Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Secrets!

I can finally share some of the fun Christmas projects that I've been working on this month.  :)

Once I discovered how easy it is, I've kind of become addicted to making pillowcases.  The girls each got one of these in their stockings and Isaac got a cute robot print pillowcase, also homemade.  I'm not the best at changing all our sheets frequently, but we've been having fun getting fresh pillowcases whenever we want to.  I think it helps to keep germs at bay when the kids are fighting colds.

I saw this casserole carrier on Pinterest and knew I had to make it!  The pink flowery one is mine and the blue one below I made for my sister in law.  These were really easy to make and work well.  I carried a hot pan in mine the other day and it stayed warm and didn't burn my lap either.

I used this tutorial for this fun minky quilt for my mother in law.  It came together fairly quickly and has me wanting to try another one soon.

What do you think?  Were there any secret Christmas projects that you made this year?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Puppy's First Bath

Poca had her first bath shortly after coming to our house.  Looking back at these pictures, she was so tiny then!  Oh my!  I'll have to post some updated photos, but these first...

In my typical fashion, I was picky about what we would bathe Poca with.  Our previous dog, Leia, had skin issues - she was itchy and allergic to something that we just couldn't get under control.  She was on steroids for most of her life.  With Poca being so new and soft and having such a pretty coat, I was scared to ruin it or do anything to make her itchy!

After some researching, I found Earthbath.  I am very happy with the ingredients (as well as what I don't see in the ingredient list!).  Reading through their FAQ convinced me to give it a try.  In the past we'd used some Dr Bronners soap, or an all natural organic shampoo on our dog.  I learned that soap can be very drying to a pet's skin.  Because they have fur protecting it, their skin is actually more sensitive than a baby's.  Knowing this, we decided that Earthbath would be the best thing for Poca.

She didn't love her bath, but she was so cute and snuggly afterwards.

We've not bathed Poca much yet, as labs don't need frequent baths.  However, when we used Earthbath we really liked it.  In fact, Ross heard me say that it was for sensitive skin and he decided to try it out as shampoo.  He's been using it for several weeks now and likes it.  He said that it made his hair feel less dried out because its not soap based.  I guess I'll have to buy some more for Poca since Ross stole her bottle!

Earthbath makes a whole line of grooming things - shampoo, wipes, even a spritz/ coat conditioner.  There are a big variety of scents, all of which sound great!  I'm happy we've found such a good choice for Poca.  (and I guess Ross is too...)  The vet even commented last time we were there about how she has such a gorgeous coat of fur.  He said that we must be feeding her great food, but I'm sure the shampoo didn't hurt things either.  ;)

Discosure:  Earthbath sent us some samples to try out.  I purchased our first bottle of the shampoo on my own.  Opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Puppy Poop!

I'm sure you've all been wondering what we're using to pick up after Poca.  Ok, maybe not, but of course, like everything else, I researched the topic before I made my decision, so now you get to hear about it.  ;)  There are doggy compost systems out there, but nothing I wanted to mess with just yet.  In the beginning when we were walking Poca outside each time to potty, it made sense to go ahead and pick up after her right away.  Eventually we might use a scooper of some kind, but in the beginning we needed bags.

Earthrated sent us a box of their various bags to try out.  Here are my thoughts:

green dispenser: This works well.  It is sturdy and the top screws off, making the bags easy to insert.  It has a velcro loop that attaches to a leash or elsewhere.  This is also a good size to stick in my pocket and bring along when needed.

lavender scented bags: We thought that these smelled rather strongly.  In fact, we complained about it a bit until we tried using unscented bags.  At that point I realized that poop stinks(!) and that the lavender bags were actually doing a good job of covering up the smell.

compostable bag:  I like that these bags are compostable, but I don't have a compost pile, nor would I want to put dog poop on one if I had one.  I assume compostable means these will do better in a landfill than the other non-compostable bags, but I'm not sure.  These bags are bigger, but thinner.  After using the other bags, I don't like how thin these are.  I want to be green, but I also don't want poop on me.

unscented green bags: Ok, these are the best.  I decided that the lavender scent is too strong for me, and am super thrilled (about poop bags?  Ok, maybe not thrilled... mildly happy?) that Earthrated decided to make an unscented version of their bags.  We'll continue using these.

Overall:  We've never had one of these bags rip or cause a poop disaster of any kind.  They are a good size and long enough to pick up poop, keep your hand covered, and tie a knot in the top when done.  I like the green aspect of the bags (recycled paper core, eco-friendly).  We tried another brand that didn't perform as well; these are great.

Thanks, Earthrated, for the sample box.  Two thumbs up from us!

Available at Amazon:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bell Training a Puppy

I was amazed when I met my in-laws dog for the first time and realized that she was trained to ring a bell when she needed to go outside!  We trained our other Lab this way and are now teaching Poca the same.  Its absolutely genius!  The dogs learn this so quickly and it prevents them from whining or scratching or barking because they are easily able to communicate what they need.

We used a plain silver bell on a piece of yarn in the past.  As you can see, it got rusty and the yarn was not the most attractive looking.  This time we got to review a nice set of PoochieBells.  I'm impressed with the quality - the bells are thick and have an adorable paw print stamped on them.  There are several prints and colors to choose from.  We chose bamboo webbing in bark brown.  At first I put it up along with the old bell so that Poca wouldn't be too confused.

The rules of the bell are simple- push the dog's nose up against the bell each time before she goes outside.  Always take her out when she rings the bell.  Even if you think the puppy is just playing, she needs to learn that ringing the bell = going outside.  If you are certain the puppy doesn't need to go out, distract her with a toy or play elsewhere, but if she rings the bell, she goes out.  Using this method, Poca started ringing the bell on her own almost immediately.

One thing to note is that the bamboo bells do not snap around the door handle, while the other styles do.  I ended up slipping the bells through the door handle and kind of tying them on that way.  You can also purchase a super cute little hook to hang PoochieBells on.  The hook would also allow you to hang the bells at just the right height for smaller dogs.

I love this concept and think that every dog should be bell trained!  PoochieBells are a great way to do this.  Poca uses hers regularly.  Another benefit to the bells is that we can take them along when we visit Grandma's house or travel.  Poca then instantly knows where she needs to go out to potty.

Check out the PoochieBells website here; they also offer a variety of other fun products.
Use the code "BlogSpot" for free USPS standard shipping!

Disclosure: I received PoochieBells in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fall Felt Wreath

This fall wreath was inexpensive and easy to put together while the kids were napping today.  Actually it was so easy I made one for Grandma's house as well.  :)

I used these tutorials: big lumpy flower, two colored flower, and this, and the rolled up flowers.  I love them!  Lucy and I are already thinking up plans for a spring wreath with pinks, purples, blues, and greens.

(Grandma's door is actually black.  This second wreath looked really sharp on the darker door, it was too dark for a photo though.)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Wellness Dog Food Review and Giveaway

I strongly believe that what we eat is the most important factor in maintaining health.  In fact, I'm kind of a "real foodie"  ...a term that means: borderline obsessive about what my family puts in their mouths.  Given a new puppy to feed, of course I did some research.  Combing the internet, reading message boards, and looking at various brands, Wellness Dog Food stood out to me.  I saw them recommended many times over and they have a solid reputation.

Lets take a closer look at their website:

Wellness® Recipes are formulated with wholesome and natural ingredients plus a boost of super nutrients including antioxidants, omega fatty acids, prebiotics and probiotics. And we never use any artificial ingredients, colors, flavors or inexpensive poultry by-product meals.

Wellness foods contain:

  • No Meat By-Products
  • No Rendered Animal Fats
  • No Corn
  • No Dairy or Egg
  • No Soy
  • No Artificial Preservatives
  • No Wheat
  • No Added Sugar
  • No Artificial Flavors, Colors or Dyes

Many of the Wellness brand products are GMO free, and they are working on extending that further.

Reading a dog food label is similar in some ways to reading a human food label, only the decision is really important because this one food is going to be your dog's main source of nutrition!  The first ingredient or two tells a lot, this is what most of the food is made up of.  Meat by-products can be pretty disgusting, depending on where they come from.  As with people food, artificial preservatives, food dyes, and flavors are never a good idea.  Wellness scores well on all these points.

I've not really talked about it on the blog, but our ten year old Chocolate Lab, Leia recently died of some type of cancer.  She had allergies and had to be on prednisone long term, which was terrible for her health.  When we got Poca I commented to my husband that the main thing I could do to keep her healthy was to choose a good food for her.  Spending money on premium food is totally worth it to ensure a healthy dog!

Amazon carries Wellness dog food at a great price.  We've had a large bag of food for four weeks now and I'm sure its going to last us four to five more weeks, even with Poca eating more as she grows.  (Another plus of feeding good food is less bulky stools, as there is less waste for their bodies to process and eliminate.)  We are using the Large Breed Puppy formula which is perfect for Poca's needs.

Wellness also makes some really great dog treats.  Poca has tried the Just for Puppies soft treats and was so excited that she could hardly contain herself to do her tricks.  (sit, stand, down, chase your tail)  They will be great for training sessions when we really want her to work hard.

Poca loves her food and is thriving on it.  I'm happy that we've found such a good choice for her and am impressed at all the thought and care that goes into making Wellness brand foods.  I only wish that feeding my kids were this simple.  ;)

See how Wellness dog food compares to other brands here (and get a $5 coupon).

Wellness is offering one of you coupons (they can be combined) for a total of $50 in Wellness product. They will be shipped to you along with some pet treats.  Enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: We received some coupons and puppy treats in exchange for my honest review.  Thanks, Wellness!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Puppy Training Books

We have been enjoying reading though a couple of puppy training books.  Training a dog is so important, and so easy and fun at this young age.  Poca already knows how to sit, stand, lay down (sometimes), ring a bell to go outside, and she's working on coming when called.  I'm excited to teach her more as she grows.

The Puppy Primer came highly recommended on Amazon.  Since it was ten years ago the last time we had a puppy, I needed to brush up on my skills.  I had forgotten how much fun it was to train them!  The Puppy Primer is very well written and covers the basics.  Lucy asked me if she could read this one and while there are no pictures, I think it is easy enough for her to understand.  The Puppy Primer includes information on all of the major topics - socialization, crate training, teaching commands, and more.  I really like the way that it is laid out.  You can work through the book week by week, applying what you have just read before moving on.  Tricks and training topics are taught in order, building on what is covered in previous chapters.  I've read through the book, but am going back to the beginning to work through it step by step with Poca.  Definitely a good resource!

I was happy that my library had this book and grabbed it hoping the girls would read through it.  I needn't have wondered - Lucy was reading it constantly, even while eating her breakfast!  Puppy Training for Kids is an engaging book with plenty of photos.  It covers quite a bit.  Lucy was able to read and understand most of it herself.  I like that it talks about how to read a dog's body language and gives tips for successful interaction with dogs.  This book is a great starter book for kids, but I'm also going to have Lucy read The Puppy Primer for more complete information.  This one is more to get her interested in the topic and learn some basics while The Puppy Primer covers more.  

Is there a good dog training book you recommend?  I'm having fun reading up on this!  :)

Disclaimer: We received The Puppy Primer in exchange for review.  All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happy Fall!

I love my little pumpkins!

Happy Fall!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pocahontas Puppy Costume Tutorial

Poca, our little 10 week old black lab puppy, is dressing up as Pocahontas for a pet costume contest on Saturday!  Isn't she adorable?  I snapped a few photos along the way in case anyone wanted to see how this was done.

My super scientific way of measuring Poca was to throw a kitchen towel over her back.  It was about the right width, and after folding it down some, I found the right length.  I then figured in parts for the neck straps.  Initially they were longer than this and after trying it on her we cut them down to the right length.

To sew on the fringe, I sewed the lighter fleece on in a bigger piece than I needed.  Cutting it afterwards was easier than trying to keep the two pieces lined up.

I cut the neck out and then flipped it over to cut the fringe.  Again, very exact measurements here... the fringe was about the length of my finger all the way around.  I just moved my finger along as I cut.

The bottom fringe was done in the same manner.  I sewed a piece on and then flipped it over and trimmed it to fit.

I used two KAM snaps for the neck and then put a snap on a piece of brown ribbon as well.  We pinned the ribbon in place and tried it on Poca to be sure it was going to fit well.

 She didn't seem to mind the outfit much, as it was comfy fleece.  You can see the snap placement here:

 I happened to have an Aqua Mommy Necklace that I threw on her just for a minute for the photo.  We had treats on hand to keep her from biting the necklace, and certainly wouldn't leave it on her unsupervised.  We had also considered finding her a turquoise collar as an alternative.

Add in her Kong Raccoon and she's all set!  Do you think she'll win?  Check back later this week to find out!  *She didn't win, but it was still lots of fun!  The kids got candy and apple cider, and Poca got lots of treats and some coupons to local dog stores.  We enjoyed seeing all of the creative costumes other dogs were wearing too!*

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Kong Puppy Toy Review

Puppies need to be busy!!  Good quality toys are a necessity.  We recently had the chance to review some Kong puppy toys - Poca loves them.  Ok, I love them too because they keep her from chewing up things that she shouldn't.

Right away Poca stole the raccoon and ran off with it.  Its been her little buddy ever since (fitting since her name is Pocahontas).  Even after lots of play, it is holding up well.  There is a knotted rope inside the raccoon that makes it interesting for Poca to chew on.  Its eyes and nose are embroidered on so that no little pieces will come off and harm her.  She likes to play "fetch the raccoon" or just nibble on it.

My girls thought it was super cute that Poca has her own pacifier.  The special Kong shaped treats fit perfectly inside, with just enough sticking out to tempt Poca to chew.  I was impressed that the ingredients in the treats are all natural and good for her.

After giving Poca the pacifier once, I was completely sold on it.  I could hand her a treat and it would be gone in three seconds, or I can put one in here and she can bite and play with this for five or ten minutes instead.  This way she gets the treat, gets a bit of a challenge, and gets to chew on something for a while.

The pink bone is really nice because I can just stick pieces of Poca's food in the ends of it.   She's had an upset tummy a few times, probably from switching her food over or just from settling in to her new home here with us.  I've not wanted to give her any extra treats, but this still works well and because its just her normal food inside, its fine for her to have.

Poca hasn't paid much attention to the frisbee yet, she looses sight of it once its in the air.  Its a nice flexible one though and I think as she gets older it will be great.  The kids and I had fun throwing it to each other anyway.  ;)

Ok, am I the only crazy dog mommy who thinks this is super cool?  There are ice cube trays made just to fit the Kong toys!  Poca will be getting one of these for Christmas to use with her pink Kong.  We can also stuff it with peanut butter, Kong treats, and more.  Once her tummy is settled down we'll be using this often.  There are some fun recipes and games here.

The Kong Wubba toy is fun, only Poca is a total blur when she is playing with it and impossible to photograph!  Its great for playing tug, bite, pull, squeak, etc.  :)

In my opinion, every dog needs a Kong (just check here to see which size).  I like having a variety of them to keep Poca interested and happy.  Kong toys are made in the USA and are a good high quality choice for dogs.  Thanks so much to the Kong Company for sending us these to review!  All opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, October 21, 2013

What Does A New Puppy Need?

We've had Poca, our little black Labrador Retriever, for two weeks now.  As always, I tried to do a bit of research and pick out the safest and best supplies for her.

Here are my green pics for dog care:

a crate - We are borrowing the inlaws cat carrier until Poca is a little bigger. We have another crate that she can move into as she grows.

old towels - An old bath towel works well in the bottom of her crate.  It is comfortable for her and easily washable.  We also have towels down on the floor by the back door where we take her out.  These are for wiping muddy paws and feet and also inevitably for catching puppy pee when we don't get her outside in time.  I decided that towels would be much more washable than the rugs I normally have there.

fleece blanket - I cut about a half of a yard of purple fleece that I had in my fabric stash.  Poca likes to snuggle with this and it keeps her nice and warm.

collar and leash - Our local pet store had a set that was made from soy and used all natural dyes.  It seemed more comfortable and natural feeling than some of the others.

tag - I saw these at the pet store but ordered ours online.  Red Dingo makes adorable stainless steel tags with nice engraving and a big variety to choose from.

food dish - After reading that stainless steel dog dishes could be radioactive (not kidding), we decided to go with ceramic.  I noticed that Fiestaware makes pet dishes, but then realized that my Gusto Bowls were just the right size.  Hint: they are much cheaper than the pet bowls.

dog food - Feeding your dog good food is probably the most important thing you can do to keep her healthy!  We decided to go with Wellness brand large breed puppy food.

treats - So far we have used pieces of Poca's food as treats, but we also picked up a bag of Wellness brand soft puppy treats.  I like the all natural ingredients on these and I'm sure Poca will too.  There were a few good brands available at our local store (Zukes, Wellness, and more).

toys - We picked up a cotton rope that Poca loves (not the color dyed nylon ones, just cotton).  We also are huge fans of Kong brand toys.  I'll be doing a review of their puppy toys soon.  Poca has several of them and loves them.

cleaning supplies - Pawganics foaming spray has been great for cleaning up accidents in the house.  My mother in law bought us a big six pack of paper towels with a bow on top as a new puppy present.  :)

bath soap - Poca had her first bath with Earthbath shampoo.  I really like their line of products.

poop bags - Right now we are walking Poca outside to potty each time and staying with her so that we can reward her.  We go ahead and pick up her poop with Earthrated Poop bags each time.  I like that these are biodegradable and come on a convenient little roll.

bones - I looked up some information on rawhides ...yuck!!  It looks like Wholesome Hide is what we'll be giving Poca.  I still have to track some down.

grooming supplies - The Kong Zoom Groom came highly recommended and works well.  I also ordered a puppy toothbrush, nail trimmers, and styptic powder from Amazon.

Are there any puppy care items that you love?  I'd enjoy hearing about them; leave a comment!  Check back for more adorable photos and a few puppy related product reviews soon!  :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Meet Pocahontas!

There is a new little furry friend in our household.  She's an eight week old Black Labrador Retriever and we just picked her up Saturday.  Her name is Pocahontas (Poca).  Julia read in a book that Pocahontas means "playful one".

She's settling in well!  The girls are doing a super job of watching her every move and running her outside to potty often.  She already knows that if she goes potty outside she gets a treat and will turn around and look for it after she goes.

Poca gets lots of love around here!  Hopefully she settles down and likes her crate better soon.  She already likes to sleep on the rug in the kitchen right beside me while I am cooking, and happily trotted all over the house following me from room to room while I put away laundry today.  So cute!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pinterest Find: Easy Nightgowns

I'm picky about the pajamas that my kids wear.  We use only tight fitting cotton ones because they haven't been treated with flame retardants.  All the rest have.  Yeah, yuck.  If that's not enough, I also don't like polyester against their skin at night.  It just doesn't breathe well and a couple of the girls get rashes and dry skin very easily.

This leaves my kids asking longingly if they can wear the pretty princess nightgowns that they see in the stores.  I refuse and try to explain that they would not be comfortable in them, as pretty as they may look.  The only other solution I've come up with is to make our own pajamas.  I've searched Pinterest a few times for easy nightgown patterns and even pinned a few but never completed them.  However, when I saw this one, I knew I could do it!

(I won't rehash the instructions, click the link for those.  It is very easy to follow along and has great photos.)  I went right out and bought three women's t-shirts and made these easily.  The girls are thrilled and have worn them almost every night since!  I offered to iron something on the front, but they are enjoying them plain so far.  I'm going to have to sew a few more of these for sure.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Little Mermaid Diamond Edition (Giveaway!)

The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition (2-Disc Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack with Digital) is set to be released on October 1!  We are excited to be receiving a copy of the DVD and have one to giveaway as well.

The DVD includes all kinds of fun extras - a music video, a behind the scenes look at animation, sing-a-long, and you can even meet a deleted character.  My girls have actually never seen The Little Mermaid.  We are excited to share this with them.  I'm sure we'll have lots of discussions about Ariel's choices and the consequences that she experienced.  As a family we really value being able to read or watch things together and then talk about them.  I'm hoping the sea witch doesn't scare them too badly, but I think they will really enjoy the music and fun scenes!

Would you like to win a copy?  Leave a comment (be sure to include your email address) letting me know who your favorite Disney princess is.  If you're a subscriber to my blog leave a second comment letting me know that for another entry.  The giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the US, ages 18+.  A winner will be chosen on Fri, September 27th.  Until then, check out the movie's website for clips, games, activities, and more.  :)  Giveaway closed.  Congrats WendyP!

Disclosure: I received a copy of the movie in exchange for this post.  All opinions are my own.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Giveaway: Kiki's Nation Towel Clothing

Kiki's Nation contacted me and asked if we would like to review their towel clothing.  My girls were excited to each get a skirt in the mail!

These were great to slip on after swimming to help keep the girls warm.  It also helped keep my lap dry when they wanted to snuggle!

The skirts look well made and held up nicely in the wash.  I received three different sizes, all of which fit perfectly.  I really like the length of these, not too short, but not so long that they got in the way.  There is also a good amount of stretch in the waist, so the skirts aren't constricting at all.

They are a bit pricey, but I can see us getting lots of use out of them.  My girls love wearing skirts and thought it was great fun to put one on after swimming.  :)  Would you like to win one?  Leave a comment and let me know which style and color you would pick!  They have shorts, pants, skirts, and more.  I'll choose a winner Monday evening, the 16th.   Giveaway closed.