Friday, November 30, 2012

National Geographic Super Readers: Giveaway Winners!

It's that time! Our giveaway has ended & it's time to announce the winners. I was so excited, I decided to do it first thing in the morning. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to our winners! 

I will be in contact, in order to get your shipping info to pass on to Moms Meet. You will have 24 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen in your place.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Salted Caramel Mocha

I love a good cup of specialty coffee. My preferred selection at the moment, a Salted Caramel Mocha.

These can get a bit pricey, unless you make them at home of course. 
Here's how:

You'll need:

-hot chocolate mix
-sea salt
-caramel sauce
-heavy whipping cream
-whipped cream (not pictured)
-strong brewed coffee or espresso
*you can brew it any way you prefer or have on hand, just make sure it's a bit on the strong side

Caramel comes first! 
(Eyeball all of your measurements based on your personal preference & cup size.)

Pretty hard to see in the picture, but add a sprinkling of sea salt

& a heaping spoonful of hot chocolate mix.

Time for the coffee! I grabbed the strongest brew I had & popped it into my Keurig (I didn't feel like brewing espresso).

We're halfway there...

Just a splash of cream,

& a stir.

Top with whipped cream, caramel sauce, & sea salt.

Brace yourself for yummy goodness & enjoy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

National Geographic Super Readers Review & Giveaway

Ever wonder how to get your kids excited for reading enough to hold their interest & learn some amazing facts along the way? Well then, by all means, let me tell you. With National Geographic's Super Readers Program.

Each National Geographic Super Reader is filled with information on non-fiction topics. Think dinosaurs, trucks, mummies, sea turtles or ponies might appeal to your child? If not, don't worry. There are plenty of other cool subjects to pique a child's interest. That is if the big & colorful photos don't intrigue them first.

 I received this fun National Geographic Super Readers kit as part of an opportunity provided by Moms Meet. The kit included everything to get started. Welcome materials including an explanation of the reading levels, a Level 2 book, a poster of all the books so we can cross them out as we read them & fun rewards like bookmarks & sticker badges. 

Everything is free to sign up for with the exception of the paperback books (which retail for $3.99) & available on the National Geographic Super Readers website. There are also fun activities for the kids to play (mine like "Quiz Your Noodle") & other NatGeo Kids content to check out. Not to mention the fact that it was developed in consultation with literary education experts. Who can't love that?

Now is where I say how much I truly love this activity kit. The best part was watching my 1st grader read to her 3 year old brother. Not only does it help her perfect her reading skills, but it sparks his interest in reading & learning too. They are always asking if they can do Super Readers. And trust me, I'm not one to argue that. Even more so, I'm not one to argue the request to purchase ever single book. Fun, colorful & packed with information, definitely a good investment for my book loving brood. (*Not to self: Write Santa & ask him to pick me up a few.)

Happen to have or know a Pre-Reader (ready to read), Level 1 (starting to read) Level 2 (reading independently) or Level 3 (fluent reader) child? Great! Enter our awesome Super Readers Giveaway.

3 lucky entrants will receive a book along with a poster, bookmarks & badges. The giveaway will conclude at 12:00 a.m. est on Friday 11/30/12. Winners will have 24 hours to submit shipping information which will then be passed directly to Moms Meet for product distribution. Winners will be announced via rafflecopter in a separate blog post which will be published no later than 12:00 p.m. est on Friday 11/30/12 & will also be announced on the Smith and Blessings facebook page. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Moms Meet is an online resource that empowers moms to come together in an informal setting and talk about the latest on raising healthy families and living green. Moms Meet offers exciting opportunities for Mom Ambassadors and their groups to sample the latest healthy, green products. Sign up today!

***Disclaimer: I am blogging about this product without compensation from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agreed to review this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of the product. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Easy Black Forest Trifle

Well that was a crazy past few days. OK, the past 2 days have been full blown recovery mode, but that's beside the point. They were very much needed from hosting our first Thanksgiving dinner with a couple of friends. 

Which brings me to this post. I just had to share a deliciously simple dessert with you all. But of course my pictures are minimal...OK, singular. But, to be fair, I was elbows deep in meal preparation for dinner. 

How simple is it?

1 chocolate cake mix, prepared & cut into cubes
1 can cherry pie filling
1-8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 tub whipped cream, thawed
powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add whipped cream. Add powdered sugar until you get to the desired sweetness. (Yes, taste testing is a requirement. Which is great!)

In a trifle dish or large glass bowl, layer chocolate cake cubes, cream cheese mixture & cherry pie filling. 

Repeat layers.
Eat a chocolate cake square. 

Repeat layers.

 Eat a chocolate cake square with a bit of cream cheese mixture.

Repeat layers. 

Eat a chocolate cake square with some cream cheese mixture & some cherry pie filling. 

Repeat layers.

Continue eating & layering as needed. 


Monday, November 19, 2012

No Sew Pumpkins

Every fall I sort through clothes. Not only to store the now no longer needed season, but also to get rid of anything that might not fit anymore. Or that I simply just don't want. I had a few sweaters that went into that category this year.

Usually everything goes straight into the donate pile. But I like to re-purpose things. That's when Pinterest popped into my head. I had seen quite a few No Sew Pumpkin pins, so I decided to look into a few a bit more. All had different methods, but the basic concept was the same. Take a sweater, make it look like a pumpkin.

I honestly wasn't sure of how it was going to turn out, so I didn't take step by step pictures. But it's super easy to follow just from reading.
  • Cut your sweater across right below the arms
  • Turn inside out
  • Secure one end with a rubber band or yarn
  • Flip right side out
  • Stuff (I used pillow stuffing)
  • Seal your open end minus a small section in the middle with hot glue (this was the trickiest part for me)
  • Take yarn or a string of some sorts & wrap it around to make it appear more pumpkin-like
  • Secure at the bottom
  • Find something stem-like & secure in opening on top of pumpkin with hot glue (I used a bit of unrolled brown raffia paper)
  • Find something leaf-like & hot glue around stem. This will also cover any not so good looking parts. (Leaf-like? I used actual leaves from the yard.)
  • Stand back & admire your craftiness

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Palmolive Fresh Infusions - An Influenster Review

I remember growing up, my Grandma always used Palmolive. Therefore, whenever I hear "Palmolive", I tend to flash back to the past. Until I received my Palmolive Fresh Infusions from Influenster.

"Just like the best recipes, the freshest scents & elegant simplicity are what inspire us in the kitchen. Taking cues from nature, we created inviting, naturally inspired fragrance blends - and combined them with the sparkling clean you've always trusted from Palmolive dish liquid."

My favorite is the Ginger White Tea (it has more of a floral scent) with the Lime Basil a close second. I decided to let my friend try out the Lemon Thyme. (All reports came back that she loved it.) The scents are so strong that you almost get lost in them while you're washing dishes. Oh but I bet that makes you wonder if any of that scent stays on your dishes. The answer, is no. I know this because I tested it...several times. 

What else did I test? How well Palmolive Fresh Infusions cuts grease of course. The end result...what grease? Just a drop & you can see it dissipate. 

But I have to say, one of my favorite features (which is probably overlooked), is the bottle. The bottle itself is tall & round, making it very easy to grab. I don't know how many times I've reached for more dish soap & dropped the bottle in my water. Now with my new Palmolive Fresh Infusions, I can do the dishes without looking like I went for a swim. 

Cuts grease, no soapy residue & smells great! My Grandma would be happy at how much I'm loving Palmolive Fresh Infusions!

Want some of your own? (Yes!) Check out your local Target & Walmart today. Or tomorrow, that would work too. 

**Disclaimer: I received this product from Influenster & am simply sharing my personal opinion which may vary from yours. I was not compensated for this review.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cabbage Rolls

I have to admit, I kind of like it when the weather cools down a bit. For many reasons, including the comfort food. And one of my favorite comfort foods, is Cabbage Rolls.

I like mine with a sweeter sauce. It makes for the perfect balance from the pepper I have in my filling & in my mashed potatoes. Yes, mashed potatoes is a requirement as a side dish. At least they are in my book.

And here is my massive head of cabbage. That's a full size dinner plate it's sitting on. Perfect for cabbage rolls.

Lots of people think that cabbage rolls are too time consuming or difficult to make. Neither of which are true. I whipped these up in practically no time at all. And I had my 11 month old attached to my leg almost the entire time. Therefore, I've included all of my shortcuts too. You're welcome.

First things first, gather all of your ingredients. Next grab a large pot, fill it with water & bring to a boil. While you're making your filling & sauce, you'll be boiling the cabbage leaves to cut down on cooking time. Just slice a bit off the bottom of the cabbage & carefully start peeling the leaves off. If some of them rip, as long as they're plenty big enough, it's OK. Just be sure to boil both sides until they're a slight bright green color. 

For the filling, you'll need:

1 egg, beaten
1 lb. hamburger
2 small onions, chopped
1/2 C. instant white rice
salt & pepper

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl. I don't even mix this until I'm ready to stuff my cabbage leaves. Just place the bowl to the side & move on.

For the sauce, you'll need:

2 small onions, chopped
1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 C. lemon juice
a little more than 1/2 C. brown sugar
salt & pepper

Mix all ingredients in a separate mixing bowl. 

Take a 9x13 in. baking dish & coat with nonstick cooking spray. I used an 8x8 in. & didn't have room for all of my sauce. (I didn't have enough for another batch, but I used that as an excuse anyways when I made more a few days later.) Cover the bottom of your dish with some sauce.

Assembly time! Lay your cabbage leaf out. Mix your filling, & grab enough to make a large meatball. A long & large meatball actually. Place in the center of your cabbage leaf.

Roll up from the bottom & tuck.

Now working carefully around any possible tears or difficult parts, fold your sides in & finish rolling.

Start placing them in your baking dish.

 Until you're all done. As you can see, I fit 7 in my 8x8 in. dish.

Thoroughly cover with sauce. If you're using a smaller dish like me, be sure to leave a bit of room to avoid overflow while baking. 

350 degrees for 1 hour & this is what you've got.

Fresh from the oven cabbage roll (complete with steam), mashed potatoes & some extra sauce from the baking dish.


*If you would like less of a sweeter sauce: 
1 small onion, chopped
1-15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
6 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 C. brown sugar
salt & pepper

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mom's Garlic Braid

When I was growing up, my Mom braided my hair. Now she braids my garlic. Really, she does.

My parents grow garlic in mass quantities & every year they give me a garlic braid. Each braid has 10 decent size bulbs on it. But, due to the fact that I love fresh garlic, it doesn't last me as long as you would think.

Perhaps I'll make some Hummus. Or some 40 Clove Chicken. Oh the possibilities!

What's your favorite thing to make with fresh garlic?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Great Coffee, Good Vibes, Pass It On

Ever notice that some things taste better from the cause behind them? OK, maybe not entirely. But it sounded good. Know what else sounds good? Coffee. But not just any coffee, Green Mountain Fair Trade Certified coffee. Can you even picture how excited I was when I got into the Green Mountain Coffee Fair Trade BzzCampaign? (There's that BzzAgent status coming up again.) Probably not, which is a good thing...for me. 

What is fair trade?
Fair trade is a movement which strives for fair treatment for farmers. In a fair trade agreement, farmers, who in other situations might be more susceptible to the will of the purchase, will negotiate with the purchasers in order to receive a fair price for their products.

Why is fair trade important?
Farmers who engage in fair trade also aim to pay their workers a fair price & engage in environmentally-friendly practices.

Green Mountain Coffee has been a leader in the fair trade movement for more than a decade. Translation: Providing you with a better cup of coffee & a better quality of life for coffee farmers in 10+ years. 

Want to know how it could get even better? Of course you do!

Great Coffee, Good Vibes, Pass It On
October was Fair Trade month, but it doesn't stop there. To celebrate the good vibes of fair trade, Green Mountain Coffee took Grace Potter to Columbia & Michael Franti to Sumatra to experience fair trade firsthand. To keep the celebration a celebration, Potter & Franti held concerts in New York (Potter) & Los Angeles (Franti) in October. I know you're wondering how all of this is relevant seeing as how it's November now. Well, Green Mountain is re-broadcasting the concerts!

Sadly Michael Franti's has already been re-broadcast, but you can catch Grace Potter's TONIGHT at 9:00 p.m. EST. Just head over to the Green Mountain Coffee Facebook page. While you're there, check out the photos taken from Grace Potter & Michael Franti's source trips & even snag a coupon for your favorite fair trade brew.

And while I'm at it, might I suggest my favorite fair trade brew, Sumatran Reserve. I often refer to this extra bold brew as "Heaven in a mug". I really do. Usually, I always have these K-Cups handy. But let's face it, some days are a 2 K-Cup day instead of 1!

"The farmers I met in Sumatra deepened my passion for fair trade & the incredible impact it can have on their quality of life. I'm hoping to inspire people everywhere to think about the difference they can make just by choosing to purchase fair trade products." ~Michael Franti

"During my trip to Columbia, I didn't just meet the coffee farmers, I met their children & families. Fair trade has truly brought a better quality of life to farming communities, from access to education to community development, & meeting with these people really opened my eyes to the impact fair trade has had on their lives." ~Grace Potter

Don't forget to follow Green Mountain Coffee on twitter!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Beer Cheese Soup

This is the time of year for my soup recipes to come out. Not that I don't make soup year round, but now we're on a weekly basis. And there's one soup in particular that I insist on making at least once. The reason? It's yummy.

Beer Cheese Soup, grilled kielbasa, a side of chopped pickles (suggested by a friend & it is delish!) & a fresh baked pretzel roll. You can get the pretzel roll recipe here. And as a side note, they make for some yummy sammies.

Let's get started, shall we?

You will need:

1 Tbsp. margarine
2-3 small onions, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cans cream of celery soup, undiluted
1 bottle beer
1 C. milk
1 tsp. parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 lb. Velveeta cheese, cubed
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
(pictured later because I completely forgot about it)
salt & pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, saute onions & celery in margarine until tender.

Stir in cream of celery soup, beer, milk, parsley & paprika.

Then realize that something is missing & add your Worcestershire sauce. There, all better now.

Reduce heat & stir in Velveeta until melted.

That's it. I'll warn you now that this soup comes together very quickly. The most time consuming parts being the chopping & waiting for the cheese to melt. Impatiently, I might add.

But don't worry, you can spend that time chopping pickles. Just sprinkle a few in every now & then. And if you're not feeling that daring, it's OK. As long as you're feeling hungry!


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Influenster: Relaunched

I know it's actually been a few weeks since Influenster relaunched their site with a sleek new layout. But I wanted to learn my way around & share some of the details with you instead of just saying "Hey, look at Influenster, they got a makeover!".

Now for those of you that don't know what Influenster is, you're missing out. It is the hub of influential trendsetters. The mecca, if you will. The members here are keen to sharing their knowledge & experiences on products to everyone they come in contact with (online & off).

First & foremost, is your Influenster badge score. This baby changes daily based on your social media & Influenster interactions. It also changes based on the ranks of your trendsetting peers. And it just so happens that your Influenster score has an impact on your Expert (limit of 5 to start) & Lifestage Badge scores. Which in turn helps you qualify for Voxboxes & programs. Of course demographics play a role in that too.

Wait, what's a Voxbox? A Voxbox is what makes grown women feel like a kid on Christmas morning. No lie, it really does. And it's a themed box, chock full of goodies! The latest products (that fit into the given theme) just waiting to be tried, tested, reviewed & shared. But that's not where the fun stops. Each Voxbox has 2 mandatory tasks, checking in your box once you receive it & the post experience survey. But then there's bonus tasks & brand challenges (you know you want some brand badges too). Not to mention the chance to win a challenge prize.

My Summer Beauty Voxbox 2012

Sounds like a lot, I know. Mostly because it is. But that's OK. Because on your profile page, Influenster gives you a "Plan of Attack" to help you out. You can also find your recent activity, unlocked badges & your "Fun File" (which showcases your current programs & Voxboxes) on your profile page.

I know you're excited, so go & request an invite on Influenster if you're not a member yet. Then tell all of your friends. But you only get to invite 5 to have on your "team". If you are already a member, go & unlock those badges you Influenster!