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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! 

Softbums
SprayPal
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.

Ciao! Baby Portable High Chair

ciao1

Wouldn't it be handy to have a portable, lightweight high chair for restaurants, picnics, vacation, camping and visiting friends and family? That's just what the ciao! baby portable high chair is designed for, and you can find it in 11 different colors at PishPoshBaby.

Here are the basic specifications:
  • Weighs about 8 pounds
  • Dimensions are 23x23x32
  • Opens and folds just like a camp chair
  • Includes a drawstring carrying bag with shoulder strap
  • Wipe-clean eating surface
  • Adjustable lap belt and leg guards to keep your child from sliding down or forward
  • Includes a hanging mesh cup holder
  • Legs lock into place
  • Rated for ages 3 months to 3 years and up to 50 pounds
  • Retail price: $65.75
ciao2

You can read the complete portable high chair review from Zephyr Hill blog, and see more pictures, by clicking here.

PishPoshBaby is giving away a ciao! baby portable high chair to one lucky reader in the United States! The promotion runs from Oct. 28th to Nov. 5th. Winner gets to choose from in-stock colors. Enter the giveaway below, and good luck!


#Joovy Caboose Too Ultralight Stand-on Tandem Stroller [review]

I'm gushing over the Joovy Caboose Too Ultralight tandem stroller that we were able to try out this autumn. I've finally been able to compile my thoughts and sit down (instead of boppin' around town, strolling) and share some of the awesome features with all of you! 

I know there are a TON of pregnant mamas in my area which means many will be looking for a stroller to accommodate two little ones soon! There are so many reasons why I'd recommend the Joovy Caboose Too Ultralight, but since I know many of you read at nap time, I'll condense it down so that you can fall in love too, before baby #1 awakens! 

I am NOT our assembly line guru in the house. Most things that say "some assembly required" simply translates to: "hubby has a task for the evening." I wanted to try to challenge myself this summer and I've been at least attempting assembly of all that requires any effort. This stroller was reasonably easy to assemble. I did need his help with the wheels to make sure we weren't rolling down the sidewalk and mom's faulty assembly caused an accident! Caveat: I would have been able to do it ALL myself had I realized there were written instructions with the ordered pictures. I didn't see the second booklet was different than the one I had and had to wrestle through assembly Pictionary for some of the more intricate work BUT it was pretty fun!


The great news for many car seat owners is that the Caboose Too Ultralight fits over TWO DOZEN car seats with the (nearly) universal adapter -- sadly, our Baby Trend Columbia was not one of these. So, we're in the market for a new car seat to go with our new Joovy Caboose Too Ultralight, but it still rocks to know that we have a plethora of choices! Check out the handy chart that the folks at Joovy have for you to reference and make sure yours will fit -- it's on the right-hand side and is labeled "Car Seat Compatibility."


Size-wise, the Joovy Caboose Too Ultralight rocks because it's much more compact than a typical double stroller. My single jogger doesn't even provide the streamline, suitcase-style fold-up that the Caboose Too does! The fact that it is so compact makes it sensible for using with just one child as well, which also offers up space elsewhere from storing other gear! It's a very good multi-purpose option. Another consideration is that some tandem models from other brands require some parts removal to fold-down the stroller. This would be a nightmare for air travel -- being in one piece means this is the stroller to take to Disney!



I didn't realize the shade would cover both kiddos. I LOVE this feature and hadn't even considered it when thinking about what I wanted in a tandem stroller. Genius! It's really a high quality set-up -- the shade for one of our car seat carriers got mangled in about four months from constant use and I don't see that happening to this one.

The only thing we didn't love was that this is a town and city only stroller. If you have paved streets and sidewalks, you're set! We are often compelled to take the path less-traveled vs. the path of least resistance, so this was one of the only things that we noticed was a bit prohibitive with the Caboose Too Ultralight. Dirt roads, grassy yards, and trails unknown must be left for another day and another stroller (or backpack carrier!)

YOU can get your own Joovy Caboose Too Ultralight at many different websites and retailers, including the Joovy site -- or use their handy Store Locator to find someplace convenient for you! Amazon, Babies R US, and Diapers.com are great places to look too! Most sites prices are from $249.99 for the Caboose Too Ultralight. Please, ask if you have questions for me!

Disclosure: My family is part of the Joovy Brand Ambassador program and received a complimentary product for the purposes of the review here and elsewhere. All opinions are our own and we were not compensated in any other way.

Crafts for Preschoolers - Part One: Halloween [Easy for Moms!]

The Holidays always spark my creative side -- and yes, by "the holidays" we start with Halloween in this house! So, for the next few months, our walls, refrigerator, and doorways are haunted, kissed by holly, sparkling, even fragrant with the best the season has to offer.

Inspiration


In my planning and assessing my "craft supply room" for the necessities, I often feel compelled to research crafts that you do not need to be Martha Stewart to accomplish with kids. I adore Pinterest, but I often times feel like it consumes my day and lately I also feel like Martha Stewart is curating all the kids craft boards! I don't want to decorate a seven layer cake for my child's Pre-K Halloween party, I just want to make a few goodie bags. You get my point.

So, I have scoured REAL books! Yes! Books! Remember those? And magazines! And a little bit of Googling and even some Pinterest and what I've found I'm sharing with you here. The multi-part posting will include some of the seasonal holidays that come each autumn. Stay tuned for a Thanksgiving installment after this!

Supplies

I try to go for "regular" supplies that I already have en masse, or that are easily acquired around the home: Kleenex, glue, egg cartons, tempura paint, pipecleaners, etc. (These, at least, are normal around MY house!)

My son is three-and-a-half-years-old. So that is the age that is targeted, but I'd say depending on the child, these can be generalized as toddler - pre-K or even Kindergarten-aged children. Bonus points if you play applicable seasonal music while you craft with the kiddos! We LOVE Pandora for finding our crafting mood music!

The Projects

Egg Carton Ghosties 

Supplies: glue, Kleenes, white tempura paint, scissors, egg carton, marker, pipe cleaner or ribbon



Egg Carton Bats

Supplies: black tempura paint, scissors, egg carton, googly eyes, glue, ribbon or pipe cleaner



Print Owls

Supplies: Glue sticks, construction paper, cardstock [for better canvas], paint, little hands!



Haunted Trees

Supplies: Glue sticks, construction paper, cardstock [for better canvas], paint, little hands AND feet!

Picture is coming...

Skeleton Hands

Supplies: Glue, cardstock, white tempura paint, little hands, and Q-tips or similar white ear swabs



Glitter is optional for all of these!!

Travelin' with Baby - Spotlight on Star Kids [review]

We've all been there -- messy back seat, cleaning the car seat every other day, and wishing that you had the willpower to outlaw eating in the backseat (but not able to put down the muffin in the front!) Well, Star Kids have made the ingenious Snack & Play Travel Tray and with the exception of a few quirks, we're loving it!

I have a dark confession but it totally makes me appreciate the tray, so I have to share... We were at the drive-thru for McDonalds -- yes, I said it! I'm weak! That darn Monopoly gets me every year! Plus it is the only restaurant on the side of town where we were that my child will even consider that has a drive thru. So, there we were. 


He also demands ketsup with his fries. I don't blame him I guess! If I didn't have such a ketsup/vinegar aversion with this pregnancy, I'd probably want some too! Well, McDs' doesn't make any kind of dipping vessel -- at least not in our area -- so how is the kid supposed to get the condiment? The driver is no help. I offered to let him suck the ketsup out of the packet, but that wasn't his idea of gourmet dining. 



So, I unfolded a wrapper and put the ketsup on it. I placed the waxpaper wrapper on the tray and amazingly, it worked! Mind you it was fully dark. I was immediately thankful for the handy invention! It also bought me some time during carbound errands like going to the bank and the library book drop while he played more easily with his toys. 

There is a buckle that secures the tray to your child's seat. Handy pockets on the sides hang over the car seat and are accessible by the child, so they are quite nice compared to the incessant "Mom! Will you get my toy...I dropped it!" 

The single downfall to the tray we've found is that because it is packable, the tray folds down the middle. This is great for storing, but a flat, sturdy surface is desirable at times. Otherwise, it rocks. I consider this a road trip essential now!

One lucky reader will win a Snack & Play Travel Tray of their choice in my Travelin' with Baby prize package! Good Luck!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary product for this event and article. All opinions are my own.

Travelin' with Baby - Spotlight on My Little Seat [review]

We tried our laps. We tried the large, bulky plastic high chair that was like having an ungulate in the kitchen with you for months on end. We were lucky that we breastfed exclusively for an extended time -- that way this was a limited time problem! Now that we'll have another little mouth to feed we knew we had to change our infrastructure for the task.

When my son became a toddler we had the good fortune of having my grandfather, a fantastic woodworker, gift to him a handmade restaurant-style high chair. This has been amazing -- but not so great for smaller kids and there's the issue of sharing. [Probably not going to go well.]

So we looked and searched and Googled and asked around. What we came up with was an extremely versatile, packable, easy-to-clean option: My Little Seat.

  

Almost any seat that isn't a real high-backed chair can accommodate this handy high-chair. Fit it to many different sizes of kiddos. It's really one of the best we've found for our lifestyle - on the go and messy! Stuff it into the little sack and you have a feeding station that is about the size of a cloth diaper! Perfect!

One lucky reader will win a My Little Seat of their choice in my Travelin' with Baby prize package! Good Luck!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary product for this event and article. All opinions are my own.

Flippin' for Fall Series: The REALLY Personal Touch with Cariloha! [review]



While it's not MY job to tell you what should be included in your bedroom or nighttime routine, I do feel compelled to let you know what goes on between MY sheets these days....

Such. Amazing. Sleep. Wow.

I thought I was going to have to make a continuation of my series that was "Flippin' in Flakes" or something...I felt like we'd never be sleeping in our own, new bed in our own new house. Let alone sleeping so well! We're there now... It all started...

...While we were strolling down the street in Juneau, Alaska this summer and my son was on a "scavenger hunt for treasures" -- one of the ways we found FREE fun in cruise towns. All those coupons for trinkets that get you in to stores make fantastic treasures for kids and a great afternoon of family fun wandering around town! Well, during one of our stops, the task was to "feel the difference" between your run-of-the-mill cotton sheets, nicer Egyptian cotton sheets, and Bamboo sheets. WOW.

The moment that my fingertips grazed the bamboo sheets I knew I needed one day to roll around and dream sweet dreams on this textile. It was cool to the touch, soft as the best "lovies" and cuddle blankets, but also light and I wanted to experience more! Where were we? We were exiting the Cariloha store in the downtown area of Franklin Street.

Caribbean style + Hawaiian aloha = pure bliss!


So naturally, a few months later while planning my Flippin' for Fall Series, I wanted to find a few unique embellishments, if you will, that can take a ho-hum room to the next level and make it a special, cozy, amazing space in your home. I don't have a budget like the HGTV shows, so I had to be creative and write realistically, since most of us do not have that kind of monetary freedom! That meant cozy as it might be, I wouldn't be including a jacuzzi tub in the master bedroom plans.

This goal could however be accomplished with some pieces that were plush, luxe accessories but were also functional items that one would use and could afford to implement into a room design. Those perfect few items included bamboo sheets, a luxurious towel set, and even a little extra bonus for mom and all her hard work: cozy socks!

I washed the sheets that had a bit of a vinegar-esque smell from in the new package and they were incredibly quick drying. They do wrinkle easily, as the photos show -- but for me being really pregnant wrestling with king-size anything could do just as much damage as a dryer! So, pardon a few wrinkles, I ironed the set once, very carefully with a slightly damp towel barrier -- you do have to treat these nicely, low heat, wash on cold or cool, etc. But they come out feeling wonderful and are easy to care for. I love that they are cool to the touch, since I'm always warm. I am constantly flipping my pillow to take advantage of the "cool side." Even in the dead of winter. So the combination of bamboo sheets and a down comforter make the ultimate pairing!

The sheets are smooth and soft, silky against your legs and arms. I was hesitant to use them on our "family bed" -- but with pull ups and the mattress protector, I guess there is only so much we can do! We're taking the chance since these linens are too good to pass up! The colors are zen, calming. We chose Sage, but there is also a light blue and a neutral color. They are a tad slippery -- which I love! I was able to get a nice, snug fit on the mattress and they are true to size.

Cariloha is a one-stop shop for all things soft, sustainable and stunning for home, bath, and even your own body! We have a king-size bed now that acts as our family bed for now, though the kids room does have bunk beds that are occasionally used, and we have a full-size bed in our guest/dad room. Yes, my husband gets the boot sometimes (usually self-imposed) so that he can get more sleep before work! But, any of these rooms can act as a guest room in the event of company. When it's my parents, we love to offer them the master, since it's a bigger space and has an adjoining bathroom.

We can now feel like we are treating our guests to an experience akin to a Hilton or Sandals (at least with the offering of our linens and bathroom textiles!) That is where the resort experience usually ends, with the appearance of crazy tots and park playdates...but...for a few glimmering moments, they might be expecting that instead of a drooling kiddo coming through the door, it could be housekeeping or a spa attendant!




Now, this is how I enjoy my mornings -- a cup of coffee, my cozy socks, and my feet up enjoying our new, fabulous view!


Treat yourself or get some Bamboo (naturally odor resisting and hypoallergenic) action for the guest rooms! Either way, those that get to use them will be sleeping like babies! (And in our case, it's the babies that get to use them too!)

Bamboo is a very sustainable fiber (it's like a tree but is a grass and can grow many FEET each day!) and though you cannot tell 100% from the photos -- it's so stinkin' soft! I really thought about just taking a "selfie" of me dazed and staring off in complete bliss -- but that seemed crazy. So use your imagination! It's the softest bedroom set I've ever encountered. I wanted to "poach" the towel set for my very own, and hide it. But I was feeling generous, so we do use that set for our honorable guests!

I wasn't kidding about the "cool" factor either -- apparently it's approximately three degrees cooler than cotton! And moisture wicking! So, for many, many reasons, bamboo is a great choice for families! Eco-friendly, and oh-so fancy! We are going to have a hard time washing our sheets and sleeping on flannel, cotton, or anything but bamboo while this set is cleaned!

Have you incorporated bamboo into your life? Maybe in the form of cloth diapers for your kids? Well, bridge the gap and treat yourself too! Cariloha is my new favorite place to spoil myself and those I love! 

*Disclosure: I was provided complimentary product from Cariloha for this post. I was not compensated in any other way and all of my opinions of the rockin' nature of these items are honest!*

Travelin' with Baby - Spotlight on Phil & Teds Nest [review]

Our son was not a pack 'n' play napper. At Granny's house mom always had to surrender at least an hour to laying in bed during naps and then barracading the child with pillows and noodles under sheets and all sorts of other crazy ways to try to keep him safe while napping. High maintenance? Yes!


So, for this kiddo, I've been researching options for safe alternatives to killing my afternoon, pack 'n' play sleep (which I'm anticipating will not work again) and the gigantic crib. Phil & Ted's -- trusted name for everything from sleeping and eating to strolling and playing solutions for kids had the answer for me! The Nest!

The fact that I was able to erect this thing in less than 15 seconds without even glancing at the directions AND feel comfortable with my end result (enough to put a child in it) speaks volumes for the product! The website says you can do it in ten, so I must be a little slow. I didn't sit on the floor trying to beat my personal best time--we'll save that for one of those days when I'm losing it. Even if it takes under a minute -- that's amazing, speedy, and totally convenient!

The "poles" are pre-attached on one end and the loose end simply sticks into a corresponding hole. That's it. It's easier than the "easy up" tents for adult campers -- those often need a good dose of humor to succeed. And I generally pinch my fingers. Those are for the birds. The Nest however is the best idea ever and suits me just fine!


It was "cool" enough that my nearly four year old son wanted to sleep in it -- though he wasn't allowed to try, since he is too big!

Another great feature is the carrying case is double sided and can be a dual purpose bag. It has one side meant for The Nest (and it actually fits back into the case without a fight) and the other side leaves room for lovies, blankets, clothing...whatever you might want to stow for the little one while traveling!


The Nest would fit into SOME luggage without taking up the whole case. I'm not sure if this is carry-on acceptable, since sometimes baby gear is not subject to the same conditions that regular baggage is. The Nest is meant for SMALL children--babies. The mattress and bottom are firm so you need not worry about it being too soft and cushy. They also sell sheets that are removable and washable if that's something you decide you need. The mesh top makes it breathable and in areas like where we live -- keeps insects out! (We will be using ours a ton outside!)

ONE reader will get the chance to test out The Nest for themselves! I'm giving one away (sponsored by Phil & Teds) as part of my Travelin' with Baby package! Enter by going to the main link or clicking here. Many thanks to Phil & Ted's!!!

Disclosure: We received a complimentary Nest for this post and event. 

Travelin' with Baby - Spotlight on Boba [review]

First off, I have to thank my friend Liz for letting me borrow her baby to dig out my Boba 3g and give it a go while 30 weeks pregnant! Surprisingly, it was still really secure and comfortable for me to carry a small baby even with the not-so-small bump. What made it so cozy? Well, likely the fact that I was taking my new Boba Hoodie for a test-drive (walk) too!


One of the things we love to do this time of year -- a strange but favorite fall pass-times is to walk through our tree farm. The reason we walk through is to exercise, look for upland birds, and of course to scope out any candidates for that perfect Christmas tree!

It seemed like a great opportunity (since my bundle will not be here until December) to use the Boba hoodie during a chilly fall afternoon! When the baby does arrive though, I'm more than excited to do my grocery shopping hands free -- and without worry of the chills from the freezer aisle and produce area! (The grocery store was my favorite place to wear my son who is still within the weight limits but just too darn big and wiggly for me to carry -- not to mention that he walks just fine if he puts his mind to it!)



Boba makes hoodies and vests now to provide that extra bit of comfort for you and your little one. I dug around but couldn't locate a photo (and I'd have been ashamed to post it anyway) for a picture of my husband wearing our son in a dreaded crotch dangler! That isn't the point of my search though, all that was real visible were two little pj feet sticking out from a bursting, buttoned overshirt. We have been in the market for something like this hoodie for years!

*Please note - this is JUST an overshirt for a carrier that we already own. If you do not own a Boba or another similar carrier you will not have a proper support system for carrying your baby/child!*

What we love:

- The front of the hoodie has a "viewing hole" for baby to still see around
- The fit, weight and coverage of the hoodie is excellent -- I went a tad on the "big side" planning to accommodate carrying a toddler again
- Thumbholes! We love them! Enough said! 
- hidden zipper for access/self-loading without needing assistance!
- front and back use
- the presence of the hood -- baby is snug, you should be too!

What could rock more:

- For right now they come in gray and black. I do not know if Boba has plans to expand the Vest/Hoodie color/pattern stash. 

- Men's sizes. My XL fits me well pregnant and would fit my husband in a pinch but not comfortably. I'd love to see a men's line that has some more roomy styles for men that wear proudly!

- The fabric strip in between the wearers' neck and the baby's head can get a little constrictive if you do not have it adjusted well. With a tug and pull here and there it becomes comfortable again. I'm a freak about tight necklines, so I am also likely more sensitive to the slightest thing!

One lucky travelin' reader can win a Boba VEST to go over their carrier (color/size up to you) by entering to win over at the Travelin' with Baby post! The VEST is courtesy of Boba and I send a great big thank you to them for sponsoring the fun event!

Disclosure: We received a complimentary Boba Hoodie for the purposes of this review and event. All opinions are our own. 

Curious George Comes to Life for our Monkey!

I planned on bombarding this post with photos. I even thought about doing a Wordless Wednesday (something I haven't done in months and am abysmal at, since I love words...) but...

As I unzipped my camera case, the emcee was just uttering "Please absolutely no flash photography OR photography of any kind due to copyright laws and the actors safety." So, my hopes dashed I will have to convey to you using only words how seeing George portrayed as a human in a suit was received by my Curious George on PBS Kids-lovin' son of mine!


For me, playing Curious George bingo was the highlight of the show. I just cannot have a 3D monkey taking the place of the 2D primate that stole my heart at a young age. But, knowing that this was a performance and not a movie, I did know this going in... 

The only gripe with the venue? They had 300 children and three games of bingo with six prizes. I value the 'good sport' mentality and not everyone wins, but there were some seriously sad children that didn't understand... Anyway...that's neither here nor there.

The show. It was an hour long and quite a good storyline. I do not recall reading a book in my childhood about George mailing himself to Rome, but it was cute. The props were simple. The actors were really great! Chef Pisghetti and Netty, his wife had voice doppelgangers. If that's a thing. There was a lot of movement and a lot of song. 

A deviation from the show we love to watch in the morning, the Doorman (played by a woman who did a remarkable job with the part AND was spot-on with the accent) actually travels out of the city! He is intrigued by travel and there was no Hundley

Kids were roaring, adults could appreciate the details and the finer points of the story. It was a great night out to enjoy a bit of kiddie-culture as a family. 

Photo graciously sent by PBS Kids for use here

We'd been leading up to this night with George-themed fun all week. We purchased "BooFest" knowing that it would air in just a few weeks, but not able to contain our excitement we had to have it. I've not heard my son cackle that loudly and wildly in a long time -- he found No Noggin the most comical character ever! 

Photo graciously sent over by PBS Kids for use here


So, when the Scholastic Book Order came around the preschool, I figured "Why not?" So I purchased the book version, expecting him to be bored with it. No -- full laughter again. It was delightful!

So, as we sat painting egg carton crafts for Halloween tonight, we also played BooFest for the second time this week as a treat. We'll be tuning in on PBS Kids soon, I'm sure too! Have you seen it? It's a great little festive film and we recommend it to any Curious George fans out there! Check out your local PBS station for local showings coming up! And...

Hold on to your hats!!!

Our Road Trip Secret Weapon - [Review]

If I would have anticipated the reaction my son would have when we showed him that we had a PAW Patrol DVD for him to watch, I would have had the video camera ready. 

You see, it was "Do you see the cows?" All through North Dakota. 

Then, "Oh look! Mountains!" Through Western Canada.

Finally, we exclaimed, "There's the ocean, buddy!" 

This was fine for the first 40 hours in the car. Then we had a few weeks of in and out, in and out on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system. That occupied our kiddo too. It was the return trip (and likely memories of Saskatchewan and the Dakotas) that had our son stir crazy.

Giddy is the only word that comes close to how enthusiastically a three-year-old can act while strapped in a five-point harness in the backseat. He wiggled and squealed and clapped. And then he was silent for the next two hours. Other than the catchy opening theme and occasional lines from the characters, we didn't hear a peep.

Knowing we had 6100 miles in store total, which is roughly a 47 hour one-way road trip--so almost 100 hours strapped in the car--we saved this little shiny disc as our secret weapon. It wasn't debuted until day 31 of the trip! We are so glad that we held off -- it worked it's magic, even across the plains of Southern Saskatchewan and North Dakota. 

Being a mom, at least for me, there is little I find harder than holding onto a gift or token for my kiddo. It's even worse when I know he'll love it. I wanted so many times to be like "look what mommy got you!!!!" But, ever a diligent secret-keeper, I withheld this from him. 

The moral of this crazy story? You NEED something major to get your through a long road trip. Pre-K kids are actually a lot easier to entertain than the older ones -- they don't have a great handle on time, other than marking it by night and day, mealtimes, and maybe naps. A DVD is more than adequate to whet their curiosity for a bit.



What we LOVE about PAW Patrol:
- targeted at his age (unlike SpongeBob, it isn't crude and is often cute!)
- some learning involved - whether just new vocab or a loosely based moral
- bright and sunny, not dark at all (we rarely need to provide guidance with these episodes)

The PAW Patrol DVD by Nickelodeon Kids is great for a road trip distraction! My advice to you? Figure out what your kids LOVE to watch but RARELY get to see. Then buy it for your next road trip. This DVD retails currently from the Nickelodeon Shop for just $9.96 -- worth it's weight in the blessed silence we had for our return trip! 


Disclosure: We were provided a complimentary DVD copy of the new PAW Patrol cartoon release. We were not compensated in any other way. 

Halftime -- Cutting my Lunch Prep time by MORE than half! [Review!]

Do you pack lunches? I pack them for my son AND my husband. I used to love it. Being in my third trimester, the extra three minutes on my feet kills me these days!

Enter: Halftime! My personal lifesaver! 

We all know Lunchables from our childhood. This is similar -- but good for your kids (or your husband....)

What included?

- meat and cheese and crackers [Applegate organic meats]
- Stonyfield organic yogurt tube
- Annies Natural Fruit Snacks

Yes. A completely organic experience that takes about five seconds to pack!

We tasted the Bologna, Turkey, and Ham varieties and there is not a crumb left of any of them! We also got a reusable lunch bag and markers -- so that is my hubby's new Half Time portable bag and my son had a great time doodling on it!

Want to try a Half Time kit yourself? Enter below!






Their Name is Today [Book Review


This book is absolutely telling of some of my thoughts and fears and agitations with raising a child in today's society. I do not often linger on non-fiction books, I'm afraid I'm usually more selfish in my book needs -- I love fiction. But this one I simply needed to read!





The basic premise of the book is something I worry about daily as a mother in this fast-paced, modern era. The conflict in our lives and in my heart is this: children need space, freedom, choices and chance to grow and develop, but as technology, violence, and all of the things about today's society that just plain SCARE me encroach, how are we supposed to let our dearest ones experience all they need?

Here are some of the big points from the book that need to be satisfied to help our children rise above the challenges they are faced with today as they become "grown ups" all too fast -- these are just some highlights and examples that I've found are some things I am able to curb, correct or enhance in our life to make it better for our kids:

1) PLAY - This is addressing the over-scheduled, over-stimulated life that many families either run or try to attain these days. Mollie doesn't need ballet, cooking lessons, gymnastics, reading club, Campfire Girls, and volunteering time at 6 years old. Mollie needs to play. Unstructured free play if possible.

2) SCREENS! - This one sickens me. Sorry if this is an unpopular stance. No wait, I'm NOT sorry. I will lose some "friends" for this one. Some views, some likes. I don't care. There is no reason an infant should know how to "swipe" a screen. Yes! It's easy! Fussy child? Throw a device at them! Voila! Lets all stop taking the easy route! Raise your child. I'm not saying you need to go cold turkey with no screens, but I am saying you should limit them for crying out loud! We aren't uber modern tech-wagon joiner types, but we do need to cut down on TV time.

3) Actions : Boundaries

We've tried to "coach" our boy. But what have we learned? More than anything: Monkey see, monkey do. That's right. If mom wants a polite kid, mom's gotta say Please and Thank You. Same goes with rules and boundaries -- you need your actions (and society in general needs more ACTION) to help kids with life struggles. My example is small scale, but have you ever heard "little kids, little problems, big kids, bigger problems?" It's a common saying for a reason!

Really there are about half a dozen other points that are great in the book. The author does a fantastic job of filtering all the arguments of issues from both sides of the street and just presents the problems with the solutions. It's a fairly easy read, just a little more than 100 pages, and it will help to reframe or remind you of your role as the loving, caring, protector and teacher of these little people in our lives.


*Disclosure: I am a Flyby Promotions member which enabled me to review this book. In progress! Please check back!*

Five Fun Pregnancy-related Announcement Techniques (Tips, Surprises, Ideas and Tricks!)

Are you bursting at the seams (well inside) while still not outwardly showing? In the day and age of Pinterest, it seems like special moments like announcing a pregnancy or gender of a child in the womb are staged opportunities to "one-up" friends on Facebook and get the biggest "oooh" factor and number of likes. Here are some ideas that are simple and fun and you won't need to log in to social media to be happy with the smiles that they induce!

5) A Cute Shirt

This isn't the most creative way to tell those you love but it is a REALLY fun way! We had my son wear a cute construction shirt from Zoey's Attic and didn't say a word to family or friends -- just let them notice! The front says "I've got BIG news" ... I'm going to be a big brother! Under construction until December 2014!"



It's truly adorable and it was fun for folks to go about their business and then realize what the shirt said and get super excited! The hardest part was keeping it clean to do the trick several times over for family and friends -- so when you order from Zoey's Attic, I'd get heather grey or a black one! White is tough for kiddos!

We have since washed it about 3-4 times and the screen print is still good as new. There are several customization options - including names, due dates, and custom orders. They are friendly and flexible and the options for sayings and themes are nearly endless! Plan to spend at least an hour trying to decide what message will be how you'd like to tell people!

We would go this route again for sure. It was something our young son was an active part of and it's now a keepsake shirt! It made HIM feel special and addressed out news. Win-win!

4) A Handmade Hint (Some need stronger hints than others!)

I wanted to do something special for my husband to get the point across to him that I was unexpectedly but joyously pregnant. So, I knew he loved fishing and specifically fishing with our son. This led me to Sierra Metal Designs and a spoon lure that says "Another Fishing Buddy." There are several -- "Soon to be Grandpa" and many other cute ideas too!



This lure hangs from his office desk area now with paintings by our son and other cherished items on display. Just in case he didn't get the hint, I also had a cat litter scoop with a bow on it, to signal a more dramatic delivery of the news. It was unnecessary, and apparently he wasn't too surprised with the news (since I guess I'd been exhibiting some moodiness!) but he was surprised and appreciative of the sweet way to tell him. Etsy shops like Sierra Metal Design are full of creative folks that are small businesses and are wonderful places to find a little inspiration for a trinket to tell those you love you are adding more love to the family!

3) Favorite Characters:

For those of you that weren't aware (spoiler alert) Daniel Tiger got a baby sister in the premier of Season 2 on PBS Kids! This could be the perfect way to announce to your little one that a new baby is coming their way too!

* Tip * Watch the show with your child and make it special. Maybe he/she can help prepare something for baby's arrival like the rocking chair pillows and stuffed animals or help by sorting baby clothes. Take them shopping and let them pick out matching lovies for big sibling and little one.

Seeing a character like Daniel go through surprise, happiness, frustration and adjustment to the news of new baby is a great way to ease kids into the complex idea of a baby coming. I think it makes it more tangible to them -- especially when mama doesn't look different in the beginning weeks! Once you're seven months along and the baby is dancing a jig for all to feel it is a bit easier to explain (and believe) for kids.

2) Stay off of Facebook! This pregnancy we didn't tell anyone via social media that wasn't thousands of miles away. We had REAL conversations and though it seems like a boring route to go, it's almost a treat because in this modern era it's not official until it's Facebook official! So, around the 5-7 month mark folks started wondering, noticing, and sometimes asking. We've had such great connections with friends that were face-to-face because we didn't send out a mass message! In fact, many people didn't know until I finally posted a maternity picture as my cover on Facebook. I'm 29 weeks along. It's been a great time getting to chat with people again! I'd recommend this avenue to everyone!

You can do the opposite and just avoid Facebook then do a fun photo shoot as a "reveal" -- but I'm hoping that word-of-mouth and real interaction will come back "in style" -- like neon colors and when Mary Janes made their comeback!

1) Kind of Like Groundhog's Day: IF you MUST go straight to social media, try an April Fool's style prank to deflate those that troll your updates and to annoy those that cannot wait to find out the news! Post on Facebook for friends to guess the gender of your bambino at your 20 week ultrasound. After a big buildup...

 "Well, we're back from the doctor and we are more than happy to weclome....
...a baby to the family with open arms!!!

It's fun to break the news to them that you didn't find our the gender and they have 20 more weeks of guessing ahead! Better prognosis than more winter, right?!? If you're like us -- you'll save the Facebook post for your 20 week appointment -- half of my friends didn't even know I was expecting! (Though I had quite the "beer belly" by that point!)

So, whether you use social media or not, consider some of these ideas when you spill the beans. I really had a fun time toying with friends and family this time around, making memories, and embracing what could be my last time telling. You never know.... So have fun with it!

OH wait....didn't I tell YOU? If you hadn't guessed from the sudden topic of the post or any detail dropping that I've been doing on the blog or fan page... Or the fact that Travelin' with Baby started!!!

That's right! The second kiddo in the clan will make their debut around Christmas time! Surprise! Merry Christmas to us! Now we'd like to share the fun with another expectant mama and offer up this fun giveaway for a $35 code for Zoey's Attic! Enter below!


*Disclosure: We received a complimentary Zoey's Attic t-shirt and a complimentary lure from Sierra Metal Designs for this post. All opinions are our own.*