Friday, January 31, 2014

Jonboy Caramels Review & Giveaway! #seattle #bmnlove

This post was originally part of the Feel the Love Giveaway Hop.
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Pictures speak a thousand words, don't they?

We recently had the opportunity to try Jonboy Caramels, a Seattle based company.

I pretty much got my first taste without Penny really understanding what was going on. But as soon as she saw the really pleased look on my face, my little girl looked up at me (with her hands outstretched) and said "mama - have?"

Yes baby, you may have one too.

Normally I keep sugary sweets out of my little tyke's hands, but what mama can resist such a sweet request?

It's also a major plus to me that Jonboy Caramels sources local ingredients, down to the cream and butter used as the base. They've opted for organic brown rice syrup instead of corn syrup; and their seasonal flavors, such as Balsamic Berry, uses raspberry and blackberry juice from local farms too.

We sampled a box of their Fleur de Sel Caramels and my initial hope was for them to last us through Valentine's Day - hah. Fat chance! These babies were gone in less than a couple days, between a snatch here and a grab there, and a 'well, I just have to have another one..' incident or two.

The texture was creamy and they melted in your mouth just like a good caramel should. These aren't the sticky, chewy caramels that make you worry about your dental health - my fillings remained intact after several samples of these. :)

Have I got you drooling at all? Well lucky you, Jonboy wants to share the love and give one Pierogie Mama a sweet sampler of their Fleur de Sel, Molasses Ginger, and Absinthe caramels. Oh boy!


Enter to win below!
This giveaway has ended. Thanks to all who entered!

Disclosure: Thank you Jonboy Caramels for hooking me up with this sweet treat! 
I love supporting a local Seattle company. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Under Construction: Every Renovation Has Its Horror Story

Don't want to miss out on any of our renovation shenanagins? 
Click here for a full list of my posts on it!

It's been a little over a month since there has been any movement forward in the renovation; we've been working on other projects, rest assured! But I wanted to share a little story with you all about how we just barely avoided a renovation horror story.

Don't get me wrong, this renovation has been going extremely well. It's our second one and we learned A LOT from our first. I can write a whole blog series about renovation horror stories based on our first one! Luckily the list sanfus on this renovation is extremely short, but what happened this past week could have really made mama upset.

For our first renovation we bought all of our appliances through Lowe's on a Black Friday sale plus we had a 10% off coupon for moving recently - it was a pretty stellar deal. This time around there haven't been the same deals so I went a different route by taking a look at Sears Outlet refurbished appliances. I've been able to save over 30% in some cases, and a few months ago I snagged my favorite oven (a stainless steel Bosch 30" 500 series wall mounted beaut) for 40% off list price.

It was in a Sears Outlet in Phoenix, so it had to be shipped to me. Within a few days of ordering it I got a tracking number and then about a week later I got a voicemail from Sears Outlet letting me know that my oven would be delivered the following day. Yippee!!

I waited in anticipation as our delivery window approached the next morning. Then I got a call from Sears Outlet saying that the oven couldn't be delivered because the glass door was damaged during shipment. Tears! I asked if they would deliver the oven without the door and I could just order a replacement from Bosch directly (it was less than $200), but no, liability something or other prevents them from delivering an incomplete appliance. Even the shipping insurance that was automatically factored into the order didn't make a difference (which makes me wonder what it was there for in the first place). More tears.

Their course of action was to refund me the money and I would have to source a new oven. They had more of the same ovens on their website, but the prices were much higher than what I had paid. At this point it was getting frustrating because it put a hold on our very steady headway on our renovation.

A few of you know me personally and you know that when things like this happen, I don't give up. I contact whomever it is that I need to and work my way to the top until I find someone who can either legitimately explain to me why they can't help me any further or I actually get some help. It takes hours, sometimes several days of phone calls, repeating the same story over and over. I did just that, worked through a couple representatives and finally got in touch with the right guy in the right department. He did me a solid and worked out a deal where we got a brand new (not refurbished) oven from Sears directly and they matched the price that I originally paid for the refurbished oven. Seriously, high fives all around for stellar customer service.

So the new oven arrives and we decide to keep it in the original shipping container until we are ready to install it so as to minimize any scratches / Penny trying to open the oven and climb inside of it. About a month and a half passes by and one evening Penny is reciting the letters that are on the outside of the box. "B.. O.. W...H..I..T..E..." Panic races through my veins as I realize what this may mean and I have Adam open the box.

It was a white oven. Not stainless steel, like we had originally ordered. Tears!!!
S... C.. H...

So Bianca jumps on the computer and emails her fantastic rep who helped out before, who then has to route her through another department because this was a brand new order. The following few days are spent on the phone talking to more representatives, explaining the situation as well as the inconvenience it's caused. Again, my bulldog mentality got me to the right gal in the right department and she was able to put in a request for a replacement oven, but she wasn't sure if they were going to be able to exchange it at no cost to us. This didn't make sense because I didn't place the order online myself; I gave the specs to the rep as well as our charge info. And then there was the argument that the white ovens are less expensive than the stainless steel ones so they wanted to charge us more for a stainless steel. I countered that price match that we had been given on Oven #2 was based on the price we paid for Oven #1 (it also was a stainless steel finish).

Where do we stand now? The ovens are getting swapped and delivered/picked up at no cost to us. It's due to arrive in a couple weeks, which doesn't fit perfectly into our renovation timeline but I'm very thankful that we were able to get this figured out and best of all, at no additional cost to us. My fear was that I'd be stuck with a white oven when all of my other appliances are stainless steel.

Morals to the story?
  • Don't let this story discourage you from researching refurbished options when buying new appliances. Prior to buying this oven, I've bought a microwave through Sears Outlet online for a fraction of the price that was a "floor model" and was anticipating it to come looking used. Not the case - it just didn't have the original packaging and protective stickers on it like you would get when you bought a brand new one.
  • When something does go wrong, keep badgering. Perhaps this is more of a personality thing, because I know that not everyone has the time or wants to deal with the hassle of calling and telling the same story to multiple people. I'm not going to lie, I lost my patience on several occasions. But persistence pays off. And in this case it saved me well over a thousand dollars.











Monday, January 27, 2014

Pierogies go all Beastmode for the Superbowl!

This post is special to me in two ways -

1) pierogies. Duh!
2) Seahawks! Anyone living in Washington State (and pretty much the entire Pacific Northwest region) is living on a Seahawk / 12th Man high. This is the second time in the Seahawk's 38 year history, we're going to the Superbowl! We're known for our record setting loudness, thanks to our excitement for the team and the architecture of our stadium. 

This season has been the year of Beast Mode, aka Marshawn Lynch. He has been credited with the success of the team this year and has been the poster boy for Seahawk pride. His love for Skittles (aka: power pellets from his mama) is the inspiration behind many Seattle area restaurant munchies in preparation for the big game. Did you know that he's also the first athelete to be paid by the Skittles brand and they've released Seahawk colored Skittles?? 


And just like any other good Seahawk fan, I've prepared my own rendition of a Pierogie Mama family favorite - BEAST MODE PIEROGIES!

Making pierogies by hand is tedious work, friends. My mom and I keep up the family tradition of making them for holidays and special events, but for the every day I turn to Mrs. T's Pierogies. So I'm honored to share my collaboration with Mrs. T's and show you how any 12th man will appreciate these Polish delights by showing you how to make beast mode pierogies!



Note: Mrs. T's Pierogies can be served as a main or side dish. If you are serving them as a main dish, I recommend 6-7 pierogies per adult (a box comes with 12 pierogies).


You will need:
1 box of your favorite flavor Mrs. T's pierogies (we love potato and cheddar flavor)

Blue and green neon food coloring
a bag of skittles
1 cup of sour cream
1 tablespoon of sugar

You will do:
1. Bring 2 separate pots of water to boil, one colored with blue food coloring and the other with green. The exact amount of food coloring will depend on how much water you use, but I wanted to be sure that my pierogies were extremely colored so I started with 30 drops of food coloring. 

2. Carefully pour half of a box of pierogies into one pot and the other half into the other pot.
3. Bring them to a slow boil. They will float when they are done, but you may want to turn off the heat and allow them to soak in the colored water for an additional 10-15 minutes to allow them to get saturated with as much color as possible
4. Remove the pierogies from the pot using a slotted spoon when you're happy with their coloring.
5. Mix together the sour cream and sugar (this will make a sweet dipping sauce) and serve as a side - and don't forget those skittles!

These are pierogies that even Marshawn Lynch will mow down on - so get your Seahawk and pierogie pride on and serve these at your Superbowl party.. I bet you'll get a few questions about them!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Chickens!! (Almost)

A dream of mine is quickly coming to reality! About 3 years ago I got a bee in my bonnet about wanting to keep chickens. The timing never was right until we moved into our current home - it came with a chicken coop. Could it have been any more perfect?

Every January, Washington experiences a very brief window of Spring-like weather and yesterday and today has probably been in the low 50's. It was enough to pull me out of my hibernation, get the kiddo outside and take a good look at our backyard that has been forgotten about for the last 4 months.

I decided that now is the time for me to begin our chicken journey. Am I crazy to start this endeavour when I am 4-6 weeks away from delivering Ruby? Maybe. But to be honest it won't be that hard or crazy because I've decided to start with poullets (adolescents), which will either be at the very start of their egg laying years or will come into that time once the weather warms up. No hatching eggs or keeping watch over a brood of cute fluffies. That can come when my girls are old enough to appreciate it!

Today I spent a good part of the afternoon cleaning out our coop. There was still old bedding and manure leftover from the previous inhabitants so I grabbed a shovel and a rake and got to work. A part of me is really wary - could this burst of energy be thanks to some extra Vitamin D or is Baby Ruby going to make her appearance soon? Hopefully not - my goal is to keep that little girl safe and sound inside until no less than 37 weeks, otherwise the birth center delivery that I have been planning on will not be an option.

In a very short amount of time I was left with this honestly quite glorious pile of organic matter that needed some attending to. My raised beds are still full of weeds and I didn't want to ask Adam to schlep the manure over to them only to have it all lay there for who knows how long (and increase the likelihood of Squirt rolling around in it). So I walked over to one of the families that we've gotten to know in the last couple months and asked them if they were interested in manure (kind of an awkward conversation - hey, how are you, so do you want some poop?). As it turns out they have a very successful vegetable garden and would LOVE my old poop. The mama sent over her two boys who loaded it all up, cleaned out the rest of my coop for me and that was that. Score! I look forward to trading poop for veggies this summer :)

The coop was left with pretty much all the supplies I need - milk crates for nesting boxes, a feeder and two watering thingys. All I need is bedding, food and .. chickens, of course!

I got connected with a sweet gal married a college acquaintance and we got to talking chickens for hours this week via facebook. She has been so helpful and I'm excited to have someone to talk chickens with as I begin my journey. I called around and have been connected with a farmer a little north of us who sells poullets and next Saturday Adam will be picking up 3 ladies for me (Barred Rocks) and the adventure will truly begin!

Here's what we're starting out with. You will never see it featured on Pinterest, but is structurally sound. I've got ideas on a chicken coop Pinterest board for when we have less projects on our to-do list. But for now it will suit its purpose.





Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Natural Handmade Soaps from Stargazer Soaps

Welcome to the Natural in the New Year Giveaway Hop hosted by the Blogging Mamas Network.
The month of January is when most people start evaluating ways that they can make changes to be healthier and I've joined a group of 30 other bloggers that have come together to help you do just that... in a more natural way! After my review and giveaway, scroll down to the bottom so that you can hop around for other giveaways too. 
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One of my favorite sponsors to work with has been Nicole from Stargazer Soaps. In my blogging journey I've been blessed with getting to know others who share the mutual desire and drive to better themselves and their family, and Nicole has taken that to the next level and shares her talent of soap making with other families as well. Keeping it natural, healthy and safe is important to her and I totally admire that!

If you aren't familiar with Stargazer Soaps, this is a work-at-home-mom business run by Nicole where she crafts handmade, natural soaps. The name Stargazer comes from a very special experience she had with her brother and as tribute each of her soaps is named after something from the sky.

Why would you want to consider handmade soaps, besides their prettiness factor? The ingredients, y'all. Nicole posted a comparison of handmade versus commercial soap ingredients for you to take a look. Personally, I try to use products (to the best of my ability) where I have a clue on what the ingredients are. With Stargazer Soaps, you don't have to worry that some random chemical made it onto your skin. And if you have any questions, Nicole is right there to tell you what it is and why she chose to use it. Her own testimony of why she switched to handmade soaps, due to her daughter's eczema, is reason enough to consider making the switch.

StarGazer Soaps offers two lines of soaps - Purely Natural and Creamy Silk. Although both lines are by far better for your skin than commercial soap, the difference between the two is that the Purely Natural line uses colorants only found in nature and is fragranced with essential oils. The Creamy Silk line uses colorants (not dyes). Find out more about the difference between Stargazer Soap's two lines.

In the past I've had the pleasure of reviewing a few of her soaps, and my favorite has been the Grapefruit from the Purely Natural line and Orion from Creamy Silk. She shares about her currently curing batches often and has a Youtube stream where you can see from start to finish how most of her soaps are made!

I can go on and on about just how beautiful Stargazer Soaps are! They also smell amazing and very true to how she describes them. Stargazer Soaps has also rolled out a masculine line as well - check out her brand new beer soaps and my husband never batted an eye at the Purely Natural line.


Thinking ahead for Valentine's Day? This giveaway ends just in time for you to place an order with V-Day delivery if you win! Nicole says "My Valentine soaps are Merope, Capella & Electra.  They will be ready to ship on January 26th. To receive by Valentines day, orders need to be ordered with Priority mail by February 11." If supplies last, the soaps will be available beyond Valentines day of course :) Don't forget to use code PIER10 to get 10% off your order too. 


Now that you've entered my Natural Giveaway, check out the Grand Prize for this Event...
NaturalNewYearGrandPrize

Enter the Grand Prize Here.

Disclosure: The Pierogie Mama, So Easy Being Green, Viva Veltoro, the Blogging Mamas Network, and the Natural in the New Year participating bloggers are not responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill prize obligations. None of these statements are intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Please exercise your own common sense and consult a physician if you have any concerns. 



Babymoon at Salish Lodge and Spa #seattle

"Just had the best night's rest I have had in YEARS. Must have been the 30 minute mineral soak, 
hour massage and delicious food right before bed, falling asleep to the sound of a crackling fire. 
EVERY pregnant mama deserves this in her 3rd trimester! 
Had an amazing babymoon at Salish Lodge with my handsome hubby"

That was the status update I posted on my personal facebook account after checking out of Salish Lodge and Spa about a week ago. Seriously - blissed out. 

We booked our 3rd trimester babymoon at Salish Lodge and Spa because they offer a special package for expectant parents that in my opinion really hits the mark. Having lived in the Seattle area my whole life, I had heard about how amazing this hotel was; I was not prepared for exactly how true this really was. 

Let's start from the beginning.  As I pulled up into the driveway a valet greeted me, took my bags and parked my car. By the time I reached the lobby (read: waddled), the concierge had my reservation pulled up. I guess the big ole belly gave me away. Minutes later, we were in our room; the bags had beat us there. 

We walked into a gorgeous, tastefully Pacific Northwest themed room that had rose petals spread over the king sized bed, French sparkling cider (read: not Martinellis!) chilling with a little stuffie for our impending bundle. The room also featured a balcony, a set of plush robes and slippers, two closets, a real wood fireplace, a Keurig with coffee and tea amenities. This waterbirth mama specifically drooled over the bathroom - a two person jetted tub with a peek through window that allows you to enjoy the fireplace from the tub. Everything felt so luxurious and relaxing, it was honestly very difficult to leave the following morning after resting in this oasis for a night. 

After we settled in and marveled over this really well appointed room Adam and I met with Greg Prescott, the Rooms Division Manager for a personalized tour of the hotel. Yes, being a blogger has its perks! :) Greg shared some of the most impressive highlights of the hotel as a business and vacation destination for locals and travelers alike.

The hotel has two restaurants on site. While they are extremely different from each other as far as their ambiance, the quality of service remains the same. Their sit down style restaurant is Falls Terrace, which is quiet and very personal. You will find over a thousand wine labels on their list; not kidding. You can order anything from the standard house wine to the once in a lifetime 1950's Bordeaux. Oh, and then there is the best table in the house - which offers 180 degree views of the waterfalls.




One of the many things I loved that Greg shared with us was exactly how connected Salish Lodge is to the Pacific Northwest community and their commitment to sustainability. They work with many local vendors to bring in the freshest, tastiest ingredients and products to their clients, but they're also doing the legwork on one other important part. In 2011 they began a small apiary with 4 beehives. This year they have brought it up to 12 hives and produce 2,400 pounds of organic honey a year. The honey is used throughout the hotel, from their dinner menu and spa, to their private selection of Salish Honey Ale and Salish Honey flavored Vodka and wine. Sweet deliciousness aside, the bees and their honey serve an important role in our environment - locally and globally. 

After our tour we checked into Salish's spa. The babymoon package includes massage treatments for both mama and daddy and I was READY for some relaxation. We first soaked in their two mineral pools - this was the perfect way to start my evening. You mamas know how few and far between quiet, relaxing baths are and this hit the spot. We sipped chocolate orange tea, relaxed to the sound of rushing water from the waterfall (and laughed at just how buoyant I am!) and were gently escorted to our treatment rooms.

I had the Mellow Mama massage (featuring Mama Mio products) and Adam had a relaxing tranquility massage. My therapist propped me and my belly on my side so that I'd be comfortable for the entire hour and got to work immediately. She checked in often to make sure that I was comfortable, but otherwise it was an hour of quiet, deep relaxation and wonderful work on some really tired mama muscles. Lifting and carrying a toddler during your 3rd trimester definitely takes a toll on your body, and it was nice getting those kinks worked out. After our hour apart, we met up in the 'recovery room' with huge, euphoric smiles on our faces. A comment that Adam made was that he was really surprised at how we weren't greasy at all when we came out; our skin had a really easy time absorbing the oils but left us feeling very glowy. 


Massages make this mama hungry so our next stop was a late dinner at The Attic - the second restaurant on the property. Here we found a more relaxed, lounge style atmosphere, where you can choose to sit at a table by the window or in any of their comfortable couches. Their claim to fame here is their wood fire pizza oven. Their pizzas are anything but the standard fare (though you can get a cheese or pepperoni pizza if you want!). We started with their baked clams (which featured chorizo in the broth, Adam insists that I now figure out how to make this at home!).



For dinner I ordered a pear and fig pizza (Salish Honey Fig Spread, Caramelized Onions, Prosciutto, Arugula, Bleu Cheese) and Adam ordered a shaved beef sandwich with a glass of the Honey Ale. Both were prepared to perfection - the dough and bread were soft, the pizza toppings and Adam's sandwich were perfectly paired with each other. Great food is always the perfect setting for the best conversations, in my book



We retired to our room, Adam started a cozy fire in their real fireplace (Salish has over 90 wood burning fireplaces!) and we sipped our sparkling cider. Later, I woke up around midnight to realize that we had probably fallen asleep mid-sentence and the fire was still crackling happily away. Big sigh of contentment. 



The next morning I got to do something that I haven't done in years...I sat in their library, sipped tea and read the paper for several hours, in front of yet another fire. 



Was this all a dream or did it really happen? Thankfully I have photographic evidence to prove that indeed, it did. If I can be promised a babymoon like this every time I'm pregnant, sign me up for 10 more kids please!

The biggest impression that Adam and I left with when checking out was how Salish Lodge and Spa proactively seeks the continuous improvement of their guests' experience. No, I didn't copy that from their website - that's straight from my genius husband's mouth. In addition to the connection that Salish Lodge has with its community to keep business local and provide sustainability, the guest leaves the hotel feeling like they were truly cared for during their stay. Everything was thought of ahead of time, down to having a screen door on your balcony so that you can sleep with the doors open on a summer night. What hotel thinks of that?

A few tips for you if you plan on staying at the lodge...

  • Purposefully forget your laptop, tablet, whatever at home. They do offer free wifi, but seriously. Check out.
  • Bring a camera to see the falls.
  • Plan to spend a lot of time in your room. Even if you don't schedule anything in their spa, the rooms come in at a close second for relaxation. 
  • Visit their Country Store. It's cute, has a ton of their honey products, you can take home a bottle of their Honey Ale beer or signature wine and a good variety of other things.
  • Show up for their morning beverage service and afternoon tea and cookies in The Library. The fire will be stoked and ready for you :)
  • Come midweek - my biggest tip. We stayed on a Monday night and it felt like we had everything to ourselves. We got to choose the best seats in The Attic and there weren't many tourists at the Falls when I went for a hike the next morning. 
What to expect with their signature babymoon package:
  • Rose petals, sparkling cider and baby gift
  • Special pregnancy pillow for the mother-to-be, to be enjoyed during her stay
  • Two 50-minute Salish Signature spa treatments of the couple's choice (I had the Mellow Mama)
  • $50 dining credit in The Attic


All in all, Seattle friends, this is one place where you do need to stay at least once - don't mistake this for "just another a tourist retreat!"


Find out more about Salish Lodge and Spa

Disclosure: Thank you, Salish Lodge and Spa for hosting my babymoon through accommodation, meals and massage. All opinions are my own, though I wouldn't share about this amazing hotel if I didn't think you'd love it as much as we did!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Yoplait Greek vs Chobani #Tasteoff

I was selected for this campaign as a part of the Linqia network. 

Do you prefer Greek or regular yogurt?

I started eating Greek yogurt during my first pregnancy when my midwife recommended I up my protein intake, but meat of any kind was really unappealing to me and I didn't want to go with protein shakes. I started by adding it to my daily smoothie and soon was eating it out of the cup like the yogurt I had grown up on. Comparing plain flavored regular yogurt vs Greek, I always felt that Greek tastes a little more sour, indeed creamier than the former.  Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian and author of The Flexitarian Diet, says "For someone who wants the creamier texture, a little bit of a protein edge, and a sugar decrease, going Greek is definitely not all hype (source). The reason behind this is Greek is "strained extensively to remove much of the liquid whey, lactose, and sugar, giving it its thick consistency." 

Now that more and more people are recognizing the nutritional benefits of Greek yogurt, traditional yogurt companies are offering the option of Greek in addition to the 'regular' that we're accustomed to, such as Yoplait. Yoplait is even hosting a taste off challenge between their new Yoplait Greek Blueberry versus Chobani Blueberry Fruit on the Bottom! I was excited to take part in this taste test because I've grown up on regular Yoplait yogurt but had also been on the Greek bandwagon for the last 3 years and I was curious to see what Yoplait had to offer.

Before tasting either of these yogurts, to be completely honest, I anticipated that I would like the Chobani more. Chobani is better known for their Greek yogurt and I automatically assumed that they would be the healthier option. I've grown up on and loved Yoplait, but when I started doing my research on how I wanted to feed my family I often found that the packaged foods we really love are usually the ones filled with the most sugar. Without ever taking the time to compare the two labels (besides for protein content), I assumed that Yoplait fell into that 'sweet but not good for you category.'




My taste notes...

Fruit
First off, there was the difference of how the fruit was presented in the yogurts. Yoplait had it automatically mixed in for you and Chobani had it at the bottom. To me, it didn't make a huge difference, though I did notice bigger chunks of blueberries in the Chobani than I did in the Yoplait. I still ended up mixing the blueberries throughout the yogurt in the Chobani.

Sweetness
This is where I was hit with a curve ball. The Yoplait Greek Yogurt tastes much sweeter than Chobani (which I expected), so I automatically assumed this was because there was more sugar. But when I checked the labels, Chobani has 15g sugar / serving and Yoplait has 7g! It was also interesting that they had really comparable levels of protein - Chobani has 12g of protein, and Yoplait had 11g per serving.

Creamyness
Chobani was definitely thicker than Yoplait. But like I mentioned before, the Yoplait seems to hold true to the history of their brand's flavors and textures. I really don't think I would have been able to tell if the Yoplait Greek was Greek if I was blindfolded and given their regular blueberry yogurt to taste against. 

Results
After tasting these two, I surprised myself in my preference for the Yoplait Greek Blueberry. Even though I happen to like the full flavor of Greek yogurt, I would recommend the Yoplait brand for the person who isn't a huge fan of Greek but wants to take advantage of the additional protein and other nutrients it offers.


Will you take the taste challenge? Which do you think you will like better?

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Yoplait, but I was encouraged to voice my total and honest opinion regarding my choice between the two brands. All opinions expressed are my own!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Cheap College Textbooks: Campus Book Rentals Review

I feel like such a granny when I say this -
"Back when I was in college, we didn't have CampusBookRentals.com. You either bought your textbooks from the bookstore or online and then tried to sell them at the end of the quarter when you were done with them."

Guys, I only graduated 5 years ago as of last month. Now I'm on the eve of my second pregnancy, have owned 2 homes, been married for almost 5 years and I kind of feel like I've lived three life times since then.

Renting college textbooks from CampusBookRentals.com is a great plan for college students because A) you're not shelling out tons of cash for books you won't likely keep, and B) getting those books back in circulation for another quarter cuts down on paper useage for new books. So you save green both ways - cash and the Earth. Win-win :)



A few more perks about using CampusBookRentals.com:
  • Save 40-90% off of bookstore prices
  • They offer live help! So if you have a need-to-solve-this-problem-right-now issue, there is most likely someone online to give you a hand. Much better than waiting on a company to reply to their email, or worse yet...calling during business hours...
  • Free shipping both ways and rental insurance.
  • Yes, you are allowed to highlight and mark in the books! This is definitely something you can't do if you want to sell the book back to the bookstore.
  • Flexible renting periods and you can even buy the book at the end of the quarter if you decide that you think it'll be good for future reference.
  • They donate to Operation Smile with each textbook rented, and have committed to donate a minimum of 80 additional surgeries between June 2013 and June 2014. Operation Smile provides free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for children around the globe.
In addition to renting college textbooks, CampusBookRentals.com offers RentBack.com - so you can rent your books to other students and make a little bit of cash. All you have to do is send your book to their warehouse and they rent it for you. As the book gets checked out, you get paid. That's it!


Oh, and one more thing: Want to get your textbooks for free? You can enter to win a textbook scholarship. All you have to do is fill out a short form and at the end of each semester a few random winners will be chosen to get up to $250 in textbook rentals!


Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by CampusBookRentals.com and contains affiliate links. All opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Meet Me: A Q&A with Cherry Valley Macaroni Kid

Erin from Cherry Valley Macaroni Kid has done it again - she's invited me to say a few words on her newsletter and I was so honored to get this special spotlight!

One of my big goals for this blog this year (besides keeping up with it once I have 2 pierogies!) is to get more local - I'd love to get to know my Seattle area mamas, share about great family friendly events and businesses that would love to partner with  me. Erin and I have collaborated on a couple occasions since meeting in September last year and I am looking forward to much more!

So if you're a new Pierogie Mama reader, or even if you've been here for a while, check out my Q&A over at Cherry Valley Macaroni Kid. You might learn something new :)

And if you're a local reader, I definitely want to hear from you! And sign up for Erin's newsletter for a weekly update on fun, local things to do.

Follow along via

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sankofa Diapers Review & Giveaway

Sankofa: San Kofa in the Akan Language of West Africa means going back to our roots.

Sankofa Diapers, owned by Winnie and her husband, is more than just a business to them. Growing up in Ghana, cloth diapering was the norm for Winnie. I asked her what it's like to cloth diaper in Ghana, and she told me: 


"Most families rely on good old fashioned prefolds and plastic pants. All rural families rely on their prefolds and covers for their diapering needs. People don't even use wipes. You just get a cup of water when baby goes potty and wash them up before you put a new one on. 
Most people in the suburbs still use the same methods. 

But there has been a lot of exposure to disposables in the cities. SO many brands to count and so most people in the cities and some in the suburbs are turning to disposable. Most Ghanaian women these days are working moms and do not want to deal with washing diapers when they get home. 99% of homes in Ghana wash by hand. I personally washed my diapers by hand when I visited with my then 18 month old in 2011. Wasn't a big deal to me because that is how I know it to be done before I came to the United States and owned a washer and dryer.

Main difference between the two [rural and suburban] is that educated Ghanaians today think everything done or promoted in the developed countries as golden...
Cloth diapering is becoming a thing of the past and is more for less educated or less fortunate families. Just as eating fast food has become the norm for the "well to do."

Children potty trained really quickly because they are allowed to play around in underwear when they start walking. Most families like mine started elimination communication around 2 months old. You were put on the potty every morning at a particular time until you pottied. And so we learned pretty early. I remember my mom waking my brother up twice every night to pee until he could get up and do it by himself without help."

How interesting to come from a perspective where cloth diapering is for the underclass whereas here it almost seems like cloth diapering families are viewed from an 'elite' angle - the diapers cost more to start out and they take more time to care for and prepare (when in reality it saves you SO much money!). 

I had the chance to review a Sankofa Diaper and I wanted to share about this unique diaper.

First things first: this is a one size pocket diaper. The sizing runs true to most other brands - I feel like most kids from about 9-30 lbs could comfortably fit and play in these diapers. It features cross over snaps so that you can use it on a skinnier baby. 

Next I want to draw your attention to the inserts. They are a blend of bamboo and microfiber - thirsty bamboo on the outer layer with a microfiber core. I'm a huge fan of bamboo inserts because Penny is a fast wetter - many of our standard inserts and covers that we've been using for well over 18 months simply cannot absorb quickly enough. Bamboo does the trick! 

Then there's this unique twist with Sankofa Diaper inserts - take a look at the snaps.

The inserts feature snaps so that you can stack the two sizes of inserts on top of each other (great for night time or heavy wetters) but you can also adjust them based on where your child wets more often - do they wet more towards the front (boys) or back (girls). Genius!

And then there's the fun part - all the prints! We were sent the 'froggy princess' print, which has been a huge hit with Penny. Her nickname from her babcia (Polish for 'grandma') is Zabka, which means 'froggy.' Over the last few months Penny has amassed a small family of "buddies" (froggies) and when I pulled this diaper out of the mail, she truly squealed in delight and could not wait to put it on.


We've been loving this diaper as a new addition to our stash, and the versatility of orienting the inserts based on where your little one wets is really awesome.

Want to win your own Sankofa Diaper? One lucky winner will win a 3 pack these sweet dipes! Check out the giveaway widget below to enter. This giveaway is open to the US & Canada - please read the terms and conditions for full details regarding giveaway rules.

In the meantime, you can also take advantage of 15% off your order from Sankofa Diapers a Pierogie Mama reader! Just use code PIEROGIEMAMA


Disclosure: I received product in exchange for an honest review, 
though all opinions expressed are my own. Please read the terms and conditions for complete rules for entering the giveaway.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Monthly Its: January


Welcome to 2014, y'all! This last year flew by, didn't it? I can't believe that I'm 33 weeks and that my little girl is almost 2 years old. Pretty soon I'll be calling her 'my eldest.' Where has the time gone?

This weekend was packed full of fun family stuff - my mother in law's 50th birthday party, visiting with my parents and our 3rd trimester babymoon at Salish Lodge and Spa (I can't wait to share about it with you!). But in all honesty I'm hoping it's the last exciting weekend before Ruby arrives. I've reached the stage in my pregnancy where I'm in full nesting mode - I've got my dresser project, I've pulled out all the totes of Penny's newborn clothes and gear (just need to wash everything), we have the second half of our kitchen renovation to finish, and I just plain want to relax and have quiet family time until my little girl makes her arrival.

Bloggers and website owners: if the new year means a new look for you, I highly recommend Fantastique Designs! She is offering free blogger to word press conversions when you purchase her Wordpress design package. As you know, she's done a great job in my blog revamp and I can count on her for support when it is necessary. Lauren from The Median Mommy was the winner to my giveaway of a blog redesign package and it's just another example of Monique's great design work. Check out her personal blog about homeschooling at Living Life and Learning for a ton of resources.


Have you heard about Doodle Pants? These are leggings for both boys and girls, with cloth diapered bums in mind. Penny pulls out one of her two pairs (Pink Fox or Blue Rainbow) at least once a week when we go to pick out her daily outfit. Adorable! These have also been spotted on celeb babies such as Maxwell Johnson (aka: Jessica Simpson's daughter!). Get your littles into Doodle Pants with the 15% off coupon code PIEROGIE15.

Do you treat yourself on Valentine's Day? Does it always have to be chocolate? Why not gorgeous handmade soap? StarGazer Soaps' 2014 Valentine soap line includes MeropeCapella Electra. They will be ready to ship on January 26th. If you want to be sure to get them by Valentines Day place your order by February 11 (with priority shipping). Don't forget to use discount code PIER10 for 10% off! I'm excited to share a $25 gift certificate to StarGazer Soaps with one lucky reader starting January 23rd as well!

Sankofa Diapers is the newest diaper that Penny has been wearing and is by far her favorite print. Why? Her nickname from her Polish babcia (my mom) is Zabka, which means froggy. Consider that your hint - I've got our review & giveaway for a 3 pack cloth diapers from Sankofa Diapers going live this week so keep your eyes peeled!

Check out my current giveaways - we've got cloth diapers and organic baby food pouches!

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Do you have a family friendly business or event that you'd like to have featured on
The Pierogie Mama? Please email me for details.

Friday, January 10, 2014

New Tot Happy Morning Food Pouches from Happy Family review/giveaway


The Happy Family brand of baby/toddler food has been a favorite in our house from when Penny started her journey in baby-led weaning. 

They offer a wide range of prepared foods that are all organic and non-gmo, which is super important to us. 

The new flavors in pouches that they've rolled out are:

All of Happy Family products offers the same level of care 
for what goes into your little one's tummy by making sure that everything is:

Organic
Non-GMO
BPA-free packaging
No added sugar
No artificial flavors or colors
No preservatives


When you read the ingredients label, you know exactly what is in there. Nothing along the lines of "mono____" or "daosdiasdxxic acid" (ok, the second one I totally made up but you get my point).
These were easy to share with Penny because they feature fruits that Penny already loves.

So who wants to sample (uhm, I mean have their little one) these delicious new flavors? 
One Pierogie Mama reader will win a case of mixed flavor Happy Tot Morning -
that is a total of 16 pouches, 8 of each flavor!

This giveaway has ended. Thanks to all who entered!

You can order Happy Family Happy Tot products online at Amazon 
or find the new flavors at Target!

Disclosure: I received free samples in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

Pierogie Babies: 32 weeks 22 months


Ruby

I feel myself growing exponentially at this point! This big ole belly keeps getting rounder, more in my way and less is fitting. Good news for us :) I have a feeling that this little girl is going to be a night owl - most of her crazy dance moves start around 7:30p and subside about 30 minutes after I lay down to go to bed.

The due date was under question at last month's midwife appointment because the 2nd trimester ultrasound (my only one) showed that she is "measuring a week small." My midwife suggested that perhaps instead of a 3/4 due date we might be closer to anticipating a 3/14 due date. My own intuition and simply feeling the size of this little girl inside of me tells me that my LMP date is more accurate than the ultrasound's suggestion and that I will deliver at 39 weeks according to my first due date - so put your guesses in folks. I'm 80% sure I will have Ruby the week of 2/23.  Plus, in case you haven't noticed - I have small kids. Penny has measured in the 15th percentile her entire life, but is a very healthy & proportional kid. 2nd trimester ultrasounds really can't take into effect family genetics and this tree bears small fruits.

For one reason or another, I have to visit the dentist A LOT. I take really good care of my teeth but I'm thinking that genetics and 3 years of pregnancy // nursing // pregnancy are beginning to take their toll. Last year I had the pleasure of 2 crowns and 2 visits for fillings in addition to just one cleaning. I visited the dentist this week to get some fillings taken care of and the dentist (my second female dentist ever) made a comment about just how much my gums are bleeding during the procedure. It's pretty common for pregnant women to have swollen and bleeding gums due to hormones, but I guess it was to the point where she wasn't able to get work done! So lucky me, I got to go back in yesterday to that final filling done. Oh, and next week I'll be going in for my cleaning too - that's 3 dentists visits in 9 days, folks. My jaw and gums are sore.  Miss Ruby was bouncing away, not seemingly startled by the drilling, and the silver lining is that I got to listen to my music for a couple hours instead of Penny-tunes. I made a comment to a friend that luckily it's my mouth that's a wuss, and not my youknowwhat, because I can take natural birth like a champ. Dental work? You've got me whining all evening and I just can't handle it.

Penny

This little lady of mine is a hoot and a half. Over the last 2 weeks she's started to come up with 2-3 word sentences and I've had many a conversation with her. A couple favorites from the past few days:

Conversation 1:
We're on our way to my dentist appointment (during working hours), where Adam was going to meet us and take Penny to the local mall for the playground:
Mama: Penny, you're going to get to play with Daddy in a few minutes!
Penny: {somewhat confused} Daddy - working? ("working" is a common word around our house - Daddy is gone because he's working, or you need to give Daddy some space because he's working {on the house})
Mama: No, Daddy will play with Penny!
Penny: YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Conversation 2:
I'm making dinner and give Penny a covered cup with a straw full of milk. She runs off happily, after a few minutes I hear "messy. raining. milk."

Conversation 3:
Penny wakes up from a nap and I hear her stirring over the monitor. She calls out for me, as she usually does, and I sit and listed to hear what might happen next. She started to get out of bed and I can hear her organizing her stuffed animals.
"Mama, Daddy - working. Yeah. Meaty play." ("Meaty" is what she calls herself, hilarious!)

Christmas break projects


Adam took the second half of December off and spent that time working on our Duraburb project. This is going to replace my current ride (our Volvo wagon) and this has been a fun project for him as an engineer and gear head. He put in a ton of hours during his 'vacation' and on the night before going back to work he got it started for the first time! This is quite the accomplishment because he's done full OEM engine replacements before, but this was taking a diesel engine from a different truck and putting it into a Suburban - not something that Chevy originally intended. Pretty proud of my man this week.

And as for me - well, one of my resolutions this year was to start and finish a project of my own (besides growing a baby, of course). On my last Pierogie Babies post I mentioned that I had my eye out for a solid wood dresser that I can upcycle to put into Penny and Ruby's room (check out my Sister Room Pinterest Board). Right after New Years I found the perfect French Provincial style dresser, nightstand and mirror set on Craigslist - and this week I've gotten to work sanding off the really crappy paint job. I'll unveil the project when it's all done, but in the meantime you can check out my inspiration dresser upcycle board.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sbarro Baked Ziti Copycat Recipe

In the last month Penny and I have taken a couple mama-daughter dates and headed out to the mall. Not to do Christmas shopping, mind you. I *hate* shopping at the mall. Our business was needed at the jeweler for my semi-annual check up and a watch battery replacement. So I took that opportunity of a "trip into town" and also hit up the fabric store and timed our visit to the mall with lunch and a much needed trip to the indoor playground so that Miss Penny can get some energy out!

After about 45 minutes of running, giggling, climbing, crawling and sliding, the both of us were really ready for lunch. Sbarros is one of the very few 'fast food' joints I'll eat at and thankfully our mall has one. Their combo meal isn't a bad deal, but as a single income family I'm always on the look out for cutting down our expenses but coming up with ways of still getting those 'treats' we were accustomed to when we were DINKYs (dual-income no kids).

So while I've been trying for 2 years to get my pizza dough recipe down and still not getting the thumbs up from the hubs, I knew that I could do something about that baked ziti I always get as a side when we go to Sbarros.

You will need:
1 box of ziti pasta
1 15 oz can of organic tomato sauce
1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated pepper
salt to taste
2 cups of ricotta cheese
2 cups of shredded fresh mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

You will do:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook the ziti to al dente. Drain the water, but do not rinse the noodles!
3. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a non-reactive bowl, save about 1/4c of the tomato sauce.
4. Add in the ziti and mix well.
5. Dump into a 13x9" baking dish and pour the remaining sauce on top.
6. Bake for about 13-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

A reader's tip: If you are preparing this for a freezer meal, line the pan with tinfoil first. Freeze, and once solid remove the frozen ziti with tinfoil liner and wrap / fit into a freezer bag. That way you don't have to keep your baking dish frozen, and it will fit perfectly into it when you are ready!

buon appetito!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Buttons Diapers Covers, Inserts and Wetbag giveaway


This review was originally part of the New Year, New Baby Giveaway hop.
_____________

For the last year I've had the pleasure of working with and sharing about Buttons Diapers. I first met Amy about a year and a half ago at my nephew's birthday party, as she's friends with my sister in law. We later connected as blogger and company and over the past year I've shared about my love for Buttons Diapers many times. 

Buttons Diapers is an "All in 2" system, meaning it is one of the most economical ways to cloth diaper. You start with a few covers and enough snap in inserts to last through diaper changes over several days (I suggest washing every 3 days).

What sets Buttons apart from the rest?


  • Double gussets at the legs to help keep messes in



  • Extra elastic at the tummy and back to make a customized fit



  • Durable snaps



  • A one size cover that fits babies from roughly 9-35 lbs 



  • Snap-in microfiber inserts that come in small and large size, day time and night time thickness



  • The inserts are soft, plushy and extremely absorbent. I love that they have an extra contouring stitch (think: maxi pad)



  • The ability to "stack" inserts for heavy wetters without creating a massive bum



  • Adorable colors with lots of gender neutral options! 



  • Most of all, the affordability of being able to diaper your child from newborn to potty training for $240!


  • In addition to diapers and inserts, Buttons Diapers rolled out a few new products in the last few months - flannel wipes, bamboo liners, and wet bags.


    This travel wet bag comes with a dry and wet pocket - perfect for separating clean from wet diapers. It has a handle with a snap release and is well sewn. Like Buttons Diapers covers, I know that I don't have to worry about leaks. They come in 3 sizes - small, medium and large.

    Disclosure: I received product in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

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