Support Your Local Animal Shelter with Litter For Good

I have always been a sucker for a kitten.  My very first pet was a black and white cat named Smokey.  We lived out in the country and there was always a stray “barn cat” somewhere having babies.  We would try to tame them, feed them and love them.  I hadn’t had a cat (for various reasons) since childhood until after we moved to Michigan.  The house we ended up buying is two miles away from the local Humane Society.  I stopped by “just to look” twice, and twice I have come home with a new furry family member.

First, there was Reese.  At the Humane Society, her name was Patty.  She was super playful and full of energy from the start.  She also tried to eat my purse before we ever left the Humane Society.  She claimed my husband as her own within a few weeks, and in the same time, decided everything else that was mine was now hers too.  We no longer drink out of open cups for this reason.

Not long after Reese, literally about 4 months, I stopped by the Humane Society again.  I didn’t come home with Evie that day (Friday), but by Monday, the shy, skiddish, black cat (formerly known as Rite) was coming home with me.  My husband had no idea I was coming home with a cat.  I’m not even sure he knew I was going to stop at the Humane Society after work.  When he got home, he walked in to find Reese growling something fierce at a tiny little black cat who couldn’t seem to care less.

Reese and Evie (or Patty and Rita, as they were formerly known) deserved a life better than the cold, scary streets of Michigan.  That’s exactly what the animal shelters across the country are trying to do.  They want to help give cats and kittens just like Reese and Evie a safe, loving home, but they can’t do it alone.  Cat’s Pride® knows this and that is why they started the Litter for Good™ program.  With the Litter for Good Program, for every green jug of Cat’s Pride Fresh & Light cat litter sold, Cat’s Pride will donate a pound of litter to shelters across the country.

Fresh & Light® litter is not only a great clumping, low dust, odor control litter, but by purchasing it you are helping cats and kittens in shelters all across the country.  You can find Cat’s Pride Fresh & Light and Fresh & Light Ultimate Care at retailers across the nation.  Check the next time you’re at your favorite grocery, general merchandise or pet care store.  Look for the green jugs shown above.

Head over to the Cat’s Pride website and nominate your local shelter for the program now!  Do you have a rescue story of your own to share?  Leave us a comment or connect on Facebook.

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Pan Fried Chinese Cod with Drunken Noodles – Chinese New Year with Ling Ling

This post was sponsored by Ling Ling, all opinions expressed in my post are my own.  Keep reading for my recipe for Pan Fried Chinese Cod, information about the Chinese New Year and delicious Ling Ling products to help you celebrate.

Chinese New Year was mostly foreign to me until I started working for an international company.  Part of my job is to deal with imports from China.  I have always simply assumed that most places celebrated the new year on January first, but I got a huge surprise when our Shanghai branch sent out a holiday shut down notice in late January.  My colleagues were quick to school me on the religious and cultural aspects of the Chinese New Year.  I’ve always enjoyed the cuisine, and it’s nice to have some background on the country and at least one of their holidays too.

Why They Celebrate

Like many American holidays, the Chinese New Year is celebrated by different people for a variety of reasons.  It has been celebrated for centuries, and of course, has evolved over time.  How you see the Chinese New Year celebrated in one area of China may vary widely from what you will see in another.  In general, the holiday (or festival) is a time to celebrate your religion, your family and prepare for a prosperous new year.  Homes are decorated and cleaned thorough prior to the new year (to sweep away ill fortune), but never swept on New Year’s Day.  You wouldn’t want to sweep away your good fortune!  Stepping into new shoes on New Year’s morning signifies starting the year off on the right foot.  There are numerous other traditions and customs too, but my favorite revolve around food.

Ling Ling Drunken Noodles with Pan Fried Chinese CodWhat Does It Mean?

Here in America, at least in the South, collard greens and black-eyed peas are traditional New Year’s fare.  For us, they signify wealth and good fortune ahead.  For the Chinese, there are even more food related cultural beliefs.  We started celebrating the New Year early with a meal of Pan Fried Chinese Cod and Drunken Noodles (recipe below).  Fish represents an increase in prosperity, while the noodles represent happiness and longevity.  What more could you ask for in the New Year?  Other food related lore include eating dumplings and spring rolls for wealth, Tangyuan (sweet rice balls) for family togetherness, Good Fortune Fruit for fullness & wealth, and Niangao (glutinous rice cake) for a higher income or higher position.

Ling Ling Drunken NoodlesPan Fried Chinese Cod with Drunken Noodles

Ling Ling Drunken Noodles are delicious every day, but they are also the perfect way to incorporate noodles (happiness and longevity) into your Chinese New Year celebration.  There are two traditional Asian varieties to choose from – Drunken Noodles and Yakisoba Noodles.  We paired our Pan Fried Chinese Cod with Ling Ling Drunken Noodles.  Delicious sauces, succulent proteins, and vegetables in every bite make these authentic Asian noodles hard to beat!  Better yet, they are freezer to plate in under 10 minutes!  Marinade your cod ahead of time and you can prepare both dishes at the same time, putting your full Chinese New Year meal on the table in 10 minutes!

Pan Fried Chinese Cod with Drunken Noodles

Pan Fried Chinese Cod with Drunken Noodles

Ingredients

  • 1/2 LB Cod
  • 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Honey
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese Five Spice
  • 1 tsp Sriracha
  • 2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
  • Ling Ling Drunken Noodles

Instructions

  1. Cut cod into 1 inch chunks.
  2. Mix soy, honey, Chinese Five Spice and Sriracha in a bowl.
  3. Toss cod in soy mixture and allow to marinade for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Heat Sesame oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat.
  5. Add marinaded cod and pan fry.
  6. Turn each cod piece gently after about 2 minutes of cooking.
  7. Cook for an additional two minutes and turn again.
  8. Continue cooking the cod until cooked through, turning as necessary (ideally making sure to have a new side against the pan each time). This should only take 6-8 minutes, but can vary with cooktop temperatures.
  9. Meanwhile, prepare Ling Ling Drunken Noodles according to package directions.
  10. Remove cod from pan and serve warm with Ling Ling Drunken Noodles
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Travel To Asia Without Flying

Ling Ling foods takes you right to Asia. It’s like being there, without the whole airport experience.  Ling Ling’s recipes are sourced directly from travel to the continent to collect recipes from China, Japan, Korea, and Thailand, allowing you to experience everything that Asian cuisine has to offer.

Where can you buy Ling Ling products near you?  Check their store locator.  I have at least 3 stores stocking their products within 15 minutes of me!  You can also connect with Ling Ling on Facebook and Twitter.

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Pop Up Hedgehog Valentine’s Day Card

Pop Up Hedgehog ValentineIf you follow me on Instagram, you must know that I own an African Pygmy Hedgehog.  Like the rest of the world, I love all things hedgie.  For Valentine’s Day, I decided to craft a fun little Pop Up Hedgehog Valentine for my kiddos.  Details on how to make your own are below, but first, you’ll need to grab this template.

Pop Up Hedgehog Card SuppliesBasic Supplies

Card stock  – At least 4 colors (hedgehog body, hedgehog face, card itself and accent hearts or other shape of choice)

Scissors

Glue Stick

Pencil

Template (download here)

Craft Punch (optional, but helpful)

Pop Up Hedgehog Card PiecesGetting Started On Your Pop Up Hedgehog

First things first, you’ll want to print out a copy of the template.  I recommend printing on card stock or heavier paper for durability.  For one card, you will need 8 round body pieces, 1 half body piece and 2 face pieces.  You do not have to be extremely precise on the round body pieces, as we will be gluing those together and the points not matching up exactly is perfectly fine.

Pop up HedgehogTaking Shape

To get your pop up hedgehog into shape, you’re going to need glue.  Fold each of the full circles in half.  Start gluing the halves together, as shown above.  Make 2 sets of 4 folded circles.  Don’t string all 8 together at this point, otherwise you won’t have a place to attached your hedgehog’s head.

Hedgehog Pop UpBetween the center two “quills”, glue in your head.  You only want to set it back far enough that it’s secure.  Don’t hide too much of his face.  Once the head is in place, you can glue to two body sections together, but on one side only.  You should be able to fold your half circles flat (it should look like the hedgehog shown on the front of the card).  I suggest fanning the sections out and letting everything dry before moving on to the next step.

Paper HedgehogWhile Things Are Drying

While your pop up hedgehog is drying, you can move on to the body of the card itself.  I had pre-cut/pre-folded blank cards lying around, but plain old card stock works just fine.  8″ x 6″ makes a good size. When folded in half, your overall card dimensions will be 4″ x 6″.

Hedgehog CardFor the front, start by placing your hedgie head near the open edge of your card.  Glue down the back right over top of the back side of the head.  If there is any overhang, like above, just trim off the excess.

Hedgehog ValentineGive your hedgehog eyes and nose using a fine black marker or pen, then add accents like the heart shaped balloon (this is where punches come in super handy).

Making your Hedgehog Pop

Once your popup hedgehog master piece has dried completely, you can add it to the inside of your card.

Pop Up Hedgehog CardFind the single piece edges of your hedgehog, coat them with glue, then position your hedgehog over the spine of your card.  Press down firmly to make sure he sticks.  You can add additional embellishments to the inside of the card, and add your own touch with a message of your choice.

Hedgehog Popup ValentineLet the card dry completely while open.  Once completely dried, you can fold the card closed and give it to your special Valentine.  Isn’t he cute?!

Posted in Crafts | 1 Comment

My Birth Control Pills Were Affecting My Vision

I knew something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  It took me almost a year to figure it out, but my birth control pills were affecting with my vision.

Birth-Control-Causing-Vision-Problems

The Backstory

I am no stranger to vision problems.  I was diagnosed with Amblyopia (a fancy term for lazy eye) when I was three or four.  After patches and drops did nothing to fix the problem, I got glasses.  Starting kindergarten with Coke bottle glasses was no fun.  I was called all the names, though four-eyes was the most popular.  I made the switch to contacts when I was thirteen, and I was so happy about it.  My vision continued changing until it finally leveled out in my early twenties.  Since then, it’s pretty much been a steady cycle of annual check ups and re-orders of my contact lenses.  That all started to change in late 2016.

Magnifying-glass-eye-testWe’ve Got Problems

Outside of my two pregnancies, I’ve been on some form of hormonal birth control for over twenty years.  I couldn’t even begin to tell you home many different brands of birth control pills I’ve tried (the patch too).  After having my second child, my cycle was all out of whack, even while I was on the pill.  I tried a few different options to fix it, but basically gave up and lived with the fact that I would have long, awful periods that came every 21-24 days.  After we moved to Michigan and I started seeing a new OB/GYN, I decided to again try to find something that worked better.  She suggested triphasic birth control pills (those are the kind where the hormone levels change every week through your cycle).  I was game for anything, so I switched over to triphasic pills in late 2016.

Looking, But Not Seeing

Within months, I had started having more headaches and noticed that I was having trouble reading spreadsheets at work.  Initially, I blew it off as a “crap, I’m getting old” thing.  I picked up some cheap reading glasses at Walmart and used them when I needed.  Time passes, and one day it dawned on me that I seemed to only need the reading glasses in spurts.  I chatted with my boss, who’s older than me, and she said that hers came and went before progressing into needing reading glasses all the time.

After I started paying closer attention to the spurts, they seemed to be in the same place in my cycle every month.  Since everyone is a Google doctor, I immediately jumped online to research the side effects of the particular birth control pill I was taking.  Right there in black and white, “contact a doctor immediately if you have trouble with your vision”.

Cat-Reading-GlassesOff We Go

Off to the OB/GYN I went.  I told her what was going on, what I’d researched online and, that while the pills were taking care of the initial problem, I believed they were creating a new one.  She was very respectful about her opinion, but told me that she really didn’t think I was right.  It was possible, but not at all probable.  She still agreed to write me a new script for a single phase birth control pill and let me see if anything would change.  “Give it 90 days and if you want me to refill your old script, just let me know.”

End Results

Within 2 weeks, I was using reading glass less than half the time I was before.  Within 4 weeks, I was barely touching them.  Now, about 10 weeks after switching from a triphasic birth control pill to a single phase pill, I haven’t picked up my reading glasses in over a month.

I’m not a doctor, but I do know my gut was telling me something wasn’t right, and in the end, something I was taking for one problem was creating another.  Read the side effect inserts that come with your medications.  Be aware of changes in your body any time you start a new medication.  And by all means, if something doesn’t seem right, talk to your doctor about it.  Despite the fact that my Ob/GYN thought the chances of birth control affecting my vision was slim, that was exactly what was happening.

Have you experienced any odd side effects from birth control pills or other medication that were considered “unlikely”?

Posted in Health/Wellness | 5 Comments

Are You Trying to Gain Weight? Try These 5 Awesome Smoothies!

Assortment of fruit and vegetable smoothies in glass bottles with straws

Weight gain is just as hard as losing it. Especially if you are trying to do it and maintain good health in the process. Yes, you can start eating fast food and drinking sodas with the hopes of gaining a few pounds, but would you risk compromising your health in the process? When you start walking the path that is supposed to get you to gain weight for whatever reason, it is important to choose the right one. And that is a path that will not increase your cholesterol, increase the risk for heart attack or diabetes. And still, this is not an uncommon mistake that most people do. This is exactly what brought us here. We decided to share these 5 awesome smoothie recipes that you can try and feel as your weight is increasing!

Why use smoothies?

When you are trying to gain weight, you need to intake as much as calories as you can in the process. This can be troubling when you try to do it while consuming hard foods.

So why not use your blender and prepare a healthy smoothie instead? And prepare it by using healthy, high-calorie ingredients while you are at it? You will get to enjoy in a great taste and consume all the calories that your body needs while you are doing it.

All that you have to do is choose the right high-calorie ingredients to make sure that you are on the right track towards healthy weight gain! So, let’s see which ingredients and recipes we have on our mind!

The 5 smoothie recipes that you must try!

  1. Strawberry, avocado and banana smoothie – This is the perfect smoothie that will ensure quick weight gain. And healthy while we are at it. This mix is perfect to start your mornings and make sure that you are in taking the necessary calories for weight gain through the day! Strawberries are filled with vitamins, fiber and especially with antioxidants. While avocados will improve your general health, they will also make sure that your weight is increasing. Why is that, you ask? Avocados are packed with unsaturated fats that will bring the calories that your body needs to gain some weight. And last but not least, bananas are filled with sugars and calories. It is believed that the banana calorie count is higher than any other fruit counting approximately 135 calories by a cup of banana slices.
  2. Strawberry, peanut butter, and banana smoothie – For this recipe, you will use the same ingredients as before, with only excluding the avocados. But you will get to use all time favorite – peanut butter! If you want to increase your body weight then what you need are proteins. And what is a better source of proteins than peanut butter? And a healthy one, while we are at it. This is essential for those of you who are aiming towards increasing your muscle tone while gaining weight.
  3. Peanut butter and banana smoothie – If you are trying to avoid any berries for whatever the reason is, then this is the right choice for a smoothie for you! The peanut butter and banana smoothie will ensure that you enjoy a high-calorie and protein intake. This is the perfect smoothie that will bring you closer to a quick weight gain. You can use it as a replacement for your usual afternoon snack or simply as a refreshment.
  4. Chocolate and peanut butter smoothie – Who does not like a bit of chocolate? Then again, you would need to use dark chocolate to ensure that you maintain good health, but who would say no to chocolate, even dark? And what about the combination of peanut butter and chocolate? It is a perfect match! Chocolate is high in fats, calories, and sugar, exactly what your body needs to ensure a healthy weight gain, is it not? And then we have peanut butter to add to your chances for healthy weight gaining that you should not ignore!
  5. Peanut butter, banana, mixed nuts and yogurt smoothie – Since we have discussed the benefits from consuming peanut butter and banana for weight gain, now we would refer to the benefits of mixed nuts and yogurt. Mixed nuts are filled with healthy fats that will ensure high-calorie intake although you are consuming only a small amount of them. Full-fat yogurt is another ingredient that can help by adding healthy fats and calories to your diet.

Conclusion

Both are losing and gaining weight can be troubling when you try to maintain your good health in the process. Both are losing and gaining weight can compromise your health if you do not keep on the right track. And one of the ways is by adding healthy smoothie recipes to your everyday diet. So why not try these 5 healthy diet recipes that we had to share with you and use the health benefits that the ingredients promise? Not only will you be able to gain weight but you will enjoy the many health improvements that will follow. If you add the health benefits of drinking water to it, you are here for a real treat! Do not hesitate to improve your overall health and get the weight from your dreams today!

Author Bio-

Kathy Mitchell is a writer and avid researcher on the subject of Health, Nutrition and general wellness. She likes to go out with her friends, travel, swim and practice yoga. In her free time, you can find Kathy curled up reading her favorite novel, or writing in her journal. She is regular Contributor at ConsumerHealthDigest. To know more about her follow her on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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Make An American Girl Sofa {Upcycling}

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Make An American Girl Sofa {Upcycling}

*This post may contain affiliate links*

Make American Girl Sofa

The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

Since the girl got knee-deep into the American Girl craze, we’ve been on the hunt for inexpensive ideas to add realistic touches to her collection.  Sometimes the things we find are made for dolls and sometimes they aren’t.  For example, at Dollar Tree, I found a pack of little plastic crowns made to be party favors.  Coincidentally, they were also the perfect size to fit her dolls, so for $1 we added a pack of 6 to her collection of doll accessories.  She loves to have parties with her dolls, so we thought she could use these to have a Princess Party or a beauty pageant.  We’ve picked up fake foods in the floral section of our local craft store, crafted a shower out of a box and about a million other little things.

Once we started this little adventure, and discovered exactly how expensive it could get…really, really quickly… I’ve started to look at various items around the house and when we’re shopping and think, “What could we made out of that?”  Finding fun little inexpensive things to add to the realistic feel of her play is great, but it’s the bigger pieces that will break the bank.  I’ve started focusing more on looking for bigger things to repurpose… Enter the clementine crate.

It’s a Fruit Holder, It’s a Sofa!

We go through phases of eating certain fruits around here.  Sometimes it’s a matter of what’s on sale at the store and sometimes it’s just because the kids feel like devouring one type of fruit or another.  A while back, we had a run on clementines.  Instead of buying a smaller bag, I grabbed a bulk pack (well, actually my personal shopper grabbed them for me – but that’s a story for another day) and they happened to be packaged in the little crate you see in the picture above.

That crate sat on my counter for about 2 weeks while we worked our way through the clementines.  I hadn’t given it a single thought beyond it being big and in my way.  Until it was empty.  I decided I could do something with it… our American Girl Sofa was born.  Rebecca’s Settee was $98, plus shipping.  Our sofa, clementines included, will cost you less than $20.

Make American Girl Sofa Set UpGet It Together

The material list for this project isn’t very long, and can really vary depending on how much you want to put into the project.  Here’s what we used:

Small Clementine Crate

Wooden Craft Squares for the Sides and Back

Thin Sheet of Foam

Fabric (2/3 yard was enough for me)

Decorative Trim (Cording, etc)

White Paint (optional and the need really depends on what fabric you choose)

Hot Glue Gun and Glue Sticks, Drill with Small Bit, Screws, Staple Gun

Make American Girl Sofa Taking ShapeAlmost A Sofa

I started by giving the crate a few quick coats of white paint.  The lettering on the side of the crate was showing through my fabric, and I needed to make that not happen, so…  If you’re using a darker fabric or a crate that doesn’t have stuff stamped on the side, you may very well be able to skip this part.

Assembly is an easy process, but you will need to pre-drill holes for your screws.  The thin wooden slats will crack and split if you try to screw or nail directly into them.  Pre-drilling will save you a major headache.  Trust me, I know.

Start by positioning the back of your sofa.  Using a slat that allows a little overhang on both sides will give you something to settle your sides against, but you don’t have to have it.  Pre-drill straight through the slat and the crate.  2 screws on each side should be plenty to secure the sofa back to the crate.  Once the back is on, you can do the same with the sides.  You want them to stick above the seat of the sofa about 1-1/2 inches to allow space for the cushion, but not to come up so high that they are even with the back (see picture above.) Once you’ve attached the backs and sides, you should be able to see the sofa taking shape.

Make American Girl Sofa Almost A SofaFoam Is Fun

I picked up a 12 x 12 foam pad to give my sofa a more realistic shape.  Also, it helps to cushion any pointy corners.  I cut the seat cushion first and used the left over to cut my arm padding.  A little snipping with scissors and my foam sides fit right over the side slats.  I trimmed up the cushion a little more for a better fit once I saw how the sides were coming together.  For a better look under the fabric that will cover the sofa, you can trim the square edges just a bit to round them out by barely snipping the corners with your scissors.  Once you’re happy with your cuts, remove the cushion (leave the arms padding on) and set it to the side.

Make American Girl Sofa Fabric WrapThe Hardest Thing

The hardest part of this whole project is the upholstery.  There isn’t a right or wrong way to do this.  You can hem your fabric, or not (I didn’t.)  You can attach your fabric with glue or you can staple it down (I stapled.)  The biggest thing here is really just doing the sections in the right order.  You want to cover the arms first, then the sides and front and save the back for last.  Tuck and fold around the ends of the sides for a cleaner look.  Just make sure you pull everything tight and smooth.

For the cushion, you’ll want to cut a section of fabric basically big enough to make a pillow case.  It’s just folded over and stitched closed with thread on the three open sides.

Make American Girl Sofa TrimFinishing Touches

Cord, ribbon or other trim makes for a great way to hide little imperfections, but it is completely optional and just adds a nice finishing touch.  It can be hot glued right to the fabric.  I covered all of my exposed seams and trimmed around the back of the sofa.  I snagged a whole roll of this cord in the clearance section for $7, so I’m sure you’ll see it again in the near future.

The finished product fits 2 18″ dolls.  They look so cute sitting side by side on their new sofa!  My daughter LOVES it and it will be the perfect piece for our family room we’re working on, complete with a fireplace (coming soon!)

Let me know what you think of our finished product, and if you have a project for 18″ dolls you’ve completed, be sure to share it with us so that we can share it with our followers on Pinterest!

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Posted in American Girl, Crafts | 27 Comments

Nine Grownup Dinner Recipes Your Kids Will Love

Kid Friendly Dinner RecipesEvery mom knows the struggle of making something flavorful and “grown-up” for dinner, only to have your kids say “I don’t like this”.  If the struggle is real for you, don’t fret!  I’ve pulled together 9 awesome recipes that are a little more “grown-up” than traditional spaghetti or mac ‘n cheese, but that are also kid tested and kid approved!

Baked Spaghetti and MeatballsLet’s start simple with Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs from My Gorgeous Recipes.  Homemade meatballs, fresh sauce and so much cheese!  This recipe is perfect for those days when you need something warm, comforting and filling.

Simple Sweet and Sour ChickenNext up is a Simple Sweet and Sour Chicken from Happy Foods Tube.  First, this meal is on the table in 30 minutes, so it’s perfect for weeknights.  Second, there’s a lot of protein and veggies in there, all important for little growing bodies.

Taco Cones Ta ConesIf you want something a little more “outside of the box”, reach for these amazing Ta-Cones from Two Healthy Kitchens.  These are SO FUN!  I mean, first off, they are portable tacos.  Who can’t get on board with that idea?  Plus, the novelty of it is something that kids will love!  Not to mention, this is another 30-minute meal!

Gluten Free Chicken NuggetsDietary restrictions?  I’ve got you.  These Gluten Free Chicken Nuggets from Strength and Sunshine will delivery a crispy bite that grown-ups and kids alike will love.  There is also a swap for anyone with a corn allergy too!

Hawaiian Sheet Pan DinnerIf one pan/pot meals are your jam, don’t miss out on this Hawaiian Sheet Pan Dinner from The Gingered Whisk.  Pair it with a viewing of Moana and you’ve got the perfect “family movie night”.

Crispy Fish Sticks with Pineapple SalsaI have loved fish sticks since I was a kid, but I can’t say that I have ever made fresh fish sticks.  I cook fish all the time, so I’m not sure why I’ve never tried it.  These Crispy Fish Sticks with Pineapple Salsa from Mary Ellen’s Cooking Creations are going to change that.  Fish sticks are great for dipping, so give your kiddo some sauce and let them go to town!

Paleo Sloppy JoesHere’s another one for those who are gluten free or enjoy a Paleo diet.  Paleo Sloppy Joes from One Clever Chef.  Bonus, these can be on the table in about 20 minutes, making them another great weekday option.

Chicken Broccoli ZitiAnother super comforting, super easy dish is this Chicken Broccoli Ziti shared by Nutmeg Nanny.  It does not use jarred sauce.  I repeat, no jarred sauce.  Even kids will find this deliciously coated broccoli hard to resist.

Tuna PattiesLast, but not least, these Tuna Patties from The Rising Spoon look incredible!  Tuna Patties have long been a favorite of mine, since they are mostly made up of pantry staples!  Plus, they are so versatile.  You can really through just about anything into them and it works.

Do you have “kid-approved” grown-up dinners of your own?  Share them with us in the comments or drop us a line on our Facebook page.

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How To Be A Great House Guest


At one point or another, everyone will be someone’s house guest. Chances are, you’ll have a house guest of your own at some point too. If you’ve experienced the joy (sometimes horror) of having a house guest, you know that there are good ones, there are great ones and there are the ones you want to tell you’ve moved out of state. How can you make sure you aren’t one of ‘those’ house guests? Easy! Here are a few simple tips & tricks to make you the house guest everyone wants to have visit again.

Plan Ahead

Everyone leads busy lives nowadays, but that’s not an excuse for poor planning. While the occasional unexpected “Hey, can I crash at your place?” is ok, don’t make it a habit. If you know you’re coming to town in two months and you’ll need a place to stay, touch base with your prospective host and make sure you aren’t wrecking their plans. Everyone being on the same page with dates/time of arrival and departure can help your host be ready for you too.

Bring a Gift

Let’s be real here… You’re staying for free. Show your host some sort of gratitude by bringing a gift. Maybe it’s a bottle of wine, maybe it’s a holiday decoration they can add to their collection. Pick out something that is for your host or their home.  You can even shop at Walmart.com and have your gift delivered right to their door.

Be Considerate

When you’re playing the part of house guest, don’t treat your host’s home like a hotel. You should be able to come and go, but within reason. If your host has small children, don’t expect to go out in the evenings and roll in at 1 am. You need to be considerate of children, animals and anything your host may already have on their calendar. Just because you’re visiting, your host’s life doesn’t suddenly revolve around you.

Think About the Neighbors

Being considerate extends to the neighbors as well. Don’t block driveways or do anything else that might be considered annoying or rude. The neighbors will appreciate your consideration and so will your host.

Pitch In

At a hotel, you are paying for normal household staples like toilet paper, napkins/paper towels and tissues. When you’re playing the part of house guest, you’re using items that your host has paid for themselves. While no one consumes a large amount of these on their own in a day, when you roll in with a family or stay multiple days, your consumption of these products adds up! Ask your host if you can pitch in a few bucks toward food or paper products, or better yet, you can order things like Viva paper towels, Kleenex tissues and Cottonelle & Scott bath tissue from Walmart.com and have them delivered ahead of your visit.

Whether your sending a “thanks for putting us up” package or shopping for your own home, you can’t beat the convenience and variety of products available at Walmart. Orders over $35 qualify for free two-day shipping or you can always pick up in store. When you pair great Walmart prices with the offers below from Ibotta, you’ve got a deal that can’t be beat!

Current Walmart Ibotta Offers on Household Essentials

$1.00 Viva Paper Towels
$1.50 Kleenex (Multipack)
$0.50 Kleenex
$0.75 Scott Bath Tissue

Check out other great offers for Walmart on the Ibotta app.  What do you do to make yourself a standout house guest?  Tell us in the comments or on our Facebook page.

Posted in Life in General | 2 Comments

Triple Play and Other Reasons We Love the Boys & Girls Clubs of America

This post was sponsored by Boys & Girls Clubs of America as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

Playing SoccerAfter your kids reach a certain age, you begin to understand the dangers associated with mentioning upcoming events too far in advance.  As a parent, it’s really not good for your mental health.  If your kids gets the slightest inkling that something fun is on the horizon, even if that horizon is 6 months away, you will hear about it – possibly everyday.

It’s only November and I have already been asked multiple times about summer camp for next year.  It’s literally 7 months away and my son is already campaigning to make sure he and his sister are back at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for summer 2018.  When you start hearing about something 7 months in advance, you know your kid is excited.  Next year will mark their third year attending summer camp at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

FrisbeeThe Club

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America is safe, fun and affordable place for my kids to spend part of their summer break.  As much as I wished I had summers off too, I don’t.  After our move to Michigan, I set out to find a reputable summer camp for them – somewhere they would enjoy and somewhere I could send them without giving up my whole paycheck.  Someone recommended that I look into them and I’m glad I did.  They have trained staff, tons of enrichment activities, plus I love the sense of responsibility they foster in the kids.  There are more than 4,300 Boys & Girls Clubs of America locations in cities and suburbs all over the US.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s has a simple mission: Enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. In partnership with the Anthem Foundation, they work with my children to help guide them toward these goals through three pillars – academic success, good character & citizenship, and healthy lifestyles.  It’s a Triple Play: Mind, Body and Soul.  That sounds awful grown up for kids, but the approach is pretty simple.

FootballIt’s a Triple Play

My son is an extremely energetic little boy.  He plays lacrosse during the school year, but summer sports are few and far between.  The Boys & Girls Clubs of America has been amazing for us for a variety of reasons, but one of the most important (as it relates to my son) has been the athletic enrichment and outdoor activity programs we’ve been able to involve him in during the summer.  For my daughter, she has really enjoyed the yoga program.  Last year, we added on water themed field trips, allowing them to visit area beaches and water parks.

One of my daughter’s favorite areas of the club is the art room.  She has a true love or art and love learning about different mediums and techniques.  She also loves spending time in the LRC (Learning Resources Center), working with knowledge building iPad games and building toys.  The LRC is also a great space for the kids to work on social/cooperative play and interpersonal skills.

In addition to group activities and various child-lead clubs, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America offers teens an opportunity to work with the younger members as Junior Staff.  Junior Staff actively participates in the day to day operations of the club and help direct the younger members in their activities and social interactions.  My son’s goal is to continue going to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America until he’s old enough to become a member of Junior Staff.

Rock ClimbingLocate and Connect

It’s clear that the Boys & Girls Clubs of America help keep my kids active and engaged all summer long.  Since Triple Play’s introduction in 2005, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America has helped keep over one million kids active and engaged!  In addition to their summer program, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America also offers after school and school break programs.  If you’re looking for a way to keep your kids engaged and active when they’re out of school, visit the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to find your nearest club and plan your visit today!

Have you had a positive experience with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America?  Tell us in the comments or drop a note on our Facebook page.  In the meantime, you can connect with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

 

Posted in Health/Wellness, Life in General | 8 Comments

A Night Out in Royal Oak, Michigan and a Review of the 2017 Toyota RAV4

A huge “thank you” to Toyota for lending me a 2017 Toyota RAV4 to facilitate our night out in Royal Oak and my review of the 2017 RAV4.  #DriveToyota #LetsGoPlaces

2017 Toyota RAV4 Platinum Review

After spending my whole life in North Carolina, there weren’t many cities within driving distance that I hadn’t had the chance to visit.  One of the biggest upsides to our move to Michigan in 2016 has been having a whole new world to explore.  We’ve hit up places like Detroit, Traverse City and Sleeping Bear Dunes. They are big tourist spots, but I love them.  Last week, we took the opportunity to check out something a little more “hometown” with a trip to Royal Oak.

Royal Oak Michigan Downtown

Royal Oak is about an hour drive for us.  It’s a very happening little town with an incredibly busy downtown area, full of restaurants, shops and activities.  We were invited by a friend of mine to join her husband and a group of friends at The Great Escape Room.  We honestly had no idea what we were signing up for, but we love a new adventure, so why not.  You guys, The Great Escape Room was so much fun!  It’s like a puzzle, scavenger hunt and game all mashed together.  We did “Dr. Watson’s Infirmary” and we failed.  The success rate for that scenario is only 27%, so I don’t feel too bad.  We did get really, really close though.  The staff was really friendly and they helped add to the fun. There are several other “set-ups” you can play, so I am sure we’ll be back again.

The Great Escape Room Royal Oak Michigan ReviewIn addition to our mystery adventure at The Great Escape Room, we also tried a delicious little sushi place, Little Tree Sushi.  One of the things we miss most (besides family and friends) from NC is our favorite sushi place.  Little Tree was fantastic, I just wish it was closer to our house.  We ordered way, way too much food, and still ate it all.  Our waitress was prompt and the prices are fair. Plus, they have Happy Hour specials through the week. It’s definitely a place we’ll be back to enjoy again.

Little Tree SushiOf course, I drove the 2017 Toyota RAV4 on our Royal Oak adventure.  When offered the chance to review the 2017 Toyota RAV4 over the course of a week, there was no way I was going to pass it up.  Toyota and I go way back.  I can vividly remember riding in the passenger seat of my mom’s 1980s hatchback Corolla.  Thirty years later, I own a Toyota Corolla of my own.  Before that, I owned a Camry.  Both are/were extremely dependable and have they a driveability that I have grown to love.

The Exterior

Toyota RAV4 Platinum 2017 ReviewFirst, I want to talk about the exterior.  The color is just slightly more gray than my Corolla (you can see it in the background in the lower left corner of the photo above).  The RAV4 has lots of nice visual features like the rear spoiler, color keyed mirrors (heated with turn signal and blind spot monitoring) and roof rails.  The blind spot monitoring is SO nice on the interstate.  If you’ve ever driven on I-75 through Michigan, you know how crazy the lane changing can be, and it’s nice to have that little extra assurance that everything is clear before changing lanes. The RAV4 also has a foot activated power lift gate. I had to pull out the owner’s manual to figure out how to use it, but once I understood the simple motion that activates it, it was awesome!

Interior and Drivability

2017 Toyota RAV4 Interior ReviewAs far as handling goes, the RAV4 drives just like my Corolla.  Outside of parking, which was made much easier by the RAV4’s camera system and Parking Assist, there was no difference. The larger size was a non-issue, which was a pleasant surprise. The RAV4 has Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and DRCC is everything (more on that later).

For the interior, there were things I like and things I dislike. Let’s talk about the dislikes first. I am not a fan of the control placement for many of my favorite features. The control for the heated steering wheel is low on the dash, to the left and behind the steering wheel. For shorter drivers like myself, this is a long way to reach and not something I want to try to mess with while I’m driving. The same applies for the heated seat controls. They are low on the center control panel, down by the cup holders, and much too far for my short arms to reach without a significant amount of leaning. The entertainment/navigation display is tilted slightly up, so it tends to catch a bit of a glare from the sunroof/moonroof.

While those were all things I’m not crazy about, there were plenty of great features. I love the the controls by the arm rests are tilted slightly toward you. The in-dash display has tons of options, allowing you to quickly scroll through and see whatever you need to at the moment, right from the steering wheel. The interior styling is nice. Everything seems high quality and well paired. The fold-flat rear seat are a huge perk. They really help expand your cargo space for larger hauls.

My Favorite Feature

Dynamic Radar Cruise Control ReviewI saved the best for last. I know some of you may think this is silly, but my favorite feature of the RAV4 is the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. If you think you know cruise control, you don’t. Do yourself a favor and click over to Toyota’s website and read about it. Once you’ve experienced it, you will never be satisfied with normal cruise control again. As soon as I realized the RAV4 had DRCC, my husband knew that someone would have to pry it out of my hands.

A quick synopsis of how it works: You set your desired speed and a following distance. Using radar and cameras, the RAV4 adjusts your speed to accommodate for traffic ahead. I have 50 mile commute each way, with the majority being on the interstate. DRCC means I can use cruise control without constantly having to cancel and reset for traffic changes. Of course, this is not a “set it and forget it” sort of feature. You do still need to pay attention to what’s happening around you and be ready to react should something go awry.

Would I Buy It?

Heck yea! For the price point (roughly $36,000 for the Platinum trim level), there’s a lot of “bang for your buck”. The RAV4 is a great option for someone who wants the utility of an SUV with the drive of a sedan. It’s loaded with features, has great gas mileage, and comes from a brand you can trust to support all of your driving needs for many, many years.

You can check out the RAV4 here. Take a look and let me know what you think.

 

Posted in Reviews, Travel | 11 Comments