is such an easy, quick dessert to make! i think next year, olive will be able to really assist me with making these goodies!

fyi, if you are interested in making these wafers for the masses {like giving them away to neighbors or co workers}, definitely purchase several bags of wafers. one package will probably gift 3-4 people. i was able to package 6-8 wafers per cellophane bag {festive valentine’s day patterns of course!} and give them to some family members and saved a package for miss olive to eat!

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ta da! simple, easy, fun valentine’s day treats for everyone {ok, almost everyone}! i am looking forward to making these desserts next year with my little helper in tow {and my other little one, but that baby won’t be able to help just yet!}!

happy day y’all!

xoxo

holiday downtown

we made our annual trip downtown to field’s on state. yes, i still call it that. call me old school. it’s still comiskey park, sears tower, these landmarks will forever live with me in their original names. it’s not like i don’t like to lead change, think differently, or i am not open minded. it just irks me that some family or some company pays more money so they can have their name etched into these chicago landmarks. yes, sears was named after sears robuck and co {the largest retailer at the time} but there is history behind it all. not just the fact that someone dumped money towards the building and says, “ok, we are now naming it blah, blah, blah”. ok, ok. enough venting.

we started our day with lunch at the french market. i love going there. there are so many fun little shops and yummy eats. we walked around trying to figure out what we all wanted to eat. we purchased the kid’s meals first and let them eat while all the adults mulled around, trying to figure out our palette of the moment.

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[working the runway]

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[sooooooo many delish goodies]

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[my favvvvvvvvvv]

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[i snapped this pic because of the above lights but now i find it funny because the three girls in the picture look like me and my sisters in a less sophisticated way. thuy is to the left, kim in the middle, and that would be me…yes, with the colored hair]

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[love these little rug rats]

i decided to go with a vietnamese favorite, banh mi. unfortunately, it was an ok meal. there just wasn’t the right kick to it. my favorite banh mi is from ba le up in argyle or really, my aunt vuong’s banh mi. my aunt’s sandwich is the most delicious, hands down.

we walked around, i bought the kids candy and purchased some hot, freshly made sugared donuts for everyone to eat. i love going there on the weekends too because it’s so quiet. the market’s busy time is monday through friday {since it’s down by the train station}. so, on saturday, it’s chill and crowd free and you can casually walk around without waiting in line at any booth.

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[banh mi]

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[mowing down a hot dog]

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[being all cute while we wait for our freshly made donuts]

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after our little lunch fun at the french market, we headed down to fields on state for some holiday fun. we typically head to the eighth floor to see the tree in the walnut room. we snap some pics, relax on the sofas, and just chill for a bit before we head downstairs to their ornament room. we love going there to nab a few ornaments for our tree.

before we actually did all that fun stuff, the kids wrote their letters to santa. it was so cute. reagan was so serious about it and olive intently wrote hers with beautiful doodle marks. after their letters were dropped off in the mailbox to the north pole, we headed on up for some christmas tree fun.

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[she was loving the felix in a box]

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[writing letters to santa]

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[in deep thoughts]

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[hanging out on the ‘clean’ carpet]

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we perused the different trees and we were trying to figure out what ornaments we wanted to buy. hc found his ornament right away! it was a glass red fire engine truck. of course! it was a perfect ornament. i thought – hmph…he scored a cool ornament right away. i looked and looked but i was having a hard time finding an ornament that i really liked. i finally walked into a room that they had in the far back and found a whole bunch of ornaments that i loved! give me a dessert ornament any day and call me a sucker! i chose an ice cream cone ornament as my decor of choice!

after we hit the ornament room, we cruised downstairs to grab a drink and a bite to eat. oh my…there was a line for everything! everything! i went to starbucks and it was quick to order but it took over 15 minutes to get my drink! bananas! anyhoo, after our stint downstairs where the restaurants were, we all decided to call it a night. we all gathered our treasures for the day and headed home.

it was a lovely day {the temp was amazing…60 degrees!}. we had a great time spending the day in the city with our family. it was fun, yummy, and festive. i love going downtown and seeing all the pretty christmas decor and experiencing the hustle and bustle of the chicago. it’s all part of the cray holiday season!

xoxo

happy halloweeeeeen!

oh! i love halloween! it’s always the kick start to the holiday season but i love halloween for all the cute kiddie goodness. i love that it’s such a kid holiday to me. i enjoyed it soooo much as a kid and now, i love that my daughter will love it too!

i’m into the cute kiddy, spooky, fun part of it. not the gory, scary, bloody part of it. nope. not that at all. i love charlie brown’s pumpkin patch, i love all the kid’s shows that display a halloween theme, i love hocus pocus, i love fun pumpkins, yummy candy, cute little costumes, and spooky fun decorations.

halloween has always been a holiday of imagination and eery haunts. so, every year i look forward most to the trick or treaters! oh, it’s so much fun for me to give out candy to the little ones. i love seeing all their costumes and the giddy looks on their faces when they get a big handful of candy!

when i was younger, my most favorite thing to do was to decorate our house {mainly our front door} with fun, festive decor. i would play spooky music on a radio {hidden in the garage} and look forward to every ring of the doorbell! i would sometimes go so far and make dozen of treat bags. yes i did. a total sign of my overzealous, crafty nature. i would buy fun little halloween treat bags; fill each bag with candy, festive stickers, spider rings, trinkets, and anything i considered fun halloween items a kid would love!

as a kid, i loved running home to see what was in my bag of goodies and going through all the fun stuff that was given to me. my most favorite items were always the unique treats. whether it’d be a coloring book, or a fun pack of goodies, or something different that you didn’t see every day. of course, my most favorite candies were reese’s peanut butter cups, heath, bit o honey, and sweet tarts. yum.

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i really do hope olive grows up to love halloween just as much as i do or any holiday for that matter. i hope that her imagination is vivid and inspiring to create some halloween memories and magic of her own!

happy halloweeeeeen everyone!

xoxo

stop being so crabby

sunday funday consisted of trying out a new restaurant and sweet treats to top it off.

my sisters were interested in trying this new restaurant called crab and spice. we all gathered there and were then led to our table in the back. it was brand spanking new and they didn’t have a liquor license yet! i definitely can say it was clean. we sat down and perused the menu. i let my sisters do the ordering, they are more keen on the seafood picks and i am always along for the ride.

they ordered the shrimp, crawfish, and snow crab. we had a few yummy sides of corn, potatoes, and rice. i was partial to the shrimp. it was the best dish on the table. it unpeeled it all, mixed it with my rice, and had a hearty, spicy, tasty meal. olive ate some of the shrimp and rice but mostly noshed on the french fries that my nephews had ordered!

we were absolutely amused because our server {tyler??} was obvs new and very inexperienced. the poor guy. he had no clue. he was so nice but just did.not.get.it. he forgot our drinks twice. he couldn’t answer our questions. he was sooo confused when we ordered. he didn’t tell us what they were out of, so we were bombing every time we wanted something. when it was time to pay, we asked him to put the cash towards the check and then split the bill in two. he had NO idea how to split the check on two credit cards, even though we did our best to simplify it for him! oh boy.

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[she kept saying “baawooon! baawoooon!”]

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[getting ready to get their crab on]

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[crabtastic]

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[the boys, ready to eat]

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[cheers to plastic bibs]

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[i love my crabby girl]

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[shrimp, crab, crawfish, rice oh my!]

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[nobody puts baby in a corner!]

after we finished up dinner, we all drove over to downtown downers grove and everyone got some sort of sweet treat at every day’s a sundae!  we have been going to this place since we were kids! it was such a beautiful night. just perfect. we sat outside and ate our ice cream. the kids ran around and screamed. olive was absolutely fascinated by the train. every time a train rolled by, olive would wave and say ‘bye train! bye train!’ and blow it kisses. so adorbs.

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[classic dg]

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[mmmmm, which one?!]

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[best smile everrrrrr]

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[refreshing sweet treats]

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[throwing kisses at the train]

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[“bye twain! bye twain!’]

it was such a fun, low key evening. we had a great time hanging out with the fam. evenings like these on warm summer nights are what i am going to miss! oh summer, your visits are way too short. please stay a little longer.

xoxo

las vegas part deux

on our third day in vegas, we started it out the right way again…c a b a n a time! woo! we started early {again} and this time around we ended our pool time a bit later than the day prior. our first day at the cabana, it actually rained. like hard. everyone was in awe because it never rains in vegas and if it does, it only lasts for a few minutes. but the rain that happened the day prior was fierce. it thundered, there was lightening, and it rained very heavily where they were posting flash flood warnings! thank goodness we had already clocked in some major pool time before it rained but it did cut it short by an hour or two.

our second day at the pool, it did rain again but it was very short lived and we were back out in the pool partying it up within no time! after spending 7-8 hours in the pool…yes you read that correctly…we spend that much time out in the sun drinking, eating, and ‘swimming’, we all went back to our rooms to get ready for the evening.

this time around, we were heading out to old vegas {aka fremont st.} for some sushi and amusement. we met up with matt and johann, grabbed a cab to our destination of choice and didn’t fear for our lives like we did the day before with our crazy reckless cabbie driver!

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[strawberry lemon vodka lemonade!]

when we arrived, it was quickly apparent that old vegas was double the craziness of the strip. our eyes were getting whip lash from all the {discreet} gawking and weirdness swirling all around us. we slowly walked our way to the sushi restaurant and we were 100% entertained along the way. we finally made it to the restaurant {super cute and quaint place} and we were seated right away {we had reservations and we were early but it was not a problem…thank goodness because panda – aka johann – was hungry!}!

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[old vegas & sushi]

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[ready to manger manger!]

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[fremont street has gotten crazier!]

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[people peddling for money]

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[bright lights, lots of people, and pure craziness]

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[need i say more?]

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[the man in the diaper scared the crap out of hc, rightfully so and said. hahaha]

after we ate, we walked along freemont street again. it was so overwhelming and honestly, quite sad. so many ‘street’ acts were going on, waaaaaayyyyy too many children up too late and viewing a lot of nuttiness, it all really made my heart heavy. it was gritty, real, and definitely a world i am not often exposed to {i really don’t view myself as a sheltered person either}. but it was heartbreaking to see so many people doing what ever they could to make a buck and it was just a wee bit disturbing to me. after we spent some time in old vegas, we headed back to our hotel area and got ourselves some gelato and called it a night!

***

the next day, we were meeting liz, josh, and family at mon ami on the strip for brunch. before we met up, we stopped at giada for a drink! it was delicious. i had a prosecco sangria that was super yummy! we enjoyed the ambiance, decor, and the movie they were playing on the telly! i was totally sucked in…it was subtitled and fabulous. the movie was called nights of cabiria and i was in love.

after a few drinks at the bar, we headed out to mon ami for brunch and we were all on time! woo hoo! we were seated on the patio and got down to business with our order. i claimed the diy bloody mary bar, matt ordered a ginormous st. germain drink, and we ordered a bunch of apps to start with. it was fun and yummy. we had a great time with everyone as usual. you can’t beat eating, drinking, and amusing conversations.

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[cheers! prosecco sangria…yum!]

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[matt’s tall drink of choice]

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[little brienne]

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[their lovely alfresco dining area]

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[lovely liz and her beautiful babe]

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[delicious scallops]

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[love these two]

after brunch, we all trekked back to liz and josh’s cars to head on out. one car went back to their house and the other car {us} went to a mall so josh could pick up stella’s birthday gift. while josh did that, we stopped by the yard house for {you guessed it!} another drink. heyyyyy, it’s vegas!

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[the yard house]

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[s’mores…you just can’t go wrong]

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[liz and josh’s pool]

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[stella, liz, josh, hc, matt, johann, and cheri]

we all then headed back to liz and josh’s house and ended up staying there the entire afternoon and evening until it was time for us to leave. liz cooked us dinner {tacos}, the boys hit the pool and drank whiskey, i hung out with the ladies, and in the end, we were all outside by the pool enjoying the warm evening.

it was another fabulous trip to vegas. hc and i had the best time hanging out with matt & johann. we love vacationing with them! we also loved that my brother and tashina were able to join us and we always love seeing liz and josh {notice the love theme here?!}. every single one of them are great people and we are so lucky to have them in our lives. we are so blessed!

xoxo