Sunday, May 24, 2015

Chipotle's "Cultivate Thought" Essay Contest

Calling all middle and high school students (age 13-18)! May 31st is the final submission date for Chipotle's "Cultivating Thought" Essay Contest. Chipotle will be awarding TEN winners a $20,000 scholarship and their story on Chipotle packaging. Visit CultivatingThought.com/EssayContest for complete details and contest rules.

The contest theme asks students to focus on a time when food created a memory. What other restaurant out there is as progressive as Chipotle when it comes to provoking intellectual thought about food? Bringing the perspective of students to the mix is a great way to encourage our next generation of adults to think about what they are eating and the role food plays in our lives.

This post is brought to you by Chipotle. All opinions are 100% my own.

My perspective on food and its quality changed dramatically when I became an adult, but the foundations of my relationship with food were set throughout my childhood. I have fond memories of my mom cooking in the kitchen and serving our family with the dishes she labored over every night at family dinner. Fortunately, my mom cooked a lot of things from scratch or near scratch using wholesome ingredients. I think Chipotle would be impressed. I consider Chipotle one of the only reasonably priced restaurants that provides food wholesome enough to compare to my mom's cooking. As I write this post, I'm eating Chipotle left overs from last night. 

What fond memories do you have about food? Do they include artificial ingredients? GMO's? Who knows these days, right? I don't want bad food practices and lots of artificial ingredients to be in the bodies of my family or in my memories. Luckily, our nation's food culture is progressing. I attribute a lot of the progression to places like Chipotle! Their ingredients are simple, and Chipotle is proud of it.
 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Ollie Swaddle Makes Swaddling a Breeze

Buddy loved to be swaddled until he was about five months old and began rolling over at night. It was a lifesaver in those early days! With baby girl we've being using the same technique to help her sleep soundly in her co-sleeper. Instead of messing with a large blanket to swaddle, now there are neat swaddling products like the Ollie Swaddle that make swaddling easier than ever.

The Ollie Swaddle was created to help an infant named Oliver thrive when other swaddles failed to help. The comfortable compression of the stretchy, lightweight jersey material of the Ollie Swaddle provide an ideal environment for the restful sleep new parents desire to help their infant achieve.

I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions are 100% my own.

Swaddling your infant has many benefits including longer, restful sleep. Considering your baby spent her last few months pretty snug in the womb, swaddling is naturally an optimal solution to help transition them during the "fourth trimester" especially. 
 
How easy is this swaddle to use? VERY easy. Simply wrap the right side of the swaddle over your baby and bring the left over and fasten with velcro. The design creates a custom fit every time. Once baby begins to roll, she can be swaddled with the Ollie Swaddle from the waist down. The velcro is also easy to attach and unattach quickly when needed. The end of the swaddle has an elastic loop to close off the swaddle if desired.

The Ollie Swaddle is ideal for many reasons, but also because it doesn't restrict your baby entirely. It's important to allow babies' hips to move, and not to swaddle your baby with straight legs. Just restricting the arms and providing a firm hug around your baby's body and arms is the magic equation for most babies.

The top of the Ollie Swaddle isn't constricting at the neckline either. It only firmly hugs starting just below the shoulders. At the same time she is fully covered, warm, and not in danger of wriggling the material up over her face.

Typically when I swaddle baby girl she is already sleeping, or nearly asleep after nursing. I've made it a point to only swaddle at night and when our room is dark, so she can start picking up on those ques that it's nighttime. I shot these photos during the day though, and she was shockingly content and happy laying in her Ollie Swaddle while totally awake!

Another bonus of the Ollie Swaddle is that it's customizable fit requires just one swaddle as your baby grows. Many swaddles on the market are sized so multiple swaddles need to be purchased. The Ollie Swaddle is really the only swaddle you need.
 

The Ollie Swaddle is a wonderful baby shower gift for a new mom and comes in pink or blue. You can purchase yours at TheOllieWorld.com. Also be sure to connect on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Eat Worry-Free with Red Robin's Interactive Allergen Menu {Giveaway - Ends 5/29}

My family LOVES to eat out. It's our favorite way to get out of the house and spend time together. Some might say it's our form of entertainment! 

Recently I learned that Red Robin has made it easy for people with food allergies to eat at their restaurants. Famous for their delicious burgers and Bottomless Steak Fries, Red Robin is a family-friendly chain with more than 500 restaurants across the US and Canada. Red Robin serves a wide variety of salads, soups, appetizers, entrees, desserts and signature Mad Mixology Beverages, and they're great at customizing meals to order.

 The Red Robin information and gift cards have been provided by Red Robin. All opinions are 100% my own.

Did you know that May is National Allergy Awareness Month? Eating out is a real challenge when you have food allergies or choose to avoid certain ingredients. I have been eating gluten-free for nearly three years, and have found it quite limiting when dining out with my family. 

Red Robin wants to help their guests select and enjoy their meal worry-free using the Interactive Allergen Menu in their Customizer Hub. With this menu, accessible on your computer or smartphone, choosing a delicious entree that's gluten-free isn't a daunting task for me. In fact, Red Robin has many options that are already gluten-free, and plenty more that can be modified to suit my needs. 

Red Robin’s Customizer Hub on RedRobin.com allows you to test-drive different combinations of ingredients and enjoy their Red Robin menu favorites while keeping within your dietary restrictions. The Customizer Hub gives you two options: “Customize Your Nutrition” and “Build a Customized Allergen Menu.” Since I need to avoid gluten, I used the Customized Allergen Menu to receive menu recommendations.

This is a screenshot from my smartphone showing what I decided to order. Using the Interactive Allergen Menu, I was able to quickly learn what menu items were gluten-free, or could be with substitutions. I was definitely surprised that there were over a dozen meals I could choose from! I also appreciate the added caution about the mushrooms being sauteed on the same cooking surface as eggs, despite not selecting that as an ingredient I needed to avoid.

Ultimately I chose the Sauteed Shroom Burger with a gluten-free bun, served with Red Robin's infamous Steak Fries. I took the recommendations from the Interactive Allergen Menu and skimmed through the restaurant's menu for further details of the items that appealed to me.
 
Our dining experience was great and we've already been back with my brother and sister-in-law now that I know I have another eatery that works with my gluten-free diet. Our server was wonderful and I was able to request my gluten-free burger without a raised eyebrow. 

Red Robin's team members are trained to know how to handle meal modifications, and will put an allergy alert on your order. Red Robin uses allergen kits to prepare all allergen orders so I feel confident that my burger was carefully prepared. AllergyEats, the leading guide to allergy-friendly restaurants nationwide – rated by people with food allergies, for people with food allergies has been recognized as one of the “Most Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Chains,” for the last three years. I'm glad to see that Red Robin takes food allergies and dietary needs seriously.


Enter To Win:
One of my readers will receive a $25 gift card to Red Robin!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Strolling in Style with the GB Evoq Travel System

I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions are 100% my own.

GB may be the hottest new baby gear brand on the market, but their parent company has more than 25 years of design, development and testing of the most recognized juvenile brands under it's belt. The result is an innovative line of baby products designed to stand out among the crowd.
 

The GB Evoq Travel System is a 4-in-1, full-sized, luxury stroller and car seat combo that grows with your child. After seeing the system in person at BabiesRUs several months ago, I knew I wanted it for our baby girl. The modern style with a European influence is so "me", without being over the top. It offers all the functional features you want and need in a stroller and car seat system, but so much more.


Evoq Stroller Frame
-Telescoping handle has three height positions to suit any user.
-Easy-to-use levers fold and unfold stroller.
-Glide-on standing board for older siblings up to 50 pounds.
-Swivel wheels can be locked when using stroller on rough terrain such as gravel or stones.
-Generously sized bottom basket.
-Cup holder option.
 

Right out of the box, the stroller just requires you to click the front wheels on and attach the cup holder. How simple is that?

One thing I dislike about a lot of strollers out there is a low handle. With the Evoq you have the option of three different positions. I tend to use the tallest position, which allows me to push the stroller comfortably and also walk with a large stride and not kick the stroller.


The stroller frame itself is not too heavy and folds down in one easy step. There is no locking mechanism to keep it folded - it just stays folded until you pull on the levers to unfold again. This is a major selling point for me personally because I've pinched my fingers in other stroller systems before that have a locking strap.

The large basket is very roomy and perfect for throwing in whatever extra supplies you need - including your son's sweatshirt and everything he insists you carry to the park. I have not felt cramped for storage space at all with this stroller! 

The glide-on standing board is for use with the seat facing forward, and in the lowest position. An older sibling (up to 50 pounds) can stand on the board, holding onto the side bars to catch a ride.


GB Asana35 Infant Car Seat & Base
-For babies 4-35 pounds and up to 32 inches tall.

-FirmFit System ensures a secure base fit, every time.
-FirmFit single pull headrest and harness adjustment.
-Five-point safety harness.
-Multiple strap positions for proper fit.
-Infant body support included for preemies.

Your precious cargo is of utmost importance to GB so FirmFit features are designed to ensure proper installation and fit, every time.

The base can be installed using the LATCH system, or seatbelt. We chose to install the base using the seatbelt which threads through the base and is secured using the FirmFit Arm which tightens the seat belt in place. That base doesn't move AT ALL with this smart design!

Adjusting the FirmFit harness straps is really simple and quite neat. By just pulling the strap as shown above, the entire harness and headrest move together to create a snug fit for your baby. Because the harness and headrest move together, you won't lose any side impact protection that the headrest provides just because your baby is especially little at first. The head protection sits exactly where it should, according to the height of your baby's shoulders.

Due to the FirmFit design, the harnesses height straps do not need to be re-threaded. The buckle strap does need to be re-threaded as baby grows, but it's an easy adjustment to make.

I'll be honest, bringing baby girl home with this car seat was scary at first. We just couldn't get the fit right. We'd pull on the strap to tighten and the back panel would slip down like it should. But we kept feeling like we were tightening the straps too tight on her, when in reality you really can't get them too tight unless you pull until the straps are far, far below the shoulders - which you wouldn't do intentionally anyway! Now that we've used the car seat many times, getting a good fit is a breeze and not a big production like it was on that first day. I recommend getting familiar with the infant car seat by practicing on a doll before actual use on a new baby. 

My only dislike about this car seat is the canopy. It seems to retract back constantly, so I can't always rely on it to shade my little girl when needed. Otherwise, I like it!


Baby & Toddler Seat
-For babies and toddlers up to 50 pounds.
-Reversible - choose parent-facing or forward-facing
-Large, expandable canopy.
-Fully reclines to flat position using one-handed recline.
-Adjustable leg rest.

The seat or infant car seat attach onto the side mounts on the stroller frame. Both attachments can be used in the forward-facing or parent-facing positions.

When baby girl is around 5 months old and able to hold herself upright pretty well, we'll likely begin using the seat attachment in the parent-facing position when walks don't require a car ride first. The seat can actually recline to a flat horizontal position, so young babies can use the seat early on.

The expandable canopy really provides a lot of coverage from the elements if necessary. The window panel is like a mesh material, giving baby coverage but extra airflow.

The harness straps simply click into the crotch bucklie to use. Re-threading the height position of the straps is done on the backside of the seat, and literally takes less than thirty seconds.

It seems to be that moms need five hands to meet the needs of her kiddos all at once, so being able to recline a sleeping baby with one hand is a major plus. It's SO easy, and like I mentioned the seat can recline to a completely flat position if necessary.

Want to see the GB Evoq Travel System in action? Check out this video!


The GB Evoq Travel System is fully functional and versatile for use with a newborn all the way through toddlerhood and beyond. It's lightweight, smooth when strolling, and maneuvers like a dream. Buying a stroller and carseat travel system can be risky investment, but the GB Evoq Travel System has surpassed my expectations and will serve us well for several years.

Learn more about GB at GBchildusa.com.

 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Enjoy a Gluten-Free, GMO-Free Cinco de Mayo at Chipotle

This post is brought to you by Chipotle. All opinions are 100% my own.

Are you ready for Cinco de Mayo? Get your family ready and head to Chipotle. It’s our favorite and most frequented eatery, and perfect for a gluten-free, GMO-free Mexican fiesta on Cinco de Mayo. Some locations also have catering options if you are hosting a large Cinco de Mayo party! If you’ve never tried Chipotle, GO NOW!


It’s always been easy to find gluten-free items at Chipotle. We just steer clear of the flour tortillas. Everything else is fair game. If I do have a craving for a tortilla, Chipotle also serves corn tortillas for their tacos. All the ingredients are right in front of you, and on purpose. This way you can see what you are getting and how the food is handled as your meal goes down the line.

The Reynolds family is health conscious and we care about the ingredients in our food. We’ve always trusted Chipotle for choosing the best sourced ingredients available at reasonable prices, but recently we jumped for joy when we heard that all the ingredients were now GMO-free.

Chipotle is taking the road less traveled by becoming the first national restaurant company to cook with only non-GMO ingredients, which further emphasizes their commitment to food with integrity. You can learn a ton of information about this great leap by Chipotle by visiting Chipotle.com/gmo.


What is your favorite dish? For me and my hubby, we enjoy the burrito bowl. Lately, we’ve been going with the chicken bowl, but carnitas and barbacoa are close favorites. When hubby dines by himself, he typically gets an all meat chicken and steak mix “paleo” bowl. Buddy gets the “Build Your Own” meal specifically for kids. He loves the fun of making his own tacos, or burrito balls (don’t ask). If we’re feeling good, we’ll get a side of chips and guac too.

This Cinco de Mayo, enjoy delicious Mexican cuisine without slaving away in your own kitchen. Grab some friends - your fiesta awaits! Find a Chipotle location by visiting Chipotle.com.
 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Baby Buttercup Moccasins from Soft Star Shoes {Giveaway - Ends 5/15}

Are your baby's shoes handmade? Since 1985, Soft Star Shoes has been handcrafting leather shoes from start to finish in their Corvallis, Oregon workshop. Their shoes are a minimalist's dream, and a crunchy mama's favorite baby shoe.


I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions are 100% my own.

I have Soft Star's Ballerine Flats (review here), which I LOVE, so naturally I'm excited to have a handmade pair of leather moccasins for my baby girl too.

Soft Star Shoes use leather that is formaldehyde-free and colored using using FDA-approved food grade dyes. Not only are their shoes made in the USA, but materials are also sourced here as well. Recycling and reusing are important environmental practices, further showing Soft Star's commitment to high standards for their business.


How sweet are these Baby Buttercup Moccasins? These are the softest baby shoes I've ever felt! The leather is gorgeously smooth and supple, they're completely squishable and they hardly weigh anything. With such a soft structure, they won't pose any harm growing feet and allow for natural foot movement and development. These are a size 2 which is the smallest size offered and fit age 0-6 months.

Genuine sheepskin lines the bottom innersoles of the moccasins for breathability and dry feet in warm weather, and warm insulation in cold weather. These moccasins were designed to offer breathability on the sides where the pink and lavender leather meet too. The two leather colors are only joined together where the elastic runs through on the back of pink leather behind the star motif.

What I'm really impressed with is that these stay on baby girl's feet despite being quite big in length still. The elastic is high up on the ankle and past the top of the foot, so they won't come off with normal baby movement. That's a major factor when you buy baby shoes, am I right?? Losing a single shoe is terribly frustrating.

Baby Buttercup Moccasins are available in a size 2 (0-6 months) or 3 (6-12 months). Soft Star recently changed their sizing label on these, so if you've ordered in the past you just need to know that the size 2 and 3 were previously their size 3 and 4. 

These moccasins are available in several color combinations, or you may choose to completely Design-Your-Own (DYO). Prices start at $30, which is very reasonable for such a high quality, handmade-in-the-USA moccasin. Since baby girl will be able to wear these for quite a while, this is very affordable and I'm super happy with these baby shoes!

Enter To Win:
One of my readers will receive a $30 gift card to Soft Star Shoes!