Holly Jolly Holiday Gift Guide 2014 ~ Spotlight on I See Me!

It's that crazy festive logo again! That means another amazing opportunity to find a special gift for your little loved one! This time, I'm bringing to you I See Me Personalized Children's Books--you may remember that last year after I found out about I See Me, I created the perfect book -- well really the perfect book about the Perfect Name, as part of my 2013 Gift Guide. Now that my son is intrigued and obsessed with books (and his name) as a preschooler, the book is a fave for sure.

This year, we wanted to celebrate the holiday season with 25 special books all about the festivities of the season and the whole together time activity will culminate with his opening a book personalized to fit HIS own "Twas the Night Before Christmas Story." 

We loved this book because of the detail that you could include. Family member names, pets, hair color, skin color, a dedication, even a photo can be included in this fun gift that wraps detail for your child/children into the traditional Christmas Eve story. The fantastic color and detail on each page (as seen in the stock photo from the I See Me website, below, illustrate the warm and cozy festive feelings that many have during the holiday season!) 

On a bittersweet note, we included our pup, Chinook in our story and she went missing about two weeks ago, so we are always going to have that little bit of a memorial to her and how much my son loved her in the few months we had her with the reading of this book each year. We're still hoping she'll get reported to us or return, so keep your fingers crossed for us!

So, our new tradition -- you should consider it yourself! There is the drawback of a present a day for almost a month -- I don't want to encourage you to raise an entitled beastie -- BUT the present is a book. Each day. Sort of like an Advent Calender of sorts - wrap and label each book 1-25. The "crown jewel" of the Christmas countdown can be your personalized book about Christmas Eve! Our son hasn't actually seen this book yet, but judging by his excitement over My Very Own Name lately, I know he'll be thrilled! I love giving these keepsake type gifts to our children (rest assured, #2 will have some books of their own as well!) because while toys come and go, children love to read and love to read about themselves for years to come! It is something that can also be given with a pile of other mementos at graduation for a good laugh and cry. 

There are loads of other personalized books and gifts that you can peruse while searching for the perfect gift. Plenty for girls -- princesses, pastels, and pretend while there's a smashing collection for your little brutes as well! New babies? Covered. Lunchboxes, placemats, stickers and more await your personalizing pursuits all in one place. Really you could gift for any age at the I See Me site! These gifts require a little planning and thought and are wonderfully received because they are made with love. Share a little of your time each night reading a special gift to your child - you won't ever regret those few minutes when you look back!

HURRY! December 16th is the last day to order for guaranteed delivery by Christmas! Act now!

Disclosure: We were given a complimentary book for the purposes of our Gift Guide this year. That said, we love I See Me Books and have given our honest opinions here about their great books! No further compensation was rendered. 

A Diaper Easy for Dads: Diaper Safari Spotlight + [review]

You may have given notice to Diaper Safari as part of my 2014 Merry Fluffy Christmas grouping -- or you may have heard of them from another blogger that loves trying, finding, and falling in love with new cloth diapering brands. If you are new to cloth or haven't heard of them, pay attention! We found Diaper Safari this fall and have since realized this is the perfect "dad diaper."

Now a "dad diaper" doesn't necessarily have to be for dads. It can be perfect for daycare, grandparents, or baby sitters. The point of the "dad diaper" is that it is easy and functional. Our initial go-to dad diapers were Fuzzibunz. But, the Perfect Size diapers are no more and the stash we had built from three years ago is pretty well-loved. So, we are replacing diapers in our "dad" stash.

Enter: Diaper Safari. 

Since my husband is out of practice well, lets just say it -- we're BOTH out of practice! I wanted to make this 2nd-timer journey as easy for him as possible. This is my strategy to hope for the most possible help from him while we're getting used to life as FOUR.

We love the sleeve-like cover -- it's open on both ends for big hands (like dad and grandpa) to be able to navigate the world of inserts! I prefer a snap on one or both ends so that it stays in place, but I know most of the time on the diapers with this feature, my husband misses it unless I've pre-stuffed for him. So, the extra snap is not necessary for a good "dad diaper!"

The economics are there. Diaper Safari's website sells other brands as well, but for a super economical price, these covers (and inserts) are a wise choice. While it's nice to have some primo fluff in your stash, the majority of ours remains "dad diapers" because I am a control freak and if I'm spending upwards of $30 on a diaper, I want it to stay away from DAD et. al.!! Diaper Safari sells their covers for a very affordable price and often runs sales - like B1G1 and such! Wahoo!

One-Size covers will cover your kid for most of their potty journey. We were lucky with #1 -- he potty trained like a champ, so OS diapers were what the majority of our stash consisted of. We also didn't decide to use cloth until about two months in, eliminating the smalls and newborn sizes. (Not that he ever WAS newborn size!) But, we've found one-size are GREAT for the "middle" part of cloth diapering. We do have a few toddler size diapers that I LOVE but en masse? One size for sure.

So what would we change?

1) add a snap-in insert option
2) double gussets are ALWAYS awesome

That's about it. We love the diaper. We like it best with a tri-fold insert. The added layers made with folding help for the little ones that wet constantly. Oh--we also LOVE the cute patterns! We have both a hippo and a lion and they are simple, unisex and adorable! So, this is not a brand to overlook -- get online and do a little looking to find the color and insert best for your diapering dad and try one out!

Disclosure: We received a complimentary review product for this article. Our opinions are our own. No further compensation was rendered.

Holly Jolly Holiday Gift Guide 2014 ~ Spotlight on Cariloha

Everyone loves pampering. I bet there is SOMEONE on your list this year that would love a little pampering in fact! I'm that person on everyone's lists in my life! Being pregnant and nearing the end of the last days of the third trimester, I may have a bias opinion, but I think I deserve a little pampering!

I'm still really loving my Cozy Socks -- a great stocking stuffer for those that want the spa treatment at home! We are cuddled up snug as a bug in our bamboo sheets each night, and I'm dreaming of everything -- not just sugar plums but also chocolate cakes, ice cream, and all the carbs of the world that I will be enjoying again when Gestational Diabetes is a thing of my past!

Cariloha has more than sheets -- they have amazing RESORT SHEETS rumored to be better than ever before AND an entire line of clothing that is bamboo-rific for men and women! There's also some functional gifting options which I adore -- I'm the person in the gift exchange that wants a gift I can USE! Enter the Bamboo Bath mat. Wowza. It is like being at a resort spa everyday as I step out of the shower onto my new bamboo mat.

Starting at just $34.00 it's a great gifting option for someone in the family that like me, loves function in a gift, not always frivolity! It really feels like stepping onto memory foam - in fact, I can always see my squeaky clean little footprints while drying off. I've always been a fan of bath mats similar to what hotels use (especially the nice hotels and resorts) rather than the shaggy ones from big box stores and just throwing a towel down. In our new bathroom, it's especially important because we have very slick tile -- not great for kids! So the bath mat is a great gift for moms like me! Husbands -- take note! Wives will be impressed with this choice, believe me!

Since the new baby is coming for the holidays and I've been wondering just what in the world caused the recent baby boom in my area at least - I got thinking about functional gifts for new mamas as well. Cariloha makes an excellent absolutely plush, insanely soft (like indescribable, blow-your-mind-soft) throw blanket that everyone from grandma to mom to baby or a boss you really need to kiss up to would love! Haha! Maybe not the boss...they'd love it but my boss gets a cheap box of chocolates -- this blanket is all mine!

I have been daydreaming about rockin' the new bambino in my little rocking chair in the wee hours of the night with this blanket tucked all around us. It's a serene daydream -- I'm sure it will more than likely involve crying and bleary-eyed head-nodding and maybe some spit up in REAL life. BUT, it will surely include warmth and cuddles under this luxurious throw. I wish that you could rub your screen and feel the blanket. I want to share just how soft it is but there are just NO WORDS. Really. The softest blanket I've ever encountered and I'm lovin' it! You (or a loved one) will too!

It is $119.00 but is something that I'd say completely resonates price for quality. The color (Ocean Blue) is what we ordered and was true to the color represented on the website -- always nice when gifting and hoping for the best! The size is perfect for one person -- or one big person and a few little kiddos huddled underneath, watching movies and cuddling!

I actually love to do my writing in my office under the blanket. It's the only room in our new home that the heat register is for looks, not function. It's on the list to get fixed, but my "honey-do" list is extensive, and my husband is handy but not with the electrical stuff, so for now, I use a portable heater and my handy blanket. Again, you cannot underestimate function when considering gifts!

Bamboo is a super choice for even the toughest recipients! Hypoallergenic and sustainable, you can work with the sneezers and the tree huggers. My grandma has Fibromyalgia and she'd be able to be excited about this blanket. I'm a greenie and I love the use of bamboo -- for more than diapers! I've not encountered anything from Cariloha that I do not love. Let others see how much you care, if you're gifting, consider these rockin' ideas that will not simply be cast aside after opening or re-gifted at an office party! These gifts rock.

Disclosure: I partnered with Cariloha and received complimentary product for the purposes of this post and the gift-giving season. All opinions are my own. I was not compensated in any other way. 

The Song Awaken Love: A Couple's Devotional [Book Review]

This admittedly is a part of the good book I'd never heard of. Song of Solomon? Nope. But, if it's not Exodus or Psalms or a more commonly quoted chapter, I'm pretty oblivious. Different versions? You lost me. So it was enlightening and really just a great experience for me as a Christian wife to read this thin, easy-reader book.

I like that this book is broken down into modern language and very small, digestible parts. I guess it's meant to be that way - like an "activity book" of sorts. Instead of mazes and crosswords though, there are challenges, homework assignments to tackle with or for or in relation to your partner. Some are simple - others if you've lost your way (or are out of practice) seem impossible.

There are daily prayer points and relationship insights that stem from Song of Solomon that is designed to be a 6-week course but makes it really easy to focus at least a tiny bit of time on your relationship each day. That alone is a HUGE benefit -- at least for us! I feel like I've been a relationship ninja lately -- secretly trying to slip in these devotional tidbits that I'm learning, refreshing, reminding myself of... Is it working? I don't know. I still have days when I want to kill my beloved husband (I'm exaggerating, of course) but there are other times when I am thankful, mindfully thankful for him as well.

I'm part of a moms group and one idea there was to go home and ask your husband "What brought you joy today?" Now if I were to say that when my husband walked through the door, he'd probably ask in return: "Who brought you drugs today?" Because it would just be entirely out of character. We've fallen into a funk, it's true. Sadly, with #2 on the verge of arriving, we'll find joy of course in the bundle, but the relationship and couples skill-building will be put on hold -- again.

So, back to the book... To put it bluntly, I like that the author is speaking from a fresh stance but from a vintage perspective. It's not an old moldy relationship expert droning on about the inter-workings of a relationship. Rather, it's a well-known pastor and author (Kyle Idleman) that is not far from my own age that is very direct and humorous in his delivery. And yes, it's a movie too!

Now, the trick will be getting my husband to read this little book as well! It IS for couples, after all! There are sessions available for churches, pastors, movies, DVD lessons and so much more that all fall under the "Awaken Love" category -- there are other courses from Kyle Idleman as well, all found at City on a Hill's website.

Disclosure: As part of Flyby Promotions, I received a complimentary copy of the book for the purposes of using it to write this article. No further compensation was received. Thank you.

Merry Fluffy Christmas! Cloth Diaper Celebration! #FluffyXmas

Welcome Everyone! The the 75th Annual Hunger Games.... Sorry. I am fresh from the movie theatre and it's late. That's what is running through my mind tonight as I am trying to read Mockingjay, to see just how the movie differed from the book. What's a mama to do to pass the hours of discomfort and full bladder, waiting so very patiently for this little one to show up?!

Well, the good news (for all of you) is that the 5th Annual Merry Fluffy Christmas Giveaway Event is on! For me, it comes in perfection timing for this little one's appearance! I have some great sponsors (some are old faves) and some are new discoveries that I wanted to share with you all.

So, without further ado, the greatly anticipated 5th annual Merry Fluffy Christmas Giveaway Event starts now!! There are over 20 blogs that are giving away cloth diapering prize packages of $50 and more! Make sure you enter here and then hop to all the others!! There are hundreds in fluffy prizes to be won! This year, there are also two HUGE Grand Prize packages, on both of the host blogs, And Then There Were 5 and Mommy’s Favorite Things! So make sure you enter to win those as well!

Enter my giveaway and then hop around to all the other great blogs to win! 

...And may the odds be ever in your favor!

THANK YOU to my sponsors for all the fun goodies that they have in store for a very lucky reader this year! Happy Holidays all! You can read about them in detail below! 

Little Smudgeez
Diaper Safari
Glow Bug Cloth Diapers
Harp Diapers

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Growing Up Social - Book Review

I remember I wasn't the type to read a non-fiction book to often. Let alone a self help book! But, my boyfriend (now husband) gave me The Five Love Languages in 2009 and I remember as I did my cardio in Alaska I would ready the very easy-to-read book. I liked it. It was simple. Digestable. It made sense.

Now, the same author, Gary Chapman, has a book equally as important and just as easy to digest: Growing Up Social. It's a timely read in this modern era. Especially for a technology boob like myself. I don't have devices. I live in a desolate area without signal to juice up the data packages that I do not want to pay for. I have a flip phone. BUT somehow (thanks bro) my three-year-old son still knows how to swipe a screen.

In this excellent book you'll see the other side of the technological revolution -- the side that is plaguing family life and disrupting our kiddo's development. Now I know my stance is an unpopular one -- I guess I don't care. I don't want my kids to be mute around their peers in person but be chatty as heck via texts at eight years old!

Just some of the statistics in the book are staggering. The average number of texts a teenage girl sends (3400) is insane. I send about 200 in a month and I feel like that's a high use estimate! I'm not saying fight technology--it's here to stay. It's great in many cases. I just like this book because it helps to initiate intentional balance of REAL life and screen time for kids especially.

Adults should be better examples as well! Stop using your phone to quiet your child. It's part of growing up to be fussy! When you have date night do you both spend 1/2 the time on your phone? I find this creepy when I look around restaurants and see the number of people paired up and nose down to the phone! Lastly, it's horrifying to see a small child swimming and playing while mom (or grandma or dad...) is lost in an iPad vacation. Lifeguards are great, and breaks are super but ENJOY your kid NOW. Go play! Don't squander away the precious years on your device. Set an example. LIVE.

With the book you will:
•Equip your child to be relationally rich in a digital world
•Replace mindless screen time with meaningful family time
•Establish simple boundaries that make a huge difference
•Discover what’s working for families that have become screen savvy
•Learn healthy ways to occupy your child while you get things done

Alright, after my little tirade I bet you really want to read this book, right? Well it's great information -- just read it with an open mind. You don't have to agree, but being stocked well with knowledge is always a good thing!

Now get out there and enjoy your kids!

Holiday Gift Guide 2014 - Spotlight on Baby Banz

I'm happy to say that today we are adding another great option to our Gift Guide -- Baby Banz! For those of you with littles in your lives, which, if you're reading this site, it's likely you have little ones that are close to you, this is a company offering several great options for kiddos!

What better stocking stuffer or addition for under the tree than something they can USE?! We love being outside -- I have since I was a kid myself! I do remember the stinging, white pain that accompanied windy wintry days. Now that I'm an adult, I have ski goggles AND I wear specs, so that helps too -- but it's hard to find a good size that fits kiddo noggins!

Baby Banz has the kids covered -- literally with sunscreen, shades, and yes, even ski goggles! Consider Baby Banz ski goggles this year when you're trying to think of things to get the kids outside and playing! This is a great option for boys and girls!

*Disclosure* Baby Banz is a partner of US Family Guide and Adventures of Mommyhood. We will receive complimentary product for posting.

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