Friday, November 30, 2012

TopHatter Review: Online Auctions Made Easy!

I have become quite the online shopper. My husband constantly jokes that the UPS man must either hate me or love me because he is here all the time. And, half the time, I don't remember what's in the box he delivers. What can I say, I love being able to shop in my PJs with no makeup on at 7AM or 11PM. And free shipping is awesome.

Although I have shopped on many different sites, I had never participated in an online shopping auction before! When I was contacted to review Tophatter.com, I jumped at the chance to check out a new way to shop online.

If you're not familiar with Tophatter, allow me to share a little bit about them with you. Daily auctions are hosted on the site where you can place live bids for items like jewelry, accessories, home decor, crafts and so much more! You actually have a little person that enters the 'auction' for you, and you can bid with the best of 'em. 



I found myself checking out a bunch of the different auctions, and bidding on a few accessories. Items like furry fingerless gloves, Coach purses and tons of jewelry. I was in heaven!

Tophatter also features a live chat feature, so you can chat about the item, with your friends during the auction, and have your questions answered all in real time. Th bidding goes pretty quickly, so you will not need to sit around for hours waiting for your favorite item to come up for auction. I chose my top three favorites and was the proud owner of my new furry fingerless gloves within 20 minutes!

 
Even better, Tophatter would love to help you pass along the savings to my readers this holiday season. EACH of you will receive a $10 credit when you sign up for Tophatter and spend $11 on an auction! It doesn't get much better than that!

Happy Holiday Shopping!




Have you discovered the addictive new auction site called Tophatter, where buyers bid for sellers’ unique goods in fast-paced virtual auction rooms? From crafts and DIY projects, to antiques, jewelry, home décor and much more, there’s no limit to what you can discover on Tophatter.

With live auctions every day, sellers get to showcase their wares from around the world to a community of thousands of buyers, and answer questions via chat as the clock ticks down. Each lot sells in an average of two minutes, so buyers must bid quickly!

Tophatter’s auctions become interactive live events where buyers and sellers can hang out, chat, and win. Led by the esteemed Sir Wendell Wattington and his animated family, Tophatter auctions keep the fun rolling in.
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Tophatter. The opinions and text are all mine.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Car Shopping With Your Spouse Is Not For the Faint of Heart.

Remember that post a few months back about the state of my vehicle and how disappointed I was? 

Well, I sucked it up and got through the remainder of the summer with no working air conditioning. Once the fall hit, things were looking up. That is, until a funny squeaking noise started coming from under the hood every cool morning when the car was trying to warm up. A sound that can only be described as scary when your mechanic has already told you that your timing belt will likely need replacing, and it would be another $1,000. We had already made the decision that the money was not going to come from our pockets, so we were counting the days that my trusty little 2004 Honda Accord kept running smoothly.

Flash forward to November. B and I sat one night discussing our upcoming 15-hour road trip to Florida. We have started driving down each year right after Christmas for an extended stay with my family at our vacation home. The driving part was originally against my better judgement. I did it way too many times as a kid. But it worked out well last year, and Riley was a gem in the car, so we're going for it again this winter. This conversation skirted past buying a new car before the trip, mentioned trying a rental, and then landed right back where we started. 

Thus how car buying was brought to the table several months before we originally anticipated. Have you ever bought a new car with your spouse? It is definitely an interesting experience.

I consider it to be a lesson in the differences between men and women. Before we headed out one afternoon to test drive a few SUVs, B had done his fair share of research, checking safety, features, style, size and price. Of course, I am interested in those things, too, but I was really looking for the cutest and/or most attractive car I could get within our price range. 

I found 'the' car the night before we even went to test drive it. It's a funny thing, getting emotionally attached to an inanimate object. I had already pictured myself driving off the lot with it, and keeping it for the next few years as our family grows. Plus, mid-sized SUVs are better on gas, and easy to get to and from NJ in, right?! 

When we got to the dealer, we had a few different types of cars we wanted to check out and test drive. I knew immediately that some of them were not right for us. Err me. Still I kept a simle on my face and tried not to go lunging toward the car I had already picked out.

We left the dealer that night without a new car. We went home and slept on it. I am so thankful that my husband is level headed and less emotional about decisions like what car you're going to drive for the next 4-5 years.

Although, I'd totally be lying if I told you I wasn't feeling confidant as ever about the car I had already picked when I woke up the next morning. Bless B's heart, because he took me back there that night and we bought the car. What a relief to no longer worry about breaking down on the side of the road.

Buying a car with your spouse is definitely not for the faint of heart. But, I was glad to have a 'left brain' with me. You really do learn something new every day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Printcopia: A Photo Canvas Review & Giveaway

Printcopia 

 If you've visited my blog before, you likely already know that I'm a big fan of pictures, and I've had the opportunity to work with several companies that print photos on canvas.

There is something about canvas prints that I think is so classic. It's the perfect way to display a favorite wedding picture, or in this case, one of my favorite Christmas card photos from last year. 


When Printcopia contacted me about hosting a review and giveaway, I jumped at the chance. Because honestly, who doesn't need another canvas print?

Have you worked with Printcopia before? This was my first time, and I was thrilled with the quality and fast processing/shipping of my order! The canvas print really brought last year's photo to life, and I love having it in the house to glance at all the time.

You may recognize their brand via one of their sister sites. If you're not in the market for a new canvas print, perhaps you're searching for a personalized car magnet, custom banner or even customizable cheap signs! They do it all.

I am even more excited to announce that Printcopia is giving me the chance to gift one of my readers with a FREE 8x10" canvas print of their own! Simply use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter this giveaway. A winner will be selected on Monday, December 3, 2012 and announced here!


Monday, November 26, 2012

A Favorite Recipe from The Archives: See Also, My Absolute Favorite Football Sunday Food

I posted this recipe last year around this time. I never actually made it myself until this fall. My most recent inspiration for bringing this recipe back into the fold was from my good friend, A. She made it for a BBQ that she had at the end of the summer, and ever since that night, I have been addicted.

I am not even exagerating when I tell you that I have made this dip for about six of the nine Sundays that the NFL has been back in season. It pairs perfectly with pita chips, tortilla chips and even with pretzels. Plus, it's all fresh. I cannot get enough.

So, I thought I'd share it again. This dip will more than likely join your list of favorites for football or party food.


Cowboy Caviar (or Fresh Salsa Dip) Recipe


Ingredients
2-3 avocados cute into small chunks
1/2 red onion diced
3 plum tomatoes, cut into small chunks
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups cooked corn (I just cook some frozen corn since we always have that in the freezer)
1 can Mexi-Corn (I omit if I don't have this on hand
A splash or two of white vinegar
1/8-1/4 cup olive oil (I always use EVOO)
1 packet Good Seasonings Dry Italian Dressing Mix

Prepare corn per package instructions (I use frozen). Chop avocado, red onion, and tomatoes and add to large bowl for serving. Rinse black beans and strain. Strain corn and add corn and black beans to large bowl. Then add vinegar, olive oil and Italian Dressing mix and stir together well.

Refrigerate mixture before serving. Serves well with pita chips, tortilla chips and/or pretzels!

Another use for leftover dip: We grilled tilapia last night and I used it to garnish the fish! It was divine.



What are your favorite Football Sunday foods?!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

So Many Reasons To Be Thankful

Whether you're ready or not, I think it's safe to say that the arrival of Thanksgiving Day means the 2012 Holiday Season has officially started!

I hope you are all taking time today to be extra thankful for your families, your health, happiness and the food on your table.

We'll be in Hometown, NJ to celebrate this year, enjoying a beautiful turkey dinner at my aunt's house and then back to my parents home that evening for some ice cold beers and the Jets vs. Patriots game!

Friday morning, my Mom and I will be out the door early to get some Black Friday shopping done. Call me crazy, but shopping early on Black Friday has become a tradition itself. 

And the weekend fun doesn't stop there. We'll also be headed to Hoboken Friday night for my 10-Year High School Reunion. Wow, that makes me feel old! Reminiscing with my high school besties, and inevitably running into a bunch of people that you vaguely remember. But, I am excited to see how much things have changed, and how something have surely stayed the same. I will do my best to get some pictures so I can share them next week!

So, hold your loved ones extra tight today.


Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

image from littlejoys.photography


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Holiday Favorites, And Holiday Sponsors Faves!

Today, I am feeling extra Christmas-y, and extra thankful. Thankful for my husband, our health, our families, my business and all of the friends and blessings that we take for granted every day.

I am also thankful for this creative outlet that has become a home where I can journal about the daily happenings in our life. The funny things, the struggles and the celebrations. This little place that has grown and changed since it started back in December of 2008. 

There is something about this time of year that changes my mood instantly. I get giddy thinking of decorating my tree, baking Christmas cookies and shopping for the perfect gifts for my loved ones. This year, we're starting a brand new tradition for Christmas. We normally head to my parents house in NJ, but this year, they're coming to us! We'll be celebrating Christmas, albeit a little early but nonetheless, in our own home surrounded by most of my immediate family.

I am excited to share our new home with them. To decorate and actually have guests come to enjoy the festive spirit, and to cook my very first big holiday meal in my kitchen. While it's hard to narrow down my favorite things about the holiday season (hello, the Jets are playing on Thanksgiving night this year!), I think the above mentioned do a pretty good job of scratching the surface.

There are some other special ladies that have become a part of this little home on the internet, and I thought what better way to share some more about them than to ask them what some of their favorite things about the holidays are as well! 

So, I am thrilled to share a little bit more about each of my holiday sponsors, in no particular order, of course ...


 

Kelly from Today Was A Fairytale says her favorite things consist of ...  
  •  I absolutely love all the family traditions that come along with the holidays and can’t wait until I can pass those on to my kids.
  • To me the holidays are all about spending time with family and I love getting a bunch of people together to play games and watch movies.
  • While some people love Summer, I am an absolute Fall/Winter junkie! I love the cold weather and getting to bundle up in jeans, jackets and boots. 
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Mandy from Mommy Musings is one of my favorite blogging Momma's, and she shares a little bit about her favorites as well! 
My favorite things about the holidays are:
  • Football on Thanksgiving
  • Exchanging gifts with Skip on Christmas Eve
  • The look on my girls faces Christmas morning!


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Tina and I were definitely meant to be friends. Both JMU alum living in Maryland; it was bound to be an instant connection! 

Remember that huge giveaway that I participated in with Tina? Well, she's back today to share some of her favorite things about the holidays, too ...

My 3 favorite things about the holiday (in no particular order!): 
  •  Christmas music (all of it, any song, any artist, I love it all!)  
  • Watching Little Women with my sister and my mom after baking a huge batch of Christmas cookies  
  • Charlie Brown.... anything Peanuts and Vince Guaraldi related (but I suppose that sort of fits under #1, doesn't it)

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Britt from Not So Newlyweds shares her heart and some of her favorite things about the holidays! We share the exact same sentiment about family traditions ...

I love the holidays! I love being around friends and family. I love the feeling of a beautifully decorated home. I love people who get into the holiday spirit. I love the Christmas music on the radio. But most of all I love the little traditions we have as a family.

J and I do not have any children yet, so we don't have big traditions. We often discuss what new traditions we want to start when we have kids and get excited to think about our future. But for now, we enjoy our own traditions we have started as a couple and enjoying doing together.



Breakfast with sister



Okay, I should first tell you that my mom is not a cook. This will be explained more on my blog on Monday, so check it out. Every year my mom has our Thanksgiving catered, at least the main parts {turkey, stuffing, pies}. She orders the meal and the day before Thanksgiving my sister and I pick it up. About six years ago, when I was back from college, my mom had asked my sister and I to pick up the order. She bribed us by saying that if we picked it up, she would buy us breakfast. So, we took the offer and have been doing the same thing ever since. We actually get a kick out of it and enjoy our sisterly time together every year. We are 10 years apart {and now she's in college 2.5 hours away} so it's nice to have a tradition together.


Christmas Lights

Every year J and I take an evening to drive around our town and sometimes surrounding towns and view Christmas lights. We enjoy seeing how other people decorate their homes and even get a chuckle out of those who go blow-up North Pole happy. We "ooooh" and "ahhh" while driving around for a few hours then usually head back home to watch a movie. It's great just being the two of us and having quality time together looking at something we enjoy.

We try to get to the Columbus Zoo every year as well. We went on one of our first dates to the zoo during Halloween, so it is a special place during the holidays for us. It's truly magical around Christmas time and I look forward to going when we get the chance.




Dinner

Ever year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, J's parents take us out to dinner at Hyde Park. This year will be the fourth year we have gone and we look forward to it ever year. Hyde Park is a steak house in downtown Columbus. In the winter, the downtown is beautifully decorated with Christmas lights. After dinner we head down the street to walk through a large nativity scene.



J and I before dinner last year 
{he looks funny with the beard-no shave November continued to December}


I look forward to these small traditions we have made every year and I cannot wait to continue adding to our traditions list! I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your friends and family. And thank you again Pam for letting me guest blog!

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Undoubtedly, you all recognize Molly from Stilettos & Diapers by now. She is another one of my absolute favorite Mommy bloggers, and I'm so happy that she wanted to share a little about her favorite things about the holidays ...


  •  Making cookies with my boys and cooking for the family.
  •  Coffee, in my santa cup.
  • Christmas shopping! My favorite is Macy's NYC, of course!

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Sonja from Running in Pearls has a few favorite things about the holiday season, and I must say, I agree with all three!
  • Playing Santa 
  • Gingerbread Lattes 
  • Christmas lights, smells, and music! 
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By now, I'm sure you all recognize Lindsey from Love to the Moon & Back. She is a Momma to two beautiful girls and another one of my favorite Mommy bloggers!


 Lindsey's favorite things about the holiday season are ...
  1. Getting the house all set up for the holidays with the lights, tree decorating, etc. 
  2. Making a ridiculous amount of Christmas cookies for friends and family- my house smells like a bakery for most of december and that makes mama very happy :)

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Beth is my newest sponsor and I am so happy that she is here with us, and love that she has special holiday memories that are important to her ...

My favorite things about the Holidays are:
  • Spending time with family and friends. Every year on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we get together with some close friends after church for a pre-Thanksgiving celebration. It has become one of my favorite traditions. The men deep fry our turkeys for the next day.  The ladies sit around our friends' old wood burning stove in their garage, snack on finger foods, and just enjoy being together. It is such a fun time of fellowship. Of course on Thanksgiving Day and the week of Christmas we try to squeeze in as much family time as possible. We stuff ourselves silly, talk, laugh, and play games like cards and Dominoes. 

  • M and I listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies together throughout December. My favorite is White Christmas. His favorite is Elf. It has also sort of become a tradition for us to watch Serendipity every year together.
  • My dad has read us the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve every year of my life. Now that my sister and I are both married, this has grown to include us, our husbands and all the puppies piled up on the couch while dad reads and mom takes pictures. I love it!  

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It that didn't get you into the holiday spirit, than I'm afraid there may be no hope for you! 


So, what are your favorite things about the holidays? Do you and your family have special traditions, or are you trying to create new ones?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What to Wear on Date Nights!

Recently, I have allowed myself to fall into the trap. What trap is that? The one where you no longer gets dressed up every day because your office is just down the hall from your bedroom. And, it's much easier to just throw on a hoodie and slippers than to come up with an entire outfit when you're just going to be working in there by yourself for a good chunk of the day.

Once I realized that I was letting myself slip into said pattern, I started to feel two things. Guilt and laziness. Neither of these are places I want to be, so after a little online shopping, I got my mojo back! 

B must have noticed, because we have been on several dates since I've been making more of an effort. So, what am I wearing on these dates, you might wonder?

I have a few absolute staples in my wardrobe. These include black leggings, skinny jeans, long sweaters and riding boots. Sometimes, I spice things up, but most days, I throw on an interpretation of said staple items.

A cute button down and a comfy sweater are perfect for a trip to the winery, and wear heels at home with those cute new pants just because. 


When putting this together, I learned a few things. Apparently, I wear a lot of blue, and I cannot get the 'strike a pose for your OOTD' thing down to save my life

But, as you can see, I love to mix and match. Sometimes it's the same pair of pants dressed up one day, and down a few days later. Or it's the use of my black boots with every outfit I can come up with. But, I typically go for something cute and comfortable. Hence the reason that leggings and skinny jeans have become my best friends!

Another thing I've learned? A statement necklace or cute pair of dangly earrings can make all the difference when you're trying to find something to wear and you're sick of everything you have. Try stripes with patterns, or use a scarf to add a color pop to an outfit. 

I also love black. I wear black almost every day. There is something about it that is flattering and chic. I love wearing a black top and colored pants. And the top right outfit (above): black leggings, stripes and a pumpkin cardi  is one of my very favorites this season. 

Where do I shop? I consider myself to be somewhat of a bargain shopper. Sure, there are a few things I will splurge on, but I love a good sale, coupon code, or $11 pair of stretch skinny jeans from Forever 21. I buy most of my clothing from Forever 21, Target, Old Navy and JCrew (always the outlet, of course!).

By far, my favorite thing to do is come up with new combinations of the clothes that I already have. This way, it keeps me from getting tired of my clothes, and trust me, I have a lot of them and no need to keep feeding my shopping addiction. 

And then there are the nights when you let yourself order a new dress that was a recommendation from a friend, and you get all dolled up to go to a party. And then you wonder why you don't do this more often.


I smell a Christmas Eve outfit in the making!


What are your favorite go-to date night outfits?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Holiday Card Photo Idea: Hey, That's Pin-tastic!


Another holiday season means another reason to scour Pinterest for cute holiday card photo ideas. This year I wanted to keep it relatively simple. And, since we had Riley in last year's card, I wasn't sure if it was necessary to have her join us for pictures this year.

We decided to do our photo shoot sans puppy, but as soon as I got to actually designing our card with our favorite photo, it was obvious that something was missing. 

My inspiration for this photo started with this pin

via
How can you not instantly fall in love with that sweet puppy face all decked out in holiday spirit?! Even if it was a little forced.

I thought this would be the perfect way to feature Riley in our cards this year, so I grabbed a holiday wreath, a hand full of treats and got to it one Saturday afternoon.


Holiday Card Photo Idea: Puppy & Wreath

What You'll Need:

1 dog or puppy of your choice (I don't promise they will cooperate. Riley wasn't thrilled)
1 festive holiday wreath
A bunch of your pets favorite treats
A camera to snap as many pics as you can in 3 seconds

I started by removing Riley's collar, and then gave her a treat or 3 to get her relaxed and happy. Once she was obeying the 'sit' command, I quickly placed my wreath over her head so it hung gently around her neck.

Then I bribed her with a few more treats and started snapping away!



As you can probably tell, Riley was not as happy about this project as I was. Although the wreath bears a faint resemblance to a lion's mane, I love the way the pictures came out, and it was the perfect addition to this years' card!

So, if you're in the mood for a fun project, or your dog is looking to be mildly tortured for some extra attention, definitely give this a try!


Don't forget to check out the rest of this week's 'Pin-tastic' 
ideas over at ILYMTC!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Who's A Bigger Fan Than Me?!

 

If I've talked about it once, I've talked about it a thousand times. I am what you would call a sports 'fanatic.' That term might be a little broad for me, since I focus all of my energies towards and NFL, and more specifically, the NY Jets. 

I can't remember the actual day that I became a Jets fan, but I can remember the shock from my family (a big group of NY Giants fans) when they learned about my new rebellious rooting ways.  


 My enthusiasm for the team was only heightened four years ago when the Jets drafted Mark Sanchez from USC. You see, before Brett Favre's short stint with the Jets, we were not relevant. And, although I was a faithful fan, I was one of the only Jets fans I knew. Because, no one really cared about them. 

These last four years have been exciting, sometimes painful to watch, and all around emotional for a fan such as myself. I'm sure you can believe that I have padded my collection of gear. I even ask for a new top or jersey for Christmas most some years.


My love of football used to be one of the things my husband liked most about me. It was something we had in common and could spend every Sunday parked in front of the TV watching our favorite teams. But, as time has gone by, I have become insistent that we watch each and every game in its entirety. This poses a small problem being that we live in Maryland and the Jets are typically not on regular network TV here. 

We have tried it all. Stopping in at one of our favorite local watering holes every week, getting together with friends for a primetime game, and there was even a time right after we bought our house, but before we had cable, that I listened to the game on ESPN New York Radio while painting the walls of my now home office. 

Last week, we finally caved and ordered NFL RedZone. It's been a welcome change, and our checking account is already thanking us. 

So, now I'm all set to get dressed up for and watch the games each week. But there are new items each year that I have my eye on, so when SportsFreak365.com offered me the opportunity to review a totally customized NFL calendar, I jumped at the chance to add one to my collection. Now I have a brand new calendar displaying my favorite players and team that I can hang in my kitchen.


Please excuse the bad lighting. As you can tell, I was pretty excited when the package arrived on my doorstep! Full color, great quality photos of my favorite players, and a brand new 2013 calendar ready to kick off the new year that is quickly approaching.

What's even better? SportsFreak365.com has tons of sports and team related gift items for the sports fanatic in your life! It's the perfect way to start your holiday shopping, and you can do it right from the comfort of you own home! 

You know I'll be scouring all of the Jets gift gear, and may even snag something for my Dad (against my better judgement, boo Dallas!)

So, make sure and check out all that SportsFreak365.com has to offer, you will be happy that you did!


Showing off your team spirit has never been easier! Whatever team you root for and whatever sport they play, find the gear you need at SportsFreak365.com. Just in time for the holidays, you can get 30% off  any purchase using the code “Clever30.” And while you’re there, be sure to enter to win $500 toward team gear in Ditka’s SportsFreak of the Week Contest!



I was selected for participation in this campaign as a member of Clever Girls Collective. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Taming the Mane:: Misikko 'Hana Elite 1" Flat Iron' Review

I come from a family of brunettes with really thick hair. I mean, really thick. I know most people think having thick hair is such a blessing, but trust me when I say, before the invention of the flat iron, it basically took an act of God to get my hair to cooperate. And, forget ever having a summer day with nice, straight, flowing hair. 

After years of trying to get my hair to look nice with just a simple curling brush and hair dryer, I realized it wasn't worth the 90 minutes it took, and asked for my very first ceramic flat iron for Christmas. It changed my life. Now I could let my hair air dry and get all huge and crazy, and then use the flat iron to tame it!

For this reason, I was thrilled to be contacted by Misikko a few weeks ago. When they asked me to review their Hana Elite 1" Ceramic Flat Iron, I nearly squealed with joy.

I absolutely love my new ceramic flat iron. It heats up quickly, and has an adjustable temperature knob that can go from 140 to 450 degrees! Some days, I really need the extra heat and I had never been able to adjust the temperature myself before. The Hana Elite leaves my hair looking soft and shiny, and really, what more can I ask for?

The Hana Elite also boasts an 8-inch salon swivel cord, is safe to use on damp to dry hair (double score!) and comes with a travel pouch and heat proof silicone mat.

Speaking of what my Hana Elite came with, I was so impressed by the way that Hana Salon packages their items and sends them off to their customers chock full-o-goodies!


My package came full of extra goodies and beauty products, and I had a great time going through everything. I am also a huge fan of the lip gloss and eyelash curler they sent!


The Hana Elite is easy to use, and even easier to pack up to store or travel with. This ceramic flat iron has become a necessity in my hair and beauty regimen, and if you're in the market for a new hair product, I definitely recommend checking out Misikko!


Photo ready hair is one of my favorite things. And, B is pretty stoked about my new found love for doing my hair as well!



**I received the above mentioned product in compensation for this review, but  the thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A HUGE 'Blog-iversary' Giveaway You Don't Want To Miss!

One of my favorite blog friends, and fellow JMU and Maryland girl, Tina, is hosting a HUGE giveaway this week in honor of her 'Blog-iversary!'

I was thrilled to be invited to participate in this grouping of giveaways, and am even more excited to share it with all of you. So, in honor of Tina's big anniversary, celebrate we will! 

Here is a little more of what Tina had to say about her giveaways ...

'My great friend and neighbor, Caryn (of Caryn Taylor Photography), and I have teamed up to give you quite an awesome gift. It should look rather familiar to most of you.....

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Yes. That awesome picture. Of my shoes just chillin on the dock in downtown Annapolis. That she took many, many moons ago. You'll get your very own 11x14 print of my shoes!!!!

Oh, but that is not all. No, there is so much more for the winning!

You see, I've met some amazing friends through blogging this past year and they are also here to help me celebrate my 1st year of blogging. So, without further adieu, I introduce to you some more of my friends:
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(In order from l-r, top-bottom): 

That's right, yours truly will be giving away one (1) large, 1-month ad here at Our Love Nest, as well as a 31 Organizing Utility Tote in 'Circle Spirals'


 Simply use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter this fabulous giveaway for your chance to win any of these prizes!

 Best of luck!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Crockpot Italian Chicken 'Stew' Recipe: 'Hey, That's Pin-tastic!'


I wasn't going to post yet another recipe today, but we made a new recipe for dinner last night. One that I originally found on Pinterest, so I thought what better than to link up its yummy-ness for 'Hey, That's Pin-tastic!'

I found this recipe while perusing Pinterest a few weeks ago. I quickly printed it out and added it to my stash, certain that I would be trying it out some time soon.  I had another meal planned for last night, but thanks to hours of laziness and football yesterday, my husband recommended using the crockpot for dinner. And, who am I to turn that down? Toss everything in and let it sit for hours. It was exactly what I needed yesterday. 

So, let me get to the good stuff. Chances are, you will already have all (or most) of the ingredients needed in your kitchen. Double score


Crockpot Italian Chicken 'Stew' Recipe

What You'll Need:
3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Italian Dressing (I used about 10-12 ounces of non-fat)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
A few pinches of Italian Seasoning (I used McCormick's 'Perfect Pinch')
4-6 red potatoes cleaned and cut into wedges
4-5 carrots washed, peeled and cut into chunks

Begin by spraying your crockpot with cooking spray. Next, drizzle some of your dressing across the bottom of the pot. Then, place two of the chicken breasts into crockpot.

Cover your breasts with a layer of dressing, cheese and Italian seasoning. Then, place the other two breasts in next. Sprinkle with cheese.

Then, add your carrots. Add another layer of dressing and seasoning, and then top the mixture with your potatoes. I added one more layer of dressing, cheese and seasoning on top of the mixture for extra flavor.


Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours. You may need to give it a little extra time to make sure the carrots and potatoes are soft enough. We cooked ours on high for close to 4 hours.


I was really happy with the tenderness of the chicken, and the overall flavor of this dish. It was the perfect meal for a fall Sunday, and it was husband approved!

Make sure to stop in over at this week's 'Hey, That's Pin-tastic!' for more great ideas and recipes!

Planning for the Holidays: Thanksgiving Recipes

 

Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday of mine. It comes in a close second behind my buddy, Christmas. Of course, one of the things I love the most about Thanksgiving is the food. Don't we all? 

Growing up, we always spent Thanksgiving with family. Some years my Mom would spend countless hours in the kitchen preparing a scrumptious meal for a small army, and others we would whip up a few side dishes and head on over to my aunt's house for food, fellowship and football.

As the years continue to pass, our Thanksgiving traditions have changed. And, since I typically always spend Christmas with my family, we have started to spend many Thanksgiving's with B's family here in Maryland. 

I've talked about blending traditions here before, and it still remains and elusive balancing act at my seasoned two years into marriage. What I do know for sure is that I want to start making traditions that are derived from our families, but have everything to do with the family that B and I are creating. 

At the top of my list of 'wannabe traditions' is to begin hosting an annual holiday at our house. Since we are in a townhouse, we don't have the room to invite absolutely everyone, but we can start small and build from there. Speaking of which, I should probably start searching for a dining room table, yes?

Sometimes I daydream about the time in my life where I will be preparing my very first Thanksgiving meal, complete with a turkey and all the trimmings, for my loved ones. What are some of the trimmings I would include on the menu? I'd start with my two favorite holiday sides, and then toss in a homemade apple pie for good measure.


Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

6-8 potatoes (I chose to use 6 red skinned potatoes this time, but large, regular potatoes work great)
4-5 cloves minced garlic
4-5 Tbsp Brummel & Brown spread
1/2 cup milk (add more if too thick)
Salt to taste


Begin by peeling potatoes (this can be messy if you like a little skin in yours, which I do). Next, cut into chunks and boil with a little salt. 

Once potatoes are softened from boiling, use a hand masher to break them up.  Then, add Brummel & Brown, milk and whip with mixer.  You can always add more milk if they’re too stiff or thick.


Creamy Mashed Turnips

Ingredients

1 bag cut, frozen turnips (this is the easy route, but I don't always have the time, or muscle, to cut that sucker by hand) 
4-5 Tbsp Brummel & Brown
1/4 cup milk
Salt to taste

Boil turnips in a large pot with a little salt. Once turnips are softened from boiling, use a hand masher to break them up.  Then, add Brummel & Brown, milk and whip with mixer.  You can always add more milk if they’re too stiff or thick.


Homemade Baked Applie Pie (original recipe found here

Ingredients


2 Pie crusts (I used store bought this time)
8 cups sliced, peeled baking apples - about 3 lbs.

2 Tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp Brummel & Brown spread

1 egg
1 Tbsp milk

Directions
  
In a large bowl, toss the sliced apples with lemon juice.

Then, combine sugars, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg; add to apples and toss well to coat. Next, fill pastry lined 9 inch pie pan with apple mixture. Dot with Brummel & Brown.


Place second crust on top of pie filling, cut slits in top of crust to vent. Or cut your second crust into strips and place on top of mixture in a crisscross pattern. Seal the edges of the crust with a fork or by hand.

Then, in a small bowl, beat the egg yolk and milk. Brush mixture over top crust.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake 40-45 minutes more or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.



It's a good thing I decided to experiment with all of these recipes a little early this month, because I am salivating, and starving, from reading through all of this!


What are your favorite Thanksgiving recipes?



Thank you to Good to Know & Unilever Spreads for being a sponsor. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Surviving Puppyhood :: The Backstory on Our 'Riley'

It's been quite a while since I've talked about our little furbaby around here.  And, I'm not even sure I ever shared the story of how Riley joined our family.

We rescued  Riley when she was just 6 weeks old from a local rescue business that travels to states like Kentucky and Tennessee to save litters of puppies from kill shelters. She was the smallest and cutest little furball I've ever seen. We were told she was a Lab Mix, but that they weren't sure what she was mixed with. Over time, we've been able to take an educated guess, and think she's more than likely mixed with Boarder Collie. Hello, high energy mix!

This was taken the first week we had her home
We learned quickly that having a puppy is a lot like what we 'imagined' parenthood to be. We lost sleep, worried more, and hurried through showers to make sure that she wasn't shredding a slipper or peeing on the carpet.

I am so grateful that we adopted a puppy before we ever thought about kids. We have worked hard to share the responsibility, and B stepped up in a big way. I swear he took all of those middle of the night trips outside in the freezing cold because he knew it would be payback time when the one needing us in the middle of the night is a crying baby that wants to be fed.


Riley will be two this December right before Christmas, and I think it's safe to say that we've really settled into our groove as a little family of 'three.'

Since the only kind of 'Momma' I am right now is to a 65-pound, energetic black lab mix puppy, I thought I would give some insight into what 'Puppyhood' is like for all of you that are thinking about rescuing or adopting a furry friend in the near future.

 There are a few things that I don't think we could have survived without over the last 18 months, so if you're planning to get a puppy, you'll want to check out these fabulous items ...

1) Riley is a chewer, so we have tried every kind of chew toy out there. Her favorites have been narrowed down to the 'Nylabone Double Action Chew' and any and all 'RedBarn White Bones.' 

2) Rubber toys and ropes were great when she was a little puppy (pictured above). But, once she got older than 6-8 months, we limited her rubber toys because she tended to shred them up and eat some of the pieces. She also LOVES anything soft and stuffed, but again, we try to limit this to birthdays and holidays because she makes a huge mess, and those squeakers that they put in almost every dog toy give me anxiety.

3) I know not everyone subscribes to this method, but we crate trained Riley, and I am so thankful that we did. Her crate really became her little 'den' and she seems to love resting in there. We have been working to slowly wean her out of the crate, but she still has puppy tendencies (ahem, like chewing on the corners of Momma's rugs while we're out), so we err on the side of caution and keep her in there when we'll be out for several hours. 

4) The fourth and final item that we simply could not have lived without, and is pictured above with Riley is a stack of old blankets. It should be blankets that you don't mind getting ripped, dirtied and chewed on. Riley loves her blankets. In fact, she still has one on the bed that we keep on the main level of the house, and every time I wash it and take it out of the dryer to give back to her, she lights up. It really is the sweetest thing

Of course, we always have treats on hand, but we are not above bribing the dog to come back in the house or do tricks for cheese, baby carrots or pretzels. 

Adding a furbaby into our family was definitely the right decision for us. And, if it takes longer than we expect to add children to our family, I'm not sure I'll be able to keep B from getting another puppy. Anyone have advice on that subject?!