May 16, 2016

Super-Healthy Homemade Popsicles For Picky Eaters

Last summer, when my toddler, then three, was eating so may popsicles his poop turned bright green, I quickly realized I needed to take control of the situation. Not to mention, the sugar overload from the store bought popsicles were making him a crazy person. I grabbed the box of popsicles and read the ingredients. Not one ingredient included fruit of any kind. The again, what did I expect, I was buying what was on sale.  Sometimes, like two-bucks a box!

Hello, RED FLAG!

After reading the ingredients and finding there was NOTHING healthy in the cheap-o popsicles, I went to the store to find "healthy" popsicles.

It turns out, they don't exist. Every single brand of popsicle started with sugar. Most, had at least one or two fillers/preservatives that I had no interest pumping into my kid. 

Knowing that cutting out popsicles was going to be impossible, I turned to the Internet and Googled, "Homemade Popsicles." I was blown away by how many recipes for healthy homemade popsicles were available. From two ingredient popsicles, to boozy "pop-tails", to chocolate covered goodness.

It took less than five minutes to realize, not only was I going to start making my own popsicles, I was going to save a ton of money!


For those of you just entering into the world of homemade popsicles, do I have good news for you, most allt kid-friendly popsicles are made with ingredients you already have in your kitchen! If you have yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit and juice you have AWESOME popsicles waiting to be made.

Probably one of my favorite things about making my own popsicles is being able to clean out my refrigerator. I open my produce drawer and start grabbing the things that need to be used; spinach, kale, apples, oranges, strawberries, bananas... 

Now that you have the ingredients, next is the molds. So where to get them? Paper cups and popsicles sicks work well...




However, if you want real molds, good news, you can find them anywhere! Your local grocery, drugstore, kid's store or boutique, and kitchen stores like Bed Bath & Beyond and William-Sonoma.  I got one of our molds on super clearance from Pottery Barn Kids.

They come in every shape and size too!



Pretty much, the next store you walk into, look for popsicle molds. And if you don't find them, opt for small Dixie cups and craft popsicle sticks.

I will say, moms swear by the silicone popsicle tubes. In fact, I've heard so many great things about them being mess free, I just ordered a pack of 6 from Amazon, since I couldn't find them in any of m y local shops.


You can buy the one's shown above here: Silicone Popsicle Molds - Set of 6 Reusable Molds with Attached Lids - 50 Recipes E book



OK, now that the molds are covered, it's time to move on to the super-duper easy part, making the popsicles!

It's a four step process; Blend. Pour. Freeze. Eat

Seriously, it's SO easy! Throw the ingredients into the blender, and blend until smooth. Then pour into popsicle molds and freeze. No Blender? Mash and mix the crap out of what every your using. Pour mixture into molds, freeze and eat! It's REALLY that simple.
VoilàYou're a popsicle pro.



My personal favorite go-to popsicle flavors, using ingredients (always) in my kitchen are:


  • Frozen tropical fruit and coconut water-I ALWAYS have both, so it's my go-to
  • Strawberry and Cantaloupe- so easy and so good.
  • Orange juice and yogurt; Think Dreamsicle.  SO YUM!
  • Coconut cream or coconut water and mango is mind blowing good.
  • Peanut butter, bananas and yogurt-Ollie Fave
  • Sweet tea and peaches-My fave!
  • Speaking of tea- a boozy favorite is Long Island Ice Tea pop-tails
  • Bananas and Nutella-So wrong, it's so right 
  • Root Beer and low-fat vanilla ice cream--Root Beer Float goodness!
  • Snickers and ice-cream make an awesome summer backyard party dessert! (make heaps with Dixie cups)
Tip: To make those fancy layers, pour one or two layers in at a time then freeze. Repeat. 


To see step-by-step recipes for each of my favorites and recipes, and for quite a few more, including boozy Pop-tails; Check out my Homemade Popsicle Heaven Pinterest Board, Here!

What's your favorite homemade popsicle?
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May 12, 2016

Why I will NEVER EVER Stay In A Hotel Room Again

Picture it: A family of three (Mom, dad, four-year old boy), five large suitcases, one bed and no floor space. 

Chances are, if you've stayed in a hotel with your family, it's not that hard to picture. The thought alone  even be stirring up some pretty torturous memories. Especially, if you stayed for more than three days in the cubical called a hotel room. 

I've done this one time in my life, and have sworn to never, ever do it again! 

Thankfully, there is a new trend in the hotel industry, making it easier for families to travel, Apart'hotels. Offering more than one room with a bed and limited footprint, Apart'Hotels provide a fully equipped home away from home, with plenty of room for a family to move around.

I've stayed in three, from Melbourne, Florida to Melbourne Australia. They are the real deal, super budget-friendly for family travel and offer SO MUCH MORE ROOM!!!!!

Photo Credit: Ascott Limited

While in the past, fully equipped serviced apartments were considered only for relocation and extended stays of more than a week or two, times are changing. Serviced apartments, or Apart'hotels are popping up in major cities across the world, and with comparable nightly rates to traditional hotel rooms, they are staking their claim on the hotel industry. 

Pictured above is a two bedroom serviced apartment at the Apart'Hotel Citadines on Bourke, in Melbourne Australia. The Hubs, kid and I stayed in that beautiful space our first two nights in Melbourne. Offering two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen (with Dishwasher!), a separate living area and work space, we were FLOORED! The place was huge, with beautiful views from the 25th floor, and centrally located in the Heart of Melbourne's CBD!  Like, on the biggest shopping street in the city! 




But that's not all... The room rate was comparable to a traditional hotel room down the street! 

The trend towards Apart'hotel development is showing the growth of serviced apartment units to far exceeded traditional hotel unit expansion over the next two years. According to a survey conducted by the Association of Serviced Apartment Providers (ASAP), 48 serviced apartment operators show expansion targets both in the UK and globally, at an anticipated global increase in supply of 145,000 serviced apartment units through 2018. 

The shift towards Apart'hotels is great news for budget-friendly family travel. With the larger room foot print, fully equipped kitchen, and in-room washer and dryer facility, families can pack lighter and prepare meals in the room. This is especially helpful when traveling as a large family, or with young children. The money saved on baggage fees and eating meals out may even pay for the room.

We were able to eat breakfast in the room, store left overs from meals out, keep bottle waters cold, do laundry, and be centrally located. I cannot stress it enough, before you book a traditional hotel room, look for an Apart'hotel or serviced hotel first. Your family will thank you. YOU, will thank you. Most of all, your family-budget will thank you. 

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May 5, 2016

Say, Happy Mother's Day, On A Global Level



I joke about the best thing about my mother-in-law's is that she's on the other side of the world-- I'm a daughter-in-law, it's my job say those cheeky things, right?--But the truth is, having her on the other side of the world isn't such a great thing. I love her dearly and miss her dearly, especially around birthdays, holidays, and of course, Mother's Day. She's really a remarkable woman. 





As you may know, we just returned from three weeks in Australia, visiting family and friends. On our last day, we had a Mother's Day Brunch. Even though it was three weeks early, we wanted to take her to breakfast. I spent most of the time apologizing for taking her son across the world. I feel horrible about it. 

If we could, my husband, son and I would visit Australia every year, maybe even twice! Unfortunately, financially that's just no feasible.  Not. Even. Close. 

Thankfully, after eight years of working through the challenges of having my husband's family on the other side of the world, we've found ways to make it work. Ways to feel like we are there--celebrating the birthdays, holidays and births, without leaving our house. 

We video call regularly, never missing a chance to sing happy birthday, or watch presents being opened on Christmas morning. Sometimes, we even get to see our presents being opened! Which, is nice since I order most of their gifts directly from Australian shops and websites. The shipping is a fraction of the cost, and sometimes, if the exchange rate is in my favor, the product will be much cheaper than buying in the US, And the flowers are so Beautiful over there. The Birds Of Paradise grow wild and line the expressway in Sydney!




I know you might be thinking I'm crazy to buy from unknown overseas online retailers, but it's OK,  I have Paypal. A.k.a  SUPER-SAFE-SHOPPING! I've been using PayPal for my business and personal needs for five years. I even have a Paypal Debit card. Seriously. Safe. (You get cash back with it too!)

In Fact, the entire time in Australia my husband and I exclusively used our Paypal Debit MasterCard (he has one too!)  for all in-store purchases, hotels, gas, and street vendor market purchases. Never once was I worried about someone stealing my details. Paypal is not directly linked to my back account. 

Sending cash to our Aussie family is easier than ever too, thanks to Xoom! Through the Xoom App, I can send money to over 51 countries, instantly! Eight years ago when my husband and I sent our first international wire transfer through our bank, it cost $50 and took three days. With Xoom, I can transfer gas money to my niece standing at a gas pump in Australia. Seriously. 




If you have a mother you want to celebrate this year, and are separated by many miles, definitely consider  looking into PayPal and Xoom. Both have changed the way I interact financially with family, friends and clients on a global level.


**Looking for the perfect gift for the special mom in your life? PayPal is offering Mother’s Day shopping deals from merchants like Macy's and Kiehls at PayPal.com/MothersDay...

  • 30% off at Pink Blush Maternity 4/24/16 - 5/8/16
  • 35% off at Canvasworld 4/24/16 - 5/8/2016
  • $35 off $65 at SuperJeweler 4/24/16 - 5/8/16
  • $10 off $50 at Bits of Vintage 4/24/16 - 5/8/16
  • 25% off plus free 2-day shipping at Land’s End 4/28/16 - 5/8/2016
  • Buy one get one free any size jar or tumbler at Yankee Candle 4/28/16 - 5/8/2016
  • Buy 3 get 3 free at BodyShop 4/28/2016 - 5/8/2016
  • 20% off one item at Sur La Table 4/28/2016 - 5/8/2016
  • 25% off Friends and Family Sale at Macy’s Online 4/29/2016 - 5/8/2016
  • 2 deluxe samples and 2-day shipping with purchase of $35 at Kiehls 4/30/2016 - 5/8/2016
  • 25% off at FTD.com
  • 25% off plus free shipping on orders over $59 at Fragrancenet 4/30/2016 - 5/8/2016
  • Extra 10% off Mother’s Day favorites plus free shipping when you order 5/5; 5/1/2016 - 5/8/2016
  • $50 gift card for $40 at Overstock
  • $50 gift card for $40 at Legal Sea Foods
  • $50 gift card for $40 at bedandbreakfast.com
  • $50 gift card for $40 at Jiffy Lube
or let mom pick her gift at the PayPal Digital Gifts store


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
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Apr 25, 2016

DiskoPets: The Safe and Educational Online Game World For Kids

I've partnered with the creators of DiskoPets to introduce parents to a cartoon based, educational, online game world for kids All opinions are my own.

I struggled with letting my son use technology.  Lucky for him, his father is an IT engineer and understands the great importance of technology, regardless of age. So, reluctantly, I gave in to technology when I saw that it helped my son with his fine and gross motor skills, social skills, language skills... everything.  Ok the free time tech time gave me, was really nice, too!

Thanks to really great learning apps and programs for toddlers, my son was saying and tracing the alphabet with his finger by the age of two!

I made it my mission to find every great learning tool for my son. I quickly realized just because the program promises to teach great things, if my son doesn't think the program is great, forget it. I started looking for "games" that brilliantly hid learning lessons under the fun.

So when the visionary behind, DiskoPets-- a cartoon based, educational, online game world for kids, that promises to keep children happy and entertained--reached out, I stopped to listen!









DiskPets Is A Cartoon Based Interactive Learning Game World:

  • Diskopets is a funny, animated, educational, multiplayer online game. Like TV cartoons, it has comical and whimsical characters as well as a vast, ever changing world to explore. 
  • The characters are small, cute, funny pets living high above us in the sky, on a floating island world. Kids take care of and raise these pets, as they play and learn with each other in the multiplayer world
  • There are many different areas to explore within the Diskopets world for children, Most containing educational activities disguised as fun games and puzzles. 
  • Parents can actually customize and add new learning material to the world. It’s a perfect educational game world for any child in your life.
  • Parents have access to which games their child is playing, what they have learned and accomplished, as well as, how much time their child has spent playing DiskoPets.
  • Multiplayer, so kids get the benefit of approved social interactions and working together as well. 
  • Each pet’s personality changes over time and adapts to the player. The pet's behavior and emotions will change based on how the player interacts with them.

Intrigued? I know, I was too!  

Here is a video fully outlining DiskoPets, and how you can get it!





To help this project along, head over to the DiskoPets Kickstarter Campaign, here.







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Apr 21, 2016

Wanna Know What It's Like To Have A Toddler? #ThrowBackThursday

In honor of Throw Back Thursday, I'm reposting one of my favorite posts. Originally titled: 10 Things My Toddler Is Doing That Will Make Yours Look Like An Angel.



Having a toddler is interesting to say the least. Below are 10 Of My Son's Best Moments in Toddlerhood:

1. MINE! MINE! MINE! Everything is "MINE!"  I could pick up a cat turd out of the litter box and he would declare it, "Mine, Mommy, Mine!"

Two years ago when I first read this, I thought it was super funny.
Now, I totally get it how true it is...

2. NO! EVERYTHING is NO! I've decided he answers, NO!, to everything just so he can feel like he has some sort of control, because sometimes it makes no sense.

Me:  Ollie, do you want an Ice Cream Cone?
Ollie: NO!
Me: OK...
Ollie: MINE! Mine Ice Cream Cone, Mommy.
Me: No.

3. Clingier than a school girl with a crush! "Mommy, hold you!" I hear it all day, and at a stout 35 pounds, hold you mommy not only gets old, it gets heavy!

4. Escape artist. He has learned how to turn locks and open doors. We officially have to lock the front and back doors from inside with a key. The poor kid, already trying to run from us at 2. Sorry, kid, 16 more years to go... turn your little Jeep around.


5. The second I get on the phone, ALL HELL BREAKS LOSE! I swear, the minute I get on the phone he gets gitty with excitement for the possibilities.  I can see the little hamster wheel turning in his head... He can't decide if he should draw on the walls, throw his toys down the stairs or chase the cat... or try to do all three at once.

6. If it can be launched, it will be launched. My kid is going to be the next Peyton Manning for sure. He throws EVERYTHING!  It's actually a real issue. Nothing is safe-- toys, chairs, remote controls, food, anything and everything.

7. Working the lip like a pro. It's the craziest thing, over the last week, Ollie has figured out how to pout. (I'll get a photo and post it to Instagram.) It's super cute, but the problem is that he clearly knows that. If he wants something he curls that cute little lip out and pouts. Being the spineless pushover that I am... it works like a charm. 

8. Stubborn as a mule. If the kid is not interested, he will plant his feet, curl his lip and declare that my idea or what ever I want is dumbassery, and that he has no intention of entertaining it.  Think: bedtime, nap time, clean-up time, or any other time that infringes on his time. I have to pick him up, all 35 pounds of concrete pile-on, and move him kicking and screaming.

9. The boy who cried, "Poo-Poos, Mommy." Since we are still actively working on potty training, Ollie knows if he even hints that he has to go, we stop what we are doing and take care of business.  So now when he is not interested in something--i.e. Bedtime-- he insist that he has to poo poo.  It sucks because I have to honor that request. Yes, I am fully aware that 95% of the time I'm just a pawn in his poo-poo game.

10. Toddler Picasso. The kid is going to be an artist. Working in the medium of "Anything will do." Especially mommy's lipstick and eye liner.  #FAIL

All I have to say is, Thank You, Magic Eraser.
(You had it right, Des!)
Oh and, speaking of masterpieces, he picked that awesome outfit out, socks and all!


Please, remind me again how I will look back on these crazy toddler years fondly...


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Apr 20, 2016

Mom Confession: I'm A Bedtime Battle Enabler

Bedtime SUCKS around my house. It's an hour long process (at least) that includes, but is not limited to the following; begging, bartering, anger, annoyance, spineless groveling, and eventually, a very hard won victory. Though, I am starting to think there is actually no real victory, but a draw that is replayed in 24 hours.


I hate bedtime, and I blame myself for it. After all, I'm the one who has taught my son the bedtime routine of bath, books, singing, rocking, then when I say, Ok, it's bedtime, that really means, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Because if bedtime meant something, then I would not spend the next thirty minutes to an hour begging my son to go to sleep! If it meant something, I would not constantly return to his room, and play the games I play with him. All the word "bedtime" means to my son is, play with mommy until I'm tired enough to pass out. 

Since Ollie's first days, I have held and nursed him to sleep. Then, last month I stopped nursing. When that happened, we exchanged nursing to sleep, for the bedtime game from hell. The game where Ollie doesn't go to sleep until he is ready, and I grovel and beg like a jackass.  I do this, every night, even though I know it is a game to him.

Why? Because, I am spineless.

FAIL. FAIL. FAIL!!!

Every night, I sit and rock him to sleep until I think I am going to lose my mind, at which point, I put him in his crib. If he is not ready to fall asleep, he will stand up, cry and beg to be held.  So what do I do? I pick him back up out of his crib, and rock him some more. Yes, I know how stupid it is that pick him back up, but I do it anyway because I am a sucker! I am sucker that just wants him to go to sleep, so I do what ever he asks to get him to calm down and go to sleep.

FAIL. FAIL. FAIL!!!

I will repeat this stupid crap game of rocking him to sleep, then putting him in his crib and getting him out again until I get really mad... at myself. OK, and a little mad at him too. Then, I will put him in his crib and make empty threats about how much trouble he will be in if he climbs out.  Nine times out of ten, he climbs out. I pick him up, tell him he is naughty and put him back in bed. Sometimes he stands up and just protests begging to be held, others we just repeat the process of climbing out and me putting him back in.  Sometimes, I rock him again because, again, I am a complete spineless butthead.


I KNOW this ridiculous bedtime crap is all my fault.  If I would just be tough, and not put up with the games, he would go to sleep.  I know this, because on the nights FTD puts Ollie to sleep, its easy for him.  Ollie will stay in his crib and sing himself to sleep. That actually sucks worse to me than the games we play, because I can see just how foolish I am.

What the hell is wrong with me?! Why can't I be tough, tell him to go to sleep and mean it.  Why have I created such a monster, when I KNOW BETTER!?  And how in the hell am I going to correct it?  I have friends with children MUCH younger than Ollie that go into their cribs only slightly tired and fall asleep without issue. I am SO jealous of the parent that puts their kid to bed and goes about their business.

I know Ollie will not die if I let him cry, but it still totally sucks to hear him screaming for me. I rationalize my behavior by thinking this will pass. I tell myself that it's a phase, and really, I should somehow cherish every moment he lets me hold him, because soon enough he will not even want me to hug him. Still, I just wish I could hold him and rock him, and then put him in his crib and go about my business, NOT play into a ridiculous toddler bedtime game.


Ugh. Have kids they said... It will be awesome they said... Too bad they never said, grow a set first because it's going to be hard and you need to be tough, even when it breaks your heart.



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How Heat Pumps Can Benefit the Family Budget #Infographic



Everyone loves to save money on an energy bill, and heat pumps can yield significant savings year after year. Although they come with a high up-front cost, the monthly energy savings they afford can more than make up for the initial investment required. Because they don’t burn fuel, heat pumps are also more environmentally friendly than most other heating and cooling systems.

But owning a heat pump brings more perks than just financial savings. For one thing, a heat pump can both heat and cool your home. Depending on where you live, you might be able to forgo a separate air conditioning unit or furnace in favor of a heat pump. What’s more, heat pumps heat and cool consistently instead of cycling on and off — the source of much of the savings they can bring. And don’t forget one of the most useful benefits of a heat pump — providing hot water for all your daily needs.

To learn more about how heat pumps can save you money on your energy bill, check out the following infographic, published by Griffith Energy Services to explain how heat pumps work. You’ll be able to learn about scroll compressors, variable-speed motors, desuperheater coils, and the other features of home heat pump systems. Take a moment to learn about the heating and cooling process behind the magic of heat pumps, and see for yourself why a heat pump might be right for you and your energy needs.\
Turn Up the Heat, Pump Up the Savings


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Disclaimer

We are FAR from childhood development professionals. We cannot and will not be held responsible if you take us seriously. Especially because we don't even take ourselves seriously.