Friday faves

[Swim lessons started this week]

Slush and mud season is upon us, and I noticed that Everett’s feet are growing at alarming rates! I immediately went to the Hunter Boots website earlier this week and snagged this darling pair of rain boots for him at half off. Use code Nicole Branstad for 15% off your first order.

Around Valentine’s Day I was on the hunt for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe and stumbled upon this one. It is a real winner! Pretty sure the sea salt on top is what really makes it!

While we were overseas for the holidays, I was pretty much holed up with Everett for most of the trip. Marcus brought back a small gift for me because he knows how much I love French pharmacies. It is the perfect gift and I now keep one at my desk, one in my purse and one on my bedside table.

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Spain + France 2019/20 // part three

We last left off starting our journey from Bordeaux down to Barcelona – fingers crossed for minimal hiccups. Let’s just say that I sat in the back with the boys most of the ride holding a plastic sack…

By the time we made it to our hotel, both boys had high temperatures. Not exactly the direction I wanted things to be going. We gave them some medicine and ordered room service and settled in for the night. Barcelona2020_00004The next morning we woke up to beautiful views, but with two sick kiddos. Around Noon we decided that we better see if we can get Everett seen by a doctor. We then started our journey to find a hospital. Barcelona2020_00009Barcelona2020_00005After arriving at the emergency center at the wrong hospital, we were finally pointed in the right direction. We took a taxi to the children’s hospital and were pleasantly surprised at how beautiful this hospital was compared to the last. We were hopeful at first, but then realized that it was going to be 200 euros for Everett to be seen. Marcus then spent the next hour trying to reach our health insurance provider back in the States in hopes of providing verification for coverage, but since it was a weekend (and a seven hour time difference), no one was around to help. At that point we had been sitting there for a few hours and the boys were restless. A kind nurse came out and visited with us, and was able to give us some reassurance that she felt Everett was going to be ok. Barcelona2020_00006Barcelona2020_00007Barcelona2020_00008

After hearing from the nurse, we hightailed it out of there and just decided that we would be moving up our departure date from Barcelona. In the meantime, we were just going to try to keep the boys comfortable and not overdo it. That meant a lot of hotel room time…Barcelona2020_00010

We did decide to go to our originally planned flamenco dinner at Tablao de Carmen that night, and I will say, it was nice to get out!Barcelona2020_00013Barcelona2020_00020Barcelona2020_00018Barcelona2020_00017Barcelona2020_00014Barcelona2020_00015Barcelona2020_00016
We spent our last full day in Barcelona with a slow morning at the hotel, followed by a delicious lunch of pintxos at La Taverna Catalana and ice cream at Haagen-Dazs.   Barcelona2020_00021Barcelona2020_00022Barcelona2020_00023Barcelona2020_00027Barcelona2020_00026Barcelona2020_00025Barcelona2020_00028Barcelona2020_00029Barcelona2020_00030Barcelona2020_00031Barcelona2020_00032Barcelona2020_00034Barcelona2020_00035Barcelona2020_00036Barcelona2020_00037
The boys went back to the room to nap and I was able to get out and explore a bit. Gaudi’s Casa Batlló was right around the corner from our hotel and so were a few of my favorite shops. Barcelona2020_00040
That evening we all ventured out to El Nacional before joining the masses for the Three Kings Parade. Akin to what I would imagine the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is like, we were multiple people deep as we lined the street and claustrophobia was the name of the game. After a while, we decided we had seen(ish) enough, and headed back to the hotel.Barcelona2020_00041Barcelona2020_00042Barcelona2020_00043Barcelona2020_00045
The next day we headed to the airport to catch our moved up flights, and wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we get settled at the terminal to wait for our boarding call, Everett pukes all over the floor and Marcus carry-on bag. I scramble to get him to the bathroom and Marcus works to clean up the mess, but I have never felt more homesick than at that point. We truly just wanted to get home. Once on board, we settled in and said a prayer for safe (and a non-diverted) flights. Barcelona2020_00046Barcelona2020_00047Barcelona2020_00002Barcelona2020_00048
A few hours outside of JFK, Everett had an issue in the bathroom that I was not prepared for. I had some quick thinking and we managed to get him in a pair of Fitz’s underpants and threw Marcus’ athletic shorts on him cinched as tight as they would go. Thank goodness for having to go through customs so that we could get our suitcases back for a hot minute. I grabbed him some fresh pants and we did a quick change right there near the baggage carousel. Barcelona2020_00052Barcelona2020_00001
We got to the next gate and waiting to board our flight to Chicago. Our flight wasn’t going to get in to O’Hare until after 10 p.m., but Marcus and I had already made the decision that we were going to be driving home upon landing. The photo below depicts exactly how we all felt when we landed back in the midwest. With a 5+ hour drive ahead of us, we loaded up into the car and hit the road. Barcelona2020_00053
Just when we thought we were in the clear, about 30 minutes outside of Chicago, Fitz proceeds to wake up for a dead sleep and vomit all over the back seat. At this point, Marcus and I just have to laugh. Everything that could have gone wrong had and did go go wrong. After cleaning him up, we got going again and took turns driving while chewing sunflower seeds and sipping a Mountain Dew slushie. I clocked it, and took the photo below for good measure, as we arrived back home at 4:11 a.m. Barcelona2020_00054And with that, the trip had finally come to an end.


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GIFT GUIDE: Valentine’s gifts for him

I always snag something to gift Marcus on Valentine’s Day. Not that he really needs anything, but I just love the hunt for the perfect gift and then getting to wrap it. I’m weird, I know.

The MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook
Fulton Bag Co. 12 Can Cooler
MagicMakers Deep Tissue Massager Pillow
Vineyard Vines Saltwater 1/2-Zip
Polaroid Originals OneStep 2 Viewfinder Instant Camera
JBL Clip 3 Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker
Twelve South AirFly Bluetooth Transmitter
Goodfellow & Co boxer briefs

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GIFT GUIDE: Valentine’s Day gifts for her

I have never met an obligatory gift giving holiday that I didn’t obsess over – so you know Valentine’s Day is right up my alley! Most years, I just go ahead and wrap myself up a little something nice to gift to myself. My husband loves it, and you know why, I do too! Everyone is a winner.

Here are a few perfect items to either put on your list, or heck, buy yourself!


J. Crew Dreamy pajama set
Hammond’s Pigs N’ Taters Milk Chocolate Bars
J. Crew Factory beaded heart earrings

Diptyque Roses candle
J. Crew Factory heart bracelet set
Pinch Provisions Champagne Kit
Hanky Panky 3-Pack Original Rise Thongs
Anine Bing lace bra
Calpak Kaya Laptop Backpack

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Friday faves

Snuggles[is there anything better?!]

Still on the hunt for some cute valentines printables? I love the girl power vibes of these from Bravery Mag and these colorful options from Fork and Beans.

I already have warmer temps on the brain and came across this great deal on Teva sandals for the boys (comes in pink too!). Snagged those puppies right up!

Every year, I always purchase next year’s winter gear when stores have sales. Patagonia is having 50% off sale right now and I took advantage this morning. I even snagged some swim trunks to stick in their Easter baskets this year!

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Little looks: Valentine’s Day 2020

I’m still sitting over here trying to figure out how it is February already?! Anyone else? While it’ll be forever for spring to hit the midwest, the official day of love is right around the corner and I always like to make it special for my boys. Making sure they receive a special gift from their forever Valentine (mom!) and have a little festive frock to wear usually works. Like most things, it’s more for me than them 😉


Old Navy Fit & Flare Dress
Brooks Brothers Boys Gingham shirt
J. Crew candy heart jewelry set
Roller Rabbit Pajama Set
Target Love Graphic tee

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Spain + France 2019/20 // part two

We left off hopping in the vans due north for France and ready to take on the second part of the trip.

We were about half way through our 4+ hour drive north when Fitzie got sick in the car. Post stop at McDonald’s of course. After cleaning him up, we continued our trek and made it to Chateau Couffins, just east of Bordeaux, around dusk. To say this place was beautiful is an understatement.


We settled in and got the lay of the land, starting in on what would end up being my main project during our stay at the chateau: an epic Coco-Cola puzzle my sister-in-law brought along.Bordeaux2019_10Bordeaux2019_11

The following morning, we took a one-hour day trip to the quaint seaside town of Arcachon. They were still in their festive holiday mode with an ice rink and small stands. We shopped around the Christmas market for a while, then visited Grand Cafe Victoria for an amazing lunch.Bordeaux2019_17Bordeaux2019_18Bordeaux2019_19Bordeaux2019_20Bordeaux2019_21Bordeaux2019_51Bordeaux2019_52Bordeaux2019_22Bordeaux2019_57Bordeaux2019_23Bordeaux2019_24Bordeaux2019_25

After lunch a few of us took the kids down to the beach to look for shells while the rest went grocery shopping for our New Year’s Eve dinner later that night. Bordeaux2019_26Bordeaux2019_27Bordeaux2019_28Bordeaux2019_29Bordeaux2019_30

On our way back to the chateau, we stopped for a winery tour and tasting at Chateau Croizille. The grounds also included a stable and six horses that the kids loved meeting.Bordeaux2019_31Bordeaux2019_33Bordeaux2019_35Bordeaux2019_53Bordeaux2019_36Bordeaux2019_56

Back at the chateau in our jammies and ready to ring in the New Year, we thought it would be a good time to try and capture a photo of all the kids. Ha! This is as close as we got.Bordeaux2019_42Bordeaux2019_58

Everett went to bed early that night and woke up a couple hours after that and got sick. From then on, he remained under the weather for the duration of our trip. So we spent a lot of time in bed, trying to stay away from the rest of the family, and missing out on all the other adventures. Oh, and I worked on that darn puzzle A LOT! Bordeaux2019_59Bordeaux2019_60Bordeaux2019_62Bordeaux2019_63Bordeaux2019_65Bordeaux2019_70Bordeaux2019_01Bordeaux2019_72Bordeaux2019_73

On our last full day in France, everyone (except Everett, Eric [who also got sick] and myself) headed off to check out another amazing winery: Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. And according the photos I received while they were there, it looks like we really missed out. But don’t worry, Fitzie was living his best life!Bordeaux2019_75Bordeaux2019_76Bordeaux2019_74Bordeaux2019_77Bordeaux2019_80Bordeaux2019_84Bordeaux2019_85
The next morning we got all of our gear loaded up and took one last look around our chateau. At this point, the China crew headed to the train station and we started our 6.5 hour drive down to Barcelona with our sick little buddy in tow.Bordeaux2019_86Bordeaux2019_14Bordeaux2019_13Bordeaux2019_12Bordeaux2019_15Bordeaux2019_16

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