Jason started his new job on Monday and it's been an adjustment for all three of us to figure out a new morning routine.  While waiting for his start date, Jason was a stay at home dad for about a month.  It was wonderful to have him realize that just because you stay at home all day doesn't mean it's a cakewalk.  He has a new appreciation of just how difficult it can be to get everything done while watching a child.

But by staying at home he and Dayne were able to "sleep in" on a daily basis.  Dayne would start babbling around 7 AM and Jason would retrieve him around 7:30.  With Jason's new job however, he & I both need to be up early.  He's getting up around 5 and I'm getting up soon thereafter so I can get myself ready before waking Dayne up to get him ready to go to his grandparent's house for the day.

Monday morning was easier because Jason didn't have to be there until 8.  Tuesday morning I had to go in and wake Dayne which gave me a glimpse to my future teenage boy.  He was dead to the world and when I rubbed his back and said his name he whined and burrowed further into his mattress.  This morning he beat us to the punch, waking us both up with cries around 5 AM.

I rolled out of bed, made my way upstairs and picked him up from his crib.  I was still rubbing sleep out of my eyes and wishing I could just curl back up in bed for another hour.  As soon as Dayne hit my chest he grabbed my hair, his safety blanket, sucked his thumb and snuggled in.  I sat down in the glider and felt him fall back asleep, safe in moms arms.

I sat there for a while just absorbing the moment, treasuring the weight in my arms, the steady breaths escaping from his nose.  I could be sleeping but this is one moment out of my lifetime that I will never forget.  It was nothing "momentous" or "milestone".  It's not something I'll pull the camera out to record or write down in his baby book.  Instead, it will be one of those moments I pull out from time to time in my memory bank, a time where my son was still small enough to snuggle in my lap, still needed his mommy to feel safe, still wanting the feel of my hair in his balled up fist to reassure him that I was close.

I rocked and rocked, not wanting the moment to end, wanting to stay there with him until the sun finally peeked over the horizon and he woke up because he wanted to wake up.

He'll be nine months old tomorrow.  Time is rushing by me in a blur.  It seems like yesterday I held him for the first time, marveling at every feature.  Today he's a speed crawler, cruising the furniture and throwing tantrums when he doesn't get his way.  One day he'll walk, then talk, then run.  One day I'll send him to school for the first time, one day he'll come home and shyly tell me about a girl he likes.  One day he'll graduate high school and then be off in the world on his own, making his own path, living his own dreams.  One day.

But today, this morning, that moment - he was my little boy, my baby, my love.   
It's never too early to start the education process with your kids!  Even at 9 months old, I'm starting with Dayne.  We go over colors, shapes, numbers, letters and animals among other things.  I was excited to learn about AlphaBeasts, a 15” doublesided learning companion ‘beasts’ with an upper case alphabet letter residing on one side of the doll, and a lower case character in contrasting color residing on the opposite side. Each Alphabeast has a distinctive design characteristic and physical attribute that makes them different from one another.

 

I was sent the "Dadildoit" AKA the "D" AlphaBeast for Dayne.

Actions speak louder than words to this beast. Dadildoit, best friend of Intooit, is always focused on getting things done. With the amazing ability to breathe fire, this beast is always helpful with projects, or then again, you might want to stand back if he becomes frustrated. Get the water hoses ready!
I wasn't sure how interested he would be in it just yet but the bright colors and the super soft velveteen shell caught his attention quickly.  I was impressed with the quality as well, the eyes & the teeth are both solid thread, the mouth itself is felt and the letter is fleece.

“Creating a oneofakind children’s toy line such as Alphabeasts that promotes learning through fun has been a passion of ours for some time now,” said Alphabeasts spokeswoman Kristin Ferguson. “It’s exciting to see them on display in homes, children toting around their favorite characters and people using them as a learning tool for their children.”

“We’ve created a better way to teach children how to spell,” added Alphabeasts spokeswoman Shylo Kline. “Instead of relying on basic flash cards or image recognition tools, children can now use Alphabeasts as “manipulatives” to properly learn both spelling and phonics through interactive play, which in turn creates a stronger foundation ongoing.”

This is a toy that will grow with Dayne, a toy that doesn't require batteries or make noise.  He's already using it as a pillow when chilling out with us on the floor and grabbing onto it whenever it's near and he needs something to snuggle.
I'm so excited to tell you that AlphaBeasts is gifting one of my readers with their ABC Book Box Set!  See how to enter below!
BUY:

The 15” plush characters retail for $15.99 each and come with a detachable biographical collector’s card. The Alphabeasts Alphabet Book Box Set, showcasing the ‘beasts’ in multiple creative illustrations, retails for $15.99.

WIN:
Drawing ends at 12:01 AM on Friday December 16. I’ll draw the winner, via random.org, on Friday December 16. I will send an email to the winner & you will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Please be sure to read the rules!

Use the Rafflecopter form below. If you don't see it - click on the title of this post. Otherwise email me at tarah716[at]ymail.com for instructions on how to enter.

CONGRATS TO CLARISSA D!

I like spicy food but if you make it too spicy, I'm outta here.  I was sent a few products from Frieda's to try out and review for you guys.  The pine nuts and tomato pesto seemed pretty easy to find a recipe to toss them into.  I was also sent dried chipotle chiles.  I have to admit, I was stumped.  I don't really cook with chiles a lot.  So I put them off to the side and tested out the pine nuts first by making my dish to pass this Thanksgiving, Green Beans with Brown Butter & Pine Nuts.  


It turned out amazing, Frieda's pine nuts are so fresh and tasty!  I was munching on them as I was putting together this recipe.  They offer the perfect amount of crunch and nutty flavor without taking over the dish!  Pine nuts are quite versatile to add texture and flavor to green and pasta salads, tossed into a stir-fry or added to rice and vegetable dishes. The creamy texture and soft flavor are enhanced when toasted. Pine nuts are great in fruit salads or as a quick snack.  


Next I used the Tomato Pesto on a homemade pizza as suggested on Frieda's website.  Oh my GOSH it was an amazing burst of flavor vs the common tomato sauce.  I loved how it gave the pizza a whole new dimension and my friends were asking what I used to add that "flavor they couldn't put their finger on."  It's such an easy way to impress family & friends!


Then there were the dried chipotle chiles.  I pondered and searched and wondered how I would use these things.  I was a little intimidated because they clearly printed on the package to use gloves while handling.  EEK!  But I finally found a recipe that sounded wonderful and included dried chipotle chiles.  The Enchilada Lasagna would be my step out into a new food world, using ingredients that previously seemed off limits.  


I was a little nervous it would be too spicy, but I learned that removing the seeds also removes some of the heat from the chili so this lasagna packed enough of a kick to make it fun but not too much to send Jason & I crying from the table. 

  
Overall I was very impressed with the quality and the flavor with all the items I was sent from Frieda's.  Their company slogan "We change the way America eats" hit home with me, I love trying new recipes and this product review truly made me look outside the box on what I usually gravitate towards.  I conquered my unnecessary fear of dried chiles and realized with the proper care and handling, they're a wonderful addition to many dishes!

Frieda's offers more than 600 specialty fruits vegetables and companion items to supermarkets, restaurants and distributors.  Frieda's practically invented the specialty produce category and has introduced many once-rare produce items to American tables. Frieda's is the company who introduced the Kiwifruit in 1962, and that was just the beginning. Since then, they've introduced more than 180 specialty and exotic items to produce departments and food service distributors throughout the United States. Shallots, Cherimoyas, Donut® Peaches, Sugar Snap Peas and Habanero Peppers, to name just a few.

Founder Frieda Caplan's story is an inspiration in itself. In a time when few women ran businesses, Frieda pioneered and persevered to succeed in the male-dominated produce industry. Frieda's is the first wholesale produce company in the United States to be founded, owned, and operated by a woman and remains a family-owned and operated business today. Frieda Caplan is Chairman of the Board, while her daughters Karen and Jackie serve as President/CEO and Vice President, respectively.

Try your luck at their Holiday Gourmet giveaway they are running on their Facebook Page as well.  You must like them on Facebook and then participate in one of their posts (Answer a question, post a recipe) to enter to win!

BUY:
You can find these awesome ingredients and many more on Frieda's website or by checking out a store near you via their website.  

WIN: 

Frieda's is offering one lucky reader a gift bag of their products!  It contains: 
  • Purple Kiwi Cookbook (Signed by Karen Caplan, Author and CEO of Frieda’s) 
  • Green Reusable Bag 
  • Pen & Notepad 
  • Tomato Pesto 
  • Pine Nuts 
  • Crepes 
  • Dried fruit
Drawing ends at 12:01 AM on Tuesday December 13. I’ll draw the winner, via random.org, on Tuesday December 13. I will send an email to the winner & you will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Please be sure to read the rules!

Use the Rafflecopter form below. If you don't see it - click on the title of this post. Otherwise email me at tarah716[at]ymail.com for instructions on how to enter.

CONGRATS TO CATHY H. - ENJOY YOUR WONDERFUL CHOCOLATES!

Chocolates - it's that time of year they start showing up all over the place! They're one of my favorite host/hostess gifts to bring to parties we've been invited to because it's something they can tuck away and enjoy after the festivites are over.   I'm very picky about they type of chocolate I give too, I don't want it to be an everyday run of the mill, find it at the checkout line chocolate.  No, I want something you open up and it feels like a decadent gift!

I was so thrilled to review Romanicos Chocolate, just viewing their website had me excited to see what I would be sent and they didn't disappoint!  Just LOOK at how beautiful their chocolate is!

(Jason was at home when this was delivered, they DO ship full boxes, my husband just couldn't wait to dive in though.  And I'm also missing a chocolate bar as well thanks to my darling husband)

I was sent this amazing Mixed Cube of chocolates, it includes 12 Chocolate Truffles (assorted flavors), 12 Chocolate Art (assorted flavors), 12 Truffle Bites (assorted flavors).  A feature I thought was amazing was their made on or best by dates they include on the boxes.
 

Look at how beautiful their chocolates are!  Every chocolate is made by hand and made with the finest ingredients.  I was very impressed to learn that they make everything in small batches so it gives them the opportunity to check each piece closely and watch all the details.  How is that for quality control?   


Chocolate Art (aren't they beautiful?!)


I love how Romanicos Chocolate has perfected the just hard enough shell with the creamy, melt in your mouth chocolate on the inside.  I enjoyed the "extras" on the outside of the truffles I was sent, just enough to add a little more to each bite. 

These boxes are perfect for the holiday season as gifts to give, something to keep on hand when you receive that gift from someone and need something to give in return.  What I think is even better is the wonderful idea Romanticos Chocolate has rolled out this year, Family Holiday Gifts!

We are convinced that sending chocolate doesn’t just positively affect the person who receives and enjoys Romanicos’ mouthwatering chocolate. The more we communicate our gratitude, appreciation and love to those we are close to, the happier we become, too. 

We have made a personal mission to make it easier for you to send a personal greeting along with a perfect, tantalizing box of chocolates. Now, you can send in a family picture, crayon drawing or other design along with your order. 

Romanicos’ in-house design shop prints the image onto an original greeting card, and then we use vintage photo corners to hold the card in place on the top of our chocolate box. 

The service is available for one box of chocolates, and offers special savings starting with 15 boxes. 


 Who would not enjoy that holiday card?!  What a step above the Jones huh?  Check out their site for more information.  

Romanicos Chocolate was also kind enough to send us two of their Exotic Chocolate bars, Original Dark & Cayenne Pepper (all are lactose and gluten free - suitable for vegans) and three of their 80 gram Chocolate bars, Salted Almonds, Soy Beans & Sea Salt and Walnuts & Honey. (All are lactose, gluten and dairy free, suitable for vegans)  Jason devoured the Walnuts & Honey bar before I was able to get home.  I'm told it's safe to assume the empty wrapper meant he liked it.  


I was able to try the rest to give you an opinion of my own and again, I am blown away by the quality Romanicos Chocolate provides.  Each bite of these chocolate bars causes your mouth to be consumed with the perfect flavor of dark chocolate and just enough the the extra flavor to know its there without taking center stage away from the chocolate.  I'm a huge almond fan and I have to admit the salted almond bar was my favorite but the soy beans & sea salt was a very close second.  I loved the mix of sweet and salty!  

I had never had a cayenne pepper in a dessert before so I has a little hesitant but I thought it was a great new experience!  I loved how the pepper flavor rested on your taste buds enough to excite them but not enough to make you run for a glass of milk to help with the spice.  The Original Dark was just that, a perfect of original dark chocolate.  I usually shy away from dark chocolate because I think it's too much of a bitter flavor but Romanicos Chocolate has won me over with their products!

I am SO excited to offer this giveaway to my readers, I think it's the perfect time of year to start getting serious about your chocolates!  Romanicos Chocolate is providing one lucky winner a Mixed Cube of chocolate (a $75 value!).  Keep 'em for yourself or use them as gifts!  

BUY:

Buy your own chocolates on Romanicos Chocolate website!

WIN:

Enter to win a Mixed Cube!  Drawing ends at 12:01 AM on Wednesday November 23. I’ll draw the winner, via random.org, on Wednesday November 23. I will send an email to the winner & you will have 24 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Please be sure to read the rules!

Use the Rafflecopter form below. If you don't see it - click on the title of this post. Otherwise email me at tarah716[at]ymail.com for instructions on how to enter.


WINNERS PENDING - CHECK YOUR EMAILS!

Our cat has a collection of strings that have come out of our hoodies because I'm too lazy to try to shove them back through the hood. My mom showed me when I was younger how to restring them, you put a safety pin on one end and use that as a guide to pull it through. It works but it's a tedious job. So now when they fall out, our cat has a new play toy. Jason has since tied them together to make the "super string" which she will parade around the house waiting for one of us to grab on to it and play.

When I was sent the EZStringer to try out I have to admit I was skeptical.  It consisted of three different size restringers, directions and a collection of different widths and colors of strings.

 

I shuffled through our closet to find one of the many hoodies without a string, Jason has this super comfy sweatshirt that lost its string years ago.  I found a red string to go with the red hoodie and glanced through the directions.  It seemed simple enough.  

First you latch the string on the restringer and give it a tug to make sure it's secure. 


Then you guide the restringer into the hoodie (or whatever you're restringing)


It's very simple to grab onto the restringer and pull it around the hoodie, then you just guide it out and there you have it, a new string where there was once none!




It couldn't BE more simple!  I'm very impressed with the EZStringer and it's something I will be keeping around the house for those moments I'm going through the laundry and realize an article of clothing has lost its string!

The EZStringer was the brain child of Noel Ross - she started her woman owned company, Innovators Inc, in 2009!  The EZStringer is made in the USA as well, in the Chicagoland area.  It's priced right too, something that you can't pass up.  I think it would make an extra gift this holiday season, perfect for the college student you know who lives in hoodies!

Even better, EZStringer is giving away a kit to three of my readers!  Just in time for the holiday season to kick off!

BUY:

Purchase your own kit on EZStringer's website for an amazing $10.00 (plus shipping & handling) and know you're protected by a 30 day money back guarantee.  But I'm pretty sure the first time you use it you'll be hooked as well! 

WIN:

Enter to win one of the three kits up for grabs!  Drawing ends at 12:01 AM on Saturday November 26. I’ll draw the winner, via random.org, on Saturday November 26. I will send an email to the winner & you will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Please be sure to read the rules!

Use the Rafflecopter form below. If you don't see it - click on the title of this post. Otherwise email me at tarah716[at]ymail.com for instructions on how to enter.


CONGRATS TO ERICA C! 

I remember frantically searching through my baby books when Dayne first arrived home to see if the earth would truly stop if I gave him a pacifier when he was four days old.  You could see him struggle to get his thumb in his mouth but with that ever so endearing poor hand/mouth corridanation it wasn't working and this made him angry!

He screamed because he wanted to suckle and I needed him off my boob for five seconds just to breath!  He didn't want food, he wanted to sooth himself.  All my books told me were "some kids need them, others don't.  It may cause nipple confusion."  No!  I needed "been there, done that" answers from a real mom!

In The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year by Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH and Jennifer Bright Reich there are four pages of advice from doctors who are also moms themselves!  They go over what the American Academy of Pediatrics says about them (A-OK! by the way) and what studies have shown, both the pros & the cons.  After that, pages of "this is what I did and why it did or did not work for me" advice.

By the way - I did end up giving Dayne a pacifier and as soon as he figured out how to get his thumb in his mouth he had zero interest in his soother.  He just needed something to get by until then.

The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year starts at Birth & 1st Month with chapters including Meeting your Baby for the First Time, Treating Jaundice and Adjusting Your Insurance Policies and finishes up at the 12th month with chapters including introducing finger foods, coping with tantrums and celebrating your baby's first birthday! 

Just like with the The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy & Birth this book reads like a wonderful collection of tips & ideas from family & friends vs a medical book giving you an umbrella look at what to do with each stage your child reaches.

Each chapter starts off with an overview of your baby's development for the month and followed by a section about taking care of YOU.  And my favorite, Justification for a Celebration!  For example in month two the justification for a celebration is you made it through your first month!  Any new mom can tell you that's plenty to celebrate!

Each month delves in a little deeper into areas of motherhood you may be wondering about and follows up each section with tips and stories from 70 doctors who are also mothers about their first year with their children.  In Month 4 they discuss safely taking your baby swimming going over safety along with what they should & should not wear in the water.  That section follows with six different doctors stories about swimming with their children.  How they started introducing them to water, when, why and what worked & didn't work.

In each chapter there is a Mommy MD Guides-Recommended Product that pertains to something they are discussing.  Like in Month 5 they talk about teething and the recommended product is Orajel Tooth & Gum Cleanser - a special infant toothpaste that contains no fluoride to help with new teeth and tender gums.

There are also the When To Call Your Doctor boxes in each chapter on different sections to help you decide if your fussy baby warrants a visit to your MD or if it's something to just keep an eye on at home.  And just like their The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy & Birth book, the Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year also has the MomMy Time - tips to help mommy relax and feel "normal".  In Month 9 they suggest trying yoga as a way to tone your body, build strength and gain flexibility after having a baby.

Buy:
Purchase their books here for yourself or a family or friend for this holiday season!  Or just to say congratulations!  This is a must have for all new moms!

Win:
Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH & Jennifer Bright Reich has offered one of my readers a copy of The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year.  Drawing ends at 12:01 AM on Wednesday November 23. I’ll draw the winner, via random.org, on Wednesday November 23. I will send an email to the winner & you will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Please be sure to read the rules!

Use the Rafflecopter form below. If you don't see it - click on the title of this post. Otherwise email me at tarah716[at]ymail.com for instructions on how to enter.

CONGRATS TO VALERIE M.!

The moment that second line appeared on my pregnancy test I cracked open the first pregnancy book.  I consumed every word of several books on my night stand.  There was so much information and at the same time, not enough!

I had so many questions even with all this information at my fingertips.  I wanted to know if feeling this twinge this week was normal or when you were this far along did your baby do this too?  The books went over generalities, how most normal pregnancies progress. 

Jennifer Bright Reich and Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH have come pretty close to doing such a thing.  Jennifer was wonderful enough to send me two of their books, The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy & Birth and The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year (see this post for review & details).

What is so wonderful & different about these books vs the others you see?  Jennifer & Rallie's books are like reading a bunch of friends "been there, done that, have the t-shirt" tips & tricks.  They're such an easy read that you don't feel like you're reading a medical book but a girlfriends guide to what worked for me.

In the Pregnancy & Birth book there are more than 900 tips from 60 doctors who are also mothers.  They break the pregnancy down week by week which I LOVE.  It's so nice to take it in smaller chunks than try to consume one month at a time.  Each chapter starts off with your baby's size then your baby's latest developments along with YOUR latest developments (weight gain anyone?).  Then one of my favorites, they throw in a "Justification for a Celebration".  For example, in week 23 it's "If not now, soon your partner will be able to feel your baby move."  Any mom who has reached that milestone will tell you that most certainly is a reason to celebrate! 

After these fun tidbits the doctors give you stories, tips & tricks they used in that week, for example in week 31 the doctors go over choosing to breastfeed or bottlefeed, preventing stretch marks, dealing with itchy skin, preventing & treating the loathed hemorrhoids.  Throughout the chapter they have "Mommy MD Guide-Recommended Products", "When to Call Your Doctor or Midwife", and my favorite "MomMy Time".

MomMy Time are tips for pampering mommy!  In Week 11 they suggest buying  yourself some new luxurious toiletries.

Now would be a great time to treat yourself to some soothing new bath products.  Lavender is very relaxing.  Or perhaps choose vanilla, which will come in handy after you baby is born
This book covers Week 1 - Just a Dream to Week 43 - Welcome to the World Little One!  The easy to read and find Index also helps you flip to the location you need in the book for reference.

The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy & Birth is like having 60 of your best doctor friends tell you what worked for them.  Each woman is different so you're sure to find someone with your point of view on things.  In Week 21 three different doctors discuss their registering stories, one doctor's husband was overwhelmed and panicked, walking right out the door.  Another discusses taking her trusted friend with her instead of her husband (the road I went down) and another tells us why they registered prior to their baby but didn't bring anything home until after their child was born.

In a crazy 40 weeks (more or less) of pregnancy, it's nice to know that's you're not alone in your feelings or emotions even if other books may imply that.  Plus it's always great to hear that a doctor did things the same way you feel you want to progress.

Buy:
Purchase their books here for yourself or a family or friend for this holiday season!  Or just to say congratulations!  This is a must have for all mom-to-bes!

Along with the book they also offer an app at the App Store for just $0.99! 


Win:
Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH & Jennifer Bright Reich has offered one of my readers a copy of The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy & Birth.  Drawing ends at 12:01 AM on Wednesday November 23. I’ll draw the winner, via random.org, on Wednesday November 23. I will send an email to the winner & you will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Please be sure to read the rules!

Use the Rafflecopter form below. If you don't see it - click on the title of this post. Otherwise email me at tarah716[at]ymail.com for instructions on how to enter.


CONGRATS TO BLAKE P, DEBBIE C & SELINDA M!!

I've always been a fan of most fruits & vegetables - I even tried brussel sprouts last week for the first time in years at my in-laws house.  I loved them!  Who knew roasting them made them taste good?  I do my best to keep fresh fruits & vegetables in the house at all times to encourage both my husband & I to snack on those instead of chips or candy.

But we're a busy family and sometimes when we're up for that orange or avocado it's been...a little too long.  You reach in the crisper drawer and come out with a overripe food that you have zero interest in eating.  Toss it in the garbage, along with the money it cost.   

Right now in Michigan it's apple season.  We are so lucky to have so many apple orchards around us, my absolute favorite apple ever is now in prime season.  The Honeycrisp apple.  If you've yet to try this perfect gem of the apple family you are missing out.  I love to buy them in bulk because I eat one about everyday when they're in season.
 I hate to know that I might lose out on these wonderful apples because they sit too long in our fridge so I was very excited to hear about BluApples solution!  Using the BluApple, you can extend the useful storage life of your produce up to three times longer.  Ethylene gas is given off naturally by fruits and vegetables as a signaling mechanism in order to coordinate uniform ripening. However, once concentrated in your refrigerator or other storage areas, the presence of ethylene gas continues to speed up ripening and hasten spoilage.
 
 This means our good intentions of trying to eat better result in throwing money away which can discourage you from purchasing fruits & vegetables in the future!  Not good!

American households throw out 25% of produce purchased - because it has gone bad, tossing out an average of $600 of food per year per family, according an eight year USDA funded study.  $600!!!  Think of all the food you could buy with that $600 you're just mindlessly tossing away!

 
The Bluapple does not release any gas or chemical, but only absorbs, constantly removing this harmful gas from your produce storage area.  The Bluapple is not a "magic" pill, but a scientific and essential part of keeping produce fresh. 

There are three key elements to long produce life: a) temperature - keeping produce cold; b) humidity - using vented plastic bags to keep a moist, but not wet environment; c) ethylene gas management - using the Bluapple.  Disruption of any one of these elements will cause premature spoilage.

I tried the BluApple out in our fridge for a month, keeping an eye on how quickly the items were ripening.  I am so happy & thrilled to say it works!  My apples didn't start to have those ugly bruises, our bell peppers didn't have puckering of the skin.  Our avocados weren't turning brown.

For something so small this little apple packs a huge punch to your wallet - in the best way possible!  I love being able to open our produce drawers and feel confident our food is ripe.  Buying fruits & vegetables in bulk no longer sends me into a debate, save money because it's in bulk or risk tossing half of the items away because they'll overripe before we eat them.

With the holidays right around the corner (I know, it's causing my heart to flutter a little too) this is a great stocking stuffer or holiday add on for that foodie friend or family member.  That mom who is also juggling a busy schedule while trying to keep her family eating healthy.  

Do you have questions?  BluApple has a great page of FAQ's that answer a ton of the questions I had in easy to read format.  I didn't feel like I was reading a scientific explanation of why the BluApple works, I felt like my friend was telling me why I should invest in this guy!

Still not sure if this is something that will work for you & your family?  BluApple offers a money back guarantee, which they are proud to honor.  So what do you have to lose besides the food & money you keep throwing away each month!

Buy:

You can buy BluApple at Whole Foods Markets, Giant Foods, Stop & Shop, and many others.  To find out where to buy near you BluApple encourages you to email them at answers@bluapple.com with the city you live in so they can help point you in the right direction.  Of course you can also order from their site as well!


Win:

I'm so pleased to have BluApple partner up with us in our first Holiday Blog Extravaganza!  Three of you lucky readers will be BluApple owners yourself, and believers!  Drawing ends at 12:01 AM on Tuesday November 22st. I’ll draw the winner, via random.org, on Tuesday, November 22nd. I will send an email to the winner & you will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Please be sure to read the rules!

Use the Rafflecopter form below. If you don't see it - click on the title of this post. Otherwise email me at tarah716[at]ymail.com for instructions on how to enter.


Dear Wish Fairy,

For my wish I would love it if we could afford to hire a housekeeper. Someone who will do our laundry like an adult. You know, sorting things by color and water temperature along with hand washing, hanging to dry and/or ironing. Then fold items like they belong in a store or hang them neatly in the closets, ready for the next wear.

Someone who will do the dishes and not let them become a mountain in the sink and the along the counter. A housekeeper who will put heavy objects back in the high cabinets (why did the builder not think to make storage for big items below instead of insisting everything should be stored above my head?) so they don't pile up on our limited counter space. 

I would love for this person to dust on a weekly basis, vacuum all three levels thoroughly, dust the cobwebs out of our 500 foot ceiling and mop that horrible kitchen floor we are stuck with.  It would be great if s/he also swept up the laundry room so that our cat's litter wasn't spread everywhere all the time.

I need someone who will clean the toilet and the showers more often than I get around to them.  Someone who remembers to change the sheets, flip the mattress topper and buy new pillows every so often.

Cleaning the bathroom, scrubbing the floors, toilets and showers/tubs.  Rinsing out the sink, wiping down the counters and mirrors.  Someone who will vacuum the doorwall tracks, light candles to make the house smell fresh and keep the fridge clean.

They wouldn't have to but it would be great if this person cleaned the windows inside & out.  Screens would be an extra bonus.  

Wish Fairy, I want my house to look pretty all the time instead of looking like a bomb went off.  I'd like to open my closet and see clothes to wear instead of empty hangers and trying to figure out how to stay warm in a short sleeve shirt when the high is going to be 55. 

I'd like my files to be organized so when I need to find something I know where it is instead of tearing apart five boxes it might be in only to find it in my junk drawer when I frantically shoved everything in there to make the room look clean.

This person should also keep a running list of items we're low on so I don't return home after a shopping trip to discover I should have grabbed a tube of toothpaste and a bottle of face wash.

Because instead of doing these things myself on a regular basis, I come home and try to squeeze as much time in as I can with Dayne before he's ready for bed.  I roll around on the floor that needs to be vacuumed (and steam cleaned!), I bounce around outside with him as we watch the sun creep across the sky, getting lower and lower. 

I feed Dayne and then leave his highchair in the middle of the kitchen so we can get back to playing.  I join in on the scattering of toys as he reaches for a new one every five minutes.  I change his diaper, pull on his PJs and toss his clothes into a pile to be washed "later".  I snuggle with him as we rock back and forth reading a book I then let sit on the side table until I sweep through to put it back days later.

Then when that's all done, I plop down on the couch next to my husband, cuddle with him, yawn through our conversations and stumble up to bed, falling asleep before my head hits the pillow.  Only to do it all over again.

As for our weekends?  Well those are days for family time and exploring and running around with friends.  For taking pictures and making memories and laughter.  Wish Fairy, I don't have time to be Martha Stewart so I need you to send someone who does.

Thanks for taking my wish into consideration,
Tarah 

 

CONGRATULATIONS TO MARY G. & KIMBERLY R.!

This weekend the temps finally dipped back into "normal" range for Michigan's fall.  We were rocking the 70's & low 80's for almost two weeks!  Love those Indian Summers.

But we knew it wouldn't last and was just a tease.  Our heat has kicked on and the sweaters have been pulled to the front of the closet.  The 40's, 50's and low 60's are back again.  Until their cousins the 10's, 20's and low 30's enter around December to pave the path for snow, snow and more snow.

You walk outside and it's like a blanket of cold wraps around you, stealing all warmth you once had.  Which makes this the perfect season for slow cookers, warm soups and comfort stews!  I love making the house smell yummy and warm it up all at the same time.

I put together a wonderful slow cooker recipe I found online, Sun-Dried Tomato Slow Cooker Sirloin Tip Pork Roast.  It turned out fantastic and was super simple to make!  I added the California Sun Dried Tomatoes Julienne Cut with Italian Basil from Bella Sun Luci



I was sent a package of several products they proudly make to review and share!  I've been making a few recipes here & there to get the full spectrum of what these little nuggets of gold offer!  The health benefits of sun dried tomatoes are amazing!  Sun Dried Tomatoes contain Lycopene a phytochemical and proven antioxidant that fights free radicals in the body.  Ounce per ounce sun dried tomatoes have 12 times the amount of Lycopene than a raw tomato!  Recent studies show that a tomato rich diet is associated with a reduced risk of certain conditions including; Prostate cancer, digestive disorders, breast, lung and cervical cancers, and heart disease.


Mooney Farms began in 1987 as a family owned kiwi farming operation. Products were sold at the farmer’s markets in Northern California by the family members. With the addition of sun dried tomatoes, their first sale to Price Club South San Francisco changed everything. The family’s Bella Sun Luci Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil & Herbs sold out in a record 4 hours! Sun dried tomatoes had become mainstream and the Mooney Family had the winning recipe!

It took a while to figure out the best recipe for each item they sent but the challenge was fun and yummy.  One of my favorite products are the sun dried tomatoes in the oils.  I LOVE that I can use the oil they are packaged in to cook them as well.  The flavors are already in the oils, adding extra flavors to the meal. 


I tried the Tomato Halves with Italian Herbs in an omelet and instead of pouring the oil I use to cook in the pan, I just poured some of the oil already in the jar. I loved how the eggs took on the tasty Italian flavor the oil was packed with.  I also threw some of the California Sun Dried Tomatoes Julienne Cut with Zesty Peppers in a quiche I made, just softened them up a bit in a pan and tossed it in the with mix of other goodies.

I searched their site for some recipes ideas and tried the Mediterranean Green Beans as a side dish for a pork loin we grilled outside.  It was SO simple and so tasty!



Check out how easy this Sun Dried Tomato Cream Soup is to make. Spoiler alert! It's also very tasty!  Recipes like these prove how easy it is to add this treasure to your everyday meals.


Bella Sun Luci would like to share their amazing product with you & your family.  Perfect for the upcoming holiday season where I know I will be spending a lot of time in the kitchen making dishes for my family & friends. 

Buy:
Bring the amazing flavor of Bella Sun Luci Tomatoes into your home by purchasing any of their products on their website


Win:
Enter to win the same mix of products I was sent by entering below!  Drawing ends at 12:01 AM on Saturday November 5th. I’ll draw the winner, via random.org, on Saturday, November 5th. I will send an email to the winner & you will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Please be sure to read the rules!

Use the Rafflecopter form below. If you don't see it - click on the title of this post. Otherwise email me at tarah716[at]ymail.com for instructions on how to enter.



Once upon a time my husband was single.  He lived on his own in his own house, quite well I might add.  Jason was (is) anal retentive about order and neatness.  In fact one of his brother's favorite pranks to play on Jason is to come over when he's not home and rearrange the tools hanging on the wall of his workshop to see how soon he notices.  I think the longest it took was 30 seconds.

While living on his own in this house, my husband did his own laundry, correctly!  I know!  He actually knew where the dry cleaner was and what it was for.  He sorted laundry, he hung things up, he ironed and folded and put things away.

Then one day he met me.  Fast forward to me moving in and taking over the laundry for us.  Jason spent a few cycles showing me how he preferred things washed, hung and put away.  I learned where his pants and sweaters went, which way he liked his shirts facing, how to fold his socks.

Every once in a while I ask or Jason just decides to do our laundry.  I wasn't aware there was a fairy that went around once a man got in a relationship and deleted basic cleaning knowledge from their memory.  But that must be the reason I open the dryer and find whites with darks or why I came home once to a shrunken cashmere sweater.

Jason is currently on vacation so he's home all day, with Dayne.  I know, I know, there isn't much time to get a ton done when you have a seven month old demanding your attention.  So when I opened the door after work to hear the dryer going, I was thrilled to know that one less thing would be on my to-do list this week.

I thanked Jason, gave him a kiss and went up to our room to change.  That's when I saw it.  Our bed.  Piled in neat rows were my clothing.  A pile for shirts, another for sweaters, one for pants, one for underwear and another with socks.

"Why are my clothes not put away?"

"I don't know where they go."

We have been together for almost seven years, living together for six!  My clothes go in the same place they have gone for the past six years.  At the very least you KNOW where my sock & underwear drawer is.  And yet, there they sit, on the bed waiting for me to finish the job.

Of course all of Jason's things are put away neatly so the cat doesn't decide they make a good napping location and leave fur and wrinkles all over them.  This isn't a first time offense either.  I think he does this on purpose so he isn't asked to do the laundry or for me to get in my head that he can do it correctly, he just doesn't want to.

What is an ongoing "battle" with you and your husband? 

Recipe & Picture courtesy of Smashed Peas & Carrots

I love French Onion soup, my favorite part is breaking through the thick, gooey layer of cheese to reach the yummy goodness that is the soup.  I found this slow cooker recipe via Pinterest (love that site) and decided it must be made this past weekend.  It seemed simple enough and the beauty about slow cookers, they do all the work for you while you relax, and enjoy the yummy smells!

  • 3 onions, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 32-oz cartons of beef broth
  • French bread, sliced on the bias
  • swiss or gruyere cheese
  1. With your crockpot on high, add the butter and let melt.  Once butter is melted, add in sliced onions and cover.  Cook onions on high for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until onions are carmelized.  Mix together flour, worcestershire sauce, sugar and pepper in another bowl.  Slowly add flour mixture and broth to onion stirring well.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4.  
  2. To make the crusty bread, slice french bread on the bias and place slices of swiss or gruyere cheese on top.  Toast in oven at 250 degrees for 20 minutes.  Pour soup into bowls and top with cheesy bread slices.
Changes I will make next time:

Her site shows amazing caramelized onions that I'm assuming happened in the allotted time she posted in her recipe.  After an hour mine weren't even close to looking like that.  I decided to go ahead with the recipe anyway because I wanted my soup!  Hint - caramelize them on the stove top to save time and get them looking & tasting amazing.  The onions were still sort of crunchy and I wasn't a huge fan of that, so you MUST caramelize!

Add a few beef bullion cubes to this broth mix as well, I felt there was a little bit of "umph" missing in this soup and added the bullion cubes after the first round.  I thought this beefed up (pardon the pun) the flavor just perfectly.

Of course my husband thought beer would make a great addition as well so he added some to his leftovers and claimed it was fantastic.  I'm not a huge beer fan so I guess it's something to try if you think you might enjoy the added flavor.

Overall, a very easy & simple recipe with a few tweaks for next time!  I will be attempting this again.  Also, be prepared for leftovers!  This makes a huge batch! 

The real reason people have kids is so you can dress them up in costumes for Halloween and everyone 'oohs' and 'ahhs' over them. People who say otherwise are lying. To you or themselves. Or both.

I was flipping through one of the hundreds of catalogs companies send you as soon as the pee hits the home pregnancy test. It's like they embedded a chip in there with your location. I swear, as soon as you see that second line your mailbox throws up magazines, catalogs, baby food samples and the like.

I digress...so as I'm flipping through this catalog, earmarking pages of things I want Dayne needs wants, I come across the Halloween costume section.  I was like a puppy being shown a new toy, my entire body was shaking with excitement.  This year I would finally be able to tote our child around in an overpriced, only going to be used once, costume that would have people stopping and commenting on "how cute!" he is.

I started pointing out costume after costume to Jason who finally stopped me and said we would not be dressing Dayne up like an animal.  Which meant the turkey and duck were a no go.  Jason suggested the astronaut or Yoda.

No way!  Those were costumes I could see Dayne requesting himself in the next few years, this would probably be the only Halloween we had control of his choice.  I wanted something he would never pick once he figured out he had a choice in the matter.

Then I saw it.  The most adorable costume ever.

I must have it!  Once I got Jason to finally let go of the Yoda idea I ordered this bad boy.

I came home from work yesterday and there it was, just waiting.  I opened the bag, fluffed the fur, felt the inside of the costume to make sure it would be comfortable.  Then I turned my attention to Dayne.  I plopped him down in my lap and put his foot in one of the monster feet slippers.

I glanced up at Jason to watch his face as Dayne stared at his now blue foot.  We watched as he tilted his head to the side, wiggled his foot around and then proceeded to lean forward and shove his slipper in his mouth.

"Don't try it on yet, let's wait for Halloween so it's 'special'."  Jason requested.

Instead I pulled the slipper off and held up the bodysuit up to Dayne for him to inspect.  His face lit up, he started clapping and gave us his "cheesy" grin where he squints his eyes and gives us a wide grin.  Then he started cracking up.  Which in turn made us laugh and this made Dayne laugh even harder.

I'm guessing he likes our choice.

I didn't try it on Dayne but that didn't stop me from shoving my head in the hood and walking around the house with it.  Who says kids get all the fun?

I remember several years ago when it became clear to me that sausage and I were no longer friends.  Just smelling sausage cooking was enough to make my stomach turn over and send me searching for the nearest window for fresh air.

Sharing my woe with a friend of mine one day, she suggested I try a sausage other than pork.  I tried beef first then after that failed, turkey.  Still no dice.  I chalked it up as to a food I just wouldn't eat any longer.  Then came the fateful shopping trip that took me past a display of Al Fresco chicken sausages.

I stopped, interested.  I had never heard of chicken sausage.  I read the flavors and was hopeful as I threw a package in the cart.  Jason & I grilled them outside and I was beyond thrilled to discover no ill side effects!  No only that, they taste fantastic!  Probably better than "regular" sausage in my opinion.

If you haven't heard of Al Fresco yet, let me be the first to introduce you!  Al Fresco is the #1 chicken sausage brand in the United States!  Their products have 70% less fat than pork sausage and are free of nitrites, nitrates, preservatives and artificial ingredients, but full of flavor!  

Al Fresco was kind enough to send over a few products for me to sample, I was able to enjoy the Roasted Pepper & Asiago Chicken Sausage, the Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage and the Tomato & Basil Chicken Meatballs.
  


I had tried the Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage prior and was thrilled to see it in the shipment they sent over.  The Vermont maple syrup is packed in every bite, it makes for a great addition to a breakfast quiche.  Al Fresco suggests their recipe for Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage with Basil, Almonds & Grapes.  


I was very excited to try out the Roasted Pepper & Asiago Chicken Sausage.  Two of my favorite flavors in one spot!  I LOVED this flavor, it was an amazing blend of the peppers and cheese, I even simply grilled on, threw on a few onions and ate it on a bun as is.


Their sausages are all fully cooked and ready to eat, just heat and go!  They're also juicy, maintaining their natural juices and flavors.  I thought their Roasted Pepper and Asiago Chicken Sausage Ragu over Pumpkin Polenta sounded perfect for the season!


What a perfect way to enjoy a chilly night in than with a warm, filling and healthy meal at the table with family & friends!  A great way to use that can of pumpkin puree other than in the pumpkin pie!  Enjoy the seasonal vegetables!  

I was surprised to see Al Fresco offered meatballs, this was news (awesome news) to me!  Again, meatballs have been an item I just figured I would have to pass up from now on.  These meatballs, just like their sausage products, are fully cooked so you only need to warm them up and add them to your meal.  I warmed mine in the oven and then added them to the spaghetti sauce I was making for dinner.


How amazing does this Pizza Alfredo with Roasted Vegetables look?  Super simple too!


If you, like myself, have issues with sausage and thought those days were gone, try Al Fresco Chicken Sausages.  Or if you just want a healthier option to fed your family their line is amazing!  


BUY:

Find out where you can purchase this amazing line near you!

Al Fresco offers coupons on their Facebook, Twitter & in their newsletters so be sure to sign up and grab a great deal!  


BONUS:


Be sure to enter their PINK Sweeps and win $1,000!  Hurry!


I wasn't paid or swayed to write this post, I was just given the products free of charge to provide an open and honest review!

Yes, I cheer for our Detroit Tigers!  Come on guys!  YOU CAN DO IT!

But I'm talking about the other type of tiger.  The one I turned into the day I had Dayne. 

I struggled to get pregnant so I cherished every moment of pregnancy.  I loved watching my belly grow, thrilled when I had to switch to maternity jeans.  (OMG the moment I slipped my first pair on I swear the heavens opened up and angels started singing.  Pregnant mommies - do NOT push this off until you can no longer squeeze into your regular jeans.  Trust me.) 

I secretly loved hearing people say "Oh you're all belly!" - Which by the way was totally not true, I discovered this fact when I tried to pull my jeans on two weeks post-partum.  Moms - DO push this off until your maternity jeans are falling off you.  Trust me.

But I was a LOT of belly, Dayne was a big baby!  8 lb 15.5 oz

My tummy had to stretch, a lot, to accommodate his growth.  When I was able to inspect my belly weeks later I noticed stretch marks from my belly button down.  Lots of them.  I had red marks on my hips.  My belly has extra skin that I'm not quite sure will ever go away without medical help. 

I LOVE Dayne, with more love than I ever dreamed possible.  I would (and will) do it all over again.  But I fear my bikini days may be behind me.  I sometimes wonder if Jason looks at me and says "Well, at least she still has a great sense of humor."

(I've asked him flat out before and he said he still finds me attractive, that all this "extra" is just part of being a woman and a mom)

I'm not quite fitting in my clothes like I did before and wonder if I ever will or if my body is forever changed. 

I live with it, what choice do I really have?  I am hoping to finally get the green light to exercise again in two more weeks so maybe that will help with the outside and the inside. 

But when I saw this on Pinterest, it struck my heart and made me tear up a bit.


I may not have the smooth skin I once had, my belly button may make me raise an eyebrow, I may have to start shopping for tankinis but I earned these stripes.  I grew one of the most amazing people I know in me.  I cared for him, nutured him, protected him.  I held him closer than anyone else ever will.  I allowed him to come flying into this world, ready to make his own mark on it. 

So when I start beating myself up, I remind myself...my body isn't ruined.  I'm a goddamn tiger who has earned these stripes!  I just need to look at Dayne's smile to know it was all worth it. 

I've been needing to get my haircut for a while now but something always comes up. I'm tired, we're short on cash, I would rather hang out with friends than sit in a chair for an hour...you know...life. Plus I'm somewhat terrified to have "the talk" with my hairdresser. Due to a few changes coming up, we're tightening the belt big time (more on that story later). Which means...no more professional coloring at the salon.

Oh yeah, my roots are showing too. Ha.

Sooooooo, I have to ask my stylist while batting my eyelashes if she could recommend a great at home coloring system that doesn't cost an arm & a leg and hope I don't hurt her feelings. I'm sure she'll understand, and it's only for a while - hopefully just around a year. When Jason & I were discussing areas to cut costs he brought up my salon bill. I about choked on the gasp I took in! Color my hair? At home? Myself?! Is he CRAZY?!

He said he'd help me do it. This tidbit intrigued me just enough to seriously consider trying it. Then he said he'd quit smoking. Jackpot.

I'll color my hair at home if he kicks his lung cancer habit. He spends the same amount in cigarettes in 14 weeks as I do for a coloring every 6-8 weeks. (Well that's how often I should be coloring it. What really happens is like three months go by and I wander in with my tail between my legs and receive the lecture from my stylist.)

When I brought the subject of quitting smoking up again the other day he had a million & one reasons as to why he could justify it still. Then he stopped and admitted he wasn't sure if he was ready to quit yet and realized he was justifying it. So if he stops smoking, I'll buy a box 'o color off the shelf and give it a whirl. Any brand suggestions? Tips? Tricks? I'm an at home coloring virgin!!

But as far as cutting my hair - I'll leave that to the professionals. Here are two ideas I'm kicking around:





 I've gone short before and I hated it.  Every.Single.Time.  So I'm not quite sure why I'm entertaining the idea of two short hair styles again.  The top one isn't too short, but Jennifer's style is shorter than I usually venture.  It looks great on her but would it work on me?  Would I take one look in the mirror and say:

"Frick.  Why did I attempt short again?"

Or will it work?

This past 4th of July a friend of ours showed up at their annual BBQ with bragging rights. She had just had a hair stylist friend of hers give her a Keratin treatment. We all oohed and ahhed over how soft, silky and beautiful her hair looked because of it.

My friend explained how the Keratin treatment prevented frizz and controlled her natural curl that she always fought with. I straighten my hair and hate that by the end of the work day my hair has a medium amount of frizz to it.

Interested, I asked how much it cost. She dropped the bomb that she received the discounted rate because she was a friend of the stylist. Even the discounted rate was out of my price range.

So I was thrilled to review Keratin Earth's at home system. I read the directions that came in the 4 piece set and realized this was going to be an involved process. I put Dayne down for his morning nap and got to work. You shampoo and rinse twice with their shampoo to prepare your hair to receive the treatment. It helps rinse out any product build up you may have.


Then you towel dry your hair, removing as much excess moisture as you can. This is where it got tedious. Starting at nape of your neck, use 1 inch sections of hair and apply Keratin Straightening Therapy starting at base through ends. Comb the treatment into hair. Repeat procedure, saturating entire head.

You leave the treatment in your hair for 10-20 minutes depending on what type of hair you have. The more thick/dense your hair is, the longer you're going to want to keep it on. After your wait is over you shampoo again, towel dry again and then apply the Leave-In Conditioning Masque. Apply liberally without over-saturating the hair.

I blow dried my hair until it was about 90% dry and then used a straightening iron on it. When I was done (I believe it took anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour) my hair looked & felt like I had walked out of the salon. I was THRILLED.
 
 But the real test was the week that followed. You are only suppose to wash your hair with their shampoo & conditioner because other brands may strip your hair of the treatment. The next day I woke up to soft shiny hair that only required a brush to detangle the pillow head. It's been over a week now and my hair is still as soft and shiny as it was after my first treatment! And it stays soft, shiny and frizz free through the day!

I cannot say enough good things about this product, it should last at least 30 days, if not longer so I see an hour out of one day, once a month as a small price to pay for envy worthy hair!

Buy your own kit from Keratine Earth's website!   Free shipping until 10/31 so hurry!

I wasn't paid or swayed to write this post, I was just given the Keratin Earth kit to provide an open and honest review!