Cute and Affordable End of the Year Gift Ideas

How is it possible that we only have a few more weeks of school?  Where in the world did the year go?!?!  Since the end of the year is approaching very quickly I'm putting together our gifts for teachers, aides, buddies and other staff members.  I am so appreciative of how hard school staff works to take care of our little ones and I think they deserve a small token to show how thankful we are.

You can find hundreds of adorable gift ideas on Pinterest and I've used several of them but then I started thinking about what teachers and staff would really like.  Is a flower really cute with an adorable gift tag about growth?  Yes, but is it something a teacher really needs? NO!  Let's be real teachers want gift cards for something useful.  I think you literally can't go wrong with a Target gift card because who can't find something at Target???  I also think restaurant gift cards, Starbucks, movies, etc. are pretty good as well.  

Here are what my girls are giving this year:

A Day of Pampering at The Spa at Fig Garden Village


Self care is super important to me because as a working mom I have to take time to take care of myself or I will never survive.  Giving myself a break or pampering myself helps me to be a better wife and mama.  I have always loved The Spa at Fig Garden Village for a massage but today I tried a Soothing Professional Facial for the first time.  The Spa is always my go-to spot for relaxation because of all of their amenities.  You will find everything from a steam room to a relaxation room and soon you will find yourself escaping from reality.

How to Make Easter Bunny Chow


I have the SWEETEST tooth around and so you'll frequently find me creating a sweet treat to share.  Ok let's be real I end up consuming 90% of the desserts I make.  This is a super easy recipe and oh so yummy.  It's great for a holiday gathering to just leave out and you'll find in only a few minutes it's all gone!


Ingredients:
  • 4 Cups Rice Chex
  • 1/2 Cup White Melting Chocolate
  • 1/4 Cup Peanut Butter
  • 1/8 Cup Butter
  • 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Cup of Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Cup Easter M & M's or Mini Cadbury Eggs
Directions:

Melt chocolate, peanut butter and butter in a microwavable bowl for 45 seconds.  Remove and stir and microwave in 15 second increments until melted.  Once smooth stir in vanilla and pour over rice Chex in a gallon ziplock bag.  Add half of the powdered sugar, seal and shake.  Once dispersed add the other half of the powdered sugar and shake until well coated.  Throw in Easter chocolates and refrigerate.



New Baby Must-Have Items & What's Worth the Money


Before Jack Jack was born I rounded up all the items I got to prepare for him but now that he is over six months old I've had a good amount of time to really use all our baby products and I wanted to share my honest thoughts with you.  Some of the items are home runs, some are average and others I would cut off the list.  Preparing for a baby can be very expensive so I hope to save you some money if they just aren't worth it.

Newborn Essentials Review-DockATot and Swaddle Sets

The DockATot is great for moving around the house and having a spot for Jackson no matter where I am or what I'm doing.  It's great for both back laying and tummy time before baby is rolling over.  We didn't use it for sleeping the first 4 months because Jackson needed to be inclined so we lived in the RockNPlay.  However, as I was trying to transition him from RockNPlay to crib it was amazing because it still gave him a cuddled feeling.

When Jackson was a newborn we loved swaddle sets from Khloe & Kinley.  Once he needed a snug fit (then we used The Ollie) we used the swaddle blankets just as blankets.  The material is a great quality and they are just too cute.

Newborn Essentials Review- Wildbird sling carrier

I really wanted the WildBird carrier to work because Jackson wants to be held all the time however I can't get it right.  Jackson just seems too heavy and big for it so it kills my neck and he doesn't seem secure or comfortable.  To be totally honest this could be user error more than anything.

Once I determined the Wildbird wasn't working for me I gave the Boppy Carrier a try.  It disperses the weight evenly so it was more comfortable for me.  You can face the baby in or out and Jack did seem to enjoy it.  However, at the end of the day when you're 5'1" and your baby weighs 1/5 of your own weight carrying a baby isn't super easy.


Newborn Essentials Review- Binxy Baby Shopping Cart Hammock

I love using the Binxy Baby Shopping Cart Hammock.  I'm just too weak and too short to lug around the baby carrier and then place it on the shopping cart and see over it.   I didn't have one with the girls and keeping them in the car seat was always such a hassle.  I love how light weight the Binxy Baby is; I just roll it up and keep it in my car so that it's there when I need it.  Jackson loves it and it gives me so much more room in my cart.  FYI it doesn't work on every cart but most of them.

My Backpack diaper bag from Petunia Pickle Bottom has pros and cons.  It's extremely light weight which I love and so easy to carry (hands-free).  However, I find the main pocket too small and the bottom section, which is insulated, too big.  I don't carry that many items that need to be cooled but have several items like diapers, wipes, changing pad, change of clothes, etc. and so I find that I need more room in the upper storage compartment.

Newborn Essentials Review-Stroller, Carseat & Carseat Cover

Our stroller from Phil & Teds also has its pros and cons because it glides easily and is fairly light weight but it's a bit awkward to collapse and set back up.  My biggest complaint is the hood.  I have to move it every two seconds to keep him shaded.  It's not nearly big enough to keep him protected.  I HATE the car seat from Phil & Teds.  It does not adjust for anything and Jackson screams every single time I have to strap him in which I don't blame him.  We've tried changing the straps to different spots but no matter what we do it's so hard to strap in the baby.  I eventually had to switch to another car seat and instantly Jackson preferred it.

I'm very much in love with my Itzy Ritzy Mom Boss 4 in 1 Multi Cover.  It is so convenient and easy to use as a car seat cover.  I don't love it as a nursing cover because it clings to you and baby so I feel like I need two more hands to manipulate the cover and hold the baby and get him latched.

Newborn Essentials Review-Ollie World Velcro Swaddle

We absolutely could not have lived without The Ollie World swaddle.  Jack Jack napped and slept in it and it made the world of difference in his sleep.  It is so easy to use; totally fool proof and kept him more secure than any other swaddle.  You can read more about why I love The Ollie so much and also tips for getting your baby to sleep through the night HERE.



We love and use the BBluv Umi 2-in-1 Ultrasonic Humidifier and Air Purifier nearly every night.  The Umi is a humidifier and air purifier and really helps Jackson with congestion.  Unfortunately the Termo 4-in-1 Digital Thermometer from BBluv is not a winner.  I was so excited about this thermometer but it's very unreliable.  I will get 5 different temps within seconds so I feel like I can't trust its readings.

Jack needs every toy under the sun to keep him happy and entertained.  I barely had anything for the girls and I swore I would never have this much stuff for a baby but I never imagined how needy a baby could be.  Jack enjoys the 4 in 1 Ocean Activity Center from Fisher Price but his favorite toy is the Jumperoo also by Fisher Price.  He loves all the toys that he can grab and jumping up and down.  He hasn't mastered turning the seat around but as soon as he gets a little bored I just turn him around and it's like a whole new toy for him.


Bath time is likely Jack's favorite time of the day; he loves kicking in the water.  I think a must-have item for bath time is a tear-free rinse pail.  I love the one from Nuby because it's light weight and has a soft edge for baby's head.








How to Style Affordable Easter Outfits for Your Family






I love holidays for a dozen reasons and one of them is getting to dress everyone up; I live for picking out coordinating outfits.  When I'm styling our family I'm always looking to keep it affordable so my first stop are our closets for things we already own.  Then I start hitting the stores based on what I find or don't find at home.  I usually am looking for an inspiration piece and then I work from there.  

For Easter we have two days of celebrations so I have to style two family outfits but you won't find me complaining at all!  Day 1 is definitely more casual and this year I found the girls rompers early on and those were my starting point.  I found Jack's button up onesie to coordinate because I didn't want him in all blush pink.  His onesie was perfect because it was the piece to tie us all together.  A piece or two that brings us together is usually my goal.  I also don't love matchy-matchy but rather coordinating.  Sometimes the girls will match but I don't want all of us to be too similar.  Back to keeping things reasonable I accessorize with what we already own.  I almost never buy new bows, shoes or jewelry/purses when styling the whole family for an event/holiday.  This keeps the cost down and also the amount of time I'm looking for everything.  

For Easter Sunday we get dressed up and I went with a color palette that isn't traditional for Easter but if you know me you know I'm still obsessed with check/gingham/buffalo plaid.  Emily's two piece set was my inspiration and the rest came together easily.  A rule of thumb for me when using neutral colors, like black and white is to throw in a pop of color to make a splash.  I also like to mix patterns; like polka dots, stripes and gingham for Easter Sunday and stripes, solids and gingham for Saturday.



Emily's Yellow Set (Click LINK, then click FACTORY, then search LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE)
My top is from a local boutique Ooh La La.

To see everything else from our Easter Celebrations continue on!  We had such a fun and blessed Easter and I hope you did as well.

The Excitement of Picking Out Your First American Girl



When Emily was young my mom and I decided that for her fifth birthday we would take her to American Girl to get her first doll.  We had the best time on her birthday trip we decided it would be a tradition and that one day we would do the same for Madi.  Madi is approaching her fifth birthday and our only free weekend was in April about a month before her actual birthday.  Both grandmas and Madi and I traveled down to LA for one night and had the best time celebrating our sassy girl.

How to Get Baby to Sleep Thru the Night



The weeks or months until your baby sleeps through the night are so difficult.  It's worse if you have other children and / or are working because you can't take the time in the day to rest or even nap.  Not only is your sanity suffering but sleep for a baby is super important and I think it is a skill that parents have to teach to their babies.  In my opinion every baby is different and there definitely isn't one guaranteed way to get a baby to sleep through the night but I also think there are some tips and ideas that definitely help most babies.  This is my third baby and these are the things that I swear by.  Emily slept through the night at 16 weeks, Madi at 10.5 weeks and Jackson just before 6 weeks.  I'd like to say I got better with "training" them but I have to note that each baby was bigger.  I think birth weight affects their ability to eat more and sleep longer.