Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Delicious and Easy Homemade Baked Ziti

There has been lots of fun stuff on the blog lately, but let's not forget to eat!  Here is one of our family's favorite recipes.  It's always nice to find something that we will all eat… especially something that gives us leftovers!

My friendship with this wonderful baked ziti recipe has been going strong for over two years.  I just looked and saw that I printed the original recipe from the computer on March 1, 2011.  I did a google search that day for a Baked Ziti Recipe and this is what I found.  Anyone who knows my southern husband, who bravely married me, a northern girl, knows that any recipe I find with "southernfood" in the url is a winner in our household.  This one did not disappoint!  You can view the original recipe here or follow along below.

Note: I LOVE LOVE LOVE making this recipe in my Pampered Chef RockCrok.  If you are in the market for a new pan or pot, this is a must have.  It is refrigerator, freezer, stovetop, oven, broiler, grill, microwave, and dishwasher safe.  Yes, that is all true.  You kind of don't even need anything else in your kitchen if you have this, right?  It is amazing and it turns this recipe into a one dish meal… and that one dish is dishwasher safe… did I already say that?  I have the Dutch Oven size but there is a smaller Everyday Pan as well.

Okay, back to the recipe.

  • 1 pound ground beef or pork
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper (just chop up one bell pepper, measurements don't need to be exact… or frozen is fine too)
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce (or mix a small can of paste with a can of water over low heat until combined and use that - I always have more paste than sauce around here!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 ounces ziti or elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

  • Sauté ground beef, onion, and green pepper in a large skillet until onion is tender and beef is lightly browned and cooked through.
  • Drain off grease.
  • Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper (if you don't think there is room in your pan, just do all this in a big bowl or transfer it now to the casserole dish for stirring and cooking… or get a RockCrock)
  • Stir well.
  • Stir in cooked pasta and 1 cup of the shredded cheese.
  • Transfer to a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish (9x13) (or if you cooked AND mixed in the RockCrok already, you can just put that same pan it in the oven).
  • Top with remaining cup of shredded cheese.
  • Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

This recipe is delicious right out of the oven and just as yummy for leftovers!  

I love feedback and love recipe sharing, so let me know if you try this and love it or have another recipe for me to try next time!

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Happy's Playdate

I received free products in order to host the Cepia, LLC sponsored MommyParty.
The opinions expressed here are my own.

A few weeks ago, I introduced you to The Happy's, a set of super fun and super cute interactive pets, the latest and greatest toy from Cepia, LLC.

We have had the opportunity to get to know The Happy's for the past couple of weeks and here are some things we love (verbatim from my preschooler):
  • I like when the puppies and kitty spin around.
  • I like when they come to me and I cuddle with them.
  • I like when they lean back.
  • I like when they get the ball.
  • I like to hear the sounds when they turn off and turn on.
  • I like when they follow the bone.
  • Other kids should get The Happy's so then they can invite me!
Needless to say, we were so excited when MomSelect and Cepia, LLC asked us to host a playdate so we could have the chance to introduce some of our friends to The Happy's in person!  They sent us Mittens, Chance, Sport, and Bentley, their training treats, a Chase & Play Ball, some craft materials, and some Werther's Popcorn (which I didn't think I would like but am now addicted to!!!).

So, we invited some friends...

Pulled together some pet themed headbands…

some pet themed snacks…

some pet themed crafts…

popped some batteries in The Happy's…

and played!

We had so much fun with The Happy's!  Everyone loved experiencing how The Happy's interact with each other, their training treats, and us!  We watched them beg, pounce, wiggle, and chase their tails.  We chased them and they chased us and we all chased each other all around the house.  We had a race to see which of The Happy's could find the Chase & Play Ball first (that's what's happening in the photo above).  We cuddled them, loved on them, and we mommies noted how nice it was to add a pet to the family that doesn't need to be fed or let out to potty!

The Happy's are so interactive, unpredictable, and totally sweet.  It's easy, even as a grownup, to forget that these little cutie pies aren't real!  I find myself petting them, calling them by name, looking in their eyes, and talking to them in that high pitched voice you use to talk to babies and pets… and then I remember they are in fact toys and maybe I need to get a grip!  But maybe not, because it's healthy for grown ups to have fun too!

The Happy's hit store shelves at the beginning of April and you can find them at Target, Walmart, Toys R Us, and Justice.  We can't wait to add some more accessories and pets to our collection.  We gave some of The Happy's that came in our kit away to our friends so we can't wait to plan another playdate to get them all back together again… and I wouldn't be surprised if more have joined the crowd by that point!  If you're looking to add a new friend to your family, or are looking for a great gift for someone else, consider these cute and cuddly pals.  They really are sweet!

Check out this video to see The Happy's in action!

I received free products in order to host the Cepia, LLC sponsored MommyParty.
The opinions expressed here are my own.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Matics from Kabuki Helps

I was provided with free product for this review and giveaway.  
All opinions expressed are my own.

My 3 1/2 year old loves numbers.  You know how when you put kids to bed and they get up and ask for another drink of water or an extra back scratch?  Well, she does that too.  But just as often she gets up and says things like, "Mommy.  I didn't know that four plus four is eight…"  She just has a busy mind and recently it's been full of math facts!

We were super excited to be asked by the team at Kabuki Helps to try out a fantastic math game called Matics.  Matics is a math card game that grows with your child!  The rules of the game change based on the age and skill level of the child.  You could use the cards for number recognition, counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and more!

My 3 1/2 year old and I play the game as follows… We each have a pile of cards face down.  On the count of 3, we each turn over a card.  Her job is to identify the two numbers and then figure out which is the higher number and then the person with the highest number keeps the cards.  It's so much fun, but it's a brain workout for her and we usually make it through one and a half games before she starts saying she's tired… which is a good sign, in my opinion!  We've also tried playing by turning over two cards at a time, adding them together, and using that total to determine who has the highest number.  This is obviously a little trickier and brainpower-consuming for her (I think we made it through two turns!) but it would be perfect for a slighter older child.  I love the fact that this game will never sit dusty on a shelf somewhere because no matter what my child's math skill level is at the time, we can adapt it.

The Matics card set comes in a gel case.  The cards are very high quality.  They are colorful and simple with basic designs that help with counting if needed.

Kabuki Helps is a company that sells quality educational books and games that have been independently created, designed, published, and financed by teachers and parents… the experts on fun learning!  All items are produced in the USA.  Matics is just one of the many little treasures that you will find browsing their website.  When you buy a product from their website, you select a charity or school and 10% of the proceeds from the sale go directly to the organization you have chosen.  You can also choose to purchase something and have the product itself go to a charity like Toys for Tots.  Isn't that great?

Kabuki Helps is also offering my readers 10% off of anything purchased through their website!  Just use the code Today at checkout so they'll know you're coming from here!  The coupon code expires June 1, 2014.

They have also been so kind to offer a set of Matics cards to one of my readers so we're going to give one away!  Just follow along on the rafflecopter widget below.  A winner will be randomly generated from all the entries after the giveaway closes at midnight EST next Monday, April 28.  Come back daily for more entries!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I highly encourage you to check out all of the products that Kabuki Helps has to offer.  I'm looking forward to trying more of their products with my family!

I was provided with free product for this review and giveaway.  
All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Telephone Number Is...

I was sent the single of "My Telephone Number Is..." by Genevieve Goings to review as an influencer with Entertainment New Media Network.  I have been compensated for this post but all opinions expressed are my own.

Do you guys know Genevieve Goings?  I bet you do and don't even know it!  You know on Disney Junior... "All aboard the choo choo train..."  You know her!  She is a rockstar.  And not just because she's a fantastic musician.  She's a rockstar because she uses music to help little ones become rockstars of their world!  Whether mastering bath time, play time, potty time, or counting, she's got a lesson put to music!

Genevieve has a new album entitled, "Do You Know?" releasing on June 3 but TODAY she has released a single entitled, "My Telephone Number Is..." that both you and your little ones will love!  We had the chance to preview this song and it is the catchiest tune I have heard in a long time!  My daughter has been singing it nonstop for the past 24 hours and you better believe she knows her phone number now.  She didn't even know what a phone number was yesterday and now she's a pro, thanks to her friend Genevieve!

You can order the single from iTunes here!

Also, check out Genevieve's FREE app here for your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch!  It has songs and videos that your little one (okay, and yes, you...) will love to sing along with!

And I can't stand to leave you hanging so here's a peek at the music video for "My Telephone Number Is..."

Don't you love it?  Doot-doot-doot-doo-doo-doot-doo!  

Genevieve Goings has spent 10 years teaching toddlers fundamental fun.  From her debut on Playhouse Disney as the hip singing train conductor on the educational interstitials known as "Choo Choo Soul with Genevieve," through her remaking Classic Disney sing-alongs again with Choo Choo Soul, and voicing the learning bumpers featured on the new Disney Junior network.  Genevieve is now welcoming a second generation of viewers and listeners with the release of her first solo album doing what she does best - teaching and entertaining children.

"Do You know?" is a new presentation path for learning for young children age 2-7 years old.  It features songs and videos aimed at helping preschoolers learn their phone number, telling time, putting themselves to bed, and the more personal things like hygiene and dealing with potty training in a dignified manner.  This new inspiring set of songs is fun for the whole family and will have you, as parents and teachers, singing and dancing along.

Visit Genevieve on social media!  You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram... just follow the links!  Keep your eye on her pages so you'll know when you can preorder the "Do You Know?" album.  It should be available for preorder in early May and if you order it then, you'll get instant access to her next single, "Gotta Do My Business" (I'll give you one guess as to what that one's about!).  

I was sent the single of "My Telephone Number Is..." by Genevieve Goings to review as an influencer with Entertainment New Media Network.  I have been compensated for this post but all opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15, 2013 ~ Reflections One Year Later

There are some days that I swear I lost all of my ability to remember things during the birth of my child.  I don't know if it's true or an old wives' tale but it certainly feels true!  Sometimes I feel like I can't remember a thing.  But then there are other things I'll never forget.

If you asked me, "When did your daughter stop napping?"  I would answer, "I don't remember... but it had to be sometime after April 2013 because I know she napped on the 15th."

On April 15, 2013, my daughter was napping and I was folding towels on the living room floor.  I was savoring the peaceful house and didn't even have grown-up shows on the TV.  It was just quiet, and I remember the sun shining in the front window.  My iPhone made a sound that I recognized as my boston.com news app telling me that I had a breaking news notification.  I picked up my phone and it told me that there had been two explosions at the Finish Line of the Boston Marathon.

I turned on the TV and texted my husband at work.

I texted my brothers and my dad, all three of them working at Boston hospitals.  They weren't at work but being in an administrative position, my dad started getting alerts from his hospital soon thereafter.

I watched raw, raw footage on TV.  I saw raw, raw pictures on the internet.  I took screen shots of the pictures.  I'm not even sure why because it's painful to look at them now and I would never repost them.  But there was a part of me that knew how raw they were and that they would probably never be posted again.  It was surreal.  My heart beat out of my chest.

I watched fear and confusion turn quickly into strength and pride almost instantaneously.  

And my heart still kept beating out of my chest.  For days.  I was safe in my home.  Or was I?  There was so much unknown and living 20 minutes away from the city, how safe was I?  No one knew who had made attempts to terrorize our city and therefore no one knew where they were.  All of those emotions of fear, confusion, strength, and pride were so real for me.

I remember days of unknown.  I remember scouring the internet for anything that might be true.  I remember random people posting random speculative photos of who they thought was responsible for the bombings.  Those were photos of innocent people, but everyone was grasping for anything that might offer answers or closure.  I remember days of shielding my child from anything negative.  We only watched news coverage out of her eye and earshot.

I remember getting into bed several days later, after seeing my first glimpses of who was thought be responsible for the bombings.  I remember getting another alert on my phone that an MIT police officer had been shot.  I didn't even log into my phone to read details.  I just put my phone on my nightstand and rolled over.  And then I lay awake in the darkness for a long time, listening to my husband sleep, finally deciding to check my phone again and seeing chatter on twitter that this was all related.

I remember waking up on Friday, April 19, the day when everyone was going to wear their Boston clothes in support of our city.  I wore my Boston Red Sox shirt that day even though I wasn't planning to leave my house.  I turned on the TV and watched with wide eyes as news broadcasters gave updates about what was going on.  I remember my husband getting texts from a friend and coworker from Watertown, telling him that he wasn't allowed to leave his home.  I remember being grateful for my own family's safety but wishing my husband wasn't allowed to leave home for work that day.  I let my daughter watch kid shows while I stood in my bedroom with the grown-up TV on, watching the news, watching twitter on my phone and computer, listening to scanner feeds that were clogged with so many other people hoping for some ounce of up to date information that told us what was going on in our community.  I remember experiencing the power of social media, particularly twitter, in times of crisis.  I remember pictures on twitter of heavily armed men perched on neighborhood roofs just waiting.  I remember watching law enforcement sending out twitter posts to tell people to stop posting pictures of locations of officers hiding on social media.  I remember law enforcement yelling over scanner feeds that the public needed to stop posting what they heard on the scanner on social media.  I remember them telling the public to stop listening to the scanners all together.

I remember pictures of law enforcement officers carrying jugs of milk to families with young children who were not allowed to leave their homes but needed groceries.

I remember it being a nice day that day.  We went outside to play.  It was peaceful except for the sound of helicopters flying over Watertown, just a short distance away.  

I remember counting the hours until my husband got home.  I remember taking a walk to the pond behind our house with my family.  I remember my husband getting texts from his friend about more gunfire in Watertown.  I remember hurrying back home so that we could get back to the TV.  I remember getting my daughter in the bathtub while my husband watched on TV and I watched on social media and periodically listened on the scanner.  It was too intense to listen for more that a minute or so at a time.

I remember getting my daughter into bed and then sitting on the edge of the couch cushion watching as the source of fear was captured.  I remember tears running down my face as I watched community members and safety officials cheering.  I remember never feeling more proud or connected to this community.

I have lived in the Boston area for 35 years (shhhhh, yes that's how old I am!).  Obviously, when you only live in one place your whole life, it holds your allegiance.  But my love for this city and my pride for my identity as a Bostonian changed one year ago and that's what I remember more than anything else.  I could not wait to get to that Marathon Memorial in Copley Square before it was moved to a different location.  I could not wait to just get into that city.  

I remember feeling so much pride when I walked into my local grocery store and watched staff hanging an American flag in the doorway.  I remember just wanting to hug everyone I met and say Boston Strong!  I remember appreciating the prayers of people from all over the world for the people of this city.  And I remember the people of this city wanting to offer that same kind of support to other communities experiencing tragedies because that's what you do.  

I remember praying for the families of those whose lives were lost and following the healing journeys of survivors on facebook and news.  And more recently I remember hearing about those same people preparing to return to the Marathon this year... because that's what you do when you're Boston Strong.

It's amazing that one day can hold so many emotions, but it does.  And if it does for me, I can't even begin to imagine the emotions it holds for those much closer impacted by the Boston Marathon Bombings than me.  For them I pray for a peace that passes all understanding... and continued healing.

I try to give thanks for every day.  It's hard to give thanks for a day that changed the course of so many lives in a horrific way.  But in reality, that day changed us by making us stronger.  I'm thankful for the strength of the human spirit and the strength of this city.  I'm thankful for community.  I'm thankful for healing, both physical and emotional.  I'm thankful for amazing law enforcement officers and first responders.  And I am so thankful that my strongest memories, and the feelings that are more real to me now than ever, are those of resiliency and pride.

So, with so many others, today I say again, Boston Strong.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Meet The Happy's!

I received free products in order to host the Cepia, LLC sponsored MommyParty.  
The opinions expressed here are my own.

Have you had the chance to meet The Happy's yet?  Let me introduce you!

The Happy's are the latest, greatest, interactive, and totally cute, cuddly, and realistic little pets (I mean, toys) from Cepia, LLC, the same company that brought us ZhuZhu Pets.  They just hit store shelves last week, and Cepia, LLC and MomSelect were kind enough to send us some to get to know and share with our friends.

These little critters are battery operated and run around your house (bare floors or carpet) exploring.  You can teach them tricks with the use of their battery operated treats.  They play ball, chase, pounce, wiggle, and make the cutest little sounds along the way!

I am a grownup and will say that these are so much fun!  But what really matters is what my daughter thinks since these are actually meant for little ones... She says, while cuddling with her little close-to-real-life buddy, "I like when Chance comes to me, and comes to get the bone!"

Stay tuned for more details about The Happy's and the fun we are having with them over the next several weeks!  We'll be posting pics on instagram, twitter, facebook, and pinterest.  Follow the hashtag #thehappys so you won't miss a thing.  Also, while you're there, I bet you'll find some giveaways that you can enter to win your own!

You can find The Happy's at Target, Walmart, Toys R Us, and Justice.

I received free products in order to host the Cepia, LLC sponsored MommyParty.  
The opinions expressed here are my own.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sing Into Spring! Walt Disney Records Review & Giveaway!

I was sent a complimentary collection of Disney Music CDs by Walt Disney Records as part of Entertainment New Media Network.  Giveaway is sponsored through the network, by Take Time For Today, with prizes provided by Walt Disney Records.  
All opinions expressed are my own.

I. cannot. stop. singing. Disney. songs.

It's the truth.  I can't stop!  Disney songs are catchy and fun and there is just no way to listen and not sing along!  I have a 3 1/2 year old (going on 14) who said to me the other day, with an annoyed teenager look on her face (yes, she's 3 1/2), "I already told you.  Stop singing.  Your voice is NOT like HERS."  She was referring to Elsa from Frozen.  I was speechless.

Walt Disney Records, helping to feed my Disney singing obsession, was kind enough to send us a Sing Into Spring Gift Bag which included four amazing CDs that both my daughter and I have been singing along to non stop!  (Sometimes I wonder if my husband sings along with them too when he's in the car alone but he would never confess it.)  Here is what's been playing at our house recently...

Doc McStuffins ~ The Doc Is In
We LOVE Doc.  period.  She, her friends, and her songs, are amazing!  My daughter would like you to know that her favorite song from this CD is when Doc and Lambie sing together, "A Lambie Like You."  These songs are so catchy and you'll have the whole CD memorized within the first day, guaranteed.

Jake and the Never Land Pirates ~ 
Yo Ho, Matey!
My daughter would like you to know that her favorite song from this CD is "Yo Ho Mateys" or yelling "Yo Ho, Let's Go!" in general.  We love Jake and his friends (especially Izzy, "the one with the pixie dust") so singing along with him and his friends is always a blast.

DJ Shuffle
This CD is the absolutely amazingly PERFECT compilation of what I guarantee are your favorite Disney Junior Songs.  If you're wanting to buy the soundtrack CD to every Disney Junior show but can't afford to buy them all, you will love this.  It includes songs from Sofia the First, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Doc McStuffins, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Henry Hugglemonster, and Sheriff Callie's Wild West.  It also includes four bonus karaoke instrumental songs and lyrics are included for those songs as well.  My daughter would like you to know that her favorite songs from this CD are all of the ones from Sofia and Doc.  I would like you to know that my favorite song from this CD is the DJ Shuffle, itself!  Have you heard this catchy tune yet?!  "Robot to the left... robot to the right... roll it out... hop to it!"  Check out the DJ Shuffle Music Video here.  You won't regret it!

Frozen Soundtrack
Aaaaaaah.  We love the Frozen soundtrack and you will too.  It kind of borders on a grown up CD because it includes not only the catchy sing along songs but also the instrumentals.  I tell you this in case you need an excuse to get this for yourself since your kids probably don't let you sing along in front of them.  My daughter would like you to know that her favorite song from this CD is "Let it Go."  Surprised?  Doubtful!  I'm sure it might be your favorite too!  Oh!  You should also know that this CD comes with lyrics!  WOOT!

You can win a Preschool or Tween Sing Into Spring Gift Bag!

Walt Disney Records has offered to send a Sing Into Spring Gift Bag to TWO of my readers as well!  You can choose from the Preschool set that I reviewed and a Tween set.  Each of them includes the popular Frozen Soundtrack!

Preschool Set 
(Disney Junior favorites)
Doc McStuffins ~ The Doc Is In
Jake and the Never Land Pirates ~ Yo Ho, Matey!
DJ Shuffle
Frozen Soundtrack

Tween Set 
(Disney Channel favorites)
Austin & Ally ~ Turn It Up
Teen Beach Movie Soundtrack

So below, you will see two separate rafflecopter giveaways, one for the Preschool Gift Bag and one for the Tween Gift Bag.  You may choose to enter either one or both, but you will only be able to win one, so if by chance your name is randomly chosen twice, an alternate winner will be assigned to one.  Just follow the instructions within the rafflecopter widget and you'll be good to go!  There are several different entry options and you can choose to do one or many.  Some even let you come back day after day for more entries!

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway is only open to US residents and will end at 12:00 AM on Tuesday, April 8.  Winners will be contacted soon thereafter and will have 24 hours to respond.  I will then forward their information to Entertainment New Media Network and Walt Disney Records for prize distribution.  If winners are not heard from within 24 hours, prizes will be forfeited and new winners will be chosen.

I was sent a complimentary collection of Disney Music CDs by Walt Disney Records as part of Entertainment New Media Network.  Giveaway is sponsored through the network, by Take Time For Today, with prizes provided by Walt Disney Records.  
All opinions expressed are my own.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...