How we get our picky girl to drink milk {giveaway}

12/18/2012 at 11:06 am | Posted in Bloggy | 2 Comments


Lily’s relationship with milk has always been tenuous.

I stopped breastfeeding early in order to treat my postpartum depression, and we must have tried half a dozen different formulas before she finally accepted soy. Then, after she turned one, we started making half-and-half sippy cups of formula and whole milk.

But once we removed that super-sweet soy formula from her little baby cocktail, she flat-out refused to drink milk.

Of course I turned to the internet for help. And I got some great advice from family and friends. Our pediatrician also eased the blow by assuring us that as long as she got calcium from other sources (yogurt, cheese, veggies, fortified foods) we didn’t need to worry so much about milk.

But we still wanted to try to incorporate milk into her diet. So here are some of the things we tried:

– Offer cereal with milk for breakfast. She loved Cheerios and Rice Krispies and felt like big stuff feeding herself with a spoon.

– Make her oatmeal with milk instead of water.

– Provide healthy flavored milks. Lily LOVES chocolate, so this strategy works every time. She’s especially crazy about Smart Balance Kids Chocolate Milk and Nutrient Blend. She started drinking it when Smart Balance launched their new kids’ milks at North Carolina Harris Teeters back in the fall, and it was love at first sip. And I love that it has DHA/EPA Omega-3s, 30% of her daily calcium, extra Vitamin D, antioxidant Vitamins C and E, and no artificial growth hormones. I serve it to her as a special treat at lunch a few days a week.

– Whip up milk-based smoothies, encouraging Lily’s creativity and expanding her palette at the same time. Here are some of our favorite recipes.

– Experiment. I once added orange juice to a sippy cup of milk and she drank the whole thing. Of course it never happened again, but it was totally worth a try.

Today, at almost five years old, Lily drinks one glass of skim milk at dinner every night, in addition to chocolate milk with lunch a few days a week. She still doesn’t really like milk, so most of her calcium comes from the foods she eats. And with wonderful products like Smart Balance Kids Milks on the market, keeping my kids’ diets well-rounded is easier than ever.

Would you like to try Smart Balance Kids Milks? Just leave a comment below to enter our giveaway for TWO free containers! I’ll draw the winner on Friday, Dec. 21.

Thank you Smart Balance Kids for sponsoring this post. Check out their Facebook page for healthful eating tips & tricks, recipes, coupons and more!

Sponsored posts are purely editorial content that we are pleased to have presented by a participating sponsor. Advertisers do not produce the content. As a Smart Balance Kids Milk ambassador, I was compensated for this post and was given milk vouchers to review. My opinions are always honest.

***Kristen P. is our winner! Congratulations!!***

Our favorite smoothie recipes {and a giveaway!}

11/18/2012 at 9:15 pm | Posted in Bloggy, mangia! | 5 Comments
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Thank you Smart Balance Kids for sponsoring this post. Join us on Facebook for healthful eating tips & tricks, recipes, coupons and more!

We love smoothies. The end.

One of Lily’s favorite “stay home mommy day” rituals is to make smoothies. She thinks they’re milkshakes (which they are, kind of). I love that she’s getting a whopping dose of calcium, protein, vitamins and antioxidants. And, making them with Smart Balance® Kids Reduced Fat Milk & Nutrient Blend adds even more good stuff for little bodies.

The best part? Lily can make the whole thing herself.

And lick the spoon in between steps. Because of course.

Here’s the recipe for our latest concoction:

– 2 cups vanilla yogurt
– 2 cups frozen mango/berries
– 1 banana
– 1/2 cup milk

We make ours a little on the runny side so that Miss Sophie can partake. To thicken up your smoothie, just cut back on the milk or freeze the banana for a couple of hours before blending.

Our blender is a hand-me-down from Marc’s grandparents. I have no idea how old it is, but that thing works like nobody’s business. I love it.

And here’s the recipe (for one person — multiply as needed) for one of our other favorite smoothies, The Elvis:

– one partially frozen banana (2-3 hours in freezer)
– 2 TBS peanut butter
– splash of milk


Do you have a favorite smoothie recipe? We’re always looking for new things to toss into Poppy’s blender. And if you’d like to enter to win a container of Smart Balance Kids Milk, just leave a comment below. Free milk! More smoothies! Yay!

Sponsored posts are purely editorial content that we are pleased to have presented by a participating sponsor. Advertisers do not produce the content. As a Smart Balance Kids Milk ambassador, I was compensated for this post and was given milk vouchers to review. My opinions are always honest. This giveaway ends on Wednesday, Nov. 21. I’ll announce the winner that evening (before we swap smoothies for turkey and stuffing).

**Samantha is our winner! Thanks for playing!**

Consider yourselves warned

10/30/2012 at 3:47 pm | Posted in Bloggy, me | 9 Comments
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November is National Blog Posting Month (or NaBloPoMo, which I can never type without looking at each word spelled out). To participate, you have to publish a blog post every single day for the month.

I’m going to give it a shot.

Life has sort of been kicking my butt lately, so I’ve been a little absent here. But now I’m starting to climb out of the muck, and I want to write more. I love this space. It’s like my favorite room in the house — the one that keeps getting reinvented because I can never make up my mind on the paint color or the toss pillows on the couch.

Not to mention writing here is one of the best forms of therapy there ever was.

So I’m going to do more of it. In November, that is. And maybe the exercise will lead me to new places, help me open up and get real-er. (Another thing I love about blogging: using silly words without worrying about being edited.)

To thank you in advance for your patience with my NaBloPoMo-ing, here are some lovely pictures of Sophie taken by my pal Cary:

Want to join me?
(you can do it)

NaBloPoMo November 2012

Get Minted {giveaway}

10/18/2012 at 9:15 am | Posted in Bloggy | 70 Comments
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When Minted contacted me about sponsoring a giveaway, I just about fell out of my chair.

I adore Minted. Especially their holiday cards.

You can always tell it’s a Minted card before you even flip it over. Beautiful stock, unique designs, exceptional print quality. I know I sound like such a dork, but I loooooove paper. And these cards are the real deal.

Of course until at least one of our children is in kindergarten, we can’t splurge on holiday cards. So I always take advantage of an early-bird discount somewhere else and order as few cards as possible.

But not this year. Thanks to Minted, I’ll be able to dip my toes into the dreamy world of gorgeous holiday cards.


But first, just look at these. So lovely I can hardly stand it:

And this one almost makes me want to have another baby. Almost.

Now for the good stuff.

Minted wants to give one lucky reader a $100 credit + free shipping! (!!!!!!!!)

And you don’t have to spend it on holiday cards. Minted makes beautiful stationery, invitations, you name it. To enter this giveaway, just visit Minted and leave a comment below.

For an extra entry, Tweet about the giveaway with something like this (and be sure to leave an extra comment below):

Just in time for holiday cards! Enter the $100 @Minted giveaway at @pretty_swell:

The winner will be announced Monday. Good luck!

I received promotional consideration from Minted for this post, but the content is all my own. Especially the spazzing over gorgeous stationery. Yup. All me.

***Our winner is Joanna O! Congratulations, lucky lady!***

So much more than just milk {giveaway!}

10/11/2012 at 2:24 pm | Posted in Bloggy | 10 Comments
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Thank you Smart Balance Kids for sponsoring this post. Join us on Facebook for healthful eating tips & tricks, recipes, coupons and more!

Marc and I are very careful about what goes into our girls’ bellies. Especially when it comes to meat and dairy. Our food dollars are tight (the grocery bill surprises me every single week), but we try hard to buy hormone-free, pasture-raised, organic, you name it.

That’s why I’m super excited about a new line of milk products for kids from Smart Balance. There are three varieties, aptly named Smart Balance Kids Milk, but I think Smart Balance Kids Milk Filled With Lots of Extra Good Stuff also would work.

All three varieties are free of artificial growth hormones (WIN), and they contain calcium and extra vitamin D to support strong bones; as well as DHA and EPA omega-3s to help support brain and heart health (WIN-WIN-WIN).

We tried out the whole milk, for kids 12-24 months old, which also contains iron and prebiotics to aid digestion. As the mother of a baby with pretty regular tummy issues, I LOVE THIS.

Sophie does too:

And she really wants to share a sip with you guys:

Lily gladly sampled the Smart Balance Kids Chocolate Low Fat Milk and loved it. Geared for kids ages two and up, it’s loaded with all sorts of good stuff, like DHA & EPA omega-3s, calcium, vitamin D and antioxidant vitamins C and E. The reduced fat white milk also has all of these added nutrients.

The Kids Milks just launched and are currently available at all Harris Teeter grocery stores in North Carolina. Every time I’ve shopped at the Teeter over the past couple of weeks, the register spit out $1 and $2 coupons for the new milks. Sweet.

Want to give Smart Balance Kids Milks a try? Win THREE containers of Smart Balance Kids Milk by leaving a comment below telling us your all-time favorite thing to eat with a cold glass of milk.

Sponsored posts are purely editorial content that we are pleased to have presented by a participating sponsor. Advertisers do not produce the content. I was compensated for this post and was given vouchers for Smart Balance Kids Milk to review. My opinions are always honest. This giveaway ends on Thursday, Oct. 18, at 12:01 a.m. Also? I sneak glasses of Lily’s chocolate milk. Don’t tell.

*** Kristin is our winner! Thanks for playing! ***

The giveaway of my dreams: NC State Fair prize pack

09/25/2012 at 10:18 am | Posted in About town, Bloggy | 55 Comments
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So it’s no secret around these parts that I’m cuckoo for the North Carolina State Fair. Nothing will ever beat serving as the fair’s first Deep-Fried Ambassador.

Well, except for motherhood. Maybe.


But really. I love me some State Fair. Especially when it’s dipped in batter, deep fried and served on a stick.

Seeing the fair through Lily’s eyes over the last few years has made it even more magical. And this year Sophie will get to tear it up. (Consider yourselves warned, farm animals.)

I love it all. Food, animals, rides, games, history, crafts, competitions, concerts, agriculture, culture period. I’ll never forget my corn dog epiphany. Or that one time I shot a rifle.

The Deputy and I are gearing up for our annual visit, this year with two little ones in tow. Should be quite the scene. I’ll also probably go back five or six or twenty more times that week. Because I can never get enough.

So you can imagine how stoked I am that the State Fair wants to share the love WITH YOU through the best giveaway in the history of internet giveaways ever.

Check out what’s up for grabs:

>> 4 admission tickets to the North Carolina State Fair
>> 4 ride books (with a coupon for 2 rides in each book)
>> 4 t-shirts (S, M, L, XL)
>> 4 stickers


To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below telling us your all-time favorite thing to do (or eat) at the State Fair.

And for an extra chance to win, you can tweet about this giveaway:

Bring on the fry oil … @pretty_swell wants to send you to the @NCStateFair! Enter to win a deep-fried prize pack:

If you choose to tweet, please leave a separate comment below so it counts as an extra entry. This giveaway ends at noon on Monday, Oct. 1. And be sure to stay tuned to NC State Fair happenings through their Deep-Fried blog, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Hope to see you there!!

(I’ll be the one wrestling my kid for the last bite of deep-fried Snickers bar.)

**Congratulations to our winner, Julie L!! Enjoy the fair!**

Mighty Monroe

09/21/2012 at 2:03 pm | Posted in Bloggy, family | 2 Comments

I am so completely smitten with my new nephew that I find it only fitting to send us off into the weekend with a few more Monroe photos. I can’t go three days without snuggling this guy. And my sister? Amazing and beautiful. And totally rocking the boy-diaper-change routine.

Happy weekend to you!

Don’t forget: our Great Lovey Giveaway with North American Bear Company ends at midnight! THREE winners will receive the lovey of your choice.

And for my local readers, you will LOVE the giveaway coming up next week. Here’s a hint.

Eeeeeeeeeee! See you next week!!

The great lovey giveaway!

09/18/2012 at 4:16 pm | Posted in Bloggy | 1 Comment

To celebrate the birth of little mister Monroe, I’ve teamed with North American Bear Company to give YOU presents!

Because new baby! Presents! They just go hand in hand, right?

Our family adores North American Bear. When they first approached me to review their products before Sophie was born, the letter was thoughtfully written by someone who had actually read my blog. Not like the crazy pitches I usually get. I’m talking to you, plastic surgery weirdos.

North American Bear was a generous sponsor of our Love to Zaria fundraiser, and above all, is a friend to our little family.

Lily thinks Sam “from the toy workshop” is her very own fairy godmother. Remember the arrival of Princess last year? And Duckie the Elephant still holds prime real estate in Lily’s bed.

This company makes good toys. Period. They’re beautifully crafted, durable and adorable. And they won’t break the bank.

North American Bear just introduced some fun new products, and they want to share the love with you! My favorites? The Wizard of Oz characters, which Lily artfully arranges on her bed after every sleep. Dorothy has gone MIA, but the hunt continues. Behold the process:

And Sophie carrying this little cupcake purse is just too much. She hikes it way up on her shoulder and parades around the house with her arm straight up in the air. Of course every photo I took is blurry. But you can picture it, right? Baby is big stuff.

Sooooo … here’s the giveaway part. THREE lucky readers will each win a product of their choice from the “What’s New?” category of the North American Bear Company website.

I’m trying Rafflecopter this time, to make things easier for you guys. Just click on “log in” below, leave your name and email address (email addresses will be hidden, like always), and then click on the options you want to do. The only requirement for entry is to leave a comment in Rafflecopter telling us about your all-time favorite lovey. Or, you can log in through Facebook if you want. Easy peasy. I hope.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We were given an assortment of new products by North American Bear Co. to review. I received no compensation for my opinions. Which are always my own. And are always honest. Also? My favorite lovey of all time is Teddy, who is missing his nose and has “stitches” up his middle and lives with the menagerie in Lily’s bed.

Our winners are: Amber K., Jenny B. and Brandi B. Congratulations, lucky ladies!

Because dessert doesn't have to bust the calorie-meter

06/14/2012 at 3:27 pm | Posted in Bloggy, mangia! | Leave a comment
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We are a dessert family.

Marc and I both have a sweet tooth, and it seems that Lily has inherited it. I simply can’t finish a meal without something sweet. My usual line-up used to include cookies, ice cream or cupcakes. Since we’ve radically changed our lifestyle, we had to re-think dessert.

Notice I didn’t say “desserts had to go.” Because I don’t believe in depriving myself, and sweets are something I really enjoy. We just had to get creative. And you know what? It wasn’t that difficult.

One of our new favorite desserts is really quite simple. We call it “fruit parfait” to make it exciting for Lily, and it’s basically fruit layered with Lite COOL WHIP Whipped Topping (which has only 20 calories per serving!). Lily’s version also includes a smattering of rainbow sprinkles. She especially loves banana parfait. My favorite parfait is made with fresh local peaches or berries. I like crunchies in my desserts, so I’ll occasionally top my parfait with granola or almonds.

This spring we also made strawberry shortcakes with angel food cake (which is surprisingly low in calories and fat), fresh local berries and Lite COOL WHIP. Yum.

So, we’ve essentially been eating a lot more fruit. And dressing it up a bit. Dessert doesn’t have to be fancy or reserved for special occasions. We’ve learned that it is possible to enjoy dessert most every day and maintain our new lifestyle.

Even chocolate. Really!

Lily and I had a blast making Chocolate Chunk and Marshmallow Sundaes from our Food & Family magazine. I loved that the recipe was kid-friendly; Lily loved licking the spoon. And it also proved to be a neat science experiment, as the pudding thickened when stirred together with the cold milk.

We cut calories and fat by using skim milk and Lite COOL WHIP. And, unbeknownst to Lily, I reduced the amount of marshmallows and chocolate chips the recipe calls for.

This dessert was delicious, easy to make, and one batch lasted a while in the freezer. Lily loved “making ice cream,” and we plan to do it often this summer, switching up the pudding flavors and add-ins.

Dessert is a treat. But it doesn’t have to break the bank (or your waistband). We’re having the best fun coming up with low-cal options for everyday desserts that make everyone happy. Even Sophie is getting in on the action. Baby loooooves anything sweet.

What are some of your favorite summer desserts? We’d especially love more ideas for our low-cal recipe box!

Sponsored posts are purely editorial content that we are pleased to have presented by a participating sponsor. Advertisers do not produce the content. I was compensated for this post as a member of Clever Girls Collective, but the content is all my own. #FMcoolwhipmoms #spon

Feels like me

03/16/2012 at 3:51 pm | Posted in Bloggy, me | 7 Comments

I’ve only been blogging for two and a half years, but I think I’ve had about 600 different designs. I’ve worked with amazingly talented artists (like Don Naylor, who is as awesome a person as he is a designer), and I’ve loved all the different looks.

But after a few months of one design, I start to get twitchy.

I want to change stuff, and I can’t. And I don’t like being locked in. You may have noticed lately that little elements here and there (and big ones, like my header) disappear on occasion. I always panic when this happens (dang WordPress), and I have no idea how to remedy the situation. It’s frustrating.

See also: Type-A Virgo. I like to be in control.

I’ve been playing with colors and fonts and images for a while now. I’m not an artist, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot.

So it’s back to basics for pretty swell.

It’s funny. I started this site in 2009 with a very simple, clean, two-column format. After trying every other configuration under the sun (except the fancy ones that I can’t afford), here I am again.

Back to white space. Back to two columns. Back to me.

I finally feel comfortable in my blog skin. Is that gross? Sorry.

And when I get a hankering to change things up (oh, like next week), I can.

This feels like me. Finally.

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