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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Meal Planning Made EASY with Peapod + gatheredtable

When I had Charlotte, I decided to "treat myself" to Peapod. I had this preconceived notion that only the very wealthy people in my area used Peapod on a regular basis and that it was way more expensive than hitting up the local grocery store. When I am wrong, I am the first to point it out- I was totally wrong in this thought process.

Here is a little video I put together for 30Second Mom talking about how Peapod saves me time and money (it is cute, my little ones are featured actually getting along!). I usually dread going to the grocery store- either my son has the "gimmes" or throws a tantrum because the deli counter takes about a year and a half to slice some cheese. It is a recipe for disaster. I am embarrassed to admit that I have actually cried at the grocery store in the past. Ugh. If you want to try Peapod, use this link for $20 off your first order!

I have loved getting my groceries delivered, but am pretty uninspired when it comes to recipes. I will search Pinterest for something that looks reasonable, give it a whirl, and make spaghetti if it is horrible.

I recently had the incredible opportunity to sit down with a panel of Peapod representatives and chat about my experiences on the consumer end. I got the inside scoop on a new service Peapod added- an integrated meal planning system! They partnered with gatheredtable, a site that catalogs your meal preferences (think gluten-free, nut allergies, vegan, etc...) and sends you a weekly meal plan complete with recipes and ingredient lists. Here's where it gets good- you have the option to add all of the ingredients for the next week's meals to your Peapod cart and have them delivered!

I tried gatheredtable recipes and ingredients delivered by Peapod for a week, and I was happy to say that I didn't have to resort to my emergency stash of chicken nuggets once! I am not necessarily a bad cook, but with a 16 month old and a 3.5 year old demanding my attention, a gourmet dinner isn't necessarily a possibility. I need easy meals, but ones that are healthier than heating up frozen lasagna. I selected a max hands on time of 30 minutes for each meal, because that is about all I can manage.

Here are the recipes I tried:
Chipotle-Lime Grilled Chicken (pictured below)
Cowboy Calzones
30 Minute Beef Stroganoff
Salmon with Sriracha and Lime
Chicken Broccoli Mac n' Cheese with Bacon

ALL OF THEM WERE WONDERFUL. None of the them took longer than 30 minutes to prep (some took me 45, but only because I kept getting interrupted by the little people in my life). I have used gatheredtable for a few months now, and added my own favorite tried and true recipes from different sites to my library. You can follow other people on gatheredtable, adding recipes from their library to yours as well (hint: follow "Mary E."- she tests recipes, is the founder & CEO of gatheredtable...and she previously led Global Strategy and Corporate Development for Starbucks. She knows her stuff!)

For me, inspiration is half the battle when dealing with dinner, and this has provided me with more than enough to put healthy, quick and edible meals on the table. Do I still order a pizza sometimes? Yep, you bet. But I am actually excited to cook a bit more now, and have the confidence to test out new recipes. If you want to try gatheredtable, they have a limited time offer of 3 months free for now (normally $10/month).

A big thanks to Mary Egan, gatheredtable Founder and CEO, for taking the time to personally respond to my e-mails. She is genuinely interested in feedback from customers and tests the recipes on the site in her own kitchen. Here is what their goals are:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Summer Style with Neiman Marcus

I recently had the privilege of attending a private fashion show hosted by Brigg Klein of Neiman Marcus. Needless to say, it was a little slice of heaven and a whole lot of inspiration! I thought I would share the looks he put together with you in hopes that you think outside the box this summer. Live a little and have fun with it!

My lovely friend Cecilia of Home With Keki and I!

This event was in support of Dress for Success- an organization that promotes economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, support and career development tools. As a group, we were able to donate 50 suits and 128 separates to this organization- if you have new or gently used business apparel, click here to find a donation location in your area.

PS- This is a 3 part series because there were SO many looks!

Head to Toe White

Yes yes yes! I love monochrome looks, mainly because they are so simple to put together. You can use different shades of white since there are about a million, but switching it up with different textures and/or patterns can add depth to the look.

Dress It Down with Denim

This look would be pretty office-ready formal but the addition of the denim jacket gives in an off duty vibe. The floral blouse is a lovely, feminine light piece. And can we talk about this bag for a minute? It is the CĂ©line Trio Crossbody, which is actually a slim crossbody with two detachable clutches. around a grand, you could split it with two friends and each have a part, right? 

Print Mix

Brigg kept stating these golden nuggets of advice: "Pick a color story" and "Mix don't match." When you mix prints, this is something to keep in mind for sure! This look is a blue color story- the top, shorts, jacket and bag are all shades of blue, but I wouldn't have thought to pair the printed boho blouse with skinny striped shorts. This blazer is a staple for any summer wardrobe on those cool nights. Make sure to grab a bucket bag to dump all of your warm weather essentials in- check out my post on The Little Style File for my steal on this accessory!

Pattern on Pattern

The opposite of print mixing is putting the separates with the same pattern together! This has become incredibly popular with crop tops + midi skirts, but this look is a bit more sophisticated. If you buy separates in the same pattern, the mix and match combinations with other pieces are endless.

The Sleeveless Jacket

Nope, it isn't a vest- the technical term is sleeveless jacket! This is a great piece to transform any dress you have, and gives a monochrome top and pants combo a long, lean reboot. I love the shape of this skirt as well, and the stripes heading in different directions do wonders for curves. 

Which of these looks would you try? Anything spark your interest or make you want to hit the stores? Let me know!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Date Night Done Right with UrbanSitter

As a married mom of two young children (ages 1 and 3.5), the frequency of relaxed conversations with my husband have sure changed since we were dating. Our respective responsibilities consume our days, and our nights are frequently interrupted by the pitter patter of little feet. Communication during the day is often done through e-mails or texts, and we schedule calls to compare calendars. All of the sudden, a week goes by and I realize I didn't notice that my husband got a hair cut. Or he will comment on a pair of shoes that I am wearing, asking "Are those new?" when I have worn them every day that month. When you stop noticing the little things, the details that you used to offer compliments on, you know it is time to slow down and re-connect. The only problem is we don't have anyone to take care of our children while we actually catch up!

When I started searching for babysitters, I had no clue where to start. You feel like you are stealing from another mom if you "borrow" their sitter for a night (such taboo in many social circles!), but how do you know if a sitter is right for your family? A friend of mine recommended UrbanSitter, and it has been a life (and relationship!)-saver for us. I downloaded the app, connected my Facebook account, and added my affiliations (play cafe's that I frequent, the school my son attends, our gymnastics center). UrbanSitter then found babysitters in my area that other moms have already used and recommended, but no more "babysitter borrow" guilt!

I have been able to find sitters at the last minute, and have friends who have hired their part-time or full-time care on UrbanSitter. I think my favorite part of their service is that I can check the schedule of multiple sitters to see if anyone is available. No more calling/texting 5 different babysitters, trying to track down who is available! All of the UrbanSitter members update their schedules online, so I have easy access to them through the website or app. Although my husband and I still schedule conference calls to compare schedules, I can easily book a sitter online during our calls for events that we want to attend together or a date night!

Also, there isn't the uneasy topic of compensation that I have always had with new sitters. On UrbanSitter, they list the acceptable rate for a certain number of children which takes the guesswork out of it. At the end of the night, you can skip the ATM and pay them with a tap on the UrbanSitter app!

We recently hired Ellen through UrbanSitter for our date night downtown. I booked her through the app by sending her a job request- she replied in a matter of hours so I had time to make plans. She arrived promptly the night of our date, could easily handle a serious debate about how fast Lightning McQueen actually was and dinner messes, and we felt 110% comfortable leaving her with our children.

And what did we do on our night out? We hit up the WineRiot in Union Hall! It was a massive wine tasting with 250 different wines from all around the world. We finally got the chance to re-connect, chat, and learn more about one of our favorite topics together.

AND I got the opportunity to wear some of my favorite pieces, specifically this leather pleated midi skirt and Jenny Bird Silver Illumina Bib Necklace (thanks Rocksbox! If you want a free month of jewelry rental, use my code when signing up: cherylbff54).

Although we aren't able to be as spontaneous as we once were, with UrbanSitter we are able to gain a little of that spontaneity back by having easily accessible babysitters. If you want to give it a try, use the promo code FORFREETRIAL for a free month of membership!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.