Happy Father's Day!

Applebee's wood fired menu review & giveaway

Last Saturday, Paul and I got a nice date night at Applebee's --- hooray for dinner without kids (ha ha!). We were there to try Applebee's NEW wood fired menu. Both of us were super excited to try it because we actually usually always eat at Applebee's whenever we go out to eat (with the kids more than without!).  It's super close to us, and the service along with food is always great. We went to Applebee's Loehmann'S Plaza in Virginia Beach, where they just recently rolled out the new menu items. Our server Carly, and the manager Heather were two amazingly friendly ladies. We had such great service!

The menu features steaks and bone-in pork chops which are hand cut in restaurant by trained meat cutters to ensure the highest quality, freshness and optimal thickness. Applebee's really took their new menu features seriously, there was over 60 thousand hours of training for meat cutters, which is part of a combined $40 million investment by Applebee’s franchisees.

The Applebee’s wood fired menu includes:

  • 8 oz. and 6 oz. Hand-cut USDA Choice Top Sirloin Steaks 
  • Hand-cut Bone-in Pork Chops with Honey Apple Chutney 
  • Cedar-grilled Salmon with Maple Mustard 
  • Glaze Grilled chicken breast
It also features wood grilled veggies, appetizers, etc. I really felt like they vamped up the menu is such an awesome way; it had me wanting to come back for more with just one bite. If Applebee's wanted to stand out from others -- they just found a way to do so. I was honestly very impressed! I think this is one of the smartest moves that Applebee's could've made. Felt like an awesome grill out, only without all the hard work of cooking awesome food.

Our server mentioned their sirloin won ton tacos as an appetizer, and while I admit I was skeptical at first, it was clearly love at first bite. They weren't even on the menu yet, but she let us know that they're there and anytime we come in they can be ordered. HINT: order them! They're a little sweet, with a blast of flavor. I could've ate them as a main meal they were so good.

I ordered the pork chops with honey apple chutney, with a side of wood grilled veggies,  and maple pecan mashed sweet potatoes. First off, the pork was AMAZING and I am not even a huge pork fan. The sauce was out of this world. And the sweet potatoes, recommended by our server Carly, were so good that I couldn't stop talking about them. The maple and pecan tasted like melted brown sugar; it was just heaven. I could eat them for dessert! The veggies were a hit too, they tasted so much better wood fired.

Paul ordered the wood fired 8oz sirloin, with mashed potatoes and garlicky green beans. He normally orders steak whenever we go to Applebee's and he agreed that the wood fired is so much better, an awesome upgrade! Plus our food came out so fast, and perfect which made the experience even better.

Last but not least, somehow we made room for dessert. Calories DON'T count on the weekend, right!??! This apple chimi cheesecake was out of this world. This dessert features cheesecake & caramel apples fried in a tortilla, cinnamon sugar, roasted apples, ice cream, caramel sauce. AKA you need to try it right now.

In short: we're so lucky to have an amazing restaurant like Applebee's with great service to go to, but the wood fired menu in itself is a must try. Me being a foodie, of course I was delighted to try the new flavors and I was highly impressed. I highly recommend trying a new item, it won't disappoint.

In-fact, check out the giveaway below! One lucky reader will get a $30 gift certificate to try the wood fired menu for themselves. GOOD LUCK :)

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Buttercup kiddos!

Love love love! Summer is almost here....and I love the buttercup flowers today while at the park. They make for such a vibrant, and fun scenes in photographs. I had two families to photograph today, so I decided to snap a few of the boys. They weren't totally feeling taking pictures so I had to be quick. Plus it was super duper hot out, and the humidity was horrible.

5 fun patriotic styles!

With Memorial Day coming up, and then the 4th of July in a couple months -- here are 5 fun ways to rock your patriotic side. Of course you could rock these whenever, there's never a day when it isn't cool to rock it; but these are some cute ideas for the holidays as well.

1. American Maxi - This adorable dress is perfect not only to show your patriotic side but would make a great picnic dress, or summer dress. It retails for $36 at FillyFlair.com

2. High waist flag shorts - These shorts are flirty and FUN! I love them. They're sold on Etsy for $45.

3. Flag bow tank - This tank is cute, simple, and to the point. The bow adds a bit of flair! This tank retails for $27 on Etsy.

4. Patriotic boots - Get your cowgirl on while being patriotic! These boots would look adorable with a pair of shorts or a simple dress. Country Outfitters sells them for $140.

5. Red, white and blue crystal bracelet - I'm loving this handmade swarovski crystals bracelet. Very simple but elegant looking. Perfect to show your patriotic style in a classy way. $40 on Etsy.

Motivating kids to get outdoors.

In 2016, it is very uncommon for even a one year old to not have mastered technology such as an iPhone, or tablet. I think that there is nothing wrong with supervised, and allotted technology time; however it is so easy for young children to form an addiction. I mean, just look how addicted adults can get? It just happens. We are all guilty of it.

Playing outdoors is so important though, and just being active and a part of the real world without being sucked into virtual reality. I remember as a kid when the internet was just getting popular, and thankfully it wasn't full blown popular where every kid had a tablet. I spent most of my childhood constantly wanting to be outdoors, play, explore, etc. I do remember that as a teenager I went through a period of being addicted to my computer; totally not fun times. I would never want that to happen to my kids.

We spend a good amount of time outdoors, and my boys would definitely rather be outside than on a tablet 24/7 --- but the thing is if you don't encourage outdoors play, why wouldn't they just sit on the tablet? We've found that technology can make kids not want to go to bed (Screen keeps them up), mad when you take it away, etc so in limiting it and encouraging play outdoors, you are helping eliminate the problem.

If your young kids are hesitant about being outdoors often, here are some ideas:

1.  Allow them to explore, get dirty, play with water, etc where it is safe - our backyard has a tall privacy fence that they cannot get out of it. I constantly leave the back door open, so if I am doing dishes for example; I can see straight into the backyard and it gives them the freedom to explore and play, learn even then. Our boys are constantly getting dirty, playing with bugs, etc and it is great to see. Just recently, our 4 year old has loved un-screwing things outdoors.

2. Encourage through example - This year we finally got a decent garden going again, so we like to get the kids involved. Paul has a green thumb (more than I do, oops!) and he always has Brody outside checking out the plants with him, watering them etc. Just today, Brody picked up a random seed and said he was planting his own plant and asked me to water it. He is clearly leading by example.

3. Go on daily walks - We go on multiple walks a day actually, and it is one of the kids favorite things to do. We get to see bunnies on our walks, birds, etc and they love it. Plus we have a nearby park that we have been walking to a lot. A walk is great too when you're having a stressful day, being outdoors can quickly relieve that. Our 1 year old will tell me quite often that he'd like to go for a walk!

4.  Eat outdoors - Yes, I know there are bugs but eating outdoors when the weather permits it is so awesome. There's nothing like a warm day, and a good meal outdoors together. Then after dinner, or lunch you're already outdoors so why not blow some bubbles, play in the dirt, play ball, etc. Kids also love having "picnics" bring a sheet outside and have fun.

3 ways to add flavor to a salad without adding fat or sugar

SALAD! Salad is amazing in the summer, so many fresh fruits to add and vegetables - it is just such a great, light way to enjoy a healthy meal. However when it comes to adding flavor and you're watching what you eat -- salad dressing can be packed with a ton of un-healthy fat, sugar, and other additives. Here are 3 great ways to add flavor / taste to your salad.

1. Squeeze lemon, garlic salt, and a little basil into a bowl and mix. Pour over your salad and enjoy the deliciousness. Simple, but definitely adds taste.

2. Adding avocado, fruit, or feta cheese. Either one of these has a strong taste, that can add some flavor to a salad newbie who just doesn't enjoy the taste of a plain salad.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar. If you don't mind the strong taste this is a great way to enjoy a salad. The organic vinegar is super strong but so tasty (even my 4 year old LOVES it!).

 photo credit: Lemon via photopin (license)

Here comes summer

After so many weeks of constant rain, gloomy weather...with a few days here and there that were decent -- we are starting to see some warm weather with sunshine.  This is great, but at the same time I really don't like it when it starts to get TOO hot where it is miserable to be outside. With the nice weather, and two boys who actually let me take their picture for once - I had to snap a few. It is crazy how fast these two are growing (and yes, they have crazy hair that I will not cut right now). Brody will be 5 this summer, and Grayson will be 2 shortly after. Our little man is going to school, and it is crazy to see this happen so fast.