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Dining Out in Dallas for Under $20: Burgers and American Food

American food and burger joints are often family friendly but can run the gamut from fast food to gourmet.  Here in Dallas there are a million options if you are craving a burger and fries, but some of them will break the bank.  If you’ve read about our financial story, you know our dining out budget is TIGHT.  This list will give you the top ten burger and American food restaurants where a couple can eat for under $20.  At a few of them you can even feed a family of four for under $20.  From plain jane to funky toppings, however you like your burger you will find great prices and quality food at all the restaurants on this list.  Step away from the golden arches and head for one of the great options below.


Our 2013: A Year in Review

This past year was a great one for our family.  To help me reflect on it as a whole, I’m joining the lovely Nicole from Three 31 (who is due to have a sweet baby any day now) for a year in review link up.  After you’ve read about our year, click through the link up at the bottom of this post to read from a ton of fun folks and get inspired. 

What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
I gave birth to my sweet daughter, our second child, and had a healthy normal birth after a prior c-section.  This VBAC was a HUGE victory and we are so thankful for the entire journey and for our beautiful, healthy baby girl.  

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
It was a mixed bag, as always.  I always create a list of personal goals and we create a list of family goals together.  Without goals and dreams, I end up wandering aimlessly and watching reruns of the Real Housewives.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Did anyone close to you give birth?
So many of our friends had babies this year.  My sister gave birth to her 2nd son 6 weeks after I had Ellie.  We are thrilled to have cousins so close together.  
What countries did you visit?
We stayed in the US, but were traveling  six weeks of the year.  I love to be on the go, especially

What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
A full night of sleep… With two kiddos 2 and under I’ll just keep on dreaming.
What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory?
April 22 – My husband’s birthday and now my precious daughter’s as well.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Having a healthy baby girl

What was your biggest failure?

Not losing the baby weight.  This was a big goal that just didn’t happen. Yet.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

I sprained my ankle tripping in my house.  I’m a klutz for life, y’all.

What was the best thing you bought?

A new computer!!!  I love this thing.

Where did most of your money go?

We budget every dime, and that budget is tight.  We are debt free, so after our expenses we save for retirement, vacation, kids’ college funds, and big purchases.  Oh yeah, we also had to have the plumbing completely rebuilt on one side of our house.  Big fun. {sarcasm font}

What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Again, our new addition.  Sweet Eleanor is such a joy and a delight.

What song will always remind you of 2013?

The Avett Brothers – Father’s First Spring

Compared to this time last year, are you:

Happier or sadder?Thinner or fatter?Richer or poorer?
Happier, fatter (but not pregnant), and richer in everything that matters

What do you wish you’d done more of?

hiking & camping

What do you wish you’d done less of?

watching tv – We’ve dropped a bunch of shows and are only watching the ones we care about.  Sorry, Toddlers and Tiaras, ain’t nobody got time for that.

How will you be spending Christmas?
With my parents and brothers in Little Rock, after an early mini celebration with just us in Dallas.

Did you fall in love in 2013?
More every day with my husband and kids

Who were your best friends?

I have a wonderful group of girlfriends here in Dallas, as well as a handful of besties from my home town.

What thing did you do that was meaningful to others?

I started volunteering with Young Life again, in their outreach ministry to teen moms called YoungLives.

What were your favorite TV programs?
Nashville – because Connie Britton’s hair {among other reasons}
Scandal, Modern Family, The Bachelor (don’t judge), The Black List, The Mindy Project, New Girl, Bones

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I try really hard not to hate anyone.

What was the best book you read in 2013?

Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth – It changed my life and helped me get my VBAC.  It made me believe my body was made to birth.  If you are pregnant, I urge you to check it out of the library or order it from Amazon.

What was your greatest musical discovery?
I’ll call it a rediscovery.  I remembered my childhood love of classical music.  Nerd alert.

What did you want and get?
a healthy baby, a normal birth, a beach vacation, time with my family

What did you want but did NOT get?

my bathrooms painted – This is happening soon.

What was your favorite film of this year?
Hmmm… Well, I’ve seen one movie in a theater since the Bear was born, in 2011.  Yikes.  I really loved the new season of Arrested Development.  Does that count?

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I went on a date with my husband, and it was fabulous.  I’m 34.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If I had lost the dang baby weight.  I’m really sick of being overweight.  Now if I could just quit eating these cookies…

What kept you sane?

My faith. I try to spend time with Jesus daily, and He is my rock.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I don’t really have any celebrity crushes, though I am more excited than I care to admit about Juan Pablo being the new Bachelor.  Judge me if you will.  Captain Hook on Once Upon a Time is a bit delicious.  I love Mindy Kaling with all my heart.  Michelle Obama is a rock star to me.

What political issue stirred you the most?
Gun control.  I’m from the south and grew up with guns around, but I just don’t understand why we can have computer chips in our pets but can’t pass a universal background check system for firearms.

Who did you miss?
My grandparents.  I think about them a lot as I watch my parents in their new role with my kids.  My maternal grandparents were really special and I still miss them so much.  I also missed my friends and family that live far away.  If I could have one wish it would be for my sister and her family to live in the same town with us.

Who was the best new person you met this year?
Eleanor Pearl, of course

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

I will mess up as a parent and I have to be able to live with that.  It doesn’t make me a bad mom or a bad person.  I have to depend on the Lord to guide me and pray to be the mama my kids need each day.

Quote that sums up your year:
Be content where you are. 

What sums up your 2013?

An InLinkz Link-up

Mama Needs a Minute: Graco Little Lounger Review #Graco15ForMe

Adjusting to life with two wee ones has been… a challenge.  I love it, but lately we’ve had a few days when naps don’t overlap and I’m desperate for a shower.  Sometimes mama just needs a minute.  Through a sponsored opportunity I had the chance to learn about Graco’s new Little Lounger at an event on White Rock Lake in Dallas, as well as review it in depth at home.  It is a 2 in 1 rocking seat and vibrating bouncer, perfect for naps or a comfy spot for baby to lounge while Mommy checks off the to do list or takes a minute to breathe.  If you are expecting or the parent of a baby under thirty pounds, the Little Lounger should be on your radar.  
The Little Lounger was really put to the test when we were trying to get out the door for a road trip.  My Pearl girl lounged contentedly for over half an hour while we rounded up last minute stuff and packed the car.  I didn’t have to worry about her crawling under the book shelf or trying to eat one of the Bear’s toys.  She coo’ed and laughed and batted at the little leaves hanging down.  It was glorious.  
We received the Graco Little Lounger in Caraway, available exclusively at Babies R Us.  I love the gender neutral design and soothing colors, as well as the leaf motif.  It retails for $79.99, and other designs are available at Target and Buy Buy Baby. 
My Favorite Features:
vibration – soothes the angry teething baby
Rock Locks – keeps the lounger in place if desired and keeps big brother from rocking her too hard
secure – three point harness
comfortable & breathable – mesh on the sides with soft plush on the seat
adjustable recline – one pull adjusts the incline to the perfect angle
compact – folds flat for easy travel and storage
I think the Graco Little Lounger would make the perfect baby shower gift, but it is much more than that.  Pregnant or expectant adoptive mamas should add it to their registries.  If you are a grandparent, this would be a perfect option to have on hand for visiting grandbabies without taking up too much closet space.  For parents traveling with infants, the lounger folds nearly flat, sets up in a second, and takes up much less space than bulkier alternatives.  

 At our Graco 15 For Me event, Baby Boot Camp instructor Amanda Foose taught us a quick series of exercises to do while baby happily lounges.  She made it seem so doable, and I was excited to get home and try it myself.  I tried a mini work out while the Pearl girl lounged, and she thought it was hilarious.  She is newly crawling and putting everything straight in to her mouth, so having her happily playing in the Little Lounger really allowed me to concentrate on the exercises.

Follow @GracoBaby on Twitter and find Graco on Facebook to connect and learn about more great Graco products as well as discounts and promotions. 
What would you do with “15 minutes for me”?

Tips for Taking a Baby to Disney World

 I love Disney and was blessed to go three times through my former job with Young Life.  Jed asked me to marry him in front of Cinderella’s Castle in 2008 and we were able to take the Bear with us on our last trip.  We are big fans.  I’m hoping and planning to go back when the kids are little bigger, but I want you to know it is possible to take a baby and enjoy it.  The Bear was 8 months old on our last trip, and still nursing.  We did some things right, learned from our mistakes, and had a fabulous time.
Five Tips for Taking  Baby to Disney World
1) Don’t try to do too much.
This was our biggest mistake.  We had a park hopper pass and tried to do 2 parks in one day.  It caused unnecessary stress and it would have been much better to spread the parks out.  Take time to relax and don’t skip out on nap and rest time for your little one.
2) Take your baby on some rides and ride swap on others.
It might sound crazy, but we took the Bear on some rides.  He LOVED It’s a Small World and the Haunted Mansion.  He had no idea the mansion was supposed to be scary and loved all the lights and the gently turning ride.  For more intense rides, ride swap is available.  One parent rides while the other waits with a cast member and the baby, then the parents switch out.
3) Plan ahead for meals. (for everyone)
This was our other big mistake.  We didn’t realize reservations were required months in advance and were laughed at by a haughty hostess at Epcot.  The walk up places are still fine, but we will get reservations next time.  We did bring baby food with us and planned our routes around when Bear would need to nurse.  There are baby care centers at all the parks and they are lovely.  I nursed Bear throughout the day in the baby centers and it was such a nice, quiet break for both of us.  They have everything you need there and the staff are amazing.  One of my favorite things about Disney Parks is how much each cast member seems to love their job.  These ladies were no exception.
4) Pack that stroller like you mean it.
Think through everything your baby might need and then double it.  Extra clothes all around, extra diapers, a blanket, a rain jacket for everyone, everything you might need.  The two best things we brought were a dark rain jacket to cover the stroller for naps and our iPhone with a sound machine app on it.  We turned on the white noise, covered the stroller, and the Bear napped three times and nearly slept through the fireworks.  I highly recommend bringing a sling or Ergo to carry your babe around in so they can have a change of scenery and get out of the stroller.
5) Know when to fold ’em.
You may have to go back to your resort in the middle of the day for a nap.  It is okay.  You may not get to see the fireworks every night of your trip.  Still okay.  Sometimes your baby can be pushed to stay up, nap in the stroller or in the carrier, and go with the flow.  Other times they will bend you to their will like a tiny tyrant.  Flexibility is the name of the game.  Relax and enjoy, but don’t stress out about missing out on the Dumbo ride because your sweet babe was done for the day.

Have you been to Disney World? What would your dream Disney vacation include?
Follow Becca’s board Family Travel on Pinterest.

Vintage Blue Mason Beach Memory Jar

I am blessed to have a small collection of vintage blue Mason jars from my paternal grandmother, my Meme.  Most of them have their original tin lids and are in perfect condition.  I display them all over our house and am constantly changing out the displays.  Every time I help host a bridal or baby shower, the jars come with me to add a bit of vintage flair to the decorations.  After our recent beach trip, I decided to add to the beach memory jar I started a few years ago.  It is a simple and affordable way to preserve our special finds and remind our family of our amazing travels.  I filled the bottom of the jar with the pure white sand of the miracle strip of beach we visit in Navarre Beach, Florida.  It looks like sugar and reminds me of one of my favorite places in the world.  Next I carefully drop shells into the jar one by one.  I use the tines of a fork to arrange the shells.  It is a bit tricky to get everything positioned the way I want it, but worth the effort.  I love that I can easily add to and rearrange my little collection with special finds after every trip.  
How do you preserve travel memories?

If you would like to start your own collection of blue Ball Mason jars, the company recently re-released a heritage collection.  You can use the link below to get a set of 6 for around $2 a jar.The link is an affiliate link, which means you pay the same price but your purchase helps support our family.  We appreciate it any time you use a sponsor or affiliate link.  Thanks for reading!

I love linking my ideas at these blog parties.  Click the links to check them out and find crafty inspiration.  If you’ve never visited a blog party, you will be blown away by the creativity shared and imaginative ideas.
Monday: CraftOManiacMad in CraftsSew Chatty,  Keeping It SimpleC.R.A.F.T.Boogie Board Cottage, and Sumo’s Sweet Stuff   
Tuesday:  Hope StudiosToday’s Creative BlogCoastal Charm, and New Nostalgia
Wednesday: The Trendy TreehousePolka Dots on ParadeLil Luna, and The Thrifty Home
Thursday: All Things with Purpose, Somewhat SimpleThe Shabby Creek CottageThe Girl Creative, and House of Hepworths
Friday: Sugar and SpiceKojo DesignsDiana Rambles Pin Me Party, and The Shabby Nest
Weekends: Sweet Tea Social @ Texas Women BloggersTatertots and Jello, Serenity NowButtercream Bakehouse, and Candace Creations 

Mombo Comfort & Harmony Nursing Pillow Review

My sweet Pearl girl and I were so excited to review the Mombo Comfort & Harmony Nursing Pillow, and even more thrilled to give one away to one lucky reader.  Click here for the Mombo giveaway.  If you are expecting a baby and planning to breastfeed, a nursing pillow will be on every registry check list.  I nursed my son for a year and am 4 months into nursing my daughter for at least a year (hopefully).  You can read more about my breastfeeding battles the first time around here, and read all I’ve learned about breastfeeding here.  
With the Bear, I used a nursing pillow all the way through until he weaned.  I suffer from back problems, and using a nursing pillow greatly relieves the stress on my back that breastfeeding can bring.  I use one every time I nurse at home, and take it with me when I travel.  The only time I don’t use one is if I’m out running errands or in public.  

What makes the Mombo different from other nursing pillows?  The Mombo has two sides, a firmer side and a softer side.  We prefer the softer side, but I think the firmer side would be ideal with a newborn.  The Mombo also comes with a battery operated vibrating insert that soothes my sweet girl gently.  I’ve found that for my sometimes distracted nurser, the vibration helps her to concentrate and eat rather than pulling off and looking around.  Hallelujah! 

The pillow and cover are very well made, and the cover is super soft and easily comes off to wash.  If you have a spit up queen like I do, easy washing is key.  I love the gender neutral Mosaic Moonlight cover, but there are several cover options including gender specific ones to choose from.

Overall we really like our Mombo pillow.  The only negative I could find would be the size might be an issue for plus size mamas.  The angle of the pillow fits snuggle and comfortably for me and keeps my girl in place when she’s lounging, but might fit a plus size mama a bit too tight.  I don’t know for sure, but it is something to keep in mind.

 Probably my favorite aspect of the Mombo is that it doubles as a truly supportive lounger.  The Pearl girl is still a supported sitter at 4 1/2 months, and she was able to sit comfortably in the Mombo as you can see below.  Isn’t she the cutest?!
The Mombo is available at Target and retails for $29-39, depending on the cover.  Extra covers are $12.99.  Find your Mombo Nursing Pillow at Target and don’t forget to enter to win the Mombo giveaway here.  

This review was made possible by Double Duty Divas and Kids II. I was provided the featured product free of charge to facilitate my review, but all opinions are 100% my own.   

Eleanor Pearl at Four Months

Our little Pearl girl is pure joy and sweetness.  Her hair is still an lovely auburn and her eyes are the clearest blue.  She is such a snuggler and loves to rock and listen to mama’s singing.  

Big Milestones at Four Months:

rolling over from back to front
rolling over both ways to travel
laughing and giggling

Ellie is in the 75th percentile for weight and height at 14 pounds 15 ounces and 25 inches long.  Her head is still nice and normal at 16 1/4 inches and the 50th percentile.  Bless her. The rest of us all have giant noggins.  

She is still wearing 3-6 month clothes and the occasional  6 month outfit.  She wears cloth diapers most of the time and looks so cute with a fluffy booty.  She surprised us once again by rolling over from back to front.  Now that she can roll both ways she figured out that she can get where she wants to by rolling over and over.  She is sitting up in her bumbo chair and wants to sit up straight in the stroller and in our laps.  

Ellie sleeps like a champ with only occasional wake ups at night. I feed her around 7 and then wake her up again around 10 pm to eat.  After that she sleeps until around 7 am.  She is becoming a more efficient nurser and loves to look around while nursing.  She has never taken a bottle though we have tried a few times.  I love nursing her, but definitely wish she would take a bottle so that I could be away from her for more than a few hours if necessary.  The Bear never took one either, so I’m used to it.  

We love our sweet Pearl girl and are so excited to see more of her personality emerge every day.  She is such a precious gift to our family.

Frugal Friday: How to Set Your Monthly Grocery Budget {And Stick to It}

For the past four years, we have followed the Dave Ramsey financial peace plan.  A huge part of this plan is writing down and sticking to a monthly budget.  We tell every dollar where to go, including what we spend on food.  Setting and sticking to a budget is the number one thing you can do to become debt free and find financial freedom.  If you are bogged down by your finances, know that freedom is possible.  We are living proof.  You can read more about our financial story here.  Both of us were once deep in debt and we have now been debt free for almost 4 years.  Today I’m sharing how we set our monthly grocery budget, and a few tips that help us stick to it.  
1) Track your spending.
Before you set your grocery budget, it will be helpful to track your food spending for one month.  Keep you receipts and add up your totals at the end of the month.  Was this a typical month or was your budget off kilter because of guests visiting, birthday parties, etc?  Add or subtract to accommodate those factors.  This will give you a ball park figure to add to your total budget.
2) Create your larger monthly budget.
Your grocery budget is a part of your larger monthly budget.  There are a multitude of budgeting tools out there.  We prefer Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover budget tool.  It takes you through setting up a budget step by step.  If you want to do it on your own, simply write down your total monthly income and start subtracting your expenses.  Account for your tithe or giving, rent or mortgage, utilities, and then groceries, and any debts.  After the essentials you will see what you have left to spend on the non-essentials like dining out, gifts, travel, etc.  You will probably need to tweak the numbers a few time to get everything just right.  Don’t be discouraged if it takes you a few months to get it right.  
3) Take your grocery number set in your larger budget and divide it up.
How much do you usually spend on meat?  We buy meat only when it is on sale and freeze it in individual baggies or in freezer meals.  We also eat at least one vegetarian meal every week to reduce our spending and our environmental impact.  What are your budget busters? Alcohol, fancy cheese, brand name foods, seasonal items… Each week you will want to make sure your basics are covered before you buy a bottle of wine or (in my case) a fancy cheese.  Goat cheese is my love language, y’all.  If you are a soda drinker, wait until they are on sale and stock up.  One month we busted our grocery budget buying Christmas candy.  I’m so not kidding.  
4) Meal Plan 
Write down your dinners for the week and stick to the plan.  I’ll share more about how we plan our meals next week, but know that without a plan it is easy to lose track of your spending.  Some folks use coupons to help them plan, but I have more luck shopping at Aldi.  When we started shopping there it cut our budget by almost 40%.  Seriously.  They aren’t a sponsor of this blog (but the totally should be), we just love the store.  We gave up name brands almost entirely.  There are a few products that truly are better with name brands, so we look for coupons for those favorites.  
5) Use cash envelopes.
Take out the entire monthly grocery budget in cash at the beginning of each month.  Put it in your grocery envelope and take it with you every time you go to the grocery store.  If you run out before the end of the month, try your best to use what you already have on hand and get creative.  Using cash will help you immensely as you try to stick to your budget.  
How do you keep your grocery spending on track? 

Family Fun in DFW: Rough Riders Baseball

The DFW metroplex has so much to offer when it comes to watching sports live.  My personal favorite is minor league baseball.  Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the Rangers.  I prefer minor league baseball because it is amazing to watch the players pursue their dreams with passion and talent, and tickets are much more affordable.  Many of them may never make the big show, but they work hard and spend countless nights on uncomfortable buses traveling endlessly around the south playing their hearts out.  That kind of dream chasing is inspiring.  
The Rough Riders are the AA farm team for the Texas Rangers.  This means we have the unique opportunity to watch players develop and then see them play in the big leagues as well.  It is so fun to see someone you’ve cheered for make their dreams come true when they get called up.  On rare occasions we get to watch Rangers stars play close up when they are rehabing an injury.  We had such an opportunity when we visited Dr. Pepper stadium, because Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison was on the mound. 
Here is the Pearl Girl at her first baseball game.  Please note she is dressed in a cowgirl dress in honor of the home team mascot.  

The Bear loved his first game, though he didn’t make it all the way through.  He has asked several times to watch baseball this past week.  I grew up watching the Arkansas Travelers play with my parents and grandparents.  My Grandmom and Grandad rarely missed a home game, and even had their picture featured in a Southern Living article on minor league parks. There is nothing like cheering on the home team with your family, and I hope this was the first of many games for us.

If you are interested in taking your family to watch the Rough Riders play in Frisco at Dr. Pepper Ballpark, you can buy tickets and get more information on their website here.  There are still plenty of home games left this month, and the season starts again in April of 2014. The team offers fabulous season ticket packages to fit every budget as well as meal packages with unlimited food and drinks.  Rough Rider season tickets are the perfect holiday gift for the baseball fans in your life.  You can also follow the team on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
**Thanks so much to the Rough Riders organization for providing tickets for our family in exchange for this post.  All opinions are strictly my own.  
What is your favorite sport to watch live?

Life to the Full: Defining

Who am I?  Who do I want to be?  For what will I be known or remembered?  These are the questions of life and as I come upon my one year anniversary of leaving a career I loved to stay home with my children, I find myself wrestling with them yet again.  My own little mid-30s existential crisis is taking place.  I look at who I think I am and how I would describe myself and realize that most people would not see that person if they looked at me right now.  If you read my blog today, do you know what I’m about?  I don’t know.  I want to change that.  I want to be the person I want to be RIGHT NOW.  Not in ten years.  Not next week.  Now.

I want to live intentionally and work towards being the person I’ve always longed to be.  First I have to figure out who she is.  I have to define myself.  Not who I used to be, but myself right now.  Motherhood is wonderful.  It is all I had hoped for and so much more, but it has a dangerous way of eclipsing all that a woman was before and causing that to disappear in a wave of spit up and dirty diapers.  I am a mother, yes.  What what else?  Who else?  Right now my wee ones are dependent on me for everything and so that role can easily swallow up all my others.  Soon they will be independent creatures and I will be left not knowing what to do, who to be, who I am.  I want to continue to be me, the person God has made me to be, while mothering and loving my children with my whole self.  Is it possible?  We’ll see.  First I must define who I am and what I want to do with this one life I’ve been given.

Who am I? 
I am a child of God. 
I am a follower of Jesus.
I am a wife.
I am a mother.
What do I want to do with my life?
Love God.
Love my family.
Love others.
Be healthy.
Express myself creatively.
Be a good steward of all I’ve been given.
Be adventurous.
I want to start living intentionally to live this one life to the fullest.  In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come so that they may life, and have it to the full.”  I want that life that Jesus promises.  A full life.  Not a life where distractions rule and chances are missed and regrets are constant.  I want to use this blog as a space where I can express myself creatively and help myself and others to live this one life to the full.  I would love for y’all to join me.  My hope is to each week write at least one post that intentionally gives me an action step towards what I want to do with my life.  This week starts with defining what I want to do with this life.  
Now it is your turn.
Who are you?
What do you want to do with your life?