November – 2014 – Frugal Novice
Monthly Archives

November 2014

Show Your Dogs You’re Thankful for Them with Big Heart Pet Brands

Note: I’ve partnered with Lunchbox and Big Heart Pet Brands to bring you some great ideas for showing your dog how thankful you are for them this holiday season! 

Milkbone-On-Box

Treat The Pups Banner 1

Our two dogs, Sally and Ninja, are an important part of our family. Sally is a three-year-old Lab/Golden Retriever who thinks she’s a lap dog and is incredibly patient with our three kids. Ninja is just 7 months old, and is a Schnauzer/Yorkie mix who is tiny and full of energy, and totally holds his own when playing with Sally.

They’re very different in many ways, but one thing they have in common is a love of treats!

Sally-Milkbones

Ninja-Milkbones

It can be easy to forget to appreciate your furry family members, so that’s why we thought we would create a “Treat Turkey”  to use as a decoration and to serve as a reminder for us to give Ninja & Sally treats. We just used dabs of royal icing to secure treats to the turkey, and each day for a week leading up to Thanksgiving we’re going to give a treat to the dogs and talk about a reason we’re thankful for each of them. Easy and fun! The larger treats are kind of heavy so we will keep this out on a flat surface, but if you use all small treats you could hang it up on your fridge or wall. We got our printable from J’s teacher, but there are lots online as well – just do a search for “turkey printable.”

Treat-Turkey

You can create your own DIY craft projects for your dogs – your kids will have a blast with it, and your dogs will love getting something special. Check out this page from Wal-Mart for all sorts of inspiration! Share how you #TreatThePups on your social media! 

Sally will definitely be thankful to get a Milk-Bone! She was practically grinning in the photo below as she waited for me to give her one the other day

Sally-Waiting-for-Milkbone

Five Tips for Organized, Stress-Free Holiday Shopping

Note: This is a partnered post with Shopular. All opinions are honest and are my own.

The holidays will be here before we know it. I’m still slightly in denial that it’s already almost mid-November (which reminds me, I really need to order our turkey!) but I know from prior years’ experience that I want to stay on top of my holiday gift shopping this year. I like to be able to relax and enjoy the holidays with my family, and don’t want to be stressed, rushing around last minute hunting for items (or cramming all that extra spending in a two-week window). Here are some tips that have helped me become more organized, and hopefully your holiday shopping will benefit from them too.

Shopping_Family

Holiday gift shopping is typically such a happy, relaxing, peaceful experience, right?

  1. Start now. Ok, if you’re reading this post on December 23, start a little over a month ago. But if you’re reading this in November, or even in the beginning of October, now is your time. Procrastination is not your friend when it comes to holiday shopping. Even if it feels a little ridiculous to be doing Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, you’ll be patting yourself on the back as you see other people rushing around last minute.
  2. Make a spreadsheet. I love lists. Like, love lists. So making a spreadsheet with our holiday gift plan is right up my alley, and makes me happy. You might share my passion for list-making, but keeping track of everyone you need to shop for and how much you’ve budgeted is very helpful. Our spreadsheet includes a list of recipients, how much we are budgeting to spend on each person, and ideas for what we might want to get. You can start your spreadsheet as early as you want and use it as a place to jot down ideas as you hear your mother-in-law talk about that knife set she wants, for instance.
    I also like to add columns in our spreadsheet for what we have actually purchased and how much we spend. This helps us figure out if we’re going overboard, if we need to increase our budget, and makes sure we don’t accidentally forget anyone’s gifts.
  3. Actively seek out sales and discounts. It is SO easy to get in over your head with holiday spending, especially if you haven’t set aside money for it throughout the year (that’ll be on my to-do list for next year… we still kind of stink at that!). Stores this time of year offer all sorts of sales and discounts and now is the time to take advantage of them.
    I’ve discovered an app called Shopular that is my favorite shopping tool. It’s a free app I downloaded on my iPhone, and it puts discounts right at my fingertips. I can select my favorite stores that I want to receive info on, and I can even set it up to receive sales notifications when I’m near a store. The other day I was by Kohl’s and Shopular sent me a notification about a sale ending soon – I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise!
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    Shopular also lets you easily browse weekly circulars on your phone. Each Sunday approaching the holidays I like to look through and see if there are any sales on gift items we’re looking for. We don’t take the newspaper anymore, so it’s an easy way to quickly see what discounts are out there and take advantage of the ones that fit our shopping list (see, told you that spreadsheet would be useful!). You can keep up with them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, too.
  4. Trim down your list. Again, spreadsheets for the win! Once you create your list of people to shop for, you can easily get a feel for if you are simply buying for too many people. It’s lovely to give, but it’s not always feasible to give to everyone. On a scale of 1-10, rate how crucial it is that you buy for each person. Those that rate 5 or lower might be ones to reconsider for this holiday season. Or, if you really feel like you can’t trim down your list, categorize them into groups based on how much you plan to spend, then see if you can come up with an economical gift to purchase in bulk (i.e. a group of iTunes gift cards at Sam’s or Costco).
    Even if you’re not trimming down the number of people you’re shopping for, you can trim down how much you’re spending. You can assemble cute gift baskets with popcorn, candy, and a RedBox gift card for just a few dollars – and I’m a big fan of homemade gifts, too. A spice cake packaged nicely and tied up with ribbon can make a delicious gift for your mailman, for instance, without breaking the bank.
  5. Buy this year for the next. We don’t do this for people that are in our family, or anyone we want to buy a specific gift. But if you find a great deal on a generic gift item, it can be really helpful to stock up now and have them on hand next year to have a head start when you enter in to holiday shopping season. You can also do post-Christmas shopping and find heavily discounted items that make great gift add-ons or stocking stuffers.

Happy shopping, friends! I hope you’re able to enjoy the spirit of giving with as little stress as possible, and that you have a wonderful holiday with your friends and family. It’ll be here before we know it!

Three Adorable and Easy Holiday Dessert Recipes

Thanks to Woman’s Day for sending me these three great – and easy – recipes to share with my readers! You can find more great festive sweets on their website.

Oreo Penguins

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Ingredients:

  • 12 Oreos
  • 12 Mini Oreos
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 18 banana Runts
  • Royal Icing

Instructions:

  1. Separate 12 standard Oreos.
  2. Press ½ tsp shredded coconut onto each cream piece (discard plain pieces).
  3. Separate 12 mini Oreos; scrape off and discard the cream.
  4. Cut 12 of the mini pieces in half.
  5. Using royal icing (see below), stick candy eyes and the cut side of half a banana Runt on one mini piece (for the face).
  6. Attach 2 half pieces of the mini Oreos to the body (for the wings).
  7. Stick the cut sides of 2 banana Runt halves into the cream for the feet.
  8. Repeat to create 12 penguins.

Royal Icing

Ingredients:

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 pound confectioners’ (powdered) sugar

Instructions:

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat 3 large egg whites and ½ tsp cream of tartar on medium-high speed until foamy, about 1 minute.
  2. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add 1 lb confectioners’ sugar, beating until just incorporated.
  3. Increase the speed to high and beat until medium-stiff glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes.

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Snowman Cupcakes

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Ingredients:

  • Gingerbread cupcakes (see recipe below)
  • Vanilla buttercream (see recipe below)
  • Shredded coconut
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Orange Tic Tacs
  • Sour Candy Strips
  • Chocolate Jelly Rings or gummy Lifesavers

Instructions:

  1. Make 1 batch basic gingerbread cupcakes (see below) as directed.
  2. Line 8 holes of the muffin pan with red paper liners and lightly coat the remaining holes with cooking spray.
  3. Make 1 batch vanilla buttercream (see below) as directed.
  4. When the baked cupcakes have cooled completely, in a food processor, pulse the 4 unwrapped cupcakes into fine crumbs.
  5. In a bowl, mix together the crumbs and 6 Tbsp buttercream, then roll into 8 balls (1. in. each; about 1. Tbsp).
  6. Frost the remaining cupcakes with buttercream (about 2 Tbsp each) and coat with finely shredded coconut (about 1 tsp each).
  7. Use toothpicks to secure the cake balls to the cupcakes, then frost each ball with ½ Tbsp buttercream and coat with finely shredded coconut (about 1 tsp each).
  8. Decorate using mini chocolate chips for eyes and buttons, orange Tic Tacs for noses, sour candy strips for scarves and melted chocolate or more mini chocolate chips for the mouth.
  9. Make hats using chocolate jelly rings, buttercream and mini chocolate chips, or gummy Lifesavers.

Gingerbread Cupcake:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsulphured molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1½ cups all-purpose flour, 1½ tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp ground nutmeg and ¼ tsp kosher salt.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the ½ cup vegetable oil, ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar, 2 large eggs, ¼ cup unsulphured molasses (not blackstrap), ¼ cup water and ½ tsp pure vanilla extract.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the oil mixture and mix until fully incorporated (the batter will be thin).
  6. Divide the batter among the lined muffin cups (about 3 Tbsp each) and bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes.
  7. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Buttercream:

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Sift 1 lb confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Reduce the mixer to low and gradually add the sugar, alternating with the 2 Tbsp heavy cream.
  4. Mix in 2 tsp pure vanilla extract.
  5. Increase the speed to high and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

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Santa & Elf Cookies

WDY120114_133_133

Ingredients:

  • Nutter Butter sandwich cookies
  • Royal icing (see recipe below)
  • Gel food coloring
  • Shredded coconut
  • Sliced almonds
  • Candy eyes

Instructions:

  1. Make 1 batch royal icing (see recipe below) as directed and tint using gel food color as desired.
  2. Transfer 1/3 of each color to a separate pastry bag fitted with a fine tip.
  3. Use a few drops of water to thing the icing remaining in the bowls; place in separate pastry bags fitted with small round tips.
  4. Using the thicker icing, outline the hats, clothes, beards and faces of the elves on 24 Nutter Butter cookies.
  5. Fill the hats and clothes using the thinner icing.
  6. Let dry between colors.
  7. Use finely shredded coconut for Santa’s beard (while icing is wet) and use icing to attach sliced almonds for the elves’ ears. Buy candy eyes to attach with royal icing.

Royal Icing

Ingredients:

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 pound confectioners’ (powdered) sugar

Instructions:

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat 3 large egg whites and ½ tsp cream of tartar on medium-high speed until foamy, about 1 minute.
  2. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add 1 lb confectioners’ sugar, beating until just incorporated.
  3. Increase the speed to high and beat until medium-stiff glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes.

Don’t forget, you can find more great holiday dessert recipes on the Woman’s Day site! 

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Valspar Reserve – Paint that Lasts

Note: We received Valspar Reserve Paint to try. I was not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and my own.

At our old house, Brian and I painted quite a bit – our kitchen, entry, front door, master bathroom, the boys’ room, and even the exterior trim. Of course, that house was built in 1972 and had a lot of room for cosmetic updates.

The house we’re in now was a new build, so it was move-in ready. Of course, all the walls are builders’ beige which is not our style. We decided to start adding splashes of color in the kids’ bathrooms: a blue accent wall for the boys’ bathroom, and a pink accent wall for E’s.

Since the rooms we wanted to paint are both frequented by little people who are quite likely to touch the walls, we knew we’d want to pick a paint that could hold up to some wear and tear.

ValsparReserve

Valspar Reserve is a perfect choice. It uses HydroChroma technology, which is a breakthrough, high-performance paint colorant system. This technology provides superior color matching, advanced fade resistance and improved one-coat coverage, which means our color will stay true longer. It’s been tested for unsurpassed stain and scrub resistance.

Some details about the paint:

  • One coat, stain-blocking Paint + Primer
  • Unsurpassed stain + scrub resistance†
  • Maximum hiding, anti-fade formula
  • Smooth, easy to apply finish
  • Exceptional washability
  • Gives mildew-resistant finish
  • Superior adhesion to tough surfaces
  • Exceptional color matching
  • Low odor, zero VOC*
  • 100% acrylic latex
  • Lifetime warranty

Here are some before and after shots -it’s amazing what a difference paint makes!

 

 

BoysBathroomWall

BoysBathroomWallAfter

EBathroomWall

EBathroomWallAfter

VTech Innotab Max Review {and Giveaway!}

Note: We received the Innotab Max to review, and VTech is providing one for the giveaway winner too. All opinions are honest and are those of myself and my family.

VTech_InnotabMax_Box

Our family loves technology, and our kids are always wanting to play on our phones and tablets. We love the idea of them having a tablet dedicated to their use, so I was really excited to receive the VTech InnoTab MAX to review. Here are a few facts:

  • VTech’s 4th generation kids’ learning tablet features its fastest processor yet with up to six times the processing power of previous generation and a 7” high-resolution multi-touch screen display
  • InnoTab MAX features an enhanced 2nd generation version of Premium VTech Kid Connect™, at no additional charge, allowing children and parents to exchange voice and text messages, photos, drawings and fun stickers in real time between the tablet and a smartphone
  • InnoTab MAX offers the best of both learning worlds with access to more than 650 educator-endorsed, age and stage appropriate learning titles as well as carefully cultivated educational Android apps that can be purchased and downloaded through VTech’s Learning Lodge® app store
  • The tablet comes with 15 onboard apps including Premium VTech® Kid Connect, My Magic Beanstalk, Movie Maker, Art Studio, Wonder Cam Max, E-Reader with Story Dictionary and more
  •  InnoTab MAX also comes with one free Toca Boca app and two additional free apps that can be downloaded from the Learning Lodge
  • Other InnoTab MAX features include a built-in rechargeable Lithium battery and kid-safe Wi-Fi so kids can explore appropriate online games, videos and websites that have been pre-selected by VTech
  • Parental controls allow parents to manage their child’s apps, web access and tablet time, as well as view a progress log

As you can see, this is a highly functional tablet with kid-friendly (and parent-friendly) features!

InnotabMax-HandleFront

We love that the InnoTab Max comes with a removable cover and that it has a handle built right in! This makes it easy for transporting and helps protect the screen. There’s a stylus included, too, that you can tether to the tablet – no worrying about it getting lost! The cover also serves as a stand, making it easy for kids to prop it up and play.

VTech-Innotab-Stand

 

The InnoTab MAX has a home screen with icons just like my kids are used to from our tablets, and they were easily and intuitively able to navigate their way around, finding the camera, art app, and fun (& educational) games that Brian and I downloaded.

VTech-Innotab_HomeScreen

VTech-Innotab-Game

They love the camera feature, and since the lens can rotate around 180 degrees it’s easy for them to take photos of their favorite toys, then flip the lens around for a selfie.

VTech-Innotab-Camera

As a parent, I love that we can control what they do and how much time they spend on the tablet; I love that the games have an educational aspect to them, and I love the e-book selection to help foster a love of reading. This is a durable, versatile tablet that I know we’ll be really glad to have; I actually think it won’t be long before our two-year-old, E, lays her claim on the InnoTab MAX!

You can find it on Amazon and at many other retailers; its MSRP is $109.99 – really affordable for a tablet!

Oh, and did I mention that you now have the chance to win one of your very own, just in time for Christmas – this will make someone very happy to find it under the tree!

Win_it

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Skylanders Trap Team Game Review: A Whole New Level of Fun!

Note: We received a copy of the Skylanders Trap Team game to review. We were not compensated monetarily and all opinions in this post are honest and our own.

TrapTeamBox-Kids

What you see in the photo above is the faces of two very excited little boys.

I have been hearing about Trap Team for months, so I was really thrilled when I got the chance to review the game. I didn’t tell them it was coming, and just surprised them when it arrived. I heard “best mom ever!” many times that day after school, especially since they got to play it on a school night.

For those of you not familiar with Skylanders in general (I’m sure there are maybe 3 of you), it includes a portal that hooks up to the system and allows kids to bring characters into the game by placing figurines on the portal.

The Trap Team game takes the fun even further by introducing traps, which allow kids to “trap” bad guys and play with them later in the game as good guys.

Starter Pack we received  retails for $74.99 and includes:

• Traptanium Portal™ – Place the Skylanders on the NEW Traptanium Portal ™ and bring the Skylanders to life
• Trap Master Skylanders – Trap Master Skylanders are the ultimate trappers with powerful Traptanium™ weapons
• All New Skylanders – The Skylanders each have their own unique abilities and powers
• Traps – Defeat and capture villains in the Traps and then use the villains on the side of good
• Character Collector Poster – Build the ultimate Trap Team – Over 60 Skylanders to collect and 40+ villains to capture
• Sticker Sheets with Secret Codes – Enjoy stickers of your favorite Skylanders. Place the names and codes on the Character Collect Poster to track your collection. The secret codes can be used in the Skylanders Lost Islands ™and Skylanders Collection Vault ™Apps.
• Trading Cards – Learn more about each Skylander’s powers and abilities

TrapTeam_Items

The Trap Team figures are on the left, the portal is the large round center item, and the traps are the blue and green pieces on the right.

TrapTeam_GameCase

Here’s the game packaging – our five year old actually hugged the case!

TrapTeamPoster

The Trap Team poster – I can’t tell you how much time our kids spent talking about all of the characters on this!

TrapTeam-TrapOrganizer

Tray to house your traps. The boys, of course, decided we need to fill the tray entirely.

TrapTeam_AboveShot

TrapTeamPortal_Characters

 

This portal glows when plugged in, and even has a speaker to hear the trapped characters talking!

TrapTeam_Trap_Portal

As you can see in the photo above, the characters sit on the portal; if you notice the little hexagonal hole in the portal, that’s where you put your trap when you’re playing with that.

TrapTeam_OnScreen2

TrapTeam_OnScreen

The boys had so much fun playing with this, and our two-year-old even enjoyed sitting and watching!

We’re really pleased with this game. The boys have hours of fun on it, and there’s a lot of room for expansion with the various characters and traps. The game is available on tons of platforms, so you should be able to find it for one you own – it’s available for the XBOX 360, XBOX ONE, PS3, PS4, WiiU, 2DS and 3DS, and the Kindle Fire, too. The starter pack, like I mentioned above, retails for around $70-$75 depending on which platform you purchase it for. That’s a little pricier than a standard Wii U game, but it comes with all the extras of the portal, characters, traps, and poster, so I feel like it’s a good value for your money.

I know our boys will each be getting a Skylanders character and trap in their stockings this year (character pricing starts at about $9.99, and traps are typically just $5.99), and if you’re looking for a great gift to put under the tree, you won’t go wrong with Skylanders Trap Team. If our kids’ reactions are any indication, you’ll be parent of the year when they open it up!

Smile Brighter with Smile Brilliant Custom Teeth Whitening Trays {Giveaway}

Note: I received a custom teeth whitening kit from Smile Brilliant to facilitate my review, and they are providing the kit for giveaway. I was not compensated monetarily for this post, and all opinions are honest and my own.

Everything_in_Kit

I’ve taken pretty good care of my teeth over the years, but even so they weren’t quite as white as I’d like for them to be. Several years ago I tried whitening strips that I bought from the store but never really noticed a difference, so I was really excited to give Smile Brilliant a try.

For those of you not familiar with the company, Smile Brilliant provides a custom tray creation kit so you can make your own impressions in the comfort of your home, ship those off (at the cost of the company) and then just days later receive trays that fit your teeth perfectly. They also have 22% hi-intensity whitening gel that you use with the trays to get a noticeable effect in a short amount of time. And if you’re like me, you might also worry about how whitening gel would work with sensitive teeth. No worries there, either, because Smile Brilliant has desensitizing gel, too.

TeethWhiteningKit

My kit arrived and I was immediately impressed with the packaging (I’m a graphic designer by trade, so of course I’m going to notice this aspect!) and with what all is provided. See the “base paste” and “catalyst paste”? You mix one of each of those together to create a putty, place it in the tray, and then use the tray to make your impression. They give you three sets just in case you make a mistake and need a redo, but it’s an easy process and I didn’t end up needing my extra pastes. Here’s all that’s included in the kit:

  • 2 Custom-fitted whitening trays (upper and lower teeth)
  • Compact case holds both your whitening trays
  • Impression material to make your own dental impressions (plus extra material included)
  • 3-Way, pre-paid postage – all postage between you and the lab is covered (2-way for international orders)
  • 1 set of custom dental models created by our lab technicians from your impressions
  • Professional teeth whitening gel – Dentist-strength 22% Carbamide Peroxide in 3ml syringes
  • 2 year teeth whitening tray replacement warranty
  • Detailed instructional brochure – Simple guide to creating your custom-fitted teeth whitening trays
  • 30 day satisfaction gurantee!

Did you notice in the list that Smile Brilliant provides a postage-paid, padded envelope for you to send your impressions in? And I was floored when just days later my custom trays arrived! The entire process is incredibly and impressively efficient.

TeethTrays

The trays come in a case much like you’d have for a retainer, so you’ve got an easy place to store them or take them with you for travel.

Trays_Case

SmileBrilliant-Gel

The desensitizing gel and whitening gel both come in pre-loaded syringes so it’s easy to put in your trays. I love how, since the trays fit your teeth perfectly, the gel really gets all over the surface area of each tooth.

Here’s my before and after photos – they were taken after two usages of the whitening gel. I’m very impressed and will definitely use their whitening gel in the future for touch ups (the Smile Brilliant site says most people do one treatment a month for touch ups).

Teeth-Before

Teeth-After

Here’s another thing that’s great about Smile Brilliant, and probably my favorite part – it is incredibly affordable. At $119.95 for the kit, it is hundreds of dollars less than it would cost to go have trays made at a dentist’s office. And with how rarely you have to use the kit afterwards, the gels are very affordable too. Plus, you don’t have to waste any of your day going and sitting and waiting for appointments, since you can take care of everything from the comfort of your home.

Would you like to have a brighter smile so you can Smile Brilliant? I can help you with that!

Win_it

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tieks Review

Tieks_Box

Like any other girl, I love a good pair of shoes. More specifically, though, I love a great pair of flats that will not kill my feet as I go to work, as I grocery shop, as I go out on a date with my husband, or as I chase after my three kids.

Tieks first drew my interest last year after I saw ads on Facebook (they clearly targeted their ads to the correct demographic, because I think I clicked over to their site after seeing the very first ad). I loved the signature blue accents – the soles of the shoes, and a stripe down the back of each one – and was really curious about how a shoe with a split sole would work for me.

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When I went to shop at their store, which they cleverly named “The Boutiek,” I spent a good bit of time just scrolling through all the options – there are a ton. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to do something really bold, like a red, or if I wanted to get something more neutral that I could wear with a wider variety of outfits.

In the end, practicality won out and I went with chestnut – but I still get to have some fun with the pops of blue.

As you can see above, the box that holds the shoes is pretty small. Like, so small you might think there’s no way shoes could be inside. But they’re there, folded up and waiting neatly for you.

Tieks_Folded_Box

Part of the appeal of Tieks is that they’re compact; they come with a bag to house them in, so you could easily carry these along with you in your purse and put them on if you need to switch to more comfortable shoes, for instance (they also come with a larger bag for you to put your other pair of shoes into once you switch to your Tieks).

Tieks_Folded

Once you unfold the shoe there’s a bit of a bend to it, but these are pliable and fit right to my foot once I put them on. And, sigh… I really do love that blue stripe on the back. So cute.

Shoe_Back_Tieks

 

Tieks_Bottom

Tieks_Wearing

So, you’ve seen how they look, but style is only half of the equation. How did they feel, you ask?

In a word, comfy.

I have had many shoes that leave blisters on my feet the first time or two I wear them, but my Tieks were comfortable from the very start. You can slightly see the impression of my big toes, but the shoes didn’t feel tight at all and I know that over time the leather will stretch out a bit.

Tieks_Toe

I was really impressed with the quality of these shoes. Tieks aren’t cheap – for my budget, they’re somewhat of an investment shoe. I read some other reviews talking about how well these hold up, though, and I feel like these are flats I’ll wear again and again for years to come. The Italian leather is supple and soft, the color is really rich, and they’re comfortable to walk around in all day long.

I had wondered how the split sole would fare comfort-wise, and I really didn’t notice it at all. I also wondered if the blue soles would get dirty quickly, but here’s what they looked like after two days of wear:

Tieks_Bottom_AfterWear

I really love my Tieks, and I’m glad I added these to my collection. Part of what I’m learning as I get older is that purchasing fewer high-quality pieces is a wiser choice than purchasing a bunch of cheap things that don’t last long at all. Quality over quantity, friends!

Spread RSV Awareness in Honor of World Prematurity Day

Note: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central forMedImmune. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

My kids are 7, 5, and 2 now but I can remember when they were each born like it was yesterday. I remember how tiny and fragile they seemed, and I definitely remember being incredibly cautious with them and germs the first few months of their lives.

RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) is a really common virus that occurs in epidemics each year, usually between November & March. Nearly all children contract it by the time they reach age 2 – I know all three of my children have had it! For babies that are healthy and full-term it can just cause moderate cold-like symptoms, which of course moms will still worry over.

RSV is the top cause of hospitalization for babies from birth to age 1 in the United States. About 125,000 babies are hospitalized with RSV each year,  and sadly up to 200 infant deaths. While every baby is at risk of contracting RSV, babies born prematurely have a much higher risk – they’re twice as likely as full-term infants to be admitted to the hospital for RSV-related symptoms.

One of my really good friends had premature twins in October several years ago, and I know they had to be extra-careful to keep their babies germ-free. My smallest baby was 6 pounds, 10 ounces, but seeing my friend’s preemies made me realize how much more fragile they are, and how important it is to protect them from diseases like RSV. World Prematurity Day is coming up on November 17, so this is especially on my mind right now.

Despite RSV being such a common disease, and potentially a scary one for preemies, one-third of mothers have never heard of the virus. I’m really glad to be able to help promote awareness and help other moms! Here are symptoms of severe RSV that you should keep an eye out for. If your child exhibits one or more of the following symptoms, be sure and contact your child’s pediatrician immediately:

  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Bluish color around the mouth or fingernails
  • Rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths
  • Fever (especially if it is over 100.4 degrees F [rectal] in infants under 3 months of age)

Of course, preventative care is especially important too. There’s no way to avoid germs completely, and RSV is very contagious. It can spread very easily through touching, sneezing and coughing, and it can live on the skin and surfaces for hours. Here are some important things you can do to help minimize the spread of RSV:

  • Wash your hands and ask others to do the same (I kept hand sanitizer around for people to use along with washing their hands, just to be extra careful)
  • Keep toys, clothes, blankets & sheets clean
  • Avoid crowds and other young children during RSV season
  • Never let anyone smoke around your baby
  • Steer clear of people who are sick or who have recently been sick – even if they said it was just allergies, I liked to be cautious and still ask them to wait until they’re better before having contact with my babies.

My biggest tip? Don’t worry about what other people think of your caution. I would much rather feel silly for being over-cautious than end up with a severely sick child. And I’d rather hurt someone’s feelings by making them wait to hold my child. You’re your child’s best protector against RSV!

Find out more about RSV at RSVprotection.com, like tips on talking to your pediatrician about your child’s risk factors, data on the RSV season in your area, and real stories of families’ experiences with RSV. And check out this infographic below for more helpful facts:

EDEL_RSV_Infographic_140819_English_Rd1