Thursday, November 2, 2017

Hosting a Kikkoman "Brine a better Turkey" Houseparty #kikkomanparty #sponsored

On Monday, I received a treat from UPS.  My Kikkoman Houseparty box arrived.  I was selected to host a Kikkoman "Brine a juicier bird" at home party.   Soy sauce is a staple ingredient in my homecooking.   I use for stir fries, salad dressing, I even use it when making hamburgers at home. 

I applied through HouseParty and was selected to be a hostess.  If you aren't familiar with House Party, check out there website.    House Party posts available parties and you decide which products you like and which parties you want to apply for.  It is free to sign up.  If you are selected to be a host, then you invite friends to your home, in return you get exclusive access to try and share products with them, courtesy of your party pack. 

Inside my party pack was: a $25 AMEX gift card, a case of Hello Kitty Kikkoman soy sauce dispensers, Kikkoman t-shirts, free product coupons and recipe cards.  This is actually my second time hosting a Kikkoman house party and they always send great party packs.  If I see a Kikkoman party opportunity I always apply. 

The Hello Kitty soy sauce dispensers, I am totally in love with!  I don't really want to share but I don't really need 12 of them.   So I will be sharing those with friends and family. 

Looking through the recipe cards, there are several that I can't wait to try.  The roasted brined brussel sprouts and sweet potato casserole sound delicious.  I can't wait to make these dishes for Thanksgiving!

** I received these products for free in exchange for hosting an at home party.  I received no other compensation and all opinions expressed are my own.**

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Star Wars Trooping Events for September and October, picture post

I am sharing some of my favorite pictures from the past 2 months trooping.  It has been awhile since my husband and I have been out in costume.  The last two months have certainly made up for it and  kept us very  busy.  We made a children's hospital visit (1 inside the hospital and 1 for an event outside of the hospital), PRAI Walk, a local Make A Wish fundraiser, a trunk or treat event last weekend that hosted 4,000 people, and this weekend, we will be at Boo in the Zoo, which annually hosts around 10,000 people.    

 Our children have even been wanting to dress up.  We got a rare appearance from Utinni, the littlest Jawa briefly.  Utinni is kind of like Big Foot, so it was a big deal.   Even though brief,
I will take it.

Glee Gum Pop Review

I have reviewed Glee Gum in the past and I love their products.   This time, I am excited to share Glee Gum Pops.   Just in time for Halloween!   Who doesn't love a lollipop in their Trick or Treat bucket?

As a mom, I am always reading labels.   It is nice to find a candy that is using all natural ingredients.  These pops are made without artificial colors, sweeteners, and preservatives.   They are also allergy friendly and gluten free, as well as vegan and certified kosher by the International Kosher Council.

Each bag of Gum Pops has 3 delicious flavors- Sweet Strawberry, Juicy Orange, and Crisp Green Apple.  The flavors were amazing! It is hard to pick a favorite, but for me, Juicy Orange was the winner.   I loved the citrus flavor.    Among my kiddos, strawberry was the definite winner.  

My only complaint was that our bag only had 1 Green Apple pop. With 15 in the bag, I would have liked a more even distribution of flavors.   With 4 children, we ran into a little conflict, but to make it fair, Mom won the green apple pop.

                  We included some Glee Gum Pops in treat bags we made over the weekend.   We can't wait for Halloween to get here, so we can share some gum pops with our friends.

Be sure to check out Glee Gum's other products, which include Make Your Own Candy kits.    If you want to try some of these delicious, natural candies you can order directly from Glee Gum or use their store locator to find them in your area.

*I received the product featured free of charge in order to give an honest review.  No other  compensation was received.  My thoughts and opinions are 100% my own and others may have a different opinion.**

Sticky Stir Fried Mushrooms

I found a wonderful vegan recipe that is quick and easy thanks to the Facebook page Bosh.   The recipe uses just a few simple ingredients and makes a family pleasing meal!    Bosh has a lot of create recipe videos too.


2 cups Shitaki mushrooms,  But you can use any mushrooms you have on hand.  I have made this with portobellos and white mushrooms.  

1/4 c.  cornstarch

Coat mushrooms with cornstarch.  Heat oil and then stir fry the mushrooms.   They will be a golden brown.  Remove from pan.

heat 1 tbsp Sesame oil and saute minced garlic and minced ginger.  I do this to personal taste.  The recipe calls for 2 cloves of garlic and 1 inch of fresh minced ginger.    Saute for a few minutes.

Add 2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 c. soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp. sirracha,  add a little more if you want more spice

Bring to a boil and add mushrooms, stirring to coat with the sauce.  Top with green onions and sesame seed.  

I like to serve this brown rice or stir fried noodles and edamame,

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Quick and Easy Vegetarian "Fried Chicken" Summer Tacos

 Our family stays busy year round and in the summer, I think we are even more busy.  So I take the semi homemade approach to make this quick and easy meal.

Becoming vegetarian was a little scary.  I was afraid that I would end up eating the small old things, beans and rice, salad, and that meals would become boring.   Well thankfully that has not been the case.   My family has found that we really enjoy the Gardein products.   We have found that they help make meal time easier on those nights when cooking from scratch is just not an option for us.

I made these vegetarian fried chicken tacos last night for dinner along with a fresh pineapple relish. This is a recipe that can also be adapted for those who want chicken.

Summer Fried Chicken Tacos,

1 bag of Gardein chicken tenders  ( this can be made with real chicken tenders, store bought or homemade as well.)
mixed greens
multicolored shredded carrots
avocado, diced
green onions, chopped
pineapple relish ( see recipe below)
sweet and spicy bbq sauce  - (use your favorite brand)
flour tortillas

Bake the Gardein chicken tenders according to the bag directions.    While they are baking prepare your pineapple relish.

Pineapple Relish
fresh pineapple diced
1 small onion diced
1 jalapeno, diced and seeded
lime juice
salt and pepper to taste.

Once everything is ready assemble your tacos.  I like to add the shredded carrots, it just gives the tacos a little extra color and crunch.   The pineapple relish and bbq sauce give the tacos a nice sweet, spicy, and smoke flavor.

This is a quick 30 minute meal that the whole family will enjoy.

( The opinions expressed in this post are my own.  I did not recieve any payment, goods or services for this post.)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sleeplessness, Anxiety, and the weird things that keep me up at night (deadly spiders and celebrity Christmas trees).

I like many people who have anxiety know the joys that come with it.   I will be fine for a while and then WHAM!  I am  hit with periods of insomnia, panic attacks, and irrational thoughts.  This last week was nothing new.

So what was it that woke me up at 4 am? Deadly nocturnal spiders and Carrie Fisher's Christmas tree.  The swirling vortex of my mind usually reaches full swirl by 4 am.  Sometimes, I can calm myself and go back to sleep, other nights, forget it.  

What started this whole episode was a spider lurking in the corner near my bookcase in the bedroom.  I called my husband to come and look at it because I thought it looked like a black widow without the red.   I was convinced it was a deadly spider and it needed to be destroyed!  Well, we missed and the damn thing retreated back to the safety the crack between the wall and shelf provided.   

The damn spider was then living rent free in my head at this point.  After a quick Google search, I became even more convinced that it was a male black widow spider because they do have different coloring from the females.   So we went to bed, well my husband went to bed.   I did eventually fall asleep up but at 4 am had to go to the restroom.  Using my phone as a flashlight, there it was back in the same corner as before.  

Blurry eyed, I tried to kill the damn thing and missed again!  I woke up my husband with an explosive round of cussing the spider and more lights, every light in the bedroom to be exact.  They don't like bright lights and well, I was prepared to sleep with every light in the house on if I had to.

My husband had this idea to use a flat wooden lid that he wedged forcefully into the crevice and kill the spider that way.   After a few whacks that way, my husband declared the spider good and truly dead.  I think the spider is just laying in wait.  I am still not convinced the spider is dead ( I have seen Arachnophobia, I know what happens!)  UPDATE:  Admittedly my husband may have succeeded in killing the spider as it has not been seen in 2 days. Still, I am cautious.

After all that excitement, who can sleep?  Not this chick.  
I laid in bed staring at the ceiling which is just plain and boring.  I have lobbied for glow in the dark stars or something more visually pleasing then nothing.  But, my husband is like" just close your eyes".  I have explained that if it was that easy to just "close my eyes" and go back to sleep I wouldn't have this problem.

SOOO this brings me to Carrie Fisher's Christmas tree.

Carrie Fisher's  passing was  devastating to me.  She was my first real childhood hero as Princess Leia.  I wanted to be Princess Leia!   I named one of my daughters Leia.  I loved this woman, I loved her character, I would loved her books, I loved her other work.  I love/loved Carrie Fisher for everything else she did.   

Earlier in the week, I watched a video segment from GMA with her brother Todd Fisher.  The segment tours her home and talks about the upcoming estate auction of Carrie and her mother, Debbie Reynolds.  

Believe me, when I heard about the auction I downloaded the auction catalog. I joked to my husband I needed to sell a kidney so I could afford just 1 item that belonged to her.   I really would love one of her ugly children portraits. 

She was one celebrity I wanted to meet but it just never worked out.  Carrie Fisher would perform her "celebrity lap dances" nowhere near where I  lived and if she got close it was still hours of travel, planning, and large amounts of cash.  And the few times she got close, life got in the way.  So I waited and now she is gone. 

Back to the GMA segment,   As they toured her home the reporter asked Todd about her year around Christmas tree.  He explained how his mother took them to visit  actor Harold Lloyd, who had a year round tree and believed in Christmas everyday.  This had an effect on Carrie and she adopted the same.  

How does this effect me? Aside from wanting something from her home, I began to ponder my own feelings about Christmas. ( Here is where my mind likes to snowball everything.  As the snowball gets bigger, it begins sucking up anything and everything. )

 I have this love/ hate relationship with Christmas in general and this includes my tree. 

 In July, I will march into my local Hallmark store to buy my yearly supply of pop culture mini statuettes to adorn our tree.  One of them this year being  ironically a Princess Leia . She is on my tree in multiple variations of her character.  

In July,  I will love the idea of my tree.  Come the day after Thanksgiving, I will sigh and begin the decorating process.  Somewhere between then and December 25th, the magic will have faded and by January 1st, I am DONE!  I am ready to get the thing out of the living room and not look or think about it for another 11 months. 

But that's a lie!  because by May, I am stalking Hallmark for an ornament wish book to buy my yearly supply of ornaments again. Rinse, Lather, Repeat. Its a vicious cycle!

So then I started asking myself when and why did Christmas lose its magic?  Have I ever had a magical Christmas?  How do I get that same feeling and pure joy. 
As a child, I never liked Santa Claus.  I didn't like the idea of him sneaking into our home and for several years starting at age 3, asked that he just leave presents in our carport and I could open them there.
Everybody has a memory of their favorite Christmases. I don't.
At age 9 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and had surgery 2 days after Christmas.  I can't tell you what i got for Christmas that year.  There aren't any pictures, there aren't any memories other than that. After that year Christmas just seemed to be a motion you go through. 

When Black Friday rolls around the stress and anxiety begins waiting for something bad to happen. I have a list of holiday terrible (included on the list Carrie Fisher's passing).
 I will spare you the details because I am sharing this not for sympathy, but mainly to vent, ask myself hard questions, sort them out, and tire my mind for a little while so I can nap for an hour or two.

Christmas isn't supposed to be about money, but it is.  I don't enjoy Christmas shopping because I have a budget.  Then I go between feeling cheap and disappointing my kids because I can't be extravagant and then I stress about going over budget.  It is horrible but a modern reality. 
My husband grew up not celebrating Christmas and he is better at it then I am.  Am I burned out?  
My snowball is still rolling.  

I really don't like modern holiday traditions.
I hate elf on the shelf.  We have one of the damn little things. It was gifted to our children with good intent.  To you over achieving elf moms, I hate your elf and your pintrest pictures too. 

I hate gift cards. I get a gift card and never use it for myself.  I end up buying things for everyone else.  If you want to give me a gift, give me a gift not a damn gift card. 

Am I too cynical? Possibly. But something keeps me coming back year after year repeating the same cycle. Attitude vs. Gratitude.  Yes, i have a bad attitude about Christmas but I am grateful for my husband and children.  I try to make it happy for them.  

Everybody tells me I can't hate Christmas for my children's sake.  I keep my feelings hidden, which might be why I feel such overwhelming dread even now just thinking about this year's Christmas.  I do everything I can to create Christmas for them.  We bake, we make hot chocolate, we snuggle, we watch movies, we play games, I plan parties for them, we drive around to look at lights, we shop, we wrap. I enjoy that time together. 

I am envious of those with eternal optimism.  I feel defective because I don't have this in me.
 What am I missing?   
Help me Carrie Fisher, you're my only hope.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

Lidl US store Grand Opening

The new Lidl store opened yesterday and it was pretty great! There are a lot of fantastic opening specials.  You can check out their opening ad .
For those of you not familiar with Lidl, it is a German grocery chain. Think Aldi but, I have to say, better!  The company operates 10,000 stores in 27 countries and is making its way to America.   The local store was one of six that opened yesterday along the East Coast.  The stores are mainly located in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina with plans for 90 opening this year according to the company. 

Lidl offers lower prices and its own store brands in comparison very similar to Aldi.   They also offers "in and out specials" that are released every Monday and Thursday.   It can be items like shoes, inflatable kayaks, leather wallets, and charcoal grills.  These items change, so if you see something buy it quickly.    

So a few important things to know about the store:

Store Hours- Monday- Sunday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m

They do not accept manufacturer's coupons but do have store coupons available on the their store app. 

They accept cash, credit, and debit.  NO checks. 

You don't need a quarter for the grocery carts, but you will need to bring your own bags.  Lidl does not offer free bags.  But, during this opening weekend, they are giving away free bags while supplies last.    

The stores are very attractive.  Large windows line the entrance and checkout, making use of natural lighting.   Immediately when you walk in you are greeted by fresh produce and the most amazing smell of fresh baked bread and pastries.   

Fresh doughnuts were 3 for .99

Fresh baked croissants were .39 each.  I did purchase several croissants and they were amazing! The croissants had a rich buttery taste and if you just touched them crumbs would flake off. We made sandwiches last night for dinner with the croissants.  

The fresh baguettes still had steam coming off of them.

If you purchase fresh loaves of bread, you can get them sliced ready for sandwiches.  The bakery has a lot offer.  And of course, the lovely ladies who worked in the bakery were offering samples yesterday and nobody could refuse them!  

 The produce is stacked in its original shipping boxes.  Don't look for elaborate produce displays.  I was  impressed with the overall look of the produce.  There was a nice selection of organic fruits and vegetables.  

I picked up some produce items yesterday.

Fresh whole pineapple .89
Organic Bananas  .59 per pound
Lemons  .49 each
Limes .29 each
Mango .39

I did not really look at Lidl's meat selection.  Since my family is mostly vegetarian it isn't something that I shop for anymore.  But according to the sales ad, Chicken breast were 1.29

 I did however sample some of the cheeses and the store brand plain Greek yogurt with store brand granola and fresh blueberries.   The cheeses and yogurt were nice quality and I would probably purchase in the future.

Another drawing point is their wine selection.   Lidl offers inexpensive award winning wine.  I noticed that bottles ranged from about $3- $25 a bottle.  I did purchase a bottle of Moscato and but I have not tried it yet.

I also learned that Lidl does theme food weeks.  This week is Italian foods.  You will find in their ad that there is a lot of Italian food items specially priced.  One of the featured items is extra long 19 inch spaghetti noodles imported from Italy. Those packages are .99 this week.   I did pick up some of those noodles which I thought my children would have fun with.   You can see them in my  Lidl haul picture posted below.

So my total Lidl haul from yesterday was small.  I wasn't in need of many groceries so I just picked up a few items.   

1 bottle of Moscato wine
2 fair trade chocolate bars (1 milk chocolate, 1 milk chocolate with hazelnuts)
1.5 pounds of organic bananas
1 pineapple
4 fresh baked croissants
2 limes
1 lemon
1 fresh baked baguette
2 packages of imported extra long spaghetti
3 non gmo fruit leathers (not pictured)

Total: $13.83

My overall impression of Lidl is that I really loved it. I really liked it more then Aldi.  Granted I am not a full Aldi shopper either (I go to Aldi for 2 items on a regular basis and that is it.)   I still won't do all of my shopping here but I definitely will watch their sales ad for produce, bakery items, some miscellaneous grocery items and certainly any of their "in and out specials" are worth watching.  

If you have a Lidl that just opened in your community, let me know what you think.

(My review of Lidl Stores is my own opinion.  I did not receive any payment, products, or services for this review.)