Archive for the ‘Reviews & Sponsored’ Category

The Simple Joys Of Summer, Fueled by Milk {Sponsored}

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Summer is for bare feet, sunshine so bright it hurts your eyes, running through sprinklers, visiting local farms, playing in the dirt, mooing at cows, brushing up our checkers game, and doing all the other stuff that makes the long, hot days the best part of the year.

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We are SO excited that our school year is over and now we have the freedom to enjoy a schedule-free few months. But did you know more than 22 million children may miss out on milk’s nutrition this summer when they lose access to free or reduced-price meal programs at school? Although some programs like the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program help to deliver meals when school is not in session, the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program (which we use and love and appreciate so much during the school year) do not reach children during the summer months. That’s why food banks play an even more critical role in helping children access nutritious foods when class isn’t in session.

Fresh milk is one of the most requested, but least donated items at food banks, meaning children in need may be missing out on the essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, that it supplies. I never thought about that until I became part of this campaign – of course families want and need milk, and of course it can be hard to come by when food banks emphasize non-perishable donations. Now there’s something we can do about that shortage.

You can help feed a childhood in your community this summer with a small donation at milklife.com/give. A donation as little as $5 can deliver a highly desired and nutrient-rich gallon of fresh milk to children who need it most. Because all children deserve the chance to play, learn and grow, especially during the summer months when being a kid is supposed to be joyful and carefree. When you visit The Great American Milk Drive site and enter your zip code, you can direct your donation to the Feeding America food bank that helps right in your local area.

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We all love milk, but probably no one more than Linc. He couldn’t care less that it’s nutritious and a great source of protein – he just thinks it’s delicious. It also gives all the kids the energy they need to keep the fun going all afternoon. Sprinklers are basically the summer equivalent of baths in our house,  which is fine by me.

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For each share of Great American Milk Drive “Feed A Childhood” content with hashtag #milkdrive via Facebook and Twitter between 6/1/16 – 6/30/16, The Great American Milk Drive will contribute $1 to the Feeding America® network for the purchase of fluid milk, up to a maximum total donation of $5,000.

And as a thank you for taking the time to read about The Great American Milk Drive, they’re offering a giveaway to readers of this blog and the others participating in the campaign.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Mixed Berry Cake With Lemon Whipped Cream Icing

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

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A Cake Off you say? Don’t mind if I do.

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When it comes to Team Cake vs Team Pie, I am Team Why Can’t I Have Both? There’s no such thing as too much dessert. When I was looking for inspiration for a cake to submit for this contest, I searched Pinterest for cake and might have ended up eating half a box of cookies because it made me so hungry. This is why I am not a food blogger.

Half way through mixing the batter I realized I needed 3 9-inch cake pans but all I had in my cabinet was 1 9-inch cake pan and 2 8-inch cake pans. I thought really hard about how to make that work before giving up and sending my husband to the store to get the right pans. Be smarter than me and make sure you have the cake pans you need BEFORE you’ve already separated all the eggs and have the mixer going. This recipe has kind of a lot of steps, but I promise it’s worth it for the results: moist but light cake with an amazing flavor and super light frosting with exactly the right amount of sweet.

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Mixed Berry Cake With Lemon Whipped Cream Icing
Adapted from A Latte Food

Cake
    • 4 eggs, separated
    • 3/4 cup butter, softened
    • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 2 1/2 cups flour all purpose flour
    • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
    • 1 Tbsp baking powder
    • 3/4 tsp salt
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1/3 cup greek yogurt
    • 1 Tbsp lemon juice, fresh
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Berry Puree
    • 2 cups mixed berries (I used raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries)
    • 3/4 cup sugar
Lemon Whipped Cream
    • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
    • 1 8 oz cream cheese
    • 2 Tbsp lemon zest (about the zest of 2 large lemons)
    • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp lemon juice
Extra berries & mint to decorate
Preheat the oven to 350 and spray your cake pans with non-stick spray.
Make the berry puree first: throw all the berries (hull strawberries first) and the sugar in a food processor or blender on high until it’s well mixed. You can strain it if you hate seeds but they don’t bother me. Set aside.
Next the cake: separate your eggs and set aside. In your mixer, whip the butter for a minute or two until it’s fluffy. Add the vegetable oil and mix for another minute. Gradually add in sugar and eggs until everything is well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed.
Mix your dry ingredients in a separate bowl (flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt), then mix your wet ingredients in another bowl (milk, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and greek yogurt). Alternate adding wet and dry ingredients to your mixer until just combined. Whip your reserved egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then fold them into the batter, gently but completely. Divide your batter as evenly as you can into the three prepared cake pans.
Add about 1/3 cup of berry puree to each pan, using a knife to swirl it around. The kids really loved this part, so it’s a good time for helpers. Be sure to reserve any leftover puree to drizzle on your plate or spoon over the cake when you serve it.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Mine was perfect at exactly 25 minutes.
For the frosting: whip the heavy cream on high for a few minutes until it starts to thicken. Add in the lemon zest and vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar (add too fast and it will end up all over your kitchen) and then the cream cheese. Beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Once your cake is done and cooled, put the bottom layer on a plate or cake stand. Top with about a cup of frosting, spreading it all the way to the edge. Repeat for all three layers, with extra frosting for the top. Use a large knife or spatula to spread any frosting that leaked out from between the layers evenly around the sides. You can fully frost them if you want but the golden cake showing through is so pretty I left mine sparse.
Decorate the top with extra berries and mint leaves to make it extra fancy and really impress all your guests. It’s a big cake and serves about 15, as long as no one cuts a piece that’s 1/4th of the cake. Which I totally did when we had leftovers the next day. Be sure to store it in the fridge if you’re keeping it overnight.
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If you think this looks delicious and want to make it – or just add it to your aspirational dessert Pinterest board (doesn’t everyone have one of those??) – you can pin the graphic below! This is a Cake Off and I’m in it to win it, despite not being a food blogger.
Mixed Berry Cake With Lemon Whipped Cream Icing YUM!

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I Checked CHET Out

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

This post was sponsored on behalf of Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET). All opinions and photos are my own.

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Want to feel old? Think for a second about how many years it will be until your oldest kid goes to college. In my case, the answer is ELEVEN. ELEVEN YEARS. That is less time than I have been married, less time than it’s been since I graduated from college, and WAY less time than it’s been since I myself was 18 and headed off to college. Along with feeling really old, the thought of sending my kids to college fills me with fear and dread. Do you know what college costs? I don’t. I know the answer is somewhere between “a lot” and “an amount you will never be able to afford by the time it is your turn to pay for it”. The average cost for a 4-year private college in New England is more than $52,000. I have three (and a half) kids. This is the part where I usually throw my hands up and turn on HGTV and think relaxing thoughts about renovating my backyard to include a fire pit and a water feature. These tiny homework-doers can just stay small and live with me forever.

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But denial is not a good way to stop things from happening (see also: birth, child vomit, lactose intolerance) and these kids are getting older and smarter by the day. Making a plan is the only real option, so I finally sat down at my computer with my Important Papers file and looked at the Connecticut Higher Education Trust website.

Here are the quick facts about CHET:

    • The Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET) is Connecticut’s 529 college savings plan.
    • CHET works like a Roth Retirement account, your contributions grow tax-free along the way, and are tax-free when you use the money for college.
    • PLUS for CT taxpayers there is a CT state tax deduction on the contributions you make to CHET each year, up to $10K for joint filers and $5K for single filers.
    • Money saved with CHET can be used at accredited colleges or universities in the country as well as some abroad.
    • CHET funds can be used for wide variety of college costs, tuition, room & board, computer, any supplies required by the school, etc.
    • If you don’t use the savings (for example, if your child gets a scholarship) you can roll the money to another child.

And here’s how it actually worked out:

I went to the site and clicked on “Open an Account”. They asked for my social security number and info, then Evan’s social security numbers and info. I entered our banking information so I could make the required opening contribution (it’s only $25) directly, then chose which investments I wanted to put the money in.

This was the part where I normally get stressed and run away, because I am not a financial guru or investment specialist. I am a person who has definitely HEARD the word “index fund” before but can’t quite remember where. There is a ton of information about each option on the website and there are actual humans you can call and talk to if you want, but my eyes and brain quickly start blurring when I feel overwhelmed by the choices. I ended up reading some of the advice, showing the options to E, and then just picking something, because a fear of choosing the wrong option 11 years before he goes to college shouldn’t stop me from investing in Evan’s future. There was an option to set up reoccurring contributions with lots of flexibility, but you don’t HAVE to. It asked me to agree to the risks and terms, asked me to set up a username and password for managing my account, then I was done. Repeating the process for each of my other children took less than 2 minutes, since they were all under my same account and the info was saved.

After I set them all up, I sent my mom an email for each account with an easy link so she can make contributions herself, either online or by mail. You can send them to anyone in your address book on special occasions (birthdays, holidays, etc) or “just because”. I think she was probably ready to just set up the accounts on her own (you can do that! you don’t have to be the parent, so if you have grandkids or nieces or nephews who you think need a 529 absolutely look into it!) but now I am done and she can rest easy.

Right now, CHET is running a contest in honor of 5/29 day (May 29th). One winner will win a $1,529 contribution to their account and two runners up will win $529 contributions. Free money?? YES PLEASE. You can check it out and enter easily here.

ALSO. If you had a baby in the last year (or you happen to be having one soon), CHET has an amazing Baby Scholars program, where they will give you up to $250 for free just for putting money in your kid’s 529. It’s not a complicated, convoluting system either – you put money in, they add money. I am kicking myself SO HARD that I didn’t do that for Lincoln before it was too late.

I feel like that was a LOT of words to talk about something that seems really boring, but it’s one of those things that’s been on my to-do list literally for years and I am so glad I can finally cross it off. Give yourself an A+ in adulting today and check CHET out.

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Free Stuff: The PINCHMe Sample Box

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

I have no idea how I ended up on the blogger list for PINCHMe, but they keep sending me boxes of cool stuff and I love it. It’s a monthly box that sends you new (free!) samples every month in exchange for reviewing your samples on their site. No shipping costs, no credit card, no monies at all required. You do have to sign up for a member profile and fill out some details about yourself – if you have pets or kids, how old they are – so they know what kinds of samples would fit your life. I’ve gotten everything from nail polish to pet food coupons and I’m almost out of Olay body wash from my last box so I’m happy to see I got another one this time.

Because they’re giving free stuff away, PINCHMe is pretty popular and they sometimes run out of some of the samples. This month’s Sample Tuesday is on February 23rd at 12 Noon EST, so login and claim new free samples ASAP to get the best stuff. Otherwise you’ll be sad, like my friend who only got a kitchen sponge.

Here’s Linc and I opening this month’s box:

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That NextStep milk box was gone before I even finished taking photos of the rest of the stuff. Linc is a fan.

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Luckily there was a delicious granola bar to sustain me.

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Linc and I are both excited about these Boon Snug sippy lids – you can put them over any cup to make a sippy. Very handy when all of our’s are disgusting and rotting under the couch, or at restaurants, or when we visit childless people who think a plastic cup is child-friendly enough (only if you want juice poured on your cable box).

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The, uh, PERSONAL ITEMS samples. Plus coupons. I love coupons.

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Yesssssss another month where I don’t have to buy body wash. And that’s a huge jar of fancy moisturizer!

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Baby stuffs! So handy when you have a baby who insists on pooping a million times a day.

Don’t forget! PINCHme is a monthly subscription site that lets you try products from leading brands, completely for FREE! All they ask is for your feedback on the products. Every month, an amazing range of free samples are released on PINCHme for members to claim. These samples include grocery, baby, pet, beauty, home and personal care. Be sure to visit PINCHme for this month’s Sample Tuesday on February 23rd at 12 Noon EST to claim new free samples!

PINCHMe sends me boxes from their program in exchange for social media posts but no other compensation is exchanged or required and all opinions are my own.

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Sofa Fort City {Sponsored by Wayfair}

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

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Our big (ugly) family room couch is one of those sausage-casing monstrosities, where all the cushions are attached, with built-in recliners and cup holders. It’s truly hideous. But while we’re in the “Oh my god where did you get that yogurt?!” stage of children, there’s no point in having NICE furniture, so I settled for comfy and functional in a beige color that hides dirt.

The biggest problem with that kind of couch (besides ugly) is that it’s pretty useless when it comes to couch forts, and couch forts are an essential part of childhood. Luckily, when I was trying to fancy-up our living room last year I found a nice mini-sized couch that a) is also a good dirt-hiding shade of beige and b) has two nice huge cushions that make an excellent fort wall. The kids LOVE that couch – it’s the perfect size for them to spread out and watch iPad, set up all the dolls into elaborate tableaus or just climb all over while they hit each other with lightsabers. Lovingly, obviously. Lovingly hit each other with lightsabers.

I got an email from Wayfair saying they put together some super cute sofa fort plans and asking if my kids would be interested in building one. They even sent a super cozy Lush throw blanket to get us started. Check out their fun ideas:

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We chose the Dreadship Blanket and got to work rearranging the furniture, finding supplies and collecting throw blankets and pillows.

Real life talk: This is what passes for “super clean and organized” in our living/play room. It’s half grown-up, finished space (art! mirrored table! fireplace! throw pillows!) and half kid zone (toys! more toys! even more toys!!!). Please ignore the photobombing cat.

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And here’s what happened when we created our own Dreadship Blanket:

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We left the fort up for a week before I wanted my living room back for a grown up event, but pretty much any time they want to rebuild a couch fort I’m on board. It’s the kind of fun, creative, independent play that ends up with about 80% cooperation and only 20% screaming at each other. In case you don’t have multiple kids, those are REALLY good percentages.

Thank you again Wayfair for the fun idea!

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