Monday, August 25, 2014

Date night in with Chili’s® at Home frozen meals

Date night. 
Oh date night, how I miss thee.

When I became a mom I didn't realize how few night outs I'd get alone with my husband. Finding a babysitter is hard, especially when you have more than one kid. Throw a newborn into the mix and you can basically kiss date night goodbye. Paying the sitter would probably be more expensive than the actual date, and then I'd probably end up checking my phone and texting the babysitter more than I would be talking or spending quality time with my husband. So we've had to find a way to make our date nights home that doesn't involve one us cooking and making a huge mess or just staring at the TV together.

Chili’s® at Home frozen meals is a great option for you moms and dads out there like us, or anyone wanting a bold, delicious dinner without having to leave the house.

Bellisio Foods, a leading frozen foods manufacturer, partnered with Chili’s® Grill & Bar earlier this year to introduce a new line of licensed Chili’s®-inspired frozen meals — boldly flavored and deliciously prepared to enjoy at home. Chili’s® frozen foods is inspired by some of the restaurant’s most popular and innovative dishes, like their Pepper Jack Mac ‘N’ Cheese and Chicken Fajita Rice Bowl, just to name a few. Chili’s® frozen foods let consumers treat themselves or their families to the experience of bold Chili’s®-inspired flavors — right in their own homes.

Here's how our date night went:

My husband and I put the kids to bed (which took a few tries with the baby, since she likes to pretend to be asleep and then fuss and squirm herself awake over and over again). So after the kids were for sure asleep, we prepared out our Chili’s® at Home dinners. It's really easy to do, and you can use the microwave or your oven. I opted for the microwave because I was starving and was extremely impatient.

 I chose the Bacon Mac 'N' Cheese.

It took about 6 minutes total to whip up this quick and delicious Chili’s® dish. You can pair your date night dinner with a glass of wine, or if you're like me and you're breastfeeding, maybe a nice cold glass of milk. But be sure to make it fancy and put it in a wine glass anyway. This is a special occasion, after all!

The Bacon Mac 'N' Cheese was delicious! Really bold and flavorful, and not bland at all like most frozen meals I've tried. My husband opted for the Cajun-Style Chicken Alfredo and he loved his as well. We ate our Chili’s® at Home dinners and curled up in front of a movie together in the living room. It was a really nice date night at home, and we didn't even have to leave the house. Plus it cost a fraction of what an actual dinner out would, and we didn't have to leave the kids with a babysitter. Win-win for everyone.

Flavors you can try include the Bacon Mac ‘N’ Cheese, Cajun-Style Chicken Alfredo, Cheesy Chicken Pasta Florentine, Chicken Bacon Ranch, Chicken Fajita Rice Bowl, Island Chicken & Rice, Mango Chicken with Rice, Pepper Jack Mac ‘N’ Cheese, Chicken Bacon Ranch, Chicken Fajita Rice, Nacho Potatoes with Beef & Bacon, and Seasoned Chicken Bites with Honey Chipotle Sauce

You can find this yummy new line of Chili’s® at Home at major retailers nationwide, including Walmart, Kroger, Safeway, Food Lion, H-E-B, Meijer, Giant Eagle, Schnucks and many more. I found mine at Safeway and they were on sale- always a great selling point for a frugalista like me. Make sure to grab a coupon here so you can try out Chili’s® at Home for yourself!

What Chili’s® at Home meal are you most excited to try?
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Thank you to Bellisio Foods for sponsoring today's post and for keeping my meals tasty and bold!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cleaning up messes with Viva® Vantage
These guys. I love them, but my goodness are they messy.

I'm a mom of 3, with one of those being a 4 week old baby. I've been pretty busy the last few weeks so I haven't exactly been spending a lot of time in the kitchen or cleaning the house. That means a lot of the cooking and cleaning has been up to my husband and older children, and that also means big messes. They aren't so good at cleaning up after themselves. A lot of times I'm greeted by stuff like this when I try to make something to eat:

Looks like someone decided to make brownies. With caramel. Huge mess.

Enter Viva® Vantage paper towels. I picked up a bunch of these on my last trip to Walmart, and they've got me breaking up with my old paper towels. Their stretch, absorbency, and scrubbing powers are perfect for a sticky, gooey, chocolate & caramel-y mess like this. 

Just one wet Viva® Vantage paper towel was able to clean this up.
The first picture shows the mess before, the second picture shows one pass with Viva® Vantage, and the third shows after a second pass with Viva® Vantage.

This towel really stretches- that's why it scrubs so well. I had to do the "stretch test" myself. I got the Viva® Vantage paper towel wet and gave it a little tug. Sure enough, it stretched quite a bit without ripping! I've never had a paper towel do that. Usually if you tug on it, it rips. Not this one. I was able to scrub the sticky, semi-dried on chocolate and caramel on the counter top without it ripping to shreds. I even rinsed the towel and scrubbed some more and it stayed in tact. That stretch and great scrubbing power comes from the revolutionary V-Flex Weave found only in Viva® Vantage paper towels. It also gives it sponge-like absorbency to soak up major spills. These are some serious paper towels!

Whether your messes are big or small, Viva® Vantage will have you covered.
Make sure to head to head to Walmart and grab some.
What kind of messes do you think would be a good challenge for Viva® Vantage?

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Many thanks to Viva® Vantage and Walmart for sponsoring this post and for helping me clean up my messes! All opinions are, as always, my own.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Why I'm going to cloth diaper this time around

Cloth diapers.
Definitely not something I thought I'd ever be using in my life.

However, after seeing my niece in cloth diapers and learning how many of my friends have used cloth diapers I decided to read up on them and maybe give them a shot with baby number 3. I was pleasantly surprised  to hear from fellow moms who love cloth diapers, and to learn that they are pretty relatively easy to use.

Why would I want to do cloth diapers? Well, lots of reasons. The price was the first thing that got me interested though. When I realized I could buy enough cloth diapers to last Harper her entire diapering years for around $200 that did it for me. $200- that's it. She's only 3 weeks old right now and we've gone through 2 boxes of disposable diapers already, which puts our diaper costs at almost $50 already...just for 3 weeks of her life! The average cost of disposable diapers in the US is around $800 per year. So 2-3 years of diapers (depending on how early/late you potty train) puts you at $1600-$2400 in disposable diapers in your baby's lifetime. Obviously, cloth diapers are a lot less, even when you factor in laundering costs (water, detergent, electricity to dry them, etc). Who doesn't love to save money? The frugal side of me was thrilled.

Another cool thing about cloth diapers that I loved: never running out of them. I can't even tell you how many times I've had to call my husband at work and remind him to pick up another box of diapers for one of the kids. I mean, yeah, I have to actually wash the cloth diapers and keep a clean supply so I always have fresh ones. I can run out of clean ones if I slack on the laundry, but I'll never have to dash out at the last second to buy more diapers.

I also love the idea of cloth diapers being less wasteful. I mean, think of all of those disposable diapers you've thrown away. Hundreds of them. Thousands per child, and they all end up in landfills somewhere. Plus factor in the chemicals and resources used to mass produce all of them- I doubt that's very good for the environment either. I'm no hippy, but I'm big on reducing, reusing, and recycling whenever possible, and cloth clearly wins out in this area.

Here are some more facts about cloth vs disposables:

I took all of this info into consideration, plus listened to my cloth diapering mommy friends' input and decided to go for it. I could do it. Why not? I'm not working outside of the home, so that's not an issue. I'm home all the time, and soon it'll just be Harper and I for 8 hours during the day while the older kids are in school. I have a washer and dryer, so clearly I can wash them. With a family of 5 now I've already got a ton of laundry as it is, so what's a little more at this point? Plus, they are just so cute. This could very well be my last baby, so why not give it a try and put her little butt in cute, fluffy cloth diapers?

Now it was time to figure out what type of diaper I wanted to use.

Today's cloth diapers are nothing like the big flat ones with huge safety pins from the "old days." OK, maybe some people still use those kind, but they've have come a long way since my mom used cloth diapers on me. There are so many different styles and types to choose from though, and I didn't know where to start really. I did some internet sleuthing and read blogs all about cloth diapers and compared the options. Cleaning and caring for the different types varies, so I took that into consideration when making my choice. After asking all of my cloth diapering mom friends I decided to go with one size pocket diapers (which is what my niece uses, so I've changed a few of them myself). The brand I chose is called Alva, and here's what I ended up getting to start my cloth diaper collection, or stash:

I ordered 20 Alva diapers with inserts a couple of months ago from their website to get started. I decided on a variety of prints and just selected anything that looked cute online. I love all of the ones I ordered. 20 isn't quite enough for a really well stocked cloth diaper stash, so earlier today I ordered another 10 for a total of 30 cloth diapers. The 20 diapers cost me $106 with free expedited shipping. The order of 10 diapers was $52, again with free expedited shipping (on orders over $49). So far my cloth diaper stash is only at $158 and those should last me quite a while. Remember, I've already spent almost $50 on disposables in just the first 3 weeks of Harper's life, so $158 total for all of the cloth diapers I need is an amazing deal!

Here's a closer look at an Alva pocket diaper:

These are fully adjustable and are one-size diapers, and are supposed to fit 6-33lbs. I think they would have been absolutely huge on Harper as a 6lb 9oz newborn though. I know a lot of people use disposables for the first month or two until baby is a little bigger and can fit into the cloth diapers better. I'm not sure how much Harper weighs now, but I tried one on her last night and it looked like it was just about perfect on the smallest snap setting, so I'm looking forward to using them very soon! I have one more box of disposables left and then I'm going to start using cloth. 

Check out this one I ordered. I'm so excited for her to wear it!

I'll be sure to do a follow up post on my cloth diapering experience as I try to figure it out and get comfortable with them. I sure hope to report back with good news and rave about how awesome they are!

Have you used or wanted to use cloth diapers?
If so, which kind did you/would you try?
What was your experience?

I'd love some input and would love to hear what you think!
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Friday, August 8, 2014

Kids book review: The Thickety- a great summer read!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of HarperCollins Children’s Books. All opinions are 100% mine.

I know a lot of kids have already started going back to school, but here in Washington we still have another 4 weeks of summer vacation. Summer was off to a good start, but now with a newborn baby sister added to the mix, our fun summer kind of came to a screeching halt. Leaving the house is nearly impossible, and the kids are going stir crazy being cooped up in the house every day. I keep telling them to grab a book and read. They usually love to read! But so far the TV, video games, and Netflix have won that battle.

Until I got this book in the mail from HarperCollins Children’s Books.
The Thickety by J.A. White snapped my soon to be 4th grade son, Ayden, out of his video game induced coma. As soon as I had him read the little excerpt in the inside cover he was hooked. Here's a little on what it's about:
When Kara Westfall was five years old, her mother was convicted of the worst of all crimes: witchcraft. Years later, Kara and her little brother, Taff, are still shunned by the people of their village, who believe that nothing is more evil than magic . . . except, perhaps, the mysterious forest that covers nearly the entire island. It has many names, this place. Sometimes it is called the Dark Wood, or Sordyr’s Realm. But mostly it’s called the Thickety.
The villagers live in fear of the Thickety and the terrible creatures that live there. But when an unusual bird lures Kara into the forbidden forest, she discovers a strange book with unspeakable powers. A book that might have belonged to her mother. And that is just the beginning of the story.
This book was a bit long for my son- it was about 450 pages, but the pages were small and were in a fairly large print. Still, the size of the book was a bit intimidating for him. But he did great reading this book and said that it wasn't too hard for him. After he got about 100 pages in, he really picked up his reading pace and started speeding through it. He actually looked forward to his reading time and was happy to put the game controller down.

Here's what he thought:

Me: What did you think of the main character, Kara?
Ayden: I thought she was really cool. She's smart and nice, even though her mother was a witch. She has magic too, but she doesn't want to use it for bad, only good.

Me: So it has magic in it? Was it scary at all?
Ayden: Not to me. I like books about magic that are kind of creepy. This one might be a little bit scary at parts for some kids, but I liked it. I might have been a little afraid when I read it at night though.

Me: Do you think boys will like this book more, or girls?
Ayden: I think really any kid would like it. Girls will like it because the main character is a girl. Boys won't care though because there is a lot of action and cool stuff happening all the time.

Me: Were you able to guess what was going to happen at the end?
Ayden: No. I thought I knew what was happening a few times, but then things would change and it would do something way different than I expected! Then at the very end it just stopped at a really good spot, so I hope they are making another one (I'm sure they are).

Me: So you'll definitely continue reading the series if they make a sequel?
Ayden: Oh yeah. This one was really good and I want to know what happens next!

So there you have it. A pretty happy 4th grader. I would have to say that 4th grade might be a tad young for this book and it's theme, but Ayden is a pretty advanced reader. Like he said, he didn't have any problems reading it, but other kids his age might. It does have some dark themes and mild violence, so you'd have to use your own discretion when deciding if this book is for your kids.

Do your kids like to read?
What's their favorite book to read?

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