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Do you have any regrets? Pursuing your passion project

passion project is something you work on (often outside of your chosen career path) that gives you satisfaction, happiness and puts you into a state of flow. It's what you do to escape it all. 

Do you have any regrets?

I was asked this at a conference two years ago and I cockily answered, "No." Anything I've wanted I've gone out and gotten... or at least tried. And the setbacks I wouldn't change either as it made me who I am today. So, with a smug smile, I sat there for a few blissful minutes telling myself that I had no regrets.

But inner voice inside me, kind of bitchy in tone, shouted "Liar! What about your book?" *pop* and just like that, my peaceful bubble burst.

Now let me confess my regret. I had started an untitled romance story back in high school. I would pick it up off and on over the years, but then I dropped it. I told myself it wasn't any good and that it was just too hard. I would often say if only I could wake up and everything inside my head could all be written out for me. Yup, lazy! I still wanted to write but figured short form like blogging was probably better for me and that's why I went into journalism.

After the conference got my wheels turning, I went home and did a search on my blog. Even back in 2004 when I started this blog I had completing my book as one of many New Year's resolutions. Yet, at the end of that year in my follow-up post, I had accomplished or put to rest most of my humorous goals except that one. Below is an excerpt from my list, so you can see what I'm talking about (for a blast from the past, check out that full post and the terrible Tripod platform that I used to publish on before technology 2.0, lol).
  • Will let my office crush know how I feel -- Nope, didn't do that, but the point is moot now and there were several other crushes along the way ;) 
  • Stop answering you know who's calls and being his bitch. --Done, see ya!
  • Go to Magnolia less frequently and to Thai restaurants more often. --I think I did that, well at least the Thai part.
  • See more Broadway plays/musicals. Yes, I saw eight shows!
  • Write an ending to the book I've been writing for 5 years so I can move on to the hundreds of other stories that are in my head. Nope, too chicken and no time. Hopefully, now that I'm done with my extra studies I can.  
Chicken!? Ugh there's that catty bitch talking smack again. I guess she's always been with me jeering me on.

14 years later I'm hoping to finally check that resolution off my list and shut down that inner negativity. No regrets baby!

Pursuing My Passion Project

So, I put on my big girl pants and got to work. I spent three straight weeks into the wee hours of the night writing a new story, Jesse's Girl. Followed by two years of editing it. I've learned that writing is the easy part, crafting it and ripping it apart is the hard part.

Yes, my inner taunter has been well fed the last few years of self-doubt and brutal feedback. I've attended conferences, taken classes and joined a local writer's group all in pursuit of passion. My passion project, which at times feels more like a masochistic project.

During the annual Romance Writers of America conference last year, I pitched Jesse's Girl to Simon and Schuster's digital arm Crimson Romance and my full manuscript was requested. However, the division just closed down :( I'm shopping it around, but my published friends are encouraging me to self-publish since I'm digitally savvy and will know how to market it. We will see. Either way, I'm hoping to have that out later this year.

I also wrote a short story, It Might Be You, which was accepted into an anthology of Florida Romance Writers - From Florida With Love: Moonlight & Steamy Nights. This 7,000-word tale (about 25 pages) took me two days to write and then months of rewrites and several edits.

In order to be considered, my submission had to include the Everglades, the glitz of downtown Naples, FL and a moonlight scene. From there I pulled upon actual real-life experiences and daydreams. Published by Melange Books Satin Romance, the e-book is on pre-order now and will be available later this week. It also releases in paperback at Amazon and B&N on May 1, 2018.

Good for you, but what about the story from high school??? 
Good point. Well, it wasn't any good. LOL! I since revamped it and it did come in 2nd place in the 2017 Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest. I have it entered in a bunch more that I'm waiting for the results of. I also just got feedback from a developmental editor and have to work on the ending. I finally got a title for it though, Mine to Five, an office romance. I wanted it out for the holidays since it has a Christmas sub-plot, but honestly, this is looking more like 2019.

But you have a blog, kids, and several jobs - aren't those your passion projects? Like you needed more?
Oh how you crack me up and yes, you're so right. I definitely didn't have the free time to take on such a time-consuming hobby, but it has made me happier and fulfilled. We'll see how the eventual reviews make me feel, but will cross that bridge when we get to it.

Feel better now?
Phew! Yes, I feel like I've kept this secret from all of you the last couple of years and it feels good to put it all out there. To finally be doing something about my regret. I know a few readers and friends have seen my Tara September social channels pop-up on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, but I've been in stealth mode till now. I'm coming out!

I can't wait to keep you all posted on the aforementioned books too. Stay tuned!

Oh, and why September and not Settembre? 
Well, it's a direct translation of my Italian last name and I figured it would be easier for people to spell, remember and overall less confusing. Also, if you search my real name this blog would come up and I want my future books to come up easier. Do you like it?

Words of Wisdom:

If you're thinking about pursuing your passion project, here's what I figured out along the way and found helpful:

Your dreams won't work unless you do! This was hard for me to accept, but once I did, I was able to at least complete my goal. I don't expect to be the next Nora Roberts, but at least now I can honestly say that I don't have any regrets!

While I was getting my master's back when-you-don't-need-to-know-how-many years ago, I had written on the inside cover of my notebook: "Think back to those dreams you had and applaud yourself for coming so far so quickly." Along with a taped up fortune cookie slip that read, "Even when you can't see them, the stars appear every night, all is well." I'd repeat these two things every day back then and now I'm finding comfort in them again :)

And speaking of Nora... "If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it." - Nora Roberts

10 Reasons To Find Your Passion Project

Tips for Pursuing Your Passion Project and Words of Wisdom

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Disney's A Wrinkle In Time Movie Pass Giveaway

During this year's Disney's Social Media Mom's Celebration and Conference, we saw an extended sneak peek of Disney's A Wrinkle in Time. I didn't read the book, so I wasn't familiar with this family-friendly fantasy already.

Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time is an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic that takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light, good versus evil and, ultimately, the triumph of love. Through one girl’s transformative journey led by three celestial guides, we discover that strength comes from embracing one’s individuality and that the best way to triumph over fear is to travel by one’s own light.

I was first struck with how visually stunning the film is as it leapt from Earth to different worlds. I've always been a fan of Reese Witherspoon too, so it was fun seeing her in this mystical role...and of course hottie Chris Pine appears too ;)

A Wrinkle in Time is now playing in theatres everywhere!

A Wrinkle in Time Movie Giveaway

A Wrinkle in Time Movie Giveaway

Enter below to win two movie passes to see A Wrinkle in Time, as well as receive a hardcover copy of Disney's A Wrinkle in Time: A Guide to the Universe book. Good luck!

Wrinkle In Time Movie Passes & Book
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It's Okay to Just Be OK - Mom Life

Two steps forward, two steps back.

Making some headway and then a road block. No matter how much I do or try, it doesn't seem to be enough. Good enough, sure, but not enough.

Just when I'm feeling in my groove online and offline in my life, I go to a social media conference or see someone else's immaculate desk on Instagram or parents who remembered it was Dr. Suess' birthday. Then, I look at my blog's growth, my desk with piles and piles of papers stacked on it or my crock pot cheat meal and it's like ugh, F' it!

This blog will never be the "business" that other mom bloggers have made theirs, but you know what? I've been working and typing it for 13 years now (yup, 13 freakin years) and I'm still here and it's all good.

I've always been a confident person, whether warranted or not, but it's a whole new uncharted world when it comes to being a mom and a woman post-kids. I'm not as confident and it shakes me. Especially now with my career not being the main focus anymore and how that defines me.

Surprisingly, it was truly embracing the motto on this "World's Okayest Mom" mug that I have on my desk. The dose of reality it serves makes me feel better about being the mom, wife, writer and blogger that I am.
It's been healthier for me and my family to simply own being the best at being Okay
I'm not the best and that's fine. Booyah! 

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Insider Tips & Secrets for the Disney Dream Cruise

Are you heading on Disney Cruise Line's Disney Dream ship? Lucky you! Below are some can't miss activities, helpful tips and useful insider secrets to wow your friends and family during your sail. These are tested and true reccomendations for kids and adults on what to do, what to skip, how to avoid lines in the process and have a great sail and an even more magical vacation. 

17 VIP Tips for the Disney Dream

Insider tips and secrets for the Disney Dream cruise line ship

Download the App Prior to Boarding - The Disney Cruise Line Navigator is a free app that helps you navigate the ship, see the ship schedule and text with other passengers while onboard. You'll be using this app often to message each other since it makes coordinating so much easier, plus the adorable Disney emojis! All of the functionalities will work only once you are connected to the on-board wifi, but in the meantime, there is also a countdown clock for your trip to get you pumped!

Check in Online for Earliest Boarding Time - Our first Disney cruise we only checked in online several days before our trip. This was a mistake, because by then the earliest available boarding time was 2 p.m. and we wanted to get on as soon as possible. So, to get the most of your time on the ship, check in online as soon as you are able to via the My Disney Cruise Line website. This site also allows you to schedule a character call with one of the characters welcoming everyone, which is really fun for the kids. TIP: Even though you may board around Noon, you will NOT be able to go in your room until after 1:30 p.m., so be sure and bring a tote bag with pool gear or other items that you'll want handy before your luggage arrives.

Watch On-Demand Classic Disney Movies and Marvel blockbusters - Besides the few live channels offered on the flat screen television in your room, there is an on-demand movies feature available on the Disney Dream, where you can access almost all of Walt Disney’s animated films regardless of them being in the Disney Vault or not. This allowed us to show the boys some classics that we didn’t have on DVD and have age-appropriate content for them without consulting the channel guide. Not all the Disney Cruise Ships have this feature (Disney Wonder doesn't) so take advantage of it! To access this feature, just hit the MENU button on your remote. For adults, they have live-action Disney movies and Marvel flicks available too.

On Demand Disney Movies - just hit the Menu button
Beauty and the Beast show is a must-see! Each Disney Cruise Line ship has a different musical production. Disney Wonder has Frozen and the Disney Dream now has Beauty and the Beast. This jaw-dropping show is based on the recent live-action version of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. To say it's Broadway-caliber is putting it mildly, in fact, it's better than the original Broadway version, which I saw twice growing up. The high-tech set is stunning, the performances brilliant and the puppetry is somehow realistic. And this is no joke, we heard tales of two men crying (one a Vietnam vet) that evening from the production. My five-year-old boys were glued to their seats. If you have little ones, be sure and grab a booster seat at the entrance when entering the theater. Also, line-up at LEAST a half hour before showtime if not sooner. The lines go all the way down from the theater to the gift shops. Try to sit within the first 15 rows if you'd like to experience the fog special effects and streamers to fall on you during the "Be our Guest" song. However, if you or your child suffers from asthma maybe sit further back. 

Keep Calm and Dole Whip on - Yasss! You can get the infamous Dole Whip float while onboard the Disney Dream too. Order up at the Frozone Treats juice bar by the Eye Scream station on Deck 11 for $4.95. You can make it an adult-version with dark rum for $6.75 or have it spiked with Vanilla Rum for $9.00.
You can order Dole Whip at Frozone Treats juice bar

Ride the AquaDuck Waterslide on Port Days and at Night 
- While all of the Disney Cruise Line ships have water slides and splash areas, the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy have the awesome AquaDuck, which allows riders to glide through a water-gushing acrylic tube that takes you all over the ship and out over the ocean for a few seconds. You can ride single rider or with another passenger on a raft. The ride is 765 foot long and exists on 46-foot tall stilts. The views from this water coaster are beautiful and thrilling. The lines though, not so much. During lunchtime while at Castaway Cay is a great time to go back on the ship and ride the AquaDuck. It was only a 10-minute wait then, but generally, any port day has less of a line. For an added thrill, ride the AquaDuck at night and experience dazzling multicolored lights!

AquaDuck water coaster slide
See the rotating skylines in the Skyline Bar (and spot Mickey and other hidden gems too) - Savor a cocktail as the virtual view at Skyline transports you to cities around the globe. Skyline is small and intimate and resembles a chic martini bar or a metropolitan whiskey lounge. Behind the bar are HD screens that magically transform from one virtual city skyline to the next. Developed by Disney Imagineering, the unique "windows to the world" aerial city views change with a sprinkle of pixie dust every 15 minutes—from London to Barcelona, or Hong Kong to New York! Look closely... and you'll spot taxis speeding along and silhouettes of residents closing their windows—you may just find Mickey Mouse waving from a corner balcony in London! You can also cozy up to Skyline's unique "digital fireplace" to wind down your evening.

Know how Pub 687 got its name - also in The District, the adult area of the ship this pub is named after Disney Dream's original hull number before it was named Dream. A sports-fan’s paradise, this lounge is outfitted with huge flat-screen LCD TVs to view live broadcasts via satellite. Discover its rich details, including overflowing trophy cases, a stamped metal ceiling and leather-upholstered club chairs. Be sure to order the most popular "beercocktail," the Baha Fog, which adds a shot of tequila to a lime-rimmed frosted glass of Corona beer.

Admire the Glass Slipper Chandelier in the Royal Palace dining room.  Dine like royalty on French-inspired, continental fare at this enchanting restaurant inspired by classic Disney Princess films. Although the elaborate chandelier is in the dead center of the Royal Place restaurant, it's easy to miss the hidden details depending on where you are seated. We had a partition in our way, so if our server didn't point it out, we would have miss that it was brimming with glass slippers. The crown valances on the windows are easier to notice.

Royal Palce chandelier is brimming with glass slippers
If you want to dine at the adult-only Palo or Remy restaurants don't do it on your Animator's Palate night - DCL has an innovative rotational dining, where each night you are assigned a different sit-down restaurant to dine at. While we loved them all, especially the food at each, Enchanted Garden, however, offered less entertainment and ambiance than the rest. So, I would recommend skipping EG in favor of the adult only restaurant Palo or Remy. Keep in mind that there is an additional fee for dining there. It's so worth it though as the food is even more amazing and it's very romantic for couples! You can make your reservation ahead of time online or as soon as you board and see your dining schedule. Oh, and this is a formal dining experience, so no flip-flops or sneakers and guys must be in dress pants. 

Take advantage of the Oceaneer's Kids Club & Lab - I recently spoke with a family who went on DCL, but never had their child go to the kids club. I know vacationing with the family is about spending time with your family, but don't think of the kids club as a bad thing. Believe me, it's one big playground for them! Sure, you can use the service sparingly, but definitely have your kids go at least once while on the ship. We did an adult-only dinner at Palo and checked our kids in. I chose not to have dessert, rushing to go get them and guess what? They didn't want to leave. They were making cookies with Captain Hook and whined the minute they saw me (ouch!). In the end, I had to wait there in my dress and heels for them to finish, lol.

Just take a look at how awesome it is: 

TIP: Pre-register your children online first, so when you get on the ship you simply have to pick-up their Magic Bands. Also, don't forget to return the bands before you disembark or you will be charged for them.

Scuttle's Cove kids area & Serenity Bay on Castaway Cay - The kids club is also available on land while at Castaway Cay, it's called Sculley's Cove and is essentially a big beach sandbox for kids to play. They have activities and water play areas. We checked our boys into the club for an hour after lunch, so they could run around before going back on the ship for nap time. 

Scuttle's Cove kids club on Castaway Cay
You can use this alone time to visit the adult only beach, Serenity Bay, which is less crowded and has amazing views and chairs that you can put right into the clear blue water. Also, the BBQ lunch buffet here has less of a line.

Free Room Service Milk & Cookies - Room service itself is free and available 24/7. There is a menu in your room with a full list of options. This came in handy for an afternoon snack for our boys like Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. Also, a fun tradition we started was ordering cookies and milk before bed while watching a Disney on-demand movie.

Free room service on Disney Dream cruise ship milk and cookies ordered to your room tip
Milk and Cookies delivered
BYOB –  If you imbibe and would like to save some money, bring your own. Each adult is allowed to bring 2 bottles of wine or champagne or 6 bottles of beer. Make sure that liquor is in your carry-on bag as you go through the cruise terminal for inspection. Do not check it in with your bags, as it will be confiscated and returned at the end of your trip. We opened our bottle on the balcony before dinner and ordered a cheese plate to be delivered to our room along with two wine glasses. See above about free room service! If you purchase duty-free liquor at port, they will hold the bottles for you, which can easily be collected once you disembark.

Pack Door DecorationsThe cabin doors aboard Disney cruise lines are a work of art! Guests decorate their doors with photos and decorations of all kinds, including magnets with their names and favorite characters on them. It's fun to simply walk around see what others have done. To personalize our door we ordered this cute door magnet with each of our first names listed and I also added a shameless plug to my blog URL, lol. Another great thing about decorating your door is that it makes it easy for kids to spot their room. Stickers are not allowed.

Disney Cruise Family Packing List - Pack Door Decorations

Bring Change- Yes, tips are already included in the daily occupancy rates, but we added an extra $5-$10 in each of the waitstaff envelopes and $20 for our Cabin Steward during our 3-night cruise. However, since all you need is your room key to charge to your account on the ship, we had to scramble to find actual money for tips. So do have some smaller bills handy for this purpose. Also, there is a post office on Castaway Cay that only takes cash and not room keys, so if you want to send a postcard, remember to pack a few bills in your beach tote. 

Buy Lanyards - You may also want to pre-order Disney lanyards with a detachable coin purse to hold money and your room key. It's also great for kids, so they don't lose their key. I found it helpful too since I didn't wear or need a purse when on the ship and my bathing suit and sundresses didn't have pockets. Although, if you've sailed before with Disney and are a Silver Castaway Club member or higher, you will receive a free lanyard at checkin.

Video Tour of Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom #10142 with Verandah:

The Ultimate Disney Cruise Family Packing List

Disney Wonder Insider Tips

Disney Dream with Toddlers & Preschoolers:

Tips for Going on a Disney Cruise with Toddlers & Preschoolers 

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Rum Distillery Guide for Southwest Florida

Florida might be known for its craft beer breweries, but it also has its share of craft rum distilleries too. Really good ones.

Why? Like Caribbean rum, the sub-tropical temperature is ideal and Florida has plenty of locally grown sugar and molasses too.

Mr. Tom's Spirits List Distillery in Fort Myers, Florida
Distillery lineup of Mr. Tom's Spirits in Fort Myers, Florida
Best of all, you can try FREE samples for tasting, get a tour of the facilities and learn about the process of how the drink is made from aging to bottling. You can also purchase your favorite bottle after without the liquor store markup. It's a great place to take visiting friends and family or to spend a Saturday afternoon.

We did a tour of all three distilleries for my 35th birthday (make sure you have a designated driver). Cheers!

Below is your guide to the distilleries of Southwest Florida:

Alligator Bay Rum, Punta Gorda, Florida

Tip: This brother-run distillery is near the Punta Gorda airport off of 75. It's charming and chill. I love sipping their award-winning Dark Rum and their Gold Rum the best.

List Distillery - Mr. Tom's Spirits, Fort Myers, Florida 

Rum, Vodka, Whiskey, Gin, Liqueurs and Herbal

Tip: Their setup is the real deal and I love their logo & branding. My favorites are their cream liquors and key lime vodka. Their is a charge however for their tours & tastings and reservations are required, but they often run Groupon specials.

Wicked Dolphin Distillery, Cape Coral, Florida

Tip: Loved their Coconut Rum and don't worry it's not like the cheaper Malibu you might have tried in college.

Rum Distillery Guide for Southwest Florida
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5 Easy Tips for Staying Fit While on a Cruise

Cruise lines get a bad rap when it comes to food and passengers gaining weight. People often joke that you come off weighing more than you did when you went on. Fortunately, this isn't necessarily true.

You may be picturing cattle lines to the buffet, but that's an outdated image.You can actually be quite active while on a cruise.

I've gone on 10 and 15-day cruises and have been able to maintain my current weight and still have fun... and eat extremely well by following these five simple rules.

5 Easy Tips for Not Gaining Weight on a Cruise & Still Have Fun

  1. Book adventurous shore excursions. From hiking to biking there are more options than just going around on a motor bus. During an Alaskan cruise, we had an amazing tour on kayaks where we spotted bald eagles, saw a salmon hatchery and more. We definitely earned our dinner that day. With Princess Cruises, each shore excursion lists the activity level from easy, moderate to difficult.

    Kayaking in Alaska on Princess Cruises
  2. Take the stairs, no matter if you're going up or down one deck or eight. You'll also avoid the lines waiting around for a crowded elevator to arrive and get a workout in the process. Plus, each floor features different artwork on each landing.
    Take the stairs and view the different artwork
  3. Have breakfast in bed and skip the buffet. To avoid temptation, we fill out the breakfast card in our cabin the night before and hang it on our stateroom door for a healthy meal to be delivered to our room in the morning. The choices on the card usually are minimal and include things like yogurt, cereal, and fresh fruit. We also use this delivery as our wakeup call each morning.

    Take advantage of a continental breakfast in bed

    Room service on cruises are typically free, so why not take advantage? You can order a pot of tea or coffee too and have it on your balcony if you have one. Same goes for lunch. Instead of an over the top buffet, we usually go for another lunch option in the cafe, dining room or the grill area if they have it. When we have fewer options, we tend to not overeat. Plus, the dinner buffet is usually the best, but even then we tend to opt for eating in the dining room for a more luxurious and fine dining experience.
  4. Do a lap or two around the walking track at sunrise or sunset. It's great for breathing in the fresh sea air, taking photos, and can help those feeling seasick

    Take in the views from the walking and jogging track

  5. Go to the gym on at-sea days. The funny thing is that I don't hit the gym when I'm at home, but I do while cruising. It's usually never crowded and peddling on an elliptical that looks over the ocean isn't much of a hardship.
Bonus DCL Tip: If you're sailing on a Disney Cruise in the Caribbean you can sign up for their Castaway Cay 5k run for FREE. Just sign up at Passenger Services. The course is on their private island and over flat paved ground. You even get an awesome Disney medal at the end, which makes a great souvenir. All skill levels are welcome. My cousin ran the course in 40 minutes in a Cinderella tutu and her husband was in the top ten to finish, which was at around 28 minutes. After the run, you can dip in the clear blue ocean on the private beach. Paradise! 

Disney Cruise Line Castaway Cay 5k Run medal

5 Easy Tips for Not Gaining Weight on a Cruise & Still Have Fun

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5 Simple Ways to add Protein to your Child’s Diet

I don't know about you, but I find it a struggle to get my boys to eat meat. Fortunately, I've found the following five easy to add products to their meals to pick up the slack without much stress on my part. 

Even if your child isn't eating meat, they are likely still getting their daily fix already through alternative options like these below. Many foods contain protein, but the best sources are beef, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, milk, nuts, seeds, and legumes like black beans and lentils.

Why does protein matter? Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. 

Kids require approximately 1-1.5 grams of protein for every TWO pounds of body weight. Thus, a 40-lb child needs approximately 18 grams protein per day! 

5 Simple Ways to add Protein to Your Child's Diet5 Easy Ways to add Protein to your Child’s Diet

Mini Babybel Cheese

Perfect for on-the-go, adding to a lunch box or as a mid-day snack. Mild, creamy and delicious, Original Mini Babybel snacks are 100% real cheese. It's also a good source of calcium and protein (5g). If you have a picky cheese eater, try pairing it with crackers or pretzels. Bonus, my boys think it's really fun to peel the outer wax layer, so go ahead and let them unwrap it. I'll often give them a Mini Babybel when they get home from school or while they are watching TV and waiting for dinner to be ready. Plus, mommy likes snacking on these as well!

Milk or Chocolate Milk

There's a reason why they say milk does a body good. An 8oz Cup of Milk contains 8g of protein, plus 30% calcium too. I still pour them a glass of milk each morning with breakfast and whenever we dine out, I'll usually order water or chocolate milk only. No juice or sodas. Having chocolate in their milk is a real treat for them and at least I know they are having protein too.

GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ 

My boys already like their applesauce pouches, but now the 100% natural brand offers the goodness of real yogurt and fruit on the go – no refrigeration needed! Even better? YogurtZ has no preservatives, 4g of protein and is a good source of calcium and vitamin D in each shelf-stable pouch. Plus, gluten and nut free too. So far, my boys have liked all four flavors from Banana to Berry.

GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ

Yummy Spoonfuls Nuggets 

These frozen organic Chicken Broccoli Bites are packed with 17g of protein and great for a quick lunch or dinner item for the under 5 set - with just like homemade ingredients. Simply defrost, warm and serve. Also, use them to create mini chicken-burgers, or add to pasta sauce and salads. A healthy finger food for early eaters too. Available at Target.

Yummy Spoonfuls Chicken Broccoli Bites

Peanut Butter Energy Balls 

Typically, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter equal 8 grams of protein, so slather it on bananas, bread, wherever you can. We use Skippy's Natural Peanut Butter.

Also, PB is a key ingredient in these easy, no-bake energy balls, which I've been on a huge kick making for my boys. Each week, I've tried different flavors and cereals to mix in. My boys now wake-up in the morning and help themselves to these in the freezer.

They are super easy to whip up, believe me, I'm not much of a baker. Although mine may not look as nicely rounded as the ones in the Pinterest recipe below, they still taste good. Plus, oats add even more health benefits. Ben even enjoys making them with me... sometimes.
Peanut Butter, No-Bake Energy Balls for Kids to add Protein to their Diets
Peanut Butter, No-Bake Energy Balls


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Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Real Moms

Sound familiar? It's 5 a.m., not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. You have another hour of sleep available, but you bolt upright in bed. You forgot to move the damn Elf on the Shelf!

Day 5 and I was already out of ideas for this Mother Elfer. So, I did a search on Pinterest, like you do, and I wanted to cry. I'm a fairly creative person, but apparently, I was on the naughty list, because our Elf never created a winter wonderland or had a spa day for my kids.

I decided to step up my Elf game but vowed that I wasn't going to jump through hoops either. So, here are some actual doable Elf on the Shelf ideas that can easily be done no matter how busy you are.

13 Easy Real Life Elf on the Shelf Ideas Any Parent Can Do

13 Easy Real Life 'Elf on the Shelf' Ideas that Any Parent Can Do

Elf Arrives with an Elf on the Shelf book. Great way to start off the tradition with a reminder about how "the magic" all works. You can simply reuse the book your Elf came with or buy one of these smaller Elf on the Shelf board books.
Elf on the Shelf Scout Elves Present: Hooray! It's Your First "The Elf on the Shelf" Library

Elf on the Shelf LEGO Christmas Tree - Okay I'm pretty proud of this one. Using green Mayka toy block tape, I cut out three strips to form a triangle and stuck it to the wall. Don't worry, the tape really doesn't ruin your surfaces and can be removed easily. I then collected loose LEGO blocks for ornaments and made it look like Buddy made a LEGO Christmas Tree for our kids.

Elf on the Shelf LEGO Christmas Tree using green Mayka toy block tape

Sitting with Other Stuffed Animals. Arrange your elf with other stuffed animals in the house for a magical play date. The balloon he's holding was another fun bonus.

Elf Brings Candy! Your kids have been so good, he's left treats out for them. This was easily their favorite day, even if they had to brush their teeth after! They bragged to everyone who would listen that their elf gave them candy canes and colored marshmallows :)

Playing with Play-Doh. We put him up on top of our water cooler with a few jars of Play-Doh and molded a snowman and a candy cane, which we hooked into his hands.

Elf on the Shelf with Play-Doh

Netflix and Chill. My boys found this very funny that "Buddy" was up late watching holiday movies. Compile some Christmas DVDs and put the remote in between his sewn hands and sit him high up on the couch or on top of your TV stand or cable box. You could throw in a bag of popcorn or other props and watch one of the movies later that day too. We did!

Elf on the Shelf holiday movie night

Elf Delivers Letters To Santa. We drafted letters to Santa and put them in our stockings. The next day the letters were gone, Buddy had delivered them to the North Pole and was so tired he took a nap in our stockings. This really brought home the magic of our Elf.

Our Elf on the Shelf Doesn't Move! My son was having a bad day at school and the teacher even had to tell me that he wasn't being kind to a friend. So, when we got home, I told Buddy and that night he stayed in the same spot. I explained in the morning that his magic only works when the children of the house are good.

Reading in Bed - I tucked our elf under a blanket, propped him up on a pillow and put a book in front of him. Bonus, this reemphasizes that reading is fun!

In the Christmas Tree with a NEW ornament - Every year our elf makes an appearance high up on our X-Mas tree, because let's face it, it's the ultimate if all else fails idea. You can spice it up though by having a new ornament next to him or have him holding tinsel.

Hanging in a Wreath. Another easy fail-safe idea, for a late night where am I putting him Elf scramble.

Flying from the Chandelier, Fan or Ceiling light. For the latter, I used a strand of green Mardi Gras beads to tie him up there. I told the boys he must have been decorating, lol.

In the Fridge Getting a Late Night Snack - Stick him in the fridge. This spot will keep your kids busy looking everywhere for him, so you might want to save this for a weekend day. I got to sleep in an extra 15 minutes thanks to this idea. If you have Elf on the Shelf accessories like a coat or scarf, now is the time to put those on. I bought ours at B&N the day after Christmas last year for 50% off.

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