Disclosure: Some posts on this blog are sponsored, meaning that I received goods, services, or monetary payment for my writing. My opinions however, are not 'purchased' and are always 100% my own. Posts contain affiliate links that I earn a commission on. This disclosure is done in accordance with the FTC 10 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Make your patio portable!

Did you get a chance to read about the cool patio set-up from Best of Times?

I was introduced to this product after a blogging friend of mine received one of these portable set-ups to review. I had never heard of Best of Times prior to that, but I was quickly hooked to the idea of their product! The whole thing is so convenient that it can collapse down into a couple of easy carry bags, which means you can put it pretty much anywhere! This would come in so handy for us because we love to go to the local parks to have barbeques - you can't beat the scenery, and the park staff hauls the trash for you at the end! (Gotta love that easy clean-up!) With this portable bar set-up, we could have all of our goodies within easy and organized reach.

I was also thinking about how nice this would be to have on me whenever there is an outdoor get-together at someone's house. Up where I'm from, a party means that the closest friends & family of the party-thrower are usually asked to bring a card-table or two for putting food items on. I always hate doing that because hauling a card table is awkward, especially if you have a small car, and you always come back with piece of tape stuck to the underside of the table from where they stuck down the table-cover. I can imagine that if I had this, I would probably get asked to bring it with me a lot.

This portable bar package is great for sports parties too - the entire design can be customized to reflect your favorite sports team!

The best part of this deal though? I was able to help my blogger friend promote this item when she reviewed it for her site, and because of that, the company gave me an affiliate link! This means that you get a discount and I get a small sales commission. (How about that? - we both win!) For more on my disclosure policy, please see the tab titled, 'Let me disclose to you'.

Click here to check out what Best of Times has to offer, and don't forget to use the code MASTEROFMOM at the checkout to get a 15% discount!

(The blogger opp that was associated with this post has expired, please check out our blogger opps tab for a list of available opportunities!)

Check out this cool bike from Kinderfeets!

Now here's a kid's item I would love to get for my son! I first heard about the Kinderfeets bike when my fellow blogger over at EliteMamasBlog.com was lucky enough to try one out.

One of the first things that grabbed my attention about this bike was the absence of pedals, which I found amazing for two reasons: First of all, it almost eliminates the chance of falling off the bike, since it can be assumed that the child riding it will have both feet on (or close to) the ground. And secondly, my son would be able to ride it, despite his short legs.

Yes, I already tried to get my son a tricycle, and no, he couldn't reach the pedals. He is very tall, but his legs aren't quite proportionate to that, so the last time we skipped into the toy store and I took him by the bike section, we were both disappointed when he couldn't make the pedals turn on a bright red tricycle. (Poor little guy!)

Some other things that I already love about this company? Not only are the bikes made out of sustainable birch wood, but the chalk paint is water-based and non-toxic. And yes, it's chalk paint. That means that all you have to do to customize this cute little bike is bust out the sidewalk chalks and let your child scribble to their heart's content.

This bike is the number one toy on my Christmas wish-list of big-ticket items this year not only because my son would love it, but because it's a great 'green' toy as well. (This company even plants a tree with each Kinderfeets bike purchase - how awesome is that?)

You can read Elitemama's review here to see how her son like his Kinderfeets bike and find out if one would be right for your child!

Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post, and as always, my opinions are purely my own.

(The giveaway that was associated with this post has expired, please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests!)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tips for Keeping Up With the School Year

Did you get back-to-school in style this year? It can be difficult to get back into the swing of a regular routine, but usually by the time the harvest parties start up, everyone has gotten comfortably settled into their school-year patterns. This also means, however, that it can be easy to slip into bad habits that lead to missed homework or last-minute shopping trips.

Here are five great tips for facing the world year-long with as much spunk as you do during that first back-to-school month:

1. Stick to the bed-time.
This one seems like it would be a real no-brainer, but things aren't always so black & white. Everyone has the occasional situation come up where letting your kids stay up past their school-night bedtime is practically a necessity, but that doesn't mean it should become a habit. If you let your kids stay up for something special, try to make sure that it's really something one-of-a-kind that couldn't be done during other hours. As long as you make a big deal out of the bedtime rule, it will be a big deal to your kids too. Not only will they appreciate the times you allow them to stay up late even more, but they will be plenty rested for the school day. As a child who frequently had trouble falling asleep at night, I can certainly testify to the fact that there are few things at that age as torturous as trying to stay awake during class!

2. Ask your kids if they need anything for school at least once a week.
Kids can be funny sometimes. They will put up with half-broken pens or a 'lucky' pencil with no eraser for months but will insist on new folders every time you go to the store. (Even though their current ones are just fine, the problem is that they aren't as cool as their friend's new folders. Duh, mom.) Then there's what I like to call the 'surprise-project' - usually a crucial poster or diorama presentation that they didn't tell you about, put off until the last minute, and then realized they needed supplies for the night before it was due. School-age children usually have a lot of distractions, so don't count on them to tell you if they need something, because it won't always happen. Help them out by checking in with them once a week just to be sure that they don't need something (other than folders with horses or Batman on them) and you'll be doing everyone a favor.

3. Try to cook up at least one make-ahead meal during the weekends.
School years can be a ridiculously busy time for parents. A lot of people jokingly start the school year by talking about parental freedom, but really it can be just the opposite. For homes where both parents are working, it can be a huge stress to get the kids ready for school and on the bus in the morning. And if you have young children? That means an added commute to pick the kids up from daycare or the after-school program. Plus you have to worry about extra-curricular activities, which usually only increase as children get older. Ever have one of those pick-up-the-kids-drive-to-practice-rush-to-gymnastics-late-to-the-dance-rehearsal-and-don't-forget-to-grab-the-dry-cleaning nights? It happens to all of us sometimes. Making at least one meal ahead of time means that even if your evening is crammed full of activities, you'll still be able to give your family a healthy meal without adding to your to-do list.

4. Keep a 'bring-home' folder, and don't stop using it.
Everyone has heard the tip about keeping a folder in your child's backpack for things they need to bring straight to your attention, homework information, and other miscellaneous important items. But let's face it - that folder usually only gets used for about a month. And that means that eventually you are going to fall out of the information loop. When I was younger, my mom would always put that little folder in my backpack, and I would never use it. I'd stick stuff in there for the first week or so, but my mom didn't check it after the first couple of days, so she frequently got surprised by such announcements as, "Oh, mom, before I brush my teeth, I forgot to tell you that there's a pumpkin painting contest tomorrow, and we didn't do mine yet." Or even worse, I usually did my homework in the mornings on the bus. If mom asked if my homework was done, I'd just say yes, and she believed me. Yes, I was naughty. Yes, she should have quizzed me on it to make sure I wasn't lying. But because I wasn't putting my homework in the take-home folder, there was no way she could ask for proof! Make sure your child uses the folder, and make sure you inspect it every night - it will save everyone some hassle.

5. Go into 'vacation-mode' at least once a month.
While I'm certainly not suggesting that you should take your child out of school every few weeks to jet off to Disneyland, it never hurts to have a little fun. School can get so boring for a child, and there's rarely anything to look forward to other than the next big holiday or teacher's day (anything for a day off of school!). Think of what makes summer-time so special for your family and then get creative with making a special night or weekend at home or nearby. Do you like to go to the beach? Head to an indoor waterpark. Frequently spend time at family BBQ's? Invite the relatives over for a potluck dinner. Invest some money in an annual family pass for a local attraction that isn't far away. It doesn't have to be anything big; museums, zoos, and aquariums are all great ideas, and usually relatively cheap. Plus, places like those are educational, which means that your kids will get the added bonus of learning some extra knowledge. You'll be able to spend some fun bonding time with them, and they'll think you're an A+ mom. What can be better than that?

(The blogger opp that was associated with this post has expired, please check out our blogger opps tab for a list of available opportunities!)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Greatest Tailgate Item Ever?

Been to any great football parties lately? Growing up, I can remember my uncles clustered around the TV down at my grandpa's house, loudly shouting at their teams to "get a move on!" As a matter of fact, I can't think of one of these gatherings without recalling the sound of a ref's call echoing in the microphone, the smell of the home-cooked food set out in the kitchen, and the feel of being warm & cozy inside while the crisp autumn air waited just outside the door.

When I was younger, these parties were something I looked forward to not just for the food & family, but because there is something comforting about having a football tradition. If you live up north like I did, football probably brings up memories of older male relatives standing in the cold with a beer in their hand and a grill fork in the other. Recollections of scarves, sweaters, and blankets are most likely right behind. And although we northerners have to live through just about every football season in a climate a bit chillier than the rest of the US, that doesn't stop us from throwing some of the most awesome tailgate parties ever.

Now I'm not saying that the northerners definitely throw a better party, but I can tell you one thing for certain: a blogger friend of mine up in good ol' Michigan has a portable bar from Best of Times, and it might just be the best tailgating item ever.

This bar may not seem like much from the picture since it's just a standard black set-up, but would you believe that not only is it sturdy and transportable, but the entire display can be customized with your favorite sports team? And I'm not just talking about football - they have standard NASCAR and NCAA designs as well. If you're looking for something really different, they can offer you a custom design! Top it off with the huge 6 foot umbrella that comes with it and you'll be the life of the party whether you are on your patio, a tailgate party, or a friend's place. This is truly an awesome setup, and if I can convince my husband to pick a design that isn't for a Florida team, we might just get one. (Hey, we're movin' to Indiana eventually, and I don't want my cousins giving me a hard time!)

I found out about this item when my blogging friend received one to review and did a giveaway on her website. Because I was part of the blogging group that promoted the giveaway, Best of Times was nice enough to set me up with a affiliate code! This means you get a discount when you place an order with Best of Times and I get a percentage of the sales. (Yay for me! Oh, and you. Yay, discount!) For more information on my disclosure policy, please see the tab titled 'Let me disclose to you'.

Click here to check out what Best of Times has to offer, and don't forget to use the code MASTEROFMOM at the checkout to get a 15% discount!

(The giveaway that was associated with this post has expired, please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests!)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Change that diaper faster with a ZIPaboo!

ZIPaboo noah-300x300logoBabies are loveable, along with just about everything about them - but I know one thing about babies that no one loves (at least not anyone I've ever talked to) and that's a poopy diaper. You know what's worse than a baby that needs a change? A baby that needs a change at 3 am. Moms everywhere can attest to the fact that not only is it no fun for us to have to wake up to change that diaper, but it's no fun for baby either, especially when jammies have to come off just to get the task done. In case you've never been in this particular predicament, let me explain: the more you move baby around during a middle-of-the-night change, the more likely it is that baby won't drop back to sleep. And that means mommy can't sleep either. (Poor mommy!)

That's what makes these ZIPaboo pajamas so cool though! The innovative design means that baby can get his or her diaper changes without leaving the snuggly warmth of the clothing while mommy can quickly unzip the outer-leg area to get the job done fast. I found out about this product when fellow blogger Army Wife & Mommy featured the ZIPaboo on her site, but unfortunately that wasn't until after my baby was so chubby that we couldn't put her in anything with zippers on the legs. (Seriously, my baby looks like she's made of bread dough. She's adorable, but oh there are so many baby rolls!)

Bloggers aren't the only ones getting into this product though, this item actually made it into celeb swag bags and was even featured on Access Hollywood! If that isn't carving a name out as an up-and-coming baby product, I don't know what is!

You can check out ZIPaboo on their website at www.zipaboo.com, or connect with them on Facebook or Twitter.

Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post, and as always, my opinions are purely my own.

(The giveaway that was associated with this post has expired, please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests!)

Things Mommyhood Has Taught Me (Be prepared to laugh...)

Oh the joys of being a mom. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, sometimes it's downright scary! Luckily, no matter what your days bring, you can be sure that there is some humor (and wisdom) to be found in just about all of it.

So read through this (short) list of things you can learn from being a mom. Laugh a little and then add a comment to share what you've learned in your mom-journey. (Dads are welcome to post as well, many of these things apply to both parents!)

Things Mommyhood Has Taught Me

1. Sometimes the best way isn't the "right" way.

2. The people with the most advice on how you should raise your children are usually people who do not have children.

3. No matter how many kids you have had or have been around, they can always come up with a situation you weren't prepared for.

4. If you give a baby raspberries on their tummy right after they've eaten, you will soon have baby throw-up in your hair.

5. Having poop on your fingers is not the grossest thing you will encounter as a mom. Not even close.

6. People will giggle at you because you have Cheeto-handprints on your butt. Only another mom who has been there will be kind enough to wipe it off for you. (Or at least point it out, am I right?)

7. You're going to get every bodily fluid you can think of in your hair or on your skin or clothes during the course of raising your kids.

8. Kids get thirsty directly after being put to bed.

9. Sometimes "No" means "Yes" and "Yes" means "No".

10. A child will tell the most outrageous lies, and actually think that we might believe them.

11. The older you get, the harder it is not to laugh at kids trying to talk their way out of trouble.

12. Sometimes, ice cream IS dinner.

13. Kids will fall asleep when you don't want them to, but will stay up for hours when you most need them to go to bed.

14. Your kids' need for you will magically increase whenever you lock a door for privacy.

15. Small children only remember they HAVE to go to the bathroom about a minute after you sit down on the toilet yourself.

16. Babies that are good and quiet and stay asleep in front of strangers are usually the ones that refuse to go to sleep at home.

17. Kids eat bugs. It's not the best thing, but it isn't the worst thing either.

18. It's okay to pick a booger out of your kid's nose if it's just hanging out there.

19. Having a baby bump is like having a sign on your back that says, "This is my first day on planet Earth and I've never seen a baby before. In need of advice, please help."

20. Strong men become weak at the sight and smell of green and/or yellow poopie.

21. Before you are a parent, you KNOW how you're going to parent your child. After you're a parent, you realize the only way to outsmart your kids is to wing it.

22. There is no reasoning with anyone under the age of four.

23. A screaming child throwing a public tantrum is the best incentive to use birth control that there ever was.

24. You can't stay angry with a kid that's giving you puppy eyes and purposely saying ridiculous things to butter you up. You can pretend to be mad, but inside, you're laughing.

25. You could be the mellowest person in the world, but if someone messes with your kids, you turn into a crazy-lady.

26. Everything must be thoroughly sanitized for your first child - shopping cart handles, swing-sets, doors, tables, playgrounds. By the time the second child comes around, you aren't even sure where your giant-bottle-o-sanitizer is.

27. Purse size increases according to how many children you have.

28. Mommy's pants are just as good to wipe your hands on as a towel is.

29. Kids will climb on your lap, hug you, pass horrible gas, and then leave the room while you choke on the stink, with absolutely no regrets or feelings on the matter whatsoever.

30. Something in your house other than a bed mattress will eventually be peed on. Not necessarily on purpose, but it's going to happen.

31. Expensive furniture becomes inexpensive furniture if your kid finds markers.

32. A coffee-maker is a mom's best friend.

33. The only thing you'll really want for Mother's Day is a solid nap. You won't get it though. Even if they try to let you sleep you'll keep jolting awake because of your "I'm-supposed-to-be-doing-something" mindset.

34. The best artwork is always done on the floors, walls, and cupboards.

35. If your child is lovingly nosing your shoulder, you should check to make sure they weren't actually wiping their boogers and snot on you.

36. If your kids are being quiet, you had better go see what they've done.

37. Even the most loving of brothers and sisters will fight like they hate each other sometimes.

38. At some point you will stop using your "mom-voice" on your kids to answer the phone in your most-pleasant-I-am-the-Perfect-Mother voice... which will lead to your children pointing that out as soon as you've finished your phone call.

39. Your children know the best time to get your attention is when you're already having a conversation with someone else.

40. Sooner or later, someone is going to poop on the toilet seat, and you're going to be the one that has to clean it up.

41. Plain old lotion can also be used as a "miracle" cream when treating invisible boo-boos. Seal it with a kiss and it's good as new.

42. Baby poop that isn't contained at the time of projectile can get a distance of four or five feet. Hopefully this isn't something every mother has to experience first-hand, but those of us who do get a special I-Survived-The-Explosion badge to pin on our sashes. (Not really, but how cool would that be?)

43. It will seem to take eons to potty-train, but when you look back it will feel like it was only a few days.

44. If your kid gets mad at you now & then and tells you how unfair you're being, you're probably a pretty awesome parent.

45. Your kids won't judge you for licking cake batter with them. So go ahead. Enjoy the moment.

46. The best bed-time stories are the ones you get to hear your kids tell. One of my favorites is The Lorax... as retold by my three-year-old's imagination.

47. Making the bedroom rounds and checking to make sure your kids are "okay" at 2 or 3 or even 5 in the morning is totally normal.

48. A mom can want nothing more than to be left alone for a few minutes, only to miss her "babies" as soon as she gets that alone time.

49. Every mom will feel guilty at some point about some thing. It's natural, it's normal, and as long as you're doing your best, you shouldn't let it get to you.

50. The only thing better than being told you're a great mom when you're trying hard is being told by your child that you're a great mom, especially when you don't think you've been.

51. Motherhood is messy.

52. Mothers are imperfect people with a perfect calling.

53. "Do as I say, not as I do" is just as good an excuse as any when your kids ask why your bed isn't made.

54. Repeat after me: "Because I said so."

55. Toilet plungers: The best thing there is to retrieve Spiderman from inside the toilet.

56. Sometimes, it's better if you don't know who did it.

57. Every so often during parenting, you will recall a time during your younger years when you said, "I'm never going to parent this way, I'm going to remember what things were like and treat my kids differently!" Then and only then will you realize that your mother had the right of it all along.

58. Babies only fall asleep after you've given up trying to get them to fall asleep.

59. The stuff on mom's plate always tastes better than the exact same food on a child's plate.

60. When you're raising kids, it seems like it will be easier "some day", but when you get to that point, you decide it was easier "back then".

61. A penny saved isn't a penny earned. It's a down payment towards the tooth fairy.

62.. Little kids get bad morning breath too... but they don't have the social skills not to say "Helloooo mommy!" right in your face.

63. It's okay to ask yourself if you're being crazy now and then. As long as you're still asking yourself if you've lost it, you haven't.

64. It doesn't matter what your kids promise. You will eventually become the caregiver for all living creatures that are brought into the house to keep as pets.

65. Nothing is forever. Not the bad times, not the good times. You have to enjoy it as it comes, because you'll be looking back on all of it before you know it.

Website Review: PishPoshBaby.com

Any momma can tell you, if you're expecting or have a little one at home, everyone seems to have "the best" baby gear that they got some place or another for "the best" price. The truth is, there are lots of great deals out there, but not all of them are for high quality baby gear. And even when you do find high quality baby gear at the store, it's hard to find a good selection. I personally like to shop around online when I'm looking for something that no one else has, and I think that you can not only get the best selection that way, but the best price as well.

I came across Pish Posh Baby after working on a giveaway opp with fellow blogger Darci over at Everything Mommyhood. Since then, I have really had a chance to check out and browse around the site and I think it's a real keeper.

Some things that I love? They aren't just some random online store - they have their own brick & mortar store up in New Jersey. As a matter of fact, PishPoshBaby is renowned for their in-store demonstrations and mommy reps who are just waiting to help out anyone who walks through their doors. They don't just provide help in-store though... they actually have a hotline that you can call to talk to one of their reps, and you can get some pretty good deals that way! And because they have an actual store, that means they have store set-ups of their products. And of course, as with all store set-ups, that means a discount when they decide to sell their displays! They have a clearance section online specifically for these great bargain items!

The price range is about what you'd expect to see at a Babies R Us store, but the selection is immense. They have tons of high quality brands at good prices, and they regularly have sales or special events going on that can enable you to snag a spectacular bargain.

You can even do a baby registry through this site, which is really important for new moms - with everything there is to do with a baby coming, it's nice to be able to consolidate all of your baby needs in one place, then send the registry link through an e-Vite. You can connect with PishPoshBaby through their Facebook or Twitter accounts, or check out their website at www.PishPoshBaby.com.

Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post, and as always, my opinions were purely my own.

(The giveaway that was associated with this post has expired, please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests!)

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Can I just cry for a moment here? Scream maybe? Throw a little mini-pity party?

No, I'm not losing it, I'm just stressed beyond belief. Some of you may have noticed that while my site did get a teeny tiny update to the template recently, I haven't been very on the ball with updating the rest of the site. I've been sick. Not just the kind of sick that you get over in a week or so, but the kind that you have to go to specialists for.

And it seems like every time I manage to get back up on my feet, something weird happens to complicate matters worse! For instance, in the past two months I have had mastitis twice, I have had three colds (working on a fourth now), seven migraines that had me bed-ridden for at least a day each, and I'm just now getting over a case of food poisoning that was so bad I actually passed out last night!

Combine that with the fact that I'm still dealing with a serious concern about my liver (the thing I have to go to the specialist for) and you have a pretty good recipe for disaster. I've spent more of the past two months in bed than I have in my computer chair (or anywhere else for that matter).

I wish that was the least of my problems, but in addition to that I also have to worry about parents who both have some serious health issues of their own, I just found out that my grandpa has stage 4 bladder cancer, my husband is still looking for full-time work (meaning our budget is in the negative now), and my dear sister is going through her rebellious stage (like we all do) and giving us all a few gray hairs.

I have laundry that is piled up above the hamper, the dining room is a disaster, and I have over 700 emails in my account that I'm just not sure where to begin on. Whew. I know that I am not alone in my life of stress, we all have our ups and downs and this is just one of my downs. Praise God that I have Him to lean on. And Praise Him for coffee as well. I don't think I could get by without coffee!

For anyone out there who is going through a similarly stressful time in life, I'd like to offer you a favorite story, one that almost everyone has heard, but is nice to hear now and again:

Footprints in the Sand (Paraphrased)

One night a man had a dream that he was walking along the beach with the Lord. The beach signified his life and all the things he had been through. As he looked back along the sand, he realized that at the hardest points in his life, there were only one set of footprints visible. Stunned, he turned to Jesus and said, "Lord, why is it that when I needed You the most, I can see only one set of footprints?" Jesus smiled at the man and said, "My precious child. I love you and would never leave you. Wherever you see one set of footprints, that was where I carried you."

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Product Review: Mighty Handle

If you grew up somewhere in the northern part of the U.S. (like I did), you are probably quite familiar with the aspect of winter-time grocery shopping. Temperatures can range anywhere from freezing to I-can't-feel-my-nose-anymore, and the last thing anyone wants to do after they bring groceries into the nice, warm house is go back outside for more groceries. In our house, the phrase "not it" wasn't just a childhood cliché, it was how we decided who was going to go out and finish bringing the rest of the stuff in. Well, until mom came along and booted us all outdoors to finish the job.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could carry all your groceries in just one trip every time? Last month I was sent a handy dandy little item that allows me to do just that!

I was sent a complimentary Mighty Handle to test out so that I could do this review, but please know that my opinions and statements are my own! For more on my disclosure policy, please see the "Let me disclose to you" tab at the top of the page! Now on with this review!

Mighty Handle is, in my opinion, a super-tool for moms. Let's face it. Moms are the pack-mules of just about every family, and more often than not, good moms everywhere find themselves a hand or two short in their quest to be a carry-all. A big part of this is the awkwardness of carrying so many items. You can only grab so many bags before you have to start looping them over your wrist... you know, to the point that you cut off your circulation and have to wiggle your hands around every minute or so to relieve the pressure? Fortunately, Mighty Handle was created just to combat that problem. You can think of it as two giant plastic fingers coming out of a handle that is comfortable to hold. These "fingers" grab all the bags so that you don't have to, freeing your poor wrists and forearms from the damage caused by excessive strap-pressure.

The video at the bottom of this post demonstrates the way to use a Mighty Handle perfectly, but just to put the icing on the cake, I'd like to tell you about my five favorite things about this product.

1. Arm-relief. Pain-free definitely makes my number one reason on the list because, well, you know... who wants to be in pain?! Mighty Handle can pick up so many things at once that I'll never have to loop another bag around my wrist again. That alone makes this thing worth buying, but I promised five reasons, so here are the other four!:

2. I can get things done faster. I'm stressed pretty much 24/7. I am always thinking about the next thing to do on my list and how I can get it done in less time than I expect it to take. One trip from the car to the house instead of three? Yes please! Mighty Handle makes it really easy to pick up all my groceries in one go - not just from the car to the house, but also from the cart to the car.

3. You know that sound you hear when you turn a corner while your car is full of groceries? The one that sounds like a can of something heavy rolling onto something else that is probably soft bread or eggs? I hate that sound. That sound makes me wince, and wonder if I'm going to play hide & seek with my yogurt cups when I unpack the car. (You really don't want to accidentally miss one of those if they fall out of the bag. In hot weather, they explode. Trust me.) With Mighty Handle, after you finish putting your bags into the car (one-handed, mind you) all you have to do is twist the handle around and the bags will all sort of "lock" together, making it nearly impossible for your groceries to escape. No longer will turning a corner be a problem! (And no longer will yogurt explode in my car!)

4. This thing fits in my purse. I am the ultimate forgetter of forgetters. If I have something I absolutely must do, I usually write it on my hand, or on three different lists that I keep around the house. I have A.D.D. in a bad way, and unless I am continually focusing myself on what I'm trying to accomplish, I'll probably forget about it. Normally when I buy something that is supposed to help me get my work done faster, I forget to use it. I'll get to wherever I'm going (the store, the mall, jogging, etc.) and think, "Man, it sure would be nice if I would have remembered to bring "blank" with me!" I've actually found myself thinking that a few times at the store about Mighty Handle, which is nice for me, because then I remember that it's in my purse. (Yay!)

5. Oh my word, this thing does laundry. Okay, it doesn't actually do it for you, but I have managed to put everyone's hanging laundry onto it (from three different loads) and then just walk around from room to room putting things away. I have no love for doing laundry. Out of all the household chores, I think folding and putting away laundry is my least favorite. With Mighty Handle, I can pop all the hangers onto the sides and make one trip with all our clothes, which is infinitely nicer than needing to run back and forth to the laundry room. If only it did dishes too...

And if those five reasons didn't get you interested, here's a little house-chore math. (I told you I'm always thinking about how I can get things done faster!)

Without Mighty Handle, unloading my cart to put groceries in my vehicle takes me an average of three minutes. Using the handle, I can do it in one minute, thereby saving myself two minutes per grocery trip. If I estimate that I make an average of three shopping trips per week, I am saving myself 6 minutes per week, which comes out to 5 hours and 12 minutes per year.

Without Mighty Handle, unloading my vehicle to take my groceries in the house takes me an average of ten minutes. Using the handle, I can do it in one minute, thereby saving myself nine minutes per grocery trip. Using the same average of three shopping trips per week, I am saving myself 27 minutes per week, which comes out to 23 hours and 24 minutes per year.

Now to take an even more in-depth look at my time savings...

Let's say that on average, I have one grocery bag per month spill out inside the car. It takes me an extra five minutes each month just to pick all of that up and make sure that I haven't lost anything under my seats. Oh, and lets not forget that exploded yogurt, which took me around an hour itself just to clean up. If I'm looking at time saved from bag-spillage, I can now add another 2 hours to my time saved each year. And remember the laundry! On average I can save myself ten minutes per laundry load, or around thirty minutes per week, just by making one trip with Mighty Handle. That comes out to 26 hours per year.

Here's the fun part: I save 5 hours and 12 minutes per year by using Mighty Handle to unload my shopping cart. I save 23 hours and 24 minutes per year by using it to unload my vehicle. If I remember to twist my bags with the handle, I avoid grocery-spillage which comes out to around 2 hours per year. If I make further use of Mighty Handle by putting away laundry with it, I save another 26 hours. The grand total of time I save per year is 56 hours and 36 minutes. That's almost two and a half extra days!!

The cost you'll incur from grabbing a Mighty Handle for yourself? Each set of 2 will only put you back ten bucks, which makes buying one a no-brainer. Who wouldn't trade $10 for a couple of extra days' time?!?

My recommendation here is an obvious one, I'm a firm believer in this product! The only draw-back that I could find is that the bags may hit against your legs and make it a bit difficult to walk long distances if you have weak upper body strength. I didn't have a problem with this when I first got Mighty Handle, but I have been having some health issues lately which fatigue me and make it difficult to carry anything heavy. Otherwise, I never would have even realized that this could be a problem!

You can find out more about Mighty Handle and where you can buy your own at www.mightyhandle.com, or connect with them through social media on Facebook or Twitter!

Want to see Mighty Handle in action? Check out the video below!

(The giveaway that was associated with this post has expired, please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests!)

I See Me Books - Children's Product Review

Recently I was given the opportunity to review a children's book from the I See Me! line of products. I was given a free book in order to do my review, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't give this review the "full read". As always, my reviews are 100% honest, regardless of compensation from my sponsors. For more information on my disclosure policy, please see the tab at the top titled "Let me disclose to you".

Now on to the good stuff!

For those who have never heard of the I See Me! line of books, the idea behind it is that each child is an important figure in their own imaginations, and seeing that imagination brought to life in a book is a great way to help grow their self-esteem. The company was founded in May of 2000, a couple of years after the creators had received a personalized book for their own child. They loved the concept, but wished that the story and illustrations had been even more customized. After a couple of years of playing with the details, they were able to send their idea out into the world, and the I See Me! line of books has been getting bigger ever since!

I was excited when I was asked to review this book, not just because I love it when my sponsors think of me, but because the book I was being asked to review was one with an ocean-y theme called My Very Own Pirate Tale. For anyone who is an avid reader of my blog, you know that my oldest child is a huge fan of sea-life. (He literally walks up to random people and tells them that he knows about whales.)

When I received the book I gave it to my son to take a look at, just to see if he could recognize his name in the book on his own. He had a lot of fun pointing out the letters to me and exclaiming over the pictures of the sea animals that were used to introduce his name. When we got to the page that had his name on it though, he honestly couldn't tell me what the word was. He is really good with individual letters, but can't quite read yet! However, after about a month of reading the book, he can now point out his first and last name from among the pages and can name all the letters used in his name. He is starting to grasp the fact that the "M" in his name makes the "mmmm" sound, and that all the other words with "M" in them also contain a "mmm" sound. Hopefully this will be a nice leap into reading for him.

I liked that the book was personalized for my little guy. He really enjoys reading about himself in the book and shows everyone the character that represents him in the book. At the end of the story his character gets a pirate hat to show that he has gone from being the first mate to being the captain of his very own boat, and he loves that part. (He actually asked me the other day where his pirate hat was, and we weren't even reading the book at the time, haha.) I also liked that the book has little "mini-games" hidden within the book. For instance, there is a coin hidden in each of the illustrations and sometimes we just play the find-the-coin game. Other times we go through and name all the letters on the pages. If I had to get a book all over again though, I might opt for a little easier reading level. Although my son really really likes the sea animals in this book, I've noticed that he tends to drift off attention-wise where the story gets too word-y. I try to avoid this by paraphrasing those parts, and that seems to help a lot. However, because the reading-level is higher, he will probably be able to enjoy it longer, and because it is a very sturdy book, I see it being a part of our collection for a long time.

I think this is a great book to buy if you are looking to invest in something that you and your child can do together. Books like this are appropriate for all ages, just do a little research first on their website and find a reading-level that would be right for the child you are buying for. The I See Me! collection has a lot to offer, so even if you are buying for a baby, there will be something for them to enjoy. The company even offers a lot of cool personalized items that go along with their book themes, like lunchboxes, coloring books, and even place-mats (like this one that goes with our story!). I think that this book would make a great gift, whether it comes from a parent, a relative, or even a friend. I think that most children truly do enjoy books, and they really love being read to, so this isn't just a nice gift for them, it's a wonderful way to bond with the people that love them best.

Want to get an I See Me! book for your very own? You can visit them at their website, or check them out through social media on their Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest accounts! Plus, you can make sure you don't miss a thing (or a promotion!) by signing up to receive email notifications at this link.

Special discount! Costco is featuring vouchers for these awesome books at a 30% savings! Members can choose from seven titles to find the perfect story for a young book lover. Look for this deal at your local Costco (not available in all areas) or go online to www.costco.com and search for item 756683. Hurry! Limited time offer and orders must be placed by 12/8/13 for Christmas delivery.

(The giveaway that was associated with this post has expired, please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests!)

10 Great Reasons to Visit SeaWorld Orlando

This fall I was given the opportunity to go to SeaWorld in Orlando for free by a great travel site called Trekaroo. (For more on my disclosure policy, please see the tab titled 'Let me disclose to you' at the top of the page.) In exchange for the trip, I promised to do a candid write-up of the 2013 Spooktacular event that we participated in while there. However, I wanted to take it a step further and do a full review here on my blog because I really loved it that much.

Let me start off this post by saying that I have always been one of those people that loves to vacation, but will try to squeeze every last penny out of any destination I go to. If I see two destinations that appear equally fun, but one is cheaper, I will go for the money-saving option about 90% of the time. So I'll be up-front and admit that when I saw the price I would have had to pay for tickets normally ($82 for adults, $74 for children 3 and older) I was a little stunned. After I got home, believe me, it's one of the first things I researched to see how the average person could get that number a little lower. What I found out was that those prices are the 'any-day' tickets. That means you didn't plan ahead and try to get a deal, you walked up to the gate without researching prices, and you went in for a single day. I suppose I can understand that. By comparison, the deals I found when I searched around made the price quite reasonable - like the $92 all year pass, or the $50 weekday ticket (ahhh, much better!). Plus there appears to be an abundance of other ways you can get a discount on the passes, such as certain hotels which offer ticket packages, or deal sites like Expedia.

The ticket price was my main concern - I know my audience is comprised mainly of families who are looking to do things the easier, cheaper, quicker way. Now that I've laid that worry to rest, I have no qualms about telling any of you how fantastic I found the entire trip to be. Here are my top ten favorite things about SeaWorld that make this one of the best family vacation spots I've ever been to!

1. The look of wonder on my child's face.
My son is three, and he's been talking about sea-life since he could speak. His fifth word was 'orca'. I'm pretty sure that as we went into SeaWorld, my son had no idea what was in store for him. Yes, he saw the giant life-sized statue of the killer-whales outside, and he got incredibly excited, but it was nothing compared to the look on his face as he saw a real one jump out of the water for the first time. For this alone, the trip was incredibly worth it, and definitely made it an unforgettable day. If you have kids that haven't seen something as awe-inspiring as a whale up-close, this is something you should put on your 'to-do' list.

2. Nursing Stations.
Dear SeaWorld people: THANK-YOU! For a mom who is nursing, there is nothing better than seeing that there is a nursing station on an amusement park map. For those who haven't found themselves in this predicament before, let me explain a little. Going to an amusement park tends to be a fun, but many times hot and tiring experience. I can't think of a time that I've been to an amusement park and my family hasn't gotten at least a little sweaty. The last thing I want to do while I'm out and about at SeaWorld or any other family fun-spot is rearrange my sweat-dampened shirt while wrangling an equally-sweaty baby, just so that I can cover us both with a chokingly-warm blanket to avoid the leers of a bajillion strangers. Without going into further details, I'll just say nursing a sticky, grumpy, squirmy baby in such a public area is never fun. The nursing station at SeaWorld in Orlando? Air-conditioned and private. Plus they had comfy rockers to sit in, and they even had a sink and baby-changing table - bonuses like that are appreciated by moms more than most people realize. After I was done feeding my little gal, I gave her a quick sponge-bath with some cool water from the sink, and she was as cheerful as ever for the rest of the afternoon.

3. All-day food pass.
Let's face it - Jim Gaffigan has the right of it in his comedy bit when he says that for adults, the fun in vacationing is mostly eating in a new locale. One of the things I love best about going on vacation is trying new foods in new places, and restaurant dining is always a real treat for me because it's a meal that I didn't have to cook (and don't have to clean-up after!). For just $32.99 for adults and $17.99 for kids, the all-day dining pass SeaWorld offers turned out to be a pretty big money-saver. Consider the fact that you're going to want to grab a drink frequently throughout a hot day, and will probably eat at least twice, and the pass will almost certainly end up saving you a few bucks. Now be honest with yourself and know that since you're at an amusement park, and you're on vacation, you'll probably try to snack or eat whenever the mood strikes you - and buying the all-day dining deal is going to save you a lot of cash. As a bonus? On weekdays you can get a second dining deal half off when you pay full price for the first one. (P.S. The food was awesome.)

4. SeaWorld is accommodating.
One thing I noticed repeatedly throughout the park was the great lengths they have gone to for the accommodation of guests who may be in wheelchairs, and they did it in some of the most awesome ways I've ever seen. (Like the order window at a walk-up cafĂ© that by-passed those annoying queue lines and was the perfect height.) Even if you think this reason doesn't apply to you because no one in your family uses a wheel-chair on a regular basis, think again. Research has shown that about 6.8 million people in the US alone break bones every year, and the average person breaks about two bones in their life-time. With those kind of odds, a family is almost guaranteed to have someone in a wheelchair at some point or another. Let's not forget that certain illnesses or advancing age can also play a big part on whether or not a family member needs a wheelchair, and suddenly the idea that an amusement park has made big changes to ensure that everyone has a spectacular time becomes a pretty big deal.

5. You can touch some of the animals.
Okay, so the little kid in me perhaps was a teense over-excited about the fact that there was a manta-ray aquarium that was hands-on. Me and the lil' guy spent quite a while bent over, peering into the water and begging the rays to come over for a pat. Surprisingly the manta-rays seemed friendly and even eager for a quick pet as they swooped by. Several times they would come up quite close to the edge of the tank and 'jump' out a bit at us as if making sure that we would pay attention to them! The manta-ray display wasn't the only place you could get up close and personal with the animals, but it was the only place I saw that you could do it for free. However, if you're looking for a truly one-of-a-kind experience, dolphin feeding isn't very costly (I saw a sign say that it was just $7!) and getting an up-close interaction with them runs in the price range of about $40 to $60 depending on your age. We didn't do the dolphin interaction this time because I want to wait until my son is old enough to remember it - but in a few years, we are definitely doing this!

6. There are rides!
I guess I have to admit that I didn't realize SeaWorld was more than dolphin shows and killer-whales. I was more than a little surprised as I walked past what I thought was an elaborate display, when suddenly a huge ride boat came splashing down a roller-coaster-like incline. There were actually quite a few rides scattered throughout the park, and I thought it was really cool that they offered a 'Wild' or 'Mild' version of their Antarctica ride - even my three-year-old could have fun on this 'big-kid' attraction! They also had an area specifically for children's rides, and I would have loved to take some great pics of my son enjoying these, but he was a bit too frightened to get on any of them alone. Maybe next time!

7. The staff there are so friendly.
I am constantly amazed these days at the attitude of some people in the service industry. I had no problems what-so-ever at SeaWorld though, every single one of the staff was super-friendly and helpful. (Okay, so that could have been partly because I had a giant yellow MEDIA badge on, courtesy of the good people at SeaWorld, but I'm going to go ahead and count this anyhow because they were really spectacular.) First of all, I lost my daughter's water bottle top somewhere between parking my stroller and sitting down for lunch in one of the restaurants, and several of the staff there spent a good while looking around under tables and asking all the counter clerks if anyone had turned it in. It was never found unfortunately, but the effort that they put in to try to find it was incredibly kind, especially since I had merely asked a passing bus-boy if he had seen a bottle top anywhere. He took up the charge on his own and got everyone to help out looking - it was one of the nicest things anyone has done for me service-wise in a long time! Everywhere we went, the staff was quick and knowledgeable about our requests, and they were able to direct us to exactly where we wanted to go. When I went to buy my son some toys in one of the gift shops, the clerk at the counter actually told me where to go in the park to get the best selection of what I was after, then circled it on my map for me! While grabbing a bite to eat at the end of the day, one of the staff that was cleaning up came over and talked with us for a while about how our visit had been, then shared with us some of his favorite experiences when he brings friends to the park. All in all, I couldn't have asked for more pleasant people to interact with!

8. The shows are just right.
By 'just right', I mean that the shows aren't so long that they are going to take up your entire day, but they are full of enough pizzazz to make you satisfied with the amount of tricks, dives, and dances that you did get to see. Plus there are plenty of shows scheduled, which enables you to actually do everything on your list in just a day. One of my biggest peeves when I go to an amusement park is being overwhelmed by everything that there is to do, and feeling like the park has created an overabundance of programming that is impossible to see within a day. It was really important to us to be able to see the animals, see the dolphin and killer-whale shows, and visit the Spooktacular festival that was going on while we were there. I was afraid that seeing the two shows would take up so much time that we would have to scramble through the park to finish the rest of our 'must-do' list, but thankfully SeaWorld had it just right. The shows didn't last more than 20 minutes or so, and they were amazing! Getting in and out of the arenas was a breeze, and there were opportunities afterwards to talk to the trainers for those that wanted to get more details on the show.

9. Bathrooms, they are everywhere.
Do you know that bad dream you have, where you are carrying a ton of stuff, you really have to pee, and no matter how many times you try to get someone else to watch your things so you can go to the bathroom, you just can't find it? That is my live-able nightmare at most amusement parks I go to. And then when I do find a bathroom, it seems like the men's line is non-existent and the women's line is through the door and around the block. Thankfully, SeaWorld has bathroom facilities located all over the park. They were in the restaurants, they were attached to the show buildings, they were beside the souvenir shops and attractions. And the ladies' line? For once, it was as non-existent as the men's line. There were changing tables open and the bathroom stalls were big enough to fit yourself and a three-year-old into without needing to wait for the big stall to open up. There were even family bathrooms, although there was about a 50/50 chance of needing to wait for one at all the stations we stopped at.

10. There is something to see, do, or interact with in every corner of the park.
SeaWorld has really made great use of their space, and they seem to go above and beyond with creative thinking when it comes to making sure their guests have a great time. Where you'd see bushes in a normal amusement park, SeaWorld has flamingos hanging out. Where you'd usually just see a shop front, there are people dancing. Where there would usually be a rope keeping people back from the edge of the water, there is a patio for a romantic evening. And where you'd usually see signs thanking you for visiting the park, well... you might just see this: