Momma Told Me: April 2017

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Exploring Meal Kit Delivery: Why It Works For Us

 This content has been sponsored by HelloFresh. Regardless the images an opinions contained below are genuine and copyright Momma Told Me Blog 2017.
Thanks to Momma's helicopter parenting style I was taught essential cooking skills from a very young age.

Okay, what I was really taught was how to do 'prep work' such as washing and peeling potatoes, mixing marinades, trimming chicken, and measuring ingredients. Long before we had magical tablets to bark directions at us in the kitchen there was me, the loyal daughter reading off fine print from Betty Crocker's cook book. Of course I picked up some essential cooking skills too- I learned to add cold oil to a hot pan to prevent sticking, that meats continue to cook after being removed from a hot surface, and to always taste your food when cooking. Things, in my adult life, I've taken for granted as common knowledge. That was, until I met Jay.
In the 5 years we have been together Jay has never made a meal from scratch. It's not from laziness, or lack of wanting, but from a deep rooted fear of mucking things up. I like to think he has this vision of the entire kitchen engulfed in flames from a pot of water catching on fire. So, in our household that has been the main obstacle to eating delicious home cooked meals on a nightly basis. That and the fact that I simply don't have the time to go into the store shop meal-by-meal each week. Schedules change, and some nights I'm happy if I remember to change out of my clothes before bedtime. And let's not discuss the cost and waste involved in trying to meal plan for 2 people 7 nights a week.

So, for those reasons, and so many more, we've been experimenting with the ever-so-popular meal kit delivery trend. There are many companies out there offering these types of services and it can be overwhelming to know where to start or what to expect. I've found HelloFresh is the perfect place to dip your toes, with an easy to navigate online portal and a very relaxed subscription format.
You'll start by heading online- If you've never ordered from HelloFresh before you can enjoy $30 off your first box, plus free shipping, with my exclusive code: MOMMAJ30.

Once online you'll set up a very basic profile identifying whether you typically are shopping for a couple or a family (3-4 people) and your personal palette preferences (classic gourmet meals, family styled meals, or vegetarian). At that point you'll be given a preview of the upcoming week's meals and allowed to select the number of meals which you want delivered (3, 4, or 5). I especially like this option because it gives me the chance to sort of customize and plan my meal plan for the upcoming week. If I was planning on cooking chicken outside of my HelloFresh box then I might decide to go with another protein based meal during my selection process.
You'll choose a delivery date. In order to ensure the freshest ingredients, and prompt delivery, there's only a 3 day delivery window during the week. Of course your box and ingredients will last many more days beyond delivery, when stored properly in your home, so you will have some freedom to plan your meals and nights.

You are never locked into a commitment or contract- After your first box you can delay or cancel as desired- We like to enjoy a meal delivery box once or twice a month as our schedule demands. You can use HelloFresh as often or as little as fits your family's schedule. Pause your deliveries for up to 5 weeks, or opt-out of deliveries on a week to week basis if desired.
When your HelloFresh box arrives it might seem overwhelming and exciting all at once. It's a big box! Inside you'll find the key ingredients for each meal packaged in individual boxes (sectioned by meal). I like to keep everything in their appropriate box until we're ready to cook each meal but not all fridges will accommodate three or more of these smaller boxes. Regardless you will want to check the contents of each box and cross reference the provided ingredients lists to make sure everything arrived in good order. Proteins are not shipped and stored in the smaller meal boxes- we almost threw ours out! Make sure to check under the meal boxes, in between the ice packs, to remove your proteins upon unpacking.
Your box will also include sturdy, illustrated, recipe cards for each of your meals. On this recipe cards you will find the provided ingredients, and portioning, any necessary ingredients or supplies you need to prepare (bowls, cling wrap, water, etc) and step by step instructions to prepare your dishes.

If you are receiving the family (3-4 person) sized boxes most of your ingredients will be doubled. This will be noted on the recipe card under the ingredients but does not always translate to the instructions, which are written for the general base (2 person) recipe. I suggest reading your recipe card ahead of time to make sure any ingredient portioning or prep-work is addressed before you're in the middle of cooking your meal.
Stuffed Juicy lucy burgers with HellowFresh #AD
One of the things I love especially about HelloFresh is how well the instructions are timed. One person can effectively manage their time in the kitchen without wasting a moment and efficiently prepare a meal with minimal to no experience. Nearly all of your ingredients provided will require some sort of prep on your part, but the recipe card integrates this prep into the instructions at timed intervals that make the most of down time (IE: where your buns are toasting or your water is boiling).
Stuffed Juicy lucy burgers from Hello Fresh #AD
I also love how fun HelloFresh is for both new home cooks and seasoned chefs, such as myself. I've always wanted to make stuffed burgers from scratch but never knew quite where to begin with flavor profiles or the filling. HelloFresh's Juicy Lucy burgers broke the entire process down. I now have the confidence to make them again, perhaps even with a few of my own twists!
And the food? I find the flavor profiles are strong, yet natural- the fresh ingredients keep questionable things out of my meals and really allow true flavors to shine through. If I encounter an ingredient I haven't worked with before I can even learn how to prep and handle it like a pro. In general the service has not only saved me time and money on busy weeknights, but also expanded my confidence in the kitchen and taught me a few new tricks!
Perhaps, best of all for me, it's even inspired Jay to take the apron and cook on his own. In fact, he rather enjoyed the pride that came from preparing meals from scratch, and I've noticed he's gotten a lot more confident with the knife! Having pre-portioned ingredients in addition to the easy-to-follow recipe cards really provides all the tools for success, and even brings back a little bit of fun to the kitchen again!

Have you ever tried HelloFresh? If you've never ordered from HelloFresh head on over now to enjoy $30 off your first box, plus free shipping, with my exclusive code: MOMMAJ30. This code will only be around through the first week of May!

Making A Timeless Mother's Day Gift (Under $10)

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #DoingThe99 #99YourMothersDay #CollectiveBias
This elegant vanity tray was made with materials from the 99 Cents Only Stores for just $6, and everything on it was only another $6! #99YourMothersDay #DoingThe99 #AD
My mother and I don't really do gifts.

There was a time when I would actually get scolded for spending money on her- and not in a cute "oh you shouldn't have" manner, in a very real "I gave birth to you and you'll do as your told, you've offended me greatly" manner.

Through the years she's mellowed a bit. (Don't tell her I said that though, she has a staunch reputation to maintain.) We still do bare minimal for most holidays, and Mother's Day is no exception- but I've found that handmade gifts are accepted much more graciously. After all, she might smack me upside the head for buying her a new blu-ray player but there's not much she can do when I present her with something I crafted from my own two hands.....accept tell me to spend less time and money on it next time.

We have a special relationship.
That being said, whether you are a mother yourself, are the grown child of a mother, or have a friend who is a mother, Mother's Day is rapidly approaching and it's always nice to have a gift in mind that looks like a million bucks but cost you more like a 100 Grand (the candy bar). Regardless of who you're shopping for this Sunday May 14th, you likely need a little inspiration. After all, a macaroni pencil holder or salt dough portrait doesn't quite fly when you're 30.

Luckily, being the savvy 99er that I am, I'm always looking for inspiration for a fun and unique project that would make a great gift. We try to stop by our local 99 Cents Only Stores at least twice a week, since new and exciting things are always hitting the shelves, and the aisles are always packed with amazing essentials as well as seasonal decor and necessities. One of these days I'll make a fresh fruit bouquet from all of the amazing fruit in the produce department! You really can't go wrong whether you're looking to fill in holes on your grocery list or build a gift basket last minute- there are plenty of name brands at amazing prices.
So a few weeks back on Pinterest I saw some 'suggested for you' PINs pop into my feed and one was of a handmade vanity tray. The tray looked amazing, but when I clicked through to check out the materials things began adding up very quickly. The blogger had essentially used a bought tray ($20) and painted/refinished it to fit her decor. It was cute, but I knew I could do better for much cheaper.

The toughest part of my mission, or so I thought, would be finding a sturdy and sizeable surface to be functional at a vanity, or by the tub, while still holding a decent amount of weight without falling apart. Our local 99 Cents Only Store always has a section of aisle (usually across from the kitchen-wares) with home decor such as frames, mirrors, plaques, canvas art and more. Surprisingly I found 3 different options for my tray base that suited my needs.
I ended up deciding on a framed personal wall mirror for $1.99- it had a nice stylish pink border which would have worked great in my home, but not so much my mother's. I knew I wanted to give the tray handles of some kind, to make it easily transportable, but they had to adhere on their own since the tray's surface was essentially a mirror. In the electronics and accessories aisle I found some adorable smartphone 'rings' intended to support up 4lbs weight (each), which self adhered thanks to a sticky back. Then all I needed to do was decide on a color to paint my frame, and pick up a few accents to adorn my finished product.
To begin this very simple, anybody can do it, project I first taped along the inner edges of the mirror to protect from any paint residue during the process of painting the frame. I also wanted to dress up the mirror surface a little so I used my tape to make an inner 'frame' which I could paint over to reveal a designed pattern.
I'd picked up some decorative baubles at my local 99 and wanted to tie in my copper color to them as well- giving the edges, or entire objects, a quick coat of paint really helped tie my finished product together and elevate it to a whole new classy level. How adorable is that ceramic pineapple and sea turtle?
Once my paint had dried I carefully peeled off the tape- it's okay if you weren't perfect on your lines, the mirror surface will often be covered and imperfections give it a handmade feel. You may want to give your mirror a clear coat finish if you are worried about scuffs or scratches in use.

Next I pulled out my smartphone 'rings' and applied them in the center of each of the mirror's shortest ends. Voila! Instant tray! I was surprised how strong the grip of these rings were, and they easily carried a full load of items.
This elegant vanity tray was made with materials from the 99 Cents Only Stores for just $6, and everything on it was only another $6! #99YourMothersDay #DoingThe99 #AD
I have to say pictures don't do this beautiful tray justice. The metallic paint really pops and you can't tell I only spent $6 on it- I definitely want to make one for my own home now, too! It is incredibly sturdy and functional, and if it ever gets damaged no tears will be shed. I don't know about you- but those are some magical features to a mother!
This elegant vanity tray was made with materials from the 99 Cents Only Stores for just $6, and everything on it was only another $6! #99YourMothersDay #DoingThe99 #ADThis elegant vanity tray was made with materials from the 99 Cents Only Stores for just $6, and everything on it was only another $6! #99YourMothersDay #DoingThe99 #AD
I'll admit, I really 'broke the bank' spending an extra couple of bucks at the 99 Cents Only Stores on my accents. What can I say- everything on the tray itself was a whopping $7. I included a few moisturizers and a bamboo bath scrubber to add some functionality to my gift, as well as Godiva chocolates to sweeten the sentiment. This is definitely a gift I'd love to receive; and I know my mother will be proud of (when she hears how little I spent.)
This elegant vanity tray was made with materials from the 99 Cents Only Stores for just $6, and everything on it was only another $6! #99YourMothersDay #DoingThe99 #AD
Some of life's luxuries can still look expensive without really breaking the bank- that's something my frugal mother taught me. Mother's Day  is definitely a day to pamper the mothers in our lives and this $6 Custom Vanity Tray does just that! Of course if I haven't inspired you to creative-ness, you can also visit your local 99 and make an amazing gift basket your mother will love. Now, tell me, what are your plans for this Mother's Day?

Bring The Best Of The Outdoors To Your Car This Season With Clean Air + A D.I.Y Vent Clip Freshener

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FRAMFreshBreeze #CollectiveBias
How to change your cabin air filter- and other simple tips to refresh your car's air quality! #FRAMFreshBreeze #AD
Momma Told Me: The air's fresher outside.

I'm the sort of person who pays attention to the air I'm breathing.

In our living room we have a portable air purifier, as well as on the night-stand in the master bathroom. Though we have a cat and a (allergy friendly/fur free) dog I am constantly vacuuming and lint rolling away the traces of them. And, of course, I keep an eye on the local pollen counts and air advisories. Living in Southern California we're also at risk for long periods of ash falling from the sky, during brush fire season, and notorious for poor air quality in the form of smog. Thankfully, we live a good 40 miles from the main 'inland' cities, on the coast, so pet dander, pollen, and the occasional ash are my most common concerns.

In our home we clean vents, replace air filters, and keep the windows closed on poor air quality days. I like to think we maintain the (allergen/irritant) risk factors quite well. And, for many people, this is quite common in modern times. However, how do we maintain a pleasant breathing experience when we are on the go? Arguably, our car, is one of the places we are potentially subject to the most, and widest range of, air pollutants.
How to change your cabin air filter- and other simple tips to refresh your car's air quality! #FRAMFreshBreeze #AD
I keep a lot of air fresheners in my car because I like a 'stinky drive', as Jay likes to put it. But, as much as I like to envision flowers growing out of my vents, the term air freshener might be deceiving and without proper air filtration I might literally be breathing in irritating pollen as the flowers bloom over the next 6 months. Air fresheners really don't do much but mask odors- odors commonly caused by smells (bacteria) lingering in various aspects of your car. (Yuck!)
How to change your cabin air filter- and other simple tips to refresh your car's air quality! #FRAMFreshBreeze #AD
When I bought my current vehicle last year it was the newest (for me) vehicle I'd ever owned. While it was a 2005 model it had had but one owner (a grandmother who used it for casual cruising when the grand-kids were in town.) It had a whopping 54k miles on it and had been garaged nearly all it's life. Because it was in such impressive condition, I began investing more time than usual on maintaining it's quality with a few small automotive DIY projects. We refurbished the headlights, I replaced a few simple parts, bought new windshield wipers, and took it in for a full tune-up and oil change at my local Walmart automotive center. Even the mechanic complimented the condition the car had been kept in, but we were both surprised to learn one item was still in 'like new' condition. The cabin air filter compartment sat there, under my hood, with the original manufacturer's seal sticker still taped over the front. The previous owner had never decided to install one.
How to change your cabin air filter- and other simple tips to refresh your car's air quality! #FRAMFreshBreeze #AD
In fact, you just might be surprised how many people could be driving around without a cabin air filter in their car. Certain makes/models don't include cabin air filters off the lot- despite having a perfectly functional designated space for one. And many people get the cabin air filter confused with their engine air filter- they are NOT the same thing. Just as your engine air filter is important to ensure your engine is breathing nice clean air the cabin air filter directly controls the quality of air that is pulled from outside your vehicle, inside, through your car's air conditioning and vent system. Even more alarming the air inside your vehicle can be up to 6x dirtier than the air outside!

Thankfully, I was able to browse the in-store automotive department at Walmart on my last trip. I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of Fresh Breeze® cabin air filter stocked on the shelves, so an employee was happy to assist me. In fact, he not only helped me find the right air filter for the year, make, and model of my car, but he assured me that most cabin air filter replacements could be done by owners with little to no car care experience. He also told me that Fresh Breeze® cabin air filters help filter up to 98% of dust, dirt, and allergens entering my car, and are the only cabin air filters that use the natural deodorizing qualities of ARM & HAMMER® baking soda.
How to change your cabin air filter- and other simple tips to refresh your car's air quality! #FRAMFreshBreeze #AD
I'll admit, while I've been doing more and more 'at home' car maintenance lately, I always get a bit of anxiety whenever I have to go under the hood. The first-most important thing when preparing to install your FRAM Fresh Breeze® cabin air filter is that you have the proper filter for your car- refer to to determine the appropriate model number, and local Walmart availability, for your particular vehicle. While I'm about to share the simple process involved in changing my 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser (Convertible, Turbo)'s cabin air filter you will find more specific instructions and installation videos by part number on the website.

Here's what I used for the job:

*FRAM Fresh Breeze® Cabin Air Filter CF10900
*Needle Nose Pliers,
*Both A Phillips and Slot HEAD Screwdrivers
*A Large Bowl/Container (For Loose Parts)
*Some Baby Wipes/Paper Towels
*Good Music/Companionship Optional
In my 2005 Chrysler PT Cruise the cabin air filter is located under the hood in the upper left (passenger's side) corner of the engine compartment. PT Cruiser vehicles are notoriously annoying for any sort of 'under the hood' work as the engine compartment is very compact and things can be touch to get to/navigate. In some vehicles the cabin air filter may need to be accessed through a glove compartment.
How to change your cabin air filter- and other simple tips to refresh your car's air quality! #FRAMFreshBreeze #AD
To get to the cabin air filter box I had to first remove the top grill of my engine compartment. This is a 2-piece, long, grated plastic cover that interlocks in the middle and has both top and side screws. The screws are inserted into caps and both the screws and caps will have to be carefully removed in order to pull the grill. Depending on the age of your vehicle the plastic caps your screws are inserted into may be brittle and subject to breaking. Carefully use a pair of needle-nosed pliers to remove them without damage. There were a total of 5 screws, and 5 screw caps on our vehicle. We kept an oversized bowl in the middle of the engine compartment to hold our screws while we continued the project.
As with all 'under the hood' projects you'll want to be mindful of your hands, and how greasy they may become. You may be tempted to rest your hands, or lean, on the outside of your car. Since my car is cream, and I didn't feel like adding a full afternoon of detailing to my chore list that day, I kept my wrists on the outer engine seal whenever I needed to brace myself for a better look.
How to change your cabin air filter- and other simple tips to refresh your car's air quality! #FRAMFreshBreeze #AD PTCruiser
While you can get away with only removing one half of this upper engine grill/cover you will be best served to remove both as they interlock in the middle and it takes a bit of coaxing to get the passengers side free. We ended up partially closing the hood to allow better rotation access in the upper left corner. Once I'd tiltes the back corner up it twisted out and the panel was easy to lift out.
With the upper engine compartment open I could immediately see the (in our case empty) cabin air filter box. With a flat head screwdriver I easily popped the two tabs holding the front cover in place and pulled it out. Be sure to keep one hand on the cover as you do this to prevent it from falling down into the compact engine compartment.
So, in about 8 minutes of prep-work I was ready to install my brand new FRAM Fresh Breeze® cabin air filter at last! The air filter was clearly labeled  indicating which way should face in towards the cabin for proper air flow. Install your air filter with the arrows facing in towards the inside of your car, with the lighter side of the filter facing out towards you.
How to change your cabin air filter- and other simple tips to refresh your car's air quality! #FRAMFreshBreeze #AD
Again, PT Cruisers are notorious for tight engine spaces and having the washer fluid basin directly up against this compartment made for some colorful language on my part. You may want to clean your hands, and the area around the air filter prior to attempting installation. If you have a second set of hands to gently pull the washer tank back, every 1/4 inch of leeway helps when sliding this chunky air filter into it's new home.
Once your FRAM Fresh Breeze® cabin air filter is happily seated in it's new home you can begin moving backwards to reassemble that which you disassembled. Again, the only tricky part is getting the two upper panels to interlock, then it's just pop the screws back in and you're done until next year, or about 12,000 miles (when it's suggested you replace your cabin air filter again). *Follow recommended change intervals as noted in your vehicle owner’s manual.
DIY Flower Car Vent Clip Air Freshener + Tips To Improve Your In Car Air Quality. #FRAMFreshBreeze #AD
In celebration of my new FRAM Fresh Breeze® cabin air filter and the 9.5 pollen rating forecast for the upcoming week I decided to revamp one of my favorite automotive DIY projects with Spring and Summer in mind. Pretty much anyone can literally make flowers spring from their car's air vents with this simple Vent Clip Air Freshener tutorial. Here's what you'll need:

*3-4 Sheets of Colored Felt- I prefer to have at least 1'stiff' felt sheet for my base layer
*Small Clothespins
*Hot Glue Gun/Sticks
*Essential Oil of choice (I used Lavender)
*This nifty, FREE, printable template and Scissors
DIY Flower Car Vent Clip Air Freshener + Tips To Improve Your In Car Air Quality. #FRAMFreshBreeze #AD
It may seem complicated but piecing these felt flowers together is easy- just print 2 copies of our FREE flower template printable and cut the outer shape of your flower of choice into 3 layers of felt at the same time. If you can choose a base layer that is the stiff kind of felt sheet and top with 2 layer of the traditional softer felt. This will make cutting and assembly much easier all around.
Reserve your bottom (single piece) layer and set aside. Next cut the most obvious, outer, shapes from the template on the second layer of pre-cut felt. Lastly, cut the 'background' layer/shapes into the 3rd. Everything from layers 2 and 3 will fit together like a puzzle, just mix and match however you'd like the colors to pop through. With the rose template you'll want to cut all the shaped out of both the 2nd and 3rd layers then just place them together into 1 single layer (leaving half leftover for a second rose) and glue them directly onto a single layer base.
DIY Flower Car Vent Clip Air Freshener + Tips To Improve Your In Car Air Quality. #FRAMFreshBreeze #AD
DIY Flower Car Vent Clip Air Freshener + Tips To Improve Your In Car Air Quality. #FRAMFreshBreeze #AD
You can go simple with your leafs- they mainly serve to act as a small pop of color and the portion that will stick primarily into your car's air vent. Securely glue them together, over-lapping partially, then glue them onto 2 clothes pins. Lastly, glue your completed flower onto the leaves.
DIY Flower Car Vent Clip Air Freshener + Tips To Improve Your In Car Air Quality. #FRAMFreshBreeze #AD
Add a few drops of essential oil to the felt flower- preferably at the top where fingers won't have to directly touch to pinch and insert the clips into your vent. Or course you can also clip the flower into your vent and apply the essential oils after. Depending on the quality of fragrance (and where you're in a warmer climate where your car might 'bake' during the day) a few drops will last a week of more for fragrance. These little air freshener clips can be re-used endlessly, just add more essential oils.
I like to make these vent-clip air fresheners as gifts, and seasonally to add a handcrafted touch to my vehicle. They're quite affordable to make and I find 4 felt sheets will make about 6-7 with scraps left over. Best of all they're the perfect compliment to my new FRAM Fresh Breeze® filtered air!
DIY Flower Car Vent Clip Air Freshener + Tips To Improve Your In Car Air Quality. #FRAMFreshBreeze #AD
With the warmer months upon us I'm sure we will all be driving more, to some pretty exciting places and adventures. When was the last time your cabin's air system had a refreshing? Chances are it's long overdue. I'll admit, I was pretty horrified when we opened up our engine compartment to see we'd been breathing the air through our car vent system without and form of filtration! Thanks to FRAM Fresh Breeze® cabin air filters at Walmart the entire family can breathe a sigh of relief- and, thanks to my adorable vent clips it smells FABulous. Now, dish- did you know your car had a cabin air filter? When was the last time it was replaced?

What Daughter Says: The air inside your car could be 6x more contaminated than the air outside. Maintain your car's cabin air filtration system for a better in car air experience.