Mom’s Night Out: Escape Chamber

You know how to tell that you have the world’s best friends? When you comment on wanting to try the latest thing you heard about….escape rooms and 20 minutes later they’ve found a Groupon and you’ve got a time slot booked!

Because we weren’t really familiar with the apparently wide spread phenomenon we didn’t realize there were so many, including one much closer but the groupon was for Escape Chambers in Milwaukee so we made an evening out of it and stopped for dinner before our time.  We planned to hit Rock Bottom Brewery but when we got there the wait was way too long. So we wandered across the street to Mo’s Irish Pub where we were seated right away and had the most amazing food. Oh and of course a cocktail…

Seriously the best grilled cheese and delicious tomato soup that was almost too cute too eat…almost!

We may have eaten a bit too much and were ready for naps after dinner, but we walked it off a bit by walking to the mall where Escape Chambers is located.  Once there we met the rest of our group (if you don’t meet the minimum group size for a specific room you’ll be combined with another party for your time) and learned the details of the room we selected.  Most escape room places have multiple different themed rooms to choice from Escape Chambers Milwaukee has four.  I won’t ruin any of the details for you but we chose the Stalk Photo room. Here’s the preview from their site:

So we had an hour to find the clues etc to escape…and we made it to the very last obstacle/lock but didn’t make it out before the time ran out.

“Almost” Escaped

It was fun but if I did it again I’d definitely make sure to go with enough people to make up the full group as we found the rest of our group fairly pushy and honestly didn’t listen to us or even let us see some of the elements (we never even made it into the last room to see the last lock, maybe we could have figured it out).

Although we didn’t QUITE escape, we figured we still deserved a treat and we’d seen Mo’s had a yummy looking cookie for dessert so we stopped back in for dessert before hitting the road.

And then as it usually is with this crew, a stop at Starbucks was a must…





Enjoy #McCafeAtHome This Holiday Season #IC #AD

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for McCafé packaged coffee. I received product samples as well as a monetary promotional incentive to thank me for my participation.



I LOVE the Christmas season.  I love the sights and sounds and the time spent with friends and family.  I love ALMOST everything about it.  There are actually TWO things that cause me stress this time of year. One is the cold white fluffy stuff that falls from the sky.  I know, it’s beautiful and I don’t mind it if I don’t have to get out and drive in it…or shovel it.  Thankfully it’s only snowed once so far this season.  It was a big heavy snow that actually wrecked some havoc but it WAS gorgeous….


The second thing that stresses me out over the holidays is simply a lack of time.  With so many things I want to do and so many people we want to see there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.  For this reason, I spend this season more fueled by caffeine then any other.  My kids have learned that most of the time when we’re out running around and our car makes that turn in to McDonald’s, more often than not it’s for a little delicious pick me up.  This is why I was super excited when I hear that I can now brew delicious McCafé packaged coffee at home in both ground and K-Cup® pods forms.

20151213_140149You can now find McCafé packaged coffee in seven varieties including different roasts and blends, such as Premium Roast, French Roast, Breakfast Blend and Colombian, and different flavors, such as French Vanilla and Hazelnut where ever you buy groceries.  But don’t worry, your favorite McCafé beverages are will still be available in local McDonald’s this is just another way to enjoy them.

So far my favorite variety is also the first I tried, the McCafé Hazelnut K-CUPS.  I am in love with the fact that I can enjoy the flavor of McCafé with the simplicity of the K-CUPS, especially in this hectic season.  And while I typically grab my coffee on the go to be able to keep moving.  I made a point to take a breather, and enjoy one cup while curled up next to our Christmas tree, focusing on the joys of this season and why any lack of sleep is completely worth it for the memories we make with those we love this time of year!


For more info about all the varieties and flavors of McCafé packaged coffee visit or on Twitter: @McCafe



Sponsored Video: Family (Kitchen) Portraits

This post has been sponsored by GE Appliances, but all thoughts are our own.

If home is where the heart is, the heart of the home is where the stomach is.  While I’m not the best cook, I do completely appreciate the way a family revolves around the kitchen.  Food can make us feel connected, feel loved and just FEEL like home.  I’ve lost three amazing woman in my life, my mom and both of my grandmas.  My father’s mom was the quintessential grandmother, always baking something and not happy until you were thoroughly fed.  She made many delicious things while donning her colorful aprons but the one that most makes me feel like I’m right back in her kitchen is her homemade cinnamon rolls.  They are pretty much happiness baked in a pan.  My mom and her mother, they weren’t quite so domestic.  But they each had a few meals they made that could bring a smile to my face even on the worst day.  My mom made the best meatloaf and the best split pea soup! And her mom made my favorite chicken and dumplings ever!  I’m not sure what things my boys will take with them as feeling like home, but I do hope that they will remember the moments around the table snacking on flutternutters and giggling at their silly stories as much as I do.

GE Appliances GETS that the kitchen is really the core of your home and they want to make it easier for YOU integrate food into your own special family story.   One of the families GE Appliances features in their videos,  Richards family is a great example of richards-familydoing just that.  Parents Ken and Doris adopted five children, three from Vietnam and two from Africa.  I don’t know the Richards personally.  But I know a family much like them.  The family we know also has 5 kids.  All five are adopted. Though their story is slightly different as they were adopted from here in the US, through the foster care system, I’ve still had the chance to see first hand how their family is exactly like any other family whether brought together by birth, marriage or adoption.  It is very clear that what makes family is love.  Whether you are creating a link to a culture through food like the Richards or spending time baking cookies, GE Appliaces wants to help you create those moments.  Check out GE Appliances on Facebook, Twitter, YoutubePinterest and Instagram for lots of great inspiration on how to bring YOUR family together for meals.

Single Skillet Dinner with #HillshireSausage #spon

#spon: I’m required to disclose a relationship between our site and Hillshire. This could include Hillshire providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

Growing up Hillshire Farms smoked sausage was a regular menu item.  My mom wasn’t the best cook and many of her meat options hit the table nearly impossible to chew but the smoked sausage was simply and delicious and came out perfect every time!  She typically just cooked it whole and served it along with some veggies and pasta.  So when I had a family of my own and quickly learned that I had inherited her poor cooking skills, I also began making Hillshire Farms smoked sausage pretty regularly.  I got a little ‘fancier’ than she did as I typically slice it and brown it that way.  But probably more out of convenience since I was having to cut it up for 3 kids once it was cooked anyway but I also like it done this way.


But I have been attempting to branch out and try to be braver with our recipes, so when I was asked to showcase a way our family enjoys smoked sausage I wanted to try something new but that wasn’t so different that the kids wouldn’t be open to it.  So I decided to try this mac n cheese recipe.  First of all it sounded delicious.  Secondly, it was a very simple recipe made in ONE pot.  Those are my favorite kinds of recipes.

So the recipe calls for turkey kielbasa (which Hillshire Farms also makes) but I didn’t see why it couldn’t be make with smoked sausage.  It really was simple.

20150328_161213First I browned the sausage in a large skillet, and set aside the meat.   In the same skillet you boil water, evaporated milk and dry pasta.  In a small bowl you make a mixture of cornstarch and evaporated milk to add to the skillet. Remove from heat and melt in cheese. And finally stir in your smoked sausage.



For the full recipe including times and measurements visit Table for Seven here.  This was a huge hit and we will definitely be making it again soon as well as checking out lots of other great quick and easy smoked sausage recipes.   I am not sure there is anything else out there that is quite as flavorful while being so simple.  Even when I consider the other meat options that we make, the simplest thing we usually do is using the grill.  But even then those things usually end up getting spiced up with something.  Hillshire Farms smoked sausage is one of the very few things that hits our table ready to eat just how we like it.  And that’s because Hillshire Farm smoked sausage is crafted to be better. Their experts have perfected the pre-seasoning of our smoked sausage over the last 75 years.


 What’s YOUR families favorite way to prepare Hillshire Farm smoked sausage?




Our #HillshireNaturals Taste Test #spon

#spon: I’m required to disclose a relationship between our site and Hillshire. This could include Hillshire providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

This weekend my boys and I made lunch with the new Hillshire Farms Naturals Lunchmeats.

IMG_20150331_083912Because of our busy schedules we tend to eat sandwiches pretty regularly.  Sometimes as lunch, sometimes as a snack after school on nights we will have a late dinner and on occasion when it’s just been a long day and I declare it DIY night and the boys make their own dinner. While I can usually convince myself that a sandwich is better than say a bowl of sugary cereal, I do often worry about the junk I know is in many of the lunchmeats I purchase.  But  Hillshire Farm Naturals™ lunchmeats are crafted to be both 100% natural and 100% delicious.  This helps me feel a lot better about feeding my kids sandwiches so often.

More on Hillshire Farm Naturals™ lunchmeats:

  • Naturally smoked with a blend of hardwoods for incredible flavor (Black Forest Ham)
  • Slow roasted in their own juices
  • Always select cuts of meat
  • Natural goodness
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives
  • No added nitrates or nitrites

And you can try it for yourself with confidence because Hillshire Farm will provide a 100% refund for every package of meat that a consumer is not satisfied with.

Now I’ll be honest.  On a typical day, a sandwich is some bread (usually a whole wheat) and lunch meat and cheese. Of course, everyone has a different condiment preference. One wants NO condiments.  He apparently HATES mayo so don’t even try to sneak it past him.  One wants only mayo. And one insists on mayo AND mustard.

But since we were dealing with some special lunchmeat, we wanted to treat it right.



We started with some fluffy Italian bread (yeah I know it looks like plain ole white but it cost twice as much so just play along), some fresh lettuce and tomato.  Then of course after a quick taste testing of the four varieties of Hillshire Farm Naturals™ lunchmeats we found at our local store, we couldn’t decide on just ONE for the sandwich so it includes a little of ALL FOUR.  And it was as delicious as it was pretty!!

Everyone ate some variation of this creation and enjoyed the lunchmeat.  But honestly, my favorite thing was eating the honey roasted ham all by its self.  My son pointed out that it tasted just like Easter ham and in our house I don’t think there’s a higher praise than that.

Find Hillshire Farm Naturals™ lunchmeats near you and try it for yourself!



Sponsored Video: Home Again

This post has been sponsored by Knorr, but opinions expressed are my own.


knorr flavour of home

Knorr’s believes in bringing flavour to people’s lives. The brand’s new film, ‘Flavour of Home’, captures this sentiment while celebrating the greatest flavour on earth, the taste of home.

Nothing in life feels as good as a mother’s hug.  No matter how old we get, we always have moments when what we long for more than anything is to be able to feel the warmth and love from our mom.  Unfortunately for far too many of us that isn’t always possible.  Whether separate by thousands of miles or, in my case, by death we can’t always experience the literal embrace of our loved ones.  But if you’ve ever doubted that you can FEEL the love without being face to face watch this video.



Nothing feels better than being ‘home’ and I don’t think there’s anything that can make you feel more at home than mom’s cooking.  My mom was NOT a great cook.  There were plenty of recipes I prayed she’d never try again.  But there were certain things, like her split pea soup and her home made spaghetti sauce that I am certain I will never be able to beat.  Yet in the moments when I need to ‘feel’ her with me I will make my best effort to create the flavours we shared together.  It must be hereditary because I, too, am not a great cook.  But I hope that there are a few things that my boys will take with them, that will remind them of me and that will give them the ability to feel my love even when I am not able to be right at their side.



Find Holiday Recipe Inspiration with #PastaFits #Sponsored #MC

I participated in an Ambassador Program on behalf of Mom Central for the National Pasta Association. I received pasta samples and a stipend to facilitate the creation of pasta recipes as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.


For many the holidays are a time they love to prepare their favorite dishes.  Memories often center around time in the kitchen.   For those of us who enjoy cooking a little less, holiday cooking can actually be a source of stress.  Although I’ve been working to learn more, I still sometimes struggle with coming up with dishes to bring to the many holiday get togethers.  Things always seem to either take too long to fit into the busy holiday schedules, or don’t travel well or reheat well, etc etc

Tortellini-Cesar-Salad-240x300So while it doesn’t exactly scream HOLIDAYS, I was inspired by this  Tortellini Ceasar Salad.  It’s easy but not boring.  And it works great as a cold dish that will travel well when you need to bring a dish.

I loved the recipe just as it was but I decided to try it with exactly what I had on hand.  I made my tortellini salad with our favorite lettuce, ranch dressing and crouton.  And a super easy to prepare cheese tortellini.  Depending on where I was serving it, I might take it as separate pieces and mix it immediately before serving.

If you could use some inspiration for new pasta based recipes for your holiday entertaining this year visit for recipes, nutrition information, contest and promotions, as well as general cooking tips and pasta facts.

Pasta Fits is a nutrition and culinary education and resource initiative sponsored by the National Pasta Association.  Learn how pasta can fit into your busy lifestyle with easy, quick, and wholesome meal possibilities for active families.  It is also a budget friendly option that is versatile enough to please every palate during any occasion. Complex carbohydrates like pasta provide the optimum type of “fuel” to power your muscles and brain.  Pair  it with fiber-filled vegetables and beans, heart healthy fish and oils, antioxidant-rich tomato sauce and protein-packed poultry and lean meats for a fabulous meal to gather around with your friends and family this holiday season.


Be sure to check out PastaFits online, on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.



CRYSTAL LIGHT and Miranda Lambert Platinum Points Program #CrystalLightWM #MC #Sponsored #RanFan

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central for CRYSTAL LIGHT. I received a gift card to purchase CRYSTAL LIGHT products to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

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I was excited to hear that CRYSTAL LIGHT and Miranda Lambert are partnering to launch the Platinum Points Program to reward CRYSTAL LIGHT customers with fun Miranda Lambert gear.  I am a big fan of Miranda Lambert and love CRYSTAL LIGHT.  So earning cool rewards (like an exclusive Miranda Lambert song download or an autographed Miranda Lambert guitar) you won’t find any where else for buying a product we already enjoy is WIN-WIN!!

Have you ever tried to sign up for a rewards program or get your points and found it nearly impossible?  Well CRYSTAL LIGHT Platinum Points Program has made it easy!

  1. Visit CRYSTAL LIGHT Platinum Points Program here to sign-up! You can sign up using your email or Facebook account.
  2. Then simply purchase participating CRYSTAL LIGHT products at Walmart and keep your receipt.  This was probably the toughest part for me as I typically toss my grocery receipts as soon as I get home (sometimes even on my way out of the store).
  3. Go to in your mobile browser and log in, click “Snap,” choose “Walmart,” and then click “Select/Take Photo,” and snap a clear photo of your receipt and click “Upload This Photo.”  When I got home I realized my receipt had pretty bad lines in it like the printer was running out of ink so I was pretty nervous about whether I’d still be able to collect my points but it went through just fine!
  4. Redeem points for Miranda Lambert rewards!

If you just buy one CRYSTAL LIGHT product, you’ll earn an EXCLUSIVE Miranda Lambert song download!

It really is THAT easy.  Here’s a small sample of the CRYSTAL LIGHT options I found at my local Walmart.  I like the canisters for at home, the liquid for my office and the On The Go packs for stashing in our sports bags for when we’re out and about.  I also like that the CRYSTAL LIGHT Platinum Points program allows you to get your points from your reciept as opposed to many which have their codes inside the individual packages so if you use the product away from home you have to keep track of your code until you’re able to enter your points.  With CRYSTAL LIGHT Platinum Points you just snap the receipt and you’re done, so you won’t miss out on the chance for awesome Miranda Lambert rewards.  I only need a few more points to add the Miranda Lambert mug to my mug collection!


CRYSTAL LIGHT is available at Walmart stores nationwide

Points You Can Earn:

CRYSTAL LIGHT Sugar Free On The Go Packs = 100 pts each
CRYSTAL LIGHT On The Go Multipacks = 100 pts each
CRYSTAL LIGHT Canisters = 100 pts each
CRYSTAL LIGHT Jumbo Products = 200 pts each
Miranda Lambert Platinum CD = 300 pts each

Rewards You Can Get with Your Points:

100 pts = Miranda Lambert Automatic (Acoustic) Song Download
800 pts = Miranda Lambert Platinum CD
800 pts = Miranda Lambert Platinum Mug
1000 pts = Miranda Lambert Platinum Tumbler
1200 pts = Platinum Rhinestone Ladies T-Shirt
5000 pts = Miranda Lambert Logo Guitar
8000 pts = Miranda Lambert Signed Guitar

Share With Friends!

Refer your friends! Not only will your friends earn 25 points instantly for signing up, but you will also receive 10 points for each friend you refer who signs up.

And a bonus Promo Code:  “mirandaic” gives yous 30 free Platinum Points when you sign up!


My boys love ALL the CRYSTAL LIGHT flavors but I will always have a soft spot for my original favorite from way back when, pink lemonade.  But the Randarita recipe feature at right now sounds pretty awesome too!


The Platinum Points Program coincides with Miranda Lambert’s Platinum Tour Presented by CRYSTAL LIGHT.


 So what will YOU use your CRYSTAL LIGHT Platinum Points for?



@BestBuy Helping With #HolidayPrep This Season

The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.


I know I know, we haven’t even gotten through Halloween, but I’m definitely thinking Christmas.  I’m very excited to start some new holiday traditions in our new home.  The boys are already loving the extra effort I’ve put into Halloween with actually decorating in anticipation of actually having kids come Trick-or-Treating.  And they can’t wait to put up Christmas lights (because we now have an outlet outside so we can).  But I’m thinking about Christmas baking.
If you’ve read my blog much, you know I’m not the best cook around.  But do like to pretend that I can bake occasionally.  Sometimes it goes well, but not always.  But for me spending a weekend baking Christmas cookies was part of the holiday growing up.  My mom would pull out her recipe books and let me pick out a few cookies I wanted to make in addition to the ones we made every year.  Even after I was out of the house my mom continued this tradition, including the grandkids when they were old enough.  But due to our very cramped kitchen in our old home, I never attempted any REAL Christmas cookie baking.  Instead, we settled for a quick batch of break n’ bake cookies tossed in the oven on Christmas Eve so we could leave Santa some delicious fresh cookies.  But one look at our new kitchen and I immediately thought of how there was enough room for Christmas cookies.  Cooking Campaign Range 2

I wish I could say we’ll make dozens upon dozens of cookies to share with everyone this holiday season.  But since our usual hectic schedule doesn’t really slow down much, even for the holidays, time will likely be our enemy.  So I’ll be happy with what we are able to do.  And the space to function and prepare more than one thing at a time will be helpful.  But how awesome would it be to seriously multitask with the Whirlpool WGG555S0BS, with double ovens that let you cook two dishes at two different temperatures at once, but still fits within the space of a standard range.

There lots of other ways to make cooking easier with the latest appliance technology that you can find at Best Buy, including induction cooking that enables you to boil water in less than two minutes like the Frigidaire FGIF3061NF plus induction reduces clean up time because spills don’t burn on.  This Frigidaire range also includes a convection oven which circulates the air in the oven for quicker baking time.  All of this technology will allow you to get the food the way you want it prepared and saves you time so you can spend it with the ones you love.  Learn more at


Trying to #DropthePop

A few years ago I gave up caffeine.  One day I just got sick of the control it had over me and how much I NEEDED it daily.  I didn’t do it for health reasons or to lose weight (as much as you hope it does help with weight loss) but simply because I hated the addiction.  At some point after that, I did commit to healthier eating and working out and lost 60 pounds.  I felt really good.  And then life happened.  First I wasn’t able to get to the gym and working out felt impossible.  Then I let the eating slip slowly but eventually back into my worst possible habits.  And even eventually feeling the demands of being a single mom without the energy to handle them (most likely thanks to the poor fuel I was putting into my body) I dove back into my sugar filled caffeine addiction, except this time I added not just regular soda but full on energy drinks and sugary coffee creations.

So here’s the thing, I’m not going to lie.  A good coffee (one that doesn’t really taste like coffee anymore) makes me HAPPY.  Like it feels like it brings joy and meaning to my life.  Yeah, I know that’s bad.  AND expensive!  When the budget’s tight and I feel the withdrawal headache coming on, I’ll opt for a quick run through McD’s for a large soda (no ice of course cuz that’s just less soda!)  I’m right back where I was years ago and even the boys know, when mom’s crabby they suggest a good caffeine fix!

So when my brother posted his Wake Up and Be Happy challenge, I wasn’t exactly in love with the idea.  And I honestly haven’t taken the full leap and done 100% healthy eating BUT I have committed to dropping the pop and trying to kick the caffeine addiction…again.  I’ve also cut out obvious sugars.  I’m sure there’s lots of hidden sugars, and we’ll keep working on those but I’m working on baby steps here.  So today is day three with no soda or coffee…if you can’t find me…check under my desk, I may be napping!