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*This Post is sponsored by Black Forest. All opinions are my own.

Justin jumping in here today. In our family with the kids we always try to make good conscious choices on the foods we eat, and when it comes to picking fun treats it’s the same. Quality is an important factor in what we give the kids.

We recently got the opportunity to partner with Black Forest Gummies, and I just have to say that I was really happy about this one. Did you know that the Black Forest Classic Gummy Bears won the 2019 Product of the Year Award in the Sugar Confections category due to product quality and innovation? That was really fun to hear because I have always had a soft spot in my memories for gummy bears.

When I was a kid, I lived in Germany, where the actual town of Black Forest is located, and during the holidays the atmosphere all around the country there is just magical. Maybe it was just that I was a kid and it seems that way, but I really discovered what gummy bears were during that time, and to this day they are still my favorite treat. There just is something fun and inviting about them. 

So, it’s no surprise that we got a little inspired by the magic and fun of what Black Forest is all about. We might have gotten a little carried away with the girls in these pictures, but that’s what having fun is all about, right?

I think you guys will have fun too as you take a little whimsical journey with Black Forest Gummies, and if you haven’t tried them yet, I’m sure that you will love them. I love that they use real fruit juice and colors from natural sources to make their gummy bears extra soft and juicy. Whenever possible they also incorporate organic ingredients, so that is something good to feel about as well.

On that note, we often get asked about how we handle treats at home with the kids. We always like to keep a good balance of healthy foods for the kids, but we do let them have treats in moderation. When we do, we pick from things that are made from real, quality ingredients, like Black Forest Gummy Bears! It’s always fun to give treats for fun occasions and as rewards when the kids accomplish goals, and it’s even better when we can let them choose something that is good quality.

Anybody else have fun memories with gummy bears?  I’d love to hear about them, and also about how you handle candy and other treats with kids in your home. Where do you stand on helping your kids choose good options when it comes to treats?

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*This blog was sponsored by Specialty Retailers, Inc.

Today we are partnering up with our friends at Stage in connection with their campaign to support the American Heart Association and their initiative to #BringHeart Home.

Heart health has always been something that has been close to me personally. Just 3 months after I arrived here in the US I received the news that my grandfather has passed away due to heart failure. It was a very sad time in my life as he was a major father figure throughout my life.

He had transformed his life from being an orphan to building a successful full-time career and lived his life being one of the most kind and loving people I have ever known. This event left a huge impact on me.

More recently, one of my friends just had a baby who had to have open heart surgery just days after birth.

These events have been two very special and significant moments that have touched my life directly, and ever since my grandfather’s passing I have been doing what I can and helping in any way I can to spread awareness about the importance of heart health. It is has become one of my goals and dedication in life.

When we found out about the campaign that Stage and the American Heart Association were doing, we knew that we wanted to help support the cause. During this campaign Stage will be donating $1 for every photo that is tagged with #BringHeartHome to the help the American Heart Association to bring awareness  and funds to make a difference in people’s health, homes, and communities.

All it takes is to share a photo with #BringHeartHome and tell how you are supporting healthy heart choices or activities. It’s a small thing to do, but it makes a big difference.

I read somewhere that if each person on this planet made just one other person happy, the entire world would be happy. If each of us contributes just $1 toward the cause we could save so many more lives.

For us, in having personally gone through health challenges, and seen loved ones dealing with them. We try to instill healthy habits in our kids right from birth. There is one thing that we know, if something is fun and tastes great the kids are going to love it.

It has been great working with Stage for this campaign, they have so many unique and quality items for family. I really dove into their home section, particularly kitchen things. There are some things that I had been eyeing at other stores, but I couldn’t quite take the plunge, I always felt like I could find a better deal somewhere, and if you know me, if there is a deal to find, I will find it. I love to compare things when I shop and it is very helpful to me to have good descriptions to understand better.

I love the detail that Stage puts into their item descriptions which makes it easy to compare different items and really find the one that you want.

I got two things I have been wanting to have, I kid you not, for like 10 years. I picked a personal-size blender. I know it seems dumb, but if you are going to take something with you, or give to kids to take on-the-go, I want it to be cute. You have to agree that it is important, especially for a kid. You want things to be fun.

Then, I had been debating for years between different handheld blenders. I finally took the plunge with this Kitchen Aid one, and I couldn’t be happier with it. I love the kit that Stage had available to order. Apart from the performance, ease of use, and great design, I absolutely love that it comes with a case to keep all the components together. I think we all can agree that its a pain to be looking for a missing piece. No matter how much you try to keep things tidy (believe me I try), there is always something that gets lost so I end up keeping things in their original boxes. These often get torn and messed up, so that storage case really sold it for me. It’s narrow so it doesn’t take up much space and I could just slide it in where I keep the cutting boards. I sincerely could not recommend this enough.

Ok, and now on to the fun...

For this campaign we decided to share two fun recipes that the kids love making. The first is a berry smoothie, Vasilisa’s favorite. We made this with our personal blender that we picked up from Stage, and the second is avocado toast with avocado tomato spread. They each literally take less than 5 minutes to make and tastes great.

Berries are a great ingredient to use as they are filled with antioxidants and polyphenols which help to fight chronic disease and cancer. They have zero saturated fats and have had many studies which show they help to reduce the risk of heart attacks in both men and women.

Avocados are one of the few fruits that are also a great source of healthy fat. They are especially rich in monounsaturated fats, and when you include avocados in your diet it helps to balance your body out and reduce the risk of heart disease and make you overall health so much better.

Berry Smoothie (For a personal blender size)

  • 1 cup of frozen mixed berries

  • 1/2  cup fresh mango

  • 1/2 cup almond milk

Pour in your almond milk in first, then add in the fruit and blend. We don’t like to add sweetener, as Vasilisa likes it a little tart and fresh, but you can use sweetened almond milk if you like, or I would recommend using some Stevia for a good healthy choice.

Also, Vasilisa just wanted a light smoothie, but I also like to add different powders for taste and added nutrition. You can add maca, protein powder or any other superfood powder. I do this all the time for my teenagers to make sure they get all the protein. Sometimes I’ll also add a spoonful of coconut oil or Nordic Naturals Orange flavored oil for added nutrition.

From testing and trying, the container for the blender does not leak. Vasilisa tested it out and carried off with her to her Kung Fu class.

Quick Avocado Toast | HEART-HEALTHY RECIPES - YouTube

Avocado Toast

  • 1 to 2 avocados

  • 1/2 lemon

  • 1 handful of cherry tomatoes

  • 1 cucumber

  • 1 bunch of dill

  • Salt

  • Slices of Bread/Toast (We used Ezekiel Sprouted Bread)

Combine the avocado, lemon juice, tomatoes, and salt in a small food processor. Our hand mixer that came with the Kitchen Aid kit was perfect for this. Blend until smooth, then spread on the bread and top with slices of cucumber and dill. I didn’t want to make it spicy because toddlers prefer more simple taste, and as you can see Elia just loved it. You know they say the proof is in the pudding, I say the proof is in the avocado toast.

This is a simple recipe, but for variations you can add truffle salt or pressed garlic or sun dried tomatoes in place of regular tomatoes to add a more robust flavor. We have also done it with marinated artichoke hearts.

The best part about Avocado is that it can go both ways: savory and spicy, or you can make it a treat by blending with maple syrup, or honey, and cacao powder and nibs. It’s the most nutritious chocolate spread you will ever make and you can play with the amounts to get just the right flavor you are looking for.

Well, that’s it for the recipe and I hope that you all can support the cause that Stage is doing with the American Heart Association and let's all share some photos together and help to make a difference.


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Thank you CleanMyMac X for sponsoring this post. Ranked as the “App of the month” on Product Hunt, CleanMyMac X is an all-in-one package to awesomize your Mac and make it run just like it did on day one. #CleanMyMacX

Technology at times can be both a blessing and a challenge at times. Especially with all the demands that we are involved with on a day-to-day basis on the computer, it can really be a challenge when things are not running as efficiently as we would like. 

I recently partnered up with CleanMyMac X to see how their newest solution stacks up to help things to run better on the computer. I actually had used some of their older solutions before and was always surprised at how junk it would find that was bogging my system down. It’s amazing how much clutter accumulated on the computer from everyday things we do. 

It’s crazy to think how much you will pick up as you surf and browse the Internet. From temporary files, images, etc, to harmful malware, there are many things that we can accidentally pick up that really slow down the computer. Imagine trying to cook dinner on a countertop that is covered with clutter. You’d always have to move something to get something done and that’s what it can be like for the computer. Normal programs you use everyday can take longer and longer to load and process things. 

One of the things I love about CleanMyMac X and their team is that their system is fully legitimate for all Macs running OS 10.10 or higher. You don’t have to worry about whether or not it is safe or effect to use. The best though is that after you clean things up the computer can be running as fast as new, which makes a big difference with everything that I do on the computer, and what the rest of the family needs the computer for. 

Not only is it a great solution to clean up your Mac, but it helps to protect your system as well at the same time. As a dad, this is especially important for me when I know my kids could be using the computer and I can know that they can have a safe experience. 

CleanMyMac X really is a service that does what it says it does and right now you can give it a test run on your computer. Simply click here to automatically download the software and start your trial. 

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The luck of Irish is a great thing. The pinching? Not so fun. I propose we substitute pinches with kisses, what do you think?

Here are some tips for a perfectly kissable pout!

1) Lots of water.

The first body part to show the effects of dehydration are lips. Drinking enough water in the day will make sure that lips don't look dry, rough or chapped.

2) Use sun protection.

Do an SPF 15 at the very least. Not only overexposure to harmful rays ages lips faster, but a sunburn on the lips is THE worst! Hurts, looks terrible and takes (feels like)  forever to heal. I vigilantly protect now.

3) The right lipstick.

Not all lipsticks are created equally. Some have harmful ingredients that can do enough damage in the long run. We don’t live in a perfect world, though, sometimes a lipstick does not have a perfect ingredient list, but has a perfect shade that flatters my complexion, so here is a life hack I picked up from a lip-obsessed makeup artist: use a natural lip balm, lightly dust lips with a translucent face powder and then apply whichever lipstick you like! Not only this trick makes it last longer, but it also creates a protective barrier for lips. 

4) Exfoliate and treat with a mask!

Best exfoliation trick ever : rose water + sugar.

It’s gentle, can be used daily, and not only does it soften the lips but it also gives them a very sweet aftertaste. Who wouldn’t want that? 

Then, masks. I like DIY masks because they are so simple to make. Here are a couple options:

  • One teaspoon of honey and one teaspoon of lemon juice

  • One teaspoon of yogurt and one teaspoon of turmeric powder

5) Hydrate before bed!

A good lip treatment can do wonders. Make sure to go OVER the lip line: it helps to preserve the lip line without wrinkles. :)  Also, did you know that many eye creams can double as lip treatments too?
Do you want to continue with these topics? I have more tricks/life hacks from make-up gurus. Is this something of interest? Do you want more recipes for DIY treatments? Favorite products? Something else?

What’s your life hack to get a perfectly kissable pout? :) 

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Last week I shared 3 of my favorite uses for essential oils. I had several people write back asking if I had any more good suggestions for things that people can use essential oils for. It really is amazing at the diverse ways that EOs can be used for to improve the quality of our lives. Here are 3 more of my favorite ways to use EOs:

GET BETTER SLEEP

Millions of Americans, and even more around the world report that they have trouble falling to sleep, or staying asleep to achieve productive rest. One way to help that is with this sleep salve that you can make your self to rub into the soles of your feet before going to bed. It not only helps with sleep, but also helps to heal cracked or peeling heels.

For the oil blend you can mix up a bottle of it with the following combination:

  • 40 drops ginger essential oil  –  warming quality serves as a sleep aid and stimulates feelings of ease.

  • 40 drops peppermint essential oil  –  anti-inflammatory attributes help clear sinuses and improve breathing.

  • 40 drops lemon essential oil  –  citrus oils are adaptogens (natural substances that help your body adapt to stress.) 

  • 40 drops grapefruit essential oil  –  helps lower blood pressure, balances estrogen levels.

For the Salve:

  • 1 cup organic virgin coconut oil

  • 1 cup organic extra virgin olive oil

  • 4 Tbsp beeswax pastilles

  • 1/2 tsp vitamin E oil (optional)

  • Sleep Oil Mixture from above

To prepare, combine the coconut oil, olive oil, beeswax and vitamin E oil into a glass container and place in a pot of water to double boil. You want this to melt slowly. It should take about 10 to 15 min. Once melted you will need to pour into 4 oz. jars that have had 90 drops of the Sleep Oil mixture already added in the bottom. Let it cool completely to set, then cover with an airtight lid. The salve recipe will make enough for 4 jars, and the oil recipe makes enough oil for 2 jars, so you will need to double the oil blend to match.

SOOTHE TIRED AND SORE FEET

Another great use for peppermint oil is to add a few drops together with a handful of epsom salt and a bucket of warm water. This helps with the soreness, but also gives a calming and pleasing effect overall with the aroma as you soak.

ANTI-AGING SERUM

For those that would like to make their own anti-aging serum to really customize to your own preference this recipe is definitely for you:

Into a small dropper bottle or roller bottle, combine the following ingredients:

To use the serum, wash you face and use a toner first. Then take a drop or two and apply to the problem areas of the face with a fingertip. Follow up with a moisturizer.


So there you have it, a few more handy recipes to use with EOs. Let me know if you would like me to add on this and share more ideas.



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Thank you First Alert for sponsoring this post. First Alert 10-year sealed battery alarms offer hassle-free protection that helps keep your home and family protected for a decade! #LiveWithA10

Fire Safety in the home is something that should be a family affair. However, sometimes there is also another threat that is sometimes overlooked, and that is the danger of carbon monoxide. It has been called the silent killerI, and for good reason. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that can sometimes come into the home. The frightening thing about CO poisoning is that often it can be too late by the time it is detected, so it is always important to be able to detect it as early as possible. 

There have been many different CO detectors available on the market for some time, but often families don’t go through the hassle to place smoke detectors and CO detectors. This is where the combination units for both can be very handy. 

This month we teamed up with First Alert to share some key safety tips that are good for families when it comes to fire and CO in the home.

PREVENTION

The best defense is always to prevent dangers from occurring in the first place. For fire, it is always a good idea to check that all outlets in the home are unobstructed, cables free of tears or splits, flammable items placed a safe distance away from any stove burners/oven, and keep matches up and away form children.

When cooking, always keep an eye on the food you are preparing and never leave a pot or pan unattended on the stove that has an open flame going. 

CHECK GAS APPLIANCES REGULARLY

Make sure to have your gas appliances such as water heaters, dryers, stoves, etc. checked each year by a qualified technician to ensure there are no leaks, and never use any devices that burn gasoline, or charcoal inside the home. Never leave a car running inside a garage that is attached to the house, even if the garage door is left open. 

INSTALL SMOKE/CO DETECTORS THROUGHOUT THE HOME

It is important to install smoke/CO detectors throughout your home. In the hallways on every level, and in each bedroom. It is important to test and check batteries regularly or upgrade to a 10-year unit. First Alert makes a great detector that works for both smoke and CO detection. Their 10-Year Combination Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm is especially convenient because you get all the protection for 10 years without ever needing to connect to wires, additional batteries, etc. You never need to deal with any late-night low battery chirps, and when it is time to replace there will be an end-of-life warning. For 10 years you have the quality monitoring that people have come to expect from First Alert.

They also have a 10-year unit that offers voice alerts.

PRACTICE AN ESCAPE ROUTE

Sometimes fires and emergencies do occur, despite all the prevention. It is a good idea to have fire extinguishers nearby in key rooms such as the kitchen or garage to prevent a small manageable fire from getting out of control. Always have a planned escape route in place that the whole family knows so that when it is necessary the family is able to get out of the building. 

GET MEDICAL ATTENTION

For CO exposure, the dangers may not always be so apparent. If the CO alarm is going off, it is important to get out of the building as soon as possible. If you ever start feeling light-headed or dizzy for no apparent reason, you should also get outside. If any symptoms persist or get worse, seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

While not all emergencies with fires and CO can be avoided, taking these steps can help to protect the family from most of them. Having a detector with the security of providing 10 years of consistent and reliable detection gives a strong sense of security and peace of mind. 

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It was so interesting to read your comments on baby-wearing! Some made me smile, some surprised me : there were quite a few myths that have absolutely no grounds.

Lets tackle a few.

Baby carriers are bad for babies, they will dislocate hips.

Actually, there is an active study going on right now that is working to show that an ergonomic baby carrier is actually GOOD for babies with dysplasia, and are great for any other baby.

Baby carriers hurt my back.

It is important to find a baby carrier that fits right. Contrary to a popular believe, far not every carrier is made equal, and different bodies work best with different carriers. My personal favorites are:

Baby Bjorn Carrier One, Baby Tula, Lille Baby, and a new one, the Calugo Carrier

Baby carriers are evil, babies will get used to them and then they will never be independent.

You guys, is this even for real? Who thinks that? CARRY your baby NOW so that they can be independent and confident later! There are studies that show that exact correlation too!

Baby carriers are for cranky babies. Mine was calm so we didn’t need it.

Different babies have different personalities, but believe me, EVERY baby wants to be carried and wants to be close to his/her mom. I had quiet babies, I had loud babies, every single one only benefited from love and care.

Couldn’t use baby carriers because my baby had a hip dysplasia.

Consult your doctor, but bring the newest research results too. Doctors are not gods. Not every doctor is on top of things, remember that.

My baby never liked the baby carrier, so I never used it.

Goes along with finding the right carrier: different babies prefer different carriers. Sounds crazy, right? But 100% truth. I’d either go to a store that has a wide variety of samples to try or google a baby-wearing organization. They may have different options and recommendations too. I would avoid any cult-like approaches. Extremes are extremes, guys. Never good, imho.

Stroller is safer for babies than baby carriers are.

100% wrong. Stroller is neither safer nor better. Could be, potentially, worse, depending on a stroller. I was always afraid to carry babies like that - what if they fall out? If you get a GOOD carrier, this does not apply. Just make sure to use any baby carrier in accordance with safety instructions. Majority of issues happen when parents choose to ignore the proper steps of babywearing.

Baby carriers will cause the baby to have bowed legs.

You, guys, no comment. Except for “NO, of course, not!” and “where in the world did this come from?"

Have you heard of any other myths? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments so that we can all help to spread the good benefits that babywearing does have.

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Not only plant essences have a very lovely scent, many of them are potent enough to have antimicrobial qualities. Some of pure essential oils can destroy bacteria, fungus and viruses. Not all essential oils are created equal though. When looking for EOs, make sure you are getting the purest ones to get the maximum benefit.

Here are three of my favorite uses for EOs that are very simple to implement. I promise, once you try, there is no coming back! It’s clean, easy and very budget friendly - who doesn’t want that?

CLEANING

I love using Lemon. It’s fresh, cleansing properties make it a favourite to keep around the house.

 Mix 1/4 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of water, and 25 drops of Lemon in a spray bottle. You can clean anything with it.

Add 15 or so drops to dishwasher : your dishes will sparkle!

DRYER SHEETS

This is so easy, you will never buy dryer sheets again.

I like using Lavender and Rose, but you can do whichever scent you like. 

USE: 1 cup white vinegar, 15 drops Rose Essential Oil, 15 drops Lavender Essential Oil, 2-5 fabric scraps, 1 Mason jar with a lid. Soak the scraps in vinegar/EO solution. When putting a load of laundry into a dryer, add one scrap to the load ( but wring it our first). Viola! Amazing smelling fresh laundry coming your way in just about 30 min!

FACE MASK

There are a million and one recipe, here is one that I love for detoxing mask:

4 tablespoons water, 2 teaspoons witch hazel, 2 teaspoons honey, 3 tablespoons green French clay, 2 drops Lavender Essential Oil, 2 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil.

Mix, apply, rinse in 15-20 min. I love how fresh and clean my face feels after!

Do I have Essential Oil lovers here? What do you use yours for? What are your favorite recipes? Do you, guys, want recipes for defusing? Rubs to use ( especially when kids get colds)?


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I go out every day, rain or shine, and here is why: won’t go into general befits, we all know them. I want to talk about things that surfaced relatively recent, actual studies with benefits that are too valuable to skin on. Here are 4 of the benefits to babywearing that studies are providing support for:

IMPROVES BABY’S DIGESTION

A study in 2007 has shown that babywearing has a similar effect on babies as infant massage: it increases gastric activity and stimulates the release of hormones responsible for food absorption. To tag along with this one, a study right about the same time has shown that babywearing helps to lower a risk of otitis media.

SYNCHRONIZES MOTHER AND BABY

Feldman R in a 2011 study found that not only mothers’ and babies’ heart rhythms coordinate during babywearing and interaction, BUT the wake/sleep cycles seem to coordinate was well. Translation? Babies that are carried in baby carriers SLEEP BETTER! Isn’t it what we all want?!

INCREASES PARENTAL CONFIDENCE

This one is not particularly a new study, but it is not mentioned too often, when it should be. R Tessier found that parents who practice Kangaroo care ( skin-to-skin and babywearing) feel more confident as parents and are more resilient to stressful childcare situations. 

This is the answer to all of you, guys, who ask me how I deal with so many kids :) I baby-wear! Jokes aside, this study has been supported over the course of decades. I think it’s worth paying attention to.

HELPS TO PREVENT AND TREAT HIP DYSPLASIA

This study is not completed yet, but the consensus so far is just that: babywearing helps. It is hypothesized that wearing an infant inward facing in a structured baby carrier results in similar muscle activity and hip positioning as the orthopedic devices currently used to treat babies with hip dysplasia.

Translation? Wear babies (in proper position AND proper baby-carriers, of course) to prevent and to use as partial treatment for dysplasia.

Read the complete post in this week’s newsletter! Link to subscribe in stories! .

Curious, how many of you tried wearing babies? Or do you prefer a stroller? Pros/cons on both?

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These faces!!! And moments that are worth living for. We’ve done a hard re-set and reevaluate on life in the second half of 2018. The last couple years have been wonderful in many ways, including work and moving forward towards our goals professionally.

What we have been reminded of again, though, is that nothing comes close to the happiness your family and close-knit relationships bring.

Work and life-duties will suck you in, unless boundaries are set and priorities are made.
We want our kids to experience all and everything this new generation and advancement of time and technology bring with it, but we also want to be close as a family and ensure that we plant seeds of relationships that will stay with all of them throughout the years. That has always been our priority, and always will be.

Not that we haven’t cherished our family or cultivated relationships in the past, but at one moment we realized that the balance scale is not as even as we wanted it to be.

So, we pulled back, hit a hard re-set on life and schedules, and restructured work and daily living so that the balance we are looking for is always there. Time is ruthless. We want to use what we have the best way possible. I have more to share with you later.

What’s the most important thing for you, guys? What is your priority over it all? And how do you find balance?

PS: Elia REALLY wanted to find a horse. Check out the video below to see the whole adventure.

Will Rogers State Park Hike | YEVATUBE Episode 1 - YouTube
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