Friday, April 29, 2016

#DisneyKids Playdate

We received free product to facilitate the #DisneyKids Playdate. All opinions expressed are my own.
Extra special thanks to the following playdate sponsors: 

Walt Disney World is nothing short of magical. Perhaps one of the most magical parts about it is that even when you can't be there, you can bring the magic to your own home! That's what we did recently when we hosted a #DisneyKids Playdate for our daughter and her princess friends!

For our #DisneyKids Playdate, we pulled together our favorite snacks, our favorite Disney music, some fun crafts, games, and activities, and we decorated with Disney themed party supplies. We handed out Disney themed party favors including bags, posters, hats, and more, from characters like Sofia the First, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and The Lion Guard. All of this added together equaled a super fun playdate!

We were able to capture and share our playdate memories with the help of HP. We took photos using the Pocketbooth app and printed them on HP Photo Booth Strips. Each of our friends got to bring some pictures home with them to help them remember all the fun we had.

A playdate wouldn't be complete without coloring and crafts! At our #DisneyKids Playdate, we crafted with I Love to Create using Tulip's Puffy Paint and Aleene's Tacky Glue. We created some Disney Junior themed hand puppets and colored lots and lots of pictures that we printed right off the Disney Junior website.

We read the most fantastically creative book together - My Very, Very Smelly Breath - Banfield Pet Hospital's second children's book. Written from the perspective of a dog, this scratch-and-sniff story helps children and pet owners understand the importance of helping their pets keep their mouth's clean. My 5 year old has been very concerned about us keeping our dog's mouth clean since reading this book. Let me tell you something - the dog in this book has VERY smelly breath! You can smell it right on the page! Thankfully there are lots of good scents on the following pages to help you forget the nastiness you'll smell in the beginning! The kids loved this book.

We also went on a Kilimanjaro Safari at our playdate - just like at Disney's Animal Kingdom! We searched for hidden safari animals throughout our home. Each child was very excited to take their discovered animals home!

Of course, we had a photo booth! We posed for lots of fun pictures here and after printing on our HP Photo Booth Paper, we packed copies of the photos for everyone in Disney themed GLAD sandwich bags and sent them home as souvenirs.

And since princesses love to dance, we danced, danced, danced, and danced some more, to our favorite Disney Junior music! Princess dancing never gets old at our playdates... but it does get loud... and certainly makes for some very blurry photographs!

We love bringing a little pixie dust into our home by hosting Disney themed playdates. It's the next best thing to visiting Walt Disney World itself! The #DisneyKids Playdate was a very special time for all of our princess friends.

Visit for great information on planning a Walt Disney World Resort vacation with your littles!

We received free product to facilitate the #DisneyKids Playdate. All opinions expressed are my own.
Extra special thanks to the following playdate sponsors: 

Monday, April 18, 2016

1-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream - Allergen Free!

I've been trying a lot of new recipes since starting the breastfeeding elimination diet. As silly as it may sound, I'm pretty sure this banana ice cream one might be my favorite!

Eliminating ice cream from my diet felt like a big loss to me. I sometimes wonder if the amount of ice cream I ate during pregnancy was my demise! There are dairy-free, soy-free ice creams available  at my local grocery stores - mostly coconut based. I don't mind the taste, but the price is a whole other matter.

I'm hooked on bananas lately because they seem to settle well in my nursing baby's belly - and they just add that extra oomph to the plain Cheerios I eat almost daily for breakfast! And honestly - bananas are cheap, so I don't mind going through them quickly.

This banana ice cream - with literally ONE ingredient - is amazing.

  • Bananas - that's it! Maybe 1, 2, or 3 depending on how many days you want your ice cream to last.

  • Peel and slice a ripe banana
  • Freeze the slices in a freezer bag or freezer-safe covered bowl for a few hours or overnight
  • Pop the frozen banana pieces into a food processor
  • Pulse, pulse, pulse, pulse, pulse
  • Scrape down the sides periodically as needed
  • As you pulse the food processor you'll notice the banana break into little pieces, start to look crumbly, start to stick together, and then magically become smooth like soft-serve ice cream. It really is kind of magical and it only takes a few minutes!
  • Once it looks like soft-serve ice cream, scoop it out and either eat it like that or stick it back in the freezer to firm up a bit.

Delicious, healthy, and (unless you or your baby is allergic to bananas) allergen-free!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Embracing the Elimination Diet

It wasn't long after the birth of our second daughter that we realized that she was going to give us a run for our money. Our oldest daughter was a very easy baby. Once I accepted the fact that breastfeeding was not her thing and agreed to pump around the clock, we were good to go. She hardly ever cried and hardly ever got sick. She was just a happy, content, independent, healthy, growing baby.

Our second daughter is the opposite... she loves to nurse, is very fussy, and has already been sick and hospitalized in this short seven weeks she's been here! With our first daughter we felt like we had it all together. Now my husband and I walk into appointments with the pediatrician like deer looking into headlights and beg for recommendations to make life easier for all of us!

About three weeks into life with our new baby, it was clear that something was going on beyond fussiness. She was already on prescription medication for reflux which seemed to be helping but something was just still not right. I called the pediatrician's office in tears and they asked us to bring up a few full diapers that they could use to test for a milk protein allergy. My husband made the drop-off and I quickly got a call from the nurse telling me there was blood in her stools, indicative of the allergy, and that I needed to eliminate all dairy and soy from my diet. Say what?! I asked what formula to purchase. She told me not to do it. My babies tummy was already stressed out and she predicted that introducing a formula in place of breastmilk would only cause more difficulty as it would be even harder for to her digest.

I'm not sure if you've ever looked at the foods you eat and the drinks you drink and really studied the labels, but if you do, you'll see that many of them contain milk and soy! I was told that soy lecithin and soybean oil were still okay but other than that, I needed to be completely dairy and soy free because of this milk protein allergy. She'll likely outgrow it in a year or two, but until then, if she's drinking my milk, it has to be free of her allergens, which means what I eat needs to be free of them too.

To make a long story a little bit shorter, after eliminating dairy and soy from my diet for 2 weeks, we retested her diapers and saw improvement. Great news! The not so great news was that she was still miserable after feeding until she could finally, as painful as it was, get rid of whatever she had consumed. It was heartbreaking. The pediatrician then recommended that I eliminate some other common allergens from my diet such as peanuts, eggs, and tomatoes. On my own, about a week later, with the help of the Joneja Allergen Chart, I also eliminated wheat. Now, seven weeks into life with this baby, we are finally seeming to settle down and she is smiling and enjoying life a lot more often - even between feeds!

I'm not going to lie. I miss my old foods! But, I'm embracing the elimination diet - eliminating the top food allergens from my breastmilk - and finding some delicious recipes that work for my whole family (because who wants to cook several different meals at once?). I'm still new to this but look forward to sharing some of my meal ideas and recipes with you! Stay tuned!

Do you have a dairy-free, soy-free, peanut-free, tomato-free, egg-free, or wheat-free recipe you love? Please share it here!

Spring Crafts for Kids with Oriental Trading!

We received free product to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received. 
All opinions expressed are our own.

I'm always looking for fun activities to keep my 5 year old busy and there is nothing better than theme-based crafts - they make us feel like we're celebrating something and who doesn't love to celebrate? Right now we're celebrating the arrival of spring and the arrival of a new baby!

I have mixed feelings about the change in seasons. I guess I'm one of those people who can think of a reason that each season is my favorite so it's always bittersweet to pass from one to the other! The early months of this year have flown by. We welcomed a sweet baby girl to our family in February... and basically the rest is a blur! Weather-wise, we had a mild winter in New England. Although I missed the blizzards, I was relieved to not be in labor during one. Now that the weather has warmed up even more, I'm excited for things like long walks, picnics, and sunshine!

We have a five year old and a seven week old and I kind of can't believe it. There aren't many dull moments around here but there are certainly some competing needs. Since I'm often preoccupied with the needs of a newborn, my five year old is sometimes feeling a little left out. We've been looking for some fun, kid-friendly activities that require minimal adult involvement. Thanks to Oriental Trading, my big girl has been very busy celebrating the start of spring and the start of big-sisterhood with some great craft projects. 

We love Oriental Trading for their affordable, vast selection of kids' crafts. Here are some of the spring crafts we've been working on!

These super cute scenes are easy and just sort of magical for kids! Using the plastic tool provided, just scratch away the top green layer to reveal the vibrant colorful scene below! There are, as is typical with craft kits from Oriental Trading, 12 identical pictures and tools included in the kit - great for sharing or crafting on more than one occasion. This was my daughter's first exposure to scratch art and she loved it!

This assortment of colorful flowers takes scratch art craft to the next level. Again, the kit includes 12 flowers and 12 scratching tools. The color and shape of the colors vary. Simply scratch your own creative designs into the top layer to reveal rainbow colors underneath. My daughter worked on this with her aunt and uncle when they came to visit recently. This craft was enjoyed by all ages!

I always loved sand art as a child, so I was especially excited to share this fun activity with my girl.  This kit includes four each of three different bugs, individually packaged, with individually packed colored sands. The activity is much simpler than you may think! Just peel the top off of each self-adhesive section and sprinkle the colored sand of your choice. Here are some of our creations!

We did some sticker foam crafts last fall and loved them, so getting some for spring was a definite! This is probably the simplest craft ever, but the characters and colors really make it special. Aren't these spring friends just the cutest?! We actually didn't use these as magnets, but instead used them as place markers for a big family dinner. They are so adorable and helped us set the perfect spring table! 

Sticker dot art is an activity that encourages creativity in a mess-free and organized way - hooray! This kit includes a variety of 12 flower pages and different colored and sized stickers. I loved this craft but my daughter felt overwhelmed by the number of small sticker sections. She enjoyed working collaboratively with her grandmother to complete these flowers. It was a team effort to finish them, but we were okay with that!

Sticking with the sticker theme (because what kindergartener doesn't love stickers?!), we really enjoyed this craft kit. Included are 12 sheets of paper with only grass and sky decorating them. Your task is to do the rest of the decorating with the enclosed stickers. This was a big hit with my storytelling five year old. She loved creating her own scene! Typical of Oriental Trading, these repositionable stickers are bright, colorful, and just so cute. And again, hooray for mess-free crafts!

Besides having some crafts that my daughter can work on alone, we've really enjoyed doing some special crafts together when the baby is sleeping. It's so important that she knows that even though my undivided attention might be hard to come by for a bit, spending time with her is still a huge priority for me. Fuse beads have taken up much of our alone time together. 

Oriental Trading has lots of different sets of fuse beads and fuse bead boards. We are using the Pretty Pastel Fuse Beads and the Vivid Fuse Beads, the Fantastic Shaped Fuse Bead Boards, and the Fuse Beads Ironing Paper to create some lovely masterpieces - all of which have been gifted to school friends! We've used the Spring Fuse Bead Free Templates which can be downloaded free as pdf's from Oriental Trading to create some extra special seasonal designs!

For those who may not be familiar with fuse beads, these little beads fit on tiny pegs on fuse bead boards to create whatever design you dream up (or copy from a template). When you're done, an adult covers it with wax paper and irons for 15-20 seconds to fuse the beads together. Once cool, remove it from the board, and you have a masterpiece! This craft is a tedious one but its very well-loved in our house!

Given that my daughter loves to make gifts and pictures for her school friends, it's not surprising that we go through stickers fast around here. We love this roll of 100 stickers with our favorite Peanuts characters. Aren't the messages on them are the best? Each sticker can be detached individually along the perforations, so if you want to give them away while preserving their stickiness, you can!

For outside time, now that the weather is getting warmer (some days!), we've tried these sidewalk paintbrushes that put regular old sidewalk chalk to shame! The colors are so vibrant! The only downside to these is that you'll use them up quickly. Luckily, when you order these you'll get a total of 10 paintbrushes - two packages with five different colors in each.

The assortment of spring crafts available from Oriental Trading is endless! There are so many affordable, high-quality, low-mess options to choose from. We highly recommended every craft that we tried but feel free to check out even more on the Oriental Trading website.

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