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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Top Halloween Costumes for 2014 - TMNT, Frozen & Game of Thrones


With Halloween just days away, here are some last minute costume suggestions/inspiration.

As the leading authority for all things Halloween, Spirit Halloween, the largest seasonal Halloween retailer in North America, announces the most popular Halloween Costumes this year.

·         New Disney characters like Frozen’s Elsa, Anna and Olaf
·         Official Game of Thrones (exclusive license)
·         DIY costume themes around Harlequin, Burlesque, Punk, Leopard and more
·         Disney Princesses including Ariel, Rapunzel and Merida
·         The Walking Dead (exclusive license)
·         Nostalgic Characters such as Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat and Where’s Waldo
·         Superheroes including  Batman, Captain America, Spiderman and Transformers
·         Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
·         Day of the Dead 

With a husband named Raphael I thought it only fitting to go with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles this year. Plus, their toddler romper outfits are just darling, easy to put on and are great costumes for multiples and siblings too. The shell on the back is plush, like a stuffed animal, making my kids extra huggable. I also like that it doesn't have a mask that goes over their eyes but sits on their head instead.
Costumes can be expensive, but at $24.99 each and for what you get, I think it's a bargain. Especially for families like mine that don't make our costumes. They have matching parent TMNT shirts available too, but I didn't order those in time and now they are sold out. However, I plan on checking our local Spirit store this weekend. *fingers crossed*

Plus, did you know that when you purchase a costume from Spirit Halloween you are helping to support their annual tradition of bringing the fun and spirit of Halloween to hospitalized children with its Spirit of Children program. Founded in 2006, Spirit of Children supports Child Life departments across the country, making hospital stays less scary for kids and their families. The program positively impacts thousands of pediatric patients and their families by providing both fun and funding to hospitals during the Halloween season and all year long. This year, Spirit of Children’s goal is to raise $5.2 million nationally, bringing its total contribution to $21 million! Wow!


Also, here is a great Pinterest find of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-themed treat "Toxic Ooze" i.e. green Jello to give out at Halloween or serve at a kid's birthday party.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Birthday Party ~ Part 1 The Decorations

Related Post: DIY Orange Polka Dot Glitter Pumpkins and White Boo Pumpkins

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, but sponsored or not, I only share stuff I love. Truly.
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Friday, October 24, 2014

Family Vacation at Beaches Turks & Caicos - Social Media in the Sand

I recently spent four fabulous days at the all-inclusive Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa to attend the invite-only Social Media on the Sand Conference, which was hosted by Beaches Resorts and BSM Media.

This was actually our first family vacation together, because although we've traveled with our boys before it was always to visit family or we would do an adults only trip without the kids. It was so lovely being all together and it made traveling easier being at a resort that specializes in families like Beaches.

I've stayed at all-inclusive resorts before with long buffet lines, dirty carpets, watered down drinks, low class guests and it left a bad taste in my mouth, but fortunately Beaches Resorts is on a different league with 5-star service.
Beaches Resorts is celebrating 10 years partnering with Sesame Street
Our stay was pure luxury and everything was really included from food at 19 specialty dining options to unlimited top-shelf liquor (they have a partnership with Remy so Dewar's White Label was available and they have wine bottled exclusively for Beaches - I liked the Cabernet), water sports including Scuba diving in the beautiful azure waters that PADI voted as the Top 5 in the world (we went snorkeling), shuttle transfers to and from the airport and even a kids camp for all ages including infants and toddlers! Plus, lots more like Pirates Island - a big water park for all ages featuring nine slides, lazy river, surf simulator, water cannons, cranks and spray features. Oh, and another bonus, they have a ‘No Tipping’ policy for all staff except Butlers and Spa Therapists.
One of three swim up bars. Yes, please!
Once there I loved NOT feeling nickle and dimed by  having to pay for add-ons or hidden fees. Even tax is included in your per person, per night rate up front. Thus, although the upfront price is higher than going on a cruise, which is what we normally do, but once you arrive, that's it. With cruising you then have to pay for liquor, excursions, etc.and that all adds up.

Starting next month, there will also be free WiFi in every room and when you don't have a cell phone that works internationally, this is key for staying in touch with family back home. There's more to come though! Sandals/Beaches Resorts CEO Adam Stewart says their resorts could include bowling alleys, ice rinks and a movie theater. Wow!

When speaking about his staff Stewart said "The only time you will hear us say 'no' is when we say 'no problem.'" I loved that. We asked our room attendant for milk to put in our mini bar for the boys and by that afternoon it was there. *sigh* So helpful and these little courtesies made for a less stressful trip.

I know I could go back several times and never be bored as there's so much to do and we barely explored and experienced everything and only ate at a handful of their restaurants. We can't wait to go again as the boys get older and I'd also love to visit their other locations one day.
As if the trip and conference weren't enough, Social Media in the Sand attendees were further pampered with goodies and experiences from partners: Coppertone, Avon, Jolen, Party City, HP, Lands’ End, IRISTOCRACY’s fine eye-wear sunglasses (seen in photo below), Yummie by Heather Thomson (I already own and love their products), Earth's Best, neuro drinks, Sea-Band, Certain Dri (so helpful since we forgot to pack antiperspirant), Cystex Plus and Puracyn Wound and Skincare Solution.
Sporting my new Iristocracy shades
Also, look at these super cute teal FlipOut Sandals, where you can easily change the style of them by switching out the different charms from bejeweled roses, to hearts to butterflies.
FlipOut Sandals
The boys weren't left out either as they received a Lets Imagine Elmo, an interactive plush toy from Playskool that will surely be a popular holiday gift this year. Each hat that you place on Elmo's head (cowboy hat, crown or sailor) brings on a new form of play and imagination. They liked it so much they wanted them in their cribs at night, but I turned off the power button so the toys talking wouldn't keep them up.  
Boys with Let's Imagine Elmo
If you're planning a trip to Beaches Resorts with little ones, be sure and read my Traveling Mom post below, with advice and lessons learned from our trip with photos from the kids camp, the cribs and what kind of stroller to pack.

Read moreTips for Traveling With Infants & Toddlers to Beaches Resorts

Disclaimer: An an attendee I received a discounted rate at Beaches Resorts and complimentary gifts from sponsors, however, flights were not included and as always all thoughts are naturally my own. 
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Festive Peanuts™ Prize Pack Giveaway

Decoration is the name of the game at holiday time—and with this month's festive Peanuts giveaway, you can decorate your home and yourself with the following prize pack!

First, give your nails the Halloween spirit with these adorable Great Pumpkin–themed nail polishes from OPI. This limited edition 4 piece collection is inspired by phrases and sketches of Snoopy and Charlie Brown's t-shirt squiggle.
Then make your holiday home even more adorable with a miniature Charlie Brown ornament. And you've got the perfect soundtrack for your tree-trimming party, courtesy of this month's interview subject, jazz musician and Peanuts composer David Benoit, whose classic CD, 40 Years of a Charlie Brown Christmas, offers Benoit's gorgeous take on the music we all love so much.

What is it about A Charlie Brown Christmas and its music—what would the special be like without the music?
It wouldn’t have quite the same charm and appeal. It’s a perfect marriage. You can’t imagine one without the other. It must have been fate that brought Vince Guaraldi to Lee Mendelson. I know from writing original music for Peanuts, Vince Guaraldi was always the reference point.

So you feel jazz is the right genre for Peanuts music?
 I do. The kids are very sophisticated, their emotions, their vocabulary. Peanuts was one of first strips to do that—to have kids speaking intelligently, expressing deep emotions. Jazz, because of its sophistication, seemed to work very well. After Vince Guaraldi died, they tried using other composers; many of them, like Judy Munson, were very good. But she approached it from traditional cartoon composing, and it wasn’t the same. Upbeat jazz just hit a spark. They were looking for another jazz pianist to start writing music, that’s how they found me.

What was it about music and the brand that appealed to you so much? 
Well, it was Charlie Brown and he was a loser! He was depressed a lot, and I was having a childhood like that myself [laughs]. I related to him, and felt I had a kindred spirit out there. Then the music was jazz and piano and upbeat and fun—I got hooked on it right away.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Friday, October 10, 2014

Baby Items I used During my Twins First Year

Now that the boys are almost two-years-old and I'm all the wiser thanks to hindsight, here are the baby items I found most useful for multiples and helped us survive that first busy year.

  • Tiny Love Super Mat - All other baby gyms and mats weren't big enough, this is perfect for two or more and it folds easily for travel. 
  • MAM Pacifiers & Philips AVENT Soothies - I used the MAM pacifiers to soothe them, they stayed in the best & no ring, while the AVENT soothies I would put in the the freezer and the boys would gnaw on them for teethers. Both are BPA free.
  • MAM bottles - We tried Tomee Tippee for the first two months, but the nipple kept collapsing and letting in air. Dr. Brown's came recommended, but there were way too many parts to wash, especially when you have to wash double. MAM bottles are popular in the UK and are now here in the US. The boys took to the flatter nipple better and I loved that I could easily sanitize each bottle in the microwave using their self-sterilize feature and not have to buy another separate sterilizer for it.
  • Britax B-READY Stroller & Infant B-SAFE Car Seats  - The Britax stroller with companion seat was the one I most used during their first year. The double Snap-and-Go was too awkward and long. We ended up selling it by 4m. Instead, I would simply clip the Britax car seats into this luxury base. Later I then snapped in the two seats. It also fit through most doorways unlike a side-by-side stroller and took up less space in restaurants. This was our "we're getting out of the house" stroller.
  • BOB Jogging Stroller - By 6-months and once the weather started getting nice, we used The BOB Revolution SE Duallie almost every single night for a smooth and easy walk around our rugged street and up and down hills. This would help us easily kill an hour before it was time to feed them again and put them to bed. It also benefited us both by encouraging us to get out for some fresh air more regularly. We've also taken this stroller when traveling and flying since it's very durable. 
  • Summer Infant Changing Pad with Toy Bar - All changing pads should have a toy bar. I wished I had this from the beginning. It was one of those late purchases I made after they were a few months old. I had a regular changing pad, but as they got older and harder to change, I needed something that helped keep them in place and distracted them. The soft toy bar overhead would at least hold their attention for long enough to quickly change them. Now that they are bigger though, I don't use the toy bar, but it's removable and you still have a changing pad.
  • Tiny Love Super Mobile - I didn't think I would need a mobile as I thought it was just for show. I later went out and bought two, one for each crib. They would distract the boys when I needed to put them down for a bit to do something or while I was changing the other baby. Although the mobile part has since been removed, they are still using the crib toy feature and music even at age 2.
  • Pack-N-Play with a changer - We ended up buying one new and several used for a total of 6! However, in our home we really only used the one that came with a changer from Evenflo. It provided us with a changing station for downstairs on the floor without their nursery, which was a huge help. We also put two regular play yards at Grandma's house for sleeping, which they used often and we didn't have to pack and repack them every time we went for a visit. In hindsight, only 3 were needed though, maybe 4. One with a changer for home, one for travel and two for grandma's house. None of which, were the special twin pack-n-play from Graco as we never used it for a bassinet anyway and the twin one only comes in one style only.   
  • Disney Baby Bouncer Seat - Our boys lived in their bouncers for the first 6m. In fact, it was the only place they would sleep in at night for the first 3 months. We would cart these bouncers from the living room during the day too upstairs in their nursery at night. I liked that I didn't have to worry about SIDS as much with them being strapped in. However, you have to be sure and use props to rotate their head so they don't get flat head syndrome either. Even if you don't intend to use a bouncer to sleep in, it's great to be able to put them down securely while you run around the house and cleaning bottles and not have to worry about them rolling around and hurting themselves. We couldn't have done without two! Ours also came with a vibration setting that they loved and music to entertain them.
  • Graco Swing - I picked up two used. For awhile we only had one, but I got the second after feeling bad the other twin couldn't swing at the same time. We used the swing when all else failed. It was our only sure thing that would then put a tired baby to sleep for nap time, even when they were 9m, overtired and not wanting to sleep it would rock it's magic within five minutes.
  • Baby Einstein Activity Saucer & Activity Jumper - I was so busy thinking about the infant stage that I didn't register for items that would be good 6m+. I soon had to scour garage sales and consignment shops for two exersaucers and two jumpers. However, in hindsight, I probably could have just done with two exersaucers and just one jumper.
  • Safety 1st Activity Walker - Luckily, I did register for this, but only one. I read that one twin might not like it, so you should just get one and then see if you need another. Well, they were wrong, so save your own $ and register for two. Granted, we didn't need these until 8m, but they quickly became huge hits with our independent men when discovering their legs more. In fact, for a few months we had to move around our whole living room so they could roam properly. This one also collapses really thin so it's great for storing unlike the saucers and jumpers.
  • VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker - My boys started walking at 11 months and I credit it having a lot of toys around that encouraged them to push themselves up, including this learning walker and the following activity table, which they still played with long after they mastered walking too. 
  • Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Fun with Friends Musical Table - see above :)

Don't buy:
  • Double Snap & Go - find a double stroller with an infant car seat adjustment that way you can have a stroller that will last you longer, look nicer and be more durable. However, not all double strollers allow for two infant car seats (e.g. Combi Twin only accommodates one) so make sure you check ahead of time.
  • Graco High Chair - I liked the idea I could take the legs off and then use them on our own chairs, but it depends what chair you have in the first place. Also, they hated being strapped into these high chairs. They were also bulky. Grandma, then bought two ANTILOP Highchairs with safety belt & tray from IKEA as a cheap option for her home, but the boys ended up loving those, so we switched. They go into them easily and don't mind sitting there even when we eat. I think they feel more free. It's also a bargain in comparison. 
  • Clothes too far in advance - when the boys were really little I ransacked a bunch of consignment sales and store sales for future clothes for the boys. However, it's hard to figure out what size they will be when and during what season. I ended up having a lot of t-shirts in the winter, etc. 
  • Onesies past 12m - My boys lived in onesies the first year, but after that it was harder to pin them down and change them once they were off and running. That's when we moved to just shirts and pant separates. Now we have a bunch of never been touched 18m onesies though. 

Related post: Decorating the Twins Nursery 
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Monday, October 6, 2014

Arbor Teas Compostabile Bag

I can't remember the last time I purchased tea from a store. Thanks to the internet, I'm able to get teas from around the world right at my fingertips. I've been online shopping for tea for several years now and the quality is so superb that the best place for a good cuppa by me is in my cupboard. I've blogged about a few online sites that I use already, but I just discovered a new one, Arbor Teas.

Arbor Teas offers one of the Internet's largest selections of loose leaf organic tea and tisanes – two-thirds of which are Fair Trade Certified. They have selections from all varieties of tea (black, green, white, oolong and pu-erh) as well as South African rooibos, South American yerba mate and herbal infusions. I stick to the green, white and oolongs though.

I'm really enjoying their USDA Organic Silver Needle White Tea and Organic Plum Oolong.

What is especially unique is their 100% backyard compostable packaging! Composed of a cellulose film made from wood pulp sourced from sustainably managed trees, Arbor Teas' packaging can actually break down in a backyard compost setting. I have a compost bin in my kitchen and outside, which I mix with coffee grounds, used tea leaves after several steepings, egg shells, etc., so I love the idea that I can add their packaging right into the mix. Depending on your location and weather, your Arbor Tea package should completely compost within 3 -4 months. When you go through as much tea as I do, it only made sense to start composting the tea leaves. I then spread the new soil around my rose bushes and trees.

Don’t have a compost heap yet? Read the informative article from the Arbor Teas Blog on How to Compost Tea and other Organics in a Home Compost Pile

Related Post: What kind of tea are you?
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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall Decorating DIY Project: Polka Dot and Boo Pumpkins

I LOVE Halloween, it's my favorite holiday. But to be honest, I love all holidays and decorating for them. Even when I only had a college dorm room to decorate or my Bitchen apt in the city (bed above the kitchen), I still managed getting my digs and wardrobe into the holiday spirit. Yes, I've always been a geek like that. However, I'm hardly a crafting guru, so I'm all about easy DIY decorating ideas for less. Here is my latest project though.

The Inspiration:
Polka Dot PumpkinPainted pumpkins- Its so warm here in Az, as soon as you carve a pumpkin it goes bad. So, I love seeing different ways to decorate them.BOO Pumpkins. Would be cute set up on a Halloween buffet.
I was going to purchase the above black and orange polka dot pumpkin for $39 from Grandin Road, but it's already sold out online. Instead, I was able to make my own glittery version for under $10 and I have the bragging rights of saying I did it myself.

My Take:

I purchased plastic craft pumpkins, paint, glitter glue and stick-on beads and a leaf garland at Michael's to create an orange polka dot, black pumpkin centerpiece and bedazzled white Boo pumpkins (Mantle Magic).

I'd normally collect real colored leaves from outside, but since it's not fall in the New England sense in Florida, I had to settle for a fake garland string, which I cut into two pieces. One piece I used to wrap around the above center piece and used the remaining string to wind around my mailbox pole with a magnetic sign that I applied as well.  I'll eventually move the Boo display outside by my entryway, but right now it's rainy season, so to keep them from getting dirty they will be staying inside until the 31st gets closer.
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Monday, September 29, 2014

Top 50 Mommy Bloggers - Guess who's #44?

I was recently notified that I made the following Top 50 Mommy Blogger List. Considering I've only been a mom for less than two years, it's pretty exciting to be on it :) I've also been checking out the other sites and have found some great reads and hope you do too.

Top Mommy bloggers

An infographic by the team at Rebateszone
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Friday, September 26, 2014

Suave Family Selfie Contest

When I heard about the Suave Family Selfie Instagram Contest, I was excited to enter as I use Suave Professionals hair care products already and I'm always taking pics  of my family. However, I didn't realize how hard it would be to do a selfie with both boys in it.

I must have taken over 40 shots and still nada. One boy would be looking right at the camera while the other would be crying or squirming to get away. It was like holding bars of soap and my arms just aren't long enough to pull it off. So, I went with a selfie of just me and Ben as he's more interested in my iPhone and seeing photos on it. It also helped that I put a flower that I picked in his hair and he was curious to see how it looked, lol. This shot though echoes how we strive to live beautifully, by playing outdoors and being silly together.
Raphael had to show me up though with this cute selfie with both boys:
So what IS the Suave Family Selfie Contest? Simply take a Fall family selfie with your family that shows how you live beautifully and upload it to Instagram for a chance to win a prize pack. You must also tag the photo with the hashtags #SuaveFamilySelfie #LB2LB and #Walmart then submit your link. Enter the sweepstakes weekly to increase your chance of winning. Each week 6 new winners will be drawn to receive a $175 Walmart prize pack. Once you have submitted your image here you will also receive a coupon via email for $1 off Suave at Walmart. And may I add I LOVE the Suave with Moroccan oil shampoo and conditioner.

Good luck and get shooting! I wish you more selfie success than I had.

 Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post from Global Influence, all opinions are my own, yada yada yada.
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