Self-Watering Herb Planters Made From Upcycled Plastic Bottles

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company, all opinions are mine alone. #HonestSustainabiliTEA #RefreshinglyHonest #CollectiveBias

This past weekend it was gorgeous outside so I tried to soak up the warmth and sunshine as much as possible. While doing so, I thought about everything I wanted to do to prepare our outdoor area for the summer including hanging flowers on our front porch, getting a new seating area for our back porch and getting a cute welcome sign to put by the front door. One of the other things I really want is to have a garden. Growing up we always had a garden and I love the idea of tending to a garden and being able to make meals with something I’ve grown.

Unfortunately, since we live in a condo, we can’t plant things in our backyard so we have to go the route of container gardening. I decided that this year I was going to start my container garden with herbs and then maybe next year expand to other things like peppers, tomatoes and strawberries. I started with a few herbs and have plans to plant more before summer comes. Having considered a number of containers, I chose to start my herb garden with single serve drink bottles. These plastic bottles are small enough to sit on the counter ledge behind my kitchen sink and they are also easy enough to move outdoors if I want to bring them outside to get better sunlight.

The first thing I had to do was gather some empty plastic bottles. Let’s be honest- this is the easiest part, especially when all I have to do to get an empty bottle is enjoy a cold Honest® Tea on a warm day. While any plastic bottle would work for this herb garden, Honest® Tea is both delicious to drink and comes from a brand that cares about our Earth’s resources. I figured it just makes sense to use bottles from a company that promotes organic agriculture, fair trade, and landfill reduction among other things, when I’m doing an upcycled DIY project to celebrate Earth Day.

The other materials you need for these DIY self-watering herb planters are potting soil, seeds, scissors, string and water. One other thing you might want is something to label the containers so you know what herb is in each container. You can use a marker for this or make fancier labels if you prefer.

Once you’ve gathered all of your supplies, take the label off of your empty bottle, rinse it out and let it dry. Then use your scissors to poke a hole between 2/3 of the way to halfway up the bottle depending on how deep you want your planter’s dirt top to be. Then cut around the bottle horizontally, from the hole, until the top comes apart from the bottom. You’ll also want to poke four holes, that are just large enough for your string to go through, in the plastic near the lid.

Once your bottle is cut, measure two pieces of string that are about the length of the bottle. You’ll then put each of the strings in one of the holes and out the other hole across from it.

The next step is to fill the bottom of the bottle with water and then place the top of the bottle upside down on top of the bottom piece. You’ll want the strings to be hanging and immersed in the water.

 Once you have the top set in place, fill halfway with soil, add in your seeds and then add another layer of soil. 

You’ll want to place your planter in a sunny spot and check the water level every few days. These self-watering planters are perfect for busy moms because you don’t have to remember to water them everyday which I love. You can even buy small herbs that have already started growing and transfer them into these self-watering planters if you don’t want to go through the hassle of planting seeds (which is what I did with a couple of my herbs to save time).

Want to make your own planters? Head to Kroger and grab some Honest® Tea bottles. I found a variety of flavors, including the NEW Unsweet Peach Ginger flavor, in the refrigerated drink cases. I really like this new flavor because, even though it’s unsweetened, the peach makes it just a tad sweet. Their tea is brewed with real tea leaves, has no added sugar, and is also organic and Fair Trade. Now through 4/22 you can even save .25 off 1 bottle at Kroger and Kroger division stores with this coupon. (Coupon can be used up to 5 times in one transaction.)

What herb will you plant in your self-watering bottle planter? Find more inspiration for upcycled crafts and tasty recipes here.

Teaching Children To Code

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

As a parent, I want my children to have the best chance at success as possible. Nowadays, that means learning tech skills like coding. Though my children are young, I think it’s vital for them to learn how to use technology in as many ways as possible because I see tech jobs only becoming more desirable in the future. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be more than one million unfilled tech jobs within the next three years. I want my children to be qualified for the jobs if they choose to work in the tech industry when they get older.

In my research into places that offer coding, I’ve found a number of introductory classes but not much that helps kids really dive into coding and lets them explore all that can be done with the skill. That’s why I was excited to learn about Codeverse, the world’s first hackable classroom and vertically integrated technology platform designed to teach children ages 6 to 12 the vital skill of coding. Children and Tweens aren’t only learning the basics but using the skills they learn to bring technology to life by coding projects, games and apps. Kids learn code in an immersive environment full of cutting-edge technology and every object in the studio can be controlled by their code, including drones, robots, 3D printers, lasers, and more!

The flagship state-of-the-art coding studio will open in the Chicago area (Lincoln Park) this July. The million-dollar, 3600 square foot interactive and collaborative space has on-site staff, made up of certified K-12 teachers. Kids use their iPads to navigate the space and write with the company’s proprietary kid-friendly coding language, KidScript, which enables them to build games and apps as well as hack hundreds of objects ranging from lasers and 3d printers to robotic arms and fog machines. 

Codeverse is the brainchild of Craig Ulliott and Katy Lynch who, along with friend Dave Arel, are on a mission to teach a billion children to code. They are well on their way to that goal with the Lincoln Park classroom opening in July and three more Codeverse studios planned for Chicago over the next 18 months. Additionally, they will be opening studios in every major metropolitan area within the next five years before expanding internationally.

“Learning to code at a young age is an absolute necessity for all kids,” says Lynch. “Coding today is so much more than computer science; it’s a way of thinking that promotes intellectual curiosity, problem solving and creative expression. These are the real skills kids need for their futures.”

Codeverse membership starts at $125 per month, and gives children recurring use of the studio space as well as access to the coding platform from home. The platform and curriculum is designed for children between the ages of 6 and 12. Parents and guardians can learn more and register students at www.codeverse.com.

 

Make A Wish In The BMO200 Fountain

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I am proud to be partnering with BMO Harris Bank again and happy to share about their new #BMO200 fountain in this sponsored post.

BMO Harris Bank is celebrating their 200th year by granting some wishes made in their interactive wishing fountain, continuing the bank’s legacy of giving back to the communities in which it does business. People across North America are invited to join BMO in marking its bicentennial by making a wish at the BMO200 fountain, located in Chicago. Those who are unable to visit in person can still make a wish by visiting www.bmo200.com.

The BMO200 fountain is a modern twist on a wishing fountain, but instead of making a wish by tossing a coin into a fountain, the wishes are virtual. The fountain stands 17 feet high and has no water, but instead uses thousands of flip dots – the traditional technology used in destination boards at train stations – to create a unique ripple effect every time a wish is made. BMO will be fulfilling a number of the wishes, both big and small, across a number of categories, including Green, Togetherness, Legacy and Community.

My BMO200 fountain wish is for community and togetherness for our Autism community and a place in the Chicago suburbs where families who have children with special needs can go to relax. I imagine a place where the parents can drink coffee and let their children be themselves and play without having to worry about anything.

The sweet video above shares someone else’s wish. What would you wish for? Make a wish for a better tomorrow, today in the BMO200 fountain, and it just might come true!

If you are in Chicago make sure to visit the BMO200 fountain that’s being unveiled tomorrow, April 12th, outside The Shops at North Bridge (520 N. Michigan Avenue, on level 1 nearest the Nordstrom mall entrance). If you aren’t in the Chicago area, make your wish online at bmo200.com!

Help Kids Learn How To Handle Money Wisely

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

When I was growing up I wasn’t taught much about money and, as a result, I struggled with money issues through my college and early adult years. Because of this, it’s really important to me that my boys learn how to handle money. I don’t want them going through the same money struggles that I did! From saving it to spending it wisely, the earlier that children learn how to be smart with their money the better off they will be.

One financial learning tool I discovered is The Piggy Bank Book, a resource designed to help kids slow down, filter out the noise, and figure out what they really want. By tracking their money, your child will be encouraged to save and take pride in what they’ve accomplished.

It only takes five minutes a week to work through the ledger pages, and it will have a life long impact on how your child spends money.

Spending time working with the Piggy Bank Book will teach your child to thoughtfully purchase instead of mindlessly consume. They will develop a healthy spending habit to take with them into adulthood.

To get The Piggy Bank Book into as many little hands as possible they are running a Kickstarter. Join me in raising money to make sure that children learn the skills they need to make them financially responsible adults. Find more details and pledge to help here.

 

Spring Snack Container Made From Popsicle Sticks

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Easter is just around the corner and one of our favorite ways to get ready for any holiday is to make crafts and homemade decorations. I thought it would be fun to make carrot shaped snack containers. They are perfect for parties, family movie nights or any time really!

They are easy and fun to make with the kids. First, you’ll want to gather the materials needed:

  • Popsicle sticks
  • Non-toxic orange paint w/ paintbrush OR orange marker
  • Green Easter grass
  • Piece of cardboard or heavy card stock
  • Non-toxic glue
  • Scissors
  • A snack to put in the container (like Goldfish crackers!)

Directions:

Cut a third of the popsicle sticks in half. (I broke them in half since I couldn’t find the adult scissors but that left sharp edges which you don’t want since kids will be holding this.)

Paint or color two of the long popsicle sticks and one of the half pieces orange and set aside to dry.

Glue 2 popsicle sticks on the cardboard in the shape of a “V” and put 1 half of a popsicle stick across the top to make it a triangle. Continue layering popsicle sticks by gluing them on top of each other until you have a deep enough container to hold your snacks. Glue the orange popsicle sticks on the top as your last layer. Then glue some of the Easter grass on the cardboard near the top of the triangle to make the carrot leaves.

Let the glue dry for a couple hours and then trim the excess cardboard from around the carrot shape.

Once the containers are ready, fill them with a snack. We chose to add our favorite snack, Goldfish crackers, to our carrot container.

Does your family make anything special for holidays or seasons? Get additional inspiration and ideas from Goldfish crackers on Pinterest!

Is It Time For New Kitchen Appliances?

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The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

Unless you live in a brand new house, I’m guessing you have a list of things you want to fix or update. Our home was built in the 80s and, though some updates have been done since then, I have a long list of things I’d love to do. The first, and easiest, updates would be to get new appliances. My dishwasher is the original model that was put in the home when it was built in 1988 and leaves a bit of “melted plastic” smell each time if runs. My stove also needs to be replaced since every recipe takes at least three to four times longer to cook than it should. And though my fridge is from the 90′s and works, I long for a shiny stainless steel one. See why I think it’s time for updated appliances?

A month or so ago we were perusing the appliance section at Best Buy and I was giddy seeing the new appliances with all their bells and whistles. If you are looking for new appliances you’ll want to head to Best Buy soon because you’ll be able to save some money during their Appliances Remodeling Sales Event! Best Buy makes it easy for you to stretch your dollars by offering the best deals during the season on LG appliances. You can save up to 30% off major appliance top deals (minimum savings is 5%) through April 12th. Plus, get a free $100 gift card when you buy 2 Major Appliances totaling $1500 or more. (Get the details here.) LG is also offering extra savings! Receive up to $400 back from LG via mail on select Kitchen Packages through 5/3/17. (Get the details here.)

If you are looking for a new refrigerator, this LG – InstaView™ Door-in-Door® fridge is a great choice. The LG Black Stainless Steel Series elevates your kitchen with a satin-smooth, warm and sophisticated finish. You’ll save money and energy with this ENERGY STAR® qualified LG refrigerator that exceeds energy standards.

This large capacity (24 cu ft) fridge lets you store more which is perfect for families. It’s French doors feature InstaView™ Door-in-Door®  glass panels that allow you to see inside the easy access door without letting the cold air out. Simply knock twice on the glass to illuminate the contents within.

Need a new range like I do? This sleek, black stainless steel Self-Cleaning Slide-In Electric Convection Range from LG is really nice! It features ProBake Technology for fast cook times and flavorful results. The self-cleaning feature is one I love because it keeps the inside of the LG electric range looking great without having to spend time scrubbing it. The bottom drawer stores cookie sheets, cooling racks, and more, opening up extra space in your cabinets to store all your other kitchen essentials.

What appliance are you hoping to replace soon? Do you need a new stove like I do or maybe you want one of the fancy new refrigerators?

Chicago Bulls Basketball Game Ticket Giveaway

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Thanks to the Chicago Bulls for sponsoring this post and giveaway.

Calling all basketball fans! You’ll want to check out this kid-friendly event.

Chicagoland families are invited to “Kids Day” at the Chicago Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks game (April 1st at 4 pm) at the United Center. There will be a pre-game Kids Zone in the United Center atrium featuring a face painter and games. During the game there will be kid entertainment and other fun surprises.

Want to attend? Purchase tickets here or enter to win 2 tickets, courtesy of the Chicago Bulls, following the directions below!

GIVEAWAY PRIZE

2 tickets to the Chicago Bulls game on April 1st

HOW TO ENTER

Leave a comment on this blog post telling me why you want to win

FOR AN EXTRA ENTRY

Share this giveaway on social media and leave the link in a separate comment below

Giveaway ends March 29, 2017 at 11:59pm CST.

Rules: Must be 21 or older and a US resident to enter. Giveaway consists of two (2) tickets valid for the Chicago Bulls game on April 1, 2017. Winner is responsible for all other costs associated with attending the game, including travel and parking. Winner will be chosen at random, notified via email, and will have 24 hours to respond to claim tickets. The Chicago Bulls are responsible for ticket fulfillment.

Spring Portraits {Giveaway}

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

Pictures are one of my favorite ways to keep memories alive so I’m excited to be working with Portrait Innovations again. We had a great experience at Portrait Innovations during the holidays when we took our family Christmas photos and I really loved how the pictures turned out so we went back last week to get spring pictures taken of the boys.

I liked that the photographer chose a few different backgrounds to photograph the boys in front of. The spring background with the flowers was my favorite because I thought it was perfect for seasonal pictures and made it seem like we had some outdoor shots taken.

One of my favorite things about Portrait Innovations is that the photographers try a lot of different poses so there are a variety of images to choose from. They also take multiple pictures of the same pose which is nice. There’s nothing worse than finding that one shot you love but then you notice that someone’s eyes are closed. With multiple images taken just seconds apart they are more likely to capture your children at the perfect moment, before they look away, make a funny face, or blink.

I also like that while my boys were getting their pictures taken, I never felt like the photographer was rushing through our session. At other studios, that have really short appointment windows, I tend to feel like we are being hurried through so they can get to their next appointment. The photographers at Portrait Innovations make getting great photos a priority, even if it takes a bit longer.

The best part is that beautiful photos of your family can be yours for a great price! Portrait Innovations always seems to have great coupons available.

Portrait Innovations is offering their best spring special ever. The Spring 24 Portrait Package is only $19.99 plus a Free $100 16×20 Canvas with this coupon!

Included in the portrait package is 1-10×13 Wall Portrait, 2-8x10s, 4-5x7s, 4-3x5s, 8-2x3s, and 5-5×7 cards, plus a high resolution CD with your favorite pose. And, you can save 20% on all additional purchases in studio. Portrait Innovations never charges sitting fees so bring the whole family. Appointments are limited so schedule your appointment today!

I’m also thrilled to be able to give away a 6-pose portrait package from Portrait Innovations! Enter via the form below.
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Keep Your Eyes On The Road With Navdy

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

As a mom of two busy boys I feel like most of my time is spent in the car. Whether I’m dropping the kids off at school or picking them up, driving to a sports practice or game, or just running the errands on my never ending to-do list, my car is like my second home. Since so much of my time is spent in my vehicle, I’m excited to share that I’ve been partnering with Navdy to review their new device that makes it possible to safely stay connected while driving – something that makes life so much easier when I’m on the go!

Navdy is the first Augmented Driving device that leverages augmented reality to project information directly in the driver’s line of sight, for an all new driving experience. Navdy enables simple, gesture-based access to the phone functions drivers need most and projects everything directly in their line of sight on the road ahead. A comprehensive eyes-forward solution, drivers can manage all their phone necessities like maps, calls, and messages, while keeping their eyes on the road.

Here’s a video that shows Navdy in use so you can get a better idea of how it works:

Navdy was pretty easy to install in my older model van. It took Sinisa about 30 minutes or so to install it after he watched the short installation video they have on their site. Installation consists of three things: mounting the display unit on the dashboard, attaching the dial to the steering wheel, and downloading the Navdy app.

The part of installation that took the longest was mounting the display because he wanted to put it in the best place possible. Every car’s dashboard is designed differently so you want to try the unit in different places on the dash to find the spot where it will sit well and have the display in your line of vision when you are driving. The unit’s clear screen is flexible and can be adjusted for different heights. One feature about the main unit that I like a lot is the fact that it can be removed from the base and hidden so you don’t have an expensive piece of technology sitting there on your dash when you leave your car in a parking lot.

Once your display is mounted you will want to attach the dial to the steering wheel which is really simple to do. First, pick which side of the steering wheel you feel most comfortable with, then use the dial’s strap to fasten it securely with the dial on the inside of the steering wheel. The Navdy Dial is your main tool for interacting with your phone and the display while driving so make sure it’s in a place near where your hands sit naturally on the steering wheel. You can scroll through menu options by spinning the dial with your thumb, and can select songs, contacts, routes and more by tapping the button in the center.

The last thing you need to do when setting up your Navdy is to download their app to your phone. Sinisa added the app to both his iPhone and my Android phone easily. The Navdy app works with the Navdy display, allowing you to control your phone without having to pick it up. Choose a song that’s in tune with your mood, view incoming callers, messages and more. With the Navdy App, your car is completely connected with your phone and the road ahead.

There are lots of features and uses that make the Navdy amazing. Here are some of my favorites:

Google Maps- The navigation is what I use Navdy for the most. For years I used a GPS but every time I had to look at the map I needed to take my eyes off the road. With Navdy the map is in front of me, which means that I can follow the map without having to look away from the road. I like that I can zoom in and out with a turn of the steering wheel dial. Navdy also makes it easy to search for destinations, routes, and traffic, even while you are offline.

Notifications- Navdy alerts you to notifications that you think are important. You can customize which notifications you see. I chose to have Navdy alert me when I receive calls and text messages because those are the only two notifications I really need on the go. Navdy can read your messages out loud (if you’d like it to) and lets you respond using Siri or Google Now. You can also accept, or dismiss calls (and hang up) with a swipe of your hand so you aren’t having to fumble with your phone.

Music- Navdy lets you control your favorite music apps with a turn of the dial on your steering wheel. I love this feature, especially when the kids are in the car, because it lets me skip songs that aren’t really appropriate for the kids to listen to.

Navdy is intuitive- Navdy detects low fuel, monitors traffic, and automatically re-routes if there’s congestion ahead. And the longer you use it, the more it learns about you. Based on habits and calendar events, it can anticipate your needs and make helpful, time-saving suggestions.

Overall, I have had a great experience using the Navdy Head-Up Display and think this piece of technology is well worth the $499 price tag. You can learn more about Navdy and how to purchase it here.

Basketball Party Appetizer

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

Are any of you basketball fans? Or married to basketball fans? If so, I bet you or your loved ones have been glued to the television the past week or so. It’s exciting to follow the games and there’s nothing better than watching them with friends and family. As you cheer on your favorite teams you will probably want to snack on something so I wanted to share a snack idea that’s perfect for basketball parties.

For our basketball watch party I recreated a Mondelez recipe for The Big Tournament, Southwestern Fiesta Topper on TRISCUITs, changing it up a bit with the addition of guacamole to the sour cream. (You can find the original recipe along with a video on how to make it here.) This recipe is so simple which is perfect for those last minute parties. It’s also nice because it allows you to spend less time in the kitchen and more time watching the game.

Ingredients needed:

  • TRISCUIT crackers
  • White cheddar cheese (cut into thin slices)
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream

To make:

In a small bowl, mix 2 spoonfuls of sour cream with two spoonfuls of guacamole.

Top a TRISCUIT with a slice of cheese.

Add a teaspoon of salsa on top of the cheese.

Top with a teaspoon of the sour cream and guacamole mixture.

For added fun you can put a basketball topper on each appetizer.

You will also want something to drink so what better to pair appetizers with than ice cold Coca-Cola™ or Coca-Cola Zero™?

I love the mini cans and the 8 ounce bottles I found because they are the perfect size for parties!

To add a bit more basketball fun to the table I set out orange basketball napkins and plates. I also made themed straws for the drinks by attaching foam basketball stickers to black and white striped paper straws.

It only took a few minutes to get everything ready. Want to recreate this party idea? Just grab your favorite Coca-Cola drinks and set out a couple easy appetizers and then sit down and enjoy the ball game :)

I found Coca-Cola, Coke Zero and TRISCUITs at my local Jewel-Osco store.

What do you like to snack on while you watch basketball?

 

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  • Mondelēz International and Coca-Cola are Corporate Champion and Partners of the NCAA.
  • NCAA and Snack Bracket Playbook are trademarks of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
  • © Mondelēz International group © Coca-Cola Zero is a registered trademark of the Coca-Cola Company.

Graduation Cards As Unique As Your Graduate

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Thanks to Basic Invite for sponsoring this post.

Spring is here and with it comes the start of what I like to call ‘celebration season’. From baby showers to weddings to graduations, there are many special occasions to celebrate during the spring and summer months. If you are throwing a party you are going to need invitations so I’m excited to be sharing about Basic Invite and their customizable graduation stationery, including invitations and announcements.

Basic Invite sets themselves apart from their competition in a few ways. First of all, they really allow people to customize their selected card by offering 180 different color options and the ability to change the color of each element on the card. This allows customers to make sure the card is exactly how they want it down to the littlest detail.

They also let you choose from over 40 different colors when it comes to your envelopes so that you can make your invitation stand out even before it is opened. All of the envelopes are peel and seal so the envelopes can be quickly and securely closed. Another time saver? They offer a free address collection service to request your addresses with just three simple steps: share a link, collect addresses, and get free envelope printing.

Another thing I really like about Basic Invite is that you don’t have to cross your fingers and hope that the card looks as fabulous as you imagine it will. They offer instant previews online and the ability to order a printed sample of your actual invitation so you can see exactly how it will print as well as the paper quality before you ever have to place your final order. I don’t know any other services that offer this!

No doubt in my mind that Basic Invite makes graduation season easier with their great line of customizable graduation announcement cards and invitations. Here are some of my favorite choices they offer:

I love this “status report” graduation announcement card that features the graduate as both a child and a teenager.

This floral graduation invitation is so pretty!

Proud parents will love this achievement focused graduation announcement that looks like an infographic.

I love that this picture perfect invitation features three photos but still has plenty of space for sharing information about the event and the graduate.

Did your graduate have an amazing senior photo shoot and you can’t pick just one image? Make a collage graduation card and feature all of your favorite pictures!

Looking for something a bit more simple yet elegant? These golden graduation announcements are classy.

This modern graduation announcement is simple and straight to the point.

Which card is your favorite? I’m really loving the photo graduation invitations!

DIY Decorative Jewelry Tray

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

Spring is one of the most beautiful seasons. From budding flowers to pretty lace dresses to sparkling pastel colored jewels, beauty is all around us. As the weather starts to warm up and the sun starts shining a bit more, I love being able to admire the new growth of flowers and watch the birds sitting outside my window.

That very first sunny spring day though, when I open up my curtains, I am reminded of the one chore that gets a little neglected during the colder months- cleaning my windows. It’s amazing how dirty they get over the few months we are stuck inside while the sky is gray and the trees are barren. I grab my Windex® Original Glass Cleaner from under my kitchen sink and, as soon as I spray it on my windows, I start to see the dirt fading away. A couple swipes of a paper towel later and my windows are shiny clean and I can see the beautiful spring day through them.

I also like to bring the beauty of spring indoors and I do that by decorating my home with seasonal decor and fresh flowers. To bring a touch of spring into my bedroom I made a decorative jewelry tray to hold some of my favorite pieces. It was easy to make and doesn’t require a lot of materials so I wanted to share the tutorial so you could make your own.

Materials needed:

  • Round tray
  • Glass or mirror a little smaller than your tray
  • Glue or adhesive
  • Beaded necklaces made for craft projects

 Directions:

Put glue/adhesive in the middle of the tray, spreading it out the width of your mirror.

Place the glass or mirror piece in the middle of the tray and gently press it down to adhere it to the tray.

To see how long your string of beads will need to be you can put it along the bottom edge of your tray. You’ll want it long enough to go all around the bottom of your tray but not overlap. I had to tie two beaded necklaces together and then take some beads off the one end because, as you can see in the picture, it was too long.

Use your adhesive/glue to glue your beads onto the tray along the inner bottom edge of the tray. If you still have space between your beads and your mirror/glass, you can glue on a second string of beads.

This tray will get a lot of fingerprint smudges on it but it’s easy to clean with Windex® Original Glass Cleaner.

Windex® Original Glass Cleaner is my favorite product to use on glass because I know that it will always leave my glass surfaces with a streak-free shine. Thanks to its formulation with Ammonia-D®, it starts working on fingerprints, dirt, and other messes even before you wipe. Whether you need to clean the smudges on your bathroom mirror, your windows, or the glass of your jewelry tray, you can trust America’s #1 glass cleaner to get the job done!

I found Windex® Original Glass Cleaner and Windex® Vinegar Multi-Surface Cleaner in the cleaning aisle of my local Food4Less store.

Now you can see the beauty of spring outside (thanks to your clean windows) and inside, sitting on your jewelry tray.

What is your favorite thing about the spring season? Get more spring cleaning ideas here.

KudosWall: A Place To Track Your Student’s Accomplishments

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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by KudosWall.

Have you ever wished there was a place to keep track of your student’s accomplishments all in one place? Whether they won a spelling bee, got an award at school, or came in first place at a sports or music competition, children nowadays have a lot to be proud of. KudosWall, created by a student and his father, makes it possible to easily track all your child’s talents, experiences, volunteer hours, and proudest moments.

KudosWall also has an app which is perfect for busy moms because you can track things on the go, while you are thinking about it. With the mobile app, you can upload achievements and photos on the go. Take a picture of your child holding a trophy at their basketball award ceremony? In just a few clicks you can add it to KudosWall and save that memory to your child’s portfolio.

You can also invite family members to view your child’s portfolio so the app becomes a great way for grandmas and grandpas and other family members to stay connected to your child.

Not only does KudosWall let your child celebrate their accomplishments, but they can easily use all of the information to create a resume or portfolio for college, internship or scholarship applications when they are ready to do so. This is such an easy way that parents can help their children prepare for the future. I remember when I had to create my first resume, it took me hours to put together because I had so many wonderful accomplishments to share but struggled to remember them all. Having KudosWall would have made the process so much easier!

I’m going to be creating portfolios for my boys over the next month or so and then I’ll share more about the process and how I’m using the site and app.

How do you track all of your child’s accomplishments?

Jar Of Wisdom And Love For A Graduate

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Graduation season is just around the corner which means that many are busy planning parties to celebrate their graduate. There are a number of things to think about, from the food you’ll serve to the decor you’ll have to the gift you’ll give. Today I wanted to share an idea I had that is perfect for graduation parties but also doubles as a gift for your graduate.

I created a Graduation Jar of Wisdom & Love. This jar can be set out on a table at the party for guests to leave words of wisdom and love for the graduate. It’s simple to make, too! Just get a large jar and decorate it with ribbon or scrapbook stickers. Leave pieces of card stock, washi tape and a pen on the table with a sign asking your guests to leave their words of wisdom and love. When they are done writing their note on the card they can roll it up and wrap tape around it.

Once the party is over you can put the lid on the jar and present it to your graduate. You could also roll up dollar bills and add them to the jar before you give it to the graduate (if you were planning on giving them money anyways). Your child will love all the advice and kind words from their friends and family members and will appreciate this gift for years to come!

What words of wisdom would you give someone graduating junior high, high school or college?

 

Spring Mini Pudding Pies

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To celebrate National Pi Day today I wanted to share a super easy, fun snack for kids. This snack doesn’t require any baking and can be put together in just a couple minutes.

Ingredients needed:

  • 1 cup of premade vanilla pudding
  • Food coloring
  • Sprinkles
  • PEEPS
  • Mini pie crust
  • Whipped cream

Directions to make:

  • Add a few drops of food coloring to the vanilla pudding and stir to mix
  • Put vanilla pudding into the mini pie crust
  • Top with whipped cream, sprinkles and a PEEP

How are you celebrating National Pi day?

 Like this recipe? Check out my PEEPS nests featured in the Peeps-A-Licious cookbook.

20 Songs I’m Streaming This Month

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Disclosure: The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

I love listening to music. Whether I’m working, cleaning, or driving in the car, it just brightens my day. I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite songs that I’ve been streaming this month and I’d love to hear what songs you’re loving right now, too!

I recently received two Google Chromecast Audio units from Best Buy and it’s made the experience of listening to music around my home so much better. They enable me to play music on speakers, new or old, wirelessly from my phone, laptop or tablet. Chromecast Audio streams over Wi-Fi which has many advantages over Bluetooth including higher sound quality.

Previously I just listened to music on my phone through the phone’s speaker but I ran into a couple issues. First, it was a pain to carry my phone with me from room to room as I was trying to clean and then half the time my battery would die before I was done listening to my music. Then, when I received a call or text, my music would be interrupted which was annoying. With Google Chromecast Audio I don’t have to worry about this because it lets me stream my music over speakers without having to worry about draining my battery or texts and calls interrupting what’s playing. I like that I can easily use my phone to play, pause, or change the volume from anywhere in the home.

Chromecast Audio makes it easy to stream music, podcasts and more through apps like Pandora, Spotify, YouTube Music, and Google Play Music. I also love that I can play music throughout my home by grouping my devices together so I can listen to the same song on multiple speakers. That means that whatever room I walk into as I clean or put away laundry has the same song playing as the room I just walked out of. Listening to music is just much more enjoyable now thanks to this new device!

Do you like to stream music? Let me know what songs or artists you are streaming so I can check them out!

Be The Snack Mom MVP

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PureLife40pk #CollectiveBias

With spring baseball season just around the corner, I’ve already started planning for what I need to do to have a smooth sports season. From trying on last year’s cleats ahead of time to pulling the bat bag out from it’s winter hibernation in the garage to making sure that I’m stocked up with plenty of water for practices and games- I’m hoping to be more prepared this season than I have been in the past. (So I can avoid an issue like I had last year when I discovered on the first day of fall baseball practice that Jake’s cleats didn’t fit from the spring season that had just ended a few months before!)

My boys play sports year round which means I’m also responsible for team snacks at least once a month or so. That’s just one more thing to think about during our busy spring sports season when I’m balancing the schedules of two baseball teams and a soccer team (along with all of their other activities and school events). This year I decided to buy a small cooler that was the perfect size to hold enough water bottles for the team so that I could have drinks for snack time ready to go.

And because I’m a crazy sports mom I decided to decorate the cooler a bit to show my team spirit :)

Materials needed to decorate the cooler:

  • 1 to 2 cheer bows in the sport of your choice (or thick ribbon in the sport of your choice)
  • Sports themed stickers

Tie the bows on the handle of the cooler and put the stickers on where you’d like to. I used two big cheer bows on the handle, a “baseball” sticker on the front of the cooler, and then put a long scrapbook sticker that looked like the lace of a baseball on the handle of the cooler.

I also personalized the water bottles and had fun sports themed bottles in just minutes.

Materials needed to decorate/personalize the water bottles:

  • Colorful paper
  • Foam sports sticker
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Marker (optional for personalizing)

To decorate the water bottles cut strips of paper about the size of the label on the bottles. Tape the paper on to the bottle and add a foam sports sticker to the front. To personalize the water bottles even more you can write the name or initials of each child on the ball of their label.

I also went to Sam’s Club and bought a 40 pack of Nestlé® Pure Life® Water (available in select Sam’s Club stores, ask your Club Manager about getting Nestlé Pure Life Water in your store if it’s unavailable.). I like that I get 40 bottles for the price of 35! Nestlé Pure Life Water is filtered through a 12-step quality process and enhanced with a unique blend of minerals so it tastes delicious and refreshing.

I keep the cooler stocked with water and bags of snacks in the car so now all I have to do the day I’m snack mom is grab some ice or ice packs, stick them in the cooler and head to the game. The cooler sits near the dugout and I’m ready with cold waters and a snack for the kids when they are done playing their game.

How are you getting ready for spring sports season?

Movie Night To Celebrate Disney’s Moana

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Thanks to Disney Home Entertainment for sending us a movie kit to celebrate Moana’s release.

You all know that our family loves movie nights so when I was asked to host a movie night for the Digital HD release of Moana I was really excited. We didn’t see the movie when it was out in theaters so we had been waiting for it to become available so we could watch it at home.

We had a chance to watch the movie this past weekend, before it came out, using the Disney Movies Anywhere app. I loved not having to run to the store to pick it up and that we could easily watch it on our television using our Google Chromecast to access the app.

About the movie:

From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes Moana, an epic adventure about a spirited teen who sets sail on a daring mission to prove herself a master wayfinder and fulfill her ancestors’ unfinished quest. During her journey, Moana (Auli‘i Cravalho) meets the once mighty demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), and together they cross the ocean on a fun- filled, action-packed voyage, encountering enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and impossible odds. Along the way, Moana discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity.

To celebrate the movie coming out, I set up a table with our dinner and some snacks, mixing family traditions with some of our favorite things. When I was growing up, my family had pizza almost every weekend. It was a tradition that I loved and one that I have tried to continue with my family. I set out my boys’ favorite movie snack- popcorn! To make it a bit more fun I put the popcorn in a (clean) sand pail with a shovel to scoop it out on to their plates. The other snack I served was Goldfish crackers because they went along with the ocean themed movie. For dessert I decorated cupcakes with colorful sprinkles.

After we ate, we cuddled together on the couch and watched the movie. I loved everything about Moana, from the music to the characters to the storyline. Most of all though, I loved spending time with my kids after the crazy week that we had!

Moana is out NOW on Blu-ray and Disney Movies Anywhere. Have you seen it yet?

Creating A Gift Basket For A Sick Friend

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This post is written by me on behalf of Geometry Global. All opinions are entirely my own. This shop has been compensated by Acorn Influence, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

Being sick is difficult for anyone, but it is especially difficult for moms who have households to run and little people to take care of. I’m currently sick with bronchitis so I thought this would be the perfect time to share about things we can do for our friends when they are sick. Personally, I’m lucky to have such sweet friends, who have been checking on me, praying for me to feel better and have dropped off food to my family. These friends have been such a huge blessing to me and have inspired me to think about ways I can give back to my friends when they are sick.

Along with bringing food and offering a listening ear, a couple other ideas that might help a friend out when they are sick would be offering to watch their children or offering to help with any errands or work they might need assistance with. Another way to let a friend know you care about them is by creating a gift basket to cheer them up and help them feel better. I thought about what things might be good to include and wanted to share what I came up with.

Things to make them feel pretty- I love this “hello gorgeous” sign (pictured above). Sometimes when we are sick the last thing we feel is gorgeous so this sign is a great reminder for us. You could also include a little tube of lip gloss because we all know that a little swipe of pink lip gloss adds a bit of a pretty glow to a tired face!

Something warm to drink- Coffee or hot cocoa in a pretty mug can soothe a sore throat and the mug is a nice reminder of friendship that will put a smile on your friend’s face every time she drinks out of it.

Snack- I filled a little bag with sweets because everyone could use a bit of chocolate when they are sick. (I may or may not have picked up a candy bar while I was picking up my medications at the pharmacy last night…..) Find out your friend’s favorite snack and add it to your gift basket for her.

Relaxation essentials- When moms are sick the most important thing they can do is get some rest. Help them relax with a soothing candle they can light while they take a bubble bath or watch a favorite movie. A cute notebook they can write or draw in would be nice as well.

Flowers- It’s hard to keep the house tidy when we are sick isn’t it? Bring your friend some pretty flowers to help brighten up their home and help them forget the mess for a bit.

Kleenex - Most of the time I’m sick the one thing I use the most is tissues. I found a four pack of Kleenex Anti-viral facial tissues at Walmart which lets your friend (or you!) be able to keep a box of tissues everywhere they might be needed- whether it’s on the nightstand or next to the couch. These Kleenex are great because the active ingredients in the middle layer of this 3-ply tissue kill 99.9% of cold and flu viruses* in the tissue within 15 minutes. As moms, the last thing we want is for our kids to get sick, too, so the added anti-viral feature of these Kleenex is helpful in reducing the spread of germs to our families.

How do you bless your friends when they are sick?

 

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Disclaimer: *In the tissue in 15 minutes.  Virucidal against: Rhinoviruses Type 1A and 2 (Rhinoviruses are the leading cause of the common cold); Influenza A and Influenza B (causes of the flu); Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV – the leading cause of lower respiratory infection in children).

What Children Learn Through Play

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Thanks to the Toy Association for sponsoring this post as part of their Genius of Play campaign.

Did you know that kids learn through play? Whether they are building with blocks, playing with dolls or running around the playground, play is an important teaching tool! Through play, kids learn how to interact with others and develop critical lifelong skills. Today I’m sharing 6 benefits of play and how they each play an important role in raising well-rounded children. I’m also sharing some fun activities for each in case you are looking for more ideas to keep the kids learning through play all spring and summer long!

PHYSICAL

Active play helps kids with coordination, balance, motor skills, and spending their natural energy (which promotes better eating and sleeping habits). While sports are a favorite way for my boys to play outdoors, they also enjoy creating obstacle courses, having water gun fights and batting balloons around trying to keep them in the air. When I was younger, my favorite active games were Sardines (like hide & seek but you hide with the people when you find them) and Capture the Flag.

EMOTIONAL

During play, kids learn to cope with emotions like fear, frustration, anger, and aggression in a situation they control. They can also practice empathy and understanding. One way that kids can work through emotions is by role playing- so things like playing house or with dolls is great for working on these emotional skills. Reading stories about emotions and talking about them and acting them out, like in this activity called Mad Face Scary Face, is helpful as well. Musical Feelings is a fun active, musical game kids can play to talk about emotions, too.

SOCIAL

Playing with others helps kids negotiate group dynamics, collaborate, compromise, deal with others’ feelings, and share – the list goes on. I’ve noticed great strides in my children’s social skills after they go to summer camps and over the years as they have been involved in a number of activities. Being around other children really does help them grow. Whether they are playing team sports, chasing after each other in a game of tag, or playing a board game, children learn social skills as they navigate game rules and learn to work together towards a common goal.

CREATIVE

By allowing imaginations to run wild during play, kids create new worlds, and form unique ideas and solutions to challenges. One of my favorite creative play activities is making mud creations. Children enjoy this messy fun and it’s a great way for them to be creative with nature. Open ended craft activities allow children to be creative as well. As a teacher, I’d often set out a variety of materials on the classroom tables and it was fun to watch what the children created out of the random materials they were given.

COGNITIVE

Children learn to think, read, remember, reason, and pay attention through play. STEM toys and activities are great for encouraging children to learn cognitive skills. Activity ideas include making marshmallow sculptures with toothpicks and marshmallows, playing 20 questions, and creating a marble run. Children don’t even realize how much they are learning because they are having so much more fun learning these skills through activities than they would have sitting in a classroom or doing worksheets!

COMMUNICATION

Play lets kids exchange thoughts, information, or messages by speech, signals, writing, or actions. There are so many fun activities that kids can do to strengthen their communication skills. I shared 25 fun writing activities here- from writing out a script for a play they can act out with friends to making a treasure map to using sidewalk chalk to create a town or race track for their toy cars. Another fun activity to do in Spring is to create a nature journal to draw pictures of what they see on their walks.

Want more activity ideas? Check out the Genius of Play website. What are your child’s favorite ways to play?

Family Movie Night With Tampico

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Thanks to Tampico for sponsoring this fun movie night post.

Our family loves having movie nights at home. Whether we are re-watching a movie we’ve seen a dozen times, or watching a movie for the first time, it’s the one time of the week that we can all just relax and enjoy time together. Along with watching the movie we will often play a game or two and have popcorn as we cuddle under blankets in our darkened living room.

Since movie nights are my favorite night of the week, I sometimes like to make them a little more special with decorations or fun snacks. This week, I decided to surprise my boys with a fun celebration in honor of the new family film, DreamWorks The Boss Baby. The movie doesn’t come out in theaters until the end of this month, but I was inspired to create a fun family movie night. I thought it would be fun to put a tray of snacks together and let my children be “the bosses” and pick the movie we’d watch.

If you know me, you know that as much as I love celebrations and parties, I love keeping it simple. This movie night can be put together in just 10 minutes once you have everything you need!

I chose to add in some {baby} blue colored elements including a blue bucket for the popcorn, blue and white chevron straws, a blue serving tray and individual cups that were blue with white polka dots.

To drink I served little cups of Tampico juice drink. As I’ve shared many times previously, Tampico is their favorite drink to pair with everything from movie night snacks to their sandwich at lunch.

For snacks we had cookies, popcorn and strawberries. If you watch the trailer for DreamWorks The Boss Baby movie you will see why I chose to add cookies to this movie night. My boys really laughed at the cookie scene in the trailer so I thought it would be fun to recreate it during our movie night :)

Popcorn is our usual go-to movie snack but I fancied it up a bit for this movie night. I mixed plain popcorn with a bit of blue decorating icing and separated them into little cups. I then sprinkled them with crushed blue and white candies.

Everything was put on a tray for easy serving and to keep any spills contained.

Tampico Raise a Boss Scholarship Sweepstakes

You can invest in your little bosses, too, with Tampico’s Raise a Boss Promotion! Just visit TampicoRaiseaBoss.com to see how to get a free digital Tampico Boss Baby activity book, and enter for a chance to win thousands of $10 movie gift cards, and a grand prize of $5,000 towards a child’s education.

Does your family have movie nights? I’d love to hear how you celebrate your favorite movies coming out. Visit Tampico’s website for more fun family ideas!

 

Knight’s Shield Craft For Kids

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

When it comes to kid’s shows, I love introducing my children to ones that model good characteristics. My Knight and Me, a new show on Cartoon Network for kids ages 6-10, is one of these shows. The series models close family ties, emphasizes the importance of teamwork and underscores the importance of using strategy over might to solve problems.

In the show, kids can follow the quests of a colorful and charismatic trio of knights in shining armor. The trio includes loyal, street-smart Jimmy the Squire; daring and determined Cat the Princess; and bold and courageous Henri of Orange, Jimmy’s dad and a charmingly inept, yet passionately chivalrous knight who might not be the most efficient protector of the realm – but sure is the funniest! Together, the knightly group sets out from the Kingdom of Epic to save the day and brighten the Dark Ages!

To celebrate the new show, the boys and I created a knight’s shield for outdoor play this spring.

Materials needed:

  • Cardboard (piece large enough to make a round circle shield)
  • Foam pieces – large sheets of foam and decorative pieces
  • Cardboard tube
  • Foam glue
  • Scissors
  • Glitter glue (optional)

Directions:

Cut a circle out of cardboard. (I traced around a round pizza pan to get a nice circle shape.)

Glue large foam sheets onto the cardboard piece and let dry. Once the glue is dry, you can cut around the circle to cut off the excess foam.

Let your child decorate their shield with foam pieces and glitter glue.

Once decorated, glue the cardboard tube onto the back of the shield to make a handle. After all the glue is dry, your child is ready to play!

Don’t forget to check out My Knight and Me, airing weekdays at 12pm ET on Cartoon Network.

 

How To Get Through Your Work Day When You Have Chronic Pain

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Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. All opinions are mine alone. #StopPainNow #CollectiveBias

It’s hard for me to remember a time when I wasn’t in daily pain. I often joke that I’m in the body of someone double my age but, in reality, my situation is really not funny. Soon after I turned 30, I started to experience chronic joint and muscle pain. Sometimes the arthritic pain is just a dull ache I push through while I work. Other times I suffer from a throbbing pain that affects my movement as I go about my daily activities. I’ve even had a short period of time where the inflammation in my body was so bad that I said I’d rather go through childbirth again than deal with the debilitating pain I was suffering from.

I try not to let my pain keep me from living my life. During the past few years I have managed to work full-time from home while raising two very active and busy boys. I’ve had to learn to work through the pain, and I’ve done so, but wouldn’t it be great if there was something to help you overcome that pain?

There is! I recently learned about Curamin® Stop Pain Now, a dietary supplement that provides award winning pain relief. The key to Curamin® is that it doesn’t just mask occasional pain, it gets to the source and stops it.

Curamin® is available at fine health food stores (check the store locator to find a retailer near you). I found mine at Health Nutz in Mokena, IL. Surprisingly, as I walked into the store I overheard the owner talking with a customer about it. When I mentioned that’s what I was there for as well the customer raved about it saying it worked so well for her which was encouraging to me.

There were a variety of Curamin® products on the shelf but I chose to get the Curamin® Extra Strength 60 count. The owner told me more about the product as she rang it up and she also gave me some informational sheets and a magazine.

What I like about Curamin® is that it’s a safe choice for pain relief and it’s effective while being non-addictive. It’s herbal formula is different from over-the-counter pain meds and prescription drugs that can sometimes have negative side effects. This is important to me because I’ve used other medicines before to manage my pain and, while they worked, they had side effects I didn’t like, such as weight gain and not being able to drive while taking them.

Other than using this Curamin® product to help with pain relief, here are some other things I do to deal with my chronic pain and get through my work day:

On the really bad pain days, decide what’s most important and get that done first. There are days where the pain is going to be so bad that you aren’t going to be able to get much done and that is okay. Make a to-do list and mark the three biggest priorities. Get those done first and then work on the rest of the list. If you only get a few things done at least you’ve gotten the most important items crossed off your list.

Every hour stop working and walk around for a couple minutes to reduce stiffness. When I get working I tend to do so without stopping but I’ve noticed that if I sit in one position for too long my muscles get really sore. To reduce this soreness it helps me to walk around a bit every hour or two. Take a lap around your office, walk to the bathroom, or walk around your home.

Drink more water. I learned recently that dehydration can make muscle soreness worse so I’ve been trying to drink more water. If you have a hard time drinking as much water as you should be drinking you can try flavoring it with some fresh fruit. That’s my favorite way to drink it!

Do some gentle stretching. Stretching increases blood flow to the muscles to relieve stiffness. I do some simple stretches while I’m working if I feel muscles starting to tense up.

Give yourself permission to take a break when you need one. Living with chronic pain is difficult so give yourself permission to take breaks. Enjoy a leisurely lunch, head outside for a little fresh air and take a walk, or just sit quietly and meditate.

How do you get through your work day with chronic pain? I’d love to hear your tips!

 

How To Help Your Child Plan And Create An Outdoor Obstacle Course

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

After enjoying a “heat wave” in February I feel like warmer weather will be here to stay soon! With this in mind, I wanted to share a fun outdoor activity you can do with your kids this Spring. My boys and I went to Walmart to buy some outdoor toys and Goldfish® crackers (in the Cheddar flavor and the Xtra Cheddar flavor) and then we headed home for a fun afternoon.

Our outdoor activities usually consist of sports (because our children like to fit in practice however they can) but occasionally I like to switch things up a bit. Having taught preschool before Pinterest existed I had to come up with as many ways as possible to keep a classroom of kids busy and an obstacle course was one of their favorite activities. I thought it would be fun to make one with my boys as we spent time together outside.

The first thing you need to do to help your kids create an obstacle course is to gather all of the outdoor play items you have that your kids could use in creating an obstacle course. We used a few hula hoops, a little bowling set, flying discs, a football, cones, relay race batons, chalk and a tunnel. (If you don’t have much or it’s all packed away check out Walmart’s selection of outdoor toys!)

Don’t forget to bring your Goldfish® crackers outside because you know your kids are sure to get hungry while you all are playing. I buy Goldfish® crackers in the bulk boxes and then pour them into individual cups for easy serving outdoors.

After you bring everything you need outside, have the child plan their obstacle course by drawing it out on paper. Having children plan the activity before they set it up helps them develop critical thinking skills.

Jacob’s course involved jumping in hula hoops then going into a tunnel. Out of the tunnel he had put the relay batons down so that people would have to hop over each one. Next was a chalk drawn hopscotch and then a little bowling. After the person knocked all of the pins down he had cones set up and discs available to throw on each cone. The final obstacle was throwing a ball through a hula hoop someone was holding.

Jacob enjoyed drawing out the course he envisioned while Lucas preferred to sit in the shade and eat his favorite snack – Goldfish® crackers! {The Snack That Smiles Back®}

Jacob made sure to eat some of his snack as well before they headed out to the front yard to complete the next step of the process- creation of the obstacle course!

Jacob did great setting up the obstacle course just like he had drawn on his paper.

Lucas, meanwhile, loved being the obstacle course tester.

He also helped by changing around things he thought needed to be fixed :)

After an afternoon full of building their obstacle course and going through it numerous times they enjoyed some more Goldfish® crackers before it was time to head inside.

Have you ever created an obstacle course with your kids? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Lightheaded Bed Giveaway

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Disclosure: I received product in exchange for posting this giveaway but all thoughts are my own.

Every child loves to make their bedroom their own. From choosing the decor to the toys on the shelf to the artwork they display on their walls, being able to personalize their space is important to children and teens. One fun way that kids can do this is with LightHeaded Beds.

LightHeaded beds are expertly crafted wooden beds with illuminated back-lit imagery within the headboard. The innovative headboard is designed with an impact resistant LED panel that can be a nightlight, a reading light or a decorative statement piece for your child’s room. The LED panel is dimmable, can be set on a timer, and even fades to off as a night light to help lull your child to sleep. All can be done via a remote control that comes with the bed. And no need to worry about replacing the lights because the energy-saving LEDs last up to 50,000 hours.

Best of all, this LED panel can display HeadLightz graphics that can be customized and changed easily for holidays, special events, seasons, or as your child’s interests and hobbies change. There are thousands of interchangeable HeadLight Images for boys and girls at all ages or you can use your own photos or artwork.

Each bed comes with a starter Dolphin themed Headlight™ Image valued at $20 as well as a $20 coupon towards another HeadLight™ Image of your choice at LightHeadedBeds.com.

Changing the images is easy. You just lift up the top of the headboard, slide the image out and place a new one down into the headboard. The footboard is custom designed as well and features built-in storage for the HeadLight Images. This is convenient and allows you to keep the images in good condition.

The bed itself is perfect for all ages and features adjustable height side rails that allow for mattress only or a mattress/box spring combo. This Riviera bed is available in your choice of size and finish, with optional open under-bed storage or trundle. It’s the perfect choice for your growing child’s room!

Lifetime products is offering 10% off all beds on their site using the code ‘makingtime4mommy’. The offer is good through March 31, 2017.

GIVEAWAY:

One lucky reader will win a Riviera Full Bed (in their choice of finish), a starter Dolphin image and a $20 coupon towards an image of their choice at LightheadedBeds.com.

HOW TO ENTER:

To enter the giveaway, answer the following question in the comments below:

If you win the bed, what image would you choose?

For an extra entry you may share this giveaway on social media and leave the link as a separate comment below.

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm CST on March 12, 2017. Winner will have 24 hours to respond before another winner is drawn. Must be 21 or older and a US resident to enter.

 

Spring Fashion Pieces I’m Loving

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Thanks to Couponbox for collaborating on 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.)