Friday, March 29, 2013

7 Reasons Why You Should Be Reading E-Books

So hopefully, I haven't totally confused you with whether or not you should get an e-reader, but I wanted to talk about whether I recommend e-readers in general. I don't know if I recommend an e-book reader per se (it really depends on your situation and your preferences), but I definitely recommend e-books. 

Whether you read them on an ebook reader or on a tablet using an app, I do recommend you getting into the world of electronic books. Here's why:

E-books are often cheaper

First I'd like to say that people seem to have a misconception and believe that e-books should be dirt cheap or they should be free just because you're not buying a physical product. Understand though that the cost of printing and shipping a book is only a small fraction of the cost of producing a book. That said, e-books do tend to be cheaper, especially if the book has been out for a year or more. Once the cost of producing a book has been covered, publishers have more leeway in offering a discount on e-books since they can produce an infinite amount without costing more.

Not only that, but you don't have to pay to have the book shipped and books are instantly delivered to your e-reader or other device, so no waiting for it to reach you. You want to read a new book, you can within seconds.

E-books don't take up space

This last summer I moved two states away and let me tell you, I got rid of a lot of books. You can't sell used books very easily (unless they're expensive, up-to-date text books). I had a bunch at my yard sale and I probably sold five of them, mostly kids' books. They're heavy and once you've read them, you might not read them ever again (or you might read them only every 5 years and in the meantime they're taking up space). E-books on the other hand take up no space, you can have as many as you want (especially with cloud storage) and they weigh nothing.

You can borrow e-books from libraries

Libraries are starting to have e-books as part of their inventory. To borrow one, you just have to have a membership to that library. You don't have to go to the library to get a book; you just need an internet connection. Just like with the regular books, you may have to wait in line till a book is available and the selection may be limited, but there are no worries about losing the book or forgetting to return it and paying a late fee. You also don't have to worry about paying for a new book after your toddler decided to turn it into an art project. 

You can borrow e-books from friends

Just like with regular books, you can borrow books from friends. Unfortunately, there are some restrictions. You can only borrow each book one time. Book lending periods are for 14 days, so only borrow a book when you know you want to read it. Publishers of the book also have to have the option of lending enabled, so not all books are able to be lent. Still, it's a great way to read a book your friend recommended to you, and you don't have to worry about forgetting to return it!

You can read ebooks on any device from practically anywhere

Did you know that you can get a program that allows you to read Amazon e-books from your computer? Yep, you can read them right on your desktop ... no e-reader required. There are apps for every mobile and tablet OS (as far as I'm aware) as well as Kindle. Not only that, but if you start reading a book on one device and then switch to another device, the Kindle app will remember where you left off and you can pick up from there on the next device (assuming you're connected to the Internet while you're reading, that is). You can go from reading on your computer to reading on your phone to reading on your table to reading on your e-reader. This makes it great if you were reading on your Kindle at home and then got stuck somewhere without it because you can just continue on your smart phone. Genius!

You can take the reader with you wherever you go

And unlike with real books, you don't have to worry about them being too heavy. By having your e-reader in your purse, you will always have something to do if you find yourself waiting for your car's oil to be changed or waiting at a doctor's office for an appointment.
This shows some of the books I'm borrowing along with The Da Vinci Code I got for free :)

You can get books for free

Despite what I said about how you shouldn't expect to get books for the fraction of the cost, books are still available for free. Typically, these books are ones by self-published authors who are looking to gain a readership, but that's not always the case. Another reason a book might be free is that it's the first book in the series and the publisher is trying to get more readers interested in the other books, and therefore buy them. I've even got big named books for free like The Da Vinci Code and Must Love Dogs. These books are typically not free for long, though, so check back to Amazon often to see what the deals are that day.
    So whether or not you've owned an e-reader in the past, dive into the world. If you don't have a lot to spend, start small with a Kindle Touch or something equivalent. For only $69, you really can't go wrong.

    *Hot* Insider's Tip

    Want an insider's tip. I know how you can keep a library e-book rental (or other rental for that matter whether you're borrowing a book from a friend or from Amazon) longer than the due date. Typically on the due date, the book will automatically be removed from your e-reader and you won't be able to read it again unless you borrow it again or buy it.

    However, if you turn off your Wi-Fi on your Touch, so it doesn't connect to the Internet, your book will stay on your Kindle till you connect again. (Shhh, don't tell Amazon we know this!) Of course, this could be problematic on a tablet, which pretty much has to connect to the Internet to function (i.e. there are certain apps that won't work without connecting), but on the Touch, the only reason you'd need to connect would be if you need to download another book onto the device. As long as you don't need to, you can disconnect it from Wi-Fi and finish reading your book. Once you're done, reconnect, say buy to the book, and get new books.

    Protecting Your Kindle

    And if you do end up getting either the Paperwhite or the Touch, I highly recommend this leather case. I got it for my Kindle and it's been great. Easy to open and close, good quality, and the Kindle fits perfectly. It comes in 8 colors and is only $9.45 to $13, so you really can't go wrong. With it on, I can just throw my Kindle in my purse and go without worrying about the screen getting scratched.

    Well, I hope you've enjoyed the series this week on e-readers and e-books. Let me know what you liked about the series and what you didn't :).

    I'd also love to hear about your experiences with e-readers and e-books. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Leave them in the comments.

    Thursday, March 28, 2013

    E-Reader Series: If I Had to Do It Again, Would I Get an eBook Reader over a Tablet?

    This is what I've been thinking about the last few weeks and it's a hard question to answer. Overall, I really do love my Kindle Touch. Still, I wonder if I should have waited. Here are some reasons that I would consider getting a tablet instead of the Touch:

    Why a Tablet Is Better Than an E-Reader

    • More versatile. Tablets are made for more than just reading books. You can play apps, music and video on them. There are dozens of apps for tablets whereas the Touch is made just for reading ebooks and nothing else.
    • Operating system. Operating systems on tablets are made to be fast and easy to use.
    • Graphics. You can see the covers of books as you're going through them to figure out what you want to read.
    • Same size. Now that 7-inch tablets are all the rage, you can get awesome tablets that can also be held on one hand. This makes reading in bed easy. The release of the iPad back a few years ago caused a slew of copycat tablets that were all about 10 inches. Now that the 7-inch tablet has caught, in part spurred by the Amazon Fire tablet, there are many choices for smaller tablets that can be held in one hand.
    • Battery life. Maybe batteries on the tablets won't last a month, but many are made to last 10 hours of active use and up to a couple weeks on standby. This means at the very least, it should last all day and you can then charge it while you sleep so it's ready for the next day.
    • Kindle app. No matter what tablet you get, whether it's Android, Windows RT or iOS, there's an app that allows you to access your Kindle library. This means that you can read your ebooks on lots of devices rather than being stuck with only reading on your Kindle. 
    • Read non-Amazon ebooks. Not only that, but on tablets you can get apps for other e-readers, such as Nook, so that ebooks that you've bought through other sources can also be read on your tablet. With a Touch (as well as other Kindle devices), you're limited to only purchased made through Amazon.

    Why an E-Reader Is Better Than a Tablet

    So you're probably wondering, if a tablet is so much better, why should I even consider an e-reader? Well here are some thoughts about that:
    • Eye strain. It's possible that reading on a tablet may cause more eye strain than an e-ink reader like the Touch. However, if you have problems with eye strain, the recommendation is that every 20 minutes, focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. I know that from my experience, I have not had any problems reading on the Touch any more so than reading a book.
    • Doesn't work in bright light. So a few years ago, I was working from home on my laptop and I got this bright idea that I would take Alex, who was a toddler then, outside of our four-plex to play on the grass. I would take my laptop so I could get some work done and still keep an eye on him. Well, that worked not at all because the light from the sun completely washed out my laptop screen and I couldn't read a thing. For this reason, the e-ink display wins. If you want to read at the beach, at the park, or anywhere else outside, a tablet just won't do.
    • Cost. When it comes to price points, nothing beats a Touch. With the Kindle Touch now only $69, there's really no reason to say no. And despite the fact that I was so excited when the Paperwhite came out (and it was only $20 more than what I paid), honestly I don't think it's essential to have one instead of the Touch (unless you think you'll be reading in dark or very low light a lot). I can't think of an instance where I haven't had enough light from a lamp, an overhead light, or the sun to read just fine.

    What Should You Get Then? A Tablet or an E-Reader?

    That is a question you'll to answer yourself, but I think the major factor that comes into play is the price. For only $69, you can have your own e-ink reader, so if you can't shell out $200 or more for a tablet, why not get a Touch. 

    However, if you can afford a tablet, and especially if you want to do more on than just read ebooks (such as using apps and watching Netflix or movies and TV shows), I would definitely recommend a tablet. There are so many to choose from and they all have their benefits, so it will take some research to decide which one is right for you.

    And really, if you can swing it, I'd get one of each. There will be times when one or the other will work better  for that situation. You could keep the Kindle in your purse ready to read if you ever need something to pass the time (without worrying about the battery being dead) and bring the tablet with you when you're going on a long trip and need to keep your kids occupied. For that matter have both with you so your kids can play games while you're reading a book—everyone wins!

    So do I regret getting the Touch? No, not at all. Whether or not I get a tablet in the future, I will continue to read books on my Touch. Overall, I love it.

    Do you have an e-reader or tablet? If so which one do you have and do you love it?

    Wednesday, March 27, 2013

    E-Reader Series: Review of Kindle Touch from Amazon

    I've mentioned a couple times in the last couple weeks about how I used my downtime to read on my Kindle. As I've been using it more, things came to mind about what I like and what I don't like, so I figured I'd do a review about my Kindle Touch.

    What I Like about the Kindle Touch

    Let's start off with what I like about the Kindle Touch.

    It's easy to use. There are certain parts of the screen that do certain things. While reading a book, you touch the top to bring up the menu, the right side to go forward and the left side to go back. You can also swipe up and down to to move to the next chapter or previous chapter. 

    See definitions of words while you read.
    You can bring up the dictionary to find out what a word means. Unlike a regular book where you have to physically get out the dictionary or search online to find out the definition of a word, the Touch automatically comes with a dictionary preinstalled. To find out what a word means, just press down on the word for a couple seconds and let go. The definition will pop up in a little window. Click outside of the window to go back to reading.

    Battery life. Battery life on the Touch is long, like a month. No need to charge it every day or two like with tablets. 

    Read one-handed. Since the Touch is about the same size as a book (it's just a little smaller than 7-inch tablets), you can hold it in one hand to read. It also fits easily into purses, so you can easily take it with you wherever you go.

    Read in direct sunlight. This one was a big reason I chose the Kindle Touch over a tablet. Where tablet screens will get washed out in sunlight (such as reading at the park or on the beach), the screen on the Kindle Touch can be read in almost any light level. It's also easier on the eyes with the e-ink display.

    What I Don't Like about the Kindle Touch

    Though I like it overall, there are things I don't like about the Touch. 

    Can't read in no light or very low light. Just like a regular book, you can't read on the Touch if you don't have much light or any light. This typically isn't a problem, but every once in awhile it can be. This is what Paperwhite tries to eliminate. It's supposed to work in any light level from direct sunlight to no light. Of course it wasn't around when I got my Touch, or I'm sure I would have gotten it.

    Not very responsive. When you're reading a book and turning from one page to the next, it works great. However, trying to get to the home screen and searching around for books, it takes quite a lot of time to think about what it wants to do. This can get annoying if you're trying to organize your book collection or are browsing around trying to decide what to read. Luckily, it doesn't affect use of the Kindle too much.

    List of books. No book covers.
    Not high def screen. When you use the Kindle app on your tablet or smartphone and are browsing through your library, you see these beautiful book covers that help you find something you're looking for and help you decide what to read. On the Touch, all you see are book titles, which isn't always helpful in trying to find stuff. Obviously, the Touch can't give you beautiful color pictures, but if it had a faster processor, it could probably give you at least gray scale pictures of the books, which still might help you figure out what you want to read. You pretty much have to know what you're looking for or go onto your computer or other device to find what to read and then get it on your device. 

    It only comes with a charger cable that connects to your computer. This isn't huge deal because you can charge it, but if you've ever had a tablet, smartphone or other device, you know that it will charge a lot faster if it has a wall charger. You can a wall charger for your Kindle but it will cost extra ($20). 

    Operating system. I am not happy with the operating system on the Kindle at all. Besides being really slow, it's really kludgy. For example, sometimes I'll be searching for a book and will search for the title. It will bring up a search results that shows all the books with those words, including the book I want. So I tap on the title, but instead of taking me to the book, it just takes me to where in the book those words are found and I have to fumble around trying to find the beginning of the book.

    So am I happy with my Kindle? Would I choose it again if I did it all over again? Tune in tomorrow for a continuation of As the Kindle Turns ... I mean the continuation of my e-reader series ;).

    Tuesday, March 26, 2013

    E-Reader Series: All about the Kindle Touch

    This week I've decided to focus my articles on e-books and e-readers. Today, I'm going to talk a little about the Kindle Touch and then tomorrow, I'll have a review on the Kindle Touch. Later in the week, I'll talk about e-book readers vs. tablets and then whether I'd recommend getting an e-book reader. I hope you'll join me in this e-book adventure!

    What Kindle Do I Own?

    First, let's clarify which Kindle I own, since there are so many models out there now that it's been on the market so long. I have a first generation Kindle Touch, which I got for Christmas 2011. When I got it, it was $99 and now it's only $69 regular price. I have to say, I wish I'd waited! The reason for the price drop is that the Kindle Paperwhite came out . You can get the Paperwhite for only $119 with Special Offers and $139. Mine has special offers as well.

    What Does It Mean to Get a Kindle with Special Offers?

    Example ad shown with my Kindle locked.
    If you're considering getting a Kindle, you may wonder what it means to have special offers on it, how that affects using the Kindle, and whether it's worth paying extra for one without.

    In my opinion, get the one with special offers. If later you don't want them, you can always pay the extra cost and have them removed, but here's why the special offers is not a bad thing:
    • It never interrupts reading books. You will never have a pop-up window with a special offer. You will never see an ad at the bottom, top or side of the screen while reading books. 
    • When do you see them? There are two times that you'll see the ads: When the Kindle is locked and when you're on the home screen searching through your library (it's a small bar at the bottom of the screen). I've never been annoyed by them.
    • Sometimes the ads are good deals that you would want to know about, such as a book that's on sale for only $2.99 or a buy one get one free deal. For this reason, it might be helpful to see the ads.

    What Can You Do If You Don't Want to See the Special Offers on the Kindle?

    Click to enlarge. Ad is on the bottom there.
      Because the ads are so easy to ignore, and they don't interrupt me while I'm reading, I just don't see them as much of a bother. As I mentioned, if they do become annoying, you can always pay for them to be turned off.

      Another option is to turn off the Wi-Fi. This option will also save you on battery life. Without Wi-Fi to receive the offers, you'll just shown a generic wallpaper when you lock the Kindle and as long as you don't need to download a book from the library or Amazon, you don't need Wi-Fi to be turned on. (Note: This may take some time after you turn it off for the ads to stop coming.)

      Since it saves on battery life, it might be worth doing just for that reason alone. Unless you're actually searching for books on Amazon or looking at books you have saved to the cloud, you really have no reason to have it connected to Wi-Fi anyway.

      Come back tomorrow to find out what I think of my Touch. I'll talk about the good and the bad. Questions? Comments? Feel free to ask below and I will answer them :).

      Friday, March 22, 2013

      5 Favorite Things of the Week - 3/22/13

      I know you're all dying in anticipation of what my favorite things are this week, right? ... *crickets chirping* ... *crickets chirping* ... Well, settle down because I will now reveal to you what made me happy this week. :D 
      Scramble with Friends

      1. Amazon Kindle. I mentioned on Monday that I've been sick. I thought I was almost over it on Sunday, but apparently it's decided to linger. So all last weekend I spent reading books on my Kindle and it's made me very happy. No need to drive to the bookstore or library (especially awesome when you're feeling sick). What's my favorite genre? I admit that it's YA fantasy. Can't get enough of it.
      2. Scramble with Friends. Another fun thing that I've been doing with my downtime is playing Scramble with Friends. It's a variation of the game Boggle where the tiles have point values like in Scrabble. There are three rounds of play and in the second round, there are double word and double letter values for some letters and in the third round there are triple word and triple letter values. You can play with friend or random players through Smart Match (so hopefully you don't play people who are amazing. If you want to know what amazing is, search on YouTube. It's crazy).
      3. Tax Returns. This week our tax return was deposited into our bank account. I turned it in two weeks ago. How cool is it that we can do our taxes online and then have it deposited directly into our accounts two weeks later. Plus it's nice to have that cushion so I can pay bills without worrying about whether there's enough in there. Yay for tax returns :D.
      4. Nasal strips. Since I've been sick, and stuffed up, it's harder to breathe at night (which makes it harder to sleep. To help with that, I've been using these Nasal Strips by Clear Passage. I think that they do a good job and help open your nose so you can breathe easier. Plus these are cheaper than a lot of ones I've seen. I don't use them all the time; just when I'm sick (or if my husband complains that I'm snoring).

      5. My Wedding Anniversary. Today I've been married 11 years! It's crazy how fast time goes by and how things have changed in 11 years. When we got married, we got a digital camera as a gift and it was the hot new thing. Everyone who took pictures at the wedding used film. Also, I don't even think that phones had cameras back then (or at least not that common) let alone anything like the smartphones we use today. If things can change that much in 11 years, it makes me wonder what will happen in the next 11.
      So that's my list of favorite things this week. What did you like about this week? I'd love to hear about it!

      MW Gets a New 'Do

      So my freelancing gig is crushing me (that plus I'm still getting over being sick) so I've been a bit behind on my Mommy Hints tasks, that's for sure. I have plenty of ideas for posts, it's just about having the time to write the danged things!

      Anyway, for whatever reason, I finally got around to giving MW a hair cut. Being almost 2 years old, the idea of trying to wrangle him while holding scissors wasn't one that I was looking forward to. Alex didn't have enough hair to cut till he was much older (like 3 as I recall), so I never had to deal with this before. My sister recommended cutting his hair in his sleep. Yeah, that wouldn't work with MW. He wakes up when I just go in to check on him before I go to bed (one little movement and he shoots up).

      But I decided to go for it, and to help keep him somewhat immobilized, I stuck him in his high chair. At least he couldn't run off.

      I don't have a great picture of his hair before the hair cut, so I just spent the last hour or two putting together this little video for you. Not only does it have cute little MW, but you can see how scraggly his hair was before:

      And here he is now:

      Have I mentioned he's a cutie? Look at that face!

      This was definitely a challenge and more than likely I missed some spots, but at least he's not so shaggy :D. 

      Monday, March 18, 2013

      Where Did the Weekend Go?

      I'm not sure how productive I'm going to be for the next few days. I started feeling sick Thursday night and then woke up Friday with a full-blown head cold. Ugh. So I spent the weekend mostly relaxing. I did have to take Alex to ballet on Saturday and we stopped on the way home to get some essentials (milk, eggs, bread, etc.) but other than that, I pretty much chilled.

      So there are good things and bad things to that. On the plus side, it was kind of fun to do nothing. On the not-so-plus side, my house is now a disaster and I'm not quite fully recovered. Luckily, my husband and I dug into the kitchen yesterday so at least that is respectable. I think the burst of energy did us in, though, because we're feeling a big worse to day. :(

      So what did I do all weekend? I chilled and read on my Kindle. Lucky for me, I have access to an online library which allows me to borrow ebooks (though just like a real library, they only have so many copies and sometimes there are like 70 people on the waiting list). So I got some books on there to read and read all weekend. I can't tell you the last time I did that. It's times like this I'm so glad to have a Kindle!

      Anyway, I may be slow in getting posts out this week, so sorry about that. But thanks for your loyal support :D. And as a reward for reading this, a cute picture of my youngest, who rocked himself to sleep on the arm chair:

      What was the funnest thing you did this weekend?

      Friday, March 15, 2013

      5 Favorite Things of the Week - 3/15/13

      Ugh. I woke up sick today. It's not all that bad, but I worry about how bad it will get before I get better. Plus, you know how it is when you're a mom: you don't get a day off. It doesn't matter that I'm sick. I still have to feed the boys, make sure they're not destroying the house, etc. I don't get a "day off" (unless maybe I'm lucky enough to have the grandparents take the boys for a day, which is wonderful when that happens).

      So anyway, here are my favorite things of the week:
      1. Papa Murphy's Pizza. So I think in the past I was not all that interested in Papa Murphy's Pizza, but lately, because of circumstances, we've been having it more often. Since we've been going more, I've noticed some advantages:
        • You can pick up hours before you plan on eating (assuming you can stick it in the fridge in the meantime). This is great if I'm out and about in the afternoon and I don't want to run out right before dinner. And we're just too cheap to have pizza delivered because we don't want to pay the tip :P.
        • You don't have to worry about the pizza getting cold before you eat it.
        • Every time you order (at least for our local Papa Murphy's), the instructions sheet comes with a coupon to upgrade a medium to a family size free (which is like $3 off). 
        • They have dessert pizzas (so good!) that are only $3 (at least here locally).
        • Since they aren't cooking the pizza, it doesn't take more than 5 minutes for them to make the pizza, assuming it's not overly busy when I go.
      2. My new HP laptop. This year we got a decent tax return and I decided to replace my laptop. The monitor had gone out on it and it was really huge and bulky. I wanted a smaller one that was more portable, so I got an HP laptop from Best Buy. It's been a great investment and it's so light, I can take it with me anywhere (right now I'm typing from the living room arm chair instead of my desk). Oh, and did I mention the battery lasts about 4 hours? My last laptop only lasted 1.5 hours or thereabouts.
      3. Having two awesome sisters. I was lucky enough to grow up having two sisters 6 and 8 years older. They've always watched out for me and are there for me. When I was younger, they would often take me out to lunch or buy me candy. Despite the difference in age, we're close and even now, they call and see how I'm doing and help whenever they can.
      4. Warm weather. Today it's supposed to get up to 70 and even when I've had to slip out at night to slip something into the garbage can, it's been so warm. I haven't needed to rush back in because of the cold air. The boys have been playing outside a lot and we've all enjoyed going places without having to bundle up. It's supposed to cool down this next week (highs in the 50s), but it's been so nice enjoying the warmer, sunnier weather.
      5. White noise machines. Earlier in the week I wrote an article all about white noise machines. These really are awesome, whether for you so you're not woken up by other members of your household or whether for your kids so they can sleep undisturbed (especially for naps). We use ours every day!
      What were your favorite things about this week?

      Thursday, March 14, 2013

      Healthy Strawberry Banana Smoothie with Pineapple

      Tonight for dinner I decide to make the traditional strawberry banana smoothie, but I wanted to jazz it up a little, so I decided to make a healthy banana smoothie with pineapple in it. I think I was think that it would sort of be like a strawberry pina colada. Yummy! I think, though, that it would have helped if I'd added more coconut flavor and more ice to thicken it up.

      Here's what I did:


      1 cup coconut milk
      1/4 of a pineapple, chopped
      1/2 lb strawberries
      2 stalks of kale, stem removed
      1 banana
      2 tsp Truvia, or to taste

      Add to blender and run till smooth.

      I was a little hesitant to add kale to my strawberry, banana, pineapple smoothie since this was my first time, but just like baby spinach, you couldn't taste it.

      Why Add Kale to Smoothies?

      With no fat and hardly any calories, kale has 5 grams of fiber for every cup. It's also very nutrient-dense, containing vitamin K, iron, calcium, vitamins A and C, and anti-inflammatory agents. It's full of antioxidants (those things that prevent cancer and help you to stay healthy, even from colds), including flavonoids and carotenoids.

      Here's a breakdown of what you get in just one cup of kale:
      • 15% DV calcium
      • 15% DV vitamin B6
      • 40% DV magnesium
      • 180% DV vitamin A
      • 200% DV vitamin C
      • 1020% DV vitamin K
      • 5 grams fiber
      • 36 calories
      Kale also has minerals including copper, iron, phosphorous, and potassium. 

      So the next time you're making a smoothie, whether a smoothie with pineapple or some other combination, consider adding kale to the mix. You may need to add a little extra sweetener, like stevia, because kale (as well as other greens) tend to saturate the sweetness of the fruit, but in the end, you have a healthy smoothie.

      See Alex in the background gulping it down :D.
      And what's even better is that my kids loved this smoothie with pineapple too!

      Is a Banana Smoothie Healthy?

      If you're wondering whether banana smoothies can be healthy, the answer is yes! Depending on what you put in it, you can make healthy smoothies with bananas. A couple important things to remember:
      • Add protein or make it a side dish: If you're planning on replacing a meal with a healthy banana smoothie, be sure to add some protein to the mix. This could be some sort of nut butter (peanut butter and almond butter come to mind) or protein powder or some other source of protein, you need that to stablize your blood sugar levels so they don't spike from the sugar in the smoothie. If you can't do that, eat the smoothie as a side dish along with a balanced meal.
      • Diversify: That means don't have the same foods every day. Find new and exciting things to put into your banana smoothies. Healthy smoothies don't come from just having milk, bananas and ice. Try new combinations. What I've found is that bananas do add wonderful flavor to your smoothie, but make sure you're always trying new fruits and vegetables along with the bananas.
      So try a smoothie with kale and see what you think. Let me know in the comments.

      Wednesday, March 13, 2013

      Romantic Dinner Recipe Ideas: Easy Meatballs with Cream Sauce

      As moms, it helps to take some time away from the children and have a romantic dinner with your significant other. If you aren't able to make it out of the house for a date (maybe because there's no extra money in the budget for a babysitter), here's one of the best ideas for romantic dinners that's easy and oh so yummy. Fix the kids some chicken nuggets and send them off to bed. Then fix this easy romantic meal for your sweetheart.

      Meatballs and Cream Sauce


      Pkg of Premade Meatballs (your choice. I used Kirkland Signature Italian Meatballs)*
      2 tablespoons butter
      2 tablespoons flour
      1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
      salt and butter to taste
      1 14-oz can chicken broth
      2/3 cup evaporated milk or heavy whipping cream

      1. Prepare 24 meatballs according to the instructions on the package.
      2. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in flour, thyme, salt and pepper until smooth. Gradually add broth and evaporated milk. Bring to boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
      3. Top meatballs with sauce.
      By using prepared meatballs for this dinner, it makes for an easy romantic dinner for two, so you can spend more time with each other. Sometimes it's easier to have canned evaporated milk on hand rather than fresh cream, but either will work.

      Now if you have the time and want to make your own meatballs for your romantic dinner at home, here's how to do it:


      1 egg
      1/4 cup milk
      1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
      2 tablespoons ketchup
      3/4 cups quick oats
      1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
      1 teaspoon salt
      1/4 tsp pepper
      1 1/2 lbs ground beef
      3 tablespoons flour
      1. To make these easy meatballs, just combine the first 8 ingredients in a bowl and then combine with ground beef.
      2. Shape into balls that are about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll in flour. 
      3. Place 1 inch apart on a baking. Bake at 400 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes (till they're no longer pink inside).
      4. While baking, prepare the sauce.

      Steamed Green Beans with Brown Sugar

      If you're looking for a recipe for steamed green beans, this is an easy one.


      4–6 cups fresh or frozen green beans
      1–2 tablespoons brown sugar
      1/2–1 tablespoon butter
      salt and pepper to taste

      1. Heat 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Place green beans in pan with a little water and cover. Steam the green beans for 8–12 minutes (depending on your preference for doneness).
      2. To stop the cooking process, add cool water to the green beans.
      3. Drain the water from the beans and set aside.
      4. Just before sitting down to the table (about 5 minutes) put the beans, the sugar, and the butter in a saute pan and saute them for 3-4 minutes.
      5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately and enjoy.
      Now it might sound weird to have pepper with brown sugar, but trust me, these are divine. They are similar to the beans you can order at Outback Restaurant (one of my favorite places to eat out). So if you're looking for easy romantic meals, give this one a shot.

      And that's it! This is one of the easiest romantic dinner recipe ideas I've found (especially if you used prepared meatballs), and it's also delicious. And you don't have to reserve this meal to meals just for two either. This is a great meal for the whole family as well and my boys loved it :D.

      What do you and your sweetheart do for your romantic dinners at home? I'd love to hear them!

      Monday, March 11, 2013

      Using a Sounds for Silence White Noise Machine to Help Babies Sleep

      When you have a newborn baby, nothing is better than the sound of your baby sleeping ... especially if you're dead tired from exhaustion. You will do anything to help your baby sleep longer. There are many techniques for getting your baby to sleep, but what about keeping your baby asleep?

      MW just a few hours old.

      What Is a White Noise Machine?

      A white noise machine, or brown noise generator, produces ambient noise that is soothing and helps block out noise from other rooms and outside. Some white noise machines play a prerecorded track while others produce organic noise with a fan.

      How Can Background Noise from a Noise Making Machine Help My Baby Sleep?

      By blocking out background noise, your baby can sleep longer and more soundly. This is especially important if you have children who are older who might wake your baby up early from a nap or in the mornings, and even more especially if you, like me, live in a very small house/apartment (i.e. our toddler's room is on the other side of the wall from our TV).

      Alex when he was just an iddy-biddy 'ittle baby
      According to Dr. Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, "Most babies sleep better when a harsh, continuous white noise plays near their bassinet. These womb-like sounds drown out other distracting noises and have a profoundly lulling effect. ... [T]he mere addition of white noise to your baby's nursery may extend his sleep by an hour or two."

      Authors Jennifer Waldburger and Jill Spivack of The Sleepeasy Solution also recommend it. "Protect your child from distracting sounds ... with some steady white noise. ... Once your child is sleeping better, feel free to see if he can do without it. Some kids, though, will always sleep better with white noise and ... it's a harmless [sleep association] as it does not interfere with sleep but actually should enhance it."

      With so many benefits to white noise machines, it's no wonder so many parents are using them as sleep aids for their kids. It's easily controlled (unlike pacifiers which can be lost and music which eventually stops). You can have a white noise machine playing throughout the night if needed.

      Options for a Baby Sound Maker Including Sounds for Silence

      There are quite a few options out there when it comes to providing a sweet bliss for your baby's room.

      Sounds for Silence Nursery Sound Machine
      Sounds for Silence Nursery Sound Machine, via Amazon
      One of the most well-loved is the Sounds for Silence Nursery Sound Machine by First Years. This machine has many options including white noise sounds and music. Some parents find the sounds "odd," but they were designed by Dr. Harry Zehnwirth specifically for babies because the sounds soothe them. There are lots of options, so you're sure to find one that's just right for your little one.

      Another white sound maker designed for little ones is Graco's Sweet Slumber Sound Machine. Designed to create white noise as well as being compatible with mp3 players, this white noise machine comes with a timer and 12 sounds including lullabies and nature sounds.

      For a model with decent reviews, check out the Conair SU1W Sound Therapy. This also has options for other noises besides just white noise, such as falling rain, ocean waves, and tropical forest. This could be great white noise for studying, for those who are students or who are parents of students.

      Want to go simple with just a straight white noise machine (no frills), check out the Dohm-SS Single Speed Sound Conditioner. This is a great option if you need a loud sound machine or a soft one. It has a volume control for high and low but can also be adjusted using the top and side screens. It doesn't have all of the options but really, you probably will only need the basic white noise machine option. It should be noted, however, that this is an organic white noise machine. Where other machines play a pre-recorded white noise sound, this white noise is created by using a fan inside the machine. Users love it as well, with a 4.5/5 star rating on Amazon.

      Why a White or Brown Noise Generator Might Help You as Well

      Via Amazon
      As a parent, we need sleep. Often our kids wake us up way too early (sometimes at 3 a.m. because they think that's "wake up" time. When is 3 a.m. ever a good time to wake up?). By using a white, pink or brown noise machine (whatever color you prefer, really) in your room, you may be able to avoid getting up quite so early. These machines can help block out the noise of your kids so you can get that precious extra hour of sleep before you have to get up.

      We personally use the Dohm-SS Single Speed Sound Conditioner so I can personally vouch for that one. It's just basic white noise, but it's still going strong after 5+ years of use (and since we often forget to turn it off, it's often on all day too). We have one for our bedroom and one for our boys' bedroom and neither of them have had a problem. We've taken them on trips (both plane and car) and they're pretty small so they fit in luggage easily.

      So if you're looking for a way reduce noise pollution that reaches your baby, whether traffic sounds, booming music from neighbors, construction or just your other kids having fun, consider getting a white noise machine. Do any of you use white noise machines? What kind do use? Tell me in the comments :).

      Friday, March 8, 2013

      5 Favorite Things of the Week - 3/8/13

      Wow, is it just me or did this week go by fast. I feel like I've barely had any time to think or breathe. So now that it's Friday once again, here are my favorite things of the week:
      1. Warmer, sunny weather: Woohoo! Who's with me? It feels like spring is just around the corner and I'm ready for it. I wouldn't say that this winter was especially cold, but it's been so cloudy and going outside today and finding the bright sun was so rejuvenating. Where have you been all winter, my friend Sun?
      2. As mentioned earlier in the week, I love Pandora. It's an awesome way to get your jam on, have a dance party with your kids, or provide soft music while relaxing. 
      3. Karrie, from She's a great friend of mine and came over this week to help me learn more about this blogging thing. Maybe one of these days, I'll get the hang of it. If you haven't checked out her blog, head on over there and see how she can help save you money.
      4. Cuddling with my 22-month-old. I think that me and MW have a lot of things in common, and wanting to cuddle is definitely one of them. He's such a sweetie and will often ask me to pick him up and hold him. Gotta take the time to cuddle now before he finds out it's not "cool." :P
      5. Friends who are in your heart no matter the distance. There's something special about a friend who continues to think about you and wants to know how you're doing even when it's been months since you've seen each other. I have a few friends like that right now, including one who is halfway around the world and one who I left behind last year when I moved. I'm so glad that with the way technology is, we can keep in touch.
      What were your favorite things about this week? Did it go as fast for you as it did for me? All I can say is TGIF! Thank goodness it's finished. LOL!

      Tuesday, March 5, 2013

      Amazon Baby Deals for Moms, 3/5/13

      There are some great deals on baby items going on at Whether you need a baby shower gift or are getting ready for your little one to arrive, here are some items you won't want to miss.

      The Fisher-Price Luv U Zoo Crib 'N Go Projector Soother gets 4.5/5 stars from users and is now on sale for $19 (regularly $38). This soother plays soothing music while rotating images that are projected onto the ceiling.

      Needing a diaper bag? Check out the Carter's Fashion Tote diaper bag, which right now is on sale for 25% off. Users approve with a 4.4 star rating, and having a bag to carry all your gear in makes trips with the baby so much easier.

      The Britax B-Agile Stroller in red is on sale right now for $80 off, making it only $168. Rated at 4.6 stars, this is a great stroller that will last you for years. If you need it to be compatible with infant car seats, a separate adapter can be purchased and works with many brands of car seats. This stroller holds children up to 55 pounds and features a one-hand quick-fold design.

      Having a cradle swing is so wonderful when you have a newborn. It saves your arms from doing the swinging and will keep your baby asleep longer so you can take a nap or do some cleaning. The Fisher-Price Cradle 'N Swing is on sale right now for $127, down from $170. Included is an AC adapter so you can plug it in rather than using batteries. Rated at 4.3 stars, you know you're getting a quality swing at a great price.

      Remember, prices can change quickly and without notice, so take advantage of these deals while they last. Have you seen any great deals for baby items? Share in the comments.
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