21 August 2014

5 Awesome Uses for Paper Towels

*This post is sponsored by Viva Vantage and Walmart, but my love for their stretchy towels is all my own.

Everyone has those essential kitchen items, right? For me, I have several that I absolutely NEED to have on hand in all times. But the one I think I use the MOST is Paper Towels. I literally use them for everything! Cooking, cleaning, covering, absorbing, straining, wiping faces and hands... you name it.


But here are a few things you may or may not have thought of that you could do with your trusty paper towels.

One //  Strain grease 
You can use a paper towel to absorb the fat that tends to build up on the top of broths or soups. Here's how to get rid of it: Place another pot in the sink. Put a colander in the new pot and put a paper towel in the colander. Then pour the broth (or soup) through the towel into the waiting pot. The fat stays in the towel, while the cleaner broth streams through :-)

Two // Keep your produce fresh longer
Do you keep your veggies in the bin in your refrigerator? I have a tip! If you line the bottom of your veggie bin with paper towels, they will absorb the moisture that causes your fruits & veggies to rot. It will also help for a speedier clean-up when you decide it's time to clean out the fridge :-)

Three // Keep the rust off of your cast-iron pots & pans
If you own cast iron cookware, you will want to heed this advise. Because chances are, they're precious to you. Or maybe it's just my Husband who worships his cast iron pans. lol. Anyway, after you clean your pans, put a paper towel in each of them to absorb any moisture. And store the lids separately from the pots, each separated by a lining of paper towels.

Four // Stop your bread from getting soggy
Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you stick a loaf of bread int he freezer and later thaw it out, it's nasty and soggy?? It sucks. Here's a trick: Add a paper towel to the bag before you put it in the freezer. It will collect some of the moister so it doesn't seep into the bread, keeping the loaf fresher and drier when thawed.

Five // Soften your brown sugar back up
Surely I'm not the only one that notices that after a while, brown sugar can start to stick and glom together, and eventually, it will turn hard. If/when you start to notice this, pour the brown sugar into a bowel and cover it with a moist paper towel overnight. The humidity should help the brown sugar break up a little so you can use it again.

So there you have it!! Hope you find that helpful! And as for brands of paper towels, I'm breaking up with my old paper towels because I recently discovered Viva Vantage while shopping at Walmart a few weeks back. They are super duper stretchy, making it easier to clean and scrub with them. Not to mention strain grease (like I mentioned above). And they have sponge-like absorbency to help soak up those toddler spills.

I actually enlisted the help of my son to help me do a stretch test, and they passed our test with flying colors. I'm not just saying this but these paper towels are the stretchiest I've ever come across, making the more durable and more absorbent.

Bet you didn't realize how handy paper towels really are, huh? Have you tried Viva Vantage? What did you think of them??

20 August 2014

Getaway to the Ocean

I've lived in Washington State my entire life. I have so many memories of so many awesome places here. Growing up, my family and I took trips to the ocean pretty frequently, and it's amazing to be able to bring my kids to the same places, to see them experience things just as I did. It's actually kind of surreal.

Unfortunately, Philip had to stay home and go to work (boo!), but the boys and I tagged along with my Mom to Ocean Shores & Long Beach for a little coastal getaway.

We did all things beachy. Built sand castles, dug in the sand, waded in and out of the water, chased the seagulls, and flew kites. We also did some swimming in the pool at the condo and ate popcorn and watched movies. Basically it was the perfect mini-vacation!

I'm pretty sad we're home, actually. But thankful for all of the memories! Here is the highlight reel!

Ocean Shores, WA

Long Beach, WA

Until next time...

19 August 2014

An update on Bennett's development

I've been very open and honest about Bennett's developmental delays. Because 1) there is absolutely no shame in it. He's an amazing little boy, and these are just a few bumps in the road, but they are a part of his journey, so they are important. And 2) because there are others that are going through the same thing, and I know first hand how alone you can feel when you are going through these challenges with your kids. If I can offer even a little bit of support or encouragement to people in similar stages of life -- how could I not share about our experience?

Bennett's doctor has kind of gone back & forth over the past couple of years, trying to decide if Bennett's developmental delays were more serious then just a simple "delay." When he was around 3 y/o, there was talk of the possibility of Autism. But we decided to wait it out for a bit because his "symptoms' weren't severe and there was a hope that he'd grow through the delays and come out the other side with flying colors. For his 4 Year appointment, she wasn't convinced it was Autism anymore, because a lot of the classic symptoms weren't there. So, honestly, I just kind of let it go for a bit.

But the past few months, as he's been interacting and spending more time around other kids, I feel that it's become more apparent that there could be something more going on. We recently had an appointment with a new doctor, who agreed and gave us a referral for a developmental/pediatric psychologist. Luckily, if he does land on the Autism Spectrum, it will most likely show that he's on the super high functioning end of it. Which is awesome, but I would still like to know one way other the other. Only thing is that we have to wait FOUR months to get in to see the psychologist because of the wait list. Ugh.

I have a lot of mixed emotions. On the one hand, it breaks my heart to think that Bennett could be diagnosed with Autism. Not because there is anything wrong with him, or we can't handle it, or because it will change anything in our family. But because I hate labels and the stigma that goes a lot with it. I don't want that to affect him negatively. I don't want him treated differently or poorly (by other kids) because of this "label." You know? But on the other hand, an official diagnosis will be so beneficial for him, because he'll have access to the assistance and therapies that he will need to help him progress.

Regardless of the outcome, it won't change a thing. He's still one of the most incredible little boys I've ever seen. He's kind, caring and thoughtful and still has a heart of gold. We'll weather whatever storms come our way and we'll be just fine. Better than fine, actually.

I will continue to keep updating about this, because someone needs to. People are too hush hush about these kinds of things and instead of silence, there needs to be more support.

18 August 2014

Easy Ranch Chicken Wrap Recipe

“This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FoodDeservesDelicious #CollectiveBias” 

Do you have a dressing or salad recipe that reminds of when you were a kid?? I do. There are several things that my Mom used to make when I was growing up -- and now I make them for my family.  And especially with two little kids, I like to have things that make lots of leftovers so that we can have quick, easy lunches or dinners all ready to go.

One of my very favorite things that my Mom used to make when I was growing up, is this super yummy Chicken Salad Wrap. I've modified the recipe just a tiny bit to my own personal taste, but essentially, is the same thing as I used to eat. And I was pretty excited to see that my kids loved it just as much as I did. And now, I'm sharing it with you :)

A lot of this stuff you'll already have on hand, which is awesome. But if not, run to Walmart and grab your ingredients! This recipe is fairly inexpensive to make and it provides tons of left overs, so it's perfect to throw together for lunches/dinner for a couple of days.

  • 3/4 cup of chopped cucumber (peeled)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped celery
  • 3/4 cup of shredded cheese
  • 3 cups chicken 
  • 1/4 cup of mayo
  • 1/4 cup of Kraft Classic Ranch Dressing or Zesty Italian Dressing
  • Flour or wheat tortillas
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  •  Chop the cucumber and celery, shred your cheese, add your dressings and viola! Last step is to pile it onto your tortilla and enjoy :) 
  • This will make enough for 8-10 servings depending on how much you use in each wrap. It stores great in the refrigerator. Put leftovers in an air tight container and use within 2 days.
The thing I love about this recipe, is that you can customize it for whatever works for you. I prefer a creamier ranch flavor, so I add the Classic Ranch to my version of this recipe. I especially love the Kraft Pourables, because they have a new, reinvented taste. It's much creamier now, with more buttermilk and savory herbs. BUT, if you like a zestier taste, add some of the yummy Zesty Italian, now with even more herbs and spices. Both are delicious.

Also, if you want a lighter wrap, be sure to grab light mayo as well as the Kraft Ranch or Italian Dressings in Lite or Fat Free. There is also a lot of leniency with the chicken. I just used shredded canned chicken. But if you'd prefer grilled chicken, that would be awesome as well.

I love love love this recipe. It's super easy and something the whole family can enjoy! What are your go-to recipes?