Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Summer Fun with Swimways


    This post was sponsored by SwimWays as part of an Ambassador Program for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.


    Summer is the best time of year. Living in Florida, lots of people think we can swim year round—but actually if you don’t have a heater for your pool, it gets too cold in October. We try to use it as much as possible during the summer, and cool off as much as possible in the 90 degree temps!


    My big guy likes to swim and wants to swim and jump to me the entire time at the pool. This left the situation a chaotic one, as I would run around the pool trying to fetch the littlest before he would jump in the pool. He’s a lover of the water, and seems to think he can swim like his brother. However, he can’t just yet. 



    I love that I have the Swimways Baby Spring Float for him, as other flotation devices are too big for him. I enjoy getting to push him around the pool, while I wait for Bennett’s next big jump. He has also learned to kick his legs back and forth to get him to start moving in the water and knows if he leans a little forward it propels him. 


    I love the float and that it offers a canopy for when the sun is shining bright, and he won’t think twice about a hat. This also folds down for easy travel or storage. We love taking it to friends houses or the beach without it taking up a lot of room. 


    We have utilized this float for many years now starting with my oldest who began to swim independently at age 3. Swimways is an industry leader in helping kids learn to swim, and the spring float has even won the National Parenting Center Seal of Approval Award. 


    This interactive octopus float is ideal for babies 9-24 months and is the #1 selling baby float in the U.S. It has received four and five star ratings for many years now by consumers. For baby it offers a play station that includes a squeaker, rattle, stacking rings, teether, and a soft touch star. For parents if offers an added outer ring for added stability, a soft seat for baby, safety valves and dual air chambers for added security—and the best part, it folds into a compact circle for easy storage and portability. 

    Friday, May 18, 2018

    Hood Calorie Countdown Cook Off


    Growing up I always pretended I was talking to a crowd when I cooked, I loved helping my mom in the kitchen and cooking for my baby dolls. When I went to high school, I took culinary and hospitality all four years. After graduating, I went to UCF to major in event management with a minor in culinary. I ended up changing my major to education, however, I love cooking and love having dinner parties where I can show off all my new recipes. 


    I was invited this month to participate in a cook off with Hood Calorie Countdown. I have used their milk in previous recipes on the blog here and here, but a cook off was something new! I went back and forth about what to make, going from biscuits and gravy to a favorite of mine cauliflower alfredo. I ended up settling on something completely different, but was a sure winner in my family--Coconut Pudding. I used Hood Calorie Countdown whole milk in my recipe to take out some of the calories, but still have all the yum factor. 



    Hood has always had great products for the family, and Calorie Countdown is definitely one of them! I love that I'm only purchasing one dairy beverage for the whole family and cutting calories, but none of the nutrients we all need. Hood Calorie Countdown is creamy and has a delicious taste, and keeps the kiddos coming back for more.



    Hood Calorie Countdown is a ultra filtered dairy beverage that is offered in Whole, 2%, Fat Free, and Chocolate--there is even an option for 2% Reduced Fat Chocolate. It contains 42% less calories, 75% less sugar, and 67% fewer carbs. The milk comes from farmers who have pledged not to use artificial growth hormones, this is something I try and search for when I am buying food items for my family. 

    I decided on Coconut Pudding because of its light taste, and the quick summer months approaching. It went perfectly with cut up fruit and some fresh made granola. I used the Hood Calorie Countdown whole milk to substitute for the whole milk, and added that with coconut milk. I had originally used coconut sugar, but like the look of the white sugar. However, if I made it for myself to enjoy--I would add back in the coconut sugar. This was a quick dessert that I would definitely make for a summer bbq or just a family dinner. 


    What would you use Hood Calorie Countdown in?

    Thursday, May 17, 2018

    Going Brandless with Organic Cheese Ducks Crackers

    It doesn't matter how much I feed my kids at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, they always end up hungry in between. I'm always grabbing something out of the pantry to keep them happy while I cook the next meal. Two growing boys require lots of food and I'm always on the search for budget friendly snacks that are also Non-GMO or organic. I recently came across Brandless, and was amazing as the variety of products they offered and at such a low cost. I can purchase all of my every day needs from organic to health and beauty products on one website for only $3 for each item! 


    We received a box from Brandless and the first thing my kids grabbed were the Organic Cheese Duck Crackers. These delicious crackers are certified USDA organic, and contain no artificial flavors or preservatives and are non-GMO. When I tasted the crackers, I was shocked at how great the flavor was, and new this would be an instant win with the kids. They noticed no difference from the big name brands, and actually asked for the ducks over the other cheese crackers we had. We have brought these crackers everywhere from lunches to beach trips, and they make the perfect little snack! For as fast as we go through cheese crackers in this family. I will take them at $3 and a big box delivered free right to my door! 

    Brandless has created an online marketplace for you to shop for your food and household products from the comfort of your own home. When you are shopping a national brand you have to pay a BrandTax, which is a hidden cost these brands pay. With Brandless, you eliminate that tax and just pay for the high quality item that you want--$3 will get you any item! I love that I can find anything that my family needs at Brandless and can meet any of our dietary needs including gluten free, sugar free, Non-GMO, and organic. 

    If you're ready to get your first Brandless box I have an exclusive code for you to get 30% off a years B. More Membership. Another great thing about Brandless? Every time you place a Brandless order, a meal is donated to people facing hunger through Feeding America®. In the 6 months that Brandless has been operating, they have already donated 250K meals! Find more about Brandless on their social media sites, and go shop Brandless

    Tuesday, May 15, 2018

    Teaching Your Kids to Swim with Swimways


      This post was sponsored by SwimWays as part of an Ambassador Program for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

      It may still be spring, but it sure feels like summer. We are living it up, and are so ready for the long summer nights and weekends spent all day by the pool. I remember as a kid, we started in swim lessons and began to swim at such a young age. Our days were filled by the pool, where my sister and I would pretend to be mermaids splashing about. When my son was born I knew I had to get him involved in swim, and we did at just 3 months old!




      I found it so very important to teach my little ones to swim at such an early age, as there are pools, lakes, and bodies of water all around. We began at a simple water babies class, then went on to a parent tot class, and a then to a group class of about 4 kiddos. I find it very important, even if you don't live near a body of water--to teach your kiddos how to swim. At some point in their life they will be near a body of water and can save their lives. 


      When at home, I love using the SwimWays Baby Spring Float Activity Center with my babies and allowing them to explore the water. This May, I'm partnering with SwimWays, who is an industry leader in helping children learn to swim. I'm here to tell you about National Learn to Swim Day coming up on May 19th, that was created by SwimWays in 2012 to educate parents and kids about water safety and the benefits of teaching your children to swim





      I have used the SwimWays Spring Baby Float Activity Center every year since my littles were born. It is the perfect float for babies 9-24 months and is the #1 selling baby float in the U.S. I have always loved that is has a large spring for added stability, and the canopy for our Florida sun is a definite plus! My little ones have always loved splashing in the mesh play space, that allow for toys. It then folds up into a compact carry bag. 


      I love having the SwimWays Baby Spring Float Activity Center for when I am working with my older son on his swimming skills. I don't have to worry about my little guy jumping in on his own, and he can kick himself all around the pool with us. He loves the interactive octopus play station, that keeps him busy when his brother wants all the attention. Including a squeaker, rattle, stacking rings, teether, and a soft touch star. 




      I love that we can use this SwimWays Baby Spring Float year after year for friends, family, and even my own baby. Grab yours SwimWays Baby Spring Float at Activity Center at Target or the Canopy Baby Spring Float here


      Monday, May 7, 2018

      Mother's Day Subscription Gift Guide

      This Mother's Day give your mom the gift that keeps on giving. 


      I know I've talked about my love for holidays before. I love giving gifts, and these are some of my favorite mother's day gifts--the ones that keep on giving. These gifts show up in the mailbox monthly to remind them how special they are, or my favorite, a grocery delivery service which comes weekly in my case. There is something for every mother, but I have rounded up my favorites. 

      Monday, April 30, 2018

      Watermelon and Feta Salad with Blueberry Vinaigrette

        This post was sponsored by Fresh From Florida as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central, however, all opinions expressed are my own.



        High temps are fast approaching, and that means pool parties and family get togethers by the pool. Bring me all the deli sandwiches, chips, and ice cold juicy fruit under the hot sun and I will call it a successful party. Recently, I've been recreating some of my favorite party foods for something new and exciting. One of my new favorites is this Watermelon and Feta Salad with Blueberry Dressing created using fruit from Fresh from Florida. 

        Wednesday, April 18, 2018

        5 Tips for a Relaxing Disney Cruise with a Baby

        When we first started planning a Disney cruise vacation, I planned on leaving our little one at home after going back and forth a couple times we decided ultimately to bring him (and the in-laws) along for the ride. 



        We are big Disney fans, and have been pass holders for the past couple years (I actually even worked there in college)--so the Disney cruise just sounded like the next step. Even though we live so close to so many ports here in Florida, this was our first cruise and we were so excited to experience it as a family.


        Our 3 night cruise left from Port Canaveral and stopped at Nassau and the Disney Island, Castaway Cay. We decided not to get off at Nassau and spend the day on the ship while there were less people on the ship. My husband and I enjoyed a little time at the spa on this day, while our oldest played in the Oceaneer Club and the little one napped in the room with my in-laws. 



        Unfortunately, mother nature decided she would bring a cold front in--and we didn't get to stop at Castaway Cay since the wind was so powerful. Since we weren't able to dock we got to spend another day on the ship. They had all kinds of activities to do on the ship that day, including a 5K on deck 4 for those runners that were planning on running at Castaway Cay. 




        Despite not getting off the ship the entire time at sea, we had such a blast. We traveled with our 3.5 and 15 month old sons, the Disney cruise was by far the easiest vacation we we have been on with them and we have already started planning our next.

        Here are my tips that will help make your Disney cruise with toddlers or infants even more relaxing.




        1. Packing for Baby on the Disney Cruise 

        If you have multiple kiddos, try packing everything in one suitcase. Cruise rooms are small, so the less baggage you have the better. Whenever we vacation, we always unpack our belongings--this time was no different and actually was a must. After unpacking, our bags fit nicely under the bed leaving us with plenty of extra room.

        You will want to pack a day bag as your bags will not arrive to your room until after you have gotten in your room. (Ours were actually waiting at our door at 1:00PM when we were allowed in, but we also had the very first check in time.) I would plan to not have your bag any earlier than 4PM. We only brought one carry on so we wouldn't have a whole bunch of things to carry around.

        In your day bag, you will want to pack:

        Swimsuits
        Swim Diapers
        Sippy Cups
        Change of Clothes
        Sunscreen
        Diapers
        Wipes
        Water Shoes




        2. Check In Early for your Disney Cruise

        If this is your first time cruising with Disney you will be able to check in 75 days before your scheduled cruise. After going through questions about each guest in your party, you will get to the most important part of check in--port arrival time. Choose the earliest arrival time. We were one of the very first guests on board, we were able to grab something to eat and enjoy the splash pad before it got busy. We also were able to go to our room at 1PM, when the rooms were ready. 

        Another benefit of checking in online--you can register your kids for the It's a Small World Nursery or the Oceaneer's Club. When you arrive at one of these on the first day, the kids are registered and all you do is grab their magic bands and go. These special magic bands have a GPS in them so they can easily tell you what section your kiddo is in when you come pick them up. Trust me, it's needed--the place is huge! When picking them up you will need to provide a special word that you gave at check in and your Key to the World card--they will verify this information with your picture as well. 


        3. Get a Verandah!

        As first time cruisers, a verandah was a must. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel as I get sea sick on small boats so looking out on the horizon was a must. However, I didn't realize how often we would use it! It was nice to be able to go out there once the littles had gone down for a nap, or gone to bed for the night. It also made the room seem so much bigger, which is a definite plus! 

        If you do opt out of a verandah, you have a black out curtain between the couch/bunk bed area and the main sleeping area. This works as a light and sound barrier, and is great for when you want to watch the late night "live shows". 



        4. It's a Small World Nursery- The Disney Cruise Nursery

        This place was magical. The ladies looked straight out of Mary Poppins and had the sweetest voices. You could tell they loved their job, and I had no hesitation leaving Carson. We would start our dinner (early dinner begins at 5:30PM) as a family, the servers would bring the kids food out before ours and then one of us would take them to the kids club and nursery. This allowed us to have an adult only dinner, and actually enjoy each delicious course. 

        A couple things to note: the nursery does cost $9.00/hr for the first child and $8/hr for the second. They are able to contact you through the wave phone that is provided in each room, or through the app that you download on your phone. They will lay your child down for a nap/bedtime as well as feed them snacks and dinner (although we opted for dinner in our assigned dining room). They labeled everything that came in with them, so no worries if you forgot the label stickers at home. 

        You can reserve the nursery online at check in; we did not do that. It was never full when we visited, and we were able to get our son right in. I'm sure it does fill up though, so if you are in need of the nursery and know the time, I'd go ahead and register. 



        5. Baby Gear to Bring on the Disney Cruise 

        Disney caters to families, so when I say they provide all the gear you need for your trip and to leave it all at home, I mean it. We only brought a small umbrella stroller, as our gear for baby--and honestly could have done without. They provide a complimentary pack n play, that the host or hostess will take down each day if you'd like. 

        They also provide bottle warmers, sterilizers, and diaper pails--as well as complimentary strollers at guest services. However, if you do want a stroller you may want to bring one as those are very limited. If you are going to Castaway Cay, they have strollers and wagons on shore for you to use! I also loved that they had high chairs ready at our dinner every night, and when they saw us carrying a baby at Cabanas, they quickly grabbed a high chair. 


        I highly recommend baby wearing on the cruise. Bringing our Ergo 360 with us was easy and allowed me to carry around my little man without waiting for elevators, or pushing my stroller through crowds. I also recommend bringing a water bottle for yourself and your kiddos. It was easier to refill their water bottles, then to continue going back and forth to the water fountain. 

        These two items were my must haves!

        We are so very excited to travel again, and we pre-booked another while on the cruise which allowed us to receive an on board credit as well as a percentage off of our next cruise. 

        Have you been on a Disney Cruise? What are some tips you have? 
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