Zebras in my Backyard

Yinz. For the next three nights, I’ll go to bed knowing that there are zebras in my backyard.

zebras

And there are buffalo just off to the left. For reals.

This is what happens when you are on a work trip to Nemacolin. Hope all of YOUR weekends have been amazingly memorable, too. Speaking of memorable, have you headed over to my latest giveaway for a Picture Keeper Connect? It’s ending in just two days, so be sure to enter NOW! xoxo

 

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Perfect Pudding Pops (a #BacktoSchoolSimple Recipe)

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BacktoSchoolSimple #CollectiveBias 

Oh, Back to School. How is it less than a week away? We’ve gone through Kindergarten Orientation, started earlier bedtimes, bought new clothes / shoes, and did our back to school food shop at our local Giant Eagle. Grabbing everything we needed for lunches, snacks, and a special first day of school treat (see the Perfect Pudding Pops, below!) was easy and convenient at Giant Eagle. (Bonus? I got to add some fun, healthy snacks to my lunches, too!) We set out to grab quick win items, and the Bigs had control over what went in the shopping cart. Everything on our list was checked off in one quick and easy stop.

Perfect Pudding Pops

Pudding Pops

I wanted to be sure the kids had a fun first day of school treat, so I asked my chef-in-the-making (Arianna) to look at our list and help me come up with a fun recipe. She wanted to fill Snack Packs with some of the fun Oreo and Goldfish treats we found while at Giant Eagle, and Evan chimed in that we needed some healthy additions, too. We ended up deciding to grab some strawberries to mix in, then put them in the freezer for a cool treat (as the first day of school is of course forecast to be a hot one).

To make our Perfect Pudding Pops, we needed to pull our ingredients together:

  • Snack Pack Pudding cups (we wanted chocolate and vanilla)
  • Goldfish crackers (assorted, we chose Chocolate Mint + Pretzel and s’mores)
  • Mini Oreo Cookies
  • Strawberries
  • Optional, Popsicle Sticks
  • Optional, popsicle molds

ingredients_pp

The Bigs were pretty excited about those Goldfish, by the way.

goldfish

 

Putting together the Perfect Pudding Pops was pretty easy, too. We simply:

  1. Open Snack Packs.
  2. (Optional) Spoon into the popsicle makers.
  3. Crumble add-ins.
  4. (Optional, if not using popsicle makers) Add in popsicle stick.
  5. Cover.
  6. Put in freezer for about 6 hours – perfect for during the school day. Pro tip – don’t let these sit for longer than a day – they do get a bit crunchy! 
  7. Push out of the cup or mold and enjoy!

filledpopsicle

Yum!

ariannapuddingpop

The Lunch Station

Beyond having a super fun first day of school treat, we wanted to build a station that would help with packing lunches once or twice a week, so the Bigs looked for favorites like Schwebels Bread, JIF Peanut Butter, Smuckers Fruit Spread, Frito Lay snacks, Goldfish Crackers, and Entemanns Little Bites. Of course, we had to be practical and pick up the bags to tuck the goodies in, too!

Back to School Simple

I think we did pretty good, don’t you? What would you have added?

lunch station

The After School Snack Station

To make life easy on Greg, we decided to pick out After School Snacks that stuck with our family theme – a healthy choice and a happy choice. The kids will get to pick one of each from this station in the pantry. No questions asked, except asking when can we go back to Giant Eagle to fill it up! *wink* (Check out gianteagle.com to find your local store.)

after school snack

Personally, I was over the moon with these portion packs because I’ll be using them to get back on track with right sized snacks for me, too! I showed Arianna how to weigh a serving of Goldfish, then we made some portion packs filled with her favorite treat from our shop.

portionsnack

Up Next? The first day of school!

I *think* that we are ready, at least when it comes to food. Thank goodness we have Giant Eagle as our local headquarters for back to school shopping! Check out how others are using Giant Eagle as their one-stop-shop for back to school.

What’s still on YOUR Back to School To Do List? Share below!

 

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Back to School Gift Giveaway

http://www.ratsandmore.com/2016/08/us-bilby-chalk-marker-review-giveaway.html

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Knolly Nibbles and Kindness

Disclaimer: I met the Knolly Nibbles team at Blogger Bash NYC. Although I received a product at their booth, all opinions in this post are my own.

knolly nibbles app

Knolly Nibbles and Kindness

It’s no secret that we’re raising a “different” family around here. We’ve only struggled once or twice with our kids feeling that they are “different”; however, I’m sure that as they get older, this will come up more often. When I heard about Knolly Nibbles at BBNYC, I knew instantly that this sweet creature would be part of our lives.

Knolly Nibbles is a “little mouse born without a tail but a big heart and two heart shaped ears” (knollynibbles.com). She is different; however, if you read her story, you’ll get all the feels that I did as she works through her feelings of trying to fit in and realizes she is special and that’s a good thing.

Knolly Nibbles

Her message, to love ourselves just the way we are, is so important for the kids and us adults, isn’t it? Being kind to ourselves and others goes a long way.

Getting to Know Knolly Nibbles

I got to know Knolly via the book, “A Tale of Tails for Knolly Nibbles” and bring it home to my kids. They, like me, love her big eyes and heart shaped ears…and more so…her spirit. There’s more, though! Knolly Nibbles is a book, plush character, and as of today, an app!

A little more about this app, available on the App Store today:

It’s an INTERACTIVE story of little Knolly Nibbles who is born without a tail and heart shaped ears, Knolly wonders why she is so different and longs for her own tail,  she goes out on an imaginary adventure to find the perfect tail, before she realizes she IS special just the way she is!  Its a simple but effective “TALE of TAILS” that educates kids young and old about self acceptance!  A GREAT Message!

from the Knolly Nibbles team

If you and your children would be touched by this story, please head over to follow them on Twitter and Facebook, or pick up the app today. xoxo Most of all? Be kind.

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Twin Tuesday: On the Move

The twins are seriously on the move, sometimes to the point it is scary. 


Isla. She has no fear. Climbing on top of piled up toys? Check. Toddling around in the rain at the park? No problem. Grabbing the big kids’ pointy toys (like drumsticks) and running with them. Right up there with staring at outlets to see who is watching. Sigh. 

Ava. Her fear is yet to really be tested, but she’s had her moments, too. Crawling out of the man loft after the big kids. Trying to back down the stairs. Face planting when she’s mad. Poking the bear, aka Isla. 

Our hands are full. But man, our hearts. 

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Do Life Together

This is yet another Sunday night leaving me to wonder where time went. This was a weekend full of things that filled my cup, topped off by a great message this morning at church with part that really stuck with me. Do life together.

In our church talks today, that was specifically a reference to how we can team up against Satan. When we find people we can fellowship with, we link our arms together in this battle. 

Like I said, this really stuck with me. 

We started at this church about a year ago and have slowly but surely started to find some great people to do life with. Hopefully this fall we will be part of a home group to grow closer, too. 

But I couldn’t help but think of the others in my life who I am so glad I have linked my arms with in battle. 

Missy and Tom. My bestie and her husband. I know they pray for us, and I know I’ve been fervently praying for them. 

Brandee, my Thirty-One Sister and friend (and her husband Wayne and baby E). 

Our siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It’s hard to find people you can call family AND friends, but we pretty much hit the jackpot when it comes to family.

Many of us riding “it’s a small world”

The Resting Place Ladies. Tonight, even! I’ve been so lucky to have a group of loving and supportive friends. 

Some of us shopping in January

And these are just a few! Seriously, I feel so blessed to have some many great people to do life together with! Hopefully you all can say the same…that you’ve got yourself a group of good, loving people to go to battle with you. To pray for you. To build you up. To have you when you fall. To love you. Right?

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Five Friday Faves: Volume 1 Edition 2

Who has spent this evening questioning (or maybe thankful?) where the time went this week? Me! That leads me right into this edition of Five Friday Faves!

One: The Rio Summer Olympics! Need I day more?

Two: Smart Tribes.My work team read and discussed this book. It is a great professional and personal read about getting in your Smart State. 

Three: Acoustic music. It has been so hot, we needed a few chill moments. I plugged in my headphones and chilled to some peaceful tunes. 

Four: Family time. We got to see my parents and brother plus several cousins and aunts and uncles this week. Always good. 

Five: Tomatoes. We really have no choice. 

What were your fave things this week?

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Those Eyes

Oh, Isla!

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Fasta Pasta Family Size

Disclaimer: Posts on this blog may include affiliate links or reviews in which I was asked to review an item or service in exchange for compensation and/or free items. All opinions, however, are 100% my own. In a busy house, sometimes waiting for a pot of water to boil so you can get pasta going is impossible. Luckily, we recently found out about Fasta Pasta, a kitchen gadget that will revolutionize how you cook pasta – especially if you go for the Fasta Pasta Family Size, like we did.

fasta pasta family size

Fasta Pasta Family Size

First, some details on what the Fasta Pasta is and why the Family Size version is so special:

Don’t be fooled by its no-fuss appearance, this microwave pasta cooker will not disappoint.  It is the perfect hassle-free way to cook pasta for large dinner parties or families on-the-go. With its patented reservoir design, the water circulates throughout, ensuring perfect pasta every time.

This made in the USA product is BPA-free and FDA-approved, and even includes a free cooking guide and recipes! Fasta Pasta Family Size cooks all types of pasta, vegetables, soups, casseroles and rice, without stickiness or starchiness from start-to-finish in minutes. Treat your guests to second and third helpings, with this upgraded pasta maker. The new dimensions (8.5W x 13L x 6H) can be used in standard size microwaves that measure 21 inches wide or larger. Accommodating as much pasta as you need, it’s guaranteed that no one will leave your house hungry this summer. Works great with all kinds of summer pasta salad, such as macaroni, rotini and more! This is sure to make your summer meal prep easier than ever.

Source: Fasta Pasta

 Arianna has been watching some kid cooking shows, so she was way too excited to see the Fasta Pasta in the kitchen. She asked if she could help me, so I put her to work. To get started, we highly recommend you read the instructions. As you watch this video, you’ll see us put the Fasta Pasta in the microwave with the lid on – that’s wrong (and totally on the instruction sheet – I was full on mom braining it that day). We grabbed our box of macaroni and got to work.

 

 

After it went through the first round of microwaving, it was time to check on the pasta and give it a stir.

 

 

Finally, (what you don’t see), it was time to drain the water and enjoy the pasta. Super-fast and easy, giving me time to make homemade tomato sauce and meatballs while the pasta did its own thing.

 

 

All in all, we like the Fasta Pasta Family Size and are glad it gives us busy parents a quick solution to eating pasta dishes. Bonus, it’s easy enough for our kid chef to help out!

What do you think? Would you give this gadget a try?

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Fasta Pasta Family Size and the Original Fasta Pasta are available for purchase on Amazonwww.fastapasta.com , www.scsdirectinc.com  and at specialty retailers nationwide. Retail Price: $19.99, $14.99

Posted in Appliances, Foodie Stuff, Product Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

3 Tricks to Change the Way You Groupon

Disclaimer: Posts on this blog may include affiliate links or reviews in which I was asked to review an item or service in exchange for compensation and/or free items. All opinions, however, are 100% my own. This post about Groupon is one such post.

Have you ever wasted money? It feels awful, doesn’t it? As a family of six, we’re always looking for ways to save money, and Groupon is one of those ways. Problem is, we all too often forget to check them as a site for savings, so I’m going to share with you three tricks to change the way you Groupon and keep money in your pocket.

groupon

3 Tricks to Change the Way You Groupon

Trick One: Sign up for their subscription(s), and opt into ones that are meaningful to you.

I like to follow the Pittsburgh listings and then add locations I’m traveling to (opting out when we’re home). You can choose how little or how much you want to get, but I find these emails are at the least a reminder (daily or weekly) to go out and review what they are offering. Since Groupon is always changing their deals, you are more likely to see those one-off specials if they are straight to your inbox.

Bonus tip – If you have a spending issue (like me, which is why I’m trying SO HARD not to spend in August), set up an email rule to put them in a folder and then a calendar reminder to check out the deals once a week.

Trick Two: Use it to buy products or book getaways.

Groupon Goods is a service that deeply discounts thousands of fun items (think birthday gifts or treats for yourself as a reward for saving money). As you can see above, I found a bunch of things that caught my eye today – but if I don’t act fast, they’ll be gone.

Use Groupon Getaways to find a vacation on the cheap at quality locations. Plug in your destination and find hotels, experiences, and even air travel packages. With thousands of options, you just might find your next dream trip!

Trick Three: To get the most value, don’t forget to redeem your Groupon.

While many Groupons will hold the original value you paid, you don’t want your Groupons to go unused. Get the full advantage and spend them when you buy them. I’m preaching to the choir here – I have one for ice cream that I let go past the redeem by date, so now it’s just like a gift card in the value I paid. Had I redeemed in the redemption period, it would have meant two trips for ice cream, not just one!

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Now that I’ve shared my tips and tricks, follow Groupon on Twitter or visit them on Facebook. Before you go…tell me…how do YOU Groupon?

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