Vacation Packing Tips for Toddlers | Includes free family packing list!

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation if you choose to purchase any products linked below at no extra charge to you! Click here to view our disclosure policy.

I’m going to be honest with you: I LOVE making lists. For holidays, planning, vacations, short trips, long trips, you name it. If it is a list, I’ve probably made it.

Lucky for you, I’m going to be sharing some of my most used lists in my arsenal: Road Trip Packing List for Toddlers (and Parents!). We’ve gone on a number of road trips with our son in the last two years. Before he was born, my husband and I traveled even more, whether it was flying or driving.

While there are lots of packing lists out there, I err on the side of being extra prepared. And even being extra prepared, I’ve still made lots of mistakes. Worst mistake? One trip, I managed to bring our son’s video monitor… but not the actual camera to put in his room so we could see him.

Hopefully these lists will help packing for your trip a little easier! I’ve listed a good chunk of what we pack for kiddo below.

As a bonus, you can download the full five-page printable packing checklists for toddlers and parents for free by clicking here!

Also, check out my best tips for going on a road trip with a toddler here!

 

Favorite items to make traveling easier with toddlers

Packing list for the car or plane

  • Lovey or favorite stuffed animal
  • Blanket and/or pillow
  • Extra set (or two) of clothing
  • Diapers, wipes and changing pad
  • Diaper cream like Resinol or Travel-Size Aquaphor
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Kids’ reusable water bottle or sippy cup
  • Amazon Kindle Fire for Kids
    • Charger for Kindle Fire
    • Pro Tip: Download any apps, videos, music or books for offline use before you leave home!
  • Coloring books (Magic ink books are amazing!)
  • Gel clings for windows
  • Favorite healthy snacks
  • Special food treats they may not normally get
  • These cloth diapers: We use them as burp cloths and to clean up any spills or messes!
  • A few of your child’s favorite and new toys (great to grab at the dollar store!)

Packing list for toddler’s suitcase

General items

  • Baby monitor (camera and video monitor, plus chargers and accessories)
  • Small first aid kit
    • Children’s pain relievers
    • Allergy medicine
    • Cough relief medicine
    • Thermometer
    • Nasal aspirator
    • Nail clippers
    • Bandages
    • Itch or allergy cream
    • Sunscreen
    • Aloe
  • Baby proofing items
    • Outlet plugs
    • Door knob covers
    • Painter’s tape for outlet covers and to secure blinds cords
  • Portable white noise machine
  • Bed: Pack ‘n Play, toddler travel bed or bed rails
  • Bedding: Pillow, fitted sheet, blanket
  • Nightlight
  • Portable high chair
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Body wash and shampoo
  • Washcloth and towel
  • Extra diapers and wipes
  • Any feeding items
    • Sippy cups, utensils, bowls, plates, snack cups
  • Travel play mat for gross hotel or AirBnB floors, plus extra toys

Clothing

  • One outfit per day, plus one extra outfit for every two days of your trip
  • Two pajamas for every 3-5 days (Always bring an spare set!)
  • One pair of socks per day, plus 1-3 extra pairs
  • Bibs
  • Two to four pairs of shoes, depending on trip location/activities
  • Sweater
  • Rain jacket
  • Coat and mittens, depending on location
  • Swimsuit or swim diaper(s)

Now that you have your toddler’s bag packed, let’s pack yours! I’ve created a comprehensive, five-page packing list for every member of the family exclusively for you.

Click here to snag the interactive printable.

Favorite Kitchen Tools for Parents

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation if you choose to purchase any products linked below at no extra charge to you! Click here to view our disclosure policy.

The best kitchen tools for new parents

Kitchen gadgets to get you through the first three years

The Best Kitchen Tools for New Parents - Top Kitchen Registry Picks

Registering for baby gifts is hard, right? Knowing which products really work, which ones may break or even which ones will end up in a cabinet, never to be used. Not to mention the sheer number of items there are out there.

Here I’m laying out all the best kitchen tools to get you through the first three years of being a parent, from newborn to three year olds! You’ll find my favorite tools for both parents to use and a few bonus tools that your child can use once they’re a toddler.

Looking for more of my favorite kitchen gadgets and tools? This is the first in a series of my favorites for use for meal prep and beyond! I’ll be linking the rest of the posts as they come out here. So come back soon!

P.S., scroll to the bottom of this post for a super easy recap and links to each item!

Kitchen tools for the first year

Ah, new parenthood. Full of limitless time and resources. Ha! Just kidding. It’s a time of pure chaos, between endless feedings, adjusting to the new normal as parents, and everything in between. From bottle warmers the first few months to baby food makers and storage, here are my favorite baby kitchen tools.

Bottle warmers

There are SO many options for bottle warmers today. Some are relatively low-tech, while others even have digital displays, timers, and other clever functions.

Personally, I exclusively breastfed and had high lipase, so we didn’t freeze and reheat breastmilk; however, I would often pump and store in the fridge for others to feed my kiddo when he was a newborn.

Dr Browns Bottle Warmer - Best Kitchen Tools for New ParentsSince we didn’t use our bottle warmer every day, we went with a more basic model like this from Munchkin.

So far, it has lasted four years – we used it when I would babysit my niece, too! – and shows no signs of stopping. It comes with a few accessories to make things easier depending on the size of the bottle. Also, it’s currently on sale for under $20 on Amazon, it’s hard to beat!

This bottle warmer from Dr. Brown’s is a more advanced and high-tech bottle warmer and is amazing. It has an LCD display, one-touch start, and will remember your favorite warming settings. A bonus is you don’t have to fill up this warmer after every single use.

Baby food makers + Storage

While I would love to link several different brands of baby food makers, I was so incredibly impressed with my Beaba Babycook, I can’t recommend anything else.

This baby food maker does it all: Steams, purees, defrosts, and reheats. All in less than 15 minutes! And all of the pieces besides the base are dishwasher safe, so cleanup is always a breeze.

From when my son started purees until he could chew more solid food, I used this several times a week. I would prep several frozen fruits, veggies and even meats at a time to freeze and use later.

In the beginning, I would use the full steam and puree functions, but as he got a little older, I used the steam or defrost/reheat functions for small pieces of food.

The Beaba Babycook comes in two versions: A 4.7 ounce container (in on-trend rose gold and other colors!) and a 5.5 ounce glass container version, which comes in chic colors like midnight blue with gold accents, silver, turquoise, and matte black.Beaba Baby Food Maker - Best Kitchen Tools for New Parents

When I finished making his baby food, I used these handy storage containers from OXO. They’re the perfect serving size and freezable, too!

Baby food tips

Pick up these silicone freezer storage containers and once they’re frozen, you can pop the servings into a resealable bag for even easier storage!

Bonus tip: Make puree prep a snap, I recommend buying pre-chopped, frozen vegetables. They’re frozen at their peak freshness and all you have to do is pour the bag into your baby food maker!

Or, if you prefer fresh produce, pick up one of these handy produce choppers from Mueller. With its multiple attachments, you can chop fresh produce in seconds that’s the perfect size to place into your baby food maker! It’s also one of my FAVORITE kitchen tools for parents with arthritis!

Kitchen tools for the toddler age

Everything changes when your kids start eating real food with minimal prep; however, that doesn’t mean you don’t need special tools to help make their meals easier!

Chopping and dicing kitchen tools

The key, especially once children transition into solid foods, is cutting and chopping foods into manageable sizes to reduce choking hazards.

One of my first favorite tools in this transition period was a pair or three of these kid-friendly kitchen shears. Kitchen Shears for Babies and Toddlers - Best Kitchen Tools for New ParentsThey’re smaller than your typical shears, but just as powerful. Be sure to keep these out of reach of children. These kitchen scissors are great for cutting smaller fruits and even larger foods like pizza!

Next, if you’re old school and prefer a knife and cutting board, these cutting boards are my favorite. They’re lightweight, dishwasher-friendly, and don’t get food stuck or stained after they’ve been cleaned. Plus, the color-coding is a handy plus and helps older toddlers with color recognition!

Lastly, in terms of food prep, the Mueller vegetable chopper is my absolute favorite. Especially great for folks with arthritis, as you simply pull the handle down and boom, diced food in mere seconds.

This chopper is great for fruits and vegetables, whether they’re raw like blueberries and grapes, or lightly cooked like carrots. Just be careful with foods that are super soft!

Another kitchen tool I absolutely love are these fun “cookie” cutters. They can be used on ALL sorts of foods. Toddler Cookie Cutters for fruit, vegetables and other foods for picky eaters and mealtime engagement brendadalton.com

Toddlers can be a little… picky at times, but using these shapes to cut their food into makes 1) food prep engaging and 2) kids more willing to try new foods.

Without fail, my toddler is almost always willing to eat foods he wouldn’t normally eat, like cheese, certain fruits and vegetables, when we prep together and I let him cut the food into fun shapes like hearts, bears, and stars.

Engaging toddlers in the kitchen

Engage your child in food preparation once they’re able to stand and follow directions. Well, as much as a toddler will follow directions.

One of my favorite kitchen items I have ever bought has nothing to do with food. Crazy, right?Kitchen Tower Stool for Toddlers - Best Kitchen Tools for Toddler Parents

It’s this kitchen tower. Oh, I love it. It was my son’s “big” birthday gift when he turned two. He likely would have loved this about 20 months and older, too.

The kids’ kitchen tower keeps them safe (with supervision), engages them in the cooking process, and by doing so, makes them more willing to try out new foods. We bring the tower up to our kitchen island and to let my son bring a few small toys to play with while I prepare food.

There are a few versions of kitchen towers out there, but this one from Guidecraft had more features we were looking for, including a few more safety aspects.

P.S., if you’re visiting and haven’t created your baby registry yet, you can create a registry through my link and receive a free baby box filled with lots of goodies after your first $35 is purchased through your registry! If you’re past the baby registry phase, click here to get a free one-month trial of Amazon Prime on me! Ahem, free two-day shipping, anyone?

I’d love to hear some of your favorite kitchen gadgets you use with your babies and toddlers to make life a little bit easier. Leave me a comment below or let’s chat on Instagram!

Easy Links to Favorite Kitchen Tools!

My Hair Loss Story (And How I Learned to Love Wigs!)

My Hair Loss Story

How I overcame sudden hair loss and gained a new perspective

Hi, y’all! For several years, I’ve debated on just how open I wanted to be on my blog. I was happy to share tips and tricks that make life with chronic illness easier, but I always struggled with sharing the more personal side of chronic illness.

The pain, the frustration, the side effects of medication and honestly, false hope. It happens a lot. And it is so hard! However, over the last few months, some major changes happened and I personally was looking for a hand to reach out to for advice and inspiration on a journey I never thought I would be on: hair loss.

And that’s why I’m sharing my journey with you. I’ll be uploading a video soon detailing my story, but in the meantime (or if you’re more into words over video), check out my story below.

Since my early twenties, I’ve had thin hair that never seemed to grow much farther than my shoulders. Which is fine! That was cool, I had grown to figure out which hairstyles and hair products worked well for me.

Over the years, I’ve been on so many different medications for my arthritis. Last year alone, I had tried out four different medications with little success.

 

All had different side effects that weren’t worth the benefit and my body just wasn’t having it. I had started a new medication in November to go along with my bi-monthly infusions to see if we could get my joint pain down a little bit more.

And a side note: a lot of these medications usually have strong side effects when you first start taking them. Patients are often told, “Give it a few weeks, a month or two and your body will get used to it and the side effects wear off.”

First realization of hair loss

Around Christmas of last year, I saw a picture of me with our son and my hair looked like it was so, so thin. You could see my scalp. It shocked me!

And okay, I’m not a vain person, but I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I had relatively good hair that I was pretty decent at styling on a consistent basis. But again… you could see my scalp!

Since I was trying to tough it out with this new medication, I tried to ignore it, hoping that

  1. I was imagining it. Maybe I was being sensitive and overly critical.
  2. My hair would come back in a few more weeks.

A few more weeks later, and my joint pain started getting really bad and it turns out, I was one of the people who this medicine makes your arthritis worse. Figures, right? So my doctor had me stop the medicine.

A few more weeks later, my husband and I were getting ready for an event, I was styling my hair. I was really feeling my hairstyle despite the thinness and I take a mirror just to check the sides and the back and…

Oh my gosh, you guys. I saw BALD spots.

I have my makeup all finished, my hair all done and I am trying so, so hard not to burst into tears.

I had been ignoring my hair loss for about a month at that point, not brushing my hair unless I had to, being super gentle. But that was the moment I noticed legit bald spots, where my hair was just GONE!

That week, I ask my doctor about it, and it’s like a 3-5% chance that medicine I was on causes major hair loss. Like… chemotherapy kind of hair loss.

It was really shocking. He said I could continue to lose hair for up to a year even after doing a washout of the medication. There’s no guarantee that it would actually grow back, depending on if it was temporary medication-induced alopecia or it caused me to develop autoimmune type of alopecia that lasts forever.

Over the next few weeks, I am furiously searching for answers. What do I do? How can I hide it? What products can I use because this was medication-induced alopecia. I look up hair extensions. I look up hair growth products. I cry to my husband. I cry to my mom. I cry to myself because I feel so vain about being so wrapped up in my hair loss.

It was a true grieving process. I had gone through denial, anger, bargaining, depression.

I start taking photos to document how much hair I’m losing, which makes me feel worse about it, but I know I need to be documenting this for progress and for my doctors.

I continue to lose more and more when I brush it and when I shower. Handfuls and handfuls of hair despite my hair being super thin and the length was at my chin at the time. It was so shocking.

Finding support for hair loss

So after all of this, I keep doing more research and more research. I create a secret Instagram account as I stumble upon this amazing hair loss community on Instagram.

I’m telling you: The women’s hair loss community on Instagram is straight up amazing. They helped me realize I wasn’t the only one going through this. There are options. Wearing a wig isn’t just for people going through cancer treatments or older women.

After that, I start looking into wigs. And talk about being thrown in the deep end. It is confusing, y’all. There is so much to learn about wigs. The types, the styles, how long they last, the price, how there are so many rip offs out there.

I genuinely was so overwhelmed. My first two purchases were small, tiny hair toppers and as soon as I got them out of the package, they went right back in and returned to the sellers. They didn’t look like me, they didn’t feel like me, they didn’t match or blend at all. And I had no idea how to make them blend, either!

I was still in a bit of denial, too.

Bless my mom. She’s one of my biggest supporters. At this point, I’m still so incredibly embarrassed about my hair loss, talking to her on the phone, and she mentions how maybe I should visit a wig shop. Just to check things out, see what it is about.

Wading into the wig waters

So I did it. I went to a local wig shop. And oh my gosh, I was so nervous. I tried to do as much research as I could, but I was still so overwhelmed. The owner of the wig shop was so sweet and so helpful and had worked with other women who were losing hair at my age. I walked out that day with my first wig ordered and a little less shame about what I was going through.

It’s been about three months since I went to that wig shop, but it feels like a lifetime.

I continue to learn things about wearing hair each and every day, but most of all, I have a brand new perspective.

When I first started telling people about my wig, I was met with a lot of sympathy, which let me tell you: that is the LAST thing someone wants when they lose their hair. We feel like we’ve already lost a lot. We already feel vulnerable and knocked down a few pegs. Being felt sorry for just makes it worse.

Gaining a new perspective on life & beauty

But then! I realized it was all about how I framed it. Yes, I’ve lost a majority of my hair. But the bonus is I get to have the hair of my DREAMS with so little effort. I mean, I style my hair about once a week and it takes me 15 seconds to put my wig on in the morning.

As someone with arthritis whose hands would be in pain after hair drying and styling every day, this was straight up a miracle. It’s awesome. And now, I kind of feel bad for all the women who have to spend all the time, money and stress trying to upkeep their natural hair.

Copyright Brenda Dalton 2020

Wigs allow me to have the hair I have always wanted, but was unable to grow myself. Wigs gave me TIME back. Wigs have given me so much energy back. Wigs have kept me from a lot of physical pain, too. Wigs have given me a new perspective on life. We aren’t just our appearances. We are our experiences and how we grow from them.

Wigs have given me the confidence to finally share my story. For years, I’ve been really, incredibly shy about sharing what I’ve gone through the last six or so years with my chronic illness.

And all this time, I truly wish I could have found someone who was going through the same thing that was open with the world about their experience.

I’m now ready to support YOU

Now that I’ve seen how women in the hair loss community have shared their stories – and made me realize I wasn’t alone – it’s made me realize I have no choice but to do the same thing. It’s the right thing to do.

If I reach just one person who is going through a tough time with chronic illness or hair loss… all of this was worth it. I’m going to try my best and make it my goal to be as transparent as possible about my journey and where I’ve been and share with you along the way.

Are you going through the same thing? I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below! Shoot me an email or find me on Instagram to tell me your story (I’ll keep it private!), ask questions, or just vent. I’m here to help every step of the way.

P.S. If you’re wondering, the hair I’m wearing in this blog post is ROMAN by Ethereal Hair purchased through SilkorLace.com. She is a European human hair wig with a silk top and lace front. She’s a one-of-a-kind piece, but she is constantly updating her shop with beautiful pieces!

The Ultimate Guide to Infusions From a Patient Perspective

The Ultimate Guide to Biologic Infusions: A Patient Perspective

A checklist of what to bring, what to expect and how to recover!

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation if you choose to purchase any products linked below at no extra charge to you! Click here to view our disclosure policy.

As someone with a chronic illness (Psoriatic Arthritis, to be exact!), I go into my rheumatologist’s office every eight weeks for my biologic infusion. I feel no shame in calling it my “go-go juice” because within 24-72 hours, I am a brand new person.

It has been about ten months since I starting my infusions – Remicade – and it has been the first medicine that has truly made me start to feel like a normal person since I started having joint pain six years ago.

When I first started my infusions, I scoured the internet – and even Pinterest and social media – for tips on how to prepare for my infusion. I came across a blog or two, but overall, the internet kinda let me down. Now, six or seven infusions later, I have my routine down and I’m ready to share it with you!

Typically, my infusion appointment lasts about three hours. Sometimes longer, sometimes faster, depending on my wait time, how busy they are and how happy my veins are to be poked that day. Some medications can be infused as fast as 15-20 minutes, while others can be four or more hours.

I’ll note here that every infusion center and doctor’s office runs things differently! Below is my experience and my advice based only on my experience. And a quick reminder: This is not medical advice nor does it intend to be.

Preparing for infusions

The night before, I shower – washing my hair and all. It makes things a little easier because my infusion appointments are first thing in the morning, so it is one less thing to worry about.

Next, I pack my bag. I typically take a tote bag and fill it with my favorites:

The big thing I’ve realized during my infusions is I absolutely need a snack. I forgot a snack twice and became really nauseated about halfway through. Unfortunately, at my doctor’s office, they only have snacks with gluten (surprising, I know!!), so I was completely out of luck that day. Bring a snack is my absolute biggest tip!

Another big tip for the day before your infusion: DRINK LOTS OF WATER! Think you’re great at keeping up with your water? Cool, drink even more than that! It will help your cute little veins when they’re getting your IV set up and personally, I’ve found the more hydrated I am, the easier recovery will be.

The day of infusions

What to wear to your infusion

My second biggest tip on infusions is to dress comfortably, especially if your infusion lasts more than 30 minutes!

In the warmer months, I typically wear a maxi dress like this one, along with a chunky, oversized sweater. Emphasis on oversized! They have looser sleeves which makes it easier to roll up while they insert the IV, then you can roll it back down to stay warm and comfy.

If it’s in the cooler months, I’ll wear some comfortable, looser (boot cut) exercise pants and a sweater I can easily roll the sleeves up.

I made the mistake of wearing tight, comfortable yoga pants/leggings to an infusion once.

Why didn’t yoga pants work? Because of the fluids they pump through you during your infusion, you’ll likely need to make a restroom stop at least once. Depending on where in your arm or hand your IV ends up, you sometimes end up one-handed. Have you ever tried to use one hand to take tight-fitting yoga pants off? Oof. Oof!

If you can manage fitted yoga pants one-handed, then by all means, GO FOR IT. Here’s a link to my favorite pair!

What to do before your infusion appointment

Eat a hearty breakfast or lunch, depending on your appointment time. Whatever fills you up and keeps you full is great.

Think protein and complex carbs. Oatmeal, breakfast sandwich, protein bar… whatever floats your boat and keeps you going. Even if you don’t eat breakfast (like me, due to intermittent fasting), this is your one day you should be eating breakfast.

Check in before you get to the office, if possible. My doctor’s office has moved to online check-ins.

Typically, I receive an email before my appointment to check-in, go over my health, pay co-pays, verify insurance, etc.

If I’m not able to check in online before, I check in on my phone when I arrive. That way, I don’t have to touch any other objects anyone else may have touched – keeping it clean!

At your infusion appointment

My most recent infusion was my first in a post-COVID world. It wasn’t too different besides the COVID screenings in the parking lot and buildings, plus requirements like a face mask, taking temperature and so on. Every other chair was blocked off to maintain social distance.

Once I arrive at my appointment at my rheumatologist’s office and I’m checked in, they bring me back and ask a few questions:

  • Have you had any recent infections?
  • Have you been on any antibiotics?
  • Have you had any recent surgeries?
  • How are you feeling today?

I’m weighed by my infusion nurse, since my medication is dosed based on my weight. Blood pressure, pulse, temperature, all vitals are taken after that.

At my doctor’s office, you’ll be placed in a private room if you’re seeing the doctor that day. If not, we get an option between the TV room or the “quiet room” which is shared with other patients. This varies depending on the location and your office’s preferences.

Most of the time during my infusions, I’m either working on my laptop, scrolling Pinterest, or watching a TV show or movie. As a mom, I kind of look forward to my infusions because I can sit back, relax, and sit quietly for a few hours when I’m not 100% exhausted at the end of the day!

During my infusion, I make sure to eat a few small snacks and stay hydrated. I find that when I’m able to drink lots of water during my appointment, I recover a lot faster.

After your appointment

Depending on what other medications you’re given during your appointment, you may drive home or have someone drive you. I’m incredibly lucky in that my husband often takes a half-day on my infusion days, so he’s home to hang out with our toddler while I nap, take it easy, and rest in bed.

Sometimes I feel okay after my appointment, and I will continue to work on my laptop in bed. I’ve found that even when I do that and I don’t truly rest, my recovery takes longer.

When I chill, watch some Netflix, eat a healthy snack or two, drink lots of water after my appointment, I’m able to feel a lot better the next day. When I don’t take it as easy, I don’t truly feel back to normal until about 30 hours after my appointment or two days later.

It’s different for everyone! Once you start having infusions, you’ll find what works for you.

My best advice is to take it super easy at first, then build up what you’re able to do after each infusion.

Good luck! And shoot me an email, find me on Instagram, or comment below with any questions you may have about infusions!

How I Switched My Website Host in 20 Minutes (And Saved Cash!)

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation if you choose to purchase any products linked below at no extra charge to you! Click here to view our disclosure policy.

Are you totally sick of your current blog or website host? Is your site running too slow, too much downtime, too much nickel and diming for every little thing?

Read below about how I finally bit the bullet and moved my website to a new host after 15 years! It was quick, easy, and I saved so much money in the long run.

I started my first website nearly 15 years ago. I was a college sophomore and had just finished my first photography class and wanted to get some of my work online, under my own name.

So I did! I used a template through another website, routed my domain name over to it and boom, done. A few years later, I was needing to create another website for another venture, and since I was already at GoDaddy, I figured hey, why not? I already have the account, I’ll just keep going.

Years later and several thoughts and attempts to move my website to another host, it was finally time. Not only was my website having slow loading times and it kept having way too much downtime, they wanted to charge way more for an SSL certificate than other hosts.

It. Was. Time. Time to move on!

I spent a few weeks reading articles, reviews, and researching about the different hosts. I even started the process with BlueHost. But with a toddler, my time is so incredibly limited. I just didn’t have the time to do even more research, go into my GoDaddy account and follow a three hour process to get everything transferred over.

How I switched website hosts in 20 minutes

Then I found SiteGround. I started a chat with one of their employees and within 20 minutes, I had not only all my questions answered, but signed up for an account and provided everything they needed to easily transfer my WordPress site to their host.

Um, could that have been any easier? I’m not kidding about the 20 minutes thing either. They have a timer on their help chats and it had just passed the 20 minute mark when I was completely finished!

Needless to say, I was wholly impressed. As a mom and blogger, my time is oh-so-precious.

And even though I was super savvy with the HTML as a teenager, I have definitely fallen out of the loop when it comes to the backend of websites. So it was such a refreshing change of pace to provide a few details and they take the wheel.

Typically, SiteGround will transfer your site and data for you for $30 – which is totally worth it, in my opinion! – but I lucked out and popped in just as they were having a promotion: free professional site transfers!

Later, I ended up transferring all of my domains and email addresses to SiteGround, as well, and after trying to research the process on my own, I reached out via the chat function and things were transferred and back up and running in mere minutes.

How I saved money with Siteground over GoDaddy

My site was down for maybe a few hours and when I logged back in my website was faster, more secure, and help was just a chat away. I even saved SO MUCH cash over my old host.

Not only does that help me personally when navigating and taking care of things on the backend, but professionally, it brings more people onto my blog, helps them stay longer, and even boosts my income!

Just before I made the official switch over to SiteGround, I did some calculating to make triple sure the switch would be worth it. I own three domains, one WordPress hosted website, and one email address through GoDaddy. In the last year, I spent $372.25 with GoDaddy.

That may not seem like a lot, but after switching and paying for a full year in advance for all the same features and way, way, way more features like more page visits, SSL, unlimited email address, I instantly saved $261.10.

I saved $261.10 per year moving to SiteGround. I mean, WOW.

Hands down, if you’re looking for a new host to transfer your website… or even looking to start your first blog or website, SiteGround is the place to be.

For what it’s worth, I have the GrowBIg plan, which is only $5.95/month. It includes unlimited websites, 25,000 visitors a month, 20GB of space, free SSL, daily backups, free email… the list goes on and on. It is SUCH a deal for such a great service and customer service.

Right now, you can get 3 months of SiteGround hosting for $0.33 per month for three months (less than a dollar!) or WordPress hosting starting at $3.95/month. That’s a savings of $96 a year with WordPress hosting! You can view all the hosting options and exclusive savings through my link here!

Do you have any questions about switching your website host? Horror stories? Good news? List them in the comments below!

How to Take Great Photos of Your Kids

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation if you choose to purchase any products linked below at no extra charge to you! Click here to view our disclosure policy.

Do you ever get frustrated with the fact your kids only smile for strangers? Do they go absolutely nuts, frown or make silly faces when you say, “Smile for the camera!”?

As a mom, I totally get it. As a photographer, I’ll let you in on my secrets.

There is a reason when you have professional photos done, your photographer can often get great expressions out of your kids… and it’s not just because they’re a stranger your kids are behaving for!

We all have our little tricks we’ve learned over the years to help kids of all ages become engaged in a photoshoot. Try some of the tricks below the next time you’re out and about – or even around the house.

I can guarantee with a little practice, you’ll have the skills to create perfect photos for your scrapbook, and to share on Instagram and Facebook. The pictures may even be cute enough to print and send to grandma!

Let them play

Bring bubbles, a picnic blanket, a favorite wooden toy or even a bike! All of these items encourage kids to play together and often elicit beautiful, natural smiles.

Sing favorite songs

Most people think to take a great photo, you need to all be looking at the camera and smiling. Not true! Some of the best photos are taken while kids are happily singing, or a parent is snuggling a child while singing one of their favorite calming songs.

Get down on their level

It helps to get eye level with your kids, both for composition’s sake and to help kids feel more comfortable. You’ll be amazed at the kinds of photos you’ll snap when eye-level – they’re no longer looking up at you!

Ask them to tell you a joke

This is one of my favorite methods of getting natural smiles from children. They often start smiling from the second they think of their joke and of course, burst into giggles once they hit the punchline.

Does it matter that the joke makes zero sense? Absolutely not! Go along with the hilarity as long as possible to drag those smiles out as long as possible and snap, snap, snap along the way. 

Make them laugh

When I’m going in for the typical posed, look-at-the-camera shot, I never ask someone to say cheese. It stretches any smile into an expression that makes people – especially kids! – look like their either stubbed their toe or smelled something awful. 

Instead, I find a silly, nonsensical phrase that will catch them off guard and make them laugh. Some of my favorites are “Say chunky chipmunk cheeks!” or asking them who has the smelliest feet or stinkiest toots. Sometimes a little potty humor with young ones goes a long way, especially coming from an adult.

Would you like to see more content about taking photos of your children and family? Let me know in the comment section what you would like to see!

In the meantime, check out my picks for basic family photography gear below. And my popular post on the best photography gear for moms!

Easy Toddler-Approved Hummus

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Hummus is one of the most healthy, easy, crowd-pleasing snacks and appetizers out there! Lucky for me, my toddler cannot get enough of the garlicky dip.

Now that he’s getting into the pickier phase of toddlerhood, hummus is one of the few foods he happily eats on a regular basis. Add in some pretzels, whole grain or gluten-free crackers, carrot chips or cucumber. It is a perfect dip for any type of dietary restriction: gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, low sodium… you name it!

You can even top it with a few crunchy roasted chickpeas, marinated grilled chicken, fresh herbs or roasted vegetables to make it a meal. The options are really limitless with this wonderful food.

This is also a super fast, super easy dip to put together. It takes just about five minutes and you’ll end up with about 3-3.5 cups of hummus, which serves about 4-6 people, depending on their appetites!

I make this in my Cuisinart 8-cup food processor. It blends quickly and you end up with super smooth hummus.

A few hummus recipe notes:

Start by adding only 2 tablespoons of ice water in the initial blend. If after blending the chickpeas, it is still too thick, add more ice water by the tablespoon.

My son likes his hummus a bit more on the garlicky side, so we do two tablespoons of garlic. If you like it a little less potent, stick to one tablespoon of minced garlic.

Also, if you can only find the standard 15 ounce can of chickpeas, reduce tahini to 1/3 cup, juice of one lemon, 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of cumin and 2 tbsp of olive oil.

Check out the recipe below!

Recipe: Easy Five-Minute Hummus

Ingredients
1 19 ounce can of chickpeas, drained (the medium/large can!)
1/3c and 2 tbsp tahini
Juice of 1.5 lemons
2 tsp salt
1.5 tsp cumin
2-4 tbsp ice water
3 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp minced garlic

Add all ingredients except the chickpeas to a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. 

Add chickpeas. Purée for 1-2 minutes. Scrape sides and purée another 1-2 minutes until smooth.

Add additional salt, lemon juice to taste.

Top with a high-quality olive oil, fresh or dried herbs, roasted vegetables or favorite protein. Serve with crackers, pretzels, and raw vegetables as a dip.

The Best Camera Gear for Moms and Families

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Buying Guide: The Best Photography Gear for Moms and Families. Camera Buying Guide.

Are you becoming increasingly frustrated with your iPhone photos? Feel like you never have candid images that truly represent the essence of your child and other loved ones? I hear ya, mama. Sometimes it is oh, so difficult to capture photos that feel like you could print and frame in your home.

So what’s a mom to do? While iPhones are great for capturing everyday moments on the fly, a more professional camera is a great tool to use for those beautiful prints you’ll save in photo albums and scrapbooks and pass down for generations.

Here I’m breaking down some basics in what to look for when shopping around for your first camera, along with some of my favorite, essential accessories you just have to have to get started.

This is the first in a series of posts focusing on photography for moms (woohoo!). Later posts will feature how to use your camera, how to get real smiles out of your kids, my favorite ways to save and print your photos and so much more.

Best cameras for moms

Without writing an entire eBook or eCourse on how to buy the perfect camera that fits your skills and needs, I’ll break it down simply. There are several options these days for cameras that falls into one of three categories: Mirrorless, point and shoot, and DSLR.

Mirrorless cameras

These are still relatively new on the market, but provide some of the best quality photos due to the technology. You’ll also find mirrorless cameras to be incredibly quiet (no shutter sound!), which is great for babies and when you’re trying to sneak photos of your threenager being super sweet.

Mirrorless cameras come either with a detachable lens or in point and shoot form, which I will detail below.

Another bonus of mirrorless cameras is they are much lighter than other types of cameras, perfect for those of us with arthritis or joint problems!

Point and shoot cameras

Point and shoot cameras are what most of us had in the early to mid-aughts, before cameras on our smartphones became wonderful, high-tech tools to capture images. These are incredibly simple to use, a minimal learning curve (if any), but some of the more advanced cameras offer flexible options like shooting in manual and customizing your settings.

DSLR cameras

DSLR cameras are traditionally are what the pros use, with the exception of growing number of pros who use mirrorless cameras! It’s what you see in your family photographer’s hands, on the sidelines of professional sports, the olympics, news photographers, and so on. They look just like the mirrorless cameras (which also have detachable lenses).

The only difference between the design of a DSLR and mirrorless camera is that the DSLR has a little mirror inside. That’s what you hear when it makes the clicking sound.

DSLR cameras are slowly growing out of favor by some professionals, who are switching to mirrorless.

Which is the best option for you? If you’re just starting out without wanting to venture further into learning how to manually control your camera, go with a point and shoot. These are also ideal for taking anywhere and can fit in a clutch or even your back pocket. My faves are listed below!

If you’re wanting a middle of the road camera you can put on auto and get great photos with the option to expand – more lenses, wanting to customize settings, etc. – go with a DSLR. Check out the best mid-range semi-pro cameras below.

If you love high tech and want the best of the best, whether you want customization options or not, go with mirrorless. Find my favorite mirrorless cameras for beginners and intermediate users with the handy list below.

Best camera accessories for moms

Gone are the days of only having the option of ugly black cameras bags and the camera’s default neck strap. There are thousands of absolutely adorable camera accessories for moms out there that match any style.

Check out my favorite picks for camera straps from Amazon below.

A camera bag is an absolute essential in my opinion. Bags can even do double duty as diaper bags or a few kid essentials. You would never know it was a camera bag, either!

When looking for a camera bag, know that just not any cute bag or backpack or even diaper bag will do. You’re looking for something that is specifically made for cameras so as to keep your camera and if using them, extra lenses, especially safe. Check out my faves below!

Memory cards

My biggest tip when it comes to memory cards is to always have several on hand, no matter where you are. Keep an extra one in your bag or pocket, because you never know when you accidentally run out of room OR the card fails. It happens more often than you would think!

It’s best to have several you are able to rotate through. With some memory cards starting as low as $8, there just isn’t an excuse!

As for how much memory your card should have, you should be just fine with a few 32GB cards. If you’re planning on shooting a lot of video, I would upgrade to the 128GB at least, as video takes up a lot more memory than photos do.

My favorite brands of memory cards are Sandisk and Lexar. I’ve linked a few of my favorites below for easy shopping!

I’ll be adding links to future blog posts on my series on how to get started with photography soon! Once you’re ready to start editing your photos, I recommend downloading Adobe Creative Cloud — especially Lightroom and/or Photoshop!

Road Trip Tips for Families with Toddlers

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This fall, we took a road trip to visit my brother and sister-in-law outside Dallas, Texas! It wasn’t our first road trip as a family of three, but it was definitely our first road trip with a toddler. We often drove the two hours to visit in-laws for our son’s whole life, but it was easy to plan those trips so he would nap nearly the whole trip. This trip was much longer, with each way being about five hours of drive time, including stops.

He was big enough to be easily entertained by a variety of toys and our Amazon Kindle for kids filled the gaps when toys were a no-go. He was also young enough that a nap or two on the trip was relatively easy.

I’ve rounded up some of my favorite tips, toys and items that made our road trip a little easier.

A few things to mention before we dive in. First, my husband and I typically rotate driving responsibilities every 2-3 hours. Whoever isn’t driving is typically in the backseat with kiddo. Second, I’m also working on a toddler road trip packing list, which I will link here when it is complete. Third, our kiddo was 18 months at the time of this trip, so these tips are great for kids about 18 months to three years.

Tire them out… but not too tired!

Our trip started out with a semi-tired kiddo. He went to preschool for two hours before we picked him up. This plan worked in our favor two ways: Kiddo got a little energy out before being strapped in the car for five hours and my husband and I both finished any last-minute packing and loading the car without having to worry about chasing him around!

Eat and nap on the road

We planned this intentionally: Pick him up from preschool at lunchtime, eat lunch, pass out. I hoped for the best and planned for the worst. My hopes panned out because not long after he ate his supervised PB&J, veggie chips, and fruit, he was asleep right at naptime at one. Had he not had a chance to run around and play at preschool, I have a feeling this step wouldn’t have been so easy.

He slept for about an hour and a half or two hours and not long after that, it was time for our first (and only!) pit stop. If your kid absolutely refuses to nap in the car… disregard this one. They’ll be overtired and frankly, make it a really, really rough trip. At the time of this trip, our kiddo was taking a small, 20-30 minute morning nap every now and then and a 2 hour afternoon nap.

Let them run and roam

This is the biggest piece of advice I receive before our road trip and the biggest piece of advice I pass onto other parents: Plan your pit stops at places they can get out, stretch their legs, be loud, and run (safely).

BrendaDalton.com - Road Trip with Toddlers

While stopping at a fast food restaurant with a play area is doable, it’s hard to easily supervise toddlers and kids under three since they are still pretty small and don’t listen to rules.

On our way there, we stopped in Paris, Texas to see the Eiffel Tower replica with its cute little cowboy hat. It added maybe 15 minutes to our total travel time, and it was completely worth it. Being a weekday in the fall, it wasn’t too busy, so we let kiddo have the run of the place. We all stretched our legs, took some selfies and got on our way.

Even though it seems natural to let them snack during any pit stops, we always use snacktimes as an easy way to pass the time (and not have to entertain!) in the car.

Pack ALL the snacks

Speaking of snacktime, come totally prepared when it comes to food. When I say pack ALL the snacks, I mean all of them. Okay, maybe not all, but not just your toddler’s favorite 2-3 snacks. I pack a little storage container similar to this one full of his favorite treats, healthy foods and things he very rarely gets, like candy.

Toddler Snack Storage Container - BrendaDalton.com

I use my storage box as his snack central for every trip, whether it’s a long weekend road trip or a weeklong vacation. Be sure to wash it well before adding foods! The one pictured above is sold out, so it’s a little different than the one I’ve linked for you, but it is still great!

This box so incredibly handy: It fits all sorts of sizes of foods, wrapped or loose. Second, toddlers (and even older kids!) can easily make their own decisions about what they want to eat. The one pictured is sold out, so it’s a little different than the one I’ve linked for you, but it is still great!

Third, you only have ONE container to worry about, rather than ten bags of different foods. If it’s a longer trip, you may have to refill before you make your journey back; however, the

I have linked has survived trips up to 4-5 days long (including traveling and duration of the trip) without needing a refill.

If you buy only one thing for your upcoming family trip, BUY THIS. It is my number one must have road trip item.

Keep things organized

And not just organized for your toddler. Trust me, your stuff, your partner’s stuff, food, drinks, magazines… it will be everywhere less than an hour into your road trip. With a toddler in tow, there’s no more room to toss the things you don’t need into the backseat (unless you want them chewed on or thrown out a window).

Toddler organization

I use a few different items to keep things organized. First, let’s talk toddler organization: I use a caddy like this to keep basic small toys in. We have an SUV with second-row captain chairs, so we use the area between the chairs to store our organizational items, plus the area in front of our toddler’s seat.

After the caddy, keep a larger bin for “toy rotation.” This bin is relatively out of sight from kiddo and a bit harder to reach in the floorboards. I typically rotate these toys into the smaller caddy during pit stops or when we come to a stop.

Next, we keep a toddler bag with spare clothes, snack refill, easy access diapers and wipes. This stays under the toddler’s seat since if you need it, you’ll most likely be getting out of the car. Coming soon: A detailed packing list for your toddler road trip.

Parent organization

Finally, keep a bag for each parent. I recommend a backpack (my favorite is linked here!) or a bag you can easily sling over your shoulder and wrangle a 20-40 pound child. Our bags typically include things like our favorite non-perishable snacks, things to do (magazines, books, etc.), electronics, printed reservation confirmations and backup addresses/maps in case of no signal on our phones, plus chargers for our devices. This makes it easier to put all of our items in one bag when we get to our destination.

Lastly, bring an ice chest and/or adult snack box. I’ll list what I pack in terms of food for our road trips in a later post (gluten free for adults and favorite toddler foods!), but this stays in between the seats. I also keep napkins (cloth or disposable) and wipes on top of the ice chest because… toddlers. P.S. Get a LEAK PROOF cooler. You will thank me later.

Leave room in your car to change diapers and clothes

If the trip is more than two hours, it’s almost a guarantee there will be a blowout of some type – whether that’s a bodily fluid or an applesauce pouch. You may need to stop at a gas station with sketchy bathrooms… or on the side of the road. Either way, it will happen when you are far, far away from a reputable changing table.

When we pack our SUV, we put our larger suitcases and bags in last. That way, when you need to change a wriggly toddler, you only have to remove one or two pieces of luggage. Make sure you don’t overpack to the point your luggage is too heavy to remove once or twice during your drive! Or if you’re a light packer… simply leave a little extra space to change your kiddo. If not, you’re looking at those difficult upright diaper changes, which is no fun with a blowout diaper.

Without fail, on one particular trip, after about an hour, we made a pit stop because we (okay fine, it was me) had a water explosion all over the backseat and a mandatory diaper change (that was not me). I highly recommend if you make a mess to time it with a dirty diaper 😉


What are some of your favorite road trip tips for kids under 3?

My favorite road trip essentials are linked below!

The Best Comfortable Shoes for Moms

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation if you choose to purchase any products linked below at no extra charge to you! Click here to view our disclosure policy.


The Most Comfortable Shoes for Moms. Check out the best sneakers, casual shoes and heels for moms. Great shoe options for chronic illness and arthritis.

Isn’t it funny how once you become a mom, all of those super tall, gorgeous (and expensive) heels start collecting dust? Motherhood has a funny way of ushering in the era of comfortable footwear, especially during those baby and toddler years.

It’s just not logical to be chasing your kiddo full speed in a pair of heels or tall wedges, right? They’re great for date night, deadly for everyday.

As a mom with arthritis, you can bet I know what’s what when it comes to comfortable footwear. Here you’ll find my absolute favorite shoes that will last you all day from school drop off and the playground to grabbing a bite to eat and running errands – everything from comfy sandals to fashionable sneakers.

Vionic sandals

Vionic is my go-to brand since the moment I started dealing with foot and ankle pain years and years ago. I started with a pair of their supportive flip flops, which last forever, and have built my collection from there! Vionic offers such a wide variety of styles and everything from wedges and heels to boots and sneakers.

My current favorite for this spring and summer is one of their newer styles, the Vionic Roni Slide. It’s a super on-trend style with great arch support, luxe suede and leather, and a feminine touch with the ruffles up top. They come in three colors which are all great neutral pieces to go with everything in your summer wardrobe.

My go-to for the summer is the Vionic Tide Flip Flop. They are so incredibly supportive, especially for high arches, and come in dozens of colors and styles – leather, sequins, suede and more. And with an average rating of 4.5/5 from more than 2,200 ratings, it is definitely a crowd favorite. Fun fact: I even slipped into a gold sequin pair of Tides for my wedding reception so I could dance the night away in comfort!

Adidas Grand Court Sneakers

Does it get any more classic than this pair of Adidas? Not only are the Grand Courts so comfortable – wear all day comfy! – they go with just about everything. Pick up a few different pairs with more than a dozen color options.

They help put a fun, playful spin on dresses and skirts, a perfect pairing for jeans and a tee and of course, a great companion to leggings and yoga pants. Win, win, win. Not to say I was an early adopter, but I definitely had a pair with turquoise stripes in the early 2000s!

P.S. right now some colors are HALF off! Save up to $32.50 right now through Amazon! (4/22/2020)

Nike Running Shoes

If I had one shoe that I absolutely wear the soles out, my pair of black Nike Tanjun running shoes would be it. Comfortable, easy on and off and go with everything under the sun for those active days with kids. These babies have been to the zoo, aquarium, doctors’ appointments, preschool, the beach… you name it, they’ve been there.

These shoes are so incredibly flexible and can complement all your cute workout and casual outfits with more than two dozen different colors!

Keds Charter Sneaker + Sperry Lounge Away Sneaker

My Keds and Sperrys are two peas in an adorable little pod. They’re comfortable, a bit more stylish than your average mom shoe and fit just about everything in your everyday closet.

These two shoes are similar in style and always in my travel bag, too! I highly, highly recommend either pair of these slip on shoes for plane travel. Wear a pair of no-show socks, slip ’em off at security and they slide back on in seconds. Great for sightseeing, too, if you’re not into wearing obvious tennis shoes while exploring tourist attractions.

BOC wedges + Naturalizer Heels

Most of the shoes on this list are definite casual wear, so I figured I’d throw in some dressier pieces! Two of my favorite brands for heels and wedges are BOC and Naturalizer. They offer cushioned soles and great support, along with heel heights that aren’t too tall to chase littles at special events. Two of my favorites are Naturalizer’s Fawn heels and BOC’s Schirra wedge. When looking for heels for special events, I recommend going with a thicker heel. They help distribute your weight a little better than thin heels, which means better balance and comfort.

Shop my picks for the most comfortable shoes below!

Tell me: What are your go-to comfort shoes for chasing littles around?