Monday, July 29, 2013

Recipe- Lentil and Barley Soup

The Happy Wife: Lentil and Barley Soup

Lentil and Barley Soup

Although it is not even August yet, I was in the mood to create a soup today.  I checked my freezer and pantry and decided to throw this together.  The result was healthy and delicious.  All five of my kids enjoyed it, which was great since it contains a bunch of vegetables.  I did add some chopped chicken that I had in the freezer, but it could easily be made vegetarian by leaving the chicken out and subbing vegetable broth for the chicken broth.  I loved the convenience of making this since I had the onions and peppers already prepped and frozen. Enjoy!

- 1 cup onion, chopped (about 1 medium)
- 1/2 cup chopped green pepper 
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 8 cups of chicken broth (I used homemade stock I had frozen, but you could easily use bouillon cubes or canned broth)
-  3 medium carrots, sliced (you can halve or quarter larger slices)
-  1/2 cup dried lentils (I used red, but any lentils should work)
- 1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
- 3/4 tsp Kosher salt 
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup medium barley
- 1 cup chopped mushrooms (about 2 medium mushrooms)
- 28 oz. diced tomatoes, undrained (can also use crushed tomatoes) 
- 1 cup cooked chicken, chopped (optional) (you could really add any cooked meat and it would go well with this soup)

1) In a soup pot, add the onions, green pepper, garlic, and butter.  Over medium-high heat, saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
2) Add in broth, carrots, lentils, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and barley; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cover.  Simmer for 35 minutes.
3) Add meat (if using) and mushrooms; return to a boil.  Reduce heat and cover.   Simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until carrots are tender.
4) Add the tomatoes and heat through, about 1 minute.

Makes about 8 servings 


Friday, July 26, 2013

Motor Oil Matters and a $50 giveaway

Motor Oil Matters- The Happy Wife

I was never taught about the importance of preventative maintenance when I was younger.  When my husband and I got married, I found oil changes to be a waste of money that we did not have.  It was not until my husband explained that by taking care of the vehicle BEFORE problems arose, it would cause fewer problems TO arise.  In fact, AAA expects between the major summer holidays of Memorial Day and Labor Day to aid over eight million motorists, and cautions drivers that auto maintenance is key to avoiding summertime travel breakdowns. Ensuring quality motor oil in your car is one way to prevent road trip problems. My next plan to save money on the now necessary oil changes was to have my husband do them himself, because DIY is always less expensive right?  Well, when you factor in the costs and time it takes to buy everything and do the oil change, I discovered you can usually find a reputable place to do your oil change, that will give you a similar, if not better value.  

So now I understand the importance of having my oil changed and why it is usually not cost-effective to do it myself, what else do I need to know?  Motor Oil Matters, or MOM, a new consumer education and industry watchdog program by the American Petroleum Institute, has been established to stress the benefits of quality licensed motor oils and call on to the carpet those who engage in deceptive practices. It is important to note that service-locators can be quick to offer discounted services to people who are looking to reduce their automotive maintenance costs.  Make sure your service provider is pouring quality motor oil into your car before you decide on a cheaper deal.  MOM has also put together a great checklist that you can take with you when deciding on a service provider. 

In addition to being a great resource for your vehicle maintenance, MOM is also giving one of my readers a $50 gift card to use on your next oil change.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer- The Motor Oil Matters information and gift cards have been provided by Motor Oil Matters.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Website Review: Games for Language (currently an Educents deal)

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  This simply means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you.  I also received free access to this program in exchange for my review through Educents.

Games for Language

Games for Language is a website to help adults learn a new language.  The languages that are offered are Italian, Spanish, French, and German.  I am fairly fluent in Spanish, but love to brush up on it when I can and I want my children to also learn Spanish, so I chose to try out the Spanish language program.  My almost 11 year old daughter and I sat down to check it out and I have to say, I am pretty impressed.  She was having a blast playing the games and was really learning at the same time.  We played for about an hour, and she was bummed when I told her we had to log off to do other things.  Over that hour, she increased her vocabulary and improved her pronunciation.  The games use real conversations to teach the language in the ways it is used in everyday life.  It uses listening, speaking, reading, and writing to improve the learner's proficiency.  There are grammar lessons built in as well, but they are spread out so that you are gradually introduced to the grammar rules.  You can also ask questions through their Google + and facebook pages.  Each game also allows you to earn points, and the more points you earn, you can earn free months access.

Starting today, you can find a special deal on Educents to purchase access to the website at a great discount.  If you want to see the games for yourself, you can visit the Games for Language website and play their free demos, in each of the 4 languages.

I recommend Games for Language to anyone who is interested in learning a new language, or brushing up on a language they already know.  Although the website is geared to adults, children will also benefit from the games as well.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Product Reviewand Giveaway: Suddenly Salad

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark. I have received an identical package at no cost.
Suddenly Salad

About Suddenly Salad

Looking to take your BBQ from ordinary to extraordinary? Make Suddenly Salad® mixes your BBQ specialty!

By using quick and easy stir-ins, Suddenly Salad can be whatever you make it: a simple side dish, star of the backyard BBQ or a crowd-pleasing main course.
With seven delicious flavors, there’s a Suddenly Salad for everyone and for any occasion. Simply follow the instructions on the box, or visit Suddenly Salad for delicious recipe.
Available in these varieties: Ranch and Bacon, Classic, Ceasar, Creamy Italian, Creamy Parmesan, Chipotle Ranch, Basil Pesto, and Tuscan Style Tomato.

My thoughts on Suddenly Salad

I am not one to use packaged products without doctoring them up at least a little.  Having said that, in a pinch, I have used Suddenly Salad without adding anything to it.  I had time and ingredients on hand though to use the boxes I received in recipes.  With the Classic Suddenly Salad, we tried the Red, White and Blueberry Pasta Salad from the Suddenly Salad website.  I was unsure how I would feel about blueberries with pasta and feta, but it was pretty yummy and something I would make again.  With the Ranch and Bacon variety, we chose to add some roasted chicken, halved grape tomatoes, a little chopped cucumber and some additional, freshly cooked bacon.  The real bacon really helped elevate the salad and the other ingredients added to the flavor to make it taste more like a from scratch recipe.

The Giveaway

 I have a Suddenly Salad gift set to share with one of my readers.  The prize is shown below and consists of: 2 boxes of Suddenly Salad (1 Classic, 1 Ranch and Bacon) and a cooler with blanket, perfect for a picnic in the park. Enter via the rafflecopter.
Suddenly Salad Giveaway

Product Review and Giveaway: Hershey's Cookies N' Creme Cereal

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark. I have received an identical prize pack at no cost.

Hershey's Cookies N' Creme Cereal

About Hershey's Cookies N' Creme Cereal

Now you can enjoy the delicious taste of Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme in a breakfast cereal from Big G.
With an irresistible taste the whole family will love from a brand you trust, new Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme cereal is made from 100% whole grains with at least 14g of whole grain per serving (at least 48g recommended daily). Best of all, Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme cereal has only 9 grams of sugar per serving and is a good source of Calcium, Vitamin D, and 10 other essential vitamins and minerals. 

My thoughts on Hershey's Cookies N' Creme Cereal

One thing I have been missing since giving up high fructose corn syrup, is chocolate sandwich cookies and cookies and cream flavored treats.  They are one of my favorites, but most of them are made with high fructose corn syrup and therefore when they are used as an ingredient, that "flavor" of other foods is often out as well.  I was very happy to see that this cereal does not contain high fructose corn syrup and appeased my craving for cookies and cream.  I am one of those moms that rarely buys kid-friendly cereals and when I do, we usually eat them as a dessert, rather than a breakfast, and that is how we ate this cereal as well.  We all enjoyed it.  It is sweet, but not cloying and when eaten without milk, still has a slight milk flavor. The discs also stay fairly crisp when in milk, or at least did not get gross and soggy within a short period of time.  

The Giveaway

I have a set just like the one pictured below to give away to one of my readers.  It contains a box of Hershey's Cookies N' Creme cereal, 2 Cereal-To-Go containers (bowl, ice pack/lid which keeps milk separate from cereal/foldable spoon) and a cereal dispenser.  Enter on the rafflecopter form below the picture.

Hershey's Cookies n' Creme Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Review: It Happened At The Fair

Disclaimer- This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click on one of the links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission from that website, at no additional cost to you. Also, I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

It Happened at The Fair

About It Happened at the Fair

A transporting historical novel about a promising young inventor, his struggle with loss, and the attractive teacher who changes his life, all set against the razzle-dazzle of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
Gambling everything, including the family farm, Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the Fair's Machinery Palace makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.
The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris Wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?

My thoughts about It Happened at the Fair

My father was born deaf, but the level of his hearing loss has increased as time has gone on.  As a result, I did not need to use sign language with him as I was growing up and we have always been able to communicate with him reading my lips.  However, I have noticed that when he meets new people, he has trouble with lip reading and really needs them to sign, or have someone translate.  I do know how to sign, but it has always been easier for he and I to communicate with lip reading.  Anyway, those experiences and just growing up with a deaf father in general, made me very interested in reading this book.  I found it incredibly interesting to see how the deaf were treated in that age. 

I also have always been fascinated with the World Fairs, so that was the second thing that drew me to this story.  The author did a fabulous job of describing the Fair, that I felt as though I was actually there.  The amount of research she did was evident in her descriptions of the exhibits and architecture.  Having said that, I do feel there was a bit too much invested in the description and not enough on the storyline of the book.  Then, all of a sudden, at the end of the book, the relationship between Della and Cullen explodes and moves rather quickly.  It is important to note that some of the descriptions of the physical relationship go a little far, not too far, but a little farther than some may be comfortable with.

I recommend this book to those who have a deep interest in the World Fairs, particularly in Chicago, and those who enjoy deaf history.  Those who enjoy romance novels will still enjoy this book, but may be disappointed in the more descriptive parts of the book.

About Deeanne Gist

Deeanne Gist---known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee---has rocketed up bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very fun, very original historicals. She has received numerous RITA nominations, two consecutive Christy Awards, and rave reviews. Deeanne has a background in education and journalism and a degree from Texas A&M. She has written for People, Parents, and Parenting. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and has four grown children. She has a very active online community on her website at and at 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review: An Unholy Communion

Disclaimer- This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click on one of the links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission from that website, at no additional cost to you. Also, I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
An Unholy Communion

About An Unholy Communion

The newest offering in The Monastery Murders series, An Unholy Communion  (Lion Fiction).

Following the ancient tradition, ordinands from the College of the Transfiguration gather at first light on Ascension morning to sing their praises from the top of the college's tallest tower. Not one to miss any liturgy, Felicity finds herself swept up in worship as she listens to the timeless words. But her delight quickly turns to horror when a black-robed body hurtles over the precipice and lands at her feet. Her investigative instincts immediately kick in when she sees a double-headed snake emblem clutched in the lifeless hand. Was this suicide? Or murder?

My thoughts on An Unholy Communion

The author has a great way of making the reader feel as though they are in the book.  The descriptive scenery, really let the reader see where they were.  I also enjoyed the rich history that the author included in the book.  It was well researched and informative.  The mystery in the book was also intriguing and I kept reading to find out what happened, but the book moves really slooooooooow.  This is definitely not a fast read, but would be good for when you have just a few minutes to read.  You can read and absorb just small pieces at a time and not have that high level of adrenalin you get with some mystery books.

I recommend this to those who enjoy mystery books, but may not have the time to read one in one sitting.  

About Donna Fletcher Crow

Donna Fletcher Crow is author of more than thirty-five novels. She has twice won first place in the Historical Fiction category from the National Association of Press Women, and has also been a finalist for "Best Inspirational Novel" from the Romance Writers of America. She is a member of The Arts Centre Group, and Sisters in Crime.

Find out more about Donna Fletcher at

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Product Review: Nuby iMonster No-Spill Cup


About the Nuby iMonster No-Spill Cup

This iMonster™ No-Spill™ Cup has a unique one piece, No-Spill™ soft silicone spout that is easy to use and easy to clean. The spout promotes the natural drinking action and healthy oral development. The newly designed valve opens with minimum pressure and doesn't require constant sucking that can damage new teeth and soft palates. It also features an Easy Grip™ base that is perfect for your child’s transition to self feeding.

My thoughts on the Nuby iMonster No-Spill Cup

 This cup matches perfectly with the Nuby iMonster Snack Keeper that I reviewed several weeks ago.  This would make for a cute gift set for most little ones, but my Sam, he refuses to drink out of a sippy cup, so I was not sure how this would work for us.  We did not discover this until a few weeks ago, as he had been nursing for almost all of his fluids.  As we were weaning him, I tried a few different things to get fluids in him, and eventually realized that the only way he will drink is from a regular cup (with assistance of course) and through a straw.  He also likes sippy cups that he doesn't have to work to get the fluid out, so most no-spill sippy cups do not work for us.  The iMonster No-Spill Cup is different though because he can easily get the fluid out, as it only takes a little bit of pressure to get the no-spill valve to open.  Speaking of the valve, I appreciate that the valve does not come apart from the lid.  With my other kids, I had a collection of lids and valves that were always separate from each other.  The colors are bright and fun and have not faded through several washings.  It fits perfectly in his little hands making it easy for him to self-feed.

I recommend this for any child who enjoys monsters and is ready for a sippy cup, even if they seem to dislike most sippy cups.

Disclaimer- I received the above product in exchange for my honest review.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Giveaway: Blue Juppy Baby Walker Momentum

Win a Blue Juppy Baby Walker Momentum

Back in March, I shared a post about the Juppy Baby Walker Momentum.  It is a great tool to help you teach your baby how to walk.  I really like how it is much easier on my back as I have been working on teaching Sam how to walk.  I also like that it is safer than letting him roam around the house in the old style baby walkers.

When I shared my review, I was also given the opportunity to give away a Juppy Baby Walker Momentum.  Recently, I was contacted again by the great folks over at Juppy and was offered the opportunity to give away another Juppy Walker, this time the blue and white one.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 8, 2013

A yummy dinner (link) and a delicious breakfast recipe made with Lactaid

This is part of a sponsored campaign I am participating in.  I have received free product and will receive payment for my participation.

Back in May, I posted about lactose-interolance and shared some information about Lactaid.   As you may know,
Melissa d'Arabian, official Lactaid spokesperson, was recently on The Today Show and shared a great recipe for Chicken in a Creamy Mushroom Sauce.  I also want to share a recipe I created using Chocolate Milk Lactaid, for Banana Split French Toast (pictures to come soon).  Of course, if you do not need to cook lactose-free, you could easily sub in traditional milk in either recipe.

Banana Split French Toast

- 6 thick slices of bread
- 2 eggs, or equivalent of egg substitute
- 2/3 cup Chocolate Milk Lactaid
- oil for greasing pan
- Mini Chocolate Chips (if you can tolerate), sliced strawberries, powdered sugar and sliced bananas for topping

1) Whisk together the Chocolate Milk Lactaid and the eggs.
2) Lightly grease a skillet or griddle and heat over medium-high. To avoid sticking, make sure your pan is really hot before placing the bread on it.
3) Dunk each slice of bread into Lactaid/egg mixture, letting mixture soak into both sides of the bread.
4) Place each slice in pan and cook on both sides, until they are both golden.
5) Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips (put these on right away so they melt and get gooey), sliced strawberries and bananas, and then dust with powdered sugar.  You can also add a dollop of vanilla yogurt or non-dairy whipped cream and a cherry to round out the "banana split."  

For more Lactaid recipes and inspiration, check out the recipe section on the Lactaid website.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Product Review: Nuby Tickle Toes Frog

About Nuby Tickle Toes Frog

Hilariously funny, the Nûby™ Tickle Toes™ are soft, adorable and make the perfect playmate for your child. A gentle squeeze of the foot makes the character giggle and chuckle and is guaranteed to have you and your child do the same. Choose from the wide range of popular children’s characters or better still, collect them all!

My thoughts on Nuby Tickle Toes Frog

You know when you hear a child laugh a laugh that is just so cute, it cracks you up?  That is exactly what sound the Tickle Toes animals make. My 5 year son received the Tickle Toes Alligator as a gift a few years ago and I loved it then, so when I had the opportunity to choose one for Sam, I was excited he could have one of his own.  Sam enjoys cuddling the frog and just loves it when it laughs.  The picture above was taken as my daughter was trying to teach him how to climb the stairs, using the Tickle Toes Frog as his motivation.

I recommend this for all young children.  Having said that, if you have a child that likes to push your buttons by repeatedly making their toys make noise, you may want to hold off.  My kids did not do that with this, but I had a child visiting that did squeeze it repeatedly and after about 10 minutes of hearing it, I had to put it up.  It is fun the first few times, but can wear on you after a bit.  On the plus side, the noise maker held up great to the repeated squeezing and still works wonderfully.

Disclaimer- I received the above product from Nuby in exchange for my honest review.

Product Review: Nuby Step Up Stool

Nuby Step Up Stool Review


About the Nuby Step Up Stool

This Nûby™ Step-up Stool has a No-Slip Top and No Skid Base that adds to the sturdy and convenient design. It holds up to 800 pounds and is perfect for getting to those hard to reach places. Textured surface provide the necessary grip for safe usage, and it is small enough to store discreetly.

My thoughts on the Nuby Step Up Stool

With 5 kids, I have been through my share of stools.  I wish I had found this one earlier on though, as I believe it might just have lasted through all of them.  It is super light weight, yet very sturdy.  I love that it can hold up to 800 pounds, too.  We generally keep it in our bathroom for our 5 year old to use for brushing his teeth and for when our 1 year old starts using the potty, but we have also brought it into the kitchen and over to the linen closet, when we needed to reach things on a higher shelf.  I also think my mother-in-law will be thrilled to use it when she visits us next.  She is 7 inches shorter than I am and often has trouble reaching things in my kitchen that I take for granted.  Up until now, she just asked someone else to get it, but often commented how she needed a step stool.  I also really like the large non-slip area (the green part on the top) on the top and along each of the four feet.  The quality of this stool far outweighs all the others I have had in the past.

I recommend to this both parents of little ones and to anyone who ever needs just a little boost.  Since it holds up to 800 pounds, this would work for just about anybody.

Disclaimer- I received the above product for free in exchange for my honest review.

Product Review: Snails Nail Polish

Disclaimer- This post may contain affiliate links.  This simply means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you.  Also, I received samples of the nail polish in exchange for my honest review.

safe nail polish

About Snails Nail Polish

SNAILS (Safe Nails!), is a French-made chemical-free kids nail polish. It all started when a mother of two scoured the market for safe non-toxic nail polish to color up the imaginative play of her little ones. She quickly found that such a product just didn't exist — so SNAILS was born. 
Some of the highlights of Snails are:
Revolutionary three-ingredient formula — containing just water, acrylic polymer and non-toxic colorants, SNAILS is safe in its simplicity.
Totally water soluble — SNAILS washes off easily with simple soap and water, making harsh solvent-based remover a thing of the past.
Environmentally friendly — from biodegradable packaging and lead-free bottles, to a strict no animal testing policy. 
Hypoallergenic — SNAILS is purely chemical, Paraben and toxin free, so little nails are kept safe, sound and splendidly colored.
Vivacious color choices — every SNAILS polish delivers glorious high-quality gloss and deliciously gentle fragrance.

Visit the SNAILS (Safe Nails!) website for more information, including finding a retailer (at least some of the polishes are available on

safe nail polish

My thoughts on Snails (Safe Nail Polish)

I love that this is such a simple formula and free of nasty toxins.  My concern was that it might take several coats to get vibrant color, but it did not.  Another issue I have found in the past with nail polish is that they do not always look to be the same color on the nails as they do in the bottle.  With just one coat, my daughter's nails were brightly colored, and true to the color in the bottle.  I also painted my own nails, just so I would know for sure what exactly the polished nails were subjected to throughout the day.  I went about my regular daily activities and the polish held up very well.  I do wear gloves though when I am washing dishes, which if I had not, I think it may have washed the polish off.  Regular hand washing did not affect the polish though.  I had planned to wash the polish off so I could report how easy or difficult it was, but I forgot to do it before I took my shower the following morning.  When I realized what I had done, I looked down at my nails to see how much of the polish was remaining and was shocked to see that my nails were completely free of the polish.  I am guessing that means, it is fairly easy to wash the polish off when you are ready to.  

I recommend Snails for any child who enjoys having their nails painted.  This formula is safe so that even the littlest children can wear it.  I also recommend it for adults who want to avoid the chemicals in traditional polishes and who like to be able to easily change their polish.  However, if you like to polish you nails and keep them polished for more than a day or two, I would say to try a different polish, or wear gloves in the shower.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Book Review: The X

Disclaimer- This post may contain affiliate links.  This simply means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you.

About The X

Clarissa Hadonfield had it all. She lived in a lovely home surrounded by affluent intellectuals, had a successful husband, and two phenomenal teenage boys. With the ring of a doorbell she finds her life substituted by one where she has to fight for her children against an evil she never knew existed and had been sleeping next to for the last twenty years. When Clarissa's X shows his true colors, she finds she must become a strong woman who cannot only grow prize-winning flowers but can place a devastating roundhouse kick. Teaming up with Bryce Brightman, an ex-FBI agent, she uncovers a woman whose only goal is to save her children. This story is about what a woman can do when she put her brains, her brawn, and her boots into changing the course of her life and protecting the ones she loves.

My thoughts about The X

Although I love to read, as a busy mother of 5, I sometimes only get 1 or 2 nights a week when I can sit down and really get into a book.  Those are the nights that I really appreciate a fast, easy read and The X did not disappoint.  Although my marriage survived, and what we went through was no where near as bad as what Clarissa experienced, I know all too well that feeling when you entire world comes crashing down unexpectedly.  I loved the strength that Clarissa finds, both physically and emotionally, to save her children.  I found it easy to identify with her and to like her.

I recommend The X to anyone who enjoys mystery and action books.  If you are one who can only read a few pages at a time (that is me most days) I recommend saving this one until you have a longer period of time to sit and read.  It is so hard to put down, that I can not be held responsible if you forget to make dinner, go to work, pick up the kids, do the housework, or whatever other things you may need to be doing.

About Lorena Bathey

You can learn more about the author at her website Lorena B Books.

Another Disclaimer:
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.