Back to School, Back to Music & Back to Raising Musical Kids

Thanks to The Network Niche, today's post is sponsored by Music & Arts.

Music is all around us. Music has the ability to change how we feel and think and even behave. Music can open up closed doors and that's when all kinds of magic happens.  Music surrounds us where ever we go . . . in elevators, in the car, at home.

Did you play a musical instrument growing up? Do your kids play musical instruments? I did not play a musical instrument growing up, but I always wanted to play the piano. My daughters each play the violin and this year marks their fifth year playing violins! Even though I am not musical, I still feel I can guide my girls in their musical education with my desire for them to be musical.

Raising Musical Kids #Music&ArtsBTS

I want my children to see music as a joy, not a chore.

Raising Musical Kids #Music&ArtsBTS

I know we are achieving that in our home. My girls are in two youth orchestras, take private lessons and play during church services. They also love to take their violins to nursing homes and play for the residents. My girls love to bring music to people who want to listen. By sharing their love of music, they are making emotional connections with so many people in our family and community.

Raising Musical Kids #Music&ArtsBTS

Learning to play the violin has not always been an easy path for my daughters. We have had some tears, but mostly joy. Playing the violin takes discipline, patience and requires a lot of decision making. Studying music has given my girls the ability to increase their reasoning skills as well.

Since my girls work so very hard during the school year in youth orchestra, chamber orchestra, private lesson and playing at the church, I gave them a break over the summer. We started school this past Monday and also began orchestra practices and private lessons as well. I heard a few grumbles this week about practicing again after a long 10 week break. But mostly I saw smiles, especially from my little one. She told me how much she had missed playing her violin.

Raising Musical Kids #Music&ArtsBTS

Practicing their violins takes precedence over all play time, computer time and friend time. We had a great relaxing summer, but they know that "practice make permanent". It takes hard work to do hard things. While getting back into the school routine may have some bumps this week and even perhaps next week, I am confident my girls will actually be more productive with their time now. Routine is key to developing good habits!

Raising Musical Kids #Music&ArtsBTS

Create a musical environment in your home

As parents we need to provide opportunities for our children to explore and develop their natural gifts. I like to think I have had a musical environment in my home since my children were babies. When my children were young we had loads of toys that were musical; tambourine, maracas, triangle, washboard, castanets, drum, accordion, xylophone and small piano.

Raising Musical Kids #Music&ArtsBTS

You don't have to go out and purchase a grand piano or a new violin to create a musical environment in your home. Just make musical instruments accessible in your home. Music & Arts, a one-stop-shop for students, parents, and educators offers reasonable rates for instrument rental with over 130 stores in 23 states!

I for one could not be happier with renting violins for my daughters. Violins can be expensive and renting a string instrument until your child is absolutely sure they will continue in their musical path is a must. My daughter once dropped her rented violin and chipped a piece of the wood off. We had insurance in our rental agreement and the violin was completely replaced, no questions asked.

Last year my youngest daughter learned a valuable lesson whilst tapping her bow on the ground during orchestra instead of paying attention to the director. Her bow completely snapped in half. There were many tears and she was quite upset. We were able to make a call to Music & Arts, and replace her bow in time for lessons that week.

Raising Musical Kids #Music&ArtsBTS

Music is a gift you can give your child that will last their entire lives.

I once heard that learning a foreign language allows for a more seamless life. I think music is a language because it is a universal way to communicate. Music can enchant, enlighten and educate your children. Music can take them on a special musical journey. Music has the capacity to boost, change and astound your children!

Back to School Music & Arts Instruments

What are your plans for music this year? Be sure to visit Music & Arts for local information on music instrument rentals and give your children the gift of music!

The Ultimate Lay Flat Photo Book by AdoramaPix + Discount Code

How much do you enjoy photo albums? They are awesome, right?! But getting your images printed, finding the perfect photo album and then putting your printed images in the photo album tends to be a lot of work. I have many great ideas for photo albums, but I rarely follow through due to all the work involved.

AdoramaPix - Lay Flat Photo Books

I adore photo books, but I don't adore the work it takes in putting them together.  I’m pretty sure I am not the only one. As a part-time photographer, I adore putting together a gorgeous photo album for my loyal clients. I am really excited about the AdoramaPix photo album that I recently was able to order for my daughters.

AdoramaPix - Lay Flat Photo Books

AdoramaPix - Lay Flat Photo Books

I really like to have good quality photo books for myself and my clients. I am also looking for unique products to introduce to my clients that they will love as much as I do.  AdoramaPix can keep my clients in smiles for years to come with their gorgeous and unique keepsake photo books. AdoramaPix's photo books are the answer to remembering a special event in a fun and truly unique way.

AdoramaPix - Lay Flat Photo Books

An Amazing Lay Flat Album – The Flush Mount

AdoramaPix offers a traditional flush mount photo album. If you are not familiar with this type of photo book; a flush mount photo album is a type of photo book that simply lays flat. AdoramaPix's lay flat photo books have an amazing binding that allows the pages to stay open and remain completely flat, so you don’t have to hold down the pages while viewing it.

You also won't have to fret about your children tearing the pages of these photo books as they are sturdy and thick. AdoramaPix's flush mount photo books are printed on actual photo paper and then mounted onto a sturdy beautiful backing of your choice.

AdoramaPix - Lay Flat Photo Books

You may be wondering, why is AdoramaPix's photo album different than other photo albums offered in the market today? So glad you asked! It is the solution for everyone. No more printing of images and purchasing of blank photo albums. The beauty is simple – choose your paper, your size, choose the number of pages and choose your beautiful cover. All this is rolled into one price.

Album options include:

  • The Designable Cover, Lux Leather Cover or Genuine Leather Cover
  • Paper Style choices: Luster, High-Gloss, Silk, Deep Matte, Linen, Pebble
  • Leather Color options: Spice, Pewter, Baby Blue, Blush, White, Soft Pink, Chestnut, Black, Taupe, Navy
  • Sizes from 6 x 6, 8 x 8, 10 x 10, 12 x 12 in Square; 6 x 4.5, 8 x 6, 10 x 8, 12 x 6, 12 x 9 in Portrait; 6 x 7.5, 6 x 9, 8 x 10, 8 x 12, 10 x 12.5, 12 x 15 in Landscape and 6 x12 in Landscape Spine
  • 80 Typefaces AND Inscription available

AdoramaPix's albums are gorgeous, made to fit any taste and budget, and are the keepsake families will want for their photos for every occasion. The possibilities are really endless for creating the perfect photo book. My daughters are overjoyed with their new album.

AdoramaPix - Lay Flat Photo Books

There are so many ideas for creating gorgeous albums with AdoramaPix. Cook books, weddings, baptisms, travel books, proof books, birthdays, bar mitzvahs and sweet sixteens. You could even create a yearbook for your children. Yearly vacations can be documented and a beautiful AdoramaPix photo books can be created from all your photos and videos.

I created an AdoramaPix 8 x 8 square hardcover photo book of the adventures my girls have had this past year. They are the best of friends and like I stated earlier, I always forget to print images out. They were so surprised I actually made an album with images of themand I'm so happy I finally made one as well.

Presently, AdoramaPixis offering 25% off their square photo books (6x6,8x8,10x10,12x12). Use code: pxusfam25. This offer ends 09/30/2015 11:59 pm EST so don't delay!

The Ultimate Lay Flat Photo Book by AdoramaPix

Disclosure: I am a USFG Blogger and I am able to bring amazing family deals while enjoying some myself. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions remain my own.

Back To School Lunch Packing Station

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #AHugeSale #JewelOsco #CollectiveBias

The year 1929 is often regarded as a turning point in American history. It was the end of the era called the Roaring Twenties after the Wall Street Crash brought on the Great Depression. It marked the first public broadcast on television transmission of images of a bouquet of roses and an American flag and the first Academy Awards were held. It also was the year Mussolini signed the Lateran Treaty, making Vatican City a sovereign state. And Jewel built the 'Gray Lady', a new office, warehouse, and coffee roasting facility in suburban Barrington, Illinois.
Back To School Lunch Packing Station #BackToSchool #AHugeSaving

To commemorate this landmark in history, Jewel-Osco, a division of Albertsons, is launching a HUGE Anniversary Sale celebrating 116 years through August 11th. Jewel has been Barrington’s hometown grocer for multiple generations in many families, including mine.

I love Jewel-Osco. Every time I walk in the door I get a sentimental gleam in my eye, and I have to look down EVERY aisle like a kid in a candy store.  Sale on chicken, delightful!  I love fresh brussel sprouts!  There is something special about being able to park 10 feet from the door and have a bagger carry my groceries to my car for me. AND, yes, they still do this, simply ask!. The people that work there know me since I swing by there for recipe ingredients at least once twice a week, and are all super friendly.  

I've been a long-time shopper at Jewel-Osco. They have been my go-to grocery for 25 years now. They have been my place to go as a starving college student, as a fresh-out, as a newlywed, as a new mom and now as a back-to-school crazed mom with a very busy schedule.

Back To School Lunch Packing Stations #BackToSchool #AHugeSale

We are gearing up for back-to-school and Jewel-Osco has all my lunch packing food items included in their HUGE anniversary sale! I set-up a back-to-school lunch packing station in my house already. Now my kids can make their own lunches and all their non-refrigerated lunch making items are right in one place.(and when they get home from school, they can put their lunch bags back in the station instead of on the floor!)

Back To School Lunch Packing Station #BackToSchool #AHugeSale

A friend of mine recently bought this cart and was showing how she used it and I thought, well I need to have one too! It sits off to the side right now because there is no room by the island where we actually make lunches. But the kiddos can just slide it over during the lunch making process. Don't have this nifty cart? Simply put all your lunch groceries in one spot. A shelf in the pantry or cupboard would work well too!

Back To School Lunch Packing Station #BackToSchool #AHugeSale
Back To School Lunch Packing Station #BackToSchool #AHugeSale

Right in the middle, I put my son's favorite soda, Pepsi, for his bag and my daughter's have their juice. I also put Gatorade on this shelf as well. My kiddos have loads of after school sports activities and really need to replenish electrolytes.

Back To School Lunch Packing Station #BackToSchool #AHugeSale
Back To School Lunch Packing Station #BackToSchool #AHugeSale

I decided to put the lunch bags on the bottom shelf instead of in the cupboard where they used to be located. I'm hoping this will prompt my kids to actually put their lunch bags away instead of leaving them on the floor. My kids are pretty picky and brand specific, so I guess I am lucky in that I don't have to purchase tons of different food items.

Back To School Lunch Packing Station #BackToSchool #AHugeSale
Back To School Lunch Packing Station #BackToSchool #AHugeSale
Back To School Lunch Packing Station #BackToSchool #AHugeSale
Back To School Lunch Packing Station #BackToSchool #AHugeSale

Inspiration from Pinterest.

Back To School Lunch Packing Station #BackToSchool #AHugeSavings

What back-to-school foods will you buy at your Jewel-Osco grocery store during the HUGE Anniversary sale? Stock up now on all your favorite brands through 8/11.

If you don't have a Jewel-Osco in your area, be sure to visit your local Safeway, Vons, Alberstons or Shaws and check out the great Anniversary Sale deals

Cumin Baked Potato Salad

My boys, that being my husband and my son, tend to crave meat . . . you know . .  .  big juicy steak . . . it must be a guy thing for sure . . .  because my daughters and I are quite happy with chicken. However, my son and husband requested steak on the grill this past weekend, so I obliged. Naturally, I made baked potatoes to go along with the steaks, even though my husband doesn't eat potatoes any longer (too many carbs) and my son wouldn't touch a potato even if you paid him fifty bucks!

However, my daughters and I love potatoes of all sorts. My little one just had her palatal expander put in last week, so she really is having a hard time adjusting to food. She is requesting potatoes everyday as these are the easiest for her to eat right now.

I decided to make some extra baked potatoes in order to have some on hand for her to eat over the next couple of days. As I was staring into my fridge this morning, I changed my mind and grabbed those 'extra' baked potatoes and decided to make my lovely Cumin Baked Potato Salad.

Have you ever had this before? Cumin Baked Potato Salad is probably one of my favorite things to eat. Potatoes and Cumin together equals heaven for me.

This literally is the easiest and least messy of potato salads in my opinion to make. And it is super delicious to eat!

Cumin Baked Potato Salad

Cumin Baked Potato Salad

INGREDIENTS

2 Baked Potatoes (a day old from your fridge works best)

4 Tbsp Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil* (or to taste if you prefer)

Juice of a lemon (or more if you like)

1 Tbsp Cumin

1  Scallion (this is totally optional as you may not have one in your fridge at that moment)

coarse sea salt to taste

chopped fresh herbs (again, totally optional and if you happen to have anything in the fridge)

Cumin Baked Potato Salad
Cumin Baked Potato Salad
Cumin Baked Potato Salad
Cumin Baked Potato Salad

DIRECTIONS

Simply  slice the baked potatoes in half and with a spoon, roughly scoop out the cooked potato into a bowl. There really is no need to worry about what the pieces look like and if you happen to bring along some skin, no worries, it tastes better!

Pour over the quality olive oil and *I can't stress this enough . . . if you don't use quality olive oil, this potato salad really won't taste that good.  Squeeze over the lemon juice from the lemon, then sprinkle over the cumin and sliced scallion and herbs if you are using any. Salt  generously or to taste, I happen to be a salt freak and LOVE sea salt and tend to over salt my food, but do as your tastes like here. You could also add pepper here, but I happen to loathe the taste of pepper on my food.

AND, ENJOY!

That is it - super simple and super delicious!

Cumin Baked Potato Salad

Moscow Mules + Date Night

If you do one this weekend . . .

Moscow Mules Cocktail Recipe

 . . .  run to the store and buy some ginger beer. We’re making the ultimate summer cocktail right now. It’s super refreshing. I swear.

I'm talking about some refreshing moscow mules!! Love the combination of the mint, lime and booze ... I could actually get inspired and set the table decor around this color combination!!

Moscow Mules Cocktail Recipe
Moscow Mules Cocktail Recipe
Moscow Mules Cocktail Recipe
Moscow Mules Cocktail Recipe

A couple of weeks ago we were on a family vacation and my brother wanted to make moscow mules . . . so my sister-in-law set out to locate some copper mugs and all the fixins'. Moscow Mules were served and my husband was hooked! When we returned home I was on a mission to locate all the fixins' myself.  We were having Date Night + Moscow Mules + a movie.

Moscow Mules Cocktail Recipe

I don't know about you, but a moscow mule sounds like the perfect way to end the day!!

Moscow Mules Cocktail Recipe

Here is the recipe:

Moscow Mules Cocktail Recipe


Moscow Mules Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients:
* 4½ ounces premium vodka
* 1 ounce of lime juice
* 8 ounces of ginger beer
* slice or two of lime
* about 4-5 fresh spearmint sprigs (chopped if you prefer smaller mint pieces in your cocktail)

Directions: Fill your copper mug with ice cubes. Add the vodka and lime juice and stir. Top with the ginger beer.  Garnish with mint sprigs and if you like crystallized ginger. Makes 2 drinks.

Cheers to a fabulous summer!

Moscow Mules Cocktail Recipe + Date Night

So what is your summer cocktail of choice going to be?

While you are out at the store purchasing all the ingredients for the best new summer drink I have introduced to you for our date night . . . don't forget to head to Target for all the appropriate snacks needed for date night!

The Longest Ride Date Night Snacks

With over 1,900 locations, Target is the second largest national superstore in the nation. Target has great and gift card promos each week. Download the Target Cartwheel app on your cell phone to receive additional discounts on items that are loaded in cartwheel weekly. 

The Longest Ride Date Night Snacks

I received a fabulous The Longest Ride Date Night Bag to watch The Longest Ride with my hubbie. I had to hide The Longest Ride bag full of snacks from Target because it was filled with all my children's favorite snacks. My smallest little one is in love with the white cheddar seasoning for her microwave popcorn. I literally have to hide this seasoning from her or she will take a spoon and eat it right out of the container (no joke)!

The Longest Ride Date Night Snacks

What could be better for date night snacks than microwave popcorn, Chex Mix (Traditional is the only way to go) and the special treat of cheddar seasoning and movie theater butter? A perfect evening for us. I enjoyed the movie so much that I invited all my neighborhood gal pals over the following weekend and we had a GNO(BUT IN) and watched The Longest Ride and finished off all my snacks!

I'm going on vacation in October and can't wait to read the book, The Choice, by Nicolas Sparks. I love nothing better than a really good book on the beach! Maybe they can make me a Mocow Mule too!

Disclosure: I am a member of Fox Home Entertainment Insiders program. As always, the opinions expressed are mine. We are compensated for our reviews. Click here for details.

Adventures Change Everything

Parenting is always an adventure in the making. Just yesterday I took my three little people and one of my son's friends to Six Flags Great America. The lines were long, the wait times were insane, my son and his friend forgot tot text me to let me know where they are and I had a mini panic attack thinking they were lost to me and how was I ever going to tell my friend I had lost her child; when all the while my son and his friend were in an arcade as I was wearing downs paths looking for them both!

Adventures Change Everything

You get what I am saying?? An adventure in the making . . . the kids, all exhausted as we dragged our feet into the house at 11:00 pm last night. By the way, all my kids are still sleeping at 10AM this morning! Hallelujah - hot hot coffee for me!

And today, we are off on another adventure, my little one will be getting her molds taken for the beginnings of the braces journey. My son will be getting a bracket reattached because he was eating sticky candy yesterday at Great America and pulled it off. He has been on this braces adventure since he was 8 . . . he is 13 now, as he frequently reminds me that he is almost able to legally drive?

After the orthodontist adventure we are headed down town to have fun in the sun in the city and then off on a museum adventure tonight. Family membership night at a local museum my family loves. It will be another late night for us.

This summer has been sort of a bust for us since Chicago has been having so much rain. Like, literally, every single day. The past two days it has not rained. There is also not any rain in the forecast today either. Thus my need(and rush) to get in some activities that will involve the sun shining down on us. We are greatly deprived of Vitamin D right now.

Adventures Change Everything #Netflix
Adventures Change Everything #Netflix
Adventures Change Everything #Netflix

Though yesterday was an adventure and today will be an adventure, most days our adventures happen at home. My daughters finally made it out of bed and they plopped themselves right in my chair and turned on Netflix and are finishing their own adventure with Hiccup and toothless. They take some dragon rides each and everyday to watch the all-new Netflix original series :Dragons: Race to the Edge. My girls, along with Hiccup and toothless embark on unparalleled adventures together.

Adventures Change Everything #Netflix
Adventures Change Everything #Netflix

Are your kids fans of Toothless? Since the first movie, How to Train Your Dragon, my middle child my first daughter has been smitten. There is something about Toothless that just speaks to her. She is a Dragon lover and a Dragon Rider at heart.  We have stuffed Toothless, we have plastic Toothless, we have big and little Toothless toys all about our home. She wants Toothless to visit her here in our home. What an adventure that would be!

Dragons: Race to the Edge #Netflix

Dragons: Race to the Edge

Get a first look at the all-new Netflix original.

Dragons: Race to the Edge soars beyond their home on the island of Berk in search of new dragons.Dragons: Race to the Edge introduces some of the most exciting dragons yet, each with its own amazing abilities -- shock waves, cannon balls and fire blasts, just to name a few.

With the magical Dragon Eye, an artifact Hiccup finds aboard an abandoned ship, Hiccup learns there is more outside the confines of Berk, and that a little curiosity and determination can make every day an exciting journey. In Hiccup’s own words, “this changes everything.”

Ready for another adventure?

Dive deeper into the unknown with these picks.

▪ Sofia the First: S1E12, Two to Tangu

▪ Bo on the Go: S1E11, Bo and the Dragon Queen

▪ The Adventures of Puss in Boots: S1E6, Fountains

▪ How to Train Your Dragon 2

▪ National Treasure

▪ Planet Earth

Adventures Change Everything! What adventures are you on this summer?

Disclosure: This post is part of my involvement as a Netflix #StreamTeam Member. All opinions are my own. #NetflixKids Want to learn more about Netflix Streaming? Subscriptions start at $7.99/month. 

Summer ENTERTAINING with Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MeAndMyTea #CollectiveBias

Summer ENTERTAINING with Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea
One of my favorite things about summer is the iced tea. Bigelow Pomegranate Lemonade Iced Tea - simply delicious.

There isn't much that's better than a freshly brewed cold iced tea on my back deck as the sun sets in the horizon. My family has been busy traveling most of the past month, so we have not been able to enjoy our back deck, but if I close my eyes, I'm sitting on our deck with my feet propped up, drinking an iced tea. The point is, it doesn't really matter whether or not you have a gorgeous deck to enjoy an iced tea, they're still delicious regardless of where you're doing the enjoying. 

Summer ENTERTAINING with Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea

I was enjoying some iced teas recently on vacation. Every year my family and both my baby brother's families vacation together near where we grew up in rural Iowa to spend a glorious week with The Ladies, our aunts. Our father passed away when we were all teenagers and The Ladies are our only connection to our father. So, it is very important to all of us to take this time every summer to be with our aunts, and really, our father.

Summer ENTERTAINING with Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea
Summer ENTERTAINING with Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea
We spend the week together, we laugh, we reminisce, we all cook together and it truly is a group effort. Other than being a parent, food, family, friendships and iced tea are the best things there are. A great iced tea and good food do bring people together. Bigelow Tea, America's largest family-owned tea company, who happen to be celebrating their 70th anniversary this year, completely understands this view.

In case you didn't know, Bigelow Tea began in a New York City townhouse, where Ruth Campbell Bigelow developed the iconic "Constant Comment"® tea, and has expanded to a worldwide market offering more than 130 varieties of flavored, green, organic, herbal, decaffeinated and iced teas. Some of their teas are my absolute favorites during the summer months.

Summer ENTERTAINING with Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea

During our week of vacation we brewed fresh tea all week long and created more memories for our families to cherish. Every afternoon we would gather together for a sweet and a sip, as my grandmother used to call it. My brothers and I would sit and wait, patiently, for a remembered story or thought . . . we were once again little children at rapt attention . . . waiting for any small detail that we could savor . . . this part of the day will always be the favorite. It is the time we reconnect and bring old traditions to the forefront of all our busy lives. It is the time our aunts cherish the most as well.

Summer ENTERTAINING with Bigelow Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea
Summer ENTERTAINING with Bigelow Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea
Summer ENTERTAINING with Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea
Summer ENTERTAINING with Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea

But if truth be told, it is the time my brothers and I cherish most of all. We brewed tea for our aunts and waited to see what sweets they would bring over for the afternoon sweet and sip. The smiles and laughs would quickly be heard throughout the house and everyone would gather around my aunts, sipping iced tea and gobbling up the sweet of the day . . . and listening to another favored story about our father or grandmother.

Summer ENTERTAINING with Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea

The Teas of Summer

Want to make some fabulous iced tea this summer for your family?  Here are a few tips for giving your brewed teas an extra boost of awesomeness.

Tips for Crafting a Great Iced Tea

Summer ENTERTAINING with Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea
Summer ENTERTAINING with Bigelow Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea
Summer ENTERTAINING with Bigelow Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea
Summer ENTERTAINING with Bigelow Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea

Always use the freshest ingredients when you can. Bigelow Tea believes in freshness, which is why they use a special foil pouch to protect tea from air, moisture and surrounding aromas. Tea is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids, which are most potent when tea is freshly brewed. So, always brew your tea fresh to make your iced teas. Remember to squeeze your citrus juices fresh from the fruit as well, and always use fresh herbs (my favorite is fresh mint). A great plan is to always have plenty of lemons and limes on hand, especially if you plan to make a lot of iced tea this summer!

Summer ENTERTAINING with Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea

When it comes to tea, get the best! Bigelow Tea is an American Company for the American consumer. I've always heard that you should always cook  with the best ingredients, so it stands to reason that a great iced tea should be made with the best tea that tastes good brewed straight! I was able to locate my favorite Bigelow Tea at Walmart. But a good tea can really make an iced tea incredible.

Summer ENTERTAINING with Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea
Summer ENTERTAINING with Bigelow Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea

Make sure to dilute your iced tea!  Diluting can feel like it's going against the point of creating an iced tea, but here are simple tips to know when your iced tea is diluted the right amount. For iced teas that are poured into a cup from a large pitcher(see above image), watch the edges of the ice cubes. Once they have lost their sharpness and the edges are rounded, it's perfect! Another tip on ice: if the ice has been sitting in your freezer for too long it can start to taste like the other stuff in your freezer, which really isn't the flavor you want in your iced tea. Use fresh ice!

Summer ENTERTAINING with Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea

Don't forget the garnish!  My favorite way to make an iced tea look super fancy is the garnish. Even the most simple of garnishes can make your iced tea look like it was handcrafted by Bigelow drink photographers. Just a twist of lime, sprig of mint, or a wedge of fruit is all it takes! Not only do garnishes make your iced teas look great, they can also finish out the flavor of your iced teas. Just a twist of lemon peel or a star anise can perfectly finish your iced tea! If you're garnishing with herbs, give them a gentle rub between your fingers to release the oils first. My favorite is to add mint to mine!

Summer ENTERTAINING with Bigelow Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea
Summer ENTERTAINING with Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea

Using the right type of glass for a iced tea can also help your iced teas shine.  It's not required for a great tasting iced tea, obviously, but it can make it that much more pretty.  I've scored all my different kinds of iced tea glasses from my aunts!  Or, you know, just use mason jars!

Summer ENTERTAINING with Bigelow Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea

I love that we are able to make customized iced tea anytime now! The teas were a huge hit during our vacation, and I think they will be perfect for the days when unexpected guests stop by this summer. I fell in love with the iced tea bar during vacation so much that I  gave it a permanent summer spot on the top of my desk! In minutes we are ready for sipping on the deck and chatting with friends as we watch the kiddos play outside!

Summer ENTERTAINING with Iced Teas + tips for crafting a great iced tea #MeAndMyTea

What fabulous iced tea will you make this summer for your family?

Get Ready for Summer with Nexium 24 HR

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone and should not be taken as medical advice. #GiveHeartburnARest #CollectiveBias

There is nothing worse than a sharp pain in the middle of your chest. Heartburn . . . it's awful. Do you suffer from heartburn ever? I have been a frequent sufferer of heartburn for the past couple of years and have found the perfect solution that works for me. Nexium 24 HR gives me all day 24 hour relief and all night protection in one little purple pill.

Get Ready for Summer with Nexium #GiveHeartburnARest #CollectiveBias

The past couple of years I have suffered from frequent heartburn. I had even stopped going to restaurants with my family because I was so unsure what food would be a trigger for me to be in some serious pain. During this period I was miserable and in constant pain while trying to find the right mix of medicines that would work for me. I finally found an over the counter medicine that fulfills my needs.

I struggled for quite a while trying to find the best medicine that would work for me and give me all day and all night protection. I would have good days and bad days until I really just stopped going to restaurants all together with my family. I never even wanted to eat food at friend's or family's homes. It is not fun when your family is enjoying time together and you are staying home by yourself in order to avoid any issues with heartburn.

Get Ready for Summer with Nexium #GiveHeartburnARest #CollectiveBias

Nexium 24 HR is currently available at your local Walgreens right over the counter! The best news is that Nexium 24 HR offers me 24 hour relief! I don't have to fret about where I can eat now. Taking one Nexium 24 HR gives me all-day, all-night protection from the frequent heartburn I suffer. Currently this month you can save $3.00 off the 42ct. Nexium 24 HR at Walgreens. Better still, you can add Nexium 24 HR to your auto-reorder and never be without your purple pill.

Get Ready for Summer with Nexium #giveheartburnarest

 I had periods where I wouldn't eat anything from a restaurant and had to decline so many invites out with friends and family. That period has ended for me! I now take Nexium 24 HR and love that it is available over the counter and is super convenient for me to purchase. I especially love the auto-reorder program with Walgreens.

Get Ready for Summer with Nexium #GiveHeartburnARest #CollectiveBias
Get Ready for Summer with Nexium #GiveHeartburnARest #CollectiveBias
Get Ready for Summer with Nexium #GiveHeartburnARest #CollectiveBias
Get Ready for Summer with Nexium #GiveHeartburnARest #CollectiveBias

One little purple pill each day gives me the relief that I need to be active with my family this summer. We are able to go out to dinner together and I don't have to fret about being miserable later. I am no longer in pain during the day or during the night. One little purple pill alleviates my burning chest issues. A definite first for me!

Get Ready for Summer with Nexium #GiveHeartburnARest #CollectiveBias

Taking one Nexium 24 HR a day can give you all-day, all-night protection from frequent heartburn. Nexium 24 HR will quickly relieve your heartburn symptoms AND will give you lasting relief as well. Put your heartburn to rest like I did. Get out to restaurants and enjoy your family this summer. Go to summer picnics and gatherings this summer and enjoy your time. Be sure to read the product label and directions!

Get Nexium 24 HR and start creating your summer memories! This is what I plan to enjoy this Summer now that I am heartburn free. What activities would you enjoy to the fullest?

TV Shows to Stream on Netflix this Summer

While my children are taking a break this summer and not attending summer school, I still want to inspire their learning throughout the summer months. We still school part-part-time three days a week for an hour or so. We do loads of summer reading programs and naturally I look for anything that helps me and my kids keep connecting.

My kids love to listen to any story about myself when I was a child. They will ask me to tell them the same story over and over. It cracks me up. It connects our childhoods; they have something in common with me. There’s something pretty awesome about connecting with my kids over something I loved when I was young.

We also love to connect over all the old-school classics like Scooby-Doo and Mickey Mouse. Cartoons such as the new Netflix original series Inspector Gadget and Danger Mouse are giving us loads to bond over. These new reboots are introducing a whole new generation to some of the most favorite characters.

Must-Watch Throwbacks

  •  Inspector Gadget
  •  Danger Mouse (6/15)
  •  My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
  •  Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
  •  Star Wars: The Clone Wars
  •  Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
  •  The Magic School Bus
  •  The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That
  • Garfield and Friends
  •  The Super Mario Bros Super Show!
  •  The Smurfs 2
  •  Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated

New on Netflix for Kids and Families

  •  Gallina Pintadita (Now streaming in Spanish!)
  •  Bindi's Boot Camp (6/15)
  •  Some Assembly Required (6/19)
  •  Dragons: Race to the Edge: Season 1 (6/26)

AND don't forget, there are new shows streaming all month long for parents to connect during the summer months as well. My husband and I recently started to stream Hemlock Grove -- TOTALLY love this show! I was away at summer camp with my girls last week and was able to stream episodes at night while everyone was asleep . . . but shh, because I made the girls have a screen free week! I am also streaming Between . . . have you seen this yet? LOVE it! Another new series that began this month is Sense8. If you haven't' noticed, my husband and I really enjoy Sci-Fi!!

Disclosure: This post is part of my involvement as a Netflix #StreamTeam Member. All opinions are my own. #NetflixKids