Influenster #VitaVoxBox

#vitavoxbox from Influenster

Is there anything better than opening your mailbox and instead of seeing bills and junk mail, finding a package full of goodies to try out? I think not! I was super excited to be chosen to receive the #VitaVoxBox from Influenster and over the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying out all the goodies.

In case you missed my unboxing video on YouTube, here it is:

I have to say, I was most excited about the First Degree burn cream. I’m a klutz, and I often work around hot things (the oven, stove, my glue gun… you get the picture). I had the opportunity to give the First Degree cream a try the other day when I was making hair bows for Laura. Like a fool, in order to see if my glue gun was hot, I touched the metal part. (It was late, I was tired, and obviously not thinking). Immediately I put a dab of the cream on my finger, massaged it in, and felt some relief. Good stuff!

The SoftLips Cube is OK. Honestly, I am not a big fan of SoftLips products, and I have never tried one of these cube-type of lip balms before. It smells and tastes wonderful, though! And since my five-year-old always wants to share my “lipstick,” the cube works out great because there is nothing to roll up or down or make a big mess. So it gets a thumbs-up from me for those features.

Playtex Sport FreshBalance tampons. What can you really say about tampons? They work well, though I find them a little too scented.

Bikini-Ready Gummy Vitamins were an interesting product. It’s hard to say much about them because it was a one-shot sample, but they tasted like candy (though there was an odd aftertaste) and definitely gave me an energy boost.

The Pure Leaf sweet tea was tasty. I will give some of their other flavors a try.

And finally… the Elizabeth Arden Flawless Future serum. I haven’t tried this out yet, but I plan to this weekend. I’ve been neglecting my skin care routine in general, so one of my goals now that school is back in session is get back into a daily regimine.

So there you have it! have you received any Influester #VoxBoxes? If you’re interested in signing up, email me and I will send you an invitation! It’s so fun. You write some reviews, take some surveys, and get to try out products.

FTC: These products were sent to me compliments of Influenster for testing and review purposes. All opinions are my own.

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{Recipe} Marinated Butter Beans for your Antipasto Platter

Marinated butter beans

When we have parties, my favorite appetizer to prepare is an antipasto platter — delicious savory treats, piled high on a platter, and shared family style. Add some crostini or baguette to soak up the vinegar and oil from the various foods and you’ve got a treat that will please everyone. The time may be over for summer BBQs, but as the holidays approach, so will entertaining opportunities!

My typical antipasto platter includes cured meat (usually pepperoni or salami), fresh mozzarella, olives, roasted red peppers, maybe some artichokes or pickled asparagus… really, whatever I have on hand. Last month I got the idea of using beans on the antipasto tray I prepared for the boys’ birthday party. Not sure how or why that popped into my head (possibly they were talking about a bean salad on an NPR program about picnic foods that I was listening to as I drove). I threw this recipe together for Marinated Butter Beans and they were a huge hit! Not only were they delicious on their own, but they added zing to a tossed salad and bulked up a pasta salad, too. You may have seen marinated butter beans at the deli case or in the “olive bar” area of your grocery store, but why pay those prices when you can make it yourself for a whole lot less? 

Marinated Butter Beans
A tasty addition to your antipasto tray
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Ingredients
1 15-oz. can of butter beans
1/4 c. olive oil
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. capers
1 Tbsp. minced onion (not dried)
1 tsp. diced red pepper
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
pinch of salt
Instructions
In the bottom of a mason jar or a bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, capers, onion, red pepper, Italian seasoning, and salt. Drain butter beans and rinse well. Add beans to the jar and stir to coat. Refrigerate the beans for at least a few hours, or better yet, overnight.
Notes
Add to your antipasto platter, salad, or just enjoy as a snack.
Pure Sugar http://puresugar.net/
 

For more yummy recipes, head over to Diary of a Stay at Home Mom for Cooking Thursday!

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First Day of School 2014!

 photo backtoschool_zpsc0524758.jpg

I know for most of you, the first day of school is a memory already. But unlike a lot of other areas, we don’t go back in August… it’s always the Wednesday after Labor Day. In other words… today! And for us, it was an important day because our littlest started Kindergarten!

But let’s start with the oldest. Jake is in seventh grade. No longer the youngest kids in the middle school — hooray! I remember when I was in seventh grade (not in a middle school — just a regular classroom back then), our teacher had a foozball table in the corner of the room, he picked his nose, and was known for various quips that I still remember (such as “There is no ‘noise’ in Illinois!” — he’d get aggravated when people mispronounced it). Ha! I think he’s looking forward to getting back into his intramural clubs, though. 

jake

Noah is in fourth grade this year and actually has the same teacher that Jake had, so I know what to expect (which is kind of a nice change). He’s looking forward to seeing all of his friends again, and I think he’s looking forward to being in class just in general.

noah

Of course, for Laura, school is pretty much old hat. She loved preschool last year (and has several of her pre-K buddies in her class). And she spent two weeks at day camp this summer, so I’m not worried about her in full-day K. (Although for the first few days, the little ones are dismissed early to ease the transition).

laura

waiting...

the bus!

It was very sweet watching Noah let Laura go in front of him to get on the bus. I think it’s going to be a great year!

 

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A Day at the Fair

photo 1 (1)

I’ll be up front with you: I’m not one of those people who lives for the county fair. In fact, the last time we went was, oh… about six years ago. I looked back through my photos and it was 2008. Laura wasn’t even born yet! Typically, the crowds and traffic make me anxious, but this year Jacob got free ride tickets for moving tables around with the scouts. So we decided to go this year.

And you know what? I actually had a graet time! Yesterday we went around 3:30, we didn’t hit traffic (yes, believe it or not, even though we only live 10 min. from the fairgrounds it IS possible to get stuck in horrendous traffic), we got a great parking spot… everything just worked out.

We started in the arts & crafts builing and I was so happy to see that one of my friends did exceptionally well in the culinary category. She won best overall, as well as several specific awards. Then… imagine my surprise to see a blue ribbon on someone else’s fair entry… Laura’s! The kids actually did the barnwood painting at day camp in July and if parents agreed to have the project enter the fair, it was done. I believe she is the first Bancroft to win a blue ribbon in the Dutchess County Fair. (Though truth be told… next year I am seriously considering entering a few entries into the knitting & crochet categories).

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Of course, we walked through the 4H barns and ran into some familiar faces. I didn’t take any pictures but oh, were those piggies cute! And the chickens… if I were not concerned about wolves, foxes, and bears I would definitely have some backyard chickens here. But for now I will just admire those at the fair.

The kids had a great time on the rides. Noah surprised us and said he wanted to go on this ride that swings you way high… like almost over the top. A bit reluctantly, I said OK, and well, he certainly learned that he is more like his mom than his dad when it comes to carnival rides. Nevertheless, he made it through and got off with a smile. That’s my guy!

Dutchess County Fair 2014

Laura loved the carousel. (And the up and down motion of the horse was about all I could take — yes, I am a total wuss, LOL!). She went on a few other kiddie rides and had a great time.

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I am happy to say we did really well when it came to fair food. There were so many tempting treats: fried dough, tempura, pizza… lots of bad-for-you, but oh-so-good treats.

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Drew and I got gyros for dinner (which were absolutely delicious and worth every overpriced cent), and the kids got burgers or hot dogs. Later on, everyone got to pick a treat. Drew got a chocolate-covered banana, Noah got a walk-away sundae, Jake got a candy apple, Laura got cotton candy, and I got a fresh-squeezed lemonade.

photo 3 (1)
It was definitely a fun way to spend a Thursday evening.

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Nine is Fine!

Happy birthday, Noah!

Yes, August is a crazy birthday month for us. There’s my mom, Drew’s mom, Drew’s brother, Jake of course, and Noah. Yesterday was Noah’s special day — he turned 9!

Our weekend was full of celebrating. Saturday evening the boys had some of their friends over for a LEGO-themed party. Drew did all the work for this one — I can’t take any credit at all. The kids played LEGO games, built LEGOs, and designed their own mini-figures.

Birthday Party

Birthday Party

For the food, I made pizzas that resembled LEGO bricks, along with hot dogs, chips, and veggies. It was simple, but the kids all liked it!

Birthday Party

Birthday Party

We ended the evening by showing “The Lego Movie” on the outdoor screen. Some of the boys’ parents and siblings also came for that — such fun!

Yesterday we had our family party and that was a great time, too. Again, the food was pretty simple, but sometimes that’s the best. I made a tray of sausage & peppers, a tray of meatballs in marinara, pasta salad with artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes, rolls, and salad. We’ve been enjoying the leftovers :-)

Birthday Party

Today has just been getting the house back in order after a weekend of parties. Dishes, laundry, putting away gifts… My allergies have been crazy today so I took a Benedryl and that wiped me out!

Tonight I plan to watch a movie with Drew and Jake after Laura is in bed (Noah’s at his grandma’s for a couple days), and doing a little crochet. Now that I’m halfway done with my afghan I’m getting itchy to start a new project, but I won’t. I’m going to finish this one up, border and all!

Well, time to get Laura’s bedtime routine going… hope you had a great Monday!

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Almost a Teen

So hard to believe that 12 years ago yesterday I became a mom for the first time! This 9lb 6oz. baby came into the world and forever changed our lives.
Jake - August 2002

Jake - Fall 2002

Jake’s a baby no more, that’s for sure! My middle schooler loves Doctor Who, Boy Scouts, Magic: the Gathering, composing songs, playing XBox, writing stories and drawing comics…. oh, and eating! I always thought that TV shows joked about teenage boys eating their parents out of house and home but I am learning how true it is!

Jake's 12th birthday

We started the day with presents, and the birthday boy’s breakfast. Then we went out to dinner at Texas Roadhouse, where he got up on the saddle and the waitstaff did their thing. He didn’t seem the least embarrassed! (And yes, he did eat that entire burger – I felt full just looking at it!)

Jake's 12th birthday

Jake's 12th birthday

We picked up some Boston Creme donuts on the way home for a special birthday dessert. We are having parties all weekend, so everyone will enjoy cake then. Jake is just as happy with the Boston Cremes, I think ;-) They are his favorite.

Jake's 12th birthday

Next up: the teen years. I am so not ready for that so I think I’ll enjoy 12 as much as I can!

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{Recipe} Indian-Spiced Chicken Burgers with Cumin-Yogurt Sauce

Indian Spiced Chicken Burgers

The summer is winding down, but there is still plenty of time to grill up a great burger! While I love a big, meaty cheeseburger, sometimes it’s fun to change things up a bit. Today I’m sharing with you a recipe for chicken burgers with an Indian twist. Don’t skip making the Cumin-Yogurt sauce — it’s what really makes the burgers stand out!

Indian Spiced Chicken Burgers with Cumin-Yogurt Sauce
A delicious alternative to traditional burgers
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Burgers
1 package of ground chicken breast (approx. 1 lb.)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
1/2 tsp. red chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
salt and pepper
mini pitas
chopped onions and tomato
Cumin-yogurt sauce
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
handful of chopped cilantro
salt and pepper
Instructions
Prepare the cumin-yogurt sauce first by combining the yogurt, cumin, and cilantro in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to allow the flavors to intensify.
For the chicken burgers
Combine the ground chicken, scallions, jalapenos, ginger, lemon juice, chili powder, cumin, turmeric, coriander, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir everything together really well then let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes.
Gently form burger patties. I made mine more oblong in shape to better fit inside the pitas. Season the patties with a little salt and pepper if you desire and then grill until the ground chicken is opaque throughout the burger. Do NOT undercook the burgers.
Cut four pitas in half and warm them either on the top rack of your grill or in a toaster oven. Don’t overheat them or else they’ll get too crispy. Place two patties in each pita half along with diced onion and tomato. Add a healthy dollop of the cumin yogurt sauce and serve.
Notes
You can grill these outdoors, but they also are delicious broiled or cooked in a frying pan. Use whatever method is most convenient for you.
Pure Sugar http://puresugar.net/

 I’m linking up with Sandra at Diary of a SAHM

because it’s Cooking Thursday!
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