Category: Cool Stuff for Moms & Dads

Our Disney Side @Home Celebration

I’ve been a huge Disney fan since I was a kid. During our 15 months in Southern California, I passed that love on to Matt and Nate by taking them to Disneyland no less than 10 times. (Keith and I had annual passports, and the boys got in free since they were under 3 at the time.)

Naturally, I was thrilled to be one of the bloggers selected by Disney Parks and MomSelect to host a Disney Side @Home Celebration. For the celebration, I received a party kit full of awesome free products from some amazing sponsors. My kit’s theme was Disney Cars, one of the twins’ favorite movies. Here’s what it contained:

  • Tons of fun Cars party decorations, including napkins, cups, plates, a tablecloth, treat boxes, and more
  • A Wilton Mickey Mouse cake pan, a Duff Goldman by Gartner Studios Tie Dye cake mix, and colorful Wilton sprinkles (with which I attempted to make a Mickey cake and failed miserably—see the photo at the end of this post)
  • Disney-themed games and activities, including “Pin the smile on Mickey Mouse,” Bingo, paper fortune-tellers, and more
  • Goodies for the kids: Cars place mats, chore charts, Crayola crayons, fun prizes including a Mega Bloks Hot Wheels building set and a Disney puzzle, and more
  • Goodies for the moms: HP CMYK (Create Memories You Keep) Packs containing HP photo paper and envelopes, Twinings Tea from Twinings of London, Disney luggage tags, and Beyond Meat coupons
  • Goodies for me: A giant tub of All detergent Mighty Pacs and samples of Wisk Deep Clean detergent and Snuggle Scent Boosters fabric softener (By the way, I love the Mighty Pacs. They are way more easy and convenient than pumping or pouring out liquid detergent and dripping it all over my floor. I just make sure to keep them out of reach of the kids, since detergent pods can be dangerous if little ones ingest them.)

We received the party kit in late January, and the boys had a blast opening it. Since we were required to have the party in January or February and didn’t have much time to plan, I decided to turn it into a giant play date for some of the new friends they’ve made since moving to Virginia a few months ago. I figured it was a good excuse for the mommies to get together as well. And because we’ve had a pretty brutal winter and everyone is going a bit stir crazy, we had an awesome turnout for a Tuesday afternoon—13 kids and seven moms!

I set up a fun party table with some of the goodies we got. The Cars cupcake tower I received in my party kit served as a display for the kids’ treat boxes that also came in the kit. (I filled them with Cars stickers and inexpensive Cars fruit snacks I found at the grocery store.)

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Since the party was at 1:30 pm and everyone had eaten lunch already, I kept it simple and put out some light snacks such as carrots and hummus, pretzels, and veggie straws. Luckily, my friend Amber livened it up a bit with the fun Mickey-shaped Jell-O treats you see at the front of the table!

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It doesn’t take much to entertain a bunch of 3- and 4-year-olds, so I kept the activities simple by pulling out pretty much any Cars-themed item the boys own. We had coloring books, puzzles, and magnetic scenes.

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I set up the boys’ Cars cars on the train table.

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I also set up little coloring stations around the house with the Crayola crayons that came in the party kit and some Cars coloring sheets I happened to have. They were a huge hit!

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We even got some of the bigger kids to play “Pin the Smile on Mickey Mouse,” though they refused to be blindfolded and simply stuck their smiles onto the correct spot on Mickey’s face.

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Overall, our Disney Side @Home Celebration was a blast for the kids and grown-ups alike! Unfortunately it was so hectic (in a good way!) that I didn’t get a chance to take many photos of the kids, but that’s a sign of a fun party!

Also, though my Duff Goldman Mickey cake was delish (I swear!), it … um … didn’t end up looking so great. (I am not a baker!) Since many other Disney Side hosts have been posting pictures of their gorgeous bakery-like Mickey cakes, I thought I’d put myself out there and post a photo of my monstrosity:

IMG_8544Hahahahahaha! My cake may have been an epic fail, but our party was a big success—and that’s all that matters! We all had a great time showing our Disney side! Thank you, Disney Parks and MomSelect, for this fun opportunity!

If you want to host your own Disney Side Celebration, visit disneysidecelebrations.com for lots of great theme ideas, recipes, activities, and inspiration!

I received free products in order to host a Disney Side @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Score Free Stuff From Influenster!

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you’ve likely seen me post about some of the awesome free stuff I’ve received from Influenster. If you haven’t yet checked out Influenster, you should do so right away!

Influenster is a community of consumers who share their opinions of products and experiences. Anyone who is active on social media can participate on Influenster to earn VoxBoxes. VoxBoxes contain full-size product samples—anything from cosmetics to toiletries to snacks— for recipients to test and review. All you have to do is sign up, complete a profile, and link your social media accounts, and you’re well on your way. You can then boost your chances of scoring VoxBoxes by engaging on the site—reviewing products, answering questions, etc. You can spend as much or as little time on the site as you want, so it’s a great way for busy moms to score some free stuff.

I’ve been active on Influenster for less than a year and have spent an average of only a few minutes a day on the site. Even with that minimal time commitment, I’ve earned four VoxBoxes so far—a Mary Kay cosmetics one, a beach-themed one containing products like after-sun lotion and waterproof mascara, a Victoria’s Secret box that included a sports bra and leggings, and, most recently, the Moda VoxBox.

I really loved my Moda VoxBox! It contained a wide variety of amazing products. Here’s what I got:

VoxBox

  1. Puffs SoftPack: The new Puffs SoftPack has a flexible wrapper instead of a destructible cardboard box. My SoftPack has really come in handy for me because my allergies have been terrible here in Northern Virginia, and I can easily toss it in my diaper bag alongside the baby wipes. Plus, the wrapper has a really fun design!
  2. resource Natural Spring Water: I had never heard of this water until a big ol’ bottle arrived in my VoxBox. Resource is a sustainably sourced, 100-percent natural spring water with naturally occurring electrolytes for a clean, refreshing taste. I guzzled that bottle down during a late work night, and it really kept me going!
  3. Hair Food Moisture Hair Mask: I’ve only used this brand new product a couple of times so far, but it made my hair feel really soft, smooth, and shiny—like I just came out of the hair salon. Plus, the honey and apricot oil smelled really luxurious!
  4. Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa: This was my favorite product in the VoxBox! I love Christmastime, so I really enjoyed curling up on the couch and drinking this cocoa out of my Santa mug. I buy the original Swiss Miss every winter, but I really liked the Simply Cocoa. It tasted richer than the original, and it contains only five ingredients—sugar, cocoa, nonfat milk, salt, and natural flavor. Yum!
  5. JERGENS Ultra Healing Extra Dry Skin Moisturizer: Now that I’m living back in a wintry climate (ugh), I once again have to contend with dry, cracked skin on my hands and elbows. Eczema cream is super pricey, so I was thrilled to receive this product in my VoxBox. It’s been working great! It contains Vitamins C, E, and B5 and keeps my skin smoother longer.
  6. Rimmel London Scandaleyes Rockin’ Curves Mascara: This mascara is awesome! It goes on smoothly, it doesn’t clump, and it really makes my eyes pop. The curved brush makes it easy to coat every lash.
  7. Rimmel London Moisture Renew Lipstick and Lip Liner: Since I don’t wear lipstick (I’m more of a lip-gloss girl), I have to admit that I only tried this out in my bathroom. But the color was rich, and the transparent lip liner made it easy to quickly apply the lipstick without getting it all over the place. It seems perfect for busy moms in a hurry!

I just got an email informing me that I have another VoxBox on the way—the Frosty VoxBox—and it also looks like it’s going to be a good one. It contains an EcoTools Hair Brush, McCormick Gourmet Thyme, and more.

Get in on the action and give Influenster a try! Let me know how you like it!

*I received the above products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Unique Holiday Cards on Minted

The holiday season is upon us, bringing with it an endless to-do list of gift buying and wrapping, decorating, baking, and more. One of those to-do’s is sending holiday cards.

I am always looking for great ways to show off photos of my kids on our cards. That’s why I was excited to find Minted’s new collection of photo holiday cards. It includes some of the most fun and unique designs around, whether you’re going for elegant, funny, quirky, or anything in between. Just look at this luggage tag-shaped card:

Luggage tag

If you’ve got little mischief-makers like my twins, this hilarious design would be perfect:

Wreck the Halls

You can eliminate the need for a Christmas letter with this design (which also helps military families like my own announce where they are currently living):

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Or if you had a Christmas baby, you can send a holiday card and birth announcement in one:

Birth announcement

And though it’s not part of the new collection, this Minted comic-book card is simply awesome for comic book fans or families with little superheroes in training:

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Seriously, there are so many cool holiday-card options at various price points on Minted, but I don’t have time to show all of my favorites here on the blog. If you haven’t yet chosen and sent your holiday cards, check out Minted’s new Christmas card collection. Many of the designs have express service available, so you still have time to get them out before the new year.

 

Baseball Fanatics!

If you didn’t yet know that baseball is a religion in our house, allow me to share this photo of the twins, taken this past weekend:

LA baseball fans

Yup, this is typical attire when we’re at home. And each morning at breakfast, the boys love to “read” the box scores in the Los Angeles Times, during which they correctly identify every team’s logo. They’ll go down the list and squeal, “That’s the Detroit Tigers!” or “Look, the Baltimore Orioles!”

So my discovery of Fanatics, a leading online retailer of officially licensed sports merchandise, could not have come at a better time. Unlike most sports retailers, the site carries a wide selection of apparel and accessories for kids. (Most stores carry a lot of infant clothing and shirts for bigger kids, but very few items in sizes 2T to 4T.) Keith was also excited to see the huge variety of MLB hats—many of which are hard to find in stores—to add to his collection.

I also happened to find Fanatics just before my family experienced our greatest baseball memory thus far. On Sunday, August 17, we went to a Dodgers vs. Brewers game at Dodger Stadium. Despite the fact that the Dodgers lost 7-2—and that it was a boiling 90 degrees outside—it turned out to be our greatest baseball memory as a family thus far. The boys have been to several MLB games already, but this particular game felt extra special. Maybe it’s because we’ll be moving out of Southern California in less than two months. Maybe it’s because our baby girl will be here in 2 1/2 weeks and these outings as a foursome will be soon be ending. Maybe it’s because both of the boys’ beloved LA teams, the Dodgers and the Angels, are in first place.

But the main reason this game was so magical? It was the first one the boys didn’t spend begging for souvenirs and concessions, making us walk back and forth through the stadium, and/or pretending they had to go to the bathroom 800 times just so they could get up. This time, they were actually captivated by the game. They sat still until nearly the end and really paid attention. They clapped along with the crowd. They yelled, “Let’s go, Dodgers!” They pointed out everything on the field. (“There’s the dugout!” “There’s the umpire!”) They asked Keith questions about the players. It was truly the stuff that family baseball memories are made of.

Dodgers bobblehead

The real highlight of the outing, though, came on the drive home. The boys sat in the backseat wearing their new Dodgers souvenir batting helmets, chatting happily about how much fun the game was. Then, without a hint of irony, Matt said, “I’m going to play for the Dodgers when I’m a grown-up.”

So there you have it, folks. Write this date down: On August 17, 2014, Matthew Daniel Walters declared to the world that he is going to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I can just envision the LA Times story in 2034: “At just 3 years old, rookie Dodgers shortstop Matt Walters already knew he would one day play for the boys in blue. His twin, Angels catcher Nate Walters, took a bit longer to choose his path in life.” Wouldn’t that be amazing?

When you get a moment, check out the Fanatics website. There is something for every fan, no matter what sport you follow!

And P.S.: Yes, we are a house divided. Keith is a huge Angels fan, and I have retained my loyalty to the Mets. But while Matt and Nate love both LA teams, they often have a real LA rivalry going. Matt, who is obsessed with Clayton Kershaw, favors the Dodgers. Nate, who idolizes Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun, leans toward the Angels. A freeway World Series would be pretty awesome!

What’s your favorite family baseball memory? Leave a comment and let me know!

Ditch the Diaper Bag with the Quint Carryall!

One day when the twins had just turned 2, I was at a playgroup with some mom friends and their sons. The moms chatted as the kids played, and naturally, the topic veered toward how frazzled and unorganized we all felt as mothers of toddlers. Then one of the ladies turned to me and said something I’ll never forget.

“Jen, I admire you,” she said. “You’ve really managed to maintain your identity since having kids.”

Well, I certainly didn’t feel that way, so I thought she was crazy. But then the other moms chimed in and agreed with her.

“You still carry around your cute purses,” one said. “The rest of us put all our whole lives into our diaper bags.”

“Yes!” agreed another. “I don’t remember the last time I carried a purse!”

I thought about their statements all the way home. The thing was, I was constantly lamenting to Keith about how I hadn’t had time to switch my purse in over a year and how filthy and unorganized it was inside. But the girls were right. Despite lugging around an ugly, behemoth twin diaper bag, I always did have my oversize purse on the other shoulder. It had never even occurred to me to put my personal items in the diaper bag. The diaper bag was the twins’ space, and my purse was mine.

Now, as I prepare to welcome my third baby in just seven weeks, I’m hoping to travel much lighter for shorter, everyday outings. The twins don’t need much anymore, and I’ll have to tote around only half the amount of stuff for one baby. But does traveling lighter mean I’ll finally have to ditch the purse and carry only a small diaper bag?

It may have, had I not learned of an amazing new product by QuintEssential Mommy, a brand new company created by two San Francisco moms. It’s called the Quint Carryall, and it can instantly turn any large purse or tote into a diaper bag.

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The Quint Carryall is a lightweight, zippered pouch made of 100 percent cotton. There are seven pockets of various sizes around the perimeter, perfect for small items like hand sanitizer, pacifiers, diaper-cream tubes, etc. The roomy nylon interior is water resistant. It has one large pocket for diapers and wipes, a zippered pocket, and two elastic pockets meant to hold bottles or cups. There’s enough space inside to stash a change of clothes, a burp cloth, and even a small toy or board book.

Quint inside

Once the Quint Carryall is loaded up, you simply zip it closed and drop it into your large handbag. Everything you need for baby is there in one organized, removable place, leaving your purse’s pockets free for your own items. No more rummaging through a bottomless pit for your keys, a diaper, or a wayward pacifier!

The Quint Carryall retails for $44.99 and is machine washable. It comes in several fashionable and gorgeous patterns. Jenny Hong and Kopal Goonetileke, the co-founders of Quintessential Mommy, sent me the Noe Valley pattern (seen above) to review, and I just love it. I can’t wait to try it out when the baby comes. What a great excuse to go shopping for a new oversize purse!

QuintEssential Mommy also makes several other pretty and functional products for moms. There’s the Quint Diaper Clutch, the Quint Mini Pad, and the Quint Wet/Dry Bag. All of these items can be used on their own or inside the Quint Carryall. And they are all cute enough to keep using for your own stuff once your kids are older!

If you’re a mom like me who wants to meet your kids’ needs, stay organized, and still retain your own sense of style, visit quintessentialmommy.com to check out all of the company’s great products and to buy one for yourself. You’ll be glad you did! (P.S.: They also make great gifts!)

Prenatal Beverages for Moms-to-Be!

I have been asked countless times whether this pregnancy has been easier than the last since there is only one baby this time. And that would certainly make sense, wouldn’t it? But at nearly 32 weeks pregnant, I can say with authority that it has not been easier. Maybe the old wives’ tale is true—maybe baby girls really do wreak havoc on your body!

To be fair, it hasn’t been a bad pregnancy at all. I have been able to remain pretty active throughout, and I am still sleeping decently. My morning sickness was limited to short bursts of nausea that usually went away when I ate something.

With the twins, however, I experienced no nausea whatsoever. I am also way more tired this time around. (I even spent the entire day in bed on three separate occasions after taking on too much and overdoing it.) And, my tummy has been a lot more—ahem—sensitive throughout this pregnancy. It seems like any little thing will upset my stomach. And one of those things has been my prenatal vitamin.

Prenatal vitamins are awesome for so many reasons. They supersize your immune system, make your hair and nails thick and healthy, and ensure your baby gets all of his or her essential nutrients. But they can also have some pretty unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, gas, stomach cramps, etc.

When I was pregnant with Matt and Nate, prenatal vitamins never bothered me. But throughout this pregnancy, they’ve often left me with several of those unpleasant symptoms. I’m OK when I take them at night and soon after eating. But with 3-year-old twins to chase, a part-time job, and a cross-country move to prepare for, sometimes I forget. Plus, the huge pills can be hard to swallow.

Many pregnant women experience much worse side effects from their prenatal vitamins. This has sparked the creation of several new beverages for expecting moms that ensure they get all of the essential vitamins and minerals their babies need. And through my job, I’ve gotten to try three of them.

Bump Water, which I reviewed for Baby Gizmo, is a new line of all-natural drinks that are packed with many of the same vitamins found in prenatals. Each 16-ounce bottle includes 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamins A, D, E, and more. Bump Water also contains the full recommended daily allowance of folic acid. Research shows that folic acid is an essential part of healthy fetal development, both before and during pregnancy, by helping to prevent major birth defects of the brain, spine, and spinal cord. 

Bump Water

Bump Water comes in five flavors—cranberry ginger, strawberry lemonade, pomegranate mixed berry, lemonade, and lemon lime. There are flat flavors and sparkling ones.

I tried two flavors—the 10-calorie sparkling cranberry ginger and the 100-calorie sparkling lemonade. They tasted like flavored water. I enjoyed both, but the lemonade was especially tasty. I had no stomach problems with the Bump Water. In fact, the fizz may have actually helped settle my tummy a bit. But since I am not generally a fan of sparkling beverages, I think I would have enjoyed the flat flavors much more.

Next, I tried Premama, which comes in powder form. Premama is a drinkable prenatal vitamin created by leading OB/GYNs. You can mix the powder with water or juice, or into your food. Premama is packed with 11+ vitamins and minerals, including folic acid and DHA, which supports fetal brain and eye development.

Premama

Premama comes in three varieties—the unflavored Premama Essentials, the citrus-flavored Premama Plus with DHA, and the orange-flavored Premama Complete with extra DHA. I mixed them all into 8-oz. glasses of water. However, Premama Essentials is meant to be mixed with food or juice—and I can see why. Though the powder is not flavored, I kept imagining I could taste it in my water, and it bugged me. While the other two tasted better, they didn’t give the water as much of a flavor as I would have liked. They therefore took longer for me to drink, allowing the powder to settle on the bottom of the glass a bit. But Premama didn’t upset my stomach at all, and it was so much better than swallowing a pill!

Finally, I got to sample three bottles of Bundle Organics. Bundle Organics is the first line of organic prenatal juices specifically for pregnant and breastfeeding moms. Made with organic fruits and veggies, the juices are fully pasteurized and not raw-pressed. They also include key nutrients recommended for pregnant moms and their developing babies, including vitamin D, calcium, Omega-3, and folic acid. They come in three flavors—Dark Berry/Veggie, Kale/Apple/Lemon/Ginger, and Orange/Carrot/Berry/Ginger.

bundle-organics

Bundle Organics juices are not as vitamin-packed as Bump Water or Premama. However, they are not meant to be a replacement for prenatal vitamins—just a yummy and convenient way to get added nutrients and stay hydrated. And, they are really delicious! I drank mine cold, straight from the fridge, and had no problem downing them because they tasted so great. I felt really refreshed afterward, and I was happy to get the big dose of fruits and vegetables.

Overall, I think any of these products would be wonderful for pregnant women who are having a rough time with prenatal vitamins, or simply those who want to get added vitamins and nutrients. But before using any of them as a replacement for your prenatal vitamin, be sure to talk to your OB/GYN!

 

 

GIVEAWAY: Win a Photo Canvas From CVS Photo!

We all know how much I love to take pictures of my kids—don’t we all? Unfortunately, all too often our photos languish on our smartphones or our cameras’ memory cards, only to be discovered months later. And even when we do remember to upload pictures onto our computers, what then? How can we beautifully and creatively display our photos so that we can truly enjoy them?

Enter CVS Photo, which offers many creative options for displaying beloved photos—wood or metal photo panels, easel art, and—my personal favorite—canvas prints. I just love canvases because they make any photo look like a piece of art and they look awesome on any wall. Plus, you don’t have to worry about framing them!

CVS Photo has lots of great photo gifts, too. They range from classic gifts like photo books, calendars, and mugs to unique items like ornaments, coasters, and phone and tablet cases.

The best part is, you don’t have to pay shipping fees if you live near a CVS (and with locations in 45 states and DC, you probably do)—most CVS Photo items are available for free pickup at your local store. Many are even available for free same-day pickup! So if you’ve been, ahem, slacking on a Father’s Day gift (it’s June 15), you’re in luck!

And you can be even luckier. CVS Photo is giving one Double Duty Twins reader a free photo canvas worth up to $99.99! To win, just “like” Double Duty Twins on Facebook and leave a comment under the contest post letting me know which CVS Photo item you’d buy for your dad or hubby for Father’s Day. If you’re not on Facebook, just leave a comment below this post on the blog! I will email the winner a code good for one free photo canvas.

“Like” and leave your comment by 7:00 AM Eastern Time on Thursday, June 12. I’ll announce the winner here and on Facebook that morning and send you a code right away with which to redeem your free photo canvas at CVSphoto.com.

Thank you for entering, and good luck!

UPDATE: The winner of the free photo canvas from CVS Photo is Natalie Yarbrough! Thank you to all who entered, and congratulations to Natalie. Please check back for more exciting giveaways to come!