Delicious Fresh Cut Fruit & Odwalla

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FreshCutSavings #CollectiveBias

Summer is right around the corner and I couldn’t be more excited for warmer weather and all the flavors that accompany the season, especially all the fresh fruit!

Summer doesn’t exactly mean things are winding down, which is why Odwalla and ZICO products are the perfect staple to fit into your busy lifestyle.

Whether they are part of a breakfast, or a pre/post workout snack, these products are a perfect on-the-go solution to those that are trying to make a “better-for-you” choice.

For a limited time at Albertsons and Safeway you can Save $1 when you buy any (2) Odwalla 15.2 fl. oz. or ZICO 13.5 fl. oz. and (1) Fresh Cut Fruit. Offer valid with digital coupon.

Click here to load your card to offer

Enjoy all the flavors of Fresh Cut Fruit without the hassle – ready for snacking or to add to your own fruit smoothie or smoothie bowl!

Don’t pass up these #FreshCutSavings – available for a limited time!

*Participating products:

  • Odwalla 15.2 oz bottles
  • ZICO 400mL

Offer valid 5/16 – 6/12 and while supplies last. Purchase must be made in a single transaction. Digital coupons are not valid unless downloaded to your Loyalty Account.

Retailers include: Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Tom Thumb, Randalls, Shaws, Star Market, ACME, Pavillions, Carrs, and Jewel-Osco retailers.

5 Brilliant Ways To Save Money This Summer

Today was the last day of school for the Elliott’s and we are officially happy dancing our way into summer!

Summer for most people brings with it a lot of fun, but that can also mean a lot of extra expenses. Those vacations, road trips, summer camps, and celebrations add up faster than you can say “How is it already June?” So today I decided to bring you some brilliant ways to save money this summer. The best part about them? Any busy-crazy parent or working professional can do them! No complicated schemes or cutting coupons or figuring out things (( #aintnobodygottime for that))

1. Save Energy

I know, I know! But listen, what better way to talk about *saving* money than by giving you a chance to WIN some??!! Complete this Spot the Watt game challenge and be entered to win a $100 gift card! Test your energy-saving knowledge among your family and friends as you navigate your way through three interactive rooms. Learn tips in each room to help you save energy, and money, along the way.

This is such an easy, painless way to save money. Adjust your habits just a little and it will amaze you how much these little savings add up! This is especially so important if you live somewhere HOT like we do in Texas!

2. Trim the Fat–Literally

Summer is a great time to re-tackle your food budget. How are those New Years Resolutions doing? No guilt here, I totally understand! With the warm weather comes a great time to re-commit to healthy living. Hubby and I have been on a healthy living kick over the past few months. It has included participating in races and fixing our eating habits. A huge added benefit? Skipping out on eating out and convenience food has actually saved us a ton of money!

Now, don’t get me wrong. Eating out has, and always will, be one of our favorite splurges. But as we’re getting healthier I’m finding that I’d much rather save up and savor that nice, sit down steak. It doesn’t even bother me to totally skip out on the cheap, fast food options. Though they may seem cheap, compared to cooking for yourself they’re actually super pricey!

And, shocker, losing weight really doesn’t have to involve all those quick fixes or elaborate plans that cost you an arm and leg. Hubby is down 40 lbs (go him!!!) and I’m down 10 just because we quit doing the dumb things we knew we needed to, we controlled our portions, and we did the next step….

3. Re-think Getting Healthy ((newsflash, it doesn’t have to cost a bunch of money))

This one goes hand in hand with the one above but it deals more with exercise. Of course, you need to find what makes you want to actually get healthy, and that’s worth whatever cost! However, I’ve found that personally, I’m a lot more motivated by things that don’t involve a ton of money. If you’re somewhere that’s nice in the summer get outside! Running outside is so much more fun. You might also find a local adult league, there are lots that cost very little or are free. Or spend a little money upfront and purchase a piece of exercise equipment and then USE IT! ((the key)).  What we’re currently doing is investing a little money in participating in races, then doing all the training on our own for free ((running outside, together, with the kids at parks, on our treadmill, pushups, situps etc)). Having the goal in site gives huge motivation, and the training doesn’t cost us anything!

Right now we’re currently training for a 5-mile obstacle run in the fall. Yipes!!!

4. Keep Entertainment Cheap

As I mentioned, keeping the family entertained over the summer can add up FAST! While vacations are amazing and you should splurge, take a good long look at your entertainment expenses this month. Do you *really* need all those subscriptions? How many are you using? We’ve always saved tons of money by not having cable. For the kids we also only have them play free things, with the exception of our one subscription that we play together as a family. Rethink how many camps and special outings you want to send your kids to as well. Chances are great they’d have JUST as much fun playing outside in the neighborhood, running through the sprinkler or throwing water balloons around. Unplug them and then *gasp* let them use their imaginations!!!

Another *amazing* option for summer fun is Vacation Bible Schools. Especially if you’re in the Bible Belt like we are, these are running all summer long. They’re fun, safe, free, and generally welcome even kids from other churches in town with open arms.

5. Break Up With Your Cell Phone Contract

Another huge money drain that so many people still have is contracted cell plans. We switched to a pay as you go service years ago and are savings hundreds as a result. The best part? The service is JUST as good with the plan we’re currently on, we still have unlimited data and minutes. Check out your local stores and see what they have to offer. You’ll probably be shocked at what you could be saving!

So there you go, 5 ways to save big bucks that aren’t that complicated at all! Do you have any amazing money saving tips please share them in the comments!

And don’t forget to Complete this Spot the Watt game challenge and be entered to win a $100 gift card!

Wedding Makeup Trends for 2018

While weddings are one of the happiest moment a couple can have together, they can also be extremely stressful, especially for the bride.

As the bride, you want to look elegant and beautiful. To achieve that bridal look, you’ll have to keep up with the current trends in the bridal beauty community. Luckily, there are many sources out there with a variety of information and inspiration on what you can do to feel beautiful on your special day.

Sometimes the amount of information presented on these bridal sites and sites like Pinterest can be overwhelming for a bride-to-be. You can rest easy though as this article contains the latest bridal beauty trends for 2018.

Messy Hairstyles

You may be familiar with brides doing their hair up into tight, intricate braids and buns, but this bridal season has seen more free-flowing locks and updos that don’t look so maintained.

Braids are still big, but you’ll find them not as tight as they once were. With strands framing the face, braids can look romantic but effortless. These messy updos look un-fussy and contemporary, allowing you to add an edge to the classic looks from the past.

You can easily get the messy hair look by taking a hairstyle you may already have in mind and asking your hairstylist to add some texture to it. Styles that are popular right now include simply wearing your hair down, braiding it into a side swept and loose fishtail braid, or having it in a bun.

Your hairstylist or you yourself can create texture by adding waves to your hair before pulling into an updo or teasing it. If you’re doing your hair yourself, sites like https://hhbeauty.com can provide you with insight into what hair products can help you achieve the look.

Minimal Makeup but Strong Brows

Heavy makeup has long been the look that people went with to achieve doll-like skin on their wedding day, but brides have been embracing their natural features this season. The components of this no makeup look include dewy, glowing skin with slightly flushed cheeks and the lipstick color of a fresh-bitten lip.

While minimal makeup is being applied to most of the face, the brows are getting more attention. Bold brows frame the face and can really make the rest of your features pop. They’ve been popular in general beauty circles for a while now, so it makes sense that they’ve transitioned into bridal makeup.

To get this natural look with bold brows, you want to focus on three things: skin care, highlight, and the shape of your brow. Skin care is important because the healthier your skin is, the less makeup you’ll need.

Make sure you’re cleaning, exfoliating, and moisturizing your skin regularly in the weeks leading up to your big day. On the day, apply concealer, tinted moisturizer, or light foundation to hide any trouble spots or blemishes. You can achieve the look of dewy (not shiny) skin by applying a hint of highlight on the cheekbones, just below your brow, and the corner of the inner eye. Make your brows stand out by gently filling them in, following the shape that you want. Apply powder over them to make them last all day or night.

Brown Eyes and Pink Lips

In keeping with the natural trend, brides are going for simple matte browns for the eye look with a bit of eyeliner. It’s a look that will make your eyes pop without being too out there. For your lips, you’ll want to go for pink and glossy to get that fresh-bitten look mentioned above.

To achieve this look, dust whatever brown you prefer over your eyelid. Feel free to add a bit of darker shades to give the look some depth but don’t go too overboard. Go with whatever eyeliner look best suits the shape of your eyes. Lastly, you’ll want to avoid brown mascara. You may be tempted to match the eye shadow, but nothing will make your eyes pop more than solid black.

Pink on the lips bring out the natural colors of your lips. Many people are afraid of pinks as they can be too bright, but the wide range of lip colors out today should make it easy to find a pinkish color that suits your skin. If you’re still not convinced, corals can also work well.

The Bottom Line

While you’ll want to look your best for your big day, it’s important to remember that you feel comfortable as well. Go with makeup that makes you feel your best even if it’s not necessarily on trend.

Quiet Book Tutorial-Part 2

Version 2

Hopefully you’ve seen the first part of this tutorial and are already obsessively working on your own quiet book! If not, go check it out here.  There are some tips and suggestions you might want to read before getting started. As promised, here are instructions for the rest of the pages in my book, as well as a cover.  Feel free to get as creative as you want and come up with your own page ideas, too!  I don’t have templates because I free-handed everything, so it’s all far from perfect, but that’s part of the charm 🙂

IMG_2686

For the Happy Spring page, you will need:

  • 2 9×9 pieces of background fabric
  • Felt or fabric for the water, branch, leaf, caterpillar, and cloud (make them whatever colors you prefer)
  • Three pieces of string or ribbon, each approx. 6 inches long
  • Beads to use as raindrops (make sure they will fit on the string or ribbon you are using)
  • 5 Velcro dots (or velcro that can be cut to fit the caterpillar pieces)

Start by cutting the fabric you’re using for the water so that it makes a pond that fits on the bottom section of your background piece.  Zig-zag stitch the top of the pond down (the rest of it will be sewn on when you put all your pages together.)  Lay the three strings onto your page at the angle you want them, making sure the spaces between them are equal.  Sew the top of each string to the background fabric, going over each one several times so the seams are strong enough to withstand a toddler’s mightiest yank.  Thread 3 (or more) beads onto each string and then sew the bottom ends to the pond, keeping the strands parallel to each other.  Cut out a cloud and stitch it directly onto the tops of the strings, leaving the bottom so that it can flap open.

IMG_2684

Now, cut out a branch that will fit on the bottom of the next page.  Sew it on just as you did with the pond piece.  Cut a leaf out of 2 contrasting colors (it should be about 4 inches long) and sew the smaller piece onto the larger one.  Stitch only the bottom section onto the branch so it makes a pocket, which will hold the pieces of the caterpillar.

IMG_2688

Trace something small and circular (such as a magnet, the end of a small flashlight, or even the cap of a hand sanitizer bottle) onto the felt that will be used for the caterpillar 6 times, using as many different colors of felt as you want.  The circles should be about 1″ in diameter.  Make a face (I used marker) on your caterpillar’s head and zig-zag stitch it onto your page about 2 inches from the left edge.  Sew the sticky side of your velcro dots onto the rest of the circles, and the other sides of the dots onto the background page in a staggered row behind the caterpillar’s head. And you’re done! The pieces of the caterpillar can now stick on the velcro dots or be placed in the leaf pocket.

IMG_2685

For the How Does Your Garden Grow? page you will need:

  • 2 9×9 pieces of background fabric or felt
  • Brown felt for soil, tree trunk, and basket
  • Green felt for the leaves
  • Felt for carrots, potatoes, apples, pears, a wheelbarrow, cloud, and gate
  • Velcro for the fruit (if you want it to really stick to the tree) IMG_2655

This is probably my favorite page, and my 8-year-old daughter designed and made the fruit tree side by herself!  Start by cutting a tree trunk about 7 inches tall.  Pin it in the middle of the page with the bottom of the trunk even with the bottom edge of your background, and be sure to leave space for leaves at the end of each branch.  Stitch the trunk on with a few vertical seams so it resembles bark.

IMG_2693

Cut out and sew on leaves, and if you have space add a cloud.  Cut out whatever fruits you want to have (apples, pears, peaches, oranges, lemons, plums, etc.) and sew a small piece of velcro (the sticky side!) onto the back of each fruit.  You won’t need velcro on the tree if it’s made of felt, but if you used another type of fabric be sure to sew some pieces on (non-sticky side) so the fruit will have a place to “hang.”  Cut out a basket big enough to hold your fruit and sew it on to the background, leaving at least 1 inch below and beside it for seam allowances.  Leave the top edge of the basket open for holding fruit.  Cut out a gate about 7 1/2 inches long and sew only the left edge onto the background about 1 inch from the left of the background piece.

Now, cut a piece of brown felt so that it fits over the bottom half of your other background piece, with a slight curve at the top.  Snip two rows of holes in the brown piece (about 1 cm. each) for “planting” the vegetables.  Stitch this piece on by sewing along the top edge and then make separate seams about 1/2 inch below each row of holes.  This is important so that your vegetables don’t slip down into the “dirt” and get stuck.   The other edges will be sewn when putting all the pages together.  Cut out a wheelbarrow and sew on, leaving the top open.  Add handles and a wheel.

IMG_2695

Cut out your carrots and potatoes now.  For the carrots, cut out two layers of orange and place a small stem between the layers.  Sew together with two or three small horizontal seams to make them look more realistic, making sure the stem is secure.

IMG_2696IMG_2699

For the potatoes cut out two layers of light brown felt and stitch together in the same way using darker brown thread.  “Plant” your veggies and let your little one do the harvesting!

For the Starry Campground page you will need:

IMG_2706

  • Two 9×9 background pieces (one felt, the other anything resembling a night sky)
  • Fabric for a tent (approx 8×8)
  • One 6 inch. zipper in a coordinating color
  • Felt for stars, campfire, sticks, marshmallows, bush, snake, moose, and sleeping bag

First, cut your tent fabric into a triangle that is 6 1/2 inches tall and approx. 6 inches wide. Fold the outer edges of the tent under about 1/4 inch and iron the folds flat. Cut this triangle vertically from the center of the bottom edge to almost the top corner, leaving about 1 inch at the top connected.  Fold each side of this opening under about 1/4 inch and iron the folds.  Hem the bottom edges of the tent along the folds.  Pin your zipper just under each of the opening folds and sew, making sure it can open and close from the bottom up.  Now top-stitch the two sides of the tent onto the background, leaving plenty of space on all sides.  If you want it to be a teepee, cut brown felt into sticks and stitch on at the top corner (I did this mainly because the top of my tent didn’t look very good and needed to be hidden a little.)

IMG_2701

Making the moose took a lot of trial and error, but I free-handed it (like everything else) and it turned out okay.  You could make a person or another animal instead and it would still be adorable.  So, cut out whatever critter you want inside the tent, making sure it will fit with space to spare.  Cut out a sleeping bag that just covers it (or him or her.)  Stitch these on and breathe a sigh of relief.  The hardest part of this page is done!

IMG_2702

The next part of this page was done almost exclusively by my daughter, and I’m pretty impressed with how it turned out. Cut out a felt basket about 2-3 inches wide and sew onto the starry background leaving the top open.  Cut some sticks out of felt and make some marshmallows to sew onto the ends. Place these inside the basket.  Cut out logs and contrasting colors of fire and sew these on as well.

IMG_2705

Cut out a bush and sew on only the bottom edge.  Cut out a snake (or bunny or skunk or whatever) and sew it on behind the bush.

IMG_2703

Cut out a few stars and stitch them around the sky.

IMG_2706

Now your toddler can “roast” marshmallows over a campfire and peek in on the creatures hiding at the campground.

IMG_2658

For the Wallet/Button Up page you will need:

  • 2 9×9 background pages (the one you plan to put on the right should be felt or something sturdy)
  • Brown felt for making a wallet (or and old wallet if you happen to have one)
  • Various pieces of felt and fabric for making shapes
  • Buttons in coordinating colors
  • Expired membership cards, empty gift cards, laminated photos, etc. to put into the wallet

This page is the undisputed favorite of my 2-year-old.  While it was still at our house, she took just the wallet part of the book everywhere for weeks.  It was also the least labor-intensive to make, so if you don’t plan to make all of these pages, this is one you will probably want to include for sure.  If you have a wallet, all you have to do is sew the back panel to the middle of your background fabric and it’s ready to go.  Add some old cards and photos, or even a dollar bill or two, and your little one might stay busy long enough for you to make the next half of this page!

IMG_2707

If you’re making a felt wallet, start with a 9×11 sheet of felt (preferably gray, brown, or black so it resembles a real wallet).  Lay the sheet down and fold the bottom edge up about 2 inches and pin right in the middle of this folded section (see photos.)

IMG_2836IMG_2842

Sew up the middle from the bottom edge to the top of the fold.  Now cut across the felt about 1 inch above the pockets you just created.  Lay the stitched piece on top of the other felt piece and cut across the top so you have one flat piece under the piece that was folded.

IMG_2844IMG_2847

Now, pin and sew together along the bottom and both sides, leaving the top open.

IMG_2850

To attach the wallet to the background, pin and sew it on along the right edge, right half of the bottom edge, and only the bottom layer of the middle line of the wallet.  I’ve marked all these places with yellow pins in the photo below.

IMG_2854

IMG_2857

And your wallet is finished!

For the other side of this page, cut out three shapes from different fabrics and then cut a piece of felt to go on the back of each.  Pin the two pieces of each with the wrong sides together and sew, leaving a hole big enough to turn it right side out.  Turn each shape right side out and sew the small hole closed.  IMG_2631

Choose the buttons you will use and snip a hole in each shape the right size for your buttons.  Using the buttonhole setting, stitch around each buttonhole.  (Or if you know a better way, please share it with me!  This was my first time making buttonholes so you probably know how to do this much better than I do, and if you look closely you’ll see that my stitches are not very pretty.)  Lay the shapes on your background piece, making sure to leave at least 1 1/2 inches on each side for a seam allowance.  Mark where your buttons will go and then sew them onto the background. Button the shapes into place, and your last page is finished!!!

IMG_2708

For the cover, you will need:

  • 2 matching 9×9 pieces of fabric, plus two 2×5 pieces of the same fabric
  • One snap or button
  • Felt for cutting out a name, pictures, or any other designs you want to add to the cover
  • Large eyelets (enough to put 2 on each completed page)
  • Large eyelet tool and hammer
  • Large rings
  • Single hole puncher (optional)

IMG_2642

Start by choosing a design for the cover and cutting it out.  I wanted to keep it simple so I just put the name on the front, but you can be as detailed and creative as you want.  Just make sure, as always, to leave a seam allowance around all the edges.  Pin and sew your design on the front.

IMG_2713

Now is a good time to look through all your pages and make sure they’re in the right order.  Then pin the front cover to the first activity page (if you’re following this tutorial exactly that will be the one with a boy or girl and his/her bed) right sides together and sew around the edges, leaving about 2-3 inches open on the side that will be on the left when the book is closed.  Flip right side out and stitch closed.   This photo shows the eyelets already in but you will add them later.

IMG_2714

And your front cover is done.

To make the closure, lay your 2 x 5 pieces right sides together and sew around the two long edges and one short edge.  Turn right side out.  It should look something like this.

IMG_2626

Now, lay your back cover page face up, then place the closure you just made on the left edge of the cover piece with the open end sticking out about 1 inch.  Then place the last activity page face down over the cover piece so the right sides are together.  Pin and sew all the way around, leaving about 2-3 inches open on the right (which will be the side with the eyelets later.)

IMG_2629

Turn right side out and stitch closed like you did for the front.  You should have a back cover with a flap sticking out of the right side now.   Being careful to keep all your pages in the right order, pin and sew each page to one that will be on the other side of it in just the same way so that you end up with finished edges on every front/back combination.  For example, the dresser page will be sewn onto the clothesline page, the washing machine will be sewn to the sled page, etc.  The most important things to remember for this part are to keep them in the right order, and to make sure they’re all positioned correctly (you don’t want anything to end up upside down!)

IMG_2647

Once that’s finished, it’s time to add your eyelets so you can hook all the pages together.  Start by measuring two inches up from the bottom of the front cover about 1/2 inch from the left side.  Lay an eyelet directly above the measuring tape and trace inside the eyelet to mark where your hole will go.

IMG_2635

Do the same two inches from the top.

IMG_2634

Now cut out the holes you marked.  I found the easiest way to do this was with a hole puncher, but you can also try scissors or an X-acto knife.

IMG_2640

Follow the package instructions for inserting your eyelets.  Here is the way mine worked.  Insert the bottom part of the eyelet in the hole and place the top part on the other side of the hole.  Place the anchor piece below the top part and place the tall part of the tool on the bottom.  Hammer the tool gently 2 or 3 times until the eyelet is secure.

IMG_2636

To make sure all the holes line up, lay the cover over the next page and trace through the eyelet holes.  Then do the same thing for inserting eyelets in each page.

IMG_2638

When all eyelets are inserted, hook the pages together with the rings.

IMG_2715

The final step is to sew a snap onto the closure so the book will stay closed.  Fold the flap over the front cover and mark where you will place each piece of the snap.  Stitch on with strong thread, and you’re done!!!

IMG_2648

Now share your photos with the rest of us so we can all celebrate your huge accomplishment!

IMG_2645

 

 

 

Quiet Book Tutorial-Part 1

IMG_2647

My cousin ,who is really more like a sister, recently had her first baby and she wanted someone to make a quiet book for him.  So, my 8-year-old daughter and I decided to take on the challenge.  After months of working on it little by little (because, let’s face it, that’s how projects go when you’re a mom), we finally finished it!  I’m so excited to share the tutorial with you and I hope it will inspire you to start your own.  But be forewarned:  it is ADDICTIVE and you won’t want to do anything else once you start.  If you’re like me, you might even lay awake at night planning new pages and losing precious sleep, but it will be worth it. I know some of you will want to make one similar to this, so I’m including instructions for each page I made, but if you have other ideas to try out, go for it!  Half the fun is in designing your own. There are no templates because I freehanded everything, but if I can do it, believe me, you can too.

IMG_2644

Here are some things to consider BEFORE you get started:

  • What age child will be using the book?  This will help you determine what activities (buttoning, lacing, zipping, snapping, moving things back and forth, matching, learning numbers, letters, etc.) will be age-appropriate.  Also, make sure not to include small parts that could pose a choking risk if the child is still very young.  This book will probably be ideal for a toddler who is between 2 and 3 (my almost-3-year-old has tested every page out and can do all the activities without help).
  • What size should the book be?  I cut my fabric pieces 9″x 9″ so the pages are slightly smaller than that once they’re sewn together, but you might want to make it smaller if it will mostly be used on the go or larger if you are planning to fit lots of things on each page (like the entire alphabet or a road for felt cars to drive on, for example).
  • How much time do you want to invest?  A quiet book can literally take months, or it can be a much shorter project if you don’t make it too detailed.  Either way, it can provide hours of fun for a child, so decide how much time you honestly want to spend on it and you’ll be more likely to finish.

Once you’ve thought about these things, it’s time to get started.

Step 1:  Plan your pages.  It’s really helpful to make a list of what pages you want to include and what activities you will put on each page.  I didn’t want to have to use interfacing to make the pages sturdier, so I made sure to end up with one felt background and one regular fabric background sewn together (see photo).

IMG_2715

This makes the pages sturdy enough without having to mess with an extra layer, but you have to plan a little to make it work.  Or you could make all your backgrounds felt to simplify things.

Step 2:  Gather your supplies.  Make a list of what supplies you need for each page.  Don’t forget things like thread, velcro, specific colors of felt, background fabrics, grommets, etc.  There were so many times I had to stop in the middle of something because I hadn’t thought it through enough to get everything I needed.  Don’t do this to yourself! *Felt is much easier to work with than most other fabrics because it doesn’t fray and you won’t have to stitch around the edges like you otherwise would, so plan to use lots of it if you want to save time.

Step 3:  Get to work!  Here are instructions for the first three pages in my book.  (The rest will follow soon!)

IMG_2649

For the Dress Me page you will need:

  • 2 9×9 background pages (felt or other fabric)
  • 4 1/2 x 3 in. piece of pillow fabric
  • 5×6 in. rectangle of blanket fabric
  • Contrasting brown felt for the dresser (2 shades)
  • Various felt colors for clothing
  • Felt for the boy, his hair, and his undies
  • Small amount of fiberfill for the pillow

Start by hemming one 6-inch edge of the blanket fabric.  Pin the other three edges under and onto your felt about one inch from the bottom of the felt and sew (leaving the top edge open for the boy to fit under).  Fold the pillow piece in half right sides together and sew around the edges, leaving a small space open.  Turn right side out, fill with fiberfill, and sew closed.  Sew the two short sides onto the felt background just above the blanket.  Cut out a dresser shape, drawers, and knobs.  Sew the pieces together and then stitch the sides and bottom to your other background page, leaving the top open.

IMG_2665IMG_2664

Cut out the shape of a boy (I only made him one layer but I would strongly recommend cutting two layers and sewing them together before you make the rest of him so he will be sturdier.) Now cut out hair for the back and front of his head.  I did this by laying him over dark brown felt and cutting around his head, just slightly larger, and then cutting a front piece to fit over just his forehead.  Use the same technique for cutting out his underwear.  Now pin the hairpieces and the two underwear pieces on and sew with whatever color thread you want to use.  (I hand-stitched the hair and used my machine for the underwear.)  You can either take the easy route and draw on a face with a permanent marker, or you could stitch on his features.  As you can see, I went for the lazy way.  Finally, you can lay him on different colors of felt and cut out various types of clothing for him: PJs, sports jerseys, jeans and t-shirts, etc.

IMG_2666

Be as creative as you want!  I wanted to add a mirror above the dresser but couldn’t find anything that would work for that.  If you do it, post a picture so we can all admire your handiwork!

IMG_2676

For the Laundry Time page you will need:

  • 2 9×9 in. background pieces
  • Felt for the poles, washing machine, and clothes
  • Fabric (or felt) for the laundry basket
  • String or ribbon (approx 10 in.) and mini clothespins OR a strip of velcro about 8 in. long (go with the velcro option if this will be used by a very small child as the clothespins could pose a choking risk)

 

Cut out laundry poles about 5 1/2 in. tall and snip a tiny hole near the top of each one.  Sew them on at a slight angle, leaving the hole at the top.  Thread your string through each hole and pull until it hangs down slightly, then tie each side really well.  Hook on your clothespins.  (Alternatively, sew a strip of velcro (the sticky side) between the tops of the two poles and the felt clothing will stick without clothespins.)

IMG_2670

The grass on my page was added because I had to fix something on the page behind it after they were sewn together, but if you want to add some, I would suggest placing it closer to the bottom of the page.  Now, cut a 4×4 square of felt for the washer and fold in half to cut out a large circle from the middle.  Cut your vinyl to be a circle slightly larger than the hole in your square and then cut a coordinating color of felt to fit around the edges of your vinyl circle. (Confusing, I know.  See the photo below.)

IMG_2672

Now sew the felt circle onto the vinyl.  Sew the outer edges of the washing machine square onto the background and then sew the left side of the vinyl door onto the washer.  Add velcro to keep it closed.  Now cut out a laundry basket and hem the top edge.  Zig-zag stitch the sides and bottom of the basket so it sits on the washer.  Cut out some fun clothes and you’re done!

IMG_2671IMG_2669IMG_2653

For the Winter Wonderland page you will need:

  • 2 9×9 in. pieces of snowy-looking fabric
  • White felt or fleece for the snow and the snowman
  • Felt for the hat rack, hats, arms, nose, and sled
  • String or ribbon (I would suggest ribbon) approx. 10 inches
  • Snaps for the hats

Start by laying out the white fleece over the snowy background and cutting a blanket of snow for both pages (be sure to make one side slope for the sled to “slide” down).  Zig-zag stitch the top edge of each snowy piece onto the background.  The other sides will be sewn down when you attach all the pages later.  Cut out three circles for the snowman and zig-zag stitch them on one at a time, starting with the biggest and working your way up.  Remember to leave a seam allowance!

IMG_2682

Cut out and sew on arms, a nose, and eyes.  Cut out a felt hat rack about 7-8 inches tall and stitch on.  Sew the back half of a snap on the snowman’s head and also on each end of the hat rack.  Make various hats to fit on the snowman and add the front part of a snap to the back of each, first making sure the placement will work. (You don’t want the snowman’s eyes to be covered when he’s wearing any of his hats!)

IMG_2681IMG_2680

Cut out two identical pieces of red felt in the shape of a sled and stitch them together with two parallel lines down the middle with a small space in between.  Thread your ribbon (or string) into the space so it can move up and down and sew the ends of the ribbon to the edges of the page, going over them a few times to get a strong seam.

IMG_2678

And that’s it!

There are instructions for 4 more pages, plus a cover, coming soon.  I hope you’ll be inspired and get to work on your own quiet book!

 

 

 

 

Best Tips and Tricks to Put Your Baby Back to Sleep

As the time approaches for your baby to come into your life, your enthusiasm grows, but so do the worries and the questions. You ask yourself if you’ll be able to keep up with the new tasks, especially if it’s your firstborn. In fact – and this is without any intention of troubling new parents – some questions and worries remain even at your second or third pregnancy.

One of the most often heard topics from mothers-to-be is the one related to the art (and science!) of putting the babies to sleep, mainly after they had woken up in the middle the night. From my experience, I must tell you that there are a few tricks all moms should know about and put into practice. But consider that every child is different, so they may not work on yours. Try them one by one, see which method gives the best result and stick to it. Here are my tips for you:

Minimize direct eye contact

Every time you make eye contact with your baby, you encourage him to feel happy and thus snap out of the sleep mode. Babies are motivated to get up when you look straight into their eyes. I know you love your little one and you adore every minute spent with him, but remember that if you want him to go back to sleep, you need to minimize or even avoid direct eye contact. You should also avoid talking to him passionately or singing a favorite song. Put the child back to sleep by whispering calming words to him in a soft voice, while gently caressing his belly.

Cut out the lights

If your little one wakes up during the night and you go to check on him, don’t turn on the lights in his room or carry him out into a dazzlingly lit space. Shifting from dark to light will only tell him that it’s daytime, hence, time to be awake! Stay with him in the dark bedroom and try to convince him to go back to sleep. According to several reviews I read on topmattress.com advisors, darkness is the best ally of peaceful sleep for both adults and children.

Late-night feeding

The method of late-night feeding is a bit debatable, as some experts think it shouldn’t be used, while others recommend it. My advice is to try it and see if it works for your child. A late-night feeding has to take place between 10 p.m. and midnight, and it should be done by keeping the lights dim. Gently pick up the sleeping baby out of the crib and help him feed even if he’s still half asleep. Once he’s done, put him back in his bed, but without burping him.

Use white noises

Trying all sorts of white noises may help you identify the sounds which send your baby to sleep. Some say they use random noises; others prefer rhythmic sounds (such as the falling rain or a heartbeat pace). White noises also help grow-ups fall asleep sooner, so I think it’s only natural that they do the same for our little ones.

Give your baby a gentle massage

I tried many methods of putting babies to sleep, but the massage trick works almost every time. Ten-fifteen minutes of gently rubbing their feet or caressing their belly, while talking to them in a soothing voice, will make them feel incredibly relaxed and lead them back into the world of dreams.

By James

Should You Buy Your Mattress Online?

Here’s a question you never thought you would ask yourself five years ago: Should I buy my mattress online? The answer would most probably have been no.

But why?

The answer is simple. You spend about one-third of your life in bed and what you sleep on is a very personal and important part of your life. Another thing is that you can’t test the mattress when you order online. There’s simply not enough incentive to do it.

Wrong – firstly, buying a mattress at a bricks-and-mortar store is a hassle. You have to drive out there, avoid irritating salespeople and when you do find a suitable mattress, you have to wait for it to be delivered. And many people have picked up on that and have decided to try out the online option and surprisingly there are many happy customers out there.

But for our purposes, let’s have a look at the pros and cons and ultimately you can decide after having read this article if you are willing to give it a go.

Pros

You will know what you are looking for

Now, you may think that this is a bizarre thing to include in the positives. Strangely enough, it isn’t because customers that bought online are far more knowledgeable on the subject matter than those people that went to a store. The latter group relies one hundred percent on the salesperson for information. The former will have gone to a website like mattressmatchers.com/ to do their research.

It’s no hassle whatsoever

You’ve done your homework and know what type of sleeping surface you want and where you want to buy it. All you need to do now is click the purchase icon and enter your payment details, and you’re done. As promised, the following day your mattress is delivered.

Phew – You didn’t have to drive, haggle with a salesperson and navigate your way around a cavernous store and still you are sleeping like a baby.

E-tailers offer great discounts

You can sometimes save up to 20 to 30 percent if you buy online.

Great customer service

Online retailers go out of their way to make you happy. Not only are their websites easy to navigate and the buying experience is simple, but also the aftersales customer support is excellent. Companies like Rest Right Mattress are known to have amazing customer service. Let’s put it another way; they really don’t want a one-star rating so if you don’t like your mattress, they will do their utmost to get you a replacement.

You get nice long trial periods

While most traditional sales channels offer 30-day trial periods, you will get a whopping 100 days if you shop online.

Cons

What do you do with the old one?

If you purchase the old-fashioned way, the chances are far larger that you will be able to get rid of your old mattress when the delivery team arrives with the new one. E-tailers do not have this service.

No touchy feely

Sure, you got the 100-day trial period online but had you bought in-store, you could’ve tested a whole bunch of mattresses beforehand.

There’s more DIY

The bricks-and-mortar option includes a team that builds everything up. Ordering via the internet means that you have to do all of the work yourself. Remember those fun moments assembling an Ikea cupboard with your loved one? He or she is mostly probably still growling at you when you both stare at the offending item you built together.

Buying in-store has the whole shebang

Usually, the store will have everything from the bed frame to the pillows and duvets. It’s just easier as an all-in-one option. However, many e-tailers like Caspar are starting to offer accessories.

Summing up, all there is to say is that it is up to you. Both avenues have their advantages and disadvantages. Your mattress is the most used piece of furniture in the house, so make sure you are comfortable with the way you bought it.

By James

Why I Decided a Pet Was Worth the Trouble…Again

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MorrisKnowsBest #CollectiveBias

If you ask my son about his siblings, he’ll tell you he has two sisters and two brothers. The sisters are both regular human girls, but the “brothers” he’s referring to are our cats, Edmund and Phil. And the funny thing is he isn’t the only one who thinks of the cats as important members of the family. We all love these little guys more than I ever dreamed possible. I never knew I was a cat person until we rescued Edmund from a shelter two years ago.  He was a sweet, playful little kitten and we all loved him from day one.  He brought so much fun and joy into our household.  It left us wondering why we hadn’t adopted a pet years earlier.   But we were perfectly content with one pet and never even considered adopting another.  We had no idea that it wouldn’t be long before we took the plunge again.

One day, we were outside and a tiny gray tabby cat just wandered over to us looking completely adorable.  He was friendly and affectionate with beautiful green eyes and the softest fur ever.  The kids were all so excited and begged to keep him.  I was certain my husband wouldn’t want to mess with adopting another pet, so I dismissed the idea and started asking around the neighborhood to try to find his owner.  After all, we already had a cat.  What if they didn’t get along?  And adopting another pet means vet visits, added expenses, more responsibility…It just seemed like too much trouble.

No one claimed him, and he took up residence on our back porch and made himself right at home, while we were still trying to find him a home somewhere else.  Thinking he was a girl (we hadn’t bothered to check), my son named him Phyllis.  My kids would call him and he would jump right up on their laps and purr like crazy.  My youngest would pick him up and he would just stay on her lap looking absolutely content.  He never scratched or snapped at anyone.  He would playfully chase strings as long as someone wanted him to, keeping my kids entertained for a long time.  Everything about this cat was wonderful.  After several days of this, my husband and I both agreed that he would be worth whatever it took to make him ours.   And we’re so glad we did!  He loves everyone in the family and appreciates all the affection we can give.  We weren’t sure how Edmund would handle it, but after the first couple weeks, Phil (as he is now more appropriately called) and Ed became best buddies. They play together, eat together, and follow each other around.   Edmund actually seems happier now that he has Phil around.

But aside from the fact that they look very similar, they are as different as can be in every way.  And that’s one of the best things about Phil!  He’s not just another cat like the one we had, he’s a completely different cat with his own personality and habits.  Edmund prefers to relax in quiet places, while Phil loves to play with balls, string, or anything he can chase around.   Ed finds a hiding place when he’s had enough attention, and Phil never seems to get tired of being around people.   Having two cats that are so different is a tremendous blessing.  While one is sleeping next to my daughter as she reads, the other is playing with my super energetic son.  Phil’s playfulness is the perfect complement to Edmund’s seriousness.

Even their taste in food is different. That’s one reason 9Lives® wet and dry cat food varieties are just right for our cats. For wet food, Edmund prefers the Meaty Pate selections, with smooth ground meat, fish or poultry, while Phil devours the Hearty Cuts made of tender, meaty morsels with rich gravy, flakes of fish, and savory shreds.

Check out DollarGeneral.com to find coupons and save on 9Lives® wet and dry cat food for your own feline family members! You’ll find great savings through 5/31/18, and there are so many varieties your cats won’t be able to resist. They also offer specially formulated dry food to meet the nutritional needs of cats in every stage of life. Plus Care helps support digestive health and a strong immune system for older cats like Edmund, while Daily Essentials provides nutrition to support heart health, vision, strong muscles, and healthy skin and coat for cats of all ages.

We love to support companies that give back in some way, and the 9lives spokescat Morris has visited countless schools to promote kindness to animals.  He also launched an initiative to save animals in need of homes.  Check out his Facebook page here.  These are causes our family can feel good about supporting every time we purchase 9lives products.  Our local Dollar General Store carries a great variety of 9Lives cat food, so I can always find all the wet and dry food types that both of our cats love.

We’ve only had Phil for a few months, but it’s hard to imagine life without him.  He’s not just another cat to us, he’s really become a treasured member of the family.  Now the reasons we had for not wanting to take on another pet seem trivial as we watch how much our kids love Phil and how much joy he adds to all our lives.  Just look how adorable he is!

If you’re considering adopting a pet (or like us, another pet) I can tell you it’s worth the trouble.  The little bit of extra work and cost it takes to have him is nothing compared to the joy, excitement, affection, and comfort that this little guy brings to our family.  Plus my son is pretty happy to have as many “brothers” as sisters now 🙂

Have you recently adopted a kitty of your own?  Tell us about it, or share a photo of your sweet new family member.  And don’t forget to go to DollarGeneral.com to find great savings on the 9lives wet and dry food your cat will love.

The Shadow Magic Series Review From a Tween

Shadown Magic Series by Joshua Khan

Our family has a deep and abiding love of all things Fantasy. My kids, especially, caught the bug. My one true genre love has always been Historical Fiction. Amber, however, somehow inherited her aunt’s passion for all-things-fantasy. As a result, I have been scrambling to find more fantasy to add to our family library, which is chock-full of teen appropriate historical fiction, but sorely lacking in the fantasy section.

Because of this when I opened up my email from Disney-Hyperion and saw Burning Magic which is Book 3 of the Shadow Magic Series I was intrigued, and I knew Amber would be as well. I showed her the book and asked if she’d like to read the series in exchange for giving her opinion of them. Of course, the answer was a resounding “Yes!!!!” Since Amber is a budding author/blogger, herself, we both decided it would make the most sense for her to do the book reviews. So here what the book’s target audience member thinks of them, which I follow up with a quick “Mom’s Take” on the series.

This Tween Review is brought to you by Amber! Amber is a tween who loves Fantasy and is at a 6th-7th-grade reading level.

 

Shadow Magic Joshua Khan

Shadow Magic

Shadow Magic is all about zombies, darkness, and the dead. Shadow Magic is NOT
scary at all! There is nothing that would scare you. It is mostly about Thorn and Lilly,
trying to solve a problem or mystery. (This is in every book.) In this book, it is both!

Lilly wants to practice magic, but girls are not allowed to practice magic. Lilly’s
mother, father, and brother have died from an accident, or was it? How did Lilly’s
family die? Will she ever learn to practice magic? Read this book to find out.

I loved this book. It is full of adventure and mystery that will make you not want to
stop reading it! I love how Thorn and Lilly solve this mystery! For people who love
adventure, I think this is the perfect book for you!!!

Check out what other’s think (great reviews so far 4.6 Stars out of 33 Reviews) & buy the book on Amazon

Dream Magic by Joshua Khan

Dream Magic

Dream magic is all about people’s dreams. Lilly and Thorn try to figure out why so
many people are disappearing. Most of the people are disappearing by the Troll Mountains,
so they suspect that the trolls are the cause of the disappearing people. Will Lilly and
Thorn figure out this mess? Will they have war with the Trolls? You will have to read
Dream Magic to figure that out!
I personally loved this book! I love how almost everything is about dreams. If you
like fantasy and dreams, I think this will be the perfect book for you! Maybe you will
get lost in your dreams in reading this book!

Check out what other’s think (great reviews so far 4.3 Stars out of 15 Reviews) & buy the book on Amazon

 

Burning Magic by Joshua Khan

Burning Magic

Burning Magic is all about fire. Lilly and Thorn go to see their friend, K’leef. A new
Sultanate is going to be crowned and he was K’leef’s brother, but his magic failed
him, so now there has to be a new Sultanate. Now all the brothers of Sa’if,( the one
who tried on the lava crown but his magic failed him) will go on a trail of fire to see
who will be the next Sultanate. One of K’leef’s brothers, Jambiya, wants the crown,
but he is bad, so K’leef took on the trail too. Will K’leef succeed in this trail with
Thorn and Gabriel on his side? Read the book to find out.
This might be my favorite book ever!!! I love the fire, phoenixes, and adventure in
this book!!! This book makes you not want to stop reading it! Seriously, I could not
stop reading this book at night!

((Mom note–it’s true, she may have gotten scolded for staying up WAY past lights out to finish this))

If you love fire, magic, and adventure, this is the best
book for you! Just don’t get burned up by reading Burning Magic!

Check out what other’s think (great reviews so far 5 Stars out of 4 Reviews) & buy the book on Amazon

Mom’s Take on the Shadow Magic Series

Our family comes from a conservative Christian stance, so while I thought the books looked great, I was a little leery of the “dark magic” portrayed as good when I initially glanced at them. Because of this I went ahead and read halfway through the first book before giving Amber the “all clear”. Then, once she had finished the first book I read through the series myself in its entirety.

The books are fun and perfectly suited to the age group they’re geared towards. While there are “spooky” elements and hard/sad things that happen, they’re handled in a way that is not disturbing to a tween/teen. The dark elements have a fun spin on them, and were not at all presented in a way that I felt inappropriate or offensive. The best thing I can liken the books to is the popular MMO World of Warcraft. (Which, you might know, we love as a family). Much like in the WoW world, each realm can practice magic and draws that power from a different source. In the Shadow Magic books the Shadow Magic and its corresponding Necromancers, Zombies, and etc all reminded me of the feel of the Demon Hunters, Undead, and Warlocks in World of Warcraft. It’s all taken in stride with the thought of magic from everywhere, and it’s not scary, creepy, or over the line.

I’ll also mention that these are books where it’s worth splurging for the hardback copies. The quality is amazing and they have the delicious uneven pages that go so perfectly with the story. A gorgeous addition to your home library that your children will be able to enjoy with their children someday! The typography and illustrations are amazing throughout the book series as well.

As an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed the books. The characters are well developed and believable. I enjoyed watching them grow as people. It’s easy to get lost in the world and the plot twists aren’t predictable until right before they’re actually revealed in the story. I’d highly recommend this series to anyone who loves fantasy and wants another great author/series to stay up way-too-late turning the pages of.

How To Give Yourself a Makeover This Spring for $50

This shop has been compensated by Schwarzkopf. #FashionColorExpert #sponsored

*Dramatic Announcers Voice*

It’s time to play everyone’s favorite game….Guess What Color Nicole’s Hair is Now!!!

A few years ago when hubby was still in school, one of his favorite professors was switching to a new school. The electrical engineering program at UT Tyler was small and had a very family type atmosphere. Because of that, the professor invited his students to his house for a farewell shindig. At the party we ran into one of hubby’s fellow students. I’d met him just twice before, about a year earlier. We’d gone out to eat together, and once he came over to our place for a BBQ.  At the party, though, he didn’t even say hello. Then as the night went on he started acting rather cold towards me, which I thought was very strange.

Towards the end of the evening, all of a sudden he bursts out laughing and comes over dying. “Oh, my…..” He gasps. “You’re NICOLE!!!”

“Ummm….yes????” I, Nicole, am very confused.

He continues, “You look NOTHING like yourself. The last time I saw you, you had short black hair. When I saw Bob walk in with a long haired blonde and start flirting with her I was so upset. I didn’t know if he was cheating on his wife or if you had split up. I was thinking that no one had told me anything, and you guys had seemed so happy together.”

We all died laughing!! I continue to joke with Bob about “cheating on me, with me” every time I make a radical change to my hair.

After that point I decided one of my life motto’s must be “Life is Short, Have Fun Hair”

Spring is the *perfect* time to give yourself a makeover! This is usually a crazy time of year for everyone, and freshening up and looking beautiful is a great way to reset and refocus! This week I gave myself a makeover for $50! Here’s what I got (prepare to be impressed!)

Hair Color: $18.58 (my hair is so long and thick I had to purchase 2 boxes–if you only need one you’ll save even more!)

Hair Cut: $20

New Dress: $9.99

Total: $49.57

Here’s the breakdown of what I got, and how you can re-create it in your own style!

You can find all the Schwarzkopf color ULTÎME® colors in the Hair Color aisle of Walmart. While I was in the store, I also browsed the clothing section and found a gorgeous and oh-so-comfy sundress for $9.97 for my photo shoot!! You wouldn’t believe how many cute clothes I’ve purchased for me and the kiddos at Walmart over the years.

You’ll remember that last fall I dyed my hair a beautiful purpley black using the Schwarzkopf brand. In between then and now I decided my next fun color was going to be RED! So I picked up the box mix to make that happen. Recently, my roots were growing out and the shade I picked last time was more orangey than I wanted this time, so it was time to refresh and tweak slightly!

This time I picked up Schwarzkopf color ULTÎME® in Ruby Red. The Schwarzkopf color ULTÎME® is the most fashionable & vibrant hair color that defies fading for up to 9 weeks of color shine. (Vibrant, long-lasting color is a must for a busy gal like me!) It also delivers a “True to box” color result which is always great. Another bonus is the shine and feel of the hair after coloring even after weeks! My hair is thick, on the coarse side, and since I change it out so often and style it with #alltheheat it goes through a lot! I love using dyes that help repair my hair instead of hurting it more!

In my last hair blog post I walked you step-by-step through how to dye your hair at home. This time I thought it would be fun to do a time-lapse instead! Watch my 40 minutes of work in 40 seconds!

Ta-Da!

I also desperately needed a new cut! It had been almost a year since I’d cut my hair, and my poor scraggly ends were begging to be cut off. I found a local place that accepted walk-ins that had excellent reviews and photos and went in! When you do the color at home you can get a nice salon cut for around $20-$30 depending on where you live. If you want to save even more or are in a pinch for time, just have them do the cut and not the shampoo/style.

I absolutely love my new look! It was just the makeover I needed. My hair feels silkier, softer, lighter, and it has such a pretty color and shine!

The after conditioning treatment in the Schwarzkopf color ULTÎME® is wonderful and really made my hair feel and look amazing. I’m in love with the color too. As you can see in these photos it looks one way in the shade/inside….

And then it takes on fun new dimensions and tones in the sunlight/outside.

There you go! For under $50 you can give yourself a fun makeover this spring that’s as unique and fashionable as you are!

Want even more Beautiful Hair Inspiration? Check out all the great posts here!