6 Ways to Make Road Trips More Entertaining and Educational

Summer Road Trips Made Easy (photo by Daniel Blume on flickr)

Summer Road Trips Made Easy (photo by Daniel Blume on flickr)


Road trips and Summer go hand in hand. Sometimes that means a cool family vacation, but more often than not, it means that my 3 kids need to get to summer camp (or wherever else their summer plans take them). Some trips are short, and some a little longer. Listening to the same songs on the radio can get tedious. But I’ve found a refreshing solution to the tiresome radio … awesome, amazing podcasts that you and your kids will love! (Click the pictures to link directly to the podcast websites.)

Ages and Stages


My kids range in age from 8 to 16, so they don’t often share the same interests in music or entertainment in general. But these podcasts really do appeal to a wide range of ages, and they can be listened to in short spurts. For longer road trips, queue up multiple episodes and enjoy the ride. Most of these recommendations can be enjoyed by kids as young as 4 or 5, but kids younger than that may be challenged to listen for too long.

My 13-year-old likes to read in the car, and she rarely even notices where we’re going. She completely disengages from the world outside her own head. So when she actually closed the book to listen with her 8-year-old brother, I knew we had a winner. Our older teen hasn’t been in the car with us much this summer because he has a job now (gasp!), but I know he would enjoy them, too. Even with his eclectic tastes.

For adults, these podcasts provide engaging content presented in refreshing format. I find that my time in the car flies by because I’m enjoying these so much. It makes me look forward to my daily road trips rather than dreading drive time.

Stories Kids Will Love


These three podcasts offer serial-style stories that my kids find exciting, funny, suspenseful, mysterious and action-packed (their words). The simplicity of listening to a story without having accompanying pictures, like in a book or on TV, stretches their imaginations. It’s entertainment that takes a little effort, but in the end, it’s highly satisfying to feel like a part of the story.

The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel


Story for Road Trip


This podcast wrapped its second season a few weeks ago, but don’t let that stop you from listening. The cast of kids who voice the characters brings personality and authenticity to an exciting story line in this serial that’s perfect for road trips. We got sucked in with the first episode and often “binge listened” because we had to know what happened next. The audio is crisp and clear, and you’ll feel like you’re along for the ride with the kids at H. G. Wells Middle School. In a fast-paced story that has been described as “Goonies meets Spy Kids meets Stranger Things,” this has become our favorite of the summer. Real emotion, sinister happenings, danger, suspense and humor, plus characters we love, some we’re mad at and others we can’t decide about. We can’t wait for the next season to begin!



The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian


Finn Caspian on Road Trips


Another serialized story, The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian takes you into deep space with a fun and captivating group of young explorers. This podcast features a storyteller who reads the adventure and does the voices, much as you would hear at storytime at the library. On occasion, an additional voice or two are added to the mix, but it’s pretty much a one-man-show. And that’s part of what makes it fun. I also love the references to classic literature sprinkled throughout the story. It adds that little extra that grown-ups should appreciate. The narrator’s son serves as the “editor” of the show and provides some commentary at the end of each episode. This makes it feel as though you’re part of the family, reflecting on a shared adventure with each installment. And robots. Who doesn’t love robots?



The Radio Adventures of Eleanor Amplified


Eleanor Amplified for Road Trips

Adult actors voicing colorful characters populate this podcast that sounds like an old-time radio show. It follows the adventures of a famous radio reporter, Eleanor Amplified, as she tracks down the latest big story. The characters and plots go way over-the-top as each story unfolds in dramatic, often ridiculously silly, fashion. Action-packed and wild, this one is funny for kids and multi-layered for adult amusement, too. Will the truth win? Or will the powerful be successful in gagging this determined reporter? Significant messages for our modern times presented in a fun and not-so-serious way, this one may spark some conversations about the media and the value of truth as well.


Road Trips = Science and Fun


My youngest loves science, so what better way to incorporate science into the everyday than making the car a laboratory? These three science podcasts offer a fun way to learn about scientific theories, facts and experiments that appeal to kid-level interest and wonder. And even the most science-y moms and dads will discover something new and enjoy them, too.


Wow in the World




From the fantastic theme song to the hilarious banter between the hosts, this new podcast from NPR, their first for kids, takes the geek out of science. Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas make science accessible for listeners as young as 4 or 5 without dumbing anything down. The topics are fun and kid-friendly (think poop and bugs and dinosaurs) and each episode feels like a playdate for your ears. I may enjoy this one even more than my kids do because the grown-up hosts seem like they’re having so much fun. But the kids love it, and if it gets them hungry for science, I’m all for it!


Brains On!

Brainy road trips


Another science winner for road trips has to be Brains On! While not as silly or fast-paced as Wow in the World, Brains On! features fun stories of discovery and a kid co-host for each episode. And for summer, their shows specifically cater to road trips. That is, the science behind road trips. From alternative fuels to why people get carsick, these shows pair nicely with drive time. Cool and timely topics and an engaging format makes this a fun way to “turn your brains on” and learn on the go.


The Show About Science


kid science for road trips


Take an adorable kid who loves science and give him a podcast, and you’ve got The Show About Science. Six-year-old Nate hosts this show and will give any seasoned interviewer a run for their money. His curiosity drives his questions and pulls you in as he talks with experts on topics ranging from food science to marine biology and everything in between. Kids will love hearing another kid leading the way as they explore the world together. And adults will love Nate, the ultimate kid ambassador to all things science.


Give ‘Em a Listen!


I know the world of podcasts has much more to offer than what I listed, but these six truly have transformed our summer. My kids have gone from passive travelers absorbed in their books or headphones to engaged listeners sharing an experience with the whole family. I say that’s a summer win in my book!

Do you think you and your kids would enjoy listening to these podcasts? I hope you’ll give them a try. If it makes even one of your road trips a little more enjoyable, I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment and tell me what you think!

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Mother’s Day Gifts You’ll Want to Buy for Yourself

Happy Mother's Day


It’s May, which means Mother’s Day is around the corner. If you need a gift for your Mom or if you need to throw a few hints around because you ARE a mom, look no further. With just a few exceptions, these gift ideas come from my own experience with these items. I love them, I use them, and I’m always glad I have them. And even if Mother’s Day wasn’t coming, I would recommend them. Shoot, I would probably buy them for myself as a nice Mother’s Day treat. So if you need an excuse to do a little shopping, go ahead – I won’t tell!


Mother’s Day Gift Guide – My Picks for Moms


If you want a super fantastic curated guide to awesome Mother’s Day gifts, please don’t miss the Cool Mom Picks Mother’s Day Gift Guides. These always contain fabulous ideas for every kind of mom and every budget you can think of. They go way beyond the ordinary mass-produced cards, jewelry and retail items. I’ve found wonderful and unique gift ideas for moms, grandmas, mothers-to-be, and mothers-in-law. And many of the ideas they share would be appropriate and cherished by most women, whether they’re a mom or not.

My Mother’s Day gift list tends to lean toward the practical with ideas for the Home Chef, Book Lover, Outdoor Mama, and Movie Buff. Where I strayed from the “tried and true” is one item for the New Mom that caught my eye and looks so fabulous I had to include it even though I have no personal experience with it. So without further delay, on to the list!

(In the spirit of full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means I may earn a commission – at no extra cost to you – if you purchase something using one of my links. This helps cover the expense of running the site while keeping the content 100% free. Note that I only recommend products I believe in. Your support is appreciated!)

For the Home Chef

If you know a mom who enjoys being in the kitchen, these picks might make her do a little happy dance. I love seeing what delicious concoctions I can create for my family, so these gift ideas definitely have been tried and tested and pushed to their limits in my own kitchen. I spend most of my time here in my own home, so it’s no wonder that this category has the most gift ideas of all.


A Good Old Cast Iron Pan

Eggberts Sunriser in Mini Cast Iron Skillets (from The Pioneer Woman)

Eggberts Sunriser in Mini Cast Iron Skillets (from The Pioneer Woman)

I didn’t know what my life was missing until I got one of these babies! Cast iron can go from the stovetop to the oven without a hitch. And if you ever watch those cooking shows where they talk about all the “little brown bits” on the bottom of the pan that have so much flavor, this is where you get them. Cast iron cooks like no other pans in my kitchen. If you have any doubt, check out these recipes for a scrumptious Strawberry Skillet Cake and a savory Spanish Omelette. Dessert and breakfast from the same pan? Can’t beat that. And if you want to get all cute and don’t mind a little more prep time in the kitchen, the Eggbert’s Sunriser, in adorable individual size cast iron pans would make a fun and festive Mother’s Day brunch.

Get the full size and mini pans here: (affiliate link)



Flippy Waffle Maker

Mother's Day Waffles

(Photo by Eliza Adam on Flickr)

Have you ever stayed at one of those hotels with the free breakfast buffets? If you have, you’ve seen the cool waffle makers they have. The ones you flip over to make your waffle. I don’t know why these are so cool, but we have one, and the waffles turn out fluffy on the inside with a little bit of crispness on the outside. If you enjoy a good waffle, then a good waffle maker is a must. And this baby is good. Also, it doesn’t take up much space, so storing it is easy.

Here’s the one we have (affiliate), and we love it!



Versatile Stick Blender

(Photo by Meal Makeover Moms on Flickr)

(Photo by Meal Makeover Moms on Flickr)

Most moms try to eat healthy as much as possible, and that becomes much easier when you can include tasty soups and sauces in your mealtime repertoire. Adding cream can add calories and fat, but using a handy immersion blender can create the same creaminess without the heaviness. It’s much easier than transferring hot soup to a blender or food processor, and it’s also fun to use.

My sisters and I got a great deal on these several years ago, but you can get one here (affiliate), and it comes with a chopper attachment for all your chopping needs.


For a Basket of Kitchen Gadget Goodness

Gadgets for Mother's Day

Looking around my kitchen, I see so many cool items that make cooking more fun and exciting. While they seem ordinary, they often get overlooked when stocking a kitchen. So Mother’s Day seems like the perfect time to put together a basket of little things to make mealtime, snack time or anytime easier, healthier and more interesting. (Affiliate links at the end of this section.)

Baking Joy

For baking the most fabulous cookies, I can’t live without my cookie scoop. It makes all your cookies beautifully shaped and all the same size. With all the bake sales and teacher gifts that happen in our lives, this little tool is a gem.

And once the cookies are baked, you need a high quality cookie spatula to get them off the pan without breaking. With its simple design, this spatula does the trick every time. I got mine while doing a bake sale to raise funds for Cookies for Kids Cancer, so mine is the special edition, but the one in the link is exactly the same, just without the cute color and text.

Weight Loss Wonder

I’ve lost 13 pounds since February, and part of the credit goes to dramatically cutting down on my carb consumption. But with a house full of noodle eaters, what’s a girl to do? Enter the zoodler, or vegetable spiralizer. I can choose a healthy vegetable as a pasta substitute – my preference is zucchini – spin it through my zoodler, and voila, instant veggie noodles! I just use them in place of the pasta in whatever recipe I’m serving the rest of the family, and it’s terrific.

If you want to get a little fancier or are serving the whole family, my friend Beth, from One Missing Ingredient, has a great recipe for Zucchini Noodles with Basil and Tomatoes. The one I bought has 4 blades for different size “noodles” and it comes with cleaning brush, a tool to change the blades, a vegetable peeler, paring knife and recipe book.

Save Your Knives

Being in the kitchen a lot means I appreciate a good, sharp knife. Good knives are a must and keeping them sharp and in top condition takes diligence. One thing that has helped save my knives from premature dulling is this little scraper/chopper thingy. Now that the kids have started doing more food preparation and cooking, I find myself constantly reminding them not to drag my good knives against the cutting board. But with this scraper tool, we can easily scoop up our chopped veggies off the board without worrying about our knives. I use it all the time, and now that I have one, I truly don’t know what I ever did without it.

Pass the Salt

Who can eat meal after meal without proper seasoning? Not me. Our salt cellar gets constant use, and it looks pretty on the counter. Because it sits next to the stove, it’s so easy to reach in for a small sprinkle of salt, and the wide opening is perfect for dipping in a measuring spoon for precise portion control or your fingers for just a pinch of goodness to make your recipes perfect. Find a cute one to match your kitchen decor, and you’ll leave it on the counter all the time.

Just for Fun

Finally, my cousin Sylvia, introduced us to the joys of giant ice cubes. I know it sounds ridiculous and a bit frivolous, but she was right. Round or square, these make your drinks totally fun and whimsical, and if you make cocktails, they melt slower so they keep your drinks cooler longer and don’t water them down as fast. Perfect for adult beverages or a big glass of lemonade for the kids, these will make Mom a drink hero!


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For Moms Who Love to Read

As we approach summer, book loving moms will appreciate some wonderful stories for their bookshelves. A friend recommended the book The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio, and it was fabulous. Since then, I’ve been hooked on her books. The stories are absorbing with surprising elements, likable characters and rich locales. They would be perfect to take to the beach or the neighborhood pool. But they would be equally at home on any bedside table or waiting room book bag. They’re quick reads with substance, and they’re perfectly suited for women. So if your mom loves to read, any of these would make a great Mother’s Day gift.

Here are the Sarah Jio titles I’ve read (affiliate). But don’t limit yourself to these, she has tons more to choose from.
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For the Outdoor Mama

Mother's Day Outdoor Gear

Outdoor Gear for Outdoor Moms – Insulated Hydration Pack & Cooling Scarf

Mother’s Day marks the beginning of the summer season. With that comes a myriad of opportunities to get outside. Whether it’s swimming practice, a morning hike or a relaxing beach vacation, Mom should be comfortable in the great outdoors.

Stay Hydrated

Two items in my closet come to mind as must-haves for warm outdoor activities. First, my hydration pack. I bought this item before I ran my first 5K. I wanted something light and small, but I didn’t want to pay a lot of money for the fancy running packs out there. So I went with this one, and I love it. The opening to the water bladder is big enough for ice. And the pocket for the water bladder is insulated, so my water stays cool, even in the hot Arizona sun. In addition, it’s big enough to carry enough water and what I need for a day hike, and it’s comfortable to carry.

Stay Cool

Pair the water pack with this “cool” multipurpose wrap and you’ll have the ideal Mother’s Day gift for the mom who spends time outdoors. The technology in this wrap amazes me! Just get it wet, yank the ends to snap a few times, and it provides a cooling effect. It also offers chemical-free UPF50 sun protection. I’ve worn this hiking, my son has used it, and it saved me on a 98 degree scorcher at the county fair. It lowers your body temperature and keeps you from overheating when shade or shelter are hard to find. You can wear it around your neck (my preference), or over your head or in a number of other ways. Whatever you find comfortable will work. And I think it’s a win if you can help mom (or yourself) enjoy being outside.

(affiliate links)



Movies and TV Shows to Escape Into

Mother's Day Movies

(Photo by waferboard on Flickr)

Every mom has their own unique viewing tastes, so I won’t try to cover all the bases. But these are 3 that I love from the past year.

Mom Magic

First, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Being a huge Harry Potter fan, I wasn’t sure if this movie would live up to the Harry Potter series. But it did. In a big way. It was so much fun to see the magical world of magical creatures come to life. And with J. K. Rowling behind the story concept and script, it delivered an imaginative, immersive and completely entertaining escape.

Supernatural Moms

Next, Ghostbusters (the female version). What could be more perfect for Mother’s Day than a funny, feminist take on a classic movie? The female cast didn’t try to re-create the characters from the original. Instead, they brought their own interpretation to the screen, and they were hilarious. I saw this with my girlfriends on a girls’ weekend, and it provided more than a few recurring chuckles. There’s nothing serious or heavy about this movie. It’s pure fun for moms who could use a good laugh.

History and Drama to Love

Finally, no list of TV & Movies from me would be complete without Downton Abbey. I know I’m not the only one who felt a little deflated when the show ended. But thanks to the magic of DVD or Blu-ray or digital, we can all re-visit Lord Grantham, Lady Mary and the rest of our British TV family. Because it became personal. We cared about them, we ached for them, laughed with them, feared for them. They became part of our lives. If your mom is a Downton fan, let her re-live the series at her leisure. She’ll love that she doesn’t have to wait until Sunday night for the next episode.

(affiliate links to giftable blu-ray, DVD and/or digital downloads)
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For Moms with Itty Bitty Ones

My two favorite things for new moms (or repeat moms with new babies) include a fabulous folding stroller and this fashionable (NOT tent-like) breastfeeding cover.

The nursing cover from Covered Goods puts all other nursing covers to shame. No, not really, but it seriously looks great, can be used in several different ways, and it works to actually cover you up. When you’re not nursing, wear it as a scarf or use it as a stroller/car seat cover. It looks great in so many ways. If you want more info, see my post from last year on this product.

Versatile nursing cover

Fabulous Nursing Cover by Covered Goods – click the picture to purchase directly from Covered Goods (affiliate)


This folding stroller is the only item on my list with which I have no personal experience. But it’s too fabulous to leave off. Here’s the video I posted on my Facebook page a few days ago. It says it all. To get one for a special mom in your life who could use one, click the Amazon link (affiliate). Seriously, what mom wouldn’t want one of these? And it won’t completely break the bank.



For the Personal Touch

Personalized Mother’s Day gifts always make the grade. Whether they’re for mom or grandma, a handmade gift can never be wrong. I love the gifts my kids have made – my macaroni necklace; the handprint t-shirt with their names; the hand painted pottery vase, plate and owl figure; and every drawing they’ve ever done.


For a handmade gift that doesn’t have to be hard, try a mosaic stepping stone. I love the one my son made me, and it looks great at the entrance to our backyard garden. It comes in a kit, so it couldn’t be easier. It makes me smile every time I see it, and I’m sure any mom would love to unwrap one on Mother’s Day.

Mother's Day Stepping Stone

Personalized stepping stone



Custom Jewelry

If you’re looking for something a little less handmade, try a personalized necklace from Lisa Leonard Designs or an Origami Owl Living Locket. Both of these companies offer high quality products that exude personality and style. For something perfect for grandmas, check out the Lisa Leonard Jumble of Love necklace. We gave one to my mother-in-law with the all the grandkids’ names on it, and she loves it. As far as I know, she wears it all the time. Plus it looks beautiful on her.

My sisters and I all have some version of an Origami Owl Living Locket, and they’re so much fun. I wear mine all the time – it’s a necklace – and I always get compliments. My sisters, who wear name badges for work, got the lanyard styles, and they dress up a boring name badge like nothing else. Personalize them with your favorite charms to represent your mom recipient’s personality, or choose the special Mother’s Day designs featured in the above link.


Wrapping It Up

With a little more than a week until Mother’s Day, now is the perfect time to get moving on shopping for the right gift. Or … just order what you would love, wrap it up and put it on the brunch table for yourself. After all, mama, you deserve it!

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Sunblock: 4 Choices You Won’t Hate

Sunblock display

Sunblock galore! How do you know which one to choose?


Summer arrived with a vengeance here in Arizona. Now, in the second half of the summer, there seems to be no relief from the blazing sun. With temperatures well over 100 degrees, the only place the kids want to be is in the pool. But with the brutal temps and the sun so intense that it’s possible to get sunburn walking to your mailbox, we have to be especially careful to be sun-smart and do what we must to protect ourselves.

That means protective clothing and sunblock. Lots of sunblock. Now, I’m not an expert, but after living in Arizona for more than 20 years, I’ve been through lots of trial and error with different sunblocks. I still have a love-hate relationship with SPF-laden substances, but I would rather be safe than sorry, so I use it.


Why I Hate Sunblock and Why You Might, Too


It Doesn’t Feel Good

For me, putting on sunblock has always felt like wrapping myself in plastic and pretending to be comfortable. My skin can’t breathe and I feel as if my very pores are suffocating. I break out in a sheen of perspiration right after I put it on, sweating away any protection minutes after applying it. Perhaps my body chemistry just isn’t suited to most standard sunblocks or perhaps it’s all in my head. For years, I’ve tried to convince myself it was just a psychological thing. Alas, I would go ahead and slather on the uncomfortable, sweaty, saran wrap sunblock.

Then there are the kids. Many of the products out there for children are sticky or pasty, spackle-like substances that are almost impossible to put on a squirmy kid. Or perhaps your kids are like mine and become rag dolls at the sight of sunblock. Those thick creams are really hard to spread on arms that are like limp noodles. They also tend to be white or greasy and most kids hate having to put it on.


It’s Full of Strange Ingredients

Most sunblocks list a long array of active ingredients that may or may not cause more harm than they prevent, and those really high SPFs (50 and above) that come with added chemicals don’t really protect you any better than the SPF 30s do. Things like oxybenzone, which is used in 70% of sunscreens, is a known hormone disrupter and allergen. And additives like Vitamin A, intended to help slow skin aging, have actually been found to speed up the development of skin tumors and lesions. Yikes! (Vitamin A can be identified as retinol, retinyl palmitate & other retinoids with similar names.)


It’s Expensive!

Seriously, who wants to spend up to $20-$25 on a tube of sunblock that doesn’t work for you? I don’t mind paying for a quality product, but I want to know it works. And that it’s safe. And that it won’t sit on my shelf unused because my kids refuse to use it. Sometimes, you just don’t know if it’s right until after you’ve spent the money.

Given these concerns, buying the right sunblock can be a daunting task. From obsessively researching ingredients and reading labels to making sure it’s easy to apply and comfortable to wear, it’s almost enough to make you throw your hands in the air then go to a dark corner and curl up into a ball until winter. But fear not, brave mamas! Read on for some great choices in sun protection that won’t make you crazy.


Sunblock You Won’t Hate


Personal Preference AND Expert Opinions

All of my sunblock recommendations come from years of actual use on myself and my family, including 3 kids and a husband with the extra challenge of thinning hair. These products work really well for us, and all have been held up to the scrutiny of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Sunscreen Guide.

If you’re not familiar with the EWG, they are a non-profit, non-partisan group dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. And they do a great job of evaluating products for potential health and environmental dangers. Their website includes a score (the lower the better) for each product and explains exactly how they came to that score. Armed with this information, you, the consumer, can make informed decisions about which products suit you and your family best. Feel free to visit their site yourself, but if you feel like you don’t want to do the research, I’ve included their information in each of my recommendations.


Physical vs. Chemical Sunblocks

Basically, sun protection products come in two different categories. Physical blockers contain mineral ingredients that sit on top of the skin and provide a physical barrier to UVA and UVB rays. The common active ingredients in this category are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Chemical blockers contain ingredients that absorb into your skin and react with your body chemistry to provide a barrier to sun damage.

The EWG tells us that physical blockers present a lower risk to our health and environment because they are naturally derived (minerals that are already present in the environment) and they do not penetrate into our bodies. On the other hand, chemical blockers, while extremely effective in protecting us from sun damage, DO penetrate through our skin and may have negative health impacts. These may include hormone disruption, development of allergies, and presence in mother’s milk. They also wash off into our oceans, lakes, rivers and local water supplies every time we swim or shower, so it’s important to understand which chemicals are the safest and which have the least impact on our environment.

The seemingly simple task of choosing effective sun protection brings up so many considerations for all you thoughtful consumers. So, let me break it down to some great products for you.


Drum Roll Please … 4 Awesome Sunblock Recommendations


(Affiliate links included for eligible products. This means I may get some compensation if you choose to purchase a product through these links.)


1.KINeSYS Performance Sunscreen Spray, SPF 30 (EWG rating=4)


This unassuming little bottle has become my g0-to favorite sunblock for the family. It IS a chemical sunblock, so if that’s a concern for you, this may not be the best choice for you. But even though I try to avoid the chemicals, I find this one to be a great choice, especially for me and our oldest son. We both have that feels-like-I’m-wrapped-in-plastic syndrome with sunblock. This one allows my skin to breathe and it feels like I’m not wearing sunblock at all.

The EWG rates it a 4, which means it’s a moderate concern for health & environmental factors. Part of the concern is inhalation risk, which will lower the rating for any sunblock that comes in a spray. I’m willing to take that risk for the convenience, comfort and ease of application that the spray provides. I just spray it into my hands then rub it on to minimize the inhalation risk. For my husband, he sprays this directly on his bald spot without worrying about making a sticky, gooey mess in his hair.

This feels a little oily going on, but – surprise – it doesn’t contain any oil. So if you can get past the first few minutes, you won’t feel it on your skin at all once it’s dry. It’s wonderfully light and breathable, it doesn’t leave any residue on your skin, and it’s incredibly long-lasting and effective.

I feel comfortable using this for many outdoor activities, including swimming, exercise or just being outside. It hasn’t bothered my sensitive skin, and it won’t dry your skin like so many other products.

Pros: Easy to apply, feels great, non-greasy, breathable, long-lasting, good protection

Cons: Chemical sunblock, moderate health risk, feels oily going on


2. Mineral Fusion Brush-On Sun Defense, SPF 30 (EWG rating=no rating this year)



My kid’s favorite sunblock comes in this handy brush-on format. While the EWG does not have a rating on this particular product, other sun products from Mineral Fusion rate a 1-2. This means the ingredients they use pose minimal risk to human health or the environment. As its name indicates, this physical blocker uses minerals to protect you against the sun’s damaging rays. Its easy-to-apply formula gets no complaints from my little guy, who’s been using this since he started pre-school at age 3.

It takes only seconds to put this sunblock on, and while inhalation is a risk, you can play a little game in those seconds. See if your kid can hold his breath while you brush it on his face. If you have girls in your life, it’s just like putting on make-up, and they love it! This goes on my son every day before school, and it provides all day protection from our intense Arizona sun.

This powder sunblock works great for a day at the playground or out at the zoo. It does “stick” to the skin without feeling sticky, so you know it’s there. I’ve used it on myself in a pinch if I find myself outside unexpectedly. It’s small enough to tuck into your purse, so you can have it with you wherever you go. I haven’t felt confident enough to use it for the kind of swimming my kids do, but you can use it in the water just as you would any other sunblock. If you try it in the water, let me know how it works!

Pros: Easy to apply, kids don’t complain about putting it on, full coverage in seconds, light and as easy to wear as powder make-up

Cons: Inhalation risk (hold your breath!), doesn’t always go on evenly, so you may have some cakey spots to rub in

Bonus: Being frugal, I love that I can refill this applicator. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a refill package of the Mineral Fusion Brush-On sunblock. So, I’ve started buying the Brush on Block refill and putting it into my Mineral Fusion applicator. It works great and saves me a little money in the long run!



3. Goddess Garden Kids Natural Sunscreen (EWG ratings=1-3)



Really, any of the Goddess Garden products rank high, but this one lives in my kids’ backpacks for a simple reason. It’s super easy for them to put on by themselves. The sport spray comes out of the can sort of like a thin stream of silly string. My son thinks this is super fun, so he makes designs with it then rubs it in. The smooth, creamy formula feels substantial but not heavy. And it definitely does NOT resemble paste or spackle. The lotion from the tube comes out a bit thicker, but it’s still easy to rub in.

On days when my kids need to put on their sunblock themselves (i.e., at summer camp or on school swim days), Goddess Garden beats all others for being easy for them to apply with no mess. AND it’s safe for their bodies and the environment. While other sprays might be slightly easier, especially on hard-to-reach backs, they don’t come close in terms of safety.

While Goddess Garden has different “formulas” from Kids to Sport to Adult versions, the company offers this description

The ingredients are exactly the same on our Kids and Adult sunscreen. We’ve found that kids are more likely to use something “just for them”, so we made packaging reflect that.

The sport version does offer additional water resistance. So if you’re going to be sweating a lot or in the water, you might want to consider this product over the everyday. Otherwise, there’s virtually no difference.

Pros: Super safe ingredients, easy to apply, long lasting, great protection

Cons: A little goopy, minimal inhalation risk with the spray-on kind


4. Badger Sunscreens (EWG ratings=1-2)


With EWG ratings of 1 on almost all their products, Badger sunblock ranks as one of my overall best buys. With formulations from Baby to Sport to Everyday, Badger covers the full range of needs for your family. And their face stick provides great protection without stinging your eyes if you sweat or spend a lot of time in the water.

Badger went everywhere with me when my kids were little, and they never burned, even on the longest beach days. If you’re there to rub it in, these are fabulous. But because they’re a little thicker than others, it’s a little harder to get them on consistently, especially on small bodies.

Pros: Super safe, lots of choices, excellent face stick, feels good once it’s absorbed

Cons: Harder to apply the thicker formulas, can feel heavy or sticky to some


So, there you have it. My personally-tested, no-fuss, no-hate guide to sunblock. I know how hard it can be to find products with that magic combination of safety and effectively. All these sunblocks also give you great bang for your buck, so I don’t mind paying a little more than your what you’ll find at your average drugstore.

I hope this guide helps make choosing the right sunblock a little easier. Let me know if you try any of these. I’d love to know what you think!


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Nursing Cover for Breastfeeding: Flexible & Fabulous

Nursing cover - old style

Type of nursing cover I used. Not the most stylish, but it was all I had! (Photo credit: Kristen Valenti on Flickr)

(This post contains affiliate links. This means if you choose to click the link and purchase an item, I will receive a commission on your purchase. The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own, and are not influenced by my affiliate status.)


Breastfeeding Moms Need Better Covers


My breastfeeding days are over, but if I was still in that stage, I would love this fabulous nursing cover. I remember the awkward cover I had, the kind with a strap you put around your neck and slipped through a buckle ring. It kind of looked like a giant-sized bib or apron. Not the most stylish thing I’ve ever worn.

I always found myself struggling with it. Swinging it around to get it in the right position while juggling my squirming baby. Then it would slip or slide, get pushed aside by my kid (who did NOT like to be under anything), or otherwise fail to provide the right kind of discreet cover. It was hot, and it just never worked for me, so I ended up figuring out how to use my hoodie sweatshirt to serve as a makeshift nursing cover. Or, ~ gasp ~ I would simply go UNcovered because I just couldn’t bring myself to wrestle with the “slip ‘n slide,” and I was beyond caring.


A Nursing Cover You’ll Love


Enter the multi-use nursing cover! My niece’s friend introduced her to these fabulous and versatile beauties when she came to visit her with a new baby. She sent me the link, I looked and was immediately in envy. I wish I had one of these when I was breastfeeding. If I had, I would probably still be using it today, given its versatility as a nursing cover AND a stylish fashion accessory.

Versatile nursing cover

Fabulous Nursing Cover by Covered Goods (Photo credit: Covered Goods, used with permission)


I’m all for buying items that can be used in multiple ways. I mean, don’t we all love a good value? This baby is the Swiss Army Knife of nursing covers. Obviously, you can use it to cover up your little one while they happily latch on to eat. But you can also wear it as a scarf, use it as a car seat cover, line your shopping cart with it to protect your baby from germs and cold metal & plastic. I probably would have also used it as a light blanket for the baby in the car or stroller. Really, the possibilities are endless.

The light, stretchy material also allows you to peek if you need to check on things while breastfeeding. Or, if your baby is a squirmer like mine was, for the baby to peek and check on mom! But with all the peeking, you won’t find yourself giving anyone a peep show since this cover goes all the way around. No flashing your neighbor the next time you’re nursing!

I really think this is one of the coolest nursing covers I’ve ever seen, and one that is truly functional, attractive and useful. If you’re a breastfeeding mom, I highly recommend that you check these out. You can find them online at Covered Goods. If you’re not a breastfeeding mom, but you have friends or family members who are or might be, these would make fantastic, affordable gifts! Show up to your next baby shower with one of these, and you’re guaranteed to be the hit of the party. Based on everything I’ve seen, these nursing covers are definitely going on my list of “must haves” for all the breastfeeding moms I know.

What do you think of these?  Were you (or are you) a breastfeeding mom? If so, how did you stay discreet?


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