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Connecting With Your Kids After School

This post was sponsored by OREO as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own. 

When my kids come home from school, it's important for me to connect with them about there day. Whether that be with simple questions like, "what did you have for lunch?", or more in depth things like, "What did you like most, and what did you like least about the day?". I know a lot of parents struggle with getting their kids to open up about what's going on in their lives, but someone told me years ago if you get your kid at the table, and give them a snack, they'll open right up. That's something we've definitely tried to make a part of our family culture since the kids have been in school the last few years. 

OREO has been a long time favorite in our snack line up, whether it's their original flavor, a fun holiday themed treat, or their two new flavors: OREO Dark Chocolate and OREO Carrot Cake Cookies, we're big fans of them all. The OREO Dark Chocolate will help you embrace the darkness and add a dose of playful excitement to the shorter and colder days ahead, while the OREO Carrot Cake are a new twist on an old favorite cookie enjoyed by millions around the world. 

OREO is celebrating, "The Stuf Inside" at Walmart with fun events happening at your local Walmart stores on on February 14th through February 17th. These events will include in-store sampling of the OREO Dark Chocolate Cookies and OREO Carrot Cake Cookies, fun games, giveaways, and free swag items! To find a store near you, visit OREOStuf.com

While you're at your local Walmart store, be sure to pick up some after school snacks that your kids will love, and make that time after school each day as special as possible. It used to be a time of day that I really dreaded, but now it's a time that I've come to look forward to and embrace. Our time at home with our kids is so quick and fleeting, I love being able to soak in as much of it as possible, even if it's just a few minutes over an afternoon snack before we get into the throws of homework and dinner making. 

How do you connect with your kids after school? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below! 

Prepping For Your Basement Remodel

It may be the season to hole up and stay warm, but it’s also the season for change. New Year is just
around the corner, which means a time for resolution and doing something new and different with your life.
A basement remodel is a way to make a change in your home while giving your home the value you never
had before. So far, planning a huge basement remodel has probably been at the forefront of your mind
because of the end result. Perhaps you’re installing a whole new bedroom suite. Maybe you’re
making your basement into a space for the children to kick back and chill out together. Either way, you want
to focus on your newly finished basement and the changes that you need to make to the space that you have.
The thing is, a space like the basement requires a lot of preparation and this means you’ll need to work closely
with the experts to get it right.

Preparation tasks can get lost in the job at hand, which is why it’s smart to have a plan before you get started.
If you don’t pay attention to the preparation that you need to do for your basement remodel, you’re going to
find it much harder to get to that end result. It’s therefore important to go through the following preparation
steps for your basement remodel:

Person Holding Pen Point On Blueprint

Leave Some Space Unfinished
It may sound insane to get through the entire remodel only to leave some of it unfinished, because it’s
natural to want to finish the entire thing in one go. You wouldn't want to leave a corner of the basement
without finishing it when you’ve spent a lot of time and money making it into the perfect space for you.
The thing is, there’s a bit of the basement that houses the HVAC and the water heater, and these things
should be kept open. It’s not just for leaving somewhere open for fun, it’s because of repairs and
inspections later on. Don’t panic; there won’t be a giant gray space with nothing in it. Plan a half-wall or
a curtain to hide the utility area away instead!

Check For Water Issues
The basement is the one place in the house that’s susceptible to flooding, it’s why we invest in waterproofing.
Flooding and leaks could be detrimental to the basement, as you well know, and if you don’t identify potential
water issues before you begin working on the basement remodel, you could end up going to all that work for
no reason and wasting your cash doing it. All that, because you didn’t take the right steps to protect your
basement from water damage which can happen in the winter and with heavy snow and rain. Look at the
foundation walls, because these will tell you if there are any cracks that you need to get fixed. If you have
a problem with the gradient of your lawn, it’s worth spending the extra to level that away from the basement,
too. This will stop water from pooling and causing damage.

Think About Drop Ceilings
Most people plan a basement remodel with a drop ceiling. These can offer the best way to conceal duct work
while still giving you easy access to the electrical lines and pipes. Drop ceilings are often associated with
warehouses and office buildings, but that doesn't mean that you cannot have an attractive style in your home.
Measuring up for your remodel and choosing the decor for the space in your basement means taking into
account the post-drop ceiling height. Don’t use the current height or your measurements will be off and you
would have poured money into it for no reason.

Man Jumping in Front of House

Outlet Installation
As part of your planning, you need to factor in the installation of new outlets. This is because your space
will be designed to power in new places. Most basements don’t have much in the way of outlets but you
can change that with yours. Determine where these will go before you start the actua remodel. You can
do these yourself, but for the sake of ease, it’s always better to bring in an electrician.

Don't Forget Your Permits
It doesn't matter whether you are doing all the repairs and remodelling yourself, you will need a permit for
the work you undertake. The type of permit you need depends on the scale of the job that needs doing.
There are building codes that you need to adhere to as well as zoning laws in the area, and once you've
drawn all your plans up, you need to speak to your city office about the process in your city.

Waste Needs Removing
When you are undertaking such a large project, it’s bound to come with a little mess. It’s likely that you
won’t be able to put too much of it out at the curb for trash pickup, but there will also be stuff that you cannot
put onto the curb, either. The huge cleanup that you undertake as part of your remodel will also generate
a lot of rubbish that will need to be taken care of, too. Speaking to a dumpster rental company will probably
be the easiest way to handle all the debris, and you can also make sure that you’re not taking out your
remodel on the environment.

Sell Your Junk
As part of your remodel, you’ll have to clean out the basement from top to bottom. Clearing the junk is an
absolute must and you need to ensure that you get rid of the things that you no longer want in the right way.
Sell what you don’t want or need and you need a concrete plan and timeline of how you will go through all
the things that you stored in the basement in the first place.

A finished basement with a function is a good addition to any home, and while the remodel is a huge job,
the preparation is important before you even get started. Get the prep done right the first time and you can
start to enjoy your new space.

Tips For Helping Your Kids Celebrate The Chinese New Year

This post was sponsored by Ling Ling. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Now that are kids are getting older, it's fun to be able to celebrate all the little holidays in big or small ways, and teach the kids about other cultures whenever we get the chance. The Chinese New Year is coming up on February 5th, and I've been looking forward to finding small and simple ways to talk to the kids about the Chinese culture and make a fun little afternoon together. 

Introduce Chinese Food
One easy way to experience a culture is through food. Our family loves Chinese food, and we've been fans of Ling Ling Potstickers since Kinsley was just a little toddler. She had the hardest time learning to chew and swallow, and Ling Ling Potstickers were one of her few safe foods for the longest time, so our kids have grown up always having them in the house. Ling Ling provides authentic Asian recipes bursting with flavor, made with high quality, clean ingredients, like freshly sourced vegetables. I love that they're super easy to prepare, making them perfect for families and little eaters! 

I also love that these come in a wide variety of flavors. They have Chicken, Pork, and Vegetable flavored pot stickers meaning that there is something for everyone in our family, since we each have our own food preferences. 

Quick and Easy Art Projects
I'm a very low prep mom, so if I'm going to do a project with my kids, it has to be simple. A great way to learn about the Chinese New Year would be to print off some coloring sheets to do with the kids. Just google, "Chinese New Year Coloring Sheets 2019", and there will be tons of options for you. Also, since this is the year of the pig, you could also make some pig masks with your kids to wear out of construction paper or other things you have around the house. 

Checkout Chinese New Year Books From the Library
A final great way to teach your kids about the Chinese New Year and Culture is through books. Books can give your kids the imagery and a jumping ground for their imaginations to do a lot of creative work. Check your local library to see what books they have on hand that talk about the Chinese New Year. You will be surprised by how many titles there are that are geared to young audiences!

Do you celebrate the Chinese New Year with your family? I'd love to know what you do in your homes in the comments below! 

Breakfast Waffles Three Different Ways

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

Hover over the image above to shop these products!

Now that January is almost over, I'm sure there is am large divide between people who have kept and are maintaining their resolutions, and those who have lost hope and given up. If one of your resolutions was to eat healthier this year, and you've had more slip ups then you'd like, remember that you don't have to change everything all at once. You can make healthy swaps here and there until you've made it more of a routine and a habit, instead of an all or nothing goal. 

For instance, if you love eating Eggo Waffles in the morning, (and I mean, who doesn't?!), then instead of buying the original ones, swap them out on your next Walmart Grocery Pickup order with their Eggo Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat Waffles. Each serving has 8g of whole grains and only 2 grams of sugar. They're also made with no artificial colors or flavors, and are a great source of fiber to start your day. 

I love taking something that the kids love to eat in the morning, and making an adult version of it for myself. Eggo Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat Waffles are a great base for creating an indulgent and wholesome breakfast for yourself! 

If I'm in the mood for something savory, then I'll turn my Eggo Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat Waffles into an avocado toast. I'll top it with half of a smashed avocado, some cracked salt and pepper, and some sliced cherry tomatoes to give it a savory, elevated flavor. If I'm looking for something a little more sweet, I'll do some all natural peanut butter with sliced bananas and a sprinkle of chia seeds. If I want something light and fruity, I'll do a spoonful of coconut yogurt, with some strawberries and blueberries on top. The options are endless, and there are so many ways that you can use Eggo Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat Waffles to get your morning started on the right foot. 

Banana, Chia Seeds, and Peanut Butter
Avocado, Tomatoes, Salt and Pepper
Strawberries, Blueberries, and Coconut Yogurt

Prepare your Eggo Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat Waffles as stated on the box, and then top with your favorite flavor combination! 

Quick and Easy Vegan Black Bean Soup

One of my favorite memories with Kyle was the year before Kinsley was born. Derek was working full time and going to school full time, which meant that even though he wasn't working on the weekends, he still had loads of school work to catch up on.

After a few months of this, I started taking Kyle with me on weekly dates to Panera for lunch on Saturday afternoons. We would always get a bowl of black bean soup, and a grilled cheese sandwich to split between the two of us, and then we would get our grocery shopping done at the nearby Trader Joes. It was such a simple thing, but it seriously brought me so much joy.

I love black bean soup, and it always reminds me of those few months with Kyle, but we never actually eat it at home. We finally made some last week and it did not disappoint. It was easy to make with a few simple ingredients, and it will definitely be a repeat meal in our home for a long time! 

2 tbsp. olive oil 
2 medium yellow onions, chopped 
3 celery ribs, chopped fine 
1 large carrot, sliced 
6 garlic cloves, pressed or minced 
4 ½ tbsp. ground cumin 
½ tbsp. red pepper flakes 
4 cans of black beans (15-ounce) drained and rinsed 
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth 
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional) 
1 fresh lime, juiced 
Salt Ground black pepper, to taste Optional garnishes: diced avocado 

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until shimmering. 
2. Add the onions, celery and carrot and a light sprinkle of salt. Cook; stir often, for about 10 to 15 minutes. 
3. Stir in the garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute. 
4. Pour in the beans and broth and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. 
5. Maintain a simmer, and cook until the beans are tender, this should take about 30 minutes. 
6. Remove about 4 cups of the soup in a blender and pulse until smooth. *Be careful the steam that is coming out of the blender is extremely hot* 
7. Return the blended soup to the pot. 
8. Add in some cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. Cook for another 45 seconds after adding in the ingredients. 
9. Serve.

Mushroom and Pea Risotto with Bone Broth

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

If you're spent anytime over here, or on my Instagram since the New Year, you would know that we've done a complete 180ยบ in terms of the types of foods we're making and consuming, and that our major goal is to just fill ourselves with nutritious foods so that we feel good from the inside out. 

Over the last year or so, I've been hearing about all the major benefits of incorporating bone broth into your routine, and so I've been looking for ways that I can add it into my family's meals to give them a boost of nutrients. At only 50-60 calories per serving, Kitchen Basics bone broth has 10g of protein per 8.25 ounces, which is 20% of the daily recommendation. Made from real bones and organic vegetables, Kitchen Basics bone broth has a richer and bolder flavor than other traditional broths, and it's the only brand certified "heart healthy" by the American Heart Association.

With all these benefits, it's easy to see why someone would want to add this to their diet! I made this mushroom and pea risotto the other night incorporating the Kitchen Basics Beef Bone Broth from some added flavor and protein, and it was a huge hit with the kids.  You could easily change up the flavor though by using either the Chicken or Chicken with Turmeric & Ginger bone broths to give your dinner a different depth and taste. 

Ordering Kitchen Basics bone broth has never been easier. Simply log into Amazon with your Amazon Prime account and use your two day shipping to have it sent directly to your door! I feel like I'm constantly forgetting things every time I go to the grocery store, so I love taking advantage of when I can have things shipped directly to my house!

8 oz mushrooms, sliced
Vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
2 cups Kitchen Basics Bone Broth (flavor of choice)
2 cups water
1 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan on medium heat, toss in 1 tablespoon of oil, with the mushrooms, garlic, and salt, and allow to cook until the mushrooms have shrunk, and are tender and soft. Remove from skillet and set aside in a bowl until later. 

Pour your dry arborio rice into the pan, and toss it in the remaining oil and juices from the mushrooms. Allow the rice to toast for 2-3 minutes, until the edges become transparent. Over medium heat, add in one cup of broth at a time. Allowing each cup to reduce and be absorbed by the rice, and constantly stirring before adding in the next cup. 

Once you've used both cups of bone broth, then add in one cup of water at a time, using the same method. One cup at a time, stir and simmer until it's absorbed, and add in the next cup. 

Once all the liquid is absorbed into the rice, and it's cooked to your desired tenderness, toss in the mushrooms and peas, and cook until the peas are warmed all the way through. Season with salt and pepper as desired, and serve immediately. 

All About Our Rescue Dog Chester

Getting a dog is such a big moment for any family, and it's seriously the biggest commitment. You're literally bringing another life into your home. We've gone back and forth so many times on whether or not we were going to get a dog, and almost have so many different times in the last 8 years, but the timing never really felt right.

We really wanted to get the kids a dog for Christmas this year, and even had a deposit on a golden-doodle that we were going to pick up on Christmas Eve. We had heard so many things about poodles and golden-doodles being such great dogs for kids with special needs, and their so dang cute, we thought for sure whatever we wound up getting was going to be a poodle of some sort.

I was talking to a few friends who had recently gotten poodles/golden-doodles as pets, and they all told me how hard the first year was and how difficult and stressful house training was. One friend even told me that they legitimately were depressed over how difficult the first year was. I'm assuming that this isn't limited to just poodles, and that training a puppy is difficult no matter which breed.

After thinking about how stressful our lives already were with me being in school and working, and Derek working, and having one kid with special needs, and one kid who is very accident prone, adding the stress of puppy training just didn't make sense for us. We got back the deposit money that we had put down on the golden-doodle and started looking for dogs that were already trained.

We looked into service dogs, but they can be an investment of over $20,000, which seemed ludicrously expensive. After thinking about it we came to realize that we wanted more of a family pet than a service dog, so we started looking into getting a dog that was already house trained. An already trained poodle, that wasn't even a service dog still would cost us around $5,000 which we definitely didn't want to spend.

Finally, we got the idea in our head that dogs at the shelter were likely older than a puppy, and would likely have just enough training that we wouldn't feel like we were starting from ground zero. We found what looked like a very cute yellow lab online at a nearby shelter, and decided that was 100% our dog, and took the kids out of school to go and get it Tuesday afternoon.

When we got to the shelter, we quickly learned that the yellow lab was a lot more massive than he appeared to be in the picture, and to be honest,  I was slightly terrified of it. We'd come this far though so when Derek was questioning if this was the dog we really wanted Kyle and I both hesitantly were saying yes, but I definitely did not want to actually bring that dog home. It was just way too big, and too wild.

We looked across the hall and saw a room where the smaller dogs were held, and Derek went in there with the kids while I took the yellow lab back to it's kennel. When I got back, Kinsley was completely enamored with this black little terrier, and even Derek was really into him. Derek had been so picky about breeds this entire process, so I was shocked when he was totally loving on this little dog that looked like the epitome of a scrappy little shelter dog.

Within two minutes we all knew that this dog was meant for our family. We signed on the dotted line, and took him home. Since being home we've noticed that he really is trained pretty well. He's peed a few times in the house, but it was on some of the kids toys and my clothes which was more of an annoyance of him marking his territory than it was him having an accident.

He just loves being around us and is laying at our feet or on a pillow in whatever room we're in. He sleeps through the night in his kennel really well, and totally follows Derek around the house like he's his master. The kids have been so soft and gentle with him, and he loves laying by Kinsley while she plays with her toys in the morning while I get my work done.

If we were going to get a dog, we really couldn't have asked for a better fit for our family. He really is super mellow, chill, and goes with the flow. He's also not hyper at all which we love.

His name is Winchester Newton Flamm. We named him after my seventh great grandfather. We found the name when we were doing genealogy one day before we got married and agreed that it was an awesome dog name, and that if we ever had a dog, that Winchester Newton would certainly be his name.  He's a 1-3-year-old terrier mix which is really all we know about him. But he's perfect for us, and is here to stay.