Get Cooking with Blue Apron

>>This post is in partnership with Blue Apron.

Cooking is not something that comes naturally to me. At all. I like food. I love eating food. But I do not love the process.

Just thinking about is paralyzing.  First I have to plan a menu, make a list, and go to the store, all of which is like a complex mathematical equation. Factor in food that we have on hand, plus food that we need, divided by food that everyone actually likes, cross multiplied by what’s on sale, subtracted by how long the baby will allow himself to be in public before a having a nuclear meltdown.

Then I get the the store and inevitably discover I have forgotten my list (EVERY TIME!). Then I get home and realize I’m out of some necessary staple like butter. Buttermilk is close enough, right? Wait, I’m out of buttermilk. Chocolate milk? Close enough.

Then my kids eat two bites of food. Then we clean it all up. Then I do it all again. I’d rather just order a pizza and spend my time spray painting something. Do you feel me?

So when Blue Apron came along and told me they could help make the cooking process enjoyable, haha! I seriously doubted it. But I told them I’d give it a shot.  Here’s what I learned.

 

 

Blue Apron is a meal delivery service that sends everything you need to create a chef-designed meal to your doorstep. Everything. Even the two tablespoons of butter. The ingredients come in a refrigerated box and are incredibly fresh.

blue apron raw

 

This was what I received to make Seared Flank Steaks with Roasted Potatoes and ‘Creamed’ Kale. Have I ever made seared flank steaks or creamed kale before in my life? No. So it was actually kind of fun to be pushed in a new direction.

kale and potatoes

blue apron me

Here’s me begrudgingly having fun cooking. And concentrating, and being pale. Look at that mountain of kale! It seems like you could never eat that much kale, but it shrinks down a lot, so now you know.

blue apron detail

Not only is everything fresh and often even sourced from local suppliers, it comes in the perfect proportions. No measuring, and no waste! You can feel like one of those chefs on TV flinging around their little pre-measured bowls of ingredients, cooking a meal in five minutes without even trying.

 

ingredients

Actually, Blue Apron meals are designed to take 40 minutes or less from start to finish. It’s all mapped out. That was my very favorite part. Your meal comes with a recipe card that tells you what to do step-by-step, so that everything finishes at the same time, and poof! Dinner is served.

blue apron dinner 2

Here is another thing I learned.  WOW, it is SO HARD to take pretty pictures of food. Especially while you’re in the midst of cooking it. And the sun is going down. Picture me crouched on a stool over a pan of cooking kale while shooting a picture with one hand and stirring it with the other so it won’t burn, and then not even being able to use any of those pictures. While creamed kale is surprisingly delicious, it is not at all photogenic. This is why I’m not a food blogger. Besides for today.

potatoes

The potatoes were pretty darn good-looking though. (Tell me about it, spud).

So, what’s the verdict?  blue apron dinner3

Yay! We loved it! It was fun! It was easy! It was new!

Our portion was for the Family Plan, perfect for feeding a family of four. My husband eats like he’s a one-man family of four, but we actually had leftovers, so that was unexpected and nice. There’s also a two person plan, and shipping is always free!

The price for the Family Plan is $69.92 for a delivery of two four-serving meals, so $8.74 per meal.  Not cheap – I couldn’t make this an every-single-night kind of thing – but it’s less than eating out at a restaurant, and they use such high quality ingredients that it’s definitely worth it.

So, whether you want to get out of your rut of always cooking the same old thing, or would enjoy the luxury of having everything you need to create chef-worthy meals delivered straight to your home, give Blue Apron a try!

The first 50 readers will get two meals off their first Blue Apron order free! No commitment, cancel or skip anytime.

Check out their entire collection of recipes here.  I could definitely go for that Chili Blackened Cod or Spicy Thai Chicken Noodle Soup. Yumz.

 

blue apron dinner

Enjoy your weekend!

 


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Choosing Laminate vs Hardwood

Spring Break is over and it’s back to the grind.  Sometimes I don’t mind the grind.  I appreciate having things like: a routine, clean laundry, and groceries. For some reason, throw a few days of free time in there and I can’t manage any of that.

So let’s get grinding! Today I’m bringing you another installment of the story of my new floors, dramatically titled: “The Story of My New Floors.”  (Part one here).

Long before I had the chance to work with Lumber Liquidators, I already had an idea of what I wanted.  Laminate floors.  Record scratch Whaaaaa??  Not fancy, luxurious hardwood?  Nope. It’s true.

Like I mentioned before, my brother Nate is a professional remodeler who owns a restoration business. With all his experience, he has chosen to install laminate flooring in his past two homes, and I’ve always loved it.  It looks fantastic for a fraction of the cost, and is ridiculously durable.

((Insane side note: One day a few weeks ago, Brooke White, yes THAT Brooke White of American Idol fame, and one of my favorite humans on the planet, just so happened to be in town. She was shooting a new music video and needed a good looking kitchen and laundry room to film in.  Somehow, someone in the know suggested Nate’s house, and she ended up filming there! Anyway, my sister-in-law Kalli said that the very first thing Brooke said when she walked in the door was not “Hi!” or “Nice to meet you!” or “We’re shooting a music video in your kitchen, now get out of the way,” {of course she wouldn’t say that, she’s the best}, but the first thing she said was “I LOVE your floors! Where did you get them?” So. If it’s good enough for my brother and Brooke White, it’s good enough for me)).

Here’s a shot of Nate and Kalli’s stupidly stunning kitchen and laundry room.  Definitely music video worthy. Here’s the music video.

kalli kitchen

 

kalli laundry

But let’s talk about me for a minute.  I visited Lumber Liquidators to see what was in store.

photo 1 copy

If you’re looking into new flooring for the first time, all the choices and information may seem overwhelming.  But Lumber Liquidators stores are laid out and organized really well, and they are happy to help you with any questions.  I mean, like super happy.  Their customer service went above and beyond.  I mentioned to my husband Matt several times while we were in there that “These guys seem to REALLY like their jobs.”

The samples on the floor are some of their more popular selections, so you can see exactly what a particular flooring will look like installed and out of the box, not to mention how it holds up to heavy use.

lumber liquidators store

After much perusing, bringing samples home, weighing pros and cons, I finally found my winner.  It’s got a lot of gray in it (shocker!) but plenty of brown tones too. It has a weathered appearance, but just slightly.  More like driftwood vs. something that fell off a rotting barn. In fact, that’s the name of it, Delaware Bay Driftwood.

new laminate floor

Here’s a peek!  I’m not being coy, this is actually the only picture I have so far.  Remember how Spring Break kicked my behind? More pictures to come soon.

Now then.  Let’s address the controversy.  Just days (DAYS!) after my floors were installed, news broke out that was highly unfavorable to Lumber Liquidators. The gist of it was that their laminate flooring contained off-the-charts levels of formaldehyde. My stomach instantly tied up in knots. I think I even cried. This was bad news.

As I read everything I could find about it, I learned that my floors (made in Austria) weren’t affected. Huge sigh of relief. The study showed that a small percentage of laminate imported from China was problematic.

But I still find myself mired in a mess! Can I tell you, my reader, to trust Lumber Liquidators? Do I believe that their flooring is safe?

After reading and contemplating both sides of the story, yes, I do believe what Lumber Liquidators had to say in defense of the allegations.  You can read all about it here. The fact that they’ve been a trusted name in the business for over 20 years, that they have a track record of insisting on safety and sustainability, and that they’ve offered to test the air quality in the homes of their customers and ensure their satisfaction are what speak volumes to me. But be aware. Inform yourself.

So, are hardwood floors the better choice because laminate might be dangerous? What I’ve found suggests not. Hardwood floors can also contain formaldehyde, as formaldehyde is a substance that occurs naturally in wood, and formaldehyde is a common ingredient used in flooring adhesives. Like I said, I think the best thing to do is just inform yourself as much as possible and make the best decision for you and your family. Here are some more pros and cons to consider:

Laminate PROS:

  • more durable than hardwood
  • more affordable than hardwood
  • easier to clean
  • no defects, no waste
  • can be installed in ‘moist’ areas
  • stain resistant
  • scratch resistant

Laminate CONS:

  • doesn’t repair as easily
  • doesn’t add as much value to your home as hardwood
  • ‘hollow’ sound
  • may require transition pieces

Obviously this is not a comprehensive list, and there are many more considerations to weigh, but for me, the pros of laminate outweighed the cons. It’s WAY more affordable, it resists scratching and denting and general wear and tear much better than hardwood, it’s recommended in ‘moist’ areas such as the kitchen.  It’s true that if it became damaged, you would not be able to sand it down and repair it the way you would with hardwood, but it’s so durable that I don’t forsee that becoming an issue.

Some people argue that laminate has a ‘hollow’ sound, which I have not noticed.  My flooring has an average thickness at 10mm, and also comes with a pre-attached acoustic foam underlay, so I’m sure that makes some difference.

WHEW! This was WORDY! Thanks for hanging in there.  I’ll be sharing the final wrap-up soon!

Disclaimer:  Lumber Liquidators provided product for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.


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Eleventh Avenue

Today I’m helping to spread some good news from my friends at Groopdealz:

Groopdealz is dead.

 

But don’t worry, that really is good news.

In the few years that they’ve been in business, they’ve grown from a cute little deal-a-day website into a full-blown boutique marketplace. So, Groopdealz is no more! Goodbye Groopdealz, farewell! They are now Eleventh Avenue – and there’s SO much to love!

Home Decor Collage

 

It’s everything you knew and loved about Groopdealz, but BETTER.  You’ll still find fabulous deals at amazing prices, but they’ve ramped things up even higher.

 Here’s what’s new:

From fashion to home decor to children’s items and more, you can easily find it all in one place. I’m a frequent Groopdealz shopper, so I’m excited!

Fabric Baskets - Eleventh Avenue(1)

Cute cute cute home decor.

 

Gold Polka Dot Top

This shirt was made just for me! Not really, but probably!

Single Wooden Monogram

Hundreds of handpicked boutiques and products are being added daily, so there’s no doubt you’ll find something you love.

 

If you haven’t had a chance to experience Eleventh Avenue for yourself then head on over and take a look around. When you find something you love, take another 11% off with code “11avenue” to get an even better deal! This code is only good TODAY!

Coupon Tag


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My experience with LASIK

It’s Saturday! What should we talk about today?  Ooh, I know!

How about if I share some updates on how my eyeball surgery, aka LASIK turned out?  I’ve had a few requests for more information about it since I had it done in October of last year, so hopefully I can try to provide some answers and insight for anyone thinking of getting it done.  (Insight, heh heh).

First of all, I did not actually have LASIK.  I had a more in-depth procedure called PRK. LASIC is like wrapping a twisted ankle, PRK is like resetting a bone. Ok, that might be a terrible analogy, but the point is, there’s a big difference.

With LASIK, a small flap is cut from the surface of the cornea and flipped back, then the laser is beamed into the eyeball, then the flap is flopped back into place, and you’re done.  Healing time is short and sweet, and according to one friend who had it done “Kinda feels like having sand in your eye for a minute?”

With PRK, there is no happy little flap. Instead they burn off the surface cells of your eyeball, then shoot laser beams into your eyeball, then cover it with a temporary contact lens until your cells grow back. Healing time takes FOREVER, and according to myself who had it done “FEELS LIKE SOMEONE IS STABBING ME IN THE EYES WITH STEAK KNIVES!!!!!!!”

There were a few dramatic days of recovery.

The reason I went with PRK is because my cornea is very thin, so the flap option wasn’t even possible. However, even though the recovery can be a lot worse, many people opt for PRK even if they are candidates for LASIK, because it can be safer in the long run. No risk of a flap ever flopping out of place.

sharkUnfortunately, my procedure was NOT performed by a shark with a freaking laser beam attached to its head. The actual procedure was only about 15 minutes and not nearly as scary as I thought it would be, although you can actually hear and smell your eyeball burning, which is pretty gross and no one ever told me that part before. But really, it’s not that bad.

 

So, once my eyeballs healed to the point where I could leave my darkened bedroom without moaning in pain, (about a week), I thought I was home free. Only my vision was not so good. At all. Like looking through glasses smeared with butter.

I’ll give it two weeks, I thought to myself, as I scooted my face closer to my computer monitor and enlarged the fonts.  Three weeks later, only the slightest improvements had occurred.  So slight I couldn’t even tell if I had improved at all.  My doctor assured me I had.  “It sometimes takes three to four months to fully regain your vision!” he said.

Ooohkaaay.  I had somehow overlooked that little factoid.

Every day I would check for improvements by setting a hairspray bottle on the bathroom counter then trying to read the smallest type.  Sometimes one eye would improve more than the other. Some days it seemed my eyesight got WORSE.

I tried not to panic that I had made a terrible mistake. My doctor seemed unconcerned, which was comforting in its own strange way.

a pair of glasses

But! Eventually, and veeeerrrrrrrrryyyyyyy gradually, so gradually I didn’t even notice it from day to day, it got better. And better. And better. It really did take about three and a half months. But now, I’d say it’s pretty much perfect.

And it’s WONDERFUL.  As a person who has relied on glasses or contacts since I was ten years old, it feels like freedom! I can wake up in the morning and SEE!  I don’t have to wait to put my contacts in, or find my glasses, I can SEE.  I don’t have to worry about losing a contact, or breaking my glasses, which before would have left me incapacitated.  I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t read, I wouldn’t feel safe even walking across a street without them. But I never have to worry about that anymore!

a set of googly eyes

It’s become so natural I hardly even think about it, but I try to stop and remind myself every now and then how truly fantastic it is to have this miraculous set of eyeballs that work all by themselves.

So, was it worth it? Absolutely! I have no regrets. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.  I only wish I had known more about what to expect during the healing and recovery process.

Should I do it too? I don’t know! But probably! Ask your doctor.

Anything else I should know?  Yes, I had to purchase three different types of eye drops separately which cost around $130, so that was an unexpected expense. Also, you can’t wear makeup for at least a week. That was hard for me, makeup is my good friend. Plus you have to sleep wearing goggles. And you’ll walk around moaning with a blanket over your head to block the light. You will probably not feel very attractive for a time, and might possibly scare small children.

Where did I have it done? The Walman Eye Center in Phoenix.

Did they sponsor this post? HA! Hahahaha.  I wish.

Where can I learn more? Here’s a good article to start.


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