Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pedigree Stackerz Review- Woof!

Disclaimer: I received Pedigree Stackerz for free from Inflluenster in exchange for my honest opinion.

My poor baby, Dart, which is short for D'Artangan has been lost in the shuffle since the boys were born. So, he was super excited when he got a present in the mail from Influenster. He was wagging his tail, jumping up and woofing like only his Lab/Beagle self can do. He could probably smell the goodness of the Pedigree Stackerz through the box. I quickly opened the box, and by this time the boys wanted in on the fun. Please, Mom can we give Dart these treats, they begged. I agreed, but I wanted to take pictures first before the craziness began. 

The boys had Dart sitting, shaking his paw and doing his tricks for the treats. Needless to say, Dart loved the Bacon and Filet Minion flavored Pedigree Stackerz. The treats were long and skinny, but they were easy to break apart which is good for smaller dogs or for limiting the amount given. 

Pedigree Stackerz come in three flavor varieties: Filet Minion and Bacon, Smoky Bacon and Cheddar, and Grilled Chicken and NY Strip. I like Dart's food and treats to consist of real meat, and Pedigree Stackerz list real meat as the first ingredient. 

Don't let your dog get lost in the shuffle, treat him to Pedigree Stackerz. 

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Here's To The Ones- A Salute to Freedom & Family

There's a lot of problems and social concerns wearing Americans down these days. With the upcoming election, these problems seem to rise to the surface and put us almost in a state of panic. We are concerned about health care, Ebola, education and jobs security. So I was pleased to hear Rhett Walker Band's new album Here's To The Ones, filled with songs about America, Jesus' love and the importance of family. These four blue-collared Southern guys understand hard work, being on the road and away from their families. They understand the sacrifice that goes along with the American dream- a house, a warm meal and freedom.

Family, Faith and Country is their tagline, and their new album Here's to the Ones exemplifies their mission. The band fits into the Christian Southern Rock genre, and I found their sound comparable to Tom Petty, Bon Jovi, and even John Mellencamp.  Their song Here's to the Ones tells us that it takes a nation of families, soldiers and factory workers that still believe in taking chances and never backing down. Here's to the Red, White and Blue, and people like me and you, was one particular lyric that stood out to me. It gave me a sense of pride to be an American, and thankful to have the freedom to stay-at-home with my kids. Whether you're punching a time card or watching kids, we all have jobs to-do.

I enjoy listening to music while I work-- writing, washing dishes or cooking. The Rhett Walker Band has a beat that will have your fingers tapping and jamming along. It makes me want to turn it up like I'm listening to Skynyrd. Their lyrics are encouraging with a positive message behind them. You can understand what they're singing, and you can relate to these guys with their baseball caps and jeans. They have performed three times at the Grand Ole Opry and have been nominated for a Grammy, but these good old boys aren't too proud to sit on the porch, strum a few tunes, and drink some sweet tea. You can order Rhett Walker Band's new album, Here's To The Ones CD from Family Christian Store for only $9.99. Click here to make your purchase.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Cinderella & the Food Lion Frugal Cook Off

Sometimes, I jokingly compare myself to Cinderella when I describe my day-to-day life to others. You know, what I'm talking about-- the endless cleaning, cooking, watching/playing with your kids, and when it's time time to go to the ball, you are just too tired. Unfortunately, I don't have a fairy godmother in my back pocket or a ball to attend for that matter, but I was recently invited to Food Lion's Frugal Cook Off to compete in a cooking contest and blog about my experience.

Unsure as what to wear, I met with Star Stylist Kelli DelSorbo of Stella & Dot. I sent her a few pictures of outfit ideas, and she helped me choose one for the event plus she provided me with a stunning silver necklace, stacked bracelets and simple silver stud earrings to complete my look.  I had a dress and jewelry; I was ready for the ball Cook Off. I left my sick husband home with the boys munching their cereal and watching Paw Patrol. They were content, so I made my escape to the carriage SUV.

The magical evening continued as I arrived at the Food Lion Frugal Cook Off held at the Driftwood Southern Kitchen in Lafayette Village in Raleigh. The restaurant aptly named for its open kitchen that flowed effortlessly into the bar and dining area only separated by a half wall. While I stood in the doorway of the restaurant taking in the rustic surroundings and the floating globe light fixtures suspended from the ceiling, I was given my apron for the event. It wasn't any old smock, but a refreshing light green apron embroidered with my name, Rachel Withers and my blog name, Fit Triangle Mom. It was then that I realized that this wasn't a dream or fairy-tale, but an awesome opportunity to cook something healthy, fresh and frugal. I met my teammate Kelley, and the planning began.

We examined the cart filled with Food Lion's My Essential Brands of canned goods, cheeses, yogurt, and chicken broth. Adjacent to the cart was several wooden baskets containing fresh produce-- cucumbers, peppers, lemons, onions, leafy greens and squash. Each item was priced because the goal of the contest was to spend less than $15 on our meal. Kelley and I had been planning meal ideas based on four undisclosed proteins (ground turkey, tilapia, pork chops and chicken) that would be available to us and would be revealed 10 minutes prior to the contest. Side dishes would be limited based on the availability of the ingredients, but now we had a better idea of what to prepare. We were also given staple pantry items of spices, oils and sauces that wouldn't count against our meal cost.

After a brief tour of the kitchen- stoves, utensils, oven and sink, our protein was revealed-- Chicken! Then the planning begin. The half wall dividing the kitchen and the bar became our station. Kelley and I glanced through our notes and decided on Lemon Chicken. We could purchase all the ingredients and have enough for sides. We chose an easy Black Bean, Corn and Salsa salad and a cucumber and onion medley for our sides. I was blessed with a wonderful teammate and talented chef. Kelley had the know-how to quickly prepare the sides while adding to the presentation factor. I was in charge of the chicken. I moved into action washing, cutting and pounding the chicken while all around us friends, family, Food Lion execs and PR consultants were taking pictures, asking questions, and keeping us informed of our time limit. 

My friend Heidi and cousin Alexandra cheered and encouraged us while we prepared the meal. Time was ticking, and I needed to put the chicken on the skillet. Kelley prepared the additional ingredients for the chicken while I secured a burner on the stove. There were teams on every burner and rice boiling under my arm, as I quickly added the chicken to the skillet. It sizzled and popped, and I adjusted the temperature. I was not familiar working with a gas stove, but loved it's efficient heating. While waiting for the chicken to cook, I helped Kelley open cans and drain vegetables. 

Presentation was another component of the contest. Driftwood Southern Kitchen had a nice variety of plates, cups, bowls, saucers, and mini cast iron skillets available for serving the meals. I wanted something that complimented our meal, so I asked one of the restaurant staff for his expert advice, and I decided on the flat wooden slab with a mini cast iron pan. It gave it a rustic look so we named the meal- Rustic Lemon Chicken with Black Bean & Corn Fiesta Salad and a Cucumber Onion Medley. The total cost for the meal was $9.09 ( not including the cost of the protein and staple items). We came under our $15 budget plus we prepared a healthy meal choice.

Once we were finished cooking and preparing our meal for the judges, our dish took center stage. Each team took turns having their meal photographed. It was like the Red Carpet for Food. Bulbs were flashing, and the judges were asking What's in this? How much did it cost? How long did it take? Then the waiting began...

The judges carefully sampled each team's meal judging them on taste, presentation, cost and originality. And the winners are? Everyone huddled around. Kelley and I crossed our fingers. Malise and Christie . Our names weren't called, but our fellow bloggers were named the winners. I felt like we were all winners. Food Lion gave all contestants gift cards and a thermal tote bag filled with Food Lion brand products. They also provided a $100 gift card for one of my blog readers (enter below). 

I may have lost my glass slipper trophy, but the magic lingered as I talked with the other contestants and my friends. Someone asked me Why I became a blogger? I told them it allowed me to pursue my love of writing and share the stories of my community with readers while having the flexibility of being a stay-at-home-mom. Then I realized, my life might not be a fairy tale, but I was living a dream that came true.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Trading in my Super Hero Cape for Hospital Socks

Friday wasn't my finest hour. It was early. I was dressed in mismatched pj's and of course I wasn't wearing a bra. As I dressed for bed the night before, I was seeking something comfortable, yet as laid on the bathroom floor I wondered if I should get my bra. That thought quickly disappeared as I grabbed my lower right side and vomited into the toilet. The pain was unbearable, and this is from a woman who has given birth to two boys naturally. The pain reminded me of labor pains, but I wasn't pregnant. Was it a stomach bug, surely not? Something was terribly wrong, and I was scared trying to figure out the culprit of my pain.

I mustered up my strength and called to my husband, Seth downstairs. He was helping prepare breakfast for the kids. Seth was going to chaperone my son's first field trip to a nearby pumpkin patch. Aiden had been looking forward to this day for the past two weeks. He was going to ride the bus, climb the hay stack, go on a hayride and pick out a big pumpkin.

Seth came upstairs. I need to go to the hospital, I told him. Something is wrong. Ok, he said. Do you think you can get in the car? No, I can't get up. I'll call an ambulance, he said. I continued to lay on the bathroom floor as he called 911, the pain grew worse. I knew help was on the way, as I heard Seth getting my medications in order, telling the kids Mommy was sick, and putting the dog outside.

Between the pain and listening to Seth, my mind kept thinking about Aiden and his field trip. Would Seth be able to go with him? Did someone make his lunch and put it in a paper bag?  How would he get to school? I needed to text my friend; I needed to arrange this; I needed to be super mom now; but I couldn't I was still laying on the bathroom floor unable to move. I had to take off my super cape and relinquish my super powers. It was if the pain was my kryptonite.

The book The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst came to mind, a friend of mine was telling me about it earlier in the week. It's about pushing the guilt aside when you say no and not worrying about disappointing others. I was literally laying on the floor, unable to move, in the worst possible pain worrying about disappointing my son and his field trip and not being able to be my usual supermom self. I felt guilty because I had to say no. I had to admit I couldn't do it myself. I needed God's help, and I needed to ask my husband and friends for help too.  I started to pray and asked God to first take away the horrible pain and then be with my family in this time of crisis.

The ambulance finally arrived and after checking my vitals and asking me a series of questions which seemed unbearable; I got on the stretcher and was loaded into the ambulance. The pain didn't cease, but the medicine I was given helped take the edge off, a little.

I could see the blue sky and trees through the back window of the ambulance. We were on the way to hospital, and I was feeling a bit of relief knowing that my diagnosis would be soon. I was nervous wondering what could be causing my pain. I was still in pain, but I had a peace that God was taking care of me. Little did I know that my sweet neighbor, Angie was watching the boys, and she even called the school and let them know Aiden wouldn't be able to come.

I arrived at the hospital still wearing my mismatched pj's and of course no bra, but it didn't matter the nurse informed me that I needed to put on the hospital gown and then she did the best thing ever. She slipped on two Carolina blue colored hospital socks on my feet. I don't know what it was about those socks, but they made me feel warm and cared for. I was really out of it when I went to the bathroom.  I put on the gown backwards or maybe I just wanted to feel super again and wear it cape style. Either way the doctor told me, I put it on wrong, and I had just passed a kidney stone into my bladder.

Boom! What? A kidney stone. Not what I was expecting with my healthy eating habits. I felt confused; how did this happen? Genetics, the doctor replied. It happens. Actually 1 in 10 Americans will have a kidney stone in their lifetime, and once you have one the percentage of having another increases by 50%. I don't like those statistics, and I don't like being knocked down unknowingly. I don't want to ever have another kidney stone again, I thought to myself. I'll watch my diet and be careful this time. Yet in the midst of my proactive planning, I heard His still small voice. God was telling me to cast my burdens on Him because He will sustain me (Psalm 55:22).

I think sometimes as moms, we try to do everything ourselves. It's overwhelming, tough and I'd rather have help, but I won't admit it. Honestly, part of me takes pride in being able to do it all. Yet, I know that I feel better when I get a break and most importantly when I ask God for help. My favorite Bible verse is Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength! Yes, I can do it all, but not on my own. Sometimes, it just takes a bit of humility and hospital socks to realize it.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

October & Breast Cancer Awareness

Pumpkins, beer and costumes are usually what come to mind when you think about the month of October. However, pink is the new orange, and breast cancer awareness in October go hand-in-hand. The Susan G. Komen foundation has done an incredible job to promote breast cancer awareness in October. Last Sunday, I enjoyed watching my team the Carolina Panthers wearing pink. It was awesome seeing these tough guys sporting pink shoes and the NFL promoting their hashtag- #NFLPINK. When we bring a devastating disease like Breast Cancer to the forefront, it reminds us of the importance of regular self breast exams, educating others on the early signs of breast cancer, having mammograms, and most importantly working to find a cure.

1 in 8 U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. I don't want to become a statistic; I want to find a cure and end breast cancer forever. I want to tell you about an easy and fun way to give to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. PDQ is selling pink Shake Out Breast Cancer shirts for $5. When you buy a shirt at PDQ, a donation will be made to NBCF, and you will get a free milkshake. Wear your shirt on all your return visits in October, and you will receive a free milkshake with a combo meal purchase. Have enough tees in your closet, then just buy a shake and a donation will be made to NBCF. 

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Monday, October 6, 2014

T.MAC Cary- Burgers, Beer & Family Friendly

I'm an All-American girl, and I love a good sports bar that can serve delicious burgers, Buffalo wings and nachos plus offer a family-friendly atmosphere. I found everything on my list at the new T.MAC restaurant in Cary at Waverly Place. T.MAC is short for Taco Mac. In 1979, a couple of guys from Buffalo, NY were looking to bring Buffalo wings to the South. With limited cash, they set up shop in a taco shack in Atlanta, and became Taco Mac. When funds became available, they had a choice to renovate the kitchen or change the sign, they opted for the kitchen, and the name stuck. It has since been shortened to T.MAC, but it's a nice reminder from where they started.

Last Friday, my 3-year-old son and I went to the preview lunch at the new T.MAC restaurant in Cary. I was impressed how the staff went out of their way to accommodate my son even though it was an adult function. One of the waittresses, Elisa brought Liam a kids menu with crayons. She sat down with him at the long booth that can comfortably sit a large family or the team, and played tic-tac-toe with him. Liam was served a kid's cup (plastic cup with lid and a straw) filled with strawberry lemonade. The restaurant uses the Coca-Cola Freestyle that offers 100 plus drink choices and they also have milk and chocolate milk for the kiddos. Their kid's menu is filled with kid favorites with a healthy twist- naturally raised 100% boneless chicken breast nuggets, natural, hormone-free grilled burgers, sliced apples and vegetable sides. All kid meals are $4.95 and include a beverage, a side, and an Oreo cookie.

Parents and beer enthusiasts will appreciate the 100 beers on tap, and 40 of the beers are brewed in NC plus 100 bottled varieties. If you prefer wine over beer, then you will enjoy the wine, cocktail offerings, and the Irish Mule varieties, served in a copper mug.

The menu offers a mix of appetizers, burgers, wings, salads, and Tex-Mex selections with an emphasis on fresh ingredients, natural and hormone-free meat. Choose between beef or turkey burgers and fried or roasted wings. The roasted wings have nearly half the calories of the fried wings and are equally delicious. Their sauces and dips are made in house. My favorites included the guacamole paired with tortilla chips and blue cheese dressing with the Buffalo wings. The wings were excellent, and this is coming from a girl that was born in Buffalo (born in Buffalo yet raised in the Carolinas). Liam devoured the Buffalo Hummus with pita bread, another great-tasting healthy appetizer.

Large flat screens canvas the restaurant. No matter where you are sitting you can enjoy watching the game. Liam loved the circular booth. At other restaurants, the circle booth appears to be fun, but it can be difficult to get in and out. T.MAC has literally put a new spin on this booth. It turns. It's like a life-sized Lazy Susan that your body fits into, and of course little man loved sitting here. If the T.V.'s, spinning booths, and coloring doesn't keep your kids occupied then send them to the small arcade room. Liam and I won a small Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal with the claw game. It was actually my first time winning at the claw game.

Whether you're looking to watch the game with guys, have a fun date-night or take the family out for dinner, you'll enjoy the food, drinks and atmosphere that T.MAC offers. T.MAC is open daily from 11:00 a.m. - Midnight.  Visit T.MAC Waverly to get directions or more information.

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Crystal Lewis 25 Album Review

Disclosure: I received the Crystal Lewis 25 CD complimentary from Family Christian in exchange for my honest review.

It's hard to imagine that Crystal Lewis started her singing career twenty-five years ago, but her newest album 25 commemorates that fact. She shares an early memory on the inside jacket of when she was in college. She remembers opening a box of records after her first solo album was released in 1987 and jumping and screaming with her roommate. Lewis has since recorded 20 albums and stills feels the anticipation each time. It's memories like these that help us relate and understand the person behind the rich soulful voice that brought us songs like Beauty For Ashes and People Get Ready...Jesus Is Coming.

I have been listening to this 2-disc Contemporary Christian album for the past week in the car. The songs are a mix of Lewis' signature upbeat pop music and classic hymns. In one instance, I was tapping the steering wheel and signing along, and then belting out Amazing Grace. The music is uplifting and easy listening, and most importantly the lyrics teach scripture.

I love how both me and my kids can enjoy listening to her music, and it also has been a teaching aid. We were listening to the song You Didn't Have To Do It, and my son asked me what did that mean. "What did Jesus not have to do," he asked. "He didn't have to die on the cross and save us from our sins, but He loves us so much that He did," I answered. I guess my answer was sufficient because he started singing along to song.

My favorite song is People Get Ready...Jesus is Coming is a catchy, upbeat song that will resonate in your heart and mind all day. You will catch yourself singing the song throughout the day, but it's OK because it will lift your mood and put a smile on your face.

You can purchase the Crystal Lewis 25 CD  or MP 3 HERE and you can register to WIN a $25 Gift Card to Family Christian below. The CD is $15.99 and the MP 3 is $9.99.
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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sanity Saving Tips in a House of Boys!

Don't get me wrong, I love my boys. I love their superhero parties, their boundless energy, their giggles and snuggles, but sometimes I want to do girl things. I live in a house of all boys- my husband, 2 sons and a dog- all boys. Since shopping and nails aren't priorities of the men in my house, I've created outlets to ensure my sanity and keep my femininity. Each month I will be sharing one of my sanity saving tips, and maybe you will find it helpful too.

I like to wear jewelry. Everyday, I put on my earrings, necklace, watch and occasionally a bracelet. I could be running out of the house to drop the kids off at school in yoga pants and a t-shirt, but I got my jewelry on, and it makes all the difference. It makes me feel polished and pretty even though I might look frazzled and frumpy. I like shopping for jewelry too and finding pieces that compliment a shirt for date night or a jeans & t-shirt kind of day. Shopping is difficult with boys. For some reason they rather run in circles around the store and bump into people. I discovered a way to shop for jewelry without the hassle of the mall, but with the convenience of nap time.

My friend Heidi, a busy mom of 4 (2 are boys), introduced me to Park Lane Jewelry, a direct sales jewelry company. Heidi shared with me her tips about saving her sanity while sharing her love for jewelry too.

How do you save your sanity and keep your femininity? 
Heidi: " I escape into books and movies. I also make sure that at least once or twice a month I connect with girlfriends. Ensuring my femininity sometimes is a struggle. I make sure to do something for myself. Sometimes it is give myself spa treatments at home- I love a good mud mask.  I also have certain items of clothing that I always feel pretty in. When I find myself in a rut of yoga pants and big t-shirts I make a point to find a reason to put my make up on and fix my hair. Even when I am in jeans and tee adding some simple sparkly jewelry always makes me feel pretty."

Why did you start selling Park Lane jewelry?
Heidi: "My initial reason for booking a Park Lane show was because I fell in love with a necklace that was out of my price range. I wanted to wear it for my wedding. When I booked the show the director Linda, said she thought I would be good at this. I politely declined. She asked me four times throughout the booking and ordering process.  When she was writing up my hostess order I decided I did want to do it. I have found that I am a better mom if I have something outside the house that is just mine.

How does your business help you save your sanity?
Heidi: "After the birth of Ellie, I had been suffering from really bad PPD and anxiety. Becoming a Park Lane director has brought me back to myself. I love the jewelry and of course love the paycheck, but the thing I am enjoying the most is connecting with other women. It is empowering to help other women feel beautiful just by sharing the product and opportunity that Park Lane has to offer.

What kind of advice would you give a mom who is struggling to save her sanity?
Heidi: "As a mom of both teenagers and a toddler the best advice I can give is to find someone, someplace that makes you feel like an individual. It is easy to pour so much of ourselves into our children that we forget the woman we were before we became Mom. Granted, Mom is one of the best titles I have held, but staying connected with the Heidi I was before I was Mom, makes me a better parent. It is not always possible to carve out a lot of time for yourself. Mothers groups are a great way to stay involved with your kids and stay connected with yourself. If you find that you are in a fashion rut (my go to is always my yoga pants and sweatshirts) put yourself together for no other reason than it makes you feel good.  One last piece of advice-do not compare yourself to other mothers. We all have our struggles, some just are not as visually apparent as others.

Share your sanity saving tips in the comments below, and you'll be entered to win this adorable Happy Feet charm necklace. Happy Feet is cute and sparkly, and he reminds of my love for running and jewelry. Be sure to check out Heidi's Park Lane site too!

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