The Best Last-Minute Gift Guide You'll Ever Need

Here is a fast and furious run-down of tried and true winners for everyone on your holiday shopping list this year. If you've still got folks that have you stumped, take a look at this list and good luck fighting those crowds!

For Him

Frabil Tip Up  (Around $15-35; $20 at your local big box)

Smartwool Socks (sometimes you can find them on Zulily for a great price!)

The Northwest Company

For Her

Mountain Hardwear Women's Trekkin™ Insulated Knee Skirt $90.00

For the Kids


We recommend:

B. Rrroll Models Fire Flyer Electronic Toy Fire Truck
Bouncy Boing™ Hankypants
B. Woofer, Hound Dog Guitar
Build-a-ma-jigs Aeroplane

The Northwest Company

How to Train Your Dragon woven tapestry blanket

Stocking Stuffers

The New Primal Jerky

For Bookworms


We recommend:

Tales from the Arabian Nights
Ultimate Oceanpedia
2017 Almanac
How Things Work

For Anyone

Door County Coffee and Tea Co.

Disclosure: The trust of my audience is of the utmost importance to me. That’s why I only recommend equipment I love from companies I trust. I have not been paid to review any of the products listed above. A couple items were provided to me for on a complimentary basis to review, but I purchased much of this myself. Also, I am under no obligation to give positive reviews to any of the products listed above.

Little Blue Trucks Adventures - Gift Idea for Toddlers

Have you all seen the post around Facebook about Iceland's tradition of giving books on Christmas and then retreating to read for the night? I LOVE that way to celebrate!


Little Blue Truck books are the perfect gift for your little readers OR for encouraging those not so excited about reading to start getting more interested. The rhyme scheme is really catchy and the story line is simple enough for little kids to understand. The lift-a-flap book keeps toddlers excited for the next page. The Beep-Along book is a fun and interactive way to read together -- but, be warned, it is a difficult beeper. This is great for those that do not want to hear beeping all around the house, all day, BUT during story time the beeper can be difficult to operate.


We had to carry this book around Target for an hour leading up to check-out time and since that kind of enthusiasm was just from seeing the cover and the plush pickup, I decided we better make it part of our collection. Since I didn't want to ruin the surprise, I slipped it back on the shelf in a ninja move, pointing to a Storm Trooper nearby, and we went on our merry way. This book has been the #1 requested book for bedtime since we were finally able to take a break from the months-long addiction to "A Day with Chickens." I'm glad to be beeping along (instead of cheeping along) this holiday season! The Halloween story featuring little blue truck and his farm friends dressed up with lift-a-flap fun was also a real popular read for a while! The books retail for around $7.99 - $17.99 from the publisher and can be found on Amazon as well. 

Little Blue Truck has a holiday edition too! Perfect for gifting to those younger kids in the family -- or a subtle way to get family members reading to their kids! We are going to be getting these books for my nephew to encourage his dad to read more with him!

Happy Holidays and happy family together time reading!


Disclosure: Consideration was provided by brands mentioned. All opinions are my own. 


Last Hurrah for the Holidays - An American Doll Girl of the Year Goodbye

What?!?! A last hurrah for Lea Clark, American Girl's 2016 Girl of the Year? Yep! Right here. You might remember that post when I introduced our GOTY and gave one away at the beginning of this year. Well, I'm doing it again, just in time for Christmas and just in time to say farewell to Lea.

You might also remember that you had the opportunity to ask your burning American Girl questions. I didn't take that lightly. I tracked down some answers to the most asked questions and here they are!!! Enjoy! Share this giveaway, like Facebook pages, leave fun comments and be a good entrant! The more fun YOU make it, the more fun events like this I can provide! Thank you and have a fantastic rest of 2016!!

Was Lea modeled after a real girl the author met?
No. Like our past Girl of the Year characters, Lea’s story is purely fictional and is not based on any one girl.



Who started it all with American Girl?
American Girl was founded in 1986 by Pleasant Rowland, who used her skills as an educator and children’s publisher to create the flagship historical line of 18-inch dolls and books that teach girls American history. Pleasant retired from American Girl in 2000, but here is a link to her speech from the company’s 25thanniversary celebration in 2011 where she talks about her vision for the company. 



Who comes up with the ideas and stories for the American Girl dolls and books?
The actual development of our characters is a very iterative process. The brand teams work closely with our editorial, design, and research teams to determine what story we want to tell and what’s the right character to tell that story. For our character-based lines, we always have a working list of story ideas, time periods, and issues and interests to consider. We have an extensive knowledge of girls and what they are interested in, passionate about, or want to do or learn. We balance this extensive knowledge with past characters we’ve introduced, as well as with those things that might be trending at the moment.

Thanks everyone! Good luck! Please enter below.



Disclosure: Consideration was provided by brands mentioned. All opinions are my own and do not reflect any particular views of American Girl.

#Howlidays at the Great Wolf Lodge - This is #Snowland in December

Great Wolf Lodge is already a popular request among children that have television and have seen the (very accurate) promotional commercial featuring families having a howlin' good time at the various resort properties around the country. If you've never experienced a Great Wolf Lodge -- consider a trip instead of all the "stuff" under the tree. If you're planning a trip, consider doing it during December -- when the whole resort is sparkling with Snowland celebrations and decorations!

Adventures of Mommyhood ©2016 All Rights Reserved
Great Wolf Lodge Classics

You will get waterpark access (exclusive to overnight guests at Great Wolf Lodge, so crowding is limited!) when you check in. You'll also get wolf ears (for adults and kids if you wish!) Be sure to tell the front desk staff if anyone in your party is a birthday kid (within a few days or so) and they'll get special birthday party hat wolf ears. You'll be able to see the traditional Great Clock Tower Show and even meet a few of the pack of friendly characters known to frequent the lodge.  Did I mention they would be around for Story Time too? They provide ample time for mom and dad to snap photos and are full of high-paws for the youngsters. This is all complimentary with your stay and most activities can be found in or near the lobby. Watch the schedules -- if the evening show is too late for your crew, catch a morning viewing (complete with snow shower if you go during December!) Other fun and mostly free activities (some have a small fee for supplies) can be found on the handy events itinerary you will get with your ears at check in. If you find you need a little intro to Great Wolf Lodge OR MagiQuest, both have their own resort channel on the in-room televisions. There's also a Great Wolf Lodge cartoon that plays on a loop, if you need something kid-safe for a bit! There is a ton of action related to the holiday season from Polar expeditions in the morning (after yoga usually) to visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus -- there is no shortage of fun. 

Adventures of Mommyhood ©2016 All Rights Reserved
Tip: You can check in early and receive a text when your room is ready! That means a few extra hours in the waterpark on the day you arrive! Put that suit on before you leave the driveway so you're ready to go when you get to Great Wolf Lodge!

Snowland Suites

A Snowland suite is the perfect way to add a little magic to your stay! The $50 upgrade is well worth the money -- you get a keepsake Great Wolf Lodge Snowland throw blanket and storybook featuring the familiar furry faces of the Great Wolf Lodge characters. The room is beautifully decorated with snowflakes hanging from the ceiling and a full-size decorated tree and lighted garland along the headboards of the beds. Perhaps the most fun is the night of check-in you're able to select a time that works well for your family for a special character to come visit -- and they bring milk and cookies! We had an abundance of sugar during our fun weekend getaway, so the kids were in heaven! The special touches are very much worth the little up charge since you'll get those priceless moments of surprise and snuggles for story time in the comfort of your room! 

Adventures of Mommyhood ©2016 All Rights Reserved
Tip: Reserve a spot in the Gingerbread House -- yes! IN! You can make a reservation to dine in and believe me, it's great food and a fun time! The best part? A $10 donation from every reservation goes to Ronald McDonald House charity. I've had family see the real good that the organization does so I was more than happy to add this little bit of fun to our trip! (It smells of sugar and keeps the kids interested long enough for you to drink a cup or two of hot coffee while enjoying breakfast (or lunch/dinner!) Another tip, since you're here -- order the Family Style platter. It's a mound of food and it's a fun way to make dining out more like dining at home! 

Wisconsin Dells 

An ever popular vacation getaway for folks in Milwaukee, Green Bay, Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul, the Wisconsin Dells do not disappoint. This is the location of the flagship Great Wolf Lodge and the 100,000 square foot waterpark does not disappoint, even today. We saw families of all sizes and ages having a blast during our three-day stay and though it might be better geared for the younger set (say maybe under 10 years) -- even teens can be seen smiling wide as they patter and splash barefoot from one waterpark attraction to the next. This Great Wolf Lodge features fun northwoods themes and a Howlin' Tornado funnel slide -- plus plenty of rides and slides
for tykes too! The location is IDEAL -- everything you need is within walking distance -- or a VERY short drive across the road. Outlet shopping, dining, and gasoline are all within a two block radius. The Great Wolf Lodge is located off of I-94/90 so it makes navigating a breeze. [You see the iconic font from the freeway!]

Give your family at least two nights to really have enough time to enjoy the lodge activities AND the waterpark -- that's probably a minimum if you're going to also take in MagiQuest and do things like sleep and eat. It's a really fun place and even with an entire weekend, we were all wishing we'd had just one more night to really howl at the moon!







Consideration was provided by the Great Wolf Lodge. All opinions are my own. Please check the Great Wolf Lodge website for specifics in your area and for deals, as things change and this post will not be updated with dates or deals regularly. Thanks Great Wolf Lodge for a wonderful time!

Do You Have Little Conductors? Buy THIS!

We have a house full of boys. Something at the very primal, DNA-level of boys generally guarantees a "train phase" at some point during childhood, I'm convinced. There was no exception in our home, both boys have the train gene. (Sheldon Cooper a la Big Bang Theory, anyone!?) Even as a toddler our oldest thought Mt. Rushmore with its epic stone faces was Thomas the Train. The video, below, brought to you by Whittle Shortline Railroad company is too true!

In fact, they were mesmerized by this short video! Oh the things that bring joy to kids!?




If you've raised a train enthusiast, then you might know the frustration of having several different pieces of sets and none that really jibe well together. The great thing (and our favorite feature of Whittle Shortline's cars) is that they are pretty universal! They match up to most other train sets including our Chugginton and Thomas magnetic cars and they are reported to match up with Lionel sets too -- though we've not invested that kind of cash into the train phase in this home.

We selected a CN railroad five-car set -- it was guaranteed to come with an engine and caboose that were CN branded and then it was a little like a grab bag for the three random cars. We got a Burlington Northern car (which was exciting because we have rails that showcase BOTH CN and BNSF cars near our home. The detail made them look like shrunken versions of the real thing. Our sons were both impressed with the little cars. The older kiddo, who had been "over" trains recently in favor of Monster Trucks was just as interested as our toddler when we revealed what was in the cute little box. The cars come individually wrapped in plastic and packed in a cardboard fitted box. The trains have been made by the same family for 20 years! I love that home-town feel to the company.

You can find sets like this one on the Whittle Shortline website and a five-car mixed set retails for $69.95.

Disclosure: This post was presented to you by a partnership with US Family Guides. All opinions are my own. Consideration was provided by brands mentioned. 

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Where Compassion Spreads Like Wildfire - A Worthy Cause You Haven't Heard Of

Disclosure: The post was sponsored by Stonyfield Organics.

Recently, it occurred to me as I was sucking down a Stonyfield Yo-Kids Squeezer tube (Hey! They're not JUST for kids!) that I'd never had yogurt outside of the fire camp mess tent while on an incident. The spike camps just couldn't keep it fresh, you know? I'm thankful for this though, since I take my yogurt ice-cold. Something about consistency. Anyway, thinking about fire camps got me thinking about the Pay it Forward card I got in the mail that day.

I'd been considering going to the local animal shelter with $50 worth of supplies from their "want" list. I wasn't really completely happy with this option -- $50 buys one bag of GOOD puppy food and a few rolls of paper towel. It didn't feel like it would make a big difference (which I know, EVERY little bit helps.) But I still wanted to try to think of something I wouldn't normally do (I normally donate dog food and supplies a few times a year to the local shelter.)

The Wildland Firefighter Foundation

I've wanted to re-up my 52 club membership since I left the fireline. Like many things, my memberships and donations drastically got cut when I was no longer receiving a regular paycheck as a stay at home parent! The 52 club costs $52. Thats one dollar a week. When you look at it like that, even without that steady paycheck I should have seen how minimal that would be in the long run, over a year. So I took the opportunity to donate $52 (I added $2 of my own, gladly) to make it happen this year.

I won't know how $52 will help fellow firefighters. I won't know if my donation covers some administrative cost or if my bit will go directly to a family of a firefighter who has answered his or her last call. I cannot help but think this is timely, with the fatalities and fires in Tennessee. Especially as I've been listening to my new CD (because I'm old school) when I have my breakfast (yogurt, coffee, and toast.) The song I most love is "Tennessee Christmas." I've never actually been to Tennessee. I've heard the Great Smoky Mountains are amazing. Let me tell you a little secret after these fires have passed -- they're still amazing, and they need your tourism dollars there more than ever! Many of my friends ventured down to the southern coastal area for some of the rash of fires last month, they all made it back, thankfully.



I will always remember visiting the Storm King Mountain fire memorial in Colorado and working a fire in the Prescott, AZ area a few years before tragedy struck there. You just never know when you might be the one needing help, especially in such a dangerous line of work. It makes me feel happy, no matter who my contribution has helped, to know that someone out there, working to help others by nature and by virtue of their profession, will be helped thanks to my small contribution. The Wildland Firefighter Foundation is an organization that helps the people within our country. These men and women are some of the most hardworking and selfless individuals I have had the pleasure of meeting and the wildfire community is very small and tight-knit. I've served alongside and am proud to be friends with a man who lost a family member and saw the good that the Wildland Firefighter Foundation was able to do.

Thank you Stonyfield, for allowing me to make this contribution. Thank you for allowing me to Pay it Forward this holiday season in hopes of making the fire in someones soul burn a little brighter. Maybe I've helped with the Santa's Helpers 2016 campaign -- maybe a child out there who has lost their mum or dad will have a little brighter Christmas because of my ability to pay it forward and because of the generosity of Stonyfield. I sure hope it's a heartwarming story -- but there is a lot to be said for the mundane, too. It all needs to happen to make good things blossom. I am really proud and thankful to have been able to in a small way "be the change I want to see."

Not that it matters, but I do believe in Karma and the very day I clicked "send" on my donation, I was in line for a quick lunch and the customer ahead of me had seen my magnetic ribbon (a wildfire one sold by the same foundation) and had "paid for the lunch of the firefighter behind them." It was really nice. It only cost them $2.14 to totally make me smile and appreciate the good in the world. I knew that I'd paid it forward to a meaningful place to me and that I'd set in motion a chain reaction of good in the world, however small the ripples. Somewhere, the ripples continue to spread and it all started with Stonyfield, giving me the means to make it happen and the nudge to see it through.

Thank you to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation for the good work they do and to Stonyfield Organics to the good they helped to spread this year. Happy Holidays!

Disclosure: The post was sponsored by Stonyfield Organics.

What the heck is a Scrape-A-Round? Why do YOU need one?

For me, the appeal of this little doo-dad called a Scrape-A-Round is the unique shape and size. I'm always drawn to something a little different -- I love the small stature of this thing! No more giant scrapers in the car? Sign me up! I smell a stocking stuffer!

If you're tired of scraping your windows the old fashioned way, then join the Scrape-A-Round movement. Neat new gift ideas and scrape your windows cleaner in half the time with the world's best windshield ice scraper. View the Scrape-A-Round action http://youtu.be/baHi-litcD8

Fast Facts: 


Best ice scraper because of the softer plastic, allows the scraper to conform to the window curvature! Find out more information: http://www.scrapearound.com/

18" of ice scraping surface.

The comfortable grasp provides relief for the arthritic or carpal syndrome sufferer.

Direct pressure to the window, no pressure lost through the ice scraper!

The circular rotational motion of ice scraper is more effective

Double ice scraper action, leading edge and trailing edge.

Multi functional, remove the cap and it doubles as a funnel.  (For beer? I kid! I kid!) 

This scrapes windows frost and ice free in half the time!

Makes the perfect, practical gift for the Holidays! 


Save! Get FREE Shipping at http://www.scrapearound.com/ Use code LU8FBEZREU2 at checkout. 











Disclosure: I found out about Scrape-A-Round via US Family Guide. Consideration was provided by brands mentioned. All opinions are my own. 

Tennessee Christmas and Why it's Perfect Timing!

I've been listening to Tennessee Christmas on repeat lately, the new holiday album out by Amy Grant. Not only is the CD pretty great -- my husband demanded a new CD in the player under our kitchen cupboard, since I've had the same one on a loop since Halloween! This is a great mix of really chilled out wintry themed music and some old Christmas favorites. It's going to be the CD softly playing in the background of our Christmas dinner -- perfect calming, cozy tunes!

Tennessee Christmas 

Fans that upload a video of them surprising loved ones for the holidays and hashtag it #TNChristmasSurprise! could be included in a compilation video posted to Amy’s social media channels! How fun! Check out the "To Be Together" audio on YouTube! This is where you can buy the music to play in your own kitchen this holiday season!

I hope to see a lot of fun, probably emotional, feel-good videos this season! I'm a sucker for all the holiday feel-goods including these types of videos, most of the Freeform 25 Days of Christmas programs, and of course, Hallmark channel, almost round the clock! Add Tennessee Christmas to my faves for the season!!

Tennessee, In Real Life

We've all seen the news about the devastation in Gatlinburg and the Pigeon Forge resort areas. Though folks have mostly made it through the storm, they're a long way from going back to "normal." Sure, it could have been worse. Folks in the West know this force of nature all too well. Its time now to send warm, healing thoughts and actual donations to the local area crisis response. It's also a good time to remember that though the area was burned, they still NEED you to come visit! In the wake of a disaster like this, the attractions are still there. The resort areas run on tourism -- many of the people affected by the fire could be supported by their work at an aquarium, a show, or a hotel. PLEASE keep visiting the Smoky Mountains this holiday season! It is truly magical -- even as the ashes settle!


This post is a result of my participation as a Flyby Promotions influencer. All opinions are my own. 

Gilmore Girls Netflix Revival !!! SPOILER ALERT !!! 16 Things

After the agony of trying to binge-watch over a holiday weekend, sharing one Netflix account with my husband (and in doing so, having to wait patiently) I've made it through a year in the life. If you're reading this, I hope you've made it through all four seasons as well. Cuz if not, you're about to get the "gist" of it all in the next paragraphs.

No matter what was flubbed, what I adored, and whatever else I have to say about anything Gilmore Girls related, the revival was way better than I expected and all it did was leave me wanting more!! You hear me, Netflix? MORE!

Here are some of my thoughts, I'd LOVE to hear yours too! Feel free to disagree, agree, add-on, or whatever else you might want. All opinions are welcome here as long as they are Gilmore Girls related and somewhat family-friendly. 

1. HATE Logan and Rory's relationship in this, BUT I'm still in love with Mr. Huntzberger.

2. LOVE the return of the life and death brigade.

3. I'm sorry, but the Stars Hollow Musical overstayed its welcome. It was almost like Seth Macfarlane paired up with the Palladinos for that chunk.

4. Kirk and Petal. Yes. Just yes!

5. The Wild thing - so overdone. I'm sure in the making of the revival they didn't realize how thru hiking would be the new thing to do -- or maybe they did? But we're all sick of hearing about the long haul hikes. This was also an area that I thought drug out far too long.

6. The "park ranger" in the US Forest Service uniform. Oops. And, neither agency stands there to patrol and permit-check.

7. Lastly on the PCT bit -- the hills of LA and the surrounding area do not equate to the start of the PCT.

8. Emily telling the DAR to take a flying leap was THE BEST. I honestly thought for a bit that she was having a stroke in the "Fall" episode and that they might kill her character off too... Though you do not interview in or marry in to the DAR--it just doesn't work like that--I found her leaving them so satisfying.

9. Poor Paul. Though it was funny at first -- he could have been written out entirely and it wouldn't have made a bit of difference in the revival.

10. Jess could have had a bigger part, but they left it wide open for that to rekindle, should an additional Year in the Life be added to Netflix!

11. I really wanted to see Odette.

12. I love that Luke and Lorelai eloped last minute. To have had a wedding with a handful of minutes left in the last installment would have been too quick, too forced.

13. Awesome that Luke just happened to know Keifer Sutherland all those years.

14. Rory not having "roots" and being a traveler was lovely. I wish they'd gone past three chapters in her new book though and ended with her last chapter being tied in with being pregnant.

15. All is right in the world after I got my Netflix binge out of the way. For all the flaws and the perfectly perfect moments, I'm left wishing Stars Hollow were a real place I could go to vacation. I want to have bottomless coffee at Luke's and sit in on a town meeting. The festivals -- I'd bid on a basket in a heartbeat!

16. Lastly... I cannot be left not knowing what Rory and (probably) Logan's baby would look like. Adorable!

What did YOU think of the four-part revival? Did you sit down and watch it in a single night? Did you throw a Gilmore Girls party with friends? Did you cry? Laugh? Want to "do" Wild?

Door County Coffee and Tea Co. - Your Holiday Shopping Just Got Easier

Coffee -- it's what makes the world go 'round. At least my world. My first taste of coffee was had the way every first should be experienced -- it was perfect. Epic. Fairytale trimmings.

I sipped my first cup of coffee in January, in Costa Rica, in the tasting room of Tilawa Coffee Company. It was surprisingly sweet.

Until that time, I'd only known Folgers. No wonder I didn't like the stuff!

In the years since, I've come to enjoy a good (emphasize GOOD) cup of coffee. I like small batch, small business, and fresh. Good beans. Sustainable practices. Fair trade is fantastic, but not a deal breaker. Pretty packaging, as stupid as that is, does matter. In a pinch, I'd rather have Cameron's from the local grocery store than a Keurig cup anyday.

This holiday season, knowing my love of some seriously sippable joe, I have decided to share with you all one of my favorite small town (with big flavor) coffee companies in hopes you'll enjoy it as much as I do, and perhaps add it to
Graphic courtesy of
Door County Coffee and Tea Co. 
your holiday shopping list to spread the love across the land.

The company is Door County Coffee and Tea and the jury is still out on my absolute favorite flavor. I can tell you though, you cannot go wrong with Black and Tan, Costa Rican, Lighthouse Blend, Espresso, Sunrise in Door County, Guatemalan or Private Blend.

The line of flavored coffee is insane. For a smaller business in a super rural Wisconsin town, this company has an immense array of flavors and varieties. My mother-in-law, for instance, would probably go nuts for the Hawaiian Hazelnut kind, and she just may get it for her birthday or Christmas! There are five flavors that are limited time, special Christmas edition flavors -- including Door County Christmas!

I on the other hand, am a purist and I need my coffee black and strong -- I do like hints of sweet tones like chocolate or fruits and usually low acidity.

Is tea more your bag? (Get it?) Well, they have a ton of tea too! I'm pretty solidly in the Earl Grey encampment with tea -- I sure am stubborn in my ways, eh? If you happen to have a more open
minded outlook on what goes in your cup (and a more open palate) you'll find a respectable selection of loose leaf and otherwise, from Blueberry to tea that can get you some more Zzzz's.

We can't leave out Santa and the kids either -- gourmet cocoa is another option for those looking for a low-octane beverage with plenty of flavor but not quite the punch!

Use code: DCCHRISTMAS to save 30% on your order!

If there's one thing that is going to please the masses during the holiday family gatherings, toy opening, and late-night cookie nibbling, it's coffee. Make someones morning, which will make their day, and gift the taste of coffee this holiday season!

Disclosure: Consideration was provided by brands mentioned in this article. All opinions are my own.

Oats for All! Ways to Incorporate Oats in Everyday Choices Like a Ninja

I'm not going to try to kid anyone. I'd rather eat Kit-Kats and Oreos with a side of Chocolate Fudge Lava Cake than brocolli or eggplant or even bananas 'til the cows come home. In fact, in the last five or so years, my diet has included lots of sugar. However, in light of all sorts of health problems looming, that could be a future of doctor visits and a life shortened for no real good reason, I've been trying slow reform. It's not that I don't WANT to be healthy. I have a sugar addiction. My husband hid some Twix from me the other night and after seeing two gold wrappers hanging from my jeans pockets, he said: "You're like an alcoholic! I can't hide it from you. You find it."

Sad but true. So what have I done to start the process? Well, first off, I've been trying to stave off cravings with drinking more water. And moving more. After that, tackling my food demons comes next. When I can't eat something 100% fresh (like the carrots from our garden or at least the 90 pints of carrots canned from the garden), then I try to go with the next best thing. Here are some ideas if you're in the same sugar-laden rut as I found myself slipping into this year.

Share more ideas in the comments if you have super ninja ways to incorporate foods that are GOOD for you into everyday choices!

Cholesterol being a reasonable concern for me because of genetic predisposition and my love of all things fatty, fried and generally bad for your heart, I've been trying to combat the sticky culprit with more oats. And, since I'm working hard to get the good stuff IN to my diet, why settle for sub-par products even if they're better than Taco Bell?

I go for the stuff like Bob's Red Mill -- they have GOOD in the heart of their slogan and mission. I've been trying to sneak more oats into things like lasagna, muffins, and even on top of my Stonyfield Grass Fed yogurt in the morning.

The small crumbles of Steel Cut oats are good for more than just oatmeal -- since they are teeny they are easily combined with other food preps. I just found recently that I can add them to trail mix and I really don't notice much when I grab a handful! (They do tend to fall to the bottom corners of the baggie, so you have to shake it up. But, I think it would make great granola bars too!



Disclosure: Consideration was provided by brands mentioned. All opinions are my own.

Family Game Night - 3 Little Pigs

This has just been added to our Holiday Gift Guide! The whole family will have a ton of fun with the classic storybook tale as it comes to life!

Help the three little pigs as they build their houses and hope to avoid the huffing and puffing, Big Bad Wolf. The 3 Little Pigs game combines skill and a dash of luck. Kids will love the soft and squeezable Big, Bad Wolf that actually huffs and puffs the pig's houses down!

Now Available at Amazon and Walmart



Disclosure: This announcement is brought to you by a partnership with US Family Guides. Please stay tuned for a full review!

Playskool Heroes Transformers Rescue Bots Brighten the Holidays by Hasbro Toys - Perfect Gifting Idea!

There was a time when I felt I was really "in the know" when it came to the trends of my son and his peers. That ended with Kindergarten. Every day I've been baffled by where he's been exposed to some new subject and when. Our lives used to be Octonauts and Disney Jr. -- it has changed to become very BOY. In all the change, one thing I've figured out is this: the child LOVES Transformers now! Being a child of the 80's, I can totally get on board with the resurgence of the rescue bots! I'm going to be mom of the year (or Santa will get some major street cred) when he unwraps the cool new play sets by Hasbro this year for Christmas!


Hasbro: A Time-Trusted Name in Toys

Hasbro has been around, like the Transformers, since I was a kid. Technically, they've been around since 1923, though founded under another name -- talk about street cred! Hasbro is a name that will become like a family member to you if you're a "boy mom." (But they make some pretty adorable girl toys too -- and a plethora that would make kids of all kinds happy.) They do
well with the boys though. My boys in particular.

I have a new vocabulary and Hasbro is on top of it. I know things like where one might find Griffon Rock. I know Bumblebee is not just tuna and it's not just a pollinator. I can tell you what characters are which colors and what they can transform into. Really. If I played Transformers Trivial Pursuit, I might give you a run for your Monopoly money. (Incidentally, also a favorite Hasbro game!)

What to Buy the Boys (or Girls!) 

Playskool Heroes Transformers Rescue Bots Griffin Rock Firehouse Headquarters and Transformers Rescue Bots Optimus Prime Racing Trailer are two TOP picks for kids gifts this year and I cannot wait to see the look of sheer delight on my kiddos faces as they open up their Transformer packages!

This will likely be one of the gifts that both boys remember under the tree for years to come. It's something they asked for (and will receive) which is part one for the nostalgia-making formula. The second part is going to be the family aspect of these toys -- both of us (the parents) grew up with the Transformers franchise. We'll be right there playing with both kids and Optimus Prime, Heat Wave, Bumblebee and Chase...among others that must have been introduced, since I have no memory of their extra-cool transforming powers! Yes, I do believe we've nailed it this year! Bring on Christmas! We're ready!

You can find these two toys from the Hasbro Transformers Rescue Bots line of merchandise at almost all departments stores, toys stores, and of course, online!

Have you started holiday shopping? Do you have a favorite toy from childhood that you remember vividly?










Disclosure: I was provided complimentary sample products to describe and try for my review process.

Pet Gift Box - A Great Gift Idea for Your Dog or Cat

For many people, pets are their fur babies. People like my parents. Two schnauzers that are spoiled beyond belief. For me, we have a blended family! We have kids and dogs and cats and chickens and a rabbit and we love them all. You can imagine that the kids love spoiling their pets and we do too! Pet Gift Box is a fun subscription box (ya'll know I love me some subscription boxes!!) that is made for the dogs and cats in your life. I'm not aware of a chicken box, but if someone knows of one...let me know!

PetGitBox is the perfect gift for your furry friend this Holiday Season. Jam-packed with only the best quality treats, toys and other fun goodies, your dogs and cats will be beggin' for more. Check out www.petgiftbox.com/holidaypet to save 50% off your first box for this holiday season.



Use code HOLIDAYPET at checkout! 


All pets deserve your love all the time--what better way to show Bowzer or Binky you love them than by splurging for a little extra fun? Treat your pet or surprise your friends and family with a PetGiftBox! My parents would LOVE this. We may just get it for their little dogs -- we got them toys last year and they were delighted. 

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by a partnership with US Family Guides. Compensation in some form was received. All opinions are my own. 

AdoramaPix - Holiday Cards That Are Easy and Inexpensive

Holiday card time is one of my favorite holiday traditions. I have a glittery red sleigh that I set out and fill with any of the cards that we get from friends and family, near and far. I've noticed that in the social media era, folks don't send as many cards anymore. Much to my dismay, I've even seen people use Facebook as a "blanket card post" venue. It's great to save postage, and I might even do the same for the 45 friends who likely do not give more than a passing glance to my card after opening the envelope. I may just use Facebook for that reason. BUT for the Great Aunt and Uncle in Arizona and the far-flung relatives that escape to Florida (and have no interest in Facebook) I will continue to make beautiful cards that I know are cherished.



This year, after using several card services in the past, we'll be trying AdoramaPix. We've worked with the company before for photo books and they are similar to many other photo sharing and creating sites. We've never tried their services for holiday cards though!

I've created my cards, now I just have to wait for the 12 pack of holiday greetings to come in the mail! I always save a blank card for the scrapbook...is that weird? At least I do not send it to my own address, right?!

Do you still use REAL cards? Do you mail them each year and anticipate holiday well-wishing from others you care about? I think it's a time-honored tradition that needs to be kept alive!!

If you do, you'll be glad to know that you can try AdoramaPix too -- Shop Now: http://bit.ly/2d7blyf 40% off greeting cards. Use code:. PXUSFAM40 Sale ends 12/20/2016 11:59 PM EST


Disclosure: This post was made possible by a partnership with US Family Guides and AdoramaPix. All opinions are my own. Some form of compensation was received. 

The Whittle Shortline Railroad - A Great Gift for Kids Who Love Trains

My sons love trains. I was never a big fan ... until they were. When we went to see Mount Rushmore, our toddler deemed the big, gray faces to seem more like something from the Island of Sodor than our own past Presidents -- as we first glimpsed the huge faces he said "Thomas!!" So, trains it is!



I'm really excited about wrapping up a Mixed Five Car Diesel Engine Toy Train set this year for the boys -- what's more exciting is the pieced-together train paraphernalia they've collected is likely compatible with the Whittle Shortline cars! Score! How much easier would our lives be if all blocks, cars, and kits were compatible!? 

The Whittle Shortline Railroad is a family owned, 20 year old, wooden toy train company. We hand craft realistic toy trains that are compatible with Thomas, Brio and Chuggington. Our toy trains are modeled after real trains you would see in your neighborhood. As a part of our 20th anniversary we released over 20 new trains in August of 2016. In December 2016 we will begin a program of releasing a new train each month and expanding our offering to trains around the world! Visit our website right now to watch video's and learn more!

My Readers receive 20% Off High Quality MIXED 5 Car Diesel Engine Toy Train Sets. Enter Promo Code: WeLoveWhittle! in comments section at checkout at https://www.woodentrain.com 

For Ongoing Special Offers Save This link to the Whittle Shortline Railroad online coupon: http://usfamilycoupons.com/coupon.php?regionid=75&bid=13138&dealid=3063





Disclosure: This post was brought to you by a partnership with US Family Guides and the other mentioned sponsors. It may have resulted in complimentary products and/or some form of compensation. All opinions are my own. 

Christmas decor clutter got you down? [discount code]

If you're like [my husband -- not me] you can't stand Christmas and holiday decor clutter. He is irritated by my FOUR totes of Christmas decor. The balls of lights from the tree and the outdoor scenes (think Christmas Vacation...the scene with Rusty carrying a 50 lb. ball of lights...) I thought I did well to jam everything into four labeled totes. Apparently, that was not what he envisioned when he said he would love to see the Christmas clutter disappear!

Sound familiar? I LOVE the holidays. So when I found out about Crab Pot Christmas trees and how compact and self-contained they are, I knew it was for us. I also like that they are very reminiscent of our time in Alaska (though they are actually from North Carolina.) They lay flat, are fully lighted, and are a pretty cool use of gear.

Check them out in this quick video:





My Readers $ave 30% Off  Crab Pot Christmas Trees that fold flat & sparkle from every angle http://crabpottrees.com/promo Code:USFG16

*Disclosure: I wrote this post in a partnership with US Family Guides and Crab Pot Trees. 

Explore! Rescue! Protect! How YOU Can Meet Captain Barnacles!

IOWA -- WISCONSIN -- MICHIGAN!! You're up! (Followed by the rest of the nation!!) Captain Barnacles and his band of heroic Octonauts are coming to a town near you -- LIVE!!



The Octonauts are coming in the U.S!!  Fire up the Gup-E, practice your Octopod driving skills, and prepare for live-action adventure!! Keep reading to learn about VIP Explorer Party tickets -- a special way to experience Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure, Live heading across the midwest RIGHT NOW and likely landing in a town near you!!

The popular Disney Jr. television show characters have made their USA debut and we're STOKED! See your favorite Octonauts characters in a live-action adventure, complete with songs from the show and brand new music for everyone to enjoy. 

Confession: Mom might have been even MORE excited by this than the boys! We've gone to our fair share of kids performances -- the array of quality and actual fun is a big range. We were able to see a preview of the show and it looked FANTASTIC! The video showed vivid color and great costuming! We weren't disappointed when we arrived at the LIVE show!

Tickets are available NOW online, and you can even purchase a special VIP package, which includes a meet and greet party with your favorite characters, photo opportunities, and more! We were among the mainly pint-sized party-goers recently and it was a blast! Balloons and sea-themed activities galore and yes, up close and personal with the Captain himself! If you have kids that are around the 2-5 mark, they will LOVE the performance. The costumes are spot-on -- if they're expecting to see their favorite characters, they will!! We were sad that the whole cast wasn't at the Explorers Party, but it was still really fun! We only had a five minute wait for all the photos we wanted, since we weren't in a huge crowd after the performance at the VIP pass party--for us, that was worth a ton!


Disclosure: We were guests at this performance. All opinions are our own. We legitimately love the Octonauts and had a great time!

Brick Loot! What's not to love?

I'm pretty addicted to subscription boxes. It's no secret! I just love getting a surprise in the mail each month. I've managed to pass that love along to my oldest son, as he's discovered how fun it is too with Brick Loot!

We've gone through the block/brick chronology in our family. It all started with the giant mega/big blocks for building as a small child. Then came the Duplos. Those were a hit for a while, but there was a short gap of time when Legos were still too frustrating and Duplos were "for babies." That was a rough month! Ha!

Now, we're solidly interested in Lego building in this house. However, as you well know, Lego kits can get expensive! A great way to keep your Lego collection fresh without costing an arm and a leg is by signing up for a subscription club like Brick Loot!

Kids will get some new bricks and some other fun swag as well as activities to keep them busy! This means you don't have to run out to the store, they won't grow tired of what they have as quickly, and you don't have to deal with the "I'm bored" droning. They have fun and are occupied and it's economical!

There are various levels of subscriptions all around $25/month. That won't even buy one set unless you find super clearance sales, don't care what the subject matter is, or get a teeny tiny kit. Plus, you end up in Target and goodness knows that costs much more than $25 --- at least for me it does!

My readers get to save! Save 10% of Brickloot using code "usfamily"

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by my affiliation with US Family Guides.

NOVICA in association with National Geographic ~ Fair Trade Gifts

Novica is a great way to shop for gifts or for a little something to give yourself a NEW LOOK and feel good about where your items come from.



Cool Features:

- Curating
- "Meeting" Artists
- wide variety at an expansive range of prices
- affiliated with National Geographic, so you KNOW it's good!

It's a really BIG mission of mine to get folks to only rely on the big box stores for those items that they MUST get there -- I know you need toilet paper and printer ink, but for your clothing, food, gifts and anything else that can be purchased from a local shop, farmer or even, like with Novica, from an artisan across the ocean, CONSIDER IT! Be mindful of the source of your goods!



Tire Tips for Winter Road Trips

Now that the kids are back in school and fall is upon us, though it's no fun to consider wintry weather around the corner, it will come to pass sooner than later. So, as you're planning your ski trips and your island escapes, make sure to plan a little time for your tires, too. Here are some of my best tips for winter travel and good tires to keep you rolling through snow and ice.

Examine Your Treads

Did you know if you have a penny and a quick lesson you can make sure the tread life on your tires is good to go? It's true! Get out your penny -- put Abraham Lincoln headfirst into a tread bed -- if you can see any of the top of his head, time for new tires. If you happen to have a set of Cooper Tires, they have a tread indicator on the outside of the tire to make it that much easier, especially if you're fresh out of change!

Tire Pressure

One Christmas, my husband put a tire pressure gauge in my stocking. Not jewelry, nor candy. This TOOL! I wasn't impressed, but as he explained that he wanted me to be safe, that he'd put it there to ensure the safety of our little family on a day-to-day basis, it made me melt! (And then he DID give me some pretty adorable Mukluks that holiday, too!) But it's a simple skill to have -- everyone has a phone these days that can quickly look up appropriate seasonal pressure if you forget.

Tire Rotating and Alignment 

I've nearly had to switch mechanics because every winter I bring my car into the shop. "It's clunking and shaking and I cannot go faster than 45 mph without feeling like I'm in a rocket, about to blast off!" It took three times of this happening before I realized it was always the same problem! I went in thinking I desperately needed my tires rotated and left blushing, my tires and wheels freshly pressure-washed by the garage. You could say I was a tire hypochondriac, but the mechanic assured me it was better to be a little embarrassed than to go without regular rotation. (If you live on a dirt road, or one that gets a little sloppy, you might get ice knocking around in your wheels.) You should still be vigilant in rotating tires, even if you aren't rushing in constantly, like I was! Tire rotation is important because each tire carries a different amount of weight, so they wear differently. Consult your Owner's Manual for all specifics, BUT, usually a good rule is 5,000 - 8,000 miles. 

Invest in Winter Tires

Look for M+S on the tire if you're unsure -- generally for All Season tires, this means "mud and snow."


Winter tires offer extra grip and turning capabilities that for ices, snow, and freezing conditions. Even if you have 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, you still need winter tires!
Winter tires are made to perform better on wet roads, snow and ice--where I live, that's about 85% of the time. 
Tires that are made for warmer weather aren't going to perform well in colder temperatures -- they could limit your safe maneuvering! You might be thinking -- okay -- get All Season tires and you're always covered. Not so. All season tires are good for average conditions, overall. If you live where there are extremes weather conditions -- opt for more extreme tires. Deep snow and ice-covered roads will be better met with appropriate tires--take it from a gal that grew up with heaps of snow and skating on ice!

In fact, as I was preparing our vehicle for the winter, I picked it up at the shop with my Cooper Tires freshly installed. I forgot there would be a CRAZY amount of traction to be expected and in my haste to get to the school pick up, I was THAT MOM that pealed out of the parking lot in her mini van! Those tires REALLY grab! 

Other Helpful Hints


Check tire pressure at each fuel up -- maybe ask for one of those sparkly tools for Christmas?!

Stock Your Vehicle with Essentials

Add Roadside Assistance (or check to see if your insurance carries this already -- some policies do and you aren't even aware!)

Remember your tires can change your trip -- for better or worse -- depending on how YOU prepare before you hit the road! Make it a happy and safe holiday season by taking a little extra time and care and by following my easy steps to a safer winter road trip.


*Disclosure: Consideration was provided by brands mentioned in this post. All opinions are my own.* 

When Personal Hygiene is Natural - with Tom's of Maine


Getting the kids to eat well is easy -- I buy the food, so I provide their choices (or lack thereof!) Putting Stonyfield Squeezers in their lunches each day? Easy. Some of the routines that are healthy for them though, I need a little more reminding and help from them!

One day, my beloved son came home REEKING like grandma. Like total old lady perfume. It gagged me and we had to strip off his clothes and shuffle him into the shower. It was seriously SO bad. The worst part wasn't that he wanted to smell nice or that it was AWFUL potent, nose-burning potion -- it was that I didn't want to hurt his feelings OR deter him from wanting to smell good. I simply switched the focus from perfume to being CLEAN!

Toms of Maine also saved my bacon, entering the scene in our toiletries routine just in time! They make Wicked Cool now and it's absolutely kid friendly (and smells fantastic, in a more subtle way than grandma) with all the natural goodness you expect and trust from Toms.

Another crazy thing happened -- he started using REAL toothpaste! I was so happy to kick the sparkle blue "toothpaste" to the curb! Who KNOWS what those sparkles are? Ish! Plus, anything that tastes like that can't possibly clean your mouth. Maybe it does. BUT...I'm much more at ease each night (especially with our track record at the dentist) when I know we've brushed with ingredients like baking soda and naturally occurring elements!



Disclosure: This post is brought to you by a partnership with Stonyfield. All opinions are my own. Some type of compensation was received.

New Kids Subscription - Brick Loot

I'm pretty addicted to subscription boxes. It's no secret! I just love getting a surprise in the mail each month. I've managed to pass that love along to my oldest son, as he's discovered how fun it is too with Brick Loot!

We've gone through the block/brick chronology in our family. It all started with the giant mega/big blocks for building as a small child. Then came the Duplos. Those were a hit for a while, but there was a short gap of time when Legos were still too frustrating and Duplos were "for babies." That was a rough month! Ha!

Now, we're solidly interested in Lego building in this house. However, as you well know, Lego kits can get expensive! A great way to keep your Lego collection fresh without costing an arm and a leg is by signing up for a subscription club like Brick Loot!

Kids will get some new bricks and some other fun swag as well as activities to keep them busy! This means you don't have to run out to the store, they won't grow tired of what they have as quickly, and you don't have to deal with the "I'm bored" droning. They have fun and are occupied and it's economical!

There are various levels of subscriptions all around $25/month. That won't even buy one set unless you find super clearance sales, don't care what the subject matter is, or get a teeny tiny kit. Plus, you end up in Target and goodness knows that costs much more than $25 --- at least for me it does!

My readers get to save! Save 10% of Brickloot using code "usfamily"

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by my affiliation with US Family Guides.

Mama HAD Costume Drama -- Do You?

Disclosure: This post was crafted in part by my affiliation with US Family Guides. Consideration may have been given to featured brands and products. 

HalloweenCostumes.com is one of the largest costume retailers on the web. As far as costumes go, you can find many of the cheaper, mainstream costumes popular for this year based on movies and books in pop cultures at ANY website with costumes. It takes a little
searching to find some of the more unique options in a plethora of sizes and even a breadth of quality/cost options. This is that site!

I find it's even sort of fun just browsing costumes! Did I mention we love festivities and holidays in this house? I sort of wish every holiday or situation warranted dressing up! It's always a struggle for me to make decisions -- it should be like the Emmy's in my opinion, at least three costume changes on Halloween! And adults should be in on the fun! Family costumes are the BEST! Now, I have kids old enough to be interested in telling me what costume to buy for them. Yes, BUY. I'm not ever going to be the mom that can make anything other than a brown paper bag with eye holes -- I'm OKAY with that! 

Are there any dramatic decision making costume dilemmas in your household?


This year, my oldest son declared we will all dress as Vikings and dragons and be like his favorite, How to Train Your Dragon. Well, he's Toothless, of course, and that leaves our toddler to be Hiccup. Full-face masks and crazy winged costumes would not do. But, that was the adorable trend from the franchise and movies. So what was I to do!? I searched "Viking" on HalloweenCostumes.com and PRESTO! A full pages of options, sizes, and adorable choices for getting our Viking on! 

Overall, price was great -- I ordered a helmet and kids costume (tunic, boot covers, arm bands, belt and cape thing) for under $25. I didn't realize the helmet would be HUGE adult size, so that will actually be part of my husbands outfit, but it's still a great buy. The kids costume isn't that strange felt that some are cheaply made from - instead, it's a nice mix of silky and velvety, easy to move in and layer up materials.

After you have found the perfect costume or costumes you want for Halloween or your next theme party, you can feel safe and secure placing your order with them knowing that they are Hacker Safe, Verisign Secure and
certified by the BBB. 

FREE Shipping at HalloweenCostumes.com on orders over $65!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

Disclosure: This post was crafted in part by my affiliation with US Family Guides. Consideration may have been given to featured brands and products. 
 

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