July 25, 2016

Better than Birthday Shopping

Have you tried Google Express? It's every busy mom's dream come true.

This post is sponsored by Google Express, but my over-the-top enthusiasm for this service is all my own

On Saturday, Ella turned six.

I grew up in a family where birthdays are a big deal - we didn't necessarily get a ton of presents, but it was definitely a really special day with lots of fun little traditions, and we've tried to carry on the same birthday excitement in our home.

But this birthday kind of snuck up on me, because I was in New York City for an event on Wednesday and Thursday and didn't get home until the wee hours of Friday morning, which left me little time to go run a bunch of errands like picking up presents at multiple stores and grabbing a special sugary cereal for breakfast in bed.

Have you tried Google Express? It's every busy mom's dream come true.

Not to mention, what I most wanted to do after a couple of days away was stay home and snuggle my girls and read picture books, not run ten thousand errands.

Fortunately, Google Express to the rescue.

Have you heard of this? It's basically my new favorite thing since ThredUp (and that's saying something, since there's almost NOTHING I love as much as ThredUp).

I first heard about it from my friend Jessica, who used Google Express extensively while she was living in San Francisco during the summer of 2014 while her husband did an internship there. Their older daughter broke her leg a few weeks into their summer, which meant that any errands were a huge hassle (since they didn't have a car). She raved about how convenient it was for someone to go pick up all the things she needed from various stores and then deliver them right to her front door.

With multiple children, I basically try to avoid any errands I possibly can, because it's just a big to-do to buckle my children in and out of their seats, and no errand is fast (plus, I live in fear of dragging everyone to a store and then discovering that the store doesn't HAVE what I need and I did it all for nothing).

Anyway, since Jessica told me about Google Express two years ago, I've thought of it almost every single time I ran an errand.

And then, in April, it finally launched in Phoenix. (Cue angels singing, etc).

Basically, you log in, buy a membership - it's $95 a year, but you can get a free six-month membership here (use the code FREETIME) - and then you can choose any of the stores that are included in the service, pick an item from that store and it's delivered to your house the next day.

The stores that are included vary by location, but mine includes Costco, Barnes and Noble, Kohl's, Walgreens, Whole Foods, Payless Shoes, Petsmart, Toys R Us and a bunch more (some cities already include Target and I'm waiting eagerly for it to be added to mine).

I don't have a Costco card because I canceled it after one trip there last summer when the insane amount of people made me so crabby, I never wanted to go back, but I am hugely tempted to get one again now that I wouldn't actually have to set foot in Costco and it could just all be delivered to my front door.

Also, you get $15 of credit when you sign up for an account (free money!), and so on Thursday afternoon in a jam-packed Starbucks in Midtown, I ordered Ella's birthday gifts, including a book, a puzzle, a new pair of sandals, and a Lego kit.

Have you tried Google Express? It's every busy mom's dream come true.

Even better, I could place an order for a box of Reese's Puffs to show up on my front doorstep too. If only I'd known I was dangerously low on milk, I could have ordered that too, but, unfortunately, on the other side of the country, I didn't know what our milk supply was like.

Everything showed up on Friday afternoon, and instead of running to five stores in the evening, we went out to dinner as a family instead, and once the girls were tucked into bed, I happily wrapped everything up (should have ordered some Scotch tape too, since I ended up having to use packing tape . . . ) while Bart and I watched an episode of Person of Interest.

And then on Saturday morning, we had all the fun of celebrating Ella's birthday without all the errands a birthday usually requires.

We started with breakfast in bed and some presents, followed by the highlight of the day for them which was a game Bart made up called something very clever like "the girls run around the basement and he tries to hit them with wadded-balls of wrapping paper."

Have you tried Google Express? It's every busy mom's dream come true.

There was a movie, and then we finished off the day with a special birthday dinner of butter chicken and naan, and then some brownies and ice cream, and a few more presents.

Have you tried Google Express? It's every busy mom's dream come true.

It was a delightful day of celebrating our delightful girl.

And, even though it probably wasn't your birthday this weekend, you can get a free six-month membership with the code FREETIME to Google Express, plus $15 of credit to use on your first order (and there's no minimum order, so there's really no catch. Just free money to try out the best service ever).

Grab yourself a couple of bottles of nail polish (Ulta is one of the stores in my area that uses Google Express) or a Lego set from Toys "R" Us to keep your kids occupied or a new book from Barnes and Noble. Or, hey, a box of sugary cereal. I won't judge.

And if it was your birthday this weekend, happy birthday to you!

Have you tried Google Express? It's every busy mom's dream come true.

Give $15, Get $15: Offer may end at any time/valid until 08/31/2016 while your account is active. Limited to Google Express accounts that received the offer from Google. Each valid referral gets you a $15 courtesy credit when the new users you referred place their first order using your referral code. Alcohol, gift cards, membership costs, and shipping & service fees excluded. Credits you give are subject to these terms. Credits you get are subject to these terms.

July 24, 2016

4 Easy Ways to Incorporate Learning Into Your Daily Routine (+ 5-for-1 Box Tops)

This post is sponsored by the Box Tops for Education program

With school just around the corner (in fact, in Arizona, most schools start the last week of July!), education is top of mind for me right now, as we plan for Ella's 1st grade year and Ani's preschool.

Education has been a hugely important part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm highly motivated to help my children discover a love of learning and give them as many opportunities to stretch their minds as I can.

As we've been doing our back-to-school shopping, I can't help but think about the children across the world and in my own community that don't have the educational resources they deserve.

Last year, I was introduced to the Box Tops for Education program (I'd heard of it before, but didn't really understand it) when Ella's class collected them for a month and then won the school competition for the most Box Tops.

I was so delighted to see that the General Mills' products I was already buying were helping to provide school supplies and materials for children in my community and local schools.

Right now, when you shop at Walmart, you can get 4 extra box tops for every purchase of a participating General Mills' product, so your community or school gets 5 times as much funding as you would otherwise.

Because every child deserves a classroom that gives them the education they need to succeed.

And because learning doesn't only happen in the classroom, here are a few simple ways to weave education into the daily routine that have worked well for our family over the last few years.

  1. Incorporate non-fiction books into your reading routine. I'll admit that I almost always pick fiction picture books for the girls, but I'm trying to be more thoughtful about including non-fiction books in our rotation. They love any books about animals, and recently we've enjoyed books about space and ancient Egypt. And I've always thought a juvenile non-fiction book was a great way to get a succinct overview of a topic without a million footnotes or terminology you don't understand. 
  2. Keep educational CDs in the car. Last year for Ella's birthday, I bought a copy of Singin' Smart, a CD I remembered from my own childhood. It has catchy tunes with the names of all the states, the state capitols, the U.S. presidents, the branches of government, the solar system, the major bones of the body, and more. I hadn't listened to it in nearly twenty years, and yet immediately the songs came right back to me, word for word, (helped by the fact that I have sung the songs in my head hundreds of times over the years to come up with a capitol name or the order of certain presidents), and now even Ani can recite pretty much every state, without me making any effort at all. Bart tends to NOT be impressed by these kinds of songs, but after a few listens he said, "These are actually very catchy tunes." Makes hitting every stoplight on the way to the grocery store a little more bearable. 
  3. Keep a map visible. I grew up totally solid on my U.S. geography and pretty strong on Central and South American geography, but I'll admit that my European and Middle Eastern geography is considerably more shaky (okay, more than shaky). Whether it's on the wall or on plastic-coated placemats, it's nice to be able to point out locations around the world as you talk about them, whether they come up when you're talking about world events or planning a vacation. 
  4. Do simple mental math problems on the go. Bart started this years ago and now Ella is always asking us to make up math problems for her. It's a great way to help her practice new math skills as she learns them, plus it's easier than trying to remember stories about when I was little (their other favorite thing to ask when we're driving in the car or I'm making dinner). Just don't ask Ella to give YOU a math problem, because it will invariably be so long and complicated that you'll need some scratch paper and a calculator. 

As always, if you have other suggestions for how to make learning a natural part of your family environment, I'd love to hear them - I'm always amazed at how many good ideas there are out there.

And don't forget to check out General Mills’ products at Walmart so you can easily donate to your school! 

July 22, 2016

Garage Sale Makeover (4 Years Later. . . )

Easy spray paint makeover of a dresser - no primer required!

This post is sponsored by Krylon®

With so many rooms in our house needing attention, the girls’ bedrooms have been shoved to the bottom of the list.

While we’re currently really focusing on the master bedroom (our new king mattress is still stuffed in the box, waiting for our bedframe to arrive!), the family room, and my office, I’ve started to think at least a little bit about the changes I want to make to their bedrooms.

For the most part, we don’t need much new furniture for their bedrooms – just some rearranging of the items we already have, plus some new paint, carpet, and curtains, and a little styling.

But one item that I knew needed a little refresh was this big dresser we bought at a garage sale, back when I was pregnant with Ani.

Easy spray paint makeover of a dresser - no primer required!

It was too big to fit into our car, so not only did this nice family sell it to us for $15, but then they brought it over to our apartment and helped Bart carry it up to our second-floor home.

It’s been a very useful piece of furniture, but I always thought it looked a little old-lady for my taste, and I’ve meant to repaint it since . . . before Ani was born.

Easy spray paint makeover of a dresser - no primer required!

Then I discovered KRYLON® DUAL® SUPERBOND® PAINT + PRIMER. Basically, it’s a lazy DIY’s best friend. No sanding required, and it’s paint and primer in one.

Okay, I could do this.

I picked up a couple of cans of white at Ace Hardware last week, where my girls were insanely thrilled to discover a bunch of tiny chicks, bunnies, and turkeys for sale. I think it was the best errand of their lives.

I was sorely tempted by lots of the gorgeous colors, but decided on white because I want the flexibility to move this dresser into any room down the road, depending on how we switch up sleeping arrangements over the years. (Considering Ella’s bedroom will have the chair from my office, the table from the playroom, and the dresser from Star’s nursery, I know the possibility of this dresser always staying in Ani’s room is low.)

Easy spray paint makeover of a dresser - no primer required!

I did buy some pink KRYLON® Fusion, which is high gloss and goes onto plastic, metal, and wood, to use on the metal drawer pulls. They were the worst part of the whole dresser, I thought.

Every time I spray paint, I think, “This is just the most enjoyable project.” There’s something so fun about it – way better than using a roller (a process I’m all too familiar with lately as we de-beige our house).

I took the handles off the drawers, wiped everything down with mineral spirits (I had to Google what that even was) and then everything was ready to go!

All the coats dried quickly, and I did about 5 coats on the handles because they were so dark originally and then 3 coats on the dresser.

Less than two days later, and the dresser was back in Ani’s room, ready for action.

Easy spray paint makeover of a dresser - no primer required!

Easy spray paint makeover of a dresser - no primer required!

Later this summer, I’m hoping to get rid of these neon mint walls, but in the meantime, having this dresser white and crisp-looking is making a huge difference.

Now, if only I could spray paint the green carpet....

Easy spray paint makeover of a dresser - no primer required!

Take everyday items from ordinary to extraordinary! Krylon can give your everyday objects a new life with an assortment of colors, finishes, and textures. For more information, visit our website, follow us on Pinterest, or like us on Facebook.


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