Saturday, March 31, 2012

3 times the flowers and veggies? yes, please!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Scotts® for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Expand ‘n Gro™ is a great product that does what it expands up to 3x when water is added because its all natural fibers hold up to 50% more water than regular potting soil!  And because it contains Miracle‐Gro® it will also feed your plants for up to 6 months.  These factors combined can give you 3x the flowers and veggies in your garden than your native soil.  There are benefits to your soil for years after using it, so it keeps on giving year after year :)

Ask the staff at your local garden center to show you where they keep it.  I love supporting local businesses when I buy anything!  I also love products that use natural ingredients, and at the heart of this product is coconut coir.  The fibers and pith from the coconut husk are what makes it super-absorbent.  How cool is that?  This also ensures that the coconuts are not going to waste- the inside is used for food, then the outside is used to make coconut coir!

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Miracle-Gro® Expand ‘n Gro™ Concentrated Planting Mix would be perfect in my planters and landscaping out by my deck!  I need all the help I can get in these areas.  It will be an easy thing to do when I am doing my Spring planting.  You could use it during your Spring planting too!  Check out the video below to see how.  If you want to try some for free, comment below and you could win a FREE sample!!!


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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rebuilding Together!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pfister for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

If you could help a low-income family have improved living conditions in less than a minute, would you?
That is exactly what Pfister is going to help you do!

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Pfister has partnered with a non-profit called Rebuilding Together!  For every "like" on the Pfister Facebook page they will donate $1.00 to Rebuilding Together (up to $20,000)!  You need to visit the Friends of Pfister campaign site to do this, or go to the Pfister Facebook page .  They will ask for your email address and zip code, and when you hit opt in the Facebook like button will be the landing page.
If you aren't familiar with Pfister, they have been an innovative leader in the plumbing field for over 100 years, oftentimes being the first to have an item on the market!  You can find out more about them when you like their Facebook page.  You probably have something made by Pfister in  your home!
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Rebuilding Together is a non-profit dedicated to helping low-income homeowners make much needed improvements,  repairs and modifications to their homes.  Rebuilding Together has been rebuilding homes and lives of needy families for over 30 years, beginning in Midland, Texas.  To date they have improved or rebuilt over 100,000 homes across the United States, delivered over $1.3 billion in market value, and utilized the services of 3.4 million volunteers!  What a great organization!

Visit Sponsor's Site

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

10 Healthy Things to Feed Your Toddler

I have seen some posts similar to this, but sadly I disagree with what some people consider "healthy" for their child.  Not that I judge them, I just disagree.  I also understand that people have different budgets to work with and access to different kinds of food depending on where you live! Also, there are some foods on this list that you may deem a choking hazard- I just watch LJ closely and also cut things up when possible. SO now that all that's out of the way, here are 10 of my top picks for meals and snacks to feed a toddler!
 I do not recommend feeding your toddler wash cloths...but apparently LJ does!

1. Peanut butter and apple chunks.
I cut up an organic apple (with skin for nutrients) and spread tiny bits of creamy organic peanut butter on top.

2. Plain Greek yogurt with a dab of organic jam stirred in.
This is way less sugar than the yogurt marketed for toddlers, no food coloring, and you choose the portion!

3.  Matchstick carrots with hummus.
The matchstick carrots are thin enough that they can easily bite through them and chew them up properly.  I use a dab of hummus and put them coming out like spider legs- a big hit!

4.  Homemade popsicles.
Blend fruit and soy milk, regular milk, yogurt, coconut milk- whatever milk you choose!  I like banana, coconut milk, and pineapple- yummy!  I also like strawberry and banana with vanilla soy milk.

5.  Organic lunch meat and cheese cut into pretty shapes
Organic is important- no nasty preservatives and waaaaay less processing.  Use tiny cookie cutter thingys that you can find in the cake decorating section of your favorite craft store.

6.  Noodles, veggie chunks, and cheese
Toddlers don't like a ton of stuff mixed together, but my daughter will eat this.  I use organic Soba noodles since they are made with Buckwheat!  You can get them in the Asian cooking section.  Then I add steamed veggie chunks- broccoli, carrots, zucchini- whatever they like.  Then top with some parmesan cheese!

7.  Hard boiled eggs- SHAPED like fun stuff!  Check out this post to see how!

8.  Organic whole wheat or buckwheat waffles.
These are huge at my house- pop in the toaster and they are done!  Top with fruit puree instead of syrup, or spread with peanut butter for added protein.

9.  Avocado salad
Mix together chunks of avocado, black beans, and corn.  Voila!

10.  Healthy Chicken Nuggets
Cut up chunks of organic chicken, then dip into milk.  Roll in panko bread crumbs (important for crunch!) that you have seasoned the way your child likes.  (We use an MSG- free organic ranch mix to stir into the bread crumbs).  Then place on a baking sheet at 375 degrees F until cooked through. (This depends in the thickness of your chicken)

I hope I gave you some good ideas!  None if it is rocket science or fancy and that's the point- toddlers like to keep things simple!!!
Remember- research shows it can take MANY times of presenting/trying a new food before a child "likes" it.  So keep putting that healthy stuff in front of them!  Also, my daughter tends to go in phases- one week she says she hates eggs, the next week that's all she wants.  So if your child refuses a food, keep trying!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dark Chocolate Ganache Cake Recipe

My mom's birthday was a couple of days ago, and she wanted a REALLY good chocolate cake.  So, I got out this recipe that I have used a couple of times and had a lot of success with!  I have topped this with a Chocolate Buttercream frosting before, and I have topped it with a Nutella frosting before.  But since my mom is a true choco-holic, I went for a classic- Chocolate Ganache (and a LOT of it!)
I do not know the original source for this recipe, but I do know that I have tweaked it from the original (amount of vanilla, and amount of cocoa/water mixture).
So here it is!

Dark Chocolate Ganache Cake
from ToBeContinued

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups + 2T all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • In a small bowl, pour the boiling water over the cocoa powder.  Set aside to cool.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients.
  • In mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar and blend until thoroughly combined.  
  • Add eggs one at a time until combined well.
  • Add vanilla.
  • To the mixing bowl, alternate adding flour mixture and cocoa mixture until just combined.
  • Pour into a greased and floured pan (this amount makes a medium-sized bundt cake, or one cake pan.)  If you want a layer cake, double the recipe.
  • Bake for approx 25 minutes, or until cake springs back when gently touched.
For Chocolate Ganache:
  • Bring to a gentle boil 1 cup heavy cream or half and half
  • Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of broken up dark chocolate pieces.  (Use a high quality dark chocolate that is around 60% cocoa for best results.  This is IMPORTANT- some common brands of so-called dark chocolate will not work!)
  • Allow to cool at room temperature, then pour over cooled cake.  (For layer cake, put cooled ganache into your mixer with whisk and whip up into a more frosting-like consistency.) 
Before Serving, use a vegetable peeler and slowly peel chocolate curls off the long side of a chocolate bar over the top of the cake.  The more the better :)
mmm, chocolate curls!
 This is a very rich cake, so that is why I typically make it smaller.  Serve it up with some ice cream if you want!
LJ: "I gonna eat this cake up, mommy"  Me: "We have to wait until tonight for Ga-Ga's party!"
Her face, after I locked the cake in the laundry room...note the fork dropped on the floor in defeat!
Later that night- yummy!

Cake Face!!!
 Are you a follower yet?  I am about to do a giveaway in the next week or so, please join in on the fun!  Be sure to follow on Facebook too so you don't miss out on anything over there!  Thanks :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Breastfeeding Moms- What to Wear!

So it's that dreadful time postpartum when you are still carrying around that baby weight (unless you are one of the few who gained only 25 pounds...NOT me, haha!!!)  On top of dressing to hide belly, thighs, butt and muffin top, you also have to make sure your gigantic boobs can get out easily for baby! 
Me: chubby and happy with my babies!

Unfortunately, a lot of maternity clothes are supposed to double as nursing tops- but who wants to wear their maternity clothes again?!?!?!  And we all know, the maternity and/or nursing tops are just ugly...the only cute ones are over $100 an item, which most of us can't afford.
So what is a girl to do?  You might expect me to say "sew your own".  But really, with a 2 year old and a new baby, I have spent maybe one hour total in my sewing room in the last 3 weeks.  So that is just not gonna happen!
I do, however, have time to scour the internet for cute stuff since I am sitting on the couch breastfeeding most of the day.  So here are some hints about where to find clothes that are both flattering postpartum and give you boobie access, plus some direct links so the work is done for you. Phew!

Tip #1- Check out stores that sell, um, how do I put this..."sexy" clothes?  "Clubbin'" clothes?  You know what I'm saying!  They tend to have very low necklines.  For our purposes, they are not for sexiness but for access.  But my husband does enjoy the view!  If you tend to dress more modest, these tops are still great to throw a nursing cami under. (Nursing camis are great for many purposes- have a several to wear under things and to sleep in!)  If you aren't worried about modesty, just think- if everyone is staring at your magnificently huge boobs, they won't be looking at your magnificently huge butt!  Just sayin'...
Some stores to check out- Victoria's Secret, Bebe, Arden B
Clothing examples:
Victoria's Secret, $59.50  Note the zip down top and fat hiding ruffles!

Arden B, $26.90  Note the draped neckline, fitted sleeve, and loose body.
Bebe, $98.00  Note the criss- crossed neckline and draping over belly, score!!!
Tip #2- Avoid the following things: Wide or poofy sleeves (your boobs are big right now, this will add even more bulk to your top half), horizontal stripes, REALLY spandexy fabrics (some stretch is good, but too much will show every lump and bump and cling in all the wrong places!), Shapeless garments (unless you wear with a belt. 

Tip #3- Look for the following features (some examples below) that are postpartum/nursing friendly:  ruching (hides lumps and bumps), cowl necks (easy for nursing), criss cross necks (again, easy for nursing), v necks (more flattering to a larger bust), fitted sleeves and shoulders (to slim your upper half), nipped in waist or belt (to slim the waist), hip/butt skimming (to cover it a bit!).
Ann Taylor, $48.00.  Example of ruching at waist and criss cross neck!
Trouve brand, from Nordstrom, $58.  Great deep cowl neck!

Tip #4- Body shapers are your friend AND your enemy.  Be careful when choosing...if you are hourglass shaped like me,  the tank top ones tend to backfire by rolling up to my waist and giving me a big fat belly bulging below it!  BUT- if I simply wear an old size small workout tank under my clothes, it really works well!  So choose carefully!  Also, a note about belly shapers (corset things) marketed for postpartum women...I tried this and while I think it helped, it also squeezed my intestines and gave me horrible gas.  It also made me look horrible because it took my hourglass shape and made it a sausage shape.  Full disclosure:)

Tip #5- CUT OUT THE TAGS!!!  When not pregnant/losing pregnancy weight, I am a size 6 in jeans.  Well, I am currently wearing a double digit size that I am horrified by.  So just cut out the tags if it is traumatizing to you!  I go to Kohl's and get the cheapo but still cute jeans ($30 or so) and then I buy a pair in each smaller size down so that as I lose weight I always have a pair of non-maternity jeans that fit well.  This will make you look good!  Be sure to get them in the ladies section, not juniors...unless you love that low-rise-with-a-muffin-top look.  I like the Vera Wang brand for this purpose.
Simply Vera skinny ankle jeans, $35 (on sale)  Cheap enough to buy in all sizes as you shrink!

Tip #6- Bathing Suits.  Ahhhhhhh!  This is something I am really concerned about.  So concerned, in fact, that I plan to just wear a series of cute cover-ups until I lose at least 20 pounds.  Especially since there are so many teeny tiny teenagers that prance around in their teeny tiny bikinis in my neighborhood.  Barf.
Victoria's Secret The Caftan Dress, $69.50

I hope this helped by giving you some clothing ideas and letting you know that you are not alone!!!  I have a LOT of weight to lose, and I know it will come off.  Yours will too!  The important thing is that I know I gave my baby all the nutrients she needed in the womb (and then some, haha!) and I have enough fat on my body to put towards milk-making to help her grow.  I always say that when pregnant, my body is on loan to the baby so I need to embrace the changes.  No big deal to be a little chubby for a while when I have a beautiful, healthy, sweet baby to show for it!

Are you a follower yet?  Please join in on the fun!!!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Does your house ever stink?

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Triad Retail Media for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Okay...we all know that when you have kids your house can sometimes stink.  Maybe from a stray diaper...or an abandoned and long forgotten piece of banana under the couch...or a pile of laundry you just haven't quite gotten to.  And don't get me started on the many ways husbands can stink up the house!

This is where Glade® Expressions™ can come to the rescue.  I gave the Cotton and Italian Mandarin fragrance mist a try.   new Glade® Expressions™ fragrance mist - Glade Expressions Air Fresheners

I liked how I could take this from room to room as needed.  The design is pretty so it doesn't look bad sitting out in your bathroom or on a shelf.  The smell was pleasant, almost as if you were burning a candle!  It freshened up the space nicely and lasted longer than I expected!

If you end up not being satisfied with the scent, you can get your money back.  Just fill out THIS form.

I also love that you can refill the fragrance mist so you are using less packaging and saving money!

There are also several fragrances offered in an oil diffuser!  It lasts for 30 days and doesn't use electricity.  It's also pretty!  new Glade® Expressions™ oil diffuser

If you want to give it a try, you can get $1.50 off at Walmart!

<img src="" alt=" - Glade Expressions Air Fresheners" />

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cloth Diapering

How cute is this cloth diaper?!?!? (Cover from Assunta Store)

What goes through you head when you hear "cloth diapers?"





Only for "hippies"?

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about cloth diapering.  Today's cloth diapers are more mama-friendly than ever!  I started cloth diapering my oldest daughter around 6 months old.  I thought about it for a while before diving in and I haven't ever looked back!
Let's address some of the concerns you may have that I listed above.

Messy- Modern cloth diapers are just not as messy as the old fashioned kind.  They are basically structured like a disposable diaper with either snaps or velcro.  In fact, because they have elastic in the back (unlike disposables) you get less blowouts up the back of those cute little onesies!

Stinky- Gone too are those old-fashioned water-filled disgusting diaper pails.  You simply place the wet diapers into a "wet bag" in your laundry room (or wherever you choose).  When there is a poo, you can use a special sprayer to spray the poo in your toilet and flush, or if its an older baby's solid poo, just dump it in the toilet.  WAY less stinky than disposable diapers because you are flushing the poo!  (FYI- if you read the fine print on your disposable diaper box, it instructs you to dump the poo out of those as well.  Human waste is not supposed to go into landfills, they are not equipped for it!)

Laundry- Yes, there will be more laundry.  I wash my dirty diapers every other day.  They fit in one big load, and I hang dry the covers and wet bag to preserve the waterproof coatings.  So, there are a lot of benefits to cloth diapering and the trade-off is one load of laundry every other day.  That is worth it to me!  Some people argue that cloth diapering is not cheaper or better for the environment because of ALL the laundry- well if you add up the cost of the special diaper detergent (I use Rockin' Green), and the cost of the water for one large load of laundry every other will see that this argument is SILLY!
My favorite diaper detergent!

Cost- Cloth diapers are definitely an upfront investment.  BUT- just like anything else, there are more expensive options than others!  We have chosen to use the more old-fashioned prefolds with small sized covers for the infant stage, as she will outgrow them fast and those are the cheapest option.  Then once she is larger we will use the Flip system again.  This is a hybrid diaper, and there are several other brands of them.  The Flip brand happens to be what we chose.  If you include some thicker nighttime diapers with covers, our Flip stash, and a couple of cloth swim diapers, and a couple of wet bags, all in all we spent about $200 to cloth diaper!  We had previously been spending about $70/month on disposables, so this has definitely saved us a ton of money.  For this baby, since we are starting cloth from day one, we have spent about $70 on infant cloth diapering supplies.  So by the second month of her life we will have broken even on those.  Then she can move into the Flip stash that her older sister used which will cost us nothing!  At some point we may replenish some covers, etc. if they start getting worn, but so far so good.   We did get a great deal on the covers from The Assunta Store.  They are owned by Americans living in China who help sick children and orphans, so their proceeds go to their non-profit.  I have found the covers to be very high quality and well fitting.  (They also sell cloth diaper making supplies if you are interested.  To me, the time making them myself is not worth it!)  I love to purchase things locally when possible, are we are fortunate to have a great cloth diaper store in the Indianapolis area called Toasty Baby.  They sell used prefolds at a discount (obviously they are sanitized and perfectly safe to use!)  That is how I got my newborn stash so cheaply.  They have an online store so you can shop with them too!
The most expensive option is all in one diapers, because you need a bunch of them and they are about $20 or more each.  The perk to these is anyone can use it because it really is just like a disposable.  Its all one piece so some day care centers will only allow this option if you choose cloth.  I know a couple of friends who asked about using cloth for their children at day care and they were told "no way!" so before you buy cloth diapers you may want to check with the day care you plan to use if necessary.  If you work and can't use cloth during the week at day care, you can always have a smaller stash and do it at night and on the weekends!

Only for "hippies"- Cloth diapering has become important to parents for several reasons- not just the environment!  Yes, it is better for the environment (no poo or diapers in landfills, less manufacturing, etc.) but there are other reasons to use them as well.  I like that there aren't any weird "gel" fillers and chemicals on my children's skin.  I like that they save my family money (more shoes for mom!!!) and they are REALLY cute- I have these adorable minky covers that are fuzzy and have adorable little prints on them.  My older daughter got to an age where she would ask for cloth if for some reason she had to wear a disposable (like at her Mother's Day out program).  When I thought about it, I wouldn't want to to wear scratchy paper panties if I could wear soft cotton ones- would you?

Please feel free to email me or comment below if you have any questions or need cloth diapering advice!  The post above barely scratches the surface!

Dear babies, Use cloth and be cute like me!  Love, Stella

Monday, March 5, 2012

Got a Baby? Enter this Giveaway!

I was recently sent a baby hairbrush to review from New People Company. They have a brush simply called "The World's Perfect Baby Brush".

"messy" hair :)

Nice and smooth!

It is a simple design made of plastic with tiny flexible bristles.  The bristles are VERY soft and thin, so there is no risk of scratching baby's head.  Stella doesn't even seem to notice her hair is being brushed into place! She has not experienced cradle cap yet, but I would imagine this would be a good brush for gently exfoliating the scalp without irritating baby's sensitive skin.  We really like "The World's Perfect Baby Brush"!  Even my 2 year old with fine hair seemed to whine less during hair-do time while using this brush.

What?  I'm getting my hair brushed?
 Another big bonus to this brush is that it is affordable!  They retail for only $6.00.  It would be a cute addition to a baby shower gift since it is colorful and unique!  It comes in several colors.

NOW...the fun part- you can enter to WIN YOUR OWN BRUSH!!!!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Mommy Hormones, Sisters, Call out for advice!

New Mommy Hormones...for those of us who have had children, you know all too well what I am referring to.  There is this approximately two week time frame where your body suddenly has an absence of hormones the placenta has made for 9 months, and it makes you CRAZY!
Who wouldn't love a face like that?
 Over the past couple of weeks, I have had some great moments due to my "crazy" hormones. 
 I have cried because I am so in love with my little Stella.
 I have cried because I feel horrible guilt over the way my 2 year old Lola must feel.
 I have cried because I feel chubby (do ya feel me???)
 I have cried because I wanted to take a nap and organize my dresser drawers and couldn't decide which was more important to me (for real!)

I probably cried over a few other things too, but I am sleep deprived and can't remember :)

That being said, I am now over that hump and feeling pretty fantastic (other than lack of sleep!).  Stella actually sleeps waaaaay more than Lola, so I am getting about 5-6 hours at night!  Less than ideal, but pretty good for having a newborn!
My husband gave me hug and a shoulder massage before leaving for work this morning, so that was fantastic.  Then the baby pooped and it was back to reality!
I am really enjoying my two girls, and I look forward to matching outfits, trips to Chicago to prom dress shop together (I know, way in the future but let mommy dream!), slumber parties, puberty, weddings, baking cookies together...all the fun things girls bring.
I am planning to do an idea I found on Pinterest where you have a journal that you write back and forth in with your daughters.  I am going to make each of them one- or maybe an email address like in the TV commercial?  I mean, will they even make paper ten years from now?

Oh, and BONUS- two daughters to change my diapers when I'm old!!!

Being a parent is the toughest job on the planet- but I wouldn't take it back for anything!!!

Are you a mama of two girls close in age like mine?  If so, please share some comment love below giving me your best advice for raising two girls- I would love to have a post in the future where I share these tidbits!  (By commenting below you are giving permission.  I will link to your blog if you have one!

Only 4 followers to go before my next giveaway!!! Please join up so we can get to winning some prizes!!!