Encouraging Imaginative Play in Preschoolers

According to an article on Education.com when Preschooler’s engage in play that encourages their imaginations the benefits are Vocabulary Development and Communication, Planning and Problem Solving, and Imagination and Creativity. Pretty important stuff if I do say so!

Because I’ve read this over and over I make an effort that 90% of our toys are ones that would really encourage imaginative play. I’ve found that “classic” toys provide my children with far more learning–and far more fun! We have a dress up box stuffed full of fluffy tutus, fireman outfits, hats and jewelry. We have several baby dolls, a play kitchen, and a doll house.

Toys that provide classics with a fun new twist are our favorites. Magnet Toys also fall into this category! The Prince and Princess Dress-up dolls are Amber’s new favorites! I love that they have all the good of traditional paper dress up dolls–with none of the drawbacks! She also has a princess magnetic dress up doll from a previous Christmas–so now she has a blast playing with the entire royal family and getting them all ready to go “to the palace”
There is something magical about watching a dialogue unfold in a scene of make believe kingdoms, the fact she’s learning all that good stuff I mentioned before is just an extra perk!

We received this great toy from Educational Toys Planet all pretending, opinions, and imaginary kingdoms are our own.

Create A Relaxing Evening Routine with Numi Tea

I’m the kind of person who’s brains spins at about a million miles an hour all day long. I’m sure my mommy friends feel the same way!

Even since I was a little girl, however, it’s always taken me a longer time to fall asleep. Especially on days that I’ve had a lot going on it seems like I sometimes have a hard time getting my brain to switch gears from spinning a million miles to “rest”  mode.

I’ve found that have some much needed down time in the evenings really helps. Once the kiddos head to bed I try to just “mush out” the rest of the evening. Favorite shows on Netflix while snuggled with hubby (or old English BBC if he’s gone) a good book, a hot bath, and a cup of tea do the trick! By the time it’s time to crawl into bed my body and brain are both unwound and sleep normally comes easily!

My favorite tea for unwinding in the evening are flavors like Numi Moroccan Mint Tea. The low caffeine and comforting taste are perfect when paired off with some honey and a cozy blanket. Last night I had Numi Orange Spice Tea (it’s the one pictured) and it was great too–not too strong like some Orange Spice brands–just the right amount of smooth and spicey.

Tea isn’t just great for unwinding in the evening either–thanks to my sister-in-law I was introduced to how tasty black tea (the kind you have with sugar and creamer) is. Now Numi Aged Earl Grey Tea is a favorite of mine and a great replacement for coffee some mornings. Plus it makes me feel Brittish when I drink it (a little odd? Maybe…..I think the association came about because when I got hooked on it we were watching lots of BBC Dickens at the time……)

 One of the things that I really like about Numi Tea as a brand is that it is Organic and on the packets they list the caffiene (high, low, or no) so that when you’re reaching for that perfect evening cup you can know at a glance what would work good and aid you in going to sleep–not detract from it!

What are your tricks for creating a relaxing evening routine?

I received the products above from Shoplet your online stop for office supplies. The cozy blankets, opinions, and fake British accents are all my own.

Make Recycling Easy with Rubbermaid

I have a confession to make….

While I really *do* feel that being good stewards of our planet is important….and while I’m normally *not* a lazy person there is one thing that I find super hard to do…

and that’s recycle. You see–as long as it’s easy I’m on top of it! In NC we had 2 big bins right next to the other garbage dumpster where we could put our recyclables into and since it was easy I did it. When we moved here there wasn’t any easy set up, however, and while I would have a fleeting “oh this should probably be recycled” thought as I chucked paper and plastic bottles into the trash the effort of NOT chucking it right then and there made it no more than a fleeting thought.

So when I got the chance to review the Rubbermaid Hidden Recycler I jumped on it! I thought it was just the nudge I needed to get me in the right direction again–and while I still need to figure out where I need to bring the things I’m saving to recycle–as you can see from my full container I *have* been doing it!

This is so super easy to instal and use–and it doesn’t even take up much room in the cabinet itself–just genius! It’s a 5 gallon bag that can holds up to 36 12-ounce cans and can fit a milk jug. I have used ours for all the scrap paper and junk mail we get–it has fit several weeks worth!

Connect with Rubbermaid on Twitter @Rubbermaid, their Adventures in Organization Blog, or Visit FaceBook page

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UnJunk Your Junk Food ~ (Slim & Trim…late/early)

As you should all be aware of by now I’m on a mission to get slim & trim. These week’s have been a little crazy for me as I’m getting ready for my parents to fly out–so I’m going to tell you about a great book in lieu of my normal post!

For me getting “slim & trim” is more than just about being skinny and attractive (although those are two things I’m super looking forward to) but also about taking charge of my health, energy, and life!

Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks was a great book for me to read–I found it extremely interesting that the same ingredients that this book “blacklists” where nearly identical to the ones that were listed in my Fit Moms for Life book as well. That made me stop and think–hey maybe these guys are all onto something!!

Many of them came to me as no surprise–Aspartame has given me nasty headaches before when I tried to switch to some no calorie drinks a few years ago and I haven’t touched the horrid stuff ever since. I love that in the section of the book they don’t just go, “This is a NO NO list so don’t you eat these ingredients” they actually break it down into WHY an ingredient is a really bad choice. They explain it in simple and clear terms that make a whole lot of sense!

After reading the book I took to the cupboards to discover just how “nasty” the foods we eat are. I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised! It seems that without even really knowing why (before now) I gravitate to more wholesome and low ingredient foods. I’ve never gotten the kids “fancy” high sugar and dye packed to ying-yang breakfast cereal or desserts. Since I cook mostly from scratch (or partially scratch) the yuck is kept down-which is great.

There were still a few big surprises though–I had no idea that peanut butter was chock full of trans fat–sure enough when I went and checked it was, that changed my opinion of it’s “healthy” factor and this past shopping trip I picked up some of the Natural kind!

I will say this book sparked my mind and I was definitely reading ingredients during my last shopping trip more than I ever have before!

Most of the book takes a super popular “junk food” and gives you an equally tasty less “junky” version of it that you can purchase. Brands like Hidden Valley are swapped out for Simply Organic.

The *only* thing I wish is that in addition to all the brand names and info it would have been great to see some great home made junk food options–in fact reading the book mostly made me more determined that if we’re going to eat “junk” it will be cookies that I bake–that way I know and can control exactly what goes in them to an even greater extent!

I’d definitely recommend this book–it was a great and informational read! Be sure to hop on over to Amazon to see what other readers thought as well! Also you can “like” Naturally Savvy on Facebook and follow Natural Savvy on Twitter for more great tips, articles, and everything healthy living!

I received a free copy from Naturally Savvy for my honest review. The opinions, chocolate chip cookies consumed and sweet tooth cravings are my own.

Cravings ~ Not Your Normal Devotion

I recently wrote in my Moms of Faith column about the need to ditch perfection. I talked about how for a time I gave up on doing my devotions because I felt I just didn’t have the time to do them “right”. This year I decided that I would throw this mindset out the window—whether that meant amidst screaming children or a brief one verse to ponder over that day.

Carey Bailey had the same thought! She struggled with time to devote to God amidst the chaos that is life as a new mom. She felt Him telling her to “just make it easy” and so she did. And now you can benefit from that! Cravings contains daily “thoughtlets” based on the Psalms that are great–short, sweet, but anything but not fluffy. I love that the adorable stand that lets me read it while I’m loading the dishwasher! It’s been perfect for those days when life just gets in the way of a “proper” time with God–and of course those are the days I need it most!

I also really love the concept behind the name–the thought that when we have “cravings” it should really be God’s word we’re craving…..not chocolate or cupcakes! This has encouraged me during my journey to become more healthy and helps remind me where my focus should be and what the “good stuff” really is! This would make a perfect Mother’s Day gift for a busy mom in your life!

Here’s a little more about this awesome idea and a great giveaway as well! Also drop by the rest of the Blog Tour to see what other bloggers have to say!

“When I became a mom I lost my God time,” says Carey Bailey. “I couldn’t figure out how to fit it in, since everything but that time was a priority. So I made note cards that I set around my house with scriptures written on them. Even when my arms were too full of babies, laundry, and diapers to pick up a Bible, I could easily read God’s words of encouragement that I was starving for”

And Cravings–The Devotional was born. Celebrate with Carey by entering her Minute-for-Mom Giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • $50 gift card to Erin Condren Shop (Your one-stop-shop for all things awesome!)
  • $50 gift card to Victoria’s Secret® (For something pretty.)
  • $25 gift card to Bath & Body Works® (For a little spa treatment.)
  • 2 Sets of Cravings – The Devotional (For you and a friend.)
  • Scentsy Plug In and 2 Bars (A lovely scent for your space.)

Hurry, the giveaway ends on 5/12/12. The winner will be announced 5/14/12 on Carey’s blog!
Just click one of the icons below to enter! Tell your friends about Susan’s giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

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Over the Moon Milk

Growing up for dinner every night we would have a big glass of milk along with our yummy homecooked meal. Now that I’m “all growed up” I continue this tradition. Since I’ve learned that not everyone thinks that drinking milk with dinner is “normal” but I don’t care, haha.

In fact milk is one of the only 3 liquids I drink on a regular basis. As you know right now I’m on a slim and trim quest–and I’d much rather eat my calories than drink them!

One of the big reasons Over the Moon milk appealed to me was the promise of it being extra creamy and delicious–while being fat free. They didn’t lie! It has the taste and texture of whole milk while have the goodness of skim, win-win! The fact that It has 34% more calcium and 37% protein are just extra little bonuses as well.

While this is great to drink (with dinner, mwahaha) you can also find great smoothie recipes on the website as well.

Do you drink milk with dinner? If not when do you drink it?

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Out of the Silent Planet By C.S. Lewis

I have a love of older literature. It draws me in and captivates my imagination in a way that few of the newer books do. When I list my favorite authors the first off of my tongue are Lucy Maud Montgomery, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen……

and, of course, C. S. Lewis. Like so many others I was completely captivated by The Chronicles of Narnia as a young child, and re-visited my love of the series when I re-read them all just a few years ago.

I knew that he had also written adult books, both non-fiction and fiction, but they’ve always sat on my oh-so-long “need to read list” When given the chance to review Out of the Silent Planet I just couldn’t say no!

This book was everything I would expect from C.S. Lewis–and some things I wasn’t expecting. The characters were intriguing and the storyline as fantastic and intriguing as a Narnia tale–except this time the characters are going on space adventures not to Narnia. This was a book that was definitely written for adults though which gave it a very different “flavor”. I enjoyed following the plight of Ransom as he tried to make sense of life on a strange new planet–one that he’d never intended on going to. I enjoyed it so much that I will definitely be reading the rest of the trilogy–they just bumped up to the top of that long “need to read list”!

If you love C.S. Lewis, science fiction, fantasy, or even just a great book this is a must read!

You can find out more from the publisher HarperOne: website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, and blog – original work on and about C.S. Lewis.

Using Gorton Dinner "Cheat Nights"

I’ve been talking a lot lately about the importance of family dinners, but that is just because it really is SO important, and it’s something I happen to be very passionate about!

I won’t go into all the details again, but just wanted to throw out a reminder that eating meals together helps children to succeed in school and be less likely to develop eating disorders and drug problems–serious stuff! You can go to The Family Dinner Project which is based right close to “home” here in New England since it’s a Harvard based project.

Let’s face it though–cooking from scratch EVERY night can get exhausting, even if you love to cook! That’s why I have several different favorite brands I turn to when I need a quick, easy, and tasty “cheat night” dinner. Gorton’s is one of these brands. They are also based close to here–just right down the road in Gloucester MA. I actually was just there last week for a playdate! Gloucester that is, not Gorton’s, haha!! Their popcorn shrimp is one of the few meals that every single member of our family loves and inhales with just a few bites. They have some great recipe ideas on their website-but we’ve found that even “straight out of the box” they are simply delish. To be honest we used to buy a different brand but I fell in love with Gorton’s breading! And when clean up involves only sticking one pan into the dishwasher then Mommy is a happy Mommy for the rest of the night!

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The Magic of Paper and Notebooks

As I’ve mentioned before, even though I’m a techy girl I feel like for many things you just cannot beat good old fashioned paper and pen! We use paper for so many different things at our house all day long!

I always have a big Paper Notebook like the Roaring Spring Wirebound Notebook 3 Subject on hand. My mom saw it the last time she was here and asked me what it was, I replied, “My Brain.” She laughed but it really is so true! I use it to organize my review papers (the pockets are great for that), keep my list of passwords and log on information, use it for my devotion journal, a list of all our family and friends birthdays (some people aren’t on Facebook you know) and prayer requests, and for work information, notes, and ideas.

I also love using office supplies that are fun and pretty for writing down goals. I’m going to use the Roaring Spring Elephant PooPoo Paper to write down my work out goals, including my 10 year goals that Fit Moms for Life inspired me to write down! And yes–when they say poo they mean poo. The notebook is made from, get this, recycled elephant poo!!!!!!! For real, it is the most hysterical thing I’ve ever heard of (and no it’s not stinky and actually super cute–I love it, bahaha).

 Amber continues to LOVE doing school each day and so we continue to go through *lots* of paper for it. Although she has lots of workbooks during her free unstructured drawing time she’s still been defaulting to doing “school” by herself–as you can see here. I can barely believe my “baby” is big enough to write out the alphabet by herself! The Roaring Spring Landscape Format Writing Pad – College Ruled will be perfect and much better for her to “practice” on than scrap paper is.

I received the above products from Shoplet your source for Note Pads and Notebook Online 

Looking Hot as a Mom ~ Body Bark & Strap Tamers

We’ve all heard about, seen it, or–gulp–been victims of it. The “letting yourself go” syndrome. Pre-kiddos keeping care of yourself and looking pretty is definitely a *whole* lots more easy!
And let’s be honest–when you know the only people who will see you all day are your 10 month old and your hubby….and the fact that you’ll probably be covered in some type of baby body fluid by the end of the day, there is not a whole lot of motivation to go and get all dolled up!
But studies have shown that when we look frumpy–we feel frumpy. I know that this is definitely true in my own life! When I feel like I look great–I usually feel great. When I’m dressed in nice clothes, have my hair done, earrings in, and perfume on I feel like I”m ready to tackle the day!
I totally understand wanting and needing to stay comfortable as a mom! Thankfully there are so many fashionable options these days that are also *far* from frumpy! Body Bark is now one of my new favorite companies. I love the layered look but have always struggled with wearing uncomfortable, tight, itchy layering pieces. I spend all day tugging at them, scratching them, and then eventually just taking it off and not wearing the outfit again.
Body Bark is some of the softest material I’ve ever worn! They use natural-fiber fabric derived from beech wood and it is amazing! Their pieces can be worn alone (I’m modeling the top I was sent in these picures) but since they are so feathery thin they can easily be worn under anything without wearing bulk.
I love wearing tank tops and usually sport them all summer. I hate the fact that my bra straps always slip and slide and then I’m stuck with the same problem as under pieces–spending all day focusing on tugging and pulling–which not only is annoying–it’s also not attractive! Strap Tamers have come up with a simple and great solution where you pin their clip to the inside seam of your shirt and slide your bra strap into it. I’m wearing them in the pictures above and they’re doing their job perfectly–you can’t see them OR my bra straps!
By finding great pieces and simple fixes you can be a mom, be comfortable AND still look and feel great! And that is definitely an amazing thing!
Both of these amazing products were made by moms, for moms–and you can win them (and other great products!) in this Mompact promotion!

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