Monday, January 15, 2018

Give Your Doorstep The Personality It Deserves From Gifts For You Now

There are many things you can do to the outside of your home to give it personality.  You can plant flowers and add lawn decorations for starters.  One thing that doesn't get as much love is the front porch.  Usually this area of the home has a very basic doormat or not even one at all.  How come we always forget to give the porch the love that it deserves? It's time to put a beautiful personalized mat out to welcome your guests with.
Gifts For You Now provides thoughtful personalized gifts for all occasions year-round.  You can add your personalized touch for gifts that will make the recipient smile and think of you.  There's a range of categories to choose from from baby showers and weddings to pets and even memorial items.  Of course any major holiday is focused upon heavily at GiftsForYouNow.  A personalized family doormat would make the ultimate housewarming gift for a friend or family member, as well as a monogrammed cutting board to use for dinner parties.

The options are endless at GiftsForYouNow and I can guarantee you'll find more than one thing that catches your eye.  Go ahead and treat yourself or a loved one to a fantastic gift today.

The Family Word Doormat stood out to me when I first saw it.  It's different and certainly a conversation piece.  This is no ordinary mat at all, but it shows who lives at your home.  I knew it would be the ideal gift for my parents and something they could enjoy year-round.

There are two options to choose from depending on what you're looking for.  You can either choose from the 18 x30" slip resistant floor mat or the heavy duty 24 x 36" 100% recycled rubber doormat with a block scrollwork embossed frame.  The simple, yet classic design will look excellent any time of year.  It's designed to withstand the rigors of outdoor use and will hold up well in almost any weather condition.  You'll be pleased to know that it's made to list and is mildew and water damage resistant.

You're able to choose any names you want on the doormat including symbols like hearts, stars, flowers, music notes, and more.  The option to select what color you want the text to be is possible too.  I put the names Holly, Scott, and Paisley (their dog) on the mat along with their last name.

Both my parents and I feel that the mat turned out nicely.  It's not as thick as we'd like, but it's not a major deal.  The mat surely gives their doorstep a stylish boost of personality.  The old mat that they had was a plain one and they are enjoying this one a lot more.  This one is also a good size for the space it's in.

Everyone loves monogrammed things and it's fun to have their family represented all on one mat.  The colors are bright and vivid and the text is easy to read.  Many adorable hearts are dotted all over the mat too.

If you're looking to give your doorstep a makeover, Gifts For You Now is waiting for your order.

*DISCLOSURE* Thank you to Gifts For You Now for providing a product sample in order to facilitate this post.  All thoughts are strictly my own. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Create Beautiful Canvases from PhotoWall

When I look at the walls in my home, I am presented with pictures of our family and artwork that my husband and I enjoy.  Walls are meant to be filled with love and memories, and that's what I aim to do.  I enjoy seeing pictures of my daughter when she was younger and the memories they evoke. Family means everything to me and I always enjoy adding new collages with meaningful pictures. When's the last time you updated the family photos in your home?

Photowall is a Swedish company that specializes in murals and canvas prints to liven up the walls in your home.  There are several room categories you can choose from for murals including children's rooms, living rooms, offices, kitchens, and even bathrooms.  Don't worry, there are plenty of different prints to select from such as cities, landscapes, nature, sports, and much more.  I can guarantee you'll find something that would look great in any room in your home!

If you'd rather have a canvas, you're easily able to upload the image of your choice and size to create a beautiful canvas to hang in your home.  You can never have too many family photos around your home! A gift from Photowall makes the perfect choice for a friend or family member, especially as a housewarming present.

Here are some examples of murals anyone can enjoy:

I think these examples are perfect for showing the variety of what murals are available from PhotoWall.  There's truly something for everyone's taste.  What will you order?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Bring The Joys of Cracker Barrel Into Your Home!

As many of you know, I grew up in the south and lived there for 17 years. Due to this, it's made me no stranger to classic Southern fare like mac and cheese, chicken and dumplings, biscuits, and of course sweet tea.  Now that I live in New England, there's not many restaurants that cater towards southern cuisine around.  There's just something so comforting about digging into a plate of something warm and delicious that reminds you of childhood.

Cracker Barrel is an American chain of a combined restaurant and gift store that has a Southern country theme.  You'll enjoy bringing the whole family to this eatery where you can make your belly happy with such menu choices as grilled pork chops, hickory smoked country ham, rainbow trout, or even roast beef.  There's something for everyone including sandwiches, salads, soups, and even breakfast all day! Don't forget the delicious sides like mac and cheese, buttermilk biscuits, fried okra, country green beans, fried apples, and so much more.  You can't leave without finishing the meal with a sweet treat such as fruit cobbler with ice cream, a slice of pie, or even double chocolate fudge coca-cola cake!

As much as I love Cracker Barrel's restaurant, I am equally fond of their country store.  We just got back from a 3 week road trip and I was lucky to be able to stop at two different Cracker Barrel's for lunch and dinner.  There's always something uncommon and interesting to see in the store.  You'll love the housewares, unique food and candy options, as well as clothing and toys.  It's next to impossible to walk into the store without buying something.  I found an adorable dress for Scarlett that I bought and there were plenty of other things I had to control myself from buying!

Since I don't live close to a Cracker Barrel I don't get to go too frequently.  Luckily, you can bring the convenience of their store into your home with their online shop.  Anyone's kitchen would be thrilled to receive a Cracker Barrel Large Breakfast Basket as well as a cast iron skillet.

The basket contains CB's famous natural syrup, buttermilk pancake mix, apple butter, fried apples, a bag of coffee, and strawberry preserves.  Not only would this be a fabulous gift for yourself, but for a loved one too.  You can never go wrong with pancakes, syrup, and coffee anytime of day.  Fried apples are a treat that I don't have very often, so it was exciting to have them featured in the basket.   The apple butter and strawberry preserves on toast would be perfect on toast any day.  Don't forget to pair your breakfast with a fabulous cup of coffee!

I've heard wonderful things about cast iron skillets but surprisingly have never owned one. The one I received is on the smaller side which is perfect since it doesn't take up much room.  I got to work making Cracker Barrel's pancakes.  I have not tried their pancakes in the restaurant previously, so it was exciting to have the opportunity to do so at home. Breakfast for dinner was on the agenda and it was a great choice if you ask me.

Using the cast iron pan for cooking made the pancakes turn out wonderfully fluffy and golden brown.  I'm not always the best at making pancakes perfectly round, but they came out round and beautiful tonight!

I served our pancake dinner with bacon, strawberries, and fried apples.  Of course you can't forget a generous drizzle of Cracker Barrel's fabulous syrup which was fantastic.  The pancakes tasted very similar to their biscuits which I wish I could have on a daily basis.  I loved how fluffy and light they were.  Since they were so quick to make, I certainly will keep the pancake mix in mind on busy nights when I have no time to cook a big meal.  Breakfast for dinner is always a hit in my household.

Everyone enjoyed the dinner and my husband Jay gave the coffee two thumbs up too. I'm looking forward to sampling the strawberry preserves and apple butter in the very near future.

If you need to buy a friend or a loved one a gift, the large breakfast basket would be a fantastic choice.  Who knows, maybe they'll even invite you over for breakfast?

*DISCLOSURE* Thank you to Cracker Barrel for providing a product sample in order to facilitate this post.  All thoughts are strictly my own. 

Keep Little One's Hands Warm With Mittyz

If you picture cold weather what's the first thing you think of? Many will think of soups, stews, or even roaring fires and hot chocolate.  Of course snow goes hand in hand with all of those things.  Adults and children alike enjoy snow activities including snow tubing, skiing, and even making a snowman.  When you're out in the frigid temps, it's dire to make sure your hands are protected from the chilly air.

Mittyz by Veyo Kids are a new type of baby and toddler glove designed specifically to end the "thumb wars" and make outdoor playtime easy.  The unique design makes them easy to slip on and fit perfectly around bulky coats.  They stay on better and keep little fingers warmer, which means outdoor playtime lasts longer.  You'll find that the gloves come in a variety of styles including tiger paws, skull and crossbones, penguins, dragons, and butterflies.  There's a perfect pair of Mittyz for every boy and girl in sizes that range from 6 months all the way up to 6 years. 

Parents everywhere will enjoy that Mittyz are 100% waterproof and fleece lined for warmth. The elastic gauntlet cinch strap seals out snow and ice making outdoor play enjoyable and easier. Toss in the washing machine to have the gloves be washed and ready for more future outdoor play.

Scarlett absolutely loves to play in the snow whenever the white stuff falls from the sky. Since we live in New England, we get a lot of snow during the winter.  She doesn't love to be bundled up but knows it's necessary to play outside.  One thing that I've always had trouble with is her gloves though.

Children's mittens and gloves always seem to be thin and not very warm.  It's always a struggle to get little one's hands in them, especially with thumbs for mittens.  We've had waterproof gloves in the past that were made with a thicker material but were challenging to put on.  In the end, Scarlett's gloves always seem to come off and then her hands get wet and cold.  She gets upset and it's not enjoyable for either of us! I worry about her getting sick with her hands not covered.  

We received the Mittyz in the mail yesterday and today we have snow.  What perfect timing, don't you think? The gloves very easy to put on securely and in no time Scarlett was bundled up and ready to play outside. I loved how the Mittyz went all the way up Scarlett's arm over her puffy jacket.  Thanks to this, you're able to prevent snow and ice from getting inside the sleeve of the jacket and making your child cold.

Scarlett had a lot of fun playing outside and when I asked her if her hands were cold she said no.  We were able to stay outside for about half an hour before she wanted to come in.  With prior snowfalls, she didn't want to stay outside as long because she would complain about her gloves falling off and her hands being cold. The gloves did not come off at all and tightly stayed on the whole time outdoors.  I was very impressed with that and knew that these gloves would be a lifesaver this winter!

Mittyz will always be reliably in our coat closet for future play all winter long.  I know I'll be ordering the next size up for her when the time comes! I highly recommend Mittyz to parents everywhere who live in cold states.

*DISCLOSURE* Thank you to Mittyz for providing a product sample in order to facilitate this post. All thoughts are strictly my own. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Put Some Good Night Books On Your Child's Bookshelf

Now that Scarlett is older and just turned 3, we're really trying to teach her about the world around her.  She knows about the sun, moon, stars, weather and so many other elements of life.  It's equally important to me that she knows about the state she lives in, as well as where her parents are from.  As she gets older, I'd love to tell her about my childhood in North Carolina, as well as her dad's in New Jersey.  Thankfully, there are plenty of children's books to help on those subjects.

Good Night Books is an adorable board book series meant for children 0-5 designed to celebrate special places that young children can relate to.  Not only is there one for each state in the United States, but others including the galaxy, the beach, animals, America, and many others.  The books are clear and easy to understand and include bright and vivid illustrations that all children will enjoy.  

A few years back we discovered the Good Night book for our state at a used book store.  I was very excited to buy it for Scarlett because it was a great way to know about where she lives.  I had no prior knowledge of the series and was pleased to know how large the line was once I did some online research.  We also have Good Night Farm which is equally as adorable.  It's one of Scarlett's favorites since she is such an animal lover.

These books make perfect gifts for young children as well as gifts for a baby shower.  Any tiny tot would be enthused to have a book from the state which they live in.  The hardcover board book is easy to hold and doesn't have too many pages where children will lose interest.

Since we're always looking to expand Scarlett's book collection, I wanted her to have Goodnight New Jersey, Goodnight North Carolina and Goodnight Country Store.  I grew up in North Carolina and my husband Jay grew up in New Jersey, so it was important to us for Scarlett to have books about where her parents are from.  In my opinion, Goodnight Country Store is a fun choice because Scarlett it combines shopping and food, which are two of Scarlett's favorite things.  It reminds me of Cracker Barrel's Country Store which Scarlett and I both enjoy. 

Since we only had 2 prior books from the series, I was looking forward to seeing Scarlett's reaction to 3 new books from the line once they arrived.

We chose to read Goodnight North Carolina first since I was intrigued at what it would say about my home state.  I lived in North Carolina for 17 years and have fond memories of growing up there.  It's very different from New England where we live now! The book focuses on The Outer Banks, Kitty Hawk where the Wright Brothers were first in flight, Roanoke Island, The North Carolina Zoological Park and much more.  

It was great to be able to show her places in North Carolina in the book that I went as a child such as The Outer Banks.  Scarlett enjoyed the pictures and asked questions along the way of things that intrigued her.  Hopefully one day she'll be able to see everything in the book in person! She's been to North Carolina a few times and it's always special for me to have her in my home state.

My husband was very enthusiastic about the Good Night New Jersey book.  Scarlett's Grandma lives in New Jersey, so we visit frequently.  The book showcases such places as The Delaware Water Gap, Asbury Park, Point Pleasant Boardwalk, and New Jersey lighthouses among others.  Jay enjoyed reading the book to her and telling her about his memories and thoughts about certain topics in the book.

Since he's from New Jersey he has much more knowledge about the state than I do.  Last summer we visited the Point Pleasant Boardwalk and rode the rides which are featured in the book.  It was fun to remind Scarlett of that visit and how she loved the experience.

Lastly, Goodnight Country Store focuses on everything that you associate a country store with from quilts and crafts to classic toys and food.  There was even one page that featured a bookshelf with some books from the Good Night series for sale! I thought that was cute.  There's always something fun and interesting to see at a Country Store.  Scarlett and I just went to the Cracker Barrel store twice last weekend when we were driving back from our road trip.  They sell very similar things as to what's in the book.  It's hard to not buy something every time you're in a country store!

Scarlett's really been enjoying the new books from the series immensely.  I hope to add to her collection soon enough.  We have our eye on Goodnight Galaxy and Goodnight Ocean!

If you're looking to add some wonderful books to your child's collection, it's time to pick out some titles from the series!

*DISCLOSURE* Thank you to Good Night Books for providing product samples in order to facilitate this post.  All thoughts are strictly my own.  

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Scarlett's 3 Year Old Update

It's been a while since I've done an update on Scarlett.  Now that she's been 3 for a few weeks, I felt now is a perfect time to fill you in on what Scarlett has been up to.

Scarlett was in speech therapy for close to a year in a program that was meant for kids from birth to age 3. Since she turned 3, she's aged out of the program.  We had our last session at the beginning of December.  Scarlett did well with services and really blossomed throughout the year! At the beginning of 2017 she wasn't talking much, now she's picking up new words constantly.  It's really incredible to see her progress and she is getting better all the time.  She's able to speak in sentences now and I'm sure her speech will continue to improve as she grows. 

We had a pizza themed birthday party for her 3rd birthday as well as took her to Disney.  She had a wonderful time at both and I have beautiful pictures to treasure, so it's a win-win for both of us.

Scarlett is usually an easy-going child, but has her moments as of late.  She is really testing boundaries lately and pushing limits and some days are really challenging.  I am doing the best I can but sometimes she doesn't listen to anyone.  This is not an easy age! She also is going through a phase where she thinks everything is hers no matter what.  Hopefully that will pass soon!

Food continues to be a love affair for my tiny tot.  Scarlett loves fruit and veggies as much as I love chocolate.  Of course she loves her fair share of junk food too, but she really is the healthiest eater I know.  She eats tomatoes and peppers and fruit all day long. I asked her if she wanted a piece of cake the other day and she said no, I want a red pepper! I hope she continues to love fruits and veggies for years to come.  

Scarlett's big into Disney movies right now and loves The Secret Life of Pets, Trolls, and Moana.  She also loves Mickey and Minnie Mouse as well as Doc McStuffins.  Play-Doh and arts and crafts are what she enjoys most.  You'll always find her making something with Play-Doh or drawing in a coloring book with her crayons. 

We're more than half-way potty trained.  Scarlett is out of diapers and has been in pull-ups solidly for about a month and a half.  She will tell me when she has to go and has had great progress but is still having accidents.  I'm not going to push her at all to disrupt how far she's come.  I know she'll get there on her own!

It's fun to see how Scarlett has changed and grown over the year.  She has two friends that she loves and talks about all the time.  One friend she met at school and Scarlett was so excited that she was able to come to her birthday party.  Her other friend is her best friend and she sees her on a regular basis.  I'm also good friends with the girl's mom.  It's fun to see how she interacts with her friends and I'm already mentally planning sleepovers in my head for them.  I can't wait for that! I know we're a ways away from that happening though.

Scarlett continues to impress me with how much she knows.  She listens and remembers everything and you really have to watch what you say around her.  It's safe to say she's my little parrot! She knows more and more on a daily basis and sometimes I'm shocked with how much she has picked up. Her personality is fun and silly but mixed with a caring side.  She feels bad if someone gets hurt and is crying.  

Scarlett continues to love school and her teachers.  She goes 3 days a week now and is aways upset when I have to pick her up.  I think she'd love to stay there full-time if given the opportunity! She never wants to go home.  I'm happy she loves school so much.

I can't wait to see where 2018 takes us!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Easy Mounds Fudge Made in the Microwave

Now that the holidays are here, that means baking season has arrived!  Throughout the cold months of the year I tend to bake seasonal treats like pumpkin and snickerdoodle cookies, banana bread, fudge, and other delectable treats. There's nothing like a satisfying treat to make your tummy happy.

Many people don't realize that fudge isn't a complicated process to make.  You don't need candy thermometers or anything fancy to make it, and I bet you have all of the ingredients already in your kitchen pantry.  What I love about fudge is how versatile it is. You can do a plain fudge flavor like chocolate or peanut butter, or you can mix it up and make it your own in a creative way like with crushed pretzels.  However you choose to make it, I'm sure it'll be fabulous and tasty.

Since I'm a big lover of coconut and chocolate together, I chose to make Mounds fudge.  To make this yummy treat, all you need is a 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk, a bag of chocolate chips, and a bag of flaked coconut. Oh, and don't forget a microwave too! :) 

This is probably the easiest and fastest dessert to make.  You'll be amazed at how you can have it ready to go in just a few minutes!

If you're a fan of Mounds candy bars, you'll go absolutely nuts for this out of this world fudge.  There's nothing like the sweet taste of chocolate mixed with coconut.  The flavor is truly unbeatable.

The fudge makes a perfect holiday gift when put in a pretty holiday themed tin or even wrapped in a clear cello bag that's tied with a green or red ribbon.  Anyone with a sweet tooth would love to receive fudge any time of the year.

You'll be left with delicious fudge that your friends and family will gobble up in no time.  I can guarantee you'll be asked to make it time and time again.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Gourmet Gift Basket's Holiday Popcorn Will Make You Say Yum #HolidayGiftGuide

Gift baskets make the best presents.  I've given many gift baskets as birthday presents over the years and the recipients absolutely loved them.  What's not to love about a beautiful basket filled to the brim with items that you enjoy? The best part is how they are decorated.  Make sure you select a basket that's big enough to hold everything you want to give.  After that, put clear cellophane paper around the big and tie with a gorgeous bow.  It will be almost too pretty to open, but they won't be able to resist! It would be a smart idea to make some one's day extra special with a gift basket today.

Gourmet Gift Baskets is the mecca of gift baskets for any type of occasion.  A relative or loved one would enjoy a gift basket filled with tasty treats like candy, brownies or even popcorn.  There are so many gift basket choices like coffee, chocolate, tea, meat and cheese, and even sports themed! If gift baskets aren't on your radar, you can choose from dipped berries, popcorn tins, cheesecakes, and other delectable goodies to delight your taste buds with.  

How about care packages for your niece or nephew for Christmas? You can't forget about the gift towers that are filled with items that will make any one's belly smile.  A gift basket would be the perfect corporate gift to thank a client, not to mention they make ideal presents for anyone for Christmas.  Go ahead and order one for a friend or family member today, or maybe even yourself!

In my opinion, food brings people together.  Whether in good times or bad throughout life, food is always a main component.  Food comforts people and makes them happy.  Of course the holiday season wouldn't be complete without fantastic dishes and sweet treats. It's just not Christmas without dessert!

Some of my favorite holiday flavors include nutmeg, gingerbread, eggnog, cinnamon, and of course peppermint. With Gourmet Gift Basket's Holiday Popcorn Sampler you can have all of your favorite holiday dessert flavors all together in one box! The best part is that all of the popcorn comes in individual bags, which makes it ideal for sharing.

The list of 10 flavors include:

Dark Chocolate Peppermint
Cinnamon Bun
White Chocolate Peppermint
Gingerbread Spice
Candy Corn Kettle Corn
Himalayan Salted Caramel
Milk Chocolate Drizzled Kettle Corn
Dark Chocolate Orange
Holiday Anise Cookie

Since I'm a peppermint and chocolate lover, I was immediately drawn to the Dark Chocolate Peppermint.  The bag of popcorn is a very decent size and there's enough to have over a day or two.  If you have a big sweet tooth, you could potentially finish the bag in one sitting too.  The popcorn pieces are covered in dark chocolate with just a hint of peppermint.  I can guarantee that you won't be able to put the bag down, I know I wasn't able to! The chocolate isn't overly sweet since it's dark, but it's sweet enough to definitely curb your sugar cravings.  I can't say that I've previously had dark chocolate peppermint popcorn before, but I really loved it.

My husband tried the Himalayan Salted Caramel and enjoyed it immensely.  I'm not too much of a salted caramel lover, but he is.  Salted caramel is a very popular holiday flavor and the Himalayan salt really kicks up the popcorn flavor a notch.  The salt flavor was very noticeable and paired nicely with the crunch of the popcorn.  Jay thought the snack was delicious and finished off the bag in no time.

I look forward to trying  the other flavors soon, they all sound so tasty! Surely, they won't last too long in our house.

The holiday popcorn sampler would be an ideal gift to give a a friend, family member, or even a coworker.  You can never go wrong with a food gift.

Kids may even want to leave out a certain flavor for Santa on Christmas Eve instead of milk and cookies.  I wonder what his favorite kind would be?

If you're looking to make your taste buds happy, it's time to try Gourmet Gift Basket's Holiday Popcorn.

*DISCLOSURE* Thank you to Gourmet Gift Baskets for providing a product sample in order to facilitate this post.  All thoughts are strictly my own.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Upgrade Your Kitchen With KRUPS Products #HolidayGiftGuide

As a mom of a young child, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen making meals.  I use the toaster many times a week toasting up my daughter's favorite blueberry waffles for breakfast, while I make myself a cup of tea when I can get a minute.  It's essential to have reliable and high quality small appliances in your kitchen to make your life easier.  KRUPS is just the brand you need to make your kitchen smile.

KRUPS products belong in all kitchens around the world.  The German engineered kitchen appliances provide functional quality and fantastic performance.  The K brand is known for its coffee and espresso products, but did you know they also offer smaller appliances like waffle irons, blenders, kettles, and more? 

If you know someone who's buying a new house, why not gift them with a fabulous KRUPS coffee maker? They'll be able to enjoy a fabulous cup of coffee every morning.  Keep the brand in mind for not only housewarming gifts, but for Christmas presents too.  It's always an upgrade anytime you introduce KRUPS into your kitchen.

There are some small appliances that everyone should have and are essential in every kitchen.  Besides a coffee maker and a blender, an electric kettle and toaster go hand in hand especially for making breakfast every morning as well as holiday entertaining! 

My current toaster has seen better days.  It's about 15 years old and on its way to toaster heaven.  I've been thinking about upgrading it lately and when I came across the KRUPS 4-Slice toaster, I knew it was just the replacement I needed.  This sleek and stylish chrome toaster with push button display would look fabulous in kitchens across America.  Since it's a 4-slice, there's ample room to toast up toast or waffles for the whole family. Don't forget the strawberries on the side!

This lightweight toaster looks absolutely fabulous.  I love the beautiful chrome and it matches everything well.  When you push your food down in the toaster, the display lights up blue which is unique. There's a button for bagel, reheating, and defrosting.  With a 6 level adjustable browning control, your food will come out toasted to your liking and ready to meet your belly.

In the morning, most people reach right for their cup of liquid caffeine or herbal tea.  Wouldn't it be nice to not have to wait for the water to boil on a regular tea kettle? With the KRUPS cordless electric tea kettle, you can have a steaming cup of your favorite beverage practically instantly.  Since it's lightweight and cordless, you can bring it right to the breakfast table too. The entire unit is cool to the touch ensuring the water inside stays piping hot to please your taste buds.

You'll love the beautiful stainless steel exterior and the automatic shut off when the water boils too.  Pair your morning cup of chamomile tea with a fabulous chocolate chip muffin for the ultimate breakfast.

If it's time to upgrade your kitchen, it's time to turn to KRUPS.

*DISCLOSURE* Thank you to KRUPS for providing product samples in order to facilitate this post.  All thoughts are strictly my own

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Does Your Child Have a VTech Toy on Their Christmas Wishlist? #HolidayGiftGuide

Christmas is practically here and I'm sure many of you are almost done with your holiday shopping. If you're like me, you have a young child to shop for who loves toys.  Since Scarlett is three years old, her interests are changing and growing all the time.  As a mom, it's important to me that my child have toys that disguise teaching through play.  VTech is a brand that I can rely on as a parent and feel good about.

VTech Toys is the world leader in age-appropriate and developmental stage-based electronic learning products for children.  The brand focuses on toys that help children learn through play.  The brand line-up includes VTech learning toys, Go! Go! Smart Friends, Go! Go! Smart Animals, Go! Go! Smart Wheels, Baby Amaze, VTech Baby, Flipsies, and more.  All of VTech's toys are engaging and will hold your child's attention for hours.  You can guarantee that any small child has a certain VTech toy on their wish list this Christmas.

Scarlett's been very interested lately in castles, princesses, and dollhouses. They've been able to keep her busy and occupied for a long time and I'm happy that she's enjoying them.  The Go! Go! Smart Friends Enchanted Princess Castle is right up her alley and something I knew she'd enjoy.  Your little one can enjoy the castle from age 18 months all the way up to 5 years old.  They will love exploring each magical room with Princess Darla for tons of fun everyday.  Scarlett has many VTech toys in her toy box and plays with them on a regular basis. 

The beautiful palace expands to four feet long and has a variety of luxurious rooms including a ballroom, music room, kitchen, bedroom, and observation tower.  There's five MagicPoint locations that let kids experience Princess Darla's friendly personality, lights and more.  Children will love the light up buttons that introduce words, colors, letters and numbers, as well as magical melodies and sing-along songs.

This castle is not only adorable but very colorful too.  Children will be instantly attracted to the bright colors and will want to play with it right away.  It comes with a Princess Darla figurine, but you can buy separate figurines for it.  Scarlett was instantly interested in the castle and took to it right away. There is some assembly required.  Each room does something else and I was impressed at how much the toy offered her.  I even found myself playing with it alongside her! Scarlett loved the songs and smiled when she heard them.  I'm always interested in toys that teach colors, letters, and numbers such as this one because that's what she is currently learning.

The figurines are chunky and easy for her small hands to hold.  Scarlett has been playing with the toy a lot and it seems to be her current favorite.  I wish I had a toy like this when I was her age, I know I would have loved it.  What girl doesn't love a glamorous castle to play with?

There's no denying Scarlett's love of animals.  Dogs seem to be high on her list of animals and she gets excited whenever she sees them when we're out. She also loves our dog Lynnie and enjoys helping to feed her, walk her, and give her dog treats! Since she's wanting to have more responsibility,  the VTech Care for Me Learning Carrier would be an ideal pick for her.

This learning carrier is an interactive pet carrier that lets little ones take their adorable plush pet anywhere.  You can put the puppy inside the bright pink carrier or take her out to hear playful phrases when opening and closing the door.  The activity panel on the side is packed with learning fun that teachers colors, shapes, pet care and more.  Each button offers a new surprise that your child will love.  The carrier also includes four pet care accessories so toddlers can groom, feed, and play with the cuddly puppy.

If you have a small child in your home and own a dog, this really would be a perfect toy to help teach your child pet responsibility while having fun.  The plush, soft puppy has a sweet face and Scarlett enjoys hugging and smiling at her.  Scarlett has no trouble opening and closing the carrier and likes to put the puppy and the dog comb inside.  The large and colorful buttons are easy to push and she likes to hear the different sounds and songs that the toy broadcasts.

I like how the dog and all of the pieces store inside the carrier for easy storage.  We're always losing or misplacing pieces to Scarlett's toys so it's nice to have them all contained in one space.

The toy is really cute and Scarlett has been having fun playing with it.  Since the carrier is small, it can easily fit in a toy box or on a shelf when not being played with.

Scarlett is enthusiastic about both toys and I know will have fun playing with them for some time to come.

If you're looking for VTech toys for your child for Christmas, these two would be great options and would make them smile on Christmas morning.

*DISCLOSURE* Thank you to VTech for providing me with product samples in order to facilitate this post.  All thoughts are strictly my own. 

Get Up Close With Nature This Holiday Season #HolidayGiftGuide

I live right next to a forest and frequently see chipmunks, birds, squirrels, and rabbits in my backyard.  It's interesting to look outside and see some kind of wildlife at all times.  My daughter and dog love to watch the animals together all day long.  It would be nice to see the different bird species up close without scaring them away.  That dream can now be a reality for anyone!

Nature Anywhere offers a Birds-I-view Window Bird Feeder that will make your house their favorite feeding spot! Each feeder is made with high quality, anti-uv plastic glass which allow it to stay clear and beautiful for years.  Fill the feeder with a bird's favorite seed and it's ready to use right out of the box.  No assembly required, just stick it to the window and you're done.  The patent pending feeding tray allows you to slide it open and closed to fill and re-fill it.  You'll love watching the birds flock to the feeder all day long to eat.  

The Birds-I-View Window Bird Feeder makes a perfect gift for practically anyone in your family.  An older retired person would find a lot of joy in the feeder and how it brings nature right to their windowsill.  Children would be enthusiastic to watch the birds and learn about wildlife and bird species too.  It's always nice to turn an everyday thing into an educational lesson!

Stick the feeder on your window and you'll attract beautiful Robin's, Cardinal's and who knows what else? Everyday will be a surprise! 

Keep the feeder in mind for Christmas presents both present and future.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Make This Holiday Season an Eco-Friendly One


I know you may not want to think about it, but the holiday season is rapidly approaching! This time of year is my absolute favorite. I love the Christmas trees and lights, all of the holiday buzz, and of course you can’t forget the baked goods! Baking is a big part of the holidays and pies, cakes and cookies are absolute necessities!

While baking can be fun and of course very delicious, it does have some cons. Think of all of the cupcake liners, the tin-foil and other items that get thrown away during the holidays. It might not seem like a lot at first, but it does create waste over time.
I have some very useful and eco-friendly baking tips that will keep your food tasty, but leaves the environmental guilt at the door!
1. Plan to bake several things at the same time. This way, you reduce the amount of times that your oven has to heat up. While it’s inconvenient, it also saves money on your electricity bill too.
2. If you’re planning on buying new baking pans or dishes, look for brands that use natural materials such as bamboo or recycled materials. These are much better for the environment and cook exactly as a normal baking dish would.
3. Instead of using a paper towel to clean up a mess or a spill, use a sponge. Scotch Brite makes a fabulous biodegradable sponge made from natural fibers that would be a great eco alternative to using paper towels. Or you can just use a regular towel or dishcloth that you wash and reuse.
4.  Forgo the muffin paper liners that you line your muffin pan with. They are discarded instantly and create a lot of waste. Instead of using the liners, spread a tiny amount of olive oil in the tins. The muffins will not stick and you’ll be able to easily take them out of the tin once they’ve cooled.
5. Instead of using cooking spray (which has a lot of chemicals) to grease your pans, use a small amount of olive oil. Just take a cloth and spread it around. Your food will come out easily and you won’t be having chemicals touch your food.
6. It’s important to look for ingredients that are organic and packaged in material that is recyclable or reusable.
These tips are very important in helping to make the world a better place. Even if you’ve never participated in any of these earth friendly tips before, it’s never too late to start.  Just making one of these smart choices will help you to know you’re making a great decision for the earth. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Scarlett's First Time At Disney World!

Today is Scarlett's actual 3rd birthday and she's surely had a birthday for the record books.  Between her school birthday, birthday party with friends and family, and now going to Disney for her birthday, it's certainly one to remember.

I went to Disney World a few times as a young child and have a few scattered memories from it.  The memories I have are of rides and events that are no longer featured.  I kept my research and planning to a minimum since I wanted it to be just as much as a surprise for me as it was for Scarlett.  In my opinion, it would be a lot more fun to experience everything together with no pre-planned thoughts or knowledge of what the park had to offer.

We just wrapped up our final day of Disney yesterday at Magic Kingdom.  Our first day was spent at Disney Studios. Disney Studios brought fantastic shows and character appearances.  Scarlett got to meet and hug such favorites as Doc McStuffins and Daisy Duck.  When she saw Doc McStuffins she ran as fast as lightening to the line to meet her. The show is one of her favorites and she was beyond excited to meet the Doc she loves so much.  Since we're visiting Disney at Christmas time, the park is beautifully decorated with tons of wreaths on lamp posts, poinsettias, and ornate Christmas trees.

All of the families were in such Disney spirit and sported either coordinated Disney family shirts or Mickey clothing.  It was really fun to see the magic and joy that Disney brings out in both young and old individuals. 

When we visited the Magic Kingdom, it was truly a wondrous place.  Honestly, you didn't know where to look first because there's so much to see! From the famous Magic Kingdom castle to all of the perfectly crafted store fronts, it's hard to not have a permanent smile throughout your visit.  The Fast Pass is the smartest idea and allows you to sign up for certain times to ride rides or shows and you are able to skip a potentially long line.  There are special Fast Pass machines throughout the park where you are able to use your park card to book the times you want.  I'm sure parents everywhere are so thankful to not have to wait on long lines with impatient children!

Scarlett had so much fun at Magic Kingdom and was able to ride the Dumbo ride, Little Mermaid ride, It's a Small World, and the Teacups.  She loved each one equally and it was fantastic to see how happy she was at Disney.  The joy in her eyes was something I'll always remember! Scarlett also loved meeting Rapunzel and took a picture with her too.

Magic Kingdom was also just as beautifully decorated as Disney Studios.  We spent many hours at each park and I took so many pictures that I'll enjoy looking back on with fond memories.  Disney World is truly a magical place and there's nothing else like it on earth.

Scarlett is so fortunate and lucky that she was able to have one of her best birthdays to date at such an amazing place.  We took a lot of family pictures that will certainly be printed and put in an album as soon as possible.

If you're looking for a family trip that you'll remember forever, it's time to book a Disney vacation. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Christmas Treats That Belong On Your Holiday Table

If you're having a Christmas party in the next few weeks, I'm sure desserts are on your mind. Everyone loves a sweet treat or two during the holidays.  Wondering what to serve? Look no further.

These Christmas tree brownies are not only adorable but tasty too

Your kids will love helping to make these delicious reindeer cupcakes

Individual fruit pies are sure to be a big hit

There's so many tasty treats out there, I'm sure you'll find something delicious and crowd-pleasing for your Christmas parties!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Celebrate Your Child's Birthday At California Pizza Kitchen

Scarlett is a pizza lover through and through.  My tiny girl can devour more slices in a single sitting than her mom can and it's pretty impressive!  Her favorite toppings are peppers and broccoli. If I allowed it, Scarlett would have pizza on a daily basis.  I understand her love for that triangular goodness though, it's impossible to resist cheese and tomato sauce!

My family makes fun of me for how far in advance I start to plan Scarlett's birthdays.  I start thinking of what I want to do for her next birthday virtually right after she has her current one.  I can't help it though, I really love birthdays! When you only have one a year, each one should be special and exciting.  When I realized that she could have a pizza themed birthday at California Pizza Kitchen, I knew that would be the ultimate choice for my pizza loving child.

California Pizza Kitchen is a chain eatery serving up pizza's, pasta,and salads in a modern setting.  If you haven't previously dined there, the food is fresh and delicious.  I've been going there for years and am partial to their salads.

A child's birthday party at California Pizza Kitchen is not an ordinary party by any means.  Each birthday party guest gets to make their own pizza and choose whatever toppings go on it, as well as getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchen.  Once you're in the kitchen, the kids get to see their pizza's cooking in the big brick oven.   It's a really fun and unique experience that is different from any other child's party I've ever been to or seen.

On the day of Scarlett's party, I was able to go in ahead of time and bring the cake in and decorate.  Since the party started at 10:30 AM, the cool thing about that timeslot was that the restaurant was not yet open! So from 10:30-11, we had the restaurant to ourselves.

Once the children arrived, they were able to sit at a special table for themselves that had a chefs hat along with crayons for them to color.  When everyone got settled, our server came over and started taking drink orders.

I decided on sausage, pepperoni and broccoli for the toppings for the kids pizzas.  Our server brought out a plate of cooked dough with cups of marinara sauce and shredded cheese for each child.  There were enough toppings on the plate for the whole table to share  Some parents helped the child make the pizza, while others let their tiny tot do it themselves.  It was fun and interesting to see the thought process behind how each of the party guests chose to make their pizzas!

Once each child was content with their culinary creation, it was time to cook the pizzas in the huge brick oven! Everyone was allowed in the kitchen for a tour which was enjoyable for not only the kids, but the parents too.  I love to cook so it was interesting to see how a kitchen restaurant runs.  I loved seeing all of the equipment that makes CPK run as well as the big fridge, walk-in freezer, and prep area.  I had no prior knowledge of how a restaurant kitchen operates, so it was fun to learn.

The employee who gave the tour was very knowledgeable and gave us lots of insight and information as to how the kitchen works and what they do on a daily basis to prep it.  He kept the kids entertained by asking them questions.  I think all of the kids at the end loved catching the dough that was thrown up in the air!

When the kitchen staff put the pizza's in the brick oven, they cooked in practically no time.  The oven is extremely hot and you can see the huge flames inside cooking the pizza to perfection.

After the tour, it was time to eat! All of the children's pizzas were brought to the table with cups of lemonade so they could chow down.  Who doesn't love pizza? I know I could eat sauce, cheese, and dough every day of the week.  While the kids were enjoying their lunch, the pizza for the adults was brought to a separate table.  I selected a variety of pizza's to make everyone happy including sausage, pepperoni, veggie, mushroom and more.  The pizza was delicious, hot and fresh.  Most of the food was eaten fast, so it's safe to say that everyone enjoyed it!

Every meal needs to end with a sweet treat, don't you think? Before we served the cake, the kids were brought out mini vanilla ice cream sundaes that they got to decorate with cherries, candies, and hot fudge.  I'm pretty sure that was heaven for them! There was barely any noise or talking as the kids gobbled up the treats.  You can't blame them of course! Everyone loves ice cream.

The finale of the party was the cake.  Since the party was pizza themed, of course the cake had to match.  Everyone sang happy birthday to the birthday girl and both the kids and adults enjoyed the cake.

Once we finished doing the cake, the party wound down and guests began to leave.  It's safe to say that the party was a success and everyone had a wonderful time.  My friends told me that the pizza party was a great idea and they want to consider CPK for a future birthday party for their child!

I was very satisfied with the level of service provided by California Pizza Kitchen and thought the server was attentive and came back to check on us often.  The party ran smoothly and everyone left full and happy.  There's nothing more I could ask for than that.

If you're looking for a out-of-the-box party idea for your child's next birthday, it's time to give California Pizza Kitchen a call.

*DISCLOSURE* I received a complimentary party at California Pizza Kitchen in exchange for this post.  All thoughts are strictly my own.