Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Family Travels and Great Outdoors: Asheville, NC


One of the reasons we love homeschooling so much is because it gives us the opportunity to travel whenever it is convenient and affordable for us as a family. Both of us being self-employed means irregular work schedules and a lot of responsibility on our shoulders. We don't take breaks nearly as much as we'd like to! (Yet!) Since both businesses are kind of in their toddlerhood, they require fine tuning and constant supervision. 

This fall we were blessed to take a short break from the toils of daily life and breathe in the fresh air of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A trip we've been putting off for years, visiting family that has been inviting us over for what seems like a decade. We were greeted by atypical Asheville weather, rain for three days. It didn't stop us from enjoying it, but it kind of sealed the deal on having to come back in the spring or summer to really enjoy the outdoors. 

I'm in the "my kids could live outside" camp. Most days I'm on the same page with them, or want to be. When it comes to running a household and a full-time business though it's so hard to balance their need for the outdoors and my need to get things done! Can you relate?

This is why this trip was so important, for us to just pause our work and truly enjoy being outdoors with our kids. I think subconsciously we all crave more of this as parents and caregivers. Our lifestyles have become so unavoidably indoor and isolated, especially for those of us up north. It is a great challenge for any parent to make intentional decisions to be outside with our kids. 

It was different when I was mostly a stay-at-home-mom, working part-time only fifteen hours a week online. We were always outdoors. The kids got so used to that, and I'm thankful I was able to be with them where they really wanted to be - outside. They were never locked up in a building for long parts of the day. Now I have to be even more intentional - being a full-time business owner mom to two active kids who need the outdoors. A balancing act for sure. 

Our trip to Asheville re-centered my desire to be outdoors with them more. I knew it all along, but it can so easily get lost somewhere among clients, contracts, photo sessions, marketing plans, never ending meal making and food shopping trips, and well - LIFE. We all need reminders like this - don't we?

I was cherishing and gulping down these moments. 

Hiking up a mountain (yes, she was so tired she crawled on all fours).

Taking in the beautiful views. 

Realizing just how high up we are. 

Relishing in how much the kids love, no how much they need this. 

Realizing how much we need this.

How do you make time for the outdoors with your kids whether you are a stay at home parent, working parent, or business owner?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Cheeky Monkey Organic Peanut Snacks Review & Giveaway

Our family is very often on-the-go. As most fellow homeschoolers will agree - you often spend more time outside the home and words like car-schooling or world schooling apply much better! This of course brings on the challenge of feeding my kids nutritious and healthy foods and snacks no matter where we may be that day. Grab and go type options that are actually healthy are extremely scarce and my biggest pet peeve is the sheer amount of sugar even in organic kids snacks. So I was definitely excited to be introduced to Cheeky Monkey - a healthy, sugar free, organic kids snack.

We received a few bags of Cheeky Monkey to put to the test of two very hungry growing munchkins who scream "I'm hungry!" the moment they are done with their breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Honestly, I had no idea they would like these so much. At first Baby E, my older one, didn't take to the peanut snacks and gave them to her little brother Baby T, but surprise, moments later I saw her sneaking some from his bag. Then she asked for her own. Then I had to hide the stuff! After I tried it I had to hide it from myself frankly! It's a good thing they are full of protein and fill you up pretty quick, otherwise it would be very hard to stop. They are not salty, but with just a hint of sweetness - without any sugar, the organic peanut butter has that bit of sweet tastiness that's hard to explain. 

There is so much we like about Cheeky Monkey, I'm not even sure where to start! Most important to me I think is the three organic certifications that Cheeky Monkey has passed - COR (Canadian), USDA, and EU Certified Organic. Ultimately I think we all want to reduce our kids' exposure to pesticides, because no matter how hard we try they will be exposed here and there regardless. My job as a parent is to minimize that when and if I can, as much as I can afford to. 

Cheeky Monkey peanut snacks are also certified gluten-free. This means they are produced in a gluten free dedicated facility that is certified by the Gluten Free Certification Organization. While we do not have celiac disease, overall we feel better when we minimize our intake of gluten. For me the primary reason - gluten makes me foggy and zaps my energy. For my kids, an overload of gluten gives them bowel issues and irritability. Not a fan of them being moody! So I definitely appreciate the fact I have a gluten-free snack on hand.

Likewise, while we are not vegan by any means - I like the fact that Cheeky Monkey puffs are vegan and an entirely plant-based snack, yet very high in protein. They are also kosher certified by the Orthodox Union, if that's something that is important to your family. These were not a must for us personally, but a nice bonus on the list of positives. To top it all off, there are also no trans-fats, no sugar, dairy, or casein. Right now we do consume organic dairy, but there was a point in Baby E's life when dairy was actually life-threatening to her when as an infant she couldn't at all digest milk protein, not even when I would eat it and it showed up in breast milk. 

Before I agreed to review this, I wanted to make sure it would be something I would wholeheartedly let my kids eat without concerns and that it is also an environmentally sound and sustainably sourced product. While I would have preferred coconut oil, it was great to learn that the organic palm oil used to make the snacks is both Rainforest Alliance certified and certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. 

My kids are no longer babies, but this snack is actually safe and beneficial for babies. Not only does it quickly melt in the mouth so there is no choking hazard, a recent study also showed that 6 grams a week of peanut protein (about 1.5 ounces of Cheeky Monkey), can reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy. So it's perfect in small amounts even for infants starting solids! A great on-the-go addition to those healthy veggies you may start your infant on while continuing breastfeeding.

Last but not least, this snack was developed by group of people, including parents, that have a primary interest in health and wellness for their children and themselves. Much like me, but perhaps with way better skills at bringing such a great idea to life! 

One of my readers is going to get to try these yummy snacks for yourself, we hope your kids will love these as much as mine do! 

Giveaway is open to U.S. residents. Obviously, please do not enter if you have someone in your household with life-threatening peanut allergies. One winner per household, email address, or home address. If you have won this prize on another blog you are ineligible to win again.

Connect with Cheeky Monkey on Facebook and their website

Disclaimer: I participated in this event on behalf of Wendy's Bloggers for Cheeky Monkey. I received Cheeky Monkey products to facilitate my review.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Nature's Path & Stonyfield: Superfood Breakfast

You already know I have a soft spot in my heart for organic yogurt from Stonyfield. So I'm sure it's no surprise it is a frequent breakfast of mine! I really love my mornings when the kids are still asleep (which is often till 9 am since we homeschool), I wake up with dawn, tip toe downstairs, and mix up some yummy granola with a cup of Stonyfield Oh My Yog or just a regular large French Vanilla. Then I cozy up in my home office to edit wedding or engagement photos before they wake up and we start our homeschooling lessons, trekking outdoors, or simply playing. I've been buying the Nature's Path Chia Plus Granola for years and am a big fan, but I was excited to also try the Pumpkin Flax Granola that we received in the mail. 

It's a perfect combination of flavors, not too sweet and definitely not "blah". With the addition of the Nature's Path Qi'a it further elevates a breakfast to be a super-breakfast. Qi'a is naturally gluten free and packed with plant based protein, fiber, and omega 3s. There is no added sugar or salt, and of course it is certified organic and non-GMO verified.

As an eco-conscious mom and blogger, one of the most important things to me is how the food we eat is grown and sourced. With Stonyfield and Nature's Path I can be confident I'm feeding my family GMO-free foods that are of the highest quality, short of growing and producing it myself - and what busy mom has time for that? 

Not only is this a simple breakfast to throw together, but you don't have to stop there, the yogurt, superfood cereal,  and the granola may all be used as ingredients in creating a unique breakfast of your own, a great part of a cookie recipe that you can dream up! Baby E and Baby T love helping me in the kitchen, so they'd be the first to make up a crazy recipe and put random ingredients in the cookies. It might seem random, but Nature's Path has the perfect ingredients for a healthy cookie. 

My kids love putting the granola in their yogurt. In fact it's extended not just to breakfast, but they'll have it for a snack, sometimes for lunch, and believe it or not, even dinner! Okay, so that only happened a couple of times, but who am I to say no to a healthy organic "dinner"? 

How would you use Nature's Path granola or Qi'a superfood breakfast cereal?

Disclosure: As a Stonyfield Blogger I was sent Nature's Path products along with Stonyfield coupons for this review. All opinions are my own and I only work with brands whose mission I wholeheartedly support and would recommend to my readers. 
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