Gift Guide for a Four Year Old Girl

gift-guide-4-year-old-girlAlternate title: Eleanor’s Birthday Wishlist

Somehow our little girl is already turning four years old! I look at baby photos and I can hardly remember what it felt like to bring her home or hold her. Watching her now, so independent and full of life, I hardly believe that little personality was bottled up inside this tiny little baby.


Eleanor’s birthday is right around the corner and I am busy preparing for her perfect little tea party. We offered the kid a vacation instead of a party but she insisted. She is after all her momma’s girl! The invitations went out last week and I’ve received several requests for ideas for gifts from family and friends. With the holidays looming ahead I thought it would be fun to do a quick round up of presents that any four year old little girl would be sure to love!

Affiliate links are contained in this post.

  1. Our daughter has only asked for one thing this year…Barbies! Wha?! How are we already here? I am not ready for this stage but my compromise will be the Disney Princess Dolls. (By the way, she already has the Belle, Ariel and Jasmine dolls if you are curious.)48d42bf6320d0fafca5e3eede5d83d97
  2. Going with the doll theme, a doll house is every four year old girl’s dream come true. I have grand plans of one day building and decorating one with Eleanor, but until that day I have my eye one one of the beautiful KidKraft Doll Houses. We may hold off until Christmas (hint, hint grandparents) when we are in the new house.e1abed3ca26839abb1c64cb5cd577dbd
  3. Eleanor loves to pick up Alex’s guitar and strum. I have hopes that our offspring will have some sort of musical talent and I just love the idea of this kid guitar. Another KidKraft item; they really do have the prettiest toys!kidkraft-lil-symphony-guitar-ptru1-20589076dt
  4. We have been working on reading with Eleanor and she is amazing. She can read lots of books already and the Dr. Seuss books are some of our favorites. She really wants What Pet Should I Get. We also need to purchase the curriculum we use for reading and let the library have their copy back. Eleanor also loves The Little House on the Prairie and these picture books would be perfect for her.51lxvnjk3xl-_sx258_bo1204203200_
  5. Another four year old favorite is coloring and art. Eleanor could use a few new coloring books. I would also like to get into larger projects with her. This easel and this paint set would be a great start! kidkraft-deluxe-wood-easel
  6. Eleanor is into watching football with us this year. It’s incredibly adorable when she starts yelling “Tapple ’em!” at the TV. We don’t have any Chicago Bears gear for the girls this year and she could use a t-shirt or hair bow or this adorable outfit to cheer on her favorite team. Eleanor wears a size 4T.img_6306_large
  7. Giraffes are Eleanor’s spirit animal…despite her short and stout frame. I am loving this adorable giraffe umbrella that matches her backpack! While the giraffe one is perfect for Eleanor, any little girl would love carrying her own umbrella on a rainy day!_11205352
  8. Also specific to Eleanor is this amazing felt hat from Old Navy (on sale right now!) Wouldn’t we be an adorable Mommy and Mini-Me with matching hats?old-navy-floppy-felt-hat-for-toddler-size-l-dark-red
  9. As we prepare to move next month I’m dreaming of all the larger toys we can get the girls to fill up our new space. This teepee would be such a fun hideout for the girls to play and read. teepee-2
  10. And last but not least. I can see many “campouts” in her teepee with a fun, girly sleeping bag. Eleanor loves mermaids right now and this would just make her smile. mfaotw5ykdocplfi0k_cxyg

I love celebrating birthdays! Eleanor and I talk about her birthday every single day. I am excited to see what the next year holds for this precious little girl!


Life Lately


So I have officially fallen off of my everyday blogging ways. We left for vacation and I have yet to feel caught up enough to put the time into my regular posts. For a half minute I contemplated giving up on this space altogether (I’m kinda an all or nothing person if you can’t tell) but I knew that wasn’t the answer. For now I will pop in and out as time allows. Things are really starting to gear up right now so I’m not sure how much time I will devote to this space in the next few weeks. We have a couple big things on the horizon. Namely, Alex finishing grad school and moving houses next month.

At any rate, I wanted to throw up a few of our activities lately. Here’s some of what we have been up to since getting back from Lake Tahoe.


The weather has been gorgeous so we are spending all our time outside these days. Last week I got to watch my friend’s little girls. Together our four kiddos play so well together so I just sat in the sun and basked. We have also been spending a ton of time at the park.


This past weekend was an exceptionally busy one and we crammed as much fall fun in as we could stand. Starting with the Food Truck Festival downtown.


And the pumpkin patch. Ruthie especially loved the bounce houses! She pretended like she was a big kid and scaled the giant wall and went down the slide all by herself! Check out my Instagram for an amazing video!


That is Ruthie’s real smile. Kid cracks me up!


We had dinner with friends and drank pumpkin beer. And I’ve been cooking up chili and cornbread like it’s going out of style. I love fall!


We are still loving our weekly activities, Community Bible Study and Awanas. Eleanor is learning so much and each week memorizes more bible verses. Despite those being our only regular activities it still feels like our weeks are so busy! I try to fit in gymnastics and swimming when I can but we often don’t make it. One place we never get tired of is the library!


Coming up is my favorite fall activity, the Hot Air Balloon Festival. We will try to do the corn maze and maybe even the pumpkin patch again this coming weekend. Fall is seriously the best! I mean, it’s not like the two best sports (football and baseball) overlap any other time of year. And yes this is me wearing a Cubs hat. I sure do love my Cubs-loving husband! But seriously, if they could just win it would make his life!


What are your favorite Fall activities?


Lake Tahoe Travel Log

I know I promised a recap of our big Lake Tahoe trip over a week ago. I also promised I would be back this week with Meal Plan Monday. I honestly have no idea how last week got away from me! I really want to take my time and do our amazing trip justice but I’m afraid if I wait too much longer and put too much more thought into it I will let it fall into the archives of my mind and never get it down here. So without overthinking this too much, here goes…

When you think Lake Tahoe, you probably imagine the winterscape and ski slopes. Or you might even imagine summertime and water sports. We arrived in Tahoe right smack in the middle of these two seasons and while it was quiet, it still offered so much for adventurers like us!

We were in town for a wedding and so our lodging was chosen for us. Thank goodness because I would have never dreamed to choose the Ritz Carlton but man did I love every minute of staying there!


I can’t imagine there is a single room without a view as this resort boasts 360 views of the amazing mountains. Nestled at an altitude of about 6600 feet we experienced sunny and warm days and cool evenings. The stars were absolutely magnificent at night and I was excited to finally bust out my fall capsule wardrobe for this trip.


Upon arriving at the resort we settled into our room and began to unpack while family stopped in to welcome us to Lake Tahoe. We literally moved right in and got to work making the place feel like a home away from home!


Waiting upon our arrival was my order from Rent the Runway (<affiliate link).  I was so excited to open it up and try on all of the beautiful dresses! I actually had a few issues with my order but their customer service was top notch and came through for me.

After settling in we walked down to the pool area to see Jacqui, the bride to be. The weather was gorgeous, sunny and warm. The heated pool was the perfect place to relax for the afternoon. I just dipped my toes in and enjoyed the sunshine.


We were exhausted from an early morning flight but instead of taking a nap we opted for a run/hike instead. We laced up our sneakers and headed out on the trail to Sawmill Lake. We didn’t stay long because a swarm of bees began to attack every time we stood still for a second. We rushed out of there and back to the hotel to get ready for Thursday night’s festivities.


Our first big event of the weekend was the Rehearsal Dinner. We were shuttled to Moe’s BBQ on the shores of Lake Tahoe. The restaurant was rented out for the event and wings and shrimp were on the tables as appetizers. I enjoyed several glasses of Pinot Noir and all the cornbread and fixin’s from the buffet line. The live music outside on the patio was fantastic but a little chilly so we nestled into a table with Alex’s family and some new friends and enjoyed the conversation that first night.


By 9pm I was crashed and thankful the shuttles began taking us back up the mountain. I was never so excited for a giant, comfortable hotel bed as I was that night!


Friday morning we were wide awake at 4am! Thank you giant time change. Alex and I both tossed and turned in bed until 6:30 when we were awake for good. I poured us each a cup of espresso from our in-room Nespresso machine and we relaxed in bed until hunger got the better of us.


We attempted a quick workout in the hotel gym before breakfast until we realized the high altitude made any high intensity cardio nearly impossible. After a quick but miserable whiteboard workout we took to the trails instead. We made our way down a trail to the Village at Northstar and found a quiet cafe for breakfast. Alex’s family came to meet us and we ate a simple eggs, toast and bacon meal; the bacon was the absolute show stopper of the breakfast! We took our time walking through some of the shops in the village before heading back up the trail to the hotel (a one mile, 1,000 foot climb!)


Back at the hotel it was time for the pool party. We suited up and headed out for cocktails and lunch and live Reggae music.


A quick nap and shower later and we were up and ready to go for the main event Friday night. This is one event I’m going to have trouble recapping in just a few short sentences.  I’ll let this photograph do all the talking:


The jumpsuit I rented from Rent the Runway was perfect for the 70s costume party. We bought Alex’s pants and shirt on eBay and my friend Angie found the denim jacket in her dad’s closet! The costumes were varied and wild and the 70s cover band was perfect for the event. The whole menu was themed with Salisbury steak and Chicken a la King as the main courses, Easy Cheese, fried Bologna sandwiches and Swedish meatballs as the appetizer, and Snack Packs and Pop Tarts for dessert. The wine was going down easy and Alex and I danced all night long.


To reach the party we rode the chair lift (you could choose the Gondolas but had to wait in line) to the lodge at the top of the mountain. We were lucky enough to catch the lift with both Alex’s sisters and got to spend a few quality minutes with the very busy bride. It was incredibly cold heading up the mountain but worth it for the incredible views!


As you could expect Saturday morning came quick and our bodies still wanted to be on Eastern time. We struggled to stay in bed until 7am but finally rallied so we could grab breakfast and head out on our biggest hike of the weekend.


We met some new friends in the lobby of the hotel and rode with them to Donner’s Pass to hike to the summit of Mt. Judah. At its peak we had gorgeous views of Lake Mary. It was a difficult hike and incredibly windy and cold at the top, but so worth those views! We got a little lost on the way down and found our way back to the parking area via a few ski slopes and roads. Thank goodness for iPhones and GPS!


Back at the hotel we made our way to the village for a quick lunch and relaxed until the wedding began that evening. Once we were dressed and ready for the event we headed to the fire pit for “Marshmology.” (aka s’mores)


It was so cold outside but by the fire we managed to stay warm. At promptly 6pm we walked to the ceremony area and were handed glasses of Rosè as we entered. The ceremony was gorgeous. We laughed, we cried, we laughed more. I didn’t bring my phone with me so I don’t have a single photo from the evening except a few taken on Alex’s phone. I wanted to unplug and just enjoy time with family and the special event.


While I don’t have any photos, I want to say a few things about the wedding. First it was gorgeous. I ate the most delicious short rib ever and drank way too much wine. The band was amazing and the company at our table was so fun. Alex’s sister Jacqui was a stunning bride and looked so incredibly happy. I wish I would have gotten a photo of her and her partner Britt. You could tell by the speeches, their friends, and the entire event that they are well loved, supported and celebrated. They both are the most interesting and exciting people I know and I loved being a part of their special day. I also loved getting to see our adorable nephew Cal, even if we didn’t get to spend near enough time with them over the course of the weekend!

By Sunday I was exhausted. I was also ready to get back to my babies. We had brunch with Alex’s family before heading to the airport. Our flight left late meaning we missed our connection in Phoenix and had to stay the night in a hotel. We were thankful the airline comped our rooms and dinner and got us on the first flight Monday morning, but I was emotionally drained and cried over not getting home to the girls. We reached Chicago around noon on Monday and I finally got to squeeze my babies and our little family was reunited!


We had an amazing trip and I loved getting to spend all the quality time with Alex. We got to enjoy our favorite things including hiking, traveling, eating and drinking wine! It was such a refreshment to be away from the girls and just spend time with my husband. It was also fun to attend such fun parties. I don’t typically go to that many events in a year, let alone a weekend!


The longest day ever

When we get back from our travels I want to fully recap all the fun and experiences but for now I’ll let you in on little tidbits. 

The view from our room is amazing! We feel so relaxed and excited to be here and get to witness this beauty!

I don’t know how to settle down when on vacation. While yesterday was the longest possible day…waking up at 3am central time and crashing hard at 11pm pacific time, instead of taking a much needed nap in the afternoon we went for a run instead. 

It is just too beautiful and the weather is gorgeous. I want to experience every single moment. 

This trip already has been the perfect mix of quality time with Alex but also lots of fun with family. We are in Lake Tahoe for Alex’s sisters wedding so we get to be here with family and lots of friends. Such an amazing vacation. 

I’m surprised to learn that I can function without my children. When we have downtime I start wondering about them and the fun they are also having with family. But honestly I don’t really miss them. I just love being with Alex so much. 

I am trying to do my best to take care of myself on this trip. We are running on little sleep and sporadic meals so I am making it a point to drink tons of water and exercise too and sleep as much as possible. Although I was wide awake at 4am I forced myself to stay in bed until seven to get acclimated to Pacific time. My hope is I won’t crash hard at the end of this trip! 

Alright…time for breakfast. I’ll be back Tuesday with a full recap and no post Monday because no meal plan!! 

See you guys!

Travel Days

We have officially been traveling for three days now. While I don’t mind being on the road I am also incredibly excited to get to our destination. Alex and I have been looking forward to this trip for months! 

This is my “I’ve been awake since 3am” face. 

In a moment of strength I kicked my coffee habit a week ago. I am fully on green tea these days but I clearly didn’t think through the implications of travel without coffee. I’m not making any promises for this weekend. 

We left these pumpkins in good hands and are embarking on our first solo trip since they have existed. I expect to feel all the emotions in the coming days but for now I’m just excited for quality time with my hubby and the events of the weekend. Keep our family in your prayers! 

What is your favorite place to vacation? Have you taken a trip without the kids? Any tips?

Apple Picking at Sky Top Orchard


It is no secret this is our favorite Kummerow Family Tradition. It’s also no secret we go more for the photos than the apples. I think I love it here so much because our first time visiting Sky Top Orchard was just weeks before Eleanor was born. I knew then we would have to come back every year.


Alex took the day off work on Friday so we could beat the crowds this year. We also went earlier in the year because of our hectic fall schedule. I like waiting a few more weeks so it is cooler but we always wind up hot and sweaty from traipsing through the orchard anyhow.

We chose Sky Top for our fall apple picking tradition for one reason. You can get apples at any orchard, but only Sky Top’s fresh apple cider doughnuts rank in the Williams Sonoma list of Best Doughnuts in America.


I know kid, it’s exciting news!


Yes we seriously go for the doughnuts! It’s always our first stop. I was so shocked to find there was no line when we arrived. Usually we go on a weekend and the line is an hour long. On Friday at 10:30am we walked right up, paid four our dozen and gobbled them down. It all took less than 10 minutes.


We do things in the same exact order every year. Doughnuts, check. Obligatory yearly photos, check.


For comparison’s sake…


Oh my goodness, when did Ruthie grow up? Look at that feisty big girl! I’m not sure I can even call her a toddler anymore!

Our family photo was next.


Then we took to the hills. Quite literally. It isn’t easy to pick apples at Sky Top with young children. Nestled right in the mountains, the apple orchard is very steep in some places. Alex and I muscled through the morning, but I was a sweaty mess by the time we returned from picking apples. We stopped to get all the good photos first, then wondered through orchard letting the girls stop to pick every now and then.

The girls weren’t really into it this year. I’m hoping next year we will all be climbing trees and reaching for the best apples.

On the way out Eleanor managed to walk most of the way. On the way back in she insisted on a wagon ride. (By the way, this is against the rules, shhh, don’t tell!)


It was my goal this year to purchase at least as many apples as doughnuts. I believe we failed. We bagged our eight or ten apples, played at the playground and then retreated to the car for our packed picnic lunch.


I don’t think we have enough apples to make all the fabulous treats I talked about last week but maybe I’ll still manage to bake us a pie to go with our chili Sunday night.

What are your family traditions? Do you go apple picking?

I gotta mention here, after we were back in the car headed home, Eleanor started talking about wanting to go apple picking again. I was so excited that she enjoyed our family tradition, but then she said, “when we go next time we aren’t going to take photos though, right Mommy?” Kid, I gotcha, taking pictures sometimes sucks all the fun out of things. I am the worst at the Wait, let me take a photo! game. I understand it drives my family nuts. You should see the production it takes to get these beautiful photos! I wish I could just get them to understand that if they sat still and smiled it would go so much quicker. I wish I could say that next year we will go just for fun and not for pictures but I don’t think that will be true. But I am going to use this gentle reminder to put the camera down and live in the moment more.

Meal Plan Monday: the week before vacation

Meal planning is like a puzzle. Sometimes I get it right and I feel like running around high fiving everyone. Sometimes I get it all wrong and the week feels awful and long. It’s one of those kind of weeks around here. I blame our vacation looming on the horizon. I’m just so ready to be away from the kitchen for a full week!

This week I tried to plan through the weekend to get it us to our trip and it failed miserably. I even thought I could plan right into our road trip food all in one swoop and I was wrong. I got excited when our initial grocery bill was just under $100. But now we have been back to the store at least twice, I’ve had one more Walmart online grocery order on Thursday and we still need to go to Target for diapers before our trip. This week has been a total and complete fail! But so you can learn from my mistakes I’m posting it anyway. Your welcome!

Sunday: Dinner out at Bad Daddy’s

Monday: Pork Nachos

Tuesday: Pork Fried Rice

Wednesday: Burgers and green beans

Thursday: Pasta with Cauliflower Sauce for the girls Melting Pot for the adults

Friday: Pizza

Saturday: Burgers and sweet potatoes and roasted cauliflower

Sunday: Chili and cornbread

Above is what we ended up eating on each day. It actually didn’t resemble my plan at all.

On Sunday I originally planned to make Southwest Veggie Bowls. Sometimes I will just push a meal back in the week if my time doesn’t work on the exact day, but I never got around to making it this week. I ended up throwing the kale away and using the sweet potatoes in another dish. Instead we dropped Eleanor off at Awanas and took Ruthie to Bad Daddy’s and used a coupon to help with the cost.


For Monday night football we planned a fun treat. I made this recipe for Kalua Pork in the slow cooker and started it Sunday afternoon. I topped chips with cheddar cheese, pork, roasted broccoli, black beans and salsa and served with guacamole and greek yogurt on the side.


You guys, I think my taste buds are changing, or just finally settling into a rhythm. I hated this pork. And it wasn’t the pork at all. My family gobbled it up. I am usually a huge fan of pork but I couldn’t touch it this week. I picked all the pieces off my nachos. I tried it again the next day and still couldn’t eat it. The girls really loved eating nachos for dinner though!


On Tuesday I used the rest of the pork to make a quick fried rice. I wish I would have done our usual cauliflower fried rice instead of real rice because I feel like we were lacking vegetables all week. For this recipe I prepared mine on the side without the pork. The girls didn’t eat the fried rice very well but Alex loved it! I didn’t use a recipe but just mimicked what we have been making in the past.


Wednesday was a rough day. I had nothing left in me and we resorted to eating freezer food. Alex came home from work and cooked burgers and green beans. I didn’t even manage to snap a photo but I was so grateful to Alex for picking up the slack. I had originally planned to make chili this day and the leftovers would have been great to have for the week. I hate when I fall off my plan! I need to have one of those freezer cook days and stick 4 or 5 casseroles in the freezer for such a day as this.

We had fun plans Thursday night. Our friend Carrie turned 40 and we were invited to a surprise birthday party for her at the Melting Pot. I boiled noodles and mixed with the last of the cauliflower sauce for the babysitter and the girls and Alex and I enjoyed a feast of fondue!


It was half-price wine night and without the kids in sight it was going down so smooth! We ate the Wisconsin Cheddar as our first course, I had the California salad and Alex had the House. Then we enjoyed shrimp, chicken, pork and steak cooked in broth and some deep fried with tempura batter. I didn’t eat a single vegetable and then I had three times my share of chocolate! At our table we had S’mores and Dulce and Dark Chocolate. It was such an indulgence. We don’t have big nights out like this often and so I just went with it!


We felt rough on Friday for sure. Thankfully Alex had taken the day off work so we were able to move a little slower in the morning. I planned to make pizza Friday with a store bought dough and leftover toppings from previous pizza nights. The girls hate the cauliflower crust we have been making so they were excited to have real crust.


On Saturday we had burgers and sweet potatoes and roasted cauliflower. This meal is a standard in our house. Understandably so because it is easy and I can usually pass it off to Alex. In about one month we will be moving into our house and I will be so excited to have a grill again. As if we don’t eat burgers often enough, but they will continue to be on the rotation!

Finally on Sunday I made Chili. When I didn’t get to it Wednesday I knew I would keep it for football day. The Bears played in the Sunday Night game and we enjoyed pretending like it was Fall. But seriously where is the cold weather! Fingers crossed it will be here when we get back next week.

We spent a small fortune on food this week which is shocking since we also ate out so much. I’d love to share our grocery orders with you this week but I don’t think they would make much sense at all considering I didn’t make half the meals I planned. I am so excited to have a week without a meal plan. Good riddance!