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McDonald’s In The Kitchen, Fairsted Kitchen that is.

A Surprise From McDonald’s at Fairsted Kitchen

 

When I got the invitation to Fairsted Kitchen, it was a given that I would say yes. Every time I drive by it, I remind myself that we need to have dinner there, then I get home and life happens and I forget, again, at least until the next time I drive by.  And when I saw that McDonald’s was hosting and Executive Chef Stephanie Cmar (yes, foodie friends, of Bravo’s Top Chef and of Stacked Donuts fame), was going to cook only with McD’s ingredients, I was intrigued. How would this work? What would the menu look like? And most importantly…Would there be fries?!

Photo credit: Debbie Grubstein

 

And not only were there fries – there was a bar of fries!  Everyone talked, laughed and nibbled as we circled the table and there were lots of stories because…fries. And I was so excited that the charming and twinkle lighted exterior of Fairsted Kitchen was a perfect preview to the lovely space within –  warm wood tables, lovely vintage mismatched china, and a welcoming staff. What a wonderful antidote to a cold and rainy night.

Dinner was, as expected, fantastic. And made only from ingredients that would be used in a McDonald’s kitchen. The first up: chicken croquettes with cilantro lime sauce, cucumber, peanut salad, and wilted romaine puree and our hosts explained that the fresh produce was the same used in McDonald’s premium salads and McWraps.  I learned that McD’s sources from local distributors when possible.

Next up, gnocchi made with actual McDonald’s french fries that were put through a meat grinder. Wow, super clever Stephanie Cmar! The Bolognese made with sausage and 100% ground beef, was delicious! I also learned that McD’s uses 100% beef that is ground, then formed into patties and flash frozen, and made with no additives or preservatives. Good to know.

Dessert was seriously the biggest doughnut I have ever seen. It’s okay though, years of training had prepared me for the challenge and I was undaunted. Doughnuts with Cranberry and Salted Caramel made by Stephanie (McD’s uses USDA grade A fresh eggs and North American grown whole wheat flour).

 

Served with a perfect cup of coffee (from McCafe) and made with 100 percent Arabica coffee beans. I loved McDonald’s coffee when it was Newman’s Own and I love it now, too. A great price for great coffee.

Stephanie Cmar Fairsted Kitchen McDonald's In the Kitchen

Photos* were taken by Debbie Grubstein, friend, food blogger extraordinaire, and all around wonderful person. Thanks, Deb!

*except the coffee cup so you can see why Deb is good to have around!

This post was sponsored by McDonald’s. All opinions are, and always will be, my own. Thank you!

 

Under Armour Really Delivers

Women’s Armour® Fleece Storm (Full Zip) Hoody Delivers

It is true that while I get things to review on occasion, books, food, more books…my family is not always impressed, (well, I like getting the books) but they are coming around. It started with getting boxes of Quinn Popcorn (deemed delicious by all) but it was the Under Armour Hoody in small (decidedly not my size …which I so could have chosen and maybe even considered) which I hung on a hook in the mudroom and waited for a response. Truthfully, the first response was from my husband who wanted to know whose jacket it was. Okay, second and more valid response (from a teen daughter), was that it was cool. She proceeded to put it on and wear it for the next two days until the tween noticed it and grabbed it before the teen left the house.

So goes the morning now.

“Mom, Have you seen the new hoody?” calls Teen Daughter who found the hoody first.

Tween shushes me and intent on co-opting the hoody, grabs it and heads out the door.

Women’s Armour® Fleece Storm Full Zip Hoody capability mom blog
Women’s Armour®
Fleece Storm Full Zip
Hoody

I like this hoody, not because it’s cool, (though there is that) but because it keeps them warm and dry. The special outer fabric is soft and doesn’t feel like a raincoat at all but water beads off of it, kind of handy for these cold and rainy (and far too frequently occurring) New England days. It would be great for soccer (do they ever cancel for rain anymore?) or a run, but my teens are grabbing it as their go-to jacket in the morning, for now, anyway. I guess I can test the temperature rating as it gets colder. I’ll keep you posted.

Additionally, Under Armour has also generously offered to sponsor a giveaway of a new hoody from their line of terrific athletic wear and (again, so nice) they let me choose. I picked the Women’s Armour Fleece Divide Hoody. Stay tuned for the giveaway – maybe it will lighten your holiday shopping!

Women’s Armour® Fleece Divide Hoody


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Post BlogHer Post

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Well, I am back from a whirlwind weekend away at the blogging conference that is BlogHer and I haven’t written until now. It takes a lot of work to step out of our lives for even a little while, and while it is easier for me than for a mom with young ones, it was still challenging. I had (first time) sleep away camp to prep for (she packed herself while I was away – well, with help from Dad) and only forgot one thing which I actually had in the car. By the seat of my pants, I tell you.

Here is the thing, I started this post days ago and have hesitated to hit publish because I wasn’t expressing the over-riding feeling I have had from BlogHer. Gratitude. Exhaustion and Gratitude.

Sometimes I have a gratitude problem. It is true. Many of us do. It is easy to criticize, to correct, to suggest ways to improve on something (and I have plenty of suggestions for the organizers, if they care to ask), but here is the main takeaway:

I am lucky that I could go – it is an expensive trip and lucky that my family is supportive.

I learned things (about blogs, social media, conferences, expectations, how to present myself, how to give an elevator pitch).

I met interesting, kind and generous people willing to share their knowledge and experience at the sessions, on the expo floor, in a cab, in a restaurant. Everywhere.

I got to travel in a Blogher Bound bus (Thank you, McDonald’s) to an exciting place that I love and don’t get to often enough.

I won prizes. What? Prizes, you say? Yes. Prizes. Like what? Let me say that as a Blogher newbie, I didn’t even know there would be prizes. I had heard about the swag but really had no idea that it was anything and certainly not why I went.

But, what did I win? A $100 Best Buy gift certificate. I was walking down from the suites on the 42nd floor (TMobile, Hershey’s) because the elevators were so very busy when I got the call and I didn’t realize the expo floor was closing. By the time I got there, the super nice rep from Best Buy was alone in the almost empty hall waiting for me to claim my prize. So nice! Above and beyond, Best Buy! Thank you!

I also won a folding bicycle (a very sweet ride from Gotham Bike) from the lovely people at Advil for taking part in their scavenger hunt. It is really cool and I can’t wait for it to get here! I’ll take my own pictures when it arrives, and I think it has already been claimed by my children.

I got a ride with McDonald’s on their bus bound for BlogHer and learned more about them, and that was really nice. Thank you, McDonald’s.

More, yes, there is more. A $25 Pet Smart Gift card, and some Lysol products. bags, pens, notepads and zip drives. Am I done? Kind of. The stuff wasn’t why I went to Blogher but it’s what I tally when I get back. That and the stack of business cards I am still puzzling over (I did not write on them as I was advised to do. Next time I will).

I met people from Newton, Needham, Boston, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, California and Canada. I enjoyed every conversation and meeting. I had two breakfasts on Friday, the one for newbies and one with McDonald’s. Here is a link to Honest and Truly blog and a transcript of the Question & Answer session at breakfast. I got a recharge massage at TMobile (their tech stuff is awesome).

I went to Getting Gorgeous, had my hair straightened (thank you, GG and CVS, and I love my Extracare card) and it held up in the humidity, and have some more great stuff there. Okay, I’ll share! Super cute dark wash boot leg jeans from Coldwater Creek that make me look smaller than I am, a pair of gorgeous shoes from Naturalizer, and a gift card from Diet Pepsi! There is more but I think that may be another post.

So…Blogher in NYC. Huge. Overwhelming. Loud. Crowded. Busy. Both the city and the conference, so imagine them combined. I like the chaos for a while (as the oldest of five, it is my natural state of being) but then I need a break which I took in the form of a run through Central Park on Saturday morning.central park imagine strwaberry fields nyc manhattan capability mom blog

It was wonderful to connect with bloggers from Boston Parent Bloggers some I met for the first time on the BlogHer Bound bus. We had plenty of laughs (especially at the rest area where seven other buses stopped at the same time, yes, I said seven) and we got to know a little bit about each other, and found out we shared some connections other than blogging (even though that would have been enough). I had a Martha’s Vineyard connection with one super nice, grounded blogger and learned about more about Kegels than I ever thought I would know), talked to another BPB Blogger who is running the Falmouth Road Race to benefit the Melanoma Foundation of New England (something I am into, too) and I met someone who is funnier than I am (it is rare because I think I’m really funny – ask my family).

Once we got there, it was super crowded and chaotic. The elevators were jammed and it didn’t help that FFaNY was in the building (all the rooms on our floor were shoe showrooms except for ours and one across the hall). What a confluence that could have been. Women with sore feet and 14 stories above people selling shoes. Next time, FFaNY, bring shoes to sell. Seriously. Twitter was full of people looking for other shoes because they only packed cute heels.

But I digress. The conference proper is kind of hard to tease out of the side events. While it was great to meet so many people with a shared interest in blogging, writing and playing nicely with social media, it it does seem like it should be easier to find and schedule things.

One of the sessions was so overcrowded (so great that so many people wanted to learn about turning posts into published essays) that I stood against a wall trying to find enough air to breathe, never mind trying to take notes. I think PhD in Parenting was there,too, but couldn’t confirm. That was my main celebrity sighting* and I’m not even sure it was her. I may have been lightheaded from lack of air.

As always, NYC is a great destination and there could never be enough city love time. I wish that some events were “off campus”, as in not in the Hilton (as nice as it is). It is a shame to not explore such a fabulous city.

Pragmatic Mom and I found a great local restaurant (Thank you, Hilton concierge) and had a wonderful dinner where we met some lovely shoe people from FFaNY. We may even have a shoe giveaway with them – Stay tuned!

Best things about BlogHer? The people, the sessions (although they need a better system), the location (more recess time needed if you are in the city), and the sponsors are interesting and varied, which is always good. I saw Advil, Clorox, Lysol, CVS, Verizon, Best Buy, Disney Jr, Poise, Dannon, Samsung and so many more. I’ll go into it later or this will be the longest post ever.

I liked connecting with people, brands, bloggers, seeing new things, learning something new (so like Martha), trying something new, and sharing it all. Did I love every minute? No, I am no Pollyanna. Some things were size and location related, some easy fixes, some more complicated. If you really want to know, comment below! I promise to share and even over share!

*Correction – I did get to see Jeannie Mai, host of The Style Network’s “How Do I Look?” She looked great. I was in a button down and a pencil skirt. Ehh.

Lest this post makes it sound like I was careening hither and yon getting swag, I was not. I went through the Expo Hall and stopped at booths where I engaged in a dialogue with brand representatives and happened to get lucky. I found great new finds and will write about them when I sort through the bag of note and paper…too much paper!

Back to School – The Easy Adjustment

back to school photosAre we all breathing easier now that the first week of school is behind us? Sort of. I know that some people (me, for example) don’t do well with transitions. Despite three calendars and electronic reminders, I still have forgotten things this week. Is it my system? Is it my aging brain? Do I just wish that summer wasn’t over and am in denial? All of the above, I think. How do you make transition to school easier on your family? There are great online calendars and organizing systems for computers/phones/tablets like Evernote and Cozi, and paper ones for you paper people like MomAgenda and Mom Central that clean,  nice and easy to use (if you remember to use them). I am not really organized (cue the snort laughs from loved ones) so I have to set up no-fail systems – I actually just started a secret snack drawer (no, I can’t tell you where it is) so I have full containers of something for sharing (for those occasional times when it is 10 pm and someone remembers that we need a snack to share with the class – yes, I have beverages, too).  I also have a present cabinet (downgraded to a drawer now that the kids are older, the presents are smaller in size). What do I keep in it? Blank cards, basic (but lovely) hostess gifts, iTunes gift cards, Starbucks gift cards, unopened crayons, cool pencils, children’s birthday presents (anything from Klutz – especially the craft kits), books (I like to buy books anyway, and when you place your Scholastic order at school just order a few extra books or gift sets and you will have a great present on hand). Scholastic also has a great Parents page with tips and resources – sign up for their newsletter, too. I just received a packet of books from them to review and am so excited (some went out the door to family friends to read first – I managed to secure the promise of an actual young adult review or summary of the books in return) because I am busy driving carpool and re-learning some math skills  – Thank you, TenMarks! (a great on-line math resource for when I can’t get my engineer dad on the phone and sometimes even when I can). Now I am off to Staples one more time (this makes 6 times – don’t ask) – thank goodness I went for that 15% discount card! Don’t forget to get ready for Parent-Teacher Conferences! Here is a recent article from Social Moms on Making the Most of the Parent-Teacher Conference. What are you doing to get back into the swing of school? Advice? Snafus? Funny stories? I’d love to hear your experiences – Please share!

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