Best Dressed Home Sweepstakes

*Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Kmart.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Growing up, my mom always decorated our house for the holidays.  I remember helping her put on the window decals of Jewish stars, menorahs, and dreidels.  She set out festive afghans and took out every menorah our family owned, which grew throughout the years, as did our dreidel collection.  Old family photos from previous Chanukahs were shown, and each of the eight nights our family came together to light the candles, say the blessings, play dreidel, open gifts, read books, and enjoy each other’s company.

1985 chanukah

my first chanukah

Truthfully, I’m not a decorator.  At all.  I don’t have an eye for it nor is it something I enjoy.  Besides a themed dish towel or two, you will never find a decoration in our home for any holiday.  However, when Kmart approached me asking to share their Best Dressed Home Sweepstakes and offered to give me a gift card to purchase holiday decorations, I was actually excited. I thought this could start my own collection of holiday decorations.

Off to the store I went in search of Chanukah or winter decorations.  I knew they wouldn’t be as plentiful as Christmas items, but I figured I could find a few things to adorn my house.  To be honest, the store was primarily Christmas-only decorations.  They were many pretty items, but as a Jew who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, they weren’t going to work for me.  The cases of ornaments did catch my eye, though, and I began thinking I could put them in a large bowl or vase.  I didn’t purchase them at the store since I wanted to see what else was available online. Online had a much larger selection and I picked out a few items. Now keep in mind what I told you: I’m not a decorator.  I figured I’d start small and just set out a few items this year and grow my collection (and decorating skills) from there.  Though my little Chanukah table is simple, I think it’s still pretty.

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(For the record, I do have a “real” menorah that we light each night, but it’s covered in wax and didn’t look as nice in the picture.)

The box of 30 shatterproof ornaments I got was just a little over five dollars.  Clearly I don’t buy ornaments on the regular, but I thought that was a great value.  I want to get a package of blue, too.  I also ordered an Interfaith Decorations Deluxe Hanukkah Tree Topper, but it hasn’t arrived yet.  I might have missed the “tree topper” part when ordering because I thought it just looked like a pretty Jewish star decoration! #newbiedecorator

hanukkah topper

Doesn’t have to go on a tree; it’ll look nice on a table, I’m sure!

Kmart and Sears recently conducted a survey and found that:

  • 1 in 4 Americans will begin to deck the halls one month before the holiday.
  • 41% of Americans defined their signature design as “classic,” followed by “colorful” (37%) and “vintage” (12%).
  • More than half (58%) of participants felt the most essential decoration for the holidays was the Christmas tree
  • Nearly 25% of Americans choose decorating as their favorite holiday activity, with listening to Christmas music and shopping as other favorites.

My thoughts?  I definitely don’t decorate a month before; I’m the biggest procrastinor all the time.  I just set up my little Chanukah table this week.  Chanukah started this week.. My signature design?  Hmm, I suppose I am “vintage wannabe.”  Obviously the Christmas tree is not the most essential decoration for me.  For me, it’s the menorah.  My favorite holiday activity is definitely spending time with the family!

tbt chaunkah

big family celebrations during the holidays are the best!

To celebrate the uniqueness of this holiday tradition, Sears and Kmart are launching the Best Dressed Home Sweepstakes to capture how you and others across the US are decorating.

  • Between 11/17-12/26, visit http://bit.ly/BestDressedHomeSweeps answer the poll questions and upload a photo of your home decked out for the holidays for a chance to win Shop Your Way points.
  • 60 people will instantly win $50 in Shop Your Way points—you can enter daily!
  • 1 grand prize winner will win 1 million Shop Your Way points.

It really is super easy to enter and most of you probably take pictures of your holiday decorations anyway!

Since it’s Thursday, let’s take a look at a couple more Throwback Thursday Chanukah pictures.  (I LOVE looking at old photos!)

1997 chanukah

gotta love those awkward years! ;-)

Some cuter tbt Chanukah pictures:

1989 chanukah

I think this was 1989.  We were celebrating Chanukah at my grandparents’ house, and their bar area is still set up the same way!  Gotta love my dad’s ‘stache, my mom’s tennis outfit, Justin and I are both in overalls, Stephanie looks exactly like her son Jacob, and Jason, the oldest of us all, is too cool for pictures.  Do you see a slight William resemblance in Justin?  When William was a tiny baby, I always said that I thought he looked like Justin a little bit; I think this picture shows that.  I think it’s the cheeks, eyes, and eyebrows.

And one last one:

1992 chanukah

I think this was around 1992.  Everyone always got to light their own menorah (holding a candle with fire was a big deal when you were a kid!).  I love how Jason, Stephanie, and my dad all have the same shaped glasses.  I love that I’m wearing a robe because, still to do this day, I live in robes.  And I love that Justin is making a wolf sign with his fingers?  Why?  No one knows.

Do you decorate your home for the holidays?  What are some of your family’s holiday traditions?  Happy Chanukah to those that celebrate!

Mamma Chia GIVEAWAY

Happy Chanukah to all my friends who celebrate!  William saw the candles on the menorah being lit for the very first time last night.  All his firsts are so special.

first chaunkah

So much cuteness.  Always. And so many chins. Hehe, I love everything about that baby!

Now we’ll talk food.  Let’s do a little WIAW action today since it’s been awhile since that’s happened.  Big thanks to Jenn at Peas and Crayons for hosting, as always.  We’ll conclude the post with a Mamma Chia GIVEAWAY – it’s awesome, you just wait and see!

Breakfast: Cinnamon French Toast

french toast

never make french toast; I’m much more of a pancake girl.  For some reason, yesterday, I had a hankering for french toast, and it really takes no time to prepare at all.  Mornings are always rushed for me, but I always make sure I eat a substantial breakfast before my day at work.  I have to.  Breastfeeding + working = a hungry beast.  The combination of the cinnamon french toast, fresh blackberries, dollop of whipped cream, and syrup totally hit the spot.

I have one more breakfast to feature since both of these are so different than my typical egg sandwich that I’ve been eating for months now.

Breakfast: Cottage cheese, yogurt, Power O’s, & blackberries

breakfast bowl

This breakfast bowl packed quite a protein punch and tasted great, too!  It contained cottage cheese, strawberry yogurt, fresh blackberries, and Love Grown Foods Chocolate Power O’s.  Power O’s are made with navy beans, garbanzo beans, and lentils, but you’d never know.  They’re definitely the healthiest breakfast cereal around and come in four great flavors (chocolate, strawberry, honey, and original).

I have no lunch picture to show because I pack it in a tupperware container and haven’t had time to take a better looking picture of my lunches for this week. Last week, I felt like I had no time to grocery shop or food prep, so I ate PB&J’s all week which really didn’t work for me.  They kept me full for like thirty minutes and the rest of the day I was literally starving.  So over the weekend, I made it a priority to do some food prep, and baked a huge pan of chicken.  I throw together simple salads of spinach, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, chicken, and this new fig balsamic dressing I just bought at Whole Foods Market.  Like I said, it’s very simple, but keeps me full much longer than a PB&J.

Dinner: Latkes, salad, & salmon

dinner

My parents watched William yesterday, so we stayed the evening to light the Chanukah candles and for dinner which was faaaaantastic because my mom made latkes!  Perfect first night of Chanukah dinner!

Alright, now for this awesome Mamma Chia giveaway:  Mamma Chia recently sent me their new Clean Energy Beverages to try. One word: LOVE!  I’m always a huge fan of Mamma Chia products, and these drinks definitely did not disappoint.  They’re different than their vitality chia drinks because they contain caffeine (hence, the “energy” part in their name).  They come in four great flavors: Grape Power, Cherry Charge, Blackberry Blast, and Raspberry Razz.

mammachia

Mamma Chia’s Clean Energy Drink is the FIRST

Made with refreshing organic fruit juices and lightly sweetened with only 14 grams of organic cane sugar, one bottle of Mamma Chia Clean Energy (10 oz.) delivers:

  • More than an entire day’s worth of Omega-3s (2500 mg)
  • 25 percent of one’s daily fiber (6 grams)
  • 4 grams of complete protein
  • 90 mg of natural caffeine (about as much in an 8 oz. cup of coffee)
  • Twice the antioxidants of a cup of green tea
  • Calcium, powerful antioxidants and valuable minerals
  • 120 calories

I decided to try it for the first time over the weekend.  My niece Audrey had slept over, we stayed up late baking cookies with way too many sprinkles, William was up several times throughout the night, and they were both up bright and early in the morning.  I definitely needed a little kick to get the day going.  I’m a fan of these energy drinks.  Actually, they’re probably the only “energy drinks” that I do like.  They’re not too sweet and have the right amount of natural caffeine in it for me.  Since I’m breastfeeding, I limit my caffeine intake.  I will have a cup of coffee maybe once a week.  This beverage has the same amount of caffeine as one cup of coffee, but waaaay more benefits.  Omega-3s, fiber, protein, antioxidants, and calcium all in one drink?  Plus, tons of great flavor.  Oh yes!

mammachia1

Mamma Chia is graciously giving away a one week supply of Clean Energy beverages, a one week supply of Chia Squeezes, and a Mamma Chia Camelbak water bottle.  To enter this giveaway,  tell me which flavor of the Mamma Chia Clean Energy Beverage you’d most like to try.  For additional, optional entries:

  • On Twitter, follow Itz Linz and Mamma Chia and tweet the following, “I want to win a week’s supply of @MammaChia’s NEW organic Clean Energy Drink from @ItzLinz! http://wp.me/p2WMfo-2PQ #SeedYourSoul”
  • Follow Itz Linz and Mamma Chia on Instagram.

Be sure to leave a separate comment for each additional entry.  This giveaway will be open until Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014 at 8:00 pm CST.  The winner will be randomly selected and announced on Wednesday, December 24th. Good luck!

Gooey Butter Cookies Recipe

The Arch. The Cardinals. The Rams. The Blues. Delmar Loop.  The Hill.  Forest Park.  City Museum.  The Zoo.  Fabulous Fox.  Magic House. Imo’s Pizza.  Ted Drewes.  Gooey Butter Cake.  All things St. Louis.  I’m participating in the 4th annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, and I wanted to send a local goodie to my matches.  Since the Arch, Yadier Molina, frozen custard, or thin crust pizza aren’t very shippable, I decided to make Gooey Butter Cookies.

gooey butter recipe

The premise for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap is that you bake three dozen cookies and send a dozen each to three different bloggers while receiving three dozen cookies from other bloggers.  Lindsay at Love & Olive Oil and Julie at The Little Kitchen are the geniuses who host this cookie swap.

The most important part of the cookie swap is that it benefits Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer, which claims the lives of more children in the US than any other disease.  There was a required four dollar minimum donation required and 100% of the donations went directly to CFKC.  Also, big thanks to OXO, Dixie Crystals, California Olive Ranch and Brownie Brittle for sponsoring!

Last year I made Fudge Crinkle Cookies.

The cookies I received this year were delicious.  I shared some, but ate most myself. :)

cookies

As most of you know, I’m the queen of easy recipes.  If it’s too complicated, I’m out.  Time is precious these days, especially as a full time working mom.  My gooey butter cookies?  Super easy.  The dough should be refrigerated for a couple of hours, so I usually prepare the dough the day before, when I have time, then quickly assemble the cookies and pop them in the oven.  And then I eat all the cookies.  And the dough.

gooey butter cookies

Gooey Butter Cookies Recipe

~makes approximately 3 dozen small cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 box golden butter cake mix
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients (except powdered sugar).
  2. Chill for at least two hours.
  3. Roll into 1-inch balls and roll in powdered sugar.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes on 350.
  5. Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar when cooled.

gooey butter cookies1

Have you ever had gooey butter cake or cookies?

Linking up with Healthy Diva for Marvelous in my Monday.

Foodie Gift Guide

I love love love shopping for people and deciding what to get them for the holidays.  Giving is definitely more fun than receiving for me, especially when I find something that I know they’re going to love.  However, some people are just downright hard to shop for!  You know the ones… They’re the ones who have everything and need nothing.  Know what the perfect solution is? FOOD!  Everyone loves food, and these items make the perfect gift for even the hardest person to shop for!  Giving food items is unexpected, and most of the time, my recipients aren’t familiar with these brands, which makes it all the more fun.

These are also perfect if you need to do any last minute shopping.  Buy it online, print out a card, and it will be delivered to their house!  So easy. Best unique gift ever.

The Foodie Gift Guide of 2014

foodie gift guide

Note: This post is not sponsored. These are not affiliate links. I truly believe in these companies, spend my own money on them, and think they make great gifts.  I’ve gifted most of them already in the past!

foodie gift guide1

  • NatureBox: Deliciously fun, naturally easy snacks delivered to your door. This is a snack box subscription and you have the choice of gifting two months, five months, or ten months.  I love gifting subscriptions because it’s like the gift that keeps on giving.  Everyone eats snacks, and these are definitely not your typical snacks.  Plus, they’re healthy – bonus!
  • Sizzlefish: Pure natural seafood delivered to your door.  I gifted this to my brother and his wife for their wedding back in the summer.  They didn’t “need” anything else, and love cooking. Sizzlefish has several different options of fish such as the new product sampler, holiday sampler, or the paleo prime.
  • Perky Jerky: All natural, ultra premium beef or turkey jerky that contains NO nitrates, NO preservatives, and NO added MSG. All the boys in my family got this for gifts one year. There are four flavors, and none of them disappoint.  They make for a delicious, healthy snack.  And who doesn’t love jerky?
  • Blue Apron: Complete meals with 500-700 calories per serving, 35 minutes to prepare, pre-portioned ingredients to save time and reduce waste, easy to follow beautifully printed recipe cards. This is actually one company that I haven’t tried myself, but Lindsay and Courtney both reviewed it and I think it sounds like a really fun gift!  It eliminates the need to decide what’s for dinner, prepare a grocery list. or even go to the grocery store.  Everything you need comes to you!

And now for my peanut butter lovers…

foodie gift guide2

  • A Loving Spoon: Honey vanilla bourbon peanut butter. This stuff is RIDICULOUS!  It’s created by FitFluential Ambassador Sarah Kay Hoffman, so you’re also supporting a small business.  This stuff is the bomb.
  • NuttZo: The only seven nut and seed butter on the planet! This is the real deal.  It’s for the ultimate nut and seed butter lover.  It’s gourmet, and they have an amazing story, too.
  • PB CravePeanut butter with a twist. It comes in four mouth-watering flavors: choco choco, coco bananas, razzle dazzle (my favorite!), and cookie nookie.
  • Peanut Butter & Co.Ten cool flavors to savor that come in jars or on the go squeeze packets! Flavors: smooth operator, crunch time, cinnamon raisin swirl, the heat is on, white chocolate wonderful (my favorite!), dark chocolate dreams, the bee’s knees, mighty maple, old fashioned smooth, and old fashioned crunchy.

For the person who loves to have healthy, convenient snacks on the go in bar form:

foodie gift guide4

Or, you could put together a basket with any of the above items or below items:

foodie gift guide3

  • Love Grown Foods:  Their mission is to create incredibly delicious foods that are full of nutritional benefits and that are available to everyone, while educating kids, parents, and teachers on the importance of eating healthy. Three fabulous products: Power O’s: made navy beans, garbanzo beans, and lentils, Super Oats is a hot cereal blend that pack a SUPER nutritional punch and cooks in three minutes, Hot Oats make healthy eating easy, convenient, and affordable (single serve cup is full of flavor, fiber, and protein), and Oat Clusters is a gluten-free granola that is sure to satisfy! So many healthy options!
  • CocogoReal fruit hydration in a handle little package. It’s naturally flavored freeze dried coconut water that comes in grape, lemon-lime, and passion fruit. [Use code ITZLINZ for additional 10% off.]
  • Mamma ChiaSeed your soul. Mamma Chia makes vitality beverages, chia squeeze packets, energy beverages, and of course, chia seeds.  Chia seeds contain powerful antioxidants, protein, fiber, and omega-3s.

There ya have it, folks! Something for everyone!  Make sure you check out their social media pages because many of the brands often run promotions or specials during the holidays which makes your job even easier!

What foodie item do you think would make a fun, unique, delicious gift?

8 month old baby William

I’m not going to lie: William’s seventh month was not his finest.  I welcomed (yesterday) his eight month birthday with open arms!  Don’t get me wrong now; I still love him more every day and am completely astonished by how quickly he’s growing and his ability to constantly learn new things.  I’ll explain the details in the post.  But first, William’s first school photo:

first school picture 8months

It’s no SCP, but it’s still ridiculously adorable!

Doesn’t he look so old? So big? Like such a little boy?! Where’s my baby?!

Height & Weight: William weighed in at 18 pounds 9 ounces last weekend!  Not sure about his height; he’s definitely getting longer!

Eating: Oh boy.  Check out my post from yesterday on William not tolerating food so well lately.  That explains everything on the eating front.  Let’s just say that nursing is still going extremely well and that’s the most important part regarding William’s nutrition!

Sleeping (naps): On average, William takes three naps while I’m away at work though the times and length varies. (still the same)

Sleeping (at night): These last two nights, William has gone down to sleep around 6:30 pm and has slept so much better than the previous two weeks!  Before, I was trying to get him to sleep between 7 – 8; it was usually closer to eight.  So now I’m wondering if he was overly tired before.  He’s still not sleeping through the night, but the last couple of nights he’s only had two or three wake ups!  I know that sounds like a lot, but before he was having like five to six, no joke.

8months smile

Clothing: 9 and 12 month clothing!  Growing every day!

New this month: William is thisclose to crawling!  He’s been getting up on all fours lately!  He can scoot backwards and usually just rolls to get something.  I know he’s going to be on the move so soon though!  William is cutting a top tooth which I think is part of the reason his sleep was affected the past couple of weeks.  I’ll be relieved when it finally breaks through, and I think he will be, too!

William likes: Nursing!  William’s always liked nursing (well, after the first three weeks anyway), and now he seems to like it more than ever since it agrees with him so well (compared to vegetables and fruits).  I’ve been bathing William in the bathtub (not the sink anymore since he’s too big), and he seems to love bath time.  He plays with his rubber ducky and tries to grab the water coming out of the faucet.  William also loves music. At school, his teachers always write me a note when they visit a music class because he loves it so much.  I try to take him to different musical events for babies/kids around town.  William likes discovering new toys.  He gets so focused on what something can do.

William dislikes: Fruits, vegetables, being tired, and cutting his top tooth.

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Told ya! Still the happiest baby ever! ;-)

What’s to come this month? When did you or your baby start crawling?

not tolerating food

William, my little man, is not tolerating food very well lately.  There’s been lots of puke, lots of laundry, and thank goodness, still lots of smiles.  No worries though, I won’t show you any pictures of barf (I save those for my family); nobody wants to see that nastiness anyway.  I’m sure you DO want to see some William cuteness though, right?

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I thought so.  Much more pleasant than vomit.  I’m going to share William’s [long] story with food since it’s been introduced in hopes of getting some advice from other mommas, or doctors, or nurses, or any other knowledgeable person who may be reading.

William has been exclusively breastfed since birth.  At six months, I introduced oatmeal, and he did extremely well with it!  I gave him a little in the morning and the evening, so he could practice and learn to eat off a spoon.  The oatmeal is mixed with my breastmilk and he did great.  (I buy Earth’s Best whole grain oatmeal.)

eating5

I continued this for two weeks before introducing homemade peas.  (Stephanie has made all of William’s baby food.  I know, I know, I’m so lucky and grateful for her!)  William still had his bowl of oatmeal in the morning, and then had oatmeal and peas in the evening.  Two weeks went by, and he did great, so I introduced sweet potato.  Same thing.  Oatmeal in the morning, vegetable and oatmeal in the evening.  It went well, so two weeks later I tried squash.  FAIL.  A couple of bites in, William threw it all up.  Thinking it could have just been a bubble in his tummy, I tried the following night and the same thing happened.  No more squash for William.

But then it happened with sweet potatoes.  And peas.  Two foods he’d been tolerating so well.  Concerned, I called the doctor.  I spoke with a nurse who said it didn’t sound like it was a texture thing, since William was still enjoying the oatmeal.  She suggested trying to mix the sweet potatoes or peas with the oatmeal.  That worked… for a couple of weeks.  Meanwhile, I tried to give him a mashed banana, a food most babies tolerate so easily, and he started gagging, so I stopped before he threw up.

Slight tangent, but it’s relevant to the story: William has never slept through the night.  Breastfed babies don’t typically overeat, so that’s not a concern.

sleeping baby 7months

so peaceful

Well, going to sleep a couple of weeks ago was becoming very difficult for William.  I decided to try the “cry it out” method as I had done a few times before, successfully.  I let him cry for a mere five minutes.  He was screaming his head off (not typical of him), so I went in to find him swimming in a pool of throw up.  It was in his hair, on his face, all over his sheet and crib.  Disgusting.  Right when I picked him up, he smiled at me and was completely fine.  I bathed him (for the second time that night), threw a load of wash in, changed his sheet, and got him back to bed.  That sure discouraged me from cry it out!  Now when he cries in his crib, I run in so he doesn’t puke!

On a different night sooner after, William threw up about thirty minutes after he ate “dinner.”  Oh, side note: I always wait an hour after I nurse him to give him his oatmeal and vegetable; this ensure he’s not overfed.   Well, this same night, he went to sleep, and a couple of hours later he was crying in his crib.  I went in to go get him, picked him up, he started gagging and threw up again!

Concerned once more, I dialed the doctor’s office the following day.  The nurse said I should bring him in for a weight check since it sounded like he was throwing up so frequently.  And when I say throw up, I mean throw up NOT spit up.  It is quite a large amount.  At first, my mom and sister thought I was exaggerating the amount, and then they saw it for themselves.  So, last Saturday morning, I brought the little babe in.

8months dr

Weight check? 18 pounds 9 ounces!  That’s over two pounds in less than two months, wahoo!  The doctor (not William’s regular pediatrician) said it was good that after he vomits he never “acts” sick or lethargic.  She said some babies just don’t do well with pureed foods.  She suggested trying to give him the vegetable in the morning with his oatmeal since he never throws up in the morning time, just in the evening.  The doctor also reassured me that it was good he was eating, enjoying, and tolerating the oatmeal since it’s fortified with iron.  She suggested trying a fruit, too, just to see if it is a flavor thing.

So that evening, I gave William just oatmeal since I wanted to try her suggestion of trying the fruit or vegetable in the morning.  Well that night, three hours after I fed him dinner and an hour after he’d nursed, he threw up again.  Oy. I was reaaaally getting tired of cleaning the floors, his clothes, him, me, and everything; plus, I was really confused as to why this kept happening.  The day after, Sunday, Stephanie made him pears.  She gave him a few bites, he started gagging, so she stopped.  On Monday, Stephanie watched him while I was at work (I told you, she’s amazing!), and she gave him pears with oatmeal in the morning per the doctor’s recommendation.  BARF.

When she texted me this, I called my doctor and waited for his call back.  I explained everything that was going on (even though he’d talked with the other doctor who we’d seen in his office), and he told me that they hope babies triple their birth weight in the first year.  William has almost QUADRUPLED his birth weight in EIGHT MONTHS!  That made me very happy and definitely reassured me.  (My milk must be amazing! Haha)  The doctor went on to say that while the frequent vomiting is frustrating, it doesn’t appear to be a risk to his health, so to keep trying with foods, slowly, as I had been.  Not quite the “answer” I was looking for, but I’m glad he’s not concerned, William is gaining, and still the happiest (and cutest) baby ever.

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Thanks to Annette for William’s super cute monster tie shirt! 

You still with me here? Sorry, long post, but it’s been a wild ride with this food stuff!  So… anyone have any ideas of what to try or what’s going on?  While I love rocking him to sleep, I do want him to learn how to self-soothe and put himself to sleep, so eventually he sleeps through the night.  I also want him to stop throwing up because, even though he’s happy right after, I’m sure it’s not comfortable when it’s happening!

Oh, and today William turns eight months old!  His update post will go live tomorrow and I promise not to mention barf or vomit or puke or throw up anymore. :)

Mommas, doctors, nurses, friends: tell me what you think!

St. Jude’s Thanks and Giving

This post is sponsored by Kmart.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Giving back is a concept that was ingrained in me ever since I was a little girl.

dad

When my siblings and I attended Sunday School, my parents always sent us with money for tzedakah.  While searching for a good explanation of tzedakah, I came upon this:

“Tzedakah” is the Hebrew word for the acts that we call “charity” in English: giving aid, assistance and money to the poor and needy or to other worthy causes. However, the nature of tzedakah is very different from the idea of charity. The word “charity” suggests benevolence and generosity, a magnanimous act by the wealthy and powerful for the benefit of the poor and needy. The word “tzedakah” is derived from the Hebrew root Tzadei-Dalet-Qof, meaning righteousness, justice or fairness. In Judaism, giving to the poor is not viewed as a generous, magnanimous act; it is simply an act of justice and righteousness, the performance of a duty, giving the poor their due. [source]

 

I like that description for many reasons, but mostly because it talks about how tzedakah is performed as a duty, not a “magnanimous act.”  Today as an adult, I give tzedakah in various forms.  I participate in fundraisers, I donate canned food items, money, clothes, shoes, etc.  The elementary school where I teach constantly has service learning projects going on.  Even William’s school hosts different events where they collect items or canned food.  I try to lead by example, be it for my students or my baby, I want them to understand the importance of giving back.

Giving back around the holidays is especially important.  So many people, myself included, are lucky enough to be surrounded with friends, family, and loved ones, have a roof over our heads, food on our table, and are blessed with our health.  Others are not so lucky. I want to give back in any way that I can and encourage others to do the same.  Even now, as William is just a baby, when we bring a canned food item or a pair of shoes to donate to his school, I talk to him about what we are doing and the importance of it.  I tell my students that no donation is too small, and whatever you can bring is appreciated by those who don’t have any.

The holidays are a time to be thankful for those who are healthy in our life and give to those who are not.

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so blessed for this little guy, his health, and his happiness

Kmart toy shoppers have another way to give back to the St. Jude Thanks and Giving® campaign this holiday season.

Between December 7th and December 13th, Kmart will donate $1 to St. Jude for every Fab 15 toy purchased, up to a maximum donation of $25,000.

*Kmart, the all-time leading St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® fundraising partner, having already raised more than $10 million for St. Jude this holiday season alone.

o   Additionally, there are two more ways to support St. Jude at Kmart this season:

  • At the register: Shop Your Way members and Kmart shoppers can donate when they check out in all Kmart stores, or online via a link: Kmart.com/StJude. As a special thank you to Shop Your Way members, Kmart is rewarding members who give back – through December 27th– with a coupon for five percent back in points on their next qualifying in-store or online merchandise purchase. Points expire 90 days after receipt. Maximum $20 in points (20,000 in points) per transaction. See coupon for details.
  • On the tree: Kmart’s exclusive 2014 collectible St. Jude bear ornament is available in-stores and online at Kmart.com. The ornament comes in two versions – a boy and a girl bear, and Kmart will donate $1 to St. Jude for each ornament purchased now through December 24th, with a minimum donation of $50,000.
  • Kmart’s Fab 15 holiday toy list features the ultimate toys that kids want for the holidays, from big toys that make great, unexpected gifts to nostalgia toys that remind parents of their own childhood.

o   Kmart’s Fab 15 holiday toy list is based on industry trends, input from kids and parents, as well as more than 50 years of experience in knowing what toys resonate with different ages, stages and play patterns.

o   Kmart has all of the top toy brands and hundreds of exclusive toys for any kid on the shopping list this holiday season at Kmart.com/holidaytoys.

o   Here are the toys that made the 2014 list:

  • Disney Doc McStuffins Sleepytime Lambie by Just Play (Kmart exclusive)
  • Holiday Auburn Barbie™ 2014 Doll by Mattel® (Kmart exclusive)
  • My Little Pony Equestria Girls Rainbow Rocks Mane Event Stage Playset by Hasbro® (Kmart exclusive)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles® Power Wheels® Lil’ Dune Racer by Fisher-Price® (Kmart exclusive)
  • Transformers Age of Extinction Optimus Prime and Grimlock 12-Inch Electronic Figures by Hasbro® (Kmart exclusives)
  • WWE® Cardinal Red John Cena 31” Figure by Wicked Cool Toys® (Kmart exclusive)
  • Zoomer Dino by Spin Master™
  • Disney Frozen Snow Glow Elsa Doll by TollyTots
  • FurReal Friends Get Up and GoGo My Walkin’ Pup Pet by Hasbro®
  • LEGO® Super Heroes Line from Marvel™ and DC Comics™
  • NERF® Zombie Strike SlingFire Blaster
  • Nickelodeon PAW Patrol Look-Out Playset, Vehicles and Figurines, and Rescue Racers by Spin Master™
  • Play-Doh® DohVinci Style and Store Vanity Complete Design Set by Hasbro®
  • Simon Swipe Game by Hasbro®
  • VTech® Kidizoom® Smartwatch

As many of you already know, I’m sure, St. Jude’s is a phenomenal place.  My sorority, Delta Delta Delta, always focused on St. Jude’s for all of our philanthropy projects.  Kmart is making it so easy for you to give back during this holiday season!  You can get some of your own holiday shopping done by choosing from one of the many gifts listed above, and Kmart will donate.  Shop online if you don’t have time to visit a store.  I strongly encourage you to donate in some way, shape, or form.  Another option is to visit the link above (click on the picture) to donate directly.  For every one of you wonderful Itz Linz readers who donates via the link with an online donation, by purchasing a toy or St. Jude ornament, I will personally donate an additional $2 per person (up to $100) to St. Jude. Please leave a comment or send me an email telling me you did so.

How will you give back this holiday season?

Hello, Monday

Well, hello, Monday.  You came much sooner than I would have liked.  We’re keeping things short and simple today.  Baby William and I both didn’t feel the greatest on Saturday, felt better on Sunday, and had a very busy day.  That didn’t leave much time to blog, so I’ll leave you with this ridiculously adorable picture, taken by my sister.  We can all use a little something extra to smile about on Monday, and this picture definitely does it for me.

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Aren’t they just the coolest and the cutest babies ever?!?!

Happy Monday!

Linking up with Healthy Diva for Marvelous in my Monday!

so many dates

If you were this cute, you’d probably have so many dates, too! ;-)

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Over Thanksgiving break, the little man and I got to spend lots of time with family and see several friends who were in town for the holiday.  That’s what holidays are all about!  Well, and food, of course!

We went out for ice cream with Annette and Lily.  Annette and I became friends when we were just two years old, and were inseparable throughout elementary school.  We played with baby dolls countless times, so it’s an absolute blast when we get our real babies together almost thirty years later with our friendship stronger than ever!

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As you can see, William slept for the first part of our date.

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Baby, that’s as close to eating ice cream as you’ve ever gotten!

I mean, they’re best friends already.

lily

Just the cutest little babes in the world!  Hopefully, the first of many ice cream dates!

We went out to lunch with Melissa.  The last time we saw each other was for our sushi date when baby William was just two months old!

melissa

Melissa is fabulous with babies and was helping me with him the same way my sister does.  Plus, baby William obviously loved her!  He has good taste.  Pretty lady!

The weather has been crazy lately.  While it’s cold and rainy now, it had snowed on Thanksgiving, followed by 60 degree weather.  Needless to say, we took advantage of the sunshine and got our babywearing on!

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William and I met Bianca at Nadoz Cafe.  I ordered a green juice for the first time in way too long; it had kale, celery, apple, and parsley and was fantastic.  William got all cheeky cheeky with Bianca.

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I told you, he has good taste with the ladies!

Other dates, but not pictured, included going out with my friend from high school Jessica, seeing my college friend Cassie, hanging out with my pregnant friend Diana, and catching up with my good Caitlin.  Friends are important and I’m lucky to have so many supportive friends in my life.

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And this baby. I’ll tell ya what. I just love him!

What dates have you been on lately?

Do You Need To Improve Your Health and Wellness?

Do You Need To Improve Your Health and Wellness?  Couldn’t we all improve in some area?  Today I have Amanda Schmitt here guest posting to tell you exactly how you can improve your health and wellness.

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Hi Everyone!

My name is Amanda and I am an Independent Distributor for It Works Global! We are an all-natural health and wellness company. We have everything from skin care products to supplements. Our best selling product is that “Crazy Wrap Thing!” This ultimate body applicator is a skin solution that helps tighten, tone, and firm your problem area in 45 minutes! This includes cellulite and stretch marks! This body wrap can be used anywhere from the neck down. The results are long lasting when implemented with healthy diet and exercise! Email me at babor.amanda@gmail.com to see my personal wrap results.

My favorite product is the Greens. Our greens have 8 servings of fruits and vegetables, a probiotic, and 38 minerals and vitamins to help detoxify, cleanse, and alkaline our pH level. Naturally, our pH level is acidic which can breed bacteria. An alkaline pH level helps reduce illness and risk of cancer creating a stronger immune system. Avoid this cold and flu season with Greens. The greens also reduce cravings. I no longer have those afternoon slumps or sugar cravings! My husband even takes them! The greens are definitely part of our daily routine; they taste great and can be added to water, juice, or smoothies!  (Linz’s note: Amanda sent me a sample, and they really do taste good!)

We have fat fighters that help reduce fat and carb absorption after a “cheat meal.” This supplement contains Garcinia Cambogia (fruit extract) and NeOpuntia (made from the prickly pear cactus) to help reduce 40% of fat and carb absorption from a meal. This supplement works in your stomach, making it “white pants approved.” This supplement can be used daily or as needed.

fatfighter

Hair, Skin, and Nails is also a best seller. It boosts keratin and collagen production, promotes cell growth, all while fighting against free radicals to help improve the strength and length of your hair and nails. This supplement also moisturizes and enhances our skin’s elasticity, improving our complexion.

I’d love to help you achieve your health and wellness goals through these all natural products. I stand behind these products and use them daily. I am here to answer any questions and help you determine which products are best for your goals!

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If you are interested in becoming part of my team, please email me (babor.amanda@gmail.com) with ANY questions.

This company has improved my life and our financial freedom. There are no monthly quotas or gimmicks. I run my business, on my time. I’d love to help you do the same!!!

For more information, please email me or visit my site at aschmittwraps.com

How do you improve your health and wellness?