Friday, July 18, 2014

Cabana Life Review & Giveaway

I'll start this review by stating the obvious.  Our youngest daughter, Maisy, hit the recessive gene jackpot.  This blue-eyed, white-haired beauty was born into our predominantly Italian family.  Though not a total mystery (Jeff and I each have one blue-eyed parent), she is just so different from our first two children.  Something else obvious since birth- super fair skin.  Fair skin is something I just haven't dealt with much.  Sure, we apply sunscreen to our other kids.  But I've never thought to myself, "gosh it's really sunny out.. maybe I shouldn't take them with me to the mailbox."  Until now.  

She's extremely prone to sunburn.  We have to be vigilant about keeping her protected.  Even with SPF 50 I felt like the hand-me-down bathing suits from Isla weren't really ample.  We spend a lot of time at the pool and I felt she needed a bit more protection.  While searching for rashguard sets I came across

Cabana Life offers stylish swim suits, rash guards, cover ups, accessories, and beachwear for the whole family.  I was absolutely thrilled to get to put Cabana Life's 50+ UV protection to the test!  

Can I just say that I'm bordering obsession over these coordinating suits?  Maisy got the Mod Squad rashguard set and Isla got the Mod Squad 1 piece and cover up set.

I ordered Maisy the rashguard in size 12-18 months.  I was a little worried that it might be hot because the sleeves were a bit longer than the typical short-sleeved rashguard sets we've used in the past.  When I opened the package I was actually shocked at how soft and airy it was.  I knew we wouldn't have any temperature or constricting issues.  Another plus I didn't even anticipate was the button closure around the collar.  Sometimes getting fitted fabric over a baby's head can be difficult... and let's not forget that it often has to come off while wet.  Being able to unbutton it made changing her easy.  The sizing was spot on.  The bottoms were secure but I anticipate she'll be able to wear it for a while.  

I ordered Isla the matching 1 piece and cover up set in size 3T.  The swimsuit is the same super light and breathable material as the rashguard.  The style of the suit is just adorable.  The one-shoulder look.  THE RUFFLE.  I'd say the suit runs true to size, perhaps slightly small.  She is a fairly petite 3T and it fit her perfectly.  Most of her other suits that are size 3T are actually a little big, for reference.  If your child is in between I'd recommend going up one size just so you can be sure to get plenty of wear out of their suit.  Bonus- this was a set that included a terry cover up.  Isla absolutely hates wet clothing so once she's done swimming, she wants her suit OFF.  I know most people would probably use the cover up over top of the suit, but we used it as a suit replacement ;)

Cabana Life has been featured in multiple magazines including People, Shape, Marie Claire, Glamour, Babytalk, and many more.  Now one of you will get the opportunity to shop with a $50 store credit!

*Disclosure- I was provided with a store credit to shop and order the girls' suits for review purposes.  All opinions are my own.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A New Start: Leaving Our Townhouse

I mentioned in a previous post that we were packing our things in moving boxes- so this is a little explanation of why and what our future holds.  My husband and I bought our townhouse just over six years ago during our first year of marriage and just after we found out we were expecting Dominic.  It seemed ok for us at the time.  It has three bedrooms and we figured we'd live in it for a few years, sell it, and buy something bigger as our family grew.  Unfortunately as the housing market crashed, a "few" years max turned into a much longer stay in a home we quickly outgrew.  In addition to being a family of five, now Dominic is getting ready to start kindergarten in public school.  The elementary school we are currently zoned for is not so great.  So we started to evaluate our options..

After speaking with a trusted Realtor, we don't feel this is the right time to sell.  There is a good chance we wouldn't even be able to sell it for what we owe.  We started going over comparable rental units in the area and realized that putting our house up for rent could actually generate some income as opposed to being a drain.  But where would we go?  With the positive news about the rental came the bad news that it would be difficult for us (on one income) to obtain an additional mortgage without someone already leasing our first home.  After talking it out with our families we decided to move all five of us into my in-laws home.

Our plan is to move out of our townhouse, fix minor details, apply fresh paint, and list it for rent.  Once we have renters in we will begin looking for our next home.  During the "in between" we'll hopefully be able to save a little for closing costs and things that may need to be done initially to the new house to make it ours.  Not going to lie, this whole situation gives me anxiety.  And I'm already anxiety girl.  I am anxious about being financially responsible for two homes on one income.  I'm anxious about finding a decent renter that won't destroy our house.

But more than any of that, I'm anxious and torn about leaving our first home.  This is where we built our family.  Three times I left this house big and round, returning with a tiny pink baby to be carried through the door.  This is the only home my children have known and we've made so many memories here.  Though it's too small for us now and not in a great location, there are great things about it.  Besides the emotional attachment, we've redone pretty much every square inch of it in the six years we've lived here.  Every floor is new, both bathrooms and the kitchen have all been gutted and remodeled. 

And there's this...

Right behind our house is a large pond that's home to a flock of ducks and geese.  We've had countless walks around this lake, always with bread or crackers in hand.  Our favorite duck even lived in our front yard for a few weeks last summer when he was recovering from an injury.  

We also live across the street from our neighborhood pool!  So nice in the summer.  Luckily there is a neighborhood pool just a short walk from my in-laws house too, so for now we still have that.

The elementary school Dominic will be attending is a bit better too.  That gives me some relief and peace in all of this.  Though it will be a bit hectic and odd to not have our "own" space for a little while, I know we will be better off in the long run.  Send happy thoughts as we prepare to hand our home over to strangers (eek!) and while we look for a bigger and better place for us.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lina Jake Bag Review & Giveaway

Confession- I have a small "bag" addiction.  Before kids, it was purses.  For the past 5.5 years, it's been diaper bags.  I'm not alone.  Pretty much every mom I know enjoys toting her 100 most essential items around in a small suitcase.  Why?  I don't know *get off my back about it*.  Yes, husband, you did just discover a bag of bags in my closet.  Ahem.

Moving on, when a rep from Lina Jake contacted me about reviewing one of their diaper bags, I was a wee bit excited.  My current diaper bag needed to be retired anyway.  It served me well for about the last year with three kids and I was ready for a change!

Honestly, the Lina bag is probably one of the most "fancy" diaper bags I've owned.  I would describe my personal style as laid-back and beachy for sure.  I do love bright colors though, and this bag in purple is on point.  After browsing online, I was a little concerned that the bag would be shiny.. it was a little hard to tell from the pictures how the bag would actually feel.  I was really glad when I opened the box and saw that it as a nice canvas and not shiny at all.  It feels super durable and well-made.  I like that it has the look of a purse, but the size of a diaper bag.  It features handles and also an adjustable strap for hanging on your stroller or even carrying crossbody, which I like to do sometimes to free up both hands.

Other than the actual style of the bag, the most important feature is definitely size, given that I have three kids.  Luckily I only have one in diapers, but I still need plenty of other kid stuff with me at all times.  As you can see, I was able to pack this bag full and still have room to spare.  Everything stayed in it's place with the help of inside pockets.  I easily fit: diapers, wipes, a changing pad, my nikon camera, wallet, snacks, and sunscreen, along with a few other personal items.  My phone was in one of the outer side pockets and Maisy's sippy was in the other.

In addition to sending me this awesome bag, Lina Jake is offering one to a lucky reader!  The winner of this giveaway will receive the Lina Bag in their choice of purple or orange ($109 value).

Also, they are so graciously extending a 20% off code to everyone else!  Code: LINAJAKE20

Disclosure- I was provided the Lina bag by Lina Jake for review purposes.  All opinions are my own.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 4th Weekend in DC

There are pros and cons to living so close to a major city.  Living in a suburb of the Nation's Capital is flat out awesome on a patriotic holiday.  We had family visiting from out of town, so we decided to spend the weekend of Independence Day being hometown tourists.  

On the 4th we headed to the pentagon to watch the fireworks launched at the mall.  Here's why- we were able to get there without going through the traffic-heavy city center and we still had a fantastic view.  Another plus was that we were far back enough that the fireworks were a bit quieter.  Having made the trek with small children, the last thing we wanted was to be camped out on a lawn in the middle of thousands of people with a baby meltdown happening.  I am happy [thrilled] that everyone genuinely enjoyed watching without incident.  Plus, it was the most mild weather I've ever witnessed here in July.  Just gorgeous out.  Such a perfect night.  We took an obligatory awful family photo, because you know how we do.

Saturday morning (the 5th) we got up and out early to enjoy more of the fantastic weather at one of our favorite hometown spots- The National Harbor.  We come here often, but hadn't gotten a chance to ride the new Capital Wheel yet and wanted to this time.  

The Capital Wheel is a 180 ft tall observation wheel located at the National Harbor.  From your 8 person glass climate-controlled gondola, you can see the both the US Capital and the Washington Monument.  

You also have a fantastic view of the Harbor of course, including The Awakening, shops, boat slips, and Gaylord Hotel.

I was actually a little worried that the kids' excitement would turn into fear as we were about to board, but they were totally fine. At one point Dominic did say (while smiling) that it was a "little scary", but they loved it.  I felt more comfortable inside than I thought I would too.  I think because it is totally enclosed with bench seating and such a smooth ride, you feel super secure.  The ride is slow and safe for everyone, and is wheelchair accessible.  This really is an enjoyable attraction for the whole family.

In our gondola we had four adults (my husband, his parents, and myself) along with all three of our children.  As you can see, there was plenty of room.  We weren't squished at all.  The inside was very clean and the A/C was cool.  The price of admission is affordable ($15 for an adult ticket) and reasonable for the ride which lasted about 15 minutes.  I want to say we went around four times.  An absolute must-do if you are visiting the area.  The view is something you will not get anywhere else in the city because DC has a very low profile.  

All planes coming into Reagan National have this view!  Neat, right?

After we exited our gondola with smiles plastered to our faces, we purchased our commemorative photo that was taken on the way in.  The very friendly photographer managed to get all of us in one photo!  

We finished our day off with a bit of shopping, lunch at Harrington's Irish Pub, ice cream at Ben and Jerry's, and a couple carousel rides.  

We had such a fantastic weekend enjoying family and one of our favorite DC locations.  

Disclosure- my family was provided admission to The Capital Wheel.  All opinions and photos are my own.  I am truly grateful as we had a wonderful time and I know you will too!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Stay Cool, Baby- featuring Julbo USA and Zipzicles

In true Maryland fashion, the summertime has hit us suddenly and it is HOT.  Still, I refuse to stay cooped up inside going stir crazy.  While we do regularly take breaks inside to enjoy the a/c, we try to get outside and stay active as much as possible.  

We do what we can to combat the harsh sun and high temps- sunglasses are a must.  Julbo USA makes high-quality sunglasses for everyone, using the same protective lenses in their children's sunglasses as they do in adult's.  Their lenses are Category 4.  This means that they are UV A, UV B, and UV C resistant when other competitors and imitators are not.  Why is this crucial?  Young children look UP at the world.  Their delicate eyes are exposed more directly to the sun's rays.  

Still, it can be challenging to keep sunglasses on an active toddler.  Julbo USA "Looping 3" model features a flexible looping design for a comfortable and secure fit.  Featuring a wrap-around reversible frame (can be worn right side up or upside down), no hinges, and a flat elastic strap, they are easy to use and comfortable. 

Dominic is extremely pleased with his new sunglasses!  They stay put without being too tight on him.  And I must say, something about these sporty glasses make his little buzzed noggin look extra cool.  Julbo USA graciously sent us his pair, along with an additional pair of sunglasses to forward on to one lucky winner.

One of you will receive this pair of Julbo USA Baby "Looping 3" glasses in Lilac/Pink.  

This brings us to our favorite summertime treat.. with a new twist!  Recently I wrote an article for POPSUGAR about fun and free activities for preschoolers.  In this post I included "Popsicle Making" because it's something my kids and I do regularly.  I like to make our own because I can fill them with real fruits and juices instead of dyes and artificial flavors.  The downside to traditional popsicle molds is that they are drippy, messy, and usually only make about four pops at a time.  I stumbled upon Zipzicles one night while looking for a better alternative.  You guys, genius.  

They are basically long and skinny pouches that you fill with your own ingredients and freeze. They work just like a traditional ice pop in that you just push them up from the bottom and eat.  They are resealable in the event that a kid doesn't finish the whole pop.  They can also be rinsed out and reused.  No sticks, no drips, all real ingredients.  They come in packs of twelve so I was actually able to make three different kinds of pops using one package.  

I made "Fudge Pops" using just pureed banana and cocoa powder, "Tropical Pops" with strawberries, pineapple, and coconut water blended together, and then I even made a "Sangria Pop" with strawberries, pineapple, and red wine.  So there's that option too, Moms.  The possibilities are endless.  In fact, they have a ton of fun recipe ideas here.   I highly recommend using a small funnel to fill your pouches.

Zipzicles is kindly offering one pack each of resealable popsicle pouches to THREE winners.

Please enter via the widget below.  One winner will receive a pair of Julbo USA "Looping 3" sunglasses in Lilac/Pink AND a pack of Zipzicles resealable Popsicle pouches.  Two runners up will each win a pack of Zipzicles resealable Popsicle pouches. 

*Disclaimer- I was provided Julbo USA sunglasses and Zipzicles to facilitate this review.  All opinions are my own.  

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