October 15, 2013

Kids Formal Review and Giveaway

When the UPS truck pulled up to my house yesterday, I hurried outside to greet the delivery man because I knew exactly what he was bringing me. It was this beautiful Charcoal Suit from the Kids Formal warehouse. While, I admit that my son has worn a suit from Kids Formal before, that was a couple years ago when he was in a friend’s wedding (he was 3). So, there’s a good chance that my opinion could have changed regarding the Kids Formal boys suits over the last two years. Therefore, when Kids Formal offered me the chance to review this charcoal suit, I jumped on it!

At 5, this is my son’s first big boy suit and he’s pretty excited about it because now he can look like his daddy and grandpa for special occasions. And now, the exciting part for you! Kids Formal is giving you all the opportunity to win this suit for free! All you have to do is follow the instructions below to get yourself entered in our giveaway.

Before we get to the details of the giveaway, I want to take a minute to describe the suit in detail for you as the picture online does not do it justice. This 5-piece suit comes with the 3-button jacket, matching vest, dress pants, a white dress shirt and a matching clip-on tie. So, here’s how the suit “stacked up” in my book:
The first thing I noticed was the fabric of the suit. The color is just beautiful as it is darker than a normal grey but not quite black – it’s a very solid “charcoal” just like the online description says. Secondly, the material feels exquisite and very high quality. I can tell that my son will not have any problems with the quality of this suit as it is obviously well made. All of this was determined while the suit was hanging on the hanger before my son arrived home from school!

Once my son got home, the fun began as he couldn’t wait to try the suit on when he saw it!
The suit fits true to size, if you take the time to read the sizing chart information before you order. My son is comfortably wearing size 4/5 clothing in boys, so I chose to order the size 5 suit and it fit him perfectly. The white dress shirt was just right as it didn’t hug his body but wasn’t big on him either and the sleeves were the perfect length. It’s the same story with the vest. The vest gave him plenty of room to breathe without being “bulky” and the jacket was absolutely perfect. Not one thing I can complain about, even the sleeves fit great!
I was the most nervous about the pants on this suit because my son is quite skinny and we have a hard time finding pants that fit around the waist and are the right length. This is why I’m such a huge fan of the brands that have built-in elastic “belts” for the kids around the waist.

While the dress pants don’t have built-in “belts,” I didn’t need to worry about it because they also fit perfectly around the waist. The length of the pants was just a hair too long. I think I will probably have them hemmed for holiday events, but in a way where they can easily be let out and worn “as is” once he has another growth spurt. Therefore, the pant length really isn’t an issue for me because I feel like it’s a good thing for them to be just a hair too big so they will last longer.

Finally, the tough part of the review was finding out what my son thought about the suit. After all, you know how picky little boys can be when it comes to formalwear. I’ve heard it all from, “it’s too hot,” “the top button is too tight,” to “I can’t move in it!” So, I was a little nervous to find out what my little guy thought about this (gorgeous) suit.

He loved it! He didn’t complain about one thing on the suit and would have been happy wearing it for the rest of the evening if I would have let him. So, there you go – this Charcoal suit from Kids Formal is a big hit at my house!

So, now for the fun part – getting you entered to win this suit for your little man! All you need to do is follow the following instructions and you may welcome this beauty into your home free of charge this fall!

To enter, simply type your email address and name in the entry form below then click Begin.  To increase your chance of winning, you can enter a comment or share it with your friends.  For each of the optional click, you can earn an additional entry to the final drawing.  Thank you for sharing and good luck!

October 14, 2013

3 Things I’ve Learned from My Son’s First Day of Kindergarten

Well, it finally arrived. Yesterday was my son’s first day of Kindergarten. While a lot of my fellow mommy-friends have posted on Facebook, Twitter and their blogs about saying a tearful farewell as their little one’s headed off to school for the first time, I have to admit that I didn’t have this same experience. In fact, I think I was just as excited about my little guy heading off to school as he was!
I know, I sound like a horrible mother don’t I? Before you judge, consider this: my son has been going to all-day school since he attended the 3-year old program at a nearby school…and he LOVES school. My son is pretty outgoing and makes friends easily, and he was excited to get to go back to school and see all his friends again. How can I be sad about that?

I did discover a few things about myself on my son’s first day of Kindergarten though. Here they are:
Quiet time is good. I have to admit, it was a little weird coming back home and only having to care for the 1-year old. The house felt too quiet. However, as the day went on, I realized that I actually like my quiet time. While I love the heck out of my rambunctious 5-year old, it is nice to have a quiet house, giving me the ability to think. Over the summer, I put off most of my work until after the kids had went to bed because it was nearly impossible for me to get it done when they were awake. Now, with a (mostly) quiet house, I’m able get busy as I have the quiet time I desperately need.

Time is precious. I have a tendency to rush through my days. I’m always trying to get through one task in order to move on to the next, and I am often looking days ahead when I should be focusing on the here and now. Walking my son into his classroom on his first day of Kindergarten made me realize just how precious time is…and how much I take it for granted. It seems like just yesterday, my husband and I were taking him home from the hospital and now we’re sending him off to Kindergarten. The truth is that time flies by when you have kids and if we aren’t careful, we’re going to take it for granted and miss all of the important stuff. So, I’m determined that this year, I’m going to take one day at a time and appreciate all of the little gifts each day brings to myself and my family.

I’m spoiled. Yep, yesterday I realized that I’m pretty spoiled. For some reason, I found it a little odd that there weren’t more parents dropping their kids off for the first day of school. I grew up with a mom who always took us to school  on the first day and was able to be at all of our events, so I guess I just assumed this is how it is for every family. Yesterday I realized that not everyone has a job where they can take their kids to school and/or pick them up afterwards. I’m not quite sure why this didn’t dawn on me before, but it did make me feel pretty spoiled. While there are a lot of things I love about my job, the ability to be there for my kids on “big” days is definitely the best perk working from home has.

Above are the three things I learned on my son’s first day of school. What has the first day of school taught you?


October 13, 2013

Tips for Losing Weight and Toning Up After Baby

As a mother, I fully understand that joys that come with pregnancy as well as the post-baby blues. I’m not talking about postpartum depression (although the baby blues can lead to that), but rather the sadness that many new mothers feel when they look in the mirror shortly after the baby is born.
While I didn’t experience the post-baby blues with my first son, I did with my second. I had lost a substantial amount of weight before I got pregnant with my youngest and was actually within 10 pounds of my high school weight. Therefore, once I had my son, I was ready to get started on a weight loss plan. However, due to having a c-section I was limited to what I could do for six weeks. Looking in the mirror in the mornings as I got dressed was sometimes all it took to make me cry. I couldn’t help but miss my pre-pregnancy body and wonder if I would ever get it back.
If you are feeling the same way, then don’t stress because you can lose the baby weight and get your pre-pregnancy body back. By counting calories and exercising regularly, I was able to lose all my baby weight and then some within six (6) months of having my littlest guy. However, I still have just a little bit of extra cushion around my mid-section that I want to get off.
The truth is that I’m happy with my weight, but I’m just not as lean as I want to be. Therefore, I’m embarking on a new journey to help me get where I want to be (fitness-wise). Regardless of whether you are like my and just need to tone up or if you have a lot of extra weight to lose, the tips below will help both of us (if we stick to them):
·         Eat Clean – This is a really big one for me. As I said earlier, I lost all of my baby weight (plus 10 extra pounds) just by counting calories. I liked this method because I could eat what I wanted as long as I stayed under my calories for the day. So, now that I’ve dropped the weight and am working out 3-5 times a week, it’s time to get serious about toning up. The only way I’m going to tone up is to change my diet. I don’t believe in fad dieting, so I’m actually planning on making this a lifestyle change. Basically, I’m going to cut out 90% of the processed foods that I’ve been eating and focus on eating more fruits, veggies, nuts and unprocessed meats. In addition, I’m going to trade in my soda for water and other all-natural drinks. Clean eating will not only help drop weight, but it will also help lose inches and promote better digestion too.

·         Eat Healthy Snacks – I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time snacking during the day. Well, I can snack – but when I do it’s usually disastrous to my diet, so I usually just eat three meals a day with maybe one snack. This isn’t healthy. Since I will be eating a clean, non-processed diet, it is important that I eat healthy snacks all throughout the day. Healthy snacks keep energy levels up and the metabolism going.

·         Start Using Protein Shakes – Anyone looking to lose weight and get fit needs to be exercising on a regular basis. For those of us who want to tone up, it’s important that we lift weights at least 2-3 days a week and do cardio on the “off” days. I’ve been doing this for about 8 months now and have noticed results. However, I haven’t been drinking a protein shake after my workouts. This is something that I am going to start doing. Protein shakes give our body the protein it needs to better build (and tone) the muscles. Therefore, I need to be drinking protein shakes after my weightlifting workouts for maximum results.
It doesn’t matter where you are in your weight loss endeavors, the tips above will help you achieve the results that you’re after. I just hope that you don’t give up in your quest for a healthier/fitter body because you’ve had children. Be proud of the fact that you’ve carried children and know that you can get your pre-pregnancy body back with some hard work and determination!

October 11, 2013

Baby Turns One: What this Year Taught Me

Today my baby boy turned one. I’m seriously in shock that it’s already been an entire year since we welcomed him into the world. While the year has passed quickly, there have been a lot of changes this year including a job change for my husband, milestone birthday for the hubby and myself (30th) and of course, adjusting to life with a baby again. Needless to say, I have learned a lot in the past year and most of it is because of our littlest man.

·         Take Time to Smell the Roses – I don’t really remember taking the time to appreciate the small things with my oldest son and I blame part of that on the fact that he was our firstborn. With him, I was always trying to teach him something new or anxiously waiting for the next milestone achievement.

However, this time around things have been quite different. I often find myself just sitting and watching my little guy crawl around the living room floor and explore new things. Even if he is headed to the blinds, I don’t rush right over there to get him away from them. Instead, I wait and watch to see what happens. I also don’t get impatient when it’s time to give him a bottle and he wants me to hold it instead of him doing it himself. I guess I’ve learned to appreciate these moments now because it won’t be long and he’ll be heading out the door to go hang out with his friends on Saturday night.

·         Don’t Worry about the Small Stuff – One of the things that this little guy has managed to show me is that there isn’t any need to worry about the small stuff. This guy is my laid-back, everything-is-fun guy and the only time he is crying or upset is when he’s hungry, tired or has a poopy diaper. Think about it – those three things really are the most pressing issues for babies; everything else is minor.

I’ve started applying this attitude to my everyday routine. For example, I used to get pretty bent out of shape if I would catch Big Brother outside playing in his good dress pants instead of his “play” shorts. Now, when I catch him doing something like this, I take a moment to ask myself the question “Is this really a big deal?” Most of the time, the answer is “no.” Yes, I do go get him and make him change his pants (or stop whatever it is he’s doing that he’s not supposed to be), but I do it in a much calmer manner. Why? There’s no need to make a bad memory for my son over something minor like this. Let’s address the issue and move on.

·         Family Time is the Most Important – This may be something that I’ve learned as a result of turning thirty in combination with having our second (and last) child. I used to be of the mindset that we had to constantly be going (the hubby and I), especially on the weekends. Sitting at home was not something I wanted to do. However, over the last year I have really grown to appreciate the family time spent together at home – without the distractions that come from being out in public. I’ve also noticed that both of the kiddos seem happier when we spend the evenings together at home eating dinner and hanging out together in the family room before bed. On the nights when I want to do something special, I will usually just rent a movie for the hubby and myself to watch after the kids go to bed – it’s just as enjoyable as going out to the theater (and cheaper!).
I still can’t believe my little guy is already ONE, but when I look back over the last year and all that I’ve learned, I’ve got to say that I’m pretty excited about what the future holds for us. I am a firm believer that children teach their parents just as much (if not more) as parents teach them.

October 10, 2013

Gift Ideas for Infants

As many of you know, my baby boy is going to be turning the big ONE next week. Therefore, I am in full party mode right now trying to get everything done before his big birthday bash. One of the things that I had been struggling with was deciding what to get him for his birthday. After all, he isn’t really going to remember what he gets at this birthday party and he will get lots of toys from relatives and family friends, but as his parents we have to get him something.
Maybe you aren’t the parent of an infant but are going to be attending a birthday party or need to purchase a gift for an infant and don’t know what to get. Below are some of the ideas that I’ve had over the last few days as I struggled to decide what I should buy (and tell others to buy) for my little guy for his birthday.
1.      Walkers – After much deliberation, this was actually the gift my husband and I decided to go with. Basically, we didn’t want to get him another toy that was going to litter our living room floor. Instead, we wanted something that he would have fun with and use. So, we decided on the Melissa and Doug Rattle Rumble Push Toy. We chose this particular one because we like the old-fashioned look and feel of the Melissa and Doug toys, but really any walker similar to this will be a great gift for an infant just learning to walk.

2.      Bath Toys – While my little guy has lots of regular toys, he only has one bath toy and it’s one of those floating rubber ducks. He has just reached the age where loves playing in his bath water. He can honestly sit in there for 30 minutes without getting fussy. Therefore, bath toys are naturally going to make excellent gifts for my little guy – and I imagine they will make great gifts for any infant who enjoys bath time.

3.      Vibrating Teethers – I’m not sure about you, but we have been at the teething stage for a while now. However, my little guy hasn’t really taken to any teethers yet. I’m not sure what the deal is, but my oldest son fell in love with the vibrating teethers when he was about 14 months old – once his bite was strong enough to get it to vibrate. I’m guessing his little brother will be the same way, so I’ve requested a vibrating teether from grandma this birthday.

4.       Fisher-Price Infant Swing – This was actually an early birthday gift to my son from his grandparents but he loves it and I know most other infants will be the same way. There’s just something fun about getting to go out in the backyard and swing (without being in the arms of mom or dad) that infants love. Therefore, the Fisher Price Infant Swing is a great gift idea for any infant. 

5.      Money – Finally, if you just can’t decide what to get the little one for his/birthday or other special occasion, consider giving money. I know that babies don’t need money, but if the parents have set up a college fund already, then request that the money gets donated to his/her education. If a college fund hasn’t been established, savings bonds work great too.

October 9, 2013

Clutter and Kids

Last night my husband and I were able to visit with a couple that we have gotten to know pretty well over the last year. This couple is younger than we are (mid-20s), newly married (3 years) and they don’t have children yet. They have just moved to the same town that my husband and I live in and so we were bringing them our push mower to borrow until they can get one of their own. Naturally, we stayed and visited for a couple of hours while our almost 1-year old crawled around the living room and the 5 year old played Angry Birds on the iPad.

Christy, the wife, has managed to get about half of their boxes unpacked already and most of her furniture arranged in the way that she wants it. (I fondly remember the days when I was able to work uninterrupted…too bad I didn’t appreciate it when I had it!) Anyways, while we were talking we got to talking about our husbands and how they like to just shove things in places when they don’t know where to put them (instead of just asking).
Of course our husbands were both right there and contributing their thoughts and trying to defend their actions with good-natured humor. At one point Christy and her husband got in a playful argument about how everything has its “spot” and how much simpler things are when they both keep the items in their respective places. I looked at my husband during this playful argument and we both just laughed. Our friends both looked at us like “what’s so funny.”
I informed them that I remember the days when Beau and I had a place for everything. It was great…and then children came along. Now our house constantly looks like a tornado went through it and it is next to impossible to keep things in their respective places with little people in the house who think all of our possessions are their personal toys.
I love my children dearly and understand that this is just part of parenting young children. I know that it will get better, but right now (and probably for the next 10 years) this is where we are at. To be frank: I’ve accepted it. I choose not to stress myself out over the fact that my son insists on hanging his play jeans up next to his church suit. Or that I’m constantly finding his toys under the couch, on my dining room table and in other non-toy places. Yes, I do make him pick up his toys when I find them, but I’ve chosen to accept that he’s still a kid and clutter just comes with having kids. My husband, on the other hand, still hasn’t accepted this fact quite yet…but he will eventually.
I guess my post was inspired by my amusement from the conversation we had with our childfree friends last night. I remember the early years of our marriage and life without children. I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything, but I remember how easy it was to keep things in a nice, orderly state and not having to rush around like a crazy person when expecting company and there are days when I’m just a little bit envious.
What about you? Have you accepted the clutter that comes with children or are you like my husband and still fighting it?

October 8, 2013

Party Planning for the Busy Mom

Well, it is already that time for me. I’ve put it off for as long as I possibly can without anyone noticing that I’m not totally prepared. If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m currently in the middle of planning my son’s first birthday party.

When I had my first son, I planned his first birthday party out months in advance. You can bet that I was on top of my game then. However, this time around I’ve literally put it off until the last minute. I’m chalking my procrastination up to the fact that I have two children now (one who is an active 5 year old) and life is just a lot crazier for me now than it was 5 years ago. Those of you with multiple children know exactly what I’m talking about.

The good news is that it’s completely possible to plan a successful birthday party in a short amount of time. I officially started my party planning last night and am excited to say that about 70% of it is done!

Okay, so how is the busy mom supposed to plan an awesome birthday party when the birthday in question is only a couple weeks away? Here’s what I did:

Get on Pinterest: I’m a bit of a Pinterest junkie. I just love how easy the site makes brainstorming. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for landscaping ideas or first birthday party ideas – it’s all right there! And, most of the ideas are DIY tips with instructions, making the planning even easier. You can get on Pinterest and quickly get hundreds of ideas for an upcoming birthday party. Pinterest helped me decide on the theme (airplanes) and a host of other party details.

Use Shutterfly: I have to admit that I have never used Shutterfly, even though I’ve heard amazing things about this unique photo site. So, yesterday afternoon, which the kiddos were napping, I set up an account with Shutterfly and quickly designed little man’s birthday invitations. I literally had the invitations designed in about half an hour (this is fast for me), complete with a picture of little man, and ordered. It was a super quick process and when I was done with the invitation, they even had matching customized Address Labels and Thank You notes that I could order too.

While this doesn’t have anything to do with my son’s birthday party, I also bought prepaid print credits through Shutterfly. I’m about 2 years behind on printing pictures and the prepaid print package allows me to pay for the prints in advance and use it when I want. They were on sale (600 prints for $54..or .09 per print) so I bought two. This is a huge convenience for me because now I can upload my pictures to shutterfly, select the ones I want printed, click “order” and have them mailed to me! So convenient for this mom of two who hates dragging the kids along for errands like this!

Befriend Amazon & Ebay: Once I decided on the theme for my little guy’s party and got the invitations ordered, I was ready to tackle the party décor. Keep in mind that this was at 6 p.m. on a Sunday night. My solution was Ebay and Amazon. I know some people don’t like ordering online, but I tell you what – sites like Ebay and Amazon really give you more variety than local stores will and they’ll also be able to help you stay within budget better. Within an hour, I had all of my party decorations ordered through the help of these two sites.

So, if you’re a busy mom like me and have a birthday party coming up quickly, the tips above will help you get it all done. The best part about ordering online is that you can often find coupons for free shipping. I was able to order my invitations on shutterfly with free shipping as well as my party décor off of Ebay with free shipping! Good luck and happy party planning!

October 7, 2013

Healthy Meal Ideas for the Entire Family

Now that school is back in session, I’ve been feeling a little more pressure as time isn’t as plentiful as it was a month ago. From the minute my son gets off the school bus the time begins ticking away. We have to do homework, shower, prepare/eat dinner, brush teeth, pick up and get in bed all before 7:30-8:00 p.m.. It may not seem like a lot, but considering I have a 1 year old in the mix, it can be overwhelming if I don’t have a plan.
Aside from homework, the most time-consuming job is preparing dinner. I love to cook, but when I’m short on time it’s hard to prepare a good, solid meal for the family…at least that’s how it feels sometimes. Sure, it would be easy to pop in a pizza (and sometimes I do) and call it good, but that really isn’t feasible for every night of the week nor is it good for my family to eat that much processed food in a week.
I’m sure many of you are in agreement that meal preparation is a time-consuming job, but one that is important. I know I’m not the only one who wants to prepare healthy, well-rounded meals for my family. Therefore, I thought I would share a couple of the meals I prepare during the school week because they are quick, easy and healthy.
Zucchini Lasagna:
Sliced Zucchini (1/4” thick – about 2 ½ cups)
1 lb. ground turkey
½ c. onion
2 large tomatoes, diced
2 cans tomato paste
¾ t. dried oregano
¾ t. dried basil
¾ t. dried thyme
½ c. water
1 egg
1 c. low-fat ricotta
¾ c. mozzarella cheese
1.5 t. flour


1.      Boil zucchini for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.
2.      Fry turkey and onion until the meat is done. Drain if necessary.
3.      Add the next 8 ingredients and bring to a boil.
4.      Meanwhile, beat egg in a small bowl. Add the flour, ricotta cheese and half of the mozzarella.
5.      Place half of the turkey mixture in the bottom of an 8x8 casserole dish. Top with one layer of zucchini and half of cheese mixture. Repeat one time.
6.      Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes at 375°F.
7.      Remove from oven, sprinkle remaining mozzarella and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
8.      Let cool for 10 minutes and serve.

Spinach-Herb Linguine


 4 ounces fresh baby spinach
 1/4 C. slivered almonds
 1/4 C. fresh basil leaves
 2 t. fresh oregano, chopped
 1 t. fresh thyme, chopped
 1/4 t. black pepper
  2 T. vegetable broth
  2 t. lemon juice
 1/4 t. salt
 2 tablespoons olive oil
 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated and divided (about 1/4 cup)
 8 ounces uncooked linguine

  1. Microwave spinach in a covered, microwave-safe bowl on high for 2 minutes or until wilted. Uncover, cool slightly.
  2. Place spinach, almonds, and next 4 ingredients in a food processor and process until chopped.
  3. Add broth, juice, and salt. Pulse 4-5 times. Slowly pour oil through food chute and process until blended well. Scrape into a bowl and add half of cheese. Stir well and cover with plastic wrap.
  4. Cook pasta according to package directions, leaving out the salt and fat. Drain. Toss pasta with 1/2 cup of spinach mixture (pesto). Arrange about 1 1/2 cups of pasta mixture in each of 4 bowls; top each serving with 2-3 tablespoons of the remaining pesto and approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons of the remaining cheese.
Both of the recipes above are healthy and packed full of the nutrients my family needs to help them make it through the week. However, while they are healthy meals, I’m most excited about how easy they are to prepare. If you’re looking for a couple new healthy recipes to add to your family’s menu this week – try the two above!

October 6, 2013

Extra Money for the Holiday

Can you believe that we’re almost ready to wrap up another month? I can’t believe school is going to be starting in three weeks – it seems like yesterday I was trying to plan activities for my little guy that would get us through the “long” summer. Now, I find myself trying to start my holiday planning.

I know, we still have a little over four months before Christmas is actually here, but I like to get my shopping done early. I also hand make a few of the gifts I give to family and friends, which also takes some time too. As an early holiday planner, I’m constantly looking for ways to save and make extra money as the holidays approach.
I know that we can all use a little extra cash when the holidays begin to roll around. So, I thought I would share with you a few ways ideas for “making” some extra cash for this holiday season.

1. Put Money Back – The easiest way to make a little extra money is the old-fashioned save-your-money method. I start doing this in January, but you can start any time. What I do is put back a minimum of $50 from every paycheck. I treat it just like I do the mortgage payment, car payment, electric bill or any other bill. The $50 comes right off the top of my paycheck so I’m never tempted to spend it. By the end of the year, if you don’t add any money to the $50 per paycheck, you will have $1200 saved up. That’s a nice little extra cash that you can spend on gifts…

2. Take a Part-Time Job – A few months before Christmas arrives, a lot of stores begin hiring holiday help. Generally, I start to see “Holiday Help Wanted” signs up in our local stores towards the end of October and the first of November. While working a part-time job will take away time you get to spend with your family, it will give you extra money to spend on your loved ones at Christmas. And, if you are a stay-at-home mom, taking a part-time job outside the home for a few months may be fun.

3. Invest – This idea is the riskiest one of the bunch, but has the ability to make you some additional cash. If you know someone who invests in the stock market, you may consider talking to them about how they do it. If you have a little money to invest, talk to a broker/financial advisor about investing it in a way that will allow you to make some money before Christmas. Another idea is to buy a foreclosed home and flip it. If you find a good deal, you may be able to make a pretty good profit in time for Christmas. If flipping a house is a little more work than you want to do but you like the idea of investing in real estate, consider purchasing a rental property. Good rental properties generally bring in an additional $500-$800 a month profit.

There are certainly more ways to earn extra money for the holidays. All you have to do is think outside the box, make a plan and set it in motion. Regardless of whether you choose to make extra money this holiday season or not, now is the time to start thinking about the holidays!