Toddler Trail Mix - Recipe

If your kids are anything like mine, they ask for snacks approximately 1,958,918 times per day. We have a few favorites around here: Yogurt bites, lil' crunchies, and lil' beanies. The only downfall I can think of with our favorite Gerber snacks is that the kids devour the entire contents of the can in less than 10 minutes, which is equal parts disgusting and impressive! 

To help stretch the lifespan of our beloved lil' Beanies container, I decided to switch things up a bit the other day with a Toddler Trail Mix. 

What you'll need:

  • Goldfish or similar snack
  • Pretzels
  • Honey Nut Cheerios or similar cereal
  • Gerber Lil' Beanies (we chose the original flavor, but they also come in Cheddar Broccoli)

Mix a handful of each ingredient together in a small bowl and serve to grabby toddler hands! I actually stole a few bites of the trail mix to sample and it is the perfect blend of salty, sweet, and savory! The Original Lil' Beanies bring a unique texture to the snack and we even had enough left in the container to make seconds! 

FYI – We typically buy our Gerber snacks at Walmart. (Pro tip: Buy a can of Lil' Beanies or Lil' Crunchies as soon as you get to the store to ensure happy shoppers as you cruise the aisles.) Get your hands on Lil' Beanies at Walmart and save with this special offer

A Little Dirt Never Hurt Anyone

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #HealthySkinSolutions #CollectiveBias

In case you’re new around here, I’ll fill you in on a secret: our family loves the outdoors. We spend almost every day of our summers camping in or near the Adirondack Mountains. While we are there, we go on almost-daily family hikes, play in the dirt, take nature walks, and enjoy the peace and serenity of swimming, splashing, and canoeing on freshwater lakes.

Nature is near and dear to our hearts. When we’re not in the mountains, we are dreaming of the next time we can go back, and we’re fortunate to be able to spend so much time in the great outdoors. My husband is a school teacher with summers off, and I am a self-employed writer and social media strategist who can do my job almost anywhere. As long as there is a  decent internet connection and phone signal, we are good to go. Typically, we take off in our 29’ camper the last weekend in June and gypsy our way around almost all summer long.

Although we usually try to find campgrounds with at least a few bars of service so I can work, we also enjoy getting off the beaten path a few weekends out of the year to truly unwind.

While it can be anxiety-inducing to be fully disconnected, I’ve learned a few things that help me get by without my phone glued to my hand and work constantly on my mind.

  1. “Taking time to live will only inspire your work.” I found this quote on Pinterest awhile back and it really resonated with me. While it’s super convenient to be able to work from virtually anywhere, it also makes it hard for me to stop working when I should be enjoying moments with my family. Being a business owner and having clients to keep up with isn’t something I take lightly, but it’s also important for me to remember that it’s okay to take some time for myself to just be.
     
  2. Tune out from constant demands and tune into what truly matters. It’s hard to feel preoccupied with work and the stressors of normal life when you’re standing atop a 3,000 foot mountain. Surrounding yourself with the things that mean the most to you – whether that be a beach on a tropical island by yourself or a dirt-covered campground with your kids – serves as a reminder of why you do what you do in the first place. What’s the point in working hard to provide for your family if you can’t provide them with love and memories that they will really thrive on?
     
  3. Go ahead and check in once or twice. I get it. It’s hard, if not almost impossible, for me to relax and enjoy myself after almost a week with no communication with clients or friends / family at home. I usually allow myself a few hours mid-week to touch base with things: checking my email and social networks, sending a message or having a quick phone call with my parents and sister, etc. Going “Cold turkey” isn’t easy, and if taking a tiny chunk of time to fuel my workaholic ways is what it takes to be able to enjoy the rest of the trip, so be it.
     
  4. Lower expectations usually result in better times. A lot can go wrong out on the open road. From fender benders in parking lots to crammed campsites or noisy neighbors, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and just wish you could be home in your normal routine. I’ve found that lowering my expectations and being better about going with the flow of things helps me make happier memories. When it comes to doing work on the road, expecting a slow internet connection helps me build up my patience when it comes to client work and making ends meet. Factor in your location and do your research when you can, and don’t forget to check the weather forecast! There’s nothing worse than having to miss out on a lake day with your family because you have deadlines to meet, especially when you spent the day before feeling bored and unproductive in the rain.
     
  5. A little dirt never hurt anyone. As a mom, I’m used to having to go longer stretches between showers and washing my hair. (Life with newborns hardened me for this.) While three-day-dirty hair is typically unacceptable in the “Real world,” I’ve come to embrace the fact that when you’re camping or on vacation, anything goes – including matching french braided pigtails with my 4 year old daughter! Along with scheduling our family’s bath and shower times throughout the weeks and making sure our camper has enough battery life to run the hot water heater, finding the right products for my hair and body are key to surviving the great outdoors (and helping me feel better about being in family photos)!

Speaking of dirt… If you’ve ever attempted a decent shower in a camper or campground bathroom, you know the struggle is real when it comes to actually feeling clean. While I’m typically trying to wash dirt and nature off of my body on our camping trips, I never really stopped to think about the products I was putting in my system or why and how they worked.

When I discovered Mother Dirt, I was instantly intrigued by the fact that their products actually contain dirt and other bacterias found in nature to help you get naturally clean.

Mother Dirt believes in a “less is more” motto, which is something I can definitely get on board with. Their products contain healthy bacterias and promote clean, healthy skin and hair rather than sterile skin and hair. Along with improving oil production and body odor and the overall look and feel of skin and hair, their products are beneficial for both men and women and have a clean, natural scent.

Since using the Mother Dirt products myself, I’ve noticed that my hair feels fuller and less weighed-down, and even though camping season is over and I have the ability to wash my hair in a hot shower every day, I don’t always feel the need to the way I did before. Now, I can stretch three-day-dirty hair without having to braid it or hide underneath a baseball cap. Just a quick mist of the Mother Dirt AO+ Mist and I’m ready to go! Last but certainly not least, the cleanser is by far my favorite. While I’m not typically much of a girly-girl when it comes to face washes, the Mother Dirt Cleanser leaves my skin feeling clean and fresh without drying it out or making it oily.  

You can find more information about Aobiome Mother Dirt Products here and here and save 25% off when you try the products for yourself (which I highly recommend) with code CBSAMANTHA25 !

What are your go-to’s for reconnecting with the things that matter?
If you have any tried and true methods of disconnecting, I’m all ears!

 

FX Better Things: I Am Sam

It's no secret that motherhood has its fair share of ups and downs. Sometimes, I feel like I've got the world at my feet. When the kids nap simultaneously without me having to use my best death metal voice to get them to fall asleep, when we start a morning by waking up later than 7AM, when they eat a full meal at dinner time and actually help to clean up their playroom before bed. You know – the things dreams are made of these days. I'm fortunate that most of those things actually do happen on a fairly consistent basis, but then there are the other times... 

You know the ones I'm referencing here. The nap battles, constant demands for snacks starting at 6AM (or earlier), emotions running high from everyone in the house (including me!), struggling to get a diaper changed or hair done or God forbid teeth brushed. There is no perfect parent, and parenting in and of itself is far less than perfection.

Enter one of my new favorite shows, the FX series Better ThingsI was asked to watch the first episode of the series for a review and while I'm usually pretty selfish with my lunch breaks, I obliged and I'm really glad I did. The show immediately resonated with me with the main character, Pamela Adlon – aka "Sam" – for obvious reasons: her character's name (duh) and the fact that she is a frazzled mother juggling a million things at once. For her, it's landing acting gigs, parenting three daughters solo, and trying to keep her head above water with her daily life. For me, it's running my own business, trying to get MJ off to pre-k on time, wrangling Huck all day long, keeping a tidy house, and putting food in my family's bellies! 

Better Things is funny, relatable, and pulls at the heartstrings at all the right moments. Blame it on weepiness with my own baby girl growing up too fast lately, but the part where Sam lays in bed with her youngest daughter and falls asleep brought a few misty tears to my eyes. (And she's right – those darn baby hands make me fall asleep every time, too!)

See what I mean about relatable? Better Things just gets it. ou can take a look at the pilot episode of Better Things here, and be sure to stay tuned for Episode 2 airing tonight on FX at 10 PM! 


OH, and one more thing... FX and Better Things has sent me a terrific "Swag Bag" with tons of goodies inside, and they sent an extra one to giveaway to one of you! 

Here's what you could win: Ray-Ban Sunglasses, Chipolo Bluetooth Keyring, Leather Clutch for mom's things, Emergency Beauty Kit, Hypoallergenic Travel Pillow & Pillow Protector, Essential Oils Blend Mini, Skinny Lip Balm, and "Credit Card" Mints. 

To enter, all you have to do is check out the pilot and/or clips of the show here and tell me – what's the most relatable part of Sam's story for you? Whether you're a mother or not, I'm sure you can relate to at least some of her obstacles! Comment below for your chance to win! 

Recipe – Simple Homestyle Pasta with Ragu

It might still be 85 degrees and ridiculously humid outside, but as soon as I flip the calendar to September, it's full-blown Fall in my mind – which means a few things: Hot apple cider, new routines, and hearty home-cooked meals. When we asked Marleigh for her dinner requests for the last dinner of summer last night(She started Pre-K this morning. That sob story for another time!), she decided on pasta with almost no hesitation. We had a busy day running errands – a hair cut, grabbing some supplies for her birthday gathering this upcoming weekend, and meeting her new teacher – so by the time we got home, I didn't have a ton of time to put something together.

Luckily for me, simple is best when it comes to the pasta lovers in my family. Anything with ziti, a good red sauce, and some fresh vegetables is sure to win them over at the dinner table! I grabbed a jar of Ragu and got to work in the kitchen while Marleigh colored happily in the living room. 

  • Ragu Homestyle Sauce (Any flavor will do. We chose the Homestyle Thick and Hearty Meat Sauce for this recipe)
  • Green Bell Pepper, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 Sweet Onion, diced
  • Pasta (We tend to gravitate towards the Ziti. Any pasta will work)
  • Garlic Bread (Optional)
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese (Optional)

I first wanted to make a baked ziti dish, but time was of the essence to prevent Hanger, so instead, I threw everything together in the same pot (Ragu, peppers, and onions) while I cooked the Ziti. Throw in some garlic bread while the pasta is cooking and 5-10 minutes later, you have a simple homestyle meal that is sure to make happy bellies! 

The best part? It only requires two pots to clean up when you're done! Quick and easy from start to finish. 

Ragu Homestyle Sauce is thick and hearty and tastes delicious. I'm picky with my pasta sauces, and this one definitely fit the bill. Not too tomato-ey, not too sweet. You wouldn't even need the peppers and onions added in as the sauce contains diced vegetables to begin with, but I didn't realize that until after I already had everything chopped up, so I went for it! 

Find more great pasta recipes here, and be sure to check out the Ragu website for more Homestyle inspiration! As my husband's family would say... Mangia! 

Friday Favorites

I've been working like crazy this week and decided to take some downtime to browse Pinterest for a few. I decided to make a quick post highlighting a few of my "Friday Favorites," just because. And also maybe a little bit because it's almost birthday season (fall) and I excel at dropping not-so-subtle hints! 

For starters, this "Because kids" stemless wine glass is perfection. I can definitely see myself pouring a nice big glass of prosecco at the end of a long day in this beauty. The best part? The shop owner is a fellow Buffalonian! (Also available as a coffee mug at Banky Girl Creations)

I've been eyeing up these Adidas Superstars for months now and kicking my 16 year old self for getting rid of the silver-on-white pair I used to have in my high school glory days. I might need to add these to my closet before the fall weather hits in a few weeks. (via Urban Outfitters)

THIS GNOME NEEDS TO GET ON MY COUNTERTOP IMMEDIATELY. It's more than I would ever spend on a kitchen accessory ($65 seems a little excessive, no?) but you know what they say – home is where the gnome is! (There's even more gnome goodness at Lulu & Georgia and I want every single one of them.)

I've been wanting to switch out the decor in our bedroom for a solid year now (actually, more like since we got married almost 5 years ago) and first on my wish list is this World Market bed. King sized please! I love the mix of industrial and rustic, and can picture it sitting pretty in a freshly painted dark gray bedroom. In my dreams – pun totally intended. 

Last but not least, no Friday would be complete without a fun happy hour cocktail idea! I'm loving the looks of this cotton candy bubbly via Momdot.com and If I didn't hate going to the fair so much, I'd be on my way there for a fresh bag of sugary goodness right now! 


What are you loving lately? Find more of my favorites on my Pinterest boards

Road Trip Snack Essentials

Since we're on the road so much during the summer months on camping trips, it's crucial that we find secret weapons to keep our kids content and occupied on the road. Along with our other Camping with Kids Essentials that I shared a couple weeks ago, there is one very crucial component to our traveling successes: Gerber snacks. 

Our kids have both always  been "grazers." They eat almost non stop, all day every day. You will rarely find them without crumbs of some sort on their shirts, non-sticky hands, or, thankfully, empty bellies. So when they're stuck in their carseats for 4+ hours, the hanger tends to hit hard – leaving us searching for something to keep our happy campers happy!  

Basically since the day they sprouted teeth, they have both been obsessed with Gerber snacks, particularly their beloved "Lil' Crunchies."  So when I was approached for an opportunity to try out the latest from Gerber, I was excited to see what "Lil' Beanies" had to offer!

Lil' Beanies are naturally flavored from navy beans - White Cheddar & Broccoli and Original flavor - with 2 grams of protein and 1 gram of fiber per serving, making them both delicious and nutritious! Huck took the most liking to the new flavors, and true to form, devoured almost an entire can in one sitting. The kid can put it away!

Gerber snacks are our go-to for more than just travel: effortless grocery shopping trips (Grab a can or two from the display while you shop and the kids stay content the whole time!), quiet(er) waiting room visits at doctor's checkups, and – of course – happy snack times! Much like their Lil' Crunchies counterparts, Lil' Beanies have officially secured a regular spot in our snack cupboard and camping backpacks.  

Head over to the Gerber website to learn more about this new, naturally flavored snack; or stop by your local Walmart store like we did so your kiddos can enjoy them firsthand! 

 

Side note: Does anyone else pronounce the names of these snacks like rappers' names? I can't help but feel like there's a parody video hidden in here somewhere! 

Camping with Kids

It shouldn't be a big surprise that we have a whole lot of trips planned this summer, none of which involve staying in a swanky resort or hotel room, private beaches or lakeside villas. Rather, we have over 30 days planned of being in the woods – most times without cell phone service and miles from the nearest towns. Although we are teetering on the verge of "glamping" with our new camper, there are still quite a few tricks of the trade when it comes to camping with kids. 

For anyone taking to the wilderness with littles this summer, whether you're staying in a tent, cabin, camper or RV, here are a few things we've found useful in our travels.

  • Prepare for the car ride by packing anything and everything you think you might potentially need and keeping it easily accessible from your seat in the vehicle. We have found that keeping a joint toy bin between the kids' seats in the back of the truck works wonders and gives them plenty of options of things to play with, read, and color. This summer, we bought Marleigh a wipe-clean workbook to take on our longer rides, and we got each of the kids their own backpack with a few special things they don't need to share with one another. We pack them with lightweight blankets for car naps, small containers for mess-free snacks, books, coloring books, and water bottles. 
     
  • Give in to technology for the really long road trips! I am not a huge fan of driving down the road and seeing mini vans with DVDs playing when people are bumming around town with their kids, but on long road trips, letting the kids watch movies in the car has been a life saver. We originally purchased a car DVD player with dual screens, but after a lot of annoyance with the DVDs skipping on bumpy roads, we found a great iPad holder that connects to the back of the headrests of the front seats! It has worked great so far this summer, and I can appreciate not having to be constantly pushing play/pause and skipping through scenes when the roads get rocky.
     
  • Great expectations are usually not great to set for any trip involving kids. I've gone into many-a-weekends expecting roses, butterflies, and picture-perfect moments only to be greeted by grumpy kids, dirty faces, and mosquitos. Setting expectations low, or at least expecting a few bumps in the road, is key to enjoying a weekend (or longer) away. Keep in mind that while you're looking forward to a relaxing retreat, camping (or any vacation, for that matter) is just another thing to throw your kids off whack with their normal routines. It might take a while for them to adjust, so when they're working on it, think of things to help them get acclimated to their new surroundings! 
     
  • Buy the freaking play yard even though it's a bit on the pricier side and looks atrocious on the camp site. I give 100% of the credit for this idea to my mom, who purchased the initial play yard (and then we bought the connecting/extender set to make it even bigger the next weekend). This is one of the very first things we set up after rolling into the campground and it has been a total life saver so far this summer! I can't recommend it enough for families who need a little bit of R&R after chasing after a crazy-busy toddler all day long. Fill it up with toys, and you're good to go!
     
  • Speaking of toys... buy some new playthings and don't show them to your kids until you're in desperate need (i.e. during witching hour, when said toddler is tired of being contained in said play yard, when you're trying to cook dinner, etc.). Opening up a new toy is a great way to keep them from being bored and let them take their mind and energy off of something other than wanting to run at warp-speed dangerously close to the bonfire! Some of our favorites to bring on our trips are a lawn bowling set, basketball hoop with ball, bubbles, and the classic velcro-mitt with tennis ball. 
     
  • When in doubt, take a walk around the campground or head to the campground playground if you're so lucky to have one where you're staying. Some of our best camping moments happen when we're on our family walks. It's fun to see the kids get excited about their surroundings and discover more of the world around them.

Our favorite must-haves: 
Animal Backpacks | Swaddle Blankets | Water Bottles | Snack Containers
iPad Holder | Play Yard | Toy Bin

What are your best tips for traveling with kids? If you're hitting the road any time soon this summer, I'd love to hear of your plans! 

Special thanks to BabyCubby.com for providing us with a gift card to purchase some of our favorite travel essentials! 

"I'm on a Boat!"

This past weekend, my husband surprised his dad with a trip on a local fishing charter for his 60th birthday. Luke, my brother in laws Brian and Andrew, and my father in law ventured to Lake Ontario and boarded the boat bright and early. I asked Luke to take some photos of their excursion and he did not disappoint! Continue reading for his recap of the day, as well as useful links so you can Discover Boating for yourself this summer! 

The fishing boat was prepared and ready to go when we got to the docks at 6:00 AM. When we left the marina, we went out two miles from shore to fish in about 175 feet of water. We set three "down riggers" to carry the fishing lures to 34, 45, and 55 feet. Our guide told us that the water temperature at those depths was around 54 degrees, perfect for King Salmon and Koho Salmon.

We continued to make passes back and forth, trolling the whole time between two and three miles per hour. When no fish were biting, we set the down riggers a bit deeper as we were seeing fish at about 80-100 feet down on the fish finder on the boat. 

We continued our trolling process and landed a few Koho Salmon, but they ended up being too small so we threw them back. The whole time we were out on the lake, the charter captains were communicating back and forth, amazed and confused as to why no fish seemed to be biting that morning! 

Finally, with our time winding down on the four-hour fishing trip, we landed a good sized Lake Trout. It took about five minutes to reel him into the boat, and the Captain cleaned and filleted the fish right on the boat. After that, he began tearing down the equipment (about a 20 minute process of bringing in the 7 fishing lines, downriggers, etc). Once everything was cleaned up, we made our way back into the marina. 

Overall, the fishing charter was a great way to kick off the boating season! Our captain was very accommodating and knowledgeable, the weather was beautiful - 60 degrees and sunny the entire time - and my dad was happily surprised to be able to spend a day on the water with just "the guys!"


With the weather warming up fast lately in WNY, it's the perfect time to incorporate boating into your summer schedule! There are 20 locations near Buffalo alone where you can rent boats for the day, as well as paddlesport rentals, boating classes, and charters so you can go on your own fishing excursions! 

Never been on a boat? Take this fun quiz to see what kind of boat best fits your lifestyle! I'm a pontoon boat kind of girl (give me some mellow music and bright sunshine and I'm happy as a clam!) but there's something thrilling about getting a good bite on the fishing line, too. 

Blogging Makes Me a Better Me

I’ve had this post saved in “draft” for quite some time now, mainly because I was worried that by publishing it, it might seem like I was patting myself on the back or trying to make it seem like I’m a better mom and blogger than I actually am. I’m, as they say, the world’s okay-est, and I'm completely fine with that. 

I love my kids fiercely and think of them almost every second of every day, but you know what? I also crave alone time. I’m an introverted person by nature. I don’t always love getting down on the floor with them to play with cars or build skyscrapers out of blocks, and the thought of playing with Play Doh actually usually creeps me out (I hate when it gets stuck underneath my fingernails). I try my hardest not to portray a picture-perfect life on social media, or on this blog. My kids have dirty, boogery faces in most of the pictures I post and they're rarely wearing outfits I've pinned on Pinterest. In fact, I'm lucky if they're even wearing clothes at all most days. I’ve often written about how difficult being a mother can be. How I sometimes feel like I’m struggling. How I fall under the weight of balancing my professional aspirations and being a mommy who is there for her children.

I came across a post today that made me feel defensive. In it, the author calls out “Mommy Bloggers” and tells us to "just quit" because our blogs “[expletive] suck” and "no one is reading."  She claims our blogs are boring, and while it may be true that business reviews and PR-friendly content might be at the forefront of my most popular posts, I truly believe that blogging has helped me to become a better mom, and perhaps more importantly, has helped me to become a better me.

Let me explain.

Blogging gives me an excuse to document the lives of my children in real-time. I have posts dating back from when we first found out I was pregnant with Marleigh, to when we found out she was going to be a big sister. Posts highlighting random trips to the playground and talking about our holiday highlights throughout the years. As a self-proclaimed procrastinator, I am happy that I have these moments in writing, because Lord knows I have been horrible at keeping up with documenting them in their baby books.

Blogging gives me a connection to other women in the same walk of life. As a work at home mom, I don’t get a chance to really connect with other adults who can understand my day-to-day. While I wouldn’t trade the friendships of my real mommy friends, it’s nice to be able to scroll through my Bloglovin’ or Instagram feed and nod my head in solidarity at the end of a long day. I find solace in unwinding by reading other mothers’ words on their blogs and knowing that we are all in this together, even if we’ve never actually “met” in real life.

Blogging gives me the push I sometimes need to explore creativity with my kids. My parents used to call me “Sloppy Jo” rather than Sammi Jo when I was little, but now that I’m a parent, mess-making tends to seriously freak me out. Documenting crafts and activities for my blog is a fun way to force myself to make memories. Through my blog, I have been given opportunities to experience fun places with my family, create fun crafts, and invite my kids into the kitchen to cook with me. These are all things that I most likely wouldn’t usually take the time to do if it weren’t for the little push of a promotional post.

Blogging gives me cool stuff for free. I mean… I’m just going to go ahead and say it. It’s awesome to receive free products and even monetary compensation for reviewing products that I would either buy for myself or lust over on Pinterest for months before I make a splurge. I’ve written about everything from diapers and wipes to cell phones and home decor, and I love every single second of it. And this part of the article where she talks about how nothing is true? I can’t agree with that. While it might be true that I have never used a certain product before writing a post on it, there have been many things that I tried and LOVED thanks to getting blog campaigns.

Blogging helps me practice my professional skills. As a copywriter by trade, blogging is a fun way to perfect my professional talents. Marketing products using natural storytelling and honest reviews is a great way for me to hone in my copywriting skills and helps me get my creative juices flowing when I’m stuck in a rut with writer’s block. Blogging also helps me learn more about SEO, link building, and HTML coding.


Whether you find your best self in the pages of a book, the strokes of a paintbrush, the notes of a favorite song, or by scrolling through a complete stranger’s words on the screen; whether you are the type of parent who loves nothing more than getting dirty with your kids or would prefer to sit on the sidelines and watch as they play independently… no one has the right to criticize or judge your passion.


Keep dreaming, keep painting, keep playing, and - Mom bloggers - please keep writing. Because despite what some people may choose to say or think, your blog doesn’t "[expletive] suck," and I, for one, would be really sad if you "just quit."

Viva Bertolli – Pasta e Fagioli Soup Recipe

Today, I'm partnering with Bertolli to celebrate their 150+ year heritage of providing premium olive oils and sauces in the United States! Click here to save $1.50 on your favorite Bertolli sauces, and continue reading for my favorite marinara sauce-based recipe for Pasta e Fagioli! Check out the #VivaBertolli hashtag on social media for more Italian inspiration!

I have absolutely no Italian in my heritage (to my knowledge, anyway), but I could easily eat Italian food five days a week. Luckily, my husband – who has relatives straight from Sicily – never complains about eating pasta for dinner. When we want to switch it up from our usual ziti and red sauce, I turn to my trusty Crock Pot for Pasta e Fagioli soup! 

The recipe is super simple, uses groceries we almost always have on-hand, and bonus: even the kids like it! 

• 1 jar Bertolli 5-Cheese Marinara
• 2 lbs. ground beef (I've also used sausage)
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1 cup celery, chopped
• 1 handful of carrots, diced
• 2 (28 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
• 4 cups beef stock
• 3 tsp. oregano
• 2 tsp. pepper
• 5 tsp. parsley (you can do without this if need be)
• 1 tsp. hot sauce
• 8 oz. pasta

1. Brown ground beef (or sausage) in a large skillet and drain fat. 
2. Add beef and all ingredients except pasta in crock pot.
3. Cook on low 7-8 hours, or high 4-5 hours. 
4. Before serving, cook and drain pasta and add to soup.

Mangia! I usually like to serve this up with a simple salad and breadsticks or garlic bread. For extra "Mommy points," warm up some Bertolli Creamy Alfredo sauce to dip! 

Secret Weapons for a Full Night's Sleep

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #EveryoneSleeps #CollectiveBias

When Huck was a newborn, he was a terrible sleeper – following in the footsteps of his big sister. We walked around like zombies for three months straight, hoping and praying for a decent night of sleep. At around the three month mark, we decided to get more serious about a bedtime routine. It was the only thing that worked in helping Marleigh develop good sleeping habits, so we crossed our fingers and held our breath that it would be the same for Henry. 

Since then, we have been doing the same pre-bed rituals (almost) every night, with the exception of the rare occasions where we have to be out past their usual bedtime – at which point the kids are so tired that they're basically lunging for their beds the minute we walk into their rooms! So... if you're looking for a simple way to (hopefully) get your kiddo to sleep more soundly throughout the night, read below for our tried and trusted method(s)!

  1. Set aside some time to unwind. If your kids are anything like ours, they are constantly on the go. We designate 15-30 minutes each night to settling down with a book, coloring quietly, or playing with a "calm" toy (puzzles, blocks, etc.). We will sometimes let them watch a show before bed, but nothing that will get their energy levels up! (Think Pajanimals, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, etc.) No being crazy allowed! 
  2. Stick to a strict bed time. Our kids know that bed time is by 8:00 each night. Huck usually gets tired at around 7:30 and Marleigh usually stays awake 'reading' to her stuffed animals until around 9:00, but no matter what, they are both tucked into their beds by 8 – 8:30 at the latest. We try not to stray from this unless it's absolutely necessary, even if it means leaving functions or family gatherings early to get them tucked in for the night. 
  3. Divide and conquer. While I'm in Marleigh's room with her reading books, singing our usual nighttime songs and saying prayers, daddy goes in to get Henry settled with a fresh diaper, cozy pajamas, songs and prayers, and his usual bottle of water and glow in the dark binky in his crib. Both kids sleep best with sound/white noise machines that have projectors, so we turn those on each night and hope for the best! 

*Knock on wood*, Marleigh and Huck are both great sleepers now, but it didn't come easy! Developing a bedtime routine and being consistent with it was so important for not only our sanity, but also our kids' healthy sleep habits. It took a lot of work, but now our kids both sleep for 11-12 hours straight each night, which is wonderful – for all of us!

Since Huck likes to sleep with a bottle of water, we rely heavily on his diapers to make it through the night. We've had a few instances of midnight (or later) sheet changes, and trying to wrestle a half-asleep grumpy baby into a new diaper and pajamas is not a fun event for anyone! We were all happy to discover Huggies OverNites Diapers to solve the problem!
Huggies OverNites Diapers are made to withstand all night leakage protection for up to 12 hours with a "wick away layer" to keep baby's skin dry and healthy overnight. As an added perk, the adorable Disney design of a sleepy Winnie the Pooh distracts Huck long enough to actually change his diaper without him trying to launch himself off the changing table!

In the mornings, we change Huck into a new diaper and use Huggies Natural Care Wipes to clean him up so he can start the day fresh! The wipes are 99% water for a more gentle clean, yet thick enough to clean any mess your baby might make throughout the day! I grabbed our Huggies OverNites and Natural Care Wipes from Target (I'll take any excuse to head towards the bullseye!), but you can get them from Amazon.com or Walmart, too! Just be sure to check your local store for availability first.

Being a parent is a hard enough job. You shouldn't have to do it on less than a full night's sleep! Grab a coupon for Huggies OverNites Diapers and give them a try!

How do you get your kiddos to sleep soundly through the night? If you use our techniques, let me know if they work!