20 shops to support this Small Business Saturday

Via Sweet Peach Kids
No doubt you all know the best of the Black Friday deals going down this weekend…(We’re even loading up our online carts in advance!) So, today we’d like to focus on giving a shoutout to our fellow small businesses in honor of Small Business Saturday.

We are part of an incredible community of small business owners — many of them moms like ourselves, who hustle and follow their passions, resulting in beautiful products and companies we are proud to support! Among all the Black Friday madness, don’t forget to shop small for unique Christmas gifts. Here are some of our favorites (including several we are partnering with for a giveaway on Small Business Saturday!)

Genius tips for a truly stress-free Thanksgiving

Via Country Living

Hosting Thanksgiving this year? We salute you! No matter how much of a crafty supermom you are, we assume you have a desire for a stress-free holiday this year, right? Here are a few tips we've rounded up to make that happen.
  • Delegate responsibilities. Most people have the sense to delegate out menu items, but we say don't stop there. Why not delegate table centerpieces, activities for the kids and even pre-dinner tidying jobs?
  • Simplify the menu. This one comes from Ina Garten, and we think it's genius: After you make your initial menu list, cross off any items that have too long of an ingredient list and replace it with something simpler. No need to over-complicate things!
  • Clear the fridge. Everyone knows the best part of Thanksgiving is the left-overs. Make sure you have the space to save all those heavenly dishes by doing an overhaul on the fridge a few nights before the big day. Two-year expired ketchup, your time is up!
  • Do the Turkey Trot (even if you walk). Getting your body moving before the biggest indulgence of the year does wonders for your mood. Even if you're not up for running, join the local Turkey Trot once you get the turkey in the oven.
  • Shower before starting the food prep. Every year it goes down the same way: we want to get "a few small things" done first thing in the morning before getting ready for the day, and the next thing we know the guests are arriving and we are still in our pajamas. You too? Put the kibosh on the habit this year and start the day showered and looking glam. Now you'll have a reason to wear that cute Williams Sonoma apron! 
  • Pull out the conversation starters. Whether you use a homemade jar of questions on paper strips or have your own game of Table Topics, it's nice to have some ice breaker questions on hand while all the random extended family members get reacquainted.
  • Eat out the night before. Heaven knows you need to muster all the cooking strength you've got for this kitchen marathon. Eat out before you tackle the job...or even better yet, order in!
  • Set the table the night before. The less things you have to worry about on the actual holiday, the better.
  • Make two grocery trips: Buy non-perishables well before Thanksgiving, then get the perishables a few days before. When you've got an overflowing cart and more grocery bags than your trunk can handle, it's time to break up the tip. Since non-perishables can be bought well in advance and usually come from the same section of the grocery store, get that task done on a separate grocery trip the week before.
  • Make some recipes that don't require an oven. If you're one of those lucky gals with double ovens...well, we are very jealous. If you're like the average woman pining for such a kitchen, do yourself a favorite and stick with several recipes that don't require an oven. (See the next point for one idea.)
  • Make slow-cooker mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes taste best right after being made, but who wants to worry about whipping up the perfect clump-free potatoes when there are a million other things going on at the last minute? Go with this recipe and you'll be ever so grateful!
  • Prep in advance. You may be busy in the days leading up to the holiday, but you'll never regret taking a few minutes to bang out a few of the menu items well in advance. Execute one recipe a day and it'll be like it ain't no thang. Ideas:
    • Cranberry sauce
    • Freezer rolls
    • Pumpkin pie
    • Gravy
    • Appetizers
    • Stuffing

Ideas for using up Halloween candy

With Halloween candy accumulation extending to Trick or Treating, school parties, friend parties, retail stores giving it out, etc, Halloween has gone from a one-night celebration to a full-week frenzy.

We've heard some genius ideas parents have come up with to get rid of it:

  • using it for Christmas gingerbread houses
  • trading it in to the Halloween fairy in exchange for a toy
  • donating it to troops over seas
  • trading it in at the dentist or Jamba Juice

But we also like the idea of turning it into a kid-friendly activity that gets them involved and provides a service opportunity. Hence, this year we will be doing a little baking with our Halloween candy, then taking it to the local nursing home or homeless shelter to spread some cheer.(While these folks may get Halloween candy, a freshly baked good adds a little more warmth to the season!)

Here are some of our favorite recipes for creatively using candy in a baked good:

1. Trick or Treat Pocky sticks (use pretzel rods for an easier take)
2. Leftover Halloween Candy Blondies
3. White Chocolate Candy Corn Rice Krispie Treats
4. Monster Cookie Granola
5. Halloween Oreo Candy Bark
6. Harvest Hash
7. Peanut Butter Candy Bar Fudge 
8. Crispy Butterfinger Cookies
9. DIY Caramel Apple Bar
10. Harvest Caramel Corn

10 FREE educational apps for little kids

When you need to entertain your kids but don't want to have them sit in front of a screen with their brains seemingly turning to mush, educational apps are a major lifesaver.

But there's nothing worse than paying for an app, only to find that your kid is totally not into it and your money has gone down the drain.

Hence, we've come up with a list of free educational apps for you to download just in time for holiday travel season. Test them out with your kids, and if they don't love them — no sweat! Delete them and try some others on our list:

1. First Words Sampler: An awesome app that engages kids in flashcards to learn to spell words and associate them with cute coordinating images.
2. Tiny Tiger and Friends: The cute graphics on this game haven stolen our hearts. Kids learn about getting dressed with this fun little app.
3. PBS Kids Video: If kids are going to watch TV shows, PBS is your best bet. All of the shows teach lessons and minimally annoying.
4. LEGO DUPLO Trains: For your train-obsessed tots, this app teaches about logistics and will keep them entertained for about as long as you'll allow!
5. LEGO DUPLO Food: Another fun one from LEGO that is great for either gender. We love how it teaches kids about business basics and emphasizes cleaning up at the end of the fun.
6. Rosetta Stone Kids Lingo Letter Sounds: Who needs immersion schools when you have this fun app? (Kidding, kind of!) This app teaches foreign language skills through fun games and images.
7. Little Stars Toddler Games: Parents and teachers love this app that covers 10 different educational topics like numbers, shapes, colors and more. Bonus points for being super easy to customize!
8. Animal Memory Match: With three levels of difficulty, this classic game is perfect for toddlers and older kids alike.
9. Toca Kitchen Monster: Toca has tons of great apps for kids, but this is the only free version and it provides lots of fun for kids as they learn about cooking and cause/effect.
10. Breathe, Think and Do with Sesame: We love that this one covers a unique topic for kids and teaches complex principles of self-control, planning and persistence in social settings.

Dollar store toys your toddler will love

If there's one thing Christmas and birthdays with kids has taught us, it is this: No matter how many toys you buy, 90% of the time, they are going to lose the magic fast.

We have spent all too much time mourning the forgotten, hand-carved, wooden blocks we spent a fortune on. And though we've seen some success in putting toys away for a season and then reintroducing them, we really love this budget-friendly, #lazymom idea.

Next time you go to The Dollar Tree (a.k.a the place we always wonder how the heck our receipt total racked up so high) spend $5 or less on a few new toys for your kids. They will be thrilled. Ecstatic. Entertained...for about three days.

And when the excitement wears off? No problem! Toss or donate the toys, then pick up some new ones a few weeks later. They're so inexpensive, they're pretty much disposable. The ingenuity still amazes us!! Here are some of our toddler-approved favorites:

  • Party balloons. Blow up the whole bag and throw them in the air, practice tossing them, stomp on them and let them pop, etc)
  • Playdough. Our Dollar Tree has a 3-pack for $1. Perfect for a one-time Playdough sesh...then throw it away before it gets in the carpet!
  • Bubbles. Bubbles are super fun for an afternoon when your lungs are feeling strong. They are not fun when your toddler requests that you blow them every single day until you want to pass out. Enjoy them for awhile and then be done with it!
  • Halloween costumes. Stock the dress up box with cheap costume accessories during Halloween season and pull them out for rainy day fun.
  • Stickers. Stickers are perfect around the 5 o'clock hour when your kids are pestering you and you need to get dinner on the table. Let them stick the whole pack on a dollar store coloring book and you're golden!
  • Coloring book and crayons. We all know how fast a toddler can destroy a pack of Crayons. Hence, we like to stock up on several boxes and toss them as soon as the majority are broken.
  • Sidewalk chalk. There's nothing more blissful than some peaceful time on the porch while your kids quietly play. Sidewalk chalk can save a long afternoon in a snap! (Use it to draw states, shapes and hopscotch for extra fun!)
  • Paper goods. Pinterest is an endless source of inspiration for the easy crafts that can be made with paper plates, cups and bags. Search for a few minutes and head to the dollar store to load up on supplies! 
  • Candy (for bribing). Even the best of moms must do it. Spend $1 on a bag of lollipops and pull them out in a moment of desperation. You'll never regret the forethought!
  • Whatever other random crap they want. If you really want to make your kids' day, take them to the dollar store and tell them they can pick out whatever they want! After the shock wears off, they'll be the happiest kid in all the land — for at least one afternoon.

Top 10 costumes for Halloween 2016

According to our highly unscientific survey, hot costumes this year are all about current events, i.e. Trump, Clinton, Pokemon Go, David Bowie and Prince. But there are more official releases about costumes, so we'll turn to them for the facts.

What are the takeaways from the National Retail Federation's (NRF) Halloween Consumer Top Costumes Survey? For one, princesses are taking a (tiny) step down. For the first time in 11 years, action and superheroes nudge princess costumes out of the top spot for kids! Hashtag girlpower! (But Frozen characters are still in the top 10!)

Actually, superheroes score many top spots for Halloween costumes of all age groups — not that it's a huge surprise! Movies like Star Wars are guaranteed to be some of the other most-seen costumes on the streets. And for adults over the age of 35, classics like witches and pirates reign, along with political costumes. Read on for the official list for all ages (and pets!)

1. Action/Superhero
2. Princess
3. Animal (Cat, Dog, Lion, Monkey, etc.)
4. Batman Character
5. Star Wars Character
6. Tie: Witch and DC Superhero (excluding Batman)
7. Frozen Character (Anna, Elsa, Olaf)
8. Marvel Superhero (excluding Spiderman)
9. Zombie
10. Spiderman

MOST POPULAR ADULT COSTUMES (18 to 34 years old):
1. Batman Character (Batman, Harley Quinn, The Joker, etc.)
2. Witch
3. Animal (Cat, Dog, Bunny, etc.)
4. Tie: Marvel Superhero (Deadpool, Spiderman, etc.) and DC Superhero (Wonder Woman, Superman, excluding Batman)
5. Vampire
6. Video Game Character
7. Slasher Movie Villain (Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, etc.)
8. Pirate
9. Star Wars Character
10. Zombie

1. Witch
2. Pirate
3. Political (Trump, Clinton, etc.)
4. Vampire
5. Batman Character (Batman, Catwoman, etc.)
6. Animal (Cat, Dog, Bunny, etc.)
7. Tie: DC Superhero (Superman, Wonder Woman, excluding Batman) and Star Wars Character
8. Tie: Ghost and Zombie
9. Scary Costume/Mask
10. Marvel Superhero (Iron Man, Hulk, Spiderman, etc.)

1. Pumpkin
2. Hot Dog
3. Bumble Bee
4. Tie: Lion and Star Wars Character
5. Devil
6. Batman Character
7. Witch
8. Superman
9. Action/Superhero
10. Cat

10 Trader Joe's items for busy moms

We know we don't have to convince you of the magic of Trader Joe's. The chocolate-covered anything, the gourmet cheese, the irresistible snacks...they've had us at "hello." But as we've become busy moms, Trader Joe's has taken on even greater meaning for us. The amount of convenience health foods they have is simply unmatched. Here are our favorites!

1. Balsamic glaze. Add it to salads, pizza, sandwiches or pasta to take things to the next level!
2. Butternut squash zig zags. Fun enough to convince your kids to eat their veggies.
3. Chicken apple sausage. For nights when you have no idea what you're going to cook.
4. Tomato basil marinara. Because boiling a little pasta and topping it with this stuff is the easiest meal of the week.
5. Chile lime chicken burgers. These burgers are amazingly delicious, made of totally clean ingredients and so much easier than making your own.
6. Spinach and kale Greek yogurt dip. How else will you get your kids gobbling spinach and kale?
7. Organic brown rice. It's in the frozen section and ready to save you in the times when you forget to turn on the rice cooker (ie, every time)
8. Instant oatmeal. Yummy and ready to be heated in the microwave, without the sugar of Quaker packets.
9. Mirepoix mix. A life-saver for soups and pastas. So worth the money when you can save a solid 10 minutes of chopping time!
10. Chicken cilantro mini wontons. Another easy meal when paired with rice — or the mirepoix mix for the fastest wonton soup of your life!