Shopping

When I was pregnant with baby Juliza, there were a few things that I knew I would need, without a doubt, to get us through the first few months relatively unscathed. Thankfully, I come with built-in boobs, and diapers and burp cloths were given by friends and family. But I also knew we’d need blankets and swaddles to keep baby comfortable and secure. I’ve always loved the soft, lightweight feel of muslin blankets, but with tons to buy for a new baby, they were a bit cost prohibitive.

Now, one of the most popular makers of muslin blankets, crib sheets and swaddles, aden + anais, is offering a new, affordable line at Walmart. I recently got a chance to try out some of the new Ideal Baby products, and I was not disappointed.

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At first touch, muslin fabric may feel like it’s too thin to really be effective, and it doesn’t have any stretch. What I’ve found, though, is that it is super soft and comfortable against the skin, and it stays warmer than I expected, even during colder winter nights. Plus, the fabric is really breathable, so it won’t keep baby hot when swaddled.

Juliza is way too big to be swaddled these days, but I did get to try an Ideal Baby crib sheet and hooded towel.

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The sheets come in fun patterns, but we chose the Pretty Sweet pattern, featuring hearts and a great pink and turquoise color scheme. Baby Juliza is not a fan of being in her crib, for the most part. But when I put this sheet on her mattress, she spent a few minutes just sitting there rubbing the fabric. Apparently, she thinks it’s really soft.

I was concerned that the thin fabric would be cold when I put her down after nursing her at bed time. Because of this concern, I usually cover her sheet with a blanket tightly wrapped around and under her mattress, so I never have to put her down on a cold surface. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the muslin wasn’t cold at all.

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We also tried a hooded bath towel. I thought she might be too big for it, but it’s the perfect size for bath time — or for playing pretend with a “cape”. It is made of terry cloth with muslin on the hood, and it is soft and supple. Plus, it feels like the type of fabric that will only get softer after a wash. I can’t say for sure that this is the case, but that’s how it feels.

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But by far the best part of these high-quality muslin products is the pricing. The sheets are just under $13, the towels are $9.99 apiece, and you can get a 3-pack of swaddles for just $20.

Next time I have to buy a baby gift, these are definitely going to be on my list.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

Disclosure: I participated in an Ambassador Program on behalf of Influence Central for Sprint. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

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Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of being a Sprint Ambassador, which means I’ve gotten to test a variety of devices powered by their network. I have been really pleased with the quality of the service, and I never experienced dropped calls or areas where there was no signal. If you’ve been considering a switch, I can honestly say that I’ve been happy with the service.

And now, Sprint is giving you an even bigger reason to switch: To celebrate launch of their new, faster LTE Plus network, Sprint is offering a whopping 50 percent off the price of most Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile rate plans.

That’s right. You’ll pay just half of what you would’ve with other carriers, on a network that promises to be faster than Verizon and AT&T. New customers can get a phone via Sprint Lease, iPhone Forever, installment billing, or they can pay full retail price. The offer is available for new customers who sign up through January 7, 2016, and the 50% off rate will continue until January 2018. Get more information about the offer.

Need another reason to consider Sprint? How about a giveaway?

Win 1 of 2 Sprint Phones!

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Sprint has graciously provided me with two devices to give away to my loyal readers. One winner will take home the HTC Desire 626s from Sprint Prepaid, shown above. It has a 5-inch HD touchscreen display, runs Android™ 5.1, Lollipop, and includes an 8-megapixel, rear-facing camera. Sprint Prepaid monthly plans don’t require a contract, and they include unlimited data, talk and text. Mobile Hotspot is included on select devices.

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The second winner will take home Sprint’s HTC One A9, shown above. This Google Android phone comes with a fingerprint scanner, which can be combined with Android Pay to make online shopping as easy as one click, along with a 13MP rear camera with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) to reduce shake. It is also one of the few smartphones with an expandable microSD™ memory slot, and it comes with Google’s Now on Tap feature, which allows you to look up more information about whatever is one your screen. For example, you could look up reviews for a movie your best friend texted you about, listen to a song mentioned in a blog post, or book a restaurant reservation from an email.

Want to win? Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below! The entry period closes Jan. 1 at 12:00 a.m.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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My oldest daughter is a builder. She loves to take things apart and put them back together, or build things with pipe cleaners and tape, including huge elaborate blanket forts with multiple rooms, and doors and windows. I’m not exaggerating.

So when Walmart offered to send me a GoldieBlox play set, I knew she’d be overjoyed to play with a toy designed to encourage the part of her brain that loves to build. Plus, this feminist mama was only too happy to have her play with toys that were invented to empower girls.

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She chose the GoldieBlox Girl Inventor Zipline Action Figure, because zipline.

It took Ja’Naya all of 15 minutes to put the zipline carriage together, and another 5 to memorize the process so she could do it again (and again) without the help of the instructions. That can be explained by the fact that it is designed for kids ages 4 and up, so at 10, she was able to grasp it quickly and retain the information.

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The best part, of course, was letting the Goldie fly. And a week in, baby Juliza’s new favorite phrase is “Want dolly fly!”

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My two girls have been having so much finding different places to anchor the zipline at different levels of slackness and different inclines, and they’ve even tried to make Goldie land in baskets and bags when she reaches the end of the line. The line has suction cups at the ends, and they’ll stick to glass and metal, but it can also be tied off to an anchor point if necessary.

It’s hard to capture a photo of the action, so here’s a very quick video of Goldie doing her thing:

Ja’Naya has grown a little bored with the build process because it is relatively simple, but she has asked for more GoldieBlox toys so she can build her collection of parts, allowing her to use her imagination to create whatever she wants. She tried making other stuff from the parts included in this set, but there aren’t very many, so there wasn’t much she could make.

Thankfully, Walmart does have other GoldieBlox sets, including a Builder’s Survival Kit with a ton of parts that can be mixed and matched. So on Christmas morning, Ja’Naya will find another GoldieBlox set from Santa under the tree, and we’ll add to it throughout the year.

And because I’d be remiss if I didn’t say: The age recommendations on these sets are there for a reason. Many of the parts are really small, and while Juliza didn’t attempt to put any in her mouth, she could’ve easily swallowed some of them if she had tried. She did, however, manage to scatter the parts all over the house, and it took us 30 minutes of hunting to find all the little pieces. The next thing we need to find is a box to contain all the pieces.

But we are now huge fans of GoldieBlox, and any kid who is a maker will love them too.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

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You may have noticed that I take a lot of photos for the blog in Baby Juliza’s room. There are reasons for that. First, it has amazing light during the daytime. Second, the decor makes it is my favorite room in the house. I love the bright, happy color palette, and Juliza seems to really like it too. So when Walmart offered to send me their Pinwheel crib bedding to try, I admit I was a little skeptical. I didn’t want to change the atmosphere of the room by introducing colors and patterns that wouldn’t work.

Lucky for me, Pinwheel’s bedding patterns are fun, trendy and modern, so it wasn’t difficult to find one that would fit right in. I chose the Sweet Tweet crib bedding set, which featured colorful flowers and birds in with pink and white as the main colors.

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Juliza was genuinely excited about getting to put new bedding in her crib. I was just hopeful that her excitement would translate to her sleeping in her own bed all night.

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The Pinwheel bedding comes in 3- or 6-piece sets from Walmart. I received the 3-piece set, which includes a crib sheet, comforter and crib skirt. I thought I would miss having a bumper pad inside the crib, but I didn’t, and neither did Juliza. However, there is a bumper available that you can buy separately.

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The sheet is a little on the thin side, but it softened up a bit after washing. By far, the hit has been the comforter. It is soft and cushy, and Juliza loves snuggling up under her new “banket.” I should explain that she loves wedging her between my husband and I and crawling under our comforter, so she was only too happy to have one of her own.

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This has made it much easier to get her into the crib during the day when she’s wide awake and in a playful mood, so cross your fingers that attitude will transfer to nap time and night time.

The Sweet Tweet crib set is on sale right now for $24.98 at Walmart.com, which makes it a thoughtful, cute, affordable gift idea for a new mom or baby. If Juliza could, she’d give it two thumbs up.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

There is only one word that can adequately describe what December is like around these parts: Chaotic. In addition to the typical family-related running around after Thanksgiving and before Christmas, there’s also the fact that my blogging workload typically skyrockets and that I’m trying to wrap up graphic design projects for the end of the year. Add to that the unfortunate fact that at least one of us usually gets sick once the weather officially shifts to “cold” (except this year, it was all of us), and December is just a recipe for stress. As a result, I tend to shop online when it comes to Christmas gift-giving, because I have neither the time nor the desire to spend hours in a store looking for a great gift when I can just do it from my computer or smartphone.

So when Walmart offered me the opportunity to try out their in-store pickup service, I knew it would fit right in to my holiday shopping habits.

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I like shopping at Walmart.com for one major reason: I can always find tons of items that aren’t available in store — or at least not in my store. This year, I wanted to get baby Juliza a puppy. Except — you know — not a real puppy because I’m not doing that again for a long time to come. I wanted to give her a Fur Real friends puppy. However, given that she’s not even 2 years old yet, I didn’t want one of the super fancy, expensive toys that she may or may not destroy. After all, her nickname is “Hurricane JuJu.” Nope. I just wanted a sufficiently cute puppy that did — well — something. Anything, really. Bark. Roll over. Pay all our bills. Sorry. Wrong list.

Anyway, Walmart.com had a bunch of Fur Real friends options, including a cute puppy that barks and bounces AND costs less than $20. So I added the puppy to my cart and choose the free in-store pickup option at my closest store. Once the order was complete, I received email confirmation and notice that I’d get another email when my order was ready for pickup.

The order wasn’t scheduled to be available until four days later, but it was actually ready in just two days — Right on time, because I was headed to Walmart to do grocery shopping anyway. I just picked up my order before I got started.

The orange in-store signs guided me back to the pickup counter in the back of the store.

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There were a few customers in front of me, but once it was my turn, the pickup process was quick and painless. I showed the associate my pickup notification email and ID, she pulled my order, I signed for it, and I left. Easy peasy.

I do wish that there was more than one person working the pickup desk, because a long line grew behind me while I waited, and I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for those customers to have such a long wait for what should’ve been an easy pickup. But overall, the process was simple, and you can’t beat free shipping and avoiding walking around the store to find an item that a 30-second website search could find so much more easily.

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And now, baby Juliza will have a puppy waiting for her under the tree on Christmas morning.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

I’ll be honest: I look forward to the after-Thanksgiving sales each year. I know, I know. That’s unexpected coming from someone who cares about sustainability. Still, it’s the truth. The reason is simple: I use those sales not only to get a lot of Christmas shopping done, but also to stock up on necessities while they are steeply discounted. This year, winter clothes for both my girls are on our needs list. And while I’m not above heading out into crowded stores to find some great deals, my absolute preference is just to shop online. The challenge? Finding the deals on what I want.

Alas, CyberMonday.com has come to my rescue.

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CyberMonday.com is a deal-seeker’s dream, no matter what you happen to be buying. It’s an awesome way to find deals, coupons and sales from all over the web all in one place.

I started my search for winter clothes in the “Babies, Kids & Toys” category, then clicked “Apparel.” Voila! All the best deals from online retailers, including kids specialty stores and larger stores that also sell kids’ clothes. On one page, I could find free shipping, % off discounts and more.

I was able to find some of the cutest winter and holiday pieces for both my daughters, steeply discounted AND with free shipping! Here are some of my favorite finds:

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1. Loose Knit Vented Sweater from Old Navy / 2. Faux Fur Vest from Children’s Place / 3. Floral Mesh Skirt from Children’s Place / 4. Coated Skinny Jeans from Old Navy / 5. Graphic Crew Neck Sweater from Children’s Place / 6. Patterned Skater Dress from Old Navy

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather spend this coming weekend at CyberMonday.com than fighting through the in-store crowds or refreshing my favorite sites. Check it out next time you’re looking for a great deal.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Disclosure: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for American Express Serve. I applied for the Serve Cash Back card to facilitate my review and received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

It’s rare for me to have cash in my wallet. It happens on occasion when I am somewhere between the ATM and the bank, or if I get some cash back at the register so I can give my daughter a few dollars for snacks at gymnastics practice. But otherwise? I use my debit cards for everything. So when I shared with you a few weeks ago that I was going to be using the new American Express Serve Cash Back card for a few weeks, I knew it wouldn’t be too difficult to transition to it. Well, having used it for a few weeks, I can say that not only was it not difficult — it was actually really easy.

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Just to recap, American Express Serve Cash Back is a prepaid debit card that offers 1% cash back on all purchases. So whether you spend $1 or $100, you’ll get 1% of that amount added to your account, simply waiting for you to redeem it.

So what was my experience? Well, I work from home and honestly don’t go out much. As a result, my spending is generally pretty routine: Groceries, gas, eating out, bills and the occasional online purchase. Because I had never owned an American Express card, I was a little worried that it might not be accepted in all the places I frequent. Thankfully, that fear was unfounded, as every retailer and vendor accepted it. Even iTunes, when I used it to re-up on some diamonds in my favorite mobile game. Don’t judge me.

Honestly, the experience was seamless and simple, and I really appreciated being able to keep track of my spending and balance from the American Express Serve app on my smartphone. It was easy for me to see transactions go through shortly after making them, and when one transaction didn’t clear right away, I was able to track it until it finally did clear. I was just talking to my husband the other day about the fact that I don’t know anyone who keeps a written record of their individual bank transactions any more, and I think it’s because online banking has made it so easy to see transactions right away that we no longer need to write them down.

But what I really appreciated about the app was what drew me to the idea of the American Express Serve Cash Back card in the first place: The cash back. In addition to tracking my balance, the app allowed me to see what cash back was available and also to redeem it toward my next purchase. With more than $200 in spending, that means the 1% cash back promise left me with more than $2 to claim. That may not seem like much, but if I continue to use this as my primary prepaid debit account, that cash back will really begin to add up and come in handy in those moments when I’m a few dollars shy of the amount I need to make a purchase.

Overall, I’m really happy with the ease of use of the American Express Serve Cash Back card, and I plan to continue to use it as a way to help me compartmentalize my saving and spending, no physical bank required.

If you’re ready to try it, it’s incredibly easy to register for an account online and receive your American Express Serve Cash Back card in the mail for free. If you’d prefer to get started in person, you could also purchase the card from a retailer for up to $3.95. Unlike a credit card, there’s no credit check, minimum balance or hidden fees. The only cost is a monthly fee of $5.95 to maintain your account.

I fully and unashamedly admit it: I am one of “those” moms. I want my daughters to play with Black dolls. My reason is simple: I am raising little Black girls in hopes of turning them into strong, empowered Black women who love themselves. And unfortunately, even in 2015, it can still be difficult to find beautiful representations of Black girls in the world around us. To counter that, I prefer to expose them to beautiful, positive reflections of blackness at home — including their dolls. This is not to say that I won’t ever let them play with dolls of other hues. But let’s be honest: Representations of other types of beauty — which look nothing like me or my daughters — are not hard to find. So I’ll always look for a Black doll first, because I know that my daughters will be able to see a little bit of themselves in the doll, and they’ll get the message that beauty comes in lots of different packages.

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As such, I love the fact that Walmart’s My Life As doll collection has something beautiful and positive to offer my daughters — dolls that look like them, with hair like them. In fact, they have dolls that represent all sorts of girls: Dark skin, light skin, curly hair and straight, blonde, brunette, redhead. My oldest daughter actually already has one My Life As doll, and she loves playing with her and dressing her up. So when Walmart offered to send us this year’s Doll of the Year, I knew she’d be excited. I don’t think either of us anticipated how excited her little sister would be, too.

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It would help to explain that the 2015 Doll of the Year is a dog walker. A pretty dog walker in a fuzzy poncho and a cute headband, but the dog walker part is what mattered to baby Juliza. Because as soon as we pulled out the box, she spotted the 3 puppies that came with the doll. Try as we might, we couldn’t get her to play with anything else. Here, you can see for yourself:

Juliza really, really likes those puppies.

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I mean, the doll is OK too, but in her 21-month-old eyes, the puppies are the best part. Ja’Naya on the other hand, was captivated by the doll and her fabulous outfit and hair. She won’t have straight hair to match her doll’s any time soon, but at least now she’ll get to play in straight hair.

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They named the new doll Melissa, and she has made a fine friend for Ja’Naya’s other My Life As doll. In fact, I’d say they’re besties since they share clothes and accessories.

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And now I know what to give Ja’Naya for Christmas — some more clothes and accessories so she can keep enjoying her new (and old) friend. There are a ton to choose from at Walmart.com.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.