All Set’s Top 5 House Cleaning Tips for Busy Parents

1. Integrate Organization into the Décor

We know that laundry baskets, plastic tubs and other organizational fixtures can often ruin the look of a well-designed room. You know what’s even worse for the look and feel of your home? Clutter. Limit the clutter before it starts accumulating by making your home an organizational paradise. Keep a bin by the door for shoes, add more shelving than you need to accommodate toys and books, and strategically place bins around the house where loose items tend to accumulate. As an added bonus, tasks like vacuuming and wiping down counters are a lot quicker when you do not have to clear a path through the clutter.

2. Involve the Entire Family

Cleaning the house should never be one person’s job nor should it fall entirely on the parents. Many younger children will enjoy cleaning if it’s turned into a game. Next time you are cleaning, play house and ask the kids to help, throw on some music and have a silly cleaning dance party or turn cleaning into a race. If you have teenagers, then cleaning can either be a part of their household responsibilities or the basis for a reward or allowance. When the entire family chips in, cleaning gets done faster and everyone gets to enjoy more downtime together.

3. Invest in the Right Tools

The next time you find yourself struggling to clean up a mess, take a step back and ask yourself whether there is a cleaning supply that you need to add to your collection. Having the right tools can cut the time of each cleaning task down substantially. When you think about how repetitive cleaning tasks are, saving 10 minutes on a task each time really adds up over the years. We recommend starting with a quality vacuum cleaner, a Swiffer wet jet, a range of surface cleaners for the materials in your home, a good scrubbing brush and some micro fiber cloths.

4. Relearn to Clean with Google

Think about how many times in your life you have picked up a new cleaning tip from a parent, roommate or neighbor. These little tips and tricks can go a long way towards speeding up the cleaning process and luckily for us, we live in 2017 and have an entire internet’s worth of cleaning hacks at our disposal. The next time you are tackling a time consuming cleaning project, take 30 seconds to google tips, tricks and hacks that my help with that project. It’s amazing how many resources are available on the internet (including the All Set Blog) with tons of great ideas for how to make cleaning as efficient as possible.

5. Do a Full Clean-Out Once Per Season

We know how tough it can be for busy parents to stay on top of regular cleaning which is why we recommend setting a less ambitious goal of deep cleaning the house once every season. This way even when your life is at its most hectic, you know it hasn’t been more than 3 months since some of the easier to skip cleaning tasks were completed. Seasonal cleanings go a long way towards maintaining a healthy environment and keeping your home in good shape too. One deep cleaning pro tip we recommend is to throw away as many items in your home as possible. Seasonal cleanings are the best time to ask yourself whether you really will ever wear those shoes again or if you need 30 souvenir coffee cups for 2 coffee drinkers. Cleaning out this excess junk can go a long way towards keeping your home organized for longer between cleanings.

As a bonus tip, we wouldn’t be a cleaning company unless we recommended crossing cleaning off your to-do list entirely by hiring a professional house cleaner. If you happen to be in the market for a Boston House Cleaner or a San Francisco Cleaning Service, check out All Set and we would love to help you take back your weekends from your to-do list.

DISCLOSURE LANGUAGE

All Set partnered with bloggers such as me, to advertise their service. I received compensation for my time. Consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. These policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

Photo credit: Pexels.com

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If Vegans Don’t Get Enough Protein, Why Can’t I Fit into My Size 31 Pants Anymore? 5 Ways To Get Rid of My New “Dad Bod”

Amazingly, in the year 2017, there are still people who still assume vegans don’t get enough protein. They should just take a look at me then.

For the first time in the 4 and a half years I’ve been a vegan, and more than a year of being a vegetarian before that, I can no longer fit into my size 31 pants, which is the size I moved down to when I converted to the plant-based lifestyle. Even size 32 is becoming an issue now.

It would be one thing if I never exercised, but that’s clearly not the case. I have been very vocal about how for years now, I have been mountain biking, walking a minimum of 30 minutes a day, doing pull-ups, and even adding skateboarding to the mix this year.

Plus, all this summer, I have been running 2 miles, at least twice a week; even in 93 degree weather or rain.

Even this past Saturday while our family was on fall vacation, I ran down and then back up the mountain our cabin was on (the equivalent of 2 miles), without ever stopping. Later, I saw a very muscular guy who looked younger than I am, attempting to run the same course, but he had to stop to walk.

I’m healthy and I’m physically fit, especially for a 36 year-old… but I’m also gaining weight.

For a guy who consumes 0% of his daily cholesterol allowance, and who gets all his protein and nutrients from simply vegetables, fruit, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds, it would be easy to believe that a guy like me would have no issues with my pants no longer fitting.

Clearly, I’m getting enough protein. And enough exercise.

The fundamental problem? I’m simply consuming more calories than my body actually needs; even with all the exercise and my 0% cholesterol vegan lifestyle.

If I am to get back to size 31, I suppose it’s a matter of deliberately changing my lifestyle again, in addition to remaining vegan and continuing my regular exercise routine:

  1. Eating smaller meals and not going back for seconds.
  2. Not having vegan desserts anymore, like cashew ice cream and vegan chocolate bars.
  3. Eating whole fruit after dinner, to take the place of going back for seconds or dessert.
  4. Using balsamic vinegar for salad dressing again, so I can further cut out oils from my diet.
  5. Nearly nixing alcohol intake all together.

I am currently 167 pounds, which nearly puts me in the “overweight” category. I am 3 pounds away from being overweight. I am not okay with this. For me, it’s an attack on my identity. I have control over my weight… my weight doesn’t control me. I don’t have to settle for an expanding waistline just because, “This is just what happens when you start getting older.”

It’s funny because, in theory, I don’t eat a lot anyway:

My homemade smoothie and black coffee in the morning, my oatmeal or vegan ramen noodles at lunch, and a solid meal at dinner consisting of whatever Italian or Mexican dish my wife prepares along with a dark green salad. And the equivalent of a glass of wine or two.

No meat, no fish, no eggs, no milk, no cheese, no yogurt.

But it’s time to reduce my intake, so that I can also reduce my waist size and comfortably fit into my size 31 pants again.

I am not a victim. I am victorious. I shall overcome!

So yeah… I think it’s safe to say that as a vegan, I’m getting enough protein.

2017 Toyota Sienna: 3rd Row Seat Space, Child Car Seat Placement, Folding Down Seats

As I have just returned with my family from our fall “Road Trip to the Boonies”, I can confirm the Sienna has plenty of room; especially in the very back. In this 390 word blog post, I will show you a few pictures and share some videos I made, to help you get a better idea of what to expect as far as cargo space in the 2017 Toyota Sienna.

3rd Row Seat Space

I always feel I serve as the perfect model to test out the seat space in the 3rd row seats of vehicles, because of my size: I am 5’ 9” and 160-something pounds. Therefore, I am a good average of most adults, being taller than most women but slightly shorter than most men.

When I sit in the back seat of the 2017 Toyota Sienna, I still have clearance for not only my knees but also my head. It’s just not an issue. So as long as you’re my size or smaller, fitting in the 3rd row seat, even for a long amount of time, really shouldn’t be an issue.

Child Car Seat Placement

For our 6 hour trip to Boone, North Carolina and then our 6 hour trip back, our 16 month-old daughter rode in her car seat which I placed on the passenger side captain’s chair. That way, either my wife or I (whoever wasn’t driving) could tend to her.

Our 1st grader son sat in the 3rd row seat. I was testing out a new booster seat that I am reviewing here on my blog, so half the time he was on the driver’s side and the other half, the passenger’s side.

Even with the car seat and the booster seats, there was plenty of room to get in, out, and through the cabin of the Sienna.

Folding Down the Seats

The edition of the Sienna that I drove was fully decked out, so for me, all I had to do was just press the black button once I opened the back door. Instead of me describing it, the easiest thing to do is just watch my video below.

As if the 2017 Toyota Sienna was spacious enough already, it really opens up once you fold down or back the 3rd row seats.

Thanks for checking out Family Friendly Daddy Blog today. I hope this helps!

Dear Jack: Strutting Your Stuff During Our Family’s Walk at the Park on Kennedy Trail in Boone, North Carolina

6 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack,

On Sunday, the sunniest day of our family’s fall “Road Trip to the Boonies” in the 2017 Toyota Sienna, your Uncle Tom suggested we all leave the cabin and talk a walk in a nearby park. So we made our way down the mountain and ended up on Kennedy Trail.

Once we all got moving on the path, I immediately thought back to when I was packing the Sienna when I asked myself, “Should I pack the double-stroller and my skateboard?” I easily had room to pack them, in addition to our luggage.

I am known in our neighborhood in Spring Hill, Tennessee for being the 36 year-old dad who skateboards while pushing his 2 kids in the stroller. But I figured the chances of needing a double-stroller and skateboard with staying up in a cabin at the top of a mountain in Boone, North Carolina were quite unlikely.

Oh well, I was wrong. This park would have been perfect for me to do that, as skateboarding college kids were everywhere.

It was fine though, because earlier that morning, your cousin Taylore and I had ran for 25 minutes going down then back up the mountain our cabin was on.

So instead of wearing out my calves anymore that day, I spent most of that 90 minutes working out my arms and back, as I served as your sister’s human chariot.

Meanwhile, you enjoyed being the default leader of the 12 of us, as you ran ahead, looking for cool stuff; like a giant caterpillar.

It became apparent to Mommy and me just how grown up and independent our little boy had become. You were just out there being a boy.

Jumping, climbing, getting sweaty. Having Mommy and me tell you to stop throwing rocks.

I was able to catch a glimpse of you as a preteen. You just seemed like a cool dude, like in that Violent Femme’s song from 1983: “When I go walkin’, I strut my stuff…”

Thanks to Uncle Tom suggested our visit to the park, a dozen people had a great time. While the cabin was awesome, it was good to take advantage of a nice day down in the valley.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: You Assume All Other Adults are Nurses and Doctors Wanting to Give You a Shot?

1 year, 4 months.

Dear Holly,

As our family met up with some of Mommy’s family for Labor Day Weekend in a cabin in Boone, North Carolina for our fall “Road Trip to the Boonies” in the 2017 Toyota Sienna, you were definitely the youngest there.

Your cousin Lucy, the 2nd youngest, was especially intrigued by who she only referred to as “Baby Holly.” It was funny every time I heard her call you Baby Holly because it sounded so much like Buddy Holly.

Lucy, in her undeniably kindness, didn’t hesitate to let you play with her Puppy Surprise dolls. All it took was watching Lucy demonstrate how the mommy gives birth to her tiny puppies, just one time, and you were fascinated.

Needless to say, you adopted the 3 puppies whenever Lucy wasn’t around.

So I guess this means you’ll be needing a Puppy Surprise for Christmas…

You also bonded with Lucy over a game of cards, as well. I’m not sure what the rules of the Spongebob Squarepants card game were, but based on your confidence level in how you dealt and held the cards, I’d say you knew what you were doing.

I enjoyed watching you play cards in business mode, meanwhile your cousin Lucy and Brother Jack played next to you. I think in your mind, you were playing with the big kids.

It was good seeing you socialize, though most of the time in the cabin with everyone, you had to be with either Mommy or me.

But as you get older, and as we meet up with your cousins and aunts and uncles in years to come, it will be fun to see you open up to everyone more.

While your Brother Jack never met a stranger, you’re the opposite. If it’s not Mommy or me, you treat most other adults with the distrust you have to nurses and nurses; assuming everyone is trying to hold you, only so they can give you a shot.

You especially had your Aunt Jenny tagged this way in your mind. Apparently, she must really remind you of one of your nurses.

I held you in my arms, and as Aunt Jenny smiled and said, “Hi Holly,” she reached out to touch you arm. Before she even could even touch you, you immediately tucked your little arm under mine, so Aunt Jenny couldn’t get you.

Yeah, you’ll eventually grow out of this stage.

Love,

Daddy

Toyota Family Vehicles Comparison: Highlander vs. 4Runner vs. Sienna (By Guest Blogger, Brenan Greene of Trail4Runner.com)

Highlander vs. the 4Runner vs. the Sienna

When it comes to choosing the right type of vehicle for your family – one that truly fits your lifestyle and needs – there are many options to choose from and picking the right vehicle can prove a daunting task. Consider Toyota’s mid-sized SUV offerings – the Highlander, the Toyota 4Runner – and the Toyota Sienna minivan.

The vehicle you choose will depend on your unique needs and preferences. Should you go with the kid-friendly minivan or a standard family-friendly mid-size SUV? That is the question. While all three vehicles are typically family-oriented vehicles, the 4Runner stands out for its ruggedness and off-road capability.

We recommend the 4Runner for families who will be using their vehicle for outdoor, off-road trails and adventures as it performs optimally in mud and dirt. It also has a good ground clearance – up to 9.6” – which makes it great for off-road applications. The 5th Gen 4Runner also offers a ton of room for improvement through 4Runner mods and accessories.

The Sienna minivan and Highlander are more suited for daily errands, family outings and road trips. Check out our full road trip experience in the Sienna for a more detailed look into the Sienna. And, for an overview and review on the Highlander, take a look at the full 2014 Highlander Review for a better look inside.

To help you make a well-informed decision before purchasing, let’s take a closer look at each vehicle’s unique characteristics and compare. We will be looking at the 2015 base models of these vehicles for easier comparison.

Interior

The interior of the Highlander is posh, sleek and family-friendly, with soft surfaces and simple controls. The Sienna’s interior is spacious, stylish and sleek, also designed to be family-friendly. On the other hand, the 4Runner’s interior features hard surfaces and looks similar to the inside cabin of a pickup truck. It has a more sturdy, rugged look.

Exterior

The 4Runner, with its rugged construction, looks less refined and sleek than the Highlander and Sienna. It looks like a vehicle that can handle the demands of off-road terrains – strong and sturdy. There are many different models of the 4Runner, so there is something for every family out there. But, most of them have a similar design, look and feel. The Highlander and Sienna have clean simple lines, and while not as rugged as the 5th Gen 4Runner, they still pack a stunning look and feel.

Seating

The standard 5th Generation 4Runner comes with 2 rows of seating with the option for a 3rd row. Keep in mind that this optional 3rd row is designed to fit kids only. If you have babies, toddlers or even grown children, you want to check out the Third-Row 4Runner. This will give you the best options for seating and transporting your little ones’ about. Adults can and will fit but it sure is tight. The 2015 Highlander and 2015 Sienna both have three rows of seating. The Highlander can accommodate up to 8 passengers while the Sienna can accommodate up to 7 or 8 passengers, depending on the vehicle configuration you choose to go with.

Comfort

In terms of the level of comfort offered by each vehicle, the 4Runner offers the least comfortable ride. This is due to its rugged, body-on-frame construction design. The uni-body frame of the Highlander provides a quieter, more comfortable ride than the 4Runner. The suspension system of the Highlander is designed for maximum shock absorption as you drive over bumps while the 4Runner tends to hit these bumps hard, making the ride less smooth.

The Sienna’s suspension is also designed for optimal shock absorption as you navigate bumps and uneven surfaces. The large sliding doors of the Sienna make it convenient for passengers – especially 3rd-row passengers – to enter and exit the vehicle easily.

With all of this being said, there a ton of options to increase the 4Runner’s ride and performance through aftermarket suspension systems. And, once you put an aftermarket suspension system on a 4Runner, you will have a smoother, more dependable on and off-road experience. If you are a camping family, the 4Runner is a solid choice.

Storage Capacity/Cargo Space

When the 2nd and 3rd rows of the Highlander are folded, you have 83.7 cubic feet of cargo storage space. With the 4Runner, folding the 3rd row accommodates 46.3 cubic feet of cargo while removing the 2nd row gives you 89.7 cubic feet of cargo space. The Sienna’s 3rd row folds to store 87.1 cubic feet of cargo while removing the 2nd row gives you 150 cubic feet of storage space. In terms of cargo space, the Sienna is the clear winner.

Towing Capacity

The 4Runner can tow up to 4700 pounds while the Sienna can tow up to 3500 pounds. For the average family, the Sienna’s towing capacity is more than enough for towing loads like a boat, for instance. The base model of the Highlander has a 1500-pound towing capacity while the V6 model can tow up to 5000 pounds.

Horsepower

The base model (3.5L V6) of the Sienna offers a maximum of 266 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque as opposed to the standard 2.7L 4-cylinder Highlander which cranks out only 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. However, you also have the option of a 3.5L V6 Highlander which offers 270 horsepower. The standard 4.0L V6 base engine of the 2015 4Runner produces a maximum of 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque.

Fuel Economy/Efficiency

The Highlander wins when it comes to fuel economy. Its 20/25 mpg city/hwy beats the Sienna (18/25 mpg city/hwy) and the 4Runner’s 17/22 mpg city/hwy.

Safety

In crash tests conducted by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 4Runner earned a mere 4-star rating. The 4Runner is the loser when it comes to safety features as they are quite limited when compared to the features in the other two vehicles. It has a standard backup camera as well as front and rear parking sensors.

Compare this with the Highlander which boasts a perfect 5-star rating. The Highlander is also rated highly by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning a Top Safety Pick+ rating. This is due to its many safety features including lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking with forward collision warning and rear cross traffic alert.

The Sienna features a Star Safety System and can be configured to include other safety-maximizing features including Pre-Collision System and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Other safety features include emergency trunk release, lane departure warning, and 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. The Sienna earns a Top Safety Pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and an overall 5-star rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Who Takes the Family Vehicle Cake?

As you can see, all three vehicles are great options. The vehicle you decide to go with will depend on your preferences. If you want a family vehicle for everyday use, without the stigma of driving an uncool minivan, the Highlander would be your best bet.

On the other hand, if you are more of the adventurous type that likes to explore trails and need a vehicle that can handle off-road terrains, consider going with the rugged and dependable 4Runner.

The Sienna is convenient for families with children as the sliding doors make it easy for them to enter and exit the vehicle seamlessly.

In my overall opinion, I would choose a Highlander or a 5th Gen 4Runner.

Brenan Greene of Trail4Runner.com

DISCLOSURE LANGUAGE

Trail4Runner.com, partnered with bloggers such as me for this program. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about any product mentioned in these posts. Trail4Runner.com believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Trail4Runner.com policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

The Swagger Wagon or the Slumber Wagon? Sleeping in the 2017 Toyota Sienna with My 16 Month-Old Daughter in the Hotel Parking Lot

While I’m happy that my wife and son slept in the glorious Fairfield Inn & Suites in West Knoxville, it’s true my daughter and I were out in the parking lot, in the shelter of the 2017 Toyota Sienna.

We were halfway to our destination of our Boone, North Carolina for our fall “Road Trip to the Boonies”. Instead of driving the whole 6 hours in one shot, after a full day’s work for us parents and school for our kids, my wife had booked a room for us at a hotel for us to stay so we could finish the other half of the drive the next morning.

But when we arrived at the hotel late last Thursday night, our daughter Holly outright refused to fall asleep. The nice man at the front desk of the hotel even brought us a crib for her to sleep in. But no way, she hasn’t having it.

This is just the stage she is in right now. She doesn’t sleep well in a bed that is not our own.

After 2 and a half hours of my wife and me taking turns trying to get her asleep, I finally went into classic dad mode.

I fumbled in the dark for my boat shoes, my wrinkled plaid shirt, and the keys to the Sienna. I then told my wife, “That’s it. She’s going with me. We’re sleeping in the van tonight.”

It was something like 2:20 AM at this point and we all had to wake up the next morning to finish the rest of our drive. I placed Holly in her car seat, turned Sirius XM to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, and drove a mile down the road.

She was asleep.

So I drove the mile back to the parking lot of the Fairfield Inn & Suites. I have to say… Being a man who is 5’ 9” and a 160-something pounds definitely has its advantages.

I was able to lay down sideways on the floorboard of the Sienna, wedged in between the two captain’s chairs, with my head towards near the bottom of the 3rd row seat and my feel towards the driver’s seat.

I woke up 2 hours later.

Holly was awake again. So this time, I simply drove around the hotel parking lot a few times. That’s all it took.

This time to get to sleep, I decided to lean back in the recliner seat on the 2nd row captain’s chair next to my daughter. While this did buy me 3 more hours of sleep for not only myself but also Holly, my head kept falling back and forth so I never really got deep sleep. No REM.

I was just glad she was able to fall asleep. Sure, it would have been nice to be inside the hotel, because I was impressed how comforting the place was and how accommodating the staff was.

My son was really excited about the Fairfield frisbee that one of the workers gave him. It’s such a nice place to stay. I totally recommend the Fairfield Inn & Suites in West Knoxville to anyone.

Maybe next time we stay there, my daughter will have outgrown this stage and will fall asleep in the comfortable bed.

Had I thought of it, I should have just folded down the 3rd row seats, with a touch of a button. I could have even borrowed my pillow and blankets from the hotel. It would have been really nice there in the very back of the Sienna.

It’s just that when you’re running on so little sleep, and trying to keep a 16 month-old asleep at the same time, you tend not to think that much into it.

All that matters though, is this: Little Holly slept through the rest of the night.

Sure, the Sienna is quite the swagger wagon. And I’m sure I’ll be talking more about that in future blog posts.

But most importantly, in my case, the Sienna also served as the slumber wagon.

Sleeping baby is priority number one.