Family Summer Bucket List

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Banana Boat® and OFF! ® . The opinions and text are all mine.

Now that the kiddos are home from school on summer vacation, I’m sure you’re racking your brain and surfing Pinterest to try and think of new activities to do with them. This is both good for your sanity and their development. 🙂 Even though we homeschool I want to be intentional about summer so we can enjoy it to it’s fullest. I have waxed on and on about how wonderful summer is and how most of my childhood memories are from summer vacations so I won’t belabor that here but I have a fun family summer bucket list to share with you.

To keep things fun and exciting here’s our personal summer bucket list. It has 16 different activities so we can pick one big activity to do each week and some of the little ones we can do multiple times. There are even a few of these ideas that will be perfect for rainy or those unbelievably hot days.

Family Summer Bucket List

As many of you know we just moved into a new house and a lot of things are different here. Good but different.

Schwinn Girl's Bike

For instance we have to drive our bikes to the bottom of our incredibly steep driveway before we can go riding.


We also have a pond out in front of our house so now have the opportunity to teach our kids how to fish. I’m excited about that!! In the picture above you can probably spot the crane but do you see the squirrel too? He was actually laying in the road when I drove by and hopped up and ran away when I came up. I guess even squirrels enjoy basking in the sun!

Tree Swing

We live in the woods now so we don’t have a yard (yet, we will have some grass by next year if we can help it!). That means we can’t play ball as easily outdoors as we did last year but now we have a really great tree swing!

Having a pool will be a little more challenging as we try and pad the concrete so we don’t make a hole in the bottom.

Banana Boat

No matter how many things have changed, there is one thing that has remained a constant for us and our kids – SUNSCREEN. It’s not only a must for our own outdoor safety but that goes double for our kids. Banana Boat® always has our family covered and their new SunComfort™ sunscreen is supposed to help sand brush off easily – I love that feature and hope we get to go to the beach sometime to test it out! It moisturizes, is water resistant for 80 minutes, and is available in SPF 30 and 50. No matter what, Banana Boat® SunComfort™ has us covered for gardening, hiking, or any backyard adventures we undertake.

Insect repellent is as equally as important for summer outdoor play. Especially with us living by a pond now I want to be extra cautious about bug bites and the nasty things they carry so we frequently spray each other down with OFF! Active®. We always spray it on our own hands first before applying it to our kids and we make sure to wash the skin exposed to the spray with soap and water when we come indoors.

To help us remember to apply the proper protection before leaving the house we have a basket that we have sitting by the front door of our house. Now when we go to put our shoes on we’ll always be reminded to protect ourselves against the sun and mosquitoes. If you want to make a little basket like this of your own you can find all the items including the basket itself at Walmart.

Summer Must Haves

Sunscreen? – Check!, Insect repellent? – Check!, fun water bottle? – Check!, bubbles that my son insists on having anytime he’s outdoors? – Check!

What do you have planned for this summer? I’d love to hear your ideas and add to my ever growing to-do list.


Creative Summer Lunches for Kids

This post and giveaway were made possible by iConnect and Buddig. I was compensated for my participation in this campaign, but all opinions are 100% mine.

I love summer and the fun we’ve been having outdoors.  I feel like we don’t stop sometimes and when we do it’s usually only to eat before we get going again.  Having less time to slow down and prepare meals has meant a lot of sandwiches for our family.  With sandwiches usually come chips and I just don’t like that being a regular meal in our house.  Sandwiches are great, don’t get me wrong but I want to include more veggies and fruit into our diets.

To break up the routine I’ve started planning our meals the day before hand and letting our lunch times be a little bit like a play time.  Yes, I’ve been letting our kids play with their food.  My son with his sensory issues can use the exposure and my daughter is having fun stretching her imagination creating scenes with the food we have on hand.  Sometimes we’ll throw in the random chip or small cookie but most of their meals consist of fruits, veggies, nuts, cheese, and lunch meat.  We’re having fun together and I feel that my daughter is eating more wholesome foods than she was before.

Fun Food Umbrella Lunch

Check out this fun creation!

It’s made of apples, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, mandarin oranges, craisins, string cheese, peanuts, and Buddig Premium Deli beef.  My daughter ate it all and loved it.

We don’t always get so fancy but even if they’re not Pinterest worthy creations they’re still delicious!  If you want ideas for creative lunch ideas for kids check out my Fun Foods for Kids board on Pinterest.

Buddig Giveaway

Summer of Smiles:

Buddig not only makes great tasting and affordable lunch meat but they’re offering a fun contest this summer.  The summer of smiles! 🙂  There are so many reasons this time of year that make us smile – warm weather, sunny days, picnic lunches, family vacations & more.  Consumers are asked to post a picture of their family enjoying summer and flashing their biggest smiles on Facebook using the #BuddigSmiles.

Every week from June 16 – August 18 Buddig will randomly select 12 entries to receive a $25 American Express gift card – that’s 108 total winners and a whole lot of smiles! ?

Pick Your Pepper – Dr Pepper’s New Labels

Compensation was provided by Dr Pepper/Snapple via MomTrends. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions of Dr Pepper/Snapple or MomTrends.

Dr. Pepper


To me, summer is all about enjoying life.  Family, friends, the outdoors, the sunshine, the food, and the fun!!  The Dr Pepper Snapple Group also loves summer and fun so this summer they have created limited edition Dr Pepper bottles to help us enjoy celebrating our own style while staying refreshed on hot days.

Pick Your Pepper




I don’t know about you but I love the creative campaigns that brands come out with.  Maybe it’s from watching Bewitched as a kid but I love getting a glimpse of the advertising world from the outside looking in.  This campaign is a fun one!  There are hundreds of unique images that are being printed on Dr Pepper labels.  I’m sure you’ll find one or two that fits your personality and style.  From just browsing at the ones on the Dr Pepper website I love a bunch of them!  Especially the retro ones.  I’m an 80’s girl at heart.

Dr. Pepper Label


While you’re browsing the cool designs on the Dr Pepper website go ahead and take a moment to design your own Dr Pepper GIF.  It’s actually pretty fun and a little addicting.  There are hundreds of images to go through and the creative combinations are endless…well, actually about 4,000 but practically endless.  Once you’ve created a design you like share it on social media using the hashtag #pickyourpepper.

Dr. Pepper

Here’s a look at the one I created.  Floral and girlie.  Classic logo.  Banjo playing bass that remind me of my childhood growing up in West Virginia.

To learn more about Dr Pepper Snapple Group and it’s large family of brands, be sure to visit  Don’t forget to look for the special limited edition labels on 20 oz bottles of Dr Pepper this summer!

Summer Lunch Ideas With Buddig

This post and giveaway were made possible by iConnect and Buddig. I was compensated for my participation in this campaign, but all opinions are 100% mine.

Now that school is over for the summer you might be getting used to the new routine of this season.  Whether you’re prepping for a summer vacation or trying to tame the kid’s busy summer plans chances are you’re scrambling for what to feed them.  Maybe it’s just me but putting lunches together day after day can be as hectic, if not more so, than cooking dinner.  That’s why we’re big fans of bento lunches.  You’ll be amazed at how simple these can be!

Turkey Sandwich

Don’t get me wrong I love a good turkey sandwich as much as the next guy but sometimes a bento box is an easier way to get kids to eat their veggies…or to try new foods.  As you’ve heard me mention before my son has food allergies and food aversion.  He doesn’t eat much and it takes a lot of effort for him to even touch some things with his hands.  Using bento boxes gives him exposure to different foods and hopefully he’ll warm up to them sooner rather than later.

When I make a bento box I try to add a variety of textures and flavors.  Something crunchy, something soft, something savory, something sweet.  Sometimes it’s not planned at all and it’s whatever we have available at the moment and that’s totally okay too!

Bento Box With Turkey

I’ve recently been introduced to the Buddig brand of deli meats and can’t wait to try all of their varieties.  Buddig boasts that their Premium Deli meats offers families premium deli meats without the premium price.  They come in 8 oz and 1 lb options and we will always opt for the 1 lb option because we go through the deli meat in our house.

Buddig’s varieties include:

  • – Honey Smoked Turkey Breast
  • – Black Forest Ham
  • – Smoked Ham
  • – Smoked Honey Ham
  • – Oven Roasted Turkey Breast
  • – Rotisserie-Flavored Chicken Breast

Buddig Giveaway

Summer of Smiles:

There are so many reasons this time of year that make us smile – warm weather, sunny days, picnic lunches, family vacations & more.

Consumers are asked to post a picture of their family enjoying summer and flashing their biggest smiles on Facebook using the #BuddigSmiles 

Every week from June 16 – August 18 Buddig will randomly select 12 entries to receive a $25 American Express gift card – that’s 108 total winners and a whole lot of smiles! 🙂

What’s your favorite go-to lunch for summer?

Very Berry Spritzer

Very Berry Spritzer

Spritzers are my favorite summer drink. It’s super cold, super refreshing and really easy to put together. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with different spritzer recipes looking for my favorite flavor combo and I think I found it! This Very Berry Spritzer it’s just everything you need after a warm sunny day spent outdoors.

Fruit Spritzer

Very Berry Spritzer it’s packed with berry flavors. I’m adding some fresh raspberries and strawberries, it also has an herbal punch that really compliments the drink and at the same time helps to decorate it and make it look straight out of a fancy restaurant. I’m using thyme because is what goes better with the berries but you can also use mint or even basil.

Also, I’m keeping the things here in the mocktail side as I don’t drink, so I’m using lemon soda to give it that carbonated, bubbly kick that makes the drink taste even more refreshing.

However, what makes this recipe extremely good for summer is the little berry that’s decorating the glass. Instead of using a fresh berry I used a frozen one so you can eat it like if it was a popsicle with your drink. Or you can just drop it inside your drink like a flavored ice cube.

I seriously mean it, my friends, there’s nothing like lounging in the backyard with a huge glass of Very Berry Spritzer while nibbling on a frozen strawberry. It’s summer in a drink.

This Very Berry Spritzer is as easy as mixing everything together, pouring it over a ton of ice (the more the merrier), garnishing it with fresh herbs and enjoying it when the weather is hot.

Berry Spritzer

Very Berry Spritzer


  • –  ⅓ Cup berries
  • –  Lemon soda
  • –  Ice


  • –  Thyme
  • –  Strawberries


  • –  Add to ice a glass, then add the berries
  • –  Fill the glass with lemon soda and stir it.
  • –  Slice 1 strawberry and place it on the edge of the glass to garnish.
  • –  Add some thyme.
  • –  Enjoy!

Strawberry Drink

Quinoa Black Bean Chicken Burrito Bowl

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

Quinoa Black Bean Chicken Burrito Bowl

Quinoa Black Bean Chicken Burrito Bowl

Summer is officially here and that means parties!  Yes, cook outs, block parties, Father’s Day celebrations, 4th of July get togethers, and one that is near and dear to my heart – birthday parties!!  My darling daughter is turning another year older and it’s time to celebrate.  {Check out my Top 5 Summer Party Planning Tips at the bottom of this post,}

Pink and Gold Party

In preparation for my little party, I went to Sam’s Club to get a few ingredients. I was able to grab a nice 32 oz 6-pack of Swanson Chicken Broth.  Chicken broth is one of my go to flavor-staples.  It’s good for mashed potatoes to soup so I was thankful to find it in bulk – but still small and usable sized containers.  For this burrito bowl I decided to swap our rice for quinoa (which I’ll get to in a minute) and instead of using water to cook my quinoa I substituted Swanson Chicken Broth instead.  Brilliant, right?  It’s delicious.

Block Party Hero

Sam’s Club also sells truRoots Quinoa which is nice for me because since I discovered quinoa I’ve been adding quinoa to just about everything I can.  Macaroni and cheese? Yes!  Muffins? Yes!  As a substitute for rice?  Yes!  It’s a protein rich ancient grain and the truRoots Quinoa is Certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified.

Burrito Bowl Ingredients

I already had this burrito bowl post in mind when I came across the new Pace Organic Medium Salsa.  My imagination told me to take the leap and add it to my recipe but I’m not usually much of a risk taker.  However, I’m glad I gave it a try because it is amazing and so much easier than chopping everything by hand.  The medium heat gives it just enough kick without sending me running in search of the milk.  My family grew up eating Pace salsa with chips and I’m glad to see that they now have a Certified USDA Organic option.  This won’t be the last time that I’ll be cooking with salsa to add a lot of flavor to dishes.

Quinoa Chicken Burrito Bowl

These Chicken Quinoa Chicken Burrito Bowls are easy to make with a little prep work (and I have a short cut listed here too!).  It’s naturally gluten-free, includes protein rich quinoa, and tastes delicious!



  • –  2 cups cooked truRoots Quinoa (see instructions below)
  • –  1 batch seasoned chicken (see recipe below)
  • –  2 tbs of chopped cilantro
  • –  1 can (15 oz) black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • –  1 can (15 oz) corn (drained and rinsed)
  • –  1 cup Pace Organic Medium Salsa
  • –  ¼ cup shredded cheese (any type of cheese you prefer)


  • –  Guacamole
  • –  Sour Cream
  • –  Chopped red onions
  • –  Chopped peppers


  • –  4 lbs. chicken breasts
  • –  Juice from two fresh oranges and two fresh limes
  • –  1/2 cup olive oil
  • –  2 tsp. cumin
  • –  2 tsp. oregano
  • –  4 tsp. chili powder
  • –  4 cloves garlic minced


  • –  Make as directed but substitute Swanson Chicken Broth for the water.  It will give it an extra kick of delicious flavor!



  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl to marinate and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (we usually opt for overnight-48 hours).  {If you’re like me and you just found this recipe today for a meal tonight you can also rub the chicken with taco seasoning before cooking. 😉  Also, don’t tell anyone but I’ve even made this with leftover rotisserie chicken!}
  2. Grill the chicken OR heat a pan on medium/high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan. Add the chicken and cook for 3-5 minutes per side.  Once cooked turn off the heat and allow chicken to “rest” for 5 minutes before dicing into smaller pieces.


After you’ve cooked the chicken and quinoa and warmed the black beans and rice, divide the quinoa evenly between your serving bowls.  Divide the chicken, black beans, corn and toppings onto the bowls.  Sprinkle each bowl with some shredded cheese and serve immediately.   Enjoy!

Pretty Party Ideas

My Top 5 Suggestions for Planning a Summer Party

  1. Grab all the party looking supplies you have in one area before making your shopping list.  There’s no reason to buy another package of napkins when you have five hidden in your home.
  2. Don’t be afraid to use things you already have that aren’t necessarily party supplies.  That golden “E” above fit our girlie party decor perfectly but it wouldn’t be found in the party section of any store.  That strip of fabric just brightens the table but it came from my craft supplies.
  3. Don’t make everything from scratch!  Besides the sandwiches for the kids above and the delicious Chicken Quinoa Chicken Burrito Bowls (which was well worth the effort!) everything was store bought…and might I add cuter than if I made it myself.  Those daisy flowers came right out of a box as did those butterfly pretzels.  Give yourself permission to focus your cooking on what matters most to you and buy or order the rest of the food.
  4. Plan, plan, plan but don’t fret when things go wrong at the party.  As long as you prepared as best you could you know you did your part.  Just relax and enjoy time with friends and family…after all, that’s why you got together in the first place!
  5. Along with number 4, you need to plan for rain.  Summers around here are notorious for five minute downpours.  It’s a good idea to have a canopy ready or a clean (enough) house that your guests can retreat to if need be.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my tips and recipe.  What kind of get-togethers do you have planned?  How will you be a #BlockPartyHero this summer?

Car Essentials for Day Trips With Kids

Essentials for Day Trips with Kids

Summer is here, and that means the kids are out of school, the weather is hot, and it’s time to take some fun day trips! Whether you’re going for a day at the park or a cross country vacation, it’s a good idea to keep some items in the car, ready to go at all times. Now, there are plenty of mechanic kits and emergency boxes available to get all your tools, flares, and other break-down necessities in order. Those are important, but today we’re going to be talking about some extra items to keep around just for summer trips with the kids.

The first thing you always want to have in summer is a good supply of water. If the car breaks down, you’re going to get hot and thirsty, and you’ll be glad you have it on hand. Busted or leaking radiator? Let the car cool down, add water, drive, repeat. This isn’t a long term fix – don’t leave the house with this as the game plan. But if the car starts to overheat and you just need to get the family home, water will save the day. Even when the car runs perfectly, water will come in handy! After a day at the beach, a bottle of water is perfect for rinsing off sandy feet before getting in the car. If the kids have a sporting event or get a little hot while playing, pouring a little water over their heads can cool them off and clean them up.

Keeping some toys the kids like in the car will be useful in multiple ways. Having some outdoor toys like a ball will give you a chance to spontaneously play with the kids at a park or field on the way home from errands. Toys will even help out in case of a break down! A few indoor toys will keep the kids entertained while Mommy and Daddy figure out the car troubles. Choose some toys that don’t take up a lot of space and that the children are ok leaving in the car, that way they don’t get taken out and end up missing when you really need them.

Speaking of toys, visit the toy aisle during the summer season and buy a sand sifter to keep in the trunk. Sure, it will be tons of fun if you happen to have a day at the beach. But where this item really shines is when someone loses something on the beach, in the sandbox, or a gravel or dirt playground. You simply reached down to pick up your toddler who’s doing everything in their power to stay in the sand box for the next three weeks, when suddenly your wedding ring slips off into the sand. The kicks and flails of toddler legs pushes the ring under the surface, and it’s gone. Having a sifter in the car will save you hours of frustrated searching.

Finally, keep a steady supply of paper cups in the car. You’ll need cups if you keep a gallon jug of water in the car and need a drink. Kids screaming for a snack the entire trip, claiming their stomachs are going to explode? Use cups to separate a trail mix bag from the gas station, or as an easier to handle container for some chicken nuggets. Keep one in the cup holder as a mini trash can, then take some to the sand to build a castle. If you forgot the toys and get desperate, you can even set the kids to stacking up cup pyramids. The uses for a simple cup are endless!

Now think about the places you go, and what items you’ve thought “ugh, if only I had one with me now this would be a lot easier,” and find a way to add them into your summer car kit!

This helpful post is brought to you by Sandoval Buick GMC.

Walkup Day-of-Fun 2015

Disclosure:  This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The J.M. Smucker Company.  All thoughts are my own. #Snackation

Our first annual Walkup Day-of-Fun was a blast!  We even had grandma and grandpa join in on the fun.  We relaxed, played together, and had a great time.  I only wish they lived closer so we could do this more often.


The slide was a big hit!  Both my son and daughter loved it and played on it continually until we made them stop and transition to a new activity.  It was a good investment for sure! 🙂


My little girl is turning into a little fish.  She loves the water and is getting better and better at floating and kicking each day.  I don’t think it will be too long before she’ll be swimming on her own!


Bubbles are a family favorite so they were a must for Fun Day.  Our bubble gun wasn’t quite as successful as advertised but we had enough bubble wands on hand to save the day.  I think we need to look into purchasing a big battery powered bubble blower to save Mom and Dad’s arms. 🙂

Peanut Butter and Smuckers Jelly Heart

For a snack I made my daughter a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and of course it was made with love so I just had to form the Smucker’s jelly and Jiff peanut butter into a heart.  The Smucker’s Squeeze jelly was helpful for this!  My daughter loves heart pancakes, heart cucumbers, heart carrots, and well, anything I can make into a heart she will eat wearing a smile.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Heart

See, look at that cute smile!

Heart Sandwich Snack

Together, we made a summery dinner of squash casserole and salad.  I love when our family cooks together!  For dessert we could choose between donuts or ice cream.  The mini ice cream cones I bought the other day were absolutely the perfect treat.  They are itty bity but packed full of cuteness.  They were a great size for kids to enjoy an ice cream treat without overloading them on sugar.

We enjoyed our daycation Fun Day so much that I hope we can do it again soon.  I don’t want to have to wait another year!

Come Out to Play – CLIF Kid

This post was sponsored on behalf of CLIF Kid via One2One Network.  All opinions stated are my own.

Outside play is so important to children, but it’s an integral part of family life too. My friends and I love to play phone Jenga. When we hang out or go out to dinner, we stack our phones up and whoever pulls their phone out first (except for emergency babysitter calls…or a group photo) picks up the dessert tab or has to bring sodas to the next game night. It really helps us focus our time on what we came to do – build genuine face-to-face relationships. Outside play does the same for our family.

Clif Kid

Being outside with each other makes us a lot healthier… extra vitamin D, fresher air, heart rates pumping, good old sweating. As a side note, bring snacks makes all of us have a better time. (Mainly because the kids aka me are not hungry and grouchy.) This proactive measure lets us get our vitamin D and our vitamin C because the kid CLIF bars we bring are high in it. I love the protein bars as well. So many snacks are carb-y and sugary. We need some protein to balance it out, and frankly, I’m sick of cheese sticks (which is really mostly fat).

Clif Kid Straws


My daughter hardly ever gets anything sweet (that isn’t fruit) and these CLIF Kid Zfruit tasted like it was a very special treat (even though it was good for her!).  This tangy twisted fruit rope is an excellent source of vitamin C and doesn’t need to be washed or refrigerated so it’s the perfect on the go snack.

We love to go to the pool, but a little variety and creativity is good too. THANK YOU, PINTEREST. We all find tons of ideas there; am I right, ladies? Pool noodle swords, science experiments… I also notices on CLIF’s website that they have a dedication to backyard games. Stuff you can do right at home. I don’t have to drive the munchkins 15-minutes to the pool (and pay $). It’s also nice not to have to search through Pinterest’s broken links to find a game that will actually work.

Going back to growing family time. I want to challenge you to make at least one, only ONE night a week to start with a no tech night. Put everything on lock down and just play. I always remember the best times with my parents were the times we just played together. I’d much rather have that as a child than a new toy.

What’s one way you make time for outdoor play every day?

Day of Fun Preparations with Smuckers & Walmart

Disclosure:  This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The J.M. Smucker Company.  All thoughts are my own. #Snackation

To say this is a big season for me is to call Mt. Kilimanjaro a molehill.  We’re trying our hand at DIY by renovating parts of an old and ugly house we just bought (I mean it, it’s bad ya’ll. I can’t wait to show you the pictures of our progress!), we’re trying to declutter and pack our remaining belongings, hire people to do the renovation work we can’t (juggling those appointments is well, a juggling act), I just started selling kid’s books from home (Yay! We love books!), I have HUGE plans to improve Embracing Homemaking (I’ve even hired a few people to help me behind the scenes with this.  It will be good!), and the regular goings on of life.

I’m trying to make the most of each day and truly enjoy spending time with my family.  Since a vacation this summer may be out of the picture, depending on when we get moved in the house, I thought it would be fun to take a Saturday and spend it completely together having fun.  No packing and driving boxes around, no buying new tools, nothing but fun, fun, fun together!

To make preparations for this Day-Of-Fun I went to Walmart to stock up on supplies.  I took my two cute helpers with me today and we had a lot of fun.  Helper number two is hiding in the cart behind his sister. 🙂

Smuckers Ice Cream

We bought an armful of Smucker’s goodies – yum!  My daughter loved picking these out.  We bought Smucker’s ice cream toppings, ice cream, mini ice cream cones (they are just darling, ya’ll!), Smucker’s squeezable grape jelly, Jiff, bubbles, and pool toys.  The other day we bought a little slide for them to play on.  I think we’re ready to have fun and I’ll be back in a few days to report on how the Day-Of-Fun went.

Smuckers Snacks

What fun outdoor activities does your family enjoy doing together? …and what’s your favorite summer snack?