Minted.com Art Collection Review

I have a mild obsession with home decor. Not that I actually go through with most of it, but man, I could spend hours pouring over Pottery Barn catalogs, Martha Stuart Living magazines and Pinterest (oh my god the ideas on Pinterest!). Now that we’re done with apartment living and finally in a house of our own, the obsession has grown 100 fold but our light blue master bedroom walls, for example, are still completely bare after almost half a year here. (yikes!)

You might know Minted.com for their beautiful & customizable cards, invitations and birth announcements. But did you know they also sell ornaments, garlands, table runners, day planners, personalizable photo backdrops and tons more? When Minted approached me to review their Art Marketplace, I took it as a sign it’s time to start getting serious about decorating my house.
Minted Collage 1

Some gorgeous artwork available at Minted.com

First, I love how easy it is to navigate the Minted.com site. With their filters, if you’re looking for specific artwork, say a personalizable print for your little boy … no problem. How about limited edition, abstract art in non-traditional colors and a portrait layout? Yep, they’ve got a bunch of those too. It’s really amazing how much variety Minted offers (and how much of it I liked!).

But, I still wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted, so I let my kids go first and hoped for inspiration along the way. The kids previously had an ocean inspired theme to their bedroom, but as my daughter has recently developed an all-consuming obsession with bright orange (luckily we convinced her to go with just one wall instead of the whole room), the marine life doesn’t really fit as well as it once did. We picked an orange color filter (of course) at Minted.com/Art and scrolled through the limited edition prints. My daughter immediately began calling out favorites:
minted orange collageI also love that if you scroll down to the bottom of any page, Minted shows you a person holding the art in every size offered so you can see exactly how big your picture will be when it arrives. And, when you click on a frame, you can see how each picture will look in each specific frame. Some pictures even have a few different customizable color options like the Schooner design below. Although I do know what an 8×10 looks like, I found myself checking to see how the print looked every time – it was comforting and sometimes actually had me going bigger or smaller.
minted Collage 2

 I’m still looking through all the options, but once I make my final decision and place my order, I’ll be sure to share with you what I think about these prints and frames in person. And if you’re looking for a great Christmas gift, there’s still time with 2 day or overnight shipping!

Plus take advantage of these great offers: Enjoy 20% off art & gifts. Code: GIFT20 | Free 2-day shipping on art orders $75+. Code: ARTFS2

This post is sponsored by minted.com. I received a Minted credit in exchange for my time and honest review. My opinions and ridiculously awesome picks are 100% mine.

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The First Christmas Eve You’ll Remember

xmas countdown frameChristmas Eve, AKA crunch time. Now that one of my babies is old enough to believe in Santa and all other sorts of wonderful magical things, this is our first Christmas where every little detail matters. I do not want a heartbroken child because Mommy forgot to remind her to sprinkle her bag of reindeer food outside (um, Santa sometimes comes back the next night to feed his reindeer….?). And 3 year olds are savvy; I was just asked why the Santa who was waving on the side of the road wasn’t there again the next day (He went back to the North Pole to get ready for Christmas… but sometimes he comes back to the malls for photo opps? Crap.). There are so many questions I’ve never even thought of – I can’t adequately prepare for this!!

Another reason I’m probably so concerned about everything being perfect is that I didn’t celebrate Christmas when I was a child. So besides the fact that I’m reliving my own childhood (I really really really love this holiday), there’s a ton of activities I’ve never EVER done before, even after starting to celebrate myself as an adult: leaving out cookies for Santa, reading a Christmas book the night before, packing our Santa Sack full of old toys for other little girls and boys (Santa takes it as a kind of exchange), scattering reindeer food, making and leaving out a Santa Key since we don’t have a chimney – these are all new to me too. And as if the plate wasn’t already full, we couldn’t forget the Xmas traditions my husband and I have had for years before kids: driving around to see our neighbor’s light displays, leaving cookies for our mail carrier (Mr. Mailman gets a bag decorated with LOTS of stickers this year), and playing my collection of Christmas CDs on repeat. Phew. Fingers crossed I didn’t forget anything.

xmas wrapping 2013

But really, nothing says tradition for me like procrastination. Normally I love watching presents start piling up under the tree as the advent calendar gets emptier. But this year, my youngest is teething and nothing has been safe from his jaws of doom – so we thought it better to leave all the gifts hidden as long as possible. Unfortunately, I learned it’s also pretty easy to wait/forget to wrap gifts when you know Santa is bringing them all on Christmas. Soooo… I have a lot of wrapping to do. Time to pull out the coffee!!

This year I’m going with Starbucks’ Holiday Blend. During our first taste test, my husband said (insert Jersey accent): “It tastes like coffee. It wakes me up. I like it.” Clearly it’s up to me to be more specific. If you’ve never tried the Holiday Blend, it is much more mellow and less spicy than Starbucks’ Christmas blend. The package says “Soft and Layered” and that it’s a medium roast, but to my not-so-refined taste buds, I’d say it’s similar to a breakfast blend. As I got to work, I spiked my Starbucks with hot cocoa and peppermint marshmallows – instant Christmas café au chocolat! Thank you, coffee, for keeping me going until, wow, midnight. Just a few more packages to go, but I had to take a break and write this. Don’t want to risk repetitive action injuries… (I swear this isn’t more procrastination). Now where are Santa’s cookies?

Merry Christmas!

I was lucky enough to be sent product to sample from Starbucks. However, the comments and opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. I was not paid for this blog post.

Holiday Gift Guide 2013

The best gift guides are ones that people actually purchase from right? So here’s what we’re getting and giving this Christmas:

b toys teepee blue1. Although I think a $249 play teepee from Pottery Barn Kids is beautiful, that is way more than I want to spend on a single Christmas gift for a kid under 5 years old. This version by B. toys, though, is only $39.99 and includes a star-projecting lantern inside! I’ve honestly never seen a teepee for under $100. Plus it looks like it’ll last longer than the cardboard castles and playhouse we’ve gotten in the past (although those were great to color on!).

hape-ukelele-red2. My 3 year old loves making noise… er, music. Instead of getting another electronic toy that plays automatically with the push of a button (of which she has tons), we thought this year she might enjoy something a little more individually powered. This tunable, 21″ Baltic birch & maple ukelele by Hape grows with your child if they wants to keep honing their skills. And at $29.95, it’s cheaper than most wooden guitars (in case the love is short-lived).

piggy paint orange3. This is more of a stocking stuffer, but we’re definitely getting some Piggy Paint non-toxic nail polish in Mac-n-Cheese Please – their most Vibrant, Pumpkin Orange and O’s favorite color. But, of course, there are lots more colors and sets to choose from (the Fancies and Frills set and Jingle Nail Rock sets are especially cute). I did my research and have used Piggy Paint since I was pregnant so I feel safe using their low odor, water based formula for both me and my young daughter. merida plush doll

4. I have a soft spot for all things Disney. It hasn’t completely taken hold in my children yet, but I’m pretty sure once they start watching the movies, it’s only a matter of time (of course, we may need a trip to Disneyland to cement the love, haha). In the meantime, I’m completely in love with these all-soft, 18 to 21 inch Disney character dolls. I love the large-but-not-too-large size, their creative fabric hairstyles that will never tangle, and their cuddly bodies. I’m stocking my son and daughter’s toy boxes with Woody, Rapunzel, Captain Hook, Cinderella, Flynn Rider, Merida & more. Plus frequent sales (including the Black Friday weekend prices happening now) often take these dolls from $19.95 each to under $10!!

Dyson Toy Vacuum5. Both my kids love whenever I pull out the vacuum: when they were babies, I swear the sound would put them to sleep, and when they got older, they’d crawl around the room following it, throwing a fit when I finally turned it off. My oldest has asked to help vacuum a number of times (yes, please!) but the large Dyson is hard to handle at her height. So, when I found a near identical, mini version of our red Dyson, I knew it had to be ours. This cool toy can even suck up little pieces of paper which will delight my kids. But this is just a toy, not an actual vacuum cleaner – from the reviews I’ve read, as long as you keep that in mind, it’s a pretty great gift.

6. We’ve had quite a few failures with blocks. I never bought plain wooden blocks because I’ve known too soft foam blocksmany people who’ve gotten hurt on those hard wooden corners and I was worried about them being thrown. So in my search for alternatives, first we had the set of giant Lego-like eco blocks that were impossible to separate and hard for kids under 3 to push together – oops. Then, we had the slightly smaller Lego-like blocks that refused to stick together making life frustrating for a little girl who wanted to walk around with her creations. But on a recent playdate, I found these soft foam Wonder Blocks which seemed like the answer to my prayers – no interlocking pieces and no worries about tall towers falling on someone’s head.

my pal scout7. My one year old really doesn’t need much, but he has a serious soft spot for puppies. So this year, his big gift is an oldie but a goodie: The My Pal Scout doll from Leapfrog. This toy has been around a while but it’s still on the shelves because moms and kids love it: you can customize Scout so he’ll say your child’s name and a few other fun personalized things, he sings songs, plays games and is easy to use. I hope the lullaby feature will help with naptime once Bugaboo stops nursing too. Kiwi Crate box

8. Last but not least, my daughter has an aching love of craft boxes. We already get monthly boxes from Kiwi Crate and BabbaCo but each box only lasts a few days and the months are long. So, I’ve put a few subscription sites on our Christmas wish list: M is for Monster, The Little Thinker Box and CareFree Crafts all look really promising.

Happy Black Friday shopping!

Necessities for Baby Number 2 and Gifts for Second Time Moms

Adorable sibling set by kelseymcmargaret on Etsy
(Love that the big sister shirt isn’t completely pink)

A blogger at Project Nursery posted a list of their Top 5 Baby Gifts for Second-Time Mamas and I totally disagree with her gift ideas! Although they are all very nice products, there’s nothing specifically useful for a second time mom. In fact, 4 of the 5 things she suggested I already have and don’t need any more of: aden + anais swaddles, awesome diaper bag, handmade blankies galore, hooded towels/washcloths – mine aren’t personalized, but definitely don’t need more. The remaining item on her list, a new lovie, is the only thing I agree with. Older siblings are already going through a lot by suddenly having to share mommy and daddy – we shouldn’t expect them to share toys too, at least not immediately.

I’m weird about a lot of things, but I believe most moms preparing for a second child would agree with me here. So, I thought I’d share my working list of the things I need to get to be prepared for my baby #2. Hopefully it’ll be helpful to other second time moms in the planning stages and/or be a good idea list to anyone attending a second-time mom’s baby shower.

  1. Clothes – since my first was a girl and my second is going to be a boy (but read more about that here)
  2. A brand new coming home outfit of his own
  3. Bouncer to replace the one we got rid of (darn it)
  4. Another crib (off Craigslist!) since we’re turning O’s into a daybed for her
  5. New organic baby mattress (not going to reuse a mattress even if they give it to us with the crib, eeew)
  6. A second changing pad and cover (since baby’s crib will be in our room for a while)
  7. A second diaper pail (same reason) – the Ubbi?
  8. Newborn diapers
  9. Shrinkx Hips – did it with #1 and I did fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes (eventually) – but I know some moms never get back to their original size, so not sure if it was the Shrinx Hips or just my body, but I’m not risking it. No idea where the first one went.
  10. Another mirror to attach to the backseat of the car
  11. Pacifiers – in case he wants to use one, definitely wouldn’t reuse old pacifiers even if we had kept them. I really believe some babies just like to suck more than others so I’ll get one to have on hand just in case and then more if needed.
  12. New baby bottles and nipples – I’m going with glass bottles this time. But even though my first child’s bottles were BPA free plastic, it’s probably not a good idea to reuse any kind of plastic that much especially when it’s getting warmed up and cooled down constantly. I’m going glass this time.
  13. A new Baby K’Tan (since I just found out my old one is horribly stained with spit up) – I think I’ll opt for the Breeze version this time which is mesh and cotton so it’s more breathable and not as hot to wear (although the original all-cotton version wasn’t bad at all)
  14. Baby bathtub for the sink – I’m thinking the Puj tub  (we just took our 1st in the bath with us but I’m worried that might cause some jealousy this time and/or overcrowding, haha)
  15. A gift for our firstborn (definitely don’t forget them at baby shower time too!!)
  16. Baby mobile of his own (made it myself)
  17. Infant Carrier Arm Pad from Itzy Ritzy. Awesome invention! Though we didn’t end up needing it though since we decided to go with an all-in-one carseat.
  18. New burp cloths and bibs – yes we could reuse the ones we have, but brand new, unstained ones would make a nice gift and you can never have enough of these.
  19. Extra crib sheets and waterproof pads – since both our kids are using the same size mattress
  20. Belly cream or oil – mamas can and maybe should still use this stuff for a while even postpartum and it won’t hurt to use it any time on any body part so it makes a great shower gift. I especially love Mama Mio Stretch Mark Butter
  21. Eventually we’ll need a jumper (we got rid of our first one for space reasons)
  22. Probably a Glider board for our Baby Jogger City Mini stroller – our 2 year old doesn’t use the stroller much so a double stroller seems like a waste

Another cool sibling set by
KoolKidzClothing

Your ideas?

Surprise Subscription Boxes for Mommy and Baby

If you haven’t heard about the latest craze (and/or you remember the CD and video of the month clubs of yore), monthly subscription services are back! Online sites are now offering everything from beauty boxes and shoes to gourmet tasting packages and t-shirts– all shipped right to your door every month full of fun surprises. But, of course, it’s the cool mommy and baby stuff we’re interested in for this blog and there are lots of those to choose from in that category too! Here are your options:

Citrus Lane – I believe this was the first monthly box club to launch in the mother/baby category and they’ve grown quickly for good reason. Featuring 1 or 2 full size products per box, sample size products, coupons/gift cards and cute monthly themes like Bed and Bathtime Fun or Fun in the Sun, Citrus Lane is perfect for moms with newborns or children up to 3 years old. In past boxes I received things like: an iPlay Sun Protection Hat (with SPF 50+), an Itzy Ritzy Snack Happened reusable snack bag, Ella’s Kitchen food pouches, Green Sprouts Stacking Duck Set for the bath, a full size Seventh Generation Natural Hand Wash, and a Juice Beauty Antioxidant Serum Deluxe Sample. They also have a special stand alone Pampered Pregnancy box and a Deluxe Baby Shower box which are both perfect to give as gifts. You get one box a month and Citrus Lane offers a few different subscription options:

  • pay as you go – $25/month
  • $75 for 3 month membership
  • $125 for 6 month membership (1 month free!)
  • $250 for 12 month membership (2 months free!)
  • $65 for the Pampered Pregnancy box (one box only)
  • $35 for the Deluxe Shower box (one box only)

Bluum – UPDATE: Bluum has changed their pricing, it is now $24.95/month and features more full size items in larger boxes. They also now have boxes for children up to 36 months. Bluum still focuses on items for both mommy and baby.

This is the least expensive option, so it’s great if you’re feeling unsure about the whole subscription club thing, commitment, money in general, etc. It is also the smallest box, about 6×4 inches, but you’re still getting a lot for your money. Bluum boxes feature tons of sample size products for mommy and babies 0-12 months – and if you try something and love it, it’s easy to find information on purchasing the full size versions. In past boxes I received things like: Adagio Pai Mu Tan Tea, Weleda Almond Soothing Facial Lotion, So Easy Portion Storage Bags and PINXAV Diaper Rash Ointment. Plus Bluum places a high priority on organic and natural products – bonus! You have 3 subscription options with Bluum which are:

  • pay as you go – $11/month
  • $33 for 3 month membership
  • $60 for 6 month membership

PetiteBox – UPDATE: PetiteBox is temporarily suspending subscriptions. Not known when they’ll resume business.

This company just launched, their first boxes went out in June. Unlike the other companies mentioned, PetiteBox will begin catering to you while you’re still pregnant and then, based on your due date, will change over to baby-related products when your little one is born up to 12 months old. The subscription ends automatically at baby’s first birthday. The PetiteBox representative I spoke with at the Big City Moms Baby Shower said that PetiteBox is striving to be a more luxurious, higher end alternative (which is evident just from the gorgeous ribbon trimmed boxes they’ve got – definitely saving those to reuse somehow).

  • pay as you go – $25/month

TeetheMe– UPDATE: TeetheMe stopped service in October 2012.

Similar to Citrus Lane, TeetheMe is for moms with newborns to kids up to 3 years old. However, TeetheMe is also a full-out community too – they want members to write rate and write reviews for the items they received, share pictures and milestones of their little ones, and find a one stop destination for blogs and trends on the site. The Little Teethers Community for Moms just launched with Facebook and Twitter integration and it looks promising. But going back to the boxes, every month TeetheMe sends you 4 to 5 products. In my past box I received: a Green Sprouts Plate Set, Earth Mama Angel Baby Calm & Clean Hand to Toe Wash and Bottom Balm samples, and NurturMe dehydrated baby food pouches. Their subscription options include free boxes for longer commitments:

  • pay as you go – $24/month
  • $72 for 3 month membership
  • $120 for 6 month membership (1 month free!)
  • $240 for 1 year membership (2 months free!)

Stork Stack – Stork Stack sends out 5 products a month customized for you and baby and can start as early as your 3rd Trimester of pregnancy and last up until your child’s 3rd birthday. As with the other companies, they promise mom-tested (and loved) products tailored to you (click here for an example of one of their past boxes/Stacks). They also offer a never changing Shower Stack to use as a baby shower gift – you can also see a picture of that box using the link above. But what makes Stork Stack special is that they give back to philanthropic organizations to “deliver Stacks of love to families in need.” Stock Stack is currently partnering with Operation Showers of Appreciation (baby showers of support for separated military families) and BabyBuggy.org. Just by being a member you’re helping out those in need, but depending on the membership option you choose, you can also give a little more directly too:

  • pay as you go – $28/month
  • $84 for 3 months + one donated to a family in need
  • $168 for 6 months + 2 donated to families in need
  • $336 for annual membership + 3 donated to families in need
  • $40 Shower Stack (one box only)

Honorable mention to these other monthly subscription sites:

  • Spark Box – age appropriate toy rental for ages 0-4
  • Wittlebee – age specific clothing for sizes newborn to 5T
  • Kiwi Crate – crafty boxes for ages 3-7
  • BabbaCo – themed boxes containing projects, activities & books for ages 3-6
  • Little Passports – global exploration kits for ages 5-10
  • Green Kid Crafts – 3 or more planet-friendly crafts monthly for ages 3-8
  • MommeBox – seasonal products & services for moms
  • The Little Book Club – 3 or more age appropriate books monthly for ages 0-6
  • The Happy Trunk – themed crafty boxes in 2 tiers: ages 3-7 and ages 7-11
  • Parents TLC – baby, kiddo, mommy & me and even pet boxes all on one site
  • ZooBean – book subscription boxes
  • M is for Monster – weekly themes with 2 to 3 projects for each theme

And one last thing to add (hint to future entrepreneurs): Where are the Daddy boxes?!!

Gift Ideas for Any Dad – Father’s Day 2012

As I get email after email with Father’s Day gift ideas and guides filled with cuff links, leather bag, monogrammed golf balls or other sports related paraphernalia, gear for the grill, watches, beer & alcohol accessories, etc., I’m struck by the fact that most of them would be terrible gifts for my husband (or even for my own father!)

So since I was looking around myself anyway, I thought I’d share my short list of the gifts I bought for the father of my babies this year. Hope they help you too! Remember, your gift doesn’t have to be big or expensive, it just has to be well thought out and from the heart.

1. Bag O’ Books by DaddyScrubs – Never underestimate the power of a good book. After reading Swagger by Lisa Bloom (totally recommended btw!), I appreciate even more how important it is that daddies read to their kids just as much as mommies do, and these dad-themed books are exactly the type of nice push that’ll work wonders for everyone.
2. Father’s Day Coupons by LivingLocurto.com (click the image to buy/print) – I love that the coupons are for things all dads could use like a back rub (20 min limit – haha) or a free chore pass. Plus they’re perfect for last-minute-mommies since you just print, cut, glue the coupon holder together, and you’re done in 5 minutes tops.
3. T-Shirt and Onesie Set on Amazon – You can almost never go wrong with a t-shirt. And this cute duo comes with an outfit for baby too. My favorite shirts are the ones with really nice and just slightly embarrassing messages on them – things he’d never buy for himself but will still actually wear (remember the key to a good gift is that the recipient will use it). For another idea, check out this cute dad t-shirt too.
4. Any DIY Project – Especially if you have older kids, any DIY project they come up with will hold a special place in dad’s heart. My husband painted a version of this handprint collage for me for Mother’s Day so I’m posting this up just because I would have done it if he hadn’t gotten to it first (sneaky guy). Especially if you have young children who aren’t at the glue, scissors and googly eyes age yet, this is a very simple memento to make and very sweet. Just trace, cut, glue, grab a nice frame and you’re done!

Baby Registry Freebies

Buybuy Baby - Cute Paper Gift Bag

Buybuy Baby Gift Bag contents

There are a ton of stores where you can buy baby stuff and most of those stores want you to create a baby registry with them so that all your friends will have to visit that store to buy you baby shower gifts, etc. Some stores, like Giggle, will even give you cute little cards to include with your baby shower invitations and/or birth announcements that tell everyone which store to visit to find your registry (helps prevent “Oh, you didn’t have a registry at the store I visited so I just bought you these bottles from a brand you don’t like and baby booties that you already have enough of.”). And, of course, every store will give you a checklist of the baby “essentials” you need to buy.

But even if you think nobody is actually going use your registry (and you might be surprised – we were), you should absolutely still make at least one (or as many as possible in case you have non-internet savvy family members who can only shop at actual stores nearby them). Here’s the first good reason: registry completion discounts. Most stores will give you a coupon for 10% off any of the items remaining on your registry that weren’t bought for you. So, if you’re going to end up buying stuff for yourself, put it on your registry and then wait for your coupon!! (Note: the coupon is mailed after your due date, so up your due date by a few weeks when registering to make sure you get the coupon in time to use it before you bring baby home).

Second reason to create a registry: free gift bags!!! Now, I am a bit of a gift bag addict, but I think everyone likes free stuff, especially when they’re things you actually need. I’ve only found 3 stores that give actual gift bags just for creating a registry with them:  Target, Buybuy Baby and Babies”R”Us so of course, I did the “hard” work of trying them all out for you. :)  Probably based on the season and availability, I know that what you see here is probably not exactly the same as what you’ll get, but it’ll give you a good estimate (2 years ago, with my first baby, I got a car sunshade and a bib, for example, which were not in the gift bags this year). These gift bags benefit stores because after you try the products and like them, you’ll use the enclosed coupons to go back to that store and make a full-sized purchase. And I loved that there were very few duplicate gift items between stores. Here’s the breakdown:

Babies"R"Us - Reusable Gift Bag

Babies"R"Us Gift Bag contents

 

* Buybuy baby gift bag: Fit Pregnancy magazine, Baby Talk magazine, a NUK orthodontic silicone pacifier 0-6m, an Avent 4oz baby bottle with nipple and lid, sample of grape scented saline Boogie Wipes, sample of Belli elasticity belly oil, sample of Johnson’s Natural baby lotion, sample of Mustela baby body lotion, Medela breastfeeding information guide, and coupons from BabyGanics, Gerber and most of the companies mentioned previously.

*Babies”R”Us gift bag: American Baby magazine, Disney baby growth chart, 2 samples of grape scented saline Boogie Wipes, sample of Boudreaux’s Butt Paste (perfect for diaper bags), 1 newborn Pampers Swaddlers diaper and sample of Pampers Sensitive wipes, the Babies”R”Us new baby buying guide (but contains no prices!), $25 voucher and additional coupons for Kiddie Kandids portrait studio, assorted coupons from Huggies and most companies mentioned previously.

*Target gift bag: 1 Newborn Huggies diaper, 1 set of Lansinoh nursing pads, 2 Lansinoh breastmilk storage bags, $20 Shutterfly gift card, baby guide with Target coupons, and other assorted coupons.

Target - Reusable Baby Clutch

Target Gift Bag contents

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