Sunday, November 29, 2015

Personalized Holiday Gift Ideas from Minted {Giveaway - Ends 12/7}

It's the season of giving! Are you out of ideas for anyone yet? A personalized gift is always a thoughtful choice, and one that's easy to create with Minted this holiday season.

I received credit to Minted in exchange for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Minted is a marketplace of beautiful stationery, home decor, photo gifts and more, with designs powered by a global community of independent artists. They're well known for their large selection of custom photo cards, in case you haven't sent your Christmas cards out yet. Personally, my favorite products from Minted are their personalized gifts. Let's highlight a few of my favorites!

Notebooks, Address Books & Day Planners
Choose from hundreds of cover options, select the interior pages and binding type, and customize as needed to include a photo, the recipient's name or other text. My personal favorite is the personalized notebooks, which I have personalized and given to several of my friends and family. I have even made several for myself! They are a wonderful size (5.5" by 8.5") and are great for list-making and record-keeping. I currently have one designate for everything homeschooling related, and another for personal notes. 

Personalized Stationery
Give stationery with a monogram, floral masterpiece or bold design. Personalize it with the recipient's name so they can send correspondence in style. There are options for him, her, and even for kids. Stationery can be foil-pressed and there are shape options to choose from if you'd like something other than a typical rectangle. Stationery is printed on luxurious paper and delivered in an embossed white gift box.

Photo Calendars 
This is the perfect gift that gives all year long as it's used each day. Choose from lots of unique designs and formats, and personalize with special dates and photos. I particularly love photo calendars as a gift option for a spouse or grandparent.

There are plenty of gift options at Minted, so hurry on over and get shopping! For additional ideas, Minted has featured their editor's picks top 5 favorite gifts. Be sure to check them out for even more gifting inspiration this holiday season.

Enter To Win:
One of my readers will receive a $50 credit to Minted!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Holiday Baking with Heilala Vanilla & Vanilla Custard Recipe {Giveaway - Ends 11/30}

Pull out your mixer and warm up the oven...the holidays are here! Baking is without a doubt an essential component to all the upcoming holiday festivities. If you're like me, you add vanilla to everything, because vanilla is delicious! Riiiiiight? 

Just in time to join your holiday baking plans are award-winning Heilala Vanilla products. All the way from New Zealand, they have a whole range of award-winning 100% pure vanilla products, including Vanilla Beans, Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Paste, Vanilla Sugar and Vanilla syrup. 

I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions are 100% my own.

About Heilala Vanilla
Heilala Vanilla began as an aid project over eight years ago, when a vanilla plantation was established by a New Zealand family, in partnership with a local family from the village of Utungake in Vava’u, Kingdom of Tonga. In 2005 the first crop was harvested and brought back to New Zealand, and was snapped up by local chefs.

Since these small beginnings and a first harvest of 40kg of dried vanilla pods, Heilala Vanilla has grown spectacularly, harvesting 3.5 tonne of vanilla in 2011. This has had a significant impact on the local community, providing employment and infrastructure.

Products are sold into specialty food retail and fine dining establishments and gourmet food manufacturers. Markets have been established in New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States.

Retired New Zealand dairy farmer John Ross and his son-in-law Garth Boggiss, who has a horticultural background, have built up a vast knowledge of growing this very specialised crop by meeting and visiting vanilla growers in many parts of the world (including Tahiti, Reunion Is and Costa Rica). A plantation in both Tonga and in Tauranga has enabled a complete focus on the intricacies of growing vanilla. 

I received a couple Heilala Vanilla products to sample for myself. The Vanilla Syrup is a sweet syrup with a base of vanilla extract, vanilla bean and sugar. It's contains a whole vanilla bean so the rich vanilla will be present until the last drop. The syrup is great for adding to coffee and other beverages, smoothies, and as a topping on pancakes or desserts. It has a true syrup consistency and smells deliciously rich and fragrant.

The Pure Vanilla Bean Sugar is just sugar, powdered vanilla beans and vanilla extract. It has a strong vanilla essence throughout that is fabulous on or in cookies, cakes, pastries, and other baked goods.  

Looking for a super simple vanilla-infused dessert for the holidays? This homemade custard using Heilala Vanilla beans and sugar are sure to impress your party guests.

Vanilla Custard by the glass 
Makes: 2 ½ cups

1 Heilala Vanilla Bean, split

2 cups full cream milk
6 egg yolks
2 tablespoons super fine sugar

1 tablespoon Heilala Vanilla sugar for sprinkling

Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the milk in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the vanilla bean and heat until the milk is hot but not boiling. Leave to infuse for 5-10 minutes.

In a bowl mix together the egg yolks and sugar, then add the infused milk, stirring constantly. Wipe out the saucepan and return the mixture.

Cook over a low to moderate heat, stirring constantly until the custard thickens enough to lightly coat the wooden spoon.

Pour custard into a clean bowl, sprinkle with vanilla sugar to prevent a skin forming. Leave to cool, then cover and refrigerate. Remove vanilla bean before serving.

Serve vanilla custard in glasses or pour into a jug and serve with poached fruit.

Mmmm, the entire line of Heilala Vanilla goodness! Heilala Vanilla products are available at Sprouts Farmers Markets and Earth Fare stores nationwide.

Enter To Win:
One of my readers will receive a bottle of Heilala Vanilla Extract!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Recycle Your Used Breastpump & Help Support NICU Moms With Medela Recycles {Medela Freestyle Pump Giveaway - Ends 12/6}

Hey, breastfeeding mamas. Let's say you're done with pumping. What the heck do you do with your used breast pump? Medela has an awesome recycling program called Medela Recycles that keeps old Medela breast pumps out of landfills, and helps families achieve their breastfeeding goals too.

This is a sponsored post brought to you by Medela. All opinions are 100% my own.

Medela Recyles was created in response to a petition on launched by an eco-conscious mother to encourage Medela to develop a recycling program for old pumps to keep them out of landfills. Obviously it worked! Moms can now recycle their Medela pumps using a pre-paid postage label to ship their used pump back to Medela where it will be properly recycled. 

While the recycling of a mom's breastpump may mark the end of her breastfeeding journey, this program is also helping another mom start hers. Did you know that nearly 40% of the families served by Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) are caring for babies in the NICU? 

As part of Medela Recycles, each month a RMHC House will receive a donation of two Symphony Preemie+ Breastpumps and breastfeeding supplies thanks to the mothers that are recycling their old pumps through Medela Recycles. The end goal is to provide NICU mothers with the same high-quality equipment they use at the hospital during their stay at a RMHC House.

The mothers who are parting with their pumps are providing a new mother with a baby in the NICU, the support and equipment she needs to continue to provide breastmilk for her baby. To date, there have been over 8,000 pumps recycled as Medela strives to meet a goal of 12,000 recycled pumps this year. Can you help Medela reach that goal?

I use a Medela Pump In Style and have been very happy with it. I love seeing that there is a recycling program in place for when I'm done with my pump. I also still have the pump I used with Buddy. It's sitting in a box...somewhere. I wish it were a Medela pump that could be recycled and help contribute to this great program. I love that Medela is helping families reach their breastfeeding goals in the midst of difficult circumstances!

To find out more about Medela Recycles and to recycle your used Medela pump, visit

Enter To Win:
One of my readers will receive a Medela Freestyle pump ($400) and Accessory Starter Kit ($50)!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Shopping for a Video Baby Monitor at buybuy BABY

{Multi-tasking at it's finest - babywearing, nursing a sleepy baby and shopping!}

With our outdated audio baby monitor becoming increasingly unreliable, I recently began researching the world of video baby monitors. I must admit that sometimes I find electronics a bit overwhelming, especially when there are so many options to choose from. I suppose I'm a bit technology-challenged! Options are great, but only when you know what you're looking for. 

Knowing that buybuy BABY has not let me down in the past, I knew they could help me sort through all the video monitors. Product expert Desiree at my local buybuy BABY was amazing! She walked me through all the important features to look for and helped me understand each one so I could narrow down all my options. Ultimately I walked out feeling confident that I chose the best video monitor for my family. 

Buying a video baby monitor has been on my to-do list for a while now. The added security of real-time video is certainly comforting and definitely an overdue upgrade from our previous audio-only monitor. Although baby girl sleeps in our room, there are times each day that I'm not in there with her. And keeping the bedroom door open while she sleeps is just not very practical when big brother is busy playing and I have chores to tend to! I needed a simple video monitor that is practical for use during naps and at night for a couple hours before I go to bed. 

What features should you look for in a video monitor? I've gotta say that their are pros and cons to each of them, so it's important to consider your sleeping situation and decide what features you need before you buy. I'd recommend reading online reviews and asking your mommy friends about their monitors too. While all video monitors include pretty standard features, these are the features I found most important to consider. 

WiFi & HD - These are the two biggest things in the world of video monitors right now. With WiFi you can access the monitors feed through your smartphone via an app like Hubble for Motorola. This allows parents to use their smartphones as the parent unit from anywhere you get a WiFi signal. This might be a useful feature for parents who want to check in on baby while they're at work. If you have an unreliable WiFi connection at home you may not want to select a WiFi monitor. WiFi monitors also have HD, but there are HD options that do not utilize WiFi. Both WiFi and HD are more costly too.

Infrared Night Vision - This ensures a clear view of your baby at night, without any lights. In a dark room, this is a super important feature. 

Pan, Tilt & Zoom - While zoom is pretty standard, pan and tilt are nice to have. At this point I have only used the pan and tilt to set up our monitor in the right spot, but it will be awesome for scanning the room when my daughter's a toddler and sneaking out of bed to play during nap time.

Room Temperature Display - Keeping baby at a comfortable temperature is important for safety reasons but also to ensure restful sleep. I know in my home there are hot spots and cold spots depending on the time of day and also the time of year. This feature gives parents important information without having to go into baby's room.

Two-way Audio Communication
- Although I don't quite see the absolute need for this feature, some parents might like being able to talk or sing to baby without going into the room. 

Movement Detection & Sound Activation - Video monitors with these features will turn off the live video and/or audio after a designated period of time unless motion or sound are detected. This conserves the battery life of the parent unit, and also 

Screen Size & Clarity - Some screens on these video monitors are pretty tiny. I personally prefer a monitor with a 3-inch minimum screen size. Seeing video monitors in person at your local buybuy BABY is really your best bet to ensure you get a monitor with a good clear picture, although none that I saw were less than average. 

Additional Cameras - Some monitors allow you to add extra cameras if needed, and still view and control them with one parent unit.

I received complimentary product for review purposes as part of the babyhood Influencer Network. All opinions are 100% my own. 

After weighing all the great options at buybuy BABY, we chose the Motorola MBP36S digital video baby monitor. It features a decent 3.5-Inch Color LCD Screen, pan, tilt, 2X zoom, infrared night vision, room temperature display and two-way audio communication. The baby unit even has five lullabies to soothe baby (controlled by the parent unit), and has a large range of up to 600 feet. This monitor has the option of adding additional cameras if we need to add any in the future, and has a power-saving mode that can be set to turn off the live video portion after 5, 30, or 60 minutes so you don't drain the battery if not plugged in. There are alerts if you are out-of-range from the baby unit, and also if you have a low battery on the parent unit.


 {My view at bedtime. It appears blue in the photo but it's really black and white.}

This particular video monitor does not have are movement detection and sound activation. When the live video on the parent unit is in power-saving mode (audio will still be on), it will not automatically turn back on if movement or sound are detected. This could be a major drawback for some, but you have to just press the video button to turn it back on. 

The Motorola MBP36S has more features than I probably need for the little use I require, but I like the large screen size and the pan/tilt capability in particular. The video is really clear during the day and night. One thing that I don't like about this monitor is that the parent unit will beep when you turn it on if the baby unit is off. Ummm, that's no good. So we just keep the baby unit on all the time now to avoid waking up baby girl if we turn off the baby unit. Overall I do like this monitor though and I feel like this monitor is pretty intuitive, even for a technology-challenged mom like me. The price is also pretty reasonable for a video monitor. 

You can buy the Motorola MBP36S for $199.99 at or shop at one of their 100+ locations nationwide. Find your nearest store location here.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Get Fresh Flowers Each Month With BloomsyBox {Giveaway - Ends 11/27}

Fresh flowers can brighten a room like nothing else can. Why not enjoy them more often? With a monthly subscription to BloomsyBox, you can! BloomsyBox is a subscription service that sends a seasonal bouquet of flowers every month to your home. Everyone I know loves receiving packages on their doorstep, and I don't think anyone can argue with a bouquet of flowers, right?
I received a complimentary bouquet for review purposes. All opinions are 100% my own.

I received this beautiful bouquet of hydrangeas on my doorstep several weeks ago. Isn't it amazing!? The delicate nature of hydrangeas seemed like a risky choice for sending flowers via mail, but the bouquet arrived in a long box, properly secured to keep them from getting tossed around inside. A few stems were a bit sad looking but the entire bouquet perked up after putting it in a vase with water and the included flower food packet. I was surprised to see them last for nearly two weeks on my kitchen counter!

How is BloomsyBox different? There are a few major differences from the average floral supplier. First, you won't receive a mixed bouquet with unnecessary extras. BloomsyBox only deals in "single-variety" hand-tied flower bunches. Second, the flowers are sourced direct from suppliers in South America, Holland, Thailand and California, so there's no middle-man mark-up. Their seasonal blooms are picked to order and assembled right on the farm, arriving at your door within 48 hours. 

I'm very impressed with the fast delivery, the gorgeous quality of the flowers I received and the overall concept of flowers delivered to your door every month. A BloomsyBox subscription would be a fantastic gift this holiday season for your spouse, significant other, a loved one or even yourself. Who doesn't love a bouquet of flowers?

BloomsyBox offers several plans to choose from, starting at $34.99. Monthly plans include a premium bouquet of farm fresh flowers and free delivery. Customers can suspend service when they're out of town if necessary. Weekly plan options are also available for the Bloomsy Office Box.
Enter To Win:
One of my readers will receive a bouquet from!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Keep Your Baby Close With An Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper {Giveaway - Ends 11/25}

Bringing home a brand new baby comes with enough worry and anxiety. Feeling comfortable with where they will sleep doesn't have to be add to it. If there's one thing I absolutely could not live without with a newborn, it would be an Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper.

I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions are 100% my own. 

When we brought home baby girl this past March, we were exhausted. I laid her in her Co-Sleeper next to me, and we drifted off to sleep. When she woke to nurse, I simply sat up, lifted her out of her Co-Sleeper and nursed her. I didn't even have to get out of bed!! This, THIS, was a beautiful thing I had not experienced with Buddy. 

When Buddy was born, we lived in a one-bedroom apartment with his crib on the other side of the room. I naively thought I had no need for a bassinet type of product. Hindsight is always 20/20, right? Looking back I would have probably had an easier recovery and a better chance at breastfeeding directly instead of pumping for that first year. Getting in and out of bed so often after birth (especially while recovering from a c-section) is not at all ideal.

Recommended by leading pediatricians and sleep research experts Dr. James J. McKenna Ph. D and Dr. William Sears, the Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper is a bassinet that attaches flush to your bedside. A lowered side gives you quick, easy access to your baby, while giving your baby a separate, safe sleep environment. The entire Co-Sleeper is portable and travels quite well.

There are four breathable mesh sides, a 4-inch sleeping nest height, and patented attachment strap and plate to securely attach the Co-Sleeper to your bed. Several pockets and the entire area underneath the mattress give plenty of storage space. The mattress is firm yet comfortable for baby, and comes with a removable, washable sheet. Additional sheets and mattresses are available, including some organic options.

Co-sleeping has numerous benefits for mom and baby. Keeping baby close is important to promote bonding, help baby feel secure, and those first few weeks are especially crucial in establishing your milk supply for breastfeeding. It saved my sanity every night when sleep deprivation would rear it's ugly head. 

By having baby girl just an arm's reach away, I could quickly respond to her needs without having to get out of bed. And surely I'm not the only mom that found it necessary to make sure their baby was breathing a bazillion times at night!

After a few weeks I found it more comfortable to breastfeed sitting in my rocking chair than rearranging pillows to nurse in bed in the middle of the night. But to avoid the sleep-deprived walk to the living room, I moved my rocking chair into my room, right next to the Co-Sleeper. Night feeds are a total breeze this way, even when most nights take an hour for baby girl to go back down.

This particular model is the Mini Arc Co-Sleeper, and converts to a free-standing bassinet when the lowered side is raised up and secured. There are other models available that are larger than this and also convert to a playard for extended use past the bassinet stage.

Our Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper has been amazing for our family. While we found bed-sharing necessary a few hours here and there after the first couple months, co-sleeping was and is still the best way for us all to get the most restful, safe sleep.  

Baby girl finally outgrew her Co-Sleeper nearly a month ago, which was actually quite bittersweet! Into her crib she went. But, I'm not too sad because we actually moved the crib into our room, right next to our bed! So much for a nursery...but I love having my baby girl so close. And she does too.

Enter To Win:
One of my readers will receive a Mini Arc Co-Sleeper in Toffee Dot! {$174.99 Value)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ultimate Swaddle Blankets from SwaddleDesigns {Giveaway - Ends 11/15}

Founded and designed by Lynette Damir, RN, SwaddleDesigns is a brand trusted by parents and caregivers when it comes to the care and comfort of baby. Known for their premium quality swaddle blankets in fabulous colors and prints, SwaddleDesigns is a favorite baby essential in our home and continues to be, even beyond the newborn stage.
I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions are 100% my own.

SwaddleDesigns recently released their new Lolli Fleur Collection. Ultimate Swaddle Blankets, Baby Burpies, and zzZipMe Sacks are available in four colors in this beautiful new design.

Ultimate Swaddle Blankets are soft, warm, and generously sized at 42" x 42". Made in the USA from premium 100% cotton flannel, they breathe better than swaddling products made from sythentic fibers, thus providing a safer sleeping environment for baby. The blankets feature a 123 Swaddle instructional tag, making swaddling an easier task for new parents. SwaddleDesigns is an advocate of safe sleep practices, promoting the SwaddleDesigns Goldilocks Guide - Baby should not be too hot or too cold, but just right - comfortably warm

I tested many swaddle blankets with baby girl. I loved most of them (each for different reasons), but my favorite for swaddling at night were the Ultimate Swaddle Blankets from SwaddleDesigns. I also used these when Buddy was a baby, if that gives any indication of just how much I love these blankets. The 100% cotton flannel doesn't stretch like a muslin blanket does, so I found it to be much more difficult for my babies to escape their cozy swaddle. 

Swaddling has many benefits, which I have personally experienced with both of my children. Swaddled babies tend to sleep better and for longer stretches due to the snug environment, similar to the womb. This always helps decrease the instance of the startle reflex, which does not begin to decrease until around six months of age. There were many times swaddling helped to calm my children when they were simply overtired and needed extra help calming down so they could sleep. 

Although the Ultimate Swaddle Blankets are amazing for cool weather, I even swaddled baby girl every night in one through the summer. A onsie underneath was all she needed, and she was comfy all night. During the cooler months I find the SwaddleDesigns Ultimate Swaddle Blankets to be an absolute essential. Winter is coming so get yours now!

Our days of swaddling may be over, but we still love our swaddle blankets for tummy time, for car rides or mama snuggles, or as a quick nursing cover. I still have Buddy's Ultimate Swaddle Blankets within reach, and those are from seven years ago! These very functional blankets last well beyond the newborn swaddle stage and are certainly a great baby purchase. We made it with just two of these swaddles, although three or four is ideal.

Enter To Win:
One of my readers will receive an Ultimate Swaddle Blanket!