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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Probiotic Banana Perk Smoothie Recipe

If you've heard of probiotics, you know that there are some serious health benefits to them. If you haven't heard of probiotics, the concept is basically that we can improve our intestinal health by eating foods that have the good bacteria inside. And yes, there is such a thing as good bacteria. As a matter of fact, everyone needs that good bacteria for their intestines to work properly and if levels get low, that's when problems can start to occur.

I recently did some review work with a company called Cafe Viva. You can read all about them here. While I was in the review process, I got a little creative and started adding their product to different recipes to give myself a boost. This banana smoothie is not only easy, but provides a great perk to your digestive system and energy level. I like to drink it in the mornings for a quick and healthy boost.

Probiotic Banana Perk Smoothie


Serves 1

Probiotic Banana Coffee Smoothie RecipeIngredients:
  • 1 Cafe Viva packet
  • 2 frozen bananas

Directions:

Place bananas and the Cafe Viva mix into a blender.

Blend together until the mix is smooth and creamy. If mixture seems too thick, add a spoonful of water or milk until it is the desired consistency.

Pour the smoothie into a glass.

Enjoy!

(You can find Cafe Viva on their website at ProbioticCoffee.com.)

Do you ever use probiotics? What are your favorite healthy-digestion products?
Chat with me in the comments below, I love hearing from my readers!

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

Probiotic Peanut Butter Boost Recipe

If you've heard of probiotics, you know that there are some serious health benefits to them. If you haven't heard of probiotics, the concept is basically that we can improve our intestinal health by eating foods that have the good bacteria inside. And yes, there is such a thing as good bacteria. As a matter of fact, everyone needs that good bacteria for their intestines to work properly and if levels get low, that's when problems can start to occur.

I recently did some review work with a company called Cafe Viva. You can read all about them here. While I was in the review process, I got a little creative and started adding their product to different recipes to give myself a boost. This peanut butter mixture is a favorite of mine because not only does it give a boost to my digestive system, but it gives me an afternoon boost from the coffee as well!

Probiotic Peanut Butter on Honey-Oat Toast

Probiotic Peanut Butter Boost


Makes 4 Slices of Toast

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cafe Viva packet
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Spread peanut butter mixture onto toast or crackers - or, use as a fruit dip!

Enjoy!

(You can find Cafe Viva on their website at ProbioticCoffee.com.)

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

Probiotic Coffee Frosting Recipe

If you've heard of probiotics, you know that there are some serious health benefits to them. If you haven't heard of probiotics, the concept is basically that we can improve our intestinal health by eating foods that have the good bacteria inside. And yes, there is such a thing as good bacteria. As a matter of fact, everyone needs that good bacteria for their intestines to work properly and if levels get low, that's when problems can start to occur.

I recently did some review work with a company called Cafe Viva. You can read all about them here. While I was in the review process, I got a little creative and started adding their product to different recipes to give myself a boost. This frosting is simple to make with ingredients you probably already have at home, and goes perfectly with cinnamon buns, coffee cake, or even breakfast muffins.

Probiotic Coffee Frosting


Yields enough frosting for 12 cinnamon rolls

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 lb confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 Cafe Viva packet


Directions:

Beat cream cheese in a medium bowl until it is very soft.

Add the Cafe Viva into the cream cheese and mix together.

Add the confectioner's sugar gradually into the mix until it is thick and sticky. You do not need to add all of the sugar if you reach your desired consistency sooner.

Pour the vanilla and milk into the frosting mix and stir thoroughly. If mixture is too creamy, add confectioner's sugar two tablespoons at a time until it is as thick as you want. If mixture is to thick, add a tablespoon of milk and stir well.

Frost your cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, or muffins. For a fun twist, drizzle chocolate syrup over the frosting.

Enjoy!

(You can find CafeViva on their website at ProbioticCoffee.com.)

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

Probiotic Coffee Krispies Recipe

If you've heard of probiotics, you know that there are some serious health benefits to them. If you haven't heard of probiotics, the concept is basically that we can improve our intestinal health by eating foods that have the good bacteria inside. And yes, there is such a thing as good bacteria. As a matter of fact, everyone needs that good bacteria for their intestines to work properly and if levels get low, that's when problems can start to occur.

I recently did some review work with a company called Cafe Viva. You can read all about them here. While I was in the review process, I got a little creative and started adding their product to different recipes to give myself a boost. This recipe takes an old favorite (Rice Krispies Treats) and turns it into a morning breakfast bar that will satisfy your sweet tooth and give you a caffeine boost!

Probiotic Coffee Krispies


Makes 12 bars

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2-1/2 cups crisp rice cereal
  • 2 cups marshmallows
  • 1 packet Cafe Viva


Directions:

Melt butter in a sauce pan on low heat.

Add marshmallows and stir until smooth and well-blended.

Cook for 1-2 minutes more, then remove from heat.

Add Cafe Viva packet and cereal.

Stir until ingredients are thoroughly mixed and all cereal is well-coated.

Pour cereal mixture into a 9"x9" pan and pat down gently with a spatula so that the bars are slightly firm and the surface is smooth.

Cut into squares when the cereal has cooled.

Enjoy!

(You can find Cafe Viva on their website at ProbioticCoffee.com.)

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

Probiotics: What are they?

Anyone who has ever had digestive issues has probably had their doctor suggest taking probiotic supplements to help the situation. What most people don't realize is that it isn't just those who suffer from tummy-troubles who may benefit from probiotics, it's everyone.

What are probiotics?What is a probiotic?

You've probably at least heard of a probiotic supplement, but maybe you only have a vague idea of what they are and what they do. Probiotics are basically living organisms (like bacteria or yeast) that are introduced into the body to assist with digestion. Contrary to popular belief, not all bacteria is bad. As a matter of fact, the digestive system would be in serious trouble without the hundreds of different types of friendly bacteria that already call the intestines their home.

What does this friendly bacteria do?

Most researchers now believe that a good portion of digestive orders are caused when the friendly bacteria levels in your body is disturbed. This usually happens when you take antibiotics (which kills both good and bad bacteria) or when you've had an infection. The friendly bacteria in probiotics is believed to boost your levels back to normal and may even help to maintain your intestinal lining along with fighting the bacteria that causes diarrhea.

This all sounds good, but what if I currently feel fine?

You likely won't go wrong with taking the probiotics, even if you think your digestive system is currently on track. In addition to helping the intestines, probiotics are also thought to be fantastic for your immune system because they challenge your system with friendly organisms. Most researchers believe that probiotics give your immune system a work-out without the ill-effects involved from an actual illness. With healthy habits like hand-washing and proper food preparation being quite common in societies like ours, the immune system just isn't getting challenged as often as it used to. Probiotics are thought to help keep the immune system in tip-top shape for when the real bacteria-baddies show up.

What else do probiotics do?

Probiotics research is still in progress.There have been an abundance of studies done recently on probiotics, and research is showing that it may be positively affecting conditions that run the gambit from helping with smaller disorders like eczema all the way to serious ones like Crohn's disease or high cholesterol. Probiotics is still a relatively new idea in the field of medical study and there is much research left to be done before the advantages of probiotics can be definitively pronounced by the medical communities.

Are there dangers associated with taking probiotics?

You've likely already been eating small amounts of live bacteria in foods already without even thinking about it: yogurt and cheese for example. The only difference with probiotic foods is that they contain a higher concentration of CFU's (colony forming units), which is an approximate count of the living bacteria in a product. The people who should not take probiotics are those who have a weakened immune system or serious illness that is already taking a toll on their body, such as pancreatitis. Anyone with a serious illness should talk with their doctor about probiotics in case their digestive or immune system has already been compromised.

What about pregnant women, is it safe for them to take probiotics?

Unless the pregnant woman in question has a severe immune or digestive illness (as mentioned in the question above), there are currently no known causes for her to stay away from probiotics. As a matter of fact, in a study done in 2013, it was found that probiotic supplementation may actually help with atopic sensitivity in infants!

Probiotics products can be found online!Where can I purchase probiotics?

Although there are a wide variety of probiotic products available in your everyday grocery-store, the number of CFU's in those products tends to be very low, many times too low to be as beneficial as the product would like you to believe! I personally like to take to the internet when searching out well-rounded probiotic supplements since the variety, availability, and quality of the products is much better. One of my favorites, Cafe Viva is a coffee-mix that allows me to get my probiotics & daily caffeine boost at the same time, and it is a wonderfully versatile formula that I've used in many recipes. Click here to read more about my experience with Cafe Viva.

Questions or comments? Leave them for me below!

Disclosure: I'm not a doctor or a registered dietitian and I don't play one on TV either! I don't claim to know all the facts or have all the answers. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your health or diet. Probiotics are still being studied and the advantages or disadvantages of taking them may change as research progresses. I received no compensation for this post and, as always, my opinions are purely my own.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Women Save Big - Offer Breakdown

We've all seen those side-bar ads promising fancy rewards and money saved - but are they a scam or the real deal?

I consider myself an open-minded skeptic. I know that people don't get something for nothing, but I also know that there are occasionally good deals out there because companies will give you a little something in exchange for your business. There is always (and I mean always) a catch. Someone, somewhere is making money off of the great 'deals' you get. In my case, the object of the game is to find the deal with the smallest 'catch' possible!

Today's Breakdown:

The Women Save Big ads.

Disclosure:

Before I go further I want to let my readers know that I am an affiliate for a company that serves this ad - that means that if you sign up, I get paid a few cents. We'll discuss more on that later, but if you want to see my full disclosure policy, please click the 'Let me disclose to you' tab at the top of this page.

The Sign-Up

Is Women Save Big a Scam?First of all, I want my readers to know that I try out every single one of these ads before I break them down to you. So when I tell you how it works, I'm speaking from a point of experience!

When I clicked the Women Save Big ad (pictured at right), it took me immediately to a very clean-looking sign up page.

Signing up is relatively simple - no need to hand out copious amounts of information up front. However, that is where the simplicity appears to end. After you enter your email, there is a box you must check to verify that you are 18+. This triggers a pop-up. (Ugh.) Get rid of the pop-up and return to the original screen. After clicking the Join Now button you'll be met without yet another pop-up. Get rid of this pop-up as well and return to the original screen.

This is the part where I started to feel that the sign-up company was trying to squeeze as much affiliate money out of me as possible. (Again, we'll talk about that part in just a moment.) I get it - they're trying to make a living with this internet stuff, but nothing turns me off to a site quite as much as flashing gimmicky lights and arrows prompting me to click on sales ads. After you enter your email address, that is pretty much what you'll see. This is unfortunate, but there is a way around it!

By scrolling down to the bottom of the page I could see that there way a dark gray 'No Thanks' button. There aren't any flashing lights pointing you to this one, but it's where you want to click! Click the No Thanks button as many times as you need until it redirects you to download a coupon app for ShopAtHome.com.

Aha!

ShopAtHome.com is the end result of signing up through this ad. They are not only a reliable coupon provider, but they have a great integration system for letting you see where you can save money while you are browsing around online. But why are they giving us these great deals? Do they just want to be your bestest-friend ever?

No. Obviously, everyone in this endeavor is getting something out of it. Below I've outlined who is getting what in this deal.

The Money Chain

(All money amounts in this chain are completely made up for the sake of simplicity.)

  • A Brand Name - At the very tip-top of this chain are big-name companies like General Mills, Oscar Meyer, Kohl's, Home Depot, etc. For the sake of our argument, we will pretend that 100 brand name companies tell ShopAtHome that they will pay 20 cents every time someone prints out and uses a coupon of theirs from the ShopAtHome site.
  • ShopAtHome - ShopAtHome is glad that they have a great deal to earn 20 cents each time someone uses a coupon. They have lots of members, but they want even more because it will mean more money for them. They decide to pay another party to bring in more members.
  • Women Save Big - This company is what I call a 5th wheel. They aren't really adding value to this deal, they are just leeching a little bit of money out of the pot. ShopAtHome has told them that they can have $1 every time they get someone to sign up. Because Women Save Big wants to make a lot of money off this deal, they decide to hire an ad-serving company to do some of the work for them.
  • Ad-Serving Company - This company has a huge network of bloggers and website owners signed up with them who will display their ads. Women Save Big tells them that they can have 50 cents each time they sign someone up. This way, Women Save Big is making money without really having to do anything.
  • Bloggers - Website owners like me are the last little fish in the pond to get a bite out of this deal because we're on the bottom of the money chain. Because we are affiliate members of the ad-serving company, they tell us that we can have a 25 cents for each person that signs up using the coded web-ad they provide to us. We plop the code into the side of our website and people sign up. It's pretty easy for us, and we might make $1 a week that way. (A whole dollar! That's like, $52 in a year! I'm gonna be rich!!) (Okay, so not really. Don't you feel sorry for bloggers everywhere now? But I digress...)
  • You - Yes, even you are making something out of this deal. You get the coupon, remember? As long as you make sure to avoid all the extra money-making deals on the Women Save Big (aka the 5th wheel) website, you can get a pretty sweet coupon app in a matter of minutes. And you complete the money chain, because when you go to the store and use that coupon (or when you put in your coupon code online) you have just purchased from a brand name company that paid ShopAtHome. Maybe you would have bought a different brand of cereal if you didn't have that coupon, maybe you wouldn't have. But either way they got a few bucks out of you and it only cost them a few cents. (It was a big long roundabout loop to get your money, but they did it!) Just remember that coupons are ads, even if they are ads that make us feel like we got a little something out of it, and the whole picture will become clear.

The fact that the money chain is there is good because it means the deal is legit. If someone is getting something in exchange for something, it isn't a scam. You only need to be wary when you can't find out who is benefiting from a deal. (Remember, if it's too good to be true...)

Pros:
  1. You get discounts on your usual shopping bills.
  2. ShopAtHome is reliable and convenient.
  3. ShopAtHome has coupons that are actually good, like free shipping, percentages off, grocery coupons, and cash back rewards.
  4. Your sign-up provides a lovely blogger (like me) with a few extra cents to pay the bills & keep their site running.
Cons:
  1. You have to play the go-around game with Women Save Big, and that's annoying.
  2. You have to download the ShopAtHome coupon app, which makes some people wary. (It's safe though, I checked!)

The Bottom Line

It's not a scam, but sign-up is a bit of an annoyance. As long as you don't mind downloading a coupon app that millions of others before you have downloaded and pronounced safe, you should have an easy time using and getting deals using ShopAtHome.

Now. If you feel like signing up, pretty-please click the picture ad at the top of the page so that I can pay for my coffee tomorrow. Questions, comments, or suggestions? Chat with me in the comment section below!

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Disclosure: If you signed up using the picture ad at the top of this page, I probably got paid. Unless I put the code in wrong... then my money disappears into the nether and I wonder why no one wants to give me pennies.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Have Spring Fever? Take a Stay-cation!


Are you itching to get away for a few days? It can be tempting to yank the kids out of school and head out for a quick vacay during the spring, especially if you just went through a rough winter.

Instead, check out some of these stay-cation ideas that will keep you from spending your summer-fun budget on a quick getaway!

  • Take the family to a nearby beach for the day. It doesn't have to be the ocean-beach! Large lakes have beaches too, and they can be just as relaxing and fun as packing off to the shore.
  • Find a festival to go to and stay for the weekend. You probably know all about your local festivals, but what about the festivals just a county or two away from you? To make the most out of your festival weekend, stay the night in a nearby motel. Not driving home will make the getaway seem longer than it really is.
  • Head to an indoor waterpark. If you've never been to an indoor waterpark, you are missing out! You don't have to rent a room in most cases to take advantage of the fun to be had, and day-long entry is usually a steal. Indoor waterparks aren't just for the kids though - many of them now offer adult-only areas with swim-up bars, hot-tubs, and spa services.
  • Become a tourist in your home-town. Go anywhere in the country and ask someone what sort of tourist destinations are in their area. Chances are, they won't have any idea! People just don't think of their home-towns as being a vacation spot, even when they live in prime tourist areas. How do you find out what's been hiding under your nose? Check out the slew of pamphlets in the lobby of the local hotel or motel. Not only will you be amazed at all the interesting places just a short drive away, but you'll probably snag some great coupon deals to go with it!
  • Go camping. This probably seems like a tall order for people who have never camped before, but it is really a lot easier than you think! If pitching a tent and starting a fire just isn't your thing, consider renting a cabin for the day. Many parks rent cabins for a small fee and most come equipped with items that will make your experience go smoothly.
  • Find an activity through Groupon or LivingSocial. Sometimes it's just nice to have someone else do the thinking for you. What better way to find a fun activity that everyone can enjoy than to scroll through a list of pre-arranged activity deals? I like using sites like these to find my fun because they usually have activities on there that I never would have thought of on my own - plus you can snag a great price!


What are some of your favorite ways to spend spring-time with your family? Do you stay-cation, or do you save your money up for one big vacation fling? Chat with me in the comments below!

♥ Like these ideas? Send me some blog-love by becoming a follower via any of my social medias! ♥

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

(The $500 Spring Fever Cash Giveaway that was associated with this post has expired; please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests! Please take a look at our Winners List or contact the good people over at GiveawayPromote.com if you have questions about the results of this giveaway.)

Hammy Potato Casserole Recipe

This casserole is easy and quick to make. I like to serve this when I'm running short on time or I just want a break from cleaning up a lot of dishes. Plus, it's absolutely delicious!


Hammy Potato Casserole

Hammy Potato Casserole
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
  • 2 boxes au gratin potato mix (I like the +Publix brand)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 mayo
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1 7 to 8 oz ham steak, cubed
  • 1 14.5 oz can of green beans, drained

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (F).

Heat the water in the microwave (or a pot on the stove) until it is boiling. This will give the potatoes a better texture.

Mix the dried potatoes and seasoning mix from the au gratin potatoes into a 9"x13" casserole dish along with the water, milk, mayo and dill weed. Make sure you stir it well so that the seasoning doesn't clump up in the potatoes!

Add the cubed ham and green beans into the casserole dish and stir until evenly distributed.

Bake the casserole uncovered in the over for 24-26 minutes.

Serve with fresh fruit and biscuits for a well-rounded meal.

Enjoy!

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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cherry Chip Cheesecake Bars Recipe

Cereal sales are one of the easiest to find at the grocery store, and I love buying them up whenever I see a great deal. One of the drawbacks to that of course, is that it can be easy to overbuy and then I'm stuck with tons of cereal that may expire before I get a chance to use it!

To combat this problem, I like to get a little creative in the kitchen and switch up my usual desert recipes to include some of the cereal I have sitting around in the pantry. Here is one of my favorite (and super-easy) recipes for chocolate-flavored cereal.

Cherry Chip Cheesecake Bars

Cherry Chip Cheesecake BarsMakes 12-15 Bars

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups Cocoa Puffs cereal (it should equal about 1-1/2 crushed cups)
  • 1 container (24.3 ounces) Philadelphia Ready-to-Eat Cheesecake Filling (bring to room temperature before using)
  • 1 21-ounce can cherry pie filling
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4-cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips


Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Crush Cocoa Puffs into small crumbs. (I put the cereal in a plastic baggie and crush it with a rolling pin.

Place crumbs in a 9"x13" baking dish.

Stir the melted butter into the crumbs until mixture is moist, but not wet.

Create a crust by pressing the crumb mixture down against the bottom of the baking dish.

Place the dish in the oven and bake the crust at 375 degrees for 7 minutes.

Cool the crust on the counter for 20 minutes.

Spread cheesecake filling over the crust after it has cooled. If you allow the cheesecake filling to come to room temperature, it will be much easier to spread.

Spread the cherry pie filling over the cheesecake, making sure to spread the fruit evenly over the entire dessert.

Sprinkle 2 to 4 tablespoons of the miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips over the cherries, adding more or less chocolate as desired.

Enjoy!

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

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Get Outdoors: 5 Fun Calorie-Burning Activities

Fun Calorie Burning Activities


There comes a time in almost every person's life when they start to feel their age. Creaky knees, paler skin, a slower metabolism - they're all signs of getting older. Fortunately, research has shown that the key to feeling youthful can be as easy as staying active.

But UN-fortunately, staying active isn't always as easy as we would like it to be. Time, lack of motivation, boredom, money... all these things and more can get in the way of - or become excuses for the absence of - a workout routine.

Thankfully, you don't have to sign up for a long-winded aerobics class to get the exercise you need. Here's a list of fun activities my family loves to do when we're feeling the need to burn a few calories:

To burn 100 calories...

Go for a half-hour walk in the park. The time will fly by if you follow a trail and use the opportunity to look around, relax, and feel connected to nature for a while. In addition to burning those calories, you'll come away from your walk with a lot less stress.

To burn 180 calories...

Play a game of hopscotch with your kids or grand-kids. Really! I'm not joking here, this is actually a great way to exercise. Hopping burns a lot of calories, so a ten-minute game a day can have you looking fit as a fiddle in no time. As an added bonus, getting your kids out of the house to play hopscotch with you will pull them away from the TV. (And you'll be setting a good example for them to stay active as adults.)

To burn 240 calories...

Work in the garden for an hour. Gardening can be a lot of fun and is something that the whole family can enjoy. From picking beans to planting colorful flowers, there is a lot of satisfaction to be had when you get your hands a little dirty and play in the earth.

To burn 400 calories...

Try finding a geocache. If you don't know what geocaching is, imagine a treasure hunt that the whole family can enjoy. You grab coordinates and head out on a hike to discover where the geocache is located and then log your progress on a sheet when you find it. Geocaching is typically overseen by administrators working for each county and the caches are kept in safe places. This activity is enjoyable, free, and provides a 'purpose' to walking or hiking.

To burn over 1,500 calories...

Go camping for a day. The average person burns around 150 calories per hour while participating in camping activities; that'll add up pretty quickly if you stay moving! Camping is also a fun & thrifty family activity that can end up bringing all of you closer together. Plus, the list of things you can do while camping is nearly-endless! It's a great way to shake things up and get a cheap mini-vacation in the process.

What activities do you do to keep trim & healthy?
Chat with me in the comments below, I love hearing from my readers!

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(The Brave the Outdoors Giveaway that was associated with this post has expired; please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests! Please take a look at our Winners List or contact Randi at MakeOurOwnNetwork@gmail.com if you have questions about the results of this giveaway.)

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

'Opulent Monsters' Makes Sewing Easy!

Some of my favorite items are things that I've sewn on my machine here at home. I find that a DIY approach to home-goods and clothing usually results in an item that is not only more personal to me, but is a better fit as well.

There are some items that I find it much easier to buy in-store of course (like bed sheets and towels), but I think the home-made version of the below items win out every time:

  • Baby clothing - Not only can you usually get away cheaper when you make your baby clothing rather than buy it, but you can use adult-sized clothing that is bound to be thrown out or donated to make mini-versions for your children instead!
  • Aprons - These kitchen-fashion staples can be created with any number of materials to suit specific tastes or even your kitchen-decor!
  • Baby bibs - Making baby bibs is simple and fun! Because you are working with a small-canvas you can use up a lot of scraps in your design - that means less overall waste!
  • Blankets - These are harder to make, but much more rewarding and tend to last for years. They also make fantastic gifts because of all the personal effects you can add to them.
  • Hot pads - Another easy favorite of mine, these can be made in bulk in an afternoon. It can be difficult to find hot pads that match your kitchen, so this is definitely a must-sew item for me!

No matter how nice it is to have custom-sewn things around the home, life can still get in the way of being able to have the time for sewing things like that!

Opulent Monsters: Come on, let's sew.Recently we had a giveaway on our site sponsored by a company called Opulent Monsters. This Etsy seller specializes in giving you some of your time back by sending you easy-to-sew fabric packs along with a detailed sewing pattern - the results of which are an adorable pair of pants for a young child.

The patterns are simple-to-follow and so detailed that they even come with photo instructions! I think that's spectacular because when I'm sewing something new, I spend the bulk of my time figuring out the pattern instead of sewing!

I heard about this company through fellow blogger Sarah over at Mami's 3 Little Monkeys. You can read her full review by clicking here. Make sure to hop on over to the Opulent Monsters Etsy Shop after that to take a peek at what they currently have for sale!

Connect:

Want to know more about Opulent Monsters? You can connect with them on social media for updates, deals, & more through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or YouTube!

(The giveaway that was associated with this post has expired, please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests! Please contact Sarah at mamis3littlemonkeys@yahoo.com if you have questions about the results of this giveaway.)

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

5 Quick & Easy Tips for Green Living

Eco-Friendly Goods

Over the past few years my family and I have been trying to get a little more 'green'. When we first started, I thought that becoming more eco-friendly would mean spending a lot of money, but as we've progressed, I've found that going-green is actually a huge money-saver!

Check out this quick list of ways we live 'green' without breaking the bank!



  • Cloth diapering - While this does take a bit of start-up money at the beginning, after the initial investment you start to see how quickly you save. You can buy 12 really nice Econobum diapers for about $12 a piece. This is the equivalent to four months of disposables. Since most babies wear diapers for two years, you're making your money back by the fifth month! (Psst. The Econobums not only work great, they will adjust-to-fit throughout your baby's growth stages.)
  • Rechargeable batteries - When we purchased a Wii a few years ago we quickly learned that the remotes eat through "AA" batteries in a zip. We bought eight rechargeable "AA" batteries just a little over two years ago and only had to replace them for the first time this month!
  • Buy the 'Club' cup - If you have a usual spot you stop for coffee (like a gas station or coffee shop), ask at the counter if they have a travel mug you can buy for refills. Not only do you save the environment by getting coffee in your own mug instead of a paper cup, but most of the time you can get a discount for filling up in the 'Club' mug.
  • Invest in a set of water bottles - Disposable water bottles are just terrible for the environment and they can get expensive. Fortunately, there are so many different reusable water bottles hitting the market these days that something is bound to appeal to you enough to invest in them. They are quite inexpensive and can last for years (which will save you tons of money). Keep five or six filled up in the fridge at all times to be able to grab-n-go.
  • Create a rain barrel - Rain barrels are easy to do and great for the environment. You can even make a DIY lid with a cut-out for your gutter drain to keep the bugs out! Use the rain barrel to scoop water into a watering can instead of turning the hose on. You'll get a little extra exercise & sunshine, and your water bill will stay low.


Are you committed to living the green lifestyle already? If so, then you know that investing in creative reusable items is one of the best ways to reduce waste on the planet. One of the cooler items I've seen in a while is called 'Little Green Pouch' - it's a system designed to replace those popular fruit & veggie packs, so no more throw-aways!

My blogging friend A Lucky Ladybug was 'lucky' enough to try out a set, and she absolutely loves them! You can read her review here.

Connect:

Want to know more about the Little Green Pouch? You can find them in social media for updates, deals, & more on Google+Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Do your kids love the pouch-version of fruits & veggies? What are your favorite ways to "go green"?
Chat with me in the comments below, I love hearing from my readers!

Find me on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram & more!

(The Squeeze Your Pouch Giveaway that was associated with this post has expired; please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests! Please take a look at our Winners List or contact Randi at MakeOurOwnNetwork@gmail.com if you have questions about the results of this giveaway.)

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

Get Cool Toys from Beyond the Seam!

When I was little my grandma had a set of cool, fuzzy fruit magnets on her refrigerator. I used to sit and play with them for hours whenever we went up there, and a few times I even tried to take them home with me!

ABC Cloth Magnet Set from Beyond the SeamI had forgotten about those soft little magnets until recently when my fellow blogger Sarah, over at Mami's 3 Little Monkeys, was given the chance to review some cloth magnets from an Etsy store called 'Beyond the Seam'.

As for me personally, I think that the arrival of technology has really had a big impact in how our kids are playing - and not always in a good way! Computers, tablets, TV, and video games have far-too-often replaced board games, hide & seek, tag, and playing pretend.

While I do still allow my kids to watch TV, I think it would be nice if I implemented a few more old-fashioned toys and games. A cloth magnet set would be a nice start because my son is just now beginning to read and I would just love-love-love to be able to watch him sort through his first words right next to me. I work from home in my kitchen, so refrigerator magnets would be an easy way to keep him next to me while he figures things out!

Discount!

Right now, you can grab some of these magnets (or any of the other cool products) from Beyond the Seam and get free shipping by using the code 3LITTLEMONKEYS! (Valid until 12/31/14.)

Connect:

Check out Sarah's review here and then head on over to Beyond the Seam's Etsy page to see all of the great products they have to offer. Want to keep in touch through social media? You can follow Beyond the Seam on Facebook.

(The giveaway that was associated with this post has expired, please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests! Please contact Sarah at mamis3littlemonkeys@yahoo.com if you have questions about the results of this giveaway.)

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

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring Into a Stylin' Nursery!

Use Garage Sale Finds in DIY Crafts


Springtime is one of my favorite seasons for redecorating, because with so many people cleaning their homes from top to bottom, you can discover some pretty nifty 'treasures' at garage sales & yard sales alike!

Here are a few easy and awesome tips for redecorating a nursery with a thrifty combination of old & new:


Buttons!

See that jar of random buttons on the garage sale table for a buck or two? Grab it! Spray-paint the buttons in three to four colors that match your nursery. When they have dried, firmly glue them to painted wooden letters that signify your baby's initials, then hang the letters in your nursery.

Embroidery Hoops!

I love picking up old embroidery hoops at garage sales! A great use of them in the nursery is to 'print' your baby's feet onto a piece of fabric and then use the hoop as a frame. Tie a ribbon to the top and write your baby's name & the date above or below the footprints with a fabric pen.

"Our Family Just Grew" Print at LindseyBoo.com Picture Frames!

People are always getting rid of old frames for new ones. I love finding old frames because I think they have a lot of great character. Get a few that mesh together well, but don't worry about color. You can customize the frames by painting them, staining them, or even gluing special accents to the outside (like rosebuds or mini-cars). Make a frame-collage out of them or put baby-themed prints inside of them (like a name-poem or a custom print giving your child's birth stats). I love these ones at LindseyBoo because you can choose from a variety of different backgrounds & matting options and they only cost around $15 for a double-matted print!

Yarn!

If you're having trouble finding yarn at garage sales, just ask the seller if they have any. Chances are, they do have some yarn they'd be willing to part with for a buck or two, they just didn't set it outside! Use the yarn to make yarn globes and create a baby-mobile that will provide your child with a colorfully-swirly source of entertainment that was almost completely free for you to create.

Fabric!

Unused fabric is easy to find and can be used to create everything from finger puppets to stuffed rag-animals. Try to pick bright colors that will attract your baby's attention to get the most out of a finger-puppet project, and use mismatched socks to stuff any rag-animals.

Wood planks!

Do you have a saw & some sandpaper at home? Grab any wood that is at least 2"x2" and cut it into blocks. There are a ton of great ways to create your own blocks at home with a small amount of effort. And - because blocks tend to be a toy with staying power - your baby will be playing with your homemade set for many years to come!

Burlap!

If you find burlap at a garage sale, you're in luck! It's a very versatile crafting material with a great texture and I love to use it in craft projects. A nursery-favorite is to paint a 'family tree' on the burlap, and then very carefully tie mini-portraits of family members along the branches. This turns out adorable and the burlap provides the perfect backdrop!!

Do you have favorite nursery ideas? Leave me a comment below, I love exchanging thoughts with my readers!

(The giveaway that was associated with this post has expired, please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests! Please contact MasterofMom@gmail.com if you have questions about the results of this giveaway.)

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

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Get a tasty treat from Elaine's Toffee!

I recently discovered this toffee company thanks to my blogging friend over at A Lucky Ladybug. Although I haven't had the chance to order any yet, she wrote a stellar review about them that has me planning to order from them the next time I'm craving something sweet.

I originally thought that this was probably a candy-company like any other, but after I read up on their background I was committed to helping promote them because their company-story really hit home with me.

My great-grandparents started making candy in bulk many, many decades ago, and although they were encouraged to sell it, they never did. They did however, keep the recipe a secret. It was one that had been handed down to them - then tweaked. Eventually it was handed down again to my grandparents. It was tweaked some more by my dear Granny and taught only to a few of the children & grandchildren. We have been told many times that we should make & sell the candy, but none of us has quite had the ability to do so yet!

Elaine's Toffee Gift BasketI saw that the story was the same with the toffee from Elaine's. It is an old family recipe, carefully preserved and handed down. They made their candy in bulk to give as gifts (much like my family does now) and people constantly told them it was good enough to sell. Unlike my family however, they were able to start selling their candy and now have a wonderful toffee business. I'm sure it wasn't easy to do, but it gives me hope that someday my family will be able to attain the same dream.

While my candy-making days may be far ahead in my future, my candy-eating days certainly aren't! I have no doubt that sooner or later I'll be placing an order for my husband and I to share on one of our at-home date nights!

Does your family have a super-secret recipe, or maybe just an old favorite that has been handed down for generations? Share with me below, I love to get comments from my readers!

You can check out Elaine's and order some of this toffee by going to the website at www.elainestoffeecompany.com. Or, connect with them on social media for updates, deals & more on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest!

(The giveaway that was associated with this post has expired, please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests! Please contact MakeOurOwnNetwork@gmail.com if you have questions about the results of this giveaway.)

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