#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:
insomnia infographic
(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: Dads: Fitting the Perfect Nursery Blind

Considering all of the safety issues that have been reported in relation to blinds over recent years, it should come as no surprise to read that dads up and down the country are fretting about whether or not they have installed their little one’s nursery blind accordingly. If you fall into this category, or are about to anytime soon, it’s time to read on.

Of course, it’s not all about safety. While this will be the biggest factor plaguing most parents’ minds, we should also point out that a correctly installing your blinds can affect a whole host of other issues including sleep.

In fact, let’s start this guide on a sleep-related note. This isn’t necessarily a piece of installation advice, but more on the type of product you should be selecting. If you haven’t yet purchased your blind for your newborn, you need to be making sure that it falls in the blackout category. Anything less will rob you of precious hours of sleep and as any new parent will tell you, this is the last thing you need.

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Something else that will aid with that elusive shut-eye is just where you install the blind. Most products will give you the opportunity for a recess or exact fitting and when it comes to blocking out the maximum amount of natural light, the recess option is by far and away the most advisable. This hangs on the recess, covering slightly more than the window opening. In contrast, an exact fitting fits inside the recess and on these occasions it’s hard to block out every speck of natural light.

Now we’ve dealt with the sleep issues, let’s move onto safety. If you haven’t purchased a cordless blind, it’s time to sit up and listen. Firstly, make sure that you use every component that arrives with your blind. This includes the cleat which even though it may look quite basic, it can in fact be a lifesaving part at the same time. In simple terms, it allows your cord to wrap around the cleat and prevent any dangling strings. This immediately quashes the risk of accidents – although make sure that the cleat is installed high enough so it’s out of the way of reaching hands.

The last installation tip also revolves safety, but around one of the lesser-known devices. The cord stop is essentially a knot that is positioned on the cord, to prevent excess unraveling. Again, it’s all about minimizing the amount of cord that does dangle from the blind to ultimately reduce those risks. By making sure that this knot is positioned correctly, you can do exactly that.

As you can see, the installation process for a nursery blind is hardly extensive. We’ve covered the most important tips here and if you can get these right, you will have immediately installed a blind that’s both safe and can promote maximum sleep. These days, blinds are made-to-measure anyway, so there’s no cutting down to size or anything else along those lines – just make sure you get the basics right and your little one’s room will be ready in no time.

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.

#Sponsored: Enter to Win $5,000 from @theduckbrand and @kidsinneed

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Love Cupcakes? Have a creative way to use them in a new design for Duck Tape? If so, you could win $5,000!

To learn more, and to get started, visit duckbrand.com/kidsinneed today.

While you’re at it, be sure to follow them on Social Media too!

#Sponsored: #Giveaway @Walmart and @Pampers Team Up to Support Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

sampleDisclaimer: The Walmart gift cards and information have been provided by P&G. Any opinions expressed are 100% my own.

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Right now, you can make a difference in the life of a child, just by purchasing items you already use from the store you already visit.

Walmart believes that every child deserves the chance at a better life, so they’ve teamed up with other favorite brands, (like Pampers), to donate $200,000 in the month of June to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. In addition to that, when you purchase products like Pampers Swaddlers at your local Walmart store, a portion of the proceeds will go to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals provide treatment and hope to millions of sick kids. In fact, one in every ten kids in North America are treated by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals each year. It doesn’t matter if it’s a common childhood affliction such as asthma or a broken bone, or a bigger challenge like birth defects or cancer, Children’s Miracle Network provides treatment for it all.

You can learn more about the partnership and even make your own donation by visiting this link: Walmart.com/cmnh.

Take a moment and look at this infographic to understand why they need your support:

infographic(To view the infographic as a full size PDF, just click on the image.)

They do so much good for so many children. They deserve our support!

I want to share the story of Will, a sweet little boy at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. At just 6 years old, Will is battling Stage 3 Liver Cancer (Hepatoblastoma). Here’s his story:

2014 IA Champion-Will (b, in hospital)

Dozens of vacuum cleaners line the walls of Will’s home, and he’ll impress you by rattling off the make and model of each one. But his unlikely passion for the household appliance is less surprising than the fact that he beat a grim diagnosis with a 5 percent survival rate.

Will was only 2 years old when a large mass was discovered on his liver, triggering several rounds of intense chemotherapy and the removal of 75 percent of the organ. It was a happy day when doctors declared he was in remission, but Will is still facing aftereffects — both physical and emotional — of the disease.

Medications caused numbness in Will’s hands, legs and feet, forcing him to relearn how to walk. He also had to overcome fears that everyone he encountered would inflict pain. With the love and support of his family, Will is tackling one obstacle at a time. He looks forward to a bright future that, hopefully, includes running his own vacuum shop one day.

CMN Hospitals funds helped cover Will’s pharmacy bills and also paid for a pediatric hematology oncology research laboratory that will benefit kids like him for many years to come.

What a sweet spirit that little boy has! And you can help kids just like Will by purchasing items like Pampers Swaddlers at your local Walmart store, or by clicking here to make a donation.

To help encourage you to head to Walmart and stock up on items like Pampers Swaddlers, P&G wants to give one of my readers the chance to win a $25 Walmart Gift Card. To enter, use the Rafflecopter Gadget below.

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Giveaway ends July 15th at 12:00am.

Guest Post: How To Select the Right Hair Clinic

As most men begin to age, they will start to notice various changes to their body some good and some bad. One of the most common problems men face is the loss of their hair. Losing one’s hair can bring on a plethora of different emotions. There are a number of different ways to regain the lost hair you have and in order to get the right method chosen, you will have to do some research. The first thing you need to consider when trying to get this process done is which hair clinic you will use. Here are some tips on how to choose the right hair clinic Vancouver.

How Well Do They Know Their Industry?
The first thing to consider when trying to find the right hair clinic is the knowledge they have regarding their industry and the hair restoration methods they offer. For most Canadian men going in for this procedure, getting some sound advice will be needed. In order to get this advice, you will have to find a reputable and knowledgeable hair clinic in your area. The more you are able to find out about the clinics in your area, the easier you will find it to get the right results.

Getting a Consultation
The next thing you need to consider when trying to find the right hair clinic is to getting a few consultations scheduled. By going in for consultations in a few of the hair clinics in the area, you will be able to get the information you are looking for. These face to face meetings will allow you to figure out what each of the companies has to offer you and whether or not it is in line with what you need.

How Long Will It Take To Get The Procedures Done?
Another important thing you have to think about when trying to find the right hair clinic is the length of time you have to wait to get your procedure done. The longer you have to wait to get the procedures you need, the more of an inconvenience it will become. By calling around to the various clinics in your area, you will be able to find out who can get you in the fastest and get your procedures done. The time and effort you spend calling around will be well worth it in the end.

When choosing to use HairFree Laser Skin Clinics, you will be able to get the procedures you need done the right way. Be sure to call them or go to their website for more information on what they can provide you with.

#Sponsored: Join the P&G #SecondSkincare Twitter Party on 6/18!

Yesterday, I told you all about my love for P&G’s Free & Gentle products, and how they are our #SecondSkincare.

Today, I want to make sure you know all about the #SecondSkincare Twitter party that’s happening TOMORROW – Thursday, June 18th from 1 – 2pm ET.

Here are the need to know details:

Date: Thursday, June 18th 2015

Time: 1:00 – 2:00 PM ET

Moderator: @MomCentral

Brand Participants: @Tide @Downy @BounceFresh

Party Hashtag: #SecondSkincare

Prizes: 2 pre-party winners and 6 party winners will receive a $50 gift code

Did you catch that there are even pre-party prizes you can win? To find out the full scoop, check out this post by Mom Central: http://bit.ly/1d17ugg

I’ll be there, and I hope to see you there too!

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#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!

#IC #Ad: First Response Makes Detecting Pregnancy Even Easier

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

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As a mom of 8, I have taken more pregnancy tests than I can even count. When I discovered the First Response Early Result Pregnancy Test, I stopped buying all the other brands.

First Response could tell me before I had even missed my period if a baby was on the way. I loved knowing that, and they quickly became my brand of choice for all subsequent pregnancies.

I’ll never forget the first pregnancy test I ever took. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, and I was certain I was doing it wrong. I must have read the box a thousand times, and I was still so sure that I was wrong. And the test was so much more complicated than the tests they’ve come out with in the past 10 years. It was an experience I will never forget, that’s for sure.

Pregnancy tests themselves have changed in so many different ways over the years. There are analog tests, digital tests, and now you can find out without having to wait until your missed period. It’s downright amazing!

First Response is keeping up with these changes, and they have made their Early Result Pregnancy Test even better! Their new Comfort Sure Design makes using the test so much simpler. With a longer handle, a tip that’s 50% wider, and a cutting-edge curved design that fits naturally into your hand, the test is easy to use and completely fool proof. (Even if you’re like me and decide to test in the middle of the night, because you just can’t stand to wait until morning to find out!) The Early Result Pregnancy Test can detect pregnancy as early as 6 days before your missed period. It is approved by the FDA, and it gives you easy to read results in just 3 minutes. (Two pinks lines means a baby’s on the way!) With 99% accuracy from the day of the expected period, you can trust the result you get. The First Response Early Result Pregnancy Test is available at all major drugstores, mass markets, and grocery stores. They range in price from $8.99 to $15.99. And I can promise, they are worth every penny, just for the chance to be able to know just a little bit sooner.

Through every single one of my pregnancies and/or missed periods, I’ve always trusted First Response to tell me if a baby was on the way. When we were actively trying to conceive, First Response was there to give me the news – good or “not this time” – every time. They were the brand I trusted most to be accurate as well as tell me sooner.

If you are trying to conceive, and are trying to decide which pregnancy test to buy, please let me recommend First Response. It’s the only brand I trusted with each of my pregnancies, and the one I would encourage you to try.

Have you tried the newly redesigned First Response Early Result Pregnancy Test? What are your thoughts?

#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!

Guest Post: 8 Photography Tips for Travelers

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Whether you want to fill your Instagram account with vacation photos or you’re going to create professional-looking prints once you get home, here are eight photography tips every traveler should know.

1. Ask permission before shooting. This is especially important if you’re photographing an individual or group of people, but also if you’re shooting indoors at an event or attraction. Some attractions don’t allow photography.

Also, some people don’t want their photo taken or they don’t want photos of their children taken. Check out other Orlando travel tips from Hipmunk.

2. Once you’ve received permission to take someone’s photo, offer to send the image to them if they give you their e-mail address. This is a great way to get on their good side, either before or after you shoot the image.

3. Before quickly snapping the shot, think for a second about what exactly you want to capture. By taking an extra moment to focus, you can make an amateur image look much more professional. Think about what you want to include in the photo, what exactly it is you want to convey and the best way to take the shot.

4. Apply the rule of thirds, which says to position the subject of the photo so it’s offset by one-third, either to the left or right. You can apply this rule vertically, too. Centered subjects are the mark of an amateur photographer; to make your image more interesting, use the rule of thirds.

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5. When capturing human or animal subjects, make sure to capture their eyes in at least one frame. This is the best way to capture their spark. Ideally, you’ll shoot while looking at the subject head-on. If you can’t get close to the subject, like if you’re shooting an animal from far away, use your zoom setting.

6. Use a flash even when you’re outside. You don’t only have to use the flash when you’re inside. For example, if bright sunlight is creating harsh light, the flash may get rid of some shadows. Just pay attention to the shutter settings so that you don’t overexposure your subject or the background.

7. Don’t distract from the subject of your photo with a bunch of stuff in the background. Make sure the background is free of signs, objects, other people and cars.

8. Fill the frame, whether while you’re taking the shot or by cropping during processing. If you’re shooting with your smartphone, it’s better to take the shot and then crop it later. If you use your iPhone or other smartphone to zoom, you’ll lose a lot of quality.

Not sure what images you should take during your trip? Check out what other travelers photographed while in the same area. This will help you start a shot list or at least get a good idea of what people find intriguing and worthy of a photo.

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This article was contributed by Fiona Moriarty of Hipmunk, a complete travel platform that allows you to do everything from comparing charter flights and train rides, to finding the best resort hotels and Airbnb rentals.

Maximizing Mom and Dad’s Sleep Tally for Those Opening Few Months

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For any prospective mom or dad out there we’ve got some (even more) daunting news; the anecdotes you hear about sleepless nights are not urban myths. Like it or not, during those first few months, tiredness will gain a new definition.

Unfortunately, there just aren’t any quick-fire tips that are going to make life much easier and less tiring for you. Life with a new-born will exhaust you and while you can adopt certain approaches, such as sharing the wake-ups in shifts if your feeding method allows, it’s still not going to make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things.

Therefore, it’s all about doing the best you can to maximize the amount of good, quality sleep that your body receives. In the few hours where your little one does take forty winks, it’s important to ensure you do the same. As scientists have proven on countless occasions, one definite way to achieve this is by enclosing your room in complete darkness.

First and foremost, this isn’t a tip that is just going to benefit you. After all, most babies will sleep in their parents’ room for the first few months at least – meaning that the optimum sleeping environment is absolutely essential for everyone involved.

One of the best ways to promote this is via a window treatment. The blackout blind is arguably the new parents’ best friend and while it is never going to buy you 12-hours of undisturbed sleep, it will minimize the chances of unexpected disturbances and should allow both you and your little one to gain as much sleep as a feeding schedule will dictate. As the name suggests, it shuns out all natural light and creates that magic sleep haven that we all dream about.

While keeping out the light is probably the best tip that you can follow, there are further suggestions.

Already, you’ve probably been told the importance of regulating temperature in your little one’s room – to help guard against SIDS. It’s certainly a scary topic and if your little one is born in an extreme of temperature, where the natural heat or overdressing could occur, the issue is even more significant.

This is where pleated blinds can enter the picture. In short, these are designed to insulate rooms – from both a hot and cold perspective – depending on the type of environment you reside in. In other words, if it’s winter, you can lock the heat into the room and if it’s summer, you can prevent it entering. It just makes temperature control that little bit easier and helps remove another worry from your mind.

In summary, creating the perfect sleeping environment for you and your little one doesn’t have to be as hard as the experts may tell you. They are certainly right when it comes to the minimal sleep that your body will have to get used to, but you can manage the situation somewhat if you tailor the light and room temperature accordingly.

#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!

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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: How to Instantly Update Your Home with New Curtains

curtains
The home is precious; it’s where we feel safe, secure and happy. It’s where we can truly be free to relax, be ourselves and lock ourselves away from outside distractions.

Why curtains?
Curtains are much more than just pieces of material that keep the light out in the morning and retain the heat at night; curtains are a tried-and-tested method of home decoration.

As well as being functional, they also make the room seem softer. This may sound like an odd thing to say, but the truth is that a window without curtains or blinds can really make a room look harsh and the angles of the window frame are sometimes at odds with the peaceful and calming feel that many people want their homes to exude.

Simply put, curtains are a simple and instant way to update any room in the home.

Pick a great fabric
When it comes to new curtains, the fabric is a chance to go wild! Do you want bright colors, or soft pastel shades? Do you want to try out a new, bold contemporary style or something more understated and traditional?

The choice is yours, but if you pick a fabric that you want, a material that you adore and simply cannot live without, then use that to form the starting point of your home’s beautiful new look.

Find a new texture
Your curtains don’t just have to be an accessory; they can be the focal point of the entire room. So, if you’re looking at getting a new pair of curtains, it’s also a chance to look at injecting the room with new colors and textures.

Textures, such as flocked cotton, silk, wool, velvet and sheer materials can breathe new life into an old room, adding lots of different layers and movements to the room.

Make your room a success
Before you start looking at curtain fabric, make a floor plan, and look at where the light comes in, where large pieces of furniture will sit and how many windows there are.

If you have lots of windows in one room, think carefully about the type and color of fabric you want, as dark, pattered curtains will make the room look too busy and dominate the room, which you don’t want.

There are many ways to update your living space, but buying a new pair of curtains is a good way to get started, and you can find more at Tesco.

Image by: love Maegan, used under Creative Commons license

#Sponsored: Create a Burlap Print without Printing on Burlap @MyPrintly #CMYK #HPSmartMom

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Disclaimer: This post is part of a sponsored campaign with MyPrintly and MomSelect. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. It’s that one special day to celebrate Mom and let her know just how much you love her.

So, what do you get the mom who has everything?

I started by browsing MyPrintly.com. There are so many great craft ideas on there. If you’ve never stopped by the site, you simply must do so. It’s the first place I go when I need to come up with an idea for gifts and my mind goes blank. It always gets my creative juices flowing again, and I’ve found some really great stuff to make because of the site.

While out and about in my daily endeavors recently, I came across some unique burlap prints. They were beautiful, but they were hand painted. Unfortunately, my artistic ability when it comes to freehand drawing is non-existent. I can’t even draw a stick figure without crooked lines.

But, I can design almost anything on the computer!

I had even found some laminated burlap at my local craft store. It said you could put it in the printer, but I noticed that the burlap sheds. I didn’t want to risk ruining my beautiful HP Envy printer by having it pull through a piece of burlap.

I wanted a way to make a burlap print without actually printing on the burlap.

burlap_print

You won’t believe how easy it is to make a burlap print without actually printing on burlap!

Here, take a minute and watch my video:

See how easy that was?

Let’s go over everything once again, and get you on your way to creating your own masterpiece.

burlap print

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • The design you want to print. (See my *Free* Printables below, create your own, find one on etsy…. the possibilities are endless!)
  • Transparency Film (Made for inkjet printers)
  • A printer
  • Burlap (either laminated burlap or a piece of burlap cut to size)
  • Picture frame

Next, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Using your printer, print out your design onto transparency paper. (If you use my printables below, they are all set to print as an 8″x10″. I include a black border so you know exactly where to cut your design out to fit in the frame. Just make sure your document is set to print at 100%.
  2. Cut out your design around the black lines. (If using my printable. If not, cut your design out to fit in the frame.)
  3. Place the design next to the glass, place the burlap (cut to size) behind it, and put on the back of the frame.
  4. Viola! That’s it! You now have a beautiful burlap frame, and there’s no chance of any burlap shedding and clogging up your printer.

burlap print

I absolutely love the way these prints look! I foresee lots and lots of these in my future. :)

Now, let’s get on to the fun part. The free printables! I’ve got several designs for you to choose from. Just click on the image to be taken to the full size image. Right click on the large image (not the small one!), save it to your computer, and then print it out using the instructions above:

mothers day free printable

blessed free printable

mothers day free printableIf you have any trouble with these, just shoot me a message.

Still need more crafty ideas for gifts to make this year? Check out MyPrintly.com for tons more ideas!

I also want to make sure you know about an exciting giveaway with the chance to win one of three (3) HP Envy Printers. All you have to do is follow @MyPrintly on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram, and then complete this brief entry form: http://bit.ly/MyPrintlyGiveaway. (Please note: The contest ends Friday, May 15th and winners will be randomly selected and notified the following week. Giveaway is for U.S. only.)

If you use these printables, I’d love to see how your project turns out! Or, let me know which craft on MyPrintly.com you end up using.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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.
diy project

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.
cook together

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

family vacation in san francisco

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