Tips for an Unforgettable Family Vacation in Venice

The joys of family vacations are moments to be cherished, and for parents, watching your kids explore new and unfamiliar places, and begin to encounter new cultures is a thrilling and wondrous experience. There are few places in the world that pack the type of scenic beauty, delicious food, and new experiences that Italy’s northern city of Venice is famous for, so if you’re thinking of a family vacation, here are a few reasons why Venice is the perfect destination for you.

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Waterway transportation
For anyone who hasn’t grown up in a city of canals and waterways, the chance to experience the boat taxis and gondolas that ferry tourists (and locals) around this stunning city is absolutely thrilling. Even upon arrival there are boat services that can take you from Marco Polo Airport into the center of the city, which is bound to start your holiday off on the right foot with your kids.Following arrival, a great way to acclimatize to the city and begin to adjust to the canals, bridges, and narrow passages is by taking a boat tour, which will lead you down the Grand Canal and allow you to map-out many of the city’s famous sites, such as the Rialto Bridge, Piazza San Marco, Saint Mark’s Basilica, and the Doge’s Palace.

Family-Friendly Eating
The easiest part about taking family trips to Italy, is that most children love the type of food that is available to them, pizza and pasta can be found at all restaurants. If you’re looking for an atmosphere that is laid back and friendly with kids, the Rialto San Marco if the perfect place for you. After dinner or on hot afternoons, a stop by the gelato shop will give your family a tasty experience that the ice cream back home simply cannot match.

Relax and Play at the Lido
The Lido is Venice’s beach and is located on the Adriatic Sea. It is actually a sand bar that is about 11 kilometers long, and features both private and public beaches. Heading to the north or south will allow you to access the Lido’s two public beaches, whose waters are warm and shallow, making them a perfect place for kids to play. The local area is also home to a sporting centre that features football pitches, as well as tennis courts. If you happen to get hungry and haven’t packed a lunch, then there are plenty of family friends eating options around.

Explore by foot
The narrow winding passageways and staircases that open up onto Venice’s beautiful squares provide a magical experience of discovery for visitors of all ages. And when your family are tired and need a break, the cafés featuring live music in the evenings are a perfect place for parents to relax and unwind with a bottle of wine, while the kids chase Venice’s famous pigeons around the square.

So whether your kids are babies or teens, there are plenty of great reasons to book your flights to Venice and give your family an Italian experience that you will never forget.

Picture used by permission. View it here.

#IC #Sponsored: Insomnia Nation – Let’s Get Some Sleep!

sponsoredDisclaimer:I participated in an Ambassador program on behalf of Influence Central for Pernix Therapeutics. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Yaaaaawwwwwn. As I type this, I’m struggling to keep my eyes open. Why, you ask? Because, once again, I didn’t get a full night’s sleep.

I struggle with sleep every night. Sawyer still gets up several times a night, but even on the rare occasion he *does* sleep all night, I’m still up all night long, tossing and turning, worrying about all the things I’m behind on, all the stuff I need to do around the house, all the things the kids have going on, finances, my weight, whether I exercise enough, friendships… it’s one thing after another. I’d give just about anything to fall asleep quickly and get a full night’s sleep.

Insomnia is a big deal. Did you know nearly 4 million Americans suffer from insomnia? While some people have trouble falling asleep, (myself included!), more than half of Americans struggle with being able to stay asleep through the night. (I struggle there too!)

Take a moment and look at this infographic:
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(You can click on the infographic or click here to see it in a full size, printable PDF.)

Take a look at those statistics! Only 12% are actually diagnosed by a doctor? Why aren’t more of us talking to our doctor about our sleepless nights? And is sleeplessness really glamorized? Not in my world! 😉 I’d feel way more glamorous if I could actually get a full night’s rest. Yet nearly 3/4ths of Americans, (72%!) are missing out on almost 3 weeks of sleep every year! (That breaks down to 470 hours. YIKES!)

Did you know that getting a full night of sleep can actually empower you? It helps our memory, our immune system function, and other vital functions that keep our bodies going every day.

So, what are we to do? Is there any good news for those of us who struggle with sleep?

Yes! There really is good news! There are effective treatment options available for those of us who suffer with insomnia. The first thing you need to do is have a conversation with your doctor about your restless nights. Be sure to discuss your lifestyle, routine, and all the symptoms you are having. You doctor is always the best place to start.

You can also learn more about getting a full night’s sleep by visiting wanttosleepmore.com.

Do you struggle with getting to sleep or staying asleep every night? Do you follow a bedtime routine for yourself, or is every night just chaos? I want to hear from you!

Mexico: An Amazing Vacation Destination – Even with Kids!

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Have you ever traveled to Mexico for a vacation? I have been several times, and I just love it! In Mexico, you can find some of the most beautiful beaches , taste great food, and experience true culture unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

What if you’re traveling with kids? Do you think that’s going to make it much more difficult?

Absolutely not! Traveling with kids to Mexico can be fun!

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Here are a few must-visit sites in Cancun, Mexico that are kid friendly:

1. Captain Hook Pirate Dinner Cruise – This looks amazing!! We are Captain Hook/Peter Pan fans around here, and while we haven’t had the opportunity to try this dinner cruise yet, it would definitely be number one on our list. Check it out. There’s even a coupon code on there if you book early.

2. Dolphin Discovery – Take a beautiful boat ride, and then choose which type of swim you want to do with the dolphins. Packages range from giving them a hug to getting pushed around on a boogie board by them. Whatever you decide, you’re sure to make lasting memories for your whole family. Call 1-866-393-5158 to book your reservation.

3. Interactive Aquarium – This aquarium is rather small, and can be done in less than an hour, but the memories you make will last a lifetime. There’s no charge to touch the manta rays or the gorgeous sea turtles, but there’s also a gift shop where you can purchase mementos of your time there. It’s located inside the La Isla Shopping Village. Call 998-883-0411 for more information.

4. Crococun – This is at the top of my hubby’s to-do list! Located just 19 miles from downtown Cancun, this interactive conservation zoo began as a crocodile breeding farm. After Hurricane Gilberto destroyed it in 1988, it’s now changed from breeding crocs to protecting and promoting them. You can hold a baby crocodile and even stroll through an area where 50 crocs (or so!) roam free. Awesome! Call 998-850-3719 to learn more and book your trip.

5. Xcaret – This park, (pronounced “Sh-car-ret”), is filled with things to do the whole family will love! A butterfly pavilion, flamingos, spider monkeys, even swim with dolphins or just relax on a beautiful beach! They are always hosting annual events and festivities, so be sure to call and ask what’s happening during your trip. You can learn more by calling 800-212-8951-1-8881.

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Whatever your interests, whether it’s dolphins, ancient ruins, or just lounging on the beach, there’s always something your whole family can do in Mexico!

Have you traveled to Mexico with your family? What were your must-do activities?

**Pictures provided by Flickr. Click on the picture to see the original.

Guest Post: The Benefits Offered by Day Camp

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Day camps, summer camps and other such camps are sometimes controversial. For many parents, they are an absolute God’s sent, because it means their children can go somewhere to enjoy themselves while they can continue to work. Others, however, feel that sending children to day camp is shirting responsibilities. After all, if you don’t have the time to look after your children, you shouldn’t have had them. However, the reality is that day camps actually offer children a whole lot of benefits, and it is a parent’s responsibility to provide them with these things. So what are some of the benefits that you could experience if you send your children to the best day camps Rockland County has to offer?

The Benefits of Day Camp

There are five very clear benefits of sending a child to day camp. These are:

  1. Children learn independence skills while staying in an environment that is both safe and controlled. By spending a full day away from their parents, a child starts to move on the road towards independence. Independence is a vital skill to have. Children are in a new environment and they will be given the opportunity to learn various independence skills.This includes meeting other people, looking after belongings, cooperating in a team, testing out new things and more. They will learn what it means to be responsible for themselves and for others.
  2. Children can learn to make new friends outside of their standard environment. At day camp, different children will attend the different days and these are children that may not be in their direct school or home address community. The friendships built at day camp can last a lifetime! Not just that, however, but building friendships also builds life skills. It teaches them to make independent decisions as well as how to interact with other people.
  3. Children are encouraged to be physically active. Too many children in this country are overweight or obese and one of the main reasons for this is that they are not given sufficient opportunities to be physically active. All day camps offer various physical activities and sports. This also means children are given the opportunity to test new types of skills and sports that they may otherwise not have been able to try.
  4. Children will have greater self-esteem and confidence. Because children are encouraged to make fully independent choices every day, they can take their new skills and knowledge home and talk about what they have learned. The sense of pride they will have about their own achievements is a great way for them to become more confident young people.Naturally, it is vital that parents encourages this and give positive feedback to their children, acknowledging their various accomplishments.
  5. Children will get to learn through play. Day camps look to children as an environment in which they can play. In reality, however, they will also be equipped with various learning opportunities without even realizing it.

#IC #AD: P&G Free & Gentle, It’s Your #SecondSkincare

sampleDisclaimer: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for P&G. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation. All opinions and reviews are my own.

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With 10 people in our home, I do a lot of laundry. There are times when I feel like I’m doing laundry all day long! In fact, as I’m typing this post, I’ve got a load in the wash, a load in the dryer, and two baskets sitting in front of me that need folded and put away. Yep. With all these kids, my life usually revolves around laundry.

That being said, when it comes to laundry time in our house, I need products that work for the entire family. I need something that can take care of tough stains, but also be gentle enough for the several little ones I have that have incredibly sensitive skin.

That’s why I love P&G’s line of Free & Gentle products. The Tide Pods are perfect for getting even the dirtiest clothes clean. My kids can make some serious messes! But take a look at the before and after of this shirt:

before wash
All I did was throw the shirt in the wash with a Free & Gentle Tide Pod:

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Filled the softener cup with Downy Free & Gentle:

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Washed, and then dried it all with a Bounce Free & Gentle Dryer Sheet:

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And it came out beautifully!

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No more stains! It’s clean, fresh, and ready to take on my 4 year old again!

I love that one line of detergents takes care of all our laundry needs. And, in the long run, it saves us money. I don’t have to buy several different types of detergents for the family’s needs, and I’m not constantly needing to buy new clothes because the stains won’t come out.

But, even more than that, I love that I can use these products as a form of a “Second Skincare” for Gage and Sawyer. Because P&G Free & Gentle products are hypoallergenic, dye and perfume free, they keep Gage and Sawyer from breaking out in rashes or being itchy all day. Because they come in brands like Tide, Downy, and Bounce, I can trust them to be the best for my large family.

I know we’re not alone in our sensitive skin woes, either. Did you know that nearly half of all US adults say they have sensitive skin? When we think of sensitive skin, we’re always careful about the types of facial and body care products we buy, but the clothes that we put on, our “second skin,” are every bit as important.

I recently discovered that 87% of the people that use free detergent use scented fabric softener and/or dryer sheets. Those product undo everything the free detergent has done to help their second skin. If you want to keep your skin looking and feeling its best, it’s important to follow a completely dye and perfume free laundry regimen to clean, protect, and enhance your second skin.

The good news is that the P&G Free & Gentle regimen offers dye and perfume free products throughout. Every product is hypoallergenic and gentle on skin. All of the Free & Gentle products are dermatologist recommended.

The line of Free & Gentle products consists of the following:

  • Tide Free & Gentle Detergent / Tide Stain Release Free In-Wash Booster – it’s as mild on skin as the leading free detergent, but it cleans better and removes more residue from stains on clothing. (Need proof? See my pictures above!)
  • Downy Free & Gentle Fabric Softener – Also mild on skin, this provides outstanding comfort and freshness through its softening formula.
  • Bounce Free & Gentle Dry Sheets – These sheets maintain a mild formula but also provide freshness, softness, and static control. (Bonus: The even repel pet hair!)

If you, or someone in your family has sensitive skin, I encourage you to consider changing your laundry routine. It has made a huge difference around here for us!

To learn more about any of these products, I encourage you to check out the brands on social media:

Have you tried the P&G line of Free & Gentle Products? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Guest Post: How to Get Your Children Interested in Gardening

Getting your kids interested in gardening can either be tough or easy, depending upon their individual personalities. For example, children who are ready to play in the dirt and learn new things will typically dive right into gardening. But children who are afraid of getting a little dirty or who are grossed out by working in the dirt with bugs and worms will likely be turned off to the idea.

No matter what your kids’ personalities are like, though, the benefits of gardening definitely outweigh the challenges you might face as you acclimatise your kids to it. To get started, check out the tips below.

Give Your Children Their Own Space in the Garden
As you design your garden this year, consider designating certain areas to every member of your family, including each of your children. In this way, everyone gets the opportunity to plant their own flowers, fruits, and/or vegetables, and they’ll be responsible for their harvest. Just bear in mind that small children should have easy-to-access areas that are safe and will make it simple for them to pull weeds, plant seeds, add water, and harvest their crops.

Purchase the Right Supplies
Children’s gardening tools are safe to use, and absolutely adorable too! So go ahead and purchase a set of tools for your children to use so that you don’t have to worry about them getting hurt on your equipment.

Start Young, But Keep It Short
Teaching your kids the joy of gardening at an early age is a great idea, but keep in mind that the younger the children, the shorter their attention spans will be. So try to schedule a short session of about 15 to 20 minutes to ensure your kids will pay attention, get things done, and remain engaged.

Keep Track of the Growing Process
In addition to teaching your children how to plant seeds, help them grow, and harvest them, it’s also a great idea to let them document the growing process as it happens. So allow your children to go into the garden just about every day and either write down or take pictures of what’s happening. They’ll be amazed at how quickly some plants grow, and you can even have them measure the growth as it happens so they can see that they’re responsible for this plant life and the food or flowers that it will produce for your family.

Harvest Together
Finally, when it comes time to harvest the fruits of your efforts, head outside as a family unit again, just as you did when you prepared the soil and planted the seeds or young plants that started your garden. In this way, you get to experience the entire cycle of gardening together.

Ready to start gardening with your whole family and teaching your kids the importance of, and benefits of, growing their own food at home? Then check out Glut.co.uk – gifts for gardeners, as it’s a great place to start your search for gifts that you can give to your kids to get them excited about gardening with you.

#IC #Ad: Embrace Your Life’s #UnscriptedBeauty with #AVEENO

sponsoredDisclaimer:I participated in a Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for AVEENO. I received product samples as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

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As a photographer, and as a mom, my favorite moments are the unscripted moments. The candid, catch-it-as-it-happens moments that you just can’t plan for. That’s why I was so excited when I was offered the opportunity to participate with AVEENO in this amazing campaign.

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These are the real moments. The genuine. The everyday moments that make every day more special. It’s when we share these moments that other parents can truly capture a glimpse into our lives and connect with us on another level.

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I have no shortage of #UnscriptedBeauty moments around here. With 8 kids, family pets, and all the chaos life entails, I am always ready to capture special moments forever. That’s why you’ll rarely find me without my phone. I don’t need to play games, I don’t need to constantly check into social media, I just need to be ready to capture the moments I never want to forget. And there are plenty of them!

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Sometimes, life doesn’t go as we planned. In the picture below, Sawyer, our youngest, ended up in the hospital on vacation. Just when it seemed like everything was going wrong, I snapped this picture. There he was, sleeping so peacefully. He was on the path to healing. His breathing had become less labored, and I knew everything was going to be ok. To me, this photo below screams beauty. No, it wasn’t what I had planned, but something good came out of it.

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Throughout the month of June, AVEENO wants to encourage you to embrace your own #UnscriptedBeauty and participate in the #UnscriptedBeauty Contest. All you have to do is take time this month to capture the Unscripted Beauty in the life of your family. Then, post your photos on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter using the hashtags #AVEENO, #UnscriptedBeauty, and #Contest. In July, one winner will be selected to receive a photo shoot from acclaimed photographer Danielle Guenther. They will also receive AVEENO products. This is an amazing prize, so start sharing your #UnscriptedBeauty moments with the world!

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Life is beautiful, and the moments that you might not think to capture are the moments that make it that way. I encourage you to take some time this month, look around you, and capture the #UnscriptedBeauty that surrounds you. Then, share those moments, and you might just win!

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I also want to encourage you to learn more about AVEENO products by checking out the AVEENO website.

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To see more #UnscriptedBeauty moments, please check out the AVEENO Facebook page. You can also follow the hashtags #AVEENO and #UnscriptedBeauty on your favorite social media channels.

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So, what do you say? Will you join me and share your favorite #UnscriptedBeauty moments? I would love to see them!

#Sponsored: Check Out DCKids & Warner Bros’ Youtube Channels (& Win!)

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Have you seen the amazing new videos from DCKids and Warner Bros’ new Youtube channels? There are lots of favorites like Batman Unlimited, DC Super Friends, and even Scooby-Doo! In our house, we are Superhero obsessed, so these are great for my boys! I may not get them off of Youtube this summer!

Here’s a video playlist from Batman Unlimited – just to wet your appetite:


And, remember! There will be many more updates over the next year, so be sure to subscribe to their channels!

DCKids Channel

WBKids Channel

Want the chance to win while you’re here? Use the rafflecopter gadget below and enter for your chance to win one of FIVE mystery toy gift baskets! Each basket is worth a minimum of $50 and will be picked by the staff of Warner Bros. & DC Kids. I wanna win! :) Good luck to all who enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post and the giveaway are sponsored by Warner Bros.

Guest Post: Practical Advice for Self-Employed Stay at Home Mums

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Many mums choose to stay at home to work whilst the kids are little and that is a lovely parenting choice. Children benefit from the love only a mother can give but when trying to balance working with children vying for your attention, it can drive you mad in a heartbeat. Actually, you are not alone as there are increasing numbers of women who made the choice to work from home and there are ways to solve most of the issues you are facing. Here is some practical advice for self-employed stay at home mums.

Scheduling Is a Must

This bit of advice comes from stay at home working mums from around the globe. One thing you can do right away is work out a schedule where you’ll be able to maximize your time whilst the kids are asleep. No, you don’t need to stay up all night working but rather schedule the most labor intensive work during nap times and perhaps early evenings when the kids have just gone to bed for the night.

Try to Work Days When Dad Is Home

Many working mums make it a priority to work the hardest on days when dad is home to mind the kids. Most dads really enjoy time spent alone with the children as they are off at work the rest of the week. He will need quiet time as well, so perhaps his time away can be during an evening when you are at home and a night when there is nothing pressing which you need to get done.

Hire an Au Pair

Another great resource is to hire an au pair, even if only to work part time on those hours that need your attention. Some are live-in girls who can be more flexible in terms of the hours you need them to be available. You can find au pair in London with aufini.com quite easily and by listing any special needs you have, you can often be matched with the perfect au pair within just a few short days.

Trade Days with Other Mums

You may know other stay at home mums who would be more than happy to trade days with you. One or two days a week she minds your children and then you reciprocate. It doesn’t necessarily need to be another work from home mum and sometimes this is even better for you! She just might want to trade off on an evening to spend time with her husband which is ideal if you work during the day! She watches your kids on a day when you’re working and you mind hers when you don’t need to be working. In trendy circles it’s called a ‘babysitting co-op.’

These are just a few bits of practical advice but just know that it really is possible to balance work (at home) and raising a family. It might take a little more planning in the beginning but once you’ve got it down you’ll feel so lucky to be one of the mums who can say they were a stay at home mum during those early, formative years. Just keep at it mum, keeping your sanity is a process but one you can manage.

Guest Post: Home with the Kids? Try These Fun Activities!

Let’s face it, we have all been there. It’s the weekend or the summer holidays and you find yourself at home with the kids looking for something fun to do together. There are only so many times that you can go out on day trips and spend money on your whole family, so it is good to have some home-based back up plans that will lower the cost of the day whilst still being just as fun as a visit out somewhere. Here are a handful of suggestions for turning normal ‘in house’ days in to hours of fun activity.

1. DIY Projects

One fun thing that you can do with your kids at home is to do and complete a satisfying DIY project together. Whether it’s something small like painting an old table or chair or something slightly bigger like putting together a bookcase of chest of drawers, working as a team can bring out the best in all of you. Being able to remember the day every time you look at the piece of furniture in your home will be a really satisfying feeling.
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2. Work On The Garden

Working outside in the garden, especially on a beautiful warm day can be a really fulfilling and relaxing way to spend the day at home with the kids. When you make it a little more playful in the sun, even the most mundane of gardening tasks can seem way more fun. For example, teaching your little ones how to safely use garden appliances like Garden Vacs leaf blowers can serve the dual purpose of cleaning your lawn and paved areas whilst letting the kids have some air blowing fun!

3. Cook Together

Teaming up to do some simple but satisfying cooking can make for a really memorable day with your children. Whether it is a spot of tasty baking or being a little more adventurous and going for a full dinnertime meal, not only will you have fun (no doubt messy fun!) along the way, but the experience can actually be something educational and the kids will learn skills that they might not previously have had. And hey, there is nothing more rewarding than working up an appetite and being able to eat something that you made from scratch.
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4. Play Board Games

Kids at home locked away in their rooms playing video games by themselves – does that sound familiar to you? If it does then spend a day with them introducing them to all of the group-based board games that you loved as a child. This way, they are still playing games and doing what they love, but by playing board games instead of video games, the experience has become much more social and group oriented.

You might struggle to initially get the kids on board with playtime activities that don’t involve the television, computer or games console but they’ll soon come round when they realize how much fun it is.

#Sponsored: When Calls the Heart Returns for Season 2! #FaithTV #Hearties #Giveaway @WCTH_tv

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Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

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What will you be doing this Saturday night at 8/7c?

I will be on the couch, tuning into the new season of When Calls the Heart on the Hallmark Channel with my oldest daughter.

This is one premiere that has had me giddy with anticipation.

In order to create this post, I did receive the opportunity to view the Season Premier before it airs thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC.

I can’t give away any details, but OH.MY.GOODNESS. You cannot miss this premier! My daughter has been anxiously awaiting the return of When Calls the Heart, and it has been SO difficult to keep the details from her. But, I must. If for no other reason than I can’t wait to see her reaction as she watches it.

I love When Calls the Heart, because it is good, clean, family friendly, and fun. In my opinion, this is one of the best shows on television, and it’s something I don’t have to worry about my children watching. It’s perfect for the whole family!

In case you don’t know what When Calls the Heart is about, here’s a brief summary of the series:

The series is inspired by Janette Oke’s bestselling book series about the Canadian West. “When Calls the Heart” tells the captivating story of Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow), a young teacher accustomed to her high society life, who receives her first classroom assignment in Coal Valley, a small coalmining town where life is simple, but often fraught with challenges. Lori Loughlin plays Abigail Stanton, a wife and mother whose husband, the foreman of the mine, along with a dozen other miners, has just been killed in an explosion. The newly widowed women find their faith is tested when they must go to work in the mines to keep a roof over their heads. Elizabeth charms most everyone in Coal Valley, except Constable Jack Thornton (Daniel Lissing) who believes Thatcher’s wealthy father has doomed the lawman’s career by insisting he be assigned in town to protect the shipping magnate’s daughter. Living in a turn of the century coal town, Elizabeth will have to learn the ways of the frontier if she wishes to thrive in the rural west on her own.

Remember, the new season starts this Saturday, April 25th at 8/7c.

To get you excited about this week’s premier, World Films has offered up a set of When Calls The Heart Season 1 on DVD ($60 value!!).

Win a copy of Season one of When Calls the Heart!

To enter, use the Rafflecopter gadget below:

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Contest ends May 1st.

I also want to encourage you to get social with other #Hearties in the following way:

Guest Post: Family Attractions on a San Francisco Vacation

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San Francisco’s popularity as a tourist destination has never diminished, and in fact more people than ever are choosing to visit this Californian city. The sheer number of attractions and scenic highlights makes SF a firm family favorite for either a weekend city-break or a longer vacation.

Nearly 17 million people arrive in the ‘City by the Bay’ each year and if your family are first time visitors then there are more than a few not to be missed highlights.

Fun at the bay
You could spend an entire day on bustling Pier 39 and still not see all of the attractions of this highly recommended family-friendly location. Children will be enthralled by the sea lion shows and street performers or they might just want to try out the bungee trampolines before taking a ride on the vintage carousel. The famous Aquarium by the Bay is also located right by the water’s edge and this venue is home to 20,000 sea creatures that can be viewed via underwater clear tunnels. You don’t need to leave pier if you fancy a bite to eat as there are plenty of restaurants and cafes where you can dine while admiring the bay views.

A children’s favorite
There’s no better way to explore this city’s neighborhoods than by taking a Duck Tour San Francisco in a remarkable boat on wheels. These specially designed vehicles allow visitors to travel the city streets before splashing into the bay waters to view the skyline and the Bay Bridge. You’ll pass many iconic landmarks along the way including Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach and Chinatown. Kids will love this tour as they’re actually given the opportunity to drive the duck boat once in the water.

Not to be missed
If you’re looking for more sightseeing attractions then the SF Zoo is well worth a visit, and this 100 acre park is home to over 1,000 rescued and endangered animals. The Golden Gate Park is another family favorite, which stretches over 1,000 acres and contains two museums, botanical gardens, a kid’s playground and carousel as well as a relaxing Japanese Tea Garden. This park is worth a day out alone, and many families come here for picnics in the sun and to spend some time boating on the lake. Of course the bay itself is the place to take boat trips to visit Alcatraz, sail underneath the iconic bridge and take in a whale-watching trip to the Farallon Islands.

This is definitely a city of fun attractions and some unforgettable sightseeing, and you’ll never be short of things to do in San Fran. Buy a ticket, hop on a cable-car and start exploring this unique destination.

Image by kaddisudhi used under the Creative Commons license

#Sponsored: #DrinkDripDrop & Keeping My Family Hydrated @DripDrop @SheSpeaks #Review

sampleDisclaimer: This is a sponsored post for DripDrop and SheSpeaks. I received samples in order to facilitate my review. Opinions expressed are 100% my own.

dripdrop keeps us hydrated

Keeping my family hydrated during cold and flu season is of the utmost importance to me. There are so many options out there. How do you know which one is right for you and your family? I want the best. I want what is going to get my kids hydrated again and back to playing in no time.

For this review, SheSpeaks and DripDrop sent me samples of DripDrop Hydration Powder along with a fantastic water bottle. They couldn’t have timed it better.

As you can see in the photo above, we recently had a real need for DripDrop Hydration Powder. My son Parker ended up with a severe toothache. It was so bad, I couldn’t get him to eat or drink anything. He laid around all day and just cried. (Of course it was a Saturday, and there were no dental offices open.) I was so worried about him getting dehydrated. He quickly became weak from not eating or drinking, and I had to do something.

The only option I had was to offer him a bottle of water with the DripDrop Hydration Powder. I had to get it to room temperature because his tooth was so sensitive, but once I did, it was a hit! He tried both the lemon and the berry flavors, and he couldn’t pick a favorite. He loved them both. (Honestly, I think he loved the fact that he was the only one that got to drink the “special” juice.) :) (Please note: I did put in a call to the doctor’s after hour line and made sure his pediatrician was alright with me giving him the DripDrop powder. She agreed that I had to get something in him and thought the DripDrop powder was a great way to go.)

What impresses me most about DripDrop is that it’s the first hydration solution developed by a Mayo Clinic trained physician to save lives. It delivers 2 – 3 times the electrolytes of sports drinks and 25% more than the pediatric drink options. It is patented and clinically proven to hydrate better than the other available options.

I also love that there are no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

DripDrop is a product I can feel good about giving my entire family. The next time we have the flu cycle through our household, I can be prepared and have DripDrop on hand. (And with 10 people in our house, you can only imagine what a nightmare the flu is for all of us. It is usually a month long battle with everyone just passing it back and forth.)

I am so thankful for products like DripDrop that are made to help me keep my family safe and healthy when the worst strikes.

Let me encourage you to learn more about DripDrop in the following ways:

Also, please check out the following links for more really great info:

You can read about more moms’ experiences with DripDrop by searching the hashtag #DrinkDripDrop on your favorite social media channels.

Ready to stock up on DripDrop and keep your family hydrated when colds or the flu strike? Head to your local DVS, Walgreens, or HEB store and grab some right now!

Guest Post: Thinking Beyond the Sleepless Nights with Window Treatments

Any prospective parent out there will have undoubtedly stumbled on the “must have” checklists ahead of their new arrival. Most of the time, somewhere on this list (below the cot and other essentials) will be a blackout blind.

The blackout blind is said to be one of the absolutely necessary fittings for any new-born baby. It’s the blind which blocks out all sources of natural light and ultimately, provides baby, mom and dad with that elusive sleep. It might not (in fact, it WON’T) be a full night’s sleep – but some suggest that the blackout blind can provide several hours’ extra sleep every night just because of its basic properties.

blackout blind

Bearing the above in mind, it’s easy to become embroiled in this fitting and forget about all of your other requirements. Yes, a blackout blind will give you those extra hours initially, but you must remember about all of your other eventual requirements as your little one gets older.

For example, let’s take a look at safety. In the midst of all of the negative publicity surrounding blinds and their safety, a lot of people have turned towards cordless options. Fortunately, these can be purchased in a blackout solution – meaning that you can get a best of both worlds approach. However, with a lot of prospective parents having so little time and probably money considering all of the other necessary purchases, it can be easy to simply opt for the cheapest blackout on the market. Try and avoid this, by looking to the future and finding that cordless blackout shade which isn’t going to pose a safety threat to your little one as they begin exploring.

There are other considerations as well though. This next one also focuses on when your little one becomes something of an explorer, and substances seem to stick to their fingers and anything else that gets in their way. Unfortunately, blinds and curtains are usually on the receiving end of such mess – leaving you with a room that looks artistic for all of the wrong reasons.

It’s in these cases where you need to be looking towards the actual material of the blind. While it might be a little more difficult to find one that’s cordless, blackout and maintenance-free, some companies do offer such products. You’ll need to find a blind that can easily be wiped, to get rid of all of those sticky substances and leave your child’s room looking completely accident-free.

Unfortunately, it’s also easy to forget about a different type of factor – the character. While safety and practicality is always going to be of parallel importance, don’t forget that blinds and shades now come in all sort of colors and designs. Even as a new-born, your little one will require stimulation and this is exactly what a good children’s room blind can provide. If you can combine this with all of the practical factors we’ve mulled over, you’ve just found the perfect fitting for your nursery for years to come.

#FreePrintable: If You Think My Hands are Full…

As a mom of many, I hear the phrase, “Wow! You’ve got your hands full!” ALL.THE.TIME. So, when I heard the phrase, “If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart,” I immediately fell in love. It’s my go-to answer whenever I’m out.

I wanted to find something that had the phrase on it, but everywhere I looked, it just wasn’t what I wanted.

So, I decided to design something myself. :)

Because I love my readers so much, I decided to share it with you as well. Click on the image below to save the full resolution file to your computer. (Do not right click and save to print. I can’t guarantee the quality will be enough to print well.)

full hands full heart

I originally made my design in an 11″x14″ print because I already had the perfect frame for it. The one I’m sharing here is sized to an 8″x10″. Don’t try to print it in another size, because it won’t crop right. I recommend either printing it out yourself on a good photo printer or sending the image off to a photo printing service.

Here’s how my entryway looks with my new print all framed and on display:
entryway

I hope you love this print as much as I do!

February 13th is “#ValentinesForDogs” Day. Celebrate with @Milkbone

sampleDisclaimer: This post is brought to you by Milkbone. I received samples of their products in return for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

zander and scout

My readers may or may not know that we recently adopted a new four-legged friend from our local animal shelter. Scout has quickly become one of the family, and we can’t imagine not having him here. He is so good with all of the kids, and he is always so well behaved.

A good dog like that deserves a special reward! So, I’m excited that Milkbone wants to give dogs their own Valentine’s Day, and they have declared February 13th “Valentine’s for Dogs” Day! It’s a special day where we can show our four legged favorites how much we love them.

The good folks at Milk-Bone, Pup-Peroni, Milo’s Kitchen, and Canine Carry Outs have made it easy for you this year with a doggie Valentine’s Day card. Get yours today. Just click here: [https://www.bigheartpetvalentines.com/]

I also want you to take a moment and check out this infographic. It’s  special Valentine’s Day survey of U.S. Dog Parents:

doggylove_infographic_15_national_640

So, tell me. How will YOU show your dog you love him/her this February 13th? For us, it’s easy. The kids are off school on Friday, so there will be someone here to show him extra love and attention all day long. If the weather’s nice, we’re also hoping to take a family hike and bring Scout along. He *loves* to be outside, so this will be perfect for him!

We’ll be celebrating our furry friend Scout this Valentine’s for Dogs Day with extra love and special treats courtesy of Milk-Bone, Pup-Peroni, Milo’s Kitchen, and Canine Carry Outs. And I’ll be sure to tag all of our pictures of the fun we have with #ValentinesforDogs. I hope you’ll head on over to [https://www.bigheartpetvalentines.com/], print out your cards, then tag YOUR pictures of fun with #ValentinesforDogs as well! Can’t wait to see what fun, creative ideas you come up with!

Highest Grossing Religious Movies of All Time

religious movies

The second film adaptation of the best-selling Christian book series “Left Behind” arrived on DVD in late 2014, followed by the DVD release of the religious film “When the Game Stands Tall.” While the second film only briefly played in theaters before going to DVD, “Left Behind” and other religious films spent more time in theaters. Some of those films delivered big results at the box office and made Hollywood think twice about religious films. Though not all of the religious films over the years grossed a lot at the box office, some made twice as much as the films took to produce.

“The Passion of the Christ”

Long before Mel Gibson gained a reputation as a difficult actor, he made headlines as the director of “The Passion of the Christ.” The film, which told the story of Jesus Christ’s last days on earth, became popular with a large number of groups. Churches across the country even rented buses and planned trips to see the film in theaters. Gibson referred to the movie as his passion, and while some had their doubts, the movie grossed more than $370 million.

“The Chronicles of Narnia”

Some of those who saw “The Chronicles of Narnia” in theaters had any idea that the film dealt strongly with Christian and religious themes. “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” grossed more than $291 million in theaters and paved the way for the studio to make two sequels based on the same book series. Those two films grossed an additional $200 million at the box office, and some reports indicate that the studio may produce the remaining books in that series.

“Heaven is for Real”

Based on the best-selling book of the same name, “Heaven is for Real” tells the story of a little boy and his relationship with his father. Ed Young Jr and others in the industry might find the film appealing. The young boy suffered a life threatening medical condition that landed him in the hospital. After recovering, he told his parents of what he saw on the other side and passed along messages from family members who died before his birth. His dad later wrote a book about his son’s experiences and how his family felt. The adaptation of that book grossed more than $90 million.

“God’s Not Dead”

“God’s Night Dead” is a complex film that tackles themes of faith and spirituality. Released in 2004, the film became one of the highest grossing religious films of all time. It tells the story of a religious college student and an antagonistic college professor. The professor demands that his students state that God doesn’t exist, and when the student refuses, the professor gives him several chances to prove that God is real. Though the film only played in select theaters across the country, it grossed more than $60 million and made a significant amount in DVD sales later.

The ten highest grossing religious films made more than $1 billion at the box office and sold millions of copies on DVD. Those films let Hollywood know that film goers enjoy seeing stories based on classic bible tales and that church goers would pay to see those films. With several of those films coming out in 2014, this might indicate that Hollywood will tell more religious stories in the future.

#MC #Sponsored: What’s Your #RedKettleReason for Giving this Year?

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Disclaimer: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for The Salvation Army. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

red kettle reason

The holidays are here, and you have probably already noticed that the Red Kettles are back out. Those special kettles belong to The Salvation Army, and they go to help those in your community that need it most.

The Salvation Army is a faith-based ministry that has been in America for over 130 years. They are set up to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. In fact, last year, The Salvation Army’s 3,600 officers, 59,000 employees, and 3.4 million volunteers served almost 30 million Americans in need. If you add that up, it comes to about one person, every second, every day. That’s amazing!

And their money really goes where it says. The Better Business Bureau set a guideline of 65% of every dollar spent going toward support, yet The Salvation Army blows that out of the water. They spend nearly 82 cents of every dollar donated to support community service programs.

The best part? All donations remain in the community where they originate. So, if you give in your community, it goes to help someone in your community. I love that!

This year, to celebrate the 124th National Red Kettle campaign, The Salvation Army is encouraging you to share YOUR reasons for giving by using the hashtag #RedKettleReason. When you post using that hashtag, you can view other posts focused on giving. You can also check out RedKettleReason.org to learn why the rest of America is giving.

Now, I want to share our #RedKettleReason with you.

As a mom of 8, there have been times when my family has needed help. Somehow, this help has always been provided, though most of the time, we never even know who our “helpers” are. An anonymous card will show up in the mail with just enough money to pull us though the week. Bags of groceries mysteriously appear on our doorstep, just when we need them most.

Because of how much others have helped us out, it is so important to me to teach my children how to give back. So, every year in December, when my husband gets his bonus, we sit down as a family and decide how we want to give back. We budget some of his bonus to go toward helping others in need. It gets the kids excited about the thought of giving to others, and allows them the chance to help someone else just like they have been helped.

My kids don’t have the best of everything. They don’t get new ipads, fancy clothes, or the most expensive gadgets available. But they are loved, and they have all of their needs supplied. By giving back to organizations like The Salvation Army, I’m trying to instill a spirit of giving in each of my kids. That way, they’ll grow up thinking of others during the holiday season instead of the “gimme, gimme, gimme” attitude that seems to run rampant. And you can bet, every time we pass a Red Kettle this holiday season, our spare change (and then some) will be given to help someone in need.

I want to encourage you to share your own #RedKettleReason and consider donating to The Salvation Army. You’ll spread a little holiday cheer, and you will make the difference in the life of someone who needs it.

Please connect with The Salvation Army in the following ways:

Please share your #RedKettleReason and let us know why you’re giving this year!

christmas tree

How to Help Others with Your Old Furniture

If you are thinking about upgrading your interior design scheme and you want to get rid of any of  your old furniture, you should think twice before simply throwing it away, especially if you really do not want to see it go to waste and it is still in decent shape. Even an old and worn piece of furniture can be revived again with the right DIY approach and expert touch, and this can all be done at a very affordable rate too, so there is no need to think that an otherwise old or unattractive sofa, bed, desk, etc. should not be salvaged.

So, are you ready to learn how you can keep your furniture out of the trash and out of the landfills and help others in need at the same time? Continue reading for a few ways to do just that.

The Salvation Army and Goodwill

There are many ways to help others save money, and one way is to donate your furniture to Goodwill or The Salvation Army. Both of these charitable organizations will be happy to pick up the furniture from your home, so you really do not even need to lift a finger to be a good person and help the less fortunate acquire beautiful furniture.

Find Local Centers Seeking Furniture Donations

Look around town, as you may be surprised by the many organizations that work to help others every day and would be happy to take your old furniture off your hands if you are planning on getting rid of it. Consider places like senior centers, homeless shelters, synagogues and local churches, and even theater companies that may be in search of great props for their productions, especially since they may appreciate the history of Chesterfield sofas and vintage pieces of furniture that have loads of character.

Contact the National Furniture Bank Association

The National Furniture Bank Association will route your old furniture to the Partnership for the Homeless, as well as other non-profit organizations that are available to help people when they are trying to set up their own households.

Give to Your Friends and Family in Need

Sometimes you know people in your personal life who are in need of new furniture. If you know anyone who is hoping to get their hands on furniture from places like The Original Sofa Co but they do not have the money or they are struggling in any way, consider giving them your used furniture at no cost. This will greatly help them while also giving you the chance to free up some space in your home and go shopping for new pieces that you will love to use and look at for years to come.

Rather than throwing out your old furniture, give it away to someone in need, whether it is to someone you know personally or to a charitable organisation that helps people who are struggling every day. Your conscience will feel great and you will be able to snag great deals on new furniture to beautify your home.

#Sponsored: #SeeMuchMore – Keeping Your Family Healthy with a VSP Vision Care Plan #Giveaway

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Disclaimer: I will receive a pair of sunglesses in return for my post. Opinions expressed are 100% my own. Information provided by VSP.

VSP logoEye exams are important for everyone in your family – from babies to adults, and everyone in between.

Did you know that annual eye exams are important to your overall health? They allow eye doctors to detect early signs of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, among others.

The kids have been back to school for awhile now, but we can’t forget that getting them an annual comprehensive eye exam can help them learn and experience life to the fullest. Have you made their yearly eye exam yet?

It is important that parents should take their children to the eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam starting as young as six months old, then again at three years old, before kindergarten and every year after that. Because 80 percent of what we learn is through our eyes, an eye exam is essential for your back-to-school “to do” list.

In-school screenings do not provide the same level of detection as comprehensive eye exams. Even the screening the doctors office does at their yearly well care visit isn’t enough to get your child through another year.

Do you know the common signs of vision problems? The can include squinting, head tilting, avoiding “close work,” trouble focusing, continuous rubbing of eyes and headaches.

1 in 4 children has an undetected vision condition that can negatively impact learning. Don’t let your child become another statistic!

But, eye exams, glasses, and contacts can be expensive.

That’s why I want to share with you the benefits of enrolling in vision insurance. With VSP Vision Care, you can:

  • Keep your eyes healthy with highly credentialed doctors who provide the most thorough exams
  • Save money – the average VSP member saves approximately $320 each year with vision insurance!
  • Get access to great eyewear – more than two dozen brands and hundreds of styles to choose from!
  • Enable your family to experience life to the fullest

Please take a moment and check out the following resources:

Our eyes should be one of our top priorities. Please take a few moments to educate yourself on the facts, and learn more about enrolling in a vision insurance program today.

Want to win a pair of Designer Sunglasses worth over $100? Enter using the Rafflecopter gadget below.

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