Smells like Home

This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/P&G.

It’s the time of the year again, when I pack up half my house and all my kids and head to New York. Usually I only stay a week or two but this time around I’m going to be here for an entire month. What does it also mean? Loads and loads of laundry all of which need to be fresh and clean so they can be packed into 1 of 4 luggages that all need to be squeezed into our car with all three kids!

packed in the car


While we were doing laundry and folding clothes Mason got in on the action. He folded all of his shirts and his shorts and he did an amazing job! I was thrilled. I think we officially have a new chore that we can add to him being able to do. I didn’t think he was old enough yet to do it but apparently I was very wrong. He was so proud of himself. He was also amazing on the car ride to New York holding his sister’s hand and helping whenever I needed his help.

What caught me off guard is that he kept saying he couldn’t wait to get home. I was confused. He was so excited to go to New York? Why does he want to go back home to Virginia? So I asked him and his reply made my heart melt.

“I mean home as in New York, it’s mema’s home and since it’s her home, it’s kinda like my home too”.

Yes buddy, yes it is.

I love our life in Virginia and it most certainly feels like home to me but so does walking into my parent’s house. All my siblings are there. It smells like home. It wasn’t long before I arrived home that I was doing laundry. Some stuff needed folding and we needed towels. So I pitched in. Walking into the laundry area smelled like home too, a mix of their laundry detergent and Ultra Downy fabric conditioner.

ultra downy fabric conditioner

The power of smell is incredible. It’s amazing how it can take you back to a moment, to a memory long forgotten. We do things a little differently at my house. We don’t use the same laundry detergent as my parents do and until recently we didn’t use Downy as often as they do. As soon as I opened the bottle and took a whiff it brought me back. Smelled like home.

If you’re anything like us (aka have kids) protecting their clothes and yours is important. We don’t want to have to buy new clothes every time we turn around, especially when we’re already doing that due to the rapid growth of our children. I always thought that fabric conditioner was just to keep clothes soft and smell nice but that’s not all it does. It helps clothes keep their shape and resist fading. It also protects towels from pilling and fuzz. It makes our favorite t-shirt as soft as it should be to keep us comfortable. Clothes get rubbed together and agitated during the wash cycle and Downy conditions, strengthens and lubricates the fibers in the clothing to protect it. Downy keeps clothes smelling fresh for longer!

take the sniff test

Take the Sniff Test! You can notice the difference by washing one load of laundry without Downy and one with Downy. Which ones smells better? Which ones looks better? You can grab yours at Walmart so that you can take the sniff test!

What smells like home to you? 

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Baked Penne with Italian Sausage

Just before Emilia was born my little brother came into town. My grandmother makes this classic Puerto Rican dish and he wanted to make it for his friends so we went grocery shopping together. Since it’s one of his favorite dishes he took the time to learn it whereas I hadn’t and I was so surprised at what was in it. Red clam sauce and Ragu sauce were two of the main ingredients that shocked me. I always thought that everything in that dish was completely homemade but it turns out that it wasn’t. Instead my grandma used Ragu and I was never disappointed with the way it tasted.

baked penne with italian sausage 3

While my little brother tends to favor the Puerto Rican side of the family’s cooking I tend to favor the Italian side. I’m a pasta lover at heart. My favorite restaurants to visit are often Italian and when I make a weekly meal plan I tend to have more pasta dishes than anything else. Head to my lunches & dinners board and you’ll see what I mean. I can browse recipes for hours.

There is something just so comforting to me about italian food. I’ve talked about before how I usually make my own sauce but I’ll be real and say that doesn’t always happen. These days I pick up a jar of some good homestyle sauce and add it to my favorite family dishes. One of those is Baked Penne with Italian sausage. Baked penne is great because there are so many different things you can do with it. Since I love Italian Sausage I went with it and made baked penne with italian sausage. I swear I could become of vegetarian if it weren’t for sausage and bacon.

Prep time for this meal takes under 20 minutes then you just pop it into the oven and wait for the cheese on top to get bubbly. So let’s set this up for success. Preheat your oven to 350F. Boil a large pot of water for 1lb of penne pasta. On another burner cook 1lb of sausage over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally. While the sausage and pasta are cooking in a medium sized bowl combine 1 jar of Ragu Homestyle Thick & Hearty Roasted Garlic sauce, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and 12 oz riccotta cheese.

homestyle thick and hearty roasted garlic

When the pasta is al dente drain, rinse and set aside. When the sausage is done drain as well and set aside. In a large bowl combine the sauce mixture, pasta and sausage.

pasta, sauce, sausage

Spread the mixture into a 9×13 glass baking dish.

put in casserole dish

Sprinkle with 12oz shredded mozzarella cheese.

add cheese

Bake at 350F for 40 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and the entire dish is warm. Serve immediately.

baked penne with italian sausage2



Baked Penne with Italian Sausage

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour


1lb Penne Pasta
1lb Italian Sausage
1 23oz jar Ragu Homestyle Thick & Hearty Roasted Garlic
12oz Ricotta Cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
12oz mozzarella cheese


  1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
  2. While the oven is pre-heating, cook 1lb penne pasta, al dente, according to package directions.
  3. Over low to medium heat cook italian sausage, stirring occasionally.
  4. In a medium size bowl combine 1 23oz jar Ragu Homestyle Thick & Hearty Roasted Garlic, 12oz ricotta cheese and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
  5. When the sausage is finished remove excess grease. Once the pasta is cooked drain and combine the pasta, sauce mixture and sausage in a large bowl.
  6. Pour the pasta and sausage mixture into a 9x13 glass dish. Shred 12oz of mozzarella cheese and spread over the top of the pasta.
  7. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and the entire dish is warm.
  8. Enjoy.

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That Time I Raced a Storm

School gets out in about 8 days and I’m so beyond excited. This was Mason’s first year in school which makes summer even more special than usual. I get to have all three of my kids home, we get to go on our daily adventures, sometimes it’s a hike, a trip to the pool or a different park than we’re used too. When you’re 4 months, 3 years old and 6 years old everything is an adventure. Like every year we plan to head to the beach and to New York.  This year we’re planning to switch things up a bit and finally do what we’ve been talking about doing for years. Rent a boat. We want to be on the other side of this view.


Two of my Aunts and two of my Uncles lived for years in a home near the river. I have so many memories visiting them and seeing the boats out on the river, it’s a beautiful view but it’s about time that we get in one of the boats instead of watch them. None of my kids have ever been on a boat. I could totally imagine Kyla trying to take the wheel and lead us on an adventure. Sorta like my friend Katherine here circa 1990.

driving a boat

Gotta start them young right? The face she’s making totally reminds me of a face Kyla would make. Sassy for life.  B has a lot more experience with boating, he often goes fishing on boats and his dad even owns one that he leaves down in Virginia Beach. I on the other hand know very little about boating. Even knowing very little about boating one of my favorite memories was going on a boat on the Hudson River with friends when a storm rolled in. We had to race the storm back to shore. I remember bouncing all over the boat, holding on for dear life and watching the storm anxiously.  Believe it or not it was the thrill of a lifetime. It was so pretty and exhilarating to see the storm behind us. It was a feeling I’ll never forget.

With the resources available to us through Discover Boating I feel more equipped to finally get on a boat. Hopefully I won’t have to escape a storm again though. If I do, I’ll  be bringing some reinforcements to help with the kids so don’t worry!

I know if the kids love it and if B has anything to say about it that one day we’ll be searching for the perfect boat that fits our lifestyle and budget. With views like this I imagine that boating can fit into anyone’s lifestyle!

enjoying the view

I can see a lot of great adventures in our future! If you’re new to boating or have never been boating before it’s not as scary or as hard as you think to get started. The key is having the right resources available to you and that’s Discover Boating which is an awesome resource for experienced boaters as well!

See you on the water!

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In the Kitchen

baked penne with italian sausage 3

Baked Penne with Italian Sausage

Just before Emilia was born my little brother came into town. My grandmother makes this classic Puerto Rican dish and he wanted to make it for his friends so we went grocery shopping together. Since it's one of his favorite dishes he took the time to learn it whereas I hadn't and I was so surprised ... read more