Favorite Trader Joe's Buys

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Trader Joe's is such a happy place. Where else can you get amazing cheese at such reasonable prices, 99 cent greeting cards and peonies for $7.99? We've been shopping at Trader Joe's for a long time and I still find new stuff every time we go! I'm rounding up some of our favorite buys and easy dinners that aren't the typical cookie butter, orange chicken finds (which are still so yummy!) but hopefully these are some new finds for you. 

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First up, some easy 15 minute dinner ideas that we eat on a regular basis. 

1- Falafel. Head to the frozen section and grab a thing of falafel and frozen brown rice (showed below). Both heat best in the microwave in minutes. Make a simple tzatziki sauce with grated cucumber, lemon, salt and greek yogurt. Layer the rice with more chopped cucumber, falafel, tzatziki and some feta cheese for extra credit. Yummy bowl in 15 minutes!

2- Throw a bag of fire roasted red peppers, already cooked and shredded chicken, black beans and diced tomatoes with taco seasoning in the crockpot on low for 8 hours. This makes an amazing fajita filling, bowl or salad topping. 

3- Veggie fried rice is such a yummy 15 minute dinner especially if you add in a scrambled egg or two. We add some Trader Joe's egg rolls and call it a dinner. Extra points if you add the sweet chili sauce from below. 

4- Cauliflower fried rice is so good with roasted veggies and chicken on top. And yep, chili sauce here too. 

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1- Corn and chile salsa is kinda spicy and so good. 

2- Sweet Chili sauce. Get it and put it on EVERYTHING. So yummy on the cauliflower rice or vegetable fried rice. 

3- Sweet Onion Bacon Vinaigrette. The name says it all. 

4- Any of their cooked sausage is such a staple and easy dinner. Our favorite way is to make a bowl with roasted veggies, feta and sausage over rice (bacon vinaigrette so good here too). 

5- Uncured black forest bacon. Best I've ever had. 

6- Pork Tenderloin. Already flavored and so yummy in the crockpot or on the grill. 

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1- Creamy Toscano cheese. AMAZING over anything, pasta, salads, breads. And such a great price, most blocks are between $3 and $4. 

2- Shaved Parmeson, Romano and Asiago cheese. About $5 for a big tub and we put it on a lot.

3- These butternut squash zig-zags are so fun roasted in a veggie bowl or on the side of chicken tenders for kids. 

4- Zucchini and carrot spirals are a good option for littles as well. 

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1- I consider myself a macaroni and cheese enthusiast. Never met one I didn't like and this frozen version is a good as (gasp!) momma's home cooking. My twins are obsessed with this! 

2- Brown Rice / Quinoa. We keep these frozen brown rice/quinoa bags stacked in the freezer. Such a easy dinner addition or base for bowls and its ready in 3 minutes. 

3- Burrata, Prosciutto and Arugula flatbread. At home date night anyone? 

4- Cauliflower Stirfry. Another good basic. 

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1- These little mini cones are the perfect size for a treat!

2- Frozen large chocolate chip cookie. As good as it looks.

3- I keep these frozen chocolate strawberries in the freezer for after the girls go to bed and I want something sweet! So yummy. 

That about wraps up this installment of Trader Joe's favorites. Hopefully you found something new to try for dinner this week or a new thing to grab next time you go! Would love to hear your favorites or anything I should try! 

France Trip and traveling abroad with a 6 month old

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My first post on the new Eileen and Co. website is a good one. Here comes a big fat recap of the France trip we took this spring!

Luke works for a company that is headquartered in France and he takes trips over there pretty frequently. He had a trip for a 3 day conference planned this past spring and we decided that Wren and I would tag along. Were we crazy taking a 6 month old on an overnight 9 hour flight followed by multiple train rides? Maybe. 

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We left on a Sunday morning and flew overnight to Paris Sunday night, arriving at midnight our time but 6 AM local time Monday morning. We then took a few trains headed to the south of France for Luke's conference for a few days. We rented an AirBnB flat for the conference and then we had a train lined up to come back to Paris for a few days before flying home the next Sunday. 

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I'm going to do a little recap of our trip and then round up what we traveled with for us and Wren. We took one checked bag and carried on 2 small backpacks (one for us and one for Luke's work computer) and a duffel we used as a diaper bag. We ended up buying a $15 duffel while we were over there to bring home the clothes we bought for the twins which I had kinda planned on. We didn't bring a stroller or carseat either. I like to travel light and it kinda pained me that we had to do a checked bag at all. 

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Look at how naively excited I am and confident that our 6 month old would handle the flight like a champ. Spoiler: she didn't. Wren is an amazing sleeper at home so I figured she would be fine on the plane but poor baby had the hardest time. She couldn't get to sleep so Luke and I spent 9 hours walking up and down the aisles and trying to catnap when we could. It wasn't pretty. We arrived in Paris at 6 AM local time each having gotten about an hour of sleep the night before. We grabbed our first train at 9 AM and arrived to our AirBnB that afternoon where we promptly showered, grabbed dinner from the local market and went to bed at 8. We both slept pretty well and didn't deal with that much jetlag for the week (probably because we were so tired from not sleeping on the plane we adjusted well to local time.) I did nap during the morning the first couple of days then was fine the rest of the week. 

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We spent the next few days exploring the town we were in, napping and cooking in our little AirBnB. I think having that down time was one of the reasons that Wren did so well in Paris when we got there and were on the go all day. She had the first few days just resting and adjusting to local time. 

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Nutella waffles are my favorite European food group. 

Thursday we headed back up to Paris. We took a train in and Luke had ordered a car service to pick us up at the train station and take us to our hotel. We used this car service and they were great! We communicated with them through text and let them know we needed an infant car seat (they didn't have a 5 point harness seat though).  They arrived promptly and had great service. The drivers speak English as well. We used them again to get to the airport a few days later. We figured that a taxi would have been about $50 and we paid $80 I think for the 40 minute drive which was so worth it to have a guaranteed ride with a car seat that already knew where we were going and took credit cards. They drove us in a really nice Mercedes van which was super comfortable. I did not want to do the metro with a baby and luggage and am very happy with our decision and experience.  

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We stayed at Hotel Jardins d'Eiffel which was recommended by Rick Steves and I highly recommend it. It was super quiet and clean and right around the corner from Rue Cler (the market street) which was super fun. We were also close to the Eiffel and an amazing takeout pizza place was right across the street. My family has loved Rick Steves and his backdoor approach to Europe since I was in high school and his France book was great. We watched a lot of his France shows before the trip and it was a fun way to get excited and learn more about the culture.

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We spent the next couple of days exploring Paris. We got up super early and walked to the Notre Dame and the Louvre at sunrise one morning and it was hands down my favorite part of the trip. No one was out, we had the gardens of the Louvre to ourselves and it was magical. Highly recommend it. We didn't end up going into the Lourve museum, with a 6 month old I figured it was better to keep moving and stay outside. Our goal with this trip was just to explore, eat crepes and macaroons and drink lots of coffee. I think that made the trip much more successful with a 6 month old than if we had tried to see every museum. So we explored, headed back to the room for Wren to nap, explored some more and then ate dinner in bed from the best takeout Italian and Greek places around the corner from our hotel. 

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Sunrise at the Lourve gardens. This place is crawling with people most of day but we were were some of the only ones here early in the morning. Top experience for sure!

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Overall it was a such a fun trip. The flights there and back were NOT FUN but totally worth it. I did so much research before we left about how to travel with a 6 month old abroad and I'm going to share our must haves and how we packed *relatively* light since it was still cold and we needed big jackets and all the baby gear as well. 

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GEAR

We didn't bring a stroller or car seat. The streets of Paris are packed and narrow and I didn't want to fight a stroller through crowds. We rented a car seat when we needed on and used our Tula wrap for everything else. Highly recommend doing this- it was so much easier to get in and out of trains with no stroller and I loved having Wren snuggled up on me. Luke and I took turns as we walked with the carrier and I never got tired of it. Wren is used to being in a carrier so she loved it as well. 

We took one checked bag with mainly our clothes, toiletries and some baby food for Wren. We carried on my weekender bag which we used as a diaper bag with all of Wren's stuff and snacks for us all. Luke carried technology in his backpack. 

We used this bassinet for her to sleep in and it was great. We even took it on the plane for our first flight but she didn't want to sleep. Did you know you can bring a bassinet on a plane and it doesn't count against your carry on count? We actually asked and got moved for the flight back home to the bulkhead seats which have a built in bassinet. It wasn't available on our flight over there but its always worth asking for! We flew Delta and had a great experience. 

We kept her toys clipped to her with these- great for trains and airports with yucky floors. 

These disposable changing pads were great for a quick change or for a playmat in the airport. 

We brought this portable fabric high chair with us but didn't end up using it. Loved how small it was though!

These compression bags are how we got our down jackets in the suitcase. Helps save so much space! I bought Wren a down snow suit from gap and compressed it with our jackets. The weather is super unpredictable at that time of year but it ended up being great. It was highs in the 50's and sunny and we never got cold, even being out super early. We did bring small lightweight rain jackets because Paris is notorious for spring rain but it only misted on us a few times. 

I nursed on the go with help from these nursing tanks. Great to layer under normal shirts and still allows you to nurse. We also packed a few Aden and Anais swaddles which are always good to have for nursing and they fold down so small. 

We were planning on only bringing enough diapers and wipes for the plan ride and then buy more there to save on space but we ended up having extra room in my carry on and I put some extras in there and it ended up being enough for the whole week!

I bought these $10 sunglasses and wore them the whole trip and still wear them every day. Love em!

These sneakers and these waterproof booties are they only shoes I packed and they were great. My jacket is from Gap (not available now). It was the best and I wore it the whole trip. 

Whew, I think thats it! Kudos if you made it to the end of this long post! It was such a fun trip and I'm already planning our next trip! 

 

Recent Home Purchases

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Recently (well in the past 6 months or so), I've found some fun things for our house. For me, it takes a good while to get settled in a house and I don't like to rush it. I like to live in a house for a while and see how we are using the space and then let the house mold to our family's needs. When we first moved in, we made some big renovation decisions but then I've spent the past 3 years refining different spaces and working on the layout. I had in my mind special pieces I wanted for certain spots and didn't rush the process of finding them. What does this have to do with you? Don't put pressure on yourself to completely finish a space right away! Sometimes the right space takes years to come together. So lets keep the fun and put away the pressure.  

We recently got a new rug and I love it! When we moved in, I made a decision pretty fast on a rug for the living room. We had a local magazine shoot coming up and I had to make a decision. I loved the one we had, it worked great for the time we needed it but I don't know if I would have made that decision if I would have had more time. Another example of the challenges of making decisions fast! 

Earlier this year I layered a kilim rug over our old rug and it got wet and stained the white rug so it was the perfect excuse to look for a new one. I wanted a rug that would hide everything (needed with two toddler and a golden retriever), and be super soft since Wren is just starting scooting around and the twins routinely get their sleeping bags out and watch movies. I looked and looked and finally saw Jenny Komenda (Little Green Notebook) post about this rug she used in a dentist office. She said she loved it and had already ordered it 3 more times, including for herself. I was sold. 

We have had it about a month and LOVE it. Its the softest rug and truly hides everything. It is also so affordable, I think I paid about $180 for a 9x12. Its the slate color, and in person it has lots of blues, greys and tans.  

Talking about waiting for the right piece, I knew I wanted a large mirror in the dining room for 2 years! I finally found the perfect one at the perfect price at Route 276, one of my favorite local places in Greenville. If you live around here, its a must visit! I found this giant vintage mirror for $125 and I still can't believe my luck. Christie (the awesome owner) told me they pulled it out of an old house downtown Greenville.  

This isn't a new piece to my house but it recently got a makeover! This piece was my great grandmothers and it got passed to me. I first painted it a fun chartreuse yellow but after getting the mustard yellow sofa it needed a change. I actually used my favorite spray paint (moss green Rustoleum) on the piece and love it. 

My father in law whipped us up this counter stool for the twins and its been used a ton! The twins can pull it over and hang out while we cook or clean and its heavy enough to wear I don't worry about them flipping it over. I'm actually thinking about making some of these to sell locally, what do you think? 

Another fun find from Route 276 are these fun vintage copper pots that I hung over the stove. They make me smile every time they catch my eye, especially since they were super affordable. Working on these spaces bit by bit makes it so fun when they start to come together in real life like they do in my head! What about you, do you like doing your decorating a little bit at a time or all at once? 

Life as a family of 5

Photo by Sophie Brendle Photography

Well its been a while hasn't it? But we have been in a really sweet (busy!) season adjusting to a family of 5. Wren was born last September and has added to our family in the most beautiful way. She has been laid back since birth and just smiles all day. She loves watching her big sisters and saves her biggest smiles for them. She rolls all over the place now and loves real food- time slow down! 

I thought I would talk about some of the highlights from our lives the past few months. Keep in mind these are just the highlights, there have been lots of hard things and I don't want anyone to think that we don't live real life over here. We have had scary hospital stays for RSV for Wren, lots of sickness for everyone in the family, recovering from a csection for me and more loads of laundry than I can count. 

Photo by Sophie Brendle Photography

The twins will be 4 this summer and are just in the most fun stage ever. Everything they say is hilarious and Luke and I have to try to keep a straight face when they try to talk us out of cleaning their toys. "I don't need to clean my toys momma, they are taking a little break." Also when kids get to a point when they can go potty by themselves and put on their own shoes its a whole new world. 

Photo by  Sophie Brendle Photography

We took a break from most house projects this past fall with the new addition of Wren but we are gearing up to work on some exterior projects this spring, including new modern porch skirting, painting most of the trim on the exterior and new DIY shutters. I'm working on a post with more info on that. 

Photo by Sophie Brendle Photography

In lieu of maternity or newborn pictures, we had Sophie come over when Wren was about 6 weeks to take some family shots. I treasure the photos she took and finally printed some out to update our gallery wall with so Wren would be in some. (Third child problems.)

Photo by Sophie Brendle Photography

Being more home-bound with an infant who takes lots of naps, we have been using this time to clean out and purge and it feels SO GOOD. Since we moved in this house 3 years ago the closets have always seemed overwhelming and just piled with stuff. Not anymore. We have been taking it closet by closet a week at a time mixed in with more concentrated time a few rainy Saturdays and that more laid back approach has really worked for us. 

A bucket list item happened for me this year, one of my photos was featured in Better Homes and Gardens! They featured a picture of Wren's nursery for their #BHGCelebrate feed. A pinch me moment for sure!

Luke and I also took Wren to France a few weeks ago! Luke had a work trip in the South of France so Wren and I tagged along. We went to his conference and spent a few days in Paris as well. I have a post coming of where we stayed and what we did and how we survived a 9 hour flight with a non-sleeping 6 month old. Spoiler alert, not gracefully. 

After taking a year off building swings with me being pregnant, we are finally building them again locally in Greenville SC! They fit a twin sized mattress and are so comfy! We live on ours most of the spring/summer/fall taking a break for pollen and 100 degree weather. There is a link on the right of the blog to more information, or click here.

Photo by Sophie Brendle Photography

I'll be back posting soon about our summer renovation plans, our France trip and some other fun things we have in the works. I am a lot more active on Instagram so check out my link on the right of the blog or (@acreativedayblog).

xoxo

Introducing Wren and her nursery

Our newest girl arrived mid September and we are all in major love with her. The twins are obsessed with "my baby" as they call her and are constantly checking where she is and if she is happy and if she is crying they say "you ok baby Wren you ok! I'm here! Your mommy is here". Its pretty much the cutest ever. And her birth and the past month couldn't have looked different then the experience with the twins. No two month NICU stay, she latched like a champ and CAME HOME with me from the hospital. Its been so healing for our whole family to have this experience and we are so grateful for God's goodness to us. The NICU was so hard but I know I wouldn't appreciate Wren's birth the way I do if we hadn't gone through what we did. I am grateful for that perspective and even more aware of the miracle that our twins are. God is so good. 

Designing her nursery was also a healing experience for me. With the twins being born so early (31 weeks) I didn't get to finish (or really start) their nursery before they were born and then it had to come together very quickly amid reno dust and decisions that were made in the haze of the NICU. With Wren's nursery, I got to really think through and plan and finish it before she was born. The twins and I would just hang out in her room this summer and enjoy it.

Wren's nursery is the twins old nursery and I wanted to keep the paint colors and also make it special for her. So we did paint the baseboard and add a few trim details but the rest of the paint stayed the same and the rug stayed too.The rocker is Sam Moore and I bought it when I was pregnant with the twins. (See how it looked for the twins nursery here).  Even with leaving all the main elements the same I really think the room feels completely different! 

We painted one of the twins cribs a happy yellow and added this PERFECT rug from RugsUSA. It was so affordable too, only around $140 for a 5x8 during one of their sales. The mobile is from Pottery Barn teen and is such a fun statement. 

Other then that it was just adding accessories like the pink pouf I got at Nordstrom Rack for around $50 and the brass floor lamp from Target. We switched out the ginormous fan for a rattan fixture from Ikea and I added some new art like the moon from Hobby Lobby with the saying "love you to the moon and back" which we have always told our girls. 

Luke added some trim to the built-in doors and it just makes them feel more finished. The built ins hold the twins toys so they can play while I nurse. 

We reused the twins campaign dresser as a changing table and the mirror is my grandmothers that she gave to my mom and I stole from my mom. My grandparents got it in Indonesia when they lived there. I painted it a fun pink and its such a statement. 

I love the way it turned out and Luke loved that he didn't have to repaint. Its been a wild ride figuring out this family of 5 (!!!) thing and one day we will get to the store and actually remember the diaper bag for Wren and the waters and snacks for the twins. Baby steps.