Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Our Bright Starts League of Little Laughers Party

This Holiday season I was incredibly lucky to be chosen to host a Bright Starts League of Little Laughers in home party! As soon as I ran to Facebook with the excitement I had friends asking "what's that?" Bright Starts is a company dedicated to providing both fun and engaging products for your little ones including toys,  play gyms, and entertainers. Even if you're not sure that you've noticed them in the toy aisle chances are you already own a few toys at home. As I started looking, I found plenty already in our playroom!!

For the playdate we received the Learn & Giggle Activity Station, Spin & Giggle Puppy, Learn & Giggle Fish, a tiger Giggable pet, and a ball refill pack!

You can see two of our Bright Starts toys from season past in the background here!
Enough with the pictures mom, I'm playing here!

Our party guests included a few new movers, crawlers, walkers, toddlers, and a preschooler or two. Don't let him know I told you but even 6 year old Nolan has been playing with his brother's new toys!!

Oliver did the first test run and got to explore the toys both in and out of the package. He's instantly drawn to the stand up activity table (Learn & Giggle Station) which allows him to play and explore without fully standing. He's just now pulling himself up onto his knees from a crawl and this was amazing to see a toy made just for that!

Bright Starts and their Kids II family of products can be found in retailers everywhere including Walmart, Target, Kmart, Meijer, Babies R Us, Toys R Us, and online with Amazon. Great for gifts for the children in your life! #LOLL

Monday, December 7, 2015

Homemade Christmas

I'm making each of the bigger boys something fun to go along with their Christmas gift! Carter's is done first so I thought I'd share. I received a 12 pack of cute dinosaur toys (purchased here through Amazon) in order to write a review and I loved the idea of putting them to good use. Carter is big into imaginative play but we often need portable toys. What better than a playmat we can take with us and some dinos! I'm going to find a cute carrying bag soon but first things first! Here's my playmate!!

The dinosaurs are cute molded plastic dines with vivid colors. They are as realistic as a 3 year old would ever need and seem durable too! I can't wait to gift the playmat to Carter.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Home Warranty Ridiculousness

So when we bought our house back in May we received a home warranty with it through American Home Shield (AHS). Back in early October the garage door spring snapped and we checked our policy. There were some exclusions related to the garage door but they all said that was in regards to the garage door opener and it looked like the actual door and its mechanisms should be covered.

We placed a service order through the internet webpage for AHS for our garage door spring (not related to the garage door opener at all). Five Star Garage Door was the company contracted by American Home Shield who phoned us back. They stated that our policy did not cover the garage door spring, although we have no way of knowing or confirming this. Even though it's not covered they told us they could still come out to fix it for a charge of $150 total and they would cancel the service call through AHS. We agreed and they came out a few days later.

The technician ended up calling the day of service and asking to come a few hours early so I changed my plans, left a playdate, and obliged. He ended up even earlier than what he requested and so he arrived before I did. As I  walked up to the door, he got out of his truck and I led him inside to show him the area. Before entering the house he asked, “Did your husband talk with you about the price?” I found it an odd way to start a conversation considering he hadn't said anything else to me yet and it was referencing my husband instead of just asking if I was aware of the costs. I said indeed and confirmed that it was $150 total. The technician then said that the repair was $150 and there was a $60 Five Star service fee on top of that. I was confused and let him clearly know that this was not discussed with us and the total price was quoted as $150. I stated that we weren't okay with the sudden hidden charge and asked for the technician to call back and speak with whomever we had originally spoken with. He said it was him although the voice did not sound at all the same. He didn't offer any sort of response but just stood there and asked if we were going forward with it. When I asked how this sudden $60 fee was saving us any money, which was the exact line the person giving us the original quote used, he stated that the home warranty service fee was $75 so they were saving us $15. We felt quite duped as when the original $150 quote was given we checked local prices and that was the exact amount being quoted elsewhere and those places confirmed no hidden fees or service charges. It seemed like bait and switch and the company by offering a slight measly $15 difference expected people to just deal with it.

I stated that we did not want to move forward with the work. I'm not a fan of rewarding shady business practices with my money but of course I didn't say that to him as I was being professional. The technician became upset, angry, and unprofessional. He puffed and pouted and murmured under his breath then said, “well you'll owe $75 still and your home warranty will bill you.” I told him that wan't what his company had told us on the phone as we were told the service call had already been canceled. This seemed like petty retribution and from his response it seemed like he knew the process and this had happened before. I had the choice to pay their $60 service fee and the $150 to get it fixed or go elsewhere and pay $150 to have it fixed and still get billed the AHS service charge ($75). I stated that I wasn't okay with being billed for a cancelled service call and the only reason work wasn't being done was because they changed the quote upon arrival. He then left our property having never touched the garage door but only after placing a bill for $75 in our mailbox and then sitting in the driveway for 15 minutes.

We had the garage door fixed that day from a local company for $150. My husband phoned American Home Shield (AHS) that evening to describe our incident. The representative listened to the issue but stated there was no way to make a dispute for a claim or have our case looked at. He was told there was no complaint process at AHS regardless of what happened.

After that call the same evening our phone rang and it was Five Star Garage Door. There was a female receptionist on the line and she asked if we wanted to schedule an appointment to repair the door making no mention of the days incident. She then stated it was covered by our AHS warranty plan and would be $75 total. At this point we had paid the $150 to another company to repair our door after they told us it wasn't covered. 

Since this issue I've looked up reviews of Five Star and see numerous people having similar issues all being referred to the company from home warranties. Today a bill from the American Home Shield showed up for $75. I called in, again explained the situation and got no where. Their technicians recite the exact same phrases and state there is absolutely no way to dispute a charge or have a service fee waived and there is simply nothing to be done regardless of how poor the service you receive is. I asked to speak to a supervisor or management and was placed on hold for 35 minutes. The next person who answered recited one single section from the home warranty and wouldn't actually acknowledge the poor service or provide any sort of notion that they might understand how wrong this whole situation was. We have no dispute process and no one else for you to talk to was all I was told. Apparently only shady service companies can cancel service calls and they only do so if you agree to their misrepresented prices. Beware if you're purchasing a home warranty and use caution in whom gets sent to your place for their service calls. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Meal Plan Monday

Need some dinner ideas? Here is our plan for the work week.

     - Asian Pork Soup with noodles

     - Taco Tuesday with refried beans

     - Vegetable Korma over rice with homemade Naan

     - Lasagna Soup 
     I put this on our meal board as "Italian Soup" because years ago I made a "white chicken lasagna" and labelled it as lasagna and my hubby, whose favorite dish is lasagna was so disappointed it wasn't the regular kind. Now I only use the word lasagna for our regular version!!

     - Chicken Pot Pie
       for an easy version frozen mixed vegetables, cream of chicken soup, and Pillsbury ready made pie crust over a casserole dish gets you a tasty meal without much effort. I usually make our sauce from scratch but we'll be using the ready made crust this time.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Babyfood storage

So Oliver is finally eating solids. While we've tried our hand at baby led weaning it's not for O. He much prefers purees. That means I'm making a lot of homemade babyfood. Squash is his absolute favorite and it's the perfect season for it too! I've used lots of freezer molds over the years but most have been too small (require me to use 3-4 cubes each time) or too hard to get frozen food out of (plastic over silicone. I recently tried the VenBaby Silicone Baby Food Freezer Tray and it's been great. It has seven individual compartments, is made of silicone, and comes with a tight fitting lid. Each portion is 2.5oz and easily pops out once frozen. The silicone is food safe, microwave, oven, freezer and dishwasher safe too. 

Other fun uses could includes making smaller popsicles, storing herbs for winter use, and much more.  So now that I've write this post I need to head into the kitchen and turn the last two squash I purchased into food for O! Steam, puree, and freeze time. 

I received this product in order to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

My baby turns 6!!

I can't believe that six years ago this time i was in the hospital 16 hours into labor and wondering how much longer I had to go. He arrived at 5:47pm the next day! Here are a few pictures from our fun celebrating the big guy today. I am now instructed to call him "large Nolan" or "6 year old Nolan".

Ninja masks and paper throwing stars to toss

Build your own swords and fun boxes for the piñata loot

Fighting the bad guys with their swords

Nolan about to get a bad guy Ninja

Ninja Carter

Piñata Time!!


Carter at Bat!!

After - Poor Ninja Piñata 

Make a Wish!!

Yes, it's bigger than him but he's been asking for it for months!

Daddy likes it too!!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Infrared thermometer

So Tim has an infrared thermometer for grilling and smoking meat but we never thought about how great one would be for children's temperature. I struggle to get and keep a thermometer in the house that works well, fast, and accurate. I was excited to try out the SantaMedical Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer.

Each reading takes less than 1 second and the thermometer can store the last 32 readings so you never have to wonder what the last temperature was. I'm not big on reading manuals unless I get stuck so I grabbed the thermometer, hit the go button and tried it out. It's intuitive and easy to use. The directions when I got around to reading them suggest placing the thermometer parallel to the forehead for a second. You'll see the temperature in the lcd screen and ca control the sounds the device plays too. 

The reading can be affected by skin temperature so taking it after exercise or sweating etc. can be misleading. Just like with any thermometer don't run up the stairs and tun take your temperature. I liked how easy it was to check and recheck without undressing and disturbing my kiddos. You can easily switch between celsius and fahrenheit too.

If you're interested in purchasing or to check out more reviews visit Amazon here.  I received this product in order to review it but all opinions are my own and no compensation was taken.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Curly veggies

I'm always trying to hide vegetables in the kids' (and hubby's) diet!! I blend, I puree, and I mash but I've been meaning to make vegetable "pasta" a bigger part of our diet too. It's a quick think i can make for lunches they "might" actually eat.

I tried out Briefton's NextGen Spiralizer recently. I do have a different and much smaller spiralizer to compare. This one is larger than I would have expected but upon using it the reason is immediately clear. You don't have to chop down zucchini and cucumber to spiral cut them! This make prep very easy.

It's easy to clean and makes good durable veggie noodles. This spiralizer comes with 4 removable and interchangeable blades which give you different types/cuts of noodles.

 Also a good feature, the top plug pushes firmly into vegetables and lets you safely use the last bits of the vegetable without risking your fingers. This version has much less waste than others I've used. Below is all that was left un-noodled from my zucchini.

If you're in the market for a spiralizer be sure to check out Briefton's and their huge line of fun kitchen gadgets!! Many ship free with Amazon Prime even.

I received this product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and no compensation was received.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

C is for Cinnamon Rolls!!!

Thanks to Tryazon I recently hosted a new Rhodes, Bake n Serv,  product party! Rhodes has a new line of microwaveable cinnamon rolls they are sharing with the world. As amazing as their other products are, I can't wait to try these quick rolls. For our Rhodes themed party we sampled their traditional cinnamon rolls. These have a "quicker" option that lets you defrost in the oven that I've done each time I've had these. It's much faster and I see NO issues or trade offs. Rhodes cinnamon rolls are found in your grocer's freezer section. The are simply defrosted, allowed to rise, and baked. Cost here int he midwest was around $4 for 12 giant rolls.

As a hobby baker myself, I usually find homemade baked goods worlds above anything found in a grocery store including the refrigerated ready made doughs. Thats just not the case with these. Rhodes cinnamon rolls are better than any I've created from scratch and so easy. Everyone who tried them couldn't believe they weren't homemade from scratch. They were the best cinnamon rolls I've ever had!! Seriously!

Okay enough gushing lets's get to the fun part!! Pictures.

The frozen rolls are simply laid out on the baking sheet, covered with saran wrap, and then put into an oven heated to 175degrees then shut off. This fast defrost method lets you have fresh rolls in less than 2 hours. 
To incorporate cinnamon rolls and Rhodes products into a fun vent for both moms and tots in my moms group, I hosted a C is for Cinnamon class. There we talked all about the letter C with the kids, read fun books, and did fun crafts. 

"C"utting practice
Painting "C"orn with cinnamon and learning about the color brown

 The highlight was our tasting and sampling at the end of our crafts!

Okay so when I went to write this post, I realized that I have NO pictures of our fully baked and amazing rolls. This could be because they were gobbled up in mere minutes! Luckily I've been addicted to them ever since my first sampling so I'll make a batch tomorrow and repost those pictures. They rise and get amazingly large and scrumptious!!

I hosted a Rhodes, bake n serv, party thanks to Tryazon! All opinions are my own.