The Busy Giffs: 2018

August 28, 2018

A 40 in 4 Update

The 40 in 4 is still slow going and I'm finding that I'm not longer excited about some of the things on my list.  I know it's only been a year and a half (and 4 days!), but I'm just not as excited about some of these anymore so I may end up astericking them or something because it's not something I'm focusing on... however, I did accomplish a couple new things...

27. Get out of the minivan.
Two weeks ago, David brought my car into the shop for some repairs and the bill was much more than we planned on putting into our old van.  We bought the van 4 years ago and it was already 9 years old at the time.  It had low miles and was used by a much older woman so it was in great shape but 4 years of wear and tear from my kids was more than enough for it. I'm happy to say I upgraded to a Nissan Rogue so no more minivan in this house!

28. Take a calligraphy class.
I'm cheating on this one because honestly, it's not worth $100+ for me to go do this sooooo instead, I ordered a couple of hand lettering books online and have been working on it myself! I'm loving how it looks and want to invest in a few new markers to really keep playing!

31. Work on our kitchen: backsplash, new desk, new table...
This one has been so fun. It's not completely dont but I did purchase a new dining set and a big white desk so the kitchen looks more open.  I'd still love to buy a new rug but we're taking a break from any big purchases and home upgrades right now.

Additionally, I'm going to pull out a few:
20. Get professional head shots for the blog.
           - I really hate pictures and since my blog is my family, I don't need headshots when we always use family pictures!21. Sew Emma a matching dress for her and her dolls
           - We've moved out of the doll phase for a bit. She's completely obsessed with LOL dolls so the American Girls haven't left their bunk beds lately.22. Consider selling the custom shirts I've been making for the kids...
           - What a giant no. I'm so invested in my career and the opportunities that are coming.  I am in awe of other moms who do the work from home hustle, but I really don't think I want to do it. 
32. Buy a jacuzzi and redo the back deck.
33. Fence in our yard.
34. Landscape.
          - We still want a jacuzzi but our back yard, including the deck and more landscaping just aren't a priority for us anymore.
35. Finish the basement
           - We've fininshed it as much as we need it to be right now. We're not really interested in putting up walls or developing it since our house is already at the top of the market for our neighborhood.  Adding more won't give us any ROI. 

So it leaves me with this:

1. Run a 5k
2. Have my palm read.
3. Weekend in the Vineyard with my family.
4. Buy a bicycle.
5. Wear a bikini to the beach, no cover up.
6. Put my toes into the Pacific Ocean.
7. Go back to Disney
8. Go to Universal Studio
9. Get a job in Higher Ed
10. See another Broadway play
11. Fit into a size 8.
12. Travel to Europe, ideally London or Rome.
13. Get another tattoo (or two).
14. Be debt free, minus student loans and mortgage.
15. Put away a 4 month emergency amount.
16. Begin working on an administrator's license or a PhD.
17. Take a photography class.
18. Travel somewhere tropical.
19. Go camping.
20. * Get professional head shots for the blog.
21. * Sew Emma a matching dress for her and her dolls
22. * Consider selling the custom shirts I've been making for the kids...
23. Take a cooking or baking class.
24. Take a cake decorating class.
25. Go to Ireland.
26. Find a local church to belong to/Baptize Tyler.
27. Get out of the minivan.
28. Take a calligraphy class.

29. Participate in Restaurant Week in Boston or Providence.
30. Go to Disney Land.
31. Work on our kitchen: backsplash, new desk, new table...
32. * Buy a jacuzzi and redo the back deck.
33. * Fence in our yard.
34. * Landscape.
35. * Finish the basement.
36. Attending the NYC Thanksgiving Day Parade
37. Create a real vegetable garden for an entire season/year.
38. Spend the day at the spa, getting pampered.
39. Splurge on our 10 year anniversary.
40. Save $10 for each accomplished task and spend it on something extravagant.

And I am so excited about all that is still on it. We have a few of these things planned already so I'll be excited to share when they happen!

xo, Heather

August 24, 2018

New Charlie's Nature Play Area at Buttonwood Park

It's no secret that we love Buttonwood Park.  We've had a family membership for the past 2 years and used library passes for admission for years before that.  It's a great small zoo that my kids love.  Tyler loves the harbor seals (which he calls sea lions- he'll learn one day), and Emma loves that one of the elephants shares her name, however she is especially excited that Buttonwood Park Zoo is getting a red panda, which is just one of the new things happening at the zoo.


Buttonwood Park Zoo has it's master plan on display in the educational complex and it's very cool to see all the plans they have in place.

While they are still in the middle of building the habitat for the red panda, they have moved around a few of the animals and just finished up construction on the Charlie's Nature Play area, which is "where the goat used to live", according to Emma.



The area is completely new and inspires so much creativity! The kids spent almost a half hour just playing with the tubes, constructing "the longest one in the whole world ever!" I especially loved how collaborative all the kids were. I know we just had a good group of people and that won't always be the case but they were sharing and problem solving together.


In addition to the cool "marble" area, they had a paint with water area, a water area, a huge block building area, tables for smaller block building, a sandbox with an umbrella, a xylophone, balance beams made from logs, a growing area, and a misting area!











I especially loved the log benches set up for parents and the butterflies that were hanging out on the flowers the whole time!



We usually spend about an hour at Buttonwood Park Zoo since my kids love running from one area to the next but we spent an hour just in Charlie's Nature Play area!

I'm so excited about this new area and can't wait to see the next changes!

xo, Heather


August 16, 2018

Seekonk Grand Prix

Thanks to a Seize the Deal... deal... I was able to grab a discounted gift card to Seekonk Grand Prix in Seekonk, MA.  My kids are obsessed with mini golf and anything that resembles racing like Vanellope from Wreck IT Ralph so a half priced gift card seemed like a good thing to have tucked in my back pocket.

We had some great weather and a full morning and afternoon with no commitments so we took the drive to Seekonk, intent on going mini golf and taking a lap around in the go-karts.


Seekonk Grand Prix is easily accessible and there's a ton of free parking around the building.
Upon entering, there is an area to purchase your play cards.  You can preplan what you're going to do and just purchase that amount on the card or you can throw on an arbitrary amount and reload as needed.  Since we already had $50, we were free to head out to whatever activities we wanted.

In addition to mini golf and go karts (so many different tracks!), they also have a suspended ropes course, bumper cars, bumper boats and an arcade. Since Emmalee is only 46" and Tyler even shorter, we didn't have to pay for either to race in the family go-karts-score!


We started with mini-golf.  My kids are obsessed with it, but oh, so terrible at it. The 18 hole course was great for them.  MOst holes were a Par 3 or 4 so not too difficult, but interesting enough with barriers, log "short cuts" and lots of water features that made you constantly fear that you'd lose your ball.  Emmalee especially loved the waterfall feature on the course!



After mini-golf we went to the family track and again, the kids got to ride free since they were too short to ride alone. The kids had so much fun and it was really enjoyable! It's a great track that loops around, going under a bridge and through a fake mountain! We were allowed to do a few laps around so it was a great value!

We decided to check out the kid track since Tyler really wanted to drive a go-kart and was surprised to find that he could drive (they just have to be 4 years old and under 48"!) so both kids went for a spin.  It's a smaller track but they had to have taken 15-20 laps on it so again, a great value and they loved it!



Since we still had money left on our card (seriously, $50 took us so far!), we went inside to play arcade games.  The kids found their favorites.  I was frustrated with the swipe card.  It didn't always register and we'd have to swipe it 10 times to get it to work.  The great thing was that they fixed it so quick when Dave brought it up to the counter and they replaced it. They even reset the air hockey for us when the game started but no puck came out.


Super exciting is that the ropes course is suspended above the arcade so the kids were enthralled watching people climb around. It's a very small course in comparison to the outdoor course I've done but still looked like it would be fun for an older kid. 

Additionally, there's a small snack bar that served ice cream and vending machines had sodas so we really had everything we'd need while there! If we had stayed longer we may have needed a more substantial lunch but with so many local restaurants, it really wasn't an issue. 

We loved our visit to Seekonk Grand Prix and will be going back again soon! What would you be most interested to do while there?

xo, Heather

August 13, 2018

My Teeth, Ghenta and Mills, and Teeth Whitening at Home

I have to confess... my biggest insecurity is not my weight... it's my teeth. Shocking? Maybe? Maybe not.

For years, I have hated my teeth.  Being pregnant destroyed my teeth and thanks to David being unemployed, Mass Health only did so much (thankful we had it but still...).  MassHealth believed in preventative only or wait until it had to be pulled out. Unfortunately, when your fetus is pulling your calcium and you're getting brittle teeth, preventative isn't really helping.

I spent years with weird half opened smiles, hoping people wouldn't notice my missing tooth behind my incisor (my hobo tooth as I unlovingly referred to it). I would turn my head  particular way so that the pictures didn't show that side of my face. It really was a huge source of self-loathing that I had. I know it's vain but really, knowing my smile was so terrible was very difficult for me and if you know me in real life you know I love to smile. I'm a really happy person (once you get beyond the social anxiety and general anxiety) and so much of my joy comes out of my face.

David and I were eligible for some really amazing dental insurance though his job last summer and we took full advantage of it. I asked around on Facebook mom groups for recommendations and fell on Ghenta and Mills Dental in Dartmouth, which, specializes in sedation dentistry.  From years of bad teeth plus trauma from years ago with braces and wisdom teeth removal, I knew I needed to be put to sleep to fix all my problems. They were amazing and developed a great plan with me, identifying the work that needed to be done, and then helping me figure out a schedule and a payment plan when the first assessment left me in tears. I hate that dental health is so expensive but the investment is worth it.  At 32, I'm still young and I want me teeth to last me. Plus with the mouth being such a hub of overall health, David convinced me it was important for me to get the work done, even if it would be money out of pocket.  My first few appointments included both Valium and nitrous and I'm happy to report that I can go to the dentist and make through an appointment without either now, and that is huge in itself. I spent a lot of time in the chair in the Fall (so thankful for sick days from work!) and most of the work has been done.  Ghent and Mills has been absolutely amazing in helping me with my teeth, but also with overcoming my fear of the dentist.

So now that my actual teeth are in order, I was thrilled when Smile Brilliant posted about looking for bloggers who would want to work with them.  I figured I already felt so much better knowing my teeth were being fixed, wouldn't I feel even better if they were pearly white?

Smile Brilliant was super easy to get started.  They ship a kit and it includes everything you need to make your impressions.  I was terrified I'd mess it up but I was able to get great impressions my first attempt! I love that they do give an extra set of impression putty just in case though!


 I'll be honest, I didn't expect much. Years and years of damage aren't going to be erased in a couple days, right? And what about sensitivity...

I honestly can't believe how easy it was. I mixed the putty, smushed it into the mouthpiece and got the impression on my first try! For someone who gags like crazy when it comes to dental work, I couldn't believe how "not difficult" it was.  I shipped off my molds and my custom trays came back in under two weeks!


Smile Brilliant recommends doing it at night so that it has extra time to really work overnight.  You can leave the trays in for 45 minutes to 2 hours. I found with my teeth, an hour was just the right amount of time.  If I kept them in longer I'd start to feel some sensitivity.  The Smile Brilliant kit also includes a desensitizing gel that you use after the whitening gel so that sensitivity went away very quickly!

I honestly sucked at remembering to do it and then add in all of our vacations where I missed even more days (because I never remembered to pack it) and after about 10 days, over 2 months, I still got really great results! I can't even imagine what it would be like if I did it for 7 days straight! And honestly, I'm pretty embarrassed to show my before pictures so go easy on me...



It's a super clear difference!

You can check out Smile Brilliant and get in on the whitening! Save 20% off with coupon code: hgifford20

One lucky reader will win their own custom teeth whitening kit!

The giveaway is for a $149 Smile Brilliant credit and open to USA, UK, Australia and Canadian residents. Click HERE TO ENTER!

Honestly, I think all I have left to do now is Invisalign and I'll be smiling even more than I am now!

xo, Heather

Professional Teeth Whitening

August 3, 2018

Taylor Swift Reputation Tour

I have loved Taylor Swift since her very first album came out and she hit mainstream music.  I've been to a couple of her concerts and love her old country music as well as her new(ish) pop sound.  I play Reputation on repeat in the car so obviously, Emmalee picked up the love of TSwizzle, so much so that she asked to go to her concert. 

My mom had purchased two tickets for me for my birthday and I went back and forth about bringing Emma or a friend. I ended up asking a friend whose daughter is great friends with Emma and we thought about bringing them both. So I posted in a Facebook ticket group that I was hoping to swap out my 2 100 level tickets (last night) for 4 tickets in the 200s so we could bring the girls. Never worked out. My friend and I went and had an amazing time.
The next morning, I got a message from a lady who offered me 2 seats way below face value so I could bring my daughter since she was no longer able to bring her daughter. Made babysitting arrangements and flew to Foxboro. Emmalee and I spent some time grabbing froyo and finally decided to head on in.
We go through bag check and as the lady scans our ticket, it beeps and we can't get in. The tickets are for Saturday. I message the lady, says she thought I knew it was Saturday, since she had both Friday and Saturday tickets up, apologized and said if I went to will call maybe they would help. Emma burst into tears obviously. We went to the elevator to head to will call and a lady in the elevator asked Emma if she was excited and Emma replied "not anymore, since our tickets didn't work" so I explained the lady what had happened.
We exit the elevator and start to walk to will call and a guy comes up behind us and asks if we want tickets for the show.  I literally can't get screwed again so I politely say no thank you and he responds "no, do you want tickets for tonight". He explained that he had 2 extras for tonight and just really wanted Emma to be able to go in an see the show.  He told me he just had to grab them from will call but he'd get be right back. I'm in tears at this point because this man is so kind and is literally saving Emmalee's night.
He comes back, makes me promise I'll take the tickets so I'm assuming they are 300 levels in the back corner and think to myself that if they're that high, I'll just bring Emma to the viewing area under the score board and watch from there. He hands us the tickets and they are floor section seats. In the first section. 8 rows away from the catwalk. 


I don't know how the world works but oh my gosh, I cried. I hugged a stranger and cried. And when Emmalee saw how close we were to the stage, she cried too. I can't believe that events unfolded like that... it honestly doesn't even seem real. We were able to give him the Saturday night tickets as a way to repay him but honestly, I'll never be able to fully thank hat stranger for what he did for my daughter that night. 







The concert was incredible and I had a very happy little girl. I'm so thankful for that man.

-Heather




August 1, 2018

Family Favorites from Sweet Suite 2018

Once again, I had the great fortune of attending Sweet Suite in NYC and this time Emmalee came along.  There were so many amazing things shown in preparation for the holiday season but here are a few of my favorites for the family that really stood out!


1. Nintendo Switch

I know... I know... we are crazy not owning one already but in my defense, I was worried about Tyler and it.  The fact it can move around and be lost is terrifying but he's done so well with his tablet this year so I think Santa might be bringing this as a family gift this year!

2. Monster Match

We love, love, love this game! It's such a great game for families and so easy even my 4 year old is playing with us! So far, I'm the undefeated champion! It's a fast paced game but there's a ton of strategy behind it too.  The fact that it travels easily makes it a winner for sure.

3. Mad Matter

If we could have spent all night at this booth we would have! Mad Matter is a super soft modeling compound that squishes and cuts in the coolest ways. I especially love that it doesn't stick to anything except itself so no more mess on couch or floor!

4. Real Cooking Mini Tart Maker

Nothing says happy family in our house like cooking breakfast together on the weekend. This mini tart maker is perfect for making individual sized tarts in the morning.  Each person can choose their own fillings and unlike other treat makers, they include a recipe for making your own pastry so you're not constantly buying refills!

5. Glove A Bubble

These are so much fun. Full disclosure- I've purchased at least 10 more since Sweet Suite! They are perfect for bringing to the park, over a friend's house, or just for playing in the back yard.  It's so easy the 4 year old can get hundreds of bubbles with a couple waves of his hand! The animal designs are super cute and since I've purchased than for less than 42 at Walmart-- it's easy to stock up!

6. Razor Scooters

Razor scooters have been around forever and are obviously the number 1 choice when it comes to scooters, but the Razor Jr Lil Electric Scooter is my new favorite! It's perfect for the kids-- it has 3 wheels and a sturdy base, plus it's electric! No more trying to push off and ride.  Tyler likes to stand o it and hit the butto so it goes! The scooter tops out at 2 mph but the kids just love it!

7. Kids First Microscope

Anything that encourages learning is a go in our house and Emma freaked over this microscope! It's bright and colorful and includes 24 slides with 3 images so my kids can start to explore.  They also include blank slides so we can investigate things we find on our nature walks. It's perfect for the whole family!

8. VTech Kidi Star Karaoke Machine

Emma has been asking for a karaoke machine and this is one looks like so much fun! Anything made by Vtech is usually a win and this looks no different! While it can be plugged into an mp3 player, it also includes 8 of its own songs, some games, a disco light, and a voice changer! You can even record yourself for up to 2 minutes.  Emma had a blast jamming out with this at Sweet Suite so I can only imagine what both kids would do in the living room!

9. Ooze Labs Slime

Hear me out... I hate slime... like really despise the stuff but Ooze Labs are pretty cool.  Each comes in it's own tube and they are so much cooler than regular slime. There's slime that glows in the dark, magnetic slime, glitter slime, and magic sand.  Our favorite is slime that responds to sunlight!

10. Basic Fun Arcade Games

Sometimes it's fun to go retro and the retro arcade games from Basic Fun are perfect for the whole family! Tyler loves Pac Man but I'm hoping to grab Frogger sooner rather than later!

Tyler and Emma picked out their favorites too-- be sure to check back for those posts soon!

xo, Heather

July 27, 2018

Mystic Aquarium - Mystic, CT


We've been (quickly) checking off things on our summer fun list and visiting an aquarium was one the kids were very excited for! In between Sweet Suite in NYC and National Dance Competition in Mystic CT, we were able to squeeze in a trip to the Mystic Aquarium


We loved seeing some of our favorite exhibits like the penguins and the touch tanks, but Tyler especially loved the dinosaur exhibit that is there currently! He's been hyperobsessed with Jurassic Park and the dinosaur exhibit was a nice surprise!


I love how close you can get to the animals here and the kids just love being able to peek close. The Beluga whale is a fan favorite (and was aptly called Bailey the whole trip!)


While the price can be off-putting for most people (it's a bit steep), we were able to set up a group (min. of 10 people) and get a great discounted price.  If you've got a group who want to go together, it's a great way to save some money!


We love this aquarium; have you visited?

xo, Heather

July 26, 2018

NYC and #SweetSuite18

July has been the absolute busiest month, basically ever. We had cookouts, birthday parties, cookouts, beach days, sleep overs, we saw a play, and so much dance including the national competition, but in the middle of all of it, Emmalee and I found ourselves in NYC for #SweetSuite18.

Sweet Suite has been one of my favorite events for the past few years.  It's one of the most amazing blogging things I do.  The Toy Insider gathers the most exciting toys for the holiday season and brings in brand reps and it's literally the biggest night of play that there is.  I have always gone solo so I was thrilled this year to learn that Emma could come with me.

We took the train in from Connecticut and spent some time walking up 5th Ave- a visit to the Eloise store and some macarons were the perfect start!


We made our way to Central Park as well. I've always wanted to spend a whole day inside but that will have to wait for a bit still.  We did see some gorgeous skylines and even found a carnival!


We were most excited to find the carousel! For all the years I've been in Central Park, I have never found the carousel so we were very excited to do it for the first time!


We had a great morning and the best part of the day hadn't even happened yet! We grabbed a cab and headed to Chelsea Piers for the biggest night of play!


One of the biggest highlights of Emma's night was meeting the family behind Sandaroo, her absolute favorite youtube family. It was honestly adorable and she lit up over it all.


We were so excited to check out the newly created Pop Insider hangout and the amazing balloon maze to get into the venue!


Trying to decide what was our favorite, just isn't possible so we put together a collage of our favorites from the night!

There were so many amazing toys and we'll be making another list of Emma's favorites for this holiday season to share soon!

xo, Heather and Emma




A 40 in 4 Update

The 40 in 4 is still slow going and I'm finding that I'm not longer excited about some of the things on my list.  I know it's on...

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