Monday, July 28, 2014

Easy Peasy Lentil Dip Recipe

Any time I go to a BBQ or bring something to a potluck, my go-to dish is my Easy Peasy Lentil Dip.  It's the easiest, fastest, no-cook, no-chop, no-cut, gluten-free, three-ingredient appetizer you will ever bring to any get-together!  I promise.  You will be the most popular person at your next potluck!

I'm not exactly known as the girl who people ask, "How did you make that?!  Can I have the recipe?!" The only time I am that girl is when I bring this dish!  Are you paying attention?  Here it goes...

The only three ingredients you need are:

  1. (2) packages of steamed lentils- I've found them at Trader Joe's, Fresh & Easy or Sprout's.
  2. (1) 6 - 8 oz. container of crumbled feta cheese
  3. (1) 14.5 oz. container of bruschetta sauce- If you can't find bruschetta, you can also use mild salsa.  I've made mine with both and both come back with rave reviews. 

STEP 1:  Pour the two packages of the lentil dip into a large bowl or container:

 STEP 2:  Pour the bruschetta (or salsa) into your bowl.

STEP 3:  Pour the crumbled feta cheese into the bowl.

STEP 4:  Mix all ingredients well and eat with your favorite tortilla chips or pita bread, and ENJOY!  I like mine with Trader Joe's Flax Seed Vegetable Chips (Regular & Spicy)

So what do you think?!  You can handle that, RIGHT?!  Now, go impress everyone!

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Top 7 Dinosaur Documentaries for Kids on Netflix

*This post is sponsored by Netflix, however, all comments and views are my own*

This summer, we've been trying to keep our (almost) 6 year old's brain active.  While we've been using Star Wars Workbooks in various subjects (Reading, Writing & Math), which we found at Barnes & Noble, we have also tried to keep up his interest in learning this summer by utilizing Netflix as a learning tool.

Under the "Kids" section in the search page, you can find varying sub-categories, from Adventures to Dinosaurs to Education to Little Kids and everything in between.  We handed the boy an iPad and told him to start watching a few things from the following categories:  Animals, Dinosaurs, Ocean Adventures and Science & Nature.  Well, my dinosaur-loving boy quickly clicked on Dinosaurs and was on his way to learning about the Allosaurus and how it lived in the late-Jurassic period.  The amount of information he retained as a result of his Dinosaur documentary binge is incredible!  Naturally, we encouraged him to watch more documentaries throughout the summer and he can already tell me which dinosaurs lived during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods!  (Don't ask me because I'd fail miserably!  I can longer retain that kind of information. I blame it on my kids!)

If your child loves dinosaurs, encourage them to watch the following documentaries available on Netflix.  And once you watch it with them, you can do a little Q&A session with them at lunch or dinner time, without letting them know it's a Q&A session.  Trust me, they'll LOVE talking your ear off about the new things they've learned!

Here are Caden's favorite Dinosaur picks, in order of preference:

  1. Allosaurus: Walking with Dinosaurs
  2. Walking with Dinosaurs
  3. National Geographic: Dinosaur Hunters
  4. Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia
  5. National Geographic: Dinosaurs Unearthed
  6. National Geographic: Sky Monsters
  7. Dinosaurs Alive!: IMAX

Monday, July 14, 2014

4 Ways to Save Money on Date Night

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and BJ’s Restaurants, but all my opinions are my own. #DineInOrderAhead #pmedia

It's always nice to go on a date night with my husband.  Getting that time to reconnect with him is crucial to our marriage.  Being able to have a conversation without begging someone to eat their dinner, or stop playing with their LEGO's, is pure bliss! However, sometimes, the mere cost of the date itself can end up being more than you would like it to be, especially when factoring in babysitting fees.  That's why I've come up with 4 tips to help you save money on your next date night.

  1. Have a lunch date, if a dinner date is just not budget-friendly: The majority of the major chain restaurants (and many non-franchise restaurants, as well) have Lunch Menus, which have slightly smaller portions and the cost is incredibly reasonable.
  2. Hunt/Tweet/Post and beg for coupons:  With technology, it is possible to be sitting in a restaurant and then search for a coupon of that place while you wait for your server to take your order.  In fact, I did it just two weeks ago when we took my husband's grandmother to lunch.  I ran a search of the name of the restaurant along with the word "coupon" and found a few coupons I could use.  We picked the best one we could find and showed it to the server.  Boom!  Instant savings!  You might also be able to uncover coupons when checking in on a social media platform.  Ask your server if there are any deals or discounts when giving social media mentions.
  3. Swap babysitting services with your friends/neighbors:  A while back, my girlfriends and I started a babysitting swap.  When we are in a bind, we ask each other for  a babysitting favor.  That same day that the favor is "cashed in", you book that friend for a babysitting date.  It's very simple!  And that way no one "feels bad" for asking a friend to watch your two crazy kids!  You'll be watching theirs soon, also!
  4. If you want to skip #1, #2 and #3, go on a date to BJ's Restaurant and use their new Mobile App, to take advantage of their "Dine In Order Ahead" feature.  You'll save time and babysitting fees!:  Not only can you head to BJ's Restaurant for amazing pizza, pasta and pizookie, but now you can go confidently knowing that you'll save money in babysitting fees, because you'll be saving a ton of time!  How, you ask?  With this new feature, you are able to Order Ahead from your phone, while at home, still giving your sitter last minute instructions.  You specify the time you'll arrive at the restaurant.  Once you check in at BJ's Restaurant to Dine In, your order is immediately queued in the kitchen.  Placing an order through the Dine In Order Ahead feature, in the Mobile App, automatically places you on a wait list, so your actual wait for a table at the restaurant is very minimal.  

If you're a frequent BJ's Restaurant customer, then you realize how valuable this Mobile App truly is!  My husband and I have already used it three times since we downloaded it less than a month ago and the amount of time saved is immense!  We used it last week when we hired a sitter, and we were back in less than two hours!  Not to mention, we made two pits stops during our "mini-date".  We took the hassle out of the ordering process, we got our drinks immediately, and we even saved time by paying for our meal without having to wait for the bill.  I used the Mobile Pay feature in the app and we were in and out of the restaurant in less than 40 minutes!

On Father's Day, we also used the BJ's Restaurant Mobile App, while we had our kids in tow.  On this day, we used the Dine In Order Ahead feature, as well as the Mobile Pay feature.  If you have kids, you know very well how torturous waiting for your food could be when you have antsy, hungry and cranky children.  Not to mention waiting for the check!  On this day, we didn't wait at all! I paid for the bill directly from my phone and then had the receipt emailed to me.  There was no waiting to get the server's attention or for the doom of a bill that never comes when you want it to.  Instead, I paid from my phone and we were on our way home!  It saved my sanity, my mood and my husband's Father's Day!

For my husband and I, we have been using the BJ's Restaurant Mobile App as a time and money-saving tool.  Paying for less than two hours of babysitting fees because we are saving at least an hour of time is huge!  And the fact that BJ's Restaurant realizes that our time is valuable makes me want to give them my business for being a conscious and thoughtful restaurant.  So, do yourself a favor (seriously) and download the BJ's Restaurant Mobile App NOW!  It's available in both iPhone and Android.  And on your first use, you save $5 on a $20 order AND you get a free pizookie!!!  Yes, free pizookie!  Now, if that's not a good motivator, I don't know what is!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Rent the Runway is my new best friend!

If you have ever stood in front of a closet full of one-time worn cocktail dresses and fancy gowns, right before a wedding, and have actually thought, "I have NOTHING to wear!  What am I going to wear?!", then you'll know very well the feeling I had a few weeks back when I realized I had back-to-back weddings coming up.  While this certainly isn't the most tragic fashion problem to have (see-through dresses a la Rihanna would be more tragic) it is a stressful problem in terms of your wallet!

While my pre-children self would have thought buying a dress for each of the weddings I was attending was a prefect way to spend an entire weekend, my post-children self thinks it's an incredibly useless expense that could be better spent on maintaining my Starbucks habit or signing my kids up for swim lessons this summer. That is why when I saw one of those Facebook side ads for Rent the Runway (RTR) I decided to check it out. (Who knew?!  Apparently, those ads work because people like me click on them.)  That was the single, best ad click I've ever made!  I discovered the most brilliant site and one that would have been SO useful back in high school during prom and winter formal season: a place where you can rent designer gowns at the most insane prices!  BRILLIANT!!!

I quickly created a couple of "SHORTLISTS", which are basically lists that you create for each event you are attending, and I then placed dresses that I loved into those lists for those particular events.  For my brother in law's wedding I was looking for a cute, short length dress that would be perfect for a church wedding, but still appropriate for a garden reception.  I didn't want it too fancy, but I also didn't want to be underdressed.  Quickly I found dresses that fit my search criteria and saved them into my Shortlist titled "Marc's Wedding".  Once I had picked a few dresses, I went back and read the reviews of each dress, which then helped me eliminate dresses.  The review feature is the key to a successful rental because you get to see height, weight, size and bra size of other renters.  Based on this, you then decide whether this dress is right for you or not, by following the recommendations of other ladies who are your size.  Once I narrowed down my choices, I decided on the blue, Issa "Spray Paint" dress.  The retail value of this dress is $620, and I was able to rent it for four days at a cost of just $30.

My cousin's wedding was a little more formal, but the weather was predicted to be quite hot, so I wanted a short length dress that still gave me a more formal look.  After a few options selected, and then going in and reading the reviews to narrow down my choice, I chose the Karla dress by designer Nha Khanh.  This dress retails at $650, however I was able to rent it for four days at just $40.  I needed accessories with this dress so I also rented the Southern Plantation Earrings by Nicole Miller for just $5 and the matching bracelet, the Star Light Star Bright bracelet by Nicole Miller, at just $15.  I really could not be happier about my experience with RTR.

Hair & Makeup by Abril Perez (@abril_lizette)
And finally, another cousin got married and her wedding was more of a formal affair.  I rented the Badgley Mishka "Award Winner" gown, along with an Elizabeth Cole Crystal Navettee Bloom cocktail ring, as well as the same Nicole Miller Southern Plantation Earrings from the wedding above.  This dress was a show stopper!  I got compliments at this wedding from perfect strangers who kept telling me the dress was "stunning", "amazing" and "just gorgeous"! I can't say that I disagree and I am so glad I wore this one!  And at just $70 to rent, it just can't be beat!

Now, you might be thinking, "Wendy, this all sounds so great, but how do I know if the dress will fit?!"  Well, you don't know if the dress will fit. I have to trust the reviewers in this area. However, as a safety net I ordered a second dress (same dress) in a different size, both times.  Of course, a second dress comes at a cost. However, in order to save myself some money, and because I knew I'd be renting three times this year, I paid for the RTR Pro membership. This membership is a $29.95 fee which covers you for one year. It includes some very important features that allow you to maximize your experience with RTR. With the membership you receive free shipping on every rental, free insurance which covers you in case you ruin the dress in anyway, a free $50 dress rental on your birthday and a free second dress with every rental. Right there the membership pays for itself if you'll be renting more than once. For me, it was a no-brainer! AND, if you're renting for the first time they give you $25 off your rental! Buying a dress no longer makes sense.   You can understand why my husband thinks this is one of the best ideas I've ever had.  You're welcome, honey!

*This is a review of my experience with RTR. I was not paid or compensated in any way for this post.*

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What I'm Watching Right Now...

In our house we have one TV.  Just one.  It was a conscious choice we made when we first got married, 8 years ago.  We had read somewhere that couples who had televisions in their bedrooms were more likely to grow apart as time went on, than those that left the bedroom solely for sleeping (and other activities of leisure….ahem!).  Now that we have children, we still have not found a true need for another TV.  We’ll see how long this all lasts!

That being said, my husband complains that once the kids go to bed, I like to hijack the TV and watch “dumb television” in order to recharge.  To him, that means reality shows, which in turn means he’s only able to watch what he wants to watch, which is Breaking Bad, while he’s at the gym on the Stair Master.  Years ago, I used to produce reality television and so my reality TV habits were justified by the fact that I was doing “research”.  However, he says that now I have no excuse and that I “continue to kill brain cells for no reason”.  Well, in an attempt to watch something he would like (he’s a former History teacher) I thought it would be fun to suggest we watch “House of Cards”, the new Netflix political drama series, together.  Guess what?!  Best idea EVER!!! 

We are five episodes in and we are hooked!  The show is a little dark, but the conniving politics illustrated throughout the series is SO good!  Kevin Spacey is outstanding in his role as politician Francis Underwood and Robin Wright is fierce as his ruthless and determined wife, Claire. His attempt to put himself in a position of power, after being overlooked for Secretary of State, leads Frank down a dark road of lies and manipulation.  This stuff is way better than tables being flipped and drinks being thrown on “The Real Housewives”!  (Do not tell my husband I just admitted that!).  

Once we’re done with House of Cards, my mission will be to get him hooked on Scandal.  I’ve managed to get a few of my friends on the Olivia Pope train and they are so grateful they did! All the hubs will need is a steamy Olivia and Fitz scene and he’ll be addicted.  (Choo! Choo!)   Come on, admit it!  It’s SO good!

I am so excited for the content currently available on Netflix!  This list of shows is excellent!

  • Orange is the New Black
  • Scandal
  • Pretty Little Liars
  • Sherlock
  • Breaking Bad
  • Parenthood
If none of these seem to fit your viewing pleasure, try one of these sleeper hits:

  • Weeds
  • Call the Midwife
  • Freaks & Geeks
  • Shameless
  • Top of the Lake
What shows are you streaming right now?  Any you recommend?  I hear Orange is the New Black is excellent, so that’s next on my list!  
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