A Chef of Your Own: A Personal Chef in Orlando, Florida #DisneyGlobalEvent


Last night was the official kick off to “Mommy Blogger Spring Break” and what a start it was!  We all arrived at staggered times throughout the day, some by car, some by plane…and we were treated to a delightful, home cooked meal by Chef Linda Page from A Chef of Your Own.  Chef Linda made us a delightful meal of lasagna, bread, caesar salad for dinner, and for dessert, a rum cake with fresh sliced strawberries and some Cannoli chips and dip.


The verdict? I am fairly certain that I gained a pound at dinner last night.  Chef Linda comes into your home (or vacation home, if you are travelling in the Orlando area) and cooks an entire meal for you and and your family and friends.  She is professional, skilled and very experienced.  Her pricing is also quite reasonable- and it’s so nice to have a home cooked meal prepared for you by someone else (or maybe that’s just me?!).

Chef Linda has been working as a chef in the Orlando area for about 16 years now.  She has customers that she cooks for monthly, (check her site for details and rates) and has worked with resorts/vacation homes for about 6 years now.  She knows what she’s doing, does a great job and is so friendly to chat with!  She mentioned to us that she’s often been asked to cook a meal for families or groups arriving for their stay to be ready as they arrive- what a wonderful way to start a vacation, having a home cooked meal prepared for your arrival!!  You can settle in, unpack, and enjoy some good food without going anywhere.

Chef Linda also made us some breakfast casseroles and left an enormous bowl of fresh fruit to get our mornings started before our crazy day of adventures started.  This was such a great thing, especially since most of us stayed far too late chatting and hanging out!

Heading to Orlando?  Live in Orlando?  Give Chef Linda a call!  She’s wonderful, and I think you’ll be very glad you did!  I also think, that it would make a wonderful gift for anyone to have a personal chef come and cook 20 meals for them to tuck into their freezer- if you or a loved one has a new baby, or has some medical issues going on, I’m sure they’d appreciate a visit from Chef Linda!  Definitely be sure to “like” A Chef of Your Own on Facebook– she shares many of her recipes with her fans and readers on there too!

 

Chef Linda came to cook for us as part of the #DisneyGlobalEvent that we were invited to.  All opinions are my own.

 

Simplisse Double Electric Breast Pump Review and Giveaway

All nursing moms know the importance of having a good, no GREAT, breast pump. I have personally tried several different types and brands of pumps with mixed results. I do know that if you are going to pump, you want a double electric breast pump. This is definitely the most efficient and convenient way to go. I had the opportunity to try out the Double Electric Breast Pump from Simplisse. It is loaded with a ton of great features and was specially designed by lactation consulants. Check out what they have to say:

“Designed by lactation consultants and moms to feel like breastfeeding.”

  • Features compression technology and super-soft flexible breastcups
  • Gentle Compression Technology gently elicits milk expression
  • Gentle compression is designed to help minimize tugging and pinching
  • Super-Soft BabyFace® Flexible Breastcups conform to mom’s breast and naturally move with mom while expressing
  • Inner and Outer Breastcups work together to mimic baby’s tongue and suckling motions, to encourage Let-Down

What’s in the bag?

  • Pump Motor
  • Air Tubing (2 sets)
  • Collection Units (2 sets)
  • 2 Extra Collection Bottles w/ Storage Caps
  • Insulated Cooler Bag
  • 2 Ice Gel Packs
  • Wet Bag for used parts
  • Instruction Booklet (English/Spanish/French)
  • Bonus: 10 Breastmilk Storage Bags
  • Bonus: 4 Disposable Breast Pads

My Experience: This product was packed with some really well thought out design features. It was really easy to use and put together, but most importantly, it was really effective. The Simplisse website has some great instructional videos that make this product even easier to use. I was able to comfortably and efficiently pump a large volume of milk in a short amount of time. It was really a pleasure to use. No tugging or pinching. I love that this package comes with 2 sets of tubing and collection units. This is one of those little conveniences that you don’t always think about when purchasing a pump. The ice gel packs were also really nice, especially for mom with newborns, who may be a little more sore. The wet bags were great for transporting used parts back and forth conveniently. The pump and accessories come in a really cute and discreet purse like tote bag. I love this bag! Nobody know that I am carrying a breastpump and it is really stylish and sleek. I would definitely recommend the Simplisse double electric breastpump to any nursing mom. You will be really pleased with the effectiveness of the pump along with all the little extras and the great tote bag.
One of our very lucky readers with win their own Double Electric Breast Pump from Simplisse!!!!! [click to continue…]

American Girl has some great new books out!

Remember the choose your own adventure books when you were a kid?  I do- I thought they were great fun- and made re-reading books that much more fun!  The folks at American Girl have some out with some new books- the Innerstar University Books– in which the girls themselves become the main character of the book as they choose paths throughout the book that can lead to 20 different endings.  Each of these books focuses on key values- 9 of them in total- encouraging girls to be confident, smart and teaching them about friendship, kindness, bravery and more.

In “The New Girl,”  each reader can imagine herself as the main character of this interactive story set in the world of Innerstar University™! She thinks Zoé, the new girl, is brave for coming all the way from her home in France. She wants to get to know Zoé, but she also feels a bit jealous about all the attention the new arrival is getting. When a couple of girls start to tease Zoé, she feels torn—can she find the courage to speak up for what she knows is right? With more than 20 different endings, girls will enjoy this book again and again to see how different decisions change the story. Plus, each book comes with a secret access code to unlock additional endings online! 120 pages. Paperback. Author: Laurie Calkhoven. Ages 8+

The Hidden Gold: A Marie-Grace Mystery holds just enough mystery to keep her interest piqued, but not so much that she’ll be scared.  This series is a cute way to introduce mysteries to your little girl!

Marie-Grace can’t wait to begin her journey up the Mississippi River with her father. The steamboat they’re traveling on is the biggest and fanciest boat Marie-Grace has ever seen. It’s crowded with all sorts of interesting passengers, including Wilhelmina Newman, a girl Marie-Grace’s age. Wilhelmina is traveling alone, and she’s carrying a secret in one of her trunks—clues to hidden Gold Rush treasure. Wilhelmina and Marie-Grace have to unravel the clues to find the gold—and they’re not the only ones looking for it! An illustrated “Looking Back” essay provides facts about the 1850s. 150 pages.Paperback. Author: Sarah Masters Buckey. Ages 9+

There’s also A Smart Girl’s Guide to Liking Herself which I wish had been around when I was a young girl.  My oldest is a bit young for this content but I have it tucked away for a few years from now.  Self esteem is a tough one for me and I want to help my daughters and my son to develop a strong and positive self esteem!

Has a bad day got her down? In this advice-packed book, girls will learn how high self-esteem can turn a good day into a great day, while low self-esteem can make a bad day even worse. She’ll learn tips for trusting herself, ideas for boosting her self-esteem (or for keeping it up), and how to feel her best in all kinds of situations. She is perfect just as she is, and this book will help her believe that to be true! 96 pages. Paperback. Author: Dr. Laurie Zelinger. Ages 10+

 

You can find these books on the American Girl website and in many major bookstores online and in “brick and mortar” stores.  I love the positive messages these books are sending.

 

I received samples of these books to thank me for taking the time to share this information.  Opinions are my own.

Girl Frenzy Designs Bloom Lime Monogram Platters

Monograms make me happy. Pretty platters make me happy.  Monogrammed platters that have a pretty pattern make me very, very happy.  Look at this adorable Bloom Lime Platter Girl Frenzy Designs sent me a few weeks ago!  It came right when we had a bout of super warm weather and grilled out for several days in a row, so I got to take full advantage of the cuteness and convenience right away.

Our actual platter. I love it. Bright and cheery and so many uses!

I have had several items from Girl Frenzy Designs to date- some adorable note cards, notepads, and an address stamp.  All items are personalized, to the customer’s preference- and Sunny, the owner, really has a great array of fonts, colors, designs and styles available for all items in her shop.  The turnaround time is very quick and her customer service is stellar.  The platters (or any of her items!) would make a really great hostess gift, shower gift, teacher gift, or just because…and even a “just for me” gift!!

Personalized Melamine Platters can be customized with our designer patterns and any of our eye catching bold colors personalized with your monogram or initial.Personalized Melamine Dinnerware Platters measure 11 x 14 and are the perfect for entertaining in style and make a great personalized hostess gift.

Add homemade cookies on top of a personalized platter for a perfect hostess gift with an added special touch to say thank you! Stylish and yummy enough for any diva hostess!

**Please indicate the monogram just was you want it printed. For example, MHC for Mary Claire Hughes. For a couple, the men’s initial traditionally comes first for example, JSM for Jason and Meredith Smith.

One reader will win a $50 Gift Certificate to Girl Frenzy Designs!!

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HOP on Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack (mini-movie inside)

The kids had Good Friday off, and since it was a no school day, kind of cold and dreary outside, we decided to invite some friends over to have a HOP viewing party- complete with drumstick pencils, E.B. plush pals, activity sheets, stickers, plus some bunny fruit snacks, bunny popcorn and bunny salad.  It wouldn’t be a hoppin’ good time if we didn’t include snacks, right?

The kids had tons of fun, there was lots of “air drumming” by the kids, dancing by my littlest, and everyone had an egg-cellent time! A few friends weren’t feeling well and weren’t able to make it but with my 3 kids and Jenni’s, we had enough kids to make it feel like a party and something egg-stra special.

From the makers of Despicable Me comes an all-new comedy about candy, chicks and rock n roll! He was destined to be the Easter Bunny, but all he wanted to do was rock! When teenage E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand) leaves for Hollywood in pursuit of his dream to become a rockstar drummer, he meets Fred (James Marsden), an out-of-work slacker with his own lofty goals. Together the two encounter a series of hilarious mishaps and misadventures and in the end help each other recognize the importance of family. Now available on Blu-ray & DVD!

The kids like this movie because its fun, is hip-hoppin’ and there are many silly parts to make them laugh and laugh.  Any kid who’s musically inclined is going to relate to E.B. wanting to be a drummer- although most of the kids will just be in awe of Easter Island.  The adults will enjoy this movie right along with the kids- it’s a nice storyline, but there are many “adult” jokes that will make us laugh along with the kids- just for a different reason.

This is definitely a great and instant holiday favorite in my house!

I received items for the viewing party in addition to the Combo Pack.  Opinions are my own. 

 

Britax Strollers for 2012

I have loved the Britax brand since my youngest was in utero and I began the search for the safest car seat we could find. We have had I think 7 Britax seats total at various times- some we don’t use any more, most we do. Up until March 13th of this year, I hadn’t ever seen a Britax stroller in person.

Then Britax invited me to come have brunch in New York City with them and preview their new strollers coming in May. I’m in love.

Britax has taken their known emphasis on safety and quality materials and put all of that into their strollers. From the B Ready to the B Agile double, they have some amazing strollers that offer safety, function with a whole lot of style…and diversity.  Really nice, comfortable fabrics, well stitched, easy on/off accessories, 5 pt harnesses, all of these components combine to make for very strong, very durable strollers.

Britax B Ready with Second Seat attached

The B Ready offers the infamous “travel system” that so many parents look for, but with 14 different ways to configure the seats.  There’s the seat you can get for the back, to make your B Ready a double, and still have it keep  it’s narrow footprint.  The seat rides nice and high so your little one doesn’t spend their time in the stroller staring at handbags and rear ends, and can enjoy the sights and sounds surrounding- including, of course, YOU, if you have them facing you.

The B Ready comes in several great colors meant to match the infant carseats and has several accessories available to make this the “ultimate” stroller experience for your family.  I will have a review and giveaway coming of this stroller with the second seat likely in May so I’ll be sure to let you know! We have many family adventures planned this summer and will be testing this stroller out many times.

Check out how small the B-Agile folds down!

65 pounds of cute in a Britax B-Agile Double Stroller

 

The 2012 B Agile double is coming soon (May of 2012) and oh my gosh.  I had my 29 lb 2.5 year old and my friend’s 25 month old in this stroller (I think he’s about 26 lbs) and it was NOTHING to turn the stroller.  If you’ve pushed kids in strollers, you know how important this is.  There’s even a stroller board that you can attach (it takes a few moments, but I watched the Britax designer attach it to the stroller in front of me, and while it does take several minutes to get the stroller set to go with the stroller board, once you do that, its easy on and off.  This is big news for folks like me who have 3 kids, who don’t often want nor need a stroller but sometimes do get tired.

What do you love about your stroller?  What is your favorite brand?

 

I was invited to come to have brunch and check out the new strollers from Britax.  No compensation or product was received in exchange for this post.  Opinions are my own.  

Kohl’s Cares® for Kids with Eric Carle #Giveaway

Aside from the marvelous sales oh-so-very-frequently, one of my favorite things about Kohls is their Kohl’s Cares® for Kids program.  It isn’t just about getting excellent children’s literature at super low pricing ($5 for a hardcover picture book!!) or the super cute plush that go along with them, although that is awesome in and of itself.  The program sells kid-friendly merchandise, 100% of the net profits of which are donated to support kids’ education and health initiatives all across the US.  To date, over $180 million has been donated.  That’s a lot of money they’ve donated since the program began in 2000 and I applaud companies to have programs like this in place.

Right now, Kohl’s Cares® is partnered with Eric Carle, one of my all time favorite authors for children’s books!  As with all of the books and merchandise sold for Kohl’s Cares, each item is just $5.  Some of our family favorites are available, including Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, The Very Busy Spider, 10 Little Rubber Ducks, and a new-to-my-family story, Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too? which is just so sweet and I was very glad to add it to our collection.  The lamb plush that goes along with The Very Busy Spider is soft, snuggly, and beautifully done to echo Bill Martin’s rendition of a lamb from the story.  The note cards are my favorite item in this line- truth be told, I’ve purchased 3 other sets and tucked them away.  It’s the Very Hungry Caterpillar’s fault, not mine.  I can’t resist.

 

There’s also a “crazy about cookies” cookbook which will delight your tastebuds and make for a very sweet family afternoon if you want to bake some cookies with your little one and then snuggle up on the couch to read a story or two while they bake.

One of my readers will win a Kohl’s Cares prize pack including each of the books pictured here, the notecards, and one of the plush animals from this line (based on availability).

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H&R Block’s “Block Live” for Taxes makes filing a breeze #Giveaway 5 winners

I filed our taxes today. In my pajamas, in my bedroom, using my laptop, my webcam, my NeatDesk and my iPhone…and I did it all with Elaine Smith, an H&R Block Tax Professional who walked me through every step of our taxes, answered my questions, explained things to me, and had us filed in just over an hour.  (I think it would have been less time but my 4 year old was not in the mood to take a nap and I kept having to go remind him it was time to sleep).  Our taxes were filed courtesy of Elaine and H&R Block Live.

Ms. Smith was very professional, very knowledgeable and very personable.  I was super nervous about the whole idea of video conferencing, especially about such personal, sensitive information, and I was immediately impressed with her professionalism.  After a friendly greeting we got right to work.  I had to be sure that I had our documents and necessary information uploaded into a file ahead of time, which I did get done, thanks to my beloved NeatDesk (Seriously. I love that machine.  Makes organization so much easier for me!) and a few last minute snapshots of 2 other documents with the H&R Block Live app on my iPhone!

The Block Live app is available on iTunes and the Android Marketplace, for those of you interested.  I’m still new to having an iPhone so I was very impressed that I could snap an image of a document and have Elaine see it perfectly clearly just seconds later!

The Block Live option for tax filing is worth the fee, in my opinion.  You can have the assistance of a tax professional with over 80 hours (minimum) of training live, as you go along, and do it from the comfort of your own home.  Since I’m a stay home mom, it isn’t always easy for me to find times to get appointments for things with my kids being so young- my friends who can babysit also have children who nap so that kind of eliminates half of the times I could do appointments.  Being able to do this from my own home saved my sanity- and some money- no babysitting rates to pay! This is a win-win for me to file my taxes this way.  We’ve always mailed in our taxes the old fashioned way, and it was refreshing when she said “ok! your taxes are filed!” and I knew that was it- they were done.  No standing in line for the return receipt, no postage- they are en route to the IRS as we speak.

One thing I have to note- I asked Ms. Smith if she’s finding that more and more folks are bringing their taxes to her with income from blogs.  She said that she has indeed noticed an increase and has done several bloggers’ taxes– which really made me feel great because this was really the first time I had anything to “claim” as a blogger on my taxes.  I wasn’t sure how all of that would play in to our taxes and had a lot of questions to ask.  Ms. Smith was even a guest on “Blog Talk Radio” giving tax advice to bloggers recently!!  She was ready and very prepared for all of my questions!

Now we just sit back and wait for that refund to come in the mail….

I have 5 codes to give away to  save 5 of my readers $50 off of  the H&R Block at Home service (This covers the cost of a federal return with our Basic, Deluxe and Premium editions.) This giveaway will end at midnight on Monday, April 9 (EST) and winners have just 24 hours to respond so I can get your codes to you! GOOD LUCK!

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Kendall Gelthotics Review & #Giveaway

Now that I frequently go running (well, perky walking- but it doesn’t sound as cool, you know?) I have come to appreciate having comfortable feet and that means a good pair of shoes meant for running AND most of the time, wearing a pair of Kendall Gelthotics. The shoes are great in and of themselves but with my inserts?  They are happy feet.  I’ve tried arch inserts before, but never anything I wore for more than three minutes.  They always felt – well, noticeable, and like they weren’t in place.

With the Kendall inserts, I have confidence that the inserts won’t slip.  They stay in place no matter how wobbly my ankles are.   I don’t “feel” them nonstop.  I feel them in that I have arch support and more comfort, less pain, but in a good way.  Other similar products have left me mad at myself for wasting money.  I’ve actually been using the Kendall gelthotics for a few months now.  I was concerned that my feet being wide might mean I couldn’t use these inserts, but the brand says that they stay in place and they DO.  It did take me a few tries to get the inserts in “just” the right position, but I think part of that was me not having had experience with a product like this.

Kendall Gelthotic inserts were designed to help those suffering with foot pain.  They have been creating these arch  supports that help position your foot properly and relieve heel pain, top of foot pain and plantar fasciitis without changing how your shoe fits for over 20 years now! or  without changing the fit of the shoe

I love the way these inserts kind of cradle my heels. It wasn’t until I got about halfway through the Couch2 5k program this fall that I realized I was having heel pain- that was a first (probably because I’d never ever run that much previously in my life?!) and oh, man was it ever unpleasant.

If you are looking for a way to enhance your shoes, for running or heels or any shoe in between, I’d definitely give some thought to getting a pair of the Gelthotic inserts.  They’ve made my feet feel so much better and as a result, I’m more comfortable when I’m walking around.

One reader will win a pair of Kendall Gelthotics (ARV $59.99) !

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Little Tikes’ Pillow Racer Dino Ride On Toy Review and #Giveaway

Why not surprise your little one this Easter with a Pillow Racer from Little Tikes?  I had the opportunity to review the Dino Pillow Racer with Savannah, and this has become an instant favorite toy of hers.  Just look at Savannah playing with her Pillow Racer:

This soft-stuffed ride on toy is also a pillow – all in one!  How great is that?  For parents that don’t like to spend hours trying to figure out how to put together toys, no need to worry here, as I was able to put this toy together in under 10 minutes.  And, when you covert the pillow racer to the pillow, I didn’t have any issues.  Savannah loves sitting on as she watches television, in addition to scooting around the house with it.  This pillow racer is low enough to the ground that I don’t have to worry about Savannah injuring herself if she slips off.

 

At first, it took Savannah a few attempts to get on this pillow racer, as it slides around on its coasters as you try to get on and get off the pillow pal.  I held it in place the first few times, but Savannah, like most toddlers, wanted to be independent and through a few slips on and off, she finally grasped how to get on and off safely.   And, with an easy grip handle, she is able to hold on and maintain her balance as she uses this 2-in-1 toy as a ride on.

 

Even though this toy is for children ages 18 months to 3 years old, Savannah is 20 ½ months old, and had difficulty in the beginning to understand that she need to push herself around the room.  She wanted me to push her around, but because this toy is low to the ground, she couldn’t lift her feet up and put on a rest.  When she did try to put her feet up, she slipped off the back end.  But, in the end, this is a great ride on toy that Savannah and her friends can’t get enough of.  When her friends come over, they make a b-line to this ride on, and take turns playing with it.  I know that if I had a few of these in the house, the kids will go crazy chasing each other with them.  In addition to the Dino Pal, Little Tikes is also offering a turtle and ladybug – so, both boys and girls can enjoy this fun ride on toy.  Don’t worry if your little one gets the Pillow Racer dirty, as you can hand wash it.  I learned this firsthand the other day, after Savannah got her freeze pop all over it.  With a wet rag and dish detergent, her Dino Pillow Racer was good as new.

 

Children will have fun for years to come with this fun ride on toy from Little Tikes, as it holds children up to 50 lbs.  With Savannah only being 20 lbs. now, I know she will be enjoying this toy for the next few years, with her little sister.  So, if you are looking for a fun ride on toy to give to your little one this holiday or for an upcoming birthday, why not consider buying a Pillow Racer from Little Tikes today.  At only $39.99, this 2-in-1 toy will provide hours of entertainment, and will not be played with once and forgotten about.  Since giving to Savannah to play with, this is one of the first toys she plays with in the AM when she gets, and one of the last before she goes to bed.  I have always been a Little Tikes fan, and am happy to say that they have done it again with this great toy – that will become quickly become a hit with little ones.

 

–BUY NOW—


Click here to order a Pillow Racer (Ladybug, Dino or Turtle) directly from the Little Tikes website, for only $39.99, with FREE shipping.  Act now, as these ride on toys are selling out fast!

–WIN IT—


Want to win a Dino Pillow Racer for yourself?  Thanks to the folks at Little Tikes, they are offering one lucky Mama Loves Her Bargains readers a chance to win a Pillow Racer for their little one.  To enter, please complete the entries on the Rafflecopter form below.  Good luck!

 

Disclosure:  I was sent a sample from Little Tikes in order to write up an honest review.  The views above are mine and mine alone.