Posted by: suzan | February 7, 2015

Surf Sweets/TruSweets – A Valentine Treat!

SURFSWEETS

Red hearts, cupid’s bow, and chocolates – what do they all spell? Valentine’s Day! For many, Valentine’s Day is an annual holiday where people go all out with the extravagance of buying sweets and gifts. And while chocolates seem to be the main choice in offering sweets, this year why not try something different. The idea behind Valentine’s Day really isn’t about giving the most expensive gift or dining at the poshest restaurant. It should be about celebrating the idea of love and friendship. With this holiday being advertised at almost every store since January, my son has already asked me what to give his classmates or if he should get them something. His question was, “do I have to buy everyone a valentine candy?” There are a few girls who’d probably be disappointed if my son didn’t so we decided we should include everyone on the Valetine’s list.

In the previous years we’ve always given his friends and classmates non-sweets as treats but this year when Surf Sweets offered for us to try their new TruSweets organic fruit lollipops as well as their gummy hearts, well, our hearts literally swelled. Surf Sweets makes such delicious and wholesome candies that we tore open the samples the minute they arrived and ate a few bags. Luckily the bags were small enough that we didn’t get a sugar high and of  course we had to save some for an event I was hosting.

Fruity Hearts Multipack (1)

Surf Sweets a division of Tru Sweets (http://www.surfsweets.com) makes only natural and organic candies. Using the finest ingredients available, Surf Sweets makes deliciously sweet and yummy gummy candy and jelly beans that are perfect for little kids. Kids will inevitably eat a sweet now and then so if you’re going to offer them candy, then why not give them something healthier? There are so many candy choices out there and if you peruse the aisles at any grocery store, you’ll find them catered to this holiday right at this moment. I’m not big on the regular candies for Valentine’s Day as I’m a true Chocoholic, but there’s something adorable about Surf Sweets gummy hearts and their entire line of “love” candy.

 

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Each one of the individually packed heart gummies and lollipops are the perfect portions for little kids. And while you’re probably thinking, “wait, didn’t they just have a ton of candy for Halloween?”, well, Valentine’s Day seems to be one of the most popular holidays for kids and teenagers alike. Sure, you’ll probably expect bags full of sweets from your kids when they come home from school, but if you’re the one who’s going to be handing out sweets, then give their classmates a better type of candy – ones that aren’t full of artificial ingredients. And guess what – they’ll probably end up loving Surf Sweets and TruSweets more than the conventional candies. They are shaped adorably like little hearts and the gummy bears are fun to eat and play with. As a parent, I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am that companies such as Surf Sweets/Tru Sweets are dedicated in providing healthier candies.

So this Valentine’s Day or really any day of the year, if you’re inclined to buy sweets for your kids and sweethearts, give them something a lot healthier than those with artificial ingredients. After all, your love isn’t artificial so why should your sweets be? Surf Sweets can be purchased at most natural grocery stores and online through their website: http://www.surfsweets.com/store-locator/buy-online/.

Disclaimer: The product(s)were sent to the author for review by the manufacturer/PR. All reviews on “Happymomblogger” remain unbiased and unpaid and are the sole decision of the author. The opinions of these product(s) were not influenced in any way, shape, or form. As always, please read the ingredients carefully when trying new products.

Please read the labels and ingredients carefully and follow all manufacturer’s instructions (if any). The products selected for the giveaway were generously donated by the companies/PR to help readers learn more about their products. The winner’s choice in using/consuming these products are entirely up to the winner and will not hold the author and her family liable nor the companies/PR liable. These products are made with non-toxic ingredients but always be safe with what you use and consume.

http://www.topmommyblogs.com/blogs/in.php?id=storm

GOODBOYORGANICS

How do you reward your child for good behavior? It could be a new toy, a fancy book, or a trip to some place fun. But how about rewarding them with something fun and healthy to eat? Of course healthy food should be eaten every day, but once in awhile finding a really delicious snack that’s also made with high quality ingredients is just as important. Add organic ingredients to it and without any unnecessary junk and you’ve got a winner in the snack option.

We don’t snack that often but when we do, I try to find something that we all enjoy. So when we were introduced to Good Boy Organics I was intrigued and wanted to taste these delightful little dinosaur snacks. Yes! Dinosaur savory snacks. These adorable dinosaur shaped crunchy snacks are definitely delicious. They are slightly crunchy, not too salty, and pack a whole lot of flavor. I could easily finish off the whole bag on my own but restrained myself and I even had to keep it away from my son before he polished off the entire bag as well. They are incredibly delicious and I don’t say that often about snacks.

GOODBOYORGANICS

Good Boy Organics (http://www.goodboyorganics.com/) was founded through the love of delicious and healthy eating. With the company’s mission of producing high quality, organic ingredients that are designed for children, Good Boy Organics makes savory snacks that goes beyond normal snacking to a new kind of relationship in the organic snacking industry. With their signature “Organicasaurus” organic savory corn and their “BOPS” (Baked Organic Potato Snacks), the flavors and distinctive profiles makes it hard not to finish off the entire contents within the bag. I can honestly say I have never tasted anything so fun and unique. The dinosaur shaped corn snacks are so fun and adorable to look at that we can’t help play with them a bit before popping them into our mouths and I think that’s one of the main reasons behind these Organicasaurus- so that (for once) you’re allowed some fun with your food before you eat them.

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I love putting these little dinosaur-shaped snacks into my son’s lunchbox as a healthy snack alternative. With so many snacks out there to choose from, it’s our job as parents to find ones that are healthier for our children. Children, much like adults, love the opportunity to snack but there are so many hidden dangers in food nowadays, how do we know who to really trust? But you really can’t go wrong with something made from organic ingredients and products that are made without any artificial additives. With these yummy Organicasaurus and BOPS chips, I don’t have to worry about what I’m putting in my son’s body or my own. I always snack whatever I buy for my son because I want to snack healthy too!

The wonderful folks at Good Boy Organics had sent me their entire selection of Organicasaurus snacks and BOPS chips to try and review. We couldn’t resist trying every single flavor and variety and I was amazed at all the distinct flavor profiles. Usually with corn and potato snack chips they all end up tasting pretty much the same, but not with these gems. Good Boy Organics has very unique flavors such as Organicasaurus Cheddar, Tangy Tomato, and Sea Salt. And the BOPS comes in Sea Salt, Barbeque, Aged White Cheddar, and Sour Cream Onion. I love the fact that not only are they made with organic ingredients, but that they have very low sodium content per serving size and they are the perfect size to munch on.

Good Boy Organics can be found at most natural grocery stores and with the adorable packaging you can spot them on the shelves right away. I recommend picking up a few to try because you really won’t be disappointed. If you’re going to snack anyway, then try a better version of corn and potato snacks. Your kids will love them and so will you! For more info about Good Boy Organics, please visit their website: http://www.goodboyorganics.com/, Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GoodBoyOrganics, Twitter: https://twitter.com/goodboyorganics, and Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/goodboyorganics/

Disclaimer: The product(s)were sent to the author for review by the manufacturer/PR. All reviews on “Happymomblogger” remain unbiased and unpaid and are the sole decision of the author. The opinions of these product(s) were not influenced in any way, shape, or form. As always, please read the ingredients carefully when trying new products.

Please read the labels and ingredients carefully and follow all manufacturer’s instructions (if any). The products selected for the giveaway were generously donated by the companies/PR to help readers learn more about their products. The winner’s choice in using/consuming these products are entirely up to the winner and will not hold the author and her family liable nor the companies/PR liable. These products are made with non-toxic ingredients but always be safe with what you use and consume.

http://www.topmommyblogs.com/blogs/in.php?id=storm

Posted by: suzan | January 16, 2015

Thrive Market – Products Worth Reviewing

THRIVE MARKET

If you’re like me, you probably do all kinds of research on natural products whether online or in physical stores. I love walking down the aisles of natural food stores to see all the new and wonderful products that can help us live a healthier life. But I also love to shop online because I for one know that you can probably find a lot more unique brands that way.

If you like shopping at online boutiques that specializes in natural and organic products then you might want to check out the new online store called Thrive Market (https://thrivemarket.com/). Selling only naturally derived and organic products on their site, Thrive Market makes it easier for everyone to buy natural products at affordable prices. In fact, Thrive Market’s whole theory is that one shouldn’t need to compromise good health with low quality products. With Thrive Market, you can afford to buy natural and organic products at a much lower price than you’d find in retail stores. I do shop both online and brick-and-mortar stores and I did notice some differences in the prices. If you like the convenience of shopping online, then Thrive Market is the perfect destination for you.

I was approached to try out the new Thrive Market and give my opinion on their site. After comparing Thrive Market with a couple other online natural and organic stores, I do have to admit that Thrive Market has some pretty good pricing. While I can’t name the other companies, it wouldn’t hurt to try out Thrive Market and see for yourself all the different natural and organic products available on their site. Shipping is free with $49 and over purchase but you can easily pick up a few stuff in their online store that will still end up saving you money and time.

One of the main reasons why Thrive Market started their company was for the purpose of offering affordable products to people of all income and status. They also donate an annual membership to a low-income family for every membership purchased.

Thrive Market also partners with many philanthropic, socially, and environmentally responsible companies who have the same determination and goal. They believe that in giving back to the community and the planet, the reward itself is in helping others live healthier and better lives. It’s admirable when a company can give back to others when in fact it doesn’t really take much at all. Certain companies that Thrive Market works with are the Boys + Girls Club, LA Fund, and Common Threads. All are great charities and if you’re going to do some shopping online, why not help benefit others as well?

On Thrive Market, you’ll see many products from companies you’ve already heard of such as Garden of Life, Desert Essence, Clif Bars, Popchips, Earth Balance, Seventh Generation, and many more. Some of the prices are comparable to other online natural stores but mostly it is the convenience and the fact that you are also helping out others while you’re shopping. With each paid membership, Thrive Market will donate to another membership to those in need.

So check out Thrive Market (https://thrivemarket.com) and see for yourself how much you can save when shopping online. Right now Thrive Market is offering a 15% off discount for your first order. You can browse in their online store and if you decide to make a purchase, you’ll receive a 30-day membership trial. If you decide to stay with Thrive Market, you just pay a one time annual membership fee of $59.95 and Thrive Market will also donate a free membership to a low-income family.

Disclaimer: The product(s)were sent to the author for review by the manufacturer/PR. All reviews on “Happymomblogger” remain unbiased and unpaid and are the sole decision of the author. The opinions of these product(s) were not influenced in any way, shape, or form. As always, please read the ingredients carefully when trying new products.

Please read the labels and ingredients carefully and follow all manufacturer’s instructions (if any). The products selected for the giveaway were generously donated by the companies/PR to help readers learn more about their products. The winner’s choice in using/consuming these products are entirely up to the winner and will not hold the author and her family liable nor the companies/PR liable. These products are made with non-toxic ingredients but always be safe with what you use and consume.

http://www.topmommyblogs.com/blogs/in.php?id=storm

Posted by: suzan | January 12, 2015

The Art of Letting Go – Have a Healthier New Year

HEALTHY LIVING

When Queen Elsa sang, “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen, she was finally learning a hard lesson in life that many of us non-cartoon people have a hard time doing in real life. Like the song title, letting go can be both a blessing and a curse. But it’s how we approach it that makes us become better people and live a healthier life. Think of the alternative to holding onto things that we really shouldn’t hold on to. We end up feeling drained both physically and mentally and our entire being is literally exhausted.

Most people commit to a new year’s resolution each year, whether it be to save more money or exercise more. But on the top of almost every list is the resolution to be healthier. Being healthy isn’t limited to eating right and exercising regularly. While that may be part of the whole process for our body, we really need to start with our mind first. Our minds connect us to everything within our bodies and it’s important to remember that a healthy thought process brings forth a healthier body and soul.

I’ve put together a list of things we can do now to have less stress and (hopefully) change our mindset on things. Letting go isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just learning how to let go of things that suck us of our energy and make us feel ill mentally, emotionally, and physically.

- Let go of small transgressions: From the man who cut you off on the freeway to the parent at your school who can’t tell their own kids to behave, there are always those little things that irk us. But in order to let it go, we can’t take things so personally all of the time. Life is too short to hold onto the small offenses of others. Sometimes other people really don’t know better and if we don’t let it bother us, then we can move past it quicker.

- Let go of past hurt: This one can be tough because being “hurt” means differently for everyone. Whether you hold on to grudges or resentment or it’s a past relationship, holding onto things that hurt your heart and your soul can significantly damage your health. This type of not letting go bears tremendous pressure on your stress level which in turn puts pressure on your organs. Sometimes our mind won’t let us go of past hurt and that’s when we have to remind ourselves that the past truly should stay in the past. 

- Let go of what you can’t control: In a perfect world that would probably be pretty easy to do, right? Well, since we live in reality, we have to tell ourselves that sometimes things happen because they happen. Perhaps we could have prevented the harmful outcome and perhaps not. But the best thing to do after that is to learn from it and move on. It’s okay to be cautious and to try and prevent negative outcomes, but when there are times that something disappoints us or we have a hard time moving forward, remind yourself of that old saying, “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade”.

- Meditation: I am a true believer of meditation. I’ve been meditating for over 20 years now and although I don’t have enough time to meditate every day like I used to, I still try to include it into my daily routine as much as possible. Meditation releases the body of toxins, helps to clear your mind of negative thoughts, and improve sleep and attention. To truly learn the art of meditation, make sure your mind is completely clear before and during meditation. If any thoughts sneak in, remember this mantra: I will succeed…I will succeed.

- Find something that can change our perspective: Perhaps we feel anger at always running late to work or we’re always doing tons of laundry during the week, try to find a new perspective on how to resolve these time and energy zappers. It could be as simple as laying out our clothes the night before or finding a new route to get to work. And instead of having to separate colors in the wash, invest in laundry detergent that can wash whites, dark, and colors all in one load.

- Find ways to unload our stress: Writing is one of the best ways of letting our frustrations out. As most writers will tell you, writing is a form of catharsis where we direct our anger, sadness, and hurt onto paper or a computer screen in most cases. Next time you feel like you just want to punch something, take pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and just write it out. It doesn’t matter if you’re grammatically incorrect, just write out whatever is on your mind or feeling. And then, delete the whole thing. Keeping it around just reminds us of the anger if we are prone to reading it later.

- Let go of inconsequential relationships: This may sound harsh, but sometimes there are people out there who negatively affect our well-being. We don’t want to be around those people, so do your best to stay away from them. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you meet that one person who just makes you feel completely drained after just a few minutes of being in their presence. There’s nothing wrong to untie that insignificant bond because  we are after all, learning to let go of negative things and that includes non-committed relationships.

- Find the reason why you can’t let go: Sometimes we just can’t let go, no matter what. But that’s the wrong approach to actually letting go. Thinking that we can’t let it go is already negatively planting the idea in your head. Start by writing down what it is that’s truly causing you stress and mental pain. Then write down solutions on how to stop it or change it. Make changes for the better and see yourself positively. Finding out the reason why you’re stuck in that mindset can help set us free eventually.

Remember that we are our own advocate. No one can dictate how we should feel or how we should act. As adults, it’s up to us to make things better and healthier for ourselves. When we learn to take care of ourselves first, then we can help others see the positive as well.

Have a happy and healthy new year!

*photo courtesy of Delicious Living magazine

 

 

Posted by: suzan | December 6, 2014

NBC Green is Universal #ShareATree Campaign

GREEN IS UNIVERSAL SHARE A TREE

Beauty is seen through the eyes of the willing. Young children find beauty in almost anything but as adults our hardships throughout the years have taught us to be more judgmental. This year, let’s open our eyes to the brilliance of nature around us and appreciate one of the best things in life – trees. Trees are magical, whimsical, and even comical. But most importantly, they breathe precious life into our atmosphere, helping us live better and more at peace. When I stand in front of a tall and majestic tree, I breathe in her invigorating fragrance and it enlivens me and makes me realize that there are more important things to life than what we already know of.

Every year marks the important event for trees around the world and that event is the Share A Tree campaign. Hosted by Green Is Universal (http://www.greenisuniversal.com/) and Arbor Day Foundation (http://www.arborday.org/), the Share A Tree campaign will help the Arbor Day Foundation plant trees all across the United States in our national forests, state forests, and state parks. Two places in which trees will be planted is in Michigan’s Mackinaw and Ausable State Forests. For every digital tree shared before the end of December, the Arbor Day Foundation will plant a real tree and for every 25,000 shared, Green is Universal will donate $5,000.

What is Share A Tree? It is a virtual forest where people can visit the site, decorate a tree and easily share it on social media. Included in the forest are about 40 trees that were drawn by celebrities like Al Roker, Dolvett Quince and Meredith Vieira among many others. You can create your own virtual tree or share a celebrity’s tree – the choice is yours and you can do this as many times as you want!

acorn

The Arbor Day Foundation efforts are to plant Jack pine trees to improve the habitat of the endangered Kirtland’s warbler. This neotropical migratory songbird’s breeding habitat is almost exclusively confined to young, dense Jack pine stands in the area. Today, Kirtland’s warblers are found in only ten counties on Michigan’s northern lower peninsula and four counties in the upper peninsula. Efforts by the Arbor Day Foundation’s replanting partners have increased the number of singing males from less than 200 to more than 1,900, bringing the species back from the brink of extinction.

Click here to decorate and Share a Tree!

LAUREN KOSLOW

One of my favorite celebrity trees is the one made by Lauren Koslow from Days of Our Lives. Now that’s what a tree should look like! So full and abundant and colorful. On  the Share A Tree site (http://www.greenisuniversal.com/) you can find many wonderful decorated trees created by celebrities. Some are simplistic and modest while others are extravagant and intense. You’ll have a lot of fun just checking out all the different trees created by these well-known celebrities.

As we are asked, “where would we be without trees?”, that is like asking how can we breathe better and cleaner air? Trees are inherently one of the most important aspects of nature and without them, we wouldn’t have a strong ecosystem. Not only are trees immensely beneficial to our environment, but they are also a valuable part of living on Earth. They create wonder and beauty in our minds and hearts. They give children the room for imagination. They give bibliophiles a comfortable place to read. But most importantly, trees can live thousands of years and thrive for many future generations. They tell stories and they give hope to many.

The goal for Share A Tree is to reach 100,000 trees by December 31st and for every 25,000 trees shared, Green is Universal will donate $5,000 to the Arbor Day Foundation. So be sure to check out the Share A Tree website to decorate your own tree, share it, and then go back and do it 100 times over until Arbor Day Foundation reaches their goal. It’s simple, fun to do, and you’re helping the environment with a worthy cause just by sitting in front of your computer and doing a much needed good deed. Sometimes we may ask ourselves what we can do to help others. Well, the Share A Tree campaign is probably one of the easiest ways to help and it doesn’t cost anything.

For more information about the Share A Tree campaign, please visit Green Is Universal: http://www.greenisuniversal.com

Disclaimer: In sharing this campaign, Happymomblogger received a gift from Green is Universal and the Arbor Day Foundation.

Disclaimer: The product(s)were sent to the author for review by the manufacturer/PR. All reviews on “Happymomblogger” remain unbiased and unpaid and are the sole decision of the author. The opinions of these product(s) were not influenced in any way, shape, or form. As always, please read the ingredients carefully when trying new products.

Please read the labels and ingredients carefully and follow all manufacturer’s instructions (if any). The products selected for the giveaway were generously donated by the companies/PR to help readers learn more about their products. The winner’s choice in using/consuming these products are entirely up to the winner and will not hold the author and her family liable nor the companies/PR liable. These products are made with non-toxic ingredients but always be safe with what you use and consume.

http://www.topmommyblogs.com/blogs/in.php?id=storm

Posted by: suzan | December 6, 2014

Monk Fruit in The Raw – Products Worth Reviewing

 

MONK FRUIT IN THE RAW

We all know that sugar is probably one of the worst foods we can put in our body. But it’s also one of the hardest thing to avoid because it’s in practically everything we eat and buy. However not all sugar are necessarily bad for you. It’s mostly the processed versions and the ones that do more harm than good, like regular cane sugar. I try to stay away from sweets whenever possible but with a young kid in the house, it’s nearly impossible to do so. Sugary food is advertised on TV, in stores, and even in schools (parents and teachers just can’t resist bringing in sweet snacks to share). So what’s a mom to do when we are attacked with sugar-laden foods? Well, we look elsewhere for more healthier alternatives that also contain useful benefits.

As a Moms Meet blogger and ambassador, I was given the opportunity to try a certain type of fruit called “Monk fruit” which is also known as “luo han guo”. Originally harvested in the 13th century, Monk fruit is getting readily more popular as a natural sugar alternative with zero calories and absolutely natural. Because all fruits contain some amounts of sugar, natural sugar from fruits is different than sugar that is processed from sugar cane. And unless your chomping on a pure sugar cane, your most likely getting sugar that has been dyed and heavily processed. With natural sugar such as Monk fruit, you get a much healthier alternative.

MONK FRUIT PACKAGE

Monk Fruit, made from In The Raw (http://www.intheraw.com/products/monk-fruit-in-the-raw) can be used like regular sugar in all your baking and cooking needs. It has a slightly grainier texture and is less sweet than regular cane sugar. I used Monk Fruit primarily when cooking fruit compote and my husband tried it in his coffee. Of course he is used to the traditional sugars but when I swapped it without him knowing, I don’t think he really noticed at all. For me, Monk Fruit or Luo Han Guo has a really gentle flavor to it and because it isn’t overly sweet, it’s really nice sprinkled over food that you normally use sugar for.

MONK FRUIT PACKETS

I was given Monk Fruit In The Raw Bakers Bag which can be used for your regular baking and cooking needs. And also Monk Fruit In The Raw Packets which are little sugar packets that you’d find in restaurants but made from the natural sweetness of Monk Fruit of course. Although with my oven broken I didn’t have a chance to bake with the Monk Fruit yet, I did use it for my special fruit compote that I spread over almost anything and just in regular cooking usage. With Asian cooking, it’s always best to add a sprinkle of sugar in your stir fried dishes to balance out the salt or soy sauce.

Monk Fruit in The Raw can be found in most natural grocery stores and stores that carry natural and organic food. I’m prone to eating less sweets as is but I’m glad I tried a new type of sweetener that can substitute regular cane sugar.

Disclaimer:

I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms MeetSM program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms MeetsSM blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.

Disclaimer: The product(s)were sent to the author for review by the manufacturer/PR. All reviews on “Happymomblogger” remain unbiased and unpaid and are the sole decision of the author. The opinions of these product(s) were not influenced in any way, shape, or form. As always, please read the ingredients carefully when trying new products.

Please read the labels and ingredients carefully and follow all manufacturer’s instructions (if any). The products selected for the giveaway were generously donated by the companies/PR to help readers learn more about their products. The winner’s choice in using/consuming these products are entirely up to the winner and will not hold the author and her family liable nor the companies/PR liable. These products are made with non-toxic ingredients but always be safe with what you use and consume.

http://www.topmommyblogs.com/blogs/in.php?id=storm

Posted by: suzan | December 3, 2014

Have a Green Holiday This Season!

GREEN CHRISTMAS TREE

Each year thousands of dollars are spent during the holiday season. But to top off that, millions of waste are also accumulated during the busy holiday months. With advertising for sales starting as early as October, it’s no wonder that we get pressured to BUY, BUY, BUY. As I get older, I try to remind myself that it’s okay if I can’t appease everyone on my Christmas shopping list. Saving money by spending wisely is in essence one of the most peaceful ways of celebrating the holidays. We become less stressed next January when our credit card bills aren’t breaking our savings account and we can actually spend our money on more meaningful things in life. With saving money for the holidays it inevitably leads to being more green for the holidays. We end up buying less and producing less waste. So, in the long run, it is a win-win situation for everyone (and for the planet).

Being “green” this holiday season isn’t an impossible feat. If you plan ahead and decide that it is the right thing to do, then you’ll come up with some pretty good ideas. Below I’ve listed ways you can save both monetarily and environmentally for this holiday season.

Decorations

– You don’t really need to buy new decorations every year. Sure they are pretty to look at and they seem to be on sale everywhere, but your old ones that you’ve had for years work just fine. If you feel the need to buy some new decorations, replace ones that are broken or torn or add a few pieces to mix in with your holiday theme. DYI decorations are one of the best ways to save money and to be creative.

– Repurpose old unusable colored bulbs by using them as table decorations.

-Have your children draw their favorite things along with holiday themes on colored paper and use them as decorations for the tree.

-Take old plastic wreaths and break them down to make several different wreaths to disperse throughout the house.

– Swap decorations with your friends each year and decide beforehand if you want to keep your decorations or donate them to your friends.

– Buy LED holiday string lights. They use 70% less energy than non-LED lights. Be sure to check with your local recycling center if they take unusable string lights.

Gifts

– Perhaps one of the biggest pitfalls of the holiday season is to feel obligated to buy gifts. While it’s tradition to exchange gifts during the holidays, it isn’t truly necessary. Sure, kids may still prefer the time-honored tradition and that’s okay, but stay with a short list this season and buy only what they truly deserve. Yes, that may seem hard to do, but it’s also a great time to teach children the benefits of receiving only a couple of gifts instead of a truckload of toys that they’ll probably never play with or get bored with a few weeks later. This also applies to buying gifts for others. Find out what the recipients really need and decide on either a big ticket gift or a few small ones that they will use throughout the year. This will save you money and save them the energy of not being able to use the gifts they receive.

– Holidays bring forth the goodwill of donations. In the real world donating year round is ideal, but we don’t all have the money or resources to do that. So during the holiday season, don’t forget to make donations to charities. If you are on a tight budget, you can always bring homemade presents or re-gift something that was never opened but you just couldn’t bear to give away. Remember that if you don’t use it, it’s just sitting there in your closet or garage collecting dust while someone else may find it as a treasure.

– Homemade gifts to those you don’t know what to buy. Have your children help you bake a plethora of cookies and sweets, package them in pretty boxes and give them as gifts. If you are crafty, make something for the recipient that he/she will be able to use. To save money and the environment, buy materials that are locally sourced or fair trade certified. Usually fair trade materials and products cost less to produce and locally sourced materials produce less carbon footprints in the production and transportation.

– Holiday cards. We all enjoying seeing our nieces and nephews on those adorable holiday cards. I used to keep the photo cards for many years until they started piling up and creating more stress in keeping them. These kids will grow up and look different every year, so if you feel the need to keep the photo cards, hold onto them for 2 years only, or take photos of the cards and keep them on a flash drive or SD card. Sending e-cards is probably the most cost efficient and environmental way to go. However, not everyone reads their emails and even then they can get lost in cyberspace. If you can, dedicate e-cards to those who are tech savvy and send paper cards to those who still like to open their mail. Better yet, if you are sending those photo cards, send them as regular snapshots in either wallet size or traditional 4×6 so that your recipients can just keep the photos instead of the entire card.

Gift Wrap

– Tons of paper are wasted each year on gift wrapping alone. I have to admit that when I see something prettily packaged, it makes me more excited because I expect the gift inside to be something wonderful. Ah, but there’s the trick, because a pretty package doesn’t necessarily mean a great gift is inside it. So, if you do buy something spectacular for your recipients, wrap them in simple yet adorable, un-dyed craft paper you can find in craft stores. They are the ones that are a caramel color where you can use any colored ribbons to jazz up with. If you did save those old holiday cards from previous years, use them as gift tags for the presents.

– An old trick is to use newspapers as wrapping paper. Find ones that match the gifts or the interests of your recipients. Use the comics page for a funny gift or a comical recipient. Use the car sales section for someone who loves cars. Use the arts section for someone who’s very artsy and crafty. You get the general idea.

– Measure carefully when wrapping presents so that you don’t end up wasting wrapping paper. We all inevitably have left over scraps that just aren’t big enough to wrap the next present. Always allow at least 3 inches top and bottom on the sides of the wrapping paper so that you don’t end up with more scraps. If you do have scraps, save them as gift tags so that they both match. Cut and trim the extra scraps into holiday themed shapes to make the gift tags extra unique.

In the end, when we truly think about the holiday season, it isn’t just about who gets the latest gadgets or the trendiest clothes. It’s about thinking of that particular reason you are celebrating the season. Someone may have come from a harder background and will need more than others or the richest person in the world could be the saddest one of all. If we retain the mantra that valuing what truly is important to us, then the holiday season won’t seem like such a stressful thing or a blur that whizzed past us in a blink of an eye. And when we give back to our precious Earth, she too will teach us and honor us with lifelong joys in life.

Have a safe and happy Holiday season and a very peaceful New Year!

 

Posted by: suzan | November 27, 2014

Beat the Holiday Humbug Blues…Tips and Tricks

HOLIDAY

The Holiday season is upon us whether we’re ready for it or not. Stores have already lined their shelves with Christmas items and the lights and glitter are up. Every year it seems as if the Holiday decorations are going up earlier than the previous years as stores try to beat each other with enticing sales and products that you just have to buy – and spend half your life savings on. But the one thing I dread most is deciding what to buy for my relatives and friends. And to top it off this year with my son in a new school, he has gained more friends so I know he’ll want to pass out something for his friends too.

But each year I also promise myself to start early so that I don’t feel bogged down with last minute presents or decorations. Although I’m not big on the whole, “let’s decorate the entire house” routine, I do like to add some cheer around the house a few weeks before Christmas. For me, Christmas cheer doesn’t officially start until December 1, but hey, it wouldn’t hurt to do some things ahead of time, right? For me, the easiest way to start is with a list. I’ll start off with the basics and separate them by needs for the holiday. I’ve also compiled a list of helpful tips and tricks that should hopefully save your sanity until next February.

Holiday Survival Tips:

Shopping:

1- Make a List. Write down names of everyone you plan to buy gifts for. Then in another section write down ideas and the approximate amount you want to spend for that person. Remember to also include those you normally give holiday tips to such as a babysitter, postal carrier, hair dresser, and so forth. Every time you purchase the gift cross off that person on the list. Pretty soon you’ll see all of the gifts bought and ready.

2- Start Shopping Early. This year don’t wait until after Thanksgiving to start buying for the holidays. Keep your eyes open year round and if you see something that the recipient on your list might enjoy, pick it up and put it in a box labeled “Christmas Presents” or “Holiday Presents”. (Oftentimes if you see something at a great deal, pick it up because that item may no longer be available come Christmas time or it doesn’t go back on sale.)Then be sure to check that off your list. When December comes around you’ll be happy that you’ve saved some time and money.

3- Research your gifts online. If there are certain gifts that you want to buy but don’t know much about, do your research early. Chances are when you do finally get to your holiday shopping, the salespeople will be so busy helping everyone else that they’re unable to dedicate a lot of time to answer your hard-pressing questions. Whether it’s the newest tech gadget or what movie to buy your niece, it’s always best to be prepared before you buy something that you’re not familiar with.

4- Hit up Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday deals. If you can brave the throng of shoppers on Black Friday, then be sure to check out a compiled list of stores and deals: Blackfriday.org. Be cautious of Cyber Monday scams though because shady merchants know that there are those who would do anything for a good deal. Best to shop at stores you have frequented in the past and you know of their return policy.

5- Take advantage of free shipping. Some stores offer free shipping if you purchase before a certain date and without a limit. If you shop online often, be sure to keep an eye on your emails for free shipping notifications from your favorite stores. If not, sign up now to get those money saving deals in your inbox. Even if you have to order a product weeks ahead of the actual holiday, it still saves you tons of money on shipping.

6- Keep universal gifts on hand. You think you’ve finished shopping for everyone on that list and then all of a sudden your child’s best friend’s mom gives you a present – for you, not for your kid. By keeping a good stock of gifts that are not gender specific you won’t go scrambling with last minute shopping (which you’re trying to avoid) or wondering if you should re-gift something from your supply closet.

7- Make and keep homemade gifts for those who like homemade gifts or for those you didn’t expect to give a present to. Homemade gifts could be anything from seasonal fruit jams to natural soap.

8- Buy gift cards. I’m one of those people who believe that gift cards make great gifts. When you buy a gift card, you’re giving your recipient the option to choose his/her own presents which most of the time people appreciate. However, take in mind the age group you are buying gift cards for. Ages 10 – 50 are usually a good age range as older folks find it too troublesome to use and remember those gift cards. Kids younger than 10 usually prefer to unwrap a shiny, new present instead of a plastic card that doesn’t hold much dazzle. Later on they’ll appreciate the simplicity of it. If you still feel like giving a gift, include a small but meaningful gift with the gift card so that the recipient will have something to “unwrap”.

Entertaining:

1- Make a list of items you’ll be buying for your party. If you’re hosting a party this year, make a list. Start off with the theme of the party and take it from there. Include not only food but the decorations and small things like a boot scraper for your front door if you live in the snow region and umbrella stands for unpredictable weather.

2 – Keep your guest list simple. Since you’re having it at your house, you’re not obligated to invite the third cousin twice removed, unless you really want to of course. Even if you have a mansion, keep in mind that you’d have to hire some extra helping hands to handle all 100 of those guests you felt the need to invite. If you just keep it in the immediate family or extended family, the list will be a lot less of a hassle on you.

3- Prepare food that’s suitable for young children. You may want to serve that extravagant Crown Roast of Pork with Chestnut Stuffing, but the kiddos might take one look at it and think it’s a decoration and not food. Think easy to eat, delicious, and easy to prepare. Kids aren’t fussy when it comes to food and during the holiday season, they just want some good old fashioned comfort food. Of course if you do want to serve them something fancy and you have the extra time, just be sure to keep it easy on the spices.

4- If you’re ordering food for most of the meal, be sure to call at least a couple months ahead. During October and November restaurants are packed with special orders and catering requests. The sooner you get your order in, the more time the venue will have to make your order. Be sure to check in with them at least 2 weeks before your event to make sure they are up to speed with any changes.

5- Keep the fun going around. To prevent party boredom, keep your guests energetic by providing different areas of entertainment. Not everyone enjoys the same game or conversation so have all sorts of games set up like classic board games, video games, and card games – all suitable for a specific age group. Also provide snacking stations near your entertainment areas so that guests can continue with the fun until the main meal is served.

6- Make mementos of the event. If you’re like me, you want your guests to take home something to remind them of all the fun they had – right? Do this several weeks before the party and at least after you’ve made the guest list. Keepsakes could be part of your theme or part of the holiday your hosting. It could be as simple as a decorated name card they could keep to remember or as fancy(and expensive) as embossed cloth napkins with the guests names on them.

Traveling:

1 – Reserve plane tickets at least 4 weeks in advance once your plans are set. Some may argue that airlines offer last minute deals but you have to catch them at the right time and read the fine print. Oftentimes you have to travel at a certain time of the day or night or it’s only a one-way ticket where you end up paying more for the return ticket. Even if you do save a few bucks just ask yourself if you have the time to make last minute phone calls to the airlines or park in front of the computer waiting for the flight deals to come through.

2- Depending on how long you are staying at your destination, pack light and wisely. If you’re flying or driving to a region where it’s really cold, take one weather suitable jacket that can block out wind, rain, and snow. Then pack layers so that you can interchange your wardrobe. When packing your suitcase, roll your shirts and tops so you can pack efficiently. When rolled up, they are harder to wrinkle and creates more space in your luggage.

3 – Always check ahead for the weather. If you’re visiting your boyfriend’s parents for the first time and it’s in a part of the country you’ve never been to before, it’s wise to pack clothes designed to handle the weather conditions. If you’re unsure what the weather would be like months or weeks ahead, go on and ask your boyfriend since that is his hometown after all. But remember to pack at least two ensembles for the celebrations.

4- If you’re staying in a hotel, don’t opt for the hotel safe. The staff after all, has keys to that safe and although you’d think it is “safe”, it’s better to keep your valuables in a more secure area. One trick to keep your cash and expensive jewelry is hide them in a coffee mug. If someone was to look at it, they wouldn’t guess that you’re keeping hundred dollar bills in there.

5- If you’re driving your own vehicle, inspect your car thoroughly and replace or repair any leaks or damaged parts immediately. The worst part of traveling is being stranded in the middle of the desert or stuck in a snowstorm without properly inflated tires or the heater overheats. Be sure to pack an emergency kit which includes extra food, water, jumper cables, blankets, duck tape, a flashlight, reflective triangles, etc.

6- If you’re traveling with children, whether by plane or car, keep them entertained as much as possible throughout the entire journey. Kids for some reason beyond me, know just at the right time to start screaming that they’re bored while you’re trying to navigate through an icy mountain path. Bring books, games, movies, stuffed animals, extra blankets and just about anything to keep them happy and quiet and you sane and peaceful.

Remember that no matter how much you plan ahead, there will always be a couple of snaffus. No one is perfect and even if you have Martha Stewart tendencies, remember that if you and your guests are having fun, not many people will notice the turkey slightly over baked on one side and the downstairs guest bathroom doesn’t have Christmas- themed soaps and towels.

Happy Holidays everyone and take some time to enjoy life!

Posted by: suzan | November 19, 2014

Chik-fil-A Moms Club

CHIKFILA MOMS CLUB - Copy

Okay, so I don’t eat the chicken at Chik-fil-A because I’m a vegetarian but I do love their waffle fries, sundae, and lemonade. And once in awhile I order their breakfast burritos without the chicken. Either way, I was super excited when Chik-fil-A opened up a restaurant near my home many years ago. My son loves their chicken nuggets and I think the toy that comes with the Kids Meal is so much better – you usually get a book or some kind of educational activity.

As a Chik-fil-A Moms Club and part of the Moms Select Bloggers, I was invited to join this fun and unique group of moms who loves to feed their kids Chik-fil-A chicken. I was also given a challenge to “Dress Your Nuggets” using their newest Grilled Chicken Nuggets and this is what I came up with:

Mini Chicken Tacos with Cabbage Slaw

CFA MOMS CLUB

Ingredients:

8-Piece Chik-fil-A Grilled Chicken Nuggets

1 Package mini tortillas

1 Cup Cabbage – shredded

3 Tablespoons mayonnaise

1 Lime

Dash of pepper and salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

Instructions:

Warm the tortillas in the oven, stove, or microwave

To make cabbage slaw:

Mix shredded cabbage, mayonnaise, lime, salt, pepper, and sugar in a large bowl. Stir and mix well until evenly coated.

Place chicken nuggets in center of tortilla.

Spread cabbage slaw over nuggets.

Squeeze some more lime over the chicken and cabbage slaw.

Serve and enjoy!

CHIQUITA COOKING CONTEST

Bananas – one of the easiest and tastiest fruit around. They’re great for desserts, for a quick morning breakfast, or an in-between meals snack. Whatever your reasons for eating bananas, know that they contain an incredible amount of vitamins and minerals. Not everyone likes bananas, but if you do you probably already know that not only are they sweet but they can be used in many creative recipes. You can enjoy bananas as a simple in-between meals snack or incorporate them into intricate and delicious recipes. Whatever your reasons for eating bananas, take a look at Chiquita bananas newest cooking contest hosted on their site: http://www.chiquitabananas.com/cookinglab/.

As a Moms Meet blogger, I was encouraged to enter the cooking contest using bananas as the main ingredient. I had to really think about that for a moment because it could be something super easy or incredibly complicated. I chose the middle ground given that a simple banana split might be too easy although yummy and chose instead to create a Pumpkin Pancake with Glazed Bananas and Pecans.

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Each week there is a tab where the secret ingredients are revealed on the Chiquita bananas cooking lab website. I was having some trouble scratching off the tab to reveal the ingredients but once you do find out, be sure to include the secret ingredients in your recipe. This week’s secret ingredients are: Pumpkin, bananas, and pecans. A million ideas ran in my head but then when it came to execution of the recipe, I was at a loss as to what to make with these 3 main ingredients. I’m not really a pumpkin fan but I could enjoy it in a pie or a smoothie. I knew that I wanted to do something sweet as I associate pumpkins and bananas as more of dessert ingredients but I also wanted to do something that wasn’t too difficult either. My son actually liked it and he’s not a big pumpkin fan either, but with the caramelized bananas and the toasted pecans, all we had to do was drizzle a little 100% maple syrup and it was a very delicious treat!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1 egg

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 cups all purpose flour

3 tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

In a bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, and oil. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a separate bowl. Stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

CHIQUITA COOKING LAB

So enter today at: http://www.chiquitabananas.com/cookinglab and who knows, you might be a winner! For more info, please visit the Chiquita bananas website as well as their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram sites for more ideas.

 

Disclaimer:

I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms MeetSM blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily
reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of the product.

Disclaimer: The product(s)were sent to the author for review by the manufacturer/PR. All reviews on “Happymomblogger” remain unbiased and unpaid and are the sole decision of the author. The opinions of these product(s) were not influenced in any way, shape, or form. As always, please read the ingredients carefully when trying new products.

Please read the labels and ingredients carefully and follow all manufacturer’s instructions (if any). The products selected for the giveaway were generously donated by the companies/PR to help readers learn more about their products. The winner’s choice in using/consuming these products are entirely up to the winner and will not hold the author and her family liable nor the companies/PR liable. These products are made with non-toxic ingredients but always be safe with what you use and consume.

http://www.topmommyblogs.com/blogs/in.php?id=storm

 

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