Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pool party!

I appreciated everyone's well wishes for the party we had last weekend.
Kaylee's birthday party was a success! Like I said, we did some sort of strange pool party, Hawaiian, beach theme kind of thing
 It turns out that I'm a terrible blogger and terrible picture taker, so I really don't have much to show for our little birthday shindig. We had 10 kids at the party, and spent a few hours swimming, eating snacks, doing the cake thing, and opening presents. Everyone had a great time, and Kaylee announced it the best birthday party ever! And if Kaylee was happy with it, I was happy with it!

  The kids totally dug into the snacks before I could snap a pic of my pretty display. We did three different types of candy in those purple containers that say candy (who woulda thought?!) and crunchy snacks in the little beach pails. Also, Kaylee just had to have the "fancy" cups for drinks.


Once Kaylee saw this ice cream cone cupcake cake, she was absolutely certain this was what she wanted. She wouldn't even consider anything else.


The kids all had a blast in the pool! I know, I know, these assemble yourself above ground pools aren't even "legit" pools and even we call it {white trash} (no disrespect intended!) but we really do enjoy it a lot. As did all the kids!

My brother came to the party too, and decided it would be great fun to spray the kids with a hose. And so ensued a big water fight!

Oh, and after the party was over, I managed to snap a picture of our front porch...which was already imperfect and no longer picture worthy. Fail.


I know, the balloons are totally tacky, but Kaylee thought it was cool. Whatever it takes to make our kiddos happy, right?!

And in other news.....
Winners are usually selected via random.org, but this week's winners come to you via Kaylee. I asked her to select a number between one and the number of entries.

The winner of the glass dharma giveaway was #19, The Workaholic Momma!

The winner of the Flax USA giveaway was #2, Team Lando!

Congrats, ladies! If y'all could both email me at megandyanray at gmail dot com with your mailing info, that would be great!

Y'all, I know I'm a terrible blogger lately, but Isabelle crawls and is into EVERY-FREAKING-THING, and Kaylee's home with me, and those two girls deserve my attention more than my computer does.
However, I've still got some good stuff planned. Like....
Recapping our Disney trip and sharing tons of tips!
Pics of Kaylee's birthday!
and lots of great giveaways!

Do you like to throw parties? Or do you prefer to leave the planning to someone else and just worry about showing up on time?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Party planning

Kaylee and EB (star of HOP) at Universal Studios
June 2011

Blogging is extra sparse this week as I've got my hands full preparing for Kaylee's 8th birthday party. In years past, she's always opted for the cheesy Pump it Up (indoor bounce houses), Gymnastic places kind of birthday parties which are part awesome because there's no prep and no clean up, and the kids are entertained, and part sucky cause they're totally impersonal and a little expensive.
 Kaylee turns 7!

This year, she wanted to have her birthday party at home and I'm both excited and annoyed at this prospect. Excited to actually host the party and plan the food and decorations and stuff and hopefully end up with something really cute and special for her, but annoyed with all the needed cleaning and preparation. Every day, I try to do some of the cleaning, but by that night, between my kiddos and by husband (haha) the house is already a mess again.
 Kaylee turns 6!

Also, executing a prettily themed party, with awesome decorations and snacks and pretty tablescapes is also kind of hard because my 8 year old has quite a....unique view of what makes for pretty decorations. She didn't want any particular theme, so we have a sort of........pool party, Hawaiian, beach theme kind of thing going on. 
Anyway, her party is Saturday, so think good thoughts for me that it all goes well. I just keep reminding myself that none of the 8 year olds are even going to notice the little details, so I really shouldn't stress about it.

Speaking of parties, I've got a question for y'all.

If you were to get an invitation instructing you to bring a "covered dish" what would that mean to you? 
Meat? Veggie? Side dish? Dessert? Something hot? Something cold? 

(No, I didn't send invitations asking people to bring things to our party! This is for a party that we were invited to!)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Flax USA giveaway and Ladies in blue

All us girls dressed up for Father's Day!


And it just so happened we all wore blue.

Unfortunately, it didn't just so happen that we could all take a good picture simultaneously.

pleated poppy

In other news, I'm always trying to sneak a little something extra into my family's food. 

And by something extra, I mean NUTRITION. Good for you kind of stuff. 

I'm loving...Flax USA

Flax USA comes from a family farm in North Dakota where the Stober family has been growing flax seed for many generations. 

Maybe you're wondering why flaxseed? It's full of good stuff! Flax seed is high in fiber, contains protein, and has lots of vitamins, minerals, and Omega 3s. 

Flax USA sent me a bag of their Cold Milled Golden Flax Seed to try, and it's awesome! Flax can be added to just about anything from baked goods, to smoothies, to a substitute for eggs. I've been adding some to my smoothies, to our baked goods, and I even sneaked some into our spaghetti sauce. If you're feeling a little lost, Flax USA has a few recipes. Additionally, I consider Monica to be a flax seed guru, and I suggest you check out her recipe for waffles, or her protein bars, both of which contain nutritious flax.

Flax does have somewhat of a grainy taste, so I do advise you to start out small if you're new to using flax. It works amazingly well in baked goods, but I wouldn't recommend overloading your smoothie with it. 

In addition, Flax USA just released a new product. Flax Milk! 
Flax Milk is dairy free and low calorie, but is an easy way to drink your Omega’s and is enriched with Calcium & Vitamins A, D and B12. It's available at Wal Marts nationwide, so be sure to check it out! 

Flax USA wants YOU to experience some flax loving too! One lucky reader of loving the little things is going to win a container of Flax Sprinkles! 
Ground flax seeds + a sprinkle can = FUN and NUTRITIOUS! 
That's right, your sprinkle can will be full of ground flax seeds, and the best part is, the seeds are cold-milled, which stabilizes the nutrient content and extends their shelf life naturally. (read, no refrigeration necessary!)

To enter the giveaway, simply tell me where you would sprinkle your flax seeds! 

For an additional entry, go like Flax USA on Facebook
(and let them know loving the little things sent you!)

For an additional entry, go follow Flax USA on Twitter.

Please leave an additional comment for each way you enter! Each comment you leave is an additional entry!

Giveaway closes Monday, June  27 at 9:00 am CST.
Winner will be announced on the blog and notified by email on Monday, June 27. Good luck!

In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided with the previously mentioned products from Flax USA. I received no compensation for my review, and my thoughts are entirely my own. 

If you haven't yet, check my giveaway and enter to win some classy glass straws!

And wayyyy back when, I hosted a giveaway for a paciplay. The winner (via random.org) was comment #6. Congratulations to Tatiana! I hope little miss G will enjoy hers :) 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Glass Dharma review and giveaway

I have a secret to share with y'all.

I love straws. Drinking straws, that is.

I use them with everything I drink. Water, diet coke, iced tea, even coffee. At restaurants and at home. Always.

And I recently stumbled upon a great company with a great product, Glass Dharma. Glass Dharma is the original maker of glass straws, and they are handmade in the USA.

Glass Dharma makes glass straws, and from my point of view, they are both practical and pretty. They are sustainable, reusable, easy to clean, safe for hot and cold drinks and dishwasher safe.

Glass Dharma was kind enough to send me a sampling of their products.
I received four straws, two cleaning brushes and a hemp straw sleeve.

When I told my husband about them, he seems very unsure about the idea of glass drinking straws, but we were both impressed with how sturdy and well made they were. The glass is thick and seems to be very durable. In fact, Glass Dharma offers a lifetime guarantee!
If you love using straws in your drinks, then Glass Dharma  is the way to go. 

If you're looking for something prettier and classier than plastic, then Glass Dharma is the way to go.

If you're looking for something environmentally friendly and reusable, then Glass Dharma is the way to go.

I've been using my Glass Dharma straws frequently since I received them, and I really do like them a lot!

Adds a little elegance to my diet coke! 

Perfect for my iced coffee! 

Regardless of your straw wants or needs, Glass Dharma has something perfect for you. Their straws come in a variety of lengths and thinknesses, and you can choose ones that are straight or that have the little bend in them. 

You can purchase these beautiful glass straws directly from the Glass Dharma website. 

And one lucky reader of loving the little things will have the chance to win a $25 gift certificate gift code to use on any of Glass Dharma's products on their website. How awesome is that?! 

To enter, please leave a comment telling me your favorite beverage. 

For an additional entry, you may also like Glass Dharma on facebook.  Leave another comment to let me know you did! 

Giveaway closes Friday, June  24 at 9:00 am CST.
Winner will be announced on the blog and notified by email on Friday, June 24. Good luck!

In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided with the previously mentioned products from Glass Dharma. I received no compensation for my review, and my thoughts are entirely my own. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Preparing for Disney World

I meant to post this before I left for Disney World, but Blogger was not my friend, and instead it sat in my list of drafts. Better late than never, right?! Basically, it's just a run down of what was essential for us to pack. 

On top of the busy-ness of having both kiddos at home now, I've also been busy getting us all packed for a full EIGHT days in Florida. Did y'all know that even though babies are really small people, that they require a LOT of stuff?

Packing for Kaylee was a breeze. 
9 shirts, 9 shorts, a dress, 9 undies, 9 pairs of socks.

Tennis shoes, sandals, and crocs. (Tennis shoes are essential for how much walking we'll be doing at Disney. And sandals and/or crocs are a necessity for the beach.)
2 swimsuits, PJs, a toothbrush and kid toothpaste.
Kid vitamins, sunscreen. She'll share my shower gel, shampoo and conditioner.
Some books, a pad of drawing paper and a box of markers for entertainment on the airplane.
DONE.

I was a little more complicated. 
Several shirts, several shorts, several dresses.
Undies, socks, bras, nursing tanks, swim suit, Tshirts to sleep in.
Tennis shoes and sandals.
Toothbrush, toothpaste, prenatal vitamins, contact case, contact solution, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hairbrush, straightener, and mascara.  (the only makeup you really need!)

Breastpump, nursing pads.  (I exclusively breastfeed (as in, never bottle feed) but I found from our Spring Break trip that when Isabelle is distracted by new places and people and things to see that she doesn't eat. I was SO full after a day of no breastfeeding that I would have killed for a pump. I just use a little handheld one, so it's a breeze to pack and have along just in case.)
Camera, charger, cell phone, charger. Kindle, freshly loaded with a few new books :)

And then there's Isabelle. 
For Isabelle, I packed about 12 different outfits, assuming that we will have our usual poopsplosions in Florida just like we do at home. If so, there will probably be lots of hotel sink clothes washings.

I also packed about 60 diapers, and lots of wipes.
(a note on diapers. You can choose to pack just what you'll need for the day, and then plan on buying a pack or two once you arrive, but I choose to pack them, knowing that we will buy souvenirs and the empty space from where the diapers were ensures that I will have some free space for the extra stuff we take home.) 
Baby lotion, baby sunscreen, and little headbands and ponytail holders.
Seven pouches of Happy Baby and Ella's Kitchen baby food, with 5 take and toss baby spoons, along with Happy Puffs, Happy Melts and Cascadian Farms Purely Os.
I purchased this snack dispenser, so that we could have multiple choices but only one container. I highly recommend it!


Two adorable sun hats, baby sunglasses that she refuses to wear, a pair of Robeez, our Paciplay, and about 5 pacifiers, since I plan on losing at least a few.
I also am taking her Chicco infant car seat and stroller (the travel system), her Ergo baby carrier, and our new Balboa baby high chair cover.

We usually refuse to check bags, partly because paying to check bags on top of the airfare charge is ridiculous, and partly because we're impatient and hate waiting for our suitcase to arrive at baggage claim. However, I checked one large suitcase this time, to make it easier.
Can you imagine me trying to manage a wiggly 9 month old, a stroller, a car seat, my purse, her diaper bag AND a carry on suitcase?! There's no way.
Instead, I juggled the aforementioned 9 month old, stroller, car seat, purse and diaper bag. 

I also always suggest taking a light jacket on the plane because they can get pretty chilly.

For anyone who's curious, we've flown 2 round trips with Isabelle, and over a dozen times with Kaylee, and I've never needed any form of identification for either of them. I have no idea what sort of situation would need me to have this, but I carry a copy of both of their birth certificates with me, just in case. (Copy, not original!)

And that's that! Ready to go!

What are your essentials when you're packing to go on vacation??

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Using coupons for good deeds

Times are tough these days, and money is tight. I know that's true for many, many people.

I wrote before about the importance of volunteering, and doing good deeds, but I know that not everyone has the time or the right opportunities to volunteer.

I've also written several times that I'm a big fan of using coupons to save money.

You can combine those things - the desire to help out and a willingness to use coupons - and end up with a way to help those that are less fortunate without it costing you too much money.

There are a lot of coupons I utilize for things my family uses or eats. This works out great for stretching our budget just a little further.

But there are also coupons for things that my family doesn't use. And while we may not have a need for those items, I know for sure there are people who do.

Recently, I started focusing on formula. Cause let's be honest, I cannot bear the thought of a baby going hungry. I don't even want to imagine that.

I chose to breastfeed, which I think is awesome, but for babies in need, that's probably not an option. Since I am on all the new mom mailing lists, I make a point to use all those formula coupons I get.

And with those, I've been able to purchase this (and more!):

The local children's home is especfially
(yes, I really did just write that. I was thinking especially or specifically, and came up with that craziness)
near and dear to our hearts, so that's where we chose to donate the formula. But I know that the local food bank, or any sort of charity that helps women and children would be able to use formula as well.

I also find that I'm able to get lots of personal products - think toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, etc - for pretty cheap when I match sales and coupons, and I like to donate any extras that I'm able to pick up. I'll have to show a picture of that next time!

What ways do you volunteer, donate, get involved, give back? Maybe we could find some new ideas in the comments!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Disney Style

We've arrived home safely! I love vacation and traveling, but coming home is nice too.

Until you remember all the unpacking and laundry and catch up you have to do. Oh, the joys of real life.

Anyway, we had a great time and enjoyed our vacation. I've already started working on my upcoming posts, recapping our time at Disney and sharing all my thoughts about the four theme parks, our favorite things, insider Disney tips and how to not only survive, but have fun there with a baby.

June 2011, Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World

As far as clothes go, a casual sundress is my outfit of choice for a theme park. It's casual, so I'm not worried about the possibility of getting a little messy, but it's also comfortable and cool in the hot weather. The thin cotton is also great for water rides, because it'll dry quickly. The only thing missing are some pockets to keep the essentials handy.

Have you ever been to Disney World? What park is your favorite? 

I've gone every year since I was a child! EPCOT is my favorite, but truthfully, I enjoy them all!

October 2010, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Simplify and Improve

I'm going to make the assumption that most of us are busy people. I happen to be a busy mom, but even if you don't have children, I'm willing to bet you're still busy. That's just the way life is. I'm a mom to two girls, and I stay plenty busy keeping up with them, my husband, and our house. However, there are always some tips and tricks you can include in your daily routine to make you life a little easier and better. Here are a few I'd like to share with you!

1. Put your cleaning supplies near the things that need to be cleaned. 
For example, we keep cleaning wipes in the bathroom, and use them on a daily basis.
Every morning when you get out of the shower, wipe down the sink or the shower walls and perhaps the bathroom floor.  A little bit of cleaning will help keep you from having to spend lots of time cleaning later on.

2. Utilize products you already have.
Vinegar and baking soda can clean a lot around your home! Vinegar is great for windows and mirrors, and baking soda is awesome for anywhere you'd scrub, like sinks and bath tubs. You can search on google for many more uses as well. Besides, cleaning products get expensive, and this is much cheaper!

3. Take a multi-vitamin.
 I still take a prenatal vitamin, because I'm nursing, but you should take whatever works for you. My prenatals include DHA and Omega 3s, but if your multivitamin doesn't, then you should try to take those as well.
I'm nearly certain that no matter how healthy you think you eat, you probably aren't getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Do your health a favor and start taking a vitamin :)

4. Get some sun.
On days when I'm not in the best mood, whether it be sad or angry or moody or just a little off, I try to force myself to go outside, even if I think I don't want to. A little sunshine can work wonders on your mood! Plus you'll soak up some Vitamin D too :) 

5. Lay out clothes for you (or your kiddo) the night before.
Mornings are hectic! There is no denying this. I don't know about you, but there are days that I can waste a good 20 minutes trying things on and not liking it, and going through 6 different shirts. You too? Save yourself some stress and do the prep work the night before. You'll be thankful for it come morning!

6. Recycle, donate, or throw things away when you're done with them.
Trust me, there is no reason to keep things lying around. This just leads to clutter. And no one likes clutter! In fact, I resolved to get rid of 55 things in February, and was glad to see them go! Some people have a hard time with throwing things away or donating them or otherwise getting rid of them, but trust me...you won't miss it when it's gone!

7. Make a to-do list!
Maybe it's just me, but I have a hard time remembering all the little things I need to do. For me, a list is a necessity! And not only does it help you keep track of all that needs done, it also helps keep you focused. Make a list of things to do in the morning, and do your best to complete all the tasks that day. Bonus - you'll have a feeling of accomplishment when you're done!

8. Don't leave dishes in the sink.
It is way too easy to let dishes get piled up in the sink, and the more full your sink gets, the harder it will be to convince yourself to take care of them. It's so much nicer to do the dishes as you dirty them, one or two at a time, than it is to do a whole sink-full.

9. Settle for semi-homemade.
You can see the whole "recipe" here, but it's really more just a process. In this particular dish, I used all natural precooked chicken patties, smothered them in marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese and baked them in the oven.
I feel much better when I feed my family something I make a home rather than running through the drive-thru. I won't lie and tell you we never eat fast food, but I do prefer to limit it! This is good for your health and your budget!

10. Make enough for leftovers.
And then feel free to jazz it up! You don't have to eat your leftovers in the same way you did originally. I love to use leftover chili to make chili cheddar salad. Or leftover roast tenderloin (beef, pork, or turkey) to make sandwiches or stir-frys or a pasta dish. But you can definitely save a lot of time if you cook once and then just have assembly and re-heating the next meal.

So there you have it! 10 tips for simplifying and improving your day to day life. Yes, they are little changes, but hopefully you'll find them helpful.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I'm on vacation!

Greetings from sunny Orlando, FL!!

As I type this, I'm sitting outside of the ride Disaster at Universal Studios, sweating....I mean, glistening prettily in the hot sunshine.

We've been in Florida for the last six days and will be here for three more. I made the decision to travel sans laptop, which is why you haven't heard from me. Vacation is about time with family, not sequestering yourself in front of your computer. But truth be told, I've missed you ladies!

Anyway, we've been busy doing the whole Disney World, Universal Studios, beach thing. Lots of riding rides and soaking up the sun. Kaylee is having a great time, and Isabelle is as sweet and smiley as always.

I didn't mention this before, but we're here without the husband, and I miss him terribly. We are not a couple that thrives on alone time, and being apart is hard. He had too much going on at work, and there's no one else there that can handle what he does. I'm counting down the minutes until I see him again.

I'm looking forward to being home and posting! I have so much to share and all kinds of Disney info, like successful traveling with a baby.

Where is your favorite place to vacation??

Friday, June 3, 2011

Wishing for a brother

There's a seven year difference between my two girls.

So needless to say, Kaylee has had a lot of time to tell me that she wanted a younger brother or sister. For years, she shared with me her desire to have a sibling and how badly she wanted me to have a baby.

She's never really said why, but she's always indicated that she wanted a brother.

(She once admitted to my husband that she wanted a brother because she thought that it would mean getting a lot more new toys, but I'm sure there's got to be a reason more significant than that!)

Obviously, she really loves her little sister, and is a much better big sister than I imagined she'd be. Nonetheless, she still lets me know that she still has hope for a little brother one day.

And recently, she's resorted to trying to, shall we say, "boy up" Isabelle a bit.

Like this:

Kaylee thinks it's absolutely HILARIOUS to put her Tshirts on Isabelle. And with the hat, Kaylee thinks my sweet little Isabelle could pass for a boy.

I sure love my two sweet GIRLS, but maybe in a few years Kaylee will get that brother she's wanting.

In other news, did you notice those teeth??



I told my husband that's an orthodontic bill just waiting to happen!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Adult car seat

Welcome to my first example of not enough time for blogging. I usually always have a post up first thing in the morning, and it's usually MUCH more substantial than this, but for today, this is as good as it gets.


I installed Isabelle's new car seat in my car yesterday (it's a Britax Marathon, in case you're curious) and although most people push down on the car seat while tightening the straps, the best way to tighten the LATCH system straps is to climb in the car seat yourself. 
Obviously.

What's the best book you've read in the last year? 
(I need a few new reads to take to Florida next week!)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Paciplay Review and Giveaway (what I'm loving)

I'm loving... all of Kaylee's new picks from Gymboree!
In some ways, I really dislike that she's so choosy about her clothes, because that means momma can't play dress up my oldest daughter anymore. However, it's also fun to see her enjoy clothes shopping and watch her own style emerge. (although using the word "style" might be a little generous!)

I'm loving... Blue Bunny Chocolate Lovers Triple Chocolate Cake. It's really DELICIOUS.
I'm loving... Isabelle's new Paciplay.

The paciplay is an all in one playful teether and pacifier keeper.

This is the far better alternative to germy, wet material pacifier keepers. The paciplay is made out of silicone and is non-toxic, bacteria resistant, and bpa and phthalate free.

One end attaches to baby's clothes and the other to the pacifier. It keeps the pacifier close and clean!

The silicone is also great for chewing and teething, encouraging sensory and motor skill development.




I, personally, don't like to have the paci attached to my child at all times, but I do like to have it for when we're on the go and in the stroller. It's just so easy to lose an unattached paci, and the a tether is the perfect solution.

This is actually the first (and only) tether we've used, but Isabelle loves it. As you can see in the above pictures, she's using the paciplay as a teething toy and is much more interested in that than she is the actual pacifier.

As for me, I love that it's easily washable and germ free. I never really thought about it, but I'd imagine that the material ones get yucky. All that baby slobber soaked material would get germy in no time at all.

(oh, and the paciplay is compatible with almost any pacifier! It attaches directly onto the ring of any ring style pacifier, and they have an adapter to allow it to attach to any button style pacifiers.) 

I would highly recommend the paciplay if your little one uses a pacifier! We love ours, both as a useful tool (keep paci close) and as a fun chew toy!

You can purchase your own paciplay directly from their website or from Amazon.com

In addition, one lucky reader of Loving the Little Things is going to receive their very own paciplay, courtesy of the great people at Toes for eyes!

Here's how to enter:
--leave a comment on this post, telling me the oddest thing you've caught your child chewing on.
(Isabelle likes to chew on my shoulder while I'm holding her.)

For an extra entry, you can Like Toes for eyes on Facebook. Let them know that loving the little things sent you, and leave an additional comment to let me know.

PS: I was on a posting frenzy today :) Make sure you check out my What I Ate post and my What I Wore post!

Giveaway closes Sunday, June 5 at 9:00 pm CST.
A winner will be chosen via random.org and announced on the blog and notified by email on Monday, June 6. Good luck!

In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided with the previously mentioned paciplay from Toes for eyes. I received no compensation for my review, and my thoughts are entirely my own. 

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