Enjoy A Family Staycation At Pheasant Run Resort

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Thanks to Pheasant Run Resort for hosting our family for a staycation.

Summer is in full swing and, if you have been longing to take a vacation but can’t afford to or haven’t been able to get away for a week long trip, I have the perfect option for you. Take a staycation! If you are in the Chicago area you’ll find family fun in the burbs at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.

Pheasant Run Resort has an awesome Summer Splash package available Sundays through Thursdays, through September 4th. The package includes one night’s accommodations in a deluxe room, one 16” pizza and a two-liter soda, plus $10 worth of tokens for the Swamp Arcade all for just $149 per night for a family of four. The newly refreshed tower rooms have great views of the golf course and some, like our room, even have views of the local airport for those kids who love watching airplanes take off and land.

No need to leave the resort to find things to do on your staycation because Pheasant Run Resort has a variety of things that the whole family will enjoy doing. From swimming in their indoor/outdoor pool to playing air hockey in the arcade to getting ice cream from their ice cream shop, families will truly feel like they are on vacation. In addition, there is always something going on during the days and evenings, like arts & crafts, a scavenger hunt around the resort, and s’mores around the firepit. Families that enjoy golf can even play on Pheasant Run’s popular 18-hole course for just $10 after 5:30!

Looking for a bit of entertainment? You can find live music in some of their restaurants and bars in the evenings along with entertainment on their indoor “Bourbon Street”. Pheasant Run Resort also offers Zanie’s Comedy shows and a brand new iPanic Escape Room.

Hoping for more of a relaxing stay? For moms that can get away for a bit, there’s even a spa! With over 200 treatments, the resort’s spa was recently voted #1 by the Chicago Tribune newspaper.

Overall, Pheasant Run Resort is just a fabulous place to get away from the daily responsibilities for a few days. Learn more about their Summer Splash Package and make reservations here.

Protect Your Memories With Picture Keeper {And A $300 BTS Shopping Spree Giveaway}

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Thanks to Picture Keeper for sponsoring this post and giveaway.

I know it’s only July but my mind is starting to think back-to-school already! It might be the school supplies in stores or it could be the realization, after looking at my calendar, that the first day of school is only about a month away. (Which means I better get busy preparing for the school year…)

One of my favorite things to do on the first day of school is to take a picture of my boys so I can compare it to the previous year (and share it with friends and family obviously lol). The school year brings tons of other photo opps as well, like holiday concerts and PTA events, so if you like taking pictures of your loved ones like I do, give yourself peace-of-mind with backup security from Picture Keeper. With so many memories stored on computers, don’t risk photos of your children getting lost or deleted without a backup plan.

Picture Keeper Connect is a simple all-in-one USB device with embedded software that makes it easy to transfer photos, contacts, and videos directly from your Phone or Tablet (iOS and Android) to your Mac or PC with the simple click of a button, freeing up space on your device and securing your memories. This device is simple and convenient to use with no software to install, no wires to connect, no complicated setup, and no passwords to remember. The files can be accessed and backed up without WiFi or data connection and are always within reach. Best of all, there are no monthly fees associated with using Picture Keeper.

Protecting your memories shouldn’t be difficult. Whether you’re switching to a new phone, running out of storage on your smartphone, or wanting to safeguard those important first day of school photos, Picture Keeper Connect offers simple photo backup solutions for all devices – smartphones, tablets, and computers.

To celebrate the back-to-school season, Picture Keeper is hosting a great giveaway for a $300 shopping spree and a Picture Keeper Connect. Enter below for a chance to win!

Back to School Giveaway!

Live Music And More At Brookfield Zoo’s Summer Nights

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Thanks to Brookfield Zoo for sponsoring this post.

Brookfield Zoo has always been a place I’ve enjoyed taking my family to but now there are even more reasons to visit with the return of their Summer Nights outdoor concert series. From 4:00 to 9:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays through August 12, guests of all ages can enjoy a variety of live music acts. From popular local acts to national bands, all genres are represented throughout the summer so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Zoogoers can bring lawn chairs or blankets and relax on the East Mall while taking in the sounds. After a fun day walking around looking at all of the animals it’s nice to sit and relax while enjoying the music.

Future acts include:

  • Friday, July 21 – American English (Beatles tribute band)
  • Saturday, July 22 – The Main Squeeze (Rock n Roll Funky Soul)
  • Friday, July 28 – Brass Buckle Band is (Country-rock band)
  • Saturday, July 29 – One Moment From Glory (Top 40 cover band)
  • Friday, August 4 – Hello Weekend (Pop cover band)
  • Saturday, August 5 – House Party (DJs)
  • Friday, August 11 – Hi Infidelity (Hits from ’80s and today)
  • Saturday, August 12 – Dishwalla (Alternative Rock)

Along with live music on the main stage, there is also a kid’s stage with family-friendly acts including music, juggling and acrobatics, magic shows, and puppet and clown performances. There are roaming kids’ entertainers like jugglers and costumed animal characters, too. Best of all (according to my kids at least), is the fact that the playground is right next to the concert area. This is great because parents can let kids play and still be able to enjoy the music while they watch them.

Those who didn’t get a chance to see all the animals during the day can enjoy extended hours at some of their favorite exhibits. Several animal exhibits and other in-park attractions (some require separate admission) are open until 8:30 pm during Summer Nights. These include Butterflies!, The Carousel, Clouded Leopard Rain Forest, Dolphin Underwater Viewing, The Fragile Desert, Hamill Family Wild Encounters, Pinniped Point, The Swamp, and the zoo’s summer exhibit, Dinos & Dragons.

During Summer Nights, there are enhanced dining experiences along with a beer and wine garden. I enjoyed a Mai Tai and some fried pickles- both of which were delicious! Those who want to bring their own food and non-alcoholic drinks can do that as well.

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If you go to Brookfield Zoo’s Summer Nights make sure to stay until the very end because you will not want to miss the spectacular laser light show closing out each evening. Hands-down this is the best light show that I’ve ever seen!

Summer Nights is free with zoo admission. Get more details about Brookfield Zoo’s Summer Nights here.

 

Parents, Now You Can Say Yes To The Drums

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Thanks to Yamaha Drums for sponsoring this post.

Last year we were looking into starting music lessons when Jacob announced that he wanted to learn to play the drums. The idea of drums sounded fun but when I thought about all of the loud practice time I’d have to endure I quickly steered him to a less headache-inducing instrument, and he settled on the acoustic guitar. Though he loves the guitar, when Yamaha Drums contacted me recently about a drum set that he could practice on without disrupting the whole neighborhood while using, I quickly jumped on the opportunity to review it.

The video below gives a great overview of all the wonderful features that the Yamaha DTX400K drum kit offers.

The Yamaha DTX400 electronic drum kit is a quieter and more versatile option than traditional drum sets so it’s the perfect choice for parents who may otherwise resist exploring drums for their music-enthusiast children. The DTX kit comes with a set of headphones that can be plugged in to keep the noise down so the family will be undisturbed while the drum set is being played. This is by far my favorite feature because our home is already loud enough with two young boys and all of their toys and electronics that make noise. Playing these drums is one of the few things they do that’s actually quiet- all I hear is a subdued tapping sound when they play!

This electronic drum kit has other great features. For one, it’s a great set for small spaces. We live in a condo and wouldn’t have room for a larger drum set but this one fits perfectly in the corner of our living room.

Another feature that parents will love is that this drum kit is built to last. The Yamaha DTX400 line offers quality and durability which means that this kit can take a lot of punishment and still maintain a solid performance level for years.

This drum kit has a number of great apps as well that make it an even better value. The kit can be expanded with the DTX400 Touch app (free in the App Stores) to create new kit configurations, select preset kits, access tempo and metronome settings, and much more. Parents will also love being able to save money on beginner drum lessons with the DTX400 Drum Lessons app (available for iPad/iPhone). Your child can use this app to learn the basics before they start lessons with an instructor.

Listen below to all the sounds the DTX400 line can create- with just one drum kit!

I’d love to hear about your favorite features in the comments below. Aren’t you just loving the fact that this drum kit comes with headphones? Now you can say yes when your child begs to play the drums!

Backyard Updates To Brighten Summer Days

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Thanks to Kmart for sponsoring this post!

The boy’s baseball season is over which means our family is spending a lot more time relaxing at home instead of sitting at the baseball field. I love spending time in the backyard but our space was less than ideal for family time so we stocked up on goodies at Kmart to make it a place we want to spend all of our lazy afternoons. From a new patio table to a hammock to bright floral tableware, our space looks totally transformed and we spent all day Saturday just enjoying it.

Even better? The Summer Blowout is going on right now in stores and online with 10-40% off in all departments (excluding grocery), with some items up to 50% off! All your favorites, including apparel, footwear, electronics, home decor and toys are on sale to make your summer – and your backyard- ridiculously awesome.

The first thing I wanted to get was a new patio table because our old one had a broken top from an umbrella that had gotten loose a few weeks ago. I knew I wanted a table that seated 4-6 and wasn’t tempered glass so I did some searching and found this tile top table. It is perfect! It looks classy and is very spacious which is great for entertaining.

To brighten up the brown table I went with floral tableware in cheerful colors. This is probably the first time I have a complete set of tableware since having kids! (Any other parents have a cabinet full of mismatched pieces due to plates and bowls getting broken by little hands that were not yet ready for big boy plates?)

I also got floral placemats and serving trays in a matching design which added even more color to the table.

One other thing I had been wanting to get was an indoor/outdoor serving cart. I found this affordable one and it folds up so it’s perfect for our small space. I chose to get the serving cart in brown but it comes in a number of colors like red, teal and green to match any decor. I hung little solar powered lanterns on it so it will light up at night time for the evenings we will spend on our patio.

Having a serving cart is helpful when you are entertaining because it gives guests more room at the table. (It’s also a great place to keep dessert away from little ones that want to taste test the icing :) lol)

Kmart has aisles full of outdoor decor so even if you can’t update your whole patio, you can still get a few pieces to brighten up your space. I found some beautiful ceramic lanterns, outdoor pillows (like this butterfly one below), colorful door mats and so much more.

I really love all of the updates that we made to our patio. My favorite addition to our backyard though? A hammock! This hammock is perfect for taking an afternoon nap, reading a book or relaxing as you watch your kids play. Best of all it folds upright for easy storage during the winter!

Speaking of kids playing… I used this party tub to store water balloons for my kids water balloon fight but it will also be great for holding drinks at summer parties!

Do you need to spruce up your outdoor living space or want to stock up on a few more essentials before the end of the season? Hurry to Kmart for great deals during their Summer Blowout, now through July 30th!

My OREO Creation? Nutty Caramel Apple Golden OREO Cookies!

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Though I wish summer would last all year long, I can’t deny that school and the fall season are just around the corner. Stores have their back-to-school displays up already and I just registered Jake for football, my favorite fall pastime. Though I’m not looking forward to the colder weather, I am looking forward to all of the delicious flavors that fall brings, from pumpkin spice to caramel apple to maple.

One treat I enjoy eating in the fall is caramel apples so when I heard about the My OREO Creation contest, where people can submit ideas for new OREO flavors, I knew that my creation would incorporate the flavors of a caramel apple into a cookie. Think about a Golden OREO with a filling of sweet apple, smooth caramel and salty nuts. It would be the perfect flavor for the upcoming months!

What would your OREO creation taste like? With the My OREO Creation contest, OREO is inviting people to submit their own ideas for the next OREO flavor!

Head to Walmart to try the many flavors available (like Cinnamon Bun, Peanut Butter, and Mint) and then submit your own unheard-of flavor, for a chance to see your submission come to life and win a trip to New York City! Learn more about the My OREO Creation contest here. (NO PURCH NEC. 50 US/D.C./PR 18+. Enter by: 7/14/17. Rules)

I was surprised to see that OREO has a number of new items too, like their MILKA OREO Big Crunch Chocolate Candy Bar and the MILKA OREO Choco-Mix Snack Mix. Yum!

What would your OREO creation taste like? I’d love to hear about your idea for a new cookie flavor in the comments below.

White Sox Family Sundays

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Thanks to the Chicago White Sox for hosting my family at a game.

Looking for something family-friendly to do in the Chicago area? White Sox fans can spend a Sunday afternoon at the Sox field enjoying the baseball game and many fun kid-friendly activities.

Family Sundays, presented by Coca-Cola, cover all Sunday home games in 2017 and feature tickets as low as $5 in the upper level and $15 in the lower level. Plus, parking is available for only $10. The White Sox ballpark experience for kids on Sundays in 2017 also features special kid-focused activities throughout the concourse and the opportunity to run the bases after games (weather permitting).

If your child knows every Sox player’s name then an autograph session is a must-attend! Prior to select games listed here, the first 100 kids (age 13 and under) to enter the ballpark through the Chicago Sports Depot entrance (located near Parking Lot B and Gate 5) at 11:15 a.m. will be given a wristband and directed to the special area where four Chicago White Sox players will sign one item per child. (A regular game ticket is required for entrance but the autograph session is free with purchase of a ticket.) 

Don’t forget to sign your child up for the kid’s club, if they aren’t already a member, for special perks like ball park tours, tickets and more! (There is a paid membership with extra perks but the basic Slugger membership is FREE!)

We had such a fun time at the game last Sunday! It was hot and sunny but the boys enjoyed eating snacks from the concession stand while watching the game and hoping for a foul ball to come their way. They also loved getting some of the players to sign their autograph ball. At the end of the game they even got their own Sox ball and bat which was a special giveaway for the game. (Other theme nights are coming up which you can find on the schedule here.)

Have you ever been to a Chicago White Sox game? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

 

Summer Fun At Cedar Point

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Thanks to Cedar Fair for sponsoring this post and providing this great mini-vacation to Cedar Point for our family.

Happy 4th of July! Summer is in full swing which means our days are spent trying to get in as much outdoor fun as possible. We love going to theme parks and recently visited Cedar Point for the first time. We had such a great day at the park and I wanted to share about it before I headed out to enjoy some music and fireworks with my family.

Located in Sandusky, Ohio, Cedar Point is a 364-acre park with over 150 attractions, including 70 amazing rides. The park is home to 17 world-class roller coasters which is why many call it the “rollercoaster capital of the world”.

My boys loved riding the rollercoasters, especially Lucas my little dare devil! He is the kid on the rides with his hands in the air and a smile upon his face who was so thrilled he was finally tall enough to ride the bigger rollercoasters and was able to ride his very first “upside down” rollercoaster (the Corkscrew). I just loved hearing the excitement in his voice as he shared about the rollercoaster we went on.

My favorite coaster was the Magnum XL-200, a coaster that gave us beautiful views of the park and the lake as we went up to the top of this 205 foot tall coaster. With speeds up to 72 MPH this coaster is one of the extreme thrill rides in the park!

There were a lot of other fun rides the boys enjoyed like “Joe Cool’s Dodgem Driving School” bumper cars, “Ocean Motion” the rocking ship, and the “Tiki Twirl” spinning ride.

As a family we enjoyed going on the “Giant Wheel” Ferris wheel, “Sky Ride” cable cars and the Cedar Point train, all of which gave us fabulous views of the whole park.

Cedar Point has much more than rides though! Check out the Dinosaurs Alive exhibit, meet Snoopy and his friends, or catch a show. We really enjoyed the All Wheels Extreme show featuring stunts performed by talented bikers, skaters and gymnasts from all over the country.

We also liked checking out all the animals in the Cedar Point Barnyard. This year they are even offering pony rides which Lucas was so excited to do because he loves horses. 

On hot summer days you won’t want to miss a visit to Cedar Point Shores Water Park! New for 2017, guests of the park can enjoy 18 acres of splish-splashin’ fun, featuring four new water attractions- Point Plummet, Portside Plunge, Lemmy’s Lagoon, and Lakeslide Landing.

Beach lover? Yeah, Cedar Point has that, too! Take a dip in the lake or just relax on Cedar Point Beach and watch as the kids build some sand castles. It was the perfect way to spend some time before we went to dinner.

The fun doesn’t end when the sun goes down! When it gets dark the park lights up. End your day at the park with Luminosity, a show featuring high-energy dancers, live music, aerial artists, pyrotechnics and so much more. Then, stay a little longer as the DJ spins your favorite songs. This all-ages celebration is the only way to end your day!

Overall we had a great time. There’s plenty to do at the main park and the water park that you could easily spend a few days exploring the park. If you aren’t local make sure to stay in a Cedar Point hotel to get access to the park an hour before everyone else! (We stayed off property at the Cedar Point Express which I’ll be sharing about soon!) As far as lines go, I was surprised to find that the lines for rides and food weren’t long which was nice because we were able to do more than I thought we would.

(Disability Information: For those families who are coming to the park with someone who has a disability, the park does offer accommodations. With Lucas on the Autism Spectrum, he often has a hard time and becomes overwhelmed at theme parks because of the crowds and waiting. Cedar Point has an Alternate Access pass which lets guests with disabilities or special needs get a boarding pass that allows them to rest in a comfortable spot, away from the crowds, until the boarding time and then enter the ride via the Alternate Access Entrance. Depending on how Lucas is doing there are days when passes like this are the only way we can spend a day at a theme park. Thankfully though, since Lucas was having a good day and the park wasn’t too crowded, we only had to use this pass a couple times throughout our day.)

Have you ever been to Cedar Point? What is your favorite thing to do there?

The Zap Zap Math App Makes Learning Fun

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

When I was growing up, practicing math was done using flashcards and worksheets. It was boring and something I dreaded doing which led to math becoming my least favorite subject in school. Nowadays, math is more interactive which makes it fun for kids who are learning and practicing math concepts. They also get to play cool apps like Zap Zap Math which turns math into a game. This app is perfect to keep kids learning at home and on-the-go and will help keep your child from experiencing the dreaded “summer slide” we all hear so much about.

Zap Zap Math is a game-based learning ecosystem that makes learning math fun and engaging, with a series of games covering math topics from Kindergarten to 6th grade. Inhabited by Mathlings, the Zap Zap Math ecosystem brings fun into the equation with a whole universe of math games that are designed based on Bloom’s Taxonomy to encourage children’s critical thinking skills.

Zap Zap Math has over 150 Mathematical topics, with a fully developed comprehensive curriculum that has been designed to mirror common core standards. I like that the app is split up by grade level and it’s easy to switch between the grades so it’s a great app that both my boys can use without having to log out and back in to switch between their two grades. While the kids enjoy playing, I love the web dashboard that lets parents and teachers check each child’s progress by topic and see which areas they might need help in.

Zap Zap Math is available for download on both iOS and Android devices. The app is free to download but you can upgrade to the premium version for only $9.99 a year (that’s less than a dollar a month!)

What’s your favorite way to keep your kids from experiencing the “summer slide”?

No Kid Hungry This Summer

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Summer can be the hungriest time of year for many low-income families. When schools close, students no longer get school meals, and families struggle to put food on the table. Families struggling to make ends meet are forced to make unthinkable decisions between whether to buy a bag of groceries or pay rent, whether to pay the electric bill or buy enough food. This places a huge burden on children who deserve to be carefree and healthy in order to succeed and revel in their recess.

Luckily, No Kid Hungry has set out to bring some peace of mind to those kids. They have implemented a texting hotline that provides information about when and where free summer meals will be served in any given area. By texting “FOOD” to 877877, families in need will receive a message with the locations closest to them, serving free summer meals by providing their zip code. Spanish speakers are also able to text “COMIDA” to the same number. This information is also accessible by dialing the hunger hotline: 866-348-6479.

Last year, No Kid Hungry’s efforts served 177 million free meals at 47,816 sites across the U.S. through the Summer Food Service Program and they hope to reach many more this year. If your family does not need this service please consider sharing this with your friends and those in your community who may be struggling to put food on the table this summer. 

Last Minute Gift Ideas For Dad {Giveaway}

Father's Day Gift Guide

Thanks to Sears for sponsoring this post and giveaway.

Father’s Day is this Sunday! Anyone still need to buy a gift for dad? My boys have reached the age where they like to help pick out gifts to give for occasions like this so we are headed to the store tomorrow for some last minute shopping. While they try to convince me we should go to a toy store and get him toys because “daddy really likes toys”, I know better and will be taking them to Sears where there are plenty of things that their dad actually would want.

From tools to small appliances to trendy clothes, Sears has the perfect gift for every dad. I checked out Sears.com to get an idea of what we’d find and am sharing some of my favorites here so you can make sure to visit Sears online or in-store for all your Father’s Day gifting needs! I also have a $50 Sears e- gift card I’ll be giving away for those last minute shoppers.

Gift idea #1: A new grill and/or grilling accessories for the dad who loves to grill

Several years back I shared here on the blog how we got a new grill from Sears. I think it is one of the best gifts I’ve given and something that gets used on a frequent basis. They have a number of grilling accessories too so dad can grill everything from fish to shish kabobs.

One of my favorites is the Kenmore 4 Burner LP Mocha Gas Grill with Searing Side Burner. I love the fact that it has the side burner plus the storage space on the bottom is perfect for all of the grilling accessories and seasonings dad might want to keep in it.

Gift idea #2: Craftsman Tools for the handyman

As a girl growing up I remember being amazed by how many tools my dad had. I never knew what all of them did but he always seemed to know which tool was perfect for the job. I think tools are the perfect gift for the handyman dad.

Sears carries an assortment of Craftsman tools and toolboxes. This Craftsman 254 PC Mechanics Tool Set with 75Tooth Ratchet is the only tool set dad will need to complete any and every mechanical job and it’s nice because all of the tools come in a well constructed tool box. Sears is offering up to 50% off Craftsman tools for Father’s Day (sale runs through 6/18).

Gift idea #3: Home theater system for the movie buff

Some dads are all about movies. They come up with a movie quote for every occasion and always know what movies are playing at the theater and what new movies are coming out every week.

Those dads would love a home theater so that every movie watched at home would make them feel like they were at the movie theater. The Samsung HT-J5500W 5.1 Channel Home Theater System w/ Bluetooth and Smart Blu-ray Player brings a cinema atmosphere to your living room. This package includes immersive speakers, a subwoofer and a smart Blu-ray player to enjoy all types of content in vivid color and robust audio. With 5.1 channels and wireless rear speakers, dad can create an immersive experience when watching sports or the latest blockbusters.

Gift idea #4: Rding lawn mower for the dad who prides himself on how his yard looks

Recently I saw a photo online of a dad mowing his lawn with a tornado in the distance. While I thought he was crazy because you should always take shelter in bad weather, it just goes to show that some dads will not let anything stop them from making their yards picture perfect. If you have a dad in your life who spends hours outside every weekend, a gift that would help make yard work easier would probably be appreciated.

For those with a large area to mow every week, a riding mower would make the perfect gift. The Craftsman Pro Series 42″ 20 HP V-Twin Kohler Hydrostatic Riding Mower w/ Smart Lawn Bluetooth Technologymakes me want to type all the heart eye emojis because this thing is amazing. Dad can get the job done quickly with this mower and it has Consistent-Cut™ technology so he’ll get the perfect cut even if your yard includes uneven terrain or areas of tall grass. Caring for the riding lawn mower is easy too with the Smart Lawn app for iPhone and Android smartphones that includes a run time tracker, service reminders and everything he will need to maintain the riding lawn mower.

Gift idea #5: New tent for dads who love to camp

Growing up we went camping often and I loved it so I think that camping equipment is a great gift that can help make memories for years to come. This would make a great gift for a new dad accompanied by a note sharing some of your favorite camping tips and tricks. Even seasoned campers could use some new equipment and I found this out the hard way! I had borrowed my dad’s tent that was probably more than 25 years old and woke up in a puddle of rain water in the middle of the night. So if dad enjoys camping, maybe surprise him with a new tent before he discovers he needs a new one while in the middle of nowhere.

Sears has tents, sleeping bags and everything else a camper needs. For smaller families, this Coleman Sundome® 4-Person Dome Tent would be ideal. Easy setup means less time setting up the tent and more time roasting marshmallows! This tent is compact, yet spacious and has a ground vent and two windows to help your family stay cool and comfortable. If it rains, the WeatherTec™ system with its patented welded floors and inverted seams will help you stay dry and the compact dome shape stands up to wind.

Gift idea #6: Mini-fridge for the beer drinker

I find that we always need extra fridge storage so mini-fridges are great. If your hubby enjoys a cold drink while watching a baseball game or enjoys entertaining, this might be a great gift for dad.

The Whynter Mini Stainless Steel Refrigerator is sleek and will fit in dad’s garage workshop, office or his man cave. This fridge holds an amazing 117 12-ounce can beverages or up to 27 wine bottles.

Gift idea #7: Mountain bike for the explorer

One of the things Sinisa wants this year is a bike so he can go bike riding with the boys. It’s a great way for dads to spend time with their families- whether they are just going on a ride down the street or exploring a wooded trail.

There are a number of bikes to choose from at Sears from well known brands like Schwinn, Mongoose and Iron Horse. The IRON HORSE 29″ Men’s Warrior 3.2 Mountain Bike is the perfect set of wheels for dad. This mountain bike is built to take all the bumps, dips and holes in stride and is designed to make even rough roads feel freshly paved.

As you can see, Sears is definitely a one stop shop for your Father’s Day shopping because they offer a wide range of home merchandise, apparel, automotive products and more! Sears provides shopping convenience – letting members shop wherever, whenever and however they choose, both in stores and online. They even have an awesome rewards program called ‘Shop Your Way’ that is a free social shopping destination and rewards program offering millions of products, personalized services, and advice. The program rewards members for buying the products and services they want every day. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you will want to sign up!

Enter below to win a $50 e-gift card to Sears! The winner will receive it before Father’s Day so they can pick out some last minute gifts for dad!
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The Assistant That Every Busy Family Needs

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Thanks to Picniic for sponsoring this post.

As a busy working mom of two boys I often dream that I have an assistant to help me with my everyday tasks. Since I’m not made of money though, I don’t see that happening any time soon. That’s okay because I’ve discovered Picniic, the app that acts as an assistant that helps families become more organized, productive, and connected than ever before.

Picniic simplifies family life so you can spend more time doing what you love, and less time organizing it. All family members (mom, dad, kids, caregivers, etc.) can easily access Picniic via web, phone, and tablet to keep everyone organized and on the same page. Best of all, sign up is free!

Picniic has many features that families need including:

  • Shared family calendar
  • Grocery list
  • To-dos & lists
  • Premade lists
  • Family news feed
  • Store custom recipes
  • Search online recipes
  • Meal planner
  • Group event planner
  • Family locator
  • Secure family info locker
  • Birthdays & anniversaries
  • Work calendar import
  • Subscribe to your family calendar
  • Sync with TeamSnap sports

The shared calendar is one of my favorite things about the app because it gives me a snapshot of every family member’s daily activity in one screen. This makes it easier to visualize all my family commitments, and to see where there are available openings.

While other apps let you share your calendar, Picniic is unique in that it combines all the key areas of your family life, providing a system for running your home. In reality, most calendars only help with the scheduling aspect of family life, but there are many other critical elements. From planning meals, to centralizing important family information, to knowing where your kids are located at any one moment — Picniic’s goal is to bring all your family activities and data into one place. This allows everyone to stay more connected and in sync as a family unit.

For those that use and love Picniic already or those that start using the app and discover how amazing it is, I’m excited to share about the new Picniic Ambassador program that just launched today! If you share about it with friends and family and get 5 families to sign up using your unique link you can qualify to become a Picniic Ambassador!

Picniic Ambassadors get Picniic Premium free for one year plus a lot of extra perks like being entered into ambassador weekly giftcard giveaways, Picniic swag, the opportunity to provide feedback and input on Picniic product development and exclusive looks at Picniic updates before they go live. The best perk of all though? Money. Picniic Ambassadors receive 20% cash-back for all premium purchases made on an account referred from your personal tracking link. If someone you refer refers another family to Picniic, and they make a purchase, you will receive 5% of this purchase and for every referral from a referral from a referral, you will receive 3% cash back.

Learn more and sign up for Picniic here!

DIY Cat Wand Toy

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

It’s hard to believe that our fur babies, Peaches and Boomer, have been in our lives for two years this month. When we got them they were playful little ones who had been abandoned in a park by their owner. Though they’ve gotten older, they are still just as playful as the day they came home (though now they actually sleep at night instead of chasing each other around!)

To keep them active I feed them quality cat food like Rachael Ray™ Nutrish® Indoor Complete Chicken with Lentils & Salmon Recipe. Nutrish Indoor Complete contains a real superfood blend to meet the complete needs of indoor cats, addressing concerns such as weight, digestion and immunity. I like knowing that this cat food contains real U.S. farm-raised chicken as the #1 ingredient, plus real salmon, without any ground corn, wheat, soy, poultry by-product meal, artificial preservatives, or artificial flavors.

(Click the image below to save $2 on Nutrish Indoor Complete!)

Another way that I keep my cats active is by playing with them. They have a number of toys they like to play with, from balls to catnip filled faux mice. We had a fun wand toy that they loved as well but the handle broke so I thought I’d make a new one myself. I wanted to share this fun DIY with you all so you could see how easy it was to make one!

Materials needed:

  • Dowel (with a cap on the end)
  • Washi tape
  • Ribbon
  • Cardboard pieces
  • Felt
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Bells
  • Hole punch (or crafting knife)

Directions:

Stack ribbons on top of each other and place the top of the dowel in the middle of the ribbons. Take all the ribbons at once and tie a knot right under the dowel cap.

String a few bells on to the ribbons and push all the way to the top so that the wand will make noise when shaken but the cats won’t play with them.

Cut a few felt shapes out of cardboard and felt, making sure that they are the same size.  (I chose to make flower shapes but fish shapes would be cute, too!) Then glue felt to cardboard shapes. Make a hole a few inches from one of the edges using your hole punch or crafting knife so that a piece of ribbon can go through. Then stick one ribbon through each and tie a knot in the back.

To finish you can use your washi tape to decorate the wand. I added a little green at the bottom. I love how colorful this cat wand is!

You can find Nutrish Indoor Complete, for adult cats 1 year or older, at retailers both in stores and online. I bought mine at my local Walmart. Make sure to use the coupon I shared above to save $2 on Nutrish Indoor Complete (you can print it two times). The coupon is good through the end of 2017 and you have 30 days from the time you print it to redeem it.

How do you keep your cats playful and active?

Diet Food That Actually Tastes Good {And Is Delivered Right To You!}

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

Years ago a friend was giving away some diet food she didn’t like and I excitedly took it off her hands. I remember taking a couple bites of the first meal and thinking that it was literally one of the worst things I had ever tasted. It was dry and bland and I wondered why anyone would torture themselves with food like that. If that was “diet food” then I wanted nothing to do with it.

Then, this year, I tried Personal Trainer Food and was surprised to find that diet food could actually taste great. Personal Trainer Food is a diet delivery service providing pre-portioned, nutrient-packed frozen meals straight to your door! The food is protein-packed, filled with good carbs, healthy fats and no fillers! You can choose the delivery plan that fits your goals and lifestyle best. From REV! for rapid weight loss to the 14-day 2 meals/day program that gives you the flexibility to make your own breakfasts and some lunches and dinners.

I love that Personal Trainer Food makes life easier. Since the meals are delivered right to my home it saves me time and money at the grocery store. Also, because everything is pre-portioned and stored in the freezer, meal time is simple. It’s as easy as picking out a protein and a veggie, heating them in the microwave according to the time on the packages and dumping them on to a plate.

Best of all though? The food tastes good so you’ll actually want to eat it! There are over 75 restaurant quality menu items which means you have an almost endless variety of meal options. For breakfast I enjoyed the frittata and omelets with maple sausage. My favorite protein items were the meatballs, bacon & cheese chicken sticks and all of the chicken options. Personal Trainer Food even makes vegetables delicious with their line of sauces you can add to them like my favorite, garlic butter sauce.

If you are looking for an easy way to eat healthier, I highly recommend Personal Trainer Food. Now through Friday, 6/9, save 20% Off Any Meal Program + 28 Free Snacks using the code ’20SNACKS’. Learn more about Personal Trainer Food and order here.

Father’s Day Gift Guide

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Disclosure: I received samples of all products featured but all thoughts are my own.

Father’s Day is in a few weeks and, if you are like me, you probably still need to find the perfect gift. Let’s skip the tie and socks this year, okay? Today I’m sharing 8 gift ideas that might be just what the man in your life wants. I’ve got something for the grill master to the tech geek and everyone in between.

For the well-groomed man – The Good Stuff

The folks over at The Good Stuff have created the recipe for a flawless barbershop shave. Founded by real barbers with over 140 years of combined experience, they’ve perfected the art of shaving with their premium line of products. The Good Stuff Shave Lather is infused with pre-shave oil to reduce friction and nourish the skin. Their Aftershave has a light, clean fresh scent that protects with SPF15 with no greasy, shiny residue. Does your dad have sensitive skin? Their One of a Kind original formula can be used in replace of after shave or in combination and is recommended twice a week to create healthier skin and softer facial hair.

The Good Stuff monthly subscription lets the dad in your life experience the smoothest shave at home, each and every morning. They are so confident in the quality of their Shave Lather that they are letting everyone try it for just 5 bucks when they sign up! Learn more and subscribe here.

For the tech geek – Navdy

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. Read my full review of Navdy here.

For the man who loves to grill – Zach’s Wing Sauce

Designed with the griller in mind, Zach’s Wing Sauce is the first ever sprayable wing sauce. Crafted like great beers with premium ingredients and even packaged in a beer bottle with a sprayer on top, Zach’s aims to make grilling wings an experience that wing lovers will want to repeat…often. This sprayable sauce means less cleanup and allows grillers to use just the right amount of sauce. It’s made with quality ingredients and are Vegetarian, Dairy Free and Gluten Free.

They offer a $20 Mix Pack online that lets you mix and match your dad’s favorite flavors, like Chocolate Chipotle, Sriracha Lime and Better Buffalo. They can also be find in stores like Jewel Osco here in Chicago.

For the traveler – ModernMapArt

Have a dad who loves to travel? ModernMapArt takes his favorite cities, mountains, and places and turns them into beautiful works of art. If you’re looking for the perfect way to help him remember that trip to Europe, honeymoon, place you got engaged, his alma mater, hometown, or anything else, their maps are a great way to display that nostalgia. ModernMapArt creates museum-quality posters made on thick, durable, acid-free paper. The prints are created using UltraChrome ink so they are fingerprint resistant. Order one here and get free shipping on all US orders.

For the gift basket lover – BroBasket

The BroBasket offers the coolest choices of custom baskets that include all his favorites like craft beer, fine wines and spirits along with his favorite brand name gear and goodies. All baskets are 100% customizable and come in non-alcoholic versions too! The Craft Beer Tasting Kit is designed for those men who scoff at typical domestic beer and want something you can’t find at your local corner store. This basket offers a sampling of the top 4 beers from the 8 California breweries that BroBasket carries. Have a golfer in your life? The Golfers Delight basket above may be the perfect choice! Check out all the baskets available here.

 

For the outdoorsy guy – Family Camping Trip

What better gift to get the outdoorsy dad in your life than a camping trip with his loved ones? In my opinion, the gift of time together is the best gift you can give! Find a camping location here (kids camp free Father’s Day weekend!) and then enjoy it! For added fun, you can customize special shirts for dad and his lads. See how I made our camping shirts (pictured above) here.

For the musician – Yamaha Electronic Drum Set

Whether the dad in your life is a drummer looking for a space saving set to practice on or a beginner hoping to start a garage band, the DTX400K electronic drum kit from Yamaha would make an amazing gift! It’s really like having ten professional drum sets in one compact electronic drum kit because they can freely mix any of the 169 organic drum sounds to create customized kits that suit their style. They can try a heavy metal double bass kit one day then change into a dance kit the next, or keep their ten favorite kits of all time. They get a world of choices in this electronic drum kit: 23 snares, 21 kicks, 36 toms, 31 cymbals, and 42 percussion instruments. Learn more about the Yamaha DTX400K here.

For the coffee adventurer – Atlas Coffee Club

Trying to find a great gift for someone who loves trying new coffee flavors? Atlas Coffee Club is a travel-themed coffee of the month club that explores the world’s best coffee; Tanzania, Burundi, Congo, and beyond. Atlas Coffee Club curates only the finest coffee, paying above market prices to ensure that farms can produce high quality coffee year over year, and roasts each batch to accentuate flavor profiles distinctive to the each coffee region. Made to order to guarantee freshness, a subscription is the ultimate opportunity for organic flavor discovery and global variety. Each month Atlas Coffee Club highlights a new coffee growing country and shows the unique differences in both taste and culture.. To go a step further, they’ve designed their coffee bags as a celebration of culture for each country as each design was inspired by local textiles and landscapes. Order a gift subscription here.

What gift would the dad in your life love to receive?

Family Fun In Lake Geneva

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We spent Memorial Day weekend in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and there was a lot more to do with kids than I thought there was going to be. It’s definitely a town I’d recommend if you are looking for a quick vacation this summer! I wanted to share some of our favorite activities that we did while we were there along with suggesting a great place to stay and a couple places you may want to eat at.

Paradise Miniature Golf

This 18-hole miniature golf course is fairly inexpensive fun in a touristy town. The course was nice and well-maintained though the waterfall seemed to be under construction or not turned on yet for the season (which didn’t impact play in any way).  The course only had a few other families using it while we were there so it was quiet. We enjoyed playing and had a lot of laughs when a couple of our balls ended up in the water and we had to try to fish them out.

Moose Mountain Falls Indoor Waterpark (Located Inside Timber Ridge Lodge)

Guests staying at Timber Ridge Lodge can enjoy full access to Moose Mountain Falls indoor waterpark and the outdoor pool areas. The indoor waterpark is perfect for rainy day fun and easily won the “favorite thing to do” title from the boys. I like that the indoor waterpark was split in to two pools- one that was great for babies and toddlers and one for everyone else. The deeper one had basketball hoops on one end and Jacob ended up spending most his time there. There are two large water slides- a tube slide and a raft slide- that the boys loved going down along with two smaller slides. There was also an “adults only” hot tub (though I didn’t have a chance to try it out) and a lazy river. The outdoor pool areas are a little small in my opinion but if it’s nice out you probably don’t want to be sitting around the hotel anyway! Parents of young children will appreciate that the little kids have a separate pool area to play in.

Geneva Lake Museum of History

I’m going to be honest- visiting the history museum wasn’t on my list of things to-do when I headed to Lake Geneva. We had arrived at our lunch restaurant an hour before it opened so we had some free time and the museum happened to be across the street so we decided to go. I’m so glad we did! The boys, especially Lucas, really liked exploring it and I enjoyed checking it out as well. The first part was a “Main Street” that had replica homes you could go in to see how people lived during certain time periods. There are also a number of exhibits including a shoe exhibit, military exhibit, and train exhibit. Kids get in free to this museum and to make it even more fun for them, make sure to ask for a BINGO game they can play while walking through the museum!

Downtown Lake Geneva

One of my favorite things to do is walk around towns that have cute little downtown areas and Lake Geneva’s did not disappoint. Downtown Lake Geneva is fairly large with lots of great stores to check out and plenty of restaurants with outdoor seating areas. The boys enjoyed playing Pokemon Go as we explored the area. They also discovered a comic book store and a children’s book store which they thought were awesome. I enjoyed shopping at all of the stores with “lake life” decor as I imagined furnishing my dream lake home. Another great thing about the downtown area was that parking was so cheap! It was only $1 an hour to park downtown which will shock those from nearby cities like Chicago or Milwaukee.

Riviera Beach

Located right in the heart of downtown Lake Geneva, Riviera Beach provides the perfect way to cool off when it’s hot outside. Though the city was packed last weekend, the beach itself wasn’t as crowded as I thought it would be. The beach area was clean and had lifeguards watching the water. There was a charge to get in the beach area but, if you are looking to save money and don’t care about getting in the water, there is a large grassy area right behind the beach that’s great for picnics and doesn’t cost anything to enjoy. Make sure to stop in the adjacent Riviera Pavilion for some ice cream, too!

OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS:

If you are traveling via car make sure to stop by the nearby Jelly Belly Factory for a free tour and candy. The Mars Cheese Castle is a great place to stop for lunch and some snacks on your way to Lake Geneva as well!

Families will love staying in a suite at Timber Ridge Lodge for waterpark access. (They also have giant jet tubs for a little end of the day relaxing….)

We ate at a handful of restaurants but a couple I’d suggest are Carvetti’s Bar & Grill and Popeye’s. Carvetti’s has a nice patio area and, best of all, kids eat free with the purchase of an adult meal! Popeye’s is right across from the beach and has nice lake views. I loved sitting in their outdoor table area and their food was really good.

Have you visited Lake Geneva before? If so, I’d love to hear about your favorite family-friendly activities!

 

Sensory-Friendly Fun For Families At LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago

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As a parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum, I am so excited to share about the newest sensory-friendly event in the Chicago area for families affected by autism and other sensory sensitive disorders! LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago is teaming up with Autism Speaks, a non-profit dedicated to autism advocacy, to host Play Well Days – a series of sensory-friendly mornings of fun for all children.

Beginning this June, Chicagoland’s ultimate indoor LEGO playground will open early at 8:30 a.m. on the first Saturday of every month with activities and attractions specially-designed for children, families and groups with disabilities. Staff specially trained by Autism Speaks, as well as LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago’s Master Model Builder, will help facilitate fun throughout the Center’s 12 attractions until the center opens to the greater public at 10 a.m.

Special accommodations will be made during Play Well Days including:

  • Reduction of sound and light levels
  • Designated quiet areas
  • A reduced center capacity
  • Staff training by Autism Speaks
  • Special $5 Ticket price
  • Earplugs will be provided at request
Here’s a great video you can watch with your child to help prepare them for the event:

Admission for Play Well Days is $5 per person, and tickets are available online or at the door. You can register online for the sensory-friendly mornings here.

Afterschoolz: An Activity Finder For Chicago Area Families

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Thanks to Afterschoolz for sponsoring this post.

At the beginning of this year I shared about a helpful resource called Afterschoolz, a website that helped caregivers find activities for their kids in the Chicago area. The site was pretty new at the time but had such a great variety of activities listed and new ones being added frequently. I really liked the variety of activities provided, from sports to STEM classes to unique things like anime club. There seemed to be something for everyone.

Since the site was fairly new, they were looking for feedback and asked Making Time For Mommy readers what else you’d love to see available on the site. I know many of you asked for better search functions and I’m happy to say that the folks at Afterschoolz heard your request and made updates to make the search options even better.

This is great news for those of us still looking for summer activities! Personally, I have been wanting to find a gymnastics class for Lucas because the one he goes to at our local park district was cancelled this session and he was really disappointed. When I searched Afterschoolz I was excited to see many options, including gymnastics studios nearby that I never knew existed.

Searching the site to find local activities your children would enjoy is so easy using their new search feature with adjustable filters. You can pick the kind of activities you’d like by main category (academics, arts, athletics, camps or preschool) or search by specific activity keyword like “crafts” or “hockey”. You can look at all activities in your area or narrow the activities to only show ones within 5 miles of you. You can narrow the search even more by adding in more specifics about your child like age and gender and price limits if you are on a budget.

My favorite feature though, is the date and time filter. With a busy schedule I like being able to put in the hours that we have open and be able to see classes and lessons that are during those time periods. It’s great not having to search through dozens of activities looking for ones that work for our family’s schedule because this filter does all that work for us.

So whether you are looking for a summer camp for your tween, an art class for your preschooler or a dance class for your budding ballerina, Afterschoolz is the website Chicago area parents will want to check out. In addition to the great search function, the site shows detailed descriptions along with ratings and parent feedback on activities. There is even the option to sign up for the activities right on the site making this an easy to use resource parents will refer to for years to come!

What summer activities will you be searching the site for?

The Busy Mom’s Guide To Relaxation

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This post is sponsored by BabbleBoxx.com on behalf of Single Edition Media.

As a busy mom it can be hard to find time to relax. Between my kids, home responsibilities, work and everything else, sometimes doing something for myself seems like just another task on my ever growing to-do list. Usually I just sit in front of the television in the evening because I’m so exhausted but I’ve really been trying to spend a bit of time relaxing each day (my blog is called Making Time For Mommy after all…)

Today I want to share tips to help you relax. If you can carve out 30 minutes to an hour (or more) of time, I promise you won’t regret it! These tips are inspired by the fun ‘Busy Gal’s Bliss’ box I was sent by BabbleBoxx!

First thing you need to do? Turn off the electronics. I know it’s hard. I’m not judging anyone because I’d be embarrassed to share how much time I spend using electronics every day. It’s too much! I do know though, that as many great benefits as technology brings it also brings some not so great things, like stress. Disconnecting is important.

If your eyes hurt from staring at a screen all day or because of seasonal irritants, you may also want to use some eye drops, like Clear Eyes Pure Relief® Multi-Symptom. The unique formula of these preservative free eye drops is designed to relieve red, burning, itchy, dry, irritated, gritty or watery eyes and deliver up to 12 hours of soothing comfort. (Download a $3 coupon here.)

Next, write your to-do list for the next day. Don’t skip this step or you’ll be spending the whole evening thinking about everything you need to do. Writing everything down on paper will let you put it out of your mind for a bit so you can really relax.

The thing I find most relaxing is a warm bubble bath. If you don’t have a tub then a hot shower works, too. Taking your bath or shower in the evening, after the kids are sleeping, means you can enjoy it without little hands knocking on the door or feeling you need to rush through it.

Once you have taken a bath or shower, spend a little time on your beauty routine. First, use a kit like this one from Bloom Mineral Beauty (save with code ‘skin25′). I love the Shielding Eye Cream in the kit. It’s a natural and unique formula made with vitamin E fruit extracts and Dead Sea minerals that helps to control visible signs of aging, as well as tired signs around the eyes. As I’m getting older this is needed!

Also, warm weather means shorts so if you want smooth legs without the pain of waxing or the hassle of shaving, you’ll want to spend a bit of time using Nad’s new product- Nad’s Sensitive Hair Removal Cream. It’s designed for painless hair removal in as little as 4 minutes. Formulated with natural extracts of Melon, Aloe Vera, Avocado Oil and Honey to help soothe and protect sensitive skin, it has a pleasant smell while targeting the hair shaft for effective removal of unwanted hair.

The next thing you’ll want to do is put on something comfortable. Personally I can’t relax if I’m not wearing comfy clothes. I used to always think that I couldn’t be comfortable until I’d taken my bra off before bed but then I discovered the Coobie bralette. Made of soft, stretchy lace with adjustable straps, these bralettes are ultra comfortable and perfect for the warmer weather! The cups are lined with a soft, thin nylon blend that provides comfortable coverage without the bulk and no pads or wires. It’s perfect for every day wear or when you want to put on a little something pretty in the evenings. (I also love that they come in 3 sizes, Small (28A-32D), Medium (32A-34D), Large (36A-38D) so they fit most women.)

Lastly, you’ll want to spend some time doing something quiet, whether that’s journaling, reading, meditating, yoga, coloring or something else you find enjoyable and calming.

What tips do you have for fitting relaxation time in to your busy schedule?

 

Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Family’s Summer

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This is the first summer that my boys are not going to be in summer camp and I’m not going to be tied to my computer working so I’m excited to have a little freedom in our schedule now. Today I wanted to share tips about how we get the most out of our summer and how your family can as well. Whether you have the whole day free or your schedule is a bit busier, I think these tips can benefit all families!

My first tip? Extend your summer! Who says your “summer” needs to start in June and end in August or whenever the kids go back to school? I declared May 1st as the start of our summer one year and we are going to enjoy fun times as long as the weather will let us (which will hopefully be into September!)

Write down all of the fun things you want to do. I love creating bucket lists for every season and summer is no exception. When writing our summer bucket list I think of all the fun things I’ve enjoyed in the past, either as a child or with my own kids. I also make sure to add in a variety of ideas so we have ones for rainy days, places we can visit when we have a couple days of freedom, and a list of skills we have to practice or master over summer (like riding a bike). Keep your summer bucket list on your phone or in a notebook kept in your purse so that you can refer to it easily. I like having mine with me so, for example, if bad weather cancels Jake’s baseball game I can come up with an indoor activity to do instead of just going home and sitting on the couch in front of the television.

I also think it’s important to make sure to plan the fun occasionally. While I long for lazy summer days, that’s not always our reality between sports practices, therapy appointments, summer school and everything else we have to do. We’ve had many Saturdays that were filled with errands and, before we knew it, we’d wasted a gorgeous day with things that could have been done in little chunks of time elsewhere throughout the week. Schedule the fun in to ensure it happens!

I’ve also found it beneficial to put community events (like open gyms, library story times, farmer’s markets and anything else that has set hours) in my calendar so I don’t forget about them. If you are on a budget there are so many free and cheap activities available at stores (like lego building at Toys “R” Us and building projects at hardware stores), museums & aquariums (check for free days), and bowling alleys (we love the Kids Bowl Free program).

Enjoy some days of doing nothing. The school year will be back again before you know it so take some time to just sit around the house or the backyard and relax together. Dive into that book you’ve been meaning to read, stay in your pajamas all day or just go kick around a ball in the backyard. 

Lastly, don’t forget to record it! Take lots of pictures of your family’s summer fun (and mom, make sure to get in those pictures). Another thing we are doing this summer is having the kids write in journals daily. They’ll practice their writing skills but also record all the fun times they had which will be great to look back on.

How do you make the most of your family’s summer? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Find more ideas in my ultimate summer guide as well!

 

Attention All Puzzle Loving Families

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

I have a hard time sitting still and doing nothing so years ago I’d relax in the evenings by doing a puzzle while watching tv. Once I had children though, aka beings with tiny hands that like to get into everything, my relaxing puzzle evenings happened less and less because I couldn’t leave my puzzles out on the table. I’d given up on this hobby until I discovered Magic Jigsaw Puzzles, an app available in all major app stores and on Facebook. With more than 20,000 family-friendly puzzles that are perfect for all ages and skill levels, there are plenty of puzzles to choose from. Now I can still put together puzzles without my children (or my cats) messing with the pieces.

Lucas, my youngest, loves puzzles as well so this app is great for him, too. He’ll be even more excited to see some of his favorite movies have come to the app because ZiMAD, the game developer, has partnered with Sony Pictures to launch its first film-based puzzle collections within the Magic Jigsaw Puzzles mobile game. Now he can put together puzzles featuring scenes from The Smurfs, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Hotel Transylvania. Other current and new release films will be included in the game at a later date.

This app is fun for the whole family, whether you are sitting in the waiting room or your kids need something to keep them busy on a long road trip. I really like that it’s easy to switch from “beginner” to “advanced” so that both my boys and I can enjoy playing the app together. Sometimes I’ll even put together a beginner puzzle just to take a break during my work day. {Confession…I may have stopped writing this post for five minutes or so to put together a puzzle of a river I wish I was sitting by….}

If you love puzzles, or have just been looking for a new app to occupy your time, download Magic Jigsaw Puzzles today and see for yourself how much fun it is!

DIY Decorative Mirror And Clear Skin Dreams

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

This July, I will be turning 34. Now that I’m well into my 30s and have bought a home, have two kids and drive a minivan, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m fully grown. Can someone please inform my skin that I’m an adult? I don’t think it got the memo! Those dreaded teenage years are behind me (long behind me….) and yet I still find myself looking in the mirror at a face full of acne.

To be honest though, I don’t remember having a lot of breakouts in junior high or high school. I had some annoying pimples but nothing out of the ordinary during that hormonal time when acne tends to be at its worst. I feel like my skin played a trick on me and, as soon as I became an adult, decided to go haywire. I don’t know if it’s the stress of “adulting” or what, but my skin has never been this bad. I feel like I’m always dealing with breakouts and as soon as some start to fade, new ones appear.

My acne keeps me from enjoying life to its fullest because I am so self-conscious about how my skin looks. In college I was the Student Council Social Chair of my class and so outgoing that I would pull people walking by me into conversations (even if I didn’t know them!) Nowadays, I avoid conversations with people mainly because I feel like people are staring at the breakouts on my face.

I also find myself avoiding cameras and video for the same reason. As a blogger, I’d love to start a video series. I used to be on the speech team and have no problem performing in front of crowds, but I hate how I look so much that the thought of doing so now gives me anxiety – not because I have to talk in front of people, but because I don’t want people to see me.

And mirrors? I avoid them because they show every imperfection. I’d rather not look at myself that much because I don’t want to see how bad my breakouts are.

I’ve decided that it’s time to change my mindset about my skin and not let it hold me back from being the best version of myself. I need to be able to look in the mirror and love the face I see looking back at me. It’s going to be a process but I’m ready.

The first thing I’m doing is trying a new acne product that I hope will clear up my skin. I have tried a number of products and none of them have worked but I’m excited to try this new Differin® Gel because I have heard good things about it. It’s the first and only prescription strength retinoid that’s now available over the counter for clearing and preventing acne. It actually clears breakouts where they start (deep in the pores), prevents breakouts before they begin, and as a result, restores skin’s texture and tone.

The second thing I did for myself was make myself a decorative mirror to look into every day. I do not want to avoid mirrors anymore. This was such an easy craft that I wanted to share the DIY tutorial so you could make one for yourself. It will look so pretty hanging over your table with some fresh flowers next to it!

Materials needed:

  • Mirror
  • Mosaic tiles (colors of your choice)
  • Adhesive created for mosaic tiles

Instructions:

Decide on how you want to arrange your mosaic tiles. Lay them out on your mirror so you can see how they fit. Depending on the size of your mirror and the size of your tiles, you may discover you need to cut some of the tiles or have some hang off the edge of the mirror a bit.

Use the adhesive to stick the tiles to the mirror. The adhesive dries quickly, so only do a small portion at a time. You can put glue on the mirror or on the back of the tiles. (I started putting it on the mirror but halfway through switched to putting the adhesive glue on the back of the tiles. Both methods worked, but putting it on the back of the tiles seemed to be less messier.)

Continue adding the tiles all the way around the mirror, straightening the pieces as you go so that the tiles dry in a straight line and aren’t crooked. Once the tiles are glued on, you will want to let the mirror sit overnight to dry before using it.

So now I have a new product I am confident will clear my skin and a beautifully decorated mirror to look into. I will be sharing my journey, along with a skin update, here on the blog in a couple months.

You can find Differin® Gel, along with Differin® Balancing Cleanser and Differin® Balancing Moisturizer, in the complexion care aisle at Walmart. Differin® Gel contains the dermatologist recommended retinoid, Adapalene. It’s the newest advancement and ingredient in the OTC acne category in over 30 years so if you feel like nothing has worked yet you should try this! Make sure that when you use it, you apply a thin layer all over your face once daily. Please use caution when using Differin® Gel with more than one acne treatment or glycolic acid product because this could lead to irritation.

If you are in a similar situation with the way you feel about your skin, I’d love to hear from you and perhaps even go on this journey {virtually} together! You deserve clear skin and to feel beautiful!

This product is dermatologist developed and tested. Please call 1-866-735-4137 for any questions you may have concerning the product. However, should you experience any problems while using the product, please discontinue use and consult your healthcare provider.

Waterfall Hiking Fun {And Family Hike Essentials}

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

I love finding new places to explore with my family. Whether it’s sitting by the ocean, walking around a small town or going out on the lake in a paddleboat, spending time with my family brings me joy. This Mother’s Day I wanted to go somewhere we’d never been before so I chose to take my family on a hike to check out a waterfall in a local forest preserve. It was a short drive there and once we arrived we applied sunscreen and grabbed our bag of hiking essentials before we headed out into the sun.

We found the main trail to the waterfall easily but it wasn’t long before we spied water and followed a small trail that led us to it. We had discovered the end of the creek.

For a while the boys enjoyed throwing rocks into the water and even tried skipping rocks with their Nana. Since it was a beautiful day out Jake took off his shoes and socks so he could wade around in the water.

He was having lots of fun until he accidentally fell down and got soaking wet!

Luke meanwhile, stayed nice and dry, sitting in the sand collecting little shells.

After an hour or so of playing we headed back to the main trail and continued on towards the waterfall. The beautiful weather had brought out dozens of people who had the same idea as I’d had but we still enjoyed checking out the waterfall and walking along the rock paths in the water.

The waterfall was smaller than I imagined it would be but I was still excited to show my boys their first waterfall. If you live in Illinois you will want to check out this place called “Waterfall Glen”. If you live out of state, check online to see if there are any waterfalls near you. You may be surprised to learn about a hidden gem nearby!

Before you go hiking though, you’ll want to gather some hiking essentials.

The first thing you’ll want to pack is sunscreen. Blue Lizard® Australian Sunscreen has been dermatologist recommended for over 15 years and provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection (SPF30+) to keep you and your family safe from the sun while you are outside enjoying the day together. Blue Lizard® should be applied to dry skin at least 15 minutes before sun exposure and/or water activities and reapplied at least every two hours to ensure SPF protection is maintained. The products have a unique zinc oxide formulation and the Sensitive variety we used is paraben-free, chemical-free and fragrance-free. I love their patented Smart Bottle™ technology, too! The bottle changes color when exposed to harmful UV sunlight which can be a great reminder for busy parents that it’s time to re-apply sunscreen.

We found Blue Lizard® at Walmart on a fun summer sunscreen display they had towards the front of the store near the gardening entrance. It’s easy to find because it has a giant umbrella on top! Save some money by joining iBotta and earn $4.00 when you purchase Blue Lizard® Australian Sunscreen – Sensitive, 5 oz. bottle only.

Another important thing to bring along on your family hike is water to drink. It’s important to stay hydrated while you are exercising, especially when it’s hot outside.

We also packed a trail mix of nuts, raisins and candies to snack on when we took rest breaks (which was pretty often since we were hiking with kids….)

Other things you’ll want to pack include a first-aid kit, ponchos (if rain is in the forecast), and a trail map if you need one.

Family hikes are a lot of fun and lead to some nice photo opps along the way!

Does your family like to hike? If so, I’d love to hear your stories! Also, let me know what other things you consider hiking essentials so I can add them to my bag for our next family hike.

How Busy Families Can Make Dinner Time Count

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

One of my favorite traditions from my childhood was sitting down to a family dinner every evening. We’d talk about our day as we ate a meal together. This was always a tradition that I knew I wanted to continue when I grew up but I’ve discovered as a parent that it’s a hard tradition to keep. Between sports, school commitments, work schedules and everything else, finding the time to make dinner and sit down as a family every evening is tough!

The best way I’ve discovered to make this tradition happen for our busy family is to stick to simple meals. With easy meals I spend less time in the kitchen and more time with my kids. My favorite meals are ones that I can just heat up and that’s why I love Kidfresh frozen meals for the boys. They are so convenient and perfect for our busy evenings because they are ready in just minutes! It’s a relief to know that I can still provide my family with quality meals, even when I’m short on time.

Not only are they quick to make, but they are meals that I feel good about giving my boys because they are from a credible brand I trust. Created with the help of a top chef and a pediatric nutritionist, Kidfresh meals are consistent with USDA dietary guidelines for all children and they offer the best in kids nutrition. Kidfresh meals contain no artificial flavors or ingredients and are full of nutrients that growing kids need. They also are full of veggies. Each Kidfresh meal is made with up to ½ cup of hidden vegetables so even the pickiest of kids (like my youngest!) will eat their veggies.

Kidfresh at Kroger

We found our Kidfresh meals and sides at Kroger in the freezer cases near the other single serve dinners. For a limited time at Kroger and Kroger family of stores you can save at least 15% off the everyday retail price at Kroger!

There were a variety of Kidfresh choices available including: Wagon Wheels Mac + Cheese, Spaghetti Loops + Meat Sauce, Muy Cheesy Quesadillas, Super Duper Chicken Nuggets, Mighty Meaty Chicken Meatballs, Fun-Tastic Fish Sticks, Totally Rockin’ Tots and SuperBlastin’ Bites. My boys love all of the Kidfresh meals they’ve tasted so far, especially the Wagon Wheels Mac + Cheese and Mighty Meaty Chicken Meatballs.

To keep the conversation going while the boys are enjoying their Kidfresh meals, and to avoid the typical answers of “fine” and “okay” when asked about their day, I created a conversation starters bucket to keep on the kitchen table. I wrote down about 50 questions on craft sticks that would require more than a “yes” or “no” answer and would hopefully start a conversation.

The questions ranged from silly (“if you could stay up all night, what would you do?) to personal (“what is something you like about yourself?”) and from simple (“what is your favorite book?”) to complicated (“describe your dream home”). The best part is that, as the boys get older, the questions can be changed and new questions can be added so they remain relevant to our family.

I then put them all in a small bucket that I decorated with washi tape and letter stickers that spelled out “family”.

I love how it turned out and am excited to use it for years to come.

How do you make your family dinners count?

Superhero Fun With Tampico

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Thanks to Tampico for sponsoring this post.

It’s been raining a lot here in Chicago so we’ve been trying to find indoor activities to do together like playing games, watching movies, and crafting. With the new Captain Underpants Movie coming out, I thought it would be fun to do a superhero themed craft together.

My boys can’t wait for the movie to hit theaters June 2nd. We were so happy to learn that one of our favorite juice drinks, Tampico, has partnered with DreamWorks’ for Captain Underpants’ release. My boys will be keeping an eye out for fun prizes like a Captain Underpants “prank sound board” that Tampico will be giving away from its Facebook page this summer! Until the movie is out, they’ll be staying busy and sharpening their minds by doing some summer reading! Check out these super-hero themed bookmarks we made to go along with the Captain Underpants theme!

Materials needed:

  • Cardstock
  • Stickers
  • Ribbon
  • Scissors

Making the bookmarks is easy!

Cut your card stock into a long rectangle and poke a hole towards the top.

Put the ribbon through the hole and tie it in a knot to secure the ribbon.

Add superhero stickers to the bookmark.

While we were making bookmarks we talked about what superhero powers we’d want to have if we were superheroes. Jacob said he’d want to have a superpower that would make him go fast so he could get to places quickly. He also thought it would be cool to have super strength and be the strongest person alive. Lucas also liked the idea of having super speed but wanted to be invisible, too.

Wondering what powers the adults in our home would want to have? Sinisa said he’d want to be able to fly so that he could get anywhere he wanted for free. I’d want to be invisible if I could have any superhero power.

While we crafted we enjoyed some of our favorite juice drink, Tampico. We always have a couple of gallons in the fridge. I added some fun star straws to keep up with the superhero theme.

Now the boys have fun bookmarks to use the next time they are reading. They have to catch up on the books while they wait for the movie to come out. Check out the movie trailer below. It looks like it’s going to be great and our family can’t wait to see it together.

To celebrate the movie’s release, Tampico is partnering with Dreamwork’s Captain Underpants movie and hosting some awesome superhero contests on Facebook. There will be great prizes including a grand prize of two iPads, one for you and one for your little superhero! There will also be prizes like Family 4-Packs of Movie tickets. Like and follow Tampico on Facebook and stay tuned to learn more! https://www.facebook.com/drinktampico/.

What superhero power would you and your children want to have if you were superheroes?

A Cute Way To Declutter Your Kitchen Counters

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

We are still in spring cleaning mode here so I’ve been organizing and cleaning everything. My focus this past weekend was on our kitchen. Since it’s the most used room in our home it’s the hardest to keep clean. Every time I think all the dishes are done I discover another one in the sink!

While spending all that time in my kitchen I dreamed of one day being able to update it. I’d change up the color palette to reflect my style, update the appliances and add more counter and cabinet space. I’ve been entering contests (like this Scotch-Brite™ Scrubstakes one where someone will win a $20,000 kitchen makeover for sharing if they are team sponge or team dish cloth-I’m team sponge btw!), in hopes that I can update my kitchen sooner rather than later. There are so many things I’d want to change but in the meantime I have to make do with the kitchen space I have.

Yesterday one of the things I worked on was cleaning and organizing my countertops. A lot of things tend to get left on the counters, from cups to mail to items bought at the store that never found their way in to the pantry. Since we have such a small home, our counters get crowded very quickly. To declutter the sink area and make it look nicer I used a metal cake stand to hold things that needed to stay out. Now, instead of things just sitting on the counter, they had a home and were part of the decor.

The first things I did was put dish soap in a pretty container instead of setting it out in the bottle it came in. I used a mason jar with a pump on the top and added some decorative ribbon to it.

Along with the dish soap I put out some sponges in a sponge holder that would keep them upright and allow them to dry. Sponges have always been my kitchen cleaning tool of choice. I used them as a child when I did my chores and I still prefer them now as an adult because they make cleaning up messes so much easier. I really love the ones that have scrubbing sides so that I don’t need to use as much effort to wash the dishes or scrub the stove top.

Since we go through a lot of sponges I like to buy the multi-packs so we don’t run out. We bought our Scotch-Brite sponges at Food 4 Less in the cleaning aisle. Make sure to grab the coupon below from coupons.com before you head to the store! You can save $1 on any two packs.

There are a variety of sponges and I recently learned that each has different uses and is designed for specific surfaces. I used to use the same sponge for everything not realizing that I was ruining my non-stick pans and porcelain sink with materials that weren’t meant for those surfaces.

Now we mainly use two different types of sponges- Scotch-Brite® Heavy Duty Scrub Sponges and Scotch-Brite® Non-Scratch Scrub Sponges.

Scotch-Brite Heavy Duty Scrub Sponges (the green ones) are great for the kitchen, garage and outdoors. They can be used on pots, pans, oven racks, grill racks, tools, tires and sinks. They also clean tough, baked-on messes 50% faster than other competitive sponges.


Scotch-Brite Non-Scratch Scrub Sponges (the blue ones) can be used on Non-Stick cookware, counter tops, cook tops, tubs, shower tile, windows, and dishes. They can safely clean non-stick cookware without scratching surfaces.

I’d love to hear how you keep your kitchen clean and organized. Share your tips in the comments below.

Find more kitchen tips and inspiration here.

Mother’s Day Brunch Ideas

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Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Tyson® Foods, Inc. All opinions are entirely my own.

Other than being able to sleep in, there’s no better way to start off Mother’s Day than with a delicious brunch (that mom didn’t have to cook) and some coffee. (Please….don’t forget the coffee!) Make this special brunch for your mother or mom-figure in your life, or just send this link to your significant other as a hint ;)

You can even get the kids involved! Older children can help plan the brunch and make the food while younger children can do things like set the table and help put the food in bowls. If there’s extra time, they can even make mom a card or write her a letter to tell her how much they love her.

When thinking about what to make for brunch, keep in mind what your mom’s favorite breakfast foods are, and make sure to plan ahead to get all of the ingredients. Walmart has everything you need for a perfect Mother’s Day celebration, from the food to the flowers.

My favorite breakfast foods are ones that are easy to make and require little time in the kitchen. 

Setting out Thomas’® Pre-sliced Plain Bagels and Thomas’ Original Nooks and Crannies English Muffins in a pretty tray and putting out some cream cheese and butter is really simple.

Breakfast casseroles are also perfect for brunches because they can be put together ahead of time. They can be made the night before so they just need to be put in the oven in the morning to cook while your family gets ready for the day. Sinisa and the boys made an Egg, Sausage and Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole and it was delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. of Jimmy Dean® Regular Premium Pork Sausage
  • 1 lb. of shredded hash browns
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese
  • Seasoning (to taste)

Directions to make the casserole:

  • Cook sausage on the stovetop until fully cooked and chop into pieces
  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl and put them into a glass loaf pan
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes (or until internal temp reaches 165 degrees)

Other things to set out on a brunch table are fresh fruit and something to drink, like milk and juice.

Pretty plates and napkins add some color to the table. Another way to brighten up the brunch table is to add a vase of flowers.

Once the food is ready and the table is set, all that’s left is to eat and celebrate mom!

Make sure to take lots of pictures during your Mother’s Day Brunch and then enter into the Tyson Loves Mom sweepstakes for a chance to win one (1) out of five (5) $200 Walmart gift cards.

To enter, post a picture of any of the following on Instagram or Twitter and hashtag it #TysonlovesMom and #Sweepstakes and tag @TysonFoods:

  • Your mom
  • Your brunch with mom
  • Breakfast in bed for mom

Learn more about the sweepstakes at www.tysonlovesmom.com.

Hope you all have a fabulous Mother’s Day! What is your favorite way to celebrate the day?

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.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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!