Stocking up on Staycation Goodies and Gear with Diapers.com

As everyone is anticipating the upcoming holiday weekend, I’m finally getting back into the groove of things after last week’s travel and then a bout with sickness.  I hope you guys have fun weekends planned.

At our house, summer is definitely in full swing, and we’ve got the bug bites and sunkissed faces to prove it.  It’s our first summer in the suburbs, and by the smiles the kid gives us, I think we made the right choice in neighborhood.

Our new neighborhood, though just 30 miles from NYC, is in a wooded area that surrounds a lake.  Families swarm to the lake for daily swimming and evening outings; it might not be the chaos of the city that I love so much, but this corner of the world is truly more than I could have ever envisioned for our family.

A patch of grass to call our own

Having spent the past few summers at public parks, running through water sprinklers to cool off, I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to have our a patch of grass to call our own.  As much as I miss city living, one thing I don’t miss is the lack of space.  Once upon a time, we’d have to question ownership of one or two ride-on toys and where we’d put them, and now, we sort of have a fleet of them, next to the baseball bats, footballs, water balloons, water guns, floats…

Boredom is not an option

Outdoor play is a big part of our day-to-day routine, and making sure we have the goodies and gear onhand is crucial.  Boredom is not an option.  Because of our former space restraints, we didn’t have too many big outdoor toys to begin with and besides our usual brick and mortar shopping locales, I love knowing that my go-to online shop for all things baby/kid, Diapers.com, sells toys and other outdoor play paraphernalia.

Diapers.com fangirl

I’m a long-time fan of Diapers.com and their sister site, Soap.com.  In fact, I went to the launch event for Soap.com and regularly sing their praises on Twitter.  When I was asked to participate in this BabyCenter Blog Network campaign, I giddily obliged knowing that I’d get to write about Diapers.com, yet another service that I already love.  And because the suggested topic idea had to do with a staycation, I actually waited to write about this campaign so it would coincide with our actual staycation, which begins this weekend.

On this recent shopping trip on Diapers.com, I made a point to stock up on even more outdoor toys and gear for the boy to enjoy over the holiday weekend.

The staycation  goodies and the gear

So, for this staycation,  I spent right around $100 and I made sure to stock up goodies and gear that would get good use on our staycation.  For starters, we have enough sunblock in our arsenal, but we’re low on bug ointment that actually works and is safe for the kid.  Badger Balm, which gets great reviews on Diaper.com, was first on my list.  Can’t play outside if the bugs have their way with you!  And as for the good stuff, of course I ordered toys..lots of outdoor toys!  I ordered a kiddie pool for the back yard, a float for the lake and various other toys to play with in the yard or when we go to the beach.  So, here’s the main goodies I ended up buying:

I’m so impressed by how many great toy brands there are on Diapers.com, including brands that I’ve only seen at specialty boutiques.  I especially LOVE Spielstabil‘s beach and outdoor toys.  Spielstabil is a beloved German toy company that’s also under the Haba umbrella.  Their products, which are extremely durable, are bpa, pthalate and pvc-free.  I just love that Diapers.com puts a lot of thought into the products they sell. (Trust me, I’ve seen the buying team in action at Toy Fair.)  I ordered the sand and water mill from Spielstabil and can’t wait to see it in action!

Amidst the hundreds and hundreds of choices of toys, gear and baby and kid products, I finally made my purchase and the first shipment should be arriving tomorrow.  The main caveats of this shopping trip were my indecision and that the order is coming in three separate shipments, with one of them not coming until next week.  Nevertheless, I  can’t wait to share more AND to reveal a pretty fun giveaway to boot!  Stay tuned.

Full disclosure:  This post is sponsored by BabyCenter in conjunction with the BabyCenter Blog Network.

Healthy Choice Meals Offer Convenience and Wholesome Options

Things have been non-stop around here for the past few weeks.  There have been a few days, actually, where making lunch for myself was near-impossible due to such a hectic schedule.  And as much as I’d try to avoid prepared foods because of all the unwanted added “extras”, I’m glad they’re there when you need them.

I recently had the chance to try some Healthy Choice meals.  And with the way things have been lately, I think I may have found a new go-to lunch that definitely beats fast food or take out.  I’ve always enjoyed the Healthy Choice brand, but it’s been awhile since I’ve had their frozen food. Apparently, I’ve been missing out.

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I picked up two Healthy Choice Cafe Steamer meals at my local Target. As a sidenote: I noticed that my grocery stores also had them, as did Costco.  I think I stood in the freezer aisle for 15 minutes trying to decide which meals to try.  I was so indecisive, because all the choices sounded so good.  I ended up grabbing two meals that sounded like a meal I’d make:  Chicken Pesto Classico and Balsamic Chicken.

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I was impressed by the ease, convenience and innovation of the Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers.  There are other types of meals, but I was drawn to the Steamer variety, since that’s typically how we cook our veggies on a regular basis.  After microwaving the meals, I found that the meals retained the flavor, shape and colors, unlike other frozen meals I’ve had in the past.  The ingredients, for the most part, were acceptable and met my expectations.  My main concerns were the plastic steamer used in the microwaving process and sodium levels.  But overall, I would certainly stock my freezer with a few of these meals for lunch at home or at the office, or even for dinner when I can’t cook.

And as my 3 year old said: “the noodles are so yummy, they make my dance feet.”  So, yeah, I think he enjoyed them too.

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Tips for Greening the Kitchen

Even though Earth Day/Month is over, I’m in the camp that hopes that the green momentum keeps going year-round.

On our transition from apartment to house, one room that I’ve emphasized greening has been the kitchen.  It’s the area that is responsible for feeding the people I love, and so, naturally, it’s also a place where we always convene together as a family.

I’ve read so many great resources on greening the kitchen, but I thought I’d reference Whole Living Body + Soul once again.  So, here are some helpful tips on how to green your kitchen.

1.  Use Glass Containers


Like many other homes, we used to use what was convenient and inexpensive…then concerns about BPA sparked several years ago, and the plastic binge began.  Why risk high levels of the hormone disrupting chemical, BPA?  For kitchen storage containers, glass is a safer alternative.  My rec:  check out the Glass Lock Storage Containers from Snapware.  They’re stackable, durable, BPA-free and are seriously air-tight.  I found the best deal on Snapware’s Glass Lock Storage Containers at Costco and loved them so much I had to buy more at Home Goods.  Even Lifehacker agrees that they rock.

2.  Compost

There’s so many good reasons why you should compost. but reducing trash and creating nutrient-rich feed for your plants and garden are pretty high up on the list.  My parents have composted since I was a little girl, so once we had better resources to do so at our house, it was second nature.  Most convenient way to integrate composting in the kitchen: have some sort of pail, whether it’s re-sealable, old coffee tin or a compost bucket by the kitchen sink.  Every time you clear your plates after a meal, scrape waste into the pail.  Veggies, fruit, egg shells and coffee grinds are just a few of the items that can be included in your compost pail.  My rec: check out TJ Maxx or Home Goods for inexpensive compost pails.  They’re unobtrusive and often have carbon filters that help with the smell.

3. Do Smarter Dishes
Whole Living Body + Soul recommends to run the dishwasher at night to avoid peak energy rates.  In the summer, too, this will keep less humidity in the air, which will keep things cooler, thus put less strain on the AC.  Also, switch to plant-based detergents.  I’ll have to do a separate post on this one day, but through trials and tribulation on finding the best natural dishwasher detergent, we had the best luck with BioKleen Automatic Dish Powder.  In my opinion, it cleans MUCH better than most conventional detergents that are found on the shelves.  The grapefruit smell is pretty awesome as well.

4. Minimize paper waste

Paper waste is one of my many downfalls in the kitchen.  I’ve added  dishtowels throughout the kitchen, as well as many reusable towels.  My next step is to use cloth napkins every day.  But there are times when reusable napkins don’t make the most sense, so it’s helpful to use paper products that use recycled fibers.  Scott Naturals napkins uses 80% recycled fibers, which fits the bill for us, especially with all the outdoor picnicking we’ve been doing.

And since it’s the last and final week of the Scott Natural 4-Week Test Drive, we couldn’t end it without another great giveaway.

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Week 3: Scott Naturals 4-Week Test Drive and Giveaway

With greening the bathroom in mind, one of the recommendations is to opt for using toilet paper made of recycled materials.  Scott Naturals’ bathroom tissue uses 40% recycled fiber, which is a good step in the right direction.  According to Scott Naturals, substituting products including recycled fiber over 4 weeks reduces virgin fiber demand. Reduced tree harvesting based on average U.S. household sheet usage and saving 17 trees per ton of recycled fiber.

We’re just wrapping up week three of the four-week test drive, and I’d love it if you’d continue to click, support and raise awareness.

For every click on the Four Week Test Drive link, Scott Naturals donates $1 to NWF from Scott Naturals. While you’re on Scott Natural’s site, be sure to grab some coupons and enter to win a Ford Fusion hybrid car.

Giveaway

As part of the Four Week Test Drive, we have another Scott Naturals Prize Pack to giveaway.

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Week Two: Scott Naturals Four Week Test Drive

Craft time and clean up goes hand in hand. Quite literally.

As usual, I’m preaching to the choir here, but flushable wipes come in handy when cleaning up messy kids. And I’m not even talking about the disasters in the bathroom!  We’ve been out of the diaper phase for quite some time now, but with an adventurous boy around, it’s a given, we’ll always have wipes onhand.

Flushable Moist Wipes are another product in the Scott Naturals lineup.  This green alternative to the other wipes on the market are made of 100% sustainable resources.  They’re convenient to have in the bathroom, hall closet and even in the car for road trips.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had backseat explosions and needed wipes, but didn’t have them! Lesson learned!

This is Week Two of the Four Week Test Drive, so please continue helping us with your clicks. For every click on the Four Week Test Drive link, Scott Naturals donates $1 to NWF from Scott Naturals. While you’re on Scott Natural’s site, be sure to grab some coupons and enter to win a Ford Fusion hybrid car.

Giveaway

As part of the Four Week Test Drive, we have another Scott Naturals Prize Pack to giveaway.

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Navigating Food Allergies: At Camp, On Sleepovers and Playdates

With the warm weather upon us, for many families, that usually means vacation, camp and extra time spent with friends and family.  For us, that means we ship the kid off to Va for a few weeks to our parents.

But for many families like ours, the logistics of spending time away from home also means managing kids’ food allergies.  Just because a kid has food allergies doesn’t mean that can’t have fun while they’re away from home; in fact, many organizations and establishments have found a way to safely navigate around kids’ food allergies, working together with families to ensure that everyone has fun!

I’m excited to once again take part in a conversation on TheMotherhood.com, and this time we’ll be discussing Navigating Food Allergies:  At Camp, On Sleepovers and Playdates!

Allergies, in general, affects so many families, so I know this topic is something that many of you may find informative.  And even if your family isn’t directly affected, since food allergies are so much more common now, having this sort of knowledge onhand certainly doesn’t hurt.  So, please, join us today!

Navigating Food Allergies:  At Camp, On Sleepovers and Playdates on TheMotherhood.com

When: Tuesday, April 12, at 1 p.m. ET

Where: TheMotherhood – Join us!

What: The class is called Navigating Food Allergies: At Camp, on Sleepovers and Playdates.  Join the experts to talk about ensuring your kids have fun and safe experiences in these environments away from home. Lori Sandler, Divvies Bakery will lead a discussion with Sandy Rubenstein of Camp Wingate*Kirkland and Renee Flax of the American Camp Association who have worked with many families managing food allergies.  Come with questions and your own best approaches. The focus is all about making sure your kids are taken care of physically, emotionally and socially so they can have fun!

The class is sponsored by ConAgra Foods and hosted by TheMotherhood.

The hosts and other co-hosts of this class are:

Lori Sandler, Divvies, http://www.divvies.com
Sandy Rubenstein, Camp Wingate*Kirkland, http://www.campwk.com
Renee Flax, American Camp Association
Caryn Bailey, Rockin’ Mama
Eleanor Garrow, FoodAllergy.org
Jodi Grundig, Mom’s Favorite Stuff
Nirasha Jaganath, Mommy Niri
Jenny Kales, Nut-Free Mom
Jill Mindlin, parent advocate
Ariella Rogge, Sanborn Ranch Camps
Jo-Lynne Shane, Musings of a Housewife
Abby Shapiro, Camp Source Network

Full disclosure:  I am being compensated for my participation in this webinar, which is sponsored by ConAgra Foods and hosted by TheMotherhood.  As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

Cooking Connections Offers Insight on Picky Eaters

The other week, I participated in a great dialogue on TheMotherhood’s Cooking Connections about “Expanding Your Family’s Palate by Placating Picky Eaters.”  The hosts and co-hosts were some of my favorite bloggers, many of whom blog about food and parenting and topics in between.

There were so many great takeaways from our discussion about picky eaters, and I was sure to add my two cents about the experiences I had growing up with an extremely picky sibling.  I loved hearing other parents’ suggestions about getting picky eaters to try new foods, as I’m sure it’s something many of you have experienced firsthand.

My favorite suggestions for placating picky eaters includes eating and introducing colorful foods and involving kids in the cooking process.  My friend Carol said it best: “involving kids in the kitchen gives them a sense of accomplishment…”

Some great insight from the other participants and hosts was the effectiveness they had with the “one-bite rule” to get their kids to try a food before simply refusing it.

“Our rule is you just need to take a full size bite, chew, swallow and then say, ‘Yes, please’ or ‘No, thank you,’” said host Jennifer Leal, Savor the Thyme.

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Share Your Breakfast and Help Fight Childhood Hunger

Imagine not having the resources to adequately feed your child; even worse–sending your child to school on an empty stomach.

According to a survey released a few weeks ago, two-thirds of teachers across the U.S. say they have children in their classrooms who regularly come to school too hungry to learn because they are not getting enough to eat at home.  It’s a proven fact that hunger impedes our childrens’ ability to learn and perform academically, but fortunately, there are organizations and brands who are shedding light on childhood hunger.

Kellogg’s has partnered with Action for Healthy Kids to help remedy this sad reality of childhood hunger.  With their campaign, “Share Your Breakfast” Kellogg’s is is asking people to take pictures and “share their breakfast” on their website.

From now until July, an uploaded a photo of your breakfast can help combat childhood hunger.  One photo upload to www.shareyourbreakfast.com or the word SHARE texted with a photo or a description of your breakfast to 21534 equals one shared breakfast.

With nearly 1 in 4 kids in America struggling with hunger, Kellogg’s goal is to share 1 million breakfasts in the 2011-2012 school year.  With all the information I share online here on NKT, on Facebook and Twitter, a simple photo of breakfast is the least I can do to help a child in need.  We hope to do our part and share our breakfast as soon as we can, and I sincerely hope you consider to do the same.

Check it

Kellogg’s will be kicking off the Share Your Breakfast campaign tomorrow in NYC in Grand Central Station, where they will be feeding thousands of people breakfast from 6am to noon.  I’m hoping to make my way over there to help support this worthy cause.

Aside from uploading a photo of your breakfast, you can help spread the word about this important campaign. There will be a Share Your Breakfast Twitter party tomorrow, March 8 from 10 – 12 AM EST. Be sure to visit www.mombloggersclub.com for more details.

Disclosure:

This is a sponsored post through a compensated Mom Bloggers Club member program.

New Year, New Gain: What Will You Gain When You Lose

Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Now that reality is settling in, it’s time to reflect and renew.  In 2011, I hope to expand horizons personally and on NKT, but more importantly, I plan to walk the walk.  What I mean by that is, I’ve been covering a lot of healthier food options for kids, but I’m going to work even harder on practicing what I preach. And from that, I hope to gain much more than I lose.

Gain?

Yep. I hope to gain the confidence and self-control to follow through with healthier choices.  My problem is, I love to cook and bake, and well, I overindulge even when it’s healthy food.  So, self-control is the main goal for me this year.

In line with what I hope to gain this year, I’m excited to put on my reporter’s hat to help cover Special K‘s What Will You Gain When You Lose campaign.  Weight loss is a timely topic for my personal endeavors, as I’m sure it is for many of you.

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Partying with Mattel’s Toy Story 3 Action Links

We’ve been talking a lot about food over here on NKT, but what we haven’t been talking about enough are toys.  Well, that’s because I’m doing things differently this holiday season, which I’ll explain in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, we recently gathered some friends together to indulge in the very cool Toy Story 3 Action Links from Mattel.  As huge fans of Toy Story 3, when I was invited to apply to host an Action Links party via MomSelect’s Mommyparties, I jumped at the chance.

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Undoubtedly, Toy Story 3 has been the most talked about movie in our house this year, so naturally, this, too, would have been an exciting party to take on and share all about. So, when the giant box of toys arrived, you can imagine our excitement!

At our Toy Story Action Links party, we invited some of Jack’s fellow TS3 fans, all of whom are in the 3-4 age group.  We played off the TS3 theme and had hot dogs wrapped with Pillsbury Crescents on sticks, veggies, cupcakes and more.  Toy Story Action Links was a great reason to get friends and kids together for a fun afternoon.
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I first learned about Action Links at Toy Fair earlier this year.  But because the movie wasn’t out yet and because the toys recreate key scenes from the story, I could only talk so much about this interesting concept.

When we first opened the Action Links sets, my husband and I were reminded of the Rube Goldberg concepts, much like that game, Mousetrap. Remember that?

Action Links embodied that same Rube Goldberg concept, where each interlinking set created a chain reaction, complete with Toy Story 3 figures.
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