Tuesday, May 25, 2010

5 Must-have Fashionable Pieces to Pack for Every Weekend Trip

Planning to travel over Memorial Day weekend?  Maybe taking a weekend getaway is in your plans later this summer?  Stumped on what to pack?  TwitterMoms and Gap Outlet want to hear about "5 Must-have Fashionable Pieces to Pack for Every Weekend Trip  HERE.  These are my suggestions to successful packing:


1.  Great Jeans.  Winter, spring, summer or fall....a great fitting pair of denim jeans will look great, won't wrinkle when packed and will be comfortable to wear.  Definitely take the jeans!









2.  Shoes for walking.  Something you enjoy wearing but are still stylish and cute.  Something you could walk miles in. Something that will go with almost if not everything you are packing...lets face it shoes are heavy to carry and take up a lot of suitcase space.   For me that perfect shoe would be a great pair of sandals.  


3.  A simple black dress.  Nothing fancy. 

Plain enough to dress up a bit with jewelry and heals or simple enough to wear to the zoo.  A dress that can handle whatever your itinerary throws at it.


4.  Great fitting tees.  You will need something to go with those comfy fashionable jeans.  A tee is easy to pack, travels well and takes very little room too.  Jeans and a tee...always in fashion.









5.  A sweater or light jacket.  I simply can not stand to be cold.  Whether I am outside taking a stroll or sitting in a restaurant....if I am even a little cold I am miserable.  A lightweight sweater or jacket to keep to cool air off my arms is a travel necessity for me.  The first thing we walk into a hotel room my husband will  walk over to the a/c and crank it as high as it will go.  Even in the winter.  If I have no other occasion to wear my sweater, I will need it for the hotel room for sure!  


Those are my fashionable necessities.  Need to pick up a few items to pack yourself? I found all these great items in my post at the Gap  site.  It would be so easy to gather a great weekend trip wardrobe there!  Here are some special offers for you:


Gap Outlet Offerings 
Gap Outlet is offering a doorbuster sale with up to 40% off all adult items and 30% off all kids items from May 25-31, 2010!  THEN, Gap Outlet extends the sale with up to 50% off select styles! Also, Gap Outlet is offering an exclusive coupon code to the TwitterMoms community for an additional 15% discount on all purchases, with a minimum spend of $75. This exclusive additional discount is available to all TwitterMoms friends and family from May 25 - June 7, 2010! 

Banana Republic Factory Store Offerings
Banana Republic Factory Store is offering 40% off the ENTIRE STORE from Wednesday 5/26/10 – Monday 5/31/10 ONLY! In addition, Banana Republic Factory Store is offering an exclusive coupon code to the TwitterMoms community for an additional 15% discount on all purchases, with a minimum spend of $75.  This exclusive additional discount is available to all TwitterMoms friends and family from May 25 through June 7, 2010, so hurry to your closest location today.

Get your coupons today at http://gap.twittermoms.com



“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Gap Outlet blogging program to be eligible to win a $20 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here




Gap Twitter DiscountExclusive Gap Outlet and Banana Republic Factory Store Savings

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hidden Valley Ranch Challenge #2

I enjoyed the Mock Mashed Potato recipe from Hiddlen Valley Ranch so much that I was looking forward to this next recipe. This time the challenge issued on Twitter Moms was to makeover this recipe for Flower Power Bell Peppers and Ranch Dip.

The recipe I came up with? Here it is!



Cheesy Barbeque Bacon Dip

1/2 cup Hidden Valley® The Original Ranch® Dressing Light
8 oz fat-free cream cheese
1/3 cup barbeque sauce (I used a hickory brown sugar one with good results!)
1/3 cup finely chopped bacon pieces (you can cook and chop your own or for extra time savings, they sell precooked chopped bacon in stores!)
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese



1. Combine the Ranch dressing and cream cheese until smooth. Little helpers love turning the mixer on!


2. If you are making veggie flowers stop now and prepare those (see below)
3. After your flowers are complete add the bacon, barbecue sauce and cheese.  Its a great opportunity for that little helper to add everything in!


Combine. Refridgerate until serving.

Look at these adorable flowers Hidden Valley made. They served their dip in a little flower pot with the flower skewers poking up! So cute! Well I discovered we are not food artists here, but we tried!

Here is how to make the flowers:
Use a variety of veggies like colored peppers, carrot rounds, cherry tomatoes,  cucumbers, snap peas, celery stalks etc
# Precut them into various shapes: circles, half circles, triangles, half-moons etc.
# Let kids spread the ranch-cheese mixture onto the backs of the various veggies and encourage them to use their imagination to create fun and tasty edible flowers.


We made a few flowers and then just served the rest of the veggies on a platter.



My children ate this right up and my daughter, who had several helpings of the dip proclaimed, "I am addicted to this stuff"! When she gets home from school today I am sure she will ask if there is any left over for her snack. Eating raw fruits and veggies is really healthy for you and sometimes it a challenge to find ways to get kids to enjoy them. This dip recipe was the perfect way to make sure everyone enjoyed them. Yes, this Hidden Valley idea will appear in our house often!


Disclosure
This post is part of a blogging contest from the TwitterMoms community. There is a chance this post could be selected to win a $25 AmEx Gift Card, so wish me luck! For more details, you can view the contest page here


Flower Power Bell Pepper and Ranch RecipesMore Great Recipes

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fun Family Vacation Activities Your Kids Will Love

Williamsburg Tourism asked Twittermoms how to have family vacation times your children would truly enjoy here. Even though our family doesn't usually take big major family vacations, our summers are usually packed with lots of fun day trips and activities. What are some of the whole family's favorites?

1. Camping! From the youngest to the oldest in our family, we all love camping! If we could we would go every weekend.



Does pitching a tent sound intimidating to you? Watch for great deals on little campers. We bought our pop up for about what it would cost us to buy a tent and cots or air mattresses for everyone to sleep on. Its definitely old (we are about the same age, our camper and I!) and its not fancy, but it serves the purpose and is much more practical for camping with 5 children than a tent. Choosing to camp at a State Park is not only economical (private camp grounds generally cost much more than state run ones)but it also is usually loaded with fun opportunities for your family.

Hiking is pretty much always available. You can go out for a quick walk through the woods or you can get the little ones into baby backpack carriers, load up on snacks and water, grab the compass and spend the entire day exploring.

Every State Park I have been to has had a lake or river to do canoeing or other boating in. My children find being in a boat thrilling, even if they are only a few feet from shore in a little canoe. The highlight of camping is always fishing.
My children love fishing. The smaller ones usually lose interest in the actual act of fishing after maybe an hour or two. Even when they are catching things their attention spans run out. My older ones will spend all day fishing when they aren't even catching a thing. Not to worry, however. Even when fishing becomes a bore, there are rocks to be overturned along the shore, bugs to be found, water to dip your fingers in, etc...plenty to keep everyone entertained all day.

What kid can resist poking a campfire with a stick or cooking their very own hot dog or marshmallow at the end of a stick?

Want to make the nights real exciting? Go to a craft store and look for glow sticks. I can get a big tin or about 100 pieces for around $8. Considering one stick usually sells for around $1, its a good deal. They are eagerly awaited for once the sun starts setting around our campsite.

2. A trip to the Amusement park.

We are fortunate to have a major amusement park under an hour away from our home. We try to visit each year. Its an event the children look forward to and talk about all fall, winter and spring in eager anticipation. A real bonus is that at the elementary school my children were attending anyone who spends all year on the high honor roll gets a free ticket to the nearby amusement park! They also purchase discounted tickets for the rest of the family to buy. Its a great savings for our family. To further cut expenses and make such a big expense more possible for us we always take our own food. It not only is much less expensive but its also nice to have a set eating time as a family and be able to sit down for 1/2 hour or so away from the major hustle and bustle of the main park area and sort of recharge. Along the same lines, taking your own drinks adds up to a huge savings over buying at the park. This is especially true when you find yourself visiting on a day that temperatures are soaring! Drink boxes and water bottles can save big time. Its a great time we all enjoy.

3. County and State fairs. The most exciting times we have over the summer, however, are probably our visits to the fairs. We truly enjoy a good fair! Even though we take a lot of food and drinks...who can resist a little fair food? French fries, an elephant ear or Italian sausage sandwich, whatever your preference is, if its deep fried or naturally greasy, its sure to be found at the fair! My children love animals so the many barns of livestock and other animals are a favorite. We spend a lot of time petting goats and daring one another to touch the ooey gooey goopey big snouts! Again, take your own drinks! Another tip I have as far as drinks go: most likely you will not be able to tote enough water to keep you satisfied on a hot day. Refilling your bottles at a drinking faucet is a great idea. My family is used to our reverse osmosis wonderful tasting water, however, and the drinking faucet taste is usually far from what we are accustom to. Purchase some Kool-aid singles to carry along with you. emptying a packet into a water bottle turns the unpleasant taste into a welcome one and still saves you tons over purchasing inside the gates. Make sure you get a schedule upon entering your fair. There is generally lots of free entertainment events throughout the day that will please or amaze the kids.

4. Bike Trail Trips. Not too far away an old railroad line was removed and turned into a great paved bike trail. My children often beg to go biking on this great amenity! We can our bikes and load them up for a great adventure. After a few hours of pedaling we can break off for our packed lunch and eat it picnic style. If you are riding a good distance you are also sure to pass areas where you can veer off route and find an ice cream stand or small market for little snacks or treats. Not only is this trip fun, its great exercise for all too!

5. The local library.

Every Wednesday morning for the first 6 weeks of summer we do a mini trip to our local library. They put on a fantastic summer program! The children are read to, of course! THey also play favorite games like bingo. They have tied dyed tee shirts, had worm races, had rare insects from all over the world brought in, took a turn at bee keeping, and so much more! Its a great day trip and whats more...its all free! It keeps them excited about reading over the summer (they even get prizes for meeting reading requirements). Its just a super fun way to spend time together reading and learning. Definately check out your library's summer line up!

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the Williamsburg Tourism and TwitterMoms blogging program for a chance to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here

Fun Family Vacation Activities
Visit Williamsburg

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ten Tips for Being Fashionable on a Budget

We would all love to have closets full of great clothes with matching shoes and accessories. It would be great fun to update our wardrobe on a weekly basis. Sadly, however, most of us are on a budget. So how can you maximize your fashion dollar? Twitter Moms got me thinking and here are some tips that help me:

1. Think second hand. Visit garage sales, thrift stores, Goodwill etc. Yes it will take some digging and yes, a lot of what you will see will be junk. Scoring a great brand new sweater for a quarter makes it all work it however. Just last week I bought a brand new pair of jeans for a dollar, a pretty sweater top that couldn't have been worn much if at all for a quarter and a pair of capris tags still on for fifty cents. Did I mention all were designer items?

2. Go directly to the sales racks. Don't even let yourself wander into the not marked down merchandise. Start shopping on the racks with the deepest discounts and work your way down from there. If I am just shopping without the pressure of having to have something for an occasion then I won't even consider anything less than 50% off.

3. Get the Sunday paper. Watch for sales on the items you need or want.

4. Look for discount codes. Before ordering online search for codes for discounts. You could save a percentage off your order or free shipping etc.

5. Pick a basic color and build from there. By sticking to a main wardrobe base color you can save on the need to buy lots of shoes in various colors to coordinate with all your outfits. You can also mix and match clothing and accessories this way to create new looks.

6. Lose weight or keep your weight consistent. A lot of people have lots and lots of clothes that they are waiting to fit in again someday. Losing the weight suddenly give you a whole new wardrobe again. Also, gain weight and you no longer have anything to wear.

7. Avoid trendy. Fads and trends become dated and out of style quickly. Try to keep your selections basic enough that they will have more than one season of a life span within them.

8. Use your washing machine. Buy clothing that can be machine or handwashed rather than dry cleaned. Dry cleaning is expensive. A few trips to the cleaners and you could have bought another new outfit.

9. Make sure you are getting a bargain, not cheap. The difference? A bargain is a good price on good merchandise. Cheap is something that doesn't cost a lot of money...and is worthy of nothing more. Cheap items wear out quickly and usually don't look as flattering on.

10. Shop at outlets! Great bargains await at outlet malls. You can find many of your favorites like Gap, Levi, Ralph Lauren etc all at discounted prices. Planning on doing some bargain shopping soon? Here are some special savings you can take advantage of at your outlet!

Gap Outlet Offerings
Gap Outlet is offering summer dress and cardigans for $15 and up to 40% off other select items from May 7-24, 2010! Also, Gap Outlet is offering an exclusive coupon code to the TwitterMoms community for an additional 15% discount on all purchases, with a minimum spend of $75. This exclusive additional discount is available to all TwitterMoms friends and family from May 11-May 24th, 2010!

Banana Republic Factory Store Offerings
Banana Republic Factory Store's "It's All About Her Sale" offers savings of up to 50% off all women's clothes from April 30th through May 19th! In addition, Banana Republic Factory Store is offering an exclusive coupon code to the TwitterMoms community for an additional 15% discount on all purchases, with a minimum spend of $75. This exclusive additional discount is available to all TwitterMoms friends and family from May 11 through May 24, 2010, so hurry to your closest location today.



I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Gap Outlet blogging program to be eligible to win a $20 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here



Gap Twitter Discount
Exclusive Gap Outlet and Banana Republic Factory Store Savings

Meal plan Monday (on Tuesday)

Monday Cornbread Casserole
Green Beans
peas

Tuesday Baked Cube Steaks
Mashed Potato and gravy
corn
Cauliflower
homemade biscuits

also chocolate cream filled cake


Wednesday White Chicken Chili
cornbread

Thursday Oven fried chicken
garlic Green beans
maple carrots
mashed potato and gravy

Applesause cake

Friday Honey BBQ Chicken
Broccoli
brown rice
home made rolls

butterscotch chip cookies

Saturday Since my husband is never home on weekends anyways (doesn't eat leftovers)I have been having a left over fridge clean up on Saturday. Everyone mix and matches whatever is leftover that they want

Sunday Homemade spaghetti sause
whole grain pasta
salad
home made rolls

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Kohls earring giveaway

I don't ever get presents for things like mother's day. My husband likes to say, yes I quote, "Living with me is enough of a present for you". SIGH.

ANyways, my most memorable Mother's day was when my 3rd child was born. I was in the hospital during Mother's day. They did a special thing for new moms in honor of Mother's day. We all got special gormet style dinners that night. It was a fun and special touch. Something I will always remember.

Kohls wanted to remind everyone that they have great items to give you mother available in their stores and online. They are also doing a giveaway for some great diamond earrings on Momstart. Having a pair of diamond earrings is a dream of mine so I am really hoping to win!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hidden Valley Ranch Deliciousness...Mock Mashed Potatoes

Providing my children with healthy food is very important to me. Vegetables play a big part in our menus. Typically a dinner at our house will include 3 vegetable items. Never does a meal have less than two veggies. One problem I run into, however, is vegetable boredom. It seems that I am fixing the same veggies in the same way all the time. Since I am always looking for new recipes to liven up our plates and surprise our taste buds a bit, I was excited to find the recipe for Mock Mashed Potatoes featuring Hidden Valley's light ranch dressing that was featured on Twitter Moms.

The very day I read the recipe I decided to make it part of our dinner menu. I used my laptop in the kitchen to follow along. You can find the recipe here.



One thing I really appreciated about the recipe is that it uses ingredients you probably keep in your house at any given time. No unusual items to buy that you will waste space in your fridge waiting for the next time you make the dish only to go bad before you get back to them.



* 1 head cauliflower, washed and broken into florets (about 4 cups florets)
* ⅓ cup Hidden Valley® The Original Ranch® Dressing Light
* 1 tablespoon fat-free milk
* 1 tablespoon light margarine (tub-style) or butter
* ¼ teaspoon salt



Another great thing about the recipe is simple so its a great time to get your little helpers involved! Cauliflower breaks apart easily with your hands and is a great job for Nolan, age 5.

Once you get your cauliflower into pieces, its time to steam it. It took about 25 minutes in our steamer to get nice and tender. You will notice I have 2 layers of cauliflower here. Its actually 2 heads. I made a first batch as per the recipe and then used the other cauliflower later.

Now its time for another little helper to get involved! Evan, age 2, can add the rest of the ingredients after I put the cauliflower in the food processor. I like to measure everything out ahead of time and put easy to spill measurements, like the Tablespoon of milk, into a larger measuring cup to make it easy for a child to dump it where it needs to be.








And then comes Evan's favorite part...pushing the button.



Allow the food processor to thoroughly puree your cauliflower. In the end it looks amazingly like...mashed potatoes!!



So how did this new recipe go over with my family? Take a look:






That's two thumbs up and two big happy smiles...a fantastic rating!

The challenge was sent out, via Twitter Moms, to revamp this recipe adding your own special touch. After some thought I came up with

Italian Creamed Cauliflower

* 1 head cauliflower, washed and broken into florets (about 4 cups florets)
* 1/4 cup Hidden Valley® The Original Ranch® Dressing Light
* 1/3 Cup Pizza sauce
* 1 tablespoon fat-free milk
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
* 1 Tablespoon finely chopped green pepper
* 1 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Steam cauliflower until tender. Put cauliflower and all other ingredients in food processor and process until smooth.

My children enjoyed this version even more than the original.

Disclosure

This post is part of a blogging contest from the TwitterMoms community. There is a chance this post could be selected to win a $25 AmEx Gift Card, so wish me luck! For more details, you can view the contest page here.