Thank You, Nurses – Nominate a Nurse! #thankyounurses

From the moment I became pregnant with my first baby, Lucas, both Mike and I were filled with every emotion imaginable – love, joy, hope, excitement, nerves, and many more. We spent 9 months researching and planning for this little baby boy who would enter our lives. We wanted everything to be perfect – starting with his birth. I looked up every single stage of pregnancy, researched every baby product to a fault before buying or placing in my registry, read about every possible complication, and I even created a “birth plan” <insert giggle here>. I laugh because what I know now is that you can’t plan childbirth.

Here’s what I was NOT going to do:

  • I was not going to have a C-section.
  • I was not going to have an epidural.
  • I was not going to have Pitocin.
  • I was not going to rush to the hospital the second contractions started.

I wanted a natural childbirth delivered by a midwife in the hospital. I packed a bag filled with items that would make childbirth easier – an exercise ball, cute PJs, soft robe, lavender essential oil and lotion so that I could relax while in the hospital.

What actually happened:

Lucas was born almost a week late. My water broke around 10 PM ET on August 15th while I was writing thank you notes in front of the TV. I had spent the entire day cleaning on my hands and knees. I even shaved down and bathed our dog. The nesting instinct had kicked-in full force!

After my water broke, both Mike and I went into panic mode. We completely forgot about the “not rushing to the hospital” part of the birth plan. I ran upstairs to get ready for the hospital while Mike got my bag. Within minutes we were headed to the hospital, which was an HOUR drive away. Mike literally white knuckled the steering wheel the entire way.

We get to the hospital and I am only 1 cm dilated. Total buzz kill. By the next morning, I was still only at 1 cm so I started walking the hospital halls. From this point on, everything I had planned for went out the window. I ended up needing Pitocin to jump-start my weak contractions, an Epidural to take away the unimaginable pain, and Lucas was even turned the wrong way so my midwife had to turn him right before it was time to push. Lucas Malcolm Jolly was born on August 16, 2007 at 11:56pm ET. He was healthy and beautiful.

Childbirth taught me that there are things in life that cannot be planned. Nature will takes its own course and is on its own schedule. The other thing I learned? It’s all about the people who are with you during childbirth. If it wasn’t for my husband and an incredible team of nurses and midwives who advocated for me, supported me, walked with me, encouraged me, and above all – made sure both my baby and I were healthy – I couldn’t have done it. My labor &delivery nurses were truly amazing. They treated with me with love and kindness and ensured I kept my dignity through a process that is often anything but dignified.

The truth is that nurses play an essential role in facilitating strong relationships between newborns and their parents during the very crucial first minutes, hours and days of life. From holding a mom’s hand during labor and teaching new parents how to change a diaper, to being there for new parents and babies when they were needed most, nurses leave a deep, long-lasting impression through their endless support.

As the #1 Choice of U.S. hospitals*, Pampers Swaddlers wants to recognize and show their appreciation for these exceptional nurses. In collaboration with the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) and the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN), Pampers has launched the second annual Pampers Swaddlers Thank You Nurses Awards to honor Labor & Delivery nurses, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit nurses and Postpartum nurses around the country.

One nurse in particular that I would like to thank is my sister-in-law, Cori. She checked on me after Lucas was born and most of all – she repeatedly checked in on Lucas who had a little health scare right after the midwife turned him and I started pushing. She was with him during his circumcision and made sure he was comfortable and everything went smoothly. For a new mom, it meant everything to know that my baby was cared for and loved.

My sister-in-law, Cori taking care of Lucas.

Now through January 27, 2017, Pampers is inviting parents, co-workers, family members and friends to nominate and share the story of an extraordinary nurse who provides babies and their families with special touches of love. Anyone who nominates a nurse will receive 10 Pampers Rewards points! To nominate a nurse, please visit www.pampers.com/thankyounurses and make sure to use #ThankYouNurses on all social posts.

This a sponsored post as a part of my partnership with Pampers, opinions and ideas are 100% my own.

 

 

 

 

Leave YOUR #Duckprint in the Fight Against Childhood Cancer

This post is sponsored by Aflac. I was compensated for writing it, but all opinions are 100% mine.

The C-word. Cancer has become a word that is all too familiar to families around the world. In my circle of friends and family alone, I know dozens of people who have gotten cancer over the years. Dozens. Some have survived and unfortunately, many have not. My mom and dad are both survivors and I can tell you that watching both of my parents fight cancer within a couple years of each other is one of the toughest things I have ever had to do.

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My mom during her battle with breast cancer; holding Amelia a few days after she was born.

I can’t even imagine if the roles were reversed and it was a parent watching their child fight cancer. A parent should never have to witness their child in pain. A parent should never have to suffer the loss of a child to cancer (or anything).

According to Cancer.gov, in 2016 the U.S. will see approximately 10,380 new cases of cancer among children from birth to 14 years, and about 1,250 children will die.

As helpless as the C-word makes us feel, there are things we can do to make a difference. Volunteer our time. Raise awareness. Raise money for research. This is how we will eradicate all childhood cancers one day! This is why I love when brands, like Aflac, not only support the fight against childhood cancer, but also give us simple ways to get involved and help.

Aflac’s new online game, “Build Your Own Balloonicle,” allows consumers to create their own Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloonicle, featuring the beloved Aflac Duck.

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Every game experience shared on social media with #Duckprints will generate a $2 donation toward children’s cancer (up to $1.5 million). Yes, $1.5 MILLION.

Another way to trigger a $2 donation is with the NEW Aflac Duckchat, an app where you can get custom Aflac Duck emojis and GIFs. The app can be downloaded on either the Apple iTunes App Store or the Google Play Store.

Aflac has been helping to raise awareness and money for childhood cancer for 20 YEARS and has donated over $111 million! Thank you, Aflac!

Visit www.aflac.com/parade today to build your own balloonicle! And, make sure to follow the Aflac Duck on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@AflacDuck)!

Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and American Family Life Assurance Company of New York.

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Pampers Easy Ups Unboxing Video and Potty Training Tips

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Potty training or underwear training is a rite of passage for parents and children. But, it’s important to know the tricks of the trade if you will. There are a few things that can make the transition from diapers to underwear a little bit easier. Watch the video below for a few tips and tricks I have learned along the way!

I’m also excited to share that Pampers has launched their new and improved Easy Ups that are designed to help make the underwear training process easier and more fun! My favorite new feature is how much they feel like underwear. They are so soft – like cotton. Plus, they are super stretchy and easily pulled on an off by little ones just like real undies. One thing you have to be prepared for during potty training is that accidents will happen – they are part of the process. Easy Ups are great because they are the only training underwear with Pampers exclusive Extra Absorb Channels™, which provide outstanding protection against leaks during the day AND night. Plus, Dual Leak-Guard Barriers™ around the legs prevent the leaks that can happen when they are on the move. Watch the video above for more info.

SAVE ON PAMPERS EASY UPS!

Pampers is offering a coupon that you can print at home for $2 off 1 pack of new Pampers Easy Ups Training Pants – click HERE to print.

NEW Shimmer and Shine Glitter Filter #ShimmerandShineParty

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Calling all genies! I’m so excited to announce that Shimmer and Shine has launched a new glitter filter that turns selfies of you and your child into a sparkly surprise. Amelia and I tried it and can’t get enough!

 

It’s so cute and so simple to do. Just text SHIMMER to 91757 to get started. When prompted via text, just reply back with a selfie of your little Shimmer & Shine fan, yourself, pet, or any picture you want to add a little magic to. Message and data rates may apply.

Plus, don’t forget about the new Shimmer and Shine collection available at Target.com and you can also download your FREE digital coloring book HERE. These are must-haves for every Shimmer and Shine fan! Enter SHIMMER on Target.com and save 10% on all Shimmer & Shine Fisher Price toys. Offer valid from 8/15/16-9/17/16.

Celebrating NEW Shimmer & Shine Toys with a Party #ShimmerandShineParty

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Amelia is a 3-year old little girl who does not like dolls. I’ve tried to get her to play with all sorts of dolls since she was a baby, but they’ve ALL been a no go until recently. She started watching the hit Nickelodeon show Shimmer and Shine and now she can’t get enough of the dolls and toy collection. She literally has the DVD on repeat! As a parent, I also love the show because it has such a positive message and encourages teamwork, problem-solving skills, and resilience. Plus, it’s such a cute show with adorable characters!

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Last week, we partnered with Nickelodeon to celebrate the launch of the new Shimmer and Shine collection at Target with a party. We invited all of Amelia’s cousins and they got to play with a bunch of fun, new Shimmer and Shine goodies. They had a BLAST.

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They enjoyed some yummy treats…

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and, they got to play with lots of new Shimmer and Shine toys. This was the best part, of course!

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You can check out all of the new toys in the unboxing video below, but let me tell you one of the favorites was definitely the Shimmer and Shine Wish & Spin Doll. The dolls are available in Shimmer or Shine and they spin and sing songs and even grant a wish when you press the genie bottle (or clap). Their hair is silky soft and gorgeous. All the girls loved these dolls!

Another favorite are the digital coloring books that are available for FREE at Target. To download your copy, click HERE.

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Get the Toys Plus a Coupon Code!

To purchase any of the Shimmer and Shine toys featured above or in the video, visit Target.com. And, don’t forget to download your FREE digital coloring book HERE. These are must-haves for every Shimmer and Shine fan!

 

 

NEW Samsung Front Load AddWash Washing & Front Load Dryer Review

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There are so many new fancy appliances on the market these days. Many of them are loaded with technology to the point where you ask, “Why do I need it to do that?” Recently I got the chance to check out the brand new Samsung Front Load AddWash Washing Machine and Front Load Dryer. Let me tell you, they are filled with lots of fancy features and none of them have left us asking why.

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First, I want to start with the delivery by hhgregg, which was seamless. They removed my old washer and dryer and put it in the garage. They installed the new machines and cleaned up after themselves. All in 15-20 minutes AND with a smile. Easy, peasy! So now let’s talk about the washing machine – the Samsung WF7500 Front Load Washer with AddWash. You see the fancy buttons and screen? I was overwhelmed at first thinking it would be complicated. Not so! It took seconds to figure out how to get a load going. Super easy and every feature has a meaningful purpose.

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The AddWash feature is quite simply a small door on the front of the washer that allows you to add something mid-cycle. Brilliant! You don’t know how many times I remember something else that needs to be added to the wash a few seconds after starting a cycle. Of course, with a front loading washing machine like I used to have, you can’t simply toss something in without making a huge mess on your laundry room floor.

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Another feature we love? The washer is also 5.0 cubic feet making it extremely large. This means you can wash comforters and lots of towels and pretty much anything you want to. This washing machine can take it.

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When you combine the capacity with the Super Speed Feature, you literally have a super washer. It will wash any size load in just 30 minutes. That’s pretty awesome!

PowerFoam is another cool feature that mixes the right blend of water and air to basically supercharge the cleaning power of your detergent. The machine also has a self-clean feature that eliminates the need to use chemicals to keep your washer clean. Yep, that means no more smelly washer!

Next up is the Samsung WF7500 Front Load Dryer. This dryer has almost as many features as its washing counterpart! At 7.5 cubic feet, this dryer has a huge load capacity. It will efficiently dry anything you put in there! One feature that I really appreciate is the vent sensor, which can detect issues and blockages with your vent line and helps you to remember to keep it clean. There are so many house fires that are started from dirty or blocked dryer vents. This vent sensor is a must-have!

And finally, our favorite feature is the Multi-Steam Technology, which steams clothes to remove odor and bacteria and wrinkles and static. There are other dryers on the market that have a steam feature, but most of them have a water reservoir that you have to refill. The Samsung WF7500 Front Load Dryer is cool because it hooks up to your water line so no refilling needed.

Watch Mike’s video about both the washer and dryer below!

We have been using this washer and dyer for a few weeks now and we LOVE, love, LOVE them. Both the washer and dryer have programing features that allow you to set up your favorite cycle so its quick to get a load going. Plus, the Samsung’s Smart Care app allows you to sync your phone with your machines and diagnose any issues or concerns. All the features make sense, they are simple to operate, and our clothes are cleaner and better cared for than ever before.

Buy It: Get the Samsung AddWash Washer and Dryer at hhgregg for $1,099.99 each.

Affordable & Adorable Kids’ Spring Fashion Line #MixAndMatchValue #Garanimals

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Kids go through clothes at warp speed. From babyhood to around 6 or 7 years old, you have to buy kids new clothes every season because they literally outgrow last year’s wardrobe. At about 6 or 7 years old, Lucas’ clothing started fitting for longer periods, but it didn’t matter anyways because most of his clothes would get destroyed during school recess or sports practice. It’s the same situation with Amelia now! I buy her a new wardrobe every season. EVERY SEASON. And look…it’s fun. She’s a girl and there are so many cute things, but…it can be expensive. That’s why I have always loved the Garanimals line of clothing at Walmart. It’s cute, affordable and lasts!

Today, I want to show you how affordable and cute Garanimals really is! With each piece priced between $3-$5, I was able to put together about fifteen outfits from the nine pieces (five tops/4 bottoms) I received for $40. Repeat after me…FIFTEEN outfits for $40. That’s crazy, right?!

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Beyond being AFFORDABLE, Garanimals is also super cute and on-trend. I love the bright colors and sweet details like bows, ruffles, and glitter – all of the things that little girls love. Plus, everything is also age appropriate, which is so important to me as a parent.

About Garanimals:

Garanimals was born in 1972 out of the idea that there is a positive connection between how children dress and how they feel about themselves.

Garanimals was founded on a simple but unique concept: to help parents affordably dress their young children in comfortable clothing that is easy to mix and match. Each Garanimals line may be mixed and matched as separates, and the color and style mix and match with any piece within that line.

Where To Purchase:

The Garanimals line can be found exclusively at Walmart.com or at Walmart stores. Visit walmart.com for additional information.

NOTE: This is not a promotion but rather an approximation of how many outfits can be created for $40.

Walt Disney World is Not Just for Preschoolers – Tweens Love It Too! #DisneyTweens

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As the years race by, it’s hard to realize how fast my first baby is growing up. Apparently, he is a tween. How did that happen? I guess I should have noticed the clues. The video games, the headphones attached to his neck, the newfound love for Top 40 hits, the desire to fit in or be “cool”, and yes – even the little bit of attitude I’ve been seeing appear every now and again. As much as I hate to admit it, my baby – my 8 year old Lucas – is growing up right before my eyes and I want to do everything I can to press pause on every moment we get to spend together. That’s why we all jumped at the chance to visit Walt Disney World Resort and experience everything the parks have to offer tweens and families.

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We were ready for 3 days of jam-packed Disney tween fun! After arriving and checking into our Animal Kingdom Lodge Savannah Room (complete with views of animals like giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, and so much more – Lucas was amazed), we met up with a group of influencers and friends that would be joining us for the press trip.

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We quickly headed to dinner and then our first ride…Test Track at Epcot. Lucas was able to create his own custom car on a computer terminal before boarding. The ride will then test the abilities of the car you designed and show you the results. The ride was so fast and so much fun. It is officially one of our favorite rides at Walt Disney World and definitely tween approved. As Lucas said, “Best ride of my life!”

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The next day we were off early to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. After breakfast we boarded the Kilimanjaro Safari. Guys, this ride is one of a kind. You truly get a close encounter with real wild life – rhinos, elephants, lions, monkeys, and more. Lucas – and all of us – were in awe. Lucas especially loved the driver who was doling out cool facts and trivia tidbits (did you know that a giraffe only sleeps for a total of about 30 min a day, in no more than 5 minute increments? That’s insane. And I thought I didn’t getting enough sleep!).

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After the safari we rode Dinosaur, which is a thrilling adventure ride that takes you back in time to experience dinosaurs right at the time the asteroid hit. We also rode Expedition Everest which is by far one of the coolest roller coaster rides we have been on and is Lucas’ favorite. The coaster shoots up a mountain and before you know it, you are headed backwards in the dark and brings you up close and personal with the dangerous yeti. Scary and fun all rolled into one!!

Later that afternoon we went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and headed straight to Star Tours, of course. If you haven’t ridden Star Tours, it is a 3D simulator ride that puts you right into the heat of battle in a galaxy far far away. This is without a doubt Lucas’ and Mike’s favorite ride. Ever. They are huge Star Wars fans and this ride is like being inside the movies. They would literally ride it all day if I let them lol.

And, finally Lucas and Mike rode Tomorrowland Speedway several times. They love this ride!

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After dinner, we rode Aerosmith’s Rock n’ Roller Coaster, which is super cool and super fast. You take off going 0 – 60 in less than 3 seconds as you shoot into a loop and head off into the neon and black light filled room. Why so fast? Because if you don’t hurry you will miss Aerosmith’s rock concert!

That evening we had front row seats to what I have to believe is the single greatest fireworks show on earth. I have never seen anything like Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular. This awesome new show is actually a precursor to another show coming later this year (more on that in another post). Fireworks are set off to the music and sounds of Star Wars. You really have to see it to believe it. The music is beautiful and the fireworks are breathtaking. Literally breathtaking. 

On our last day we went to Magic Kingdom where we rode just about every thrill ride at the park. We rode Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which is a relatively new coaster that is fun for the whole family. Even our 2 year old Amelia rode it! The Seven Dwarves Mine Train combines the thrill of a coaster with the magical animatronics that Disney is known for. We rode it twice!

Another tween-approved ride is Space Mountain. This coaster is an oldie but goodie! I can remember riding Space Mountain when I was a kid! Space Mountain takes you flying around in the dark with stars projected all around you. It’s like being in outer space.

To finish the day we headed over to Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney). Mike and the kids did some shopping while I got to see first hand, the big changes that are coming to Disney Springs (again, more on that in another post). We all got to do a little shopping, which is always fun and there were plenty of stores for each of us – even the boys – to enjoy!

 

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We ended the evening with a relaxing ride around the Disney Springs lake in an Amphicar (which is a car and a boat in one) and dinner at Boathouse. The Amphicar was a pretty sweet ride! The driver was hilarious and the view was gorgeous. This is a must-do at Disney Springs.

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By the end of the trip, here’s what I knew for sure. Disney just gets it. They understand the intricacies of families. They understand the challenges that parents of little ones face so they provide stroller rentals and baby care stations and rider switch passes and more. Disney understands that tweens and teens are looking for a cool experience at the parks and they provide it through thrill rides and shopping and magical experiences. The world that Disney creates for their customers and the service they provide is second to none. Disney makes it easy for families of all ages – from young families with newborns to families with tweens and teens to families with all grown-up “kids” – to reconnect with one another and create memories that will last a lifetime.

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Lots of New Disney Experiences this Summer!

Not only do packages start under $2,000, but this year’s Awaken Summer event will debut new experiences across all four Walt Disney World Theme Parks with an epic array of shows and attractions to open throughout summer, creating exciting new guest experiences across all Disney theme parks and entertainment venues. A new Magic Kingdom castle show will bring favorite characters from “Tangled” and “Princess and the Frog” for the first time to the grandest stage in Walt Disney World. Stars of the runaway Disney hit, “Frozen,” will take a bow in multiple Disney parks, and the first Frozen-themed attraction will sail into guests’ hearts at Epcot. Even more Star Wars-themed original entertainment, nighttime Animal Kingdom experiences and Disney Springs openings will set the stage for endless summertime fun. Visit DisneyWorld.com for more info.

Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios Comes to Atlanta #Giveaway

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Cirque du Soleil has become an annual fixture in Atlanta. It’s by far our favorite circus, and with a new and creative show each year, I always look forward to seeing what new ways they have found to awe the audience. Just this past weekend, Mike and I went to opening night of Cirque du Soleil’s newest show – Kurios. It was fantasic and by far one of the most unique and family friendly Cirque du Soleil shows to date.

About Kurios:

Kurios takes you into the curio cabinet of a time traveling inventor. The audience is taken on a journey that defies time, space, and dimension as everything around you is transformed and your perspective is altered. Where your world is literally turned upside down and the impossible, becomes possible.

Kurios feels like it’s set in the 1800’s but in another world – if that makes any sense. It was most definitely…”Kurios”…in the best way possible. From the music to the set design to the costumes, everything about Kurios is whimsical, beautiful, and mesmerizing.

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Quite literally…every Kurios act was more awe-inspiring than the last. One of the first acts – the Russian Cradle Duo – featured a strongman turns into a human trapeze and flings a woman resembling a porcelain-faced doll in the air where she performs more and more intricate gravity-defying acrobatic tricks.

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Our favorite act of the night was the Acro Net act, which featured five performers on a jumping net. By assisting a main bouncer with their jumping force, they would get the main performer into the air – easily going 75+ feet or more into the air. Some bounces were as high as the rafter above. What is truly amazing is that the performers literally perform every second while in the air. It’s not just a jump – every moment is part of the performance. It was just breathtaking. I honestly felt like my heart was going to pound out of my chest.

Which begs the question Mike and I repeated to each other over and over throughout the night…how do the performers even practice these acts? Sometimes it’s easy to forget not only how immensely talented there circus performers are, but also the risks they take.

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Every circus has to have a clown and the Cirque du Soleil “clowns” or comedic performances never disappoint! Our favorite comedic performance of the night included a woman picked from the audience. She was invited on a date into the “home” of the performer. He then proceeded to play the part of his pet bird and pet cat. His mannerisms as a cat were spot on and had the audience laughing out loud!

As you can tell, Mike and I loved the show. I was only sorry my son Lucas didn’t get to go (he’s 8), because he would have loved it. If you have the chance to check out the show in any of the cities Kurios will visit, I highly recommend that you see the show. To learn more about Kurios, find out tour dates, and purchase tickets please visit www.cirquedusoleil.com.

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Super Cute, Super Simple Easter Bunny Cupcakes

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The countdown to Easter Sunday has officially begun! As of tomorrow, there are only 26 days until the big day and we are busy planning the menu for our annual Jolly Easter Egg Hunt & Dinner. We typically host the entire family plus friends, which typically ends up being around 30+ guests…or more. It’s big and loud and there lots of little ones playing in the backyard waiting anxiously for the egg hunt to begin. I’ll admit…I love every second of it. With that many mouths to feed and an egg hunt to pull off, I do try to keep the menu simple though. That’s why I love these Easter Bunny Cupcakes. They are super cute and super simple and kids LOVE them.

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Bunny Ears Cupcakes

Ingredients

 

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon  salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Buttercream or Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 2 Cups Shredded Coconut (sweetened or unsweetened depending on your preference)
  • 6 regular sized marshmallows
  • Pink sugar

Directions:

Make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 F and line one 12-cup standard muffin tin with cupcake liners. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy about 2 minutes. Add the melted butter and vanilla and mix until combined. Add half the dry ingredients and continue to mix until just combined. Then add the milk and the rest of the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined (do not over mix). Divide the batter evenly into the prepared cupcake tins. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool the cupcakes completely on a wire rack. Once cupcakes have cooled, frost using a piping bag or small offset spatula/knife.

Place the shredded coconut in a shallow dish. Lightly roll the top of each cupcake in the coconut.

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Using a sharp knife, cut each marshmallow in half at a diagonal. These will be the bunny ears.

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Dip the flat side of each marshmallow half into the pink sugar.

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Now, just press two marshmallow “ears” into the top of the cupcake. This is your cute bunny cupcake! Super simple, right?

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For your own personalized Easter Countdown Calendar and the most adorable personalized Easter decor and baskets, make sure to visit PersonalCreations.com!

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