Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

The holiday season marks a special time of festive occasions surrounded by friends and family. It's a wonderful time to count the blessings we have, to recount Jesus' birth at Christmas, and to reflect on another year behind us. 

This season is especially sweet for me as I get to bask in the joy of having a baby again. Another little one to spoil and to share my favorite time of year with! There's something a bit magical about this time of year. Throwing on some Christmas music, decorating the tree and sipping apple cider while wrapping some presents. The chilly days just make me want to snuggle with my kiddos on the couch all day long!

From our family to yours, may you have a wonderful Christmas and safe New Years.
 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Be Money-Wise in 2016 With a Toyota Prius {Review}

Thank you to Toyota for loaning us a Prius for a week for review purposes. All opinions are 100% my own.

Need a huge land yacht to haul the groceries and the kids? I really doubt it. Do you like the idea of a mean, lean, gas sippin’ machine? … business in the front, party in the back? The Prius is a cool car that has unbelievably good gas mileage. And, right now you can score some great deals on the 2015 models before the 2016 models come in. 

The Reynolds family got to test drive a 2015 Toyota Prius for a week, and it was mostly business for me. And, besides the lack of 4x4 off-road capabilities, the Prius did incredibly well at getting me to work, going to the store, driving the kids around, all while avoiding the gas station.

I figured with all the money I saved on gas, I could easily afford to rent a truck for the one or five times a year I truly need to haul something around. (Ok, in reality for me, 1-5 times a decade is a lot).


The car is truly spacious. We simulated a trip to Costco and Trader Joe’s and unbelievably, the car seemed to have just as much usable space as our compact SUV. 

We also simulated a father son camping trip. The hatchback is truly versatile, it makes a small car feel much larger. Our neighbors have a couple of the Prius C, they take it to the snow covered mountains quite often.

The car we tested had every creature comfort imaginable, some features were quirky, and I truly did not know what to do with the space. Enter in my bowl of granola, there’s also a spot for minimally packaged soymilk under the center console. Did you notice the bamboo spoon? I know you did. 

I don’t know how much I can believe the center dash computer, but I averaged on my commute about 25 miles per hour on the freeway (that sad fact I can confirm) and 63 miles per gallon. My current commuter car gets about 25 miles per gallon. I figured that I saved about $3.00 a day in gas alone. It may not seem like a lot, but I like to think about those three extra dollars in terms of hamburgers. I can only imagine the next Toyota commercial I see on TV… Buy a Prius, get 10,000 hamburgers over your driving lifetime! I am only kidding, but its kinda sorta true.

Now, if Toyota would only let me test drive the Toyota Tacoma Off-Road, I can only imagine how many fewer hamburgers I would eat.

Enter The Reynolds Dad Dream Sequence:

“Dear The Reynolds Mom, please let me buy a Toyota Tacoma. It’s just like going on a diet. I read an article online about it. Your husband will be even hotter in that truck!” 


Errrp (that's how I write the sound of brakes), in reality, sometimes there is a choice to be practical. 99.99% of my driving is in town, on the highway, in the city and on paved roads. The Prius is not going to be the envy of the guy parked next to me at Bass Pro Shops. However, I’ll know I am doing my part to conserve so generations can enjoy the outdoors forever in our country. USA! USA! USA!

I just got the sudden urge to ditch all my cars and get on a horse. Giddy up!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Best Buy Revamps Santa Rosa Store Just in Time for Holiday Shopping Season #BestBuySanFran

This is a sponsored post brought to you by Best Buy. All opinions are 100% my own.

On our visit to see family for Thanksgiving, we stopped by the newly revamped Best Buy store in Santa Rosa, California. Best Buy remodeled all 21 San Francisco area stores over the summer, spending $10 million dollars on enhancements, just in time for the busy holiday season. Keeping up with the latest and great in technology, new shopping features now provide customers with more choice in appliances, a best-in-class home theater shopping experience and new shopping areas from top brands.
 
The Santa Rosa store now features one of eight San Francisco Pacific Kitchen & Home stores, where customers can get premium brands like Wolf, Viking, Miele and Bosch. For customers looking for a truly custom kitchen, shoppers can work with a Pacific Sales representative to design an entire space that fits their needs. I've gotta say that I was absolutely drooling over the gorgeous kitchens displayed in this new department.

The store's appliances department has expanded to include a larger variety of both large and small appliances. The open format of this area made it easy to browse and compare the much broader selection of appliances.

The home theater sections have been remodeled to highlight new TV technology like 4K and UHD displays.The picture quality on these beautiful televisions are amazing. Just when you think the best is already available, something even better is released!

Along with many great new features, the newly renovated Santa Rosa store has been refreshed with new fixtures and finishes, including new paint and lighting and updated carpeting and bathrooms to make for a better customer shopping experience. These improvements were definitely noticed and appreciated during our visit. 

Since 1995, Best Buy has invested nearly $300 million within our communities. They focus their giving on programs that leverage technology to inspire and engage teens and help them prepare for college and careers. In the San Francisco Bay area, Best Buy has partnered with many organizations that help to bridge the gap in digital literacy and help teens develop 21st century skills to prepare for the future. Two thumbs up to Best Buy for their continued commitment to local communities and helping youth thrive. 

Next time you're in the area, visit the newly revitalized Santa Rosa Best Buy location at 1950 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95407 in the Santa Rosa Marketplace. 

Not near Santa Rosa? Use the store locator to find a Best Buy store near you, or shop online at BestBuy.com.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

My Top 10 Baby Toy Picks at buybuy BABY

 
I received complimentary product for review purposes as part of the babyhood Influencer Network. All opinions are 100% my own.

With Christmas just three weeks away, shopping for gifts is in full force around here. My favorite gifts to shop for are the kids' toys. I consider it so much fun to go into a store to see and touch the toys I'm considering. I feel like a kid again, on the hunt for the best toy out there!

Not every toy lives up to it's promises and with so many toy options out there it's important to do your research and find reviews from other parents. That's what I've done here with my top 10 baby toy picks at buybuy BABY. My picks are mostly toys that we own already and highly recommend. A few are toys that we will own after opening gifts on Christmas morning, and a couple are on our wishlist still. I chose a few gift options in the more pricey range, but most are affordable for all budgets. I've made it easy for you to choose a gift that works for you!

A few notes before you shop. First, consider the age of the baby you're shopping for, and what is developmentally appropriate. Baby toys these days will typically have the appropriate age range listed on the product packaging or online listing. Some toys will absolutely work for young babies all the way into toddlerhood, and those are definitely my favorite.

 
Also, consider that your gift doesn't necessarily need to light up, use batteries or make a ton of noise to be exciting. Sure, those things are great (and we own plenty), but sometimes going simple is just as good. Some of baby girl's favorite toys are simple stacking cups that she loves to knock over, and a stuffed toy green bean that she loves to chew on.

So without further ado, here are my top ten baby toy picks from buybuy BABY this holiday season.


1. My Busy World Cube by ALEX Toys - $69.99 
Five bright and colorful sides of exciting activities will captivate and engage your little one. This sturdy wood cube features curvy bead mazes, peek-a-boo doors, spin and match animals, turn and learn ABC tiles and racing vehicle rollers. Baby girl enjoys this cube very much! It has so many components to it that she'll probably discover something new every time she plays with it for quite a while. Buy it now. 

2. Jiggypotamus by kiddopotamus - $19.99
Kiddopotamus is a new line from Summer Infant! This toy is a cuddly plush that jiggles, shakes, and giggles when squeezed. Baby girl was a bit unsure of this one at first, but now thinks it's quite hilarious! Sure to delight your baby and toddler alike, get ready for plenty of laughs! Buy it now.


3. PortaPlay Convertible Activity Center by Oribel - $149.99
This impressive activity center is a bouncer and activity table too, making it a versatile gift and a cost-effective product. It features a unique forest theme, 5 clip-on toys with a unique forest theme, and it all folds flat for space-saving storage and easy portability. Buy it now

4. Whoozit Space Blankie by Manhattan Toy - $14.99
A fun blankie with two spinning rattle balls, a discovery mirror and a teething corner. Perfect for all babies, especially those just learning to grasp toys and begin to develop fine motor skills. It clips to activity centers and car seats too. Buy it now.

5. Have It All Ball by kiddopotamus - $14.99
Let baby explore the color, texture, sounds and ribbons of this new toy from kiddopotamus! The leaves crinkle, the ball squeaks, and there's a mirror too. Give it a big squeeze and a monkey pops up from the middle. Baby girl loves the different textures on this toy, which is a nice large size for little hands. Buy it now


6. Parum Pum Pum Drum by B. - $34.99
This highly rated instrument set by B. is bound to create lasting memories of musical creativity with your baby. The set includes silly centipede drumsticks, jingle bell ants, a busy bee maraca and clacker, a cute caterpillar tambourine and 2 shaka-shaka eggs which conveniently fit inside the drum. Buy it now.


7. Bandana Buddies Animal Activity Toy in Ellie the Elephant by SKIP*HOP - $14.99
This guy is a great size and full of exciting textures, patterns, and sounds. It features a teether, rattle ring, and mirror too! Attach to the car seat for on-the-go entertainment or keep in the play room, this (and all the animal characters in this line from SKIP*HOP) are sure to be one of baby's favorite plush toys. Buy it now.

8. Activity Garden by Little Tikes - $79.99
This interactive play center transforms into an open two-sided play environment. It features
a Tap-a-Tune piano, shape-sorter mailbox, open-close window shutters, movable telescope, crawl-through obstacle course and more. Plenty of play opportunities make this an excellent gift choice that will grow with your baby into toddlerhood. Baby girl will be getting this as her "big gift" on Christmas morning! Buy it now.

9. Stack and Roll Cups by Fisher-Price - $11.99
A unique take on stacking cups, this set is a new family favorite in our home. These cups stack, nest, and fit together to form balls that really roll. A cute yellow ball that jingles adds another element of fun. The cups are different shapes and have numbers too, which create so many possibilities in this one somewhat simple toy. Buy it now

10. Sit-To-Stand Learning Walker by VTech - $34.99 

Music, lights, and plenty to do will engage your little one with this walker, a popular choice by parents. Baby girl LOVES sitting up to use it at the moment, but will be pushing it around as she learns to walk soon enough! The play panel is removable for use on the ground during tummy time also. It features three spinning flowers, five piano keys, colorful rollers, three light-up shape sorters and a telephone handset. Buy it now

So there you have it, my favorite baby toys this holiday season. Will any of these be wrapped under your Christmas tree?

Ready to shop? Buybuy BABY has you covered for all the seasons of baby's first years, holiday gifts included. They carry an insanely large collection of baby products, with a multitude of toys for every age and stage for babies and toddlers. Employees receive extensive product training from buybuy BABY and brand vendors, so you can be sure that help is available if needed. Amazing customer service, product selection and competitive prices keep me coming back to buybuy BABY. Find your nearest store location here.
 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Tips On Pre-Christmas Saving

Disclosure: This is a guest post.

The festive season usually brings with it seemingly endless shopping lists. If you want to prevent your festive financial fears from dampening your Christmas spirit this year, taking the time to plan for pre-Christmas spending might just save the holiday cheer for you and your family! Use this article as a starting point to saving big this year and to having a stress-free time during which you'll be able to think about the true meaning of these special days instead of your anxieties about the bills!

One of the best, and by far the easiest, ways of saving a lot for Christmas is by looking out for various coupons at different stores. From discount and free-shipping coupons to first-time-customer and buy-one-get-one-free coupons, there are so many options available! And they are easily available online at such websites as Discountrue.com. The trick to saving the most is learning how to make optimal use by either stacking them up or knowing when and for which purchases they will be most useful. Whether you take advantage of the promo code to pay less on your Christmas dinner or on the gifts for your family and friends, coupons can ensure that you manage to get everything on your shopping list and more!

Speaking of shopping lists, do you always stick faithfully to yours? Most of us stray from our plans and usually this results in spending more rather than less money than we initially wanted to. When writing your list, think carefully about what you want to get and try to stick to it! Shopping online is another good way to avoid all the temptations awaiting you in the store and can also make it easier for you to do a quick price check to make sure you're getting the best deals. Remember to mark things off when you get them to avoid purchasing duplicates that you won't have any use for.

When you're preparing your shopping list, it's always a good idea to consider which of the items can be made at home. You'd be surprised at how many things are much easier and cheaper to make rather than to buy! Handmade Christmas cards and home-made desserts always add a more personal touch to your gifts and events. Another great thing about DIY projects is that they are a great way to bond with your loved ones over the holidays!

With all the hustle and bustle of the season, it's easy to forget about your loyalty points. Take a few minutes to check out how many of those you have, as well as all the freebies and deals that you're eligible for. The holidays mean various special occasions, so make sure that you research the issue before any Christmas shopping this year in order to ensure that you don't spend any more money than you have to.

Following some of the above tips will not only help you to stay within your budget this Christmas, but will also ensure that you can get high quality products at the best prices possible, whether it's holiday d├ęcor for your home or Christmas gifts for your family and friends!
 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Personalized Holiday Gift Ideas from Minted {Giveaway - Ends 12/7}

It's the season of giving! Are you out of ideas for anyone yet? A personalized gift is always a thoughtful choice, and one that's easy to create with Minted this holiday season.

I received credit to Minted in exchange for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Minted is a marketplace of beautiful stationery, home decor, photo gifts and more, with designs powered by a global community of independent artists. They're well known for their large selection of custom photo cards, in case you haven't sent your Christmas cards out yet. Personally, my favorite products from Minted are their personalized gifts. Let's highlight a few of my favorites!

Notebooks, Address Books & Day Planners
Choose from hundreds of cover options, select the interior pages and binding type, and customize as needed to include a photo, the recipient's name or other text. My personal favorite is the personalized notebooks, which I have personalized and given to several of my friends and family. I have even made several for myself! They are a wonderful size (5.5" by 8.5") and are great for list-making and record-keeping. I currently have one designate for everything homeschooling related, and another for personal notes. 

Personalized Stationery
Give stationery with a monogram, floral masterpiece or bold design. Personalize it with the recipient's name so they can send correspondence in style. There are options for him, her, and even for kids. Stationery can be foil-pressed and there are shape options to choose from if you'd like something other than a typical rectangle. Stationery is printed on luxurious paper and delivered in an embossed white gift box.

Photo Calendars 
This is the perfect gift that gives all year long as it's used each day. Choose from lots of unique designs and formats, and personalize with special dates and photos. I particularly love photo calendars as a gift option for a spouse or grandparent.

There are plenty of gift options at Minted, so hurry on over and get shopping! For additional ideas, Minted has featured their editor's picks top 5 favorite gifts. Be sure to check them out for even more gifting inspiration this holiday season.


Enter To Win:
One of my readers will receive a $50 credit to Minted!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Holiday Baking with Heilala Vanilla & Vanilla Custard Recipe {Giveaway - Ends 11/30}

Pull out your mixer and warm up the oven...the holidays are here! Baking is without a doubt an essential component to all the upcoming holiday festivities. If you're like me, you add vanilla to everything, because vanilla is delicious! Riiiiiight? 

Just in time to join your holiday baking plans are award-winning Heilala Vanilla products. All the way from New Zealand, they have a whole range of award-winning 100% pure vanilla products, including Vanilla Beans, Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Paste, Vanilla Sugar and Vanilla syrup. 


I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions are 100% my own.

About Heilala Vanilla
Heilala Vanilla began as an aid project over eight years ago, when a vanilla plantation was established by a New Zealand family, in partnership with a local family from the village of Utungake in Vava’u, Kingdom of Tonga. In 2005 the first crop was harvested and brought back to New Zealand, and was snapped up by local chefs.

Since these small beginnings and a first harvest of 40kg of dried vanilla pods, Heilala Vanilla has grown spectacularly, harvesting 3.5 tonne of vanilla in 2011. This has had a significant impact on the local community, providing employment and infrastructure.

Products are sold into specialty food retail and fine dining establishments and gourmet food manufacturers. Markets have been established in New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States.

Retired New Zealand dairy farmer John Ross and his son-in-law Garth Boggiss, who has a horticultural background, have built up a vast knowledge of growing this very specialised crop by meeting and visiting vanilla growers in many parts of the world (including Tahiti, Reunion Is and Costa Rica). A plantation in both Tonga and in Tauranga has enabled a complete focus on the intricacies of growing vanilla. 


I received a couple Heilala Vanilla products to sample for myself. The Vanilla Syrup is a sweet syrup with a base of vanilla extract, vanilla bean and sugar. It's contains a whole vanilla bean so the rich vanilla will be present until the last drop. The syrup is great for adding to coffee and other beverages, smoothies, and as a topping on pancakes or desserts. It has a true syrup consistency and smells deliciously rich and fragrant.

The Pure Vanilla Bean Sugar is just sugar, powdered vanilla beans and vanilla extract. It has a strong vanilla essence throughout that is fabulous on or in cookies, cakes, pastries, and other baked goods.  

Looking for a super simple vanilla-infused dessert for the holidays? This homemade custard using Heilala Vanilla beans and sugar are sure to impress your party guests.

Vanilla Custard by the glass 
Makes: 2 ½ cups

Ingredients:
1 Heilala Vanilla Bean, split

2 cups full cream milk
6 egg yolks
2 tablespoons super fine sugar

1 tablespoon Heilala Vanilla sugar for sprinkling

Directions:
Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the milk in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the vanilla bean and heat until the milk is hot but not boiling. Leave to infuse for 5-10 minutes.

In a bowl mix together the egg yolks and sugar, then add the infused milk, stirring constantly. Wipe out the saucepan and return the mixture.

Cook over a low to moderate heat, stirring constantly until the custard thickens enough to lightly coat the wooden spoon.

Pour custard into a clean bowl, sprinkle with vanilla sugar to prevent a skin forming. Leave to cool, then cover and refrigerate. Remove vanilla bean before serving.

Serve vanilla custard in glasses or pour into a jug and serve with poached fruit.


Mmmm, the entire line of Heilala Vanilla goodness! Heilala Vanilla products are available at Sprouts Farmers Markets and Earth Fare stores nationwide.



Enter To Win:
One of my readers will receive a bottle of Heilala Vanilla Extract!