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Monday, January 25, 2016

Taco Pasta Salad

My favorite meals to prepare are the ones that come together quickly, that can be served simply without a lot of fuss, and of course the ones that offer leftovers. My family loves leftovers so I consider myself fortunate! We all love pasta and who doesn't like a great taco? Combining them creates a meal that can be made ahead of time, that can be served without any prep work after a long day, and that will have your family asking for leftovers guaranteed! My favorite thing about this dish is that it is served cold. We have this at least once a month in the summer!


Taco Pasta Salad
Ingredients

1- 16 ounce box of garden rotini cooked al dente and chilled
1 pound of lean ground beef, browned, drained and chilled
1 12 ounce bottle of Catalina Salad Dressing
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1 envelope of mild taco seasoning
1/2 cup of black olives
1 cup of cherry tomatoes
1 medium sweet onion, sliced or diced {your preference}
1 bell pepper, sliced or diced
salsa
sour cream
Nacho Cheese Doritos

Directions
Prepare ground beef with taco seasoning, allow to cool to room temperature then chill
Prepare rotini al dente style, allow to come to room temperature

After the first two steps have been completed, combine the pasta and Catalina Salad Dressing.
Mix well until all pasta has been coated. 
Add cheese
Add the taco meat and stir well, evenly distributing the cheese and meat.

Prepare the fresh vegetables, but place them in individual sealable containers or baggies.

When it is time to serve, start with a bed of Doritos, then spoon the pasta mixture over them.

Top with vegetables, salsa and sour cream to your liking.

This makes a generous amount of Taco Pasta Salad. My family of 2 adults and 2 children will usually have this for 3 meals. I love to add lettuce to mine with lots of onions and olives. My husband loves the peppers and tomatoes, so offering the toppings on the side allows us the opportunity to make it to taste with our veggies. The kids are just thrilled to have a meal with chips in it! Ha! To be honest, that appeals to me too sometimes!

Another favorite recipe that we sometimes serve with this Taco Pasta Salad that is light and crowd pleasing is my Veggie Pizza. Again this is a cold serve recipe and I love how we can get even more fresh veggies into our meal in such a yummy way!
Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New Technology Slashes Electricity Bills for Texans

New Technology Slashes Electricity Bills for Texans

This post is made based upon a partnership with Energy Ogre and Sweet Silly Sara.

I don't know about you, but my energy bills are always on my mind! It seems like our little municipally owned electric company has the highest rates possible! Saving money on utility bills is important to my family. We found a way that technology can help to lower those monthly bills and I can't wait to tell you about it!


If you live in a deregulated market in Texas (and millions do), there is a new technology company that is helping people save 40-60% off their energy bills.

First, take just a few minutes and use this savings calculator to learn what you could be paying based on your usage. Energy Ogre is a one-of-a-kind technology company. The technology scours the current offers in Texas and finds the best deal for you. Homeowners, apartment renters, business owners are all saving some SERIOUS money.

Important Note: Energy Ogre is NOT an energy provider and the company doesn't get paid by any energy provider for preferential treatment. They only find the best deal for the end consumer. They are a highly rated company with 5.0 reviews.

After using the calculator and learning how much you can save, you have the option to pay Energy Ogre $10 a month to become your "administrative assistant" and make changes on your behalf. This takes the hassle out of dealing with your energy providers and you just sit back and save big money!

Check out what the press is saying about Energy Ogre!

Here are a just a few of the reviews that you can read on Energy Ogre's Facebook Page.

Alisha: "My bill got up to almost $200 a month in the summer in a small one-bedroom apartment. Now my bill has never been even close to $50 a month. I am so happy and thankful for this company who helped me save some much needed money for other bills!"

Bernie: "Went with Energy Ogre 3 months ago, previously w/TXU for years @ .095 / KWH - bills ran anywhere from $160 - $300 - first three months w/ Energy Ogre - bills were Sept - $49, Oct.- $59, and Nov.-$57 - and we're an all electric house."


Adam: "Energy Ogre is the best! I got out of a contract with an early termination fee and still saved lots of money!"

Houston Business Journal: "Houston-based Energy Ogre’s focus is on electricity but at its heart, this is a technology company that uses analytics to find a rate that fits their clients’ demand profile."

Kathy: "Got my first bill after signing up with Ogre and my bill dropped from the high $200s to $85! I was in shock .. but very happy!"

The personnel behind Energy Ogre have been involved with the Texas electricity markets since well before they deregulated in 2002. This group has built power plants, scheduled fuel and electricity and even owned and managed Retail Electricity Providers in the recent past. In 2013 they decided to create Energy Ogre to help end use customers fully unlock the benefits of the deregulated electricity markets.
Sunday, January 17, 2016

S'mores Cookie Recipe

Last week I had the urge to bake. I browsed through my favorite recipes and had that feeling that I have made all of this stuff a hundred times... I promised Roo I would have cookies for him when he came home from school, so I started browsing recipes I hadn't tried before. I stumbled across this recipe for S'mores Cookies and decided to give it a whirl. I am so glad I did!

These cookies are addictive. They are sweet, have gooey spots and are sure to please even the toughest cookie critic!

So yummy I had to sneak a bite before photographing!

Ingredients

1 ½ cup flour
1 ½ cup finely crushed graham crackers
¼ tsp baking powder
½ lb butter
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups chocolate chips
1¼ cup mini marshmallows

Directions

Put marshmallows and 1/2 of the chocolate chips on a plate and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars until well combined.

Add eggs and vanilla extract and beat well. 

Stir in  half of the chocolate chips.

Add dry ingredients mix until combined.

Drop two ounce cookies onto ungreased baking sheet and bake in 350 degree oven for seven minutes.

Take cookie sheet out of oven and press three marshmallows and three chocolate chips into each cookie.

Return to oven and bake for an additional two minutes or until marshmallows are melty.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

These S'mores Cookies were a big hit with my family! My son said "Mommy? You made these?" Like he couldn't believe I tried a new cookie recipe! It was so cute!

These are now going into the group of favorite recipes to bake! I know we will whip up another batch of these very soon! They were incredibly easy to make; the hardest part was pressing the marshmallows and chocolate chips into the cookies during the baking process!

What is your favorite kind of cookie to bake? I would love to hear about it!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reduce Your Energy Expenses with Energy Direct

 A Direct Energy and Sweet Silly Sara Partnership


My family has a habit that makes me crazy. It appears that I am the only person living in our house that understands how to turn off a light switch. Day in and day out I have wandered from room to room, floor to floor to turn off lights in basically every room, at every hour of the day!

I speculate that I am so conscious of our energy usage because I see the bill and pay it. My kids have no concept of that adult fun, my spouse really doesn't either. If I can not only help the planet by reducing our carbon footprint but also save some of our hard-earned money, you better believe I am going to flick every light off you leave on without complaint. 


I am trying to teach my children to use energy wisely. They are small, but it is never too soon to help them develop energy saving habits! We are making it into a game! A chance to see their efforts at saving in action.


  • If the kids find that a grown up has left a cord plugged into the wall without a device to power and they point it out to me...

  • If the kids remember to turn off a light when they leave the room and tell me that they turned off the light...

  • If the kids see something like the television left on when we are leaving, the fridge door open a little, and they let me know or better yet, close the door to the fridge themselves...

  • ...They get a penny for their piggy banks for each action. While it is essentially bribery, let's face it, money talks! I think it is a good example of one of the reasons it is important to save energy that even the little kids can understand.



I have found another way to save on our energy expenses! If you live in Ohio, you will want to learn more about Direct Energy in Ohio and the amount they can save you on your monthly electric rate! You can sSave up to 14%* over DP&L’s electricity rate, and up to 10%* over Duke Energy’s electricity rate. There’s more! Save up to *5% over The Illuminating Company’s electricity rate, and up to 3%* over Ohio Edison’s electricity rate!






*All savings refers to the current difference between Direct Energy's fixed rate offer and the Utility’s current Fixed Rate for Basic Service as of January 8, 2016, and does not include any other component of the electricity bill. Utility rates are subject to change and there may be no savings following the respective official utility rate change date.  Direct Energy's fixed rates include electricity supply charges only and excludes delivery/transmission charges, taxes, and all other utility-related charges. Offer is limited and valid for new residential customers only.

How do you encourage your kids to save energy? Do you have any tips or tricks to help others save on their energy expenses?


Preschool Coloring Printable

Valentine's Day is only a month away. To help get your preschooler excited about the holiday of love I created a simple printable I would love to share with you. 

My 5 year old loves to color and he has developed an interest in shapes. Hearts are one of his favorites right now.  My 2 year old can't resist coloring! It is her favorite thing to do right now!

I didn't want to overwhelm them with a busy coloring page, so I used a simple heart shape and a phrase they are  used to hearing (over and over again).

The result? A happy boy that was busy coloring away and telling his Mommy "Hearts. Love you! You're Sweet!" A happy girl singing "Coloring! Coloring! Mommy! Look at me coloring!"

I hope your preschooler enjoys this simple printable as much as my kids do. We have colored this one at least 5 times in the past 24 hours. 



To print this coloring page click here.

Thanks for dropping by! I hope to see you again soon.



Monday, January 11, 2016

Finding The Perfect Family Vacation

Christmas is over, and we’ve still got a couple of months of dreary weather ahead of us. It’s around this time that all of us start daydreaming about the summer and throwing together plans for our next vacations. If you took a personal interest in my last parenting article, you may be looking for a family-friendly holiday for the first time. Although this is a pretty big niche, finding a trip that will be enjoyable for adults as well as kids can be tough. To give you a hand, I’ve had a search for some of the best family holiday destinations.


Cancun_2006_08_15.JPG
Beach in Cancun (Wikimedia)

First off; something fairly close to home, Cancun. Yes, it may have a reputation as a spring-breaker’s paradise. If you plan your trip well in advance and do a bit of research, you’ll be able to find all kinds of things which kids will enjoy. Because of its booming tourist trade, there are also a variety of bars and restaurants for you and your partner to enjoy. If your children have a very early bedtime, your whole family can always enjoy a long, lazy day at the beach.
If you want to stay in the states with your children, then the obvious choice is Florida! Of course, your kids will probably be most excited about Disneyland. I’m going to hazard a guess that you and your partner won’t want to spend every day surrounded by people in costumes. You probably want a balanced trip for your whole family, and to and see everything Florida has to offer. Orlando is particularly great for accommodation within easy distance of many different attractions.
My kids are still in their sweet and innocent stage, but you might not be so lucky! If you’ve got a mopey teen on your hands, and want to please everyone, then Rome is a safe bet. This is one of the most glamorous, cosmopolitan and historically rich cities in Europe. And that’s really saying something! Many of the sights will amaze you and your teen, no matter how jaded or phone-glued they might be. Aside from the wonderful history, there are a wide variety of incredible shops and restaurants. There is so much to do and amazing sights you absolutely have to see in the city.
Yes, winter is far from over. Right now you may be fantasising uncontrollably about the perfect family holiday, and willing the next few months to hurry up! In the meantime, you’ll have a lot of opportunities to plan out a vacation which will be perfect for your entire household. While I hope my personal suggestions have helped you, remember that North America, and the world, are big places. Finding the right family vacation is much easier than people think. Once you’ve got certain factors sorted, you’ll be amazed by the amount of resorts and places you’d never considered before!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

DIY Sorting Toy {Fine Motor Activity}

One of the things I love about being a mom is that somehow, my kids think I am magical when I come up with a fun way to play out of the blue. No matter how simple the activity, they are always interested and amazed. I know I complain sometimes about how hard parenting is, but you know, the tough moments are so worth it. Little kids are so fun and so sweetly simple in what it takes to get them interested in learning new skills and practicing their existing ones.



One of our favorite upcycled activities was completely simple to create and both of my kids played with it for hours! If you have toddlers or preschoolers in your home, this DIY Sorting Toy is a must make. It offers kids a simple fine motor activity as well as a chance to practice sorting, counting, differentiating between sizes and identifying  colors.

You will need:
a clean an empty egg carton
assorted pom poms {use different colors and sizes for additional sorting challenges}
Tongs or Tweezers for Children 




As you can see all I did was dump a handful of pom poms into a clean and dry egg carton. I laid a pair of rubber tongs for kids down and let Roo explore this option on his own. 

He sorted and sorted! He worked on his fine motor skills, his colors and sorting by size. 
This was an upcycle project that was super easy to put together and that my kids had a lot of fun learning and playing with!


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Where You Should Stay During The Chingay Parade




For anyone thinking about visiting Singapore, there are some dazzling annual events that should simply not be missed. While events such as New Year’s Eve are certainly up there on the list, the Chingay Parade is extra special for locals and visitors alike. Why? Because it only happens in Singapore.

So, what is the Chingay Parade exactly?

Encapsulating the vibrant multicultural spirit that makes Singapore so special, the Chingay Parade is a must-see event held during the Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore’s vibrant hub. With its unique multicultural personality, Singapore shows the world its glittering character in this, the largest street performance and float parade in Asia.

A Little Bit of History

Celebrating its inaugural event in 1973, the Chingay Parade has become a larger-than-life tradition in Singapore over the past 40 or so years. But why was it created in the first place? In the early 1970s, Singapore placed a ban on firecrackers. Unfortunately, this puts an end to a significant practice within Chinese New Year celebrations, which involved setting off firecrackers to drive away evil spirits.

Packed with noise and color and exuberant celebrations, the Chingay Parade was created to compensate for that ban, working to drive away evil spirits and usher in the Chinese New Year. Over the years, the Chingay Parade became more and more multicultural, bringing Singapore’s many cultures into the fold.

So much so, that the street parade has now become a national festival, celebrated by Chinese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians alike. This is a place where there are no barriers. Age, race, and religion are set aside, allowing all Chingay Parade revelers to celebrate as one.

Celebrating Chingay

The word Chingay is equivalent to the Mandarin zhuang yi, which translates as ‘the art of costume and masquerades’ in the Hokkien dialect. At the Chingay Parade, this art of costume and masquerade comes to life, as dancing dragons and prancing lions, colorful floats and performers descend on Singapore’s streets to create an event that is never to be forgotten.

Finding the right place to stay for the Chinese New Year weekend and Chingay Parade is essential for anyone who wants to celebrate in style. With its exceptional location in the heart of the financial and arts districts, The Fullerton Hotel provides the perfect place for Chinese New Year revelers to rest their head.
Situated within the glorious Fullerton Building, The Fullerton Hotel pays heed to Singapore’s fascinating past, providing a cultural destination for visitors to Singapore. Luxuriously refined, The Fullerton Hotel features incomparable service and a delightful range of amenities, including
stylishly elegant restaurants and bars, an indulgent spa and one of Singapore’s most picturesque infinity pools.


Come to Singapore to revel in the magnificent celebrations surrounding the Lunar New Year and stay in The Fullerton Hotel to discover an incomparable escape. There’s no better combination!
Thursday, January 7, 2016

Birthday List Printable

I would normally make a note on my calendar of the birthdays of my friends and family for easy reference. Yeah, I am an old fashioned kind of girl like that, but, are there ever normal circumstances in my life?

My super cute 5 year old has discovered the calendar. I tried moving it to the guest bedroom where he isn't supposed to be, but he found his way in that room, found the calendar and ran off with it. I tried moving it to the kitchen. He managed to get it off the refrigerator and claimed it as his own again.

We played this game over and over again until I gave up. If I have an appointment, I make a sticky note and put it on a mirror. For keeping track of birthdays I use this printable, and I would love to share it with you.  I love that I can check the box to keep track of who I sent gifts or cards to.

                                             


                                                           Print this birthday check list




I love that I can print this and carry it in my wallet for easy reference on the go and I also keep a copy at home so that my family can be involved in our birthday gift giving occasions with friends and family.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Start Laughing Again With Poise #MyPoiseMoment

This post is sponsored by Poise but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

When I was younger, I would LAUGH at my mother for crossing her legs to sneeze. I thought that was so funny that she would Pee Sneeze! Yes, I was a very mean girl. Karma came back to bite me.  Now I am not at all laughing about Light Bladder Leakage. It just isn't funny!

Now that I am a mother, I realize that a pee sneeze happens sometimes. It is how we deal with them that matter. Poise makes products for women just like me, and maybe you. Instead of living in fear of going to a funny movie or of having to sneeze at the worst time, I put my LBL issues out of mind and use a Poise Liner to make sure I am calm, cool and collected no matter what life hands me. From an unexpected cough, to heavy laughter and even that pee sneeze moment I blog about here and there.

Let me tell you a little more about Poise:



"Poise incontinence panty liners stay 3X drier than leading regular size feminine care liners where needed most because they are specifically designed for Light Bladder Leakage (LBL). The Absorb-Loc core quickly locks away wetness and protects against incontinence odor to help keep you fresh and dry. Now THINNER, Same Protection.

Poise® Maximum Absorbency Pads provide even more absorbency, giving you the confidence and protection you need. Our Absorb-Loc® core quickly locks away wetness and odor and the Leak-Block* sides give you discreet and worry-free protection. The Dry-Touch® layer helps keep you feeling dry and fresh. Specifically designed for Bladder Leakage.

Proven Incontinence Protection
Feel confident and in control with worry-free incontinence protection from Poise Maximum Pads, specifically designed for Light Bladder Leaks (LBL). Poise Pads instantly absorb wetness, staying 3X drier than leading period-only pads.† The Maximum Pads are 40% more absorbent than Poise Moderate Pads, for more protection when you need it."






MyPoiseMoment with LBL is nothing to fear now that I have been using Poise Liners. I can laugh out loud, wrestle the kids and even sneeze if I need to, all without worry.

Sam's Club Members are going to save an additional $4 on their purchase of Poise Liners or $8 on Poise Pads. That makes this a deal that is nothing to sneeze at. {Sorry guys, could not help myself there!}
If your life is impacted by LBL, there is no better time to grab some Poise and get back to living your life without worry of embarrassing accidents, without sitting at home, afraid to laugh!

1 in 3 women is impacted by Light Bladder Leakage. There are so many myths surrounding LBL that women like me often feel embarrassed and like our bodies are failing us. That is not true! No shame ladies! If you pee sneeze, or not you are awesome!




This post is sponsored by Poise but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

I Wasn't Prepared For This...

There are a few things I was unprepared for in life. On that list you will find parenthood. I thought I was prepared, I read books, practiced diapering a beloved toy from childhood, I went to classes. I subscribed to magazines.

In all of those outlets of preparation I was never warned of the odd behavior of small children. The juvenile fights that would break out between a 2 1/2-year-old and myself, or the way the appearance of my mental health would deteriorate.



My son is a cutie. A true blessing. I look at his perfect face and I melt. He is a vision of sweet and cuddly.

And then, within an instant, he is no longer Angel Boy. He becomes a little blond goblin, snickering as he goblins up the house. It is then the juvenile fighting begins. I say "No dear, we don't throw the toaster at the dog..." Wait a minute...Why does he have the toaster and how did he get it? And it all begins. The crying, clawing at my legs trying to reach the toaster. The wailing "Mama, Mama, Mama!" As he begins trying any and everything to reclaim the toaster as his own. He has nothing to play with, I realize as I look around the disaster that is his room, the living room, the kitchen, the master bedroom, the guest room. There are toys in the bathroom, toys in the laundry room, don't forget the attic, basement, yard and shed. Yes, he has nothing to play with. Just that toaster.

I had no idea parenthood would turn me into a crazy woman. It happened so fast. One day I was cool. I was good, I had it together. The next day, things came spiraling out of control. I have applesauce caked in my hair. My son is dancing on the dining room table as I sprint to grab him, the dogs are barking because they thought the thumping sound was someone at the door. To them, the kid is crazy. Him on the table dancing? Stranger things have happened. That seems normal to the poor dogs. Then when I realize there is someone at the door, I look at my son, who found a blue highlighter and got the cap off, and now is covered in bright blue streaks. Didn't I just sit him down 2 seconds ago? How did this happen? Now I am a work of art too. The dogs are still barking. 

I grab my half-smurf and vainly try to wipe the applesauce from my hair, in case you didn't know- parenthood requires a new job title. You become the human napkin. I finally get there to see the look of shock on the unexpected visitors face, the disappointment. This guy had to have known I would deny his pitch to sell me a box of grade a meat. As I head towards opening the door, my son swipes the highlighter at me, getting my nose. Now I have a blue dot right in my line of vision.My eyes are drawn to it, creating a cross eye effect to complete the picture of my total sanity.

Every day is a new adventure, I know what to expect- everything out of the ordinary. I sometimes need to grumble a little about the trials of a stay at home Mom, but do you know what? I wouldn't want it any other way. Every day I am thankful for my little boy, who brings happiness and laughter to my home, who keeps me on my toes, always learning and always trying harder. He even inspires fun blog posts like this one.
He might have moments of total goblin-ness, but I could not imagine the alternative. 


This post is an older one, I really wanted to update it to let you know most of this still happens on a daily basis. Now I have a 5 1/2-year-old son that is a picture of sweet and cuddly as well as a 2-year-old daughter that enjoys all of the shenanigans her older brother did at her age. She is also pretty as a picture! The journey continues!

Oh! And I have learned that stepping on Legos really hurts!