Top 6 Tips for Hosting a Fabulous but Inexpensive Thanksgiving

As Seen on Fox 8 New Orleans, November 23, 2015

For me, the Thanksgiving holiday is about three things: family, food and fun. While I love the holiday season, it is no secret that they can be rough on your pocketbook. To help you avoid “empty wallet syndrome”, I have compiled a list of my Top 5 ways to host a fabulous Thanksgiving without breaking the bank.

Thanksgiving on a Dime

1. Family

  • Make it Personal: Invite guests to the table by name with personalized place mats! I found burlap place mats at a local dollar store for just $1 and used fabric paint and stencils to make each guest feel welcome at the table.
  • Make it Interactive: A Gratitude Tree is a great way to get the conversation started during the Thanksgiving meal. Start with an empty vase and place twigs inside the vase to create a “tree” effect. Make leaves from construction paper and have each family member write something they are thankful for on the leaf before hanging it on the tree. This is a great way to make the kids feel involved!

2. Food

  • Don’t be afraid to go potluck! Use websites such as to coordinate menu items to ensure nothing will be forgotten.
  • Ready to shop? Use the Flipp app to help you find the best deals! This circular shopping app makes hundreds of newspaper circulars mobile and at your fingertips to help you find a bargain on the supplies you need. Did I mention it’s free?
  • Consider making a dessert that goes a long way like a pumpkin spice trifle. For very few ingredients, you can make a dessert with a WOW factor that is not only tasty but will feed in excess of 24 people!

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3. Fun

  • After the food, head outside for a traditional game of football or try a competitive game of “turkey tag.” Color clothespins, add googly eyes and a construction paper beak and you are ready to go! Simply pin a turkey on the back of each player’s shirt. When someone yells “Gobble!” the players race to capture as many turkeys as possible. At the end of a preset time limit, the person with the most turkeys wins!

Holiday Gift Idea: Lil’ Monkey Dome Climber

This post was written by guest author, Linzy of Crawfish Tales. While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% honest.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa is getting ready to check the list twice and pack the sleigh! If you are like me you want to shop early or solely online to avoid the craziness that is about to happen at every store in the city. Not even running to the grocery is safe!

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I am struggling with what Santa is going to bring this year. I don’t want more “stuff” and it would be great if there is a gift both my daughters can enjoy.  I recently got the opportunity to test out the Lil’ Monkey Dome Climber and I think this might be the gift for several reasons.

  1. The elves won’t have to work overtime to get it set up! Putting it together is a snap and one person can do it after bedtime no problem. Plus there is a great assembly video on their website that can help guide you.
  2. It is an outdoor physical (non-electronic) activity. Total win for mom! So that means instead of being zombies in front of the TV they can be outside climbing on something instead of my furniture.
  3. It is designed for safety. Lil’ Monkey had the safety of your kids in mind when they created this product. The dimensions and height are designed for smaller kids which means it is lower to the ground and the bars are closer together. Plus it is made from sturdy plastic tubes instead of bars that are softer.
  4. This is not permanent. I don’t like the things that don’t move in the yard like a large play set or trampoline. I know we need to reclaim space in the backyard from time to time for a bounce house for birthday parties for example. So this is a great solution because it can be moved around the yard.
  5. You can buy this product in several places. I know people are passionate about Amazon and Target and you can find it in both places.
  6. Lastly, you are not just buying a playset. You are buying hours and days of fun. Because when the kids don’t have a playmate or are looking to take the set to another level, there is an app! The Lil’ Monkey Dome Climber app provides activity for your child through virtual fun!

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The climber is recommended for ages 3-6 with a height of 118 cm and a width of 170 but my nearly one year old can reach the bars and gets equally excited about it.

And, I haven’t tried this yet but I would bet that it would be equally as easy to set this up in an indoor playroom if it is cold or rainy outside. So if you are looking for something to add to the list for Santa, check out the Lil’ Monkey Dome Climber.

Santa Tip: I ordered mine from Amazon. It comes in a nondescript brown box so no one will know what it contains.

Quality Food, Unbeatable Prices at Denny’s

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy. As a Denny’s Ambassador, I am compensated for time and effort but all opinions remain 100% mine.

When I say “Denny’s”, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For me and my family, it is fluffy pancakes, crispy bacon and sweet syrup. But what if I tell you that Denny’s is so much more than breakfast and offers real quality ingredients such as avocado sliced completely fresh in-store, 100% beef hamburger patties and even veggie burgers made with Amy’s® organic grain patties?

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With a husband who is very health conscience, these facts definitely caught his attention and he was ready for a taste test. Scanning the menu for fit-fare items, he finally decided on the Wild-caught Alaska Salmon (which is wild, natural and sustainable) which comes with a side of steamed veggies.  While healthy options can sometimes be bland, hubby (who admittedly is not a huge fan of salmon), cleaned his plate and said the dish was full of flavor and quite filling as well.

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Of course, the kids still opted for breakfast items (who can resist the pancakes, right?). But, I love that they both opt for seasonal fresh fruit with their meals. Denny’s uses completely fresh fruit and rotates the option based on the season. You will find nothing coming from a can in this dish!

Operation “quality ingredient” was a huge success. The meal was delicious, satisfying and fresh. I am sure we will return soon as my daughters spotted the Holiday Menu complete with Reindeer pancakes that peaked their interest. Till next time, Denny’s!

Take a Fall Break with Wyndham Extra Holidays and Save!

This is a sponsored post with Wyndham Resorts. However, all opinions are my own.

In just a few hours, Halloween will be over and the Christmas carols will begin. Time seems to be moving so quickly. I could sure use a break from the craziness to relax and soak in these precious days with my little ones.


Wyndham resorts offered by Wyndham Extra Holidays are your ticket to the perfect vacation. With spacious and comfortable suites plus all the amenities of home, you can be sure your Fall vacation will run smoothly before the craziness of the holiday season begins. You can cook hearty Fall meals in fully equipped kitchens or relax on your private deck and enjoy the scenery. No pizza on a hotel bed necessary. And now, stay at select resorts for as low as $84 a night this season! Hurry—offer ends October 31.

Ready to get away? Find your Wyndham Extra Holidays deal here, travel by November 25th and save up to 30% just by mentioning code FALL15!

Two-night minimum length of stay required. Valid for new reservations only. Reservations subject to availability. Reservations not valid over holidays and special events. Cannot be combined with any other offer. All monetary amounts are noted in U.S. Dollars unless otherwise noted.

Build-A-Bear Opens in Lakeside Mall!

My girls were so excited to see the return of Build-A-Bear to Lakeside Mall in Metairie! The store opened it’s doors today with all new features and we were invited to shop and check out the fanfare. To save you searching the mall with overexcited little ones, the new store is in a different location and is now near JC Penney’s.


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Here are a few things you with notice about the new store:

  • A fresh new logo, store set-up and color palette
  • Updated storefront, featuring Build-A-Bear’s distinctive signature teddy bear silhouette
  • Bigger than ever (seven-feet tall!) Build-A-Bear stuffer prominently placed in the store’s center
  • New “Inspiration Wall” displaying different trends and fashions tied to pop culture

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The store is neatly organized and split up into four sections: Pick Me, Stuff Me, Dress Me, and Name Me. It is easy to follow the stations and the Staff engaged my girls through the entire process of picking and creating their new furry friend. While some may be sad to see the bear washing station has left, the store still does offer birthday parties and partners with food vendors right in the Mall for convenience.

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With two fashionistas, they were awestruck at the selection of outfits, shoes and accessories.  The finally decided (after much consideration) to pick a trendy outfit and a Halloween costume. Finally, naming their new friends and taking the all important picture were the icing on the cake.

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With the rainy weather headed to New Orleans on Halloween night, visiting the new Build-A-Bear may be the perfect alternative! Have fun!

Rockin’ the Rockboard Scooter

This post was written by contributing author, Lena. While a product was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% honest.

For the past year, my son has wanted an electric scooter. Several of the neighborhood kids have them and he is the only one on the block that still has to use his FOOT to push his scooter along. (Oh, the horror!) Yes, the electric scooters are expensive, but that isn’t the main reason I have been hesitant… it’s the lack of exercise that comes with riding the electric scooter. My son has always been on the heavier end of the growth chart, so his playtime needs to provide exercise too.

Then I heard about the Rockboard Scooter. Oh my goodness! Where has this thing been all my life? If a traditional kick scooter and a bicycle had a baby, it would be the Rockboard Scooter. It kind of looks like a scooter, only bigger, but it has a chain like a bicycle.

Rockboard Scooter, scooter

The best part? It isn’t just for kids. When they say, “ages 8 and up”, they really mean it. The original Rockboard Scooter can handle a 200-pound rider and the Rockboard RBX can handle a 220-pound rider! There’s also a Mini Rockboard specially built for the younger crowd, ages 5 & up.

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I was a little worried when I opened the Original Rockboard Scooter because it was heavy. I checked their website and found out it weighs 20.8 pounds. My 10-year-old son, Carson, quickly eased my worries when he told me it is lighter than an electric scooter. Then, he picked it up and carried it down the three steps into our garage while I stood there with my mouth hanging open.

It was raining when we received the Rockboard, so I made him stay in the garage that day. Despite that, it took him about 5 minutes to master getting it to move by rocking his feet back and forth. The next day the rain was gone and he was zooming up and down our street and using the hand brake to slow his descent when some crazy woman (was that me??) yelled, “Slow down!” After about 15 minutes, he came inside to get a drink and he was soaked in sweat. After getting a drink, he went out to ride his Rockboard again. Exercise? Mission accomplished!

Since receiving the Rockboard, Carson has ridden it every chance he gets. He loves it and I love that he is getting so much exercise while having fun. Even better? He is no longer begging us for an electric scooter. In fact, here is Carson’s review of the Rockboard Scooter:

I really love the Rockboard Scooter because you don’t have to push like a push scooter and it goes really fast. It is really hard to break and easy to fold up smaller. It also gets you a good workout because you are pumping your legs over and over. Out of all of my scooters, the Rockboard is my favorite.

If you are looking for a great holiday gift, definitely consider the Rockboard Scooter.  The Original retails for $199.99 and the Mini for the younger crowd sells for $159.99. Happy Scooting!

Meet American Girl: Maryellen Larkin

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy. While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% honest.

One of my fondest memories as a child is playing dolls with my best friend for hours and hours on end. In an age of electronics, I am thrilled that my daughter loves engaging in pretend play with her friends as well and I could not be happier that the American Girl brand allows her to do just that and learn along the way.


This Summer, American Girl introduced it’s fans to a new character that will expose kids to the 1950s pop culture, Maryellen Larkin. The 18-inch doll will feature cool new accessories including a TV console that works with an iPad, a jukebox that plays ’50’s style songs and my personal favorite, Maryellen’s hairstyling set. But what caught my daughter’s eye the most was the detail in her outfit. The monogrammed sweater and high pony tail tied with a teal ribbon were immediate hits (she was so excited she decided to make her own video).


What is so great about American Girl dolls is that they are so much more than dolls. The authentic clothes, hairstyles and accessories creates an element of mystery and invokes curiosity from my daughter. She starts asking questions about Maryellen which opens up a dialogue about what life may have been like for a girl growing up in the 1950’s. And what’s even better is that the doll comes with a book to tell us just that! I love the quality time spent with my daughter as we read through a few pages each night.


With the holidays just around the corner, my daughter has begun her list to Santa with the help of the American Girl Holiday Gift Guide we received in the mail last week. There is certainly no shortage items she has requested so I have a feeling this will be an American Girl kind of Christmas for us!

Infant Car Seat Safety with the Chicco KeyFit 30 Zip

This post was written by Linzy of Crawfish Tales on behalf of the Experimental Mommy. While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% honest.

How many times have you seen pictures of friends’ kids on Facebook in the car with their car seats strapped incorrectly? I know it makes me want to pick up the phone and call but sometimes we worry about stepping on feelings. But September is Baby Safety Month and now is the perfect time to share information on the correct ways to install and fasten a car seat.

In the United States during 2013, 638 children ages 12 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes and more than 127,250 were injured says the CDC.

Did you know that 84% of rear-facing only infant car seats are misused or installed incorrectly? Whether you’re driving with children for five miles or five hundred, it’s important to make sure that your child is safely secured in the appropriate seat, and that it is installed correctly.

chicco infant car seat

In honor of Childhood Safety Month, I had the opportunity to check out the #1-rated infant car seat, the Chicco KeyFit 30 Zip Infant Car Seat. From the initial opening of the box I learned:

  • It is already seemed and attached to the base, ready to go.
  • I LOVE the zip boot. Perfect for keeping baby warm in the cooler weather or when it rains.
  • I love that the canopy is zip on and off. Great for when you need it and when you don’t

The Chicco base is what the fuss is all about with this car seat. It is easy to install and there is no guessing if the seat is installed correctly. Here’s how it’s achieved:

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  • ReclineSure®Spring-Loaded Leveling Foot to help achieve proper base angle in vehicle seat
  • RideRight®Bubble Level-Indicators on each side of the base to indicate accurate angle in vehicle seat
  • SuperCinch®One-Pull LATCH Tightener with force-multiplying technology to help achieve a tight and secure fit with a fraction of the effort!

Chicco Infant Car Seat

The base also features easy vehicle belt routing and a built-in lock-off system for vehicles without LATCH. An enclosed underside helps protect vehicle seats from damage and it also conforms to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213.

My husband and I love that it has the easy to remove LATCH system. To take the car seat out of the car it is as simple as undoing a seat belt…just press the button. So now that we have safety covered let’s talk more about the bells and whistles. Now on my second child, I have learned the cardinal rule of style is one thing, but being functional and easy to clean is way more important.

Chicco Infant Car Seat

The KeyFit® 30 Zip features a quick-remove seat pad that is machine-washable for easy cleanup. The shell is lined with energy-absorbing foam, and is super comfy. I actually really love that it is black too. It shows less wear with the darker color and is more gender neutral if you plan to use it for multiple kids.

According to the CDC, buckling children in age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, and seat belts reduces the risk of serious and fatal injuries. Car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants (aged <1 year) by 71%; and to toddlers (aged 1–4 years) by 54% in passenger vehicles. Help spread the word by sharing Chicco’s handy infographics on your social channels!


Gift Idea for Girls: The Stationery Studio

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy. While a product was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% honest.

Like it or not, the holiday season is just around the corner. Smells of pumpkin spice everything are in the air and it is hard to overlook the less than 95 days till Christmas. With two girls in my house, you can imagine that gifts under our tree are filled with sparkles and lots of pink. But my oldest daughter who has entered the tween phase is becoming increasingly harder to shop for as dolls and toys are the unpopular choice.

Her passion in life at the moment is dance so you really can’t go wrong with a dance related gift be it leotards, stockings, makeup, or even hair accessories. But when shopping at The Stationery Studio, I found an even better idea….a dance cover up! Ok, so they are really “Spa Wraps” but these will work perfectly to cover up costumes at dance recitals and competitions without messing up perfectly placed hair.


Because little sis can’t be left out, I ordered two of the Terry Velour spa wraps which come in a tween size of 21″ in length. These can be completely customized with your choice of towel, ribbon, thread color, name and font. Of course, I went with our dance studio colors of purple and zebra stripes!

From the website: “Our wraps are hand crafted in the USA from 100% cotton terry velour, and feature an extra-long Velcro strip and soft-rolled elastic top which fits most sizes.”

When these wraps came in the mail, I knew immediately I would not be able to wait till Christmas to show them to the girls. Because we installed a pool in our backyard this Summer, the wraps were too perfect for our summer swimming activities.


The quality of the towel is excellent…very soft and a nice weight. The ribbon is attached very well and I have no hesitation about washing this garment or having the ribbon come unattached. The Velcro is long enough to make the wrap adjustable and fits both my 7 and 10 year old daughters just fine with lots of room to grow.


We have gotten lots of use out of our Stationery Studio Spa Wraps this summer and can’t wait to show them off as they switch function to our dance competition cover ups! Like what you see? Order one in your team colors for just $53!

Bow-Tiger: Multi Purpose Toy Storage Bag

This post was written by Linzy from Crawfish Tales. While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% honest.

We are a house divided when it comes to LEGO. My husband grew up with them and to him they are as much of a part of childhood as cartoons and popsicles. I however don’t feel the same way. Over here in mom camp, I see a mess, more parts to lose and tiny pieces the baby can put in her mouth.

So the boxes upon boxes of LEGO toys that my mother in law has saved from when my husband was little have remained safely at her house…until last month. Now my husband’s inner child has been coming out to play with his old LEGO sets. He is having so much fun building with our five year old that I admit that I am enjoying watching them play together.

However since we have a eight month old baby, I have been strict about them playing with the tiny LEGO pieces in the playroom and only after the little one has gone to bed. Although the baby is little she is fast and could get a piece in her mouth before any of us noticed.

It was really ironic timing that Bow-Tiger reached out to offer me to review the Multi Purpose Toy Storage Bag. In the midst of LEGO invasion of our house, I was trying to figure out how to keep the clean-up process of all those tiny pieces to a minimum.

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Bow-Tiger describes it as a magic activity mat that becomes a bag instantly. Instead of wasting time on finding every little piece just pull the cord and you’re done. It does absolutely that.

It is a very large mat, I tried the 60” product that provides plenty play surface and easily pulls shut. It even has two shoulder straps that make it easy to carry around. My five year hold has worn it as a back pack when she wanted to bring the Bow Tiger bag with us when we went out of town.

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We use it as a LEGO storage bag but it also works well for dolls and all the tiny clothes and accessories. Because it is so easy to clean, it is great for the park or beach because it pulls together quickly. Just throw the beach toys on it and clean up is done!

I am a huge fan and we now use this product in our house almost nightly. This would make a great birthday gift and I know the mother would be thankful to get something like this among the oodles of toys at a birthday party.

You can find the Multi Purpose Toy Storage Bag on Amazon which is available in turquoise and bordeaux. Three sizes are available as well: 20 inch, 40 inch or 60 inch. Right now the 20 inch is on sale for less than $12 and has free shipping and the large one is around $35. That is more than a reasonable price not to have to pick up LEGOs every night!

To get your started, one Experimental Mommy reader will win a Bow-Tiger Multi Purpose Storage Bag right here! Enter below:
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