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Review: COOLIT

Tell me if this sounds familiar, parents:

You make a meal for your child, but because most foods have to be heated, it’s too hot for your precious child’s plate! Those chicken nuggets are now as hot as burning embers! That macaroni and cheese might as well be molton lava! Okay, not exactly, but still — it’s too hot for your child to eat without some significant cooling taking place.

coolitbowl

With this new, innovative product, The COOLIT, parents simply put the entree onto the special freezable dish and stir it for one minute! At that time, you can transfer it to your child’s plate or bowl and serve it. No more placing their bowl in the fridge and accidentally forgetting it (done it)! No more frantic blowing on your child’s food! The COOLIT takes your child’s food from hot to serve-able in just one minute!

Here’s how it works:

The COOLIT is a 2″ x 8″ BPA and phthlate-free dish that is placed into your freezer for at least three hours. It’s not a serving dish, you only use it for about a minute as you take your child’s meal off of the stove or out of the microwave. The non-toxic gel inside the COOLIT allows for rapid cooling of food placed in the dish! It’s dishwasher safe, so just toss it onto the top rack of your dishwasher after each use!

We had a chance to test out the COOLIT for ourselves! Here it is with a few servings of Horizon organic (cow) macaroni and cheese:

I love how easy it is to use. No fuss, it just does what it says! Instead of my boys having to wait and keep checking if their food was okay to eat, their food is ready in no time at all!

Perhaps you’re like me and also run into this issue in restaurants. You can put your COOLIT in a small insulated bag and slip it into your purse or diaper bag to use in a restaurant! Just pay attention to the time, you don’t want it to sit in your diaper bag for hours and then not be much use for you at your restaurant of choice.

The COOLIT is affordable, at only $9.99, and can be purchased online at www.theCOOLIT.com as well as online retailers like Amazon, Zulily, and eBay!

Disclosure:  I received one complimentary COOLIT to facilitate my review. I was not paid for this post, nor was I required to give a positive review. My opinions are my very own.

 

Review: PlayTape

Every once in awhile, a product comes along that I think “It’s so simple, but so brilliant!” PlayTape is one of those products — it’s tape that looks like a road, perfect for boy moms!

playtape

 

I was so excited to get some samples of PlayTape from InRoad Toys. It comes in multiple colors and widths and easily sticks to all kinds of surfaces without the fear of it leaving a sticky residue. We used it on our hardwood floors as well as our walls, left them on for a few days, and they came up quickly without leaving a mark!

I had the opportunity to ask some questions of the creator of PlayTape:

1) What was your inspiration for the creation of PlayTape?

PlayTape was created out of necessity. In 2002, Brian Musliner, the youngest of my three boys, was 3 years old and a veritable car fanatic. All he wanted for Christmas that year was “A Big Box of Cars.” And that’s exactly what he got. Dozens of them. (See photos below and notice the cars on the pajamas). But then the obvious question arose: Where do you drive them all? There are millions of toy cars in the market, but there are no toy roads. That challenge set Brian’s father, Andy Musliner, on a 12-year quest to design the perfect toy for building roads…anywhere. In 2014, the world was introduced to PlayTape, the fastest, best way to create roads. Now almost 16, Brian works on strategy and merchandising for the product he so desperately needed when he was a young boy.

2) What is the most creative way you’ve seen PlayTape used?

First a smart parent: One of the earliest, best examples of people using PlayTape creatively and smartly was a clever parent who realized they could take a car and a roll of PlayTape roads to a restaurant and keep their child busy both while they were waiting for food and after they had finished it. Their son had an entire playscape created on the restaurant table, which was undisturbed by the food arriving. Happy kids. Happy parents. Pleasant meal.

Then a clever child: We gave PlayTape out at a Cub Scout Pinewood Derby event, along with some toy cars to use to play with it. One 3-yr old found a toy steamroller amongst the cars we brought. He put the steamroller in front of the roll of PlayTape and then pushed the steamroller which rolled out the road, just like in real life. Very clever.

3) Who do you think loves PlayTape more — the kids or adults?

Tough call. I get a lot of parents who say with envy, “Where was THAT when I was a kid?” The simplicity of PlayTape also appeals to the parent who wants their child to use their brain to think creatively. We are honored to hear “Brilliant!” frequently from parents who describe PlayTape. But the smile on a child’s face when they proudly show off their own PlayTape creation is what’s most rewarding. People send us their home videos. We don’t necessarily get permission to show them publicly but they are great. One story is particularly telling: A 5-year old boy was happily rolling out PlayTape road for a good long while until he ran out of PlayTape. He cried for 20 minutes until his mother painstakingly unstuck some pieces he had semi-wadded up and tossed aside. I don’t know of a parent who has cried over PlayTape yet ;)

I also shared my samples with the preschool teachers at the school where I work. They were equally impressed with the product and used it with their students to create letters on the tables for the kids to drive cars over as they practiced the letter’s name and sounds. This type of tactile stimulation and multi-sensory experience really helps drive home (see what I did there?) this fundamental knowledge.

My boys loved having their special road in the house, it totally saved the day on a rainy afternoon! This is such an easy thing to keep around at home or in the car for your kids and can keep them occupied for hours as they keep building on to their towns and cities!

PlayTape – available in the Classic Road Series colors of black, orange, and purple (various sizes) and now their Classic Rail Series (railroad tracks!) at www.inroadtoys.com for the price point of $7.99-12.99!

Disclosure:  I received complimentary samples of this product in exchange for my honest review. I was not paid for this post or my opinion. All opinions are my very own and I was not required to write a positive review.

Recipes for Women on the Go

Today I’m honored to bring you recipes for women on the go from Chef Gaby Dalkin!

When you’re looking for a delicious snack or a way to spice up a get-together, try Twistos!

Here’s that breaded chicken fingers recipe Gaby mentions in the video:

Bruschetta Breaded Chicken Fingers

Recipe:
Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup crushed TWISTOS Bruschetta Flavored Baked Snack Bites
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
½ cup vegetable oil for frying

Directions

  • Carefully cut each of the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces, about 1-2 inches each.
  • Place the chicken strips into a large resealable plastic bag.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk and garlic powder. Pour the liquid into the bag with chicken. Seal, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  • In another large resealable plastic bag, mix together the flour, crushed TWISTOS Bruschetta Flavored Baked Snack Bites, salt and pepper. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, and drain off the liquid. Place the chicken into flour mixture bag. Seal and shake to coat.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large, heavy bottom skillet over medium heat. Carefully place coated chicken in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown on both sides and fully cooked. Remove cooked chicken with a pair of tongs and drain on paper towels.
  • Serve alongside your dipping sauce of choice.

Answering Your Disney Questions

Oh hi! *waves like a dork* It’s been awhile, huh?

Yeah, I’ve been the worst kind of blogger-slacker in the past year, the kind that says “Y’all I’m gonna change my ways and really get my act together” and then never does. So sorry ’bout that. I could tell you I’m just super busy, but everyone is super busy. It’s more that I can’t get motivated to sit down and write. But every so often, I have a post I really want to write and I just MAKE myself do it, and today is one of those posts.

DisneyWorldFamily1Most of you who know me in real life or who follow my Facebook Page know that I’ve been planning our family’s first trip to Disney World since October and we took our vacation two weeks ago during our Spring Break, March 31st-April 4th. I became pretty wrapped up in all the planning and really did a lot of research and work to make our trip memorable, so I did want to cover it here on the blog.

The only problem is that there are about sixteen bajillion (I’m estimating on the low end) definitive posts on How To Do Disney World With Kids blog posts out there, so I just want to cover the things that YOU want to know. So I asked on Facebook what questions you had for me and now I’m going to answer them, in no particular order:

1) How did all your meticulous planning pay off?

I have one of those personality types where if I find something I’m really interested in, I will relentlessly pursue it until I pretty much exhaust all resources. Not surprisingly, since I was so insistent that our family take this vacation, I jumped in with both feet and really sought out the best resources on the Internet. My two favorites are WDW Prep School (and WDW Prep To Go, the podcast companion) and TouringPlans.com. I paid for a Touring Plans membership to create customized “touring plans” for each day of our trip that included estimated wait times, durations, and walk times to the next attractions. I used input from WDW Prep School and Touring Plans’s writers to come up with what I thought would be the best touring plans for our family, which consisted of my 4 year old, 5 year old, my husband, my parents, and myself.

I’m happy to report that with my planning and some improvising, we were able to see and do everything that was important to us, and many things we were able to experience twice or more. I’m not saying there weren’t surprises along the way, but for the most part, I felt prepared for each day and what we would have to do in order to use our time wisely.

2) What is worth using fast passes for at each park?

This is really going to vary for each group, but I’ll tell you what we used ours for at each park:

Epcot – We used our Tier 1 FastPass+ reservation on Soarin’. Because of the way Epcot currently structures their FP+, you get ONE FP+ reservation from a list of the top attractions at Epcot. We did NOT use a FP+ for Test Track and ended up waiting in line for over an hour, by far our longest wait of the trip. The wait time was supposed to be 60 minutes, but the ride was broken down while we were waiting, so obviously that added to the time. We could have used FP+s on Mission Space: Green, Spaceship Earth, etc., but the wait times were 10 minutes or less for everything else. There’s no reason to use a FP+ on rides where the wait is 20 minutes. Some sources say if a wait is 30 minutes not to use your FP+, but sometimes you need those 30 minutes. Anyway, I’m just sayin’, we saw a lot of people using their FP+ reservations as we got into the “standby line” and we literally walked on to the ride together. What is the point of that?

Animal Kingdom – AK does not currently have a tiered FP+ system, so you get 3 and can choose any attraction that uses FP+ (all of them do at AK I think). We used ours for the Safaris right after our breakfast reservation, but we might not have needed to use them. It was hard to tell how long the line actually was, and we didn’t need them for anything else, so we just used them. Our 2nd FP+ Brandon and I used on Expedition Everest. We were able to wait 25 minutes and ride it once without FP+ and afterward when the line was longer, we used our existing FP+. We planned to use our 3rd for Primevil Whirl, but it was shut down. By that time, we had done everything else and Primevil Whirl was to be our last stop before leaving the park.

Hollywood Studios – We used our FP+ for Toy Story Mania, but we rode it first thing with only a *maybe* 20-minute wait. So we rode once “standby”, stood in line to meet Buzz and Woody, then re-rode it with FP+. We had planned to ride Rock ‘n Rollercoaster first thing, but in the moment I decided that the boys really would want to ride Toy Story Mania twice, so I sacrificed. We (Brandon and I) later waited in a maybe 30-minute line for RnR after we rode Tower of Terror (once without FP+, once with).

Magic Kingdom – We took 2 days to do Magic Kingdom, so we had 6 FP+ to use over 2 days. We used ours for Peter Pan’s Flight, Splash Mountain (rode once with FP+, once without), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (1x with FP+, 2-3x without…our boys really liked it and there was almost no line), and Pirates of the Caribbean. Our FP+s didn’t work exactly perfectly at Magic Kingdom. There’s just so much to do there that it was hard to make all the timing work out. I also didn’t find that they were easy to change using the My Disney Experience app once we were in the park. We were still able to do and see everything, it’s just that the FP+ didn’t end up being super advantageous every time.


3) How long it takes to get from resorts to park?

I had planned for an hour’s transport time, but it ended up taking about 30 minutes. We stayed at Art of Animation, which is a value resort, but it has its own buses, meaning that we didn’t have to stop at other resorts. The buses arrive at AoA about every 15 minutes (shorter time for Magic Kingdom because they run more buses there), and then it was about a 15 minute ride to each of the parks. Sometimes the buses were crowded, but mostly it wasn’t bad at all. At the end of the day, that 15 minute wait at the bus stop can be brutal, but it’s all part the experience — one of those things you laugh about later.

4) When you told your boys and how?

We told the boys at Christmas, a little over 3 months before our trip. I briefly considered trying to pull off a surprise trip and in the end, I’m glad we told them. First, I’m not good at secrets and I hate surprises. I know my kids and I know they prefer to know what’s going on. Second, we could talk about the trip for 3 months and really hype it and use the excitement to get more money’s worth! Third, we did a countdown chair that the boys loved. Fourth, surprises are risky. Everyone wants their video to go viral with an awesome reaction, but kids are kids and their reactions can’t be predicted.

Anyway, I hired this guy on Fiverr (at WDW Prep School Shannon’s suggestion) to record a “voicemail” from Mickey and Goofy. He charged me $5, sent me an audio file, which I added some photos to, and put the video on my phone. We played it for the boys on Christmas morning. Here’s the video :) They totally bought it and thought Mickey and Goofy had called them. Many of you also saw my Instagram photos of our little “Mouse in the House” gifts from Mickey in our final 10 days before the trip. I think they really thought those were coming from Mickey too!

5) Did you plan everything out for each day or let the boys decide on some things once in parks?

I did have most things planned out for each day. We had one meal reservation each day (more on that later), and our touring plan (with FP+s) which included all of the attractions, parades, and shows that we wanted to see. Now — was I totally tied to the schedule? Nope. I had a general idea of where we would be and if we *had* to be someplace for a reservation, but we were flexible. Like I said earlier, we rode many things multiple times, just because the boys wanted to do it. And then we had planned to take midday breaks earlier in the week but we didn’t do this until our Magic Kingdom days because it didn’t make much sense in terms of time. I think it’s really important to be flexible. Have a general plan and know where you plan to go, but you have to be willing to change.

Okay, I’m 1500 words in and I’ve only gotten to about half of the questions. So in another post (soon, I promise!), I’ll cover these questions and more:  Did you feel like your camera was a constant attachment? What did you think of those strollers you took? What are the must do things? And I’m planning an entire post just on the character meals. More to come!

What else do you want to know? Tell me in the comments!

When I shop for rugs

Every.Time.

when i shop for rugs

Krogering to Disney!

In honor of our upcoming Disney World vacation being paid off in full as of today (54 days before we arrive), I want to share the simple way we paid off our trip and how it wasn’t as painful as it might have been otherwise.

A little background:  We started planning our trip during Fall Break, in October. On a whim, after a few years of “Well, we’ll go in a few years…” and “Maybe when they’re a little bit older…”, we decided to go on and just do it. We didn’t have money saved up for the trip already and we don’t have a ton of extra money after bills each month. We both work and are paid twice each month.

The simple thing we did was to purchase Disney gift cards at Kroger each time we got paid. We started doing $200 every paycheck but we had to step that up before and after Christmas. We also got a really big Disney card gift from my parents for Christmas that we applied to our trip. We are using an authorized Disney vacation planner (Tiffany Hanks from Off to Neverland Travel – If you tell her I sent you and you end up booking through her, I might receive a $25 gift card, just so you’re aware!) so I just take a photo of the back of the card and send the photo to Tiffany! It’s been wonderful, she’s taken care of everything and saved me a lot of time!

Our trip is costing about $3,000 (no airfare, 5 nights at the Art of Animation, regular dining plan, 5 day base tickets for 2 adults 2 kids). If we had just done $200 each paycheck (2x/month), it would have been paid for relatively “painfree” in 7.5 months.

Disney gift cardThe great thing about getting our Disney gift cards at Kroger is of course the gas points! At Kroger (and other big grocery chains), you get double gas points on gift cards. So every two weeks, we would get $o.40 off per gallon, sometimes more if they were running a special promotion. The times when we did more, like today when I got a $500 card, we could get $1.00 off per gallon! That can go a long way with today’s high gas prices!

One small tip about going this route:  Find a Kroger store that carries the choose your own amount gift cards. I’ve seen them in denominations of $25, $45 (3 $15 cards), $50, and the ones for any amount from $50-500. This just saves a little hassle, so you don’t have to scratch off and send in multiple gift cards.

Being able to pay for the trip a little at a time has make this quickly-planned trip easy to handle on a budget, so I recommend this way of paying to anyone trying to do the same thing!

Is there a better way to use Disney gift cards? Have you used them to pay for a Disney trip?

Curl up by the fire with Duraflame!

If your neck of the woods is anything like mine (central Kentucky), it is COLD. Not just a little chilly…I mean COLD.

Natural Duraflame firelogI’ll be the first to admit, I’m a wimp on both ends of the weather spectrum — the very cold days, the very hot days? I’m not a fan. But the one thing that can make me enjoy a cold day is curling up by a warm and toasty fire with my kids! We don’t have a fireplace at our house and have enjoyed outdoor fires in our backyard fire pit thanks to Duraflame before, and over Christmas vacation, we warmed ourselves by the fire at my parents’ house with a fabulous Duraflame log.

And Then...Story Starters Duraflame sent us a firelog along with this awesome set of story starters from Compendium, a gift company that makes some awesome products! They sent “And Then…” (Volume One), a set of 20 story-starting prompts to get your kids’ creative juices flowing!

These story starters are so much fun! It gets you set up with a really cool premise, sets a scene, and ends with “and then…”! Your kids will amaze you and most likely inspire some laughs with the fun ways they’ll finish the story. Whether your story starts with a secret door or a hot air balloon, you’ll be transported to a story where anything can happen!

Starting a story

Curling up by the fire with Duraflame

I can’t think of a better way to spend a snow day than to be snuggled up with my kids by a warm fireplace with a Duraflame log, telling stories with my boys.

Thank you, Compedium and Duraflame, for making the cold weather enjoyable!

And Then…Volume One is available for $24.95 at live-inspired.com! Duraflame logs are available at most grocery stores! Check out their full line of products at Duraflame.com!

Disclosure:  Duraflame’s awesome PR team sent me a complimentary firelog and the story starters set in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for this post and my thoughts are my own.

Winter Storm? Meh.

For everyone who lives in a not-quite-Midwest and not-quite-The-South state like Kentucky, I give you this:

not impressed with this winter storm

We constantly get forecasts of apocalyptic snow and it NEVER HAPPENS. Gettin’ real tired of your lies, meteorologists*.

*Disclaimer:  I know, they’re not fortune-tellers. But really.

Autograph Books for WDW at Dollar Tree!

Are you and your family heading to Walt Disney World or another Disney resort in 2014? Then GET THEE TO A DOLLAR TREE!

Not only do they have some adorable Disney toys and whatnot, up by the register today, I found these Journals that are PERFECT to use for character autograph books!

Autograph books for WDW at Dollar Tree!

There is also a Minnie Mouse variety, but I got two of the Mickey & Friends books and we will customize them for each of our boys so they can keep their own books. How cute are these, and only $1.00 each!

If you foresee many trips to The World, you could get many books, but I would recommend just checking back every few months, as the styles are bound to change!

The Blue Car

A few weeks ago, my husband and I took our boys, Miles (5) and Spencer (3) to see Santa. We had put it off several times because it just seemed like a big ordeal, we knew it would be busy, and we just wanted it to be “right.”

Do you know what I mean, wanting it to be “right”? I want everyone to be dressed nicely, faces freshly scrubbed, no one overtired and grumpy…Unfortunately, I fear that I spend so much time waiting for the “right” moment that I miss the opportunity to just let things happen. And when I just let things happen, I’m usually amazed by how my vision of right was actually wrong.

TheBlueCarFor about a week prior, I had been prepping the boys, asking them to be thinking of what they wanted for Christmas, telling them that this was their chance to ask Santa for something.We finally made it to see the mall Santa, after securing a Fast Pass to avoid the inevitably long line. We were able to bypass the line, which would have easily meant an hour or more’s wait, and after just five minutes in line, it was our turn.

It happened quickly, the boys went up to talk to Santa by themselves while we stood to the side, then they smiled for the camera and we got a cute picture to put into a scrapbook. As we walked over to the checkout desk to receive our photo, I bent down and asked the boys what they had asked Santa for. Miles looked at me and said “I asked Santa for a blue car to give to a boy or girl who doesn’t have any toys. We have a lot of toys, too many cars, Mommy.” Feeling a lump in my throat, I hugged tightly and gave him a kiss on the top of his head.

Over the next few days, Miles continued to talk about the blue car. “I hope Santa remembers to bring the blue car to give to another kid.” “Another kid is going to be so happy to see that blue car!” In the busyness of the season, I made several frantic trips around town grabbing last minute gifts and sure enough, on Christmas Eve, I was in Walmart  searching for a blue car to wrap and put under the tree from Santa.

Before wrapping the car, I wrote a letter to Miles from Santa (sorry, Claus, I forged your name) and included it in the package.

TheBlueCarLetter

I have to admit, I was slightly worried that he would unwrap the gift and want to play with the car, thinking that perhaps he would forget about those kids who don’t get many presents at Christmas. But the next morning, the boys opened their one gift from Santa and Miles said “I’m not going to get this out, we’re going to save it for another boy or girl.”

Without a plan as to what we would do with the toy, we loaded up the car that afternoon and headed to Tennessee to visit my parents. My mom, always well-prepared, called a few non-profit organizations in their area to find a place where we could deliver the car.

TheBlueCarDeliveryBefore we arrived at Mom and Dad’s house, after a long day in the car, we stopped at a homeless shelter that was serving a Christmas meal. We walked in and found a staff person and I asked Miles to tell him why we were there. Miles handed the car to the man and said “I asked Santa for this car to give to someone who doesn’t have a lot of toys.” We spoke to the man for a few moments and he asked for Miles’s name and then we left, having delivered that special blue car.

I know the car isn’t a big deal; it’s not a fantastic toy that a child would be hoping to receive under their Christmas tree. But for us, it was about the reminder that we are blessed beyond measure and that we need to spend time giving rather than receiving during the holidays and throughout the year. I’m not sure where he got the idea to ask Santa for a gift for someone else. It might have come from church, or the Christian school where he attends Kindergarten. It may have come from our recent trip to get small gifts to pack in a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. It may have come from my requests to think of some toys in their playroom that we could get rid of, because we have so many.

Wherever it came from, I was grateful for my son’s sweet request and I hope that he continues to not just understand that others don’t live in a nice house, have food on the table at every meal, and more than enough toys, but wants to act on that understanding. I hope he can remind me often that it’s more important to think of others than ourselves. And finally, I hope he knows that this Christmas, he received a most wonderful gift, the gift of giving.