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Savvy Sunday

Savvy Sunday: Christmas Tree Farms (& Dickies Review)

by Holly Duce on December 4, 2011

Continuing with the holiday traditions theme from the last couple of weeks, this week’s Savvy Sunday topic is Christmas trees. Does your family get your tree from a farm or a stand?  Do you used a live tree or an artificial tree?  No matter what type of tree you have, I’m sure you have some sort of tradition surrounding it.  We get ours from a farm.  We meet my in-laws at the farm one weekend morning in early December and set out to find the perfect tree.  Sometimes it’s raining, sometimes it’s sunny but it’s always cold!  After we’ve found the perfect tree and cut it down we warm up with a cup of hot cocoa or cider.

We love the smell of fresh pine with a real tree and even though I don’t enjoy dealing with the fallen pine needles all over the house and remembering to water the tree all month, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I can’t image doing it differently.  Growing up, my family never had an artificial tree and since we live in an area where tree farms are aplenty, I don’t see us changing this tradition any time soon.When we visit the tree farm, we dress for the weather as well as the task.  This year, Dickies outfitted our family (with exception of our youngest).  Dickies has a great selection of clothing perfect for the outdoors.  Traditionally known for their work wear, Dickies has fashions that great for active families.  All of the items we received were made of quality, heavy-weight fabric perfect kids who are rough on their clothes or parents who try to keep up with them:

The Hubs— Hubs is wearing a long-sleeved work shirt similar to the one my son is wearing.  Over that, a soft shell full zip jacket.  He is also wearing a pair of Relaxed Fit Jeans.  I couldn’t believe the weight of these jeans.  They are really heavy duty and perfect for kneeling down to chop down a Christmas tree!  Sale price these jeans is $19.99 — a steal!

The Mommy — I’m wearing a Basic Thermal Crew with a Sherpa Fleece Hoodie over it.  The hoodie is super soft inside and out and really warm too!  It comes in 4 different colors but I love the Teal Ice color of the one I received.  I’m also wearing Relaxed Cargo Pants.  I’m on the tall side so I was worried the pants wouldn’t be long enough but they were actually the perfect length.  These pants weren’t as heavy as my husbands jeans but still a very nice, sturdy weight.

The Kiddos — Each received a pair of pants: Girls Stretch Welt Pocket Flair Bottom Pant, Boys Double Knee Extra Pocket Pant. Both pairs of pants have elastic button tab size adjusters on the inside which I love.  My son’s were slightly too big so I was able to adjust them from the inside to make them more comfortable and keep them from falling down.  My son is also wearing the boys Short Sleeve Twill Shirt  with a thermal shirt underneath.  I think the shirt is adorable and makes him look like a little mechanic. My daughter is wearing a Dickies Short Sleeve Polo with a thermal shirt under it.

The prices at Dickies are quite reasonable, especially considering the quality.  My kids will, without a doubt, outgrow these long before they are worn out.  While the kids clothing selection is limited and geared more towards uniforms, the styles are basics and can be used for everyday wear. I especially love the Double Knee Pant.  My son has some pretty awesome Star Wars moves which always land him on his knees quickly ruining every pair of pants he owns.  I’m positive these pants will hold up a lot better than any other pair we own.

Overall, I was really impressed with Dickies.  I’d definitely recommend them, especially for families who are very active outdoors.  Check out the flannel lined jeans and a great selection of jackets and more at www.Dickies.com.

A complimentary product/service was provided for this review, however, all opinions expressed are my own.  I was not compensated in any other way.  See Mommies With Cents disclosure policy for more details.

 

 

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Yo Gabba Gabba Live Rocked!

by Holly Duce on November 13, 2011

We had the opportunity to attend the Yo Gabba Gabba Live show last night at the Paramount Theater in Seattle.  We had never taken our kids to something like this and were a little nervous that we’d have to leave mid-show for some reason or another.  Our oldest two (4 and almost 3) were so excited to see Yo Gabba Gabba that they didn’t take their afternoon naps.  They both fell asleep in the car on the way to the show. They woke up as we were parking and seemed fine (they often wake up a bit on the grumpy side).  We got our picture taken (above) then found our seats.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  We ran into a bit of traffic and it took a few circles around the block before we found parking so we were a tad late.  The show started seconds after we found our seats.  The kids’ initial reaction was complete awe.  I was so excited for them and loved just watching them take it in.  Our youngest who just turned one wasn’t scared at all by the bright lights or loud noise.  She started clapping and bouncing to the music right away.  Our oldest two took awhile to warm up.

Our seats were awesome as we were in the confetti zone.  At the beginning of the show streamers and confetti where shot out into the crowd which was really neat.  What was even better though was that during a song about the seasons, first tissue paper leaves fell, then snow!  The kids went wild!

We had an aisle seat which was really nice, not only could the kids get out there to dance, but part of the show actually came down the aisle so the kids got to see some characters up close!  The show was really interactive and fun with lots of singing and dancing.  We loved all the guest appearances, especially Biz Markie!  He really got the party started and even taught the kids how to beat box!  It was so cute seeing all of the children repeating the sounds after him.

There was an intermission about half way through the show so that kids could get a snack or use the restroom and the show itself was just the right length.  My kids had only seen the show on TV once or twice so we weren’t super fans…yet.  This morning they asked to watch it and I’m sure it will be a regular request for awhile.  Jackson who is really into robots right now loved Plex.  McKinley couldn’t decide who she liked more, Foofa or Toodee.  We were quizzed on the way home on which color each character was.  If you have the chance to see a Yo Gabba Gabba show, I highly recommend it. They are currently on tour.

Visit www.YoGabbaGabbaLive.com for complete tour, ticket and VIP package information.  You can also “like” Yo Gabba Gabba on Facebook and follow Yo Gabba Gabba on Twitter.

A complimentary product/service was provided for this post, however, all opinions expressed are my own.  I was not compensated in any other way.  See Mommies With Cents disclosure policy for more details. 

SAVVY SUNDAY:

I know for us, as a family with three small children, it’s not really easy going anywhere.  We have to make a conscience effort to get out and experience things.  We are always glad when we do and it’s always worth it.  Even if you don’t have money in your budget for shows like Yo Gabba Gabba, there are lots of free events, especially during the summer.  Do an online search for events in your area and plan to experience them as a family.  You’ll be glad you did.

What types of things does your family do for entertainment?  I’d love to hear what other families do for fun and how they expose their children to music, culture and more.  Please leave a comment!

 

 

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Savvy Sunday: 10 Minute Challenge Holiday Edition

by Holly Duce on November 6, 2011

I’ve started giving myself 10 minute challenges. I set my timer for 10 minutes and tackle a household chore while my children are having a snack or lunch. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in only 10 minutes when you focus on the task.I encourage you to join me- it really easy amazing what you are able to achieve, even if it’s incremental, if you set your mind (and timer!) to it!

The holidays are such a busy time that even small household tasks can start to become overwhelming.  Little things add up and start to take over which can cause anxiety.  To help keep your to-do list under control, try giving yourself 10 minute challenges. Pick something off your list, set a timer for 10 minutes and dig in.  Focus on the task until the timer goes off.  You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish in this small chunk of time and it will likely inspire you to complete the task or move on to the next one even after the time has expired..  Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started.

The important thing is to keep a list of the things you’d like to accomplish.  When a few spare minutes present themselves, check your list and pick a task you’d most like to cross off.  Waiting for a pot of water to boil for dinner?  Put away a basket of laundry.  Are the kids occupied while having a snack?  Drag out a box of Christmas decorations and see how much you can get up.  Have 10 minutes to spare while waiting in the car for the kids to get out of school?  Address your Christmas cards.  Chipping away at your list will help you keep things in order and your sanity in tact.

Check out the other 10 Minute Challenges here.

 

 

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Savvy Sunday: Family Gift Giving

by Holly Duce on October 30, 2011

Every family is different.  Some go all out for the holidays, some stick to a strict budget and other use a three gift rule in honor of the gifts the three wise men brought to baby Jesus.  Our family doesn’t stick hard and fast to any specific rules and every year seems to go a little differently as our family grows.  Typically we buy a large or “main” gift.  Sometimes it goes to all of the kids if it’s something they’ll all play with.  One year it was a play kitchen. One year it was a train table. This year we are thinking that the main gift will be for the whole family — a trip to Great Wolf Lodge!

For the smaller gifts I try to buy things each child needs but still likes, like princess or Toy Story pajamas, a new light up toothbrush in their stocking, or even their favorite snacks.  My husband and I often agree not to buy each other gifts and make it more about the kids but we always fill each others stockings so we have something to open on Christmas morning.

Our kids get so many toys from family members that it gets a little crazy. I have to remind myself of this every year or I add to the chaos. It’s so fun to buy the kids things, it’s easy to go overboard.  The truth is, they really don’t need a million toys and will be just as happy with the few that we give them. Keeping that in mind, I try to make my selections very carefully to get them the things they want most and that will actually get played with rather than sitting in the bottom of the toy box after the novelty wears off.

So far we’ve only done gifts from Santa and gifts from us.  The kids don’t give each other gifts though that’s something I’d like to start doing soon thought it certainly complicates things. How does your family handle Christmas gift giving?  I’d love to hear what works best for you!

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We have three kids ages 4, almost 3, and just turned one.  My husband works full time outside of the home and between all of my projects, I pretty much work full time IN the home.  It’s difficult to find quality find to spend together as a family, let alone individual one-on-one time to spend with each of our children.  We have to get creative because I think it’s important for our kids to have our undivided attention from time to time.  Today my husband took our middle child grocery shopping with him “to help him remember the list” while my oldest and I stayed home and baked Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins together while our youngest napped.

Baking with kids gives them a sense of accomplishment.  Jackson was so proud to give the muffins he made to Daddy and McKinley for snack when they got back from the grocery store.  I helped him measure out ingredients and he added them and helped mix.  We had a lot of fun together and the muffins he made turned out perfect! Here’s the recipe:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 Can (16 oz) pureed pumpkin
1 1/2 cups oil
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 package chocolate chips

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, pumpkin, and oil until smooth.  Add in dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips.  Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop up and drop batter into greased or paper-lined muffin cups (so they are about 3/4 full).  Bake at 400 degrees for 16 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Makes about 30 muffins.

So while you may not always have the time to do the things you’d LIKE to do individually with your children, get creative and work out ways to give them the special attention they deserve in other ways.  We marked two things off of our to-do list today while still making the time spent together special.  Even when I just take one child with me to run errands, we have that time to talk without interruptions. Whether in the car, or from the grocery cart my kids have a lot to say when they can actually be heard (which can be difficult when 3 kids are competing for talk time).

How do you make special time with your kids?

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Savvy Sunday: 5 Fun Fall Projects to Do with Leaves

by Holly Duce on October 9, 2011

I love fall.  Especially the crisp and sunny days where the trees are ablaze with color.  Celebrate the season with your kids with a couple of small art projects using leaves. Take a nature walk and collect leaves of different sizes, shapes and colors. Then bring them home, have a snack of sliced apples with carmel dip and get to work on some projects! I’ve suggested a few here to get you started but let the nature of the season guide you!

  1. Leaf Rubbings — This is a great project to learn about textures.  Place your leaves under a sheet of paper then using a crayon with the paper peeled off, lay it horizontally on top of the paper and rub it all over until the shapes of leaves appear.
  2. Leaf Wreaths — Cut the center out of a paper plate and paint what remains brown. Glue leaves of different colors and sizes all over it.  Kids will love hanging it on their bedroom door to decorate for the season.
  3. Leaf Puppets — Use construction paper to cut out a head, shirt and pants or a dress.  Glue them together.  Use small leaves in an overlapping pattern to create garments for your puppet.  You can also use leaves as hair.  Dress up the outfits by adding sequins or rhinestone embellishments.  Tape a long twig to the back as a puppet handle and tape sticks on for the arms as well.  Send the kids off to put on a Fall puppet fashion show.
  4. Leaf Window Hangings — Pick out the prettiest leaves and arrange them on the sticky side of a sheet of contact paper.  Seal with a second sheet of contact paper and cut out in any shape you desire (a leaf shape would be cool!)  Punch a hole in the top and tie a loop of yarn through it to tack into the wall above a window so it hangs down and catches the light.
  5. Leaf Imprints — Paint one side of a leave (vein side up) then press it carefully onto a piece of paper then remove (like a stamp).  Repeat with different colors to achieve the design you desire.

What fun fall projects are you making with your kids this season?  We’d love to hear!  Please “leaf” a comment! :)

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Savvy Sunday: Celebrating Birthdays

by Holly Duce on October 2, 2011

In our family, the most important thing about birthdays is celebrating together and making the birthday boy or girl feel special. Yesterday we celebrated my youngest daughter’s first birthday and while she won’t have her own memories of it, I made sure to take lots of pictures and video so she’ll be able to look back and see how happy we all were celebrating her first year of life.

Family gatherings don’t seem complete without a meal so I made a giant crockpot of white chicken chili (which the birthday girl loved!), a giant cupcake smash cake, matching cherry chip cupcakes with almond buttercream frosting, cupcake cake bites and cherry vanilla ice cream in molded chocolate bowls.  To complete the cherry theme and keep it easy, I just poured cherry 7-up over ice in punch bowls.

The cupcake bites and molded chocolate bowls were a hit but completely went against my own rule of keeping it simple. There’s just something about a child’s first birthday party though, that makes me want to make it that much more special.  Plus, they fit right in with the adorable decorations I got from 1stbirthdayparty.com.  I fell in love with the Sweet Treats party items and just had to have them:

They had everything from dinner plates to cake plates, napkins, cups, table covers, banners, hanging decorations, treat bags and more.  Everything was reasonably priced.  How could I resist these?

 

The dessert plates were only $1.85 for a pack of 8 and everything was under $5 each (pack) including the decorations.  I could have gone absolutely crazy and over the top with this stuff because they had so many coordinating items!  I stuck with plates, cups, napkins, table covers, treat bags, a foil balloon, first birthday candle, hanging decorations and banner.  All of it made for a super cute party atmosphere!

If you are looking for party decorations at decent prices shipped right to your door, be sure to check out www.1stbirthdayparty.com.

So, aside from food, family and fun decorations, I make a point to write a letter to each of my kids on their birthday every year.  I write about how much they’ve grown and learned over the past year, they cute things they’ve done or said and their accomplishments.  In these early years it’s things like becoming potty trained, visiting the dentist for the first time, learning their colors and numbers etc.  I keep a special journal for each of my three kids that I plan on giving them on their 18th birthday.  Each one starts with an entry when I found out I was pregnant.  I do small updates throughout the year but the birthday update is the main entry.  I may fall behind on photo albums and even their baby books but at least I’ll have these special journals for them!

What family traditions do you have for making birthdays extra special?  I’d love to year how you celebrate!

This is a sponsored post. See Mommies With Cents disclosure policy for more details.

 

 

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Savvy Sunday: Things I Wish I Would Have Known

by Holly Duce on September 25, 2011

I was a nanny for almost 10 years before I had kids of my own.  I thought I had things pretty figured out.  I got married, we bought a house and we started fixing it up just the way we wanted it.  Then we had kids.  Looking back, I’d do some things differently.  Here are a few examples.Doorknobs.  Who would have thought there was a right and wrong when it comes to kids.  While these lever knobs look really nice, they allow small children to open doors long before they would learn to turn a standard door knob.  Child safety devices for these knobs are not only much harder to find, they’re more expensive too.  We ended up switching back to regular knobs on many of our doors.  Had we known, we would have saved a decent chunk of change by not spending more money on these fancier knobs to begin with.

While we always get compliments on this sink in our “guest” bathroom, it’s horrible for small kids. This bathroom happens to be the only one with a bathtub and the one our kids use most often.  Right now we don’t want to spend the money to replace it but this thing drives me nuts.  It’s hard to clean under and just not very functional at all.  Looking back I would have purchased a normal sink.

As you can see, blinds and my kids do no get along.  No, I do not “let” my children do this.  It happens at nap time when they’d rather try to look out the window than actually rest their pretty little heads.  It was too late after the first time and even though we’ve had plenty of talks and discipline to curb this behavior, they just can’t help themselves.  Other window treatment options would be preferable in kids’ rooms.

I won’t gross you out with a picture of the last one.  For some reason I chose a sort of stucco style textured paint for our kitchen.  I can tell you that peanut butter and jelly does not easily wash off of wall textured like sand paper.  Nor does just about any other food or substance that reaches the wall via grubby little hands.  Try as I might, I just can’t embrace this “artistic” look.

What are some things you wish you would have known or done differently before having kids?

While you’re here, why not check out the other articles in the Savvy Sunday series.

 

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Savvy Sunday: Kool Aid Play Dough Halloween Treats

by Holly Duce on September 18, 2011

Did you know you can make your own play dough with common household items you probably already have on hand?  What kid doesn’t love playing with play dough?  They’ll especially love this recipe because they’ll get to help you make it and it smells good enough to eat!  Not only does the Kool Aid give the dough it’s color, it gives it a yummy fragrance as well!

Ingredients:

2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. salt
3 Tbsp. cooking oil
2 Cups Boiling Water
2 pkg. unsweetened Kool-Aid
Directions:
Mix dry ingredients. Add oil and boiling water water. Mix with a spoon until cooled enough to knead with your hands. Store in airtight container.
Experiment with different flavors of Kool aid for a variety of colors and scents.  The dough will smell good enough to eat and since your little one may actually take a bite, rest assured that this recipe is non-toxic.
Kool Aid play dough is perfect for party favors and holiday treats.  Last year we made pink play dough for Valentine’s Day.  This year we are making Orange play dough for my son’s preschool class.  Disposable (yet reusable) Ziplock or Glad type containers in the  1 to 2 cup size are perfect for packaging the gift. If you can find a package of small containers at the dollar store, even better!  I found mini pumpkin cookie cutters on Ebay for a great price.  We’ll be using scrapbook paper, ribbon and stickers to transform our containers into festive gift packaging.  I’m happy to have found a non-edible treat that I know the kids will enjoy.  Parents will appreciate the sugarless treat while children will enjoy  the fun activity. 
I haven’t come up with a final design for our containers.  This was just one I had on hand.  The blue lid was hard to hide so I’ll be looking for something a bit different.  I tried to tie the cookie cutter on but it looked funny.  That got me thinking — I could print out a cute recipe card and tie the cookie cutter to it!  I’ve got a few weeks until Halloween but I wanted to get this posted so you’d have time to gather your supplies if you wanted to join in the fun!
Don’t forget to include your kids on the play dough making process!
While you’re here, why not check out the other articles in the Savvy Sunday series.

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Savvy Sunday: Family Toothbrushing

by Holly Duce on September 11, 2011

It might seem a little strange to most people, but we brush our teeth in the kitchen — as a family!  There’s a lot more room in the kitchen than the bathroom with a bigger sink too.  We keep our toothbrushes on top of the microwave which is on the counter next to the sink.  The kids like to pull a chair over to the sink so they can get their own drink of water afterwards.  Our oldest two who are 4 and 2.5 watch each other and compete for who does the best job.  Every so often I pop the toothbrushes in the dishwasher for a cleaning!  While it may not be the traditional toothbrushing area, it works for us!

Do you have any non-traditional family activities? Something other people might find a little odd?  Who knows!  They might think your way is the savvy way.  Please share your ideas by leaving a comment!

While you’re here, why not check out the other articles in the Savvy Sunday series.

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Savvy Sunday: Halloween Costumes

September 4, 2011

Halloween costumes don’t have to cost an arm and a leg.  All it takes is a little creativity to pull off an adorable kids costume for a few bucks (or FREE if you already have the supplies on hand).  But what do you do if you don’t have a creative bone in your body or […]

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Savvy Sunday: Camping with Kids (Monday Edition!)

August 29, 2011

Our family has an annual tradition.  Every summer we go camping together on the Oregon coast.  The very first year we went I found out I was pregnant with our first child.  Since then we’ve added two more children to the mix and have experienced camping with small children for several years.  There are several […]

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Savvy Sunday: My Back to School Clothes Shopping Secret

August 21, 2011

I love shopping for clothes for my kids but I do have a budget to stick to.  I try to stretch it as far as it will go.  My best “secret” way to do this is to layer shirts in the colder seasons.  For my son, I buy a lot of polo shirts and t-shirts […]

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Beat the Heat: Turn a Day at the Mall Into a Low Cost Adventure

July 31, 2011

What do you do when it’s a million degrees outside and your kids are chomping at the bit for a little activity? Living in the Seattle area I’ve mastered the art of turning a day at the mall into a low cost adventure to get out of the rain.  The same concept can be applied […]

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