A Modern Day Fairy Tale: March 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

Easy Tips for an Eco-Friendly Home {#DEsmarthome #sp}

Many thanks to Direct Energy for sponsoring today's story and inspiring me to live a smarter and more eco-friendly lifestyle! #DESmartHome

With earth day just around the corner, now is a great time to take a look around and find ways in which you can make your home and life a little more eco-friendly! Personally in my family, we still have a lot of areas where we can improve, but we've also made a lot of great progress in becoming a more green family as well. One thing I found to be a wonderful benefit for us in making these changes is that they often end up saving us money!! Here are a few changes we have made that have been better for the earth...and our pocket book!!

Green Your Laundry

I absolutely love our HE washer and dryer! They use less water and gas to run each load, saving us money on our monthly bill! I also make sure to try to only run full loads when at all possible...however, on those rare instances where I have to do a smaller load, my washer will sense the load size and adjust the water accordingly. If you don't have an HE washer, always be sure that you set the water level to the appropriate load size to avoid overusing. We also wash in cold water when possible. If you are in an area where you can hang a clothesline, this is also a great option! (I wish we could!!) Not only do you save on the gas/electric it would have taken for the dryer, the sun is also a wonderful natural stain remover. If you have to use the dryer, consider switching out your fabric softener for wool dryer balls. They speed up drying time so again you use less energy!

Switch Out Shower Heads and Faucets

Did you know that they make eco-friendly options designed to reduce water usage? I'll be honest, when we first switched I worried that the water pressure would suffer- less water/less pressure, right? But we actually love ours, and could not tell you the difference! We don't need to be in the shower any longer than we did before, but we're sending less money straight down the drain!!

Ditch Disposables

Think about how many products we buy that eventually end up in the garbage...paper towels, food storage, diapers, razors...just to name a few. For most everything disposable, there is a typically a more eco-friendly reusable option. You can switch out as much or as little as you'd like, each little bit will make a difference. For us personally, we typically use kitchen towels instead of paper and tupperware type containers for leftovers when possible. We use cloth diapers and wipes. My husband even uses a straight razor in place of disposables. Switching to reuseable can often be a bit price-y in the beginning, but ends up saving a ton of money in the long run!

Green Your Cleaning

Vinegar and baking soda are the two primary ingedients I use for nearly all of my cleaning. They're inexpensive, nontoxic and they clean just about anything. Not only does making my own cleaners mean they are chemical free- it also means that we aren't throwing away bottle after bottle, just filling them back up!!

Open The Windows.

Obviously this is not always an option, but when it is, take advantage. Turn off the heat/air and let in the fresh air!

Reuse Shopping Bags

I'll be honest, while I have quite a nice collection of adorable, reuseable shopping bags- I also have this awful habit of forgetting them in the car...assuming they've even made it that far! So, when that happens, I save those plastic bags and use them for bathroom trashcans, so at least they are getting a bit more use!! Having a yard sale this spring? They also come in quite handy for that!!

Switch Your Lightbulbs

Sure, energy efficient lightbulbs are more expensive, but they save you money on your power bill...and last much longer! We rarely have to switch out our bulbs- in fact, we have one lamp-used daily- that has had the same bulbs for 2 years and still going strong. Certainly worth the extra money!

These are just a few of the great ways we've found to be more eco-friendly and save money, but there are may more tips and tricks available! Want more ideas? Visit Direct Energy for more, like switching to a smart thermostat- a thermostat that offers climate control, the convenience of programming away from home via smart phone/tablets and so much more.

And if you are in Texas, learn more about the Meridian Savings Plan- a home energy plan offering a fixed energy rate, use of a smart thermostat and smart phone app convenience. Here is a quick glimpse at a few benefits:

  • -- Get Up to 3 FREE Meridian Smart Thermostats from Honeywell
  • -- A competitively priced fixed energy charge
  • -- A smartphone app to control your thermostat anytime, anywhere
  • -- Available in Texas
So what are you waiting for? Start greening your home and saving money now!!

Did you visit the tips given by Direct Energy? What are your favorite tips? Learn anything new? Which steps have YOU made toward making your home a smart home?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Jazz Up Your Spring Wardrobe with a Statement...Necklace, That Is! (+ A Giveaway)

A huge thank you goes out to Majestical Jewelry for providing the piece to be styled in today's post.

After this long, seemingly never-ending winter, I am certain I can not be the only one who cannot wait to break out the spring wardrobe. The fun colors, the cute prints...there is truly nothing better to bring a little life back into the world after this frigid season. Personally, when it comes to bringing life back into my wardrobe, one of my favorite ways to do so is by adding a fabulous statement necklace. Sure, small pendants are great for day to day wear, but it is incredible how much a bold piece of jewelry can take a simple outfit to the next level.

Today, I'm sharing four easy tips for jazzing up your spring wardrobe with a statement necklace.

Color is Key.

When picking the perfect statement necklace, start by thinking about the colors already in your wardrobe. Personally, when I buy a statement necklace, I want to be able to mix and match it with as many items in my wardrobe as possible. Frankly, I have this amazing red necklace that I would wear daily if I could, but (though red is one of my favorite colors), there is little in my wardrobe that actually works well with it. Your jewelry does not need to be a perfect matching set with your wardrobe, but it does need to coordinate well. Personally, I love a fun unexpected pop of color too.

I have a lot of vibrant colors in my personal wardrobe so the teal necklace I'm styling today is a great addition to my personal wardrobe. Aside from the yellow I'm pairing with here, it will also look great with a bright green, fuchsia, coral...the possibilities are endless!

When choosing the perfect color, it is also perfectly okay to go outside of your normal color scheme and...

Be Bold.

Now, we're not just talking color, but styles too. When I first started looking at statement necklaces, I found myself saying, 'Sure, these look great on the models, but are just too much necklace for ME'. Remember, this is a STATEMENT necklace, it's supposed to stand out! From bright colors to different styles, don't be afraid to try something new and mix it up a bit.

Still worried about going overkill on the jewelry? Choose one area for your statement piece, and keep the rest simple. For me that usually means a big necklace, and going lighter for my earrings and bracelets. For others that might mean a fantastic pair of statement earrings or amazing arm candy. Mix it up, keep it fun and be confident in the style you choose.

Don't Break The Bank.

The trouble with a great statement piece is that they can get a little price-y (another great reason to choose a color and style that will give you a lot of options). The good news is, they don't have to. This particular set from Majestical Jewelry retails for $37 and is just one of the great pieces they have to offer. You'll find the same great styles you would find at popular high end stores, without the high end price tags! Majestical Jewelry allows women to buy at wholesale prices- anywhere from 20-80% cheaper than competitors...wouldn't you rather have 2-3 great pieces for the same price as just one? I know I certainly would!

Have fun.

Remember, fashion is supposed to be fun so it's perfectly okay to not take it too seriously. Try something new...and own it. If it doesn't work, try try again!

To help brighten up your spring wardrobe, Majestical Jewelry is offering all of you $15 off your order of $55 or more. Simply enter the code, 15DOLLARSOFF at checkout!!

And two very lucky readers will also each win a $10 gift card to put towards their purchase. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winner will be contacted via e-mail after giveaway ends, and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. One entry per household, winning entry will be verified. Odds of winning depend on valid entries received. A Modern Day Fairy Tale is not responsible for prize delivery..

Disclosure: I received the above mentioned product in exchange for this post. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How To Create A Packed Lunch for Kids {For The Un-Crafty Mama} #fruitshoot #fuelyourimagination #sp

Many thanks to Fruitshoot for sponsoring this post and inspiring me to share fun solutions for my kids' lunches!

Let's take a poll- how many of you have seen all the amazing, creative ideas for packing school lunches on websites such as Pinterest and wished that you could create such masterpieces? If only you had the talent...or the time...or even the money? Trust me, you are not alone. So many times I've wished I could recreate some of these fun lunches but the reality is this is just not a talent I possess. And even if it were, with a seven month old in the home, where would I even find the time!? I'll be honest, every once in awhile I even find myself feeling like less of a mom because my kid's lunch often looks much more plain! But I've come to the realization that you don't have to spend hours or be uber talented to make lunchtime fun. You just have to have a little imagination and some great food.

Here are a few tips I've come up with for making lunchtime fun, for the un-crafty mom:

Pick Foods Your Children Enjoys.

It does not matter how cute a lunchbox looks, if your child doesn't like what's in it. Ask their opinions, and take it to heart where you can. Lunchtime is always much more fun when you like what you're eating! It's also good to choose a wide variety, just in case your little one isn't in the mood for a particular food that day!

Up the Visual Appeal.

A lunch can still be visually appealing without going into elaborate detail. Bright colored lunch containers can help, if you have them, but don't fret if you don't. Fresh fruits and veggies add a great pop of color without all the work (or fancy containers). Some personal favorites of ours- baby carrots, grapes of any color, apples, cherry tomatoes and oranges.

Fun shapes can also add visual appeal. A plain ol' peanut butter sandwich becomes much more exciting when cut into bite sized triangles! It'll all about the presentation!

Keep It Healthy

Sure, junk food may sound like a ton of fun to a child but kids will always have more fun (and do better in school) if they eat well. Again, no need to go super fancy...a great sandwich on whole grain bread, fresh fruits and veggies and a healthy snack will do the trick. Of course, an occasional treat isn't such a horrible thing either.

Leave a Special Surprise.

Nothing says I love you than a handwritten note to let your kiddo know you're thinking of them! Just don't make it too embarrassing for those older kiddos!

Don't Forget the Drink!
Of course, you cannot forget to round out the meal with a tasty drink. We love Robinson's Fruitshoot for a fun treat. At home, my little man is constantly drinking, but at school I cannot control that and always worry about him staying hydrated. With Fruitshoot, we have no problems...he loves the variety of flavors and I love that it's made with real juice and contains no high fructose corn syrup, or added sugar. Their vibrant bottles make them fun for kids too! (And as an added benefit, they also feature an innovative no-spill cap, making them perfect for the independent kid on the go as well...no more sticky messes!) It's truly a drink that kids and parents can both love.

And are you ready for the best part (according to my six year old)? Each bottle contains a code to unlock super cool Angry Birds game content!! How cool is that!? It's the lunchbox addition that keeps the fun coming even after it's all gone. Talk about a special surprise!

Want to learn more about this wonderful Angry Birds promotion or all the great flavors available, be sure to check out Robinson's Fruitshoot for yourself here!

Are you a mom who loves elaborate lunches for your kids? Or are you like me and just not that talented? What lunchbox tips can you share? And most importantly, which Fruitshoot flavor would your little (or big) kid love the most?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Celebrate Easter with 'The Sparkle Egg' by Jill Hardie {A Review & Giveaway}

**Product received for review.

Last year, I shared with you all a wonderful Christmas book called, 'The Sparkle Box'.  I absolutely adored this book and thought it was a great resource for helping to teach children all about the true meaning of Christmas. So, when I saw that their was an Easter version available, I was excited to read it myself!!

About The Sparkle Egg 
Easter is coming, and Sam loves Easter! But this year, he is upset about a lie he told his parents. Even though he apologized and they forgave him, Sam can’t shake the feeling that he is a bad kid for what he did. Meanwhile, his parents help him make a special Easter craft called a Sparkle Egg. His mom tells him to write anything he feels sorry about or ashamed of on a piece of paper and put it inside his Sparkle Egg.

On Easter morning, when he opens his Sparkle Egg expecting a surprise, Sam finds that it is empty! His parents explain that because Jesus died and rose again, we are forgiven. Like the tomb that first Easter Day, Sam's egg is empty—and Sam’s wrongdoing is completely forgiven. Once he accepts this forgiveness fully, Sam realizes a truth: we can sparkle and shine with God’s light when we let God’s gift of grace into our hearts. This touching story will strike a deep chord with readers of all ages, and the Sparkle Egg tradition will help readers and their families grasp the totality of God’s perfect grace.
Author Bio
Jill Hardie’s first book, The Sparkle Box, ignited a new Christmas tradition that helps center Christmas in the true joy of the season. Now Jill is hoping to touch lives with a new Easter tradition withThe Sparkle Egg. She lives in North Canton, Ohio.

Illustrator Bio
Christine Kornacki illustrated the highly acclaimed The Sparkle Box. She has a love for painting and a knack for bringing stories to life. Christine received a BFA in illustration from the University of Hartford and spends most days painting in her studio, which adjoins a charming cafĂ© in New Haven, Connecticut.

 In my family, Easter is a big deal. It is after all the very event from which the Christian religion was based upon, right? Christ was crucified, and rose again for each and every one of us. There could be no greater event. For that reason, while we do egg hunts and fun Easter baskets, we do not do the Easter Bunny. To me, I feel it is much too important a holiday for that and choose instead to focus on the real reason we celebrate. But teaching children the meaning of Easter can be tough. I grew up knowing the story, and knowing that it was important...but to be honest, I didn't really GET it. It wasn't until I was much older that I truly began to understand. Sin, forgiveness of sins...that can be a hard concept to grasp, especially for children.

The Sparkle Egg, like the Sparkle Box before it, takes those important themes and puts them into a real life scenario that makes sense to kids. What child hasn't done something they knew they should not have and feel guilty over it... or worried about what their parents might say if they found out? Pretty well each of us, right? And yet, despite our wrongdoings, our parents love us unconditionally and find it in their hearts to forgive us. The Sparkle Egg shows that just as our parents' love and forgive us, so does God.

If you're looking for a great book to explain Easter and forgiveness to your children, The Sparkle Egg is certainly a must have. It is beautifully written and illustrated, and sure to be a classic that families can read again and again each Easter, regardless of age.

You can find out more, and purchase your own copy at the links below:
Visit the official website:  http://www.idealsbooks.com 

And one very lucky reader is going to have the chance to win one of their very own. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winner will be contacted via e-mail after giveaway ends, and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. One entry per household, winning entry will be verified. Odds of winning depend on valid entries received. A Modern Day Fairy Tale is not responsible for prize delivery..
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Finding the Perfect Baby Toys with Ebeanstalk.com {A Review}

**Gift card received for review.

As a mom, there is nothing I enjoy more than shopping for my kiddos. Is there anything more fun than shopping for baby toys? But I don't want just any toys for my kiddos. I want high quality, educational baby toys that are great for each stage of development. So, when I was recently introduced to Ebeanstalk.com, it seemed like the perfect online shopping solution so I headed on over to check it out for myself.

For those not yet familiar with the company, Ebeanstalk.com is an online toy retailer whose mission is to make it easy for parents to choose the best developmental toys for every stage of development. Each toy has been selected by a team of specialists including experts in clinical psychology, speech-language pathology, physical therapy, pediatric occupational therapy, education and of course, mothers!

Ebeanstalk.com makes it easy to search for toys appropriate for ALL ages, but today, we're just talking baby toys. Within the age group, they make it even easier to narrow down exactly what you're searching for. As with most toys stores, you can browse by toy type such as music, books, classic or animals. Is there a particular developmental skill you'd like to focus on- social, imagination, speech? You can browse toys within those categories as well. Have a boy and don't want to search through all the pink? Simply browse newborn boy toys. With so many options available, they truly make it easy to find exactly what it is you are looking for!

Perhaps you're reading this thinking they sounds great, but hows the selection? To that, I can just say- awesome! They offer top brands such as Melissa & Doug, Fisher Price, Tiny Love...just to name a few! I even found a few of my daughter's favorite toys listed too like Follow Me Fiona and Laugh and Learn Say Please Tea Set.

The prices are great too, especially for grandparents who can receive 5% off, plus free shipping on orders over $85. This could come in very handy for the grandparent stuck on what to buy at Christmastime! And if they're really stuck, Ebeanstalk also offers a grandparents hotline. Experts will help choose the perfect toys and even place the orders for you themselves, making it super quick and easy!!

Another great discovery I made on Ebeanstalk.com is that it is not just a great place to shop for toys, but it's also a great resource for information about development and milestones. They tell you what to expect at each age in various categories, skills your baby may have and then of course link to toys to support these areas as well. They also offer expert advice from their panel of experts.  It is clear to me that Ebeanstalk is truly more than just a toy store, and a place that I am excited to shop at!

If you'd like to see more of what Ebeanstalk has to offer, visit the links below:

Shop Online.
Like on Facebook.

Disclosure: I have received a gift card in exchange for this review, but all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lessons in Cloth: Cloth Diaper Types

From blog readers to real life friends, I have lately been approached often by those who are wanting to start cloth diapering, but are confused by it all! So many types of diapers, inserts materials, brands, washing instructions...where does one even begin to start? To make things a little easier, I am going to bring you a little series I will call, 'Lessons in Cloth' in which I will try to answer some of those questions in a way that makes sense to everyone. If you have questions you would like answered, please feel free to send me an e-mail or Facebook message, or just leave it in the comments!

First up, types of cloth diapers.

When you begin looking into cloth, one of the first things you're likely to discover is that there are a LOT of options available. We're not talking brands here, but the actual types of systems- pockets, all in ones, all in twos...what do they all mean and which is best. Today, I will share what each type is and the pros and cons of each.

Pocket Diapers

Pockets are perhaps one of the more common types of cloth diapers it seems. Pocket diapers feature an opening in the diaper in which you 'stuff' your absorbent material. Inserts can be made from microfiber, hemp, bamboo or a combination. Prefolds can also be used as stuffing.

The Pros
  • There are a LOT of options available. Nearly every cloth diaper company seems to make them, so you're sure to find one that offers a great fit for your little one.
  • They are fairly budget friendly- with so many brand options, they can really fit into any budget. 'China cheapies' can even be purchased for under $5 each!
  • You can adjust the absorbency to your liking. Because the inserts can be removed, you can switch them out for materials that work better for you, or even double stuff for added absorbency. 
  • They are easy to use. If stuffed before diaper changes, it goes on just like an all in one...no extra work while dealing with a wiggly baby.
The Cons
  • The require a little more work at wash time. In most pockets, soiled inserts must be removed before washing. After they are dry, you must then stuff them. This is not an overly difficult or time consuming task, but does take a little more effort than other options.
  • Personally, I have found pockets are not great for nighttime. There are a few exceptions, but in general we have not had great luck there. (Of course, this is only in our personal experience, many use for overnight with no problems at all. They work well for regular daytime use however.)

All-In-One Diapers

An all-in-one is just as it sounds- the absorbency layers and waterproof outer are all attached. No stuffing requiring!

The Pros
  • They are probably the absolute easiest cloth diapers to use. (Very dad/grandparent friendly). Because everything is already attached, there is nothing to prepare. They are always ready to go. 
  • For that reason, they make for an easier transition for those who might be on the fence about cloth diapering.
  • In my experience, they tend to be quite absorbent, and work well.
The Cons
  • You have less control over the absorbency/materials used.
  • Typically, all in ones do take longer to dry. (The diaper pictured above is a Bumgenius Freetime, in which the absorbent layer flips open so this is one exception to that.)
  • They cost more. You're definitely paying for the convenience of less work, but for those on a tighter budget, they may not be the best option. (Though they DO still cost less in the long run than disposables.)
  • Depending on brand, some all in ones do seem to be more bulky, in my opinion.

All In Two Diapers/Covers & Inserts

 All in twos are system in which you can reuse the cover throughout the day and change only the soiled insert. 

The Pros

  • VERY budget friendly. Because you can reuse the covers, you typically will need less covers and more inserts, which are generally cheaper. You can also use cover with prefolds for an even cheaper option.
  • No unstuffing at laundry time. Some inserts do snap into the cover (Buttons Diapers, for example), but others like the Flip (pictured above), just lay in, so you can just toss the whole thing into the wash.
  • Covers dry super fast. If you're like me and on occasion procrastinate a bit too much on the laundry, this is a definite plus!
  • They take up less room. This makes them great for the diaper bag as well. Rather than several full diapers, you simply need an extra insert or two, and maybe an extra cover just in case.
  • Many companies offer disposable insert options as well, perfect for travel. I've never personally tried these myself so I cannot speak to their effectiveness, but they do exist.
The Cons
  • They require a bit more work at diaper changing time. I typically have an insert ready in the cover to start, which makes it a bit easier, but changing it does require a bit more effort at the time... which can be a bit of a hassle with a wiggly baby!! It also requires you to deal with the soiled insert at that time (I usually pick up with a wipe if needed- or just wash my hands right after anyway!
  • Some have issues with inserts sliding and/or revealed PUL touching baby's skin. Personally, these are not issues we have personally experienced, but they do exist for some.
  • If you have a breastfed baby that poos often, you may find you have to change the cover more often. They'll contain the mess...but the cover tends to end up soiled. For my daughter, we don't have any issues with this- she tends to only have one poo diaper a day- if not less frequently. My son on the other hand had one after each feeding for a LONG time. I'm not sure this type of system would have worked so well for him.

My personal thought/preferences:

Honestly, all of these options are great. All have their pros and cons, but it all comes down to finding the solution that works best for your baby and family. If you have a little one in daycare or a daddy not sold on cloth, all in ones may be your best option. If you want something easy at diaper changes and don't mind a bit more work when doing your laundry, pockets are wonderful. If you're on a tight budget or travel a lot, all in twos are perfect for you. Or do as I do, and try a little bit of each.

Personally, my go to tends to be all in twos. We started cloth diapering to save money, and I found this type of system allowed us to get more for our money, as well as making laundry pretty easy as well. Those make up probably half of our stash. The other half is primarily pockets. Again, these are great for during the day, but aside from our Thirsties, I tend to go for other options when I know we're going to be out and about for a bit or for overnight. For Finley, they just don't tend to do as well as other options. And finally I have my one and only all in one. Honestly, I'd tried other brands of all in ones in the past with my son and was not a huge fan- they didn't seem to get as clean, took forever to dry and were just bulky. So when Finley came along, we just avoided them altogether...however, the Freetime definitely changed my mind on that. If I could start my stash over, I'd likely replace a few of our pockets for those instead- that tends to be the one I hand over if someone who isn't used to cloth diapering, such as a grandparent, is going to be doing the changing.

Regardless of what type of diapers you choose, there truly is something that can work for everyone. Figuring it all out can be a bit overwhelming, but I hope that this will help make the decision a little easier- or at least give you a better idea of what to be looking for!

Already cloth diapering? What is your favorite type and why?
Have more questions? Again, feel free to contact me and let me know what other cloth diaper questions you would like answered!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Making Cute Kid Pictures Even Cuter with Obaby {A Review}

**Product received for review.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I absolutely, positively love taking pictures of my kiddos (especially Miss Finley, while she's still semi-cooperative about it, unlike big brother). So when OBaby offered me a download of their fun photo editing app to review, I could not wait to give it a shot.

So, what is Obaby?

It is an adorable app that allows you to add handcrafted artwork onto your photos to make those cute baby photos even cuter. Here are a few of my personal creations:

The app contains over 300 images ranging from pregnancy, through the first year and beyond. There are dates, milestones, family moments and even doodles that allow you to perfectly document all those little moments with your little one.

To create your images, you simply open the photo in the app, crop to your desired size, pick a few doodles and phrases you may like to use, add and adjust. To be honest it did take me a little bit of trial and error to figure it all out. One thing I learned while playing around is that you need to add any and every piece of artwork you think you might use before going into the final edit mode. If you get halfway through and decide to add a border, you'll have to start all over, so just be sure to give yourself plenty of options! After you get the hang of it, its actually fairly quick and simple and you can send saved photos directly to the social media of your choice!!

One thing I do wish the app offered was editing/filters within the app. I had several photos that I thought would look great in black and white, but to do so meant opening first in another app, saving and then back to Obaby. Perfectly doable, but it would be great to not have the extra step in there. Still, it's a fun app and I still love it myself!!

The basic app costs $4.99 on iTunes, with additional packs available for 99 cents. You can also purchase the Obaby+ for $14.99 which includes every current piece of artwork, as well as any future additions. If you plan to use the app a lot , the Obaby+ definitely gives you more options and keeps you from spending more on the in-app purchases over time, but for the more casual user, there are a lot of great artwork options in the basic version too.

If you'd like to see more of the fun artwork available, or download your own copy, visit the links below:

Visit the Website.
Follow on Instagram.

Disclosure: I received a free download of the app mentioned above in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts are my own.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Finley Grace, 7 Months.

First of all, can I just take a moment to say that I cannot believe this sweet girl of mine could possibly be 7 months old already! It seems like she just came into our world yesterday! But the calender doesn't lie (it just goes much too quickly!). Here's a little bit about our princess this month:

  • According to our bathroom scale, Finley weighs right at 19 pounds!
  • She is currently still in 9 months/6-12 months clothing. There are a few pieces she's starting to outgrow, but will likely be in them a bit longer anyway!
  • She started eating solids one month ago. We are still making our way slowly through those first foods. So far her favorite seem to be homemade sweet potatoes or bananas. However, she can ONLY have organic bananas or she will break out!
  • She isn't exactly crawling yet...but she's certainly mobile. She has the low crawl (otherwise known as an army crawl- but we don't 'army' anything in this household!) down. She is all over the place and into everything!!
  • She has also really started babbling in the last week. She says 'mamama' and 'bububa'. Shaun doesn't know it's not intentional yet, so he comes running every time she calls his name. I will say though, even though I know it's too early, sometimes it does seem as though 'mama' is quite intentional. Possible or wishful thinking? 
  • She is not pulling herself into standing position, but is pulling up to her knees. Mommy is not ready for that. She can also just about get into a sitting position from laying down.
  • Her favorite toys are still her Sophia the First and Cinderella dolls. She also has this Playskool Rocktivity Arch that she got for Christmas that she's really starting to enjoy. Her favorite part is the little piano. 
  • She still loves music and being sung to. Her current favorites are songs from Frozen! Or Sophia the First.
  • No teeth yet, but she's working hard on them!
  • She's recently become obsessed with pulling mama's glasses off...and she seems quite proud of herself when she does it!
  • She still is not a huge fan of the carseat, but otherwise is a very content, happy baby.

Overall, we could not ask for a sweeter baby girl. 

Green Scene Mom Spring Awards Giveaway

A few days ago, I shared with you the amazing winners of the Spring Green Scene Mom Awards. There were a lot of wonderful green companies featured, and today I'm excited to share with you a giveaway featuring some of those great products! Which are your favorites? Personally, my top pick from the list are the Buttons Diapers! One of our favorite diaper companies!! Toofeze Teether has also been on my want list as well!! Now, you can enter to win them all-

We are celebrating our Spring Green Scene Mom Awards with a giveaway featuring some of our amazing winning brands! Many of these brands were created by mom or dad entrepreneurs who were problem solving for their own families.

Toofeze Teether

Toofeze was created by a mother and daughter who were inspired to develop and bring to market a sensible baby teething ring that really works. The pair is dedicated to helping soothe the pain of teething babies, thereby easing the stress of their caregivers.
Full Award Details

Yummi Pouch Minis

Yummi Pouch Mini reusable food pouches encourage healthy snacks for active kids. These eco-friendly food pouches are freezer safe, dishwasher safe, BPA-free, Phthalate-free, and can be filled with healthy blended snacks and easily taken on-the-go, no spoon required.
Full Award Details

Buttons Cloth Diapers

Buttons Cloth Diapers were born at home. Designed by a husband and wife team, Buttons Diapers are easy to use and affordable for everyone — the way it should be. Buttons Diapers believes in keeping life simple, even when it comes to diapering.
Full Award Details

Wristy Buddy Teething Wristband

Wristy Buddy is designed for babies that haven't developed the motor skills to hold traditional teething objects. Babies that can't grasp toys can manipulate Wristy Buddy. Wristy Buddy is made of absorbant materials to keep little faces and clothing dry.
Full Award Details

Simple Nature

Simple Nature's natural products contains the finest organic ingredients to effectively moisturize, soothe and cleanse from head to toe. With creamy shea and mango butters plus the essential oils of orange and natural vanilla extract, hair and skin will feel super soft and smell amazingly fresh!
Full Award Details

Funbites Food Cutter

FunBites is a simple kitchen tool that allows you to cut sandwiches and fruit into fun shapes for little fingers. FunBites helps create yummy lunches without all the packaging kids' lunches often come with. FunBites was designed by a mom who was inspired by her own daughters to create kid-friendly snacks with one easy cutter.
Full Award Details

Natural Bath Sponge

This natural bath sponge is made from organic material found off the coast of Florida. Instead of scratchy synthetic materials, this sponge features soft sea wool fibers that clean and lather to create a spa-like experience for your baby.
Full Award Details

Baby Butz Cream

Baby Butz Cream heals, restores, and moisturizes with the help of all natural ingredients. Free from preservatives, perfumes, chemicals, and alcohol, Baby Butz Cream was developed by a mom searching for a natural solution for her own child.
Full Award Details

Enter to win this amazing Gift Set!

Toofeze teether
FunBites food cutter
Buttons Diapers 2 covers and 2 daytime inserts
Wristy Buddy teething wristband
Simple Nature Orange Smoothie Duo - shampoo & body wash + lotion
Yummi Pouch Mini reusable food pouches
Baby Butz Cream jar of diaper cream
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Get Some Confidence #Superheroing With Big G #CerealHeroes!

A big thanks to Big G for sponsoring today's post and inspiring my family to discover our inner superheroes. All thoughts are my own.

A few days ago, I shared with you about the battle of the best superheroes between my husband and I, and how excited we were about the Big G Cereal Heroes promotion. You can read all about that here, but here's a recap of the promotion:

Until the end of April 2014, fans can find four collectible comics in specially marked Big G Cereals including Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms (my favorite), Honey Nut Cheerios, Trix, Cookie Crisp and Reese's Puffs. Each box includes a free comic featuring the DC Comics Justice League favorites like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Cyborg. These cereals can be found at all mass grocery stores across the country...and for my fellow Target shoppers, there is a bonus fifth issue (pictured above) exclusively at Target!! In addition to these wonderful comics, each box will also feature a fun cut out mask so the kid (or grown up kid) in your life can let their inner superhero shine! 

But Big G Cereal Heroes aren't just about finding super cool comics and eating tasty cereal...it's about something bigger than that. It's a little something they like to call #superheroing.

So, what is superheroing? It's all about finding your inner super hero and using that confidence to conquer the day. After all, superheroes aren't heroes because everything always goes their way. That would get pretty boring after all. They are heroes because they face whatever life throws at them and work hard to overcome then. Isn't that a great message to teach our children? To conquer their fears and face the world head on?

As many of you know, my older child Shaun was diagnosed with Autism at age two. In his 6.5 years, he has had to fight and work harder than kids his age should have to. He has to fight to understand and fit in to a world that can often be confusing and overwhelming for him. As a mom, there is nothing in this world I want more than to take all the troubles away. To make it easier for him to make friends, and better understand the world around him. To take away that judgement and criticism that too often is thrown upon him. Unfortunately, I'm only human and can do none of these things. What I can do is encourage him to overcome it. I can help him gain the confidence to take on the world. I can be there to build up his confidence when others try to tear it down. I can remind him each and every day that he is my superhero and he can do anything in this world that he sets his mind to.

Perhaps my little man needs a little more encouragement and support than others, but that doesn't mean that every child doesn't also deserve to start their day as a superhero. Why not build their confidence with a big bowl of Big G cereal, and a little superheroing to start the day. They can cut out the cool costume pieces on each box, strike a pose and discover their inner superhero. When you start the day as a superhero, things can only look up!!

To learn more about superheroing and the wonderful free comics included in specially marked packages, visit the website.

Does your little one have a favorite superhero they look up to? How do you encourage your children to discover the superhero within?

Get Clean Naturally with Grandma's Pure & Natural Soaps {A Review}

**Product received for review.

From the cleaners we use around the house, to the foods we put in our mouths and the soaps we wash our bodies with, it seems everything these days is loaded down with chemicals and random ingredients we can not pronounce. Over the past year or so, we've decided enough was enough and decided it was time to take more natural approaches where we could. So when Grandma's Pure & Natural contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing a few of their soaps, I jumped at the chance.

For those unfamiliar with the company, Grandma's Pure & Natural Soaps makes a variety of all natural, handmade soaps- they are most known for the soap that started it all- Grandma's Lye Soap- but offer several varieties to suit your needs.

Let's take a look at just a few of those:

Grandma's Pure Lye Soap

Ah, the soap that started it all- Grandma's Lye Soap has no added detergents or scents- just pure, natural soap made with lye and lard...basically just as you could expect to find 100 years ago!!
Are you reading this thinking lye soap is super harsh and wondering why on earth anyone would want to use it? Honestly, I was told the same thing, but the reality is- when made appropriately, this is actually a very gentle soap. My husband and I both have rather dry, sensitive skin and found this to be an ideal soap for us. It cleaned well without drying out the skin. When my son ended up with incredibly dry skin after scarlet fever, I used this on his very itchy, overly sensitive skin and (in addition to an olive oil bath), it seemed to help a lot! I'll be honest, I'm not usually a 'soap' person- I tend to feel as though I get a better clean without drying with body washes...but this one has single-handedly changed my opinion! I LOVED it. My skin truly feels so much better. I even used it on my face, and found it worked wonderfully, definitely unlike any other soap I'd tried in the past. We will certainly be buying more in the future.

Grandma's Baby Bar

I always tell people that Finley's skin is so sensitive and rash prone that all you have to do is give her a funny look and she'll break out. Of course, I'm only kidding, but her skin really is extremely sensitive and even many soaps intended for sensitive skin will still break her out. We have to be extremely selective on what we use on her skin. Like the original lye soap, the Baby Bar is all natural and contains no detergent, dyes or fragrances, so it seemed like a good choice for our girl...and it was! It didn't dry her skin out as some soaps do, and no rashes either! This was a great solution for our super sensitive princess!

After Workout Sports Bars

I don't know what it is about them...but I've been just a little obsessed with mint and eucalyptus scents lately...especially when it comes to soaps! So I HAD to give these After Workout Bars a try...and I have to say they are wonderful, and great for anytime, not just after working out (though they are great for that too!). They clean wonderfully, didn't dry out my skin, and smell amazing. The scent is still all natural, and is fairly subtle, which is just how I like my soaps! I think the lye soap is still my top pick and what I normally reach for in the shower, but these are definitely a contender as well.

Aside from working well and being all natural, perhaps one of my favorite things about these soaps is the price. We have bought other natural, handmade soaps in the past and let me tell you they can get pretty price-y. In fact, one brand we tried had nearly exactly the same scent as the spearmint eucalyptus bar, and cost nearly double! At $5-6.50, these are extremely reasonable...and work so much better than the more expensive versions!!

These are just a few of the many great soap options available from Grandma's Pure & Natural. From laundry soap to lotions, they have it all. You can see everything they have to offer and connect at the links below:

Shop the Website.
Like on Facebook.
Follow on Twitter.

Disclosure: I received the product mentioned above in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Celebrating Pi Day with a Classic Apple Pie Recipe

It's Pi Day, and to celebrate I am going to share with you my go to recipe for apple pie.

Now, I'll be the first to admit this isn't a groundbreaking apple pie recipe...there's nothing overly unique or creative about it. It's just a classic apple pie recipe found by my mother in law in a very old cookbook. But while it may be nothing fancy, it is absolutely, positively DELICIOUS!! It is always a huge hit in my household, and I hope it will be in yours as well.

First, let's start with the flaky pie crust. If you want, you can cheat and do a premade or even Jiffy mix, but personally I think nothing beats a homemade crust. This particular recipe makes enough for one pie (with top crust), the apple pie recipe makes two pies, so you can double it, or make separate batches. I prefer to make two batches, as it seems easier to manage that way.

  •     3 cup sifted flour
  •     1 1/2 tsp. salt
  •     1 cup plus 2 tblsp. shortening
  •      6 tblsp. water
  1.  Using a fork, blend all the ingredients. Form a ball, and divide into two parts.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough lightly from center until the crust is slightly larger than the pie plate. Arrange to plate.
Now let's move onto the pie itself:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cup sugar depending on tartness of apples
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 8 cups sliced/peeled Apples
  • 1 tblsp. lemon juice 
  • 2 tblsp. butter
  1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Prepare your pie crusts if you haven't already.
  3. Mix dry ingredients and set aside.
  4. Slice and peel your apples (if you make apple pie/deserts etc often- I highly recommend buying an apple peeler- makes the job MUCH faster!). Rinse in cool water and drain.
  5. Stir the apples into the dry ingredients until well blended.
  6. Divide apple mixture into your two pie plates and dot each with butter.
  7. Cover with crust, trim and seal edges with fingers. Cut a few slits on the top crust. (You can get fancier with your crust if you wish, of course! I also sometimes sprinkle the top with a little bit of sugar and cinnamon for a decorative touch!)
  8. Bake in oven for 50 minutes or until apples are tender.

As I said, nothing too fancy, but I've found when it comes to deserts, sometimes the classic really are the best! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!!

How are you celebrating Pi Day? Any favorite pie recipes you'd like to share? As always, I love hearing your thoughts!