Thursday, January 31, 2013

Entertaining a toddler in the winter

       Trying to entertain Owen this winter when it has typically been bitter cold or raining has been really difficult. Finding things to do inside is getting harder and harder and even though it's only been a month since Christmas, most of his toys are old news already. I have done a few Pinterest ideas, but I don't want to have to buy a bunch of supplies just for 10 minutes of entertainment. 
       I recently did some research and found some places around town that offer toddler activities and I plan on checking some of them out in the next few weeks. This week, we went to baby and toddler time at the local library. Owen had a great time. He wasn't big on the structured "sit in mommy's lap quietly while the lady sings" time, but free play time was a big hit. He was actually the only toddler in the room close to his age because all the others were either immobile babies or kids about age 3 or older. So while they are all behaving themselves, Owen was running around the room throwing balls or stealing props from the lady while she sang. It was pretty embarrassing, but I decided to just go with it because trying to restrain Owen makes a bigger scene than his exploring and getting into things does. And guess what I got out of all that running around craziness? A two hour long nap. Heck yes. Sign me up for weekly toddler time at the library.  
 Playing instruments was really fun for Owen. He loves drumming lately. 

This kiddo is obsessed with letters lately. He wants to read so badly and will try to name letters everywhere we go. He even started picking out the letters he knew on our license plates the other day. 

 The letters of his name are the ones he recognizes the best. 

 Playing peek-a-boo with Mommy. 

Reading "Goodnight Gorilla."
      What do you do to entertain your kiddos during the winter? I need some fresh ideas! 

Julep Maven review (February box)

      My Julep Maven box came in the mail really quickly this month and I was so excited to receive this particular box. The nail colors were all pretty, but what really convinced me to get a box this month was the additional product and a great freebie! So this month for $19.99, I received two nail colors, an oxygen nail treatment, a polymer top coat, and a couple smaller extras. 
       The theme for this month was "Get on the A-List" and featured Julep's Glamour Collection. The colors for this month were mainly cremes and two new holographic nail colors. The theme definitely seemed Oscar Award inspired with gold tissue paper and black and gold crinkly paper in the box. 
       Tucked in the box among the crinkly papers was a small gold fabric bag with an eyelash curler inside and two chocolate hearts for Valentine's Day. This was a really interesting and unexpected extra though I typically don't curl my eyelashes because mine are pretty long and curly anyway. The chocolate didn't last long though...
      This month, I chose the Classic with a Twist box for the first time. This is actually my style profile that I was matched with when I signed up for the program, but in the eight months I've been a member, I have never picked that box. At this point, I have now chosen each of the five styles at least once, though I tend to lean toward Boho Glam and It Girl more than the other styles. But the great thing about Julep is that you don't have to stick with your style profile each month and can change up your mind (and style) anytime you want. 
 The products that came in my box were:

  • Helen nail polish: Smoky pastel lavender creme. This color was inspired by actress Helen Hunt who is a Golden Globe nominee for The Sessions. I am currently wearing this color on my fingernails. It is a more muted color than I originally thought based on the swatches online, but I like it. It's actually a pretty neutral color in some lights and in others you can really see the purple. It's definitely growing on me. 
  • Claudette nail polish: Smoky brick red creme. This color is inspired by actress Claudette Colbert who was an Academy Award winner for It Happened One Night in 1934. I haven't tried this color yet, but I plan to put it on my toenails when I get a chance. The color seems really nice. 
  • Oxygen nail treatment: This groundbreaking oxygen technology allows nails to breathe while a patented Hexanal formulation conditions and restructures in just four weeks. With anti-aging plant stem cells and a protective UV filter, this super-charged nail make-up will change the way you think about almost-bare. I tried this yesterday and while I can guarantee the four week promise to restore nails, I did like the way the product applied and I felt like it was thick enough that it could be protecting my nails. 
  • Freedom Polymer top coat: This topcoat gives you a gel look with freedom from chips and the painful removal process of gels. This product promises a long-lasting manicure made possible by copolymer technology. I am really happy to finally have a topcoat from Julep. I have never been lucky enough to receive one in a mystery box so I've been using a topcoat from the drugstore. I can already tell that this will make my manicure last longer because it's made it through an entire day with no chips and I am pretty hard on my nails. 
     Want to join in on the fun of receiving nail polishes and products in the mail each month? Joining the Julep Maven program is the best way to get Julep products at a discount on everything and access to new colors before everyone else! Plus you can join now for just a penny plus shipping. Here are some other benefits of the Julep Maven program:
  • $40-$60 worth of nail and beauty products delivered to your door each month for $19.99.
  • You get to preview the nail colors you will receive each month.
  • You can add on up to three additional nail colors or products at a discounted price.
  • You can pay an additional $30-$35 and receive the entire collection for that month.
  • You can skip receiving a box (and the bill) if you're not interested in that month's products and colors. 
  • You can switch to one of four other style profiles if you don't like the colors in your style profile.
  • You can chose to send your box to a friend. 
  • One hundred Mavens each month will win a Golden Box, which includes five nail colors and a surprise. You will also still receive your selection for that month. 
  • Twenty percent off purchases at and free shipping for Mavens. 
  • You can earn a free month by referring two friends to the program using your referral link. (Mine is below and I'd be so happy if you used it)
  • You can earn jules (rewards points) to be used toward monthly boxes when you purchase a box or add-ons. 
  • You can cancel anytime by giving Julep a call.
Sound good? Then fill out a style quiz HERE and use the code JULEPVIP to receive a discount on your first box, making it just a $0.01. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pop Sugar Must Have review (January box)

      I was excited to try out a new subscription box this month - the PopSugar Must Have box. I really love the idea of it because it includes a variety of full-size products from all sorts of categories like beauty, food, fitness, fashion, home, and entertainment. The boxes cost $35 a month and are guaranteed to be worth more than $100.

     I received the January PopSugar Must Have box this week and was so excited to dig through it and see what I got. I have been eyeing these boxes for months ever since I saw the absolutely awesome September box. It came with this gorgeous scarf, a book and movie tickets for the movie inspired by the book, candy, make-up, hair ties, and all sorts of other fun goodies. 
     So without further ado, here is what came in my box this month. Each box comes with a fold-out brochure that details all the contents of the box. This month, the box features items to "help get a fresh start on that fitness resolution while still finding time to indulge in some warm treats."

And here's what came inside!

Must Have Fitness
  • Merrithew Stability Ball ($38.99): I received the 65 cm stability ball. It is described as "the perfect prop for full-body fitness right at home." A special insert included describes how to do three exercises with the ball. I am not super excited about this item because I am pretty sure I already own a stability ball. Though obviously I have no idea where it is nor do I use it. I don't really have the space to have a giant ball sitting in the corner of my living room all the time. Still, it's an obvious choice for health-obsessed January when everyone is making goals to lose weight and get in shape. And maybe I will pump it up at some point and try it out. 

Must Have Food
  • Kraft Jet-Puffed Vanilla Mallow Bits ($6.49): These marshmallow bites can be used to top icecream or other desserts, or put in hot chocolate. They look really tasty and as the weather here has been bitter cold and we're expecting snow this weekend, I am happy to try some in my hot chocolate. I was a little surprised to see this in my PopSugar box because its not really a "luxury" item, but at least it's something that we'll probably use. I tasted them and they taste just like the marshmallows from Lucky Charms. 

 Must Have Food

  • PopBar Hot Chocolate on a Stick ($5.98): These hot chocolate bars on a stick are from PopBar, a chocolate boutique in the West Village of New York City. I received the milk chocolate and dark chocolate flavors. Simply stir it in a mug of steamed milk and voila! - hot chocolate! I am really excited about these and can't wait to try them. They look so delicious. And I would not be lying if I told you that a small part of me wants to just eat it right off the stick like a big chocolate lollipop. I had the milk chocolate one last night and it was so yummy. They are probably my favorite thing in the box.

Must Have Beauty

  • Epicuren Discovery Lip Balm ($9.50): This lip balm features SPF 15 to protect lips from the sun as well as tea tree oil and aloe vera to help soothe and replenish moisture all season long. I have never tried this brand and figure having another lip balm can't hurt since I'm always misplacing mine. After giving this a try, I really like the consistency of this balm and it has a menthol-like tingly feeling. 

Must Have Fashion
  • The Remix Timebomb watch ($44.95): This watch is cute, but not something that I would normally pick out to wear. Its pretty sport looking so maybe if I take up running, I will wear it to time myself or something. Right...

Special Extra
  • Casetagram gift certificate ($15): This gift certificate from Casetagram allows you to make cases for your phone or tablet using your favorite Instagram, Facebook, and personal photos to create a customized collage. These cases can be made for the iphone (am I the only person on the planet who doesn't have one?), ipads, ipod touches, and the Samsung Galaxy. It's not really worth anything to me since I don't have any of those, but I can most likely find someone I know who would like it.  

Special Extra
  • Think Thin Bars ($5.97): I received three bars from Think Thin: Think Thin Crunch Caramel Chocolate Dipped Mixed Nuts bar, Think Thin Creamy Peanut Butter protein bar, and Think Thin Divine Dark Chocolate Coconut bar. I always have a glass jar in the pantry in our kitchen stocked with snack bars so these will be a welcome addition as a new brand we have never tried. All of the bars contain little to no sugar and will hopefully be tasty.

    All added up, I came up with a total value of $126.88 for this box, which is well over the $35 per month cost of the box. Overall, I was a little disappointed as I have been more impressed with the contents of several of the past boxes, for instance the scarf from the September box or books and movie tickets from one of the previous boxes. I was definitely bummed that there was no "Must Have Entertainment" or "Must Have Home" categories this month because I would have enjoyed something from those categories.
     If you are interested in trying the Pop Sugar Must Have box for yourself, click HERE. Use the link along with the code REFERFRIENDS to receive $5 off your first box. Right now, the February box is still available, but they seem to sell out pretty quickly. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Citrus Lane review (January box)

        My January Citrus Lane box came over the weekend and I wanted to share all the fun goodies that came inside. January's box was the first box we received after Citrus Lane made several changes to their subscription box program. For instance, they have done away with monthly themes so that they aren't limited by them as to what they can send each month and they can give out new products quicker without having them need to fit a theme. Though there is no theme, products will still be chosen based on the season and of course age and gender. 
       Also, starting in February, Citrus Lane will begin offering boxes for preschoolers in addition to infants and toddlers. You can have a subscription for kids from newborns to age 5. I will be interested to see what the older kids receive in their boxes. 
      Here's the description from the new insert provided in the box: "January is all about starting fresh - it's also a time to reflect on all the little things we want to change up in the year ahead. Whatever your resolutions may be, these items will help make life a little healthier and a lot more fun. Our thoughtfully chosen selection of products will brighten those long winter days spent indoors. We've even added a few essentials to use at home or toss in your diaper bag for easier outings."
      Owen, of course, loved opening his box by himself again this month. He recognizes the Citrus Lane box and comes running to unpack it when I bring it in from the mailbox. We really loved our box this month and were happy with every item included. 

This is the newly redesigned insert that came in the box. I really love the look of it.

      And here's what we received in our box this month. Owen received a box for a 21-month-old boy. (I included the product description from the box as well as my opinion on the product in italics):
  • Animal Boogie from Barefoot Books: Instill the love of reading and music at an early age with this book and interactive CD that will have your child (and you) boogying around the house. This CD includes an animated video with an audio sing-along sung by acclaimed children's performer Fred Penner. And you'll feel good knowing that independent publisher, Barefoot Books, supports many organizations who share their goals of global understanding, empowering children through art and story, while protecting and preserving the earth for future generations. A code for 25 percent off at Barefoot Books was also included. Our entire family has been boogying all weekend. Owen truly loves this book and the animated CD video and wants to watch is several times a day. He is learning all the moves that the different animals do in the book and will sometimes sing little snippets of the song himself. We were really happy to receive a book in this box because we love new books and we hadn't gotten one from Citrus Lane in a couple months. Retails for $9.99.

  •  To-Go Disinfectant Spray from Cleanwell: CleanWell's disinfectant spray is perfect of on-the-go sanitizing when you're out and about. Use the spray on practically any surface, from grocery cart handles to a restaurant high chair - conveniently sized to fit in a purse, backpack, or back pocket, the spray kills 99.99% of germs, 100 percent botanically. A code for 20 percent off CleanWell products was also included. Though I haven't used this product yet, I really love Clean Well's hand sanitizer, which we received in a past box from Citrus Lane. It actually comes in a spray bottle so you just spritz it on your hands and rub together. I even use it on Owen when we're out and about. This disinfectant spray will come in handy when we visit the grocery store and even around the house when someone gets sick. Retails for $7.99 for a pack of two. (We just received one.)

  • Zoo Plate and Bowl Set from Skip*Hop: An extension of the adorable Zoo Pal collection, this two-piece set will encourage a happy mealtime for even the fussiest eater. We like that the plate is divided into two roomy sections that make it easier for your child to self-feed. Each set is constructed of durable melamine in bright colors with a sweet, whimsical face. Mix and match to create a menagerie of meal-time mates. A code for 25 percent off at Skip*Hop was included. We absolutely love Skip*Hop and have several of their products, including a diaper bag, toddler backpack, lunch box, and utensils. We did not have any plates or bowls and I am so happy that we got these. I love the zebra design and I am really impressed with how thick and sturdy these plates are. They are also dishwasher safe, which is awesome. Owen really enjoys using them too. Retails for $10. 

  • Soothing Creme + Playful Wash packet from Episencial: Sensitive skin has a tendency to dry out when temperature drops. This doctor-recommended, scent-free lotion provides instant relief for babies and moms. The sample pack of Playful Wash is a 2-in-1 shampoo and body gel, gentle enough for babies of all ages. A code for $5 off an online order from Episencial was includes. I have yet to try this lotion because we still have lotion from the last time Citrus Lane sent us lotion. But it looks like another great brand that we haven't tried and it looks like it will be a long time before I have to buy lotion again. Retails for $10.99.

       Another new change at Citrus Lane is the referral program and current coupon codes. Currently, new members can save $10 on a subscription if they sign up through a referral link from someone who is already a Citrus Lane member. The Citrus Lane member will also receive a $10 credit. My referral link can be found HERE. I am unaware of any additional coupon codes currently since they started this new referral system, but the great thing about Citrus Lane is that they offer deals for subscribers to renew their subscriptions a few times a year and that is how I've gotten a big discount in the past. 
     I have subscribed to several subscription boxes for babies and toddlers and Citrus Lane has been the only one to consistently impress me with the quality of their products, their customer service, and their price.
     If you want to see more of my reviews, you can check out the December box HERE and included in the post is a link to the boxes all the way back to June. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Shopping spree for Owen!

     When I was little, my mom and her friend Jane (our next door neighbor) would call each other over after a big shopping spree to show each other all the cute clothes they bought for us kids. My mom still loves to see all the clothes that I buy and constantly requests a "fashion show" after I've shopped. Now that we live far from one another, a fashion show isn't possible, so after talking with her on the phone yesterday about our shopping spree at Gymboree, I promised that I would post all of Owen's new outfits on the blog for her to see. 
      We shopped yesterday because it was finally time to redeem Gymbucks, which are coupons that Gymboree gives out several times a year. Basically, you earn $25 in Gymbucks for every $50 you spend during the earning period. Then, during the Gymbucks redemption period, you can redeem one $25 Gymbuck for each $50 you spend. Which basically gets you 50 percent off anything in the store. This is my favorite way to shop at Gymboree and a great way to stock up on clothes for the future seasons at a big discount. And with constant sales and Gymbucks, I never buy Gymboree clothes at full price. But they are really great quality clothing and after Owen has outgrown them, they still look brand new so that a future brother might be able to wear them or we can easily sell them. I typically buy mainly tops from Gymboree unless the shorts or pants are really cute. Otherwise I supplement his wardrobe with staples like jeans and khakis from Children's Place because they typically fit Owen better anyway. And I can buy those pretty cheap too when they are on sale. 
     Yesterday, my plan was to use my Gymbucks to buy on sale winter clothes in a bigger size for next winter, but our local store had been picked over like crazy and there was nothing left really. So instead, I decided to go ahead and get Owen some spring and summer clothes from their new lines. I was able to buy 11 items of clothing (worth more than $200) for about $100. This is a great start to his summer wardrobe and I would bet he will get some more clothes for his birthday in a few months. 
Here's all my loot from our shopping spree. 

I got this size 2T train pajama set for next winter for $4.55 (down from $21.95).

The plaid shirt was $12.63 (down from $24.95) and the red baseball shirt underneath was $5.04 (down from $9.95).

This construction shirt was $8.58 (down from $16.95). And the cute part is that the scoop lifts up to show more rocks underneath. Owen loves shirt he can manipulate like this.

This construction outfit is so cute. The polo shirt was $9.59 (down from $18.95) and the shorts were $15.16 (down from $29.95).

I love this outfit because it reminds me of one that Owen had last summer. The polo shirt was $9.59 (down from $18.95) and the shorts were $13.64 (down from $26.95). The set of socks were $5.54 (down from $10.95). 

I picked up this shirt for Owen to wear on Valentine's Day for $9.59 (down from $18.95).
The last shirt that I got had to be ordered off the Internet because they were out of Owen's size in the store. Luckily, Gymboree will ship clothes to you for free if they don't have it in store. I got this shirt (which has a door that opens on the tree house to reveal a dog inside) for $8.76 (down from $16.95). Owen is going to love it! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Glow for it!

      After three days of dealing with a sick toddler, we needed to have a little fun this past weekend. So... my sweet husband took Owen with him to the store after his doctor's appointment while I made dinner and came home to my surprise with some $1 glow sticks. We had heard from a mother in our parenting group that they put glow sticks in their tub when their daughter took a bath and that they were a lot of fun, so he must have remembered that when he saw them. Either way, Owen had probably the most fun bath he's ever had. I highly recommend doing this activity with a toddler. After the bath, you could also put the glow sticks in a water-filled mason jar or vase or pitcher and put it in your kiddo's room as a nightlight to take advantage of the entire 8-hour period of glow time. If you have a bath hater, definitely try this trick. They will stay in there until the water turns cold. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Menu Monday

  • Monday: We have our parenting class tonight so I won't be making dinner. I am bringing salad to our get-together. 
  • Tuesday: French toast with bacon. I've really been in the mood to have breakfast for dinner lately. Especially since I don't generally have the appetite in the morning for a giant breakfast. I really like breakfast foods, but I'd rather just have yogurt and a cup of coffee in the morning. So breakfast for dinner is my solution. This is my absolute favorite recipe for French toast and if you ever try it, you will quickly see taste why. I think it has something to do with using half-in-half instead of milk and also the use of lemon zest. It just gives it that little something more. I am not sure if I will be making the berry butter or not. I will have to see what fruit prices are like at the grocery store.
  • Wednesday: Chicken spaghetti casserole. This Pioneer Woman recipe is one of the freezer meals I made when we were expecting Owen. I make some alterations to the recipe, but I'm sure the original is just as good as mine. I leave out the green pepper and pimentos and substitute in a can of green chiles for some heat. I also leave out the cheddar cheese from in the casserole and just sprinkle some on top of Tim's portion since I am not a fan and it saves on some calories. I made this recipe about a month ago for our parenting class on casserole night, but it was such a hit with everyone that we didn't have any leftovers and I didn't get to have any. I've been craving it ever since. 

  • Thursday: Taco salads. No specific recipe here. I am just going to brown some ground beef with taco seasonings, onions, and black beans and then throw it in a homemade taco shell with lettuce, salsa, guacamole and any other fixings that I want. This will be a delicious mid-week dinner that doesn't create much of a mess or take too long to make.
  • Friday: Turkey meatloaf.  This is a quick and simple recipe for meatloaf from Skinny Taste. I normally make her bacon wrapped barbecue turkey meatloaf, but I didn't want to go through all the hassle of that recipe and decided to try her regular meatloaf recipe. We will probably have it with mashed potatoes and some type of vegetable. 
  • Saturday: Easy Mulligatawny. Tim has requested this recipe that I made last week again for this week. And because our whole family, including Owen, ate it right up last week, I have no problem making it again. It's super easy to make and really different and tasty. 

  • Sunday: I am leaving Sunday unplanned in case I decide there is something else I'd like to make this week or if we decide to eat out. I like having a free day so that if something comes up or we need to have the freedom to do something else, we have it. 
So that's it for our meals. What are you eating this week?