Monday, December 16, 2013

Everyone Needs A Little Sparkle for the Holidays :: A Molly Suzanne Review

Fitting back into your 'normal' clothes after having a baby is a strange thing. Some of it fits, and some of it ... well let's just say I don't know how I ever wore it before. Everything is just different. But around the holidays, there is no excuse to wear sweats and tanks, so this Momma has spent a fair amount of time (and money) outfitting herself with some new threads that compliment my new body. 

Lucky for me, my collection of accessories still fits just fine, and I love to dress up any outfit, especially at the holidays with some extra sparkle and bling! 

If you haven't shopped Molly Suzanne's extensive collection of accessories, you need to check out her shop ASAP! The shop is chock full of clothing and accessories that are perfect for the holiday season. As soon as I laid eyes on the Charlotte Necklace, I knew it would add the perfect amount of sparkle to any holiday party outfit this season. I had to have it. 


This past weekend was a particularly busy one. I had a holiday party, family party and a baby shower, and I wore this necklace with two of my three outfit selections. There are so many awesome ways to style this classic, chic and fabulous piece, but here are just a few of the ways I've worn it so far this season!



At just $24 (plus FREE shipping!) you cannot go wrong with this, or any of her other gorgeous and affordable pieces! And, if you place an order between now and tomorrow, Tuesday, December 17th at 12PM EST with standard (free) shipping, you will receive your order in time for Christmas! Perfect for a last minute statement piece for yourself, or a stocking stuffer gift for friends and family.

Happy Shopping!!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Getting Snowed In. Literally.

I have always loved a good snow storm. I get addicted to the news every time they're calling for a big snow, and I'm almost always one of the only people who are disappointed when the meteorologists are wrong, and we end up with just a dusting. I love the idea of getting snowed in. With nowhere to go, life has a way of slowing down and allowing us all a little time to relax and enjoy each others' company. Plus, I love any excuse for my husband to stay home from work with us!

This past weekend, we had plans to travel to NJ to visit my family and help celebrate my best friend's 30th birthday. We knew there were lingering talks of impending snow on Sunday night, but assumed that it wouldn't turn into much, and we would make it home midday Sunday in time to catch the second half of the Ravens game. 

When Sunday morning came, we took our time getting ready, feeding the baby and packing the car. We got on the road right around 11AM in hopes that we would arrive home some time between two and three that afternoon. About forty five minutes into our trip, just as we were getting onto the NJ Turnpike, I received a text message from one of my besties, who happened to be traveling the same route, about two hours ahead of us. She mentioned 'snow' and 'road closures,' and we knew immediately that we needed to find an alternate route. There was no way that Gavin would hang out in his carseat for hours on end, especially if the car wasn't moving. Not to mention he was sharing the backseat with his 65 pound, furry sister.

We decided the best alternate route would be the PA Turnpike. The traffic looked lighter, and we figured we were going to run into snow regardless. And, we were right. It seemed as soon as we began driving west, the snow got worse by the minute. All the sudden we were on an unfamiliar highway in a mini blizzard.

My least favorite thing about snow is driving in it. And, being that this was our first time driving in winter weather with a baby, I will admit that a bit of panic began to set in. I knew we were not making it home for several hours. And that was if we really tried. I was ready to throw in the towel and head back to my parents house where it wasn't snowing, but B was determined to at least keep heading in the right direction. Luckily, my brother goes to Villanova, and we were headed right for him. I quickly contacted him to make sure he would be around for most of the day, and we decided that we would at least make a pit stop there so we could feed Gavin, gas up and get something to eat ourselves.

When we reached our exit, and pulled onto the more local roads that led us toward campus, I was truly worried we would get stuck. The snow was coming down fast and hard, and there was not a plow in sight. Thankfully, we made it into a covered parking garage near my brothers apartment. I was able to feed Gavin while B and my brother went to find some food. And the snow wasn't letting up. I was hearing reports that several inches had already fallen at home, and I just knew it wasn't a good idea for us to try and get back on the road. 

So, to Google I went in search of a hotel that was close by and would allow our little family, including the dog. Much to my surprise, Residence Inn Marriott's allow pets, for a small additional fee, of course. But at this point, we just wanted to get somewhere safe and warm, and try to wait it out. 

We checked into our room a short time later. The hotel was only five minutes down the road from where we met my brother, so it worked out nicely, and there were no real dicey situations on the short drive there. It took us a while to get settled. We ordered dinner, and B ran out for diapers and dog food, both items that we did not overpack for what we thought would be a quick, three hour ride home earlier that day. 

Finally, we were all inside and settled. Gavin took a nap and we caught the end of the Ravens game on TV. I couldn't help but laugh as we sat there in a hotel room on a Sunday afternoon while the snow continued to fall outside. There was something adventurous and cozy about the whole thing. There wasn't much for us to do, so we just spent time together as a little family. We played with Gavin and watched Four Christmases. We even grabbed a beer from the front desk. And later, after G was asleep, we went back for the tiny little ice cream treats we had spotted earlier. 


Last Sunday did not go as we had planned. Not even close. But, we will never forget Gavin's first snow storm. It is a fun little memory that we made as a family that I will cherish. But, you can bet that I will never try and do the drive to or from NJ without tons of diapers, extra dog food, and lots of snacks!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Growing Up In Jersey Has Its Perks

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Barilla, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #JoytotheTable  http://cmp.ly/3/8vNxcO.


It is true. I grew up in the land of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. And, although most of what you see on their show is fabricated or scripted, one of the genuine things is the amount of Italians that live there. And the food. Oh, the food. Say what you will, but New York and New Jersey know how to do Italian food. In fact, the lack of genuine Italian food (and pizzerias!) is one of the things I miss most now that I live in Maryland. Every time we visit my parents in North Jersey, we have pizza at least once, and we always stock up on bagels to take home with us.

I may only be about 2% Italian myself, but fortunately for me, I grew up with lots of Italian friends and neighbors, and over the years, I was able to pick up a few of their delicious family recipes. Recipes for Stuffed Shells, Lasagna and Vodka Sauce, just to name a few. They are some of my favorites, and ones that I hope to commit to memory so I never lose them.

While I was out grocery shopping last week, preparing for the impending snow storms that were getting ready to slam us here in MD, I had comfort food on the brain. Because what tastes better than a fresh, out of the oven lasagna, or a homemade soup, when you're stuck inside while the snow falls? Of course, I headed right for the pasta aisle and located my favorite brand. I scooped up a box of Barilla Lasagna Noodles and Barilla Marinara Sauce, knowing they would be the perfect staples for one of my favorite, passed down recipes.

Lasagna is one of those meals that always seems overwhelming, but it really is pretty quick and easy if you have the right recipe and ingredients! One of my best friends was nice enough to share her mother-in-law's recipe with me, and I will never make lasagna another way again! It was that good. 


New Jersey 'Italian' Style Lasagna

You Will Need:
1 box Barilla Lasagna Noodles
2 jars Barilla Marinara (or Tomato & Basil) Sauce
1 jar full of water
EVOO
2-4 cloves minced garlic
Half of a white onion, chopped
1/4 - 1/2 cup white wine (optional, but I think it made the meat juicier!)
1lb. ground beef or turkey
1 15oz. container of Ricotta cheese
1 bag shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 bag shredded Parmesan cheese
Italian bread crumbs
A pinch or two of Italian Seasoning
Salt & Pepper to taste
Vegetables of your choice (we used sauteed zucchini and baby spinach.)


Begin by chopping your onion. Add some EVOO, the onion and 2-4 cloves of garlic into a large sauce pan. Saute this mixture until the onion are softened, then add your ground meat (I used lean ground turkey this time). Once meat is browned through, add 1/4 - 1/2 cup white wine (optional) and allow to cook down for a few minutes. 


Then, add both jars of Barilla Marinara Sauce. Fill one of the jars about 2/3 full with water and add the water. Stir well. If the sauce seem to thick, add a little more water. If it is too thin, add a small can of tomato paste. Next, add Italian seasoning (parsley, oregano and basil) and salt & pepper to taste. Allow your sauce to simmer on low for 20-30 minutes.

Begin boiling your pot of water for your noodles while the sauce is simmering. Once the water reaches a boil, add your Barilla Lasagna Noodles. Only leave the noodles in for a few minutes. Once the water begins to boil again, give the noodles a minute or two, and then take them out quickly. You want your noodles to be firmer than al dente before going into the oven.

While my noodles were cooking, I washed and chopped some fresh zucchini and added it to a warm pan and sauteed it over medium heat until it began to soften. Once the zucchini was softened, I added a handful of baby spinach and sauteed that for a few minutes until it began to soften. 

Then, turn off all of your heat and begin layering your lasagna.


Start with a thin layer of sauce, and top with one layer of lasagna noodles. Top the noodles with a layer of ricotta, followed by a sprinkled layer of mozzarella and a dash of shredded parmesan. Next, I added a layer of the veggies to half of my tray and topped the entire layer with another round of sauce. Add another layer of noodles on top of the sauce, and repeat the cheese/veggie/sauce layer. Repeat until you run out of your noodles. Then, add bread crumbs and remaining parmesan cheese on top.

Once you have completed your layering, put your lasagna into an oven heated to 350 degrees and bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the top appears lightly browned and it is warmed all the way through at the center.

I completed our meal by warming a piece of sourdough bread and serving alongside each slice of lasagna. 


The noodles were cooked perfectly, and the combination of sauce, cheese and vegetables made the flavor robust and delicious!

My husband was beyond thrilled to see one of our favorite comfort foods come back to our kitchen after a long hiatus. This family recipe has definitely become one of our family's favorites, so I am delighted to be able to share it with all of you! 

Be sure to shop your local Safeway and pick up any and all of the Barilla ingredients that you will need to make this at home. There is even an in-store promotion running right now! Get $1 off the purchase of ONE (1) box of Barilla® Lasagne and ONE (1) Barilla® Sauce! 

And, if you're looking for more kitchen inspiration, check out the Barilla Facebook page!  


Yayy, Jersey!! :o)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

'Tis the Season ... for Baking!

Tracking Pixel This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of PAM Cooking Spray.

This time of year always gets me in the mood to get back into my kitchen and bake some yummy treats for my family. I could also attribute this to the nagging pregnancy sweet tooth that hasn't gone away, a postpartum remnant that I am certain my husband is still fond of!

This time of year also always sends my stress levels soaring, as I commit to party after party, and all of the cooking, baking and shopping that goes along with it! I do love a full calendar, and all of the extra time with family and friends, but I tend to let some of my responsibilities wait until the last minute, as I watch of mountain of to-do's pile up in front of me with only a few short weeks until Christmas Day.

No matter where I go during the next three weeks, you can believe I will more than likely have a dessert and/or dozen cookies or three with me when I leave the house. Because who doesn't love to munch on yummy treats while catching up with friends and family? Or is that just me? Have you ever tried to make a quick batch of cookies and forgotten to prep your trays with PAM Cooking Spray? I have definitely been there, and few things pain me more than throwing freshly baked cookies into the trash.

I am a long time lover of PAM Cooking Sprays. We pretty much always have at least one can in our pantry, and use them most nights while cooking dinner. They are also a favorite of my husband for grilling! Now, the new formula allows Original, Butter and Baking PAM Cooking Sprays to leave up to 99 percent less residue than margarine and bargain sprays. This means your dishes will come clean even faster, leaving you more time to spend with family and friends, and less time in your own kitchen (or someone else's), scrubbing the dishes. The new formula also has zero calories per serving. Double bonus!

If you're anything like me, you are probably making your shopping lists and planning out what to bring to each of your holiday events this year, so I thought I'd help you out and share one of my favorite new dessert recipes with you! A recipe that would not be the same without PAM Cooking Sprays

Apple-Cranberry Crisp (original recipe found here)

Ingredients
PAM Butter No-Stick Cooking Spray
6 large Granny Smith or other (tart) baking apples (I used Golden Delicious and they were great!), peeled and cut into cubes; 6 apples = about 8 cups
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cups (about 1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into sections

Begin by preheating your oven to 375. Spray your baking dish generously. Add your apples and cranberries and set aside.


Next, add brown sugar, oats, flour and cinnamon to a food processor, cover and blend until mixture is smooth and fused well. Add butter cubes and pulse well until the mixture become coarse and crumb-like.


Add your crumb topping on top of your fruit, spreading out evenly. Spray with PAM Butter Spray until topping is evenly coated and moistened. Then, bake for 30 minutes, or until the topping becomes golden-brown and the filling appears bubbly.


Finally, preheat your broiler. Once it is finished baking, broil your dessert for 1-2 minutes, or until the topping is a nice, even golden brown. 


Voila! Simple, easy and super delicious! The flavor and colors of this dessert make it a perfect addition to any holiday table. 

And, now you can enter to win a beautiful holiday baking kit valued at $50! A winner will be selected at random and awarded 1 Full Size PAM Cooking Spray and gorgeous Le Creuset Baking dish in time for Christmas! Please read through terms & conditions of the giveaway listed below. 

This giveaway will run from TODAY (12/5/13) through Wednesday, December 11, 2013. A winner will be selected and announced on December 12th!

To Enter: 
Leave a comment telling me how you will use PAM Cooking Sprays in your kitchen this holiday season!



Terms & Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE DOES NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. INTERNET ACCESS AND VALID E-MAIL ADDRESSES ARE REQUIRED TO ENTER.

Promotion DescriptionBy participating in a Sweepstakes on Our Love Nest the Blog, each entrant unconditionally accepts and agrees to comply with and abide by these Official Rules and the decisions of Massive Sway (“Sponsor”), which shall be final and binding in all respects. Sponsor is responsible for the collection, submission or processing of Entries and the overall administration of the giveaway. Entrants should look solely to Sponsor with any questions, comments or problems related to the Sweepstakes.


Promotion begins at the time the blog post announcing the Sweepstakes is published on the Blog and ends midnight PST on December 11, 2013. 

Eligibility:  Open to legal residents of the U.S. who are physically located in the U.S. or the District of Columbia who are not a minor (as defined by state of primary residence) usually a minimum of 18 yrs. old. Sponsor and parents, affiliates, sales representatives, advertising and promotion agencies, clients and each of their respective members, officers, directors, employees and contractors (including participating bloggers) (collectively, the “Promotion Entities”), and members of their immediate families and/or persons living in the same household as such persons, are ineligible to enter the Sweepstakes or win a prize. Void in all jurisdictions other than the U.S.


Entry: Leave a comment on the Blog post to enter for a chance to winFacebook comments will not be counted as a valid entry.


Winner Selection: The winners of the Sweepstakes will be selected in a random drawing by Our Love Nest the Blog from among all eligible Entries received throughout the Promotion Period using the selection tool indicated on www.ourlovenestblog.com . The random drawing will be conducted by Sponsor or its designated representatives, whose decisions are final. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible Entries received. Winner will be notified by email at the email address provided in the Entry Information after the random drawing. Potential winner must accept a prize by email as directed by Sponsor within 48 hours of notification. Any winner notification not responded to or returned as undeliverable may result in prize forfeiture. No substitution or transfer of a prize is permitted except by Sponsor.


 Prizes:  The prize for this Sweepstakes is a kit with an approximate retail value (“ARV”) of $50including:


  • Full sized varieties of PAM Cooking Spray
  • Le Creuset Pie Dish

Only one prize per person and per household will be awarded. Prizes cannot be transferred, redeemed for cash or substituted by winner. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole and absolute discretion to award a substitute prize of equal or greater value if a prize described in these Official Rules is unavailable or cannot be awarded, in whole or in part, for any reason. The ARV of the prize represents Sponsor’s good faith determination. That determination is final and binding and cannot be appealed. If the actual value of the prize turns out to be less than the stated ARV, the difference will not be awarded in cash. Sponsor makes no representation or warranty concerning the appearance, safety or performance of any prize awarded. Restrictions, conditions, and limitations may apply. Sponsor will not replace any lost or stolen prize items. Prize will only be awarded and/or delivered to addresses within the US Only. All federal, state and/or local taxes, fees, and surcharges are the sole responsibility of the prizewinner. Failure to comply with the Official Rules will result in forfeiture of the prize.

Privacy: All entrants acknowledge that if they are chosen as a winner, certain of their personally identifying information may be disclosed to third parties at least as required by law, including, without limitation, names and mailing addresses on a winner’s list. All personal information submitted as part of the Sweepstakes may be shared by and between the Promotion Entities, and each of the Promotion Entities will use such information in accordance with their respective independent online privacy policies.


Limitation of Liability: Sponsor is not responsible for any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by website users or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Sweepstakes or by any technical or human error, which may occur in the processing of submissions in the Sweepstakes. Sponsor assumes no responsibility for any misdirected or lost mail, or any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay of operation or transmission, communications line failure, theft or destruction or unauthorized access to, or alteration of, Entries. Sponsor is not responsible for any problems or technical malfunction of any telephone network or lines, computer online systems, servers or providers, computer equipment, software, failure of email or players on account of technical problems or traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website or combination thereof, including injury or damage to entrant’s or any other person’s computer related to or resulting from participating in the Sweepstakes. If, for any reason, the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned, including infection by computer virus bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes beyond the control of Sponsor which corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, then Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Sweepstakes. In such event, Sponsor may, in its sole discretion, perform the random drawing from among all eligible Entries received prior to or after such cancellation, suspension, or modification.


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of PAM Cooking Spray.
For more information, visit http://www.pamcookingspray.com.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Are You A 'Christmas Person?'

For pretty much my entire life, or at least as far back as I can remember, Christmas was more than just a holiday, it was an entire season. Christmas music was tolerated and almost expected shortly after Halloween was over, and decorations often came out before Thanksgiving Day. 

Preparing for and celebrating Christmas for close to six weeks is normal for me. I cannot say the same for my husband. In his world, Christmas should barely even be mentioned before Thanksgiving dinner is over. Just last week, I was minding my own business, prepping us a light breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, streaming Christmas music to my hearts content, when I hear some sarcastic comment coming from the other room about 'celebrating the wrong holiday.' It is the endless battle of opinion in this house. When to start the shopping, the decorating, the overall preparation. And while I want us to make our own traditions as a family, I can't help but get excited and into the Christmas spirit every year when the calendar turns to the month of November.

Over the years, B's heart has softened up to the idea of enjoying a glistening fake tree almost just as soon as the turkey and stuffing leftovers are packed away in the fridge. He humors my Black Friday shopping obsession, and I think he even sort of likes the music. Maybe.

The Christmas season is magical. It's contagious. And the wonder of the season only grows once you have children. I feel like a little kid on Christmas Eve, bursting with excitement to celebrate Gavin's first Christmas in just a few short weeks. Sure, I may have gone overboard in the gift department, knowing the kid will never remember, but I want to start making Christmas as special for Gavin and our future children as my parents always made it for us.

So, is it a crime if I try and kick off the celebration a little early than may be considered 'socially acceptable' to many? What do you think? When do you start celebrating the holiday season?

Christmas 2007