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.

The Perfect Solution for Snack Time that Kids Love

This post is sponsored by Goldfish® but the content and opinions expressed here are my own



Does anyone else have kids that beg for snacks all day long?  My girls could live on snacks if I let them.  Now that they are in school at least they're not bugging me for snacks 24/7 but they come home famished (I have no idea why) and the first order of business is snack time.  I usually rattle off the usual suspects and they've either already had it in their lunches or they aren't interested.  I'm always looking for new ideas for snack time and when I find a hit I love to share it with you.
This snack is what I'm calling Epic Trail Mix.  I love making a trail mix because you can change up the ingredients to keep things fresh and prevent boredom.  Furthermore, they are always super simple to assemble and don't require any cooking or baking.  The staple "ingredient" in this recipe is Goldfish Epic Crunch Nacho.  My girls, along with any child I've ever met, love Goldfish so when I learned that Goldfish had a new product I knew I had to use them in this recipe.  Goldfish Epic Crunch has a bigger, bolder tortilla crunch with a zesty nacho flavor.  They are baked (never fried) with whole grain and contain no artificial preservatives.  I combined them with rice chex, popcorn and pretzels.

Ingredients:
  • 1 bag Goldfish Epic Crunch Nacho
  • 1 cup Rice Chex Cereal
  • 1 cup Pretzels
  • 1 cup popped Popcorn
Directions:

Combine all ingredients and serve.  Store in air tight container or bag.  Consume within a few days because popcorn will lose its crunch.




You can find Goldfish Epic Crunch in the cracker aisle of your grocery store for an affordable price.  I found them on an end cap so just a heads up to look there as well.  In addition to Nacho flavor you can find Ranch and Honey BBQ.

Since we are in the Easter season I just had to share an oldie but goodie for an Easter-inspired snack.  I filled pastry bags with Goldfish Epic Crunch and tied them with green ribbon to look like carrots.  These are a hit and super simple to assemble.  They are perfect for a fun after school snack or to add to your Easter party/menu.  



The Difficult Emotions of Your Final Baby


My third and final baby is just about to celebrate his half birthday and on one hand I can't believe that he is already six months and on the other, time could not go fast enough.  You hear from everyone, "Slow down, savor every moment, you blink and they will be off to college..."  As a mother of three whose oldest is seven I know first hand how fast time flies but honestly there are so many days where it couldn't go slower.

When I was pregnant with our third we knew this was our final baby no matter a boy or a girl.  But because of a hard pregnancy I just wanted to get through it.  I wasn't enjoying it even though I knew it would be the last time I would feel baby kicks from the inside or the last time I would bond with a baby even before seeing them.  I wanted to savor it but if I'm being totally honest I just wasn't.  So instead, during the pregnancy I kept telling myself that when he arrived I was going to savor it all because he was going to be the last.  If I couldn't enjoy the final pregnancy then I would sure as heck enjoy all the moments of a new baby.  I wanted to soak in the multiple hours of nursing, savor the baby snuggles, and not rush the milestones.

How to Throw a Colorful St. Patrick's Day Breakfast


I was just chatting with a girlfriend about how these are the most precious years to celebrate all the holidays.  Our children are at the perfect age where they light up when the elf moves, the Easter bunny poops in the toilet or the Leprechaun leaves little footprints through the house.  I live for my girls excitement, giggles and smiles when they find a special surprise and as someone who has always loved all holidays I take advantage of any opportunity to capture these moments.  

For almost every major holiday I create a little special breakfast for my girls as a way to celebrate.  Sometimes the girls get a little gift but not always but either way they always are so elated.  I like to keep these breakfast parties simple but fun.  Kids do not care how much money you spent or how many hours you needed to prep; they just want the joy and the special attention.  I share these with you so that you can be inspired and tackle it yourself.  I promise it is easy peasy.

How I Lost Baby Weight with The Bar Method Fresno


I had my third baby in October and I took the new year to start working on self care.  I really wanted to lose the baby weight and tone up but I also wanted to have something for myself that was an outlet.  My motivation at the beginning was all about my outward appearance but what I learned was something far more important than how I looked.  I had no idea that I could enjoy working out; I never have in my entire life.  I've always been on a fitness roller coaster.  I give it my all for awhile and then I do nothing for months on end.  This is the first time that I wake up and look forward to working out and am doing my best to find a time each day for some exercise.

Losing Weight After Baby


How to Spring Clean for Lent- Donating & Giving Back


Spring Cleaning

A girlfriend of mine gave me this idea that I tweaked and just had to share with you.  The Lenten season began last week but didn't we just celebrate Christmas and New Year's?!?!  I'm not sure how time flies faster and faster every year.  In case you are not familiar with Lent it is the season between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  Lent is a time for prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  This idea focuses on almsgiving which is donating your time, talent or treasure.  You remove one item from your household every day of Lent to donate at Easter (donating your "treasure").  My plan is to donate from my closet, dresser and items around the house but also to involve my girls.  I will be asking them to select items from their toys or clothes at least once a week.  At the end of Lent you will have nearly 50 items to donate to your favorite charity of choice.  Keep your "treasure donation box" somewhere out of the way but in a place where everyone in your house can see it and so as to be reminded to add to it every day.

This kills a few birds with one stone; spring cleaning, almsgiving and teaching your children about the importance of giving back.  I'm going to use this to spark me to purge and organize all the closets in my house.  I suggest finding one item every day but then at Easter taking it to another level and doing a deep clean/purge.  By Easter you will have decluttered and organized your closets and drawers.  I don't know about you but purging our house gives me a refreshed and clean feeling.

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning



Sharing Our Sweet & Fun Valentine's Day Traditions

Valentine's Traditions

If you know me you know I live for traditions and all holidays.  I will seize any excuse to decorate, buy cute matching outfits and celebrate.  I'm sharing our traditions for the season of love however time is flying so I'm not sure how it's almost the end of February.  I feel like Valentine's Day was just yesterday. 

How to Make a Delicious & Fun Strawberry Freakshake

This post is sponsored by Horizon but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Strawberry Freakshake


Ingredients:

  • 3/4 C. Horizon Organic Grassfed Milk
  • 6 Scoops Vanilla Ice Cream
  • 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 C. Fresh Strawberries
  • Whipping Cream
  • White Melting Chocolate
  • Sprinkles
  • Powdered Donuts
  • Rock Candy Lollipops
Directions:

Mix Milk, Ice Cream, Vanilla Extract and Strawberries in a blender until well blended.  Melt Chocolate in small bowl then dip jar/glass into chocolate.  Tap on the counter for chocolate to run down the glass.  Before it hardens dip into sprinkles.  Pour milkshake into jar and top with whipping cream.  Garnish with lollipop and donut skewer.  Finish off with a straw and serve.

Sweet & Simple Valentine Painting Projects for Kids

Valentine's Day Crafts

Valentine's Day Crafts

Since I was a little girl my mom and I have celebrated Valentine's with 14 Days of Love.  We would exchange small gifts in little mailboxes leading up to Valentine's Day.  We've continued that tradition with the girls and it makes my heart oh so happy.  I do buy a few gifts but I also try to make something personal from the girls to my mom to make it extra special.  Since we've been doing this for years and years it can be hard to come up with new ideas that I haven't used before.  I wanted to share these ideas with you because they are sweet and very simple to do.  I had all the supplies at home minus the plate so hopefully you do as well.

Yummy Chili Cheese Fries- Easy Game Day Appetizer

This post is sponsored by McCain Potatoes but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.





Chili Cheese Fries
Ingredients:

  • McCain Seasoned Curly Fries
  • Chili (Canned or Homemade)
    • 1 lb. Ground Beef
    • 2 Cans Pinto Beans
    • 1 Can Kidney Beans
    • 1- 20 oz. Can Rotel
    • 1 Onion
    • 1 tsp. Chili Powder
    • 2 tsp. Crushed Garlic
    • 1 Can Tomato Sauce
  • Shredded Mexican Cheese
  • Sour Cream
Directions:

Dump all Chili ingredients into the crockpot including raw ground beef.  I broke it up with a spatula and then set to low for 8 hours.  About 25 minutes before serving bake McCain Seasoned Curly Fries as per label directions.  Once they are done top with chili and shredded cheese and put back in the oven for just a few minutes.  Top with sour cream and serve.  If you are taking this to someone's house for a party appetizer assemble once you arrive and bake for just a few minutes in their oven.


As a working mother of three I'm always looking for EASY new recipes.  I don't have time to slave away in the kitchen but I still want affordable options, fresh ideas and flavorful food.  In your frozen food aisle at Walmart you can easily find McCain Fries in a variety of options like Craft Beer Fries, Extra Crispy Curly Fries and Waffle Fries.  They make the perfect base for a variety of recipes and appetizers.  I choose to use them for Chili Cheese Fries which could be used for a game day appetizer or even a hassle free dinner at home.

Family Fun Getaway at Tenaya Lodge



We just returned from the BEST family weekend at Tenaya Lodge, which is the perfect family Winter getaway with a little flavor of everything to keep everyone entertained.  From Fresno it is a very easy drive, just over 1 hour from door to door.  We arrived Friday evening and were greeted with such a warm welcome.  It was such a special treat to have a bottle of wine awaiting us in our room along with a s'more kit.  After settling in we headed to dinner at Jackalope's Grill.  There are 4 restaurants on the property along with a deli for snacks and grab and go food.  Tenaya Lodge is a 4 Diamond resort but what stands out is the staff which is kind, friendly, warm and accommodating.  Our meal was delicious and the service was exceptional.  After dinner we headed down to the grand fire pit to roast marshmallows and chow down on s'mores.  It's quite the magical experience to roast mallows amongst the snow and under the stars.  Following our fun treat we changed to head to the indoor hot tub, which is one of the best amenities at Tenaya Lodge.  There is an outdoor pool and hot tub as well but they are closed for the Winter season.  There are not too many places where you can go swimming when it's snowing outside but Tenaya has that option for you.  We visited every day we were there and it was a highlight for the kids.  Right off of the indoor pool is a spectacular game room with video games, huge televisions, air hockey, pool tables and games.  We had every intention of coming to play at least a game of air hockey but there was so much to do we only peaked in to check it out.