Spring Fashion Pieces I’m Loving

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Thanks to Couponbox for sponsoring this post.

We might still have snow in the forecast but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming of spring! I’ve already started shopping for warmer weather looks for the boys and I so today I wanted to share some women’s fashion pieces I’m loving. Also, check out the bottom of this post for a way to save money on clothes while shopping for your spring wardrobe!

Women’s Printed Rouched Waist Tank Dress (available at Target)

Lucky Brand Plus Size Ripped Boyfriend Jeans (available at Macy’s)

California Flutter Cold Shoulder Top (available at Kohl’s)

Washed Cotton Moto Jacket (available at Nordstrom)

Carissa Closed Toe Espadrille Wedge Sandals (available at Target)

Heart Print Chiffon & Knit Raglan Tee (available at Torrid)

Relaxed Cutout-Back Blouse for Women (available at Old Navy)

I love finding cute things to wear but you know what I love even more than that? Saving money on the fashions I find! One great website that helps you save money while shopping online is Couponbox. Couponbox is a place to find online coupons for all kinds of stores like Target, Kohl’s, and Michaels. Unlike other “coupon” websites though, these coupons will always work because they are tested by the Couponbox team. They also negotiate with stores for exclusive coupon codes and special offers so you can find coupons there that no other site has.

What fashions are you loving this spring? Make sure to check out Couponbox to see how much you can save at your favorite retailer.

How To Throw A Fun Dr. Seuss Party

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Thanks to Party City for sponsoring this post.

A week from today is the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel (also  known as Dr. Seuss). Dr. Seuss wrote over 60 children’s books including favorites like The Cat In The Hat and Green Eggs & Ham. Every year people throw children’s parties around this time to celebrate Dr. Seuss and encourage children to read.

I’ve celebrated this special day over the past years in different ways. When I was a preschool teacher I would have little celebrations with my class where we’d eat a special treat, make a Dr. Seuss craft and read our favorite Dr. Seuss books. When my own kids were younger they had dress up days at school to celebrate Dr. Seuss and I made Cat in the Hat socks.

This year I thought it would be fun to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday by having a small party. If you are looking to have a party of your own, Party City has everything you need to throw a fabulous Dr. Seuss party- from tableware to goodie bags to decor to costume items! Party City sent me a box full of goodies and then I made some Dr. Seuss inspired snacks.

How fun are these Thing 1 and Thing 2 paper cups?!

The plates and napkins all have fun Dr. Seuss designs, too!

Put goldfish and Swedish fish candies in fish bowls for the perfect One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish snack!

I also decorated cupcakes to go with the book. I bought some vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting and added blue sprinkles (to look like water) and then topped them with a Swedish fish candy.

These Cat in the Hat dessert cups look like the famous red and white striped hat. To make them I layered strawberry jello and mini marshmallows. You could also layer strawberry jello and whipped cream.

I wanted to add some fruit to the party table so I made these Thing 1 & Thing 2 fruit cups. I cut up fresh strawberries and then topped them with Reddi-Wip that I had mixed with blue food coloring. Though they didn’t turn out exactly how I had envisioned, they are still delicious!

I decided to make another Cat in the Hat snack. These cheese and tomato kabobs are simple to make and look like the cat’s tall hat. I cut string cheese in chunks and put those, along with cherry tomatoes, on a toothpick.

As far as party favors go, Party City has lots of fun choices to fill the goody bags up. My favorites are the pencils and the little notebook because I love goodies that I know my kids are going to use. The themed buttons would be cute on backpacks and the bookmarks are great for those kids who love to read. My boys favorite party favor? The blowouts of course!

I also loved the fun photo props. They are the perfect way to add some silly fun to the party and pictures let kids take home special memories from the party.

What special things do you do to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss with your kids? Get everything you need from Party City here.

Tips For Taking Winter Road Trips With Kids

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Thanks to State Farm® for sponsoring this #AssistPatrol post about family road trips and their Assist Patrol program.

Road trips are one of my favorite ways to travel with my family. Whether it’s just a day trip, or we are headed out of state, it’s fun seeing different places as we travel to our destination. Over the years I have learned some tips and tricks that make traveling with kids smoother, and I want to share them. These tips are great for year-round traveling; but, I’m sharing some that are particularly helpful for traveling during the winter months.

The first tip is to make sure that your vehicle is ready for a road trip. You’ll want to take your car in to get an oil change if needed and also check fluid levels (brake, transmission, power steering, windshield washer, coolant, etc.) to make sure each reservoir is full. State Farm suggests checking air pressure in all tires, making sure the wiper blades are functioning properly, testing the vehicle’s lights and making sure your car battery and brake pads are in good condition.

When packing for a road trip, bring more than you think you’ll need (if you have the space to do so). Whether you get stuck in town an extra day due to bad weather, discover a pool you didn’t know your hotel would have or find yourself in unseasonably cooler or warmer weather, you will never be sorry you brought that extra stuff. It’s always better to have something you don’t need than to need something you don’t have.

The second tip is to pack the car in a thoughtful manner. I know when you are in a hurry to get on the road it’s easy to just throw things in the car but resist the urge to do that. Trust me, a few minutes of planning will make the trip easier. I’ve provided a diagram (above) of how I pack our minivan, and I want to share a few tips that are especially helpful on longer road trips.

In between the two front seats, put a basket of anything you’ll want handy while the vehicle’s moving, or during a quick stop. This includes things like wipes, paper towels, a first aid kit and plastic grocery bags (for trash, wet clothes, etc). I recommend keeping a bag of snacks within reach as well. Make sure to include some zip top bags and/or chip clips to keep open bags and packages from spilling all over.

Children who are older should be able to access toys, games and books that can keep them busy during the trip so I recommend keeping things next to them. We place a container in the middle of our two boys’ seats that holds a backpack for each child. The container catches anything that might fall out of the bags and the backpacks make for easy transport of their things.

In the back of the vehicle make sure to keep a bag accessible for any stops you may make. We keep an extra set of clothing for each person and towels at-the-ready in case there are spills or someone gets car sick. You don’t want to be digging through suitcases to find an extra shirt. Also, if you’re stopping overnight anywhere, make sure to keep a separate (easy to get to) bag full of everything you need, including toiletries, so you don’t have to unpack the whole car for a short overnight stop to get some rest.

The third tip is to pack an emergency roadside kit. Don’t forget this! You’ll want to make sure that you have extra blankets, food and water in case you get stranded. Additionally, you may want to include jumper cables, a flashlight, emergency flat-tire repair, road flares, an ice scraper, and road salt for tire traction in snow.

Once you are on the road, enjoy the time with your family by playing a variety of fun car games like “eye spy,” “this or that” and “guess who I’m thinking of.” Another thing my family likes to do is stop at rest stops near state lines and take pictures with the different state signs. However you choose to pass the time, you can feel confident traveling from point A to point B knowing that there are great companies, like State Farm, that are helping keep our roads safer. 

I’ve been a State Farm customer for years and am proud to say that they are committed to keeping drivers safer on the road. Recently I learned that they sponsor safety service patrols called the Assist Patrol program, where they have teamed up with 15 state transportation agencies to promote highway safety. (Here in Illinois they are called the Illinois Tollway’s Highway Emergency Lane Patrol (H.E.L.P.) Sponsored by State Farm.)

Each fleet of Assist Patrol vehicles patrols the highway looking for crashes, dangerous debris, and stranded motorists to provide assistance and help drivers get safely on their way. The limited and completely complementary roadside assistance may include services like a tire change, fixing minor mechanical problems, and removing debris from the road. These services are meant to assist all drivers on sponsored public highways; you do not have to be a State Farm customer in order to be serviced by the Illinois Tollway H.E.L.P or other sponsored patrols. Learn more about State Farm Assist Patrol here.

Thanks again to State Farm for sponsoring this post and letting me share some of my tips with you all. I’d love to hear some of your tips and tricks that make traveling during the winter months easier.

How To Create A Gift Basket For A Cancer Patient

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Thanks to Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. for starting this kindness campaign and sponsoring this post.

As a blogger I get to participate in a ton of amazing campaigns but my favorites are ones that let me give back to my community. I was asked if I wanted to join a “spread kindness” initiative to create a gift basket for a cancer patient and I’m happy to be participating. Getting a cancer diagnosis is devastating so making them a gift basket is just a small gesture we can do to show that we care and want to help them get through this difficult time.

Before I created my gift basket I looked online at what items were best to include. At the store I bought cancer fighting foods along with some items to help with self-care and stress-relief and created my basket to give to a cancer patient.

Today I’m sharing what I included in my gift basket. I hope that it gives you ideas if you want to create your own gift basket for someone who has cancer or is going through chemo.

Blanket

The first item I put in the basket was a beautiful, warm blanket to keep the patient warm. Hospital blankets are so scratchy and this nice blanket can bring a bit of home into the hospital.

Fruits & Veggies

Fresh fruits and vegetables are some of the best cancer fighting foods you can give a cancer patient. I put together a bag of items including spinach, apples, oranges, tomatoes and carrots.

Healthy Meal Starters

I included an organic soup for a quick lunch option. Beans and quinoa are great starters for healthy dinners.

Snacks & Vitamins

Everyone needs snacks and I included some delicious ones that have health benefits as well, like dark chocolate, nuts and fruit strips. I also added Vitamin C gummies, a protein powder, and honey, a natural sweetener.

Stress Relief

Staying stress free is essential so I wanted to include some items to help the cancer patient relax. I put an adult coloring book and colored pencils in the basket along with some candles they could light and some stress relief tea to sip.

Self-Care

In the basket I included some things to pamper them like healing lotion, epson salt crystals for a bath, and Chapstick for dry lips. I added slippers with no-slip bottoms and a pretty head scarf as well.

Want more ideas of things to include in your gift basket? Get more ideas here.

The best part about putting the basket together was getting my kids involved. Kindness is one of the most important qualities that someone can possess and something I want my kids to learn at an early age. I want them to make it their purpose in life to do nice things for people and put smiles on the faces of others. Having lost their grandma to cancer a few years back, this campaign is really a special one for them to help with and I’m happy they could help me make and donate the basket.

Along with creating a gift basket you can bring a home cooked meal, offer to help watch children or pets, hire a cleaning service to help them around their house, pamper them by painting their nails or just lend a listening ear.

I hope you will join me in spreading kindness this year! Tag me on social media with a picture of your basket if you join in and bring a basket to someone. Also, if you have any other ideas of items to include in the gift basket please share in the comments below. Together we can bring a smile to the face of others :)

Take The OREO Cookies Dunk Challenge

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Official rules can be found here: bit.ly/OREOSweepsRules

 

Our family loves OREO cookies so I always make sure to have a package or two in the pantry. It’s one of the only cookies that everyone in our family likes but what is funny is that we all eat them differently. Lucas loves to twist the cookie into two and lick off the white cream filling while Jacob likes to take bites of the cookie so he gets a bit of the cream filling and the chocolate cookie in his mouth together. I love to crumble mine up into pieces as a topping for chocolate pudding so I can slowly enjoy the chocolate treat while Sinisa sticks the whole cookie in his mouth and eats it in one bite.

It’s also fun to dunk our OREO cookies in milk! There are dozens of ways to dunk OREO cookies, including OREO Cookie’s tried-and-true dunking techniques – the Twist & Dunk, the Double Dunk, and the Plunge. Personally, I like to break mine in half before dunking it. Sinisa and the boys prefer to use a larger glass and dunk the cookie in one fell swipe.

OREO cookies wants to see how everyone dunks their cookies and are asking people to visit Walmart to pickup OREO cookies and then post their dunking technique with #OREODunkSweepstakes on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Those that do will be entered to win! 40,000 lucky finalists will have a chance to win one (1) of  five (5) VIP Grand Prize trips to a Celebrity Dunking Event in NYC or Los Angeles, plus $2,000! Learn more here.

 How do you dunk your OREO cookies?

 

How To Brighten Your Child’s Day When They Are Sick

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This post has been sponsored by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare and 20th Century Fox. All thoughts are my own.

When my boys are sick there is nothing I wish more than to have the ability to make them feel better. Though I can’t magically cure them, there are a few things that I can do as a mom to brighten their day when they aren’t feeling well. Here are five ways to bring a smile to their face on sick days.

Make them a fun snack.

When kids are sick it’s sometimes a struggle to get food in them so, around here, sick days mean special treats. The snacks I give my kids vary depending on what they are sick with. If they have a sore throat I give them cold things that go down easily like popsicles and ice cream. If you don’t have any popsicles you can easily make your own by freezing small paper cups full of coconut water and fresh fruit (just make sure to stick a popsicle stick in them before they are fully frozen). If your child has a cold perhaps they’d rather a bowl of chicken noodle soup made with fun alphabet letter shaped pasta. For fevers or aches & pains I generally give my kids things like pudding and snack mixes.

Watch a movie they haven’t seen before.

Cuddling while watching a movie is one of our favorite things to do on sick days. I enjoy introducing my kids to the movies of my childhood. Just recently we watched The Sandlot which I knew my baseball playing boys would love. The movie is about a shy kid, Scotty, who desperately wants to make friends and join the pickup baseball team that plays every day in the neighborhood sandlot. The oldest player on the team lets him play and the summer passes as Scotty learns to play ball. One day when they need a ball to play with, Scotty returns home and “borrows” his stepfather’s ball, which he promptly uses to hit his first home run, knocking the ball clear out of the sandlot into mean old Mr. Mertle’s junkyard, home to Mertle’s legendary guard dog The Beast. The boys learn how valuable the ball is and try to rescue it without The Beast getting them. This classic movie will become a family favorite!

Play a board game or card game.

Normally when our kiddos are sick they don’t want to move around too much so board games or card games are perfect activities to keep them occupied because they can be played on the couch. Our family loves playing games and I shared our top 10 favorite games here if you are looking for some more to add to your collection. For sick days we like to choose games that make us laugh like Pie Face and Headbandz or games that take a lot of time like Monopoly.

Make a craft together.

Crafts that don’t require a lot of messy materials are great for sick days. If there is a craft or hobby you have been wanting to teach your child, now is the perfect time to start. Things like learning to crochet take time and patience and are great to start on a day when your child will be sitting around anyways. Another craft you can do together is make new crayons out of old crayon pieces. The bulk of time for this activity is peeling the crayon wrappers off the crayons which is something children can do while they relax on the couch. After an adult does the cooking part of this craft kids will enjoy coloring with their new crayons.

Give them medicine to make them feel a little better.

You’ll want to consult your child’s pediatrician when they are sick. Our children’s doctor often recommends using over the counter medicines, especially when our boys have fevers or coughs. When our kids have aches and pains or fevers we count on Children’s Advil® to relieve their pain and bring their fever down. Children’s Advil® comes in several great-tasting flavors, including: Sugar-free Dye-free Berry, Bubble Gum, Grape, Blue Raspberry, Fruit and Dye-Free White Grape flavors, which makes children more willing to take their medicine. If they have coughs or chest congestion we use Children’s Robitussin® Cough & Chest Congestion made for children 4+. The non-drowsy daytime formula helps break up chest congestion.

Shop at Target and save with Cartwheel coupon codes–>

 

What do you do to brighten your child’s day when they are sick?

Why We Love British Soccer Camp

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This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

Jacob plays league soccer two to three seasons a year and, for the past couple of summers, has also participated in a week long soccer camp called British Soccer Camp. This camp week is always one of his favorite weeks of the summer and something he is looking forward to participating in again this year. He has enjoyed making new friends and playing this sport that he loves. Watching him play, I’ve noticed his skills develop a lot these last two years and I attribute much of that growth to these week long, half-day intensive camps.

Created by Challenger Sports, British Soccer Camps can be found across the US and Canada. Their camps are coached by a team of international experts and have an innovative curriculum that develops skills, speed and confidence in players of all abilities from ages 3-18. In addition to teaching new skills and improving game performance, each British Soccer Camp provides lessons in character development and cultural education. Best of all, this camp makes learning soccer skills as fun as can be!

British Soccer Camp is giving FREE goodies to all who enroll today with the code: CAMP17. Use that code to register for camp and get a free soccer jersey, soccer ball, t-shirt and poster! Find a location nearby and register here: https://www.challengersports.com/british-soccer/

Has your child ever participated in a sports camp over the summer?

 

 

Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

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Disclosure: Products were received for consideration but all thoughts are my own.

Valentine’s Day is almost here and, for many, that means it’s time to show love with cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts. I thought I’d share some gift ideas with you all in case you still haven’t had a chance to go out and find something special. Whether you need a gift for your significant other or a “GALentine” gift for a friend, I hope this gives you some ideas!

“Dinner for 2″ Date Night Gift Basket

I shared this romantic date night gift basket a few weeks ago but I love it so much I just had to share it again. It’s super easy to put together- just put some dinner ingredients in there, a bottle of wine, some candles and some Valentine’s Day decorations and you are all set to make dinner in with your sweetie!

Get all the details to make your own gift basket here.

Sweets Gift Box

Does your loved one have a sweet tooth? If so, you’ll want to get them this subscription box!  The SweetsGiftBox is filled with 4-5 goodies ranging from gourmet chocolates and cookies to artisan candies and treats. I loved the variety in the boxes and the few things I’ve tried so far from my sample box are delicious! I like that they are all items from brands I normally wouldn’t be able to find in a grocery store.

Learn more about the subscription service here.

Love’s Passion Bouquet by Teleflora

Heat up the romance and passion with this stunning floral arrangement that is sure to capture your Valentine’s attention. This gorgeous bouquet features a bountiful display of classic red roses, tulips, and white Asiatic lilies nestled within an elegant red glass vase. Each bouquet is professionally-arranged and delivered by a local florist so you can guarantee that every petal of your bouquet is freshly cut, carefully prepared and hand-made with love.

See Teleflora’s full line of Valentine’s Day bouquets here.

Custom Print from 78th & Newbury

I love getting personalized gifts and 78th & Newbury is one of my favorite online shops that offers them. At Christmas I reviewed their personalized canvas travel maps which would make a cute gift for travel lovers but I also think this love song print would make an amazing gift as well. If you are buying a gift for a spouse you could have a print made with your wedding song lyrics on it. How sweet would that be?

Find more gift ideas from 78th & Newbury here.

I love reading romance books so I’m very excited to read about the real life love story of Chip and Joanna Gaines, the stars of HGTV’s Fixer Upper. If your valentine is an avid book reader you may want to surprise them with this cute book!

Buy the book on Amazon here.

What is the best Valentine’s Day gift you have ever given or received?

Upgrade Your Tech This Tax Refund Season

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This post was sponsored by Samsung as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

It’s almost tax refund season which means that soon, many of us are going to have some cash in our pockets. Because of this, these next couple months are a popular time to upgrade technology. Walmart helps make that extra cash in our pockets go the extra mile by offering great deals on Samsung products. Whether you are looking to upgrade your smartphone to a newer version, get a tablet so you can stay connected on the go, want a larger television for watching your favorite shows or want to make the audio in your home better, Walmart has a variety of options to choose from. Below I’m sharing some of the best Samsung offers you can find at Walmart this tax refund season.

Smartphones

Many of us use our smartphones on a daily (usually hourly!) basis so it’s important that we have technology that can meet all of our needs. Whether you need a phone with a long battery life so you can check your work email when you are on the go, need plenty of storage space to keep all your photos. or use social media to stay connected with your loved ones, a quality smartphone is a must!

Straight Talk GS5 @ $199

Available at Walmart and Walmart.com here.

The Straight Talk Samsung Galaxy S5 LTE Prepaid Smartphone has a fast quad-core dual processor that is ideal for everything, from gaming to multitasking. It also has 5.1″ full HD super AMOLED touchscreen that makes all of your phone activity come alive. The incredibly powerful 16MP camera on this Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone takes breathtaking photos. The 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera can be used for selfies and video phone calls. No need to worry about memory, the Straight Talk Samsung Galaxy S5 LTE prepaid smartphone has an internal memory of 16GB. This phone is also designed to be water-resistant as well.

 Straight Talk GS7 @599

Available at Walmart and Walmart.com here.

The Straight Talk Galaxy S7 G930VL LTE is the smartphone your life can’t do without. It’s big on screen and slim on profile. And with an IP68 rating that protects it from spills, splashes and even dunks, you can forget about searching the internet for magical solutions to dry out your smartphone. Just wipe if off and keep going. When the sun sets and the fun starts, the world’s first dualpixel smartphone camera makes capturing low-light photos a breeze. No more photos where your awesome night out with friends looks like blurry shapes in a cave. And stop waiting around for your phone to charge. With fast wireless charging, the Straight Talk Galaxy S7 powers up from 0 to 100 percent in no time. Plus deciding which photo album to scrap just so you can add something new is now a distant memory. With expandable memory you can add up to 200GB to keep the content you love, and keep adding to it.

Tablets

Tablets are great for live streaming our favorite shows on the go or keeping the kids occupied on long road trips. If you don’t have a tablet yet, you’ll want to check out this cool Samsung one!

Tab E 9.6”

Available at Walmart and Walmart.com here.

The 7,300mAh battery keeps you powered up to watch, read and game at home or on the go. The Galaxy Tab E was made to go wherever you go and do whatever you want to do. From watching a movie with the family at home to reading a bestseller at the coffee shop, the big, bright screen keeps everyone entertained. Enjoy more of your favorite music, photos, movies and games on the go with a microSD card that expands your tablet’s memory from 16GB to up to an additional 128GB. Make shareable moments better with the Galaxy Tab E’s advanced camera features. Catch more in each photo with Panorama and Continuous Shot modes. Video chat from anywhere. And quickly toggle between camera and video modes. With the Galaxy Tab E, you won’t miss a thing.

Televisions 

Televisions have changed so much over the past decades. When we finally upgraded to smart tv’s, watching television became much more enjoyable. Now there are even newer advancements in televisions that produce better quality images and a sharper picture.

UHD TV – U60KU6270

Available at Walmart and Walmart.com here.

This Samsung television provides 4K UHD Picture Quality which provides an incredible picture and dramatic detail. Its 4K resolution means everything you watch looks 4x sharper than Full HD. This tv has a slim design so nothing stands between you and your viewing experience. This television has Smart View which means that you can watch your tv entertainment on your mobile device or watch your mobile media on your TV via the Smart View App.

Audio

There is nothing better than being able to watch movies in your own home and have such great sound that you feel like you are in the theater. A television alone will not give you the sound you are looking for so you have to add on audio elements that have the volume, bass and power that you need to make movie night more memorable.

DAV- Soundbar – HW-KM36

Available at Walmart and Walmart.com here.

 The Samsung Bluetooth Soundbar 2.1ch 130W Wireless Subwoofer (HW-KM36/ZA) helps you to enjoy cinematic sound for a more immersive experience. It features TV SoundConnect to make it easy to set up with just one push of a button. The Bluetooth design means that you can connect wirelessly with no clutter. This TV soundbar utilizes 3D SoundPlus, a feature that makes 3D movies more incredible by analyzing the depth of the images as they appear, then synchronizing to what’s onscreen for making the illusion of three dimensions even more powerful. Its 130 watts deliver the volume, bass and power that you need to make movie night more memorable. It’s 2.1 channels of sound allow for stereo sound. You can use the Samsung Audio Remote App from your phone or smart device to control your home theater. This unit’s subwoofer gives the outstanding quality of sound that you require.

What technology are you looking to upgrade this year?

 

Personally, I hope to add some audio products, like the Samsung Bluetooth Soundbar, into our living room.

Meatloaf Bites Recipe

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #KetchupWithFrenchs #CollectiveBias

I love easy to prep meals for busy school nights and it’s even better when my kids actually like to eat what I make. I realized that I haven’t shared one of our favorite kid-friendly meals with you all yet. What started as a funny April fools joke turned into a meal the whole family can enjoy year round. These fancy “cupcakes” are just meatball bites topped with mashed potato “frosting”. “Cupcakes” for dinner will surprise any child and they can be made three different ways to please everyone in the family.

First, you’ll want to gather your ingredients. I was delighted to see that my favorite mustard brand (French’s) had started making ketchup as well. French’s Ketchup uses real ingredients, like real sugar and high quality tomatoes, which make it taste great. Plus, it has no GMOs, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, or artificial flavors and colors so I can feel good about including it in our favorite recipes and as a dip for our favorite appetizers.

(Recipe yields a dozen meatloaf “cupcakes”.)

Ingredients needed:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pound of mashed potatoes
  • 1 cup of French’s Ketchup
  • 1 cup of stuffing mix (uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of onion salt
  • 1 tablespoon of parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 pinch of sage
  • 1 pinch of garlic
  • French’s Crispy Fried Onions (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients other than ketchup, brown sugar, mashed potatoes and fried onions in a large bowl.

Once fully combined, press mixture into muffin tins.

In a small bowl, mix ketchup and brown sugar.

Using a spoon, spread the ketchup and brown sugar mixture on top of each meatloaf bite in the pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meat is at least 165 degrees.

Spoon warmed mashed potatoes on to the meat. For fancier cupcake bites, you can make the mashed potatoes look like “frosting” that was piped on them. You can do this one of two ways- either by using a frosting decorator or using a sealed ziplock bag with one corner cut on a diagonal so the mashed potatoes can be piped out. I love using a frosting decorator with a special frosting tip.

Serve as is or with French’s Crispy Fried Onions sprinkled on top. If you have someone in your family who does not like mashed potatoes you can serve the meatloaf without the mashed potato topping. A side of fries or tater tots with ketchup would be perfect with the plain meatloaf bites.

You can even top the meatloaf bites with a dollop of French’s Ketchup on top to look like a “cherry” on top of the “cupcake”.

As you can see, this recipe can be easily customized for your family. If you have a favorite meatloaf recipe you like you can make that mixture instead of the one in this recipe and then just cook it in the muffin pans instead of your typical meatloaf pan. You can also substitute bread crumbs for stuffing mix if that’s what you have on hand. We prefer using cornbread stuffing mix if we have it because it adds flavor but we have used bread crumbs in the recipe and it turns out just as well. It’s all about whatever is easiest for you to get dinner on the table for your family.

You can find French’s Ketchup at Walmart in the condiment aisle. As you can see in the video below, it’s the perfect compliment to your favorite foods!

Feel good about your purchase because, not only are you getting a better-for-you option that’s delicious, but French’s is doing its part in the community through a partnership with Feeding America and donating 10 million meals in 2017.

I hope your family loves these meatloaf bites aka dinner “cupcakes”! Find more recipe inspiration here.

Gift Basket For New Cat Parents

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #NewPetNoStains #CollectiveBias

A year and a half ago we adopted our two cats, Boomer and Peaches, from someone who had rescued them after they were abandoned in a park. Our two little fur babies have added a lot of love to our home and I’m so thankful for that.

Though I had cats growing up, it wasn’t until I became a pet parent as an adult that I realized just how many things that cats required. There were the obvious things we had to buy, like cat food and litter, but then also things I hadn’t thought about. Things like tags for their collars and carpet cleaner became must-have items on my list.

I decided to create a special gift basket for a new pet parent with all the essentials they would need before taking their cats home.

The first thing I did was find a basket big enough for all my items and then add in a pet bed to the bottom of it. Though my cats rest wherever they please, it’s always nice to have a comfy place for them to nap. They love their cat tree but, for most cats, a cat bed placed in any sunny spot will do and it’s small enough to fit into the basket.

The next item I put in the basket was STAINMASTER® Carpet Pet Stain Remover which is perfect for the inevitable pet messes that will happen on your rugs and carpeted areas. I never realized just how much this would come in handy. It removes stubborn pet stains but also can be used on everyday stains. I’ve used it to clean up a number of accidents and hairballs along with spills due to overexcited cats (like those times when my cats are chasing each other and one jumps up on the coffee table and knocks a cup down on to the rug…)  Not only does this remove stains but it has ODOR REMOVE™ Technology that eliminates odors and leaves behind an invisible shield as it cleans so that it repels dirt to protect against re-soiling which means it’s easier to clean the next time. It’s also nice because it doesn’t leave a sticky residue behind.

Another thing I like to add in to the gift basket are cat treats. For a pretty look just put the treats into a clear cellophane bag and tie it closed with a colorful string. Catnip is also a fun addition to the basket and can be added to scratching posts, toys and a variety of other pet items you want to draw your cat’s attention, too.

And speaking of toys, you’ll want to add in some of those! I included some cute little mice and a yarn ball to keep active kittens entertained.

Other PURRfect essentials I added include a water bowl, a lint roller to get cat hair off of clothes, and a brush. You may also want to include an air freshener for them to put near the litter box, a collar and a little note with the recommendation of a veterinarian you love.

Whether it’s a gift for someone bringing a little kitten home for the first time or you are adopting a cat yourself, check out the great selection of pet products at Target! I found the STAINMASTER Carpet Pet Stain Remover in the cleaning aisles by the other floor cleaners in the Orland Park, IL Target. (It is not available at all Target locations, but is available online. Click here to find it, or have it shipped for free, to your local Target store.)

Also, make sure to use Target’s Cartwheel app to save 25% on STAINMASTER Carpet Pet Stain Remover (Cartwheel offer good through 3/4). The only thing better than wandering the aisles of Target is saving money on what you find while you are there :)

What would you add to a gift basket for a new pet parent?

Moms Don’t Get Sick Days {$25 Visa Gift Card Giveaway}

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This post has been sponsored by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare.

Being sick is the worst because, as moms, we don’t get “sick days”. We can’t just say to our children, “sorry, you are on your own today”. Instead, we have to get through the day the best we can and consider ourselves lucky if we find a few minutes of rest while our children are at school, napping or otherwise occupied.

I wanted to share a few ways that I get through my sick days which often include a full schedule of school drop-off and pickup, at least one sports practice/game or extracurricular activity for the kids, and a day of working online. Not to mention the things that must get done including helping the kids get ready for school, feeding them dinner, etc.

The first thing I do on sick days is decide what my absolute “must do” things are and what things I can skip for the day. The laundry can sit in the hamper another day and I normally will push off any nonessential work on the blog as well. I also try and figure out what things I can do to make my required tasks easier. For example, feeding my children dinner falls under the “must do” category but I can make it easier on myself by calling it a “breakfast for dinner” night or getting takeout so I don’t have to cook something.

Next you’ll want to come up with a few ideas to keep your kids busy throughout the day. When I was a preschool teacher I always had a box full of things that only came out on rainy days or days we were stuck inside. This box saved my sanity on those days. Even though the children had seen the toys and activities previously, being put away for a while before being brought back out made the items in the box seem new and exciting and kept their attention for longer than toys that they had been playing with recently. Other ideas include having a special movie marathon day with your kids or enacting a “quiet time” where children don’t have to nap but they have to rest in their beds and read/look at books for a certain period of time.

Once you have your day figured out and your kids are occupied it’s time to gather your essentials and relax. I always make sure to have extra blankets on hand because I always seem to get cold when I’m sick. I also make sure to have everything in reach I’ll need like tissues, something to drink, and a snack to eat.

You’ll also want to take some medicine to help you feel better. If you are feeling congested talk to your doctor about trying Advil® Cold & Sinus, the #1 pharmacist recommended brand for Cough, Cold and Flu Combinations for Daytime. This over-the-counter medicine combines the relief of a strong decongestant to open your airways with the power of Advil® to relieve the pain commonly associated with sinus pressure. As moms we may not get to take a sick day but we can at least do something to make ourselves feel better while we are sick!

How do you get through a sick day? I’d love for you to share your tips in the comments!

ENTER TO WIN A $25 VISA GIFT CARD

Leave a comment on this post telling me how you get through a sick day for a chance to win a $25 Visa gift card.

Share this post on social media and leave a comment with the link to your social share for an additional entry.

Giveaway ends February 7, 2017 at 11:59pm CST. Must be a US resident 21 or older, with a physical address (no P.O. boxes) to enter. Winner will be notified via email and will have 24 hours to respond to claim the prize.

 

 

Send A Valentine To A Child In The Hospital

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Today I wanted to share about an easy way you can send some love to a child in a hospital. It won’t cost you anything but a few minutes of your time!

This morning I saw a post on Facebook that Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is hoping to collect 10,000 cards to give to patients in their hospital. You can send a free valentine by going to their website here. All you have to do is choose your card design and add a personalized note.

Join me in sending a card that will put a smile on the face of a child that has to spend Valentine’s Day in the hospital.

5 Winter Date Ideas

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

As I shared a few weeks ago in my date night at home post, Sinisa and I do not get out to have date night very often. It seems like ever since we had kids we are lucky if we go on one or two dates a year. We are really working on changing this and have been trying to go on day dates while our boys are at school. Since I work from home and he gets one weekday off a week, it seems to work best for us at the moment. I wanted to share 5 winter date ideas for those of you looking to plan something special for Valentine’s Day or any other day you and your significant other can get away and spend some quality time together.

Go ice skating - Whether you find an outside rink or an indoor one, ice skating is a popular winter activity that could make for a fun date night. Just think about how romantic it would be holding hands as you skate around the rink together. Or that’s the dream at least. I’d probably spend most of the date on my butt since I haven’t ice skated since grade school :)

Go see a play – Movie dates have become the norm lately so shake it up a bit by going to see a live play instead. Whether it’s a community play or a show on Broadway, there are a number of options to pick from.

Volunteer together – Volunteering isn’t the most romantic date but it’s a great way to spend time together. Whether the two of you help at a soup kitchen, nursing home or food pantry, there is nothing better than being able to give back to others and it just may teach you a bit more about the character of the person you are on a date with.

Paint at an art studio - If you or your significant other like to paint check out your local art studio for classes. Many studios offer date night options where you can pay to come and paint and they’ll provide the space and materials needed for you to create something. Check ahead but many allow you to bring snacks and drinks as well!

Go out to eat at a B.Y.O.B Restaurant- What I like about BYOB restaurants is that you can save a great deal on alcohol by bringing your own. (Please drink responsibly and don’t drink and drive.) Sinisa and I recently tried out a Thai restaurant and it was a nice break from the typical restaurants we normally go to.

For our date we chose to bring canned wine with us because it is portable and easily fit into my purse. Unlike bottled wine, with canned wine you don’t have to worry about carrying around fragile wine glasses to drink out of or re-corking the wine. Backpack Wine is packaged in recyclable cans that are ready for any occasion, from the ski slopes to your favorite brunch spot. Their wines are sourced from great vineyards and they offer two varieties of canned wine, Cheek Rose™ and Snappy White™ (rose and white wine).

Backpack Wine offers a unique combo of great-tasting, quality wine in a fresh new way so you can skip the cork and bring the pack! Where would you take your Backpack wine?

Looking for more date ideas? I have a list of 50 here!

Get A Taste of the Mediterranean At Home

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

As a busy mom, I am always on the lookout for easy meals. Typically this means we are stuck with quick pasta dishes and chicken, but I’ve recently discovered a new line that lets me add a little bit of Mediterranean flavor into our menu rotation. Wild Garden’s ‘Taste of the Mediterranean’ line features three all natural ten-minute Marinades and three 90-second heat and serve Pilafs.

The Marinades come in three flavors- Shawarma, Turkish and Persian. I love that all of the spices are mixed together and come in a convenient pouch. Just dump, mix with meat and let sit for 10 minutes and then the meat is ready for the grill, skillet or oven. The meat can then be enjoyed as kebabs, put in pita bread as wrap ingredients or used to top your favorite rice.

The Wild Garden website has some recipes and we loosely followed one for wraps. We used the Shawarma marinade to flavor steak and then put them on flatbread with tomatoes, onions and feta cheese. I topped mine with Tzatziki sauce and Sinisa enjoyed his wraps with hummus. We are looking forward to trying the Turkish marinade to make kebabs, one of Sinisa’s favorite foods.

The pilafs are the perfect dinner starter or side for an entree. They come in three varieties- Rice & Lentil, Bulgur and Couscous. These products are sure to become a family pantry favorite because they are so easy to heat in their pouches. I really loved the rice and lentil one. Not only was the flavor great but I like that it has caramelized onions mixed in.

Do you make Mediterranean dishes at home? Which is your favorite?

Easy Ways To Update Your Bathroom For The Big Game

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MegaGame #CollectiveBias

The big game is just around the corner and I’m so excited! Though my favorite team didn’t make it very far this year, I am still looking forward to watching the game in a couple weeks. It’s great to spend time with family while cheering the teams on throughout the game.

One fun way to celebrate the big game is to have a football watch party with family and friends. If you are hosting at your house I’m sure you’ve started preparing for it already- from buying the party decorations to cleaning. One area of the home that’s often overlooked when it comes to party planning is the bathroom. You probably clean it but do you do anything else?

This month I chose to do a few simple updates to add a bit of football spirit to our guest bathroom. The first, and most important addition, was making sure that we had enough toilet paper and that it was readily available to guests. The only thing worse than running out of toilet paper while you are a guest in someone’s home is not being able to find another roll after you run out. I like to keep toilet paper readily available so my guests aren’t put in that awkward situation!

I found a great deal on Quilted Northern Ultra Soft & Strong® Mega Rolls and Quilted Northern Ultra Plush® Mega Rolls at my local Target. Not only did I get a $5 Target gift card when I purchased two packs but there is also a Cartwheel offer for 10% off as well. I like the Quilted Northern Mega Rolls because they are 4 regular rolls in one which means they last longer so you can change the roll less often during the big game.

To store the extra toilet paper so it was accessible to my guests, I decorated a basket with ribbon and set it out on the bathroom counter. Your house will be full of people celebrating, and you want to keep your guest space perfect and put together. This basket will help you do that! It was easy to make and I’m including the simple instructions for you to put this DIY decorated basket together in just minutes!

Materials:

  • Basket big enough to fit at least a couple rolls of toilet paper
  • 1 or 2 ribbons in your choice of colors – you can choose your team’s colors, brown and green for a generic football theme, or even add a cute football ribbon if you have one
  • Glue dots or another adhesive that will hold the ribbon on the basket
  • Scissors to cut the ribbon

Directions:

Measure your ribbon to ensure it’s the length it needs to be to go around the top of your basket and then cut the ribbon

Put your glue dots or adhesive along the top of your basket, adding one dot/spot of adhesive about every inch

Carefully wrap your ribbon around the top of your basket, making sure that you are putting it on straight.

If you have two ribbons you will want to wrap your second ribbon around the basket under the top ribbon.

See how easy that was?! You can just add your toilet paper into the basket and you are all set. If you are using Quilted Northern Mega Rolls you may find that the spare toilet paper basket isn’t even touched throughout the party because they are fuller rolls which means less roll changes. Nobody wants their guest to experience a bath tissue run out but you can enjoy the game knowing that you are all stocked up on this essential.

A few other ways to decorate the bathroom include adding in a football themed hand towel, some football themed trinkets, and adding football shaped stickers to things like clear candles and the soap dispenser.

How would you update your bathroom for the big game? However you choose to do it, avoid a MEGA party fumble by stocking up on Quilted Northern Mega Rolls at Target (found in the bath tissue aisles) so there’s less roll changes which gives you more time to enjoy the game!

To find more Quilted Northern inspiration, check out the social hub here.

Fun Giveaway For Parents Of Little Football Fans

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

Football season is almost over so I’m trying to squeeze in as much football love on this blog as I can. Today I have an amazing giveaway for parents or grandparents who want to share their passion for football with the special child in their life.

Little fans will enjoy being pushed around in this Game Day Helmet Ride-In Car from Simplay3, a new company by the founder of both Little Tikes and Step2. This push around buggy is ideal for children ages 9 months to 3 years. It’s made of thick, durable plastic and features a sturdy, removable handle that provides smooth maneuvering and allows for easy storage and transport.

What I like most about this ride-in car is that it can be customized to show your team spirit. Helmets can be ordered in your favorite team colors (black, gray, white, red/orange, blue) and feature a football decal. They can also be customized with team decals from your favorite high school, NCAA college or NFL professional team. Even though my favorite team didn’t make the playoffs, I’m still a huge Chicago Bears fan so my favorite custom combo is the blue helmet with the Bears logo.

Parents and grandparents will feel safe knowing this has a seat belt for their child and kids will have fun pretending to steer their little vehicle with the built in football shaped toy steering wheel. There is even a cup holder to store your child’s drink or snack so they can have it within arms length.

Want to win one of these fun helmets for the little one in your life? Just leave a comment with what helmet color and team customization you’d choose! For an extra entry you can share this giveaway on social media and leave a 2nd comment with your link to the share.

Giveaway ends on Super Bowl Sunday – February 5, 2017- at 11:59pm CST.

Rules: Entries will be counted from January 23, 2017 to Super Bowl Sunday, February 5, 2017 at 11:59pm CST. The prize is one Game Day Push About Helmet from Simplay3, valued at $79.99 USD. Prize can’t be exchanged for cash value. Entry open to residents of the contiguous United States who are 18 years of age or older as of the start of this giveaway. Winner will be chosen using random.com and will be emailed. Winner will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. Prize will be sent to the winner directly from the sponsor of this giveaway. Making Time For Mommy, and the author of this post, are not responsible for any lost or delayed prizes. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.

 

 

How Parents Can Help Keep Kids Safe Online

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

I read an article in the New York Times recently that said the average age children get a cell phone nowadays is 10 years old. Because of this, children have access to the internet at a young age and we need to be more vigilant than ever in protecting our kids from the dangers online. I wanted to share a few ways that parents can help keep their kids and tweens safe as they navigate the digital world.

The first step, I believe, is talking with your child before you give them a cell phone. You can create a contract outlining usage rules that your child most follow in order to receive and keep their cell phone. KidGuard provides great tips in creating this contract with your child. You can read the whole article here but these are the things you’ll want to consider discussing with them:

  • Usage - how much, when and where your child can use their cell
  • Privacy – what your child can, and can’t, share with others (including their name, birthday, location, school and anything else that identifies them)
  • Permissions – clarify what you, as the parent, will have access to
  • Data – if your plan isn’t unlimited you will want to outline how much data your child can use
  • Places – what online sites they can go on and what social media your child can use
  • Consequences – what consequences your child will face if they break the contract in any way

My two boys have their own phones that have access to the internet but no calling or texting capabilities. They mainly use their smartphones to play games, watch YouTube videos about gaming and listen to music. They know what YouTubers they are allowed to watch and which ones they can’t, that they are not allowed to talk or message with anyone online in any way (even if they think they are other kids or even friends they know in real life), and that if they hear a bad word in a video or song they have to change it immediately.

As important as teaching our children about digital safety is, it’s not enough to help our kids stay safe online. Parents still need to monitor their child’s internet use and I don’t think just being “aware” of what our children are doing online is enough. My boys are typically by their father or I when using their phones and I have an idea of what they are doing on their phones but I have discovered that even when they are near us we can’t keep an eye on what they are doing 24/7. For example, back in December we were at gymnastics and Jacob was 2 feet away from me using my phone to play a game. I checked the screen frequently during the time he had it while I talked with other moms. After about 15 minutes or so I asked him for my phone back, only to discover numerous emails from the app store about purchases. He had spent almost $180 of my (real) money buying virtual coins for a game. In 15 minutes! Even though I was aware of what he was doing I obviously wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have been.

I also heard a story a few months ago of younger kids watching YouTube videos that were supposedly a popular kids cartoon episode but someone had edited the video with some horrible things and the little kids were watching it without the parents knowing the content of what was in the video. Just goes to show that as much as we think we are watching them, we are going to miss things unless we are looking over their shoulder the entire time that they are online.

It’s reasons like these that I think having something, like KidGuard, to monitor internet use and phone use is so important. KidGuard helps parents keep their child safe on the internet by giving them the tools to monitor their activities on their various devices.

Parents can view their child’s current location and past whereabouts, call history, images on their camera roll, what apps they are using, texts they have received and sent (even the deleted ones!), browser history and social media accounts.

While I used to think monitoring internet use was all an “invasion of privacy” I realized that the dangers online are real and it’s my job as a parent to protect my children from danger, especially when they are too young to realize the consequences of their actions. KidGuard allows you to grant your children the online independence they want by allowing you to monitor and spot any suspicious activity and proactively protect your children from things like cyber bullying, online predators, and other safety concerns.

How do you keep your kids and tweens safe online? Do you have a contract with rules for use or a monitoring service? If you want to try KidGuard, they are offering a free trial of the service.

DIY Colorful Heart Shaped Crayons

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With a long weekend coming up for many, I wanted to share a fun family activity that you can do with your children over the next few days to make the most of the time you have together. What’s great about this craft is that it uses up all those little crayon pieces that you have leftover to form new, fun crayons. After you are done making the crayons you can color pictures and draw with the colorful crayons.

These DIY crayons are easy to make and can be formed into many different shapes. Other than the crayons and your oven, you’ll need a silicone baking mold in the shapes that you want. I bought one with half a dozen hearts for less than $5 at a craft store. You could even use a plain old metal cupcake pan if you prefer to make round disc crayons.

Directions:

(Please note: All tasks relating to the oven/melted crayons are meant for adults to do. Kids can help peel wrappers and break the crayons into pieces and they’ll also really enjoy the end result and coloring with their new crayons!)

  • Heat oven to 200 degrees
  • Peel crayon wrappers off crayons
  • Break crayons into 4-5 pieces each
  • Put crayon pieces in silicone baking molds, filling the molds about halfway. You can mix the colors up for “rainbow” crayons or choose to put shades of like colors together
  • Put the silicone baking mold in the oven for 15-20 minutes, checking every minute or so after the 15 minute mark. My crayons cooked for 19 minutes.
  • Carefully remove your baking mold from the oven, being careful not to spill the melted crayons
  • Let the mold sit on the counter for about 30 minutes or until the melted crayons have somewhat hardened, then put it in the freezer for 30 minutes or so to complete the process
  • Pop the new crayons out from the silicone molds carefully

Once the crayons are ready it’s time for the best part- coloring together! We like to enjoy a snack like Goldfish crackers while we color. The boys like to draw their favorite characters while mommy (who is very Type-A) prefers coloring in the lines of a coloring book.

Looking for another fun activity to do? How about making a stop-motion video? Create your video and enter it in the Goldfish Tales Animation Xperience and you could win $5,000!

What fun activities will your family be doing this weekend?

‘Dinner For Two’ Date Night Gift Basket

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #WonderfulYourWay #CollectiveBias The following content is intended for readers who are 21 or older.

Before we had kids, Sinisa and I would go on dates quite often. We’d go out to eat, go to the movies, and walk around local downtown areas. It was nice to be able to connect during those times. Unfortunately, once we had our first child, our date nights out became almost non-existent. Nowadays we tend to do a lot of date nights in which basically consist of watching a movie on the couch.

With Valentine’s Day coming soon, I wanted to change things up a bit and create a special date night basket. Since Sinisa loves to cook I thought he’d enjoy a gift basket full of goodies that would let us have a date night in where we could cook a special meal together. I’m calling this a “Dinner for two” date night gift basket.

I started by figuring out what type of meal we’d make and decided upon pasta. Maybe it’s the whole Lady & the Tramp spaghetti scene stuck in my head, but I equate pasta with romantic meals. Along with the box of pasta, I put some other items we’d need for our date night in the basket including Valentine’s themed kitchen hand towels, some red cooking utensils, a couple chocolate roses, salt and pepper shakers, candles and a bottle of wine to enjoy with our meal.

We have a few go-to pasta dishes that we make but Sinisa made a really delicious one a couple years ago that I wanted to recreate together. It’s a dish similar to Pasta Carbonara though we don’t add eggs to it like the typical recipe calls for.

For our recipe, I got all the ingredients at Kroger, including Barilla® Pronto® Penne pasta, a product innovation that allows for one-pan meals to be created with no need to wait for water to boil, and no draining required. I like this pasta because it cooks within ten minutes and is perfect for one pot meals.

Ingredients to make dinner for 2:

  • 1/2 box of Barilla Pronto Penne
  • 1/4 cup of bacon pieces
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • 2 cups of (cold) water or broth (we used vegetable broth)
  • 4 ounces of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
  • Seasoning to taste (we used black pepper and garlic powder)
  • A teaspoon of vegetable oil

Directions:

Add the oil to the pan along with the bacon and peas and heat for a minute or so, stirring to mix.

Add the dry pasta.

Pour the cold water (or broth) over the pasta. (Feels strange doesn’t it? Usually you have to put a pot of water on the stovetop and then wait forever for it to boil before you can put your pasta in but this new pasta is “no boil”.) Cover and let cook on medium heat for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the 4 ounces of cream cheese. Then cover and cook for three more minutes to finish cooking the pasta.

At this point the pasta is fully cooked. Can you believe that you have perfectly cooked pasta in just 10 minutes?! Whoever invented this no boil pasta is a genius. I also love that you don’t have to drain it because the majority of the liquid has cooked out. To finish making this pasta dish, add the shredded cheese, season to taste and stir everything together.

I love the combo of cheese and bacon in this dish and the addition of the peas helps me meet my veggie goal for the week lol. This pasta dish is so easy to make and requires little prep which is perfect for date night. You’ll have dinner on the table within 15 minutes and making the whole meal in one pan is great because nobody wants to spend date night stuck in the kitchen washing a sink full of dishes.

What pasta dish would you make on your “dinner for two” date night? Find more “Wonderful Your Way” recipe inspiration here.

 

Easy Lunch Idea For Busy Moms

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #LeanCuisine #CollectiveBias

Now that the holidays are over it’s time to get back to my regular schedule. I spend my days working online, my afternoons and early evenings wearing my “mom” hat and driving the kids to their various activities, and my late evenings doing even more work. In the past I’ve been so busy that I worked right through lunch and that is something that I’ve really been working hard to stop doing. There is no reason that I can’t take thirty minutes out of my day to relax and eat something and it’s taken a conscious effort to take that break every day. (With a blog name like Making Time For Mommy you’d think it would be easier for me, right?!)

If you are as busy as I am, you are probably a fan of quick lunch options. Personally, I tend to gravitate towards frozen meals because they are the easiest to make and I can multitask while they are cooking. I can stick them in the microwave, go throw in a load of laundry and in minutes I have a hot lunch that’s ready to eat.

My favorite frozen meals are Lean Cuisine ones. I love that they have always had such a great variety of meals, whether I’m in the mood for a meat filled dish or craving pasta. They are full of flavor and always taste freshly made. I like that Lean Cuisine offers product options that are non-GMO, gluten-free, and high in protein. Some options are even made with organic ingredients (like the LEAN CUISINE® Marketplace Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese that’s made with organic pasta).

While the Lean Cuisine meals are perfect on their own, I sometimes will make a side dish as well. Some days it’s a salad or fresh fruit, but I also like to make a quick veggie sauté on days I have a bit more time. My zucchini and squash sauté is the perfect side for the Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese.

The best part about this veggie sauté is that it’s super simple and easy to make. I’m not a huge vegetable eater but I’m working on eating more fruits and vegetables and this is a great way to do it. I always make sure to have some zucchini and squash in the fridge because I make this dish at least a couple times a week for lunches and dinners.

Ingredients:

  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed garlic
  • Seasonings to taste (I tend to use pepper, onion powder, season salt and a chicken seasoning mix)

Directions

Slice your zucchini and yellow squash into pieces about 1/2-1 inch thick. (For faster cooking time you can cut the pieces in half lengthwise also to make them smaller.) Add the oil to your pan or pot and let it heat up on the stovetop. Once hot, add your zucchini and squash and then sprinkle on the garlic and seasonings. sauté the vegetables on low to medium heat, stirring often.

Continue cooking your vegetables, stirring every couple minutes, until your zucchini and squash pieces are cooked all the way through. You’ll know they are done when you can easily stick a fork through them.

These vegetables are perfect with the Lean Cuisine white cheddar mac & cheese. The vegetables are savory and a bit crunchy which pair well with the creamy mac & cheese.

My other favorite meal is the LEAN CUISINE® Marketplace Butternut Squash Ravioli that I was excited to discover a few years back. It reminds me of Thanksgiving each time I eat it! When I was at Target this weekend I found that all the Lean Cuisine meals are on sale for only $1.99 (through 1/31) so it’s the perfect time to stock up on them. With their variety of flavorful meals you could try something new every day for weeks.

 What is your favorite lunch to enjoy on busy days?

Afterschoolz Makes Finding Kid’s Activities Easy {$100 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway}

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

It’s no secret that I believe in the importance of extracurricular activities for kids and that my boys are very involved in activities they enjoy. One of the main reasons I started putting them in activities was so they could work on their social skills and I’ve shared before how much growth I’ve seen in them over the past few years. I have no doubt that putting them in activities and sports has been one of the main things that has positively impacted them in that area.

Lucas in particular, who is on the Autism Spectrum and has had language delays, struggled in his younger years with forming friendships. Not only was he unable to communicate, but the majority of the time he was in his own world. I can remember when Luke was on a soccer team for the first time and, as the season went on, I saw him start to try to talk with other kids. All those hours spent practicing and on the sidelines helped him start to bond with other children. From social skills to teamwork to responsibility, after school activities have proven to be beneficial for us.

I’ve been asked before how I find out about activities my kids participate in and, in the past, I’ve shared that I scour the internet for activities. From our school’s website to the community recreation site to local Churches, I hunt down activities I think my children will enjoy. I find a lot of great things but I’ve discovered that it’s so time consuming to do this search every couple of months. Wouldn’t it be great if there was just one site that parents needed to go to in order to discover after school activities for kids?

Thankfully there is a resource like that being developed for all of us in Illinois (don’t worry if you live in another state- they will be expanding to other cities in the future)! The Afterschoolz website already has such a great variety of activities listed and more are being added as new activity providers sign up. Parents can find everything from the typical soccer and art lessons to activities that are a bit more out of the box, like anime club and a class on how to make a candy bouquet. Check out what fun activities are listed in your town here.

Afterschoolz allows parents to not only discover after school activities available in our state, but to view ratings for the activities as well. Considering a certain summer camp but not sure if it’s a good option? Check out how it’s rated on Afterschoolz to see what other parents thought of the camp! Wondering if a specific dance class has good reviews? Check out what other parents have to say on the Afterschoolz website. Find an activity you want to enroll your child in? Some listings let you book lessons or classes right on the Afterschoolz website!

This site is really such a fantastic tool for parents looking to get their children involved in an afterschool activity. Afterschoolz is currently growing and looking to improve their service. To do so, they are asking for feedback from parents who have checked out their website and can offer feedback on what they thought about the site, if they found it easy to use, what they’d like to see added or changed, or really any other feedback parents have about the site. I love when businesses care enough to ask their users for suggestions!

As an incentive to offer feedback, Afterschoolz is offering one Making Time For Mommy reader a $100 Amazon gift card! To enter to win the gift card all you have to do is fill out the form with your thoughts on their website/service and then enter the giveaway via the Rafflecopter form at the end of this post. Comments on the form should be a minimum of three sentences and they want your honest opinion, regardless of what that is.

First, fill this form out with your feedback on the Afterschoolz website.

(Please note that there are two questions on this form so make sure to scroll down. After you answer both questions then submit the form by clicking the blue submit button.)

After you’ve filled out the form, enter the giveaway here:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for reading and entering the giveaway! I’d love to hear about what sports and activities your children enjoy in the comments below!

Sick Day Basket For Kids

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

Getting sick during the winter months is pretty inevitable. Our children especially, stuck in crowded schools with lots of germs, are more likely to get sick during these months than during other months when they spend more time outside. I’ve come to recognize the signs of sickness in my kids and can tell a sick call of “moooommmmmy” from an ordinary request for my presence.

Working from home, I am blessed to not have to make other arrangements on sick days however that also means that my kid’s sick days are pretty ordinary work days for me (with the added responsibilities of taking care of a sick child of course). This year I’ve created a “sick day basket” so I’m ready for any sicknesses that the season brings! I included some essentials along with fun activities to keep my kids busy while I try to get my work done.

Here are the things that are in my sick day basket:

BeKOOOL fever reducing pads- These are amazing! If you are sick of using ice packs that drip or are uncomfortably cold to the touch you need these. BeKOOOL soft gel sheets (featuring your child’s favorite Disney characters) provide immediate cooling relief from fever discomfort. Not only that, but they stick to your child’s forehead so they can get up and move around while the BeKOOOL sheet works for up to 8 hours! The sheets aren’t medicated so they are safe to use with over the counter meds or medication your child’s doctor may have prescribed.

Tissues or Boogie Wipes- If your child has a runny nose you are going to want to make sure you have plenty of tissues on hand. We like to use Boogie Wipes, which are saline wipes made especially for kid’s sensitive noses.

Medicine- Make sure to ask your child’s doctor what type of medicine your child should take and what dosage is right for their age and size. We’ve also found lollipops that soothe the throat which the boys prefer over the taste of cough syrup.

Snacks- The type of snacks you feed your child depends on what they are sick with. If our kids have an upset stomach we stick to light foods like applesauce and crackers. If they are sick with a cold we will often buy a special treat snack to make them feel better.

Thermometer- I just recently got the Kinsa smart thermometer and I’m loving it. Gone are the days where I struggle to hold my kids down to take an accurate temperature because the Kinsa thermometer gets an accurate reading in just one second! This thermometer is great because it has a free smartphone app that not only tracks temperatures taken, but when medications are given and symptoms my kids have. Now when I take my sick kid to the doctor I don’t have to remember every little thing because I have an app to refer to and can answer their questions easily!

Crayons and a coloring book- These two things can keep kids busy for long periods of time. I have a special large pack of crayons in our sick day basket. There’s nothing like a brand new box of crayons :)

Small building set- As kids get older they need more detailed projects to keep their attention. My boys enjoy building LEGO sets so I make sure to keep a small one in the basket. I also like to add other small sets that they usually don’t get to do, like this 3D motokit that is easy to assemble and turns into a toy they can then play with.

Books- Though we have bookshelves full of books, I always like to add a couple new books into the basket. Books on CD are also great because if kids aren’t feeling up to reading they can still enjoy listening to the book.

Bubble bath- As the boys get older they take more showers than baths but, since I know they enjoy baths more, I include bubble bath so they can take a relaxing bath instead of a shower on days they aren’t feeling well.

Game- A card game or board game is a nice way to connect during the day. We have family game night weekly but sick day games mean one on one time with mommy. Here’s a list of some of our favorite games.

Other ideas include mini puzzles, fuzzy socks, stuffed animals, play dough, small craft kits, and a blanket. What would you add to your child’s “sick day” basket?

Ideas To Beat Winter Boredom

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Now that the holiday season is over I’m ready for winter to be done. Anyone else feel that way? Unfortunately, most of us still have two to three months of cold weather ahead so I figured we might as well embrace this cold, snowy season and figure out how to get the most fun out of it that we can. Here are some of my favorite ways that families can beat winter boredom:

Have a family fun night

Our family loves family fun night! We watch a movie and play some of our favorite games. Bonus points if there’s pizza and popcorn involved! Personally, I like to do theme nights that go with the movie or game we are playing. We’ve had an Angry Birds themed night and a FISHtastic movie night before, too!

Play in the snow

From building snowmen and forts to having snowball fights to sledding, there are so many ways to play outside in the pretty white fluff that falls from the sky. If you live near a good skiing or tubing place that would be a fun way to spend the day. We’ve even gone to a playground before and let the boys climb and slide down snow covered slides and they had a blast. Too cold to head outside? Bring the snow inside! Put it in the sink or bathtub, put gloves on the kids and give them sand toys to play in it.

 

Go to a museum or aquarium

During the winter months here in Chicago many of our museums have free days. Residents of the state can get in free certain days in January and February at the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, and the Shedd Aquarium among other places. If you don’t live in the Chicago area check your local museum or aquarium to see if they have deals, too!

Get crafty

When I was a preschool teacher, it was rough when we couldn’t go outside and play. On those days I’d pull out every craft supply I had in my closet and let the kids create all afternoon long. They loved it and I loved seeing all of their creations. Crafting kept them occupied while we were stuck inside. Whether you set out craft supplies and let children create whatever they can imagine, help them make a special craft (like this heart shaped “love you to pieces” one) or get a craft kit, crafting is always fun to do.

Work on a STEM project 

For Christmas my boys got some STEM sets and these cold days give them the chance to pull them out and work on them. You can find sets for every interest, from Bloxels which lets kids create their own video games to circuit sets that let kids explore electricity to building sets like Roominate. I share some other great STEM toys here.

 

Learn a new skill

Winter is a great time to learn a new skill. Jacob recently started learning how to play the guitar but my boys have also taken art lessons and participated in sports camps as well. Ask your child what they’d like to learn, whether an instrument, dancing or an art, and find a place that offers to teach that skill. Don’t have money for lessons or classes? Consider bartering with a friend who may have the skills you are looking for, exchanging a service you can offer (like babysitting, cleaning, or accounting) for classes or lessons from them.

Cook or bake together

Lucas loves helping in the kitchen, whether it’s baking cookies or helping with dinner. It’s fun to get kids involved in the whole cooking process, from the menu planning to the grocery shopping to putting the meal together. These apple pie flavored yogurt parfaits are an easy snack to make together.

 

Find fun indoors at an indoor entertainment center

Our favorite way to beat winter boredom is to head to an indoor entertainment center. In the Chicago area, we love Gizmo’s Fun Factory, the new family fun center in Orland Park, a Southwest Suburb of Chicago. This place has it all including laser tag, zip lines, go-karts, bumper cars and climbing walls. They have 75+ arcade games and redemption-style games as well. Out of all the activities there are to do at Gizmo’s, my boys enjoyed the toyland area the most. Designed for guests under 54 inches tall, their Toyland “Ballocity” area boasts climbing tubes, slides, foam ball launchers, and more. This area is four-stories of fun and my boys loved chasing each other through it and playing hide and seek. They spent the most time in this one area and they were having so much fun that they didn’t want to leave!

While kids play parents can enjoy enjoy an upscale cuisine, craft beers and wine. Gizmo’s Fun Factory is open seven days a week. They even open early on school breaks and holidays. All this fun can be enjoyed at one price with purchase of their wristbands. The Gizmos Basic WristBand allows four hours of unlimited play on everything except Laser Tag and Sky Trail, plus a $5 game card for $22.99 (Monday-Thursday), $27.99 (Friday-Sunday). The Plus Band allows unlimited play on everything, plus a $10 game card for $29.99 (Monday-Thursday), $34.99 (Friday-Sunday). Originally I thought this sounded a bit pricey but when I think about our trips to pay as you go places, I realized I probably spent more than double for just a couple hours of fun at those other places. This money is well spent for four hours of unlimited fun, whether it’s spent raising each other in Go Karts, braving heights as you zoom down the zip line or playing your favorite arcade games.

What does your family do to beat boredom during the winter months?

 

Help Kids Learn Phonics & Spelling With The Wonster Words App

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

We love discovering new smartphone apps for the kids and the best ones, in my opinion, are ones that have a learning aspect to them. I feel like children are more likely to want to learn if learning is fun. Wonster Words, a free iOS and Android app, is definitely one of those games that kids enjoy playing and parents love because they see their kids learning.

In Wonster Words, kids will have a blast playing with animated letters to put together words through interactive spelling puzzles, letter hide-and-seek, and other engaging mini-games. The animated letters sound out the phonics, gliding vowels, and consonant blends as they are being played. Once the words are complete, then short animations and mini-games tells the story of the words via a group of adorable Wonster characters!

You can see the game in action in this video below:

I think this game is a great way to help children learn to sound out words and learn basic word families. Since children learn in a variety of ways, I think the addition of fun clips about the words just reinforce what the children are learning. The fact that the clips are silly and make children laugh is great.

Another thing I like is that the app encourages kids to engage and explore, with no scoring, quizzing, or limits. My youngest, who is on the Autism Spectrum, stresses out when he feels rushed through learning activities so the fact that he can just play without worrying about losing or running out of time is perfect. Though this game is for ages 3-6 typically, I think it’s also an app that’s useful and fun for older children on the Spectrum (or with other special needs) who are still learning to read. Lucas is seven and I saw an online review from someone with a nine year old on the Spectrum saying he enjoyed it as well.

Wonster Words has won numerous awards, including Children’s Technology Review, Parent’s Choice, NAPPA, and others. It comes with many free words, along with free daily “words of the day”. More words are available through in-app purchases (but don’t worry because the purchases are parent-gated so your child can’t make any purchases). The app updates monthly with more words so your child can continue learning and having fun.

Want to try Wonster Words? Download it for free using the following links:

Also, though the app is free, there is a “pro” version available with all the words unlocked. This “all access pass” is discounted on Google Play right now! You can get it for $9.99 until 1/6/2017 (the regular price of the “all access” app is $14.99.)

Learn To Take Beautiful Photos With The Shoot 2017 Year Long Project

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

I’ve really been working hard to improve my photos this past year and I think I’ve come a long way when it comes to photographing stationary objects for my blog posts. Taking pictures of the most important things (aka- my kids) has been a harder task to master. I feel like one of them is always moving or the photos look so forced with their pasted on smiles. I want to take more ‘real’ photos that capture genuine emotions and the smiles that come to their faces naturally.

I’m so excited to share about a photography project I’ll be joining over the next year called Shoot Along 2017 which was created by award-winning photographers, Amy Tripple and Heidi Peters. Designed specifically for parents, it encourages parents to remember to pull out their cameras more often to document the every day moments of life. Weekly photography lessons are sent via email to give structure and accountability to busy parents of ALL photography levels and help parents improve their photography skills.

Shoot Along 2017 membership includes:

  • Photography Instruction: Week-by-week photography lessons delivered by email. Learn new concepts, build on your existing skills, or embrace topics as inspiration to remain technically and creatively open-minded!
  • Inspiring interviews: Respected professional photographers from around the world give a glimpse into their personal images, sharing pictures of their own families. They will describe how they get shots that are meaningful and authentic.
  • Discounts & trends: The Shoot Along leaders keep an eye on what’s happening in the photography community so that you can concentrate on photographing your family. They’ve also arranged exclusive discounts for members throughout the year from suppliers of beautiful photo products.
  • A Supportive Online Community: The Shoot Along Facebook Group is a supportive online community where members connect & share photography throughout the year.
  • BONUS Editing Tutorials*: Step-by-step videos delivered by email each week will show you how to add magic to your images. *Editing uses Photoshop Elements 14, which must be purchased separately

The year long course covers all of these things:

Looking through the images from Shoot Along 2016, I’m inspired by all the parents that have been participating. I see unique angles, unusual crops and tiny details captured in ways I would have never thought of.

This is an example they showed on their site of how much techniques and creativity can dramatically improve your photos. Can you believe that these pictures below were taken just seconds apart with the same camera and same lens?

Here’s what past participants had to say:

  • “Shoot Along had been a tremendous resource for me. I was new when I joined… my boys see to it that I don’t have all that much time to participate, but I’ve taken away so much in the small amount that I have been able to be involved. I’ll definitely be joining again next year!
  • “[Shoot Along] has been an amazing resource for me as a photographer. It has been a great frequent reminder to get out and shootpictures of my own kids, which (as someone who does family photography part-time) I sometimes forget to do!”
  • “The lessons have been a great way to expand my creativity and try new things in my photography style. It’s been fun to see my work progress from what I thought was “pretty good” into something that continues to get better and better. I now have a collection of beautiful photos of my family that I’ll cherish forever!”
  • “The project has allowed me to capture experiences of my family that tells a story of who we are. From looking at lighting differently to seeing my everyday surroundings – these projects have really helped to open up what was definitely a narrow mindset.”
  • “I feel like I have such a better understanding of what goes into making a great image, from the basics of focus and composition to more artistic elements such as framing and color and texture. I will definitely be back!”

Want to join Shoot Along 2017? Now is the time to sign up because it starts January 1st! Typically this year long photo project costs $159, but it is on-sale for $129 through January 1st. Sign up here.

I also get to host a giveaway for Shoot Along 2017 so one lucky Making Time For Mommy reader can participate for free! See the giveaway below. Since this giveaway ends after the lessons start, I’d suggest signing up now so you don’t miss any lessons and then if you win you will be refunded for what you paid.

 

DIY Favorite Memory Ornaments

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

One of my favorite things about the holidays is decorating our home for Christmas. Out of all the decorations that I own, none are more cherished than my personalized ornaments. Most of my personalized family ornaments are “dough” ornaments that I have gotten over the years, from my childhood and through my parenting journey. They all have our names and the year we received them. This year I wanted to try my hand at creating our own personalized ornaments but wanted to add some memories to the ornaments so every year when we pulled them out we would think about fun times we’d had over the years.

I’m loving rustic Christmas decor lately so I thought it would be fun to use round wood pieces to make some favorite memory ornaments for 2016. Originally I was going to get round wood pieces and drill a hole into them to make them into ornaments but I found pre-made wooden ornament packs in the woodworking section of my local craft store which made this DIY craft even easier. If you have a live tree you may even want to cut pieces off the bottom of your Christmas tree trunk (after the holidays) to make this craft. That would really make these ornaments special and personalized!

So other than your wooden circle pieces that have drilled holes towards the top you are going to need pretty ribbon and Sharpie markers. I chose to use the new Sharpie Extreme Permanent Markers because they are fade-resistant. There would be nothing more devastating than creating these special ornaments only to take them out of the decorations box years later to find the ink had faded and you couldn’t read the special memory that you’d written down! These new markers are also specially formulated for wood (along with plastic and glass) so I knew they’d be best for this project.

The first thing I had to do was switch out the twine for some festive ribbon. I got double sided ribbon that was polka dot on one side and striped on the other. I recommend using thin ribbon but if you have thicker ribbon, like I did, you can just roll it to get it through the hole in your wood. One it’s through, tie a knot in the ribbon so that you’ll be able to hang it on your Christmas tree. You’ll want to create one ornament for each person in your immediate family.

The last step is to write on the ornament. Using my green Sharpie Extreme Permanent Marker, I wrote everyone’s name and the year on one side of the ornament. I then asked my family members what their favorite memory from 2016 was and wrote that memory down on the opposite side. If you have younger children you might want to talk about some of the things you did throughout the year so you don’t end up with their favorite memory being what you did the day before because that’s all they can remember doing.

With this year being our first Disney trip I wasn’t surprised that both Jacob and Sinisa listed Disney as their favorite memory. Lucas thought back to one of our summer day trips at a local theme park and decided his favorite memory was when he rode roller coasters there. I had a lot of great memories this year but chose our Mackinac Island vacation, where I showed my family the place I’d loved visiting as a child, as my top memory.

I was so excited to put these ornaments on the tree and know that they are going to bring back wonderful memories every holiday season. I will be making these ornaments every year as our new family tradition.

What memories would you put on your ornaments?

 

50+ Stocking Stuffer Ideas {Something For Everyone!}

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Disclosure: Some items were received for consideration but all thoughts are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

One of the last things “Santa” has to purchase every holiday season is stocking stuffers. “Santa” tries to limit the candy in the stockings and instead stuff it with small necessities and a few fun items. If you are still looking to fill your stockings I wanted to share some ideas of things you can put in them. This list has something for everyone from kids to teens to adults!

1) Nail polish and nail art - Espionage Cosmetics offers a line of cruelty free nail wraps in fun designs like the rose ones pictured above. They are easy to apply, do not require a heat gun, and when mastered it only takes 5 to 10 minutes to apply.

2) Socks

3) Deck of cards

4) Bath toy

5) Mini screwdriver

6) Keychain

7) Hair ties, bows or headbands

8) Gloves 9) Toothbrush – The kids love BrushBuddies! There’s a new Shopkins Brite Beatz one that plays the Shopkins theme song along to synchronized lights. Brite Beatz helps improve oral care making brushing fun for kids. Shopkins theme song will play for the dentist recommended two minutes. Shopkins Brite Beatz has fun characters on the handle and a comfortable grip for kids.

10) Gift card to their favorite restaurant

11) Chewing gum

12) Stickers

13) Small bottle of alcohol (21+)

14) Crayons

15) Body spray 16) Reusable bags – Urban Market bags are stylish, high quality, reusable shopping bags that are eco-friendly and completely washable. These bags are made from a lightweight nylon fabric with strong stitching that makes them extra durable and the ideal reusable tote bags that will last for years. Best of all, they are compact when not in use which make them ideal for stashing in your glove compartment box, your purse or anywhere else you may need to keep it.

17) Hot sauce

18) Makeup brushes

19) Money clip

20) Ornament

21) Gift card to a coffee shop

22) Stuffed animal – Bears for humanity is a great choice because for every stuffed animal purchased, another is given to a child in need. The bears are made using only certified organic materials by at-risk women in welfare-work programs right here in the US. They have a number of animal pals to choose from so you can find the perfect companion for the little one in your life!

23) Lip balm

24) Small notepad

25) Movie tickets

26) Jar candles

27) Comb or small brush

28) Luggage tag 

29) Headphones – Cozy Phones are awesome because not only are they headphones but they keep the head and ears warm at the same time. There are lycra, mesh lines ones for active people and also fun, fleece animal ones for kids.

30) Lotion

31) Coffee beans or K-Cups

32) Handmade soap

33) Things for their hobby- guitar picks, paintbrushes, soccer shin guards, etc

34) Makeup

35) Guides – You can purchase a guidebook that teaches a new language or skill but Deckopedia is cool because it makes guides in deck form. Fun ones include Mixology 101: The Art Of Crafting Cocktails and Natural Beauty Skincare, a collection of homemade beauty recipes.

36) Hand warmers

37) Bubble bath

38) Tie

39) Coffee Cozy

40) Hair gel or spray

41) Small games

42) Bubbles

43) Face masks – 7th Heaven makes a variety of single use masks that are available at Walmart. Their mud masks are enriched with nourishing active ingredients to deep cleanse, leaving skin fresh, clean and glowing. Peel off masks purify skin enabling all the natural goodness to nourish and pamper skin to perfection. Exfoliating masks deep cleanse and polish to remove stubborn surface blackheads and awaken dull skin and renew skin texture.

44) Tiny puzzle

45) Phone case

46) Scalp massager (I got these ones on Amazon for less than a $1 each!)

47) Pens and pencils

48) Selfie stick

49) Coins

50) USB charger – Ezisoul’s multi-port charger is the perfect travel charger because it let’s you charge 5 devices (phones and tablets) at once using only one charger. Engineered with Auto Detect Technology, this USB port charger lets you plug any device, Android and Apple, into any port and the smart charger will get exactly what it needs to charge the device rapidly and effectively.

I’d love to hear any other ideas you have!

Gifts For The Home {Giveaway}

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(Disclosure: Samples were received for consideration but all thoughts are my own. This post contains affiliate links.)

A few years ago I wrote about how one of the top gifts on my Christmas wish list was a stock pot to make soup. I realized at this point that I had matured because I was asking for something practical that I needed for our home. Ever since then I’ve had gifts for our home on every wish list I’ve written. This year my top wishes were a KitchenAid mixer, an Instant Pot and the Nutri Ninja Nutri Bowl DUO along with some photography related items for the blog. I thought I’d put together a list of great gifts you can add to your wish list or that family and friends may like to receive.

Ninja Coffee Bar

Raise your hand if you spend way too much on coffee every week. {Raises hand…} You’ll want to add the Ninja Coffee Bar to your wish list. Get a better than coffee house experience, at home, without pods. This system includes an integrated milk frother and makes 6 brew sizes and 5 brew types – including the Ninja exclusive Café Forte, which amplifies the natural subtle flavors of your favorite coffee. While my Starbucks runs won’t stop, this is the perfect addition to my kitchen so that I can visit the coffee shop less often and save some money as we head into the new year. I’ll be sharing coffee drink recipes on the blog soon!

Buy it on Amazon here.

Honeycomb Speaker

Have someone in your life that loves music? They will enjoy using this new compact, wireless Bluetooth® portable speakers by Honeycomb Sound LLC. The unique honeycomb cell design easily fills a large room or outdoor space with quality sound proving that big sound and deep bass aren’t only produced from the bulky, wired stereo system of the past. I love that this speaker has a long-lasting battery which allows for portability. This speaker also has some great additional features like a USB flash drive input and a power bank function that allows for the charging of mobile phones.

Buy it on Amazon here. 

Switchmate

Smart home tech is all the rage nowadays and these Switchmate light controls are the perfect gift for someone looking to automate their home. It also makes a great gift for someone with mobility issues who has a hard time getting around because they don’t have to get up from the couch or bed to turn the lights on or off. What I love about these are that you get the security and convenience of smart home lighting without the hassle of complicated and sometimes expensive rewiring and installation. Switchmate magnetically attaches to any standard light switch immediately and syncs with the Switchmate companion app which is used to control the switch. There is also a cool “welcome” feature that senses the sync’d phone via Bluetooth and turns on the lights so they come on when you enter the home.

Buy it on Amazon here.

Shark Rocket Complete with DuoClean Technology

Shark’s newest upright vacuum is the perfect gift for anyone who is sick of using a vacuum that doesn’t clean like it should. With it’s dual brushroll system, it easily transitions from floors to carpet, picking up everything from sand and dirt to cheerios. On carpets, the self-cleaning soft velvet brush roll pulls in large particles, while the deep-cleaning bristle brush works at removing embedded fine dirt. On floors, large and small particles, as well as stuck-on dust, are pulled in by the velvet brush roll and then drawn into the high velocity suction channel by the bristle brush roll, leaving nothing but clean floors behind. What I love most about this vacuum is it’s versatility because, not only is it an upright vacuum, it can also be converted into a handheld to clean narrow, hard to reach places.

Buy it on Amazon here. (P.S.- It’s $100 off as of the writing of this post!)

Magic Chef’s Red Portable Ice Maker

If you entertain a lot, this portable ice maker would be perfect for you! The ice maker products up to 27 pounds of ice per day so you don’t need to worry about running out mid-celebration. For any holiday events you are hosting, the red color one would add a pop of color to the party. The ice maker includes a removable ice basket and ice scooper for simple, convenient serving as well as a see-through window to view the ice level at any time.

Buy it on Amazon here.

Philips Wake-up Light

Know somebody who is NOT a morning person? Get them the Phillips Wake-Up Light! This light is clinically proven to provide a more energetic wake-up in the morning. Designed to mimic a sunrise, it slowly gets brighter 30 minutes prior to your desired wake-up time (you can also have relaxing music kick in to help with the wake-up as well). The result is a gentle and refreshing wake-up experience that gradually raises you out of sleep – instead of a jarring alarm clock. What does this mean for your morning? This natural wake-up will leave you feeling more effective and alert – ready to conquer those essential morning tasks.

Buy it on Amazon here.

WellnessMats

Nobody likes doing dishes but at least your feet will be happy when you are standing on one of these WellnessMats. Customized comfort, rich colors, lovely patterns, WellnessMats look good, and feel better. They boost energy, increase circulation, and eliminate foot fatigue. I love that they can be monogrammed and customized so that they fit in perfectly with the decor in your kitchen.

Buy it here.

Nutri Ninja Nutri Bowl DUO

Anyone who loves to create new recipes will be over the moon excited to receive Ninja’s newest appliance that packs a lot of power and versatility into it’s small footprint. This groundbreaking innovation combines Ninja’s powerful Nutrient & Vitamin Extraction—breaking down fruits and vegetables to unlock their full potential– with the all-new Nutrient Fusion that brings fresh, vibrant ingredients together for flavorful, nutritious meals, snacks, and desserts worth savoring. I was amazed to discover how many recipes that can be made in this, from soups to burgers to desserts.

Buy it on Amazon here.

Debbie Meyer CakeCutters

Looking for a cute hostess gift under $20? Debbie Meyer CakeCutters would be perfect! Those who love to entertain will like how easy it is cut and serve the perfect slice of cake every time with these stainless steel cake cutters. The CakeCutters come in V-shape, for round cakes, and U-shape, for square and sheet cakes. 

Buy it on Amazon here.

 

Shark Genius Hard Floor Cleaning System

Anyone with kids or pets will appreciate the new Shark floor cleaning system, with it’s flexible, tailored, all-in-one solution that delivers improved and easier cleaning than before. The new system offers more control to customize the way you clean finished wood and hard floor surfaces, with up to three settings of electronic steam control- from a light dusting to deep cleaning, to steam blasting- cleaning the dirt you can see and sanitizing the floors when and where you need it. The washable steam pocket pad has special technology that locks in more dirt than ever and the new Steam Blaster technology delivers high velocity, targeted steam to eradicate stains. Along with the steam power of this mop, I love that I never have to touch the dirty pad again because it’s easy and mess-free to attach and remove the cleaning pads.

Buy it on Amazon here.

New Pillows

Nothing is worse than sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress or a lumpy pillow. While new pillows might not be the most glamorous gift, giving someone a good night’s sleep is a practical gift that everyone would love to receive! Brentwood Home makes a variety of pillows and other healthy, luxurious home essentials, all handcrafted in California and shipped to your doorstep.

Buy the kid’s pillow here. Here’s a 10% discount code, too! The Code = OURHOME 10% Brentwood Home Coupon

The folks over at Brentwood Home are offering a giveaway of their Kid’s Space Bundle (ARV $190) to Making Time For Mommy readers that includes a kid’s pillow and a lounger, perfect for any kid’s bedroom or playroom. Here’s a little bit about the products in the bundle:

Lounger

  • Made with nontoxic polyurethane and gel memory foam
  • Has a plush, hugging sensation, so your child feels cradled and secure
  • A perfect place for your child’s “me” time, where they can read, snooze, create, and relax

Kids Pillow

  • For the health-conscious parent who wants the most natural night’s sleep for their child
  • Filled with a mixture of silky smooth kapok, plus the texture of all natural latex for extra supportive resilience
  • The 100% organic cotton cover is detailed with a delicate plaid pattern for a playful touch
  • Has a slim/low profile design perfect for children
Enter the giveaway below to win this bundle!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fun Gift Ideas For Kids

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Disclosure: Samples were received for consideration but all thoughts are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

How’s the holiday shopping going? If you still have some children to shop for you are in luck because I’m sharing a bunch of fun gift ideas for kids today!

My Fairy Garden Magical Cottage Playset

Have a child who loves fairies? This fairy garden playset would make the perfect gift! Your child can grow their own magical garden and play with their own fairy, Freya. This set has charming details including moving doors and trickling water.

Buy it on Amazon here.

 

Star Wars Felt Book

From Han Solo to Boba Fett, kids can create these ten adorable Star Wars figures from a galaxy far, far away! The 48-page instruction book has step-by-step directions and color photos to help kids advance from padawan crafter to Jedi felt master. The kit includes everything they will need to make all ten characters, including multiple colors of felt, stuffing, a needle, embroidery floss, and die-cut templates.

Buy it on Amazon here.

Stompeez! Slippers

Kids love these slippers! They can walk, stomp or jump and the slippers pop to life! They are warm and comfy which makes them the perfect gift for all the cold days ahead.

Buy the T-Rex slippers on Amazon here. (There are a variety of other styles as well. Just type “Stompeez” in the search bar.)

Magnutto Junior Make a Mood – Educational Magnetic Activity

Looking for a gift to give a child on the Autism Spectrum? This “make a mood” activity board would be great for them because many children on the Spectrum have a hard time recognizing emotions. The Magnutto™ Make a Mood is designed to help children identify, express, understand and respond to feeling and emotions. Children use thick, foam, low-strength, safe magnets to create facial expressions and represent a variety of emotions and feelings. I love that the box also includes samples questions for role play that will engage children in conversations about emotions.

Buy it here. 

Marvel: The Amazing 1000 Dot-to-Dot Book 

I guarantee your child has never done a dot-to-dot book like this! Their  favorite Marvel superheroes are presented in 20 dot-to-dot puzzles and a 19” x 14” wall poster that are amazing enough to display! More sophisticated than the one-dimensional dot-to-dots you knew as a child, these puzzles take about 30 minutes to complete.

Buy it on Amazon here.

Mermaid Cuddle Tail Blanket

Know someone who dreams of becoming a mermaid? The Cuddle Tail is an adorable, custom printed soft fabric mermaid blanket that is the coziest way to make those dreams a reality! They come in three sizes- toddler, youth and adult so they make a fun gift for every age.

Buy it here. Make sure to check out the special deals they have going on!

iClever Headphones

Headphones are the perfect gift for any music loving kid in your life. We love the ones from iClever because they have fun designs like these Christmas themed ones, cat ear ones and dragon ones. The headphones have kid-safe volume limiting technology to protect little ears. They are designed well with an adjustable head band, comfy ear pads and lightweight materials.

Buy it on Amazon here.

Stomp Rocket Ultra LED

We love the original Stomp Rocket but their new version is even more awesome because it lights up! This 100% kid-powered activity will keep kids busy for hours as they try to launch the rockets as high into the sky as they can. They’ll love trying these at night so they can watch them light up.

Buy it on Amazon here.

MagicMeeMees

If you have a little collector they are going to love MagicMeeMees. These cute little characters interact with one another and show their moods by vibrating and lighting up. There are a number of character toys to collect!

Buy them on Amazon here.

 

Superhero Jacket

How about gifting a practical gift? These Super Hero jackets from fun.com will keep your kids warm while letting them pretend to be their favorite super hero! Heroes featured include Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Batman, Justice League, Thor and Superman. There is even a cool Marvel Comic Print jacket.

Buy them here.

Zoonicorns

Zoonicorns are the perfect gifts to stimulate your child’s mind, sharpen critical thinking skills and discover life lessons through magical adventures. Zoonicorns is a collection of four adorable plush toys, each with their own unique and loveable personality. They make the perfect companions for the fun-loving and highly imaginative child. Soft and snuggly, Zoonicorns will take your youngster on fun adventures as they play on the Zoonicorns new app (available for download). The app further expands the Zoonicorn world through interactive activities which help kids feel better connected to their new best friends, while being entertained and educated.

Buy it on Amazon here.

Thames and Kosmos Magic: Silver Edition

Have a budding magician in your life? If so, they’ll love this Thames and Kosmos magic kit! With high-quality magic props and simple illustrated instructions, the 100 magic tricks in this kit can be easily learned, practiced, and mastered — to stun and amaze audiences! Tricks include making playing cards change places, making coins disappear into thin air and knots that untie themselves! This kit will keep them busy all winter long.

Buy it on Amazon here.

Marvel Universe Crochet Kit

Crafting is even more fun when characters that kids love are involved! The kit contains all the materials they need to crochet Spider-Man and Captain America including yarn, a crochet hook, stuffing, safety eyes, felt, an embroidery needle, and thread. Colorful photos and step-by-step directions in the 76-page instruction book will also guide kids to crafting other characters including Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Falcon, She-Hulk, Daredevil, Groot, and Rocket. These cute and cuddly superheroes will help your child remember that there’s a hero in all of us! There is also a fun Rudolph Christmas set as well!

Buy it on Amazon here.

 

Fuzzy Flyers

Get the kids to drop the tech and get moving with Fuzzy Flyers, the cute interactive plush. These toys come to life with a toss, shake, or tap and provide entertainment with hilarious phrases, challenging games, and social interaction!

Buy it on Amazon here.

Magnetic Stick N Stack Tiles

When I taught preschool, toys like this were the most popular in the classroom. I love this set by Shape Mags because they are just as high quality as some of their competitors but cheaper! Kids will have fun building everything from houses to rockets with this set.

Buy it on Amazon here.

 

So many fun gifts to give. Which would be your child’s favorite?

Gift Ideas For Women

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Disclosure: Samples were received for consideration but all thoughts are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Can you all believe that Christmas is next week?! Today I’m sharing Christmas gift ideas for women. There’s something for everyone on this list, whether you are looking for a gift for your mom or friend. I also won’t tell if you want to go ahead and treat yourself to one of these gifts ;)

Perf Shirts

I’m so in love with this customizable shirt company. With sayings like “work at home mama hustle” and “mornings are for mimosas” you are bound to find a shirt for every woman on your list. The best part? If you don’t see one you want you can create your own! I chose four different sayings from their site and picked the colors and shirt style and they were at my door days later. The shirts are super soft and the printing is done with great quality, especially considering the quick turnaround time.

Buy them here. (They currently have coupon codes posted on their site so make sure to grab one!)

Kiehl’s Hand Salve Trio

Lotion is one of the easiest gifts to give everyone from siblings to teachers. Kiehl’s is known for their quality skin care products and this Ultimate Strength Hand Salve Trio, that is part of their annual limited edition holiday line, is no different. This moisture treatment offers all-day protection to actually draw water from the air, preventing moisture loss. This is also a product you can buy and feel good about because 100% of sales of this collection will benefit Feeding America. Purchasing this set will provide 295 meals to those in need! I love when companies give back like this! There are also a number of other gift sets that give back to charity as well.

Buy Kiehl’s holiday gift sets here.

InstaShiatsu+ Neck and Back Massager with Heat

Not much is better than a massage at the end of a long day (bonus points if it’s accompanied by silence and chocolate). The InstaShiatsu+ Neck and Back Massager with Heat by TruMedic provides the perfect at home massage that women can give themselves. I love that you can control the intensity of the massage using the built-in wrist supports. Just relax or tighten your grip for your perfect massage!

Buy it on Amazon here.

Bullet Shell Swarovski Crystal Stud Earrings

I love the uniqueness of these earrings. Handmade with real bullet casings, they are an edgy new conversation piece that comes in over 20 different colors.

Buy them here.

Back To The Roots Gift Set

This company is helping people grow their own food- no large plot of land necessary! These Back to the Roots gift sets are a wonderful gift idea and let people reconnect with their food and how it’s grown. They can grow herbs in a can or have their own little mushroom farm. This is a great gift for parents who like to do a lot of hands-on-activities with their kids, too!

Buy gift sets here and use the promo code MakingTimeForMommy10 to receive 10% off of the entire Ready to Grow collection through 1/31/17.

BUILT City Carryall Bag

As a mom I love any bag that’s cute and easy to clean and this one, made of durable neoprene (the wetsuit material), meets both of those requirements. Fashion and function collide in this light-weight, ultra-durable tote bag. The City Carryall helps keep daily essentials together. It even folds flat so it can be kept in the car or closet when not in use.

Buy it here.

Thermos Brand Connected Hydration Bottle with Smart Lid 

Know a health nut that’s also a techie? This is the perfect gift for them! This hydration bottle has a smart lid that connects to iPhones/iPads and Fitbits with it’s Bluetooth Smart Wireless Technology. It will calculate your suggested hydration goal based on your personal data, measures the intake of liquids and keeps track of how much water you get over a daily, weekly and monthly time period. Drinking water is so important and I love that this makes it easy to keep track of how much you are getting.

Buy it here.

Rhea Footwear Daphne Black Booties

Can a woman ever have too many boots? Nope! The Daphne Black Bootie by Rhea Footwear is a comfortable, classic boot she’ll wear for years to come. What I love about this brand is that they have special patented NeverSlip™ outsoles that allows their shoes to have more traction on slippery surfaces, ice and snow. These would be perfect for those who work in places that require nonslip soles on shoes or for anyone that just wants to be able to walk to their car and not fall on their butt if they step on an icy patch.

Buy them here.

Empower Cardio Dance Hoop

Exercise won’t seem like work with this cardio dance hoop! It’s the perfect gift for someone who is looking to change up their fitness routine or start one in the new year. Burn as many calories as aerobics or running and have a whole lot more fun with the lightweight Empower Cardio Dance Hoop. Learn the basics-Latin moves and Hip-Hop grooves and more! Start with five Cardio Dance Hoop instructionals and then get your groove on with five workouts. Once you master the routines, keep learning new tricks with additional free online workouts.

Buy it here for $29.99 and use code SkipFree to get a free Skip Fit and free shipping!

Nowvel Photo Books

Looking for that perfect gift for mom or grandma? I’d love to suggest Nowvel photo books! With their specially built software you can create a book in just minutes! Best of all, they offer a FREE 4X4 pocket book to all new users! All you have to do is pay for shipping (or you can share it on Facebook and even get that FREE). You can also choose to make a larger photo book with either a soft or hard cover. I made a photo book with pictures from our Florida trip and love how it turned out! See a photo of my 4X4 book here on Instagram. The small photo book is the perfect size for photos you’ve taken with your phone camera.

Make your book here.

 

Chicago Cubs Sports Apparel

Chicago Cubs fans across the nation are still celebrating the Cubs’ World Series win so Cub’s merchandise is sure to be a big hit when it comes to holiday gifts this year. Clark Street Sports, Chicago’s premier sports apparel retailer, has over 23 locations across Chicago and an online store with the newest and hottest World Series Winners gifts for the ultimate Chicago Cubs fan. My favorite is this women’s 3/4 length tee celebrating the historic win.

Buy this shirt, and other Cubs apparel, here.

Gratitude: A Prayer & Praise Coloring Journal

Coloring books are really hot right now and I love that this one is a combination coloring book and journal. Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal invites you to bring creative journaling and the calming act of coloring into your quiet time with God. This beautifully designed interactive prayer book from Tyndale’s Living Expressions collection helps guide your thoughts as you pray about concerns such as health, overcoming stress, personal relationships, and more. Gratitude gives you a way to celebrate and give thanks to God for the many blessings he provides. Filled with over 100 designs to color, plenty of space for journaling and sketching, and 40 needs-based prayers, Gratitude helps you express your devotion to God with your whole heart!

Buy it here.

What gift will you be giving this holiday season?

Gift Ideas For Tween Boys {Skylanders Giveaway}

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(Disclosure: Samples were received but all thoughts are my own. This post contains affiliate links.)

Christmas is coming and if you have a tween boy on your shopping list you might agree with me when I say they are kind of difficult to shop for! I feel like pre-teen girls are pretty easy to shop for (maybe that’s because I was actually one myself at one time?) but I tended to struggle with boy ideas. With my oldest in the tween stage now I feel a little more confident in knowing what they want so I thought I’d share. (I also want to preface this with a note that girls may like these ideas as well. This is just a list of ideas for boys because I am a “boy” mom and I want to help those looking for ideas. We don’t really stick with gender specific labels on toys at my home.)

Make sure to check out and enter the amazing Skylanders giveaway at the end of this post!

LEGO

Like I said in a recent Huffington post article, you can’t really go wrong with a LEGO set. My boys love any that are Super Hero or Star Wars themed. Generally the boxes have the age ranges on them to help you pick the right one for your child but I’ve found Jake can do ones that are made for children a couple of years older than him. Amazon has the best assortment of LEGO sets including this Star Wars one for ages 8-14 years old that is listed as the #1 new release on Amazon.

The 2016 World Series Film

Being from Chicago, I had to include this DVD! Baseball fans, whether a Cubbies fan or not, will enjoy reliving this moment 108 years in the making! This sports documentary can be found on Amazon here.

Sky Rover Voice Command Missile Launcher

Ready, aim, fire! Kids can fly this toy helicopter and launch “missiles” all by voice command! They’ll enjoy watching as their heli flies in a circular motion in response to their command “enemy scan,” and launches missiles when they say “missile fire”. The helicopter comes with 8 missiles and has a gyro balanced engine for easy and stable flying. This would make the perfect gift for an aspiring pilot or person going into the military. Buy it on Amazon here.

iTunes Gift Card

My boys have been all about music lately. If the boy in your life is all about music then they will love an iTunes gift card to download their favorite songs!

G-Form Youth Apparel For Athletes

Jacob plays multiple sports and I think sports gear always makes a great gift for the young athlete. G-Form’s youth apparel offers specialized products to fit your aspiring athletes. If you have a soccer player, they will appreciate a pair of G-Form’s Pro-S Shin Guards ($44.99).  The Pro-S Shin Guards offer a broader area of coverage than traditional shin guards. They are constructed as part of a sleeve so your sports player will never have to worry about their shin guards falling down. They also have breathable air vents which is perfect for playing during the hot summer months!

Turbo Runner 

Has your tween been asking for a drone? The Turbo Runner is a great option that’s affordable and perfect for kids. Capable of going just about anywhere, the Turbo Runner climbs walls and ceilings with ease. The Turbo Runner is a master of all tricks. Transitioning from flight to running mode, it darts across walls then dashes across ceilings – it even runs down staircases. Mimicking a design that was developed in conjunction with the U.S. Navy for a real-life UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), the Turbo Runner fears no trick thanks to its patented cage, which minimizes any force of impact. Master the trimming controls, and soon you’ll be performing amazing stunts never before possible with a flying RC vehicle. Buy it on Amazon here.

Ball Sports Trivia Book

Any sports fan would love the Ball Sports Trivia book. Whether you’re tweens a football fan, a rugby player, a tennis aficionado, or  baseball player or a soccer enthusiast, they’ll love this fascinating collection of over 250 sport facts. Over 20 sports are covered and they can find out why the number of dimples on a golf ball can make them a better player, how many tennis balls are used each year at Wimbledon and who is the world’s highest-earning ball player (among other things). Buy the book on Amazon here.

Skylanders

The top gift on my boy’s lists for the past few years has been Skylanders,  the toys-to-life video game series that can be played on a number of different video game platforms. There have been new games each year and this year’s Skylanders game is Skylanders Imaginators. In this new Skylanders game, children use the power of their imaginations to create their own Skylanders to battle in the ultimate adventure alongside the almighty Senseis to save Skylands. All characters from the previous Skylanders game are compatible with this new game and of course there are new Skylanders to collect, along with Creation Crystals and Sensei Skylanders that are now available. Skylanders Imaginators can be bought on Amazon. Here are links to the game for specific systems so make sure you buy the one for the system you have :)  XBOX 1, XBOX 360, Wii U

I’m so excited to be giving away one new Sensei Skylander character and one new Creation Crystal, along with a code for your child to create their own Skylander character in the Skylanders Creator App and bring it to life as a 3D printed character. Jake was so excited about creating his own character that he immediately started working on his creation as soon as he found out about it and he will not stop talking about it. The boys have quite a collection of Skylanders but there is nothing quite like having one you’ve created yourself! This will be an awesome gift for any Skylanders lover and these three items are a $75+ value total. (Please note: this giveaway does not include the game. You will still have to purchase the game for the console of your choice.) You must be 18 or older to enter and have a US address to enter. Giveaway ends 12/28 at 11:59pm CST and I will contact the winner via email. Prizes will be received after the holidays.

HOW TO ENTER:

Leave a comment telling me why you want to win.

For an extra entry, share this giveaway on social media and leave the link in a second comment

Which of these gifts do you think the tween in your life would love? Have any other gift ideas? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Games That Make Great Gifts

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(Disclosure: Samples were received but all thoughts are my own. This post contains affiliate links.)

I love the idea of giving a game as a gift because it encourages family time and fun for years to come. I wanted to share some games I think would make great gift ideas. Some of these are for kids and some are for adult game nights :)

For Kids

 

Wethead- Remember Pie Face, the game that was all the rage last Christmas? Wet Head creates similar suspense and fun! Wet Head is an all-new water roulette game. To play you fill the helmet with water, strap yourself in, and give it a spin. Players can play with the included spinner or can download the free Wet Head Challenge app for some tricky trivia questions.

Buy it on Amazon here.

Abundant Harvest for Kids- Abundant Harvest is a one of a kind board game designed to help families and educators open the door to more effective communication and encourage decision making based on principles such as honesty, loyalty and commitment. The intent of the game is to reinforce the Law of the Harvest, basically “you reap what you sow”.  The situations presented in this version of the game are directed towards children who are learning the importance of making decisions based on principle. The scenarios provide parents, caregivers and educators the opportunity to teach children, and allow children to begin to develop and apply principle-based, reasoning skills as they work their way through situations common in today’s world.

Buy it on Amazon here.

TMNT Battlesnap Mutagen Mayhem Game- Looking for that perfect gift that will make your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) fan say “Cowabunga!”? This it it! The TMNT BattleSnap Game is a fun battle game that brings the TMNT heroes and villains to life allowing kids to experience battles in a completely new head-to-head way! They choose their Battle Power (Pizza, Weapons or Mutagen) and their  Game Figure. Then they snap in their Game Figure onto the Battlesnap Card and load it onto the Mayhem Collision Rail before releasing them on a collision course to excitement. The strongest power wins the round and the first player to collect 4 delicious pizza slices wins!

Buy it on Amazon here.

Kerfuddle- The best games are ones that we can play at home or take on the go. Kerfuddle is a fun word game that comes in a small jar so it’s portable. The object of the game is simple; score more points than your opponents by finding words they haven’t found on the 14 Letter Cubes. With the added dimension of the “Shake It Up” cards and the Number Cube, each round is unique. This game is perfect for those just starting to spell but it’s also fun for word game pros.

Buy it here.

Wise Alec Family Trivia Game- This is a great game for families to play together because there are hard questions for the adults and easier questions for kids. The trivia game includes over 1,000 questions from elementary school curriculum including history, science, and spelling. Kids will giggle at parents struggling to remember what they learned all those years ago!

Buy it on Amazon here.

50 Road Trip Games Card Deck- If your family is on the go a lot you will want this card deck that features 50 fun games that can be played in the car or airplane, or even at home! Each card lets you know the rules of the game, and materials, if any, that might be needed, such as a notebook and pen. You’ll find a variety of games for ages 3 and up, including brain games, cherished classics, just for fun cards and pop culture quizzes. This card deck makes a perfect stocking stuffer, too!

Buy it here.

For Teens And/Or Adults

The Agenda Game- Know someone who can’t stop talking about politics? They’ll love this game! To start, players choose one of seven political personas (Conservative, Environmentalist, Liberal, Moralist, Libertarian, Corporatist or Socialist), each with specific agenda “planks.” Players travel around the pitfall-laden road that is American politics – from scandals to buying off politicians to filibusters – where the object is to win over the public in votes and polls and gather enough money to implement the most agenda planks. Along the way there is political humor, trivia to test political knowledge, and scandals to avoid.

Buy it on Amazon here.

Backgammon- Backgammon, a simple game of tactics and chance, was one of my favorite games growing up. This set by GrowUpSmart is beautiful. It comes in a leather briefcase and is a larger set than some I’ve seen on the market. GrowUpSmart’s set is great for beginners because it includes a learners’ instruction manual and access to an online video course that teaches the basics of the game. Unlike many other backgammon games, this game has been tested for compliance with US toy safety standards which I think is great.

Buy it on Amazon here.

KinderPerfect Card Game- This game is basically Cards for Humanity- but for parents! Played in a group,  the “Parent” player will read out a red Question Card and other players will submit their white Answer Cards. The Parent picks the winner they like the best, well, because they said so. The winner then becomes the Parent for the next round and the game is won by accumulating the most Answer Cards. This game would be great played with your mom friends and hopefully will lead to deeper conversations about parenting.

But it on Amazon here.

The Best Gift For People Who Love To Travel

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

One of my favorite things to do is travel. I love going new places with my family and spending quality time with them away from all of the household chores and to-do’s. Though our trips are limited to a few days or a week, I like to keep the memories alive by incorporating bits of my travels in my home. I shared before about some of the travel collections I have, including mugs and magnets, but one thing I always wanted was a giant map to hang and mark our travels on.

I finally found an amazing travel map at 76th & Newbury, an online shop that specializes in custom designs for the home. I love that their maps are made of high quality canvas and can be completely customized. Not only can they be personalized with names, but you can pick the colors of the canvas and the text and choose a quote that’s meaningful to you. Each custom design comes with a proof so you can see what it will look like and request edits if needed. I decided I didn’t like the color combo I had originally requested and asked for an image that was on it to be removed and both requests were done without problem. They want you to LOVE your custom creation!

There are a number of travel quotes I love but in the end I decided to put this one on our map:

I chose to get one of their world maps that I could put pushpins in to mark our travels but they also have some you can put pictures on. I think this is such a cute idea:

Know any newlyweds? How adorable is this personalized map for couples:

76th & Newbury has so many wonderful gift ideas! Do you know someone who would love one of their travel maps this Christmas?

STEM Gift Ideas For Kids And Tweens

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(Disclosure: Samples of these items were received for consideration but all thoughts are my own. Some links are affiliate links.)

Fun toys are great but fun toys that reinforce concepts of STEM subjects are even better! Toys that have a science, technology, engineering and/or math focus have been popular the last couple years and I wanted to share some great gift ideas with you that the kids on your Christmas list are sure to love!

Dash & Dot Robots

What child wouldn’t want their very own robots?! Dash is a real robot, charged and ready to play out of the box. Responding to voice, navigating objects, dancing, and singing, Dash is the robot your child always dreamed of having. They can use Wonder, Blockly, and other apps to create new behaviors for Dash — doing more with robotics than ever possible. Dot is Dash’s companion and a brainy little robot on its own. Dot comes with several games built in, such as Magic Dot Ball, Dot of Music, and Light Sword. Using free apps Wonder and Blockly, you get to make over a hundred more games with instructions in the apps.

For children grades KG and up. The Dash & Dot pack is currently on sale for $169.95 with promo code DASHDOT (Save $30) until 12/31! Each can be bought separately as well, with Dash costing about $150 and Dot costing about $50. Purchase them here.

 

Scratch Programming Playground 

For children interested in coding, there is a great new book out called Scratch Programming Playground. Scratch, the colorful drag-and-drop programming language, is used by millions of first-time learners, and in Scratch Programming Playground, kids will learn to program by making cool games. Each game includes easy-to-follow instructions, review questions, and creative coding challenges so kids can make the game their own. They can even add more levels or add cheat codes by writing some code. Learning how to program will be a game with this book!

Kids will learn to make games like:

  • Maze Runner: escape the maze!
  • Snaaaaaake: gobble apples and avoid your own tail
  • Asteroid Breaker: smash space rocks
  • Fruit Slicer: a Fruit Ninja clone
  • Brick Breaker: a remake of Breakout, the brick-breaking classic
  • Platformer: a game inspired by Super Mario Bros.

Scratch is geared for ages 8+ but I think that children ages 6 and 7 would enjoy doing this with a parent. Buy the book on Amazon here. Today the book is $10 off so go buy it! :)

Roominate

There has been a big push lately to get girls interested in STEM subjects to bridge the gender gap in STEM. Roominate is an award-winning line of complete building sets that was started with one simple mission: open up possibilities for girls by showing them that creativity and engineering are fun. While this set was created for girls, some boys may like it as well (like my youngest son who was so excited to receive a set). What I like about the Roominate line is that creations can be built as shown or children can use their imaginations to “think it, build it and switch it on” and create their dream project. The Roominate line has unique building pieces with motor power and even comes with play-friendly dolls.

Roominate is for ages 8+. Sets vary in price from about $20 to $50 and are available at Toys “R” Us, Walmart, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Find the one featured above on Amazon here (most sets are on sale as of the writing of this post).

The Future Architect’s Handbook

Have a child or teen who seems to be really interested in architecture? Children with dreams of designing buildings will discover how architects actually work in this workbook, which builds on the concepts introduced in The Future Architect’s Handbook. It walks readers through the drawings created by Aaron, a young architect building his own home. Going a step further, children will learn the steps necessary to create their own drawings and build a model of their design, using an included tool kit consisting of graph paper and an architect’s scale, pencil, and drafting eraser. Finally, readers are challenged to design homes for an eclectic group of clients. Freehand pen-and-ink drawings bring the instructions to life. This book is the perfect introduction to what an architect does at work and why buildings look and function as they do.

This set is ideal for ages 8–13, but creative teens and adults will also find it inspiring. This hardcover book and set is $29.99 and can be found on Amazon here.

Puzzlets

Have a younger child you want to introduce coding to? Puzzlets would be perfect! Puzzlets combines hands-on play with interactive gaming to form one seamless experience, engaging the mind and teaching the player new ways of thinking. The Starter Pack comes with everything you need and setup is simple. Puzzlets connects wirelessly to a personal device like an iPad or Android tablet or to a Mac computer through the included USB cable. What I like about Puzzlets is that it’s not just a series of interactive video games, it’s a toy as well. Only half of any game for Puzzlets is played on a screen; the other half is played by arranging and rearranging the Puzzlets Tiles on the Play Tray. Because there are these two modes of play in each Puzzlets game, it makes working toward a common goal with a friend, parent, or teacher a natural way to experience the game collaboratively.

Puzzlets is great for grades K-2 but I think children a little older would enjoy it as well (especially if they are coding newbies). The starter pack can be found on Amazon for $99.99 here.

Have you found any great STEM gifts for your kids or tweens? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

A Magical Evening To Start The Holiday Season

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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by BMO Harris Bank but all thoughts are my own. I got to attend the event to see what it’s like to be at Lights Fest as a BMO customer.

I shared a couple weeks ago about one of our favorite winter Chicago events, the BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Lights Festival. My family had a chance to attend this year’s parade, as guests of BMO Harris Bank, and had some of the best seats in the house!

We sat in the Grandstand which was right behind the performances. My favorite performances were Drew Lachey and Blue Man Group. The boys enjoyed the groups that came out and performed songs.

They also loved all of the balloons that were in the parade. We had never been that close to them all but they are huge! I never realized how many people it took to hold on to them. Most of the people walking along the parade route were handing out goodies which the boys enjoyed receiving. Thankfully BMO Harris Bank gave use some things as well like hand warmers and blankets because it was cold out there!

The parade featured floats with performers, some of our favorite Chicago sports mascots, Luke’s favorite Toy Story characters and Mickey & Minnie Mouse.

Of course, Santa was there, too!

It was such a magical way to start the Christmas season! Thanks again to BMO Harris Bank for inviting my family to this fun event.

5 Subscription Boxes That Make Great Gifts

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Disclosure: Some samples were received but all thoughts are my own.

Subscription boxes are all the rage nowadays. From snacks to makeup to pet products to crafts to candles, there is a subscription box out there for everyone on your list. I thought I’d share some of my favorites that would make great gifts for those hard to shop for people!

SnackNation- A snack box subscription perfect for college students and families

Previously a subscription service only for offices, SnackNation just launched their service to homes nationwide. They are a healthy snack delivery service that curates new, innovative snacks from emerging brands and delivers them all in a monthly subscription box. Each box contains 15 full-size, healthy snacks to try. Each product contains no artificial anything, including colors, sweeteners & flavors. They offer a variety of box choices including a favorites box with their top picks and a gluten-free box. In my box, my favorite snacks were barkTHINS snacking chocolate in dark chocolate almond with sea salt flavor, basil and garlic olives from OLOVES and sweet Maui onion flavored potato chips from Deep River Snacks. SnackNation also donates a meal to Feeding America for every box purchased (which I love).

The monthly cost is $24.99 but you can get your first box FREE (just pay S&H). Learn more and subscribe here.

 

Vellabox- A curated candle subscription box

Know a person who loves candles? Vellabox is a curated candle subscription box that sources the highest quality candles hand-poured by American artisans and combines them with a bonus lifestyle gift and a unique packaging style to create a memorable unboxing experience each and every month. My sample box contained a candle from Glint Candles in ‘Firewood Spice & smoke’ scent and one from Often Wander in ‘Amber Vanilla’ scent along with two snack bars and a coupon for a free organic drink. The box also includes a card with more about the brands and the U.S. cities they were made in.

Vellabox offers 3 monthly subscription options, ranging from $10 to $30 a month. Learn more and subscribe here.

Kiwi Crate- A hands on learning subscription box for children and tweens

Kiwi Crate offers a STEAM subscription box service that is perfect for children and tweens. They offer four different boxes: Koala Crate (play and learn activities for ages 3-4), Kiwi Crate (science and art activities for children ages 5-8), Doodle Crate (art and design activities for children ages 9 and up) and Tinker Crate (science and engineering activities for ages 9 and up). New crates are sent monthly and each box will arrive with the materials and instructions for hours of hands-on fun so kids can learn crucial STEAM skills as they create and tinker!

All boxes are $19.95/month. Learn more and subscribe here.

 

Mantry- A food subscription box for men

Mantry is a subscription box that features hand-selected products from the top American food makers. Every two months six full-size products are delivered in a nice crate. Each box is curated around a unique theme, like “Bacon Nation” or “Bourbon BBQ”.

Mantry offers 3 different length subscriptions with one month costing $59 (which is about $8/product when you figure in shipping). Learn more and subscribe here.

Play! by Sephora- A beauty subscription box

The Play! by Sephora subscription box brings you the best of the best products. Each box contains five deluxe sized samples plus a fragrance bonus. Each month subscribers also get a cute, reusable bag that goes along with the box’s theme. What I like about this subscription box is that it’s great for pros and newbies alike because it gives tips and ideas for using each product.

Play! by Sephora is only $10 a month. There is usually a waiting list to get the box but I was only waiting for a couple weeks for spots to open up. Learn more and subscribe here.

Have you ever gifted a subscription box before? I’d love to hear which ones are your favorite to give (and receive).

Enter To Win 1 Of 30 Litter-Robots And Other Amazing Prizes For Your Cat

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Disclosure: I received a Litter-Robot in exchange for sharing about this promotion.

I am so excited to share that I’ve partnered with Litter-Robot to promote their 25 Days of Christmas giveaway. They are giving away AMAZING prizes, including 30 Litter-Robot Open Air units.

What’s the Litter-Robot Open Air you ask? Well only the best litter box ever! I have been using one for about a month and I’m wondering how I ever lived without it. Previously, cleaning the litter box was my least favorite chore but this Litter-Robot makes life as a cat mom so easy because it cleans the litter box for me.

This automatic self-cleaning litter box has a patented sifting system that automatically separates waste from clean litter, so you never have to scoop litter again and your house always stays smelling fresh! It senses when my cats have soiled the litter and exited the unit and then it rotates automatically to separate the dirty litter from the clean litter. All I have to do is collect the dirty litter that has been deposited in the bottom drawer when the notification light is on, which is about once a week with my two cats.

Watch the video below to see exactly how it works:

Features of the Litter-Robot Open Air (ARV $449) include:

 

  • Self-cleans after each use
  • Reduces litter box odor
  • Saves money on litter
  • No special accessories needed
  • Great for multiple cats
  • Safe for cats as light as 5lbs
  • Extra spacious litter chamber
  • Enlarged entryway
  • Drawer full indication
  • Adjustable cycle timer
  • Sleep mode & lock out feature
  • Automatic night light

Along with the chance to win 1 of 30 Litter-Robot Open Air units, the other items that are being given away are:

You can enter daily through Christmas for a chance to win a great prize package.

ENTER HERE!

 

 

Cucumber Bites Christmas Tree Appetizer Tray

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #HolidayEntertaining #YogurtInspiration #CollectiveBias

One of my favorite ways to celebrate the Christmas holiday is to have my family over to spend time together. Christmas Eve is our big celebration at my house and I always have a table full of appetizers. I don’t just do parties a little bit. I go all out and make as many appetizers as I can. We then enjoy the leftovers as we lounge around on Christmas Day (because nobody really feels like cooking after all the work of the holidays has ended in ten minutes of unwrapping frenzy).

If you do any entertaining over the holidays you’ll want to make this fun Christmas tree shaped appetizer. I love cucumber bites but I decided to change them up a bit after having a gyro for lunch one day and wanted to make the topping for them taste somewhat like the tzatziki sauce I love. To do so, I added dill and feta cheese in to try to recreate the flavor. You could always add in some ranch mix instead of the dill and feta cheese if you’d rather.

Since I was making this recipe for the first time it was a bit of trial and error trying to get the thickness right. The texture of the creamy mixture on top should be similar to the texture of frosting. You don’t want it to be thin and runny. I think I nailed it after making a couple of adjustments.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of Dannon All Natural Plain Yogurt
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of feta cheese
  • 4 sprigs of dill
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 4 cucumbers
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
  • Brick of cheese (optional for star on tree)
  • Crackers (optional for trunk of tree)

To start you will want to add your yogurt, cream cheese, feta cheese, dill, garlic and lemon juice into the cup of your food processor and blend until you have a thick, creamy consistency.

Once you have your topping you’ll want to cut your cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. Before cutting your cucumbers you can use a vegetable peel to take the skin off or you can leave it on. Cucumbers should be sliced about an inch thick and cherry tomatoes should be cut in half. Set aside the tomatoes and place the cucumber slices on your tray to look like a Christmas tree. You may need more than one platter if you have smaller sized trays.

To top the cucumbers I put the cream filling in a frosting decorator tube with a frosting tip but a piping bag works just as well. If you don’t have either of those you can always use a plastic sandwich sized bag and just cut one of the corners off to squeeze the topping through. I liked how fancy they looked with the special tip and I wanted to get some use out of the frosting decorator that I had discovered as I was cleaning out my pantry this week.

Once the cream mixture is on the cucumbers you’ll want to top each one with a piece of tomato.

The last step is to add the “trunk” of the tree and the star. Both are optional but I thought they really made things look festive. To make the trunk of the tree I stacked crackers on the tray and for the star I used a cookie cutter to cut a star out of a brick of cheese.

I love how my Christmas “tree” turned out and I know my guests will love eating these appetizer bites.

As I shared a couple weeks ago, I love using Dannon All Natural Plain Yogurt in my recipes because it’s made with only natural ingredients. While it can be enjoyed on it’s own, I often use it as a cooking substitute in recipes. Many recipes for these cucumber bites use other ingredients like sour cream or mayo but I chose to make mine with yogurt to make it a bit healthier. Yogurt is also a great base for any dips you may be making this holiday season!

 

You can find Dannon brand yogurt at your local Meijer store.

Will you be entertaining in your home over the next few weeks? If so, what kind of appetizers do you set out for your guests?

The Gift Of Writing

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Thanks to CROSS pens for sponsoring this #LongStoryShort post.

For as long as I can remember I have loved to write and it’s something that’s come out in various ways as I have grown. In grade school one of my favorite assignments was to create a homemade book, and I spent hours perfecting my story line and illustrations. When I was in Junior High I wrote the story of my sister’s preemie birth to document that day and share about my experience during her NICU stay and beyond. Throughout the years I have had dozens of book ideas in my head and have half written manuscripts tucked away in my home. As an adult I started a blog to express myself after giving birth to my first born child.

This blog, Making Time For Mommy, started as a hobby for me. I wanted to write about my dreams and goals and how I made time for myself, even if nobody ever read it. I realized that I could connect with other moms through it and started writing to them and sharing my posts on social media.

Eventually I discovered that this hobby of mine was turning into a business. Though I still wrote for myself and for my readers, I was able to start making a bit of money to help contribute to our family (which, with the addition of my youngest, had become a family of four). At that time, even a tiny bit of income helped greatly and brought us from poverty level into what is considered the lower middle class. It also allowed Sinisa to cut down his work hours by only having to work one job instead of two.

When my blog led to a full-time job online we became a two-earner family and I quickly became the breadwinner in our home. Me. This mom, who had never finished college, was able to make an income from home while raising two children and it was all because of my writing “hobby”.  I now blog full-time and feel so blessed to be able to do something I absolutely love every day.

Do you know a budding writer? Give them the gift of writing and encourage them to follow their dreams- whether it’s writing the novel that’s in their head or turning writing into a career like I did. A fabulous gift for them this holiday season (or really any time) would be a beautiful pen by CROSS. CROSS pens are luxury fine writing instruments that symbolize achievement, accomplishments, and human potential. The pens can be engraved with the word or saying of your choice. I chose to get mine engraved with “MOM BOSS” to celebrate my blogging business but the options are endless!

What writer in your life would love the chance to express their dreams with one of these amazing pens?

35 Random Acts Of Kindness Your Family Can Do This Holiday Season

Random Acts Of Kindness

The past few days we’ve all been focused on buying. From Christmas decor to Christmas gifts, there has been so much stuff that we “needed”. (Was I the only one who caved and bought the Instant Pot because everyone in their Facebook thread was raving about it?!)

Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over we’ve come to Giving Tuesday. A day to give back, do something nice for others and give to our favorite charities. I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about five charities we support over the holidays and if you search #GivingTuesday on social media today I’m sure you will find dozens more you can donate to.

Giving money is great and I hope that you will all make a donation to a favorite charity, but I also wanted to share 35 ways that you can get your kids involved in doing random acts of kindness. Let’s all pick one to do today and brighten up someone’s day!

1) Leave a kind note in an unexpected place (like the fitting room of a store or a book in the library)

2) Hold the door open for someone

3) Buy a dozen flowers and pass them out to people

4) Rake a neighbor’s leaves

5) Leave something special in your mailbox for the person who delivers your mail

6) Bake someone cookies “just because”

7) Offer to help someone with their grocery bags

8) Send a note to a loved one telling them what you love about them

9) Buy the coffee/meal for the person behind you in the drive-thru

10) Have your kids make cards and then bring them to a nursing home

11) Smile at someone who seems overwhelmed and ask if they need help

12) Pay for someone else’s gas when you are at the gas station

13) Leave a couple dollars in the Redbox movie container when you return it

14) Send a gift card to someone anonymously via email (Even a $5 gift card can brighten a day!)

15) Leave a small gift on your neighbor’s porch and then ding dong ditch

16) Offer to babysit a friend’s kids- for free- so they can have a date night or go to the store solo

17) Bring some blankets, hats and gloves to a homeless shelter

18) Leave an extra large tip for the server when you go out to eat

19) Put change in the salvation army bucket

20) Offer to return a cart for someone after they load groceries into their car

21) Leave pennies on the ground (heads up!) for kids to find

22) Let someone in front of you when you are sitting in traffic

23) Shovel your neighbor’s driveway

24) Give up your seat for someone

25) Drop off food at a food pantry

26) Pay for someone else’s groceries

27) Give a genuine compliment to a stranger

28) Visit a nursing home

29) Pay the toll for the person behind you

30) Buy extra cat food or dog food and drop it off at an animal shelter

31) Say thank you to the folks you come into contact with as you are out and about

32) Volunteer your time

33) Gather items you don’t need any more and drop them off at Goodwill

34) When you receive great customer service ask to speak to a manager and let them know

35) Let someone go in front of you in line

What ideas do you have? I’d love to hear about Random Acts Of Kindness that your family has done!

A Healthier Lunch {Found In The Freezer}

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MyWayToVeg #CollectiveBias

I’ve recently written about my journey to get healthier, from exercising more to drinking more water to making better food choices. I’m working on becoming a healthier version of myself. One thing that I’ve been trying to do is making sure that I eat lunch every day. I used to skip lunch because I was so busy working but I’ve been making a conscious effort to stop and take a moment for myself to eat.

My days may be busy but I’ve found healthier options available at my local Jewel grocery store- MorningStar Farms® Veggie Bowls.

Found in the freezer section, they are a convenient option for lunch because they are easy to heat and eat as-is when I’m in a hurry, which is pretty much every day during this holiday season! I like to take a bit of time out of my day to enjoy a nice hot meal and just sit and relax. Being able to get my veggies in while doing so- nothing is better than that!

These Veggie Bowls are not only for vegetarians—they are for anyone who wants a quick meal with lots of flavor. Their CHIK’N POT PIE Veggie Bowls are filled with 100% vegan chik’n strips and lots of vegetables. They even come with a biscuit! I also liked the Italian Sausage Bake Veggie Bowl, made with Veggie Sausage Crumbles™, that I tried.

To make lunches even better I decorated a special lunch tray for myself. I’m including instructions in case you want to put one together for yourself!

Materials needed:

  • Unfinished wooden tray
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Stickers (I used foil stickers)

To make:

Paint your wooden tray in any color you’d like. I kept it simple by painting it white.

Once you let the tray dry (I let mine dry overnight) it’s time to decorate it.

I used beautiful gold foil stickers to add some shine to the corners of my tray.

Do you take a break from your busy day to enjoy a hot lunch? If so, have you tried these new Veggie Bowls?

7 Ways To Celebrate The Reason For The Season

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Disclosure: Some product samples were received for inclusion and this post includes affiliate links.

The Christmas season is the most hectic season of the year. From buying gifts, to going to holiday parties, to holiday baking, it’s so easy to get caught up in the “doing” that we forget why we are doing everything in the first place. Throughout all the busyness of the season I want to remind my family of why we are doing everything we are doing so I wanted to share a number of ways your family can celebrate Advent and focus on Jesus.

1) Serve others. It’s important to remember this is a season of giving more than it is a season of getting. Here is a list of 50 ways to give back this Christmas season.

2) Turn on some Christmas music that focuses on Jesus’ birth and sing along. My favorites are:

3) Do an Advent devotional with your family. For those with young children, we love Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands ebook that includes 24 days of Scripture reading, ornament crafts, talking points and extension activities, plus fun printables and templates. For adults and families with older children I love Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas. She is such a beautiful writer! 

4) Throw Jesus a birthday party. We all attend a lot of Christmas parties but how about having a party for Jesus? We loved doing this with our kids to take the focus of Christmas Day off presents and remind us of the reason we are celebrating Christmas. Here are 10 ideas for the birthday party!

5) Make a CHRISTmas craft. From homemade nativities to angel crafts, I share ten of my favorite crafts that put Christ back in Christmas here.

6) Read about Jesus birth. During your Bible reading time, read about the birth of Jesus. Young children may also enjoy the beautiful pop-up version of The Christmas Story by Robert Sabuda.

7) Play a game that helps children learn and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. “The Christmas Star From Afar” is a game that can be used for Advent or a Christ focused alternative to the Elf. The set encourages children to go on a hunt for their Star, similar to that of the Wise Men. Everyday the Star is hidden and the children participate in a fun hide-and-seek game to locate it. Once they have found their Star they move all Three Wise Men to its location. On Christmas morning the Three Wise Men reach their final destination when the Star is found at the stable with the newborn baby Jesus.

The activity book includes a wooden Star, a full wooden nativity scene that matches the artwork of the book, and optional scripture to use throughout the month. Help your children reconnect with the true meaning of Christmas by purchasing a set for your family here. Use the code ‘FOLLOWTHESTAR’ for 10% off of the set. You can also enter to win “The Christmas Star From Afar” using the form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

10 Gift Ideas For Creative Kids

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Disclosure: Products were sent for consideration but all thoughts are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Black Friday is here and everyone is in the shopping mood- including me! I have been online all morning shopping for gifts. I have a lot of great gift ideas I’ll be sharing over the next couple of weeks but today I wanted to share ten gifts that are perfect for the creative boys and girls in your life.

Crayola Air Marker Sprayer: This electric-powered toy turns Crayola markers into spray art, just like a real artist’s airbrush but without the mess of paint.  Kids can create realistic-looking airbrush art for craft projects, school projects, windows and more. Air Marker Sprayer features an electric pump which eliminates manual pumping so kids can solely focus on their artistic creations.  For children ages 8 and up; suggested retail price is $29.99.

Our thoughts: Another great Crayola product. It’s a unique way to use markers and the airbrushing looks cool!

Get it on Amazon here.

IDO3D Vertical: 3D drawing pens have been introduced as the newest way to create remarkable artwork, especially for kids. IDO3D Vertical makes 3D drawing accessible for all families with sets starting at only $9.99. Unlike many other pens in ever-growing market, the IDO3D Vertical technology uses no heat or plastic filament and the pens are designed to use cool ink that reacts instantly to the built in LED light, allowing users to draw up over and in 3D!

Our thoughts: Everything is cooler in 3D! This was the top crafty item on Jacob’s list this year!

Get it on Amazon here.

Fright Factory™: Kids can make scary 3D creations with Fright Factory™! Use the special light curing EwwGoo™ gel to fill creepy molds and then flash them with the eerie light from the Fright Factory Creature Creator. Kids can create insects, reptiles, rats, bats and more! Fright Factory™ uses ultra-safe LED light to develop the creations. Gels are quick curing, non-toxic and kid friendly. MSRP: $24.99 Age: 6+

Our thoughts: My boys are excited to create their own bugs :)

Get it on Amazon here.

Pom Pom Wow!: Pom Pom your world! Create custom pom-poms with the Decoration Station. Choose from the six different techniques to decorate your very own pom poms. The set folds up for easy mess-free transportation. The Decoration Station comes with 1 portable play set, 75 pom poms in 4 colors, 85 adhesive dots, 8 removable pom pom trays, 1 removable water tray, 1 adhesive roll dispenser, 2 markers, 1 blotting cloth, 1 paintbrush, 1 pipette, 4 stamper pads, 4 watercolors, and 1 glitter gel pen.

Our thoughts: This was a hit with kids at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair! They’re easy to use and you can decorate just about anything with them.

Get it on Amazon here.

Pete the Cat- I Can Draw: Kids will enjoy following the easy step-by-step diagrams to re-create Pete and their favorite stories. This 160-page activity book is packed with everything from the world of Pete the Cat that aspiring artists will want to draw and will be a hit with young fans and budding artists.

Our thoughts: We love step-by-step drawing books, especially when they are fun characters like Pete the Cat!

Get it on Amazon here.

Magic Sketch: Magic Sketch is a fun new way for your kids to draw, play, and learn!  The flexible, LCD screen is transparent, allowing kids to trace with the provided stencils or from their own images! With Magic Sketch your kids can create all kinds of amazing art and, unlike most tablets, the Magic Sketch is super kid proof!  They can drop it, toss it, even step on it — it won’t break!  It’s completely water resistant, so if they have a spill, just wipe it off and keep going!  With the advanced internal electronics, you can clear the screen with just the push of a button! Magic Sketch retails for $29.95.

Our thoughts: Magic Sketch is great because it can be used again and again. It’s perfect for traveling, too!

Get it on Amazon here.

PBS KIDS Do It Myself Cookbook: This cookbook by Laurie Goldrich Wolf features fully-illustrated ingredients, tools, and steps so that children as young as 4 years old can make dishes completely on their own! This exciting cookbook kit includes a 128-page wire-bound cookbook, 45 simple, tasty “nothing sharp, nothing hot” recipes, step-by-step illustrations and a set of measuring cups and spoons.

Our thoughts: This cookbook is perfect for the little aspiring chef in your home.

Get it on Amazon here.

Gemmies™: Gemmies are the next evolution of the popular 3D beading craft. Following a simple process, kids clip Gemmies crystals to elastic rings then join completed rings to create a 3D sparkling creation! Design templates are intuitive and use a repetitive pattern that lets kids develop their cognitive abilities and progress to designing their own creations. Kids can make anything out of Gemmies crystals. starting series include animals, flowers and more! Store all your Gemmies crystals and accessories in the Gemmies Design Studio and display your favorite creation on the light up pedestal. MSRP: $24.99 Age: 6+

Our thoughts: This is such a great open ended crafting activity where kids can really use their creativity to make their own creations. They are all so pretty, too!

Get it on Amazon here.

The Official DC Super Hero Cookbook- Deluxe Edition: This cookbook by Matthew Mead comes complete with 60+ simple, tasty recipes as well as 3 cookie cutters (a bat, a lightning bolt, and a shield), logo stencils and character cut-outs for awesome food styling.  More than sixty tasty, simple recipes are inspired by DC’s beloved characters including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman, and many others! From the Up, Up and Away Parfait to Green Arrow Fruit Kebobs to Holy Guacamole and the Martian Manhunter Malted, the colorfully presented recipes are fun to prepare and to eat. Step-by-step instructions are easy to follow and fans of all ages will enjoy flipping through finish photos featuring classic DC comics art and action figures. An extensive super hero party section offers dozens of drinks, snacks, and desserts as well as cool, clever serving suggestions.

Our thoughts: This is a must for every super hero fan! Imagine how excited they will be to help make “super” fun treats in the kitchen.

Get it on Amazon here.

 

Crayola Emoji Maker: Drawing inspiration from the growing popularity of emojis, kids can experiment with Crayola colors to make 16 custom color emoji stampers and share their unique emoji messages with friends.  Using the included design labels, kids can also create custom color names for their stampers as well as customize the boxes to their liking (each kit allows for 2 packs) . For children ages 6 and up; suggested retail price is $19.99.

Our thoughts: With the popularity of Emojis this is a great gift idea for older children!

Get it on Amazon here.

 

Have you found any great gift ideas for creative kids? I’d love to hear about them!

Our Family Christmas Pictures

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

Holiday photos of my family, both of me as a child growing up with my siblings and now of my own children, are some of my most cherished possessions. Looking at holiday photos makes me happy and I love being able to look back at how my family has changed and grown over the years.

While I get the kids pictures taken a couple times a year, we haven’t had a family portrait taken since Lucas was a baby. This year we decided it was time for another family photo so we headed to our local Portrait Innovations to get Christmas pictures taken. I wanted some of our family, some of Sinisa and I as a couple, some of the boys together and some of each of the kids individually. I loved that our photographer took into consideration what I wanted and made sure to get shots in different poses, and on a number of different backgrounds, so I’d have many choices to choose from. (As you can tell, I really loved their holiday background.)

Portrait Innovations specializes in giving customers a customized portrait studio experience with creative options for beautiful, professional portraits. Our photographer ended up taking close to 100 images during our photo shoot and I got to go through all of the images and pick my favorites. I loved that I didn’t feel rushed to go through the images and make my selections in a hurry as I have in the past at other studios. Another great thing about Portrait Innovations is that the packages are completely customizable so you aren’t stuck with a bunch of prints in random sizes that you’ll never use. You can also request edits, like cropping, on images to make sure all your images are perfect.

Want personalized gifts and keepsakes? Portrait Innovations makes it easy to create them while you are looking over your images in store or from the photo CD if you choose to purchase one. Photo gifts are perfect for holiday gift giving. I chose to create some ornaments and a canvas. I also got some photo Christmas cards to give out to my family.

Best of all, the prints were ready within 15 minutes of the order being placed. I like that I didn’t have to wait weeks for my prints. I am excited to get frames for our portraits and put all of our beautiful pictures up in our home! I also got the picture CD so I could share the images online and make more prints in the future if I want.

Do you still need to get your family’s holiday photos taken? This holiday season, preserve memorable moments in the best way with Portrait Innovations! They currently have a great deal going on now through December 11th. You can get a package with 42 holiday portraits for only $19.99 (Regularly $24.99), plus a free gift of your choice- either a mug or holiday ornament- (Regularly $25).  The Portrait Package includes 1-10×13 Wall Portrait, 2-8x10s, 4-5x7s, 4- 3x5s, 16-2x3s, plus, 5-5×7 Greeting Cards and 10 Gift Tags. There are never any sitting fees so this is a great deal! Find your closest Portrait Innovations here.

Do you get holiday photos taken every year?

Our Favorite Christmas Pajamas: Buy A Pair, Give A Pair

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

One of my favorite purchases every holiday season is a set of matching pajamas for my boys. Each year, on Christmas Eve, they wear their new pajamas when they go to sleep and wake up to celebrate Christmas morning in their festive jammies. (Truth be told, they pretty much lounge around all Christmas day in them!)

We’ve had Christmas pajamas every year and this year I found the cutest pair at Carter’s. With close to 900 styles, including 1-piece, 2-piece, 4-piece, and gown options in cotton, flannel and fleece in sizes newborn to 12 years, parents and gift-givers are sure to find the perfect PJs at Carter’s to outfit all the little ones on their holiday gift lists. I was thrilled to find out that Carter’s is doing something special for Giving Tuesday, which is November 29th, because I love supporting companies that give back. I also now have a reason to head back to the store and get another pair of pajamas for our New Year’s Eve celebration at home :)

Carter’s is partnering with Pajama Program to help further its mission of delivering new, warm pajamas to children in need. This year’s campaign aims to surpass $2 million worth of pajama donations. For every Carter’s pajama purchased at one of Carter’s 600+ US retail stores or online at www.Carters.com on Giving Tuesday (November 29), Carter’s will donate one pajama to children in need, up to 100,000.

If you’ve never heard of the Pajama Program, it’s a great charity. Pajama Program provides new pajamas and new books to children in need nationwide, many of whom are waiting to be adopted. These children live in group homes, shelters and temporary housing facilities and are shuffled often from one place to another. Many of them have been abandoned, abused or neglected. Most of these children have never enjoyed the simple comfort of having a parent tuck them in at bedtime with warm, clean pajamas and a bedtime story. Some of the children are living with their families below the poverty level, in desperate need of food, clothing and shelter. These two simple gifts of pajamas and books let the children know that someone cares – sometimes these are the only new things they have ever received.

Will you join me in supporting this great cause and giving back on Giving Tuesday?

3 Things Pet Parents Need To Do To Prepare For Holiday Entertaining

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This post is sponsored by ARM & HAMMER™ and the BlogPaws® Pet Influencer Network™. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about ARM & HAMMER CLUMP & SEAL™ available at PetSmart®, but Making Time For Mommy only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Arm & Hammer and PetSmart are not responsible for the content of this article. #CLUMPandSEAL

The holiday entertaining season is upon us which means that there are all the typical preparations that need to be done, from preparing the turkey dinner to cleaning the home for guests. Pet parents have some additional tasks on their list, like cleaning the pet hair from their couches, making sure their home does not have any bad pet odors, and securing decorations that paws may be tempted to touch.

The first thing that is a must do before entertaining is tackling the pet hair that seems to land everywhere. The couches are the biggest pet hair collectors in our home so I recommend a good lint brush and a vacuum that can tackle pet hair. You know someone is going to come over with a pair of black pants on and you don’t want them walking around with pet hair all over their bottoms after they’ve sat on your couch.

One other thing you don’t want? A smelly home! For those with cats, a good litter is essential for keeping your home smelling nice. ARM & HAMMER ™ CLUMP & SEAL ™ cat litter, found at PetSmart, is our favorite because of it’s one of a kind odor control. No other litter forms a tight seal around odor and destroys it with unique odor eliminators and baking soda, providing bacterial odor control in the litter box for up to 7 days.

The last thing pet parents need to do is figure out how they are going to keep all their beautiful holiday decorations safe from their pet’s paws. We’ve invested in some unbreakable ornaments after discovering that our cats love playing with all of the ornaments that hang on the bottom of the tree. We are also securing our tree better this year since last year we came home to the tree tipped over a couple of times.

If you are a pet parent, what things do you do to prepare your home for the holidays? I’d love to hear your tips on how you keep your home a happy place for everyone, including your fur babies, as you entertain this season.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of ARM & HAMMER. The opinions and text are all mine.

Concession Stand Themed Football Party

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This post is written by me on behalf of Tyson Foods, Inc. All opinions are entirely my own. This shop has been compensated by Acorn Influence, Inc. and its advertiser. #ClubTysonFFL

You all know that I love football parties so I’m really excited to share about an easy one I put together recently. This party comes together in about 30 to 45 minutes from start to finish so it’s perfect for those last minute party guests! I decided to go with a red and white colored concession stand theme and serve mostly foods that could be found at a concession stand.

For food, I served hot dogs, chips, chicken wings, popcorn and soft pretzels. I love “heat & eat” foods because they make life easy!

Tyson® Boneless Wyngz and Ball Park® Franks are ready within minutes so they let me spend less time in the kitchen and more time actually watching the football game with my friends and family.

I found both products, along with all the other food, at Sam’s Club so I saved money on everything, too!

To drink I had cola and water. I also made some chocolate covered strawberries for a sweet treat. I used icing to draw white “laces” on the strawberries so they’d look like footballs.

What are your favorite simple football party foods to serve?

Apple Pie Flavored Yogurt Parfaits

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #YogurtInspiration #BreakfastInspiration #CollectiveBias

One of my favorite things about the holidays is all the delicious food, from turkey to sweet potatoes to the dessert table at our family parties. One staple that is always available at Thanksgiving is apple pie and sometimes there are leftovers of it that I get to enjoy. Occasionally I even sneak a piece for a special holiday breakfast!

I’ve thought about how I can recreate this breakfast treat in a healthier (and more socially acceptable) way and decided to create an apple pie flavored yogurt parfait. Unlike the traditional slice of apple pie, this one has a lot less calories and actually passes for a sensible breakfast! Yogurt parfaits are a great way to start the day because I always feel full all morning long when I have yogurt. Just one cup of yogurt is packed with the protein, calcium and Vitamin D my body needs and gives me the energy to get through my morning routine. Yogurt also helps support healthy bones which is something all women need.

Dannon All Natural Yogurt, made with only natural ingredients, is a staple in my home and I always buy the largest container I can find because this plain yogurt is the base ingredient for all the fruit smoothies I make and I also use it as a cooking substitute in recipes sometimes.

The best part about this breakfast is that it’s quick and easy to create so it’s perfect for busy mornings during the holiday season. I love making my own cinnamon apples but decided to try canned apple pie filling for this to give the parfait more of an apple pie taste and to make the recipe even simpler. (If you want a healthier version go with homemade cinnamon apples instead of the apple pie filling.)

Here’s what you’ll need to make one apple pie yogurt parfait:

  • 6 Tablespoons of Yogurt (I used Dannon All Natural Yogurt)
  • 4 Tablespoons of Apple Pie Filling
  • 1 Tablespoon of Graham Cracker Crumbs
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Apple Pie Spice
  • A cup or bowl

Directions to make the parfait:

Mix the yogurt with the apple pie spice.

Put half of your yogurt into your bowl.

Add in two tablespoons of apple pie filling on top of the yogurt.

Add in another layer of yogurt followed by another label of apple pie filling.

Top with graham cracker crumbs and serve immediately.

I hope you enjoy this delicious breakfast treat! You can find Dannon All Natural Yogurt, and all the other ingredients you need to make this apple pie flavored breakfast parfait, at Meijer. While you are there grab a couple of my other favorites like Dannon’s Classic Coffee flavored yogurt and their delicious Fruit On The Bottom yogurt.

Do you like fruit and yogurt parfaits? What is your favorite?

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5 Charities To Support This Holiday Season

Giftational

One of my most popular posts this time of year is a post I wrote about teaching our children generosity and gratitude. Though these are things that most parents are always wanting our children to learn, I think that we are especially focused on it as Thanksgiving draws near. One of the ways that I try to teach my children generosity is by doing a number of charitable things during the holidays. I wanted to share five charities that my family loves supporting during this season in case you are looking for ideas to do with your own family.

Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child is a project organized by Samiritan’s Purse that encourages people to fill shoeboxes with small gifts and necessities to be sent to those in need. In past years we have taken boxes home and shopped on our own to fill them. This year we went to a packing party in October and, as a group, filled 196 boxes in about an hour and a half. We made cards to put in the boxes and talked about where our boxes might end up. Operation Christmas Child is something we love doing as a family.

COLLECTION WEEK IS THIS WEEK but it’s not too late to participate! You can build a box online or you can fill a shoebox and drop it off at a collection site near you. Get all the details here.

Angel Tree

Angel Tree is a ministry that provides gifts for children with a parent in prison. Their website talks about how 2.7 million children in the U.S. have a mom or dad in prison and how the children are often filled with the abandonment, loneliness and shame that come from having a mom or dad in prison. Angel Tree®, a program of Prison Fellowship, reaches out to the children of prisoners and their families with the love of Christ. This unique program gives you an opportunity to share God’s love by helping to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the families of prisoners.

Requests on the tree are usually very basic, such as pajamas, a winter coat or a simple board game. Purchasing gifts for children on the angel tree puts things in perspective for my children who never have to wonder if they will have a winter coat or pajamas to sleep in. Learn more about the program here.

World Vision

World Vision International is an Evangelical Christian humanitarian aid, development, and advocacy organization. Every year around the holidays they have a gift catalog with gifts that you can donate to those in need. I wrote a few years back about our experience with World Vision’s gift catalog and how it inspired Jacob’s “Giving List”. He had asked why soccer balls were in the gift catalog and I had to explain to him that not everyone had soccer balls to play with like he did and how some children kick around a ball of trash and leaves because that’s all they have. It was amazing to watch as he realized that these people needed things that we take for granted like eggs, milk and water. The items in World Vision’s gift guide truly make a difference in the lives of others.

Compassion International

Compassion International is a monthly sponsorship program that lets you make a difference in the life of a child. While World Vision, which I mentioned above, does this as well, I don’t have any experience with their program. We sponsored a little girl named Rita through Compassion and I love that children can connect with the child through letters and photos. Sponsoring a child in need provides them with medical checkups, nutritious food, health and hygiene training, educational assistance, and mentoring among other things. Learn more about sponsoring a child here.

Heifer International

Heifer International works to empower millions to go from poverty to self reliance by providing alternative gifts of livestock, seeds, trees, training and more to families in need. Heifer’s strategy is the hope that these families will pass on the gifts- by sharing their animals’ offspring with others – along with their knowledge, resources and skills – to create an expanding network of hope, dignity and self-reliance that reaches around the globe. Like World Vision, they have a gift catalog as well.

Other things your family can do this season include donating hats, gloves & warm blankets to homeless shelters, donating food to food pantries and donating toys at a toy drive. There are so many people in need and I hope that this has given you ideas of ways your family can give back this year. I’ll be sharing another post soon with even more great charities to support during the holidays (and all year long!)

I’d love to hear what charities you support and how you help teach your children generosity. As a parent I can always use more ideas <3