Upcycled Milk Jug Planters

DIY milk jug planters. Every time my kids finish a container of milk my head spins. Those containers have got to be good for other things. I know they can be recycled but they can be so much more useful than that. So I decided to make some of the plastic milk jugs in to planters. And I decided to take my older son with me when I went to the master, his grandfather, to learn the best way to replant plants, since I have the blackest thumb possible. I figured we could keep at least a few of these containers out of a landfill and teach myself and my son something that could come in handy later. Both of my kids have expressed an interest in planting our own food, so this lesson will surely come in to play again. got milk? asked me if I could come up with a craft that would share how milk and healthy habits can be worked in to your everyday living. And I really think these planters do that.

Milk is full of things that growing bodies need to help them in the future. But first we needed a few empty milk jugs. Luckily, this kid LOVES his milk. If he could, he would drink milk for all of his meals instead of eat. I don’t hate that. Milk is full of good stuff that his body needs so he gets it for each meal and one snack a day. And before we knew it, we had 3 empty jugs for us to upcycle in to planters.

Making planters out of empty plastic milk jugs. Grandpa Al runs a nursery out of his back yard and sells cottage garden plants to mom and pop nurseries in and around Orange County (read this great article the Register wrote about him). So when it comes to anything with plants, he is the man. We brought over our plastic milk jugs and he and my son got to work turning what would have been trash in to something useful.  I had wanted to plant some herbs, as I really enjoy using them in cooking, but Grandpa Al doesn’t grow herbs. And while he used to grow heirloom vegetables, he has since changed his focus to cottage flowers. I decided that since I’m such a gardening novice, I would let him show us with his regular plants and then my son and I will be able to purchase some herbs and create an herb garden together. [Read more…]


Halloween Treats for a Great Cause

Wendy's Halloween coupon book for Jr. Frostys benefitting the foster care system.Halloween is usually all about the treats and tricks. But this year I’ve picked up some sweets that actually benefit a great cause. From now until October 31, 2014 Wendy’s is selling these awesome coupon books for free Jr. Frosty’s. Each book costs only a $1.00 and .90 cents from each book goes straight to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®. There are over 100,000 kids in the foster care system awaiting adoption in the United States. The goal for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption® is to help every child in foster care find a loving and permanent family and they have, so far, helped over 4,000 kids find adoptive families. So in buying one of these books, you are directly helping to change lives.  You might think Wendy’s is all square burgers and french fries but it is so much more. (P.S. their new pulled pork fries with sweet bbq sauce…DO IT).

Treats to give your friends and family that also help kids throughout the United States.I picked up two booklets as gifts for my niece and nephew. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law have started the process to becoming foster parents. But it isn’t just the parents who foster. It’s the whole family. I want my niece and nephew to know how important they are to the process and how great it is that they will, one day, be a special part of another child or children’s lives. They, along with their parents, will be positive role models and a loving family unit to a child that is lacking both. They are just kids and may not understand the magnitude of that but one day they will. I’m super proud of my in-laws for taking these next steps. It is something they have talked about for years and finally everything has fallen in to place. While the process is long and they have many more classes, home inspections and interviews to go, in the next six months, they will be a foster care family ready to love any children who come in to their home.

Books for foster familiesI plan on giving my niece and nephew these books, that deal with foster care, along with their Wendy’s Halloween coupon books. I was surprised that there aren’t more books written for the kids of the adoptive families to help them understand their role, the challenges and the rewards of fostering and finally adopting. My nephew is 7 so I got him an easy reading book written for a child going in to a foster family. I figured it would help him to put himself in the shoes of a child entering his family and give him an idea of how that child might feel. For my older niece, I got a fiction book about a girl entering a foster family who learns to let her walls down and trust her new siblings and parental units.

Halloween treats that give back. Wendy's Jr. Frosty coupon books donate money to foster care adoption in the US.To me, these books are so much better than candy. Next time you pass by a Wendy’s, grab yourself a frosty and pick up a few of these coupon books.

Visit your local Wendy’s® to purchase a Jr. Frosty™ Halloween Coupon Book* for $1, which benefits the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®!

*Coupon book may contain coupons for 5 or 10 free Jr. Frosty™ treats. Prices and participation may vary. Ninety cents to every $1 coupon booklet sold between 9/15/14 and 10/31/14 will benefit the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®. Coupons valid from 11/1/14 through 2/1/15. ©2014 Oldemark LLC

This year Wendy’s aims to give $10 million to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption® and YOU can help!

Thank you for supporting the companies that let me keep my blog running and also share important messages with you.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Healthy Habits for a Better Future – Got Milk?

This kid dreams to be an artist when he grows up. I love to talk to my kids about the future. I’m really big in to them knowing that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up. And while there may not be an established career path based on what they turn out to be passionate about, they can absolutely create a career for themselves through hard work and perseverance. Anyway you slice it, my kids (and ALL kids) have a really bright future ahead of them. There are so many exciting things happening in the world and so many cool opportunities that will, no doubt, be available to them as they grow.  Today I’m partnering with got milk? to tell you how I think milk will help my kids have a better future.  With a great foundation of healthy habits, all of our kids will be ready to take on the world.

Healthy habits are important to start young to help build a bright future. From time to time we ask our kids what they want to be when they grow up.  For a long time, my littlest milk drinker said a he wanted to be a veterinarian. He is crazy about animals, mostly puppies, and said that if he was a vet, he would get to hang out with them all day. I thought that was so sweet! I was proud of him for wanting to help animals. But when I explained that being a vet actually meant that he would be their doctor, he was kind of over it. It made me laugh but reminded me that he is still on the younger side to fully grasp what a career is. And while I am sure that he would help an animal if he could, he mostly wants to provide snuggles. And that’s ok too.  So just like we encourage him to drink milk with his meals, I will also continue to encourage and embrace all his whims and let him explore his interests. My oldest son wants to be a video game designer. End of story.

The world is this kid's oyster. His future is bright. Once my little one moved past veterinarian, he decided on being an artist. I’m totally on board. My walls can really use some fresh artwork. He is really creative and loves to draw characters and depict stories through his drawings. His characters are usually drawn with pencil on paper and are super intricate with lots of arms and tons of details.  I can only imagine what his hands feel like after one of these drawing sessions though. Luckily milk has a mineral in it that helps to prevent muscle cramping. Seriously, it’s a good thing he drinks milk regularly.  While this may help him with his art, we also encourage our kids to be active. Having this mineral in their bodies is also good for keeping cramps at bay when they are doing PE at school or running around at recess. You know, basically doing normal, active kid stuff. And being active is integral to staying healthy overall. As they grow, we will encourage them to play sports and get out and exercise. Milk also contains a protein that helps your muscles to recover after exercise. Working milk in throughout their daily routine really benefits their growing bodies.

Fine art by my 5 year old. This was his first canvas painting and I love how it turned out. He told me that the next painting he wants to do is of a clown shoving a pie in his own face so I’m looking forward to that one as well. Being active means that there could be some injuries. But drinking milk helps to build stronger bones and also help maintain bone density over time. So milk not only provides good qualities to kids who drink it when they are young, but to adults too. Once you reach a certain age (you guys, I’m hovering around 40!), you start to realize that your body isn’t acting the way it used to. Drinking milk, later in life, helps adults have a better future, in terms of health benefits, too. Bone health is super important for us older folks. And It would be such a shame for my son to break his arm in a physical activity to prevent him from creating his next work of art. I doubt his clown portrait will be anything short of amazing. So keeping his bones strong is a must.

Admiring his artwork. My son was very certain that he was going to be a dad and a husband in the future. His father is a great role model in so many ways. He’s active, caring and pretty much the best dad and husband there is. My husband and I try to drink milk so that our kids know it isn’t something that stops when they turn in to big kids or teens. We try to lead by example and show them the healthy habits we want them to follow. In turn, our kids will show their future kids these same habits. And you’ve all seen the commercials with the father and son dipping cookies in milk together.  There is nothing more heartwarming. Perfect bonding time.

Got milk? Drink to a brighter future. By drinking milk now, kids will be better poised to handle the things that come their way in the future. When I asked my son what the future looked like, he mentioned floating houses and aliens.  Strong bones aren’t going to be a bad thing when aliens come to town now are they? And a study has shown that milk may improve sleep quality and next day alertness. You’ve got to be on your toes when those aliens are around. Milk also has 8 grams of protein in every 8 ounce glass so it will help to keep your body functioning properly. We need proteins to give us the energy to keep our bodies moving. No time for lethargy when the aliens are coming.

Teaching your kids healthy habits, including drinking milk regularly, can only help their future. And yours, too, so don’t forget to pour yourself a glass as well. What is your favorite way to drink your milk? A straight up glass of milk? Hot Chocolate? White Russian? With cookies? In a smoothie? Leave a comment and let me know!

This post was sponsored by got milk? All opinions are my own. And it is my opinion that those aliens will be no match for my son. Thank you for supporting the brands that give this blog running.


Keeping Kids Safe and Positive Online #ShareAwesome

McDonald's Build a Better Burger event #MyPerfectBurgerI live an online life. And by default, so do my kids. When we do something awesome, it generally ends up on Instagram. Or Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Pinterest, or some combination of one or more of the social media channels.. For instance, last week we got to attend a special McDonald’s event. You guys, only 4 stores in CA have this Build a Better Burger situation where you can choose from 22 toppings to make the burger of your dreams. So you know I’m going to share that with my followers. Because that is freaking cool.

Meltdown in the pool.And some of our not-so-awesome moments also end up online. Remember that time I forgot to bring an allergen safe alternative for the birthday cake at our friend’s party? The supportive comments from you guys left for me made me feel less guilty about an innocent oversight. Although it is unsaid, and I try not to make a big production out of it, the kids know that these moments are shared. And a lot of the times, they’ll suggest that something be instagrammed or tweeted. But they don’t have a full understanding of what each of those things mean, or why it might not be the best idea. I’m writing this post, in conjunction with the National PTA and Lifelock to foster conversation between families about how great it is to #shareawesome online but in a safe and positive way. Not only do you need to teach your child about safety in their everyday lives, but now we also need to be aware of the online dangers, and how the information we share online could lead to unsafe situations. And no matter what platform we are using (app, networking site, device, etc.) the skills we need to stay safe and positive online, are very similar to those we use offline.

playing-minecraft-is-awesome-if-done-safelyIf you have a boy between the ages of 5 and 40, they are probably playing Minecraft. This was my first taste of my son being in an online world, connecting with others, where he could potentially end up in an unsafe situation. I resisted letting him join for as long as possible but knew that wasn’t the best way to handle the situation. We first started off trying to limit the chatting options. But I realized that he needed to grow and learn and I needed to be part of the equation, no matter how disinterested I was, in Minecraft.

Thinknoodles-videos-are-awesomeSoon my son began watching Thinknoodles, a video game commentator with over 400,000 YouTube subscribers and over 100 million views of his popular video series. He would sit for hours watching this guy, who never shows his face, play Minecraft. But it took us a while to find Thinknoodles. There are many other people who commentate and many who use curse words and are not age appropriate for my son. To me, Thinknoodles is a great guy for the kids to be learning from. And although he starts off every show with, “Hey everyone, it’s your friend Thinknoodles…” he is still a stranger. It is important to stay current with every single thing that your kids are doing online as their interest and interactions can change at a moments notice.  When I realized that my nephew and son were inviting some of these well-known commentators to be part of their private realms, I got a little bit freaked out. To the kids, these are friends who like the same things they do. But to me, that was a teaching moment. Stay part of the conversation, know what you need to know about the game to keep your kids and family safe. And though he mostly plays with people he knows, there have been times when I’ve noticed something in the chat that didn’t seem to friendly. Thankfully, he doesn’t take any negative comments personally. And it has provided us with a great segue in to talk of online bullying.

filming-his-own-videosDon’t get me wrong, I am actually really glad that my son plays Minecraft. While sometimes it can become all-consuming and the only thing he thinks or talks about, he has still learned a ton from it. When he hooked up the computer to our home television to give my husband and I a tutorial of his own, we were blown away with his ability to build worlds and navigate the program and also at the principles he was using to create this world. And he has shown a real interest in producing his own show. He sometimes films himself talking about the game. I can’t even begin to think about how helpful this is going to be to him as he has to do more public speaking for school projects.  But he won’t be posting these videos anywhere for the time being. I do my best to keep us all safe when I am posting online, and I know my son has less information than I do in terms of what the repercussions could be. This will have to continue to be a world that we navigate together.

Thinknoodles is a friend to everyone that plays Minecraft. Since I know that my kid is not the only one fully entrenched in this world of Minecraft, I did what any good mom would do and reached out to the man himself, Thinknoodles.  I asked him some questions about keeping kids safe on Minecraft and here is what he had to say:

(I let my son ask him two questions. I had to. When I told him that Thinknoodles was going to answer some questions for me he almost cried and told me, upon hearing the news, that it was the BEST. DAY. EVER!  Score 1 for Mom…)

How do you keep yourself and Noodlers safe online?

Any time someone sends me something that’s far too personal, whether it be their age, address or phone number, I always send them a message back letting them know that it’s dangerous to give out personal information to others, even if you think you know them.  I try my best to keep my most personal information unknown, to keep myself safe as well.  

In Minecraft, how do you feel about staying safe? I know that if someone curses or swears on the core, they will get banned or kicked out? Note to self: find out what the core is…

Yes that’s true, we don’t tolerate non-family-friendliness on the Core and, as you know, I don’t engage in any of it myself! 

And then I took over:

Since you are an expert at some very popular online games, do you have any tips for keeping kids safe while playing:

Expert? Hehe.  Yes, ignore the chat. It’s the number 1 way for kids to get in trouble with such things online or get lured into believing someone is more trustworthy than they are. Don’t click links coming from emails, either, if they ask you to ‘verify your password’ or anything like that. 9 times out of 10 it’s a scam.

Are there child safe tips that parents should know for these games, ie how to turn off chat, etc.?

You can disable the chat in Multiplayer on Minecraft and I was going to suggest that above. However, in many of the multiplayer games (which is where you’d want to turn off the chat), many of the game statistics or happenings are listed in the chat. With scoreboards nowadays in most games, you might be able to get away with it. If you can, DO! :)

Are realms created by the kids really safe? Only people who he invites would be allowed to play on there, correct? 

Yes, Realms is an amazing service and I use it myself for my Noodle Planet. Currently, the only invited person to my Noodle Planet Realm is my wife. You can also manage a similar service with nearly any Minecraft server out there, since the “invite only” feature is built-in to the Minecraft server software (it’s called a whitelist, only people listed on the whitelist will be allowed in and anyone else will be denied). The thing about Realms is that it is far easier to manage right within the client and I’m a big fan. 

I’m truly grateful to Thinknoodles for taking a second to answer some of these questions that might help to make our kids a little bit safer in terms of their Minecraft play. I’m also so glad that the National PTA and Lifelock have joined together to really encourage discussion of this topic.  To help spread the word further, they are holding a contest!

Snap a photo of an awesome moment in your day and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the #ShareAwesome hashtag!

Students who enter the #ShareAwesome contest between September 15 – November 30, 2014 will have a chance to win fantastic prizes, including tablets and a $2,500 scholarship! Visit ShareAwesomeNow.org to learn more! 

#ShareAwesome celebrates students and families that use social media and tools for good – good for themselves, their family, their friends and the whole world. Head to the ShareAwesomeNow.org site for all kinds of resources for your family and school. Do your part to share your knowledge to help keep kids everywhere positive and safe online.

Thank you for supporting the companies that let me talk about things that I think need to be talked about.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Keratin Treatments are the Best

@zicococonut Water allowed me to complete a life list item! What a cool experience! #ad #cracklifeopen // cupcakesandcutlery.comThis post was brought to you by the makers of ZICO Coconut Water.  I received compensation to write this post through the #CrackLifeOpen program. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Most campaigns that bloggers participate in are geared towards promoting a product or service. Very few actually encourage you to make positive life changes.  I have greatly enjoyed working with ZICO Coconut Water on their #CrackLifeOpen campaign. Through the campaign, they encourage not only myself, but also my readers, to create a Life List. Life List items are small changes you can make to live a better life. You can read my Life List here. But they took it a step further. Once my Life List was written, they made it possible for me to complete one of these items! So cool! Yes, of course you should run out and buy ZICO Coconut Water – especially the chocolate (yum!). It is great for hydration and is high in potassium. But you should also look at your list and actually make some changes! It feels amazing.

Frizzy hair! This is why I put a Keratin treatment on my @zicococonut Life List. #ad #cracklifeopen // cupcakesandcutlery.comI looked at my Life List and tried to figure out what would make the most positive impact on my life right now. To some it may seem frivolous, but I decided on the Keratin hair treatment. Up until a few years ago, I did my hair every morning. That meant that I showered, blow dried and flat ironed my hair. Every morning. I know that most women do this but my hair is really thick and blow drying takes forever. Getting ready meant that I spent about an hour and a half.  And somewhere along the line (I truly think it was my oldest starting school) I stopped doing my hair.  But I never felt good about it. My hair has lots of natural wave, which I actually like.  But my hair also has TONS of frizz.  Leaving my hair to air dry saved me lots of time, but I never felt polished. And by mid-afternoon, my hair just went up in to a bun to hide it. Lately, even my bun was looking frizzy and I was feeling really down about my hair.  I felt like the blow drying and styling just contributed to the demise of my hair so I reserved those things only for days when I had events where I had to look my best of might end up in a photo.  A little vain, I suppose.

Before my "life list" item: Wavy, frizzy hair that I need to hide under a hat. #ad #cracklifeopen // cupcakesandcutlery.comThe frizz surrounds the entire crown of my head.  On sunny days, I can hide it with a hat but most days it’s just there for all to see. It really bothers me. I know that our flaws stand out way more to us than other people but we all want to look our best. So when I met my good friend, Carole, for dinner a few weeks ago I finally knew that the Keratin treatment had to be done. Her hair was glorious. It looked so healthy and she had done nothing to it to get it to look that way.  Other than a Keratin treatment. So I called her gal and booked my appointment. 

I participated in a campaign by @zicococonut where I got to complete one of my "life list" items. I'm so grateful! #ad #cracklifeopen // cupcakesandcutlery.comI was giddy with excitement in the week leading up to my treatment. I literally couldn’t sleep thinking about how awesome it was going to be.  And then I would get all anxious.  What if my hair rejected it?!  What if I pay the money and it doesn’t really work?!  But I had to try it out and see if it would be as life changing as I thought it would be. 

The things you do for beauty...#ad #cracklifeopen // cupcakesandcutlery.comThe things you do for beauty, am I right?  The Keratin process is really simple. They clean your hair really well to remove any residue. Then they comb through the special sauce. These glasses were for during the blow dry portion and meant to keep your eyes from stinging if they are sensitive to the solution.  I felt ridiculous but I just knew it would be worth it for the final results. 

Getting a Keratin hair treatment was truly life changing! @zicococonut #ad #cracklifeopen // cupcakesandcutlery.comThere was no down time with the solution at all.  Once it is applied, they blow dry your hair and then flat ironed. The flat ironing activates the solution and it works its magic. It took about an hour and a half for the whole process from start to finish. 

After my Keratin Hair Treatment!! #ad #cracklifeopen // cupcakesandcutlery.comThis was me immediately following the treatment. There are still some flyaways, but my hair felt like silk! Your hair always looks amazing after leaving the salon so the real test would be the following day after my first shower.

After the Keratin hair treatment! No frizz! No product! No blowdrying! #ad #cracklifeopen // cupcakesandcutlery.comDay 2! Sorry for all the car selfies but these were taken while out running errands. Holy, life changing! That morning, I rinsed out the treatment, conditioned and then did NOTHING else! No product, no blow dry, nothing! I felt amazing! I felt so much more polished than I usually do. This was the wash and wear look that I had been wanting forever! I am so glad that ZICO Coconut Water inspired me to complete this item from my Life List. While this is a somewhat temporary fix (it should last about 3 months) and the frizz will slowly start to come back, I know that this is something that I will be budgeting for in the future.  If that means I have to give up clothes shopping or a house cleaner, I’ll do it. The confidence that having my hair look good brought me that didn’t take me forever to do, was amazing. I didn’t realize I felt so bad until I felt so good. Where I used to be super bummed out about getting ready in the morning I’m now excited to. It has even prompted me to put in a little extra effort in getting dressed. Toni at Proper Hair (let me know if you need her contact info! she’s awesome!) will always hold a special place in my heart for giving me my first Keratin Treatment. 

My first pilates class at Reformer Fit in Dana Point. Crossing this off my @zicococonut life list! #ad #cracklifeopen // cupcakesandcutlery.comAND THEN! Since I was so inspired to start really trying to #CrackLifeOpen, I decided to complete another item off my list. I tried out my first Pilates Reformer at Reformer Fit in Dana Point! I have always wanted to try out these machines and thought that this might be an exercise that I really enjoy. I was right. I think I’m in love and I’m dying to take classes consistently. You engage a ton of muscles in each move but it is really fluid. It is more fast paced than yoga, which I need. And less high impact than running. Which I also need. My instructor, Dottie, was awesome. 

Trying out a pilates reformer machine at Reformer Fit in Dana Point. Inspired by my @zicococonut life list. #ad #cracklifeopen // cupcakesandcutlery.comAnd look at my hair! So this workout was about a week after my Keratin treatment and still NO FRIZZ!  Usually during and after exercise my hair would be fuzzy and unruly all around my face. But not anymore! And once we were done, I took it out of the bun and kind of shook it out. Done. Still the best thing I have ever done!

@zicococonut Premium Coconut Water encourages you to create a "life list" of small changes you can make to live a more purposeful life! #ad #cracklifeopen // cupcakesandcutlery.comI don’t think I was fully prepared for making one pretty small change having a big impact on my life. It really made me realize how important having and revising a Life List really is. As things are crossed off, I plan on adding new things. And I am going to continue to make the time to complete items.  I am trying really hard to leave my cell phone at home when I walk the boys to and from school, but I’ll be honest, I’ve slipped up on that one a few times. But mostly I am thankful to ZICO Coconut Water for a campaign that encourages living better lives. I’m proud to be a part of their campaign!

So what changes have you completed from your Life List?

Share a few items on your Life List with @ZICOCoconut on InstagramTwitterFacebook, use the hashtag #CrackLifeOpen and you may even be in for a special surprise!