Category: Cool Stuff for Moms & Dads

Product Review: “The Ultimate Disney Party Book”

Remember when I hosted the “Cars”-themed Disney Side @Home Celebration? I could have really used “The Ultimate Disney Party Book,” a brand-new book that contains more than 65 recipes, crafts, games, and more to help you throw eight Disney-themed parties. If your child loves Disney, this book will take all the stress out of planning the perfect birthday party for him or her.

"The Ultimate Disney Party Book"

The eight party themes featured in the book are “Aladdin,” Disney princess, “Toy Story,” Mickey and Minnie, “Monsters, Inc.,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Planes,” and Captain Hook. The book gives detailed instructions on how to make everything from invitations to decor to entertainment to fit each theme.

There are projects for people with all levels of craftiness. Some of the items, like Ariel’s Follow-Your-Heart Fruit Skewers, are super easy to make. Others, like the Buzz Lightyear birthday cake, are very involved and difficult. But all of the ideas are really clever and unique and will leave your guests seriously impressed.

Each idea in the book is accompanied by gorgeous, colorful photos, making it really fun to read. Matt and Nate have already spent lots of time looking through it. They’re having a hard time believing it’s actually a book for grown-ups.

Here are my favorite projects from the book:

  • Flying carpet invitations and caramel apples resembling Abu for the “Aladdin” party
  • Cinderella’s glass slipper invitations and Rapunzel’s golden braid garland for the Disney princess party
  • Woody’s cowboy boot favors and Cheezy Wheezy stuffed olives for the “Toy Story” party
  • Homemade Mickey and Minnie Mouse ears and Mickey Mouse sandwich cookies for the Mickey and Minnie party
  • Mike Wazowski spoon puppets and Terry and Terri Terrifying Flatbread Sandwiches for the “Monsters, Inc.” party
  • Plane candy favors and Dusty Crophopper cupcakes for the “Planes” party
  • Pirate flag pennant and Skull Rock watermelon fruit salad for the Captain Hook party

But my favorite party theme in the book is “Wreck-It Ralph” because the ideas are all so fun and different. From the Fix-It Felix, Jr. arcade game invitations to the “I’m Gonna Wreck It!” penthouse pinata to Vanellope’s race car brownies, the details in this party are amazing.

I can’t wait for Matt, Nate, and Lily’s future birthday parties so I can put some of these ideas to good use and show my Disney side! You can take a peek inside the book in this YouTube video and purchase your own copy on Amazon. If you decide to throw any of the parties, let me know how it turns out!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of “The Ultimate Disney Party Book” for my review. All opinions in this post are my own!

Shopping Via Text Message!

I can’t remember the last time I bought myself anything. With three little ones, I never have time to shop. When I do manage to drag the kids to the mall, it’s nearly impossible to browse the racks in peace.

Moms Sara Peak and Whitney Nordmoe had the same problem. So they created a way for busy parents (and busy everyone) to shop in the easiest manner imaginable—via text message! They started Dean & Grace, a shopping club that allows you to buy unique and high-quality kids’ and adults’ clothing, accessories, jewelry, and more via text. And it’s totally free to join.

deangracewebHere’s how it works: Click here to fill out a quick style quiz that will tell Dean & Grace what kind of items you’re interested in buying. You can also text “Join DG” to 76000, and you’ll receive the signup link via text. Once that’s done, you’ll get a text whenever an item you may like is for sale. If you want it, reply “WANT.” And that’s it—it’s yours! How much easier than that can you get?

Shipping is always free at Dean & Grace, and the items are unique and high-quality. You also won’t get bombarded with text messages: The amount you receive is based on inventory and the number of categories you signed up for. (If you sign up for just one style—say, boy playwear—you can expect about one text per week.) And you can opt out of receiving texts at any time by replying “STOP.”

I signed up two days ago for clothing for the boys and Lily and got my first text today. It was for this awesome kids’ “Free to Be Me” shirt from Blue Eyes and Bare Feet Designs, selling for $18. How cool is it?

Free to Be Me

I’m pretty excited to be a member of Dean & Grace and to have access to this unique and convenient way of shopping. Visit deanandgrace.com/#!style/ctdl to give it a try yourself. If you put “Jennifer W.” in the “Referred By” line, I’ll get credit and you’ll get good karma. It’s a win-win!

Happy shopping! If you get anything cool from Dean & Grace, let me know, and I’ll be sure to do the same!

 

Another Great NO-AD Product for Summer

We are thick into the days of blazing sun and 90-degree weather here in Northern Virginia, so I find myself chasing the kids around the house daily to apply sunscreen to them before we go out. That typically leaves me little time to lather myself up with sunscreen, a task I’ve been trying hard to streamline.

Enter the new NOAD Sport Body & Face Sunscreen Stick, which looks and glides on like deodorant. Since receiving it in the mail a couple of weeks ago to review, I’ve been applying it onto my face before outdoor activities, and I love it! It’s really lightweight and it goes on clear, which means I don’t have to spend a ton of time rubbing it in to get rid of all the white. And it’s SPF 50, offering great protection against UVA and UVB rays.

NO-AD stick

I was a bit worried that the product would make my skin break out, but so far, so good. And it doesn’t have that strong smell that most other sunscreens have.

But here’s my favorite place to use the sunscreen stick—my scalp! I am just not a hat person in my everyday life, and I’ve been wanting to protect my scalp where my hair parts without getting greasy sunscreen all over my hair. Now I just swipe the sunscreen stick over it and it’s been working great.

I’ve written before about what a huge fan I am of NO-AD products, and this one is no exception. It’s so easy to toss into my purse or diaper bag on the way out the door without taking up too much space. I highly recommend it!

Belli Skincare Celebrates Moms with a Huge Month-Long Giveaway

Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday! This will be my first Mother’s Day as a mom of three, so it will be pretty special for me. Here’s a recent photo of my three cuties enjoying a beautiful day in the backyard:

Backyard

This Mother’s Day, Keith made reservations for us to have a fancy brunch in D.C. with the kids. Luckily the restaurant is welcoming of little ones, so I’m pretty excited to have a nice meal with my family. Plus my parents are coming for a visit a few days later, so I’ll get to celebrate with my mom, too.

Do any of you mamas have fun Mother’s Day plans? Regardless of what you’re doing, Belli Skincare—an upscale skin care line for pregnant and postnatal moms—hopes to make it even better. The company is holding its “Belli Celebrates Mom” event throughout the entire month of May. Each day through May 31, moms can visit belliskincare.com for a chance to win an item from that day’s featured brand partner. On the last day, moms can register for the grand prize valued at over $1,500, which will include an item from each sponsor brand.

The value of the all the prizes to be awarded is more than $5,000. And the prizes are pretty great! Sponsors include some of my favorite brands, such as BabyBjorn, Guava Family, Happy Family, and many more.

Throughout the month, moms can also compete for a matching grand prize package in a special contest on Belli’s Facebook page by posting a comment or uploading a photo or video of their mom. The post with the most likes will receive the same grand prize as the sweepstakes winner.

So if you’re feeling lucky, go to belliskincare.com each day and type in your email address to enter the daily giveaway. While you’re there, check out some of the awesome products Belli offers—you can get 20 percent off throughout the month of May with the code CELEBRATEMOM. Every Belli product is allergy tested; free of paraben preservatives, pthalates, and artificial dyes or fragrances; and made in the U.S. The products also avoid ingredients with even remote links to birth defects or miscarriage in published medical studies and those that could be harmful if passed through breast milk.

Good luck with the giveaway, and Happy Mother’s Day!

 
 

 

 
– WHERE:  www.belliskincare.com

New NO-AD Anti-Aging Skin Care Products

Do you feel like you’ve aged a million years since having kids? Yeah, me too. So when I saw that NO-AD introduced a new line of anti-aging body lotions and sprays, I was like, “That has my name written all over it!”

I remember my mom always having a giant neon bottle of NO-AD sunscreen lying around the house. NO-AD, introduced in 1962, is one of the oldest sun care brands in the U.S. NO-AD sells products that are twice the size as national brands for the same price. The reason? The company does not buy advertising, allowing it to offer more product and more advanced skin care ingredients than other national brands for less cost.

NO-AD’s new anti-aging skin care line includes two types of productsPrevent & Repair and Prevent & Brighten. Each type offers a lotion and a spray. Both types have SPF 15 UVA/UVB broad-spectrum protection to help prevent photo aging. They are both meant to provide 36 hours of moisturization and to help even and restore the skin’s natural glow. Both have a fresh cucumber-aloe fragrance and are recommended for daily use by the Skin Cancer Foundation.

The Prevent & Repair products work to help prevent and repair cell damage, reduce inflammation, boost collagen, and give skin firmness and strength while improving its natural barrier function. They contain watermelon extract, aloe vera, and Vitamins A, B6, C, D, and E.
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The Prevent & Brighten products work to diminish the appearance of age spots and brown spots, even out skin tone, brighten skin, and restore the skin’s natural glow. They contain argan oil and Vitamins B3, C, and E. The lotion contains sunflower oil as well.

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I received a bottle of the Prevent & Repair lotion and a bottle of the Prevent & Brighten spray to try out. I really like them both, but I prefer the lotion simply because I’m not a fan of sprays. I love that these products contain sunscreen, since many body lotions do not.
I also love that they’re not greasy, they absorb quickly into the skin, and they don’t have that sunscreen smell. That makes them perfect for everyday use, since I don’t always want to look and smell like I just came from the beach. (But my skin still feels cool after applying them, and that faint aloe smell does remind me of lazy days by the ocean.)

To be perfectly honest, I haven’t yet noticed whether the products have had the long-term firming, brightening, and other effects on my skin that they claim they will have. What I can say, though, is that they have prevented me from getting sunburned as I’ve gone about my daily activities. The weather was wacky here in Northern Virginia throughout the month of April. Several times I found myself unexpectedly out in the blazing sun with the kids, and my exposed chest and arms did not burn like they normally would have if I were wearing my regular moisturizer without sunscreen.

Now, I wouldn’t rely on the new NO-AD products if I were going to spend the day at the beach or the pool. For that, I would still wear a full sunscreen. But according to dermatologists, only 20 percent of our lifetime sun exposure comes from extended outdoor activities like going to the beach. The other 80 percent comes from daily incidental sun exposure while driving, walking the dog, or even sitting next to a sunny window. That’s the type of sun exposure that accumulates gradually and prematurely ages our skin—and that’s the type the new NO-AD anti-aging moisturizers protect against.

The new products cost only $5.49 for a 12-ounce bottle of lotion and $5.99 for a 6.5-ounce spray. That is super cheap, if you ask me! You’d better believe that once my complimentary bottle of Prevent & Repair lotion runs out, I’ll be buying many more bottles. Hopefully the lotion will help keep me looking a lot younger than I actually feel!

I received the new NO-AD skin care products complimentary to review, but my opinions are my own.

 

 

My New Favorite Diaper Bag

Every parent knows the iconic Boppy feeding pillow is a must-have for baby. When the twins were born, I also fell in love with the Boppy Newborn Lounger, on which Matt, Nate, and later Lily spent many blissful hours during the first months of their lives.

Now, Boppy has introduced a new diaper bag line called the Boppy Bag Collection. Since I’m such a huge Boppy fan, I jumped at the recent opportunity to test one of the bags.

Let it be known that I have long struggled to find the perfect diaper bag. When the boys were born, I got a Skip Hop diaper bag that I loved, but it just wasn’t roomy enough for two babies’ worth of paraphernalia. So then I got a Skip Hop Duo Double Deluxe, which fit everything well and had plenty of pockets, but the thing was huge and really clunky.

When Lily was born, I decided it was time to lighten my load. So I got a Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Backpack, which everyone seems to love despite its hefty price tag. And even that didn’t do it for me. It was so deep and didn’t have many pockets inside, so it became like a black hole that everything sank into. It would take me forever to find what I needed.

But then my new Boppy Vail Diaper Bag arrived. I was struck immediately by how great it looks. The gray “Plaza Tiles” design is really pretty, but not too feminine for Keith to carry. (The other three designs it comes in are equally nice and gender-neutral.) The Vail is a nice size, but not too big. It can be worn on the shoulder or cross-body like a messenger bag, and it hangs easily from a stroller. Plus, it sells for $59.99 at many retailers like Amazon.com and Babies R Us, making it a lot less expensive than many diaper bags.

Vail

I decided to try out the Vail for the first time on our overnight spring break trip to Baltimore. I usually carry more than usual in my diaper bag when we’re away from home, so it was a pretty good time to test the bag.

Inside the bag, there are two medium-sized pockets, one large pocket with a Velcro closure, and two small side pockets. In the medium pockets, I put things like my wallet, my phone, Lily’s sun hat, etc. I put changes of clothes for both Lily and the boys in the medium pocket. And in the small pockets, I put little items like travel-size Purell and Lily’s hair brush. The main part of the bag was for baby wipes, burp cloths, formula containers, and bibs.

On the inner part of the bag’s exterior, there’s a large pocket with a cushioned foldout changing pad that’s nicely sized for larger babies (which, ahem, Lily is). The front of the bag has a strap with a clip lock where you can secure your Boppy pillow, which is cool if you need to tote it around. There’s also another large pocket in the outer front where I stored the diapers. A shallow pocket on the bottom is perfect for stashing tissues, napkins, and other things you don’t mind losing should they fall out. And on each side of the bag, there’s a pouch that fits two baby bottles.

Finally, the bag comes with accessories that are really useful. There’s a pacifier case, a wipes dispenser case, and a matching wristlet that I got a ton of use out of. I put a couple of diapers, a travel pack of wipes, and some diaper disposal bags in the wristlet. When it was time to change Lily, I just grabbed the wristlet and the changing pad instead of taking the whole diaper bag into the bathroom and digging everything out separately. But the wristlet would also be great in the future for storing my own stuff separate from the baby’s, so that I can quickly find my cell phone, lip gloss, keys, etc.

Even with the roominess of the bag, we struggled to fit everything in it during the trip because of all the extras we were carrying, such as our camera and extra formula. But since we got home and I removed all those items, I haven’t had a problem fitting everything at all. In fact, the bag is so cute and functional that I still use it as my purse in addition to a diaper bag on most days, and it fits both my stuff and Lily’s things. With all the pockets, I’ve managed to keep it really organized, too. It is officially my favorite diaper bag, and I don’t think I’m ever going to switch.

So now that Boppy has successfully expanded into the diaper bag market, I’m excited to see what the company has in store for us next. Pack and plays? Baby carriers? Bedding? I can’t wait to find out!

Disclaimer: I received the Boppy Vail Diaper Bag complimentary to review, but my opinions are my own.

Family Pizza Night!

Hi there! It’s been a super busy month for us. Now that the weather is (finally) getting nicer, we’ve been having fun exploring our new city, making friends, and just being out in the fresh air. We’ve been preparing for Lily’s Baptism, which is this Sunday. I’ve also been working a lot!

As many of you know, I am now a regular contributor for Care.com, a website with over 13 million members that connects families with caregivers. It’s where we’ve found our wonderful nannies! I write parenting articles for the site, including one about how to travel with kids and stay sane (a topic I’ve tackled before on this blog).

In between all of that work and play, the kids and I (and sometimes Keith) have been testing a ton of awesome products that I’ll be reviewing for you all on this blog in the coming weeks. For one such review, Rustic Crust, which makes organic and all-natural pizza crust and sauce, hosted a family pizza night for us. I was thrilled because it’s so hard for me to get a nutritious dinner on the table that both the grown-ups and kids will enjoy.

Here’s what the company sent us:

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We did our pizza night on a Friday evening, when we often order pizza and watch a movie. We tried two of the crusts—the Crispy Italian Thin Crust and the Cheesy Herb Pizza Crust. Rustic Crust also sent us three packs of sauce, which took the guesswork out of how much sauce to use (one pack per pizza). Since I’m Italian American, of course I already had mozzarella and grated Romano cheese on hand, so it really couldn’t have been any easier.

The twins had a blast helping me make the pizzas—rubbing olive oil on the crusts, spreading the sauce, sprinkling the cheese on top, etc. We used shredded part-skim mozzarella on one crust and sliced fresh mozzarella on the other. We also put grated Romano cheese, minced garlic, and fresh basil on both. Then I popped them in the oven and baked them for 10 minutes, and that was it—dinner was served! Here’s how they came out:

IMG_8635 IMG_8638We had even more fun eating the pizza than we did making it:

IMG_8643 IMG_8645 We forgot to get a picture of Keith eating his pizza, but his mouth was likely too full to pose, anyway.

The verdict? Yummy! Now, I must disclose that I really don’t have a comparison point for the pizza because we never make pizzas at home. I am a pizza snob from Brooklyn and I have a dad who makes amazing homemade pizza, so I never really attempt to replicate his or any of the other amazing slices I’ve eaten. So I can’t speak to how Rustic Crust compares to other packaged pizza crusts or sauces.

But, for organic crusts made with real, non-GMO ingredients and no artificial preservatives, these were quite tasty! I’d certainly make them again for the convenience alone. The Cheesy Herb crust had a great taste, but the good old thin crust was yummy as well. The sauce was good, too! (I probably would have put a little more on each crust than was in the pouch, but that may have made the pizza soggy, so what do I know?)

We never got to make a pizza with the Sea Salt & Basil Ciabatta, but I found that it made a yummy standalone snack!

Give Rustic Crust a try for your next family pizza night. There are several varieties of crust, and they’re available for purchase at various grocery stores across the nation, including Whole Foods. If you do decide to try them, let me know what you think!