Bringing Baby to the Beach

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #JumpIntoSummer #CollectiveBias

Summertime has arrived here in Hawaii and we are finding ourselves at the beach more than ever.

Yes, even with a newborn.

For a little while, our tradition of surfing on Thursday nights with friends was the only beach time we were fitting in each week but as the temperatures are rising we have been trading in our park days for beach days and squeezing in weekend trips too.

Weekend beach time is extra sweet because Alex gets to come with us.

Yes, it’s a lot of work. Packing up (what feels like) the entire house, loading it – and the kids – into the van, unloading it at the beach, setting up camp, tearing down camp, bringing it all back to the van, washing off the kids, dressing the kids, taking care of the wet, sandy stuff at home (tired yet?).

But it is SO worth it.

I love watching Lyla and Simon’s confidence in the water grow. Alex took Simon out on his surfboard for the first time this week – how cool is that?

I love the quiet time that I get with Etta Rae as I sit with her in the shade.

I love seeing the smiles on the faces of my family and hearing them laugh.

I love watching Lyla and Simon play. They sit in the sand together and make “soup”. They chase birds and each other. They play peek-a-boo with their baby sister. They just have fun.

So much goodness.

I know a lot of you mamas out there will have fresh babes this summer and the thought of bringing them to the beach/pool/any body of water is daunting. Especially if you have older children too. But, mama, you can do it! Whether you are taking them solo or will have extra hands around to help, here are my “must have” items for bringing baby to the beach…

  1. Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) for the kids. My number one concern when taking the kids to the beach is safety. The first thing that I do when we get to the beach is put a Puddle Jumper® life jacket on Lyla and Simon. They both know not to go in/near the water without an adult but having them wear their Puddle Jumper® life jacket gives me peace of mind while I set up our camp. We started using the Puddle Jumper® life jacket with Lyla last summer and recently went back to Target to get Simon his own. The kids love them because they are easy to put on (just slide their arms through and clip the adjustable buckle in the back), they are comfortable (the woven polyester material makes them softer and prevents chafing) and they totally give them confidence in the water.  I love them because they have been approved by the US Coast Guard as a PFD and they have antimicrobial properties built in to resist odor causing bacteria from building up (yuck!).
  2. Designated space for baby. A playard works great at the beach because it offers you a solid surface to put baby down that is away from curious, sandy fingers. We bring a fitted crib sheet to put over the top to keep bugs and sand out and give an extra layer of sun protection.
  3. Water and snacks. Our kids (OK, fine – me too) love to snack at the beach. Taking a nice snack break in between playing and swimming usually buys us more beach time. I try to pack a healthy variety into a bunch of small containers so that if a wet, sandy hand finds its way inside we don’t lose it all.
  4. Baby powder. Even if you rinse your kids off in the ocean or the beach shower and physically carry them straight to the car, they will somehow find a way to cover themselves in sand from head to toe. To make sure you leave the beach at the beach – and to save your car from becoming a crazy, sandy mess – put some baby powder wherever the sand is stuck to your kids and it will brush right off. Seriously, magic.
  5. Water resistant blanket. If your kids are anything like mine, they will constantly be bringing you sand “ice cream cones” and treasures that they find in the water. Having a water resistant blanket helps keep your butt comfy and makes it easier to brush the sand away too 😉
  6. Re-sealable plastic bag. I make sure to have a few of these in different sizes. The sandwich size is perfect for keeping my phone safe. The gallon size makes a great diaper pail.
  7. Sun protection. Duh, right? Make sure you have sunblock and don’t forget to reapply!!
  8. Camera. Point and shoot, iPhone, DSLR, Polaroid – whatever you use, use it! Make sure to capture these special moments with your family.
  9. Baby blankets. Lots and lots of baby blankets. Because inevitably, the blankets are going to get wet/sandy/spilled on/etc. and you don’t want to wrap up baby in a dirty blanket.
  10. A giant beach bag. One big enough to throw everything inside.

If you want to pick up a Puddle Jumper® life jacket for your child this summer, you can find them at Target! They fit children 30-50 pounds and have lots of fun designs for kids.

What is your “must have” item for a trip to the beach?

 

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DIY Thanksgiving Wreath

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #HappyThanksGathering #CollectiveBias

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I love Thanksgiving. The food, the traditions, the nostalgia – all of it. It’s the perfect kick-off to the busy holiday season and something that I look forward to every year.

Since getting married four years ago, I have been telling my husband that I can’t wait to host Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, between not having a big enough space and our traveling to see other family, I haven’t had my chance yet.

This year, I will be much too pregnant to travel off-island and we have a home large enough to host family and friends so it looks like I’m finally getting my chance!

To say that I am excited is an understatement but I’m trying hard not to go overboard with the planning and preparation.

My main goal when doing any kind of hosting is comfort. No matter how great your kitchen and decorating skills are, your guests will eventually forget what you served them to eat, but they will always remember how you made them feel. That’s why creating an authentically warm, relaxing, and comfortable environment is key.

I feel most at peace in my own home when things are tidied up. I know that my guests will feed off of my energy, so I will be spending some time sprucing up the main living areas of our home before the big day to make sure that I am able to relax.  The last time I was at Walmart, I picked up a few of my clean-house essentials: Scrubbing Bubbles® Toilet Cleaning Gel, Scrubbing Bubbles® Disinfectant Bathroom Cleaner and Windex® Original Glass Wipes. (Bonus: there is an awesome rebate going on right now which saves you $5 on your holiday photos)

PRODUCTS

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Cleaning up the house, especially when you have a meal to plan/cook is a big job but with the right cleaning products and some holiday tunes turned up nice and loud it’s a big, fun job.

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^My brother kindly demonstrating how easy and fun cleaning the bathroom with the Windex® Original Glass Wipes is. Isn’t he the best?

After the house is clean, and before I get to cooking, I’ll make sure that our house is decorated festively for the occasion with some traditional items and a special Thanksgiving wreath.

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We all know to expect the “what are you thankful for” activity at the Thanksgiving dinner table but none of us likes to be put on the spot, right? I know I don’t. I think this is especially true when sitting around the table with strangers or a new group of people. (think your first Thanksgiving with your significant other’s family or maybe a group of your parent’s colleagues) but also applies to those dining with family and loved ones that they see all of the time.

Even though I have SO much to be thankful for, and love spending time reflecting on them, my naturally introverted self sometimes cringes at situations like these. To combat that awkwardness, and to make sure that all of my guests feel comfortable this Thanksgiving, I created this wreath that we will incorporate during dinner time.

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The wreath is already hanging above our piano. Underneath, I have a box with pre-cut “thanks” circles and some pieces of leather cord. The idea is that from now until Thanksgiving, anyone who comes into my house can write down what they are thankful for and tie it onto the wreath. Guests who are here only for the day will have their opportunity to write down what they are thankful for while they are mingling and waiting for our meal.

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During dinner, I will remove all of the circles from the wreath, divide them equally amongst our guests and we will take turns reading off what we are all thankful for. Of course, anybody can share more if they are so inclined but I believe that by having this anonymous way of sharing what we are thankful for will ensure that all of my guests feel comfortable, welcomed and pressure-free.

Sounds great, right? If you want to make a Thanksgiving wreath of your own, please feel free to download this free printable which gives you twelve “thanks” circles per page. Once you have the circles printed and cut out, punch a single hole into the top of the circle, cut some string and lay those items out with some pens.

I have so much to be thankful for this year – our wreath is going to be pretty full by the time Thanksgiving rolls around. I’m looking forward to it! That and, of course, the food. You can find more #HappyThanksgathering inspiration here. 

 

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Caramel Apple and Pecan Pie Marshmallows

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BakeInTheFun #CollectiveBias

caramel apple pecan pie marshmallows

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s been a busy week here at the Byrd house. We moved into our new place and have been spending every minute getting it unpacked and feeling like home.

Well, almost every minute. 

I’ve also been spending some time getting acquainted with our new kitchen and, judging by how these caramel apple and pecan pie marshmallows turned out, I think we are going to get along just fine. 

Making your own marshmallows is incredibly satisfying. I first tried last year and was so surprised that I didn’t need any special kind of equipment or anything. Just a few pots and pans and my stand mixer. Don’t have a stand mixer? Don’t let that discourage you! You can totally make your own batch of marshmallows using an electric hand mixer too and, when you are done making the marshmallows, you can come back and enter the MARS Bake In The Fun Sweepstakes for a chance to win your own! 

 

MARS Bake In The Fun Sweepstakes

 

To make these caramel apple and pecan pie marshmallows, you are going to start by gathering your ingredients. You will need: Mott’s® Apple Juice, 2 packets of unflavored gelatin, a package of a Pillsbury™ Moist Supreme® Cake Mix, granulated sugar, confectioner’s sugar, caramel, vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt and a package of M&M’s® Pecan Pie. 

I had the gelatin and sugar already, but was able to find everything else at Walmart. 

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In a bowl, combine 2 packets of gelatin mix with 8 Tablespoons of cold apple juice and set aside. While that is setting, grease an 8×8 pan with butter and sprinkle with a coating of confectioner’s sugar. 

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In a saucepan, combine 1/3 cup of cold water with 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar. Stir, over medium heat, until the sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the gelatin mixture to the pan and whisk until boiling. 

Once you have that mixture boiling, pour it into the bowl of your mixer and let cool for about 10 minutes. When cooled, add 1 tsp vanilla extract along with 1/4 each of salt and cinnamon. Start mixing on medium speed for about 10-15 minutes, or until mixture is white, shiny and thick. 

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At this point, your kitchen will smell perfectly fallish. You can thank me later. 

Pour your marshmallow mix into your pan, sprinkle with more confectioner’s sugar and put into the fridge to set for a few hours. Oh, and make sure to call dibs on the spatula before anyone else beats you to it. Again, you can thank me later. 

Once you have let them cool completely, it’s time for the fun part! 

I suggest cutting them into squares before you add your toppings. Once cut, drizzle a bunch of caramel sauce on top and then add a whole lotta M&M’s®. When they look something like this…

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…you’re done. 

Now, you could just leave these alone and eat them as they are. Or you could take it to the next level and turn them into a filling for a nice, fall s’more. 

Yep, I went there. 

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Get one of these bad boys sandwiched between two layers of a Pillsbury™ Moist Supreme® Cake and you’ve got yourself a little slice of fall heaven. 

You’re welcome. 

Tons of other bloggers are sharing their favorite fall recipes here and I know that I am looking forward to trying some of them out while breaking in our new kitchen. Which one would you try first?

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rocco + lyla = bffs

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.
#1StopPetShop #CollectiveBias

Iams-Rocco

Before we started our family, I used to think about how cool it was that Rocco would (most likely) be our kids’ first dog. I imagined them growing up together, playing in the yard and family walks. It wasn’t until towards the end of my pregnancy with Lyla that I started to get a little worried about how he was going to handle having tiny humans in the house. 

Looking back, I feel silly because I should have known he would be a rock star. He has been with us through so many big moments in our life – engagement, marriage, a move to Hawaii – and never gave us any trouble. Luckily, the expansion of our family proved to be no different.

From the minute we brought Lyla home, he was smitten. He naturally took on the protector role and didn’t want to leave her side. When visitors came to the house, he was so proud of his new friend and always tried to show her off. He immediately became her constant companion, trading snuggle time with mom on the couch for tummy time on the floor with Lyla. Anytime we asked him if he would like to go on a walk, he would run to her stroller to see if we had put her in yet. He totally fell in love with her and we were so glad. 

^ Rocco and Lyla’s first walk together

The best thing is that Lyla fell in love with him too. It has been so special to watch their relationship grow. She has always been interested in interacting with him, but even more so now that she grasps the concept of fetch and play. One of her favorite ways to play with Rocco now is by checking out his teeth (future Dentist?!). She will lift up his gums, see his pearly whites and just laugh. It’s the sweetest. She also loves to play fetch with him out in the yard. Her throws are more like drops but Rocco loves it just the same. 

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Rocco brings our family so much joy that we want to make sure we are doing everything that we can to take good care of him. And a big part of that is keeping him well-fed. Of course, our version of “well-fed” and Lyla’s version of “well-fed” are a little bit different. She seems to think that feeding him right from the high chair is the way to go. Which is exactly the reason why we make it a priority to feed him a well-balanced diet. 

We recently started feeding Rocco IAMS dry dog food. As a brand, IAMS believes that the right diet can do amazing things for your pet’s health and well-being, including boosting their immunity, maintaining muscle and promoting healthy digestion. Their specially formulated food helps aid weight loss/control as well which is important for us now that we have a little one sneaking Rocco treats all day long. Knowing that IAMS is committed to keeping Rocco healthy and strong for our family for years to come makes me a happy mama. 

You know what else makes me a happy mama? Shopping at Target. And the fact that I can pick up not only our essentials (and other fun goodies that always mysteriously find their way into my cart – does that happen to you?) but Rocco’s too. It truly is a one stop shop which is a major time (and sanity) saver.  

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If you want to make the switch to IAMS dog or cat food for your furry friend, Target makes it easy for you. There is a huge selection of IAMS products available in (of course) the pet section. Major props to the Target team members in Kailua – the store was SO clean, all of the shelves were organized and stocked, it was great. I mean, look how happy Lyla was 😉

Right now you can take advantage of extra savings with the Cartwheel app. From now until July 25 all IAMS dog food (wet and dry) is 10% using this coupon. Not a dog person? No worries! You can share the IAMS love with your cat too with these coupons – until July 11th, dry cat food is 10% off and wet cat food is 5% off

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We are so thankful that we have such a patient, loving pup that doesn’t mind taking on the role of Lyla’s built-in BFF. How did your pet handle your growing family? How do you reward them? I would love to hear about it! 

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fathers day car care scavenger hunt

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

 #TheGiftOfClean #CollectiveBias

armor-all-scavenger-hunt

Father’s Day is right around the corner, and I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity to spoil my husband. He works really hard to provide for our family and I appreciate him so very much.

One of my favorite things about our relationship is how we balance each other out – it makes life together so much simpler. Our balancing act is really evident in our chore-doings. He doesn’t like folding clothes and I’m pretty particular about how it’s done. I love to grocery shop, he would rather pass. I really don’t enjoy any kind of car maintenance, so he always picks up the slack on that. 

But I decided to give him a break last weekend and surprised him with a clean truck, fun scavenger hunt, and a bucket full of Armor All products that will make his job of preserving and protecting the appearance (and value!) of our cars a little easier. 

I found the Armor All Car Care Gift Pack at our local Walmart store. It was displayed nicely on a end-cap in the automative department which made it really easy to find. 

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Setting up the scavenger hunt was really simple. I grabbed some blank cards from my stationery stash and sat down with the bucket of goodies. I was really excited about the booklet that came with all of the products because it explained to me what exactly each product did and gave some pro tips on how to use them which made coming up with clues a lot easier. 

armor-all-scavenger-huntAfter all the clues were written and the products were hidden around the yard, I asked my husband to meet me outside. He started at his truck with clue #1 and the empty bucket and followed the clues while collecting all of the different Armor All products.

For each stop on the hunt, I came up with a short rhyme about the product that he was adding to his collection and then sent him on his way to the next stop. My clues were totally cheesy and borderline embarrassing but my husband insisted that I share some with you. And since this is part of his Father’s Day celebration, I guess I have to comply…

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Clue #1: Surprise! Your truck is clean – but there is more, you’ll see what I mean. Take this big bucket and follow my clues – it’s Saturday morning, you’ve got nothing to lose. First stop is a big, white box that, when loaded unevenly – shakes, rattles and rocks. 

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Clue #2: You found the tire shine – some may say it’s extreme (side note: the product he found is Armor All Extreme Tire Shine – HA) now your truck will have tires that are protected and clean. Next stop is up by the road – we use it daily and it’s the color of a toad. 

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Totally cheesy right? But they got the point across and we shared lots of laughs as he read each clue so it was tons of fun. The best part is he now has a huge bucket filled with awesome Armor All products that he is excited to use. 

If you have a dad in your life who enjoys working on cars, then this is an awesome gift idea for this Father’s Day. The price was already a steal but you can save a few extra dollars with this coupon while supplies last. 

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Do you have any fun plans for celebrating the special dads in your life this year? I would love to hear about them! 

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