8 Tips for Bringing Your Dog to a Pet Expo

Spring is just around the corner here, and we’ve been looking at pet expos and vendor fairs for booths for our PawZaar gift store. We’ve already signed up for POPCats Austin in May but…

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Mashed Potatoes and Other Small Victories

Thank you Idahoan® Mashed Potatoes for sponsoring this post. Idahoan® Mashed Potatoes are real potatoes, real easy, delivering homemade taste on demand.

One of the greatest lessons in parenting I’ve learned over the last five years is that you need to celebrate the small victories, because very little goes as planned. Sometimes a small victory can mean simply getting the kids dressed and out the door in time for school, even if they’re wearing mismatched clothes and have knots in their hair. When my kids go right to sleep with limited fussing or fighting (key word being ‘limited’ rather than ‘no’) that’s a small victory. Sometimes a small victory can mean watching my kids stop in the middle of a major sibling fight and hug each other. Other times it just means getting to go to the bathroom by myself.

When it comes to small victories though, I don’t know if it applies anywhere in my life with little ones quite as much as it does to meals. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was absolutely certain she would only consume the uber health conscious foods I provided her, and that she would eat exactly what we were eating, just in smaller portions. (I was a phenomenal parent before I became one.) Well, that did not work out. Then I had a son who actually loved eating what we did, enjoyed trying new foods, and preferred fruits and vegetables to sweets. Unfortunately, that only lasted until about year two, and then he followed in his sister’s footsteps. Not only do my kids almost always want to eat different foods than we do, they also want to eat different foods than each other. So when we find a food that we all love, it kind of feels like a miracle.

There are only a few foods that every single person in our house loves to eat: black bean tacos, cheese pizza, smoothies, Thai food, apples, and mashed potatoes. For me, mashed potatoes is probably the winner of all of these, because it can be served along so many other dishes and therefore made multiple times per week. There is a slight problem with mashed potatoes though – they take a lot of time to make, and time isn’t something we have before weeknight dinners. This is why I was so stoked to discover Idahoan® Mashed Potatoes. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Idahoan Mashed Potatoes are not just a small victory, they’re a huge one.

Idahoan Mashed Potatoes are made from 100% real Idaho® potatoes, so they have incredible taste and texture. They even earned the title of “America’s Favorite Mashed Potatoes,” which was well deserved if you ask me. But here’s the best part – they are ready in just minutes. I mean like prepared and on the table in less than ten minutes from start to finish. So whether I’m serving a perfectly prepped, elaborate meal (which let’s face it, maybe happens once every other month) or whipping up something simple in just a few minutes, it’s easy to make Idahoan Mashed Potatoes a part of it. Even when my kids complain about the rest of the meal, I know they’ll love and happily eat them. And obviously, my husband and I will too. (I like eating them alone for lunch or a snack too. Mashed potatoes forever!)

Having kids is admittedly much different than I envisioned before I became a parent. It’s awesome and wonderful in ways I could not possibly have imagined, and I am incredibly grateful for every single part of it. It’s also hard. Really hard. It’s exhausting and dirty and sometimes feels a little soul sucking if we’re being honest here. But that is part of what makes it great, because it allows us to so deeply appreciate those small victories. And whether it’s getting a toddler to take liquid medication without barfing, realizing your older child’s barely worn soccer shoes fit your younger kid, or discovering a food that everyone in the family loves that can also be be made quickly and easily, a small victory is reason to celebrate.

If you’re looking for a super convenient way to serve up a small victory in your house via the best mashed potatoes you’ve ever had, go grab yourself a bag of Idahoan Mashed Potatoes. We love the Buttery Golden Selects (so rich and tasty), but they’re also are available in Buttery Homestyle®, Butter and Herb, Bacon & Cheddar Chipotle, Roasted Garlic, and Four Cheese. Yum!

Have you had any small victories in your house lately?


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Pig Ears For Dogs

Just like humans, pets deserve a special treat every so often, and times like these call for dog owners to go out of their way to do something their dogs will love. Surprises of this nature go a long way in showing your canine companion that you appreciate them for all the unconditional love they give you.
Dog owners have all …
Dog’sHealth.com Blog

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8 Ideas For Keeping Young Kids Happy and Occupied Indoors

8 Ideas For Keeping Young Kids Happy and Occupied Indoors

This post is sponsored by Mattel. All opinions are my own.

We are officially hitting that point in winter where cabin fever is at its peak, and the little ones are really beginning to go stir crazy. My kids are both in preschool and activities which helps some, but when they’re home and cooped up indoors, boredom strikes quickly (and they have no problem making that known). At the end of January, we had a week here in Chicago where temperatures were so brutally low that school and most activities were canceled, and that forced us to get creative with indoor activities. It was a great lesson though (for all of us) in figuring out ways for the kids to stay occupied during the winter that we’ll be able to use all year round for rainy days or too hot days in the summertime. I hope our ideas help out those of you who are in the same boat as us!

1. Play dress up.
My kids have quite a collection of costumes, and I’ve found that bringing them out during days they’re stuck indoors is not only a great way to encourage their imaginations, it also helps keep them physically active. As soon as they put costumes on, they immediately begin acting out their characters and stage (often elaborate) scenarios. They’ll go through every costume too, which keeps them happily occupied for long periods of time. If they don’t have costumes or want to try something different, let them dress up in your clothes and shoes. (I loved wearing my mom’s clothes as a young child!)

2. Provide hands-on toys that can be used in different ways.
I notice my kids (understandably) get bored easily with toys that can only be played with one way or are repetitive. But if they are given hands-on toys that can be used in different ways, they stay engaged for long periods of time. This is why we love Mattel Disney-Pixar Cars toys so much, especially Cars 3 toys (their favorite of the three Cars movies, and my favorite too; yay for stories that encourage pursuing dreams regardless of gender, age, or appearance!). The Cars toys are so great because the kids love the physical aspects of being able to make the cars drive, move, jump, and race, but they can also use them to act out scenes from the movies and make up pretend stories with them, since they’re actual characters in addition to being toy vehicles. The fact that they encourage them to use their imaginations and fine motor skills is a big plus too.

3. Make an art show.
Bringing out the art supplies on a cold or rainy day is kind of a given, but taking things up a notch and creating a pretend art show keeps my kids happy and occupied for much longer than when I just hand them crayons and a coloring book. I usually provide them with several different types of supplies, and then when they’re done creating, they tape them up on the wall, make tickets, and invite me or each other to the their art show.

4. Hold a pretend dance or yoga class.
My kids loves pretending to play teacher for each other, their stuffed animals, or even us. On days when they’re stuck indoors, I always suggest playing teacher for a class that allows them to be physical too, like dance or yoga. (Sports work too if you have the open space!) This allows them to get some physical activity in while also participating in an activity that requires imagination and taking turns.

5. Put on a puppet show.
My kids both love performing for us, each other, and even their toys. You can get creative and make a simple puppet stage out of a cardboard box, or just have them hide behind a table or chair. They love using their Cars toys as “puppets” and acting out scene from the movie. It’s the cutest.

6. Have a dance party.
Building on #4 above, put on a playlist your kids will love and tell them it’s dance party time! My kids will seriously do this for a good hour straight. It’s a wonderful way for them to stay active, and they always have smiles on their faces their entire time.

7. Have pretend story time.
My daughter turned 5 last month and is only just beginning to read, but she loves to pretend to read (and act out) books to her 3 year old brother. He loves to switch the roles and pretend to read to her too! They also think it’s fun to set up their stuffed animals like an audience and pretend they’re the story readers at the library. I usually put a big pile of books in a basket and set up a blanket for them, and they take it from there.

8. Create an at home movie theatre.
I try to avoid screen time until we’re out of other options, but when it reaches that point, instead of mindlessly turning on the television or giving them a tablet, we choose a movie together and they create a pretend at home movie theatre. The kids make tickets and I pop them popcorn, then they pretend the sofa is their movie seats while they watch the film. (Obviously, Cars 3 is a favorite for this!)

If you have other ideas for ways to keep little ones happily busy when they’re stuck indoors, I’d love to hear them! And if you’re looking for an ideal toy to encourage lots of active hands-on play during inside days, head over to toys/collectibles aisle at Walmart and pick up some Cars toys. Today (February 11th) is also the official Cars Day, so now is the perfect time to do it!


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Westminster 2019: Hound Group Results

The winner of the Hound Group, progressing on to tomorrow night’s Best in Show, is: long-haired Dachshund “Burns” Runners up are: 2nd place: Whippet “Bourbon” 3rd place: 15″ Beagle “Tam” 4th place: Basenji “Zoro” Coming up next: the Toy Group

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Jelly Heart Print Cookies

Sunbutter and Jelly Heart Print Cookies

Happy Friday friends! I feel like I’m cheating a little by sharing this, because the recipe is one I originally shared here last year. But we made these cookies again yesterday for an early Valentine’s Day treat, and since this upcoming week is V-Day week, I felt inspired to share again. I’ve actually tweaked a couple of things in the recipe since last year as well, so an update felt needed. I hope you love them as much as we do!

Sunbutter and Jelly Heart Print Cookies
Sunbutter and Jelly Heart Print Cookies

SunButter (or Peanut Butter) and Jelly Heart Print Cookies
Makes about 24 cookies

1 cup SunButter (for allergy-free recipe!) or peanut butter
1-1/4 cups gluten-free or all-purpose or  flour
1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter (softened)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extra
1/2 cup jelly, jam, or preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl, use a mixer to beat together the SunButter or peanut butter, butter, and egg, then beat in the sugars and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Beat in the flour mixture on low until well mixed. Roll tablespoon size balls on dough and place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart, the slightly press each cookie into a round shape (we dip the bottom of a metal measuring cup in sugar and then press onto each cookie ball). Bake for 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven, and immediately use the bottom of a wooden spoon handle to make heart shapes in the center of each cookie while still hot. Fill each indentation with jelly, and allow to cool on a wire rack. Note: If you have a dairy allergy, you can easily substitute butter for a butter alternative. And if you have an egg allergy, use an egg replacer mix or 1/2 a mashed banana in place of the egg.

Sunbutter and Jelly Heart Print Cookies
Sunbutter and Jelly Heart Print Cookies
Sunbutter and Jelly Heart Print Cookies

Happy Love Week! Enjoy!


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Friday Funny: Dog, the Bounty Hunter

Have a great weekend! Until next time, Good day, and good dog!

Doggies.com Dog Blog

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When A Dog Is Ready To Whelp

Is your dog about to give birth? Read this blog for some answers to common questions about whelping.
The first thing to do is talk to your vet. It is important to understand the potential risks and be able to identify signs of complications. Ideally, your vet has been checking on your dog throughout the pregnancy. The vet will talk to …
Dog’sHealth.com Blog

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5 Tips For Creating Healthy School Lunches Without Sacrificing Fun

5 Tips For Creating Healthy School Lunches Without Sacrificing Fun

This post is in partnership with Sistema®, available at Meijer. 

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you probably know that I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. The pressure to come up with something grand always feels overwhelming, and then I feel guilty if I can’t make it happen perfectly. They’re just not for me. Small, attainable goals, however, are something I can handle. This year, I took the big concept of getting myself and my family to eat healthy foods, and broke it down into smaller goals, like making sure we each have a green smoothie or salad everyday. I also decided to really make the effort to take my daughter’s preschool lunches up a notch so that they’re more health conscious.

Making preschool or elementary school lunches healthy and still desirable can be tricky, because young kids don’t usually gravitate toward nutritious choices. But if you can make the food feel exciting for them, they’ll probably eat it. So I knew that when I decided to make sure Essley’s lunches were always full of fresh, healthy items, I needed to make them fun and interesting too. And so far, it’s working – she is loving her lunches (and actually looking forward to eating the fruits and veggies!).

Today I’m going to share with you what I’ve been doing differently, in hopes that it might help out those of you who are also working to create healthier school lunches for your little ones as well.

1. Focus on variety. 
Creating variety is my biggest tip for keeping school lunches interesting. I used to give Essley pretty much the same lunch on every single one of her school lunch days: a tofu ham and cheese sandwich, veggie or tortilla chips, organic fruit snacks, and baby carrots. While not necessarily unhealthy, I knew I could do better. Essley also got bored quickly, especially with the veggies. So after winter break, I went to my local Meijer and got a bunch of different kinds of foods, and also stocked up on Sistema® containers. (I got everything from the Bento Lunch To Go With Yogurt Pot to the Klip It Color Tabs Salad-To-Go container.) With the help of all of these seriously versatile containers, I’ve been able to provide variety within each lunch, easily change things up from lunch to lunch, and also pack fresh foods (like salads) without worrying about them getting yucky by lunch time.

2. Get the right lunch containers.
This builds off #1 above and is also really important. I had been using the same small container in Essley’s lunch bag and supplementing with occasional disposable sandwich bags (so not eco-friendly!), and it really limited what I could actually pack for her. So as I mentioned in #1, I went to Meijer and got several types of Sistema® containers. The diverse selection of containers we now have allows me to to pack everything from salads to sandwiches to yogurt to snacks, and the cute bright colors make lunch more fun for her. And I don’t have to worry about messes or spills in her lunch box thanks to the easy locking lids. I also love that they are all BPA and Phthalate free, and that I can throw them on the top rack of the dishwasher for easy clean up. (They can also be used in the fridge and freezer, and in the microwave with the lid open. Woohoo!)

3. Create hearty meals that sustain.
Essley used to eat all of her tortilla chips, bread, and sweet foods, leave the other stuff, then tell me she was hungry the second she got home. I knew I needed to start creating more hearty lunches for her that would add more protein and healthy fats to the mix. This has been super easy with the Sistema® Bento Lunch To Go With Yogurt Pot, because I’ve been able to include protein rich Greek yogurt and guacamole in her lunches using the yogurt pot, and using other Sistema® containers like the Snack Capsule for protein rich treats like almonds and pumpkin seeds. It’s a win-win: she thinks its fun to try different foods in the different containers, and she isn’t starving by the time I pick her up.

4. Get creative – in simple ways. 
The whole over-the-top creative bento box trend is super inspiring, but I usually don’t have the time (or energy) to make elaborate lunches. Thankfully I have learned that I can still get creative with Essley’s lunches without spending hours searching on Pinterest for ways to make her food look like it belongs in an art museum. I find simple ways to get creative, like cutting sandwiches into stars and cheddar cheese slices into dogs with cookie cutters, or even just cutting foods into small pieces for her to eat. (Trust me, young kids love tiny food pieces. It’s a thing.) Sistema® containers really help with this too because of the different sized compartments in their bento and multi split containers.

5. Let your kids help.
I used to put Essley’s lunches together after she went to bed, but now I let her get involved in the process. It’s a good lesson in responsibility, and I have also noticed that she is more enthusiastic about healthy foods when she feels like it’s her choice and she isn’t being forced. She loves choosing which of the Sistema® containers to include too. The experience is fun for her, and she really enjoys eating lunches she helped prepare.

It’s nice to be able to say that in February, one of my small goals for the new year is not only working, but continuing to get better! By following these 5 tips, I’ve been able to create healthier lunches for Essley that are also fun for her. And I have to say, the Sistema® containers from Meijer have been a game changer for our entire family in terms of eating healthier, because they make it so easy to bring snacks and food on the go so we’re not grabbing fast food or packaged snacks. (Robbie is way into the Sistema® Soup Mug To Go and has been brining it with him on the road with the band.) Sistema® will be running a 20% off food storage promo from 2/24-3/2 and 3/24-3/30, so head over to your local Meijer or visit Meijer.com and grab some of your own right now!

How do you create healthy school lunches without sacrificing fun?


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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We have come to love each other

poet snuggle

I must admit that I never really new sighthounds other than retired racing greyhounds until these past few months.  I knew that Jenna had a special relationship with Zoom, her cream and white whippet, and when we moved in together, she had just brought in a brindle and white whippet puppet.

I figured that the puppy would wind up being her dog, and although I was quite aware that whippets were quite trainable dogs, I never really thought I’d become attached to one.

As Poet has matured, though, he and I have drawn closer to each other. It was he who made the first mood.  A few months ago, he just sort of declared in his subtle sighthound ways that he was my dog, end of discussion.

And I’ve accepted the arrangement. I have found him to be as biddable as any golden retriever, and I have trained him to sit, heel, lie down, stand, and speak. He fetches the ball like a demon, which is to be expected. His father is a Frisbee nut.

He likes to go with me everywhere, and because he’s smaller and innocuous, I generally don’t have a lot of trouble taking him places.  He is genteel and kind, but he is not demonstrative with strangers.

Through one family line I trace to the rugged counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire, the same counties that spawned the modern whippet as a rag racer. I suspect my Quaker ancestors in that part of the world may have had little greyhounds much like whippets, perhaps to fill the pot with rabbit stew on cold winter nights.

So we are now attached to each other. I have a nice little whippet with a show and coursing career ahead of him, and I now know the full appeal of this breed. Once they choose their person, you are it.  No one else really matters.

And that is strange and moving feeling, especially when you’re used to golden retrievers that are so socially open.

Poet is my little boy. My little whip. And I am his person.



Natural History

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