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.

Laugh Along with Moms Who Understand #MomsRule #IC #ad

11052377_404861843030120_3960745327291218290_nI participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Moms Rule. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Motherhood is exhausting.  I mean, honestly, I thought the most exhausting part was when they were newborn and you had to live on 2 hours of sleep, if you were lucky.  I really thought that once I survived taking care of an infant while also pregnant that it was all smooth sailing from there.  But then my boys started puberty.  Now, I am both mentally and physically exhausted.  Gone are the days of blissfully day dreaming about what they might be when they grown up, which I spent more than my fair share praying wouldn’t happen until after they finally mastered potty training.  These days I dream of them being tiny again, back when they didn’t talk back and I KNEW they were safe because they never wanted to be put down.  That newborn smell now replaced with the smell of dirty gym socks occasionally covered with the overwhelming stench of spray deodorant.
Life with tweens means that MANY days, I have to laugh to keep from crying.  I should mention, tweens do NOT appreciate parental laughter in the heat of the moment.  But someday, some day they WILL understand.  And they’ll thank me, because laughing when I really don’t want to be laughing is saving my sanity, or at least what’s left of it.  I really think there should be a prize for surviving tween/teen parenthood and the size of that prize should depend on how many usable brain cells you have when it’s over.

While seeing the humor in the situations in our own house, can help alleviate SOME of the stress SOME of the time, being able to laugh with other parents who have been there and done that, and if you’re REALLY lucky, have maybe been through worse is even better.  That’s what I love about MOMS RULE, a hilarious web series on YouTube that covers about all the things we are sometimes afraid to talk about but we all have in common designed! Stephanie Blum is a psychologist turned comedian and the creator of MOMS RULE. Stephanie wants people to hear your opinions so PLEASE be sure to post comments

I personally find this episode hysterical because I can totally relate having been through this on both sides now:

You can see why MOMS RULE caught the eye of producers who signed Stephanie Blum to be in a new comedy series on TLC called WHAT SHE SAID.  It premiers during TLC’s “Mother Of All Weeks” leading up to Mother’s Day.  The sneak peek will air on Sunday May 10th at 11pm ET/10pm CT on TLC.

Follow Stephanie Blum on Facebook  or Twitter (@StephanieBlum or @MomsRuleShow) and subscribe to their YouTube channel or Facebook page to be the first to find out how YOU can appear on the show MOMS RULE!  Also, get bonus and backstage episodes, free tickets to MOMS RULE – The LIVE Stand-Up Comedy Tour (starring the moms from the show, LIVE on stage) and find out how you can book them to perform their special brand of stand up comedy LIVE at YOUR event.

Liar Liar, Pants on Fire #StreamTeam

This post is brought to in partnership with Netflix.  All opinions expressed are my own.


bloodlineThe Rayburns, from the new Netflix original series, Bloodline, have some dark family secrets they’re willing to do anything to keep from coming out — lying included. While you may not know the Rayburn clan just yet, The Philadelphia Inquirer calls Bloodline “an intricately drawn and superbly cast portrait of a family in crisis.” Starring Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) and set in the Florida keys, the series follows a family caught between the ugly truth and the terrible lie that covers it up – a storyline that conjured our friends at Variety to predict that, “.. those who give Bloodline a chance will, pretty quickly, find themselves hooked.”


Growing up we all learn that lying is wrong.  Once you lie you often find yourself needing to lie again and again to cover up the initial lie.  But sometimes we simply feel the a small lie makes life easier.

I mean, what parent hasn’t used a little white lie to end a struggle with a child.  I know I have told my kids that I have Santa’s cell phone number!  And I’ve used the NHL playoffs as a reason the Tooth Fairy couldn’t make it the night my youngest lost a tooth.  HELLO! I’m lying about people who don’t even exist!!!  But I haven’t limited my fibs to fictional characters.  No, I’ve been known to insist that certain mouse themed kids restaurant is NOT open during the week.

I, of course, also remember being lied to as a kid.  I’m pretty sure NO ONE’s face has actually got stuck ‘like that.”  And teachers, oh even the teachers lied to me.  My junior high teachers told me over and over that in High School, teachers would not call home or write notes about missing work.  They insisted we’d be on our own to sink or swim so we needed to develop good work habits.  Can I just tell you I didn’t make it a full month into my freshmen year before my Social Studies teacher called my mom to let her know I had a ‘couple’ missing assignments.

Being lied to is almost never fun.  (The exception being situations like surprise parties, which I can only assume would be fun since I’ve never actually had one.)  BUT watching other people string a web of lies and try not to get caught in it CAN be fun.  Here are a few things you can find on Netflix about lies….

For your little kids:

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70287604 4167324
80011539 12868113
70254353 4103108

For your big kids:

80026692 11880484
ANT Farm
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70258405 13018238

And for teens and parents:

80010655 13044733
70197037 11165109
70235174 11899351
70180057 9727888



Factors to Consider When Buying Football Equipment for Kids

guest post by: Leona Green

Photo credit: GaborfromHungary from morguefile.com

It takes a lot of dedication and endurance when playing football. In addition, this unique sport also needs some special protective equipment to make sure that your kids stay safe while playing with their friends. Even the best professional players wear it, so why can’t your kid wear one too, right?

Every player needs to wear the right shoes, shorts, shirt, and even gloves before they can play. There are different brands of football gear on the market, but not all these are equal. This handy guide will discuss the important factors to consider when buying football equipment for kids.

1. Choosing the Ball

Of course, you can’t start a soccer match without an official ball. Soccer balls come in a variety of sizes, designs, and price range. The price will depend on its construction, brand, or whether it is approved by the FIFA and NFHS. High quality balls usually have synthetic leather or polyurethane covers that are water-resistant and durable. Lower-priced gear, meanwhile, have a PVC cover. They aren’t that soft, but they’re great for practice sessions.

For recreational games, you can always opt for something cheaper. But if your kid is part of a sports team, it’s best if you buy something more expensive because it can last longer.

2. Cleats

Nope, you can’t let your kid play soccer while he’s wearing sneakers. For this sport, he needs soccer cleats that are made from rubber. Aside from protecting your kid’s feet, cleats also give better traction and control so they can move around the field and kick the ball accurately. Molded soccer cleats are the most popular for outdoor play. But when your kid plays soccer in an artificial turf, you should choose stud-free indoor shoes so that the gym floors won’t get damaged.

3. Shin Guards

Always remember that soccer is a contact sport, just like basketball or American football. To prevent the little ones from getting injured, don’t forget to buy them shin guards. The shin has a high risk of getting injured so you need to protect it well.

4. Apparel

Cotton may seem like a good material for a soccer shirt. However, be weary of this material because it can absorb moisture, rather than wick it away. Wet jerseys are hot, heavy, and tend to chafe the skin.  The best apparel is made from 100% polyester. This fabric repels moisture so your kid can stay cool and fresh while playing the game. It also has a cooling effect because the fibers are hollow.

Can you recommend great soccer brands? Feel free to post useful info in the comments!

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?




Peanut to Pony, For the Love of Baseball

With the changing voice and the copious amounts of attitude that fill my house it really come as no shock that things, they are a changing and my boy is growing up.  But it never seems to really hit me until I can look back and see the difference.  This week the baseball season officially began for him, kicking off his first season as a Pony player.  He’s only 12 and will be playing with mostly 13 and 14 year old but he has typically bumped up to each level early except for way back when, when he spent a second year in ‘peanut’ baseball so that he and his brother could be on the same time.

It’s funny how big he seemed back then compared to the t-baller he started as when he was just 4.  He loved the game back then.
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And he still loves it today.  These photos are from last season and he’s changed even since then.  But one thing that hasn’t changed is that neither one of us can wait for that first crack of the bat at the first game of the season.10519500_10154305496240510_4419534477085999413_n10394461_10154305497435510_1604062123761530179_n10487456_10154239911315510_5912046510614407104_n

Dream Big or Be Real? #NFLBlogger

10648539_10154508743180510_198426179402531793_oMaybe this is more about life then sports but the topic comes from a piece by DudeMom for NFLEvolution.  It’s about how she feels about letting her kids believe they will become pro athletes.  You can read her full piece here.  But basically she if fully aware of the slim chance that her kids will play professional sports but she is basically making sure they remain well rounded kids (keeping up those grades) and then letting them dream big!

I love that her kids have talked about how they will support her when they make it big. It reminds me first of how I dreamed as a child.  I was going to marry a prince and live in a castle and I promised my dad he could live there with us.  While my dreams shifted over the years I was still daring to dream in high school. I dreamed of a creatively focused career.  And well meaning people who loved and cared for me, convinced me that I should play it safe.  I went away to school with a major I wasn’t passionate about and after 3 colleges I never finished that degree.  Of course there were other factors and maybe I wouldn’t have succeeded in what I dreamed of but since I’ve come back full circle to some of those same passions I believe somehow, SOMETHING would have been different.

That’s why when my young athlete talks of his MLB dreams (because well he’s at least somewhat of a realist and knows that as much as he does love football he will likely never be built like a NFL player) I don’t exclusively dash those hopes.  I am a realist and we talk often about the chances of college sports and slimmer chances of pro sports but then we also talk a LOT about the endless career opportunities that surround sports besides those few men on the field!  There is NO reason that he can’t be surrounded by what he truly loves while he works in one way or another.  As he gets older we’ll explore those options more and more. But for now he’s too busy making the most of this season and that’s just the way I like it!northwestern universtity il college evanston chicago football big 10 bowl



AMD FX APU – HP Envy Touchsmart Laptop @BestBuy #AMDFX

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.

If you use a computer like I do you need one that can really keep up.  I typically have at least 3 programs open at any one time and I won’t even admit how many tabs are usually open in my browser at the same time.  If you can understand my multimedia, multitasking ways, you should check out the AMD FX APU – HP Envy Touchsmart Laptop  available at Best Buy!

HP Envy Touchsmart Best BuyThis laptop provides extreme performance of AMD’s most powerful mobile processor to deliver exceptional Gaming and Entertainment experience– the AMD FX Special Edition APU*
The HP Envy TouchSmart 15.6” touch screen laptop makes multitasking a breeze so you can spend more time with your family! The Quick AMD FX series processor is great for daily tasks such as managing your personal life or streaming movies or videos and provides great video quality for gaming or catching up on your favorite youtube videos.
The AMD FX Special Edition APU introduces mobile systems with AMD’s highest performing APUs, exclusive at Best Buy. When you are looking for a notebook, the AMD FX Special Edition APU will provide you with unbelievable performance, gaming and productivity. Plus, with the new FX APU powered notebook, be unbeatable and experience the processing power of 10 compute cores (4 CPU + 6 GPU)**!

Why get it at Best Buy??best buy laptop hp

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Get yours today and start enjoying the amazing graphics and sound while without worry of filling your 750GB of storage!



Make Your Portraits POP with CanvasPop

Disclosure: I received a complimentary canvas in exchange for my honest review of their service and product. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

 20150331_161342I have a love of photography.  It does tend to go in cycles where I’m not great about bringing out my good camera. This Easter I managed to take only a handful of photos and not a single one of any egg hunts.  But one thing I try hard to do regularly is get good shots of the boys to be able to print and hang in my home.  When we moved a year ago I had a lot of fun decorating and decided instantly that the longish hallway we have would be PERFECT for a photo wall.  I decided not to over think it pr overly plan the space. I simply began hanging the frames and canvases I had. I added some small quote pieces I had that fit and as we create more photos I add to the creation. There are a variety of frame sizes and colors and styles.  And I LOVE it.  But some of my favorite things on the wall are the canvas prints of my guys.  They span several years and are taking in a wide variety of settings.  And they all bring back different memories.
My newest canvas was don by CanvasPop.com and I think it came out great.  The shot if from my fabulous photographer friend Stacey Houston Photography.  Some people may look at this shot and think that the smiles could have been better or whatever.  But this shot is 100% the personality of each of these boys. It captures this stage of each of their lives so completely.  It’s the small things that probably only a mother would notice that makes this shot perfect to me.  With three boys in essentially the exact same outfit…jeans in a white button down, it amazes me how they can still make it so completely fit their personality.  It simply IS my boys!
I’m so happy with how CanvasPop made this memory come alive on my wall.  They were fabulous to work with and let me know that the file size I sent MIGHT show a slight pixelation when done at this size but I think it looks AMAZING so if they were worried about this, I have full faith that if they put through a file without giving me any warning that it will come out great.20150331_160809
If you’re ready to try CanvasPop.com be sure to use this  exclusive discount code for 35% off prints ordered on the  website: OBOBOB35
The discount code will be valid until June 30th 2015, and it is valid on orders shipping within the US and Canada. The discount is not applicable towards shipping or gift certificates, and it cannot be combined with any other discounts or promotions.

#TBT Easter Edition

I can’t even remember life when they were this little.GURNEE_20080322_000153