Date Night: Perfect Pairing at P.F. Chang’s (+ Giveaway!)

Disclosure: Thank you P.F. Chang’s for the date night and the delicious food! Hubs and I are still going through the classes and procedures for becoming licensed foster parents. The other night we went to our last class and afterward, to celebrate, we went out for a little date night! We rarely get these moments alone and I was really excited to spend time with him and check out the summer menu at P.F. Chang’s!  These items are meant to pair perfectly with different beverages, like the new Pink Cherry Cosmo, Spicy Paloma or Sam Adams Seasonal Beer.  We came in just an hour before the restaurant closed and my husband was worried because he thought the staff might be upset.  As a former server, I knew coming in a full hour before closing was totally fine and jokingly said something to the hostess and server- they were super sweet and assured my husband they were glad to have us.  Let’s get to the good stuff.  THE FOOD! Spring Rolls  We started with the Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken Spring Roll.  These might be my favorite thing we tried (if I was forced to pick just one).  They were huge but not heavy.  Light and fresh and I loved the cilantro.  Our server mixed up some sauce based on our wants (medium) and told us how we could make it spicier if we wanted.  The spring rolls came with a yummy sauce too, and I liked using both. Curry Noodles We ordered the Chiang Mai Curry Noodles with Chicken and it was a really big portion; perfect for sharing (and pairing! It went well with the Sam Adams Hubs ordered).  As you might expect, with curry right there in the name, that this is a dish with a kick.  We love spicy!  Truthfully, this wasn’t even as spicy as I expected to if you don’t love super spicy this might still be ok, ask your server!  I was really pleased with the addition of brussel sprouts in this dish; it really complimented the noodles and chicken well. PF Chang's P.F. Chang’s has an amazing Perfect Pairing Giveaway!  The contest will run from July 11 – August 18. A winner will be chosen by August 29. Each participant will have the opportunity to win a $100 gift card and become eligible for the grand prize of a trip to Boston for an exclusive Sam Adams Brewery Tour for two, followed by a 4-course pairing dinner at the P.F. Chang’s downtown Boston.

Go enter and I’d love for you to come back and comment below and let me know what you answered! Giveaway to Boston!

A Guide to Creating Your Own Pottery Masterpieces

Do you find pottery in stores a little bit unexciting? Do you wish that you could create your very own exciting home accessories? By practicing pottery, you can! It’s easier than you think, and you could have an enjoyable new hobby in no time. Here’s what to do:

ceramics

Image Author

 

Think About the Objects You’d Like to Make

The only limit is your imagination when it comes to what to make. The obvious choice would be vases, plates, and pots, but you can also make mini animal figurines and beads. When you know what you’d like to focus on making, you can decide on the materials you need to buy.

 

Select a Suitable Clay

There are many different kinds of clay, so make sure you choose one that is suitable for your own personal creations. An air-dry clay is easiest to use, as it doesn’t need to be fired. However, it is quite expensive so you might want to only use it to make smaller things. You then have high-fire and low-fire clay. Low fire is great for bright designs, and high fire is very sturdy but not so great for painted designs. A lot of the tools and equipment you need can be found online, like on this site http://shop.vibesandscribes.ie/.

 

Choose Your Method

The two most popular methods are pinching by hand and using a potter’s wheel. Just about everybody would love to use a potter’s wheel, as it looks like a lot of fun. This is true, but it does require a good bit of skill to get it right! It’s good for creating smooth, round objects like vases. However, pinching by hand can be just as fun.

 

Watch Tutorial Videos

You’ll be able to find tutorial videos online helping you to make the kind of pottery you’re thinking of. Be careful with your choices though, as if something goes wrong it might not be all that easy to reshape your clay. You could also take classes to help you. Tutorials online will give you plenty of tips and idea for free, so they really are invaluable.

 

Paint on Your Design

When it comes to painting a design onto your creations, many people use a coloured glaze. Afterwards, you’ll need to fire your pottery to make sure it’s sealed properly and the design won’t budge. Be careful with the kind of clay you use, as a high-fire clay will usually end up with a smudged design after being put in a kiln.

Creating your own pottery masterpieces can be a great hobby, as well as a lucrative career opportunity. If you like to get creative, then this could be perfect for you! Follow the tips in this guide and you’ll be able to create just about anything you can think of. You’ll never need to hunt high and low for a new vase or a gift for somebody ever again – make it yourself!

 

Do you have any tips when creating pottery masterpieces? Leave a comment to let us know!

Rethinking Meat to Save Money at the Market

Consumers often focus on big-ticket items as sources of savings, which can be significant on expensive purchases like cars, homes and other high-dollar consumer goods.  What some fail to realize, however, is that repeat everyday purchases are also ripe for savings.  Food, for example, represents a significant expense for consumers, even though it is spread out across many trips to the grocery store.  All told, food and beverage spending accounts for one of the largest entries in most family budgets.  As a result, grocery spending is a worthy target for savings.

Food prices fluctuate depending on a variety of market forces, which ultimately influence the total amount consumers spend on food.  Crop conditions, time of year, even fuel costs factor-in to the overall spending obligations parents assume when feeding a family.  By adjusting their shopping habits to account for the fluid conditions at the market, shoppers maximize their food budget returns.  Stocking-up on non-perishable items, for example, makes sense when prices are low.

Certain items always increase the size of your grocery bill, including alcohol and some exotic ingredients that run-up spending.  But another item commonly found in most grocery carts is also responsible for increasing food spending.  Money savers should pay close attention to the amount they spend on meat.

No Meat at All?

There is a great body of evidence available about the unsustainable nature of raising meat products as a primary source of nutrition.  Raising a cow, for example, requires acres of land that would produce a great deal more nourishment if devoted to agricultural crops to feed humans.  As a result, the cost of beef and other meat reflects the significant expense of raising animals, as compared to growing crops.

To avoid the issue altogether, vegans and vegetarians are growing in numbers around the world, leaning on more sustainable foodstuffs to feed themselves and their families.  And while some adopt the approach for health reasons or to reflect a higher moral standard, big-time savings are nonetheless possible when meat consumption is eliminated.

Less Meat at Meal Time

Another strategy for reducing meat costs, without entirely giving up beef, chicken and pork is to reduce the amount of meat served at each meal.  Rather than making steaks and chops the central component on dinner plates, budget-conscious shoppers include smaller pieces of meat with each meal, making up the difference with vegetables and other less-expensive side dishes.

Smaller portions keep costs low, but there are many worthy meals that can be prepared without any meat.  Using beans and other meat substitutes, frugal families lower their grocery bills by cooking meat-free meals occasionally. And when meat is served, it makes sense to furnish family members with individual servings, rather than bringing a roast or ham to the table.  Second-helpings are certainly possible, but by starting with a reasonable share of meat on the plate, diners gain a natural sense of awareness about the meat they eat, prompting many to rethink the proportions they consume at each meal.

Changing Cuts Reduces Meat Spending

Consumers have options at the meat counter, reflecting a wide range of prices for the various cuts offered.  One of the easiest ways to keep meat in your diet, yet trim spending at the same time, is to buy affordable cuts, rather than always choosing the priciest pieces of meat.

The type of meat selected also weighs heavily on grocery tallies.  Prime beef, for example, is more expensive than economical cuts of pork, so beef-heavy diets naturally carry a higher price tag.

By staying aware and utilizing reasonably priced meat options, most families won’t need to resort to vegetable-based diets – unless they want to.

Why Everybody Should Visit Berlin at Least Once

Everybody who goes to Berlin will tell you something different about the country. There’s one thing that resonates with just about everybody though: they love the place! Songs have even been written about the place! Berlin is full of fun and interesting things to do – everybody should visit there at least once. There are over 8 million visitors to Berlin each year. Here’s why I think you should join them:

berlin travel

Photo Author

 

Berlin is The Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital of the great country Germany (who have recently won the World Cup!). If this isn’t reason to visit enough, I don’t know what is! Germany is a fascinating place, and the capital is somewhere everyone should see. So many important events have taken place here, and you can learn all about them!

 

You’ll Get to Experience the Fantastic Culture

For creative and exotic people, Berlin is the only place to be. The culture is very urban, and you’ll get to experience this just by walking on down the street.

 

You Can Party the Night Away

Love partying? Well, Berlin is your city! Not only do they have a load of fantastic nightclubs, they also only close when you want to go home. How amazing is that? You can party until you literally drop (I only recommend this if you have somebody to carry you home).

 

It’s Famous for Electronic Music

Love electronic, techno, and house music? Berlin is the home to this genre of music. Of course, you can experience many other styles here, but electronic music is prominent and has been since the 90s.

 

The Fashion and Shopping

For the shopaholics and fashionistas out there, you’ll love shopping in Berlin. There are multiple stores and boutiques, and there are plenty of fantastic designers out there selling their wares at reasonable prices. No breaking the bank for you! Many trends begin in this city!

 

The Art and Museums

Art and museums are ripe in Berlin. Museum lovers always flock to Berlin to get their educational/arty fix. Many of them are free to visit too!

 

The Food and Restaurants

Deciding where to eat in Berlin is always going to be a hard choice. You have a choice of fancy restaurants, classic eateries, and even street food vendors all serving up tasty morsels to satisfy your hunger.

 

The Old and New Mix Up

Berlin is constantly improving and transforming. This means that you’ll notice a mix up of old and new on arrival. Some areas are in progress, others look very futuristic, and others look almost antique. It’s fabulous! You can almost feel as if you’re in two different time zones at once.

 

The Price

Berlin isn’t a particularly expensive country. You can find pretty much everything you need at a reasonable price, including accommodation. Venere hotels in Berlin, for example, won’t break the bank.

 

Are you convinced that you need to visit Berlin yet? Or perhaps you’ve already been? Let me know what you think of this great place in the comments. Thanks for reading!

FREE Disney Frozen Backpack Offer!

Go to Top Cashback and create an account.  Visit Kmart through TopCashback, purchase a 16″ Disney Frozen backpack priced at $15.29 and within seven days $17 cashback will have posted in your TopCashback account. One day only!

Free Frozen Backpack

 

Please note only NEW TopCashback members are eligible for this promotion.

Back To School: Immunizations at Walgreens

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

Back to SchoolWe are gearing up for the new school year in our home!  One 7th grader, one in Kindergarten, our nephew is going to preschool and the baby is on the wait list for preschool, too.  This might be the first year all the kids are go to school!  Let me take a minute because that is just CRAZY!  Whew. Ok, and I’m back! Of course there is tons of back to school shopping to be done, pencils, folders, backpacks etc. One very important aspect of back to school shopping includes immunizations!

Easy Immunizations for School

My own kiddos are very aware that shots help keep them safe and healthy.  We discuss it often and, although they don’t love getting them, they do know it is necessary.  Last year, after school has started, I got a call from my the oldest child’s nurses office.  Turns out she was missing an immunization from her records and we needed to get her up to date.  So I called the doctor’s office.  There were no openings until the next week.  I wish we had known about Walgreens Healthcare Clinics where no appointment is necessary, it’s quick and easy, most insurance is accepted (I checked, ours is) and they’ll report back to your primary care physician.  And the icing on the cake, in my opinion, is this program I recently learned about.  When your child gets their back-to-school immunization at Walgreens, they’ll provide a lifesaving vaccine to a child in a developing country through the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign. #GiveaShot

Walgreens Shots

This program is aimed at school aged children 7 years and older.  I found this chart on the website really helpful and hopefully I won’t have any missed immunizations in the future.

Immunization Calendar

She’s got a few she needs before school starts in a couple weeks and you can bet you’ll catch us popping in to the Walgreens on the corner for school supplies and to update those immunizations.  She says if she has to get them anyway, she’d like to do them at Walgreens, where she can “Get a Shot, Give a Shot”.

Should I Send My Kid To Preschool?

K is about to start kindergarten.  In preparation for this day we started him last year in preschool in the out of district school we’d been hoping the kids could attend since purchasing a house in 2011.  Initially, we searched for homes in the school’s area but our budget and needs pushed us out of district.  We knew there was a high demand and found out that by enrolling K in preschool he’d be guaranteed a spot in kindergarten and from there would be able to remain at said school. What can I say?  I’m a planner.

Benefits of Preschool

So, although I am a stay at home mom, K went into half day preschool.  I wrestled with this internally.  How strange it seemed; to send my kid to school when state didn’t require it, it cost us money and he could just be home with me.  The pros out weighed the cons and in hind sight I can’t even believe I had any questions about sending him to preschool.

  1. Social Interaction.  We know that kids’ being around other kids is important to help our kids become social but I truly could not have imaged how amazing preschool was for K and learning how to appropriately interact with kids and adults (that aren’t mom and dad).  He forged some amazing friendships even at this young age.
  2. Academic Growth.  One of the most obvious reasons to proceed with preschool is academics.  Starting formal education early can help set your kiddos up for success later on in school and life in general.  (Plus, it’s really cool to see your 4 or 5 year old sound out words!)
  3. Respect for Education.  Starting schooling young can instill a love and respect for learning and education.  School becomes important to your child and this can stay with them through their whole life.
  4. Daily Structure.  Try as I might, I could never give my kids the daily schedule and structure preschool does.  Sure, we kinda, sorta stuck to a routine but in preschool kids learn to know what to expect and thrive on that structure.
  5. Independence.  With 20 kids in their class kids learn a bit of independence which is crucial for a well adjusted child.  Side note: prep your kids by letting them open their own snacks; I never thought about this and it was a shock to K when he was expected to be able to, or least attempt to, open his own.

BONUS: K’s time in preschool gave me some one on one time with my youngest child.  Before K started school it was an extremely rare occasion to be alone with Baby G.  While K was thriving and growing in school I was able to focus a bit on Baby G and really see his personality form.

1st Day of Preschool

We loved what we saw in this school and how K has blossomed so much that when we realized there was a 3 year old program at the same school we looked knew Baby G would benefit, too.  When he finally potty trained (that’s a whole other story!) we called to enroll him.  Remember how I mentioned this school is well rated and in high demand?  Well, unfortunately, Baby G is waitlisted for the one classroom of 3 year olds.  Luckily, we aren’t in a huge rush, so we are just waiting for a spot to open up.  When I spot opens up I know I’ll have the natural reaction to be torn- but I know it’s the right choice for us and good for the kids.

Incredible Things That You Can Do With Beef

Everyone loves a sumptuous piece of beef. While many people believe that chicken is the most versatile meat, they must not have discovered beef. A good cut of beef can be used in a wide variety of dishes. You can use beef in curries, kebabs, roast dinners, with chips. The list is seemingly endless. The great thing about beef is that it isn’t expensive, when compared with a cut of lamb.

For those who are yet to discover the awesome virtues of beef, let me take you on a journey of discovery.

The Background on Beef

To give you a sharper insight into the world of delicious beef, you need to be aware of its origins. Beef comes from bovine. Typically, in the UK, this is mainly taken from cattle and cows. In other parts of the world, beef can be taken from buffalo, steers and heifers. The cuts of meat can vary in quality, price and texture. In short, there is a lot of meat that can be sought from one cow. Most of the meat off the cow can be used in various forms. Even the bones of a cow can be used in stocks and gravies. Of course, not many people utilise the bones of cattle for this purpose in 2014, but it does give you an insight into how versatile beef is.

 

beef

Image courtesy of Jeremy Keith

Cuts of Beef

There are a plethora of different cuts of beef. There are some choices which are more economical than others. Of course, the less you pay for a cut of meat, the lesser the quality. While price is not a true indicator of the quality of all products, when it comes to meat matters, this is certainly true.

You can get the following cuts of beef:

Minced Beef

Diced Beef

Roasting Beef

Steak

Brisket

Tenderloin

 

Traditional Recipes

Beef is a much sought after meat in the UK. When it is cooked correctly, it can be a delicious hearty meal that melts in your mouth. Many people love to use beef in a traditional recipe.

A hearty meal of beef wellington is a firm favorite in many households and is an excellent way to encourage kids to eat beef. Sometimes, the texture of the meat can feel strange to small children. Introduce them to beef wellington, so that they can enjoy the meat but still have the flaky pastry to satisfy them. A child’s first foray into meat can be a daunting experience for them, so make it easier on their palette.

Filling beef casseroles are a great way to get your five a day. Of course, the thought of beef casserole in the middle of summer can be somewhat off-putting. A succulent beef casserole is the perfect winter warmer.

Many people love to roast a joint of beef and team it up with vegetables, roast potatoes and stuffing. The classic English Roast is a thing of beauty. If it is cooked correctly, the English Roast can be a delicious and filling dish. My grandma used to make the most amazing beef dinners. Her secret was to slowly cook the meat for a long time. She would get up at seven in the morning to put the beef in the oven, ready for Sunday lunch at two o’clock in the afternoon. Dinner was always a treat, and the beef was delightful.

Traditionally, beef should be cooked slowly for maximum flavour and texture. The longer the meat is cooked for, the more chance the fat has to breakdown. This means that you get a full, rich flavour as opposed to tasting chewy fat. This helps the meat become more supple and easier to chew. In short, it is the perfect way to enjoy beef.

 

Contemporary Cooking and Light Bites

If you are looking for delicious beef recipes that you can enjoy all year round, you are sure to be inspired.

Mongolian beef is an excellent meal to enjoy in the summer. Your Mongolian beef should be served on a bed of delicious noodles. The beef is cooked in a spicy sauce consisting of soy sauce. Serve with lashings of red pepper for a truly delicious, summery treat. This dish can be eaten in the winter but swap the noodles for rice.

Ox tongue on a thick wedge of tiger bread and served with a pile of horseradish and rocket can be a delicious way to enjoy beef in the summer. Ox tongue can be sourced from your local butchers. Supermarkets do not tend to stock this kind of meat.

You can create perfect bolognas dishes with minced beef. Minced beef can also be used in lasagna’s too. In fact, a lot of Italian cooking uses beef as its main meat. If you are keen to cook different foods from around the world, you need to start using beef. You will be amazed at the wide array of foods that you can cook using this succulent piece of meat.

 

Barbecue Season is Upon Us

Do not forgo beef in the summer. You can utilise it in many different lighter dishes. It is the perfect summer meat. Get out the BBQ and start throwing slabs of delicious beef onto the grill. You and your buddies will love it.

You can prepare juicy skewers for your guests, using diced beef. You can add chunky hunks of red onion, wedges of pepper and lashings of salami as a contrast to the tender beef.

Steaks that have been cooked on the BBQ are increasingly popular. The flame-grilled taste is hard to master within the confines of our kitchens, so we have to use BBQ’s to obtain the flavours that are needed.

Beef can be used on a ‘grown up’ BBQ. Many people opt for sausages and burgers, but to be honest, this has become more than a little humdrum. Experiment with different meats on the BBQ and ensure that you develop your palette for the finer things in life. BBQ season is an excellent way to find foods that complement each other. Think about your favourite meats and consider teaming them up with pieces of beef. Chunky, seasonable vegetables can make a great accompaniment for your meats at your next soiree.

 

Top 6 DVDs On A Loop In Our Home

Top 6 Movies for Kids

 

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If your kids are anything like mine they have their favorite movies and they play them on a loop.  Over and over. And over.  We have about 6 regulars at the moment.  Of course, we try to limit screen time but when it’s movie time they seem to pick the same ones… Here’s what’s playing in our home this month.

1.  It’s no surprise. Disney’s Frozen has been the #1 played movie in our home since it came out on DVD.

2.  Megamind is an old favorite over here and the kids still request it regularly.

3. Disney/Pixar A Bugs Life is one I wasn’t sure if they’d like. They not only like it but one has decided he now wants a Bug themed birthday party!

4.  Monster House isn’t just for Halloween!  This one is fairly new on our rotation but has been playing non-stop for the last week.  My youngest LOVES it.  He was devastated when it broke this morning.

5.  Apparently they like monsters because Disney’s Monsters University seems to be always on…. at least it’s one I happily watch with them.

 

6. You thought Tangled was a ‘princess’ movie for little girls?  No way!  My three boys giggle continuously when watching this one!

What movies are your kiddos loving right now?  Leave a comment and let me know;maybe I can share some new movies with them and change things up a bit!

Keep Momming™

“I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting (#MC) for Shire.   I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.”

As an actress, a public health advocate and former journalist, Holly Robinson Peete has seen it all. And as a mother of four, she’s encountered just about every parenting challenge you can imagine. One of her biggest challenges as mom is building and maintaining a close relationship with her teenage daughter, Ryan.

The mother-daughter relationship is a unique one, and that dynamic can be even trickier during the tween years. Yet sometimes, people dismiss certain behaviors as “typical tween girl behavior” when those behaviors can be symptoms of something more serious. Research suggests that girls are more likely than boys to report having mostly inattentive Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Since inattentive symptoms can be less noticeable than hyperactive and impulsive symptoms, it is important that moms know what to look for.

I’m proud to be joining forces with Shire, CHADD and Holly Robinson Peete to announce the launch of keep momming, a new public service initiative geared towards the moms of tween girls to raise awareness of ADHD. The campaign is anchored within a new digital hub, KeepMomming.com, where you’ll find tips, tools and other go-to resources for moms, including a checklist to help recognize the symptoms of ADHD – inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity – and then encourages moms to talk to their daughter’s doctor. The keep momming initiative can help moms learn about ADHD and provide ideas on how to spark a conversation and stay connected with their tween.

Don’t miss Holly’s message about the keep momming initiative, and be sure to check out the website at KeepMomming.com.

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