Thursday, January 31, 2013

Simply Suzanne Granola

Granola. Who doesn't love the stuff? I'll be honest, most of my experience with the crunchy stuff has been in the form of bars, but I've always had a soft spot for it. So when Simply Suzanne offered to send me some of their granola I was pretty psyched.


The company was kind enough to send me two bags of their all natural granola-- the original flavor and Lotsa Chocolate. As soon as I got the package I ripped open the bag of Lotsa Chocolate. I couldn't resist something with a name like that!


Holy smokes you guys, this stuff is awesome! The granola is chocolaty but not overly sweet. The oats are crunchy and not chewy. I was surprised to find that Lotsa Chocolate has a bit of a kick setting it apart from any other granola (bar) I've tried. Looking at the list of ingredients on the bag I noticed there was some black pepper added to the mix. Genius!

Along with the two bags of granola, the company sent along a few recipe ideas (you can see more recipe ideas on their website).


I decided to try the goat cheese recipe. I first tried goat cheese a few years ago at a tapas restaurant and have been obsessed ever since, but I've never made anything with it. Perfect opportunity! The other night I made the granola-encrusted goat cheese. I wish I'd had some of the recommended herbs on hand, but no such luck.


The tangy-ness of the cheese complimented the sweetness of the granola perfectly. I tried the spread on some crackers and apple slices and it worked great on both. If you're going to a Super Bowl party on Sunday this would be a great snack to bring. A little different than traditional football food, but everyone is sure to love it!

For general munching, both Ant and I preferred the Lotsa Chocolate. That's not to say the original flavor isn't awesome though, because it is. I gave Harry some of the original and he really enjoyed it. The peanuts were his favorite part. Ant mixed the original with some yogurt for a snack and he loved the added texture. And of course there's the goat cheese spread, which is out-of-this-world-incredible.

Simply Suzanne has a few other flavors of granola and two different kinds of trail mixes. All of their products are free of preservatives, artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats and cholesterol and chock-full of good stuff like protein and fiber. Everything is certified vegan and kosher.

Products can be purchased on the Simply Suzanne website (looks like ordering is down right now, but hopefully will be up soon!). The granola can also be found at select Kroger, Whole Foods, Caputo's and Jungle Jim's in the Midwest (check local stores for availability).

So if you're in the mood for a tasty and healthy snack, look no further than Simply Suzanne! Their products are truly exceptional and I love supporting and promoting a small Midwestern-based company-- they're based in Detroit (where I attended preschool and kindergarten!).

Disclaimer: I received the granola free for review. All opinions are my own, so you can trust me when I say this stuff is amazing! 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shrinking Pajamas

Just a quick photo dump today. I took these pictures the other day and I didn't realize until after I uploaded them just how small his PJs are! He's been wearing these ones for a while now and it looks like it's time to retire them. Denial, much? :)

He loves showing me his teeth now when I ask.






You can really see how small the PJs are getting in the following picture. He picked up the play yard and was grabbing balls out from underneath it, haha!


Have a great hump day! It feels like it should be Friday, ugh. These kind of weeks are the worst. But I actually have some plans for tomorrow so I'm excited for that.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Once Upon a Child Grab Bag Haul

Yesterday the boys and I went to Once Upon a Child for their annual grab bag sale. We got all of this for $22!


OUAC never seems to have a great selection of boys clothes, but I think we made out pretty well. Harry picked out the yellow Rock Star shirt himself! Well, he pulled it off the rack so of course we had to get it. I was most excited to find a few rompers for the summer. They were my go-to outfit for Harry last summer and I think this will be the last year we'll find ones that fit. Which is unfortunate, since they're so cute and easy to wear.

On an unrelated note, anyone watch the show Parenthood? I caught the season finale on Thursday and really enjoyed it so I decided to go through the series on Netflix. I'm already embarrassingly far in to the show, I can't stop watching! It's much more of a drama than I thought it was going to be and most of the acting on the show is fantastic. I highly recommend the show if you looking for a cross between Modern Family and 7th Heaven :).

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Money Saving Tips

As a one income family, from time to time money can be tight around these parts. Over the past year or so I've been pretty conscious about saving money. I'm always interested in learning about different ways we can spend less, so I thought I'd share some of my tips with all of you.

Swag Bucks
Swag Bucks is an awesome website I discovered last year. You earn points for doing things around the web. Like watching short videos, answering daily polls, buying from participating retailers, playing games and taking surveys. Using the Swag Bucks search engine is the easiest way to earn. You use it just as you would Google (you can download a toolbar or search directly from the site). Not all searches result in points, but the ones that do typically "pay" 7-15 points a piece. Once I even earned 40 points for a totally random search.

Once you've banked some points, you can cash them in for different prizes. From what I've seen you get the most bang for your Swag Bucks by trading 450 points for a $5 Amazon gift card. I'm a pretty casual Swag Bucks user an last year I was able to earn three or four gift cards!

Click here to start earning Swag Bucks yourself! (I will get credit if you sign up through my link)

Coupons


I've talked about coupons a little in the past. They really can save you a lot of money if you put a little effort in each week. You can find coupons almost anywhere, here are the main places I get ours.

  • Websites. My favorite websites for finding coupons are Target.com and Swagbucks.com! Yes, the same Swag Bucks I mentioned above. You earn points for each coupon you use at the store. They usually have a pretty good selection to choose from. Last week I printed off over $15 worth of coupons. Another site to check is Coupon Network. Sometimes companies will have coupons available to print right from their website as well. So if you know exactly what brands you're looking to buy, hit their sites and social networks first.
  • Register coupons (catalinas). Don't discard the coupons cashiers hand you with your receipts! Target usually gives us really good catalinas based on what we've purchased in the past. A few weeks ago we got coupons for a free frozen pizza and a free box of granola bars! 
  • Manufacturers Checks. These were so helpful when we were buying baby formula for Harry. The trick with formula checks is to sign up with all three companies (Similac, Enfamil and Gerber) and trade with other moms for the brand you use! We didn't pay full price for a can of formula for at least the first 9 months. 
  • Package coupons. Probably the hardest ones to come by, but occasionally there are coupons in the packaging of items we buy. Usually they're not great and I don't end up using them, but if I find one I always stick it in our coupon drawer.
  • Mailers. I'm not signed up for a ton of mailing lists, but on occasion I'll get coupons sent to me from Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Buy Buy Baby and Babies R Us. 
Target Red Card
We do 95% of our grocery shopping at Super Target. I love it. The store is clean, the staff is friendly and helpful and we can buy non-food items we might need in the same trip. Oh, and we save 5% at the register every time we shop! If you've ever shopped at Target, you've probably been asked if you want to sign up for a Target Red Card. DO IT. I think a lot of store cards are useless. I had a Kohl's card a while back and you only save money on your first purchase and then two or three other times a year. With the Target Red Card, we save every time. It works for online purchases too, and I'm pretty sure you automatically get free shipping. 

We signed up for the debit card about six months ago. Wish we would have done it sooner! The money comes right out of the checking account and like I said, we save 5% every time we use it. Which might not sound like much, but it added up to over $300 worth of savings for us last year! 

Generic 
Pretty much every item at the grocery store comes in generic. We both used to be brand snobs, but this past year we've switched to generic for a lot of things, and it saves a ton of money. Most of the generic products are just fine, and some I even prefer over their name brand counterparts (I love the Target's Up & Up paper towels!). There are certain things I'm not willing to switch though. Kraft Dinner, Lunchables (yes, I still eat those from time to time!), Tyson or Purdue chicken and Crest toothpaste are some of the brands I'm really loyal to.

Website Deals
Sites like GrouponLiving Social and Restaurant.com are great for finding local deals. We love using these sites for restaurants and sometimes buy other deals we see as well. 

I'm always looking for other ways to save money, so I'd love to hear what you guys do! Sound off in the comments below! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Giveaway Winner + Saute Express

Congrats to Martine S., the winner of the Bahama Breeze prize pack!


I will email you soon to get your address so I can send out your goodies. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Saute Express

Yesterday I made dinner using one of the new Land o' Lakes Saute Express squares we bought at Target last week.


I used two squares to cook seven small chicken tenderloins-- which was enough for a family dinner plus lunch for Ant to take to work. To complete the meal I made roasted cauliflower and couscous on the side.


The chicken was pretty tasty. The meat had a very buttery flavor, which was a nice treat since I don't usually cook with the stuff. I would definitely be interested in trying their other flavors as well. Oh, and if you're interested in trying a Saute Express yourself, they're located in the butter section of the grocery store.

Harry says have a great Tuesday!


We tried coloring again yesterday, and he's still more interested in eating the crayons and crumpling up the paper. He did make a few marks on the paper, which is more that I can say the first couple times, so he's beginning to understand coloring.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Eyelet Thank You Card

**Don't forget to enter the Bahama Breeze giveaway!**

A few weeks ago I was able to sneak into my craft space and whip up a few thank you cards I needed to send out. Here's the design I came up with.


To make the card I used:

  • Rainbow colored eyelets
  • Crop-a-dile
  • Centering ruler (to mark the eyelet holes)
  • Stampin' Up twine
  • Stampin' Up sentiment stamp and ink
  • Plantin Schoolbook Cricut cartridge (for the circles)
It was easy peasy to make and I got six done in a little over an hour. I'm a slow crafter, so that's unheard of for me! 

Over the next few weeks/months I think I am going to feature some of my past crafts I've made. I don't get to craft nearly as often as I'd like, so maybe this will help fill the void, or inspire me to find the time to craft more. 


Friday, January 18, 2013

Crock Pot Salsa Chicken

Earlier this week I attempted an easy Crock Pot recipe that I found over at Peanut Butter Fingers.


It was delish! I followed Julie's recipe exactly, so I won't post it here. The dish was a bit more stew-like than I had anticipated, so next time I'll probably just use half a can of chicken broth. I will also add a few stalks of celery as well. I think that would compliment the flavors nicely. For my future reference, I used a 16 ounce jar of the medium restaurant-style Pace salsa.

The dish got Harry's seal of approval as well. He loved everything about it, especially the carrots. I'm always amazed at how much he likes spicy foods. I hated anything with a kick until just a few years ago, but Harry can't get enough. I've always been conscious of feeding him a wide variety of flavors, but I never thought hot and spicy foods would be some of his very favorites.

Have a great weekend and don't forget to enter the Bahama Breeze giveaway!!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bahama Breeze Preview Event + Giveaway

Last night I was invited to a special preview event at the Bahama Breeze restaurant in Schaumburg. This was the first blogger event I've had the opportunity to attend. I've been invited to a few others but wasn't able to go for one reason or another. Needless to say, I was super excited! Harry and Ant came with me and we had a wonderful mid-week date.


Bahama Breeze opened it's first store in Orlando, Florida in 1996 and now operate 26 restaurants throughout the United States. The Schaumburg restaurant is their only location in Illinois, and is conveniently located on Golf Road a few stoplights west of Woodfield Mall.

In February Bahama Breeze will be adding two new cocktails to their already extensive drink menu and we were among the first to try them out. Their Happy Hour will also be changing. Starting February 4, the Bahama Breeze Happy Hour will start at 9pm and last until closing. Currently it runs from 4-6pm, but they've had a lot of requests to push it back a few hours. Ask and you shall receive!


The tall drink is the Yaka Hula Hickey Dula, which shares it's name with a Hawaiian love song. The drink features pineapple juice blended with Meyers' Dark and Bacardi 151.

The shorter cocktail is called the Daisy de Santiago and was invented by Don Facundo Bacardi... yep, that Bacardi! This Cuban inspired drink is made with Bacardi rum, Chartreuse liqueur, lime juice and mint leaves.

Both drinks were incredibly refreshing. I seriously felt like I was lounging on a tropical beach somewhere while I sipped the cocktails. Between the two I preferred the Yaka Hula Hickey Dula a little more because anything with pineapple juice is the winner in my book! Ant liked the Daisy de Santiago better, which is a mojito with a twist.

Along with the new drinks we also got to sample a few Bahama Breeze staples.


I tried the classic frozen margarita and Ant enjoyed a coconut-based drink called the Pain Killer. He claimed the Pain Killer was the best cocktail he'd ever had. Seriously! He kept talking about the drink all night and is already planning our next visit just so he can try it again.

The restaurant's manager, Juan, made sure we didn't leave hungry. He brought out a nice spread of Bahama Breeze appetizers including coconut shrimp, Jamaican chicken wings, onion rings, and spinach artichoke and goat cheese dips. I filled my plate with both dips and chicken wings, making for a not-so-healthy-but-really-yummy dinner :).

Harry was pretty good during the event. He's always such a little flirt with everyone he meets. He did get a bit antsy at times since we were at the restaurant for over two hours, but positioning his highchair so he could watch the fire pit helped calm him down. A few pieces of coconut shrimp and bread helped, too.


Thank you so much to Bahama Breeze for an amazing evening. I was truly honored and surprised to be asked to take part in the event. The staff were some of the most knowledgeable, friendly and attentive I've ever encountered at a restaurant.

At the conclusion of the event all the bloggers were given some fun Bahama Breeze goodies.


I got a ton of swag, so instead of keeping it all for myself I thought I'd give it away to one of you!


Fill out the Rafflecopter widget below for a chance to win a Hawaiian shirt (size small), notebook and pen, dashboard Hula dancer and some Bahama Breeze key chains. US residents only. I'll pick a winner sometime early next week. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In the spirit of full disclosure, we were given gift cards for attending the event. They did not influence my opinions stated in this blog post. We really had a wonderful time, and if you have a Bahama Breeze near you, I highly recommend the restaurant for a fun evening with friends or family. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Combat Your Dry Skin

I can't be the only one out there who gets crazy dry skin during the winter. It seems like every December my skin starts to tighten and dry out. The back of my hands are the biggest culprits, but a few years ago (TMI alert...) nearly my entire body was afflicted with severe dry skin. It was horrible! Not only does it look unpleasant but it hurts like a b----! I will say, the pregnancy gods were good to me last winter and I barely suffered at all. I gave birth to Harry in November but it takes a few months for all the hormones to leave your body. Ohhhh how I miss those wonderful hormones!

Here are a few of the products I've discovered that really help keep my skin looking great during the winter.


First step to de-scaling your skin, body scrub! I have this one from Tree Hut, but you don't need to buy anything fancy. Granulated sugar mixed with olive oil is a great homemade scrub that I've used many times myself.

I would suggest using the body scrub right before bed a few times a week. After exfoliating, slather on the Vaseline! Petroleum jelly is far and away the best moisturizer I've ever used. It's messy and sticky, so if you're putting it on your hands, I suggest sleeping with gloves on so it doesn't ruin your sheets.  Most articles I've read on this subject suggest cotton gloves, but I've only ever used cheap polyester gloves like the ones pictured, and they work just fine. By morning your hands will be smooth and pain-free!

Since Vaseline really isn't a good daytime moisturizer, you'll want to substitute with a good quality hand cream to prevent the dryness from coming back. My favorite is the Archipelago Botanicals Soy Milk Creme, I've bought tubes and tubes of this stuff since a former coworker of mine introduced me to this miracle product a few years ago. The cream is super silky and absorbs really fast. Plus it has a nice, subtle scent.

Surprise, surprise... my lips also get really dry in the winter. I mentioned the fabulous Nivea lip balm on my blog a while back. I've gone through five tubes of the stuff since late summer. I'm addicted! The Mint & Minerals kind is my favorite. It goes on smooth and just feels great on my lips.

So there you have it, my go-to tips and products for keeping dry skin at bay during the winter.

What works for your skin in the winter? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Golden Globes Fashion Round Up

Here's a quick run down of my favorite and least favorite looks from last night's Golden Globe Awards. You can see my 2012 picks here.

(all pictures from this Huffington Post article. )

Best

Claire Danes



Her son is one month old today. How does she look so amazing!?!?

Michelle Dockery



Nicole Richie



Lucy Liu



This dress reminds me of an old Laura Ashley dress on crack. And that's a very good thing :)

Worst

Alyssa Milano



When I worked at JoAnn Fabrics we sold the material used to make this dress for $2.99 a yard (not joking, it's called baroque satin)

Jessica Chastain



Help! Jessica has been afflicted with droopy boob syndrome! Such an ill-fitting choice, and I think this was custom made for her, too! I do love the lady in the background, her face says it all about this look!

Olivia Munn



Anne Hathaway



I didn't totally hate this, it just seems so ordinary for someone who was pretty much guaranteed to walk away a winner.

Sienna Miller



So there you have it, my quick take on last night's fashions. Who was your best and worst dressed?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Computer Problems, Sick Days and Sippy Cups

My computer is on it's last leg. Grrrrrreat. I'ts been acting up a lot the past week or so. According to the "symptoms" I typed in to Google, the hard drive is slowly giving out. So, who knows how much longer I'll be able to blog regularly. A new laptop isn't in our budget right now :(. I shouldn't be too surprised. My computer is three years old, and I think they're really only meant to last two.

So last night I was feverishly copying my pictures (10k+!) on to the Google Drive cloud app. I don't think everything transferred though. Ant had an old external drive that I tried using next, but it didn't work so he's going to get me a new one today.

I really hope my computer doesn't crap out in the next few months so I don't have to go to the library to type up blog posts. I have a lot of fun post ideas in the works and some non-blog projects I'd like to work on and I know there's a time limit for internet usage at the library, so that would suck having to work over there all the time.

We'll see I guess.

Along with the headache I got from the computer problems, I'm still battling this cold/flu/whatever it is. I've been sick for nearly a week now and just yesterday did I start to get a runny nose. Before I only had a terribly sore throat and all over achy feeling.

Harry's got a bit of the sniffles, too. We've all gotten sick so many times in the last year. It sucks! I usually only get sick once a year. Sheesh.

Here are some pictures I snapped of Harry yesterday.





(It took me five tries on my computer to get these pictures to upload!)

His sippy cup is a Tommee Tippee Explora straw cup. By far the best sippy cup we have! 100% leak-proof. I wish we would have discovered these first so our whole collection was just Explora cups. I will say they are kind of a pain to put together compared to other sippy cups since there are so many parts, but it's totally worth it.

Anyone watching the Golden Globes tonight? Not sure if I'll be able to get a fashion post out tomorrow, but I'm excited so see what everyone wears and for Tina and Amy to host!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Little Moon Walker

I caught Harry's "moon walk" on camera yesterday!



It's quick, and my voice is incredibly annoying and loud (sorry 'bout that!), but I'm so glad I caught it on video.

Happy Thursday Wednesday! This week is going by incredibly slow, it really feels like we should be a day away from Friday, but alas, still two more days until the weekend. All the more reason to make today a great day :).

ETA: Added video, sorry I have such a hard time embedding videos!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

14 Month Update

Harry turned 14 months old yesterday. I feel terrible not getting this update out earlier, but it's so hard for me to get on the computer during the day now and I just took it easy last night as I think I might be coming down with something (both Ant and Harry have been sick in the last week). 

1/7/13

Weight: Around 21 pounds still I'd imagine.
Height: He's gotta be over 32 inches, he definitely went through a little growth spurt in the past  month.
Diaper Size: Size 4 disposables once a day, and cloth the rest of the time.
Clothing Size: I just put away all his  9 month onesies, so he's in 12 and 18 month clothes exclusively. His 12 month footed jammies are quickly becoming too short! 
Eating:  3-4 meals a day. Breakfast is usually a PB&J English muffin, oatmeal or scrambled eggs with some fruit and milk. Lunch is a yogurt or smoothie with some Cheerios and freeze dried bananas. A typical third meal is meat, cheese, fruit or veggie and crackers. Most days he'll also eat a little bit of what I make for dinner- his favorites lately are pasta and spicy chicken. He also gets a small sippy cup of milk just before bed. 
Sleeping: We're still co-sleeping. I'm getting used to it, but still not loving it. He usually isn't asleep until 9 or 10pm, which is frustrating. He is still averaging two naps a day, too. 
Teeth: He's got eight now. Six on top and two on bottom. 
Communication: He's starting to point a little so I've been giving him "choices" for food and books and give him whichever he gestures towards to reinforce the behavior. One of his favorite things is showing us where his hair is, which I think I mentioned in last month's update, too. He was really great at showing us his tummy and legs, but hasn't done that the past few days. I tried to teach him mouth yesterday, and he's shown me that a few times. Another thing he just started doing, which isn't really related to communications, but bear with me, is "moon walking" -- aka, walking backwards. He'll moon walk the entire length of the living room, and just thinks it's the funnest activity ever. I really need to catch it on video!

As far as his speech goes, he's still just babbling. Yesterday we had our second evaluation with a developmental therapist. Get this, she calculated that he's behind 29%! A mere 1% difference between getting therapy and not. So, no therapy for now, but he will be reevaluated again in three months to see how he's progressed. 

The therapist said that because Harry is right on track or ahead in all other areas aside from speech (he's at the 18 month level for gross motor skills!), she doesn't think he needs therapy right now. Nothing is indicative that he will have problems learning to talk, it's just that his brain is focused on other things right now. Which is common for boys in general, and especially early-ish walkers as Harry was. 

I'm happy with the outcome of his evaluations and am very thankful we even had the opportunity to meet with the therapists. A lot of what I've read online says that most children have a language explosion around 15 months, so I'm confident Harry will start talking soon. And if not, we've already taken some proactive steps to get him the help he might need. 




Friday, January 4, 2013

RIP, Blackberry

My Blackberry broke the other day. It was about damn time, too.


I've had the Blackberry for four years. That is so embarrassing to admit! It is definitely the longest time I've ever spent with a cell phone. It served me well for the first couple years, but in the past two years I've replaced the trackball twice and the battery once. I'm honestly surprised it lasted as long as it did.

Here are a few things that have changed since I got the Blackberry, in early 2009.
  • Three different jobs and haven't been working for the last (almost) two years
  • Two different cars
  • One move
  • One wedding
  • One pregnancy
  • One baby
I think that's all the major ones. This little phone has been through a lot! But, I should hopefully be getting a new one today, yay! Nothing fancy, but I think I'm going to get an Android, my first touch screen phone. I'm most excited about getting better quality Instagram pictures. Right now most of mine are taken with my tablet, that only has a front facing camera, so getting a good shot is really difficult. If you have an IG, follow me @LinzTAW!

If you know me in real life, my number will most likely be changing, so please Facebook me your number so I can get my new one to you since I can't retrieve any of my contacts off my Blackberry. 

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy 2013!

Happy New Year everyone!

As you would expect, we just spent the night at home. For dinner I slaved over a hot stove making Hamburger Helper, per Ant's request.


I must admit, I don't hate Hamburger Helper. I usually buy the Cheesy Italian Shells or Crunchy Taco flavors and always make it with ground turkey. It's cheap and easy! For dessert we enjoyed some treats from our favorite local bakery, Deerfield's (they made our wedding cake).


Delish, as always!

After dinner we tried to get some family pictures.  Key word being tried



Oh well. Harry was more interested in doing this.


And this, something he just discovered :).


He's a very good climber! And de-climber?

After Harry went to bed Ant and I just watched Ryan Seacrest's New Year's coverage on ABC. At midnight we opened a fancy $5 bottle of champagne that has been in our fridge since last New Year's.

andre champagne

Cheers to a happy 2013!


Shortly after midnight we turned on the movie Ted, which was hilarious! Very adult humor, but if you're in to that kind of thing, you'd enjoy it. I also painted my nails for the first time in months, OPI's Black Cherry Chutney.

All in all, we had a nice evening.

We wish you a very happy and healthy 2013! I have a few resolutions in mind that I hope to not abandon by February 1st. 2012 was kind of a weird year for me personally, so I'm looking to make 2013 my best year yet!
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