How to Use a Chicago Cutlery Chef’s Knife

Now that I am giving Paula Deen a run for her money in the kitchen (or something like that), I am getting more comfortable trying new recipes with the help of my Chicago Cutlery DesignPro Knives.  Recently, I made a Ham and Cheese Quiche that was not only delicious, but Weight Watchers friendly, too!  And today, I decided to make some Chicken Salad with celery and walnuts.  While I was using my Chicago Cutlery Chef’s knife to chop the celery, I thought I would give you a quick tutorial on the proper use of the knife.

It’s really that simple.  I love that the knife has a textured handle which makes it feel comfortable in my hand without the fear of slipping.  Chopping the celery was so easy and did not require much pressure or effort at all.  With my other knife, I notice a lot of strings left on the celery that weren’t neatly cut.  The Chicago Cutlery knife allowed a clean slice of each and every piece.

My overall experience with Chicago Cutlery has been very positive.  I have become much more confident in the kitchen which has allowed me to explore different tastes and textures when meal planning.  My husband and daughters are very thankful as I think they were becoming very tired of the same old recipes each week.  Now that I have mastered the Chef’s Knife, I can’t wait to move on to new techniques!

I wrote this review while participating in a Brand Ambassador Campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Chicago Cutlery and received products to facilitate my post and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

I’m a Better Chef with Chicago Cutlery DesignPro Knives {Giveaway}

I have a love hate relationship with chicken.  I love to eat it but I hate to cook it.  Because of my microbiology degree, raw chicken freaks me out.  The less I touch it, the better.  That being said, I have started Weight Watchers and have found many delicious recipes on plan that involve chicken.  So, as my husband would say, it’s time to “Man-Up!”  Fortunately, I received Chicago Cutlery DesignPro knives for review so I am hoping preparing chicken will be much easier.

As I said in my first Chicago Cutlery post, I am a cooking novice.  I have no clue how to hold a professional knife let alone actually use it.  As I do when I need visual advice, I fled to YouTube and found several great instructional videos on the correct way to use a Chef’s Knife.  Take a look at the one below:

Using my new knife skills,  I felt confident that I could tackle a chicken recipe I have wanted to try for a long time. It’s a very easy, very delicious Weight Watcher’s friendly chicken salad that I found on Skinny Taste (only 4 Points Plus per serving!).  The first step in the recipe is to slice up two boneless chicken breasts and place them in a medium saucepan.  Using the skills I learned from YouTube, I let the knife do the work for me and was done slicing up the chicken in no time at all.  Because the knife is made with ultra sharp, Japanese steel blades to improve the cutting experience, I finished the job faster than I ever have in the past which means less time touching the raw chicken.  Score!

I don’t think my fear of raw chicken has been solved, but with the Chicago Cutlery DesignPro Chef’s Knife, I learned that the right tools for the job make a BIG difference.  I know have a whole new world of chicken recipes to explore!  Would you like to try a Chicago Cutlery DesignPro Chef’s Knife?  Enter to win one below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

I wrote this review while participating in a Brand Ambassador Campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Chicago Cutlery and received products to facilitate my post and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Stimulate Learning with the VTech Innotab 2

Recently, my seven year old daughter saved up all of her allowance, Christmas and birthday money and purchased herself and iPod Touch.  To be honest, I never thought she would save enough to actually purchase the product but I am quite proud of her and the lesson she has learned about the value of a dollar.  That being said, my four year old has iPod Touch envy.  She wants to play with her sister’s new toy and as you can image, that does not go so well.

I was so excited to try the new VTech Innotab 2 with her in hopes that it would satisfy her craving for her sister’s iPod Touch.  When it arrived, she wasn’t thrilled because it was blue and orange…not pink like sissy’s toy.  But once she got over the color, she couldn’t wait to tear into the box because the Innotab 2 looks a lot like Mommy’s tablet.  Once we inserted 4 AA batteries (not included), the fun began!

Just setting up the Innotab 2 was like a game for her.  She got to type her name on the 5″ touchscreen and even take her own picture with the rotating camera for her avatar.  She was beyond smitten with the rotating camera feature and instantly wanted to take pictures of EVERYTHING and when she found out that she could take and save (up to 2MB which is expandable up to 32MB with a SD card) I never thought she would put it down.

After a while, she decided to check out the other features of the VTech Innotab 2.  The multi-media tablet comes with one tilt sensor game, one augmented reality game, one e-book, art studio app, notes app, friends list, calendar and calculator.  True to herself, she loved the art studio because she naturally loves to create and color.  Next, she tried out the tilt sensor game, Face Race where you have to keep the character balanced on a tight rope by tilting the Innotab 2.  She was pretty good!  Soon she found the “Notes” app and pretend to text message me (guess I spend too much time on my phone!).  Finally, we can place MP3 files on the Innotab 2 just like my older daughter’s iPod.  This was a HUGE selling feature for Aubrie because she feels like she is able to enjoy the same activities as Lily.

Before bedtime, I connected the Innotab 2 to the computer with the installed Learning Lodge Navigator to download a few ebooks.  I love that the E-Books app on the Innotab looks just like my own E-reader and encourages Aubrie to want to read, too.  After checking out everything that was available to download from the Learning Lodge Navigator, I realized that there are over 200 additional apps available for the Innotab 2!  I love that as my daughter grows we can download age appropriate games and apps.

The VTech Innotab 2 is recommended for kids ages 3-9 and sells for $79.99 (same as the original model).  I would highly recommend this product and can attest to it’s durability since Aubrie has dropped it several times so far.  Definitely consider adding this to your holiday shopping list!

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for VTech. I received product samples to facilitate my review.

Where Will You Go with the New MobiGo 2?

My oldest daughter loves playing her Nintendo DS and lil’ sis always steals it to get in on the action.  The problem is that my youngest doesn’t quite understand the goal of the games or have enough dexterity to successfully complete it.  As you can imagine, frustration and often tears follow.

I was so happy to get the opportunity to try VTech’s MobiGo 2 and introduce it to my four year old daughter.  This handheld gaming system looks similar to the Nintendo DS, so she was all over it (once she got over the fact that it was NOT pink).  My daughter and I spent a few minutes going over the basics like how to turn it on and navigate the options but she was off and running on her own in no time.

Her favorite included feature?  The coloring book!  By nature she is quite artistic, so she loved being able to create and color pictures on the MobiGo2 and she was down right elated when she figured out how to make her pictures move by tilting the gaming system.  The motion sensor is all new for the MobiGo 2 and my daughter LOVES it.  In addition to the coloring book, she loves the included game, Hamster Highway, which allows you to use the motion sensor to navigate a hamster though a series of tracks.

Once she put the system down, I decided to register and set up the software on my laptop.  I simply installed the Learning Lodge Navigator from the included CD onto my laptop and created a user account.  After the initial set up, I connected the MobiGo 2 via an included USB cable and updated the system.  Now, the fun part! I browsed through 17 pages of downloadable games!  The MobiGo 2 comes with three free downloads, so I picked the ones I thought my daughter would most enjoy and downloaded them all in under one minute.  We decided to try:

  • Carrot Patch: teaches letter recognition, spelling and use of the QWERTY keyboard
  • Shopping Spree: matching and speed
  • Hide and Seek Hounds: counting

I allowed my daughter to take her MobiGo 2 on the go for a day of running errands.  She had a chance to try out all three new games and fell in love with “Shopping Spree”….girl after my own heart! The game is very easy to play and utilizes the touch screen.

Overall, my four year old daughter loves the MobiGo 2.  The updates such as the motion sensor and built in games are great considering the price stayed the same as the original model at $59.99.  The handheld gaming system is recommended for ages 3-8 and aims to teach not only basic skills such as math, vocabulary, reading and spelling but creativity, too.

Where will you go with the new MobiGo 2?

“I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for VTech. I received product samples to facilitate my review.”

I’m a Chicago Cutlery Ambassador!

Yes, you read that right.  I’m a Chicago Cutlery Ambassador.  Stop laughing.  I know I don’t cook (at least I don’t cook well), but this is my attempt at getting better.  One of the reasons I do not like being in the kitchen is that I am too darn impatient.  If I could cook a delicious meal in about 5 minutes with no clean up time, I would be sold!  But, unless I am living with The Jetsons, I am going to have to learn to improve my skills.

I often get frustrated just trying to get organized and find the right tools in order to cook a meal.  So, if I had the right equipment to make the job easier, I think I could have potential.  Maybe.

To aid my journey, Chicago Cutlery sent me three new knives in their DesignPro Collection and believe it or not, I can’t wait to try them out.  My immediate opinion of this knife set is that it is way nicer than any knife I currently have in my kitchen.  They have a nice weight to them and I like the plastic covering that will not only keep the blade sharp but keep me from accidentally cutting myself when not in use.

Over the next several weeks, I am going to try the knives with various food preparations and report back to you!  In the meantime, check out the Chicago Cutlery DesignPro Collection on Amazon and let me know what I should cook first!

I wrote this review while participating in a Brand Ambassador Campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Chicago Cutlery and received products to facilitate my post and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

There’s Still Time to More-imize your Vacation at Embassy Suites!

This Summer has definitely been a unique one for my family and I.  With the loss of my job, we found all four of us home all summer long…together.  While definitely had my reservations about how this would play out, I can honestly say that it’s been the best summer ever.

We were fortune enough to take several trips and spend some real quality time together.  My girls got to visit Walt Disney World for the very first time and it was indeed a magical experience.  Seeing Cinderella’s Castle through the eyes of a child is a totally different experience and a memory that I will cherish forever.

We also had the chance to visit Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia as my business partner and I did our first site visit for the new location of our blog conference.  What an incredible place!  Beyond the gorgeous scenery, Callaway offers a ton of adventure and outdoor activity such as golfing, hiking, bike riding, zip lines, beach fun and more!  It was a chance to really kick back away from technology.

Finally, we enjoyed a relaxing staycation at Embassy Suites right here in New Orleans.  With all of the traveling we have been doing, it was a treat to stay home and play tourist.  When I heard that Embassy Suites had won Parents Magazine “10 Top Hotel Chains for Families” in 2012, I couldn’t wait to see what our local site had to offer.  From the moment we walked in the hotel, we were impressed.  The lobby is stunning with a New Orleans themed mural and plenty of natural light.  Our room was massive including two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a private terrace.  My daughters were in heaven!

Embassy Suites definitely allowed us to “more-imize” our vacation by offering complimentary cooked to order breakfast and a nightly Manager’s Reception.  Both amenities saved us from long waits at local restaurants paying tourist prices.  Of course, the kids favorite feature of the hotel was the pool!  We spent a few hours relaxing and swimming which again saved us from expensive local attractions.

How do you “more-imize” your vacation?  Dr. Susan Biali, a health and happiness expert, suggests finding the perfect balance of activities and relaxation on your vacation.  Don’t schedule every minute of your day and let things happen naturally!  While our Disney vacation was a blast, it was far from relaxing.  I definitely over scheduled my family and will try to heed the advice of Dr. Biali next time!

With a few weeks left of Summer vacation, get out there and make the most of these precious days!  Follow Embassy Suites on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about the latest news and upcoming deals.

I wrote this review while participating in an Ambassador Program by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Embassy Suites Hotels and received a one-night complimentary stay at an Embassy Suites Hotel to facilitate my reviews and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Our Staycation With Embassy Suites NOLA

Living in New Orleans definitely has it’s perks.  Enjoying a staycation in my hometown provides limitless options such as the zoo, aquarium, streetcar rides, museums, history tours and of course….the food.  We will often make a day of walking in the French Quarter and enjoying the sights and sounds of downtown, but we rarely take the opportunity to spend the night.  However, it has been so incredibly hot this summer, my kids have been begging to go swimming to escape the heat.  Because I am part of the Embassy Suites Ambassador program, we decided to check out all they have to offer (and especially the pool).

We arrived at 3pm, check-in time, at the Embassy Suites New Orleans Convention Center.  In the heart of the Warehouse District, there are many options withing walking distance including the convention center and the cruise terminal.  The lobby was full of buzz from a large group of teens arriving for a conference but the hotel staff was moving as quickly as possible to get everyone settled.  Because of the large crowd, we decided to head to the room first before exploring the hotel.  From my research, I knew that the Embassy was an all suite hotel including two room suites, microwave and mini-fridge.  But, I had no idea what we were about to experience.

When we walked into our suite, affectionately named “Zulu” for one of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Krewes, we were all speechless!  Well, except for my 4 year old who started screaming and running around the room with excitement.  Our suite included two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a living and dining room and a private patio overlooking the City.  My two daughters, ages 4 and 7, immediately claimed one of the bedrooms as their own and began to play like their had their own apartment.  No kidding, this kept them busy for at least an hour!

In the meantime, my husband and I couldn’t resist laying down on the bed. It was so inviting and cozy!  The suite also had two sets of French Doors which opened onto the balcony, so we took the liberty of enjoying the spectacular view.

After an hour of rest and relaxation, we set out to explore the rest of the hotel.  The lobby and dining area is just stunning!  The walls are painted to mimic the streets of New Orleans on Mardi Gras Day which even included mannequins standing on faux balconies.  The massive circular window in the lobby brought the outside in with tons of natural light.  Of course, it took about 2 minutes for my daughters to spot the outdoor pool and begin to beg.  The pool is located on the ground floor and is a fairly nice size.  With the teen group at the hotel, we had to wait a bit in order to take advantage of the pool, but the girls enjoyed it when it was our turn.  The pool area also included a hot tub and towels for guests which was much appreciated.

After a nice swim, we went back to the room to dress for dinner.  We chose Mulate’s which is a Cajun restaurant within walking distance of the hotel.  The meal was delicious and the live entertainment was a ton of fun.  The girls even learned to Cajun Dance with their Dad!  After a full day and a full belly, we walked back to the hotel to enjoy some quality time together.  The living room in our suite was perfect for board games and puzzles.  After the kids were in bed, we headed to our balcony to enjoy the summer breeze.

The next morning, we couldn’t wait to enjoy the complimentary cooked to order breakfast provided by the Embassy.  This was unlike any other hotel breakfast I have ever enjoyed.  Biscuits, bacon, eggs, potatoes, fresh fruit, pastries, bagels, juice, coffee and tea only scratch the surface of the offering.  The provided breakfast certainly helped us get “more” out of our day because we didn’t have to find a restaurant and endure a long Sunday Morning line.

We reluctantly checked out at 11am, but spent the day exploring our City before heading home.  Our experience at the Embassy Suites was above and beyond our expectations. The room was beautiful, the hotel was immaculate, and the staff was friendly.  What more could you ask for?

Do you want to win an Embassy Suites stay of your very own?  To enter, head over to the Embassy Suites Facebook page through July 20th and upload a photo of your family’s vacation face along with tips on how you get “more” out of your vacation.

 I wrote this review while participating in an Ambassador Program by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Embassy Suites Hotels and received a one-night complimentary stay at an Embassy Suites Hotel to facilitate my reviews and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

“More-imize” Your Vacation with Embassy Suites

For my family, summertime means three things: heat, sno-balls and VACATION!  Because my husband is a teacher, we tend to take longer vacations in the summer when he and the kids are out of school.  But a recent study with Parents magazine shows that 56% of families consider themselves “vacation dabblers” and take multiple short vacations throughout the year.  While we tend to save vacation days for the summer, if we do venture out during the school year, the trip needs to be on a weekend where we only have to miss one or two days of work at most.  On these short jaunts, we definitely want to “more-imize” our vacation and make the MOST of every minute.

One thing we do to make a short vacation feel longer is to get the kids involved in planning.  Since my husband teaches geography, he loves turning road trips into a educational experience.  The kids love using iPad apps to plot the route we plan to travel and learn interesting things along the way.  When we return, we keep the vacation going by creating a photobook and reliving the good times!

Starting June 5th, Embassy Suites has pledged to help you get more out of your vacation…more fun, more time together and more indulgence!  Voted as on of the Top 10 Hotels for Families by Parents Magazine, Embassy Suites offers two room suites, cooked to order breakfast and a nightly Manager’s Reception complete with appetizers and beverages.  For my family, complimentary cooked to order breakfast is a huge selling point.  This saves us time seeking out a restaurant and waiting to be served allowing us more time for fun!

If you want to “more-imize” your vacation, Embassy  Suites is running a Sweepstakes on their Facebook page now through July 20th.  Simply upload a picture of your family’s “vacation face” and be entered to win one of five Grand Prizes including a week long stay at an Embassy Suite Hotel and $10,000 spending cash! With that kind of money, I could certainly “more-imize” my vacation!

Embassy Suites has also partnered with Dr. Susan Biali, a health and happiness expert, to share some tips for getting the most out of your time off.  She believes that you need at least three consecutive days off in order to reap the restorative benefits of a vacation.  One of my favorite tips from Dr. Biali is that ff you are a vacation dabbler and take small trips throughout the year, make sure you use those days to relax.  Don’t pack the day with too many activities which will only leave you more tired than when you came.  I can totally relate to this tip as we have just returned from a trip to Disney World.  It is very tempting to pack your days at Disney, but we made sure to return to the hotel mid-day and enjoy the amenities such as the pool in order to relax.

In the upcoming days, my family and I will be headed to a local Embassy Suites to enjoy a NOLA Staycation!  I can’t wait to share our experience with you!

I wrote this review while participating in an Ambassador Program by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Embassy Suites Hotels and received a one-night complimentary stay at an Embassy Suites Hotel to facilitate my reviews and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Pointers for Perfect Portraits!

When I was a kid, I felt like time crawled.  I couldn’t wait to be 10, 11, or 12 and certainly couldn’t wait for Summer.  But now that I have kids of my own, time flies!  If I so much as blink, it seems like the kids grown an inch or even two.  In an effort to capture these precious moments, I take pictures…and lots of them!  Over the years, I have learned a thing or two about how to create some wall-worthy photos and thought I would share them with you.

1.  Color Coordinate!  If you are taking a group pictures, choose colors that compliment each other and aren’t too loud or busy.  Because my girls are three years apart, the older does NOT watch to wear matching outfits with little sister.  I try to find outfits that compliment but aren’t too matchy matchy.

2.  Lights, Camera, ACTION!  There is nothing like natural light to make a great photo.  I love candid shots of the girls playing and showing off their personalities which most often happens during play.

3.  Give Your Pictures Some Props!  I love incorporating props to show off the season but that don’t overwhelm the photo.  I still want the eye to be drawn to my child and use the prop only to enhance the scene or explain the season.

Looking for more portrait tips?  Check out my Pinterest board where I highlight some of the best ideas I found from JC Penney Portrait Studio.  If you are overdue for some family pictures, take advantage of the April promotion at JC Penney where you can get 6 traditional portrait sheets for just $20 AND they will waive the $9 sitting fee!  Find a JC Penney Portrait Studio near you by using the location finder.

“I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of jcpenney Portrait Studio. I was asked to create a Pinterest Board and pin at least five (5) pins. I give jcpenney the right to repin any or all images/original content from this board. I received a promotional item as a thanks for my participation.”

Getting Ready for Easter with Heinz and PAAS!

With temperatures well into the 80′s, flowers blooming in beautiful colors and kids ready to burn energy playing outdoors, Spring is most definitely here!  In fact, Easter is only a little over a week away.  Are you ready for the Bunny’s arrival?

One of my favorite holiday traditions is dyeing Easter Eggs with my daughters to place in their baskets.  I remember dyeing eggs with my Mom and PAAS kits and it is so much fun to pass the tradition to my own kids.  Now that they are getting older, the eggs are becoming more elaborate!  As with their wardrobes, they love all things girly, sparkly and bright.  So, it came as no surprise that they wanted their eggs to be vibrant, too!  In years past, I will admit that I took the easy way out and just mixed our egg dye with water giving us pretty but pastel colors.  I had no idea that Heinz Vinegar could make such a difference!

After boiling our eggs and letting them cool, we opened the PAAS Classic Colors Egg Dyeing Kit which included 9 different colors to choose from.  My daughters picked their most favorite five and we mixed eye dye with 3 tablespoons of Heinz Vinegar.  The kit came with a Magic Color to write secret messages on the eggs before dyeing! My girls LOVED this and quickly branded their eggs.  After selecting their favorite colors, we submerged the eggs for a few minutes to make sure the eggs were nice and bright.  The girls were thrilled with the results!

Letting the eggs dry, we put together the included egg stands to display our creations.  The final touch?  Stickers, of course!  The girls were quite impressed with the final product and couldn’t wait to show it off to their grandparents.

While we had a blast decorating our eggs last night, did you know that you can also dye eggs virtually?  The free Egg Decorator App from Heinz and PAAS allows you to continue the fun online!  Choose your color, dye your egg pastel or vibrant and then decorate with glitter glue, chalk and paint.  Save your egg to your virtual basket and share your creation with family and friends on Facebook or via email.  From now through April 8th, every egg “dyed” and shared with a friend on the app, Heinz & PAAS will donate $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation (up to $25,000)!  The girls loved playing with the app as much as they loved dyeing the actual eggs!

Get creative this Easter and check out then entire PAAS collection!

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Heinz and PAAS and received a Heinz Vinegar bottle, a PAAS Egg Dyeing Kit, and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.