Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Made Up" Pasta Bake

Recently Jeff and I started a little weekly supper club with two dear friends, E&E. We alternate which couple hosts and cooks. The "visitors" bring the wine. We eat, talk, laugh, and have a wonderful time. This week we were hosting and I decided to make pasta. I figured it would be pretty good, but I didn't expect everyone to absolutely devour it! Mr. E was so impressed that there was no recipe, I just made it up as I went along. I'll do my best to describe it, but I'm sorry if I leave something out!

First, I cooked a package of ground turkey in a skillet. I seasoned it with a little bit of dried onion and some tuscan sea salt with herbs I got as a Christmas gift but save for "special" foods. I figured this was special enough! I drained the meat and wiped off the pan.

Next, I added one package of frozen spinach that I had defrosted and drained to the warm pan. I added a little bit more onion along with about 2 Tbsp of light garlic and herb cheese spread and a jar of light alfredo sauce along with a little bit of nutmeg (trust me, nutmeg with spinach or white sauce is awesome!) I didn't add garlic because the garlic & herb cheese was pretty strong, but if you just have garlic and cream cheese it would probably be pretty similar. I also stirred the meat back in with everything else.

Next, I cooked 1 lb of farfalle pasta and mixed it with all of the sauce. I dumped everything into a big casserole dish and topped it with a little bit of shredded 2% milk mozzarella and baked it until the cheese was melty. Basically I just stuck it in the oven and let it hang out while the oven pre-heated and I baked the rolls (for about 10 minutes). Everything was already cooked so it was just a good way to keep it warm until everyone got there. That, and I'm a sucker for melty cheese. It would still be super-tasty (and probably save a few calories) if you leave the cheese off the top.

The whole thing came together in probably 40 minutes. It probably could have been quicker but I wasn't in a rush (and I may or may not have been singing into my spoonula at points) I have a sneaking suspicion this would be an easy one to throw together the night before and then head up in the oven before serving. It might even freeze well, although I am not sure.

This should make about 8 servings and, according to the My Fitness Pal recipe builder, has 405 calories per serving. Not bad for a very tasty and filling meal. It's the perfect thing for spring time as it starts to warm up because it's still filling but not super heavy. Next time I might add some roasted red pepper. The spinach and turkey would probably also make a great filling for stuffed shells or lasagna rolls, too.

Do you have any "make it up as you go along" favorites? If so, please share. If you give this one a try, let me know, especially if you have any improvements!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Vaseline Spray and Go Moisturizer

I received this product free for testing from Influenster

When I got this product to test out in my VoxBox I wasn't quite sure what to think about it. Here is the description that came in the box:

New Vaseline Spray & Go Moisturizer Total Moisture is a continuous spray lotion that moisturizes and absorbs in seconds, and leaves skin feeling instantly soft - not sticky or greasy. Now you won't have to wait for your lotion to absorb before pulling on those skinny jeans! $7.99 for 6.5 ounce can

Clearly, I am not a part of the target market for this particular product! I have used spray on sunscreen for several years and absolutely prefer it, but the idea of "regular" lotion in spray form doesn't especially appeal to me, probably because I'm normally applying it right before bed and don't want to be spraying it on my sheets! In reading the directions on the back of the can, I noticed that you are still told to rub it in after you spray it on. To me that seems to sort of defeat the purpose. Still, despite my cynicism, I decided to try and keep an open mind.

I first decided to try it on my arm. The button on the top of the can was pretty hard to push, which meant that I didn't get the easy, steady stream you should get. Instead I got several little blobs so obviously I didn't have much choice, I had to rub it in. It absorbed pretty quickly  and felt pretty good on. I applied it first to only one arm and I could feel a slight difference between that arm and the arm without lotion, but nothing huge.

I was actually kind of surprised to find how much I enjoyed the scent of it. Although it doesn't advertise a particular scent, I noticed that there is "fragrance" listed with the ingredients. It's something light and a little flowery, kind of springy, but I don't know that it would clash with the fragrances I normally use in shower gel or body spray which is good.

I did see my first commercial for this product, and I doubt I would have noticed had I not recently received this. I will say that the commercial was probably one of the dumbest I have ever seen and had I not already known I at least like the way the product smells, that would have been enough to make me say "Nope, that's ridiculous! Not even going to think about buying it."

I tried it again another night on my legs after I shaved. While I was more successful in spraying an actual line, I still wasn't impressed. After I sprayed it on and rubbed it in, I still felt like it wasn't quite enough. The place I use lotion the most is on my feet. I'm not an especially prissy person so I don't get into different lotions for different parts of my body (except my face). This lotion was NOT designed for that! I tried to rub some that was left on my hands onto my feet, but after a few minutes it clearly wasn't enough and I ended up using some more of my regular lotion on my feet.

I'm sure I'll use all of this can, although I will not pretend to know how quickly! I seriously doubt that it's something I would buy again, especially without it being on sale or having some kind of coupon, but maybe my opinion will change over time.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

100 Wishes Quilt

Several years ago I learned of a tradition from China of making a quilt to welcome a new child into the community. Each member of the community contributes a piece of fabric and with that a wish for the child's life. A scrap of each piece of fabric along with all of the wishes are made into a book to go with the quilt so that the wishes and fabrics can be matched up and the child has an heirloom that can literally wrap them in the love of their community. I thought it was absolutely beautiful and I knew it was something that I wanted to someday do for my child or children, no matter how they joined our family!

Now that we have just about completed our home study, we are ready to really start working on this for our child or children that we want to adopt. If you would like to contribute to our quilt, please choose a fabric that is 100% cotton. It does not need to be new, but if you choose something that is "pre-loved" please wash it before you send it to us. Because we do not know the age, sex, or personality of the child or children, please choose something that is meaningful to you! Also, because we may be adopting a sibling group, please make sure that the piece is at least the size of a fat quarter so that we have enough for multiple quilts. Joann Fabrics has a great selection of fat quarters in all kinds of colors and patterns for 99 cents each, so it doesn't have to be anything fancy or expensive! We will be using a log cabin pattern and the fabric will be cut into strips, so smaller patterns are probably best.

Also make sure you write a note to go with your fabric that we can include in the book. It can be a wish, prayer, poem, song lyrics, scripture, blessing, or anything else you would like it to be. If there is something particularly special or meaningful about the fabric you chose, please include that information in your note. You can hand write it, e-mail it, or send it via facebook message. Please make sure you include the name of who the fabric is from and a description of the fabric so we can make sure everything is matched up correctly! Also whenever you get me the fabric (either by mailing it or handing it to me) please attach a note with your name on the physical piece of fabric. Please also send a picture of yourself and everyone who is contributing the fabric. Digital is preferred. If you get me an actual photo I will do my best to get it back to you, but can't make any promises! If every individual in your family would like to contribute their own piece of fabric, feel free! Please just make sure you have a separate note from each individual, and if you can send individual photos that would be ideal (although I understand if you can't!)

If you would like to contribute a piece of fabric, please let me know. You can leave a comment on this post or let me know some other way. If you need my address to mail the fabric, just let me know. Also, if you know someone who would like to contribute to this, feel free to tell them about this, send them to this post, or let me know. I also have a letter about this that I can send to them (or you, if you'd like to have it!) Even though this is called a "100 wishes quilt" that is just our starting point! The more the merrier!

Once the quilt (or quilts) are done, I will post pictures and details about the whole process, so stay tuned!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dickinson's Original Witch Hazel Oil Controlling Towelettes

I got these in my Sugar 'N Spice VoxBox. These were the thing I was most excited about trying. I've heard about Witch Hazel but never tried it so I was excited about being given some to try! I was especially excited that I got a whole box of them, not just one or two towelettes. This is the description given in my box summary:

Introducing Dickinson's Original Witch Hazel Oil Controlling Towelettes - The soothing blend of Witch Hazel and aloe on these facial wipes rejuvenates your skin by gently lifting dirt, oil, and impurities from your pores while nourishing even the most sensitive skin. The result is a clean, refreshed and blemish-free complexion even when you're out and about. $5.99 for a 20-count box.

I love LOVE moist towelettes for cleaning my face, especially when I'm traveling. You don't need water for wetting or rinsing, just grab and go. I remember at one point they were available from several companies but lately all I've seen is the Olay ones, which is what I generally use.

I was immediately a fan of the Dickinson's simply because they are individually wrapped, which makes them perfect for keeping in a toiletry bag, purse, suitcase, backpack, or any other place! I couldn't help myself and pulled one out to try it immediately.

My first thought upon opening the packet was that there was something about the smell that I didn't really like. It didn't exactly smell bad, but it wasn't a scent I personally enjoyed either. It's hard for me to describe - it wasn't really an alcohol smell, but it also wasn't "herbal" either. Maybe it was just the smell of the witch hazel that was new to me! Either way, I generally held my breath while I used it, especially around my nose and mouth.

Because I wasn't wearing any makeup (and generally don't) I can't speak about how well it removes makeup, but that's not something it claims to do. It did leave my face feeling refreshed, although after a little a few spots felt a little drier than normal (but that may not be a bad thing!)

I do plan to keep using them. In fact, I could see myself using these even more than the others because I can toss one or two into my purse or whatever bag I am carrying when I'm on-call for getting some of the "hospital funk" off of my face, especially in the midst of a long shift or when I need to do something besides splashing water on my face to wake myself up!

In addition to the box of towelettes, I also got 5 coupons for $2 off the purchase of any Dickinson's Original Witch Hazel Product. According to the coupon you can get these products at Kroger, Rite-Aid, Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS. I'm going to check Publix the next time I'm there.

Have you ever tried anything from Dickinson's? What did you think about it?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

belVita Breakfast Biscuits

I've seen the commercials for these but never tried them. I don't really know why because I like cookies and convenience. So I was a fan of the free sample of these. Here's the description that came with my box:

belVita Breakfast Biscuits are made with delicious ingredients and carefully baked to release steady energy that lasts all morning. They are a good source of Fiber and B-vitamins, contain no high fructose corn syrup, have 18-20 grams of whole grain per 50 gram serving and taste great - perfect for on-the-go! $3.69 for a box of 5 packets of 4 biscuits.

I got one packet of 4 biscuits in my box. Because of the heavier stuff in my box, a couple of the biscuits were broken, which didn't surprise me and  doesn't bother me because they still taste the same! The thing that surprised me (in a very good way) is that they don't really crumble so it didn't make a huge mess when I opened my packet. That means I give them a bonus point for portability. I hate tossing a granola bar or something in my purse for when I need an on-the-go snack and when I go to open it it's a powdered mess!

I'm funny about the textures of food, but these were pretty darn perfect in my opinion. They were thin and crisp, but not hard as a rock or super-fragile either. They kind of reminded me of an unfrosted oatmeal cookie (which I really like!) I had the Cinnamon Brown Sugar flavor and really loved them. I didn't feel super-full when I finished them, but they would definitely make a great snack on the go. I'm fairly certain I will purchase these again the next time I go grocery shopping!

On the website, they listed other flavors like Golden Oat, Chocolate, Apple Cinnamon, and Blueberry. Normally I'm not a huge fan of berry stuff or even fruit in cookies in general, but I think I'd be willing to try all of those! I'm most excited about trying the Golden Oat, with the chocolate coming in at a close second!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Five - Deep Breath

Today's Friday Five invites us to think of five people/places/things that help us to take a deep breath when things get a little crazy.

1. I know I have shared this before, but the Chris Rice song "Smell the Color Nine" is one of my favorites. The cymbal swell at the very beginning ALWAYS prompts me to take a big, deep breath. Whenever I recognize that I need that, I know that this song with guarantee that I get it!

2. My yoga class is another great way for me to do some deep breathing! I love that my class is so laid back and if I'm not feeling an intense class, I can take it down to super-easy and just breathe and it's totally ok.

3. A hot bath is another way that I like to stop and breathe. I used this one a LOT during my residency along with my "quiet" Pandora station. Thankfully my hubby knows that when I retreat in there and turn on the music, I need to be left alone! The hot tub in the back yard is nice, but it just doesn't do it for me in the same way. Maybe when we finish the area around the patio and make it a little more homey it'll be better.

4. Cuddling with my dog is another great reminder that I need to breathe! She isn't especially playful, but those three and a half pounds of warm love will sit in my lap all day long. I think she picks up on my stress (or just gets fed up with my grunting and banging on the keyboard) and will often look up at me and just sigh which tells me that I should probably do the same thing!

5. Ice cream always helps me to relax and makes me smile. I don't care if it's snowing outside, I still want my ice cream!

Let me know what you like to do to relax and breathe!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Influenster VoxBox - Sugar 'N Spice 2013

I got all of these products free from Influenster for testing

Several months ago my friend Jacklynn posted on her blog about her first VoxBox from Influenster. That got me curious and so I signed up. Tuesday I got my first box called "Sugar 'N Spice" and was thrilled to find all kinds of goodies in it for me to try and review! Here's a list of what I got and my first impressions. Stay tuned for more details as I try out the contents!

Colgate 360 Optic White Toothbrush - I like the Colgate 360 toothbrushes and it's almost time for me to get a new one, so yay!
Colgate Optic White Toothpaste - Never tried it, but it's worth a shot!
Colgate Optic White Mouthwash - (Do we see a theme here?) Again, never tried it but it's worth a shot!

Nectresse - a sweetener from the makers of Splenda. First thought - "I need a cup of tea to go with this"

belVita Breakfast Biscuits Cinnamon and Brown Sugar. - "These will go perfect with my tea!"

Dickinson's Original Witch Hazel Oil Controling Towelettes - I'm probably most excited about trying this!

Vaseline Spray and Go Moisturizer Total Moisture - Not quite sure what to think about this one.

I also got several coupons for the Dickinson's Towelettes and a book of recipes for the nectresse. Based on the information contained in the box about the average/suggested retail price of these items, the value of the items in the box was probably about $30. I'll give more details on the particular items as I review them, but feel free to ask questions if there's something you want to know about first!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Alabaster Fire Department CPR Class

In all of the adoption preparations, we learned that we would also have to take a water safety class along with CPR and First Aid because we have a hot tub. While the water safety still needs to be done, we were able to take CPR on Saturday.

Our local fire department offers CPR classes pretty regularly (I think at least once a month) and it's super cheap - only $5 to cover the cost of getting your certification card. If you need the schedule or more information you can get it here.

Our class only had four people in it which really was wonderful. I got CPR certified almost 10 years ago but thankfully have never had to use it. I also know that the standards change and I was a little nervous about remembering everything and being able to do it right, but the small class size made sure we all got a lot of one-on-one help and supervision.

Our instructor (I didn't get his permission so I won't use his name) was absolutely wonderful. He not only made sure that we got all the information that we needed, but he gave it to us in a way that we could remember it. He also answered all of our questions and made sure we were engaged with all of it. Everything was very conversational and incredibly enjoyable. I know I'm a dork who enjoys learning new things, but classes like this are not normally my "thing." However, this one was really fabulous. You can bet that I'll be doing it again to make sure that my certification stays current from now on. As easy and enjoyable as the whole thing was, I'd be foolish not to keep it up!

It seems silly but the most helpful/applicable (and also most intimidating part) for me was "playing" with the EpiPens. We ALWAYS have campers who have them and I've never personally had to see one used or help use one (or even know of a camper at one of my weeks who needed it while they were at camp). We always get a description of how to use them, but we actually practiced using them on ourselves with the teaching devices (which didn't have needles or medicine.) Even knowing that there was no needle in it, I didn't want to even act like I was stabbing it into my leg and it took a little extra encouragement for me to try it. I'm glad that I finally did because I now feel that, if I do ever need to, I could use one on a camper (or anyone else for that matter!) I probably could have done it before if I had to, but it would have taken me a few seconds to talk myself into it and/or read the instructions and I would have gladly given over the responsibility to someone else! Now I think I could do it without too much trouble, although I would still prefer to do what I do best, which is holding hands and offering words of comfort and encouragement!

I believe the whole crew from one of the stations was there during the start (until they had to go to a call). I think the plan was for them to help out with demonstrations and with the actual practicing with the dummies but they were gone when we got to that part. In spite of that, I was so incredibly overwhelmed by the kindness of all of them and their appreciation of us for taking the class. There really are not words for how much I appreciate them and their interactions with us, however brief they might have been. Maybe I'm just overly sentimental these days, but thinking about them and my experience with them makes me tear up a little! They truly are ministers in their own right with an incredible calling and I am grateful for all that they do!

If you need CPR certification or it's something you are thinking about taking/doing, let them help you out! It's a fabulous experience and I promise you will walk away a better person!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Five - Personal Maps

Today's Friday Five is all about looking at your life as though it is a map. Although I've looked at my life through lots of lenses and I'm typically an "image" person (especially if I can attach a story to the image) but this is a new one for me. However, given that I currently have a special attachment to the Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie and watch way too much Jake and the Neverland Pirates with my little buddy, I'm kind of digging the idea of my life as a map.

1. What is beyond your boundaries? - I really hope it is a wild and unexplored country known as "motherhood"

2. What are the cities or neighborhoods that need "redevelopment" or attention? - I definitely need to be more active. I'm not going to be hanging out with my little buddy anymore after next week which is going to be hard, but it's also a good opportunity for me to pay attention to myself in a way that I had intended to when I entered my "Season of Sabbath."

3. What are the verdant valleys? - My professional life finally feels alive and full of promise. I'm excited and hopeful and waiting to see what is going to pop up and move in! I know that I've planted a few seeds, but I also know that God has planted a few too!

4. Where are the deserts? - One thing I have learned is that, sometimes, on a map and even from a distance a desert looks barren and lonely and dead. However, when you are in the middle of it, you see that it is actually full of life and growth that is unique to that environment. That is definitely the way I see my past, particularly all the challenge and loss I have endured. From a distance, it's not pretty. But it's still rich and full of life that is unique to that environment. And once you've been there, you never forget it!

5. Where is the hidden treasure? - Well I can't tell you that now can I? Really and truly, I'm not sure. I've spent a lot of time digging for treasure in places where I thought it should be. Sometimes I find something and sometimes I don't, but it's rarely what I expect. At this point in my life, I would much rather enjoy simply exploring and then enjoy the spoils if I stumble on an X or a happy surprise.

Bonus: What is the coolest place you've ever been on the globe? - While not "cool" in the sense that it's exotic, I have really loved my trips to England and can't wait to go back for my birthday!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Party Girl

February was the month of parties around here!

First, we threw a surprise party for my step-mom's 60th birthday. I honestly didn't think it would end up being a surprise, but she didn't have a clue, which was really nice. The whole thing was lots of fun. Hubby and I did the cooking for our Mexican fiesta and it was great. My step-mom's best friend and neighbor, Betty, helped us pull it off. My favorite part was the cake. Our friend, Julie, (and the wife of Catherine's cousin Hank) was able to get her fabulous bakery to make a coconut cake with lemon curd filling, which is what Catherine's mom used to make for her birthday. Most of the decorations came from Party City, the invitations were from Walgreens, and we had the party at the family life center at the church. Although it wasn't super-unique or full of DIY cuteness, I was still proud of the whole thing. It was a great success, but we had a lot of food leftover. Still, I loved doing it and would have done it again in a heartbeat!

Next up was Jeff's 30th birthday. I knew that he wanted another surprise party (he had one when he was 16 that wasn't exactly a surprise) so I decided to put together a "beer tasting and barbeque" party for him. I was able to rent out Brother Zeke's BBQ and asked everyone to bring a few beers to taste and share. I got the invitations and tasting note cards from Michelle Purner Designs. I picked the colors and came up with the table settings. I also took some ideas from pinterest and made a centerpiece "cake" from beer cans. I also made little favors for everyone. We got cupcakes from Pastry Art Bake Shoppe and it was a great night. Although he had kind of figured out that SOMETHING was going to happen but didn't know exactly what or when, so it was nice that he was at least sort of surprised! We all had a wonderful time, and it was definitely a success.

Of course, now I have "party fever"! It's been kind of nice having other people asking me for tips and help with parties they are planning and I do have a few projects simmering. I like being "the party girl!"