Archives for July 2013

Cheesy Italian Rotini Pasta Bake #CountryCrockCasserole

As a child, I remember Country Crock being the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving table.  I love dinner rolls with spreadable butter, it is totally my weakness.  So, when I was asked to join the Country Crock Casserole Club, I was excited to learn new ways to use the product.

My first mission was to put my own spin on the popular Easy Mac & Cheese Veggie Chicken Casserole.  Because we had Chicken Parmesan on the menu, I decided to use my provided ingredients to put together a Cheesy Italian Rotini Pasta Bake inspired by a recipe I found online.  You see, my kids are not a fan of vegetables, but at least with an Italian theme, I could sneak in some tomatoes.

What you need:

  • 8 ounces rotini, cooked as directed, drained
  • 2 tablespoons Country Crock Light
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf basil
  • Dash ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

How to Make It:

  • Grease a 2-quart baking dish or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Heat oven to 350°.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan; add onion and sauté for about 3 to 5 minutes, until onion is tender.

  • Add the garlic, tomatoes, and basil; cook for 2 minutes, until heated through.
  • Taste and add the pepper and salt.  Stir in the hot cooked rotini.

  • Stir in 1 cup of the cheese; spoon into the prepared baking dish.
  • Sprinkle remaining shredded cheese and breadcrumbs over the top of the casserole. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

Are you ready to get creative with your casseroles?  One lucky reader will win a Country Crock VIP Coupon (good for one free product), recipe card, and a casserole dish.  Also, five winners will receive one Country Crock VIP Coupon.  Enter below:

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This post is the opinion of Experimental Mommy.  While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% mine.

Pamper Your Piggies with Therafit Shoes {Giveaway}

Summer in New Orleans means lots of things including shorts, tank tops, snoballs, waterslides and most definitely flip flops.  Any day of the week, you can find me around town sporting one of my many pairs of flip flops.  While many pairs are quite comfortable, I have had a hard time finding ones with good arch support.

I was recently asked to review a pair of Therafit flip flops designed by Dr. Lisa Masterson. The shoe, which is specifically designed for women and accredited by the National Posture Institute, can be customized to allow for either an increase or decrease in impact resistance.  About the Therafit Personal Comfort System:

This patented technology was developed to create women’s comfortable footwear with personalized comfort and support. Our goal is to improve how you feel throughout the day. By using multiple layers of cushioning and support with varying densities inside each and every shoe, the shock of each step is distributed downward and outward. The result is  extremely comfortable shoes that cushion your foot on impact, helping to reduce the aches and pains that come from the stress of everyday activities. Durable materials provide a shoe product that can go the distance for both work and play.

As a working Mom, I need a shoe that can last throughout my busy day without sacrificing style.  I decided to try the Tiffany Silver Sandal with just the right amount of bling.  The flip flop features a foot-bed with 86 reflexology nodules that feel like a foot massage all day long.  The mid-sole features an arch support which was immediately noticeable when I tried them on.  No other flip flop I own has this kind of support.
But I think the most unique feature of the Therafit brand is the three dual-density adapters located within the shock-absorbing wedge.  You can remove one, two or three of the adapters to customize the feel of the shoe.  Need less support?  Remove all three.  Want more support for a particularly busy day?  Put them back in.  It’s totally personal for your mood or activity level.
Therafit has more than just an awesome sandal collection, you can also take a look at the available athletic, walking or uniform shoes.  Ranging in price from $59.00 to $69.00, Therafit’s sandals are exclusively available online.  Could your piggies use some pampering?  One lucky reader will win their very own pair of Therafit sandals!  Enter below:

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Fighting Dry Summer Skin with Aveeno Baby {Giveaway}

This post of the opinion of Beth of The Experimental Mommy.  While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% honest.

Ever since my little girl was an infant she has suffered with skin problems. From dry itchy skin to cracked and bleeding. To say that I was thrilled to try the Aveeno Baby line is an understatement. Over the past two and a half years, we have used countless brands of baby wash and lotion that are supposed to be for ‘sensitive skin.’ About a year ago I discovered Aveeno Baby Wash and Shampoo and cannot express the difference it made on my daughter’s skin.

We just received the Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Creamy Wash, Moisture Cream and SPF 55 sunscreen. This is one of the worst times of year for my daughter between the sun, swimming pool and sandy beaches, her skin has really taken a beating. The Aveeno Baby continuous protection lotion sunscreen is fragrance free and goes on smooth. The sunscreen has UVA/UVB protection, SPF 55 and is considered to be as mild as water. The best part is it works wonderful, but remember as directed reapply every 2 hours and after swimming for the best protection possible.

No matter how hard I try there are just sometimes when her skin is going to be dry and itchy, that is where the moisture cream comes in. Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Moisture Cream with Natural Oatmeal moisturizes for 24 hours and is clinically proven to soothe your baby’s skin. No matter how hard I tried by daughter got a few patches of dry skin after our trip to the beach last weekend. Using the moisturizing cream after her nighttime bath helped to reduce the amount of eczema on her body, especially on her feet where her eczema is generally the worst. I actually used this cream on myself as well and it doesn’t leave you feeling like you have grease on your hands and feet. Unlike many other lotions for eczema it does not leave that medicine smell either, since it is completely fragrance free.


While I still swear by the Aveeno Wash and Shampoo, I have also fallen in love with the Soothing Relief Creamy Wash. The wash is fragrance free and soothes skin in the bath. There is no medicine smell to it and makes her smell as she says “good as new.” I have even found an improvement in my hands from using the wash while bathing her, they are not as dry as they usually are this time of year.

Could your baby’s skin use some extra special attention?  One lucky reader will win each of the products reviewed above!  Enter below:
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Tips for Plus Size Cruisers

This post is written by a friend of the Experimental Mommy, Lena, who wanted to share her thoughts on Plus-Sized Cruising with you.  Enjoy!

I’m a big girl.  No, seriously, I’m a BIG girl…as in plus-sized.  My hubby and I have wanted to go on a cruise for…..forever & we finally did it this year.  We booked a 5-night cruise on the Carnival Fascination out of Jacksonville, FL.  The cruise was great & Carnival is awesome; but this is about what it’s like to be a plus-sized girl on a cruise….not about the cruise itself.

I have a confession:  I’m a research junkie.  I’m a data analyst by trade, so I analyze EVERYTHING.  To death.  I have no shame.  Anyway, there was surprisingly little info on the internet about a plus-sized person’s experience on a cruise.  Plus-sized people have to worry about different things than smaller people.  We have to worry about weird things like if our bottoms will fit in a seat with arms, if the booth at a restaurant leaves enough room to breathe, or if the pool ladder goes deep enough for us to actually get OUT of the pool.

So, let’s talk about the Carnival Fascination:

  • Staterooms – actually pretty roomy.  The bathroom was laid out nicely & didn’t feel overly cramped.  The shower in our ocean view stateroom was bigger than I expected.
    • Poolside chairs (not the loungers) – They had arms that made it uncomfortable for me.  Sitting on a folded up Carnival Pool Towel helped a little, but they were never comfortable for me.

  • Poolside loungers – they were sturdy and seemed a little taller than other lounge chairs.  I found them easy to get on and off of.
  • Pool ladder – YES!  Yes, it went deep enough to make getting into and out of the pool easy. *happy dance!*
  • Coconut Bar & Grill – the booths were absolutely fabulous!!!  There was plenty of room and there were several booths.   They had the same poolside chairs in there too, but because of the booths, I didn’t have to sit in them.
  • Aft and Walkway Tables & Chairs – The same poolside chairs were there too, so I didn’t get to eat there often…though I wanted to.
  • Main dining rooms – The chairs were a little too close together for my taste.  Hubby and I learned to leave an empty seat between us so we could eat comfortably.
  • Comedy Club – the benches & mini-couches were very comfortable.  The individual chairs near the stage were tight, but not uncomfortable.
  • Palace Theater – every seat in that theater was plenty big!  The bench seats in front of the stage were huge and comfortable.

All in all, I found the Carnival Fascination to be VERY plus-size friendly, though I wish they would add some armless chairs to the poolside and aft areas.  We will definitely cruise with Carnival again!

Sail Away With Me #CCLSummer

In just a few days, I will be crossing off a few things from my bucket list.  Traveling internationally…check.  Taking a cruise…check.  Swimming with dolphins…check.  It is quite an exciting time!

Almost a year ago, I boarded my first cruise ship, the Carnival Elation, and took a tour of the new Fun Ship 2.0 Improvements.  Even though the cruise didn’t leave the port, I was hooked.  A few months later, I was invited back to tour the Carnival Conquest and I participated in a social media scavenger hunt.

Guess what?

I won. 

I will be enjoying my prize in the upcoming days by setting sail with my family on the Carnival Conquest (don’t get any ideas, I have house sitters and an attack guinea pig).  I am starting to pack my bags but I need to hear your tips for first time cruisers.  Should I take Dramamine or Bonine?  Do I bring casual or fancy clothes?  What are the “do not forget” items?  Anything special to consider when traveling with kids?  Help!

Our Favorite Popsicle {Giveaway}

This post was created in connection with my appointment as an Ambassador in the Popsicle® Blogger Program. Visit www.facebook.com/popsicle to join the conversation.

When I was younger, I had a slight obsession with cinnamon.  I loved cinnamon gum, homemade cinnamon toothpicks and my all time favorite, Cinnamon Fire Jolly Ranchers.  Because the latter is hard to find, I decided to try more varieties of the popular Jolly Ranchers and discovered that I was an overall Jolly Rancher fan.

Now that I have my two daughters, I seem to have passed on my sweet tooth and love of hard candies.  Both of my girls love Jolly Ranchers (particularly the Watermelon and Green Apple varieties).  So when strolling through our local grocery store and spotting Popsicles in Jolly Rancher flavors, I knew they would be an instant hit.

Living in New Orleans, the Popsicle should be one of our major food groups in the Summer.  On a recent play date, I unveiled the Jolly Rancher Popsicles and my youngest went wild.  The single stick treat is layered with some of the most popular Jolly Rancher flavors including Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Green Apple and Grape.  At just 45 calories per pop, it’s not a bad treat for Mom either!

As we make our way through some Popsicle varieties (after all, we need material for our Popsicle Stick Summer Crafts), we will share with you our favorites.  So far, the Jolly Rancher Popsicles were a hit and the girls have requested the Popsicle Sour Patch Kids next.

What’s your favorite Popsicle?  Enter below to win a Popsicle Prize Pack including a $25 Target Gift Card and 10 coupons for FREE Popsicles!
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Get Ready for School with Schoolies!

This post is written by Beth of Experimental Mommy.  While samples were received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% honest.

As a child, I always remember having to play catch up the first few days or weeks of school because we all seemed to have forgotten what we learned the year before.  Now children are expected not only to know the material from the previous year, but also advance over the summer.

My little man will be starting Pre-K 4 this year and is so excited to wear his new big boy uniform just like the rest of the school.  To keep him on track all summer we have been trying to review some the material he learned in Pre-K 3, but it is not easy when all he wants to do is play. My daughter who will be going to a program for 2 and 3 year olds in September has no idea what to expect when it comes to school. I have spent the summer drilling numbers, letters and colors.

We were so excited to receive Schoolies so learning can be more fun and less “work”. The first book that I introduced to my little scholars was the My School Day book.  With a movable clock my son was able to change the time as the Schoolies enjoyed their day from waking up, getting on the bus and all the way back home to bedtime. My four year old really understood how this worked and enjoyed a ‘refresher course’ on how the school day works.

The next book we looked at (and my personal) favorite was the School House which was perfect for my two year old little girl to get to know what school will be all about this Fall.  The book includes four foldout school scenes, characters, accessories and stickers so your child can create their own story.  This book was a big hit with my two!

The next book, Lets Get Ready for School, is perfect for your Pre-K or Kindergartener. This book is jam packed with activities to help reinforce the skills they are learning. The best part is once your little one writes in it, you can wipe it clean and it is good as new for the next time.

Making Friends and First Day of School also helped my daughter to understand everything she could expect as she enters school for the first time. The books encourage friendship and overcoming shyness, which any child is going to have on the first day of a new school. These are great books, and were great for my son’s summer reading project.

Finally the Activity Flash Cards were good for both of my children. My daughter was able to relate the pictures to the colors, shapes and numbers and my son was able to trace the letters to spell words and practice his letters. These are also great for the car ride to keep your little ones entertained while still learning. They are 26 cards that are double sided and come with a wipe and marker so that they can be reused over and over.

With school only one month away we will definitely be using these books and cards everyday until school starts and even after school starts to reinforced what they are learning.

Are your kids ready for school?  Enter the giveaway below for your chance to win the entire Schoolies set courtesy of MacMillian Kids!

 

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Edy’s Ice Cream Gives You a #ReasontoSmile This July

This post is brought to you by Edy’s and The Motherhood. I was provided with product coupons and compensated for my time, but all opinions are mine.

With much of the Country covered in a heat wave, it is no secret that many people are looking for a way to cool off this summer and New Orleans is no exception.  Even though we are used to the heat and humidity here in the deep South, we need a break, too!  Luckily, July is National Ice Cream Month which totally gives you a reason to dive into your favorite flavors.

Looking for a way to celebrate?  Edy’s Ice Cream has released 4 new Limited Edition varieties that would make a splash at your next pool party. Try not to drool on your keyboard while imagining yourself eating a scoop of each below:

  • “Take the Cake”:  Yellow cake-flavored light ice cream with a frosting swirl and multi-colored sprinkles. It’s the classic combination of cake and ice cream in one convenient carton. Available in Slow Churned Light Ice Cream.
  • NEW “German Chocolate Cake Spectacular!”:  If you froze a German Chocolate Cake and then exploded it into a carton of chocolate ice cream, you’d end up with this amazing limited edition flavor. Chocolate ice cream with a caramel coconut swirl and brownie pieces. Available in Grand Ice Cream and Slow Churned Light Ice Cream.
  • NEW “Sunny Salted Caramel Pretzel”: Salty, sweet and oh so scrumptious. Vanilla ice cream with a salted caramel swirl and pretzel pieces. It’s probably the greatest flavor combination in the history of the world. Available in Grand Ice Cream and Slow Churned Light Ice Cream.
  • “3 Stripes You’re Out”: America’s Favorite Pastime has a new favorite flavor! Vanilla Ice Cream with Mixed Blueberry and Strawberry Swirls. This Limited Edition flavor will leave your home crowd on its feet cheering! Available in Grand Ice Cream.

My family and I decided to try the Sunny Salted Caramel Pretzel this weekend to escape the heat.  We made a family sundae to share on our front porch swing (although once the kids got a hold of it, there was little “sharing” involved).  The gooey caramel swirl accompanied by the generous sprinkling of salted pretzel pieces was divine…and gone.

Need more of an excuse to dive in?  From May 15th to September 30th, Edy’s ice cream will be posting content on its Facebook page every two weeks encouraging fans to help the brand donate to Operation Smile, an international children’s medical charity which helps children suffering from cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities.

Each uniquely stamped “A Reason to Smile” Facebook post features different methods of helping Edy’s reach its goal of a $125,000 donation to Operation Smile this year.  Follow the progress on Twitter and Instagram by using hashtag #ReasontoSmile.

If you want to taste the limited edition Edy’s ice cream, one of my lucky readers will win two coupons for FREE ice cream!  Enter below:

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The Fruit Company Has Your Date Night Covered

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy.  While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% mine.

My husband and I have been married for thirteen years now.  Because we met in 6th grade and started dating as Seniors in High School, it can sometimes be hard to keep the relationship “fresh.”  Living here in New Orleans, there is no shortage of romantic places to rekindle a love affair with your sweetheart.

The New Orleans City Park is a 1,300 acre outdoor oasis with activities such as boating, hiking, mini golf, tennis, and so much more.  On my to-do list is to have a romantic picnic with my husband underneath the majestic oak trees in City Park.  The secret to a successful picnic is all in the basket!  Fortunately, The Fruit Company has you covered.

The Fruit Company has emerged as the leading online retailer of high quality orchard fresh fruit and gourmet gifts. Through ecological orchard management methods, agricultural water conservation, and environmentally friendly packaging and shipping materials, The Fruit Company leads the way in its commitment to sustainability practices.  As one of Oregon’s Top 15 growing companies and part of Internet Retailer’s Top 50 “Best of Web”, the Fruit Company continues its growth track.

The Fruit Company was nice enough to send me their popular Summer Picnic Basket filled with everything I need to surprise hubby with a special day together.  The wicker basket contains beef summer sausage, TouVelle cheese, key lime ginger mustard, Sheffield Harvest Crush Cider, chocolate ganache brownie, sun-kissed apples, pears and more.

When the basket arrived, I was very impressed with how beautiful the actual basket was presented.  The handle and buckles will make for easy transport and cleanup.  The food was kept fresh with included ice packs and the fruit was safe due to excellent packaging.  I absolutely love the dishes and utensils included in the gift set.  I literally have to bring nothing!

This Summer Picnic Basket retails for $139.95 but there are so many more options at The Fruit Company.  Take a look at their selection (I live the tower gift sets) which would be great to bookmark for the holidays.

Do you need a date night?  One reader will win the Summer Picnic Basket!  Enter below:

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Fuel Your Run at Zoes Kitchen

This post is the opinion of The Experimental Mommy.  While a gift card was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% honest.

One year ago today, my husband started his weight loss journey.  What he found along the way was a lifestyle change.  He started to feel better and enjoyed getting healthy.  One of the secrets to his success is running.  In the beginning, he had trouble walking the 2 mile track at our local park, but slowly he started jogging and finally completing the track in a full continuous run.  I could not be more proud of him and his new found hobby.

The more serious he gets about running, the more he is learning about how to fuel his body.  There are plenty of energy bars, shakes and supplements on the market today, but if you’re a runner looking to fuel your body – or recover post-run – with wholesome and fresh foods, Zoës Kitchen has just the menu! Hubby has learned that eating the right balance of lean proteins, complex carbs and fiber will give his body energy to complete the toughest of runs.

Zoes Kitchen invited us to try the new Runner’s Menu which offers delicious nutrients with a heaping helping of flavor, too, including:

  • Pre-run meals – Low in both fat and fiber and easily digestible. The flavorful Lean Turkey Pita with Pasta Salad has the right portion of sliced turkey breast and slaw tucked into a light pita – the perfect pre-meal to optimize your run.
  • Post-run meals – Packed full of lean proteins and complex carbs to replenish your body after a run.  Try Zoës Protein Power Plate, made up of flat-grilled chicken, caramelized onions and slaw or the Grilled Chicken Dinner, featuring charbroiled meat, braised white beans and roasted fresh veggies.

My hubby decided to try the Lean Turkey Pita and Pasta Salad on a recent visit to Zoes Kitchen.  We are huge fans of Zoes Kitchen, and my hubby has had this pita in the past (it’s one of his favorites).  But, he generally chooses the roasted vegetables as his side.  He opted for the Pasta Salad today and was pleasantly surprised.  While it is not something he would have thought to order, he will definitely be back to fuel up before a race.

Me?  Well, I am not a runner.  But I love Zoes Kitchen nonetheless.  My favorite location is within walking distance of my work, so taking advantage of their “on-the-go” snacks are right up my alley.   The hummus & pita or the seasonal fresh fruit are perfect snacks to give you the energy boost you need to make it through the day.

If you love Zoes Kitchen as much as I do, now you can help fuel Zoe’s dream.  That’s Zoe Romano, runner.  Not Zoe Cassimus, Zoes Kitchen founder.  Zoe Romano will be running 30 miles a day (more than a marathon) to complete Le Tour de France on foot while raising $100,000 for the World Pediatric Project.  Donate $5 to “Fuel Zoe’s Run” when ordering at Zoes Kitchen and receive $5 off your next order.

If you are a runner, too, what are your tips?  How do you fuel pre- and post-run?