1. MY SHARK NAVIGATOR LIFT-A-WAY VACUUM!
Yes, child, I am the one who bought into the infomercial and broke down and ordered this fabulous vacuum in all its lavender glory. And I could not be happier. We've had 4 vacuums since we've been married - 2 Bissells, an Oreck, and a Black & Decker. All were 'good' vacuums but none of them great. They all had something that I hated, whether it was difficulty cleaning them, the heavy weight, or the suction. But let me tell you, if you're in need of a new vacuum and want something that has incredible suction, is super lightweight, is self-propelled, and is the easiest vacuum to clean, look no further. And the price on this vacuum cannot be beat, for what you are getting. And before all you Dyson-fanatics come at me with your sharp teeth, I actually did bring home the yellow Dyson ball upright vacuum to try out. I thought the Dyson was a great vacuum as well, but I would actually need 2 Dyson vacuums, the upright and the handheld vac, to get what I'm getting now out of this shark. The suction on the Shark is just as powerful as the Dyson vacuum. And it's guaranteed, like the Dyson, not to lose suction. PLUS it has these bonuses: the canister detaches and you can walk around with it, say, to clean your stairs. It also has an extension attachment so I walk around with the canister and clean my couch/chair cushions, my blinds, my base boards, anything! It is lightweight and like I said, this baby sucks. Literally.
2. TOT SCHOOL WEBSITE
I love this website. Maybe it's the teacher-wannabe in me, and maybe I'm the last to know about it, but I seriously love it. It's a site designed by home schooling moms (Christian moms!) that has TONS of activities, learning games, printables, etc, for preschoolers and early elementary kids. Mary Ella loves any kind of school-related activity and when I tell her we're going to do 'school time' she gets to that kitchen table as fast as she can. They have great activities and crafts to go with memory verses, book ideas for library time as well as crafts to go along with the books, and everything in between. It's a great way to pass the time on a rainy day and keep them from watching too much TV, which is a problem in our house already!
3. MY BRITAX B-READY
We love our new ride! This was my early Christmas present. Like I told you before, our previous consignment sale double stroller was falling apart at the seams, literally. Chad had to push it a couple times down at the beach and he was like, "PLEASE GET A NEW STROLLER! THIS IS AWFUL!" It was that bad. Would hardly turn and when it did it sounded like you were going to break the handlebars off. So I combined some blog money with some coupons and a great deal at Buy Buy Baby and after a few trips to test drive all the double strollers out there, I chose the Britax B-Ready. I was actually set on getting a side-by-side stroller, namely the Baby Jogger City Mini, and on a whim I decided to go in the store with my kids (DUH!) and put them in the strollers to test drive them. I don't know why I didn't think of taking my kids before, but it made such a difference to have them in the strollers while I pushed. And while I was afraid little Sambo would feel extremely claustrophobic sitting in the bottom seat, it is actually very roomy and both kids loved it. And what I love most is this: it's actually a SINGLE stroller. And it handles just like a single. It's no wider, no longer. But I can attach the second seat by just snapping it into place and it doesn't compromise the way the stroller rides. It will configure into a million different positions. And another thing I love is that, with most double strollers, you pay for the stroller then you have to buy all the extras, like the parent organizer, the cup holder, the rain guard, the car seat adapter; but with the Britax, all the accessories came with the stroller. AND from September 15 - October 15th Buy Buy Baby has a deal where if you buy this stroller, you get ANY of the extra seats (the extra toddler seat, a Britax infant seat, or a bassinet) for FREE! Plus, if you find a Buy Buy Baby coupon that doesn't exclude the Britax brand, you can take an extra 20% off your stroller. (There was one a couple weeks ago in the paper; this week's paper excludes Britax though.)
4. CLOROX WIPES, BABY WIPES & HOME MADE ALL PURPOSE CLEANER
My friend Laura started her own cleaning/organizing/staging business last year and has been hugely successful. You can find her on FB - just search for LH Creations and "Like" her page! She provides all kinds of cleaning tips, organizing tips, ways to re-use common items that you might throw away. She recommended using baby wipes to clean things like floor messes, wipe down baseboards, etc, and I have to admit, this is a great tip! Especially if you're already buying baby wipes anyway. They really are great for base boards. And that way you don't have to waste your Clorox wipes on the baseboards, which aren't so much in need of disinfecting, just a good wipe down!
I also found a recipe for home made all purpose cleaner on Pinterest, and let me tell you, this stuff is great! Not only is it antibacterial, but it smells great too, and won't leave streaks on your granite.
Get an empty spray bottle, and add half cup rubbing alcohol and few drops of Dawn dishwasher soap; fill the bottle up the rest of the way with water. And here's a bonus use for this stuff that I figured out this weekend: Do your kiddos where Keds? Do you feel the need to get a new pair for the school year just because they are 'dirty' and look 'worn out,' even though they technically still fit your child's feet? Well, this home made cleaner works WONDERS on Keds and really probably any shoe! It made Mary Ella's Keds from last year (which looked HORRIBLE!) look absolutely brand spanking new. I wish I had taken before and after pics, but you'll have to trust me on this one. And try it!
This probably sounds disgusting to some of you. I have never been a fan of flavored popcorn (well, unless you count 'drenched in movie theater butter' as a flavor.) But Chad came home with this a few months ago, and let me tell you, this stuff is soooooo good. It's such a great snack and just the right amount of kick. I love it. And popcorn is something you don't have to feel guilty about munching on. You can eat almost 3 cups of this stuff and only take in 150 calories! So far, I have only been able to find it at WalMart, and they can't keep it on the shelves, so the secret must be out.
Though the crazy weather here in the south can have you confused on what season it is, you can always tell the time of year by the nail polish colors that fill the shelves! I really like this Essie brand and their fall line; I have the brownish color and also a gray. It's cheap (you can get at both Walmart and Target) and stays on as well as any store-bought polish; make sure to use some top coat!
We are a traveling crew. And it's inevitable that we'll have to all eat in the car sometimes. And with two small kiddos, this is pretty much guaranteed to be disastrous. Every time I get my car washed and vacuumed, I swear I'll never let the kids eat in the car ever ever again! But we all know it's just something you can't get around sometimes, especially if you frequently go out of town to visit relatives or have long commutes. I found these travel 'lap desks' at Buy Buy Baby and they've saved me a lot of frustration. Mary Ella uses hers for coloring as well as eating, and when we do eat in the car Sam uses his too. It has saved me many countless hours of digging chicken nuggets and apple fries out of the bottom of their car seat cushions. (Have you ever seen a week-old nugget? Don't get me started.) These buckle behind the kids' car seats so they stay in place. I think they'd work best on Britax car seats; we have Graco Nautilus seats and there are some things I would 'tweak' just for our seats, but so far they definitely do the job! Happy eating in the car!
8. I DREAM OF CLEAN!
I Dream of Clean is a website I found a while back that has everything to do with cleaning and staying on top of your housework. It's great. I love her practical ideas, her cleaning remedies, and she even has a section on how to get your kids involved. (Now if she only had a section for husbands! Ha!) One great tip that I read a while back has helped me tremendously; she recommended picking 2-3 tasks that you will do every day, at the same time, and doing them over and over until they become habit instead of hassles. One was starting a load of laundry first thing in the morning. That way your laundry never piles up. The other was, no matter how tired you are, clean your kitchen every night before bed. Get all those dishes into the dishwasher; wipe down all those high chairs, tables, countertops, and put everything away. That way, when you wake up in the morning, you don't start your day by looking at your kitchen and going, "Ughhhhhh." Which is what I was doing a LOT of mornings before I decided to take this lady's advice. It really makes a huge difference. She also suggests a cleaning schedule, so that you don't spend an entire day or weekend cleaning your house top to bottom (like we did this past weekend!)
I can't possibly do a favorite things post without mentioning E-Mealz. I'm sure you've all heard me talk about it before, but in case you don't know what it is, here's the skinny: You sign up at their website, and it costs $5.00 a month. It's a meal-planning, grocery-list making guide put together by 2 really cool moms. You can pick your grocery store (and they have tons of options now, even ALDI!) and pick how many people you want to feed (we do the meals for 2 @ Publix and it's plenty for our family of four.) Every week they put a new meal plan and grocery list on their website for you to download and print out. The grocery lists are great because they are organized by section and they also give you the prices; and for the Publix store, they base their meals on what's on sale that week, so the grocery bill for the Publix for Two plan usually runs $30-40 for your dinner items; add coupons to the sale items and you come off even cheaper! They usually have at least one meal that is a CrockPot meal which is perfect for working mamas. Last night we ate a crockpot meal: oriental ribs over white rice; here's the recipe:
2 lbs pork spare ribs
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup brown sugar
4 whole jalepeno peppers
1/2 cup water
1/8 tsp pepper
white rice (enough to feed your family)
frozen stir-fry veggie mix (Publix has a "Japanese Blend" that we used; it was great!)
Put the ribs in the crockpot; add soy sauce, brown sugar, jalepenos (leave whole), water and pepper. Cook on low 8 hours. During last hour, flip the ribs. Serve over white rice with stir-fry veggies or snow peas. This is a great meal. The kids even loved it. It has just the right amount of sweet and spicy. And the leftover pork could be used again on an oriental salad - lettuce, mandarin oranges, chow mein noodles, and some French dressing would be great!
And because I have an aversion to odd numbers, I'll end with a number 10...
10. These two kiddos.
They are the sunshine of my every day. And I love this picture, too. Classic. Sambo pulling Mary Ella's hair and she is trying to grin and bear it since she knows Mama needs a good picture.
Now, what are YOUR favorite things?