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Review: Sun Basket
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» Year of Less: Birthday Update
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» 2017 Father’s Day Gift Guide
4
REVIEW: EGO Power+ Electric Lawn Mower
5
» Kindergarten Countdown
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» 2017 Mother’s Day Gift Guide
7
» REVIEW: Pact Organic
8
» REVIEW: Ninja Coffee Bar System
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Easter baskets during the year of less
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» REVIEW: Monster ClarityHD On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones

Review: Sun Basket

We have tried several meal services over the past year but continue to look for fresher, organic and non-gmo options. We recently had the opportunity to try Sun Basket through the Moms Meet program and I’m excited to share our experience! Sun Basket has really fun design so we were especially excited to see the adorable box arrive at our doorstep. The farm fresh appeal carries into the packaging with sweet little images of sunshine and farm life.

As we began to unpack the box we appreciated the recycling directions and eco-friendly packaging. My husband is an avid recycler and quite the tree hugger so he was very impressed that Sun Basket went the extra mile in this department.

 

The contents were all labeled well and we quickly set out the ingredients to cook the first meal. A few of the ingredients were already chopped, carrots in this case, and this made the process even smoother.

The meals, in my opinion, were very straight forward and easy to put together in 30 minutes or less. They weren’t terribly fussy or overly complicated. We did run into this issue with other meal services. I need a meal service to make my life easier and don’t want to be in the kitchen preparing things for an hour. The kids were also able to join in as I cooked and that always makes for an enjoyable family experience. Sun basket recipes have suggestions for ways the kids can help out, I appreciated that they approached mealtime from a family perspective rather than assuming that mom would take the responsibility alone.

The meals were tasty and well thought out. Additionally the portion sizes were enough to feed two adults and four small children. We chose to order from the family meals section but there are definitely meals that would be catered toward couples or roommates if that is the preference.

If you are searching for a meal service that focuses on organic ingredients and simple prep this is definitely a great option. Click here to learn more about Sun Basket and try your first box at 50% off!

 

Disclaimer: Moms Meet and Sun Basket provided us with a meal service to sample. The opinions in this post are completely my own.

» Year of Less: Birthday Update

We are steadily continuing the year of less and it gets easier with each event. This week brought another opportunity to put our resolution into practice. Charlotte is turning 8 years old! She’s a bit of an old soul so while she still has the remainders of a baby face it seems completely probable and appropriate that she’s a full 8 years old. When my kids were very little I made a promise to soak in each day and stage and do my best to stay in the moment, this has made the passing years seem more realistic even if they do feel faster than I would like.


This year a few of our kids were at various camps during Charlotte’s birthday and Calvin had taken Liam to Houston with him. This gave Charlotte and I a golden opportunity to share some quality time. We started the birthday festivities with pedicures and talked about what event she might like to do for her birthday gift. She requested a surprise and I took that as a challenge. I discovered through a random Facebook ad that something called China Lights Nashville was currently set up at the fairgrounds. After viewing the press release and videos I knew this was just the event to celebrate my half-Chinese princess.


I’m a firm believer in dressing the part for celebrations. I told her to choose a favorite dress and chose one for myself as well. We put on lipstick and drove the 30 minute drive to the fairgrounds. I kept the surprise until we arrived and she began to see the lights. It was beautiful! If this event comes to a town near you I highly recommend a visit!


When we substitute events for presents we are in favor of going all out. This means dinner, dessert and specials drinks. This means that the gift recipient gets the royal treatment. It’s a full out attempt to create very fun, out of the ordinary moments and memories. It means saying yes to all the things that we often say no to. When you are one of four kids there aren’t as many moments like that so that makes days like this even more special!


During the evening I made sure to fill her head and heart with affirmation, I told her how wonderful she was and about all the ways she makes our home joyful.

The year of less has become less about reducing the stuff and more about amping up the intentional moments. The removal of things has caused us to focus more on what we do and say during celebrations. I hope that when we come to the end of this year our kids have unforgettable moments and a knowledge of their importance and place in our family.

» 2017 Father’s Day Gift Guide

Father’s day really crept up on us this year! We’ve had way too much fun kicking off Summer. Fortunately we were already thinking ahead and have compiled some interesting ideas for all the dads out there. Enjoy this list that doesn’t include ties OR socks!

1. Twelve South – Apple Accessories

If your household has been taken over by Apple, some accessories that match Apple’s design might be a nice addition to his desk or nightstand. We especially love the HiRise 2 stand for iPhone.

buy on Amazon
Twelve South website

2. EGO Mower and Lawn Equipment

Finally, a mower we can both agree on. The EGO Power+ mower is powerful with the torque of gas, but doesn’t require gas or a silly extension cord like the electric mower we used to own. The mower folds up nicely, runs at a low noise level, and starts up every time with a push of a button. EGO also has an array of outdoor equipment such as chainsaws, leaf blowers and edgers that all use the same battery. Read our full review here.

buy on Amazon
Ego Power+ website

3. Netatmo Smart Home

I’ve mentioned Netatmo and their beautiful smart home products in my Mother’s Day post. If you’re husband has (or wishes to have) a green thumb, the Personal Weather Station monitors outdoor environmental elements such as temperature, humidity, and pressure in real-time. If you’re husband is anything like mine when it comes to growing fruits and vegetables, he’ll need all the help he can get.

The Netatmo Presence is the first outdoor security camera with artificial intelligence to detect and report about people, cars and animals. When I get outdoor notifications about movement or activity, it includes the family member it sees. It’s also great to see if someone is loitering around the house, any cars that wait on the driveway for too long or in our case, a dog that gets loose. This camera is combined with a floodlight that needs to be hardwired so make sure you have a spot that will work along with 30 minutes to wire and properly mount everything.

Netatmo website

buy Netatmo on Amazon

4. Tablift iPad Stand

When this came in the mail, I have to admit, I laughed a little. But for the last eight years, we haven’t had a TV in our room. My iPad Pro now serves as our bedroom television that now sits comfortably right on our bed. The legs are designed in such a way that your legs can sit under the Tablift without knocking everything over.

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5. MyQ Garage Door Opener

This has been one of Calvin’s favorite smart home devices. Chamberlain’s MyQ Garage works with most existing garage door openers and with a quick five-minute installation, your smart phone can open and close the garage door from anywhere! Now that our kids are older, they’re always opening the garage to get their bikes out but never remember to close them when they’re done. We had many mornings where we found the garage door open from the previous night. Now we can check from inside the house before bed and make sure things are shut without having to get up from the bed.

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Chamberlain website

REVIEW: EGO Power+ Electric Lawn Mower

Electric lawn mowers aren’t a new thing for our family. In fact, we’ve had one for many years, my tree-hugging husband insisted on it. But ours is pretty ridiculous, you literally plug the mower into a 100-foot extension cord connected to an outlet and mow away. It’s tedious and I’ve almost run over the cord more times than I can count. The picture below (not me) features this interesting contraption I’ve used to mow for years.

Is she cutting the grass or vacuuming the grass? Even I’m not sure. Men in big trucks have had quite a few laughs at my expense as they drove by, some pulling commercial mowers behind them. My husband didn’t see any problem with this method of grass-cutting but he’s not the only one who mows the grass, I was fed up.

Finally, a mower we can both agree on.

We’ve been using the EGO Power+ lawn mower for a couple of months now and absolutely love it. Actually. I adore it. The EGO Power+ mower is powerful with the torque of gas, but doesn’t require gas or a silly extension cord. There are  a few different types of EGO Power+ Lawn mowers but we received the Power+ 21 inch with 5.0Ah battery. The 45-minute run time was more than enough for our 1/3 acre. Here are some of my favorite things about it so far:

Battery charges in 30 minutes flat: I never open my calendar app and schedule grass cutting time. Instead I usually realize it’s about to rain and quickly run out to take care of the lawn. With EGO’s rapid charger, I only need to plan 30 minutes in advance to get a full charge.

Ease of use: No more cranking the motor over and over again and pulling a muscle in my mom-bicep. With the push of a button, the mower starts up every time. Electric mowers are also much lighter so they are easier to push through the grass. My arms and legs appreciate it. Even our nine year old can expect to add cutting the grass to his summer chore list.

Noise level: I can listen to a great Spotify playlist while mowing without having to buy a pair of $300 headphones to actually enjoy it. I’ve always hated the loud noise, and smell, that gas mowers produce.

Folds up: With two cars in the garage, it doesn’t leave much room for lawn equipment. The EGO mower folds up nicely for storage purposes. If needed (for those friend favors), I can quickly load it up in the van, too.

EGO is not just a mower: EGO has a ton of other tools including blowers, trimmers, and chainsaws. The best part, they all use the same battery and battery chargers. This allows you to charge one (or more batteries) while using other batteries for the tools you need immediately.

 

Conclusion

We have used electric outdoor equipment for a long time but always being tied to a cord is getting really old. Time with family has become more and more valuable to us and EGO has allowed us to get the job done quickly without the awful fumes of gas. If you are looking to start with one unit, an EGO mower is a great foundation to build upon. We will continue to add tools from the EGO platform to our garage.

POWER UP YOUR SUMMER: From May 18th – June 4th, online or in-store at The Home Depot, you can get $50 off handheld kits (while supplies last).

EGO Power+ website

buy EGO on Amazon

EGO 21 in. Push Mower Specifications:

  • Up to 45 Minute Run-Time with 5.0Ah 56 Volt ARC Lithium Battery
  • Rapid Charger : Charges the 5.0Ah Battery (included) in only 40 Minutes
  • 21” Deck
  • Push Button Start
  • Compact Storage
  • Weather Resistant Construction
  • LED Headlights
  • 3-IN-1 Function: Mulching, Bagging, Side Discharge
  • 3 Position Handle Heights
  • One Handed Height Adjustment
  • Maximum Cutting Height: 4 inches
  • Minimum Cutting Height: 1 ½ inches
  • Grass Bag Capacity: 2 Bushels
  • Rear Wheel Size: 9 inches
  • 5 Year Warranty

» Kindergarten Countdown

I sent my first child off to kindergarten 4 years ago. I watched many mommas say goodbye with tears and lamenting Facebook posts. I, on the other hand, said goodbye with a pep in my step. I knew Elliott was ready and I knew he was going to have a great time. I also had two in preschool and one on the way home from China. My plate was full. I’m also a work outside the home momma and did not have to return home to an empty house.

A short 4 years later all my babies are home and in various grades at school. Our youngest is finishing up preschool and kindergarten is just months away for him. And I’m a bit of a mess over it. No one warns you what it’s like to let the baby go to real school. Sure, he’s been in preschool for some time now. But it’s sweet and small and special. He plays a lot and get smiley faces. Real school is big time. It means the baby is gone. It also means I have to grow up too. No more he’s the baby passes. I admit… it’s probably awesome being the youngest. I didn’t experience it myself but I do recognize the special treatment one receives as the last one with a little baby in them. Not special in a way that lets him out of consequences, but special in a way that gets extra drinks of water at bed time or more snuggle time. Because man… that kind of stuff just won’t last forever.

Letting go is an art I need to learn. And motherhood is teaching me. Girls, this is way more than I ever expected! My kids are growing fast, they are moody, they are needy and they are so unique and wonderful. I’m never ready for the next stage to start because what we are in is so good! This day, this month and this year will never happen again. And while, at times, I want to beg time to slow down I also can’t wait to experience all the other stages of mothering my kids. It’s a tug of war. Torn between anticipation of who they will be and the desire to rock them to sleep until they are 15.

I might if they will let me.

As our family approaches our last preschool graduation and kindergarten…. I have some thoughts for you, Liam. Thoughts that will also be written on paper for that special box I keep for each of you.

Buddy I remember where I was when I got a call about you. We had been waiting a couple years to know who you were. We were praying too. I was really, really ready to know you. And when I wasn’t expecting it my phone rang on a regular morning while I was playing with Elliott and Charlotte. They were so little at the time, just babies. Our family coordinator was on the phone and she told me that she wanted to tell me about a baby boy. I was so surprised because you were so little! We had given away many of our baby things because we thought you might be 2 or 3 year old… but no… when we got the call you were just 3 months old. I stared at your picture and printed a dozen copies for our home. We began to plan for you and anticipate meeting you for the first time. The next time I got a call I happened to be in Haiti. We didn’t expect to travel so quickly! I had to fly home and get to Ethiopia as fast as I could. Daddy and I were so excited… the long flight seemed even longer than usual!

We had to leave after just a week with you. We didn’t know when we would get to bring you home. The wait was so much harder after we held you. After we saw your eyes light up when we tickled your tummy. You were so completely our son and we were so completely your parents. God gives many good gifts in life and you are one of our greatest. Thankfully, as you know, Nana and I got to bring you home just 8 weeks later. You were pretty sick, very sick actually, and I petitioned a lot of important people to help us get you home quickly. We didn’t sleep much that week, in Ethiopia, I was worried and you needed a lot of care. The plane ride home was very scary but very joyful once we arrived home and knew things were going to be okay.

Liam, how we came together as a family sounds pretty adventurous at times. And you, my son, are definitely an adventure. You keep us on our toes. I don’t think anyone moves or dances as much as you do. But adventure isn’t our glue. It’s not what makes us a family. We are a family because we work hard every day, together. God gave us to each other and we honor him by doing our best. Buddy, every single day I wonder what I can do to help you be your best. And every day you show me the biggest, fullest love. I know life will give you a lot of questions down the road. I know everything in your life doesn’t make sense. And with every big step forward, like starting school, there will be more that we need to talk about. But we are ready for all the big and hard. There is beauty and there is brokenness… and those things make life what it is. I’m ready to walk all of those roads with you. It’s such an honor to be your mom. I know God made me just the way I am to be just the mom you need. It makes me confident that all of our pieces will fit together even if the puzzle is a bit difficult to work at times.

We have a few more months to get ready for the big K and it’s going to be so much fun. I know you’ll be ready. And I know this will be my hardest send off yet.But you’ll always be the baby. The one who changed my heart and shaped it to love in new ways.

» 2017 Mother’s Day Gift Guide

I realize we’ve committed to a year of less… but I have to interrupt for just a moment because I know some of you are desperately looking for Mother’s Day ideas. So in spite of promoting less I’ve rounded up a few ideas for mom that I would be happy to receive. Although… I won’t be this year. I’ve tried to bring a variety of things you may have never seen or thought of.

1. Clay Mug from Haiti

Clay cookies are a known “food” in Haiti. Feed My Starving Children has created a market for artisans from Port-Au-Prince to use the same process to make mugs instead. These coffee mug purchases enable these Haitians to sculpt their way out of poverty and support their families! I cannot think of a more meaningful gift for mom. Check out Feed My Starving Children’s other items, too. You’ll fall in love quickly.

Feed My Starving Children website

 

2. Magnolia Journal Magazine Subscription

I love a gift that keeps on giving. And I LOVE Fixer Upper. Magnolia Journal comes out four times per year and is full of all the shiplap and chippy paint that mom craves. Additionally, make sure that you serve up some quiet time and coffee when that magazine arrives.

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3. Ninja Coffee Bar System

A coffee system complete with a variety of brew types and sizes (single cup to whole pot), a built-in frother, and tons of specialty (hot and iced) coffee recipes — Caramel Macchiato, Iced Mocha Latte, and a Vanilla Flat White just to name a few — you can create and enjoy at home. Read our full review here.

Ninja Kitchen website

buy Ninja Coffee Bar System on Amazon

 

4. Netatmo Smart Home

You know how much I love smart home products. Netatmo makes some beautiful products that compliment your home interior rather than cause a huge distraction. Now that our kids are getting older and more independent, the Welcome camera has helped me keep tabs on everyone. Face recognition technology has been really accurate so far so I know who’s inside (or outside) the house at all times. If that wasn’t enough, the unit also listens for alarms—whether it be a smoke alarm, CO alarm, security alarm or siren—it will send a notification and record a video. For the health-conscious moms, the Healthy Home Coach monitors the air quality level (CO2 levels) to make sure the home environment is healthy. I particularly love monitoring humidity levels for my son, who deals with asthma. The Healthy Home Coach measures what matters, notifies you (via phone app) of potential problems, and gives suggestions on how to fix them. I wish I had one of these years ago for an infant’s room.

Netatmo website

buy Netatmo on Amazon

 

5. Kitchen IQ

I love high-quality kitchen items that don’t need replacing every year. I finally tried Kitchen IQ’s knife sharpener after feeling the urge to replace an “old” set of knives. I also love their flexible cutting boards, kitchen scales, and graters.

Kitchen IQ website

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» REVIEW: Pact Organic

We have really made an effort to understand where our clothing comes from over the past few years. When possible we like to choose clothing that is ethically made. PACT Organic fits this criteria. They use organic cotton to minimize their environmental impact and ensure that their factories are safe, hygienic and free of child labor. Workers are also paid a living wage. As they say at PACT… change begins with your underwear.

PACT has great packaging. In addition to enjoying the clothing myself I feel that there is clear communication of their company’s goals that makes PACT products a great gift item as well. The leggings were soft and sturdy and had a slightly raised waist that makes them smooth and easy to wear under dresses and long t-shirts. I cannot get over how soft PACT clothing is! You can truly feel the quality of the organic cotton.

The premium hoodie has become a staple in my wardrobe. It’s soft and thick, yet still lightweight. Great for walking Wrigs when the night cools off a bit. The thumb holes are a fun and comfy detail.

Quick Facts about PACT Organic
-All clothing is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
certified, Organic Content Standard (OCS) certified, and Fair Trade
Certified.
-All clothes are super soft and are made with organic cotton that gives
you just enough stretch for the perfect fit.
-I felt that each piece was just the right thickness. Nothing was see-through or thin. This is clothing you can feel good about buying for many reasons!
Trust me, you need some PACT in your life. For a limited time you can use a special discount code to get 25% off your order. Just enter Goodbye25 at check out! Click here to hop over and check out the selection of super soft organic, Fair Trade clothing.

I was selected to review PACT clothing as a part of the Mom’s Meet community of bloggers. All opinions are my own.

» REVIEW: Ninja Coffee Bar System

I once had three ways to make coffee in my house that took up all of the kitchen counter space. This consisted of a traditional coffee maker for large pots when company was over, a Keurig Coffee Maker for quick single cups, and my personal preference at the time, a French Press for most mornings. The Keurig lasted for a grand total of 7 days. The convenience was great but I kept worrying about the hot water running through that little plastic cup and the amount of trash it was creating over time. I loved the taste of the French Press but became frustrated after breaking our third glass carafe in about 1 1/2 years.

After the last French Press carafe broke, I began to look for a better option. Once the Keurig was gone, I loved having the counter space but missed the ability to make a quick cup of coffee. Enter the Ninja Coffee Bar System, a coffee system complete with a variety of brew types and sizes (single cup to whole pot), a built-in frother, and tons of specialty (hot and iced) coffee recipes — Caramel Macchiato, Iced Mocha Latte, and a Vanilla Flat White just to name a few — you can create and enjoy at home. Bonus: I was able to go from three kitchen pieces cluttering my counter to one.

Set up

The Ninja Coffee Bar System we received comes out of the box ready to use. First run one or two classic brew cycles with water only to prepare the machine for drinking use and you’re ready to start serving up everything from drip coffee to lattes. We keep the water reservoir full (similar to a Keurig) so the machine is ready to make a single cup or full pot at any time. The unit includes features of your regular coffee maker such as a clock with programming abilities along with a heat plate to keep your carafe hot. The best part, the Ninja Coffee Bar has a sensor that alerts you when it has mineral build up and needs to run a clean cycle. This is the first of any coffee machine I’ve owned that had this feature.

Ease of Use

The unit comes with a fun little recipe book that explains how to make many coffee drinks and also details how to use the different settings on the machine. The coffee grounds scoop has different sizes on each end so you can easily put the right amount of grounds in based on how much coffee you’re wanting to make. Simply follow the directions a few times and you’ll easily start making your own creations.

What I love about the Ninja is the versatility. There is a pull-down setting that allows you to make a single cup, a glass carafe for a full or half pot and even a pitcher for iced coffee. The built-in frother is powered by the same plug as the coffee maker so no need to deal with batteries.

Quality of Coffee

I enjoy a strong, flavorful cup of coffee. The Ninja has plenty of options to make sure I get exactly what I want. I’ve tried every setting on the Ninja and every single cup and pot has turned out full-bodied and flavorful. Our favorites have been the half carafe classic brew and the lattes. The kids have enjoyed creating decaffeinated iced coffees. With the Ninja Coffee Bar System you truly have all the tools to make pretty much any style coffee drink. It definitely makes us think twice before picking up a coffee at a shop.

Conclusion

We LOVE the Ninja Coffee Bar System for our house. It’s so much fun to use and the coffee quality is excellent. We have enjoyed so many fun mornings and evenings whipping up delicious coffee treats. It’s truly a staple in our home at this point and I especially love the ability to make a single cup or a whole pot without sacrificing quality.

Ninja Kitchen website

buy Ninja Coffee Bar System on Amazon

Easter baskets during the year of less

As I previously shared in this post, we chose to try out a year of less. A year with no physical gifts for birthdays, Christmas etc. Even though we have always been conservative with stuff it was still feeling out of control in our home. Here are a few ways we are planning to replace the traditional Easter Basket in our home this year.

For Elliott, our 9 year old:

A giftcard to a local arcade to spend some time with dad. We are also donating, in honor of his favorite sport, to provide soccer gear for kids who do not have equipment.

For Lola, our 9 year old:

A day pass for rock-climbing with mom, this is her favorite activity and she is so empowered when she’s climbing! We are also donating to provide food for a baby for a week through Samaritans Purse.

For Charlotte, our 7 year old:

A certificate for spa time. Nothing makes her happier than pretty pink nails. We will also donate in her name to provide baby chicks for a family in need. Also through Samaritans purse.

For Liam, our 5 year old:

A giftcard to the arcade for bonding time with Dad and big brother. In Liam’s honor we will donate to provide “comfort lambs to children. He is our babe who loves to have a stuffed animal tucked under his arm.

Each child will receive the gift of time and an experience with a parent and also know that another child will receive something that they need. We hope that these early experiences will foster a spirit of generosity and empathy for others.

 

 

» REVIEW: Monster ClarityHD On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones

Because my iPhone 7 doesn’t have a headphone jack (and I’ve already lost the lightning adapter), I began looking for a set of Bluetooth headphones that I can not only listen to music on but also take calls with. Monster is a trusted brand, which led me to their ClarityHD Bluetooth Headphones. I opted for the On-Ear style because I felt they would be more comfortable wearing for longer lengths of time. So far, I’m loving these things. I have tried a variety of music ranging from Ben Rector to some great workout playlists on Spotify and the sound has been great for all types of music.

Set up

Out of the box, the ClarityHD is ready to go. You may need to charge it, which takes two hours for a full charge of 20 hours of wireless playback time. The ClarityHD on-ears are ready to pair via Bluetooth as soon as they’re turned on. And I was right, after wearing these for a couple of hours, I didn’t feel they were putting too much pressure on my head at all.

Of course you can play, pause, control the volume on your iPhone or computer but you can also use the touchpad on the right-hand side of the headphones, just above the earcup. For example, turn volume up or down by swiping up and down. This touchpad feature is really easy and convenient to use — no fumbling with your phone or buttons. To play or pause, make one tap on the touch pad. It definitely feels awkward at first but after a week or so the controls became a lot more natural to me.

Conclusion

The ClarityHD On Ear Headphones are among the most comfortable and lightweight headphones I have tried, making them a great for everyday and travel use. I’m planning a trip to Uganda this summer and already know the compact folding design will come in handy (I do wish these came with a case). Having a 3.5 mm audio jack option if my battery dies is nice to have, too. For more daily work-from-home use, I’ve taken advantage of the built-in microphone for taking calls many times. They’re very comfortable, and the overall design is basic and discreet, which is a good thing.

Monster website

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal