Monday, November 23, 2015

What's Red and Furry and Likely to Become Your Child's New Best Friend?

Thank you to Playskool and Socialstars for partnering with us for today's sponsored post. #PlayskoolCrew

If you guessed Elmo, you're correct! 

Does anyone remember Tickle Me Elmo and how he quickly became the hottest toy on the market circa the late 90's? That red furry Muppet was flying off the shelves left and right and while he retailed for less than $30 at the peak of the craze he was being resold for more than $1,000 on the Internet. While numerous versions of Tickle Me Elmo and friends have been released since then, nothing compares to this year's release of Play All Day Elmo.  

You're probably thinking "is this Elmo really all that great to warrant another post?" and while the answer is a resounding yes, I'm going to take a minute to give you a few more reasons why this toy should be at the top of your child's Christmas list, especially if he or she is between the ages of 18 months and 4 years old.


Play All Day Elmo is currently rated for children between the ages of 18 months and 4 years old. Not only does that age range speak to the versatility of this product but it also supports the idea that Elmo is a toy that will be able to grow with your child rather than your child outgrowing Elmo which is the case with so many toys on the market today.

With two settings, Toddler and Preschool, Elmo provides engaging and interactive games for both my 19 month old and my 3 year old. There aren't a whole lot of toys out there that my toddler and my preschooler can both use appropriately and I love that Elmo satisfies each of their playtime needs. 

2. Elmo really can PLAY ALL DAY

Featuring eight games and more than 150 responses, children can not only interact with Elmo in basic cause-and-effect play but they can also sing songs with him, as well as practice their colors, animal sounds and numbers. 

When in "toddler mode" Elmo utilizes numerous sensors throughout his soft, cuddly body to engage even the littlest of friends. 

3. Elmo is an excellent traveler.

With the holiday travel right on our heels, Play All Day Elmo would make for an excellent travel companion. He can easily fit into a small suitcase or backpack or even buckle himself right into the seat next to your child. Whether by plane or by train, Play All Day Elmo brings fun on the road!

4. Elmo has a NAP time setting and an OFF button!

The Off Switch is quite possible the best feature of any toy when you are a parent but in addition to the off switch Elmo also comes with a nap time setting that features soothing lullabies and gentle instrumental tunes. Both my 19 month old and my 3 year old love snuggling up with Elmo when it's time to wind down. 

Any toy that can be shared among multiple children as well as grow with them and continue to engage them both physically and socially will always receive two thumbs up from me. Play All Day Elmo not only makes the perfect gift but also the perfect playmate for that special toddler or preschooler in your life!

You can find Play All Day Elmo where any Playskool products are sold! 

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

How to Host A Plaid Party (with A Party Box from Red Lettered Life!)

Are you ready for a fun fact? A day marked in red or a "Red Lettered Day" is a day of any special significance. Many of today's calendars use red ink instead of black for that very reason to indicate special dates!

Here in the M household, we don't need a holiday or a birthday to roll around in order to gather our family and friends to our home for a small celebration. When Taylor of Red Lettered Life reached out to us and offered to send us one of her  "parties in a box" we jumped at the chance to throw a casual Lumberjack Play Date for Carter, Maclane and their bestest neighborhood buddies.

Inside of the box was everything you see adorning the table- down to the fancy plastic silverware and awesome woodsy centerpiece. It was great not having to frantically visit multiple stores tracking down the decor I would need to complete a Pinterest-worthy vision or spend hours scouring the great Internets for theme-appropriate plates and cups. 

Red Lettered Life took much of the stress and hassle associated with event planning and hosting and replaced it with joy and simplicity, truly allowing me to focus on what mattered most, gathering our friends and their kids at our home for an afternoon filled with fun, snacks, crafts and more. 

Coupled with a pennant banner and a pom garland, both found in the dollar section of Target, the entire event came together in less than a week but appeared as if I had spent three times that amount of time planning it. 

From bridal events to baby showers, kid's birthday parties and holiday gatherings, there's not a single event that Taylor and Red Lettered Life can't help you throw. Some of my favorites include the Black Tie New Year's box as well as the Rustic Chic Bridal shower kit.

Once I decided on the lumberjack theme, it wasn't long before I decided that the kids would be making peanut butter birdseed feeders as well as coloring a sweet little Lumberjack printable that I found on Pinterest via TrashN2Tees and JoyfulRoots.

While peanut butter and a pound of loose birdseed mixed with 9 kids 5 and under sounds a bit iffy, it really was a controlled, albeit sticky, activity that everyone loved participating in. Even more fun was watching the kids hang their feeders outside, checking on them every so often waiting for some furry or feathered friends to come visit. I say furry because the feeders were a huge hit with the local squirrels! 

Several days after sending out the initial e-vite, it dawned on me to ask that everyone wear their finest plaid to party with us. Thank goodness for email updates! Seeing the kids (and their parents) show up ready to party with their fanciest flannel was icing on the proverbial cake! 

We had such a blast and with several events that require extensive planning in the upcoming months (a baby sprinkle and a NYE adults-only dinner, just to name two!) I will definitely be looking to Taylor and Red Lettered Life to help manage the stress of event planning!

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STANDARD FTC DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation, free product or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please note that I only endorse products that are in alignment with our and that I believe would be of value to my readers.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Quick + Easy Holiday Cocktail: A Cranberry Pomegranate Champagne Fizz

This is quite possibly my most favorite time of the year. Everything takes on an extra special little glow to it around the holidays and now that we have a house full of little kidlets, the holidays are even more exciting and magical. 

This month and next I've teamed up with a fantastic group of bloggers from all walks of life to share with you some ideas for holiday entertaining, fashion, food, family fun and more! Be sure to visit each of the blogs below to see what they have to say! 

Now, I love any excuse to drink champagne and while most of my excuses are currently running around my house without pants on beating each other up, the holidays are an even better excuse to pop open a bottle of bubbly and catch up with family and friends. 

There's just something about the addition of champagne that immediately elevates the fancy-factor of just about any occasion. Even when I'm drinking champagne from a mason jar while wearing my yoga pants, I'm feeling pretty darn fancy.

Always on the hunt for a new champagne cocktail recipe, this is one recipe that never disappoints. Not only is the Cranberry Pomegranate Champagne Fizz (Cran-Pom Fizz for short) supremely easy to make but chances are you already have most, if not all of the ingredients on hand to whip one up. It helps that there is nary a day when there isn't a bottle of champagne or Prosecco in our house. 

Of course any juice can be added to champagne to make a cocktail (peach, orange, watermelon) but the addition of something less-fruity and more Fall Harvest-y like cranberry or pomegranate really makes this a Thanksgiving or Christmas-friendly cocktail.

This cocktail is best served during hors d'oeuvres or dessert. 

The Cranberry Pomegranate Champagne Fizz

You'll need champagne (I prefer my champagne sweet as opposed to dry, therefore personal favorites include Ruffino Prosecco ($12)Korbel Sweet Cuvee ($13) and Veuve Clicquot Demi-Sec ($50), frozen cranberries, several limes, and sweetened cranberry juice (or pomegranate-cranberry blend).  

In each flute pour a small amount of juice. Add a squeeze of lime. Top with champagne and garnish with a slice or ribbon of lime and two or three cranberries. Not only is it absolutely delicious but it's rather festive-looking too! (You could also substitute pomegranate seeds instead of the cranberries!)

Cheers! And don't forget to hop around for more great holiday ideas! 

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Meet Me In The Mess (of Motherhood)

This sponsored post is brought to you from the trenches of Motherhood by Minute Maid and Socialstars. #doingood #minutemaid.

I will never forget the moment I got it. The moment when I suddenly realized what it felt like to literally have a piece of my heart exist outside of my body, eventually learn to crawl, lick the sanitary napkin box in the Target restroom and tell his preschool teacher that sometimes his Daddy pinches his Mommy’s hiney when she’s walking upstairs.

Parenting is, hands down, the most challenging yet gratifying role I will ever assume. Becoming and being a mother day in and day out has done so much for me, including give me cause me to look to other mothers (and fathers) with nothing but a heart full of awe-inspiring pride, admiration, and camaraderie. In fact, when I’m out and about with my brood and I pass another mother out with her family circus, I want nothing more than to stop dead in our tracks and high five her. Actually I’m more of a hugger and the truth of the matter is that I would totally do it if I didn’t have to worry about my 3-year-old running off should we be become stationary for too long.

I feel like it’s easy to get a big head about being the best kind of parent out there, especially if you pride yourself on having fed them nothing but organic foods, taught them to speak several languages by the age of 3 and have successfully kept their eyes averted from all digital screens for the last five years. But you know what kids are really good at? Stripping you down to your core, regardless, right there in the middle of the public library with just one single outburst.

There’s nothing like a good ol’ fashion tantrum to leave you feeling naked as a jaybird right there in the young adult fiction section of the library. Not that I would know ANYTHING about that. (I apologize to all library-going patrons for the “incidence” that occurred around 10:30am last Wednesday morning).

And it’s right there in that moment where it doesn’t matter a lick if they ate Lucky Charms or GMO-free Honey O’s for breakfast. Whether you breastfed them or bottle fed them. Whether they started sleeping in their crib at 3 weeks old or woke you up at 5:30am with their foot in your eye. 

Parenting is crazy complicated. There is no single right way to do everything as a parent and speaking from personal experience what may have worked for one child may not work the second, third or fifth time around and what works for you may not work for your sister, neighbor or cousin three times removed. That being said, we all have something valuable to bring to the parenting conversation.

The important thing to keep in mind is that it’s better to listen with an open mind than immediately shut a fellow parent out for thinking or doing differently than you. None of us is perfect.

It’s been my experience that there is something rather therapeutic about seeing another mother’s struggle. Watching another mother have to carry her toddler out of Target while he’s limp noodling and going on and on about how he wants a “new mommy,” one who is “nicer and buys all the toys.” To know that I’m not the only one with a 3-year-old prone to throwing himself on the floor when he doesn’t get his way. To rest assured that one day in the very distant future my 18-month-old will stop being such a shitty sleeper.

But how do you know that you're really doing good, after all?

That day in the library that I had to calmly collect my children, wrangling the flippant three-year-old over a shoulder while simultaneously pushing a baby-filled stroller and holding the hand of my five-year-old, a woman rushed to hold open the door for me and on the way out she simply smiled, nodded her head and whispered “My middle baby just left for college. Let’s just say he did a great job at keeping me humble during those early years. You’re doing good, Mom.”

And I held it together until I got to the car. As I buckled my three-year-old into his seat with tears streaming down my face he clutched my face in both of his chubby toddler hands and asked “what’s wrong my mama? I’m sorry I yelled in the book house.”

And I told him that I was crying “because I just loved him so much” and that sometimes I just “worry too much and care too hard,” because isn’t that what it all comes down to? That no matter what we do for our children we do it with all of the love in our hearts?

To all the moms and dads out there who worry too much and care too hard and have had to scrape their children from the floor, throw them over a shoulder and make a run for it, keep on keeping on. You’re #doingood. Keep up the tireless, selfless, thankless work. I see you and I’ve got your back. If all else fails, I’ll run to hold the door for you.

Now go out there and share the love- if you happen to see a fellow parent stumble, take a minute and tell them despite how it may feel, they’re #doingood too.

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On Owning A White Shag Rug With Small Children.

I received product for free in exchange for my honest review

I have pined over owning a white shag rug for years. In fact, owning a white shag rug ranks right up there with owning an upholstered wing-back chair with nail-head trim in a creamy neutral and although math has never been my strong suit, I was of the camp that believed small children + a dog + a great big white rug = a disaster waiting to happen. 

(Which, come to think of it, is pretty funny considering 99% of the home decor blogs I follow always feature babies and puppies playing happily and mess-free on top of gloriously shaggy, plush white rugs.) 

I assumed that I couldn't own either of those things while simultaneously raising a house full of tiny, sticky fingers with a penchant for peanut butter and Sharpies and while I'm not particularly convinced I could welcome that chair into my home any time soon, the truth is that it's completely possible to own a white shag rug without quarantining your children to only one level of your home. 

I will say the thought definitely crossed my mind. 

What I hadn't realized about shag rugs is that they hide stuff particularly well. Things like food crumbs and shredded paper and maybe even a mushed up banana chunk. These rugs hide those things so well, in fact, that sometimes it's days before anyone even notices they're there. Now of course this could be both good and bad but equally as good is the ease at which a quick finger-combing cleans up the mess. 

Now, buying a rug on the internet can be tricky especially if it's one that you and your family plan to spend a lot of time on. I've fallen victim in the past to Rugs That Look Soft Online But Prick Your Hiney With Stick-like Fibers once they're in your home. That's not the case at all with a shag rug. 

I have been the proud owner of this beautiful Jumeirah Moroccan Shag Rug from Natural Area Rugs for a little over one month now and it looks, feels (and smells) just as good as it did the day it arrived on our doorstep. It still has that new rug smell to it and the reason I know this so well is because I spend a lot of time rolling all over it with the boys each day. The great thing about Natural Area Rugs is that they don't sell cheap rugs but rather they sell affordable rugs made from natural materials. 

I'm not the only big fan of the new rug though. I've never seen my boys and my husband spend so much time laying on a floor before this rug. It is so thick and plush and lovely that even the dog can't get enough it.

I realized long ago that I never want to be the kind of mom who yells at her kids for being kids in a home that isn't necessarily kid-friendly. However, I would like to own some nice things and be able to display them in my home because, much to my surprise some days, I am an adult who has worked awfully hard to become one. This rug helps make my home feel less like a daycare and that alone makes it worth it's weight in gold. 

And just because I love you, I'm going to share with you all a few tips to keep in mind for cleaning a shag rug. Ours sits in a room that sees a decent amount of foot traffic not to mention the boys and the dog spend a lot of time playing on it. It also sits just feet from our kitchen making it a possible target for a food stain or two. Here's what has worked for us over the past several weeks:
  1. It may seem like a lot of work but take the shag rug outside once a month and hang it over a railing and beat it. This loosens any existing dirt and helps keep the rug smelling and looking fresh.
  2. If your vacuum has a "high pile" setting, use it. Shag rugs can be tricky to vacuum, even with an upholstery attachment but this setting helps greatly and doesn't allow the fibers to get caught in the vacuums spinning head. 
  3. Soak up spills immediately with a dry cloth or paper towel. Once spills settle deep into the fibers of a shag rug it can be near impossible to clean. Once you've soaked up as much of the spill as possible with a dry cloth, go over it with a damp one. Follow up with dry shampoo and vacuuming as needed. 
Keep in touch with Natural Area Rugs on their website
Sign up for emails and get $25 + free shipping off your first order $100 or more! 

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STANDARD FTC DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please note that I only endorse products that are in alignment with my personal ideals and those that I believe would be of value to my readers. 
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