Gift Guide 2016: LeapStart

Disclosure: LeapFrog Provided me with a LeapStart System and some books to facilitate my honest review. I was not required to give a positive review.

I am thrilled to see that LeapFrog has re-tooled one of their classic learning toys for preschoolers and toddlers.

I say it often in this space, but I’ve been at this parenting gig for a long time–20 years, to be exact! I am thrilled to say that Leapfrog toys have been with me every step of they way, from a caterpillar who shared a crib with my son and taught him the ABCs to the Epic that lets my daughters enjoy having a tablet just like their older brothers but is age appropriate for them!

When I was given the chance to review the new LeapStart, I was excited. The LeapStart is a re-tooling of the very first Leap Pads, which were such a joy to my sons in the days before screens.

While I do not personally have a big problem with screen time and kids–I have been a digital pioneer and I grew up close enough to the Silicon Valley that screens have always been a part of my life. However, not everyone is as comfortable as I am with screen time.

The LeapStart learning system spans four levels. Level One is for toddlers ans pre-schoolers, and Level 2 for the pre-kindergarten set. Level 3 is Kindergarten and Level 4 is for First Grade. There are two different base models which vary a bit in stylus size and the unit designed for younger children has handles.

There are several books (sold separately) which system -wide span 400 different skills from ABC’s to STEM skills like coding.

There is some initial set-up as the audio for each of the books needs to be downloaded from the Leapfrog connect site. But the bonus is, unlike the early LeapPads, there isn’t cartridge to keep track of alongside the book.

This is an affordable little system and it is easily customized to match your children’s interest. My girls really enjoy the Kids World Atlas, with Global Awareness. They have had fun learning some basic phrases in six different languages!

My daughter enjoying the Kid’s World Atlas

Each book also has a sticker section in the back where they are prompted to place stickers in a chart as they achieve certain skills. My girls are very motivated by such rewards, so they have found this to be a fun challenge!

Something that I really love about LeapFrog products is that they are designed by real educators, and as such, there is a good process in place for imparting skills in the right way, at the right level. This continues with the LeapStart Learning System.

I recommend this system for families who have young children and prefer a more analog approach to learning, rather than with tablets or computer games. There is a lot of open ended learning, and the size of the unit ensures that it is not easily misplaces (like our Tag Readers often are!)

Buy It:

And some of our favorite books:



Feel All the Feels with “The Eleventh”

You really want to check out the new series on Feeln. (and if you are not a subscriber to the Feeln streaming network–you are missing out on all of those wholesome and heartwrenching Hallmark movies— every mom needs a good cry now and then!)

Feeln is the leading streaming service that brings you heartfelt stories of love and togetherness – anytime, anywhere – including the exclusive library of Hallmark Hall of Fame features, Hollywood movies, TV series, and award-winning originals you won’t find anywhere else.

This Thursday, May 5, Feeln is launching its original series “The Eleventh” which stars a trifecta of TV legends including Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch, Dancing With The Stars), Ed Asner (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Roots, Up), and Cloris Leachman (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Malcolm In The Middle).

“The Eleventh” follows a young girl’s journey to fulfill her mother’s last wish – to get to know and reconcile with her estranged grandmother.  This is a deeply touching series starring television’s best.

I had the chance to watch the first two episodes (and they are nice and mom-bite sized–only 12 minutes each–with NO commercials!). I find the story captivating, and it is reminding me to not lose touch with the ones that I love, and that love me too!

Watch full episodes of ‘The Eleventh’ on Feeln.

I can’t wait to see more.


Disclosure: I was provided with a subscription to the Feeln’ streaming service in return for my honest review. 

My Mint Jean Misson

  Mint jeans outfit  

Every season I try and add a few fun pieces to my wardrobe. I am a fairly “safe” dresser, and I am trying to expand my horizons. However, I am also very budget minded–so I cannot go out and buy a whole closet full of clothes every season. 

I am thankful for fashion bloggers (especially ones who are real women) and Internet resources like Pinterest and Polyvore to help me imagine outfit possibilities. 

At the beginning of each season I make a shortlist of things I want to add to my closet. I then also tell my friends, so then can clue me in when they see something they think I will like. 

This spring, I decided I am on the lookout for mint denim pants, red denim pants (these can work all year!) and some floral pieces.

 I assumed (rightly) that the floral would be hard to come by. I don’t want tiny sissy floral (think: my favorite dress in 6th grade), but I don’t want a loud tropical print either. And, while I am not young, I don’t want to look old.

I did NOT anticipate how tough it would be to find mint denim! My Pinterest and Instagram feeds are flooded with it–however, many retailers are thinking of it as “last year’s color”.  Well, guess what retailers–this 40 something takes more than two weeks to decide whether a new fashion trend is worth investing in. 

I shopped around a lot, online and in person. The closest I could get to a mint denim pant was a distressed pair of mint jeans. This mom just does not wear ripped jeans–trendy or not. I spend half of my weekday mornings sending children back to their room to change out of ripped jeans–I certainly cannot be THAT mom! Plus, I am far to practical to pay good money for ripped clothing. 

Sunday I finally fund success! A quick trip to Gordmans netted me an adorable pair of mint jeans–with just enough spandex to make them forgiving! The best part? They were only $24.99! At that price, I might go back to pick up another pair in Cobalt blue. (They also had a nice coral pair–but I already picked up a cute pair of coral ankle pants this spring). I like how grey loooks with mint green so I picked up a fitted tee for $6.99.  Gordmans had some lovely floral tops, but none of them spoke to me yet–so instead I found this awesome floral statement necklace for only $12.99! 

This whole spring outfit cost less than $50! I’d say that is a winner! 


Plus a winter coat on clearance for $5! Score!!!
I love Gordmans for their huge selection of fun and trendy clothes for all ages and sizes. If you can’t find what you want in the store, you can also shop online. There is free shipping if you spend $75 or more. Gordmans sent me a $25 gift card to enjoy on my shopping trip, and one of my readers will win a card! To enter, just leave a comment letting me know what is on your spring wardrobe wish list.  On April 21, 2016 I will choose a winner randomly. Must live in the US to enter and win. 
  mint jeans outfit  
Here are some of the different ways I plan on styling my mint jeans this spring and summer. (Link to Pinterest board)

So chime in! What are you hunting for this spring?

Coming Clean in the New Year

I spent Saturday packing away Christmas.

That is always a bittersweet time. When I set up all of the Christmas decorations, I love how warm and cozy my house feels. However, by January 6, I feel like my walls are starting to close in!

Quick tip: I wait to put up our “everyday decorations” for a week or so after putting away the Christmas decorations. This way I make sure that I am only setting up the things we love, not just because those items always sit on that shelf. 

Last month I told you how much I have grown to love ePantry. I hate running out of cleaning supplies. It is not often that I get into a “super great cleaning mood”, and if I do–I don’t want to find out that I am out of my favorite (and great smelling) cleaning products!

When I joined ePantry I answered a few simple questions about my family and my cleaning routines and they set up a great selection of products that will work great for me! I was able to customize it, and now every few months (you can set up monthly shipments too) I get a box of my favorite supplies from companies like Method and Mrs. Meyers delivered right to my door!

ePantry has put together an amazing cleaning kit for my readers! And I am going to tell you how you can get it for FREE (that is my favorite price point!!). Mrs. Meyers Cleaning Kit

This kit features the Casabella cleaning caddy packed with some of my favorite products. It includes Mrs. Meyers Dish Soap, Mrs. Meyers Hand soap, Grove Scrubber sponges and a Grove dish towel.

The cleaning caddy is a great way for you to help achieve your goal of getting more organized in 2016.

If you are anything like me, you have a hodgepodge of cleaning supplies stashed under your kitchen (or bathroom sink). And this is just fine–as long as you are cleaning the kitchen or the bathroom. What if you need window cleaner in the living room or a cleaning spray in the hallway to get toddler smudges off of the wall?  If you stash all of your supplies in this handy caddy, you can tote it with you all over the house, saving you time (and if you are anything like me, saving you from distraction!) Then just stash this caddy under your sink and viola!

Caddy under sink

You are ready to go!

If you have not tried the Mrs. Meyers Dish Soap yet, you are in for a treat. It cuts through our grease and stuck on oatmeal just great, and it has just the right amount of scent. (word to the wise: the Geranium scent is better in theory than in practice). Did you know that hand washing dishes can actually be a form of stress relief? My kids won’t agree, but if it is my turn to do the dishes, I will almost always hand-wash! Between the warm water, the silky feel of the bubbles and the scent of the dish soap, I feel better after I am done than when I started. Don’t believe me? There has even been a scientific study that agrees!

Mrs. Meyers hand soap has also become a favorite. I have been a long-time user of Method foaming hand wash. And, I really do like the Method soap. But the Mrs. Meyers soap seems a bit more substantial and lasts just as long. I try to make sure that we buy hand soap that does not have anti-bacterial agents added. I think our family is plenty healthy without them, and studies are showing that anti-bacterial soaps do more harm than good.  So, it is nice to not have to worry about extra ingredients that we just don’t want or need!

I have a set of Grove scrubber sponges sent to me with every shipment. They may look like ordinary scrubber sponges, but they are anything but! The scrubby part is made of crushed walnut shells. Totally natural, and with great scrubbing power with not a whole lot of elbow grease on my part. I love these silly sponges!

The Grove towel is just nice. And you know you need a new kitchen towel. Go check, I bet you still have towels from your wedding shower stuffed in your drawer. Go look. I’ll be right here waiting.

So, like I said, you can get this awesome kit for FREE!!!! Here is how to do it:

  1. 1. Sign up for ePantry through this link. You’ll receive the Mrs. Meyer’s Cleaning Kit free when you sign up!

  2. 2. Answer a few quick questions about your family and how clean you keep your home (be honest!). This takes under 30 seconds and ePantry uses your responses to customize your first basket.

  3. 3. Once you’ve answered the questions, you can finalize the basket of products to suit your needs by adding or removing items.

  4. 4. To receive this offer, your order needs to be a minimum of $20. Choose the combination of products and scents you want to receive in your first box. (I’m definitely ordering more of the walnut scrubber sponges!)

  5. 5. You made it! Click finish & pay and place your order. (You may wonder what you did without ePantry!)

  6. 6. Stick to your New Year’s resolution with free shipping on your second order. To receive free shipping, make sure you select the free 60 day VIP Trial after you check out.

  7. 7. Already hooked on ePantry? Existing customers click here to get 50% off the Mrs. Meyer’s Cleaning Kit with your next order.

Don’t forget this special offer is only available until Sunday, January 17,  or while supplies last.

Happy cleaning!

How I Learned to Like Housework

I don’t really like to clean very much. I love a clean house, I just don’t care for the process. Cleaning requires so much, well, scrubbing, and work. . . ugh! And, in a household of eight people, most of my cleaning tasks either go unnoticed, or the results just don’t last as long as I would like.

However, a clean house IS a gift that I can give my family. AND, likewise, a clean house is a gift that my family can give me and each other.

I grew up in a house with a working mom (like me!). I learned to dread Saturdays. Saturdays became house cleaning days. It was NO fun. We pretty much had to scrub the place from top to bottom, leaving no cobweb ignored.

I vowed to not be that mom. (Sorry, Mom!)

And, even though we do sometimes still have Saturday cleaning binges, I try to take a more bit by bit approach.

After dinner each night, I try to tackle one task. If it is bath night for the girls, I am likely to clean the bathroom while they happily splash in the tub. (Plus, the floor usually gets pretty damp, so I can do a quick floor wipe.

Some nights I dust and polish our wooden furniture (the girls LOVE getting in on this!). I try to vacuum the living room carpet nearly every evening. If it happens to be a night when I have to do the dishes (the boys usually rotate through this), I will also deep clean part of the kitchen. . .usually whichever part bugs me the most.

I still don’t love housework. . .but I do enjoy it more.

I also found that just the right products, can make the job a lot more enjoyable. . .sort of a spoonful of sugar.

I like products that work well, smell good, and, especially since my little ones help me, are safe and have minimal toxic ingredients.

I fell in love with Mrs. Meyers and Method brand cleaners a few years ago. I got into the habit of buying them at my local big box stores, but they tended to be expensive and the stores did not always carry all of the products or scents that I preferred.

Then I discovered ePantry!

ePantry is known for carrying all-natural cleaning and personal care products

I learned about ePantry when I read about it on another blog. I fell in love with the prices, and with the fact that they carried ALL of the products that I loved!

ePantry is so easy to use:

Simply sign up, answer a couple questions, and ePantry delivers right to your door.

You have the opportunity to   plan out a delivery schedule months in advance (set it and forget it, whee!), or you can customize an order when you need one.

ePantry has given me an exclusive offer to YOU my readers! A FREE (that is my favorite price point!) Mrs. Meyers Hand Soap and $10 off of your first order!

I am so happy to offer this to all of you, since Mrs. Meyer’s is amazing! I keep a bottle of Mrs. Meyers hand soap by my kitchen sink. (I stock up on the limited edition cranberry scent during this time of year. . .it is my favorite!) Mrs. Meyers hand soap is formulated with aloe vera and olive oil as well as essential oils to get my hands clean without icky anti bacterial additives or parabens. I spend a lot of time cooking in my kitchen, so I like to have a hand soap that works well!

Mrs. Meyers Cranberry Liquid Hand soap


How ePantry works

  • This special offer is available for a limited time only, so sign up with this link.
  • Next, answer a few easy questions about your home, cleaning schedule, and favorite products. ePantry uses your answers to get a feel for what you like & to suggest products for future shipments.
  • Customize your basket! This is definitely the most fun part.
  • Including the hand soap and $10 off, your total must come to at least $20. The minimum is for first-time orders only.
  • Once you have filled your basket, click Finish & Pay. Your free hand soap and $10 credit will already be included.


Example basket: I have put together an example basket to demonstrate the amazing value of this offer! Of course, I highly recommend taking a look through ePantry’s full lineup. They have a lot to choose from and they are adding more all the time!



With a $10 credit, the total for this basket comes to $24.24, a $56+ value!

ePantry is not your usual subscription service. Other than the first order, there are no minimum orders. ePantry will suggest items that they think you will enjoy, but you only order what you want when you want it!

Refer friends and family, get $10 off!

  • If you refer friends and family to ePantry, each person you refer will get $10 in credit for their first order! And, more good news! You will also receive $10 in credit for each person who checks out. It’s a win-win!


To top it all off, ePantry has wonderful customer service! Every question I have ever had has been answered by a real person within a few hours!  This is a family owned and operated company, and they treat you like family as well!They even offer an extra $2 off if you answer the question in the chat box. So go on ahead and check it out!