Friday, February 28, 2014

Fun Friday: Framed Photo Makeover

I had a framed Anne Geddes print that I bought for myself when I was a teenager. I remember spending close to $100 for the print & a 10x36 frame (I think that's what size it is & it was a bulk of the price). So obviously I didn't want to throw it out even though I had no use for it. 

A few months ago I got some adorable Pastel Owl Prints by Paul Brent for Hayden's bedroom. But for some reason, I couldn't find 4 good quality 8x8 frames in the color I needed. Then one day, I saw the framed Anne Geddes print peeking out from behind a cupboard. (Yes, I kept it behind a cupboard.) That's when I got the idea to use the frame for the Paul Brent prints. 

All I did was take the Anne Geddes print out & paint the cardboard a color that would go with the Paul Brent prints. Then all I needed was some tape, a ruler & help from the hubs since I can mess up a straight line with a ruler. 

View this photo on Instagram!
 I've gotta say, I really love the way it turned out. And Hayden gave it the seal of approval, "I like my purdy pitcher mom." 

 Do you have any framed photos that could use a makeover?

Auric Blends Giveaway Winner!

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Guilt Free Snacking with Skinnypop

**Disclaimer: I have received products to try from SkinnyPop Popcorn & am simply sharing my personal opinion which may vary from yours. I was not compensated for this review.

Popcorn is a pretty popular snack in our house, especially on movie nights. But of course not just any kind of popcorn will do. Well, for me anyways. I like to use my grandparents air popper I inherited (still works like a charm after 30 years - give or take a few). But plain popcorn is out of the question. So of course comes the gobs of melted butter & salt. Yep, I have now successfully taken a healthy snack choice & turned it into nothing but a bowl of high cholesterol. (Insert sad face here.)

That's where SkinnyPop Popcorn comes in to save the day (or night)! This popcorn is light like air popped (pre-butter drowning), but much to my surprise it's packed with a whole lot of flavor. It's not as butter tasting as I'm used to, but I think I might actually like it better that way. (Whoa, totally surprised myself on that last sentence.)

So what's the skinny on SkinnyPop? Pretty much everything! SkinnyPop Popcorn is skinny on the ingredients & their Original flavor is made with just all natural popcorn, sunflower oil & salt. But the best part, 4C. is only 155 calories! (I think I had just as many calories in 4 pieces of popcorn when they were slathered in butter & salt.)

View this photo on Instagram!

SkinnyPop Popcorn also comes in Black Pepper, Ultra Lite White Cheddar & Naturally Sweet flavors. 

Keep up with the latest from SkinnyPop Popcorn on Facebook & Twitter.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Think It Thursday: Being Supermom

Let me start by saying that this post is not what you think it is. I get called Supermom quite a bit. Just like millions of other moms. But let's be realistic here. I'm not. Sure I may look totally awesome with my yoga, crafts, delicious meals, cute pictures of my kids across social media, blogging, clean house & what not; but let's not fool anyone.

I'm currently writing (yes with a pen and paper) this in the bathtub. Why? Because it's the only time I can have enough quiet to think clearly. Well, most of the time. I'm surprised no one has come banging on the door to tell me they have to poop.

I still have my yoga to do for the day too. I got this crazy idea to do #yogaeverydamnday & times like this I would like to take it all back. No way will I want to practice my forearm stands or crow pose after relaxing soaking in the bathtub. But that's OK, I have the perfect pose.

No doubt I'll have to share it on social media (Instagram, actually), just like the adorable video of Hayden weeding through the clothes in her closet I posted on Facebook earlier. But we'll leave the rest of the days highlights undocumented. At least in pictures. Hayden gave Paige a bloody nose by jumping on her face while she was laying down. Damien decided to look out the window to see the snow, except he wasn't wearing pants (or underwear). And of course there were countless meltdowns over...I don't even know. 

Oh but I did share a photo on Instagram of the craft project I plan on doing for my Fun Friday post tomorrow. It's a pretty simple one (I hope). But I'm sure I'll get sidetracked 21556565232 times & squeeze it in last minute. But that's OK, it'll finally get done. Have I mentioned that it's been on my to-do list for months? (Really, it has.) I also have to bake cookies with the dough that's been in the refrigerator for a whole day now. If I don't make them soon, I might as well grab a spoon & pop in The Notebook. Or Pretty Woman, that's a good one too. 

I guess dinner will have to be on the healthy side tomorrow after all of those cookies (I'll probably eat at least half a dozen while baking/decorating them). But that's alright, because I actually enjoy making dinner. Rarely do I make things out of a box (except for brownies, but they don't count). Maybe I can even manage to get the house all dusted & swept before dinner too. It took me forever to finally get it all cleaned up, so now we're in the maintenance mode. 

Who knows what else I'll be able to do tomorrow. I might read a chapter out of the book I've been reading, remember that it's my FIL's birthday & send him a text (mental note), finish painting my toenails, brush my hair, eat lunch sitting down & stay up after 10:00 pm. The possibilities are endless when you're a Supermom!

Work It Wednesday: My Workout Playlist

OK, I know this is technically a day late. But I may have gotten a bit overzealous with my workout yesterday & tanked out early after a busy day. So instead of my Yoga Meltdown DVD (by Jillian Michaels), practicing my forearm stands and a killer leg workout from Dance Fitness with Jessica... I think I'll stick to my "Work It" playlist on Spotify & some random moves (crunches, kicks, push ups, squats & of course some yoga). 

I can't get an embed code for the player since I only have Spotify Free, so you'll just have to click here instead.

 What songs are on your workout playlist?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Pasta Bolognese

My family should have been Italian since we love pasta dishes so much. And one of my "go to" dishes lately has been Pasta Bolognese. Bolognese is a meat based sauce (and lots of it) that is also commonly made with wine & a bevy of vegetables. 

Can you tell I was a bit too impatient to wait for the steam to stop in the center? 

You can use as much ground meat as you'd like (1-3 lb.) & as many varieties as you'd like. (A popular combination is ground beef & ground Italian sausage in a 2:1 ratio.) Then there's the veggies. I make this often mostly because I have a picky eater (yep, one of those sneaky chef tactics). All of the veggies are finely minced or shredded to blend in with the meat of the sauce. I generally keep it simple (like in the recipe below), but in the summer I tend to add mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, squash & anything else I can think of. 

*Remember to use desired amounts. 

•ground beef
•onion, minced
•garlic, minced
•carrot, finely shredded
•oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
•white cooking wine
•pasta sauce, any flavor
•salt & pepper
•additional desired seasonings such as sugar, crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, paprika, dried oregano, dried basil & dried parsley
•hot cooked pasta, drained
•Parmesan cheese, if desired

- In a large skillet over med-high heat, add ground meat and break it up as it begins to cook.
- When your meat is about halfway  cooked through, add the onion & garlic.
- Lower heat to med. and allow the onion & garlic to sweat a bit, while still crumbling & browning the ground meat. 
- Drain off a majority of the grease, add the carrot & sun-dried tomatoes. Simmer 5 min.
- Slowly add pasta sauce, a splash of cooking wine, salt & pepper and any additional seasonings. Cover and simmer 20 min.
- Adjust seasonings at this point if necessary and return to a simmer for an additional 10 min.
- Serve over hot cooked pasta topped with Parmesan cheese (if desired) & season to taste with additional salt & pepper.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Batiste Dry Shampoo

**Disclaimer: I have received products to try from Batiste Dry Shampoo & am simply sharing my personal opinion which may vary from yours. I was not compensated for this review.

It happens all the time. It gets too late to wash my just about waist length hair, so I vow to do it in the morning. But I'm convinced that this sets off an alarm alerting the kids of my plans. So what happens? They're all up before 6, which leaves them all feeling a little...testy (to say the least). Which means that I get about 10 seconds to jump into 1/2 an inch of water, lather up a bit of soap, rinse & hop into my robe to go & break up another fight. Washing my hair, not going to happen. Now thanks to the folks at Batiste Dry Shampoo, I'm OK with that.

I got to try the new "Fruity and Cheeky" Batiste Cherry. The scent is more like a cherry & powder combination, which I think I would actually prefer over a tart cherry (I haven't chewed on my hair since I was a kid, don't want to start again now). 

The directions on the back of the can are clear & simple. Just shake the can thoroughly, spray into your roots (where it's the most oily & greasy), massage through with your fingertips, brush & style. As a side note, I suggest to be fully dressed before using this. The first time I tried it I was wearing a tank top & then put another shirt on afterwards (which was navy blue). I ended up with white streaks on my shirt that was a bit of a pain to get off (just like deodorant streaks).

This is me not washing my hair for a week. Not too shabby, eh? (View this photo on Instagram)

Aside from being able to skip washing & drying your tresses, Batiste Dry Shampoo is a wonderful styling aid. I noticed my hair was more manageable (at least at the roots) & had an added boost of volume with a "lighter than air" feel. I played around with a few looks, but couldn't get the look I was going for to be able to snap a worthy photo. I did, however, find a few things that are shareworthy.

Photo credit Cindy Ord/Getty Images
Charlotte Ronson's collection (showcased during NY Fashion Week), was about woodlands and romanticism and the hair had to reflect this aspect. Stylist Stephanie Hayes used Batiste Cherry to create a lived in look with the models.

How to get the look!
Create a defined center parting and apply Batiste Cherry to the roots and lengths to create texture.  By spritzing at a distance, the look becomes lived in rather than dusty.
Sweep the hair into a low ponytail, keeping an inch section loose, and secure using a black velvet band.  Lightly spritz with shine spray.
Twist the ponytail and then using a gold scallop effect band (not grips) lightly tie into a bun.  Use the loose hair, originally left out, to then wrap around the bun to blend the two bands.  The effect is a loose, unstructured bun that isn’t tight to the head.
Gently tease out hair around the front hair line and in the bun for that soft dishevelled finish and then spritz Batiste for a soft fly-away effect.

Who knew a dry shampoo could be so versatile? And smell so good too!

Keep up with the latest from Batiste Dry Shampoo on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest


Monday, February 24, 2014

Messy Monday: Helpful Tips to Keep Your House Clean

Cleaning, Some people love it, most dread it. Sure everyone wants a clean house, but it can get overwhelming at times. Especially if you happen to have three (or more) small tornadoes to undo all of your hard work in .1341313513 seconds. Luckily for me, & now you, I've picked up a few helpful tips along the way. 

I would love to have this house! Photo cred:
 Put it away when you're done with it - This is the simplest of them all. Get something out, use it & put it away when you're done with it. Sure, it's easier to just set it to the side & worry about it later. But then it'll be there three days later along with a dozen other things to put away.

See something that needs done, do it -  I don't mean washing walls or steam cleaning carpets (those both need days to themselves). But when you sit down to watch TV & notice a yogurt covered handprint, get up & clean it. Same goes for a dusty table or streaky window. 

Don't let the dishes pile up -  Personally, I despise the dishes. So if there gets to be too many, I will try to put them off until I'm out of silverware, plates, or both. So the best way to tackle this chore, is to wash them as they get dirty & put them away as they dry. 

Wash laundry when you have a load - I never could figure out how people could wash clothes once a week. Between the kids, myself & the hubs, I wash a good 3 loads daily (sometimes more). But that is actually a good thing since it also cuts back on the task of folding & putting it away. Plus no one runs out of clean underwear! (That's huge bonus points right there!)

Clean the toilet daily - This might have something to do with the fact that I have a 4 year old boy who doesn't have the greatest aim, but cleaning your toilet daily is one of the best ways to keep your bathroom from getting all yucky. Just give the inside of the toilet bowl a quick scrub & the outside of the toilet a quick wipe down with an anti-bacterial wipe. 

Make your bed before you start your day - There's something about a made bed that just seems to give your day a good start. That doesn't mean you have to make it as soon as your feet hit the floor, but whenever you actually start your day. I make mine when I get dressed. But if for some reason, I stay in my jammies all day, I just make it sometime before lunch. 

Set a routine - This can be a bit tricky to figure out a good routine that works for you & your family. And it doesn't have to include everything. For me, a big thing is cleaning the floors. I have three levels to clean so it can take a little while to do. I decided to vacuum daily & sweep/mop every other day (except for the kitchen since that is the only room that seems to need mopped at least a little bit multiple times a day). I also have Sunday as the day I chose to wash all of the bed linens. Recently I started washing all of the sheets & pillowcases first. Since we have plenty of blankets, everyone can have their bed made in just a couple of hours instead of right before bed. Plus that way I'm not rushed to wash all the blankets & I can finish them on Monday if need be. 

Do a run through before bed - If you have kids, chances are you have toys to pick up. It also helps to make sure all of the dishes are washed. If you know you have laundry to wash the next day, take it down the night before. Do whatever you need to to make sure the next day is off to a good start. The best part is, that it won't take you more than 5-10 min. 

Do a thorough clean once a week - This may be a bit of a bummer to some. You still need to do a good cleaning at least once a week. Move the furniture & sweep (after you pick up the mountain of lost toys), scrub the bathtub, clean your microwave...that kind of stuff. But since your house has pretty much been clean all week, a top to bottom will only take a couple of hours instead of the couple of years that you're used to. 

#BoogieWoogieBabes Presents a Boogie Wipes Giveaway!

 We all know my love of Boogie Wipes, right? Even if I wasn't a Saline Ambassador for Little Busy Bodies LLC, I would love them. If for no other reason that using a Boogie Wipe is the only way I can wipe my kids noses. The only way. 

Of course I like to use the saline wipes on my nose too because, well, they really are awesome. (Shout out to Puffs Fresh Faces for making a grown up version!) They're also good to just sniff when you're in a smelly situation. And for messy hands. And I even cleaned the yogurt handprints off my TV with one before! (I'll admit that that was indeed a genius lazy moment.) And...well, Boogie Wipes can be used for more than just wiping boogies. 

This quarter, our Saline Ambassador teams were provided with a challenge to "Think Outside the Box". So we've been busy spreading the boogie love in new ways & new places. Like when you pay for your Taco Bell & you give the cashier a Boogie Wipe with your $20. Or leaving a few in the penny container at stores & gas stations (with a few pennies of course). 

But what kind of a Saline Ambassador would I be if I didn't share the boogie love with you all?! (And give another special shout out to Pampers Kandoo!)

One lucky winner will receive a Boogie Wipes Gift Pack!

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 The #BoogieWoogieBabes say GOOD LUCK!

**Smith and Blessings is not responsible for prize shipment.**

Keep up with the latest from Boogie Wipes on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest.

**Disclaimer: I have received products courtesy of Little Busy Bodies, LLC for being a Saline Ambassador & am simply sharing my personal opinion which may vary from yours. I was not compensated for this review.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Simple Sunday: Birdie Footprints

The snow may be melted now, but I made sure to snap a pic of this when I saw it. I have never seen birdie footprints like this in the snow, have you?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Snacktastic Saturday: Italian Breadsticks

Let's face it, some of the tastiest food out there just so happens to be not very good for you. Well, this just happens to be one of those foods.

•Italian bread dough or pizza dough (I use this recipe)
•oil for frying
•Parmesan cheese
•garlic powder
•dried parsley

- Shape the dough into a loaf & cut into slices. 
- In a bit of flour to prevent sticking, roll the dough slices out into ropes.
- Fry in oil until slightly browned, flipping to cook both sides (a deep fryer works best).
- Place on a paper towel lined plate & sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, garlic powder & parsley.


*Note: Although these are not very healthy (at all), they do not last long enough to consume them all. Unless you're alone. Then you might be in trouble.

Fun Friday: Handprint Hanging Canvas

I have been meaning to make this for a while now. Just a simple round canvas, painted white, with the kids handprints. I decided to layer them in black (Paige), gray (Damien) & white (Hayden), but of course Hayden got a little excited & instantly smeared her hand. Paige thought that we would have to redo the whole thing, but I decided to put their names, ages & the year on it in black Sharpie marker instead (even though I messed up on my bottom 2 a bit). Because let's face it, of course the 2 yr. old would smear her handprint!

I just added some wide ribbon to the back & hot glued it into place. (I also wrote the exact date on the back.) Now it's hanging on my wall in the upstairs hallway.  

Think It Thursday: I'm Going to Vermont!

I have been holding this in for what seems like forever. But now that it's getting fairly close (as in 2 months from now), it's time I share some exciting news. I'm going to Vermont!

OK, for some of you, that may sound rather boring. But for some reason, I've always been drawn to the New England states (although I've never visited them before.) So when I was offered the chance to do a review of a new retreat business called Perfect Vermont, I jumped at the chance. Better yet, it falls on my anniversary weekend! 

Pittsfield, Vermont is located on the edge of the Green Mountains & has made a name for itself in the fitness community. 

Some of their programs include...

Hiking and Yoga: Perfect Vermont is excited to bring you a new way to enjoy the beauty of Riverside Farm in Pittsfield, Vermont.  Get unplugged and experience true relaxation during a weekend of hiking, yoga and local organic food.  We have an expert staff who will ensure you leave feeling stronger, healthier and revitalized.

Elite Endurance:  Train with Peak Races top athletes including previous Death Race winners, while improving knowledge of endurance training during this high tempo course.  Spend the weekend running, cycling or mountain biking the back country of Vermont’s Green Mountains.  Instructors will lead group discussions, tours and fitness sessions.  This intensive course has been developed for dedicated endurance athletes.

Weight Loss: Equip yourself with the knowledge to live a healthier lifestyle.  Instructors will lead informational discussions, tours and fitness sessions.  This course has been designed to assist in planning your healthy weight loss. 

Don't worry, I'll fill you all in on more details as the date approaches.

Stay tuned!

Auric Blends & a Giveaway!

I'll be the one to go ahead & say it. These days women don't seem to give enough compliments to one another. I mean sure, we tell our friends & family if we like their nail polish, love the top they're wearing or smell good. But a complete stranger? Practically unheard of!

That's why I was shocked when I received so many compliments from random strangers over the past few weeks. Wondering what they were all complimenting me on? Auric Blends

These 1/3oz. hand blended oil based roll on perfumes come in 40 different fragrances, with collections ranging from floral and fruit to Oriental and fresh. Not to mention the roll on applicator makes it easy to apply the perfume to your pulse points, which makes the scent last longer. 

The folks from Auric Blends were kind enough to send me a set of their top sellers. And I have to say, I can see why they are. (Especially if we're considering compliments from random strangers that resulted in full blown conversation for 1-2 min.)

Egyptian Goddess
The #1 fragrance, Egyptian Goddess is a muck like non other. While still keeping the tone of the musk, it also has soft floral notes & what seems like a touch of baby powder. 

This one was my favorite. Love has the same elements as Egyptian Goddess, but with the addition of white amber which gives it a spicy undertone.

Amber Patchouly
As soon as I smelled the aroma of Amber Patchouly, I knew I had smelled it somewhere else before. The unmistakable earthiness of the patchouly with the spice of the amber, gives it a deep warmth that is hard to forget. 

Honey Almond
Honey Almond starts with the distinct aroma of almonds, but slowly transitions to the sweetness of honey. The subtlety of the layering leaves behind a refreshing softness. 

Auric Blends also carries perfume solids, a Naturals line, a bevy of items for their Egyptian Goddess & Love collections, along with Henna Body Art & Incense.

I received a few Fire Goddess incense sticks & loved them. I haven't burned incense for many years, so I didn't take a picture of my clever "holder" (or complete lack of). But I think I'll have to remedy that in the near future & get a new one (& more Fire Goddess). It has an undertone almost like Egyptian Goddess, which stuck around a lot more than I had expected it to, leaving me pleasantly surprised. 

Want the chance to try Auric Blends for yourself?

One lucky winner will receive three Perfume Roll Ons in the scents of their choice. 

The giveaway will conclude on at 12:00 a.m. est on Friday 2/28/14. Winners will be announced via rafflecopter & in a separate blog post which will be published no later than 3:00 p.m. on Friday 2/28/14. Winners will also be notified via email & announced on the Smith and Blessings facebook page. Winners will have 48 hours to submit shipping information, which will then be passed on to Auric Blends for distribution of product. If 48 hours has lapsed, a new winner will be picked & then will also have 48 hours to submit their information. *Giveaway open to U.S. residents only. 
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Keep up with the latest from Auric Blends on Facebook & Twitter.

I'm in love with Love! Check out my photo on Instagram!

**Disclaimer: I have received products to try from Auric Blends & am simply sharing my personal opinion which may vary from yours. I was not compensated for this review.


BRIANNA'S Fine Salad Dressings

Salad dressings have really gotten a bad rap lately. But that's mostly because people like to add  little salad to their dressing instead of the other way around. But with the right salad dressing & the right blend of ingredients, you can bring your "rabbit food" to a whole new level of deliciousness. (I've always thought those rabbits were onto something!)

The folks at BRIANNA'S Fine Salad Dressings were kind enough to send me 4 of their home style salad dressings. I know "home style" doesn't usually go with store bought dressings, but these are made with fresh ingredients in small batches. Just like you would make them yourself at home. (Get it now?)

Asiago Caesar
This Asiago Caesar has a more robust taste compared to other Caesar dressings (partly because of the Asiago cheese & balsamic vinegar). Which actually makes it perfect for outside the salad bowl. I think I'll try it out as a replacement to a garlic cream sauce the next time I make my Sun Dried Tomato Pasta. 

View this photo on Instagram!

My hubs is what I refer to as a Caesar snob. It's always his first choice, but there are few that he actually likes. So I consider myself lucky that I got to enjoy a Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad for dinner one night, because before I knew it the bottle was gone. (It's now the only Caesar dressing that I buy.)

Sorry, I couldn't resist & tried it before I remembered to snap a pic.

Rich Santa Fe Blend
More often than not, most Southwestern style dressings have a whole lot of heat that tends to overpower their flavor. That's definitely not the case with the Rich Santa Fe Blend! With an aroma of peppers & tomatoes (kind of like taco sauce), this dressing is perfect on taco salads. Not to mention fat free (unlike the sour cream you would pack on otherwise).

Best chimichangas...ever!

I have to tell you all, that I had an idea after tasting this dressing. And it turned out delicious! Add a bit to some shredded chicken & shredded cheddar in a bowl - don't forget to stir. Then place a spoonful or two on a flour tortilla, roll up, seal with toothpicks & brown in a bit of olive oil. What do you have? Chimichangas! But not just any chimichangas. Chimichangas that taste like they came from a Mexican restaurant.

Champagne Caper Vinaigrette
I thought I would be daring & give this dressings a try. And I have to say that I'm really glad I did! This mixture of champagne vinegar, Dijon mustard & crushed capers are quite the combination. With just the right amount of tang, of course. 


Champagne Caper Vinaigrette is the perfect compliment to homemade pita bread stuffed with lettuce, tomato, onion & grilled steak. Or salmon. Or as a light glaze on scallops. Or...just about anything.

You can't tell how much I love this, can you?

Blush Wine Vinaigrette
In a surprise twist, I thought that the Blush Wine Vinaigrette would be a sweet accompaniment to say...strawberries. (Wonder where I got that idea?) And while it is quite tasty with strawberries, it's also quite tangy. But then again, red wine vinegar is the base ingredient.

My (current) favorite way to enjoy this dressing is with a Tomato Salad. Tomatoes, avocado, green onion & Blush Wine Vinaigrette...oh look at that, it's snack time! 

The folks at BRIANNA'S Fine Salad dressings, have a desire to create a superior product with a consistently high quality. I can't speak for you, but I have to say that I'm really glad that they can live up to those expectations. And my Caesar snob hubs agrees. 

•No High Fructose Corn Syrup
•No Trans-Fats
•MSG Free
•Made with Heart Healthy Canola Oil
•11 All Natural Dressings
•10 Gluten Free Dressings
•Fat Free and Sugar Free Dressing Options
•Vegetarian and Vegan Dressing Options
•Lactose Free, Egg Free & Low Carb Dressings

Be sure to check out what other flavors BRIANNA'S Fine Salad Dressings has to offer, as well as their recipes.

Keep up with the latest from BRIANNA'S Fine Salad Dressings on Facebook & Pinterest.

**Disclaimer: I have received products to try from BRIANNA'S Fine Salad Dressings & am simply sharing my personal opinion which may vary from yours. I was not compensated for this review.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Work It Wednesday: Building Upper Body Strength

It all started with yoga. Seriously, that's about what everything starts with these days. But I never knew that yoga would take so much strength. Of course, I never knew that yoga was anything more than stretching, while blocking out the universe & finding your inner peace. Don't get me wrong, it totally is. But it's also headstands, handstands & all sorts of crazy poses. Most of which I'm absolutely terrible at because I lack in the upper body strength department. 

Ideally, one would probably go to a gym to really build up their upper body. But with 2 different school schedules & a toddler...I don't know who gym is! (Or Jim, whichever.) So I've been looking for the most effective moves that I could actually do at home. And guess what I found, Top 10 Most Effective Upper Body Exercises For Women

Paulin Soleyman of The Underground Bootcamp, has compiled the best & highly effective moves for women (which can all be done at home with a set of dumbbells) that LIVESTRONG has to offer. My favorite off the list, the Triceps Push Ups.

What's your favorite upper body strength workout?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

Blue Apron & a Giveaway!

What's for dinner? That seems to be the question that everyone is always asking. Sure we have our go-to dishes, but we don't want to eat the same things over & over. Then there's the recipes we'd love to make, that always have at least one ingredient that isn't found at any store within a 100 mile radius. But even if we have the "perfect" recipe, who says we feel like taking all the time to get everything ready (aside from a bit of prep). So, what's for dinner? How about Blue Apron?

Blue Apron is a box subscription service that gives you just about everything (aside from salt, pepper & olive oil) you need to prepare dinner 3 nights a week. Available in a poultry/meat/fish or vegetarian option, Blue Apron is delivered right to your door (in a refrigerated box of course). The best part is if you see a box that you don't quite care for, or you'll be on vacation, you can easily choose to skip that week by the given deadline date. You can also cancel your subscription at any time. 

As you can see, everything comes clearly labeled, except a few of the obvious (lemon & red onion). But then again, some that are still quite obvious are labeled as well (like the carrot).

But what really had me wondering was a brown paper sack labeled "Knick Knacks". Surely it couldn't be filled with what I refer to as knick knacks (like those little odds & ends figurines).

What a relief that I was wrong (which I knew I would be). This bag was packed with all of the seasonings & clearly labeled as well (except for the garlic & shallots). 

The box also included three large recipe cards for the meals that I would be making. The original recipes serve two, are roughly 500-700 calories per serving (mine were all 675 calories) & take an average of 35-40 min. to prepare. 

I'll be honest here, I had checked out some of the recipes from the previous boxes & all of the recipes sounded delicious. There was one here & there that I thought it might be good. So when I received my box I made a beeline for the recipes. Instead there was only one that I thought sounded remotely good (& that was pushing it). The other two I was sure I wouldn't like them at all. But I thought, "What the heck!". If all else failed, it would be PB&J for dinner. What would you expect after already making a full meal (technically two since the kids had their own meal also). 

First up, was Chicken Supremes & Broccolini with Forbidden Rice, Pepitas & Mustard Sauce. This recipe brought Chicken & Rice to a whole new level. The Forbidden Rice is actually black rice which got it's name in ancient China - it was meant for the Emperor only & was forbidden from the general population. I love rice so I was certain I was going to like this dish. 

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The Forbidden Rice is mixed with chopped broccolini, & toasted pumpkin seeds; served alongside a browned bone-in chicken breast which is topped with a tangy Dijon mustard sauce & chopped fresh tarragon. I have to say that even though I was the most hopeful about this dish, in comparison to the others it was my least favorite. For me, the tangy Dijon sauce was too tangy. And that was even using it sparingly. I did however find myself practically shoving the black rice mixture into my mouth (it was that good!). 

Next I decided to make Pan-Roasted Hake with Roasted Fennel, Fresh Grapes & Brown Butter Vinaigrette. Hake, if you've never heard of it (I sure hadn't) is a mild white fish. I'm not really a big seafood fan, but there is some that I love, like scrod/cod which I found Hake to be comparable to. But I was really curious how the seafood was going to pair with the robust anise flavor of the fennel in this dish.

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This ended up being my second favorite dish. Roasting the fennel brought out a natural sweetness that I wasn't expecting. And then there was the Brown Butter Vinaigrette! Browned butter, minced shallot & lemon juice blended with sliced red grapes & fresh parsley. All I can say is wow! It was the perfect compliment to the mild Hake, slightly sweet roasted fennel & the farro. The toasted walnuts on top were just like the cherry on top.

You can tell the cilantro was past its prime.

More honesty here, I was borderline dreading this last dish. It was just full of ingredients that I was certain would not go together. Moroccan Beef Tagine with Ras el Hanout, Dates & Honey. I know what you're thinking, what the heck is Ras el Hanout?! It's actually a spice blend of coriander, turmeric, cardamom, clove, cinnamon & nutmeg. No way was that going to go with the ground beef in this dish. Also, the cilantro for this wasn't good (the only ingredient in the whole box that was past its prime) & for some reason I couldn't find any at my local stores. I had my fingers crossed that having to substitute dried cilantro wasn't going to ruin this dish. Not that I thought it could possibly be good enough to ruin in the first place. 

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The verdict was surprising, I absolutely loved this! I got lots of comments that it didn't look very appetizing, but I don't really blame them - it is basically a beef stew over couscous after all. But somehow everything went together perfectly, even with my dried cilantro on top. Of course I'm sure it would have been all the better with a mound of fresh cilantro to accompany the toasted almonds topping this dish. Perhaps I can track down some Ras el Hanout so I can make this again. Yep, I liked it that much! 

One of the great aspects of Blue Apron is that they include those hard to find ingredients (hopefully the Ras el Hanout won't be too hard to find). Not to mention that they really make you explore your foodie side. And starting at $9.99 per person/per meal ($59.94 per box - delivery & tax included), Blue Apron is well worth it. I really love how it takes the guessing out of figuring what's for dinner. Plus with everything pre-measured & minimal prep, it's perfect for the hubs to make dinner once in a while (or 3 nights a week).

Want to try Blue Apron for yourself?

The kind folks at Blue Apron will graciously supply one lucky winner with one Blue Apron box. (The winner will have the option of choosing a poultry/meat/fish or vegetarian box.) 

 Blue Apron currently delivers to most of the United States including the following states: CA, CT, DC, DE, FL, ID, IL, IN, KY, MA, ME, MD, NH, NJ, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, TN, VA, VT, WA, WV.  They also deliver to some parts of the following additional states: AL, AR, AZ, CO, GA, IA, NM, MI, MO, MS, NC, SC, UT, WI, WY. For a more precise delivery map, click here.

 The giveaway will conclude on at 12:00 a.m. est on Sunday 2/16/14. Winners will be announced via rafflecopter & in a separate blog post which will be published no later than 3:00 p.m. on Sunday 2/16/14. Winners will also be notified via email & announced on the Smith and Blessings facebook page. Winners will have 48 hours to submit shipping information, which will then be passed on to Blue Apron for distribution of product. If 48 hours has lapsed, a new winner will be picked & then will also have 48 hours to submit their information. *Giveaway open to U.S. residents only. 
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**Disclaimer: I have received products to try from Blue Apron & am simply sharing my personal opinion which may vary from yours. I was not compensated for this review.