An Uncomplicated Life Blog

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Making Sweet Memories

Pilsbury products help make sweet family memories easy and delicious

This post is sponsored by Pillsbury on behalf of Acorn Influence. All words and pictures are my own.

Growing up, holidays were some of my favorite memories. There was always a big meal that was served around 2pm. To tide us all over, my dad would make Pillsbury cinnamon rolls in the morning. I remember my sister and I taking turns licking the excess icing out of the little round container after my dad would frost the warm rolls. We'd then be on a crazed sugar high as we put on our Easter dresses and hats (and, winter coats because I grew up in Minnesota and let's get real, most the time there was still snow on the ground for Easter). Now that I have my own family, I'm excited to share the tradition of making sweet memories with my boys.

These prepackaged Easter sugar cookies are mess free and easy to make!

I've told it to y'all once and I'll say it again: I'm a terrible baker. I hate how I have to measure everything, and if you don't get it just so, it won't turn out. I'm more of a throw everything into the pot, season it, taste it, season it again and voila! It turned out kinda cook. But you can't really taste things as you're baking them. Or errrrr, you're not supposed to after that raw egg goes in. So I'm taking a page out of my father's book (see what I did there?!) and letting Pillsbury help me make these sweet memories much easier with their Easter Bunny sugar cookies.

My kids LOVE sugar cookies. Neither one is a fan of chocolate, so chocolate chip cookies are a no go here. But sweet butter and sugar and vanilla? Oh yes! Cookies in fun shapes? Yes please!

Henry is getting really interested in what I do in the kitchen, and I hope he remains interested in learning how to cook. He pulls his stool up next to me so he can see over the counter and watches intently, asking what I'm doing, repeating what I say, and helping out on tasks he can manage. Otto, in true younger sibling fashion, doesn't want to be excluded and tries to scale the cabinets or hangs from the oven door handle in attempts to get in on the action. Can't leave that one alone for a second. He'd probably climb into the oven to get after one of these baking cookies! He's a little too short to see, so daddy had to help hold him to get in on the cookie action.

I love that the cookies are already made for us, so all we had to do was get them situated on the cookie sheet and bake them. No mess to clean up after, FTW! Don't worry, Henry still managed to sneak a few bites off a few of the cookies while my back was turned dealing with a feisty Otto.

Honestly, the hardest part of these adorable bunny sugar cookies was waiting for them to cool. The kids circled the kitchen like vultures, waiting to get their mitts on the amazing smelling baked goods. Finally, they were cool enough for the kids to shove them in their faces right by the stove. Who needs to sit down to enjoy a warm cookie?!

If you're like me and don't enjoy baking from scratch, these Pillsbury cookies are perfect. Walmart has them fully stocked in all sorts of adorable spring or Easter varieties. Get a batch and make some sweet memories with your kiddos!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Saving Money To Give Back

Direct Energy's Give Brighter 12 plan donates solar Luci light's to powerless countries when you sign up with their competitively priced energy plan

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Direct Energy. The opinions and text are all mine.

I wasn't always a blogger, working with brands for a living. In fact, I've taken a few big career turns in my life. The bulk of my "working a traditional 9-5 job" years were spent in fundraising and marketing for nonprofit organizations. It's that passion that's brought me to this post, in collaboration with Direct Energy, letting you know how you can save money to give back. But I wasn't always so happily employed - it took me a while to find my passion.

For a whopping three years I toughed it out in the marketing department of a Fortune 500 company. I watched people get thrown under the bus (that was, in all earnest, their favorite term to use after nearly every meeting - "who got thrown under the bus today?!" then they'd snicker at whomever the latest victim was), I watched people's ideas get shut down, I watched firings and layoffs. It was a glorified junior high cafeteria, that financial services marketing department. Or the corporate version of Naked and Afraid, Survivor or some other bizarre, cut throat {bad} reality TV show.

Fortunately it only took me 3 years to peace out of that bad environment and head off to grad school for nonprofit management at one of the best arts schools in the country. I learned how to run a nonprofit, fundraise, market and work in creative software because, let's face it, nonprofits rarely have the budget for a marketing department. And that's when I got passionate about my career and passionate about nonprofit causes.

As a blogger, I now get to use those design and marketing stills for my own brand. But my passion for helping others still runs deep. Anytime I can partner with a brand who wants to spread the message of how they're helping communities in need, I'm on board immediately and 100 percent.

I found out about Direct Energy's Give Brighter 12 plan and was thrilled to be able to tell y'all about it. They're partnering with MPOWERED to donate solar lights to developing nations. It's hard for us to imagine a world without power since we've had it for so long. You're probably reading this on a laptop or a mobile device that's (hopefully) fully charged, and if it's not, you're not too far from a power source to charge it. You don't even think about turning on lights, the microwave, a fan at night to keep you cool.

But not every body in every country has that luxury. In fact, many developing nations still use kerosene to light their homes and businesses at night, which is incredibly dangerous, not to mention toxic. Those fumes are intense, and these homes and businesses aren't exactly ventilated.

Enter the Luci light. It's solar powered (read: no plug in necessary) and portable. It can be used as a lantern, a table light, an emergency light - you name it. Direct Energy, in collaboration with MPOWERED, is donating one light for every person who signs up for their competitively priced Live Brighter 12 plan, a 12 month competitively priced fixed rate energy plan. And bonus - they'll send a light to you, too! Want to check out a video to learn more about this great program? Check this out.

If you're in the market for a more competitive energy plan, I hope you check out the Give Brighter 12 plan.  Direct Energy helps you use less energy with unparalleled usage insights called Direct Your Energy, which allows you to tracking your usage by appliance. You can potentially lower your energy bill, save some money and give back to developing communities in need. And who doesn't want to save money to give back to others?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Direct Energy. The opinions and text are all mine. Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Life With All Boys

When you're the only woman in a sea of testosterone, life can get messy. And funny!

I'm a proud boymom. Before I even began dating my husband, I got a little boy dog, a Morkie. Before I got him, I knew what his name would be and what breed he'd be, and had dog tags made. I grew up with female dogs, but knew I wanted a little boy dog. And when I found out I was pregnant, years later, I knew immediately that the baby inside me was a boy. And when I was pregnant with Otto, I knew he was a boy too. In fact, I bet my husband $1,000 that it was a boy - he was convinced Otto was a girl. Before the ultrasound tech even announced it, I saw the "boy parts" on the screen in the room and said, "Ha!! I KNEW IT!"

I love my boys. All of them. But life with all boys can be a complete trip, too.

For instance, life with all boys involves a lot of food. Otto, who's just 15 months old, can eat more at any given meal than I can. My kids are toddlers, but I have to buy multiple loaves of bread  and the 18 count of eggs per week at the grocery store. When we go on play dates, I bring an entire BAG dedicated to food. I don't know what's going to happen when they're teenagers... Maybe I should start a savings account for that now?

With all that food comes a lot of poop. My goodness. I'll spare you the deets because who wants to read about that, but holy cow. They poop in tandem. They tag team poop. And as soon as I've changed all the diapers, the damn dog has to go outside and poop. I mean give me a break already.

Bath time is a hoot. These kids LOVE bath time! They love being naked. They help me get the water ready and then they splash so hard I have a whole towel dedicated to wiping up the misplaced bath water. They'd probably spend over an hour in that tub if I let them, or if they wouldn't splash all of their bathwater out of the tub first. Otis, my four legged boy, hangs off in the corner of the bathroom, as he's not as fond of water as the kids are. But we're all in there together.

Getting them dressed afterwards is an athletic feat on my part. These boys are wiggly and squiggly and wont even be still long enough to put footie pajamas on them! Or they'd just rather run around naked so they can grab their boys parts as they want to, I don't know. But after the bath and getting them dressed, I've usually worked up a sweat.

Speaking of, when you live life with all boys, you just resign that you'll ever sit down again. Many days, from the hours of 6am to 7pm, some of the longest stretches of me sitting down is when I drive the car! If we're not outside playing with the swing or a bocce ball set, we're going to the park and I'm pushing 110 pounds of stroller and toddler up and down the big hills in my neighborhood. If we're not playing, I'm making them something to eat. If we're not eating, I'm cleaning up the mess from their meal. If I'm not cleaning, I'm playing referee with their roughhousing. How do they already like to roughhouse? Ughhhh, and they'll do it for HOURS on end.

It's an active life, but they show their mama love with as much passion as they attack food, play and each other. I'll be at my wits end with Henry bopping Otto over the head and all of a sudden Henry will hug my leg, look up at me and say, "I love you mommy!" Completely out of the blue. Otto will drop a toy on my bare toe for the fifth time and Henry will bend down to kiss my "owie", and Otto will do the same to be like his big brother. Otto will lean in and snuggle my nose and then lean back and laugh with vigor over absolutely nothing. And that kid has the BEST laugh.

Life with all boys is grueling, overly active, full of poop and genital grabbing. I spend a lot of my day breaking up fights over the favorite fire truck, catching balls before they hit someone in the face, or pushing fingers out of the way of tricycle wheels. But I also get kisses and hugs and thank you's and laughs. Life with all boys is nuts; the best kind of nuts.