July 2014Back Home Again: July 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

Since I've been doing marathon kitchen sessions lately with all the food prep, I thought I would share some of my favorite kitchen gadgets. Hope you find these as useful as I do!

Pressure Canner
As you know, I've been doing tons and tons of canning this summer. Without my pressure canner, I wouldn't be able to do nearly as much since I would be limited to the water bath method, which is only safe with certain foods. This was definitely a great investment for Christmas last year and I'm so glad I have it.

Herb Mill
Since I have my herb garden, I'm able to get fresh herbs whenever I want, which is so nice. However, chopping or tearing them can take forever. I got this herb mill a couple years ago and hardly ever used it til this summer. In fact, I had been debating whether or not to put it in the yard sale box. I'm so so glad I didn't because it is awesome. It's so fast to dice up some herbs with this thing. All I need to do is rinse them off, throw them in, twist and there you go!

Citrus Peeler
I have one of these from Pampered Chef and I use it all the time. Yes, I know you can just use your hands, but I'm able to quickly peel an orange and not get nearly as messy as I used to. When you have small children breathing down your neck for their orange, you want to be quick about getting it to them. Trust me.

Apple Corer and Slicer
Again, I have one of these from Pampered Chef and it's so convenient, especially with littles around. One of our favorite snacks is apple slices with almond butter and it is so nice to be able to just quickly cut up an apple and be on our way.

Santoku Knife
We received this Calphalon knife complimentary with our wedding registry, but I never used it until last summer because we received a decent knife set when we got married and I never needed to use our complimentary knife. Well, fast forward four years and our knife set is falling apart. Some knives had only been used a few times - apparently it's just that cheaply made. So, I decided to try this knife out and have never gone back. It's amazing and I use it for almost everything, where we only use the steak knives in our set now. I so want the rest of the set!

What are some of your favorite kitchen gadgets?
 This post may contain affiliate links.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I Was Supposed to Run a 5K

...on August 9, but unfortunately that was sidelined due to developing plantar fasciitis in my right foot :(

I'm honestly not sure how it happened, but it happened back in May while on the elliptical at the gym. I remember stepping off when I was done and my foot hurt like crazy - I couldn't put any pressure on my heel. I thought that maybe my weight was distributed unevenly or something and that it would go away in a day or so. Which it did, only to come back every time I went to the gym and was lasting for longer and longer periods of time before getting better. I didn't want to go to the doctor at first because I figured that the doctor would tell me that it's nothing and to just deal with it.

Finally, after dealing with barely being able to walk for almost two months, I went to the doctor in the beginning of July and was told that I had developed plantar fasciitis.

Basically, the ligament that connects at your heel and ball of your foot is inflamed and hurts like you wouldn't believe. It's really really awful. What's really sucky about it is that I haven't been able to exercise since the beginning of June...and I had intending on training all summer so I could run my first 5K in August.

I finally got the green light to do light exercise this past week and I have been taking short walks on my lunch at work. However, I am nowhere near ready for a 5K and it's incredibly frustrating. I just want my foot to stop hurting period. It's so much better than it was, but I have to be careful and only wear certain shoes and not be on my feet for long periods of time. You have no idea how much it kills me to wear sneakers all day during the summer instead of flip flops. No idea.

I'm hoping that my foot will feel better and I can begin training again soon. I can tell that my mood has been affected by the lack of exercise and I feel like I'm losing my mind at times!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer Bucket List: Drive In!

Last Friday we fulfilled something on our bucket list, which was to go to the drive in that's about 30 minutes away. 

I have only been to a drive in once, the summer before I was a senior in high school and it was a blast then, so I knew we would have a great time this time around too.

We saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, at Alan's request, and wound up not staying for the second movie, How to Train Your Dragon 2 because we were exhausted and the windows of the car kept fogging up so we couldn't see...no there was nothing going on in there! :-)
The weather was absolutely perfect. It's been such a weird summer, with fall temperatures through most of July, and it got to be quite chilly later in the evening. Not that I'm complaining though...it was awesome!

We're hoping to go back again this summer...maybe to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Other Items on Our Summer Bucket List
Beach Fun  
Water Fun

Have you ever heard of Heroes of the City? It's this great kids' cartoon with Paulie the Police Car and Fiona Fire Engine. They now have an app designed specifically for babies and toddlers! The app is available in the iTunes store and on Google Play. Best of all it's free! It includes: 3 animated short movies, Music panel with two different themes, Color and shape games, Magic coloring game and Balloon Games

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

PVC Sprinkler

So Alan saw this idea for a sprinkler made of pvc pipe online several months ago and kept saying he wanted to make it for the kids. Well, he finally did this weekend!

The kids love it! We had originally decided not to hang sponges or anything from the top, but after running through it several times, we decided that we're going to put something there, we just haven't figured out what yet. We're also going to move it to the patio because otherwise the yard will become a muddy mess. 

It was so much fun that our daycare wants Alan to build them one!

Monday, July 21, 2014

#SurfsUp Voxbox

I received these products complimentary for testing purposes from Influenster. 

I finally received another full vox box from Influenster, this time I received the #SurfsUp Voxbox. I was super excited to receive vox boxes so close together since it had been over six months since the last time I had received one.

I must say that I was a little bemused with this box. It was filled with sample sizes! I get it that so many people sign up for Influenster now and that they can't send full size products to everyone, but I thought it was pretty funny that the last couple of vox boxes I have seen reviewed were full size. Hmm...

Here is what I received:

Jamba Juice Smoothie Kit
When I went to the store to purchase this, I fully expected to leave the coupons for someone else because I figured that it was going to be full of preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and artificial dyes. I was so pleasantly surprised to find out that this was not the case. I chose Orange Dream Machine because Alan loves anything orangesicle so I figured he would love this too...except that the kids and I had it while he was gone at a conference as a treat...oops, sorry Alan! However, it was really really good. I added some carrot greens to it and the kids never knew the difference. I will definitely keep these in mind as a treat for the future.

Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration After Sun Lotion
I received this after sun lotion that combines ribbons of lotion and gel that is supposed to provide 24 hours of moisturization. It smells heavenly, like coconut and papaya. However, I have yet to use it because I haven't been in the sun all that much. 

First Aid Shot Therapy
This is a FDA compliant drinkable pain relief shot. It's supposed to be used for headaches, sore muscles, back pain and hangovers. For me, this falls into the category of those energy shots/drinks. No way will I ever try this because these sorts of things scare me. 

Sinful Colors Professional Nail Polish
I received this in sage rose. I actually really like the color but I hardly ever wear nail polish except on my toes and I can't do that right now because of my systemic yeast issues. I wound up actually painting my nails to test it out and Alan's reaction was "That. Is. Bright." So, I guess it will be relegated to my toes!

Not Your Mother's Beach Babe Shampoo and Conditioner
I was pleasantly surprised that this is sulphate free and I learned that Not Your Mother's haircare products are all gluten free and not tested on animals. The shampoo and conditioner are infused with coconut oil and sea kelp extract and I must say that I love these products. Surprisingly, they were my favorite out of the entire vox box. They left my hair silky and it holds curls really well whenever I use it. Probably my favorite thing about it is that I smell like the beach all day long. This is something else that I would definitely purchase in the future.

Did you receive this vox box? If so, what are your thought? If not, have you used these products before? What did you think?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Travel Thursday: Tennessee Aquarium

On the first day of our vacation this year, we drove to Chattanooga, Tennessee to go to the Tennessee Aquarium. It's one of the best aquariums in the nation and we knew the kids would love it so we decided to make an impromptu trip on our way to Charleston and left a day early so we could go.

The kids loved it! The aquarium is actually two buildings, one dedicated to rivers and the other to oceans. We had a blast in the butterfly garden, touched sting rays and sharks and enjoyed looking at all the otters, sharks, penguins and much much more. Even this girl, who has a fear of fish had a great time. I think probably my favorite part was watch the scuba divers swim in the exhibits. That's something I would never do!

There's a huge plaza outside with all sorts of things to climb on and a "riverbed" to swim in. We didn't realize it was there so they only waded, but they still had a blast. 

Afterward, we walked across the Walnut St. Bridge, the longest pedestrian bridge in the world, which spans the Tennessee River. 

There's a carousel in the park on the north side of the river and we promised Ewan he would get to ride on it. Both kids were in heaven! Ewan actually rode it several times. 

We really liked the Tennessee Aquarium and what we saw of Chattanooga. It's somewhere that we definitely want to visit again!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

#KandyBar Cake Sandwiches

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Weave Made Media and Klondike, but all opinions are my own. #weavemade #KandyBar http://my-disclosur.es/RgFrEH

A few weeks ago, we had a cookout at the lake and I wanted to create a sweet treat for us to enjoy afterwards. I went to my local Target and picked up a couple boxes of Klondike Kandy Bars. I wanted to re-create something fun from my childhood...a chocolate cake roll!

This was one of my favorite treats from childhood and I hardly ever had it because it was "too messy." I haven't seen this in stores in years so I wanted to re-create it as a fun adult treat.

I made my favorite chocolate cake recipe, and then cut it into slices the size of the Klondike Kandy Bars. I used the Cookies & Cream and Caramel & Peanuts bars, but they're also available in fudge krunch. I wasn't able to make it into a roll, per se, so I made sandwiches instead.

I made small sandwiches for those that wanted to enjoy just a small taste and large ones for anyone who wanted the full experience. And yes, they totally tasted like a cake roll.

You could say these were a hit...they were gone within about five minutes of putting them out!

For more fun ways to enjoy Klondike Kandy Bars, check out their Vine profile and YouTube channel.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Weekend Recap and Canning Extravaganza!

I normally don't do weekend recaps because I just post about specific things we do. But Alan's out of town for the week at a conference so I decided to mix it up a little and tell you about our weekend.

After we dropped Alan off at the airport Saturday morning, we went to pick up our veggies from our CSA. While there, I ran into a friend of mine who told me that she found several ticks last week after picking blackberries. I kind of brushed it off because in all my years of being outside and surveying properties, I have never found a tick...so you can imagine my surprise when I found one on my shoulder after we got home! Needless to say, I'm now terrified that I'm going to contract Lyme Disease or some other ailment. Ugh!

Anyways...the kids took a three hour nap in the afternoon so I had a very productive day of food prep. By the time I went to bed, I was able to can five pints of green beans, five pints of peaches, two pints of tomato sauce and a quart, pint and half pint of bone broth that I made in the crock pot yesterday. 

Don't mind my messy kitchen!

Plus, I also made two loaves of zucchini bread and a blackberry crumble. 

The best part? All of it is locally sourced. I love it! 

You might imagine that I was exhausted from all of that, so Sunday we took it easy. I promised the kids that I would let them play in the sprinkler or get out the pool if the weather was decent. I let them pick and of course they picked the pool. 

You seriously have no idea what I went through to set this thing up. The instructions were really confusing and it looked like they were telling you to plug in the air pump into the sprinkler hole...which obviously didn't fit. Once I finally figured out what was what, then I had an issue with our foot air pump because I couldn't get some of the pieces to fit together. After some tears to Alan and yelling, I finally figured it all out and got the pool pumped up and filled with water...only to realize that there's a large hole somewhere and it was deflating fast! 

In the hour that the kids were swimming, I had to re-inflate it three times. At least the kids had fun though, right? :-)

What did you do this weekend?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer Bucket List: Family Walk

This past weekend I got to take a walk with my family along the road at the lake house, which also happens to be next to Pokagon State Park. Since taking a walk through the park is on my Ultimate Summer Bucket List, I thought I would show you a little of what you'd see if you were actually in the park. Because the majority of the trails aren't paved, we weren't brave enough to take the stroller. Pardon the photos taken with my crappy old camera!

LaborDay 014
The view of the lake from the road.

Let me just say that I spent my summers at the lake and used to walk through the park almost every day. We would go get ice cream at the beach concessions or go to the camp store or take a walk to Hell's Point or just take a walk in general. There used to be buffalo pens in the park almost directly behind the lake house and when I was really little I remember walking up there to see them. You could say that I knew the trails like the back of my hand by the time I was 10.

In between undergrad and grad school, when I was at my lowest weight, I used to take walks through the park almost every day that I was up there. Not gonna lie, I miss it! Here are just a few of the things you would see along my walk.

 Pokagon 006

LaborDay 010

Pokagon 012 
The field where the buffalo pens were.

Pokagon 011
 Potawatomi Inn

There's so much more, including a spring and toboggan run, but I guess you just need to visit to see for yourself!

Other Items on Our Summer Bucket List
Beach Fun  
Water Fun


Monday, July 7, 2014

Fourth of July 2014

We went up to my family's lake house and had a great time. It was on the cooler side, cooler being highs in the upper 70s, which was wonderful but it made swimming a little chilly so we only went in the lake once. Cecily was only in the lake about 10 minutes before she started shivering, poor thing!

We did, however, go to the fireworks in town on the 4th and the kids loved it! Unfortunately, we got there at 7 thinking they would start around 8:30-9. Nope! They didn't start until 10. Let me tell you how much fun it was to entertain two children two hours after their bedtime... :-)

Probably the funniest part of the trip was when I let Ewan get ahold of the camera while we were waiting. The kid took some hilarious photos!

      These are just a few...I'm not posting the ones of Alan and I for fear that he will be really mad!

As I posted in my last Summer Bucket List post, the kids have never seen fireworks before. Well, they enjoyed them! Ewan especially. Cecily liked them, but by that point she was so tired and just wanted to nurse.

I also got to cross several things off of my Ultimate Summer Bucket List because I stopped in at Satek Winery, which is one of my favorites. I didn't get to actually do a tasting but I've been there so many times that I know what I do and don't like. I was just excited that I got to go. I'm also scratching off taking a walk through Pokagon. While we didn't take a walk in the park, we did take a long walk to the end of the road and back, which happens to be right next to the park. So, close enough :-)

And, we did some shopping at the outlet mall and got some great deals. For those of you that like G.H. Bass, you really need to check them out right now. They're re-branding and everything in the store was on clearance, plus an additional 30% off. AND when I looked at my receipt tonight we got home, I noticed that there was another 30% taken off my total. I got some really cute shoes for super cheap! 

I hope everyone had a good July 4th weekend! 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Summer Bucket List: Fireworks

Since today is Independence Day I thought this week's Summer Bucket list should be all about fireworks.


I love fireworks. Love them. I can remember when I was really little going out to what was then a big grassy field in Johnny Appleseed Park to watch the fireworks at the end of the Three Rivers Festival and going out in the boat to watch the fireworks at the lake almost every July 4th. Those memories are some of my favorites from childhood.

My favorite July 4th as an adult was when Alan and I went to NYC for the weekend in 2009. We watched the fireworks on one of the piers on the Hudson River. Very very cool. It was actually the only time we saw fireworks on the fourth while we lived in Pennsylvania.


I think this was the last time we saw fireworks on the fourth actually...now that we have kids, they've been too young really so we haven't bothered. Until this year. Tonight we're taking them to see the fireworks in town and possibly tomorrow night on the lake.

I cannot wait!

Other Items on Our Summer Bucket List
Beach Fun 
Water Fun

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Stylish Baby Wipes Courtesy of Huggies

This post is sponsored by Huggies. However, all opinions are my own. 

As a working mom, I feel like I'm always on the go. Half the time I forget to bring diapers and wipes when we go somewhere because I'm always running out the door. My daughter is going on two and we've given up the big, bulky diaper bag since we don't need most of what we used to carry anymore. So, I have taken to carrying around a diaper and baggie of wipes in my purse at all times to make sure I have them just in case. It's quite annoying because I don't want to carry it around all the time and it doesn't exactly look classy. 

Enter my latest discovery, Huggies Clutch 'n' Clean wipes. I have these in my purse, in my daughter's room and in the car. I love them. Seriously. Huggies have always been my wipes of choice but now they're even better because they're refillable and it comes with a trendy strap so I can attach it to the stroller, chair, table, whatever I need.

When we went on vacation not too long ago, we had a box of wipes in the car, just in case. Let me tell you how much fun it was when we desperately needed them and they were under the seat! Another thing I love is that the case is soft so I can mold it into any space I need, like the slot in the door of my car. It's also durable so I don't have to worry about ripping it open like the baggie I had been using. Perfect, stylish baby wipes on the go and for the home. 

Huggies Clutch 'n' Clean wipes are available at retailers nationwide.

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