Friday, March 31, 2017

What's New from FoodSaver

Last week I was invited to attend a media event in New York City for the FoodSaver brand. If you don't know, FoodSaver is the number one vacuum-sealing system designed to keep your food fresher longer, saving you money! On average, you can save up to $2700 per year, compared to ordinary food storage methods.

The event was exciting for two reasons. First, I got to see what was new from FoodSaver and how easy the new machines were to use! Second, I got to meet Food Network star Damaris Phillips! She gave us a cooking demo and should us how she uses the FoodSaver products!

But let's get to the real star of the event: the new FoodSaver Fresh Appliance. This thing is pretty cool because it will vacuum seal FoodSaver bags AND new FoodSaver Fresh Containers. You can use this system for anything you want to keep fresh in your fridge and pantry, and it will keep the food fresh up to two times longer than traditional storage containers.

This thing is so easy to use! If you watched my Instagram story from that day, then you'll have seen me use it! The Fresh Appliance adjusts up and down so that it fits over whatever size Fresh Container you're using (they come in three sizes) or bag. Then, you just press a button and it sucks out the air, leaving you free to do other things in the meantime. And it works quickly, stopping automatically when it's done.

This is something that is small enough to keep out on your countertop so that you can easily access it and use it whenever you need it. And I really think you'll be using it every day! It's just so easy! And when you've seen avocado slices kept fresh and not brown inside one of the vacuum-sealed bags, you will understand what a lifesaver this is! It might be an investment at about $99.99 (that includes the Fresh Appliance, Fresh Containers, and Zipper Bags), but you'll end up saving money in all that food that you're not wasting.

Another new product is an updated version of the original FoodSaver system: the FoodSaver FM5000, which is better suited for freezer storage. This retails for about $199.99, and it has a lot of new features that make it easier to use. It's got a vacuum view window so you can see where and how far to insert the end of the bag to make a seal. And you'll spend half as much time making bags thanks to the Express Bag Maker that pre-seals your next bag before you even need it! What you're seeing in this picture is a cool marinade feature that lets you marinade meat in minutes instead of hours!

Plus, there is open roll storage to help you know when you're running low on bags, and a lower roll position so you can use your counter as your work space.

I've never used a system like FoodSaver before, and I always thought, "Why do I need something like that?" But you know, after seeing it in action, I definitely understand why people use them. To know that my food is being kept fresh because air is being removed from the storage container or storage bag is just amazing! I don't have to worry about stuff going bad before I'm able to use it! I could prep foods on Sunday and have them just as fresh when we make and eat them later in the week! What a novel idea!

And like I said before, these items may seem expensive. $199 is NOT in our budget right now. But if you look at it as an investment that is actually going to save you money in the long run, then I think you could justify the expense. (Or if you are getting married soon and looking for things to add to the registry, might I suggest adding these? Then you can make someone else buy them for you!)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What a Doll Scrapbook Page

Last month, Michael's had a huge sale on Valentine's Day-themed paper. So, of course, when I was in the store shopping for something else, I just HAD to take advantage of the cheap paper prices. I put together a nice little "kit" for myself, and this is one of the pages that I made with it.

Yes, even that textured wood-like paper was on sale! The tag with the heart came from a piece of patterned paper. Even the American Crafts Thickers were on sale! (I love when that happens!) The only thing not purchased from Michael's during this trip was the ribbon. I've had that in my stash for awhile and I finally got to use it up on this layout. I just love the brown and pink together, don't you?

These pictures were taken when we got the baby dressed up to go to a baby shower last year. She's got a floral headband on, but that only lasted long enough for these pictures.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Meal Plan Monday - March 27

It's hard to believe that this is the last week of March. This year is already flying by!

Here's what we're eating this week. (* denotes new recipe)

Sunday: macaroni and cheese with ground beef and green beans

Monday: Cornbread Pot Pie*

Tuesday: tuna sandwiches and fries

Wednesday: Tex Mex Beef and Rice Skillet*

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: on our own

Saturday: eggs and waffles

Friday, March 24, 2017

ClariSpray Nasal Allergy Spray Review + GIVEAWAY

I have allergies. I'm allergic to mold, dust, pollen, trees, grass, dogs and cats (pet dander), etc. Right now, Allegra is my go-to over-the-counter allergy medicine, supplemented with Opcan-A eye drops when I start to experience itchy "allergy" eyes.

But when I was invited to try ClariSpray for free through BzzAgent, I jumped at the chance because I know that eventually Allegra is not going to work for me anymore (in the same way that Zyrtec and Claritin before it stopped working after I took them for a certain time period).

ClariSpray is a nasal allergy spray from the makers of Claritin (Bayer), and it contains Fluticasone Propionate, which, according to Bayer, is the number one prescribed ingredient for nasal allergy relief. That's actually an ingredient that is different from what is found in Claritin.

So what does that mean? Well, ClariSpray is designed to relieve nasal congestion, sneezing, and itchy, runny nose due to allergies. And it provides 24-hour non-drowsy relief from those allergy symptoms.

You can purchase it in a 60-spray or 120-spray bottle without a prescription at grocery, drug, and mass retailers.

While I'm sure the product works for some people, it didn't really work that well for me. I used the product as directed for about a week and a half: two sprays in each nostril for one week and then one spray in each nostril for week two through six months. The instructions say that most people start experiencing relief after the first day, but I still suffered from some allergy problems. Mainly, "allergy" eyes. I didn't have any sniffly or runny nose while using the ClariSpray, but right before I started using it, my eyes were giving me problems. I had really hoped that the ClariSpray would help out with the itchy eyes, but it didn't. And I was a little unclear about whether or not I could use my allergy eye drops while also taking ClariSpray. The instructions say not to take steroid eye drops for allergies while taking ClariSpray.

Before starting ClariSpray, I also had been suffering from what allergy sufferers can only understand: an itchy feeling in the back of my throat. That DID go away after starting ClariSpray, but toward the end of my test drive with the nasal spray, I had a few sneezes. And ClariSpray did nothing to prevent me from having an allergic reaction to dust while vacuuming my house, even though ClariSpray is supposed to work on nasal allergy symptoms caused by exposure to dust and dust mites, among other allergens.

I think the main thing with me is that I need to be under the care of an allergist. (Ever since moving to New Jersey, my allergies have just been crazy.) So a product like ClariSpray just isn't going to cut it.

But if you are simply looking for relief from nasal allergy symptoms during allergy season, then ClariSpray might be a good option for you.

And if you'd like to try it out for yourself, I have THREE $3 coupons to give away! Just enter using the Rafflecopter below. Three winners will randomly be picked, and then I'll mail out the coupons to those winners. For full giveaway rules, please read the Rafflecopter details below. Good luck!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Kitchen House - March Book Club

The March book club pick was The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. I had never heard of the book before, but after I told people that I was reading it, I heard a lot of, "I read that book!"

A few years ago, the book had been placed on my book club's to-read list, so when trying to figure out what book to read for March, I made up a list of three books for people to vote on, and The Kitchen House was one of them.

It got the most votes!

The story is told from two perspectives. There's Lavinia, a white girl from Ireland who becomes an indentured servant to a white family in Virgnia, and Belle, a black slave working in the white family's kitchen house. Even though they are both in service to the family, because of the difference in their skin colors, you can imagine that they have very different experiences in dealing with the white family.

What did I think? This sort of felt like a Jane Austen novel set in the south and with less humor. The farther you get into the story, the more misunderstandings, miscommunications, and poor timings there are. You just know that somehow things are going to work out in the end, but you have no idea how a happy ending is ever going to happen. Still, you just keep reading to find out what will happen next.

While I liked the book and that the story was told through the eyes of two characters, there were A LOT of characters to keep track of. At times, I guess I thought the action of the story was a little fast and because there were so many characters a part of the action, I had trouble following what was happening.

What did my book club think? Well, all three of them liked it! We had a really good discussion and didn't even need to rely on the reading guide questions in the back of the book to get us going. (But there are reading guide questions if you need them.)

I also followed the author's recipe for molasses cake, something that the characters ate in the book, and brought some molasses cake to book club, and that was good, too!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Meal Plan Monday - March 20

We're in March, but I think someone forgot to tell the weather that. Hopefully we don't get any more snow this week. We got enough last week out here in the Northeast!

But snow or no snow, we're still going to eat well this week. Here's what's on the menu (* denotes new recipe):

Sunday: roast chicken, mashed potatoes, corn

Monday: One Pot Zucchini Mushroom Pasta *

Tuesday: waffles and scrambled eggs

Wednesday: Praline Chicken

Thursday: chicken tenders and fries

Friday: chicken fettuccine alfredo

Saturday: macaroni and cheese with ground beef, green beans

Friday, March 17, 2017

Scallop Pasta

If you've been following me on Instagram (and you really should!), then you'll know that I experimented cooking scallops last week. I posted a teaser picture of the recipe I was using, and then I even did an Insta Story about cooking the scallops.

So, how did it go?

Well, the original recipe from Parents magazine called for a pound of fresh sea scallops. (I would share the link with you but it no longer works!) I had to use bay scallops instead of sea scallops because they were cheaper. They were also frozen, not fresh. I'm not even sure if the seafood department at my grocery store carries fresh scallops.

So yeah, the scallops were not what I expected. They were very small, but I figured that would just make it easier to eat them. No cutting involved!

I didn't make this gluten-free because there was no way my husband was going to eat scallops. (I made this on a night when he wasn't going to be home for dinner, and the first thing we said when he walked in the house was, "Did you cook fish?") So that meant that I got to use REAL angel hair pasta.

I also didn't make my own pesto as the original recipe states. I just bought Barilla pre-made pesto because I didn't have time to make my own. (And don't tell me that making pesto is so easy. I'm sure it is if you don't have a 1-year-old crawling behind you who doesn't like the sound of the food processor.)

The above picture kind of looks like a bird's nest, doesn't it?

So, if you've been following along, you basically cook one pound of scallops seasoned with salt and pepper, cook eight ounces of angel hair pasta, and then combine scallops, pasta, and 1/4 cup of pesto (or more if you want more). It was a quick weeknight meal to make.

I really liked the pesto with the angel hair pasta. But with the scallops? Not so much. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as good as I had expected.

But I'm glad I tried it!

What do you think? Got any other scallop recipes that might change my mind about scallops?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Kids' Birthday: Panda Party

So we're (I am) kind of obsessed with pandas. Pandas are the baby's nursery theme, and so I figured we might as well extend it as the theme for her first birthday. (Yes, it has already been a year!)

I decided to make a panda cake that I had seen in Family Fun magazine. It's basically two eight-inch cakes stacked on top of each other, and then two six-inch cakes stacked on top of each other, and then the six-inch cake stack gets stacked on top of the eight-inch cake stack. And everything is frosted!

You use chocolate sprinkles to cover the top of the eight-inch cake stack, and the ears, eyes, and nose of the panda's head are chocolate wafer cookies. Surprisingly easy to find but a little hard to cut into the right shapes. I did the best I could. Both eyes also have a brown M&M adhered with icing, and the panda's mouth is a red gumdrop.

I gave the "head" of the cake to the baby for the smash cake, and that didn't go over so well, so I was glad that I didn't make the cake gluten-free because that would have been kind of a waste of expensive ingredients.

So for my husband, I followed (as best I could) a Bakerella recipe for panda cupcakes and made them gluten-free. The original recipe had mini cupcakes, but I didn't have a mini cupcake tin, so I just used my regular cupcake tins.

The only thing hard about these was finding white sugar sprinkles. Thank goodness that Target had them and I bought the last bottle!

Everything else is just the gluten-free cake mix, vanilla frosting, chocolate chips, and chocolate sprinkles.

I managed to find black-and-white party hats at Party City (although, the baby didn't really want to wear hers), and I ordered a black tablecloth, black balloons, white balloons, pink balloons, and black curling ribbon from Oriental Trading.

And I made a large number one using posterboard and all of the baby's monthly pictures, which were taken next to a giant stuffed panda bear that sits in her room.

I was pleased with how the cake and cupcakes turned out, especially for it being my first time making them. And the baby didn't care if there were imperfections. (She didn't care about the cake at all...) Not everything looks Pinterest perfect!

If you need more kids' birthday party ideas, check out my Kids' Parties board on Pinterest! There are a lot of ideas for party favors, food, and themes. My favorite is the LEGO theme. I'm hoping that the baby will let me do a LEGO party for her when she's older!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Meal Plan Monday - March 13

We had a big birthday celebration over the weekend! The baby turned one! I can't believe it's been a whole year already. I'll have more on that on the blog this week, but for now, here is what we are eating:

Sunday: leftover Slow Cooker Crack Chicken with baked potato and salad

Monday: lasagna, bread, salad

Tuesday: Three Cheese Italian Style Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rigatoni

Wednesday: leftover lasagna, bread, salad

Thursday: tuna sandwiches and fries

Friday: waffles and eggs

Saturday: grilled cheese and soup

Friday, March 10, 2017

Daphne at Daycare Scrapbook Page

The baby goes to daycare part-time, and one of the things I like about her daycare is that they take pictures of the kids and send the pictures to you during the day! You then have the ability to download the pictures, and of course, I downloaded them and printed them to scrapbook!

For this layout, I used the stencil that my mom got me. I really like how the stencils allow you to get so many pictures on one page!

I saw this circle sticker in my stash and liked how the colors on the sticker fit with the colors of the papers. It's not a specific baby girl sticker, but it just worked.

I've been going crazy using these pink American Crafts Thickers! I've almost used up the whole sheet! (That was a great sale find at Michael's.) I also used some October Afternoon mini letters, which I've had in my stash for a long time. I'm also done with that sticker sheet, too!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Learn 2 Sippy Scrapbook Page

Here's a layout about the sippy cup! At 6 months, we got the go-ahead to introduce the sippy cup. At first, I tried putting formula in it, but the baby was NOT having it. So I switched to water and she seemed to like that much better. You should see her today! She loves drinking her water!

I got to use up some fun embellishments from my stash on this layout. The journaling spot was in a plastic bag of random journaling spots, and those stars were stuck to it. I thought they fit in well, so I didn't worry about them ruining a perfectly good journaling spot. (I feel like good journaling spots are so few and far between in my stash, so I've got to make them work when I find them!)

You can also see that I broke out the ribbon on this one! And the flower sticker was from a sticker sheet that my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas.

Thanks for looking!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Meal Plan Monday - March 6

It's baaaaack!

Yes, the meal plans sort of went on hiatus. We had a week where I was gone for work, and then my husband had a lot of stuff going on in the evenings, so it just didn't seem to make sense to actually plan anything. We kind of winged it and ate on our own on the nights when one of us was gone.

But it's back! And I'm happy to say that we're breaking out some favorites this week, and I'm trying something new for myself!

Sunday: Mini Turkey Meatloaves with Maple Green Beans and mashed potatoes

Monday: Penne with Ricotta Cheese and Greens

Tuesday: Ricotta Breakfast Pizza

Wednesday: Scallop Pasta

Thursday: Slow Cooker Crack Chicken, applesauce, and mini corn on the cob

Friday: turkey burgers, fries, applesauce, and sweet corn

Saturday: the baby's 1st birthday!!!!!!! cake and ice cream!!!!!!!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Last Look Before the First Look Scrapbook Page

I apologize for the blurriness of this photo. It didn't look this way when I glanced at it on my phone after taking it. But I think you get the idea.

I titled this layout "Last look before the first look" because these 3-D ultrasound picture were the last ones we got before the baby arrived. One year ago, I brought these home and then exactly one week later the baby was here!

It's probably better that the main picture is blurry because those 3-D ultrasound pictures are kind of scary. I guess they are cool if you like to see your baby looking like a gummy bear or Gollum from The Lord of the Rings.

I used some Echo Park baby girl embellishment stickers on this layout, as well as Recollections patterned paper and Bazzil Basics cardstock.

And look - ribbon!!!

I really liked the "Oh hello" sticker. I think that was from a Me & My Big Ideas sticker sheet. Seemed pretty fitting for these pictures.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What We Heart Right Now Scrapbook Page

Here is the second layout I made using the stencil that my mom gave me for Christmas. See how this one is different from the one last week?

I used the same American Crafts Thickers as on the last one, plus some random patterned paper and cardstock from my stash.

I actually made this layout before last week's layout, so I was still trying to figure things out. I think it turned out pretty well for my first time using the stencil unsupervised!