Frugal Novice

Fogo de Chao – Decadent Dining Experience!

We received meals to facilitate our review. All opinions are honest and are our own.

Several years ago Brian and I got the opportunity to eat at a Fogo de Chao in Austin, and we loved it. We’ve told the kids for years about what a fun dining experience it is (not to mention amazingly delicious), so we were really thrilled with the opportunity to introduce them – and my mother-in-law (Brian’s stepdad had already been) – to the restaurant on our recent trip to Dallas. We visited the Addison location and had a truly lovely meal.

fogodechao-people

If you’re not familiar with Fogo de Chao, let me give you the most important piece of information – come HUNGRY. There is an abundance of exquisite food, and trust me, you’ll want to try it all. The salad bar alone is stocked with all sorts of cheeses, fruits, veggies & more – and if you go to brunch there are other offerings out as well!

mozzarella-fogodechao

fogodechao-bolodefuba

brazilianbrunch-fogodechao

saladbaritems-fogodechao

sauces-fogodechao

If you looked at the salad bar alone you’d think you’d won the lottery, but the real heart of the Fogo de Chao experience is the meat. Every guest receives a two-sided card. One one side it’s red, meaning servers should stop bringing meat, and on the other it’s green, meaning you’re ready for more.

fogodechao-yesplease

There are a ton of different options to try – filet, strip steak, ribs, lamb, pork, beef, chicken – and it’s all delicious. A server will ask you how you’d like your meat cooked (when applicable) and then give you a portion to place on your plate.

fogodechao-servingmeat

fogodechao-servingmeat2

Beyond that, the sides brought to the table are amazing, too!

Our fabulous waiter, Antonio, had us try the bolo de fuba, which is a corn cake served with a banana whipped cream – so good. We loved the polenta, caramelized bananas, and creamy whipped potatoes, too.

fogodechao-bananas-cornbread

And y’all, the bread. It is light, airy, cheesy popover-style rolls called pao de queijo. I seriously couldn’t get enough of them and wish I could have them every day.

At this point I’m sure you can tell that the food is totally worth a visit, but what takes Fogo de Chao even more over the top is the service. The manager Tony was gregarious and welcoming, our waiter Antonio was always ready to pull out our chairs for us and was constantly on top of any need we might have. If you want to feel pampered, Fogo de Chao is the place to be. Thanks to Tony and his team for running a top notch restaurant through and through. We’ll definitely be back!

tony_antonio_fogodechao

Also, don’t miss this great news!

From Monday – Thursday, now through Jan. 2all military veterans and active duty personnel will receive 40% off their dinner or 25% off their lunch (valid for the full Churrasco experience; reservations required, just mention “Military Holiday” when making reservation).

Here are Fogo de Chao’s holiday hours:

  • Christmas Eve: 11:00 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
  • Christmas Day: 12:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • New Year’s Eve: 11:00 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.
  • New Year’s Day: 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Their special holiday menu includes such items as:

  • Seasonal Beef Roast
  • Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Butternut & Sweet Potato Soup
  • Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear & Endive Salads

Don’t miss out on a truly one-of-a-kind dining experience – check out Fogo de Chao this holiday season!

ICE! at Gaylord Texan is the Perfect Family Getaway

We received tickets to ICE! to facilitate our review. All opinions are honest and are our own.

We, like most other families, feel like we’re busy all the time – and especially so during the holidays. It seemed, then, like the perfect idea to get away and do something fun for the whole family. The Gaylord Texan is less than three hours away, and we set our sights on going to the ICE! exhibit.

We stayed one night at the Gaylord as part of our trip, and I can’t recommend enough adding this to your itinerary. It was so nice getting back to our room at the end of a busy day and just relax. I’ll tell you more about our room in a bit (spoiler alert: it was amazing), but first let’s talk about the whole reason we went – ICE! The theme this year is Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, a classic theme that was nostalgic for the adults and charming for the kids.

If you’ve never been to ICE! before, you should know that there are lines to get in – as with anything that’s immensely popular, there are a lot of people that want to go. We knew this ahead of time and were prepared, which made the waiting much more pleasant. Our solution? We bought a huge bag of popcorn and a big bag of cotton candy for the 5 kids to share. This worked great! You might also want to bring along a book for each child (something Christmas-themed would be perfect) to read while you’re waiting.

The Gaylord does a wonderful job of decorating the areas so that it feels magical and fun. In one waiting area, you’re surrounded by what looks like various machines for toy making. In another, there’s a giant rotating ice mountain and mist floating down with snowflakes shining on it.

waiting-gaylord

Once you get very close to entering the exhibit, everyone receives a thick blue parka to wear. Another tip is to bring along your own gloves, hats, and scarves – this helps keep everyone warmer! The kids looked adorable in their parkas.

bluecoats-gaylord

Brian and his mom looked pretty cute, too!

michelle-brian-gaylord

Once we got into the exhibit area I was really pleased with how easy it was to see each exhibit. It didn’t seem crowded at all, and we were able to go through at our own pace without feeling rushed. We could stop and look at all the details, and could take as many photos as we wanted – and trust me, there are so many things to take photos of! The attention to every aspect of the experience is beyond what you’d even expect. It was utterly impressive, and we were all wowed by the artists’ work.

clauses-gaylord-ice

ice-dungeon-gaylord

clauses-ice-gaylord

icetunnel-gaylord

family-ice-gaylord

Check out the beautiful nativity, too:

nativity-ice-gaylord

At the end of the exhibit there is a whole room filled with ice slides the whole family can go down – the kids thought this was a lot of fun and wanted to go down several times!

iceslide

If you want to check on tickets or get more info on ICE! click here – it’s running through January 1!

Once we left the exhibit we went and got hot chocolate – the perfect treat to warm up with after being SO cold! Afterward we went over to the adjacent area, which had all sorts of activities to choose from. We got to meet some characters:

character-meetup-gaylord

We also did the snow tubing, which was a hit with everyone. We got to go down the slopes 12 times, and the lines moved pretty quickly for this attraction. Living in Texas our chances for tubing down a snowy hill are pretty slim, so this was especially fun for all of us!

j-tubing-gaylord

c-tubing-gaylord

There are so many activities to choose from! We already decided we want to go back next year and try out some of the other options, like cookies & milk with Mrs. Claus, an elf scavenger hunt, and throwing real snowballs!

santas-snowballs-gaylord

We really enjoyed walking around the vast atrium of the Gaylord and looking at all the different decorations. It is absolutely beautiful, and we had fun taking photos at various settings.

reindeerpic-c-gaylord

large-gift-gaylord

kids-wreath-gaylord

kids-fountain-gaylord

wine-trees-gaylord

traintracks-gaylord

gingerbreadhouse-gaylord

kids-sign-gaylord

We did photos with Santa, too!

santapic-gaylord

I’ve got to talk about our room a bit, too, because it was honestly a huge highlight of the trip for the kids too. We walked into the suite and all three of them said “Wow!!!” – I decided to do a little video tour so you can see for yourself what a perfect setup this is for families:

j-roomview-gaylord

e-roomwindow-gaylord

The kids loved the view outside our room and spent a ton of time hanging out on the balcony, looking at lights and watching people walk by. This was our view at night – so pretty, isn’t it?

nightview-snowflakes-gaylord

This was an absolutely wonderful getaway for our family – the kids loved it and didn’t want to leave! They shared their favorite parts of our stay:

We can’t wait to go back and stay at the Gaylord again – they have fun things all throughout the year so we’ll be looking for opportunities to go and have another wonderful weekend getaway!

Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner in Our House!

This is a compensated post. All opinions are honest and are my own.

We cook most of our meals at home. This means we have to get creative with our menu planning so we don’t end up eating the same thing over and over again – I’m sure you’ve been in that same boat! We do have a few favorite meals that frequent our meal rotation, though:

  • Shredded Beef Quesadillas
  • Pot Roast with Baked Potatoes
  • Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
  • Burritos with Ground Beef and Black Beans

Did you notice the common thread? We love to have beef recipes mixed into our menu plan for the week. And beef prices are down this season (nearly 10 percent from the highest prices in late 2014!), which makes it perfect to incorporate beef into holiday recipes! You can expect to be seeing lower prices at the meat case in your grocery retailer. Take advantage of these prices as you shop for roasts, steaks and ground beef this season.

On Christmas Eve, for instance, we’ll be having spicy beef sliders. These are SO easy to make – the beef cooks while we’re at a Christmas Eve service, and then it’s ready for us to enjoy for dinner. Just place 1-1.5 pounds of beef stew meat in your slow cooker along with a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Pour beef broth over the meat just until it is completely covered. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, then serve the beef in dinner rolls with a slice of swiss cheese. Delicious and SO easy!

We use the leftover meat to make amazing beef quesadillas – I just shred the meat and add it to cheese & sauteed onions for the perfect quesadilla filling.

beefquesadilla

Pot roast is another favorite of ours (by the way – if you’re like me and never know what cut to get, check out this awesome resource); we like to serve it with brown gravy over baked potatoes. Talk about the perfect cold weather comfort food!

If you’re trying to figure out what to make this holiday season (like this beef stuffing with apples & cranberries, or braised short ribs with red wine sauce), check out this handy guide that’ll get you prepared for virtually any occasion:

holidayrecipeguide-beef

Here’s a quick video recipe you might want to try – it looks SO good, doesn’t it?

For more holiday recipes such as Citrus-Marinated Beef and Fruit Kabobs, Braised Short Ribs with Red Wine Sauce and Beef Stuffing with Apples and Cranberries, visit beefitswhatsfordinner.com.

Here are some other great tips for when you’re cooking with beef:

  • When you’re at the grocery store, pick up beef just before checking out. A good rule of thumb is this: if it will take longer than 30 minutes to get your freshly purchased beef home, consider keeping it in a cold cooler.
  • Once you’re home, refrigerate or freeze beef as soon as possible after purchasing, and always place beef packages on the lowest shelf in your refrigerator on a plate or tray to catch any escaping juices.
  • For best quality, thaw steaks and roasts in the refrigerator—never at room temperature—and be sure to place the frozen package on a plate or tray to catch any escaping juices during the thawing process. Check out these refrigerator and freezer storage guidelines to ensure maximum quality.
  • Tip: You can quickly thaw Ground Beef in your microwave in five minutes or less – just follow these simple steps.

Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.

Keep up with all things Beef on social media:

Twitter | Facebook  | Instagram  | Pinterest  | YouTube

The Perfect Christmas Present for Your Furry Friend!

This post is part of an ambassadorship with Beneful. I receive products, information, and compensation as an ambassador. All opinions are my own. We’re proud to be #FriendsOfBeneful! 

Guys, I’m so proud that I just have to share. We’re almost done with Christmas shopping, y’all. And there are still five days to go! That might just be a record for us. We’ve gotten cousin gifts, grandparent gifts, and of course gifts for our kids – and in our house we definitely can’t forget our pet gifts, either. We shop for our two dogs, my mom’s dog, and my brother & sister-in-law’s dogs – it’s tradition for them to all exchange gifts each year.

If you’re looking for what to give your pup this Christmas, look no further! I’ve got a great suggestion for a goodie bag any dog would love – plus a DIY gift idea and a how-to on creating a custom gift bag to fit any oddly-shaped gifts.

You can see above the variety of gifts we decided were perfect for our dog Sally to give our other dog Ninja. So fun, right? A rawhide candy cane, a tub of yummy Beneful food, a dog toy, and a custom collar slide to help him feel festive.

Here’s how we assembled the collar slide – I just cut shapes out of felt and then used a hot glue gun to assemble it all. I added a felt loop on the back to slide on to the collar, and voila! – all set.

tree-collar-slide

felt-loop-back

This assortment of gifts makes for an odd present to wrap, so I made a gift bag out of wrapping paper – and here’s how I did it:

giftbag-making

Take a sheet of wrapping paper and fold it in thirds,taping the seam together. Then fold up the bottom of the paper and spread it open into a diamond shape. Fold the top corner of the diamond down and the bottom corner up so they overlap, and then tape. Reach your hand into the open end and spread the bag out, and you’re good to go! It’s so easy and super cute.

We put the Beneful food in the bottom of the bag – it makes a perfect weight so the bag doesn’t tip over – and then we added everything else.

beneful-in-bag

items-in-bag

Since Ninja can be a little oblivious we went ahead and let him try on the collar slide – isn’t it adorable? You could do any sort of shape you like – even something like an initial so it could be used beyond the holidays.

ninja-collarslide

 

Skylanders Imaginators Multiplies the Imaginations – and the Fun!

We received a copy of Skylanders Imaginators to facilitate our review. All opinions are honest and our own.

Our boys have been fans of the Skylanders games for a long time – you can see our reviews of Trap Team and SuperChargers I’ve posted in years past. Well, I can say without a doubt that Imaginators is their favorite iteration yet.

skylanders-imaginators-case

Just like in previous versions, players can put Skylanders figurines onto a Portal of Power, which will then allow players to control the figurine-represented character in the game levels.

c-skylander-figure

The addition that makes this version so special is “Imaginators”, which are characters created by the player. Creation Crystals (like the one shown in the photo below) are where the Imaginators are stored. With creation crystals, the boys can transport their Imaginatiors to all video game consoles the game is released for.

j-skylander-crystal

At the beginning of the game, players can select a battle class and elemental class, which determines their fighting style. Afterwards, players can customize all sorts of things for their Imaginators, like: names, voices, powers, appearances, colors and sizes. Body parts, which are classified into four types, namely Common, Rare, Epic, and Ultimate, can be found when players are exploring in the game. These new parts can be used to customize the player’s existing imaginators, which can be modified at any time.

skylanders-imaginators-poster

You can find Skylanders Imaginators at most major retailers and on Amazon. It’d make a great Christmas gift for kids who love gaming and getting creative!

Hallmark Holiday Traditions Continue!

We received ornaments to facilitate our review. All opinions are honest and are our own. 

Traditions are incredibly important to me when it comes to the holidays, and I’ve loved it as Brian and I have figured out what we’d like to do with our children each year. Hallmark Keepsake ornaments are a big part of our Christmas tradition, which I wrote about in 2014 – and last year, too! Each year the kids pick out an ornament that represents their interest for the year – and Brian and I pick one out, too. The plan is that when the kids are grown and have their own Christmas tree they’ll be able to take all their ornaments from over the years.

Here are the ornaments we picked out for 2017:

bb8-ornament

J picked BB-8. He loves Star Wars, and was a big fan of The Force Awakens when we went to see it last year. The attention to detail on this ornament is amazing – it looks so good!

C loves cooking and baking, so it was no surprise to us that he picked this Santa’s sleigh ornament:

santasleighornament

It is seriously adorable. The candy canes, the icing details, and the fact that santa’s hat is a piping tip all just add to the charm.

E was entirely predictable with her ornament selection – Elsa all the way!

elsa-ornament

Brian and I went with a classic, and chose the Crayola coloring box. It opens and closes, and again, the attention to detail is incredibly impressive (see the front view above).

crayolaornament-back

Check out all the various ornaments available on the Hallmark site!

Bath Time is Extra Fun With Suave, Frozen, & Star Wars!

This is a compensated post, but all opinions are honest and my own. Post sponsored by Mirum Shopper. All opinions are my own.

When it comes to bathtime for kids, it can end up being a chore for both parents and kids. If you’ve ever heard your child whine, “Do I have to take a bath?” you’re not alone, my friend. Anything we can find to make bathtime more fun ends up making it easier on us.

We have three kids, as most of you already know – two boys and one girl. With this particular mix, we definitely have a healthy balance of princesses and dart guns in our play area. Our boys love Star Wars (they come by it honestly – my husband does, too), and my daughter is pretty obsessed with Frozen, as are almost all other 3-year-old girls (she’d totally be Elsa, by the way – she tells us this every time we watch the movie).

When we can combine things the kids love and bathtime, it’s a win-win, so we were pretty excited to discover the new Suave Kids – DISNEY FROZEN & Suave Kids Star Wars bath products at Walmart.

J-Suave

It really couldn’t be a more perfect fit for our family. The boys immediately started debating on whether we needed the Kylo Ren or BB-8 body wash/shampoo (Kylo Ren won out, in case you’re wondering). And our daughter knew immediately that she had to have the Elsa shampoo/conditioner.

C-Suave

Both products smell great – the Star Wars body wash/shampoo has an apple scent, and the Frozen shampoo/conditioner is berry scented.

E-Suave

As a parent, I love these products because they’re fun for my kids and they have the same great Suave quality I have known of for decades. They’re tear-free and hypoallergenic. They’re easy to rinse off, and residue-free, making bath time safe and easy for kiddos!

Since we’ve been talking about bath-time fun, I thought I’d share two great ideas that are SO easy, and that your kids will love:

•For Star Wars fans – buy some glow sticks (they’re SO inexpensive), activate them, and turn out the lights for some epic adventures!

•For Frozen fans – add shaving cream to the bathtub and you’ve got an instant “frozen” wonderland with tons of “snow” to play with!

 

Celebrating What We Luv With Luvs!

This is a partnered post sponsored by Luvs. All opinions are my own.

At this time of year, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, we’re all thinking about who and what we are thankful for. With that in mind, it was the perfect time for me to have a #WhatULuv party with friends.

luvsdiapers-table

Luvs generously provided diapers, decor and sippy cups for the party, so I decided to come up with green, purple and white foods to keep with the theme.

purplecookies

greenapples

cheesecakedip

cheese-bread_luvs

luvs-table-setup

Continue Reading…

Poise Impressa® Bladder Supports Let Your Holidays be Merry and Bright!

This post is sponsored by Acorn on behalf of Poise. All thoughts and opinions are honest and are my own.

The holidays are almost upon us (ahem… we may have already started decorating. I may be writing this post by the lights of our Christmas tree) and that means we’re entering my favorite time of the year. I absolutely love all the fun opportunities there are for making memories with my family!

As moms, we’re often the hubs of the family activities, aren’t we? Especially during the holidays, we’re coordinating schedules, planning fun outings and crafts, and keeping things running smoothly (all while ordering cards, shopping for gifts, and planning the menu for Christmas dinner).

Some of my friends with kids who have an issue, though – one that can distract them from all the holiday fun. It’s something really common that you might have encountered too: bladder leakage. It’s not something people really want to talk about, but if you’re stressing as your cousin tells a hilarious story because you don’t want to laugh too hard, you know that it’s a very real thing that can hamper holiday memory-making.

No more, friends. If this is an issue you’re dealing with, there’s a super easy solution. Just head to Walmart and get a Poise Impressa Sizing Kit (or order one online here). Once you figure out which size is right for you, you’ll be all set to have discreet protection against worry. Laugh all you want, bake all you want, wrap gifts all you want – do it all without thinking twice, because Impressa’s got your back.

If you’re looking for some easy – and fun – holiday activities, look no further! Something as simple as going to look at lights can be really special, if you approach it the right way. For example:

  • Line the car seats with cozy fleece blankets, and have extra blankets and pillows for each car rider.
  • Have everyone (you too, Mom & Dad) wear pajamas.
  • Pack a travel mug of coffee or hot chocolate for everyone, complete with peppermint for an added Christmas flavor.
  • Bring along popcorn, cookies, and/or candy for the kids to have a special treat while you drive around.
  • Have a Christmas music playlist ready to go for background music.
  • Get a cheap pair of binoculars and let the kids take turns looking at houses up close and personal!
  • Play a version of BINGO, having the kids look for various decorations (i.e. inflatable snowman).

Whether you’re looking at Christmas lights, baking cookies, wrapping gifts, or laughing your head off at a family gathering, Impressa will let you do it all without a second thought. Celebrate with confidence, and make memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime.

Veterans Day Deals From Boston Market, Fogo de Chão, & Ruby Tuesday

Veteran’s Day is a week from today, and it’s the perfect time to thank those you know who have served our country. These men and women work hard and sacrifice time away from their own families to keep us safe, and their actions are definitely worth celebrating.

If you’re looking for a way to thank a veteran, here are three great restaurant deals to take advantage of:

Fogo de Chao Brazillian Steakhouse Restaurant wall sign

Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse

  • All military veterans and active duty personnel with valid military ID will receive 50% off their meal on Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11); up to three additional guests will receive 10% off their meals, as well. (Offer is valid at all U.S. and Puerto Rico Fogo de Chão locations. Beverages, dessert, tax and gratuity not included.)

Ruby Tuesday

Ruby Tuesday

  • All veterans, active duty and reserve military service members with valid military ID can enjoy one free appetizer (up to a $10 value) on Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11). (Offer is valid at all Ruby Tuesday locations, excluding those in Guam, Hawaii, Manhattan, airports or outside of the United States.)

Boston Market

Boston Market

  • All active duty or retired military personnel and their families can receive one free brownie or cookie with any purchase on Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11). No ID required.

 

Protect Your Pets with Healthy Paws Pet Insurance (+ a Giveaway!)

The Healthy Paws® information, product, and gift card, have been provided by Healthy Paws Pet Insurance®. All opinions are my own.

sally-sweet

This is our lab/golden retriever, Sally, conked out on a recent road trip. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that our dogs are pretty special to us. They are loyal, loving, and unendingly patient with our three loud, energetic kids.

A year ago, Sally got a bug bite on her head that she scratched at, and it got infected. She was absolutely pitiful – so lethargic and not like herself at all! We were worried and took her to the vet right away. Thankfully they were able to do a laser treatment and give her medicine to help with the healing process – but we were left paying nearly $300 to the vet. She’s totally worth it, of course, but I wish I’d known then about Healthy Paws Pet Insurance®.

It’s the #1 customer-rated pet insurance, and it pays up to 90% of vet bills due to unexpected accidents or illness! We could have avoided that huge bill and protected our budget that month if we had signed up for one of their policies.

If you get a free quote from Healthy Paws, they’ll contribute money to the medical care of homeless pets.  Sign up early on in your pets’ lives, because pet insurance is just like human insurance in that it doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions. And don’t forget to participate in their Refer-A-Friend program, where you can earn $35 for each friend that enrolls.

Keep up with Healthy Paws on Facebook & Twitter, too!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fill Your Friends’ Halloween with Boo-tiful Fun!

At Home funded this amazing Boo! fun. All opinions are honest and my own.

Thanksgiving and Christmas often get associated with doing nice things for others, but I’ve decided Halloween has gotten unfairly left out. There are plenty of opportunities for random acts of kindness, and this past week we tried out one of my favorite Halloween traditions – “booing” someone!

One of my best friends started a new chapter in her life this summer, and has recently moved into a new home with her two kids. I thought she would be perfect to surprise!

Brian and I went to At Home to stock up on supplies. It was SO much fun looking through all their Halloween items to decide what we wanted to get.

athome-storefront

yard_setup_athome

inflatables

halloween_signs

whiteblack-signs

jack-o-lanterns-aisle

trickortreatsign

cart_athome

We settled on a fun light-up inflatable arch, stake light pathway markers, a jack-o-lantern doormat, two metal signs, a cauldron perfect for holding Halloween candy, and a light-up jack-o-lantern. Once we had everything picked out, we just had to sneak over to my friend’s house and set everything up!

flowerbed

In front of her flower bed we set up two colorful metal signs and the orange stake lights. These bring a great amount of color to the yard and are fun and cheerful!

orangelights

jack-o-lantern_stackedsigns

cauldronsign

On the front porch we placed the doormat, jack-o-lantern and cauldron – a perfect doorstep setting for any trick-or-treaters on Halloween!

frontporch-closeup

I think my favorite thing in the yard, though, is the inflatable arch. It’s so fun with the monster eyes on it, at night it lights up, and it’s a great entrance for trick-or-treaters to walk through as they head up to my friend’s porch.

Continue Reading…