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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tips for Keeping a "Sanely" Clean House with Kids

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

Maintaining a clean home, while children are living in it, is a constant, uphill battle, but these tips and tricks will help you stay sane while doing so.

I need to start with a disclaimer that, although I wish I were an expert on "clean" and "organization", I am a definite work in progress.  There are always blocks and books on the floor, or a wayward jar of peanut butter and loaf of bread on the counter.  Goodness, there may even be a cushion fort on the couch from time to time.  From my perspective, it's evidence that the house is being occupied.  Because of this imperfection and an important realization, I am one happy lady/mommy!  I'll explain below.

That being said, my house typically has a semblance of order and is respectable enough that we the inhabitants, or even visitors, can feel at ease and have a clear place to kick up our feet at the end of a long day.

I'm a firm believer that houses are to be lived in.  However, a messy residence can add to stress, at least in my experience.  So I try to keep my surroundings in a state that doesn't cause me to unnecessarily lose my temper with my kids or husband. :)

If my house were in perfect order all the time, I know I would not be a kind mom.  I'd be too concerned with putting away supplies from the latest art project as it was being created or sweeping up the constant scatter of cracker crumbs on the kitchen floor instead of reading to my kids or otherwise spending time with them.


Because I want to be a pleasant parent, here are some things that I do to maintain a nice-looking (and smelling) home with kids while staying sane.
  1. Go to bed with the house in a cleanly (or at least satisfactory) state.  I don't know about you, but if I wake up to a sink full of dirty dishes or clutter on the counters, I'm automatically in a bad mood.  I also feel like I get behind on my day if I have to spend the morning "catching up" from yesterday.  The trick is motivating and convincing a tired self to get it done before turning in for the night, but I know I'm always so glad when I do.
  2. Tidy things in the morning and evening, but don't fret the in between.  I could spend my entire day picking up after the kids, and to no avail.  However, I've got other things to occupy my time, so I've convinced myself to "let it go" a little and clean while they are sleeping and can't "undo" my hard work.
  3. Ask, even expect, the kids to help.  We're always working on this one at our house.  My kiddos resist chores of any kind, but they know they will not be allowed to play video games or with friends if those certain things are not done first.
  4. Make a place for everything.  Toys and books may not always be in their place, but when it's time to tidy, there should be a specific bin or space to store items away in order to avoid the "clutter" feel.
  5. Set up a weekly schedule of tasks to be done, and stick to it.  Don't try to do it all in one day or you'll surely get discouraged!  Checklists are a perfect way to accomplish this.
  6. Have a five or ten minute pickup before bed.  I like to set the timer after the kids have had their evening snacks and make a competition to see who can pick up the most before the timer goes off.  We then move forward with the rest of our bed time routines.  The house is usually nowhere near clean by the end of it, but at least it is better, and the kids learn to do their part!
  7. Set up an "unload" station somewhere.  We live in a two story home, and I despise making a million trips up those stairs to put things away.  What can I say, I resist exercise.  :)  So I like to set a small laundry basket at the bottom of the stairs where I can drop toys or other loose items that will eventually need to make their back way up.
  8. Deep clean often enough, and spot clean in between.    This will not only keep things sparkling, but will help keep things fresh-smelling as well.  I've got a little boy who uses the potty now, so there are often unpleasant odors in that department.  So I take to the toilet with a scrubber and some Lavender-Scented Fabuloso®, and then as if I had snapped my finger, the place smells like heaven and sparkles.
It makes the sinks gleam too!

I also use Fabuloso® to mop my floors, and it leaves them looking beautiful and spot-free, not to mention smelling fabulous!  Fabuloso® Multipurpose Cleaner is available in a Limited Edition Spring Bloom too!
Fabuloso® is very easily found at Walmart in the aisle with the cleaners.

8.  Don't Sweat It!  I can honestly say that I was able to keep my house pretty tidy when I had two kids, but now I have three, soon to be four, a blog, and a busy responsibility in my church.  If I don't want to be a crazy, uptight mom, it is literally impossible to have the house exactly as I want it all the time.  I've finally come to terms with that.   I know I'll regret it if I don't spend enough time with my kids while they are little, but I also realize that I won't remember or care later if the house was not in perfect order all the time.  Although I will always make sure things are sanitary, slight disarray has become the new norm!  A little clutter is ok!  This is the reason that I am genuinely content with my perfectly imperfect home.

I hope you've found these tips helpful!

I'd love to know...what other pointers and tricks do you have for staying sane while maintaining a clean home?


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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

M&M's® Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies Family Night Treat

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

One of our favorite past times as a family is to play games together and eat treats afterwards like today's delectable M&M's® Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies!

What's better than two soft M&M's®-infused sugar cookies with vanilla ice cream in the middle?  I certainly can't think of anything at the moment.

We've always reserved one night a week for "family time".  We like to call it Family Home Evening at our house.  On these nights, we unplug for a few hours while enjoying one another's company.  

More often than not, we end up playing board games because they're a perfect, fun activity that involves everyone.  We laugh and chat as we make our moves, growing closer together and talking about how our week is going.
This was all we needed for some fun family time together.

Probably the thing we most look forward to about this special week night, is the dessert we get to eat afterwards!  Today's cookies did not disappoint!  In fact, we can't wait for next week's game night so we can have them again!

{M&M's® Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies}

1 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 tsp. almond extract
2 1/4 c. flour
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

1/2 c. M&M's®, plus more for pressing into the tops  

1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream   

Mix butter, sugars, egg,  and almond extract until creamy.  Stir together dry ingredients and then mix with the wet until combined.  
Stir in M&M's®.
Roll into walnut-sized balls.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 9-11 minutes.  Immediately after removing them from the oven, lightly press more M&M's® into the tops of the cookies.  Let cool on pan for 2 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.

Let vanilla ice cream soften outside of the freezer just long enough to be spreadable, but not long enough to get too melty or it will just make a mess!  Spread a big scoop of ice cream onto one cookie, then press another cookie on top.  Keep in the freezer until ready to eat, but preferably not long enough for the cookies to freeze.  You may need to put the cookies in the freezer one at a time, as you fill them with ice cream, to prevent melting.

I made sure to grab a Party Size bag of M&M's®  for the cookies on my last trip down the candy aisle at Walmart.  We ate them by the colorful, chocolaty handfuls while we played Monopoly, too. :)
Grab a great M&M's® coupon HERE!

We've always loved Hasbro® Monopoly, but now it's even better with the addition of a red die that speeds things up a bit.  I appreciate that it helps my kiddos practice their math skills with money, too.
We couldn't get over how cute the new cat game play token is!

My hubby was king of the game and cleaned us out!  He basically owned every key property and acquired those he didn't.  He didn't even feel guilty making his kiddos mortgage properties or taking their last dollar.  They were good sports about it, though, and I'd like to think I was too. :)
Life can be so hectic at times, but it's amazing how slowing it down for one night a week can really bring the family closer together and make fun memories! 

I mean, after a few nail-biting games of Hasbro® Jenga, we were laughing heartily together and in awe at how my five-year old-son somehow escaped making our wooden block tower fall, and instead it was I who sent it toppling.

Good times!
These scrumptious sandwich cookies were a perfect way to end a perfect evening together!  They totally hit the spot!


What are your favorite game night treats that include M&M's®?  I'd love to get some more ideas!

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Apple Teacher or Classmate Appreciation Gift with Free Printable & a Giveaway!

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Tree Top, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #TreeTopInc #raisinggoodapples http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

The end of the school year is nearing, which means it's time to think about creative, thoughtful teacher and classmate appreciation gift ideas! This "You're the apple of my eye" free printable attached to a Tree Top Apple Sauce Pouch is simple and heartfelt.
And I daresay there's not a kid (or adult) on the planet who doesn't love apple sauce, especially when it's in a mess-free form!  This is a perfect and inexpensive way to show thanks for all those wonderful educators in our lives!  These would also be fun to hand out to classmates on the last day of school!

Grab your free printable at the end of this post.
Did you do anything fun over the past weekend?

I got to go with my favorite people to visit our beautiful local botanical gardens.  We live in the desert and don't get to see much color outdoors, unless it's brown.  :)  So we tend to make frequent trips to see the gorgeous blooming flowers, waterfalls and foliage that are at our gardens.
The kids love smelling the flowers, playing on giant ants and running in all the wide-open space.  The giant "fallen tree" tube slide is always a hit as well.

In the summer, our gardens even have a butterfly enclosure!  We're so looking forward to it.
I'm proud to announce that I didn't forget to pack the snacks!  It's been known to happen.  :)  The kids were appreciative.
Whenever we're out, the kids inevitably tell me they're "starving" and need something to eat.  I love that Tree Top Apple Sauce pouches are so easy to grab and go without another thought when we're on the way out the door to have some fun.  Plus, they're totally tasty and good for us!

I love buying Tree Top because, for more than 50 years, they've been delivering top-quality products and premium ingredients such as juices, smoothies and sauces for families like mine to enjoy.

We love Tree Top Apple Sauce, so I stocked up on our last trip to Walmart!  As a mom, I especially appreciate that the pouches contain wholesome, simple ingredients that also help boost my kiddos' fruit intake for the day!

Located in the heart of Washington’s apple country, Tree Top is a grower-owned co-op, deeply rooted in the communities where we work and live.

In effort to bring awareness to “Raising Good Apples”, Tree Top is partnering with the National Gardening Association’s KidsGardening.org to help educate kids on gardening. For every box of Tree Top Apple Sauce Pouches purchased through 5/31 Tree Top will donate $1 to help KidsGardening.org to help build and grow youth gardens.



If you'd like to make today's simple teacher appreciation gift, download and print your free "Apple of My Eye" tags HERE.  I just printed them on regular white paper, cut them out, and then attached them to the pouches with double sided tape.  Super simple and cute!

------GIVEAWAY------

I have even more of the good stuff for you today, because Tree Top is going to give one lucky I Dig Pinterest reader a Kids' Gardening Kit!

Included in the prize package is a “My Gardening Journal”, Red Tubrug pail, Kids gardening gloves, Watering can, Soft touch hand tool set, Favorite Five Sprouting seeds, and Tree Top Apple Sauce Pouches. 

How fun is that?


Giveaway runs from Monday, April 20th through Monday, April 27th, 2015.


Simply leave a comment below telling me what's your favorite outdoor family activity!


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Friday, April 17, 2015

I've Found a New Best Friend

Is it ok to be besties with a pair of shoes? Because I am, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  Lest you think me a weirdo, let me explain.  I do have my reasons.
This photo may be justification enough.  I mean, polka dots?  Wooden sole? Black and white?  Oxfords?  Common!  I'll elaborate further just in case, though.

A. Super Cute!
B. Uber Comfortable
C. Super Cute!
D. Classic
D. They'll wear for years
E. One-of-a-kind

I've in no way been compensated, bribed or persuaded to say this.  I'm just one extremely happy customer and I want to share the shoe love with the world!  Well, at least with you wonderful people who are lucky enough to read this.
If you too want to sport a pair of these bad boys pretty girls, may I first issue a fair warning.  There will be squeals of delight, pointing, jaws dropping, and ooh-ing and ahhh-ing from random passersby.  You may need to provide your autograph or pose for a picture, but it's all for the cause.

They also may spark slightly awkward conversation such as,

"Wow.  I really like your shoes.

I want to get a pair, but, oh, you have really nice legs!.............     long pause

I wonder if they'd look as good on me."



For these shoes, I fully embrace the awkward.

The designers/owners/budding entrepreneurs at Icarus Maeser, are running a kickstarter right now and would love to have your support so these wonderful, fabulous, stylish shoes can flood the universe.  Because something this cute just has to be shared.

There are men's styles too!

You can watch a short video on how the company came about below:




Go here to back this project on Kickstarter and to let Icarus Maeser know you'd like to see these beautiful shoes hit the shelves!

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Roast Beef Sliders

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

I'm a total slider fan, and these mini sandwiches, filled with sliced roast beef, Gouda cheese, sautéed mushrooms and onions and a drizzle of mustard are simply irresistible!  They disappeared in a hurry at our family's dinner!
Tailgate parties often come to mind at the mention of sliders, but these puppies would be fantastic at potlucks, picnics, family reunions and other get togethers in the upcoming months!  They're one of those foods that packs a lot of "impressive" at first glance, not to mention the "wow factor" at bite one.  But you don't have to take my word for it.
I've always been big on mustard, and I thought New Heinz® Yellow Mustard (have you tried it yet?) would make a perfect addition to today's sandwiches.  

I was definitely correct in my assumptions, because these suckers are addicting!   I won't mention how many I ate in one sitting, because you might look at me differently.  :)
We tend to use mustard on a regular basis when we grill, but this time the sliders were asking for it.  :) I didn't even have to worry about shaking the bottle because Heinz Yellow Mustard sits top down!  No more watery first squirt!  It also didn't soak into the bread and make it soggy....winning!  

It incorporates a secret blend of spices and vinegar for the perfect balance of amazing flavor and tang.  Because I can't get enough of the lingering signature mustard zing.  How about you?
Heinz Yellow Mustard is conveniently located closely to Heinz Ketchup, which we also use on a regular basis at our house.  I grabbed the mustard when I was at Walmart, but it's also available at other major retailers nationwide.

Here's how to put together one of the tastiest sliders you'll ever have the pleasure of sinking your teeth into.

{ROAST BEEF SLIDERS}

12 Hawaiian sweet rolls, split open
1/2 lb. thinly sliced roast beef
1 medium onion, sliced and then roughly chopped into quarters
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce

12 small slices Gouda cheese
Heinz Yellow Mustard

Topping:
6 Tbsp. butter (3/4 square)
3/4 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/4 tsp. dried onion
3/4 Tbsp. powdered parmesan cheese

Sauté onion and mushrooms in olive oil and Worcestershire Sauce until tender.  Set aside.  Prepare topping by melting butter, Worcestershire Sauce, dried onion, and parmesan cheese in a small saucepan over medium  heat.  Stir until smooth, and remove from heat.
Prepare sandwiches by placing a few slices of roast beef, a big pinch of mushrooms and onions, and slice of Gouda.  Drizzle with Heinz Yellow Mustard.  Close sandwich and place in a greased baking dish.  Repeat for other rolls.  
Pour butter mixture over the top of prepared sliders and let sit in the fridge for at least one hour but no longer than three or they may get soggy.  
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 15 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and slightly crusty and cheese inside is melted.  

Enjoy!

These succulent treasures are calling my name again!  

Get ready to watch them fly off the platter just like magic!  You'd better make a double or triple batch!


Are you a fellow mustard lover?  What are your favorite foods to put it on or add it into?


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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

SNICKERS® Peanut Butter Brownie Bites

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

Homemade mini brownies topped with SNICKERS® Peanut Butter Squares and drizzled with melted chocolate....it doesn't get much better than this!

I don't know about you, but I'm not myself when I'm hungry.  I tend to be a cranky lady if I ever have to skip or be late for a meal.  Ask my kiddos.  :)  

Clues this may be happening are that I'll start barking orders or giving extra chores, turning off the television or games at random, and taking away privileges at the drop of a hat.  

The responses are always, "Awwww....mom's in a bad mood right now!" And the kids will scatter and clear the room as if I were highly contagious.  As much as I hate to admit it at the time, I might as well have an infectious disease or illness, because who wants to be around someone who's acting like that? When the tables are turned and the kids are being ornery, I send them to their room.
But I don't need to put myself in time out when I feel the hunger and grumps coming on, because I believe that chocolate makes everything better!  Seriously, it will cure a bad case of the irritations in a hurry!

They say laughter is the best medicine, but I beg to differ!

Give me a SNICKERS® in each hand and I'll be just fine!
And even better, pair it, in peanut butter form, with a brownie, and I'm all in!

You know what else lifts my spirits?  Baking!  When I'm in the kitchen mixing up goodness, I'm letting loose, i.e. recharging.  

Are you the same way?
 
So I paid a visit to Dollar General, had fun browsing their selection of yummy SNICKERS® bars and dreaming up a mood-boosting homemade treat that incorporated them.

Here's the lusciousness that came about in the kitchen this time.

{PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIE BITES}
Makes 48 or more mini brownie bites

3 oz. sweetened chocolate baking squares
1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
3 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
SNICKERS® Peanut Butter Squares, chopped small for the batter
SNICKERS® Peanut Butter Squares, chopped into fourths for topping
1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted for topping


Melt butter and chocolate together. Stir until smooth.  Let cool while you mix together in the bowl of an electric mixer the eggs, white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to wet mixture and mix until combined.  Add cooled chocolate mixture and mix until combined.  
Fold in chopped SNICKERS® pieces.  Add 1/2 Tbsp. full to each mini muffin cup in a mini muffin tin that's been sprayed with nonstick spray.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 minutes.  The cups may sink in the middle, but this will create a perfect home for the topping.  Allow brownie bites to cool in the pan until they can be removed cleanly.  You may need to use a butter knife to free them from the pan.  Place a SNICKERS® fourth in the middle of each brownie cup and drizzle with melted chocolate chips.

See more great SNICKERS® recipes and fun stories on the SNICKERS® social hub.

If a bad mood is ever getting the better of you, whip up some Peanut Butter Brownie Bites!  They'll help wash the troubles and hunger away!

Enjoy!

Enter the SNICKERS® "Who are you when you're hungry?" contest by uploading a personal photo or video from your Computer, Facebook, Instagram or use the SNICKERS® Meme Generator to create something new! Voting begins at Noon on 5/11/15 and ends at 11:59:59AM ET on 7/15/15.

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What is your favorite SNICKERS® candy bar variety? 

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Monday, April 13, 2015

How to Make a Milk Carton Bird Feeder: A Perfect Kids' Craft!

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Today's fun Milk Carton Bird Feeder kids' craft and tasty apple sauce snack idea is in partnership with Tree Top. #RaisingGoodApples AD

You know how much I love creating with my kiddos, and since it's spring, I thought it would be so fun to make a colorful bird feeder to attract some little fine-feathered friends!  It was such a simple, inexpensive and kid-friendly activity...a perfect start to a blissful day together as a family!
For complete, easy-to-follow instructions on how to make this, be sure to visit Raising Good Apples.  While there, you'll want to check out the fun family gardening ideas!  

Which activity are you eager to take on first?  We just might get ambitious and plant a small garden this year, even if it only consists of pretty flowers.

The kids and I opted to paint our carton and give it some polka-dots for extra pizzazz and cuteness. We think the birds will appreciate it.  :)

I just love the sweet sounds of singing and tweets outside that mark the beginnings of spring and the warmer weather!  Hooray!  It's such a gorgeous time of year.  

As a family, we enjoy watching the birds swarm around the new feeder, perched and pecking at their food.  It makes for wonderful entertainment!
After painting and cutting the openings, my daughter inserted the dowels through the punched holes.
Then the kids had a ball filling the carton with birdseed and talking about the wild birds it was going to attract to our yard.
Then, all that was left was to hang it in a tree, admire, and wait for the birds to find it! Our reward was watching our feathered friends enjoy the fruits of our labors. :)
And then, since the outdoors were beckoning to us, we spent a fair amount of time at the park, soaking up some sunshine and enjoying some Tree Top Apple Sauce Pouches.  She was a happy camper, snack in hand.  :)
When we're on-the-go, I like to reach for mess-free, yummy, and good-for-us refreshments.  Tree Top pouches are the perfect solution!  I didn't even have to pack the wipes!  Because, let's be honest...who wants to deal with a spoon and the drippy mess while out?  Not this mom! 
My kids get a huge kick out of squeezing the pouches and savoring a burst of apple yumminess in their mouths!  Such a fun snack!

Tree Top is committed to growing top quality fruits to make superior products for families like mine and yours to enjoy and to raise good apples across the country.  To further this commitment, Tree Top has teamed up with KidsGardening.org  to help "raise good apples" in the next generation by making a difference one child, one community, and one school at a time.  As part of this initiative, they'll donate a dollar to KidsGardening.org  for every purchase of Tree Top Apple Sauce Pouches.  How cool is that?
All this active play makes a little person hungry!  I can totally relate!

Every time we're out, without fail, the kids raid my bag for snacks, and I'm proud to offer them Tree Top pouches for a 100% fruit, tummy-pleasing treat.  There's a flavor for everyone!

What activities are you doing to enjoy this wonderful spring season?  Planting a garden, perhaps?  I'd love to hear in the comments below!



And now, since we all love a good giveaway, I'm thrilled for you to have the chance to win a gardening set valued at $60!  Be sure to enter below!

Details:

Giveaway is sponsored by Sway Group and is open from April 7th to May 15th, 2015 at midnight PST.  Forty winners (from 40 individual blog giveaways) will be selected.  Sway Group will select the winners on or around May 18th, 2015 and will ensure the winners receive their prizes.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Tree Top.

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