Life

5 Quick and Easy Back-to-School Crafts and Snacks

It’s hard to believe that it’s time to start talking about Back to School already. I mean, it feels like summer just started! But a quick glance at the calendar tells me that the big day is practically here.

I won’t lie – there’s a small part of me that will be doing a little happy dance that first day when the bus pulls away. There’s been a lot of bickering and arguing among my five kids as of late…

But I’ll also miss the one-on-one time that summers afford me, as well as being able to schedule spontaneous family outings any day of the week. So we’ll be making the most of our time before school starts by cooking and crafting and creating fun memories.

I’m still planning exactly what projects we’re going to tackle, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites that we’ve done as a family in the past.

Washi Tape Personalized School Supplies

School supplies just don’t get any cuter than these basics that have been doctored up with Washi tape! Young children will need some help using the X-acto knife for trimming the tape (or scissors will work as well), but they’ll have a blast choosing colors and patterns and wrapping the Washi tape to personalize all of their school supplies.


Create A Homework Box

This is a little project that we complete every year as we’re shopping for school supplies. We pick up an extra or two of all of the items on our list that we may need to use for homework assignments, and pick up a plastic storage box that will house them all. It makes homework time so much simpler because the supplies are specifically designated for homework only, meaning those house-wide hunts for a glue stick or scissors are a thing of the past!


DIY Friendship Pins Kit

Do you remember friendship pins? I put this adorable kit together for my girls when my youngest was starting first grade. She was a little nervous about being in school all day for the first time, and showing her how to make friendship pins was a great way to get her excited about going to school. She couldn’t wait to pass out her creations to her classmates – the pins were the perfect way to help her connect with old and new friends!


DIY No-Crust Frozen Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches

Prep for school lunches by making a huge batch of these homemade No-Crust PB & J sandwiches. Dare I say my kids might prefer their custom creations to the store-bought variety? Making a huge batch in the days before school starts will make packing those lunches a snap!


No Bake Peanut Butter Bars for Back To School

I’d recommend waiting to whip up a batch of the no bake PB bars until the night before school starts; any sooner and they just won’t last! Three main ingredients, plus your choice of mix-ins, means that this recipe can be made to please. They double as an on-the-go breakfast and a delicious after school snack!


My favorite aspect of all of these projects is that they take very little time and effort, leaving plenty of time for laughing and chatting about the upcoming school year. We all start to go a little stir crazy when the hottest days of summer are upon us, but activities like these always bring us together and end up being tons of fun.

Tara Kuczykowski is the mom behind the blog Unsophisticook.com and is a member of the Walmart Moms Program

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Opportunity

From Leading Soldiers to Leading Walmart Associates

Following in my father’s footsteps, I joined the Marines before I finished high school.

After returning home from two tours of duty in Somalia and Iraq, I found that similar to many veterans, I struggled with the transition to civilian life. Initially I thought I had only two options: police officer or fireman. I decided on becoming a patrolman, but there were a limited number of openings, and the salary would have made it difficult to support my family.

After much research, I decided to work in retail. I took my first position with Walmart not only because of the secure salary but also because Walmart seemed to be a company that offered equal opportunity to every kind of person. Just like the military, I would be able to prove my abilities and possibly be rewarded for high performance.

Several months after separating from the Marines, when I felt the desire to rejoin the military, Walmart encouraged me to return. I joined the Army National Guard and was eventually called back to Iraq to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was a lead sniper, in charge of training more than 200 Iraqi policemen and 15 Americans. I was responsible for teaching them everything from leadership to gathering intelligence in a combat environment.

My part in the deployment ended after mortar rounds landed preceding a serious firefight in which I suffered several injuries after mobilizing my men to safely return to camp. I was awarded the Bronze Star with valor for my leadership; however, my recovery took months of surgeries. Today, I’m legally blind in my left eye, and still have some memory issues from a traumatic brain injury. But through all those difficult times, my managers at Walmart were really supportive. They helped me work around my limitations and even flew me to Kansas City to receive the Sam Walton Hero Award in front of 5,000 people.

After my recovery, I learned how to translate my military background to the business world even further. It may sound very different, going from staff sergeant to running a grocery department, but leadership skills remain constant. It’s all about establishing routines, simplifying things for associates, leading them and understanding them. Because of that, I’ve been able to grow my career.

I was recently promoted to Fresh Operations Manager and lead more than 1,000 associates. I work in the field, teaching and training fresh operations in our stores and have remained committed to our troops by supporting Walmart’s initiative to hire veterans. I work with HR to help them understand the different military ranks and how that translates to jobs. In the last five years, Walmart has hired more than 100,000 veterans and we’re a stronger company because of it.

I like to stay involved in supporting veterans in any way I can. I co-founded Helping Hands for Freedom, a nonprofit that supports the families of wounded and fallen soldiers. Most soldiers and their families lack the kind of support I was fortunate to receive from Walmart, so we do everything we can.

It’s great knowing I work for a company that supports my involvement with veterans. My plan is to continue to grow within the company and move up to senior leadership on the grocery side of the business. I want to continue to move forward with my development and growth so I can continue to lead and develop associates across our company.

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Life

From Lanterns to Lions, Ringing in Chinese New Year

Feb. 8 marks the start of Chinese New Year, China’s most important celebration for families. Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is a weeklong public holiday during which families celebrate a year of hard work and wish for good luck in the coming year.

Those shopping in our stores in China see lots of Chinese New Year decorations and traditional foods stocked for this busy time. For readers who aren’t in China, here’s some background on the celebrations.

Traditional Family Meals

Before the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar, people all over China travel to their hometowns to unite with their families and decorate their homes in red — a color that symbolizes good luck and joy — and prepare for Chinese New Year celebrations. The night before the Chinese New Year, we prepare a feast made up of symbolic foods:

  • In Chinese culture, a fish course represents wealth in the future, while peanuts signify longevity and good health.
  • Some food symbolism in Chinese New Year dishes is more visual, such as hot pot, which involves simmering meat and vegetables in a round pot at the center of the table. The shape of the pot represents perfection and satisfaction.
  • Dumplings are an example of a food with a more historical tie because they resemble the gold currency — Yuanbao — used in ancient China. Today, dumplings are still thought to signify wealth in the coming year and are a delicious treat stuffed with different fillings.

Celebrations

Like with New Year’s Eve in the U.S. and other western countries, Chinese New Year involves staying up late. We light firecrackers at midnight, a tradition that dates back to ancient folklore. Though the New Year is a cause for celebration now, legend has it that Chinese villagers used to stoke their fires with bamboo to keep away a terrifying, sharp-toothed monster that arose from the sea at the end of the lunar year to prey on people and livestock. Now, we use firecrackers to celebrate the new year and also scare off any bad luck that might be on the horizon.

Celebrations culminate in the Lantern Festival, where people gather to admire the illuminated lanterns (some floating, some carried by children, some fixed as decorations) and guess riddles written on them. On New Year’s Day, people also watch lion dances, in which participants don elaborate, mythical lion costumes that seem larger than life — and eat rice dumplings.

One of our family traditions is for children and grandchildren to wish elders in the family good wishes for the new year and, in turn, the elders will give children a red envelope of money for good luck and to buy toys and books.  Children often sleep with the red envelope under the pillow to bring good luck throughout the year.

The Year of the Monkey

This year is the year of the monkey, the ninth of 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle. People born in the year of the monkey are believed to be energetic, witty and mischievous. I look forward to greeting the year of the monkey surrounded by my family and enjoying the snacks and festivities that come with the celebrations. No matter your Chinese zodiac, may the New Year bring good fortune to you and your family!

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Innovation

Checking Your Grocery List, and Getting it Right

People want to save money and time, so it's no wonder online grocery shopping sounds so appealing. Open your browser, click the grocery items you need, and let someone else do the shopping for you – right down to loading them in your trunk, right?

That’s exactly why Walmart will be expanding its online grocery service to nine more new markets this month, such as Columbus, Ohio; Omaha, Nebraska; and Raleigh, North Carolina. But our customers want more than just the ability to click and shop from the comfort of their own homes or workplaces. They want to know the perfect tomato – or better yet, banana or avocado (because those can be especially tricky) – finds its way into their grocery bag every time.

Before we began expanding the service to more markets, we worked tirelessly for quite some time to pilot and modify our online grocery service – and that’s because we’re committed to getting it right every time. The key to how we build a trusting bond with customers rests with our managers and, most importantly, our personal shoppers. We select only the best of the best for this critical role, and each associate undergoes rigorous training.

Selecting great produce and meat is essential. Personal shoppers not only learn the art of selecting these items by look, but also by touch and smell. For example, when a customer selects strawberries, our personal shoppers peek through each side of the carton. Similarly, finding the perfect pineapple or cantaloupe requires extra time – and we make the time. When our personal shoppers are gathering frozen and refrigerated items, they work quickly to select those items and return them to a designated, temperature-controlled holding area to ensure quality is not compromised.

But all the training in the world can’t account for everything. That’s where personal relationships matter.

Our promise to customers is that we’re not just here to gather their groceries. We learn their names.  Over time, we’ll get to know whether they prefer softer or firmer avocados, because we understand that texture makes a difference if you’re adding a slice to a salad or mashing it for guacamole. And as we get to know our customers more, we can begin to know which customers are fans of yellow bananas, and which opt for slightly green for a longer shelf life.

We’re in the business of saving our customers money so they can live better. In our eyes, taking grocery shopping off a customer’s growing to-do list, while ensuring quality and convenience every time – that’s definitely living better.

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Innovation

Open, Scan, Done: The Case for Walmart Pay

Thumbing through multiple gift cards at the register. Scrambling to find the one receipt you need to return an item. Trying to remember whether you need a refill for your prescription or not. We’ve all been there.

But why? We live in a digital world. We receive alerts about news breaking around the world in real time, rather than waiting for the Sunday morning newspaper. We can control temperature in our homes, lock doors and set alarms from our smartphones. So it’s time for the retail industry to step up – to allow customers to shop in new ways.

With the development of Walmart Pay – a new feature built into the Walmart mobile app that allows customers to use a smartphone to pay for in-store purchases – we weren’t focusing on payment for payment’s sake. We set out to marry our physical and digital assets to create a more seamless shopping experience for customers. We designed Walmart Pay to work with almost any smartphone and accept almost any payment type, even allowing for the integration of other mobile wallets in the future. And beginning this summer, it will work at every one of our stores across the U.S.

So, if you take a moment to activate the new Walmart Pay feature on your Walmart App, your next checkout really will be as simple as one, two, three.

If you discover the shirt you bought a few weeks ago doesn't fit, there’s no more keeping up with a paper receipt. It’s now stored electronically and at your fingertips because you’ve used Walmart Pay. Have a handful of Walmart gift cards you’ve been meaning to redeem, but hate the thought of handing them over one by one? Load your gift cards into Walmart Pay, and your balance will be ready with a single scan the next time you check out.

The best part is that none of your payment card information is stored on your phone or at the point of sale. Everything with Walmart Pay is stored in a secure, cloud-based environment. No payment credential is ever transmitted at the physical register, so you can rest easy knowing those details are safe and protected.

More than 20 million customers actively use the Walmart app each month, checking in to pick up an online order at a Walmart store, refilling pharmacy prescriptions, finding an item’s location within a store, and tapping into our popular Savings Catcher feature. When we set out to develop Walmart Pay, we’d asked ourselves how we could make shopping even faster, easier, more convenient and secure for our customers.

We’ll continue to find new ways of merging our physical and digital assets to produce a better, more convenient shopping experience. That’s what our customers demand and it’s what they deserve.

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