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Twinneroo Review & Twin Diaper Bag Packing Tips

In my life as a mother of multiples there have been three major areas which I have struggled to find the perfect fit for our family: strollers, carriers, and diaper bags.

I recently had the opportunity to review the new Twinneroo Twin Diaper Bag from the creators of the TwinTrexx carrier. Both of these products have been designed by a mother of twins and she has created some great solutions to problems we tend to find in other bags and carriers. You can read my review of the TwinTrexx Carrier here.

The Twinneroo Twin Diaper Bag is made out of a durable canvas fabric that should hold up well with lots of use. It’s definitely not a fashion bag, but if you want a little more design, you could tie a scarf on to the handle or add some cute mini buttons to add flair. (ThirtyOne Gifts makes some cute bag flair!)

The canvas fabric helps the bag with one of it’s unique features, to be able to stay open wide without collapsing in on itself. The top of the bag actually has a metal frame inside of it, which creates a nice working space for getting in and out of your bag and keeps the Twinneroo open while you search inside!

The bag has a zip closure which is nice because twins getting into a diaper bag is disastrous and having entire pack of diapers dumping out car is not fun. The metal frame made the bag a little difficult to zip when it was packed at full capacity. I was able to get it to close a little more easily though by holding the tabs on the outside of the zipper while holding the frame together and then pulling the zipper with the other hand.

The bag is generously sized at 17.5″L x 14.5″H x 8″W, without being overwhelming. It comes with a single shoulder strap that crosses diagonally across the bag. The strap is great because the bag doesn’t swing out from under your arm when you go to pick up an infant carrier, etc.

Another unique feature of this bag is that it comes with 2 neutral colored inserts with several pockets to keep kid specific stuff. (one light, one dark brown) These mini bags are very similar to Thirty One Gift’s mini-organizers. If you need more than two for another sibling a black insert can be purchased separately at stuff4multiples.com.

I can’t tell you how many times I ended up changing diapers for 30 minutes when we were out because all of our stuff was in one bag. “Here’s a kid, here’s their bag.” You could also get creative and dress these bags up a little too! The divide and conquer technique just got a million times easier!

On the front outside of the bag there are two large, insulated pockets that can be used to keep food hot or cold. I was able to fit three large Playtex Drop-in bottles in each pocket. So that is a total of 6 large bottles! There are also pockets on the sides that can be used for items that don’t need to be insulated or things that you want to be able to get to quickly, aka YOUR stuff!

Inside the bag there are six mesh pockets that are the perfect size for disposable diapers and soft wipe packs. With every pocket full and the inserts loaded, I still had more room in the bag for an extra insert and a couple large blankets.

The diaper bag that was sent to me for this review is now being road tested by an awesome family with newborn triplets. She told me today that after a month of use they still love the bag. I am hoping that she will swing by this post and leave a note in the comments.

I want to end my review by sharing few tips for packing any diaper bag more efficiently for multiples.

Tips for Packing a Diaper Bag for Multiples

  • Roll blankets and clothing to help get it more compact and tighter.
  • Instead of large fluffy blankets, consider packing large light blankets like Aden and Anais Swaddle blankets. These blankets are great and can be used for a variety of purposes (nursing cover, to lay on the floor, provide shade over an infant carrier, etc.). They also roll up nicely and do not take up as much room as receiving blankets.
  • Use one piece rompers as emergency clothing pieces instead of 2+ piece outfits.
  • Carry a wetbag even if you don’t cloth diaper for soiled clothing. Store a few grocery store bags instead in case you have a really smelly diaper you can’t get rid of (or two!).

Do you have an diaper bag tips to share? Please add them in the comments below!

Disclosure Statement:  I was not compensated monetarily for this review.  I received a product in exchange for an honest and fair review.  All thoughts are my own.

 

Isis. Parenting Starts Here

Packing Light

I love to be the one to deliver good news.

If you’ve done much traveling with a baby or two babies or a baby and a young toddler or some other combination of young’uns, you’ve probably stood, looking at a pile of suitcases and travel gear for your family and thought (or said or screamed) “WHY IS THERE SO MUCH STUFF?!?!” I have, in fact, done this.  Multiple times.  In fact, I’ve whined about it here.  And here!

It is incredible how much junk one thinks they need for a trip with kids, be it a weekend or week-long vacation.

  • A bag with clothes for the children. I like to use this equation to figure out how many outfits you’ll need:  # of days x # of children + 1 extra per child + 1 or 2 pairs of jammies = Outfits in the suitcase
  • A bag with toiletries for the children
  • Diapers (As much as I love our cloth diapers, I’m not so hardcore that I use cloth while traveling.)
  • High chair/booster seat for those that need them
  • Pack N Play for those in cribs
  • Favorite loveys/blankies
  • Things to do – books, toys – for the car and destination
  • Stroller for destination if needed
  • Sippy cups and snacks
  • Special foods (baby food, Puffs, etc.)

There are times when I would arrive at my parents with the boys for a weekend visit and it would look like I was moving in.  I might as well have packed up the entire house. And it felt like I had!  I have a bad habit of trying to do every possible thing to make the house look perfect and squared away before we leave for a trip (who wants to come home to a messy house?) which means I stay up too late the night before and have a mile-long To Do list.

So now for the good news!  It doesn’t have to be like that!

My kids aren’t grown or anything, they’re 2 and almost (next month!) 4 but ahhhhhhhhhh, there’s so much less stuff now!  No high chairs, no Pack N Plays, no special toys needed.  For our trip this weekend they have a very small bag with their clothes (5 outfits each plus 2 jammies each) and a small bag with toothbrushes, toothpaste, and shampoo/wash in a box that holds the diapers and nighttime pull ups.  I’ll put Miles’s LeapPad in the car when we leave, grab my small bag and bathroom bag, a couple of snacks and THAT’S IT!

Ohhhhhhh, it feels good.

Are you overwhelmed by the stuff you have to take when you travel with your kids? Have you been able to downsize yet?

Preparing for School with Four Peas Bags

We just had our last day of the 2012-2013 school year at the school where I work. When I was a kid, I used to see the summer as practically endless. Long days of playing outside, adventure, and nonstop fun. But as a mom, I know how quickly the summers pass and though I still haven’t packed away all of our school gear, I’m already thinking about school supplies for next year.

When Four Peas agreed to send me items from their lines of backpacks and lunchboxes, I was thrilled to experience their products! When I’m shopping for items that my kids will use, I’m looking for products that are unique, affordable, and durable. Four Peas bags fit the bill perfectly! Here’s what they sent me and how we’re using them.

Miles with Skater Messenger Bag

The Skater Messenger Bag is designed for school kids of all ages! With magnetic closures on the main compartment, side pockets, and a contact information tag, this bag is all you need and more! Inside the bag is a secure zipper pocket, elastic pencil holders, and plenty of room to store books, notebooks, and a set of gym clothes.  A large pocket on the back side of the messenger bag (which will be up against the wearer’s body) is a perfect place to place important items that you might need to pull out quickly at school, such as permission slips, lunch money, or ID tags. The adjustable strap can be large enough to be worn by my husband or small enough for my 5 year old to wear! The bag measures in at 14 W x 12 H x 7 D and retails for $35.99. Additional matching items are available for purchase at fourpeasonline.com!

Miles with Rocker Lunch Bag

Four Peas also has a great line of Lunch Bags! We were sent the Rocker Lunch Bag, which is perfect for any student packing their lunch! This insulated bag features a mesh inner pocket to keep items secure (I like to put the boys’ fork and spoon here) and opens and closes with a strong metal zipper. The bag is PVC and Phthalate-free but insulates to keep hot things hot and cool things cool! The inside of the bag is easy to clean and has a contact information tag so you can make sure it comes home every day! This lunch bag can also be personalized with your child’s name in embroidery for an additional fee. The Rocker Lunch Bag retails for $18.00!

I really love these two bags! The handles and straps are sturdy and the material seems durable and able to withstand the torture that kids put their things through during the school year!

Don’t let the start of the new school year sneak up on you! Start ordering next year’s school supplies now from fourpeasonline.com!

Disclosure:  Four Peas Inc. sent me two products to facilitate my review. I received no monetary compensation for this post and I was not required to write a positive review. My thoughts are my own. 

Reviewed: Cyberstalker

I interrupt my regularly-scheduled programming for something a little bit different. You see, I have an inexplicable affection for terrible Lifetime movies and other bad television. In fact, if you follow me on Twitter, my afternoon Tweets (during naptime) are usually full of sarcastic observations about Beverly Hills 90210 reruns and made for TV movies. I thought it might be fun to do a tongue in cheek review of particularly rotten movies here. Mostly because it’s my blog and it’s what I want to do, but also because I think you’ll enjoy it. So here we go!

My first selection for this new and irregular feature is the new made for TV movie, Cyberstalker, starring Mischa Barton. It originally aired on Lifetime Movie Network on Friday, September 14th 2012. But I DVR’d it and watched it on Sunday because that’s how I roll.

The movie opens in 1999. We watch as a shadowy figure creeps around a house, taking photos of young Aiden’s things. While the creeper is still creeping, a family pulls up to the house, in some sort of argument with their obviously rebellious daughter. Obvious because she has blue-streaked hair and rolls her eyes a lot. As Aiden goes up to her room, her mother calls upstairs after her “Don’t be on that computer!” This was the early days of the Interwebz, you see, and lots of shady business went on in chat rooms even then. So we as viewers know the creeper is still in the house. Aiden’s parents realize something is wrong and call the police and there are a few tense moments as you think Aiden is going to walk in on him in her closet. Instead, he sneaks out of Aiden’s window and comes back in downstairs and murders both of Aiden’s parents just as Detective Page shows up.

We then flash forward to 13 years later, which is interesting only because the characters continue to refer to the passing of time incorrectly. Detective Page is stewing over the cold homicide case of Aiden’s parents’, so his partner looks her up on some kind of Facebook/MySpace generic hybrid social network and finds her. We get a little old traditional cop/new-fangled technology cop banter as they disagree on methods but then they agree that this isn’t Aiden’s real profile, the killer must have made it to try and track her down. The police track her down through some computer program created by this nerdy hacker guy in a wheelchair, Jack Dayton from Cybercrimetics (*eyeroll*), that the police are working with to solve this cold case. It magically finds her artwork and traces it to her in Philadelphia.

We’re reintroduced to Aiden, who is a painter with a massive apartment and doesn’t look like she’s aged a day since we first saw her 1999. It’s never really explained how she affords this place and an art studio when she’s never had a showing of her work. She seems perfectly well-adjusted, save for the fact that she doesn’t date and has a vintage Nokia cell phone that doesn’t text or have GPS in it (which of course is laboriously pointed out through the dialogue. WE GET IT.). Aiden agrees to have her work shown at her first art show evah! and while she’s at the gallery, she meets this young hottie who chats her up. She has one drink and apparently gets so drunk from a tiny glass of white wine that she inexplicably agrees to let the hottie drive her home EVEN THOUGH it’s been pointed out time and time again that she’s untrusting of anyone because of what happens her to parents.

A short time later we see the back of the original creeper being let into Aiden’s apartment by the super (thanks, guy!), fumbling through her things, setting up “hidden” cameras that really aren’t hidden at all, and of course muttering threatening things in a scary voice. “You won’t need these anymore!” Muaaaahahahahaha. Then he lays down on her bed and smells her pillow, which we see through the “hidden” camera. There are all these ridiculous shots of furious keyboard typing, lots of flashing screens, and weird zooming all mixed with grunting and spooky music.

Aiden goes on a date with the art museum hottie Paul where they both order “coffee, black, with a lemon wedge.” (Gross.) While on her date, the police happen to discover that Paul was living in the same town as Aiden the summer her parents were murdered. Oh noes! The hottie is a suspect! Detective Page calls Aiden, who freaks the crap out in the cafe bathroom while Paul looks both menacing and annoyed in the hallway. He leaves and the detective then rescues poor Aiden.

Later we see Aiden in her apartment wearing a lovely silk robe and wielding a gigantic knife (since you know it’s so easy to attack an intruder with a kitchen utensil). We get these stupid shots of the back of the creeper’s head as he keeps making her power flicker on and off and then Detective Bonham (Det. Page’s partner) shows up at her house. Not at the door, mind you, but at the window making a scary shadow. He tells her he’s been told to keep an eye on her and he’ll be in his car. Aiden tries to sleep but can’t, so she calls her annoying therapist friend, Jill. She tells her friend that it was indeed Paul who killed her parents and Jill tells her to “channel it into your art and let the police do their job.” But do you think Aiden intends to do this? Of course not. They never do. Meanwhile, the creeper is listening to the phone conversation, knows who Aiden is talking to, and I’m Not Kidding You, “Search Engine”s her. No really. It looks just like Google but it says in huge letters SEARCH ENGINE. Ugh. Awful. He books an online appointment with Jill which of course makes us, the viewers, say “Oh no he didn’t! Jill, be careful!”

Detective Page finds Paul on the street outside Aiden’s studio and aggressively asks about the summer of 1999. Paul’s alibi is (again, I’m not kidding you) that he was backpacking through Europe. I mean, I know some people have actually backpacked through Europe but it’s such a corny alibi that no one would believe. He hears Paul out and they realize it isn’t Paul who murdered Aiden’s parents. But seriously, I could have told you that. It was only 45 minutes into the movie when he was pegged and you know there’s going to be a shocking ending to this one. So Aiden calls Paul and leaves a voicemail saying she wants to see him again (now that he’s not a murderer and all) and the creeper is listening in (seriously this guy needs a new hobby) and goes 7 shades of crazy with rage. So crazy that his neighbor or roommate comes to the door to tell him to shut up and keep it down. He sees a shattered laptop on the floor and calls 911 somehow while the creeper is lunging for him. There’s a really ridiculous shot of him holding up his iPhone perfectly so we can see it calling 911. It looks like he’s trying to show the creeper an Instagrammed photo of his lunch. So dumb. The creeper then snaps the dude’s neck, obvs, and runs out the door with a bunch of computer equipment and a disguise.

Next we see the creeper renting the vacant apartment next door to Aiden. Uh oh, this can’t be good. Then the nerdy hacker tries to put all the suspicion for everything onto Detective Bonham but instead the trail turns to Mr. Cornelis, Aiden’s friend and art agent (or something?) who has taken Aiden under his wing, even let her use his last name as an alias, and set up a bank account for her. But the money has been transferred to Cornelis’s personal account, leaving Aiden with a bit of an overdraft issue. Oh shoot! Now he’s a suspect??

At the same time, Paul and Aiden are gettin’ frisky at her apartment over Chinese food. They’re interrupted mid-kiss by Jill, who is on her cell phone, walking downtown. She’s telling Aiden about this weirdo new client (and I’m pretty sure that’s not ethical, Ms. Therapist) who seems to know a lot about Aiden. As she’s talking, we see that the creeper is monitoring all of the city’s street cameras and oh crap he has also hacked into the traffic lights too! He changes the pedestrian signal from stop to walk and just as Jill steps out into the street, BAM! she’s hit by a bus! We hear the creeper say in his creeper voice “Well that worked out nicely.”

Are you getting suspicious of the hacker guy working with the police? Because I am. I think maybe him being in a wheelchair is supposed to distract us into thinking he couldn’t be the creeper because we’re seeing the creeper walk around so DUH it can’t be the guy in the wheelchair!

There’s an emotional scene at the police department where Aiden talks to Mr. Cornelis in an interrogation room. She knows it’s not him but the police don’t seem to be as sure. Then she’s back at home and Paul’s in the living room making calls on Voice Chat, which looks eerily similar to Skype. Creeper is watching and says “Paul, you’re getting in my way!” Aiden goes to bed while Paul is on a headset Skyping Voice Chatting. It’s dark and we see the locks turn. A dark figure walks into the apartment behind Paul and into Aiden’s bedroom. He sloooooooooooowly reaches out to touch her shoulder, set to screeching violins, but doesn’t touch her. Aiden hears the door shut when he leaves and flips out, telling Paul he can’t stay there, that she isn’t ready. But the creeper’s still in the house! She goes back to bed and we see ominous shadows and hear him say “Good night, Aiden.” Seriously y’all, what’s he waiting for?

I guess he needs to off another one of Aiden’s friends. Sorry folks, Paul’s about to get his. He’s been summoned to a parking garage by “Detective Page” via text (seem shady?). All the car alarms start going off, he keeps getting texts, then a motorcyclist pulls up in front of him. He gets one more text (“Goodbye Paul”) before being run off the side of the parking garage, plummeting to the street. But wait! He’s not dead!  And the creeper now has a phone app that unlocks all of Aiden’s doors and turns her lights on and off. For some reason that scene is jammed in the middle of this Paul stuff. Aiden comes to see Paul in the hospital and sees that the texts were from Detective Page. What’s this? Another suspect?? The one she trusts the most in all this?? Can it be?? So who does she turn to? Jack, the wheelchair hacker. Come meet me at my apartment tonight at 8pm, she says. Great idea, Aiden.

So here we are — 8pm, Jack’s in the apartment, showing Aiden photos of her apartment on what he says is Detective Page’s hard drive. Aiden is wearing these horrific high-waisted AND pleated AND tapered-leg pants and I’m wondering if Jack is now re-considering his stalkee because of her wardrobe choices. As he and Aiden talk, Paul wakes up and struggles to get to his cell to call Aiden. He can’t reach her and gets in touch with Det. Page. He comes to the door, realizes Jack is in the apartment with her. He knows something is wrong and Aiden tries to open the door but can’t. Jack stands up out of his wheelchair behind her (Gasp! He’s been healed!) and gets her with his taser. Jack lets Det. Page in, tases him repeatedly while Aiden runs upstairs and locks herself in her room. She uses her laptop to Skype Voice Chat Paul, who has somehow gotten out of the hospital. Now Jack has a gun and is creeping down the hall giving a crazed monologue about how long he has loved Aiden. Paul and Det. Bonham are inside now, Bonham goes up after Jack and is apparently shot. Jack comes back downstairs, shoots Paul, and now Det. Page has woken up and shoots Jack, who VERY slowly and dramatically drops to the floor while music resolves in the background.

The movie ends with a flash to 6 months later. Aiden says goodbye to Mr. Cornelis at his studio and leaves with Paul as *dun dun duuuuun!* a security camera records them walking down the hall. I think this is supposed to be scary, given the subject matter of the movie, but why? Jack’s gone.

I’m not sure if this movie is supposed to teach a lesson or not. In Tall Hot Blonde, another Lifetime movie that deals with online creeps, you feel like they’re trying to teach you to be smart and safe online, but there’s really no moral to this story. Jack was a total creep, no matter how hard she tried to hide. Maybe the lesson is that you shouldn’t rule out the guy in a wheelchair from being the creeper, because that could totally happen.

Did you catch this movie on LMN when it aired? What did you think? If you missed it, it’ll be on again the weekend of October 10th, 2012!

If you don’t want to wait for my next review, which could happen at any time, you MUST check out the Lifetime Movie Reviews blog!

No Garden To Grow

Every spring I say the same thing, with much sighing and sad resignation:  I wish we had a garden. I love the idea of walking out into my backyard to pick some vegetables for dinner. I love the idea of saving money on produce and eating healthier, homegrown foods. Gardens are beautiful. What’s not to love? Oh yeah, all the hard work that goes into it. The planning, the weeding, the protecting from children and animals. There is that…

Even with all that goes into having one, I’ve always wanted to have a vegetable garden at our home because you do get so much out of it. But alas, we’ve been unable to do so for one reason or another…one reason being that I have a horrific black thumb and can’t manage to keep anything green alive. I want my kids to experience gardening, to understand where food comes from and to appreciate fresh vegetables. It’s absolutely possible to do so, and I’m going to share how we’ve done it and I’d love for you to share your ideas in the comments!

Even if you can’t (or won’t!) have a full-fledged garden at your home, your kids can get a taste of gardening in these ways:

1. Read books about gardening! Kids will love to see gardening come to life on the pages of books, sometimes even with their favorite characters. Several months ago, we received this book as the month’s selection from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library: Strega Nona’s Harvest by Tomie dePaola. In the book, children get a glimpse into the work involved in tending a vegetable garden. Strega Nona, the main character, shares her extra harvest with the townspeople, an idea we have embraced in our community (see #2 for more). Find more children’s books about gardening at Amazon.com! Do you have any favorite books about gardening?

2. Create or contribute to a community or food pantry garden. This spring, our church began a new food pantry garden ministry. Our church members did the work to create the garden space on our church’s property. We gathered all the supplies (many plants and seeds were donated), did lots of work picking out rocks from the dirt, planted seeds, weeded, and picked vegetables all summer. Every last vegetable we harvested went to our local food pantry. We hope to continue our garden ministry for years to come and it has been wonderful to see several generations working together for this cause, even those of us who don’t know the first thing about gardening! Even our kids regularly worked in the garden! Find a community garden near you at the American Community Gardening Association’s website.

3. Join a Community Supported Agriculture co-op. This isn’t something we’ve done YET but I’ve researched the CSAs in our area and there are many good ones to choose from. In a CSA, your family will purchase a part of the harvest from the farm of your choosing. Every CSA is different and you might be required to do some work (like packing boxes or helping with distributing) in order to maintain your membership, but you’ll also receive a large amount of fresh local vegetables and support local farmers. Click here to find a local CSA!

4. Visit a children’s garden. Locally, we have the Kentucky Children’s Garden at the University of Kentucky’s Arboretum. We had a meetup yesterday at the children’s garden with the mom’s group I coordinate. Admission is very inexpensive ($3 for age 2 and up, $10 for a family of 5) and you can purchase a seasonal family pass to enjoy it all year long for $50. The kids were able to catch butterflies, dig in a designated area, water flowers and vegetables in raised beds, play in a stream, plus countless other activities to get kids interested and excited about plantlife and the outdoors. My kids, 4 and 2, had so much fun getting dirty and wet, playing with all they had to offer. Do you have a children’s garden in your area?

A few photos from yesterday’s trip:

In the digging area of the Lexington Children's Garden

Watering plants at the Lexington Children's Garden

Playing in the stream at the Lexington Children's Garden (Don't worry, they're supposed to play in it!)

5. Start small…very small. Don’t have room, time, or any desire to dig up a corner of your yard for a vegetable garden? You could do a small herb garden and have your kids help with watering and turning the pots. There are simple and inexpensive kits available at most retail stores to get kids planting! Even without a small garden, you probably have flowers or other plants outside that your kids can help you water! At the Lexington Children’s Garden, the kids were able to use these awesome Fisher Price Fun-to-fill Watering Cans and buckets. The base attaches to a standard hose and kids just push the bucket onto the base to let it fill with water from the base! Even my 2 year old figured out how to work it! These are an older product but thanks to the power of Internet shopping, you can still get your hands on one!

6. Play games or apps that teach about gardening. Yes, you can get technology in on this with you! Whole Foods has a great iPhone/iPad app, Awesome Eats, that teaches kids about different types of foods. More and more kids are using iPhones and iPods – make sure they’re learning something while they play! There are board games about gardening (like Discovery Garden Game and My First Orchard) and lots of gardening toys available for kids. Even if you don’t have a “real” garden space, your kids can pretend! Starfall.com also has a game about recycling that my kids love to play.

7. Last but not least…Spend time outside! Yes, this is the most general item on the list, but it’s also the easiest one to do. Send your kids into the backyard to play. Go on hikes at state and national parks. Visit a wildlife reserve. Most of these places are free or cheap activities for your family and will get you moving, talking, and learning. There are many benefits to being outside in nature and you can read about them at Why Nature Rocks and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service!

[britely=http://cache.britely.com/PlaydateCrashers/gardening-without-a-home-garden” width=”620″]

Do you have a garden? How involved are your kids?

*Post contains affiliate links*

Review: Duraflame Roasting Logs

There’s nothing like a campfire.  Whether you are camping in the woods, have a fire pit in your back yard, or a fireplace in your home, there’s just something magical about that crackle of a burning fire that makes you feel good.  It’s homey, it’s natural, and it’s warming – not just in the temperature sense.  Am I waxing poetic about campfires?  Why yes I am!  I have great memories of camping with my family when I was a child and am now making new memories camping with my family, in our backyard and at campgrounds.

We love to camp and nothing says camping like cooking hot dogs, S’mores, or other traditional camp foods over a fire.  Unfortunately, campfires can release lots of emissions, even from wood logs but especially if you use starter logs or other chemicals to get your fire going.  In a society that is highly concerned about the chemicals in our environment, you might not consider your campfire a source of emissions, but thankfully the folks at Duraflame have come up with a clean-burning Roasting Log for all of your fires – indoor and outdoor!

Duraflame Roasting Logs can be used to create a fire suitable for cooking food.  Made from 100% renewable resources (including recycled sawdust, real wood charcoal and no petro-chemicals), these Roasting Logs produce more heat per pound than firewood and burn cleaner than wood!

[box] Check out these delicious S’mores recipes![/box] My husband and I put our Duraflame Roasting Logs to work in our backyard fire pit over the weekend.  We were impressed by how easy they were to use – simply take 2-3 Roasting Logs from the bundle, place into your fire area, and light the ends (See the video below).  They quickly caught and made a beautiful fire!  After about 20 minutes, we roasted marshmallows for s’mores – YUM.  It was so peaceful to sit in our backyard with a fire and relax.

Duraflame Roasting Logs would be an excellent addition to your packing list the next time you go camping.  Whether you camp in a campground or go backpacking, these compact logs won’t take up much space in your gear.  They can be purchased in a (5 lb.) 4-pack bundle (Suggested retail price $5.99), which will burn like the equivalent of 24 lbs. of firewood, or a case of six bundles (24 logs) which will make at least 4-6 campfires (Suggested retail price $29.99).  You can pick up Duraflame Roasting Logs at Walmart, Kmart, and Kroger stores, as well as other retailers around the U.S.

Find out more about Duraflame Roasting Logs and all of their other excellent campfire products at Duraflame.com!

See how easy Duraflame Roasting Logs are to use!

Disclosure Statement:  I was not compensated monetarily for this review.  I received a product in exchange for an honest and fair review.  All thoughts are my own.

Camped Out

Over the weekend, I went tent camping with my boys (ages 3.5 and 2), my mom, my sister, and 12 year old nephew.  My husband wasn’t able to go on this trip but I’m so glad my mom and sister were there! I think it would have been impossible for me to do it without them!

Friday

The tent sites at this particular campground were small and kind of oddly shaped, so our camp site seemed pretty crowded once we set up my sister and nephew’s tent, our screen tent around the picnic table, and my gigantic 6-person tent.  Our setup went pretty smoothly, since the area next to our camp site had some kid’s play equipment (some older Little Tikes and Step2 toys).  We had our first meal (hot dogs, beans, and chips) and then as it started to get dark, we walked down to the shower house and took quick showers to rinse off the sweat and grime from the day.

Then we made a fire and roasted marshmallows and made our way into our tents for bed.  Just like when we camped in the backyard, I had planned to let the boys watch a movie in the tent as they went to sleep.  We rented two of the boys’ favorite Disney movies on the iPad, so we watched Wall-E as the boys quickly drifted off to sleep.

I was awakened around 2:00am to the sounds of drunken shouting from our camping neighbors.  Apparently someone had asked our neighbor to keep it down and he responded with loud swearing and threats of violence.  I honestly thought someone was going to get shot, so I was formulating an escape plan in my mind as I listened to the escalating shouts.  Eventually, Drunk Guy did shut up and go to sleep and I was able to rest as well.

Saturday

The boys woke up early and we made breakfast (cereal or oatmeal, bananas, orange juice) and after I took a quick shower, we went over to see Cumberland Falls and did some hiking.  Spencer was so wiped out from the late night, early morning, and all of the general camping excitement that he fell asleep while riding on my back in the Boba 3G carrier.  The boys also got to search for gems in the new mining rough activity at the park.  Spencer was so proud of his gems that he wouldn’t let go of his bag of rocks for hours.

After lunch (PB&J or grilled cheese sandwiches, applesauce, and grapes), we headed back to the state park to go swimming.  Miles absolutely loved it but Spencer was a little less enthusiastic.  After a few hours, we were all tired and went back to the campground.

At this point, the boys were so exhausted, so completely over tired that they became escape artists and ran away from the camp site, in two different directions, completely freaking me out because there were cars coming around the little gravel road.  I was so exasperated that I let them lay down on a blanket in the shade and watch Wall-E again.  Don’t judge.

While they were relaxing, I started making dinner (sloppy joes, corn, and chips) and after that we ate and had some watermelon.  It was so hot and there was no shade to escape the sun so we baked in the heat until it started to get dark.  Once again, we took showers to cool off and then came back to make s’mores.  As soon as it got dark, I brought out the glow sticks I bought for the boys, which was a HUGE hit. They’d never seen glow sticks before and had a great time wandering  around in the dark brandishing their pink and purple glow sticks.  After a quick trip to the shower house to use the bathroom and brush our teeth, we all sat around the fire and sang songs until Spencer fell asleep on my lap and Miles was asking to go to bed.  It was a perfectly peaceful evening and the boys even slept in, joining me on my twin size air mattress sometime in the morning, all 3 of us curled up together for hours.

Sunday

We ate a quick breakfast and then got to work cleaning up and tearing down our camp site for the 11:00am checkout time.  My nephew entertained the boys while my sister, mom, and I took down tents, deflated air mattresses, and packed up cooking supplies.  When everything was packed up, I took a quick shower and then we checked out and headed back to civilization for lunch.  The boys were asleep in their car seats just minutes after leaving the campground.  You know you’ve had fun when you completely wear out the toddler and preschooler!

When we got home, my husband asked if I would do it again.  I answered that I would, just not this week.  It was fun, but completely exhausting.  I will take them camping again, and to help you have an enjoyable experience when you take your kids, here are some quick tips:

  • Take Reinforcements!  Go camping with a group, take some friends or family members, so that you aren’t all alone.  It takes a lot of work to set up and maintain a tent camping site, especially when you have to make meals.
  • Make It Worth Your Time.  I think you need at the minimum two nights camping for it to feel worth it for all the trouble of planning, packing, setting up, maintaining, tearing down, packing again, and unpacking and cleaning when you go home.  I would have added maybe 1 or 2 nights to our trip, to be honest.
  • Have a Plan.  How are you going to distract your kids while you are cooking on a propane stove?  How will you keep them a safe distance from the campfire? How do you plan to get them to sleep if they are used to going to bed on their own in a quiet room?
  • Pack Light (if you can)!  Somehow I ended up bringing the majority of our group’s camping supplies and food, and with the backseat full of car seats, our Jeep was PACKED completely full both coming and going.  Since we did real cooking while we camped, we needed to have dish washing supplies anyway, so it made sense for me to take and use the mess kit bags I made last week.  Yes, it took extra time and was a bit of a pain, but we had to clean the pots and pans anyway.  We had way more food than we could eat, but that was better than not having enough!
  • Enjoy Yourself!  This one seems like a no-brainer, but I have trouble relaxing and enjoying myself at times. I get all worked up if my kids aren’t cooperating or if something doesn’t go right, so I have to remind myself of this a lot.  The most important thing about our camping getaway was enjoying the time with my kids and my family.  Seeing their joy and wonder on my sweet little boys’ faces is more important than whether or not my Rice Krispy Treats turned out on the propane stove (they didn’t, by the way).  They’ll remember this trip because of the glow sticks and the fireflies and the campfire songs and the marshmallows…oh yes, the marshmallows.

Do you plan to take your kids camping this summer?  

Go Bags!

We are having some pretty severe weather in Kentucky right now.  It could be something major or it could be nothing this time, but with it not being spring yet and already having a couple of tornado warnings already, I thought today would be as good a time as any to put togehter some “go bags” for emergencies.  I tried to think ahead to any other possible emergencies and not just today’s severe weather threats as I put together the bags.  Jamie said I should share what’s in our stash, so here you go!

Dogs’ Go Bag

I even put together a small Go Bag for our dogs in the case that we ever need to leave town suddenly with our dogs.  In their bag I have:

  • Two recloseable plastic bags full of dog food
  • A bag with a handful of dog treats
  • A reuseable bottle full of water
  • Two dog leashes
  • One small dish for water and food

I recently had new tags made for the dogs, something I have been meaning to do since we changed our location 3 years ago (oops!).  So all of that is updated and today when we left for shelter (we don’t have a basement), the dogs were secured in their cages in the garage.

Family Go Bag

There are four of us in our family in various potty-training stages, from the un-trained to the  well-trained but nighttime wetters.  Since I plan for this bag to be ready for use throughout the next 6 months or so, I wasn’t sure what to do about bathroom needs, but you’ll see I have quite a few bases covered.

  • Two smallish fleece blankets
  • One sheet
  • One recloseable plastic bag with multiple candles and a lighter
  • Small first aid kit which includes matches
  • One small battery-operated lantern
  • A change of clothes for each of us (the boys’ shirts are matching orange and blue stripes and Brandon’s and myself have a navy blue t-shirt.  In my semi-neurotic state this morning I thought that would help us find each other if God-forbid something serious were to happen).
  • 5-6 diapers
  • 2 pairs of nighttime Pull-Ups
  • 3 pairs of underwear for Miles
  • One roll of toilet paper
  • Small travel size toiletries (soap, shampoo/conditioner, toothpaste)
  • Four baby washcloths
  • Two kids’ card games
  • A jacket (with a hood) for each of us

I still need to add a few items to feel really prepared, like a NOAA weather radio (battery or hand crank powered) and batteries.

Food To Go

I was really unprepared to create a Go Bag with food today, so this is what made the cut today:

  • Two bottles of water
  • A can of soup (it’s a pop-top, no opener needed)
  • A bag of Valentine’s Candy (!)

Clearly I need to work on my food survival skills.  I don’t think I would do well in a true emergency.  I stress eat, so I imagine our food rations would be depleted within a few hours.

Today’s Additions…

When we decided that for today’s storms we would go to our church’s basement, we grabbed a few extra things because we knew where we were going and approximately how long we would be there.

We also took:

  • A large flashlight
  • Some tools, including a hacksaw, in case we need to help others if there is bad damage
  • A gas can (We filled up our car with gas before heading to shelter)
  • Some games for the kids
  • Several DVDs for our boys to watch (until the power goes out)
  • Two large deli sandwiches for dinner (for us and our friends who will be joining us here), chips, and drinks
  • Phone chargers
  • iPad and LeapPad

You have to laugh…

Here are some of the funny thoughts I had while packign these bags today (via Facebook):

  • Hmm.  I don’t have much to do today, should I make an emergency bag just in case we do get some destructive storms??
  • I’m pretty sure my emergency bag is going to be overkill for ANY emergency situation.  #overprepared
  • It seems like a smart idea to pack a change of clothes for all of us, with the same colors.  Oh here are matching shirts for the boys.  Maybe Brandon and I have an orange shirt too that I can pack…Is that too much?  Would we be the laughingstocks of the fallout shelter?
  • Turns out we do NOT have orange shirts…but we do have navy blue shirts, which is also in the boy’s shirts…I think I’ll do that.
  • I am quite unprepared for an emergency in the food department.  We may have to survive on Valentine’s Day candy.
  • I am packing some of it in there though.  It will make the boys happy and the leftover mustache suckers will make me laugh.
  • Okay I did end up packing a lot of candy.  But not all of it.  That would be irresponsible.
  • Really though.  As far as unopened food stuff, there is some icing, lots of pasta, a few canned things we will be using for meals this week if our roof doesn’t blow off, and relish.
  • Ah! Found a can of soup that isn’t planned for…score!
  • I really should have charged the batteries for Miles’s LeapPad.  If the power goes out that thing is gonna get PLAYED.
  • Making lunch for the boys plus a few extra sandwiches for our Go Bags.
  • We just had a long conversation about whether or not to put the chicken we have for this week’s meals in the fridge or freezer.  “If there is a tornado we won’t be eating chicken at home tomorrow.” “Yeah and we will be DEVASTATED about the $2 of chicken we just lost.”
  • Headed to shelter at our church’s basement.  Brandon says we are more prepared for a zombie apocalypse than a tornado, judging by our supplies.

I can assure you there are even more things I was laughing about as we got ready for the storm.  Unless you really like dark humor, I’m pretty sure you would be offended…

More great ideas can be found on my Be Prepared board on Pinterest, where I’ve gathered up the best ideas, lists, and tips for emergency preparedness!

Moving is hard, period.

Saying good bye to our friends Jerri and Riley

This isn’t the first move for Alex and me. We moved here from Indiana a few years ago and while it was difficult to leave there, I could never imagine how much harder things would be this time around.

Saturday we were fortunate to have some friends from our church come and help us load the truck and play with the boys. Will was being quite the ham by performing Jesus Loves Me for the ladies who came to watch them on the hearth of the fireplace. The highlight of Will’s day was most likely watching our UHaul truck getting towed out of the mud in front of our house!

The boys have done surprisingly well with us packing everything up. Will will ask where something is at, “where my ____ at?” and seems content with them being in the moving truck. I know he doesn’t fully understand what is going on, but I know he will be excited to be able to see Granny and Aunt Becky regularly. He will definitely miss his Tennessee grandparents Linda and Clark and Linda’s famous chicken salad at Red Rooster Market.

Bristol has been our home for almost four years. Not only have we invested in our friendships and relationships here, but we welcomed our three beautiful boys into the world here. It will always be a special place to us because this is the place where we started our family.

To my friends and family who read our blog in Bristol, we love you all so much and you can never imagine how special you have been to us all! There will always be a special place in our hearts for you. 🙂

Has your family ever made a big move? What did you learn from that experience?

Giving List: Project 7, Operation Christmas Child, and The 94 Store

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the “Getting” around the holidays.  Not only what we will get, but we search for the perfect present at the perfect price, concerned with getting the best for everyone.  Beginning today, we’re shining our spotlight on some organizations and businesses that can help you focus more on giving this Christmas!

1.  Project 7

I’m ashamed to say that I wasn’t aware of the good work Project 7 does until last week.  I was out of breath mints, so as I perused the items in the checkout lane at my local WalMart, one caught my eye.  The box stated:  This tray provides 7 meals in American communities.  How could I not choose them?  I got home and looked up the web address on the package and saw the impressive amount of good that this organization does.  I love what they say on their Mission statement page:

[box type=”shadow”] You buy. We give.

Simply put, Project 7 exists to give. We are a cause-related company that makes every day consumer goods, like bio-bottled water, gum, mints and coffee. We aren’t asking you to buy more stuff, just change the products that you already buy.

For every purchase of a Project 7 product, some good is done in seven areas of need – Feed the Hungry, Heal the Sick, Hope for Peace, House the Homeless, Quench the Thirsty, Teach them Well and Save the Earth. Non-profit organizations supporting any of these seven areas of need can submit applications to Project 7. [/box]

House the Homeless House Blend - Click here to purchase!

You can purchase everything from breath mints (perfect for stocking stuffers!) and gum to shirts.  Don’t forget to tell the recipient that their present helped feed the hungry, heal the sick, house the homeless, or the other incredible causes you can support.  How awesome would it be for you to purchase a tray of mints or more and be able to tell your friends and family that their Christmas stocking contents are going to feed 7 hungry people?

Find out more about how Project 7 gives and how you can get involved!

Have you used any Project 7 products?  What’s your favorite?

[button link=”http://www.facebook.com/Project7″ color=”black” newwindow=”yes”] Project 7 on Facebook[/button]

[button link=”http://www.twitter.com/project7″ color=”black” newwindow=”yes”] Project 7 on Twitter[/button]

[button link=”http://www.project7.com/store/” color=”black” newwindow=”yes”] Shop at Project 7[/button]

 

2.  Operation Christmas Child

If you’re not familiar with Operation Christmas Child by Samaritan’s Purse, you should be.  Every year, thousands of churches, groups, and individuals do a very simple thing:  they put meaningful, fun, and practical items into shoeboxes and wrap them like Christmas presents.  But that simple act means the world to the recipient of the shoebox.  Each little shoebox is shipped around the world to children who otherwise would not receive a Christmas present.

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is this:

[box type=”shadow”] The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.[/box]

Next week (Nov. 14-12) is National Collection Week, when shoeboxes will be taken to collection sites and driven to packing centers for their final trip to villages and towns in the world’s most impoverished areas. You can find out more about packing your box here and then look up your closest collection site.  Once your box is sent off, you can even Follow Your Box to see where it ends up!

In addition to Operation Christmas Child, Samaritan’s Purse also has a Gift Catalog where you can support hungry, poor, and sick individuals by doing things like purchasing Household Water Filters, Dairy Goats, and Mosquito Nets that go directly where they are needed most.  A few years ago, my family, my sister and her family, and my parents pooled our resources to purchase a goat with change we had collected all year.

Are you packing a shoebox this year?

[button link=”http://www.facebook.com/OCCshoeboxes” color=”black” newwindow=”yes”] Operation Christmas Child on Facebook[/button]

[button link=”http://www.twitter.com/OCC_shoeboxes” color=”black” newwindow=”yes”] Operation Christmas Child on Twitter[/button]

3.  The 94 Store

As a mom, I find myself collecting a large amount of tote bags.  Reuseable grocery bags, bags from conferences and events.  My closet is full of them.  But I’ll be honest…most of them are ugly and have no real meaning to me.  The handcrafted bags from The 94 Store are completely different.  These bags have meaning and purpose.

From The 94 Store’s website:

[box type=”shadow”] 94 is a brand of handcrafted bags that represent hope and empowerment. We offer training and employment to historically disadvantaged people in South Africa. When you buy from The 94 Store you are offering someone an opportunity to earn a living and provide for their family. There is an old saying, “Give a man a fish; feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; feed him for a lifetime.” We believe this is a key concept when engaging in social justice. Employment is a sustainable solution to those facing poverty. That’s why we’re making it our goal to train and employ as many people as we can.[/box]

Ilitha Africa Bag - Click here to purchase!

When you buy one of the beautiful bags from The 94 Store, you are directly keeping someone employed.  When you follow The 94 Store on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll see pictures of the women working and feel that what you’re doing by buying a bag for yourself or as a gift is truly helping someone.  Read more about The 94 Store’s creation here.

Which bag is your favorite?

[button link=”http://www.the94store.bigcartel.com/products” color=”black” newwindow=”yes”] Shop at The 94 Store[/button]

[button link=”http://www.facebook.com/the94store” color=”black” newwindow=”yes”] The 94 Store on Facebook[/button]

[button link=”http://twitter.com/the94store” color=”black” newwindow=”yes”] The 94 Store on Twitter[/button]

Look for more Giving Lists coming soon!