Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Snacktastic Saturday: Cinnamon Pretzel Bites

Every now & then, I get the craving for pretzels. But I'm not really the pretzel type. So I usually opt to make my own soft pretzels. Then it comes down to what kind... plain with mustard or cheese to dip, garlic with marinara, or my favorite, cinnamon (with or without a cream cheese frosting to dip). Needless to say, cinnamon usually wins (without the frosting even).

View this photo on Instagram!

•1 1/2C. warm water
•2 1/4tsp. active dry yeast
•2tsp. sugar
•4 1/2C. all purpose flour
•2tsp. salt
•4Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
•baking soda
•water for boiling
•cinnamon sugar

- In a large bowl, whisk together warm water & yeast. Let sit for 5 min. 
- Thoroughly mix in sugar, flour, salt & butter or margarine. 
- Cover bowl with a towel & allow to rise for 1 hr. 
- Punch dough down & place on very lightly floured surface. 
- Cut, roll & flatten dough into bite sized pieces.
- Place pieces on baking sheets lined with Silpat mats or parchment paper.
- Cover with towels & allow o rise for 30 min.
- In the meantime, bring a pot of water with a good sprinkling of baking soda to a boil & preheat oven to 425º.
- Working quickly & in small batches, place dough pieces in boiling water & thoroughly poach for several seconds.
- Remove pieces with a slotted spoon & return to baking sheets.
- Generously sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
- Bake for 17 min. 
- Great alone or for an added sweetness, use cream cheese frosting as a dip. 
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (110°F)
  • 1 package active dry yeast (not quick rise yeast)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • large saucepan of water
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • pretzel salt

  • Read more at http://sweetpeaskitchen.com/2010/10/pretzel-rolls/#HtYOMkrspMAF3Fpu.99
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (110°F)
  • 1 package active dry yeast (not quick rise yeast)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • large saucepan of water
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • pretzel salt

  • Read more at http://sweetpeaskitchen.com/2010/10/pretzel-rolls/#HtYOMkrspMAF3Fpu.99

    Fun Friday: Flubber

    With the kids starting to go stir crazy from being on Christmas break, I was "forced" to make a Kindergarten & Preschool favorite. Flubber.

    •1 1/2C warm water
    •2C. glue
    •food coloring
    •1 13/C. warm water
    •3tsp. Borax

    - In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2C. warm water, glue & food coloring.
    - In another bowl, combine 1 1/3C. warm water & Borax.
    - Pour ingredients from 2nd bowl, into 1st bowl & stir to combine. 
    - Squeeze excess water from your Flubber.
    - Store in an airtight container. 

    Have fun! 

    Think It Thursday: Time to Relax!

    Christmas is over & it's time to relax! I feel like shouting that from the rooftop!

    It seemed like Christmas was here before I knew it this year. So of course everything felt rushed. Especially when it came to decorating & baking. So I almost got all of my decorations put out & I only baked one kind of cookie. But there was no need to worry about all of that, I still had shopping & all of my wrapping left to do. 

    But now that "Christmas chaos" is over, I think I'll just sit here & relax.

    Work It Wednesday: Homemade Sugar Scrub

    Recently I fell in love with sugar scrubs. Not only do they exfoliate, but they moisturize like crazy! So me being me, decided I would try to make my own. 

    Simply combine coconut oil & sugar until you get a Sno-cone-like consistency.

    *Warning: This smells dangerously delicious. But luckily it is edible, so if you just have to try it, it's OK.

    Tasty Tuesday: Stuffed Pepper Soup

    One of my favorite comfort foods, are Stuffed Peppers. But my family only cares about what's inside the pepper. And that's only if i don't go crazy on the onions, which I usually do. So I decided to make it a soup instead. The result, aside from my oldest daughter & son whining that they didn't want any green peppers, they loved it!

    •hamburger, cooked & crumbled
    •tomato sauce
    •diced tomatoes
    •long grain white rice
     •beef bouillon cubes
    •onion, chopped
    •green pepper, chopped
    •salt & pepper
    •brown sugar

    - Add desired amounts to a pot (I would give the measurements I ended up using, but I made enough to last a couple weeks - oops!) & bring to a boil.
    -Reduce heat & cook over med.-low heat until rice is cooked through, 30-45 min.

    *Don't forget, you can always taste & alter it as you go. So be sure to start out with smaller amounts of seasonings, including the beef bouillon.


    Thursday, December 26, 2013

    Guylian Artisanal Belgian Chocolates & a Giveaway!

    Hi. My name is Melissa. I'm a chocoholic. That about sums me up in a nutshell, as I'm sure some (is not most) of you can relate. But I can honestly say, that I have never had chocolate as indulgent as Guylian Artisanal Belgian Chocolate.

    In 1958, Guy, a Belgian Chocolatier who crafted handmade chocolate truffles, married his love, Liliane. The same year, they joined their names again in their company, Chocolaterie Guylian. Today, Guylian crafts the finest Belgian Chocolate Truffles for sale in countries all over the world.

    The Belgian Chocolate Truffles with Signature Hazelnut Filling are masterfully marbled masterpieces. The marbling thoroughly combines the flavors of white & dark chocolates and white & milk chocolates. The Signature Hazelnut Filling is actually still made in small-batch copper kettles by Guylian's master chocolatiers in Belgium, giving it the most decadent taste. I thought I was going to need an intervention to keep me from eating every single truffle in one sitting!

    Extra Dark Belgian Chocolate Truffles are sinfully delicious. I've had dark chocolate before & that alone is amazing. But Guylian's extra dark chocolate with 74% cocoa, filled with a chocolate truffle center...I have no words. And that speaks volumes.

    Vanilla Belgian Chocolate Truffles are perfect for those who like to keep their chocolates pretty basic. These Belgian milk & white chocolates are filled with a vanilla & white chocolate truffle center. I had the hubs not so daring grandma try these, well, she ate half the box so I think they were a hit!

    Then there was the No Sugar Added Belgian Chocolate Bars. I was really eager to find out how these would taste. Well, they tasted like chocolate! Seriously, I couldn't tell the difference. These chocolate bars are sweetened with Maltitol, a 100% natural alternative to sugar. Major plus about these, is that they're even diabetic friendly.

    View this photo on Instagram!

    I know by now you have to be wondering what's up with the seahorses & seashells. I mean, that's not exactly what you picture when you hear "Belgian Chocolate Truffles". But there is a wonderful reason for them. Since 1999, Guylian has been the major sustaining sponsor of Project Seahorse, an organization committed to the conservation & sustainable use of the world's coastal marine ecosystems. Who knew eating chocolate could help seahorses?!

    Be sure you sign up for the Guylian Artisanal Belgian Chocolate E-Newsletter to get the latest news on your favorite Belgian chocolate delivered to your inbox.

    As an added bonus, you can use the coupon code:Chocolate10, to get 10% of when shopping in Guylian's webstore.

    One lucky winner will receive the following Guylian Artisanal Belgian Chocolate Products (or similar).
    •One – 22 piece marbled chocolate seashell truffles
    •One – 22 piece extra dark chocolate seashell truffles  
    •Two - 6 piece marbled chocolate seashells truffles
    •Four - 2 piece marbled chocolate seahorse truffles
    •One - No Sugar Added Milk Chocolate Bar
    •One - No Sugar Added 54% Dark Chocolate Bar
    The giveaway will conclude on at 12:00 a.m. est on Friday 1/3/14. Winners will be announced via rafflecopter & in a separate blog post which will be published no later than 3:00 p.m. on Friday 1/3/14. Winners will also be notified via email & announced on the Smith and Blessings facebook page. Winners will have 48 hours to submit shipping information, which will then be passed on to Merlot Skin Care for distribution of product. If 48 hours has lapsed, a new winner will be picked & then will also have 48 hours to submit their information. *Giveaway open to U.S. residents only. 

    a Rafflecopter giveaway 
    Keep up with the latest from Guylian Artisanal Belgian Chocolate on Facebook & Twitter.

     **Disclaimer: I received these products to try from Guylian Artisanal Belgian Chocolate & am simply sharing my personal opinion which may vary from yours. I was not compensated for this review.

    Messy Monday: How to Clean a Shower Head

    Don't you hate it when you're in the shower, but you have a few stray streams of water? And is it just me, or do they always seem to end up going straight for your eyes? Well, there's a simple solution to that you know...clean the shower head. 

    Just take a sandwich bag, pour a bit of vinegar in it & tie it to your shower head. Let it sit overnight & voilà!

    Simple Sunday: Baking Cookies

    Let the fun begin!

    Snacktastic Saturday: Minty Milk

    I used to work in a cafe & on occasion would make a steamer, which was nothing more than a shot of flavored syrup & steamed milk. Of course steam always makes warm milk taste better, but after my kids & I fell in love with Vanilla Milk from Laugh With Us Blog, I decided to combine the two. 

    •Creme de Menthe syrup

    - Combine desired amounts of milk, sugar & Creme de Menthe syrup in a microwave-safe cup. (A shot or two of syrup & a tsp. or 2 of sugar should be good for about 2C. of milk.)
    - Microwave 3-5 min. 
    - Top with marshmallows & enjoy!

    Wednesday, December 25, 2013

    Fun Friday: Glitter Pinecones

    You know you're crazy when you break out the glitter for your kids to craft with. 

    But I just had to do it! I randomly pick up pinecones throughout the year & save them for crafts. My mom does the same so we usually have a ton by Christmas. I needed a way to keep the kids from fighting with each other for at least 15 min., so pinecones, glue & glitter it was! 

    What's great about these is that you can tie a string & turn them into ornaments, glue them together on a cardboard ring to make a wreath, or just lay them around for a festive touch.  

    Think It Thursday: An Open Letter

    This is something that is very personal, but was on my mind for quite a while so I felt it best to share with you all since it affected my blogging for a few days.

    I recently learned through a facebook message from my cousin, that my "father" passed away. I haven't seen the man since I was about 2. He has never been a part of my life in the past 30 year. He was my "father", never a dad. Now I know that seems kind of cold to inform someone that way, but it was actually my other cousin (her sister) who had noticed the name in the paper & thought it might be the same. After a phone call to my aunt, who in turn called my mom, it was clear that it was. 

    I started crying. But I was far from sad. This person had already been dead to me for practically my whole life, so it was no difference in that aspect. But I was furious that I never got to tell him what a sorry excuse for a father he was. I was a crying ball of rage. So I looked up the obituary online to see for myself. I knew the name, it was him. I noticed the date it said he passed. It was the week prior...on my youngest daughters birthday! This enraged me more. How dare he die on such a special day to me! I don't care if that sounds childish or not. That's exactly how I felt. By this point I was ready to go for a run, too bad it was pitch black, icy & freezing outside. 

    The next morning I took it upon myself to call the funeral home like my cousin suggested to find out a cause of death. I have zero medical history for that side of the family & if there was anything genetic about his passing, I wanted to know. The woman was very understanding since apparently she gets these kinds of calls all the time (she thanked me afterwards for not yelling at her like most others in my situation). The cause of death was vague to say the least, hypoxia from a seizure disorder. 

    I really didn't want to speak with my aunt or uncle, so I left an email address instead since I needed to know more about this "seizure disorder". But google got the best of me & after I plugged in my uncle's name & "firefighter", I found him. Well, I found an article about him that mentioned the family line of firefighters (this part skipped my "father" though & he was a 2 yr. Army vet turned professional alcoholic), so I knew it was him for sure. Ironically he is now a fire chief not too far away from me. 

    But something sparked when I saw that & I called him. He was "unavailable" when I said I was his niece, but when I told the woman I was just trying to find out how my "father", his brother, had died - he was on the phone in no time. I got more actual information from the woman at the funeral home than from him since you could tell that he was beating around the bush. He said they tried to find me & OK, my nickname from when I was little & my maiden name would probably pull up a million different people. But to search my moms maiden name (my aunt on my "father"s side was in the same grade/classes as my uncle from my moms side - so they know the name), which is far from common, they would pull up someone I'm related to. Yes, it's one of those kind of names. So of course I had to tell him I found him in about 5 min.

    I was told there was no estate, which I knew without asking. I informed him that I wasn't calling for money, I wouldn't have wanted it anyways coming from him. I just wanted answers. My children if anything deserved to know. But what I thought was the absolute funniest part, I was told that my aunt would probably share some of his ashes. I politely declined & told my uncle that I liked him & my aunt far better than my "father". And judging by the fact that I haven't spoken to them in probably 25 years says a lot!

    I left my uncle with my number & he was supposedly going to have my aunt call me. It's been a week or two (my time perception is way off from Christmas) & I haven't heard anything. I don't suppose I ever will either. But if need be, I'll be making more phone calls myself just to get the answers that I need. 

    Merry Christmas!

    Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

    Merlot Skin Care Giveaway Winner!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway
    Congrats to Ronalee D.! 

    Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter!   

    Skwooshi: The New Play Compound

    Have you heard of Skwooshi, the new play compound that doesn't dry out? That alone is like music to a mother's ears. I don't even want to think of how much money I've thrown away from having to toss hardened Play-Doh or other kinds of compounds. But what makes Skwooshi different is that it's a dry compound. Therefore, it won't dry out!

    This Car & Rocket Action Set came with 4 easy to use molds & 2 of the 10 available colors of Skwooshi in their own little cases.

    Skwooshi reminds me of the soft green foamy stuff used for flower arrangements, it even crumbles like it. But if you take a larger piece & pull it apart, it almost looks like stretching gum with the soft foamy green stuff in it. Based on my description alone, you can imagine how many times I did that trying to figure it out. (It was a lot & I never figured it out.)

    Time to play! Despite being easy to clean up the crumb-like pieces by pressing into a larger piece, I thought that there was no way these molds would produce anything decent. I was expecting extra lines everywhere from all of the pieces my kids used to shove into the molds,

    View this photo on Instagram!

    I don't say this often, but I was wrong. There were only a few lines here & there, but I think that was just from not putting enough Skwooshi into the mold.

    And we all know that the absolute worst part about Play-Doh & other play compounds, is when it makes a mess on the floor. Especially carpet. Most of the time we don't even notice until it's already hardened, making the task of cleaning it up a huge chore. You'll be happy to know that since Skwooshi is a dry compound, it sweeps right up! See, I told you you'd be happy.

    Skwooshi is creative fun that doesn't make a mess! Or at least not a mess that's difficult to clean up.

    Keep up with the latest from Skwooshi on Facebook & Twitter.

    **Disclaimer: I received these products to try from Skwooshi/Irwin Toy & am simply sharing my personal opinion which may vary from yours. I was not compensated for this review.

    Tuesday, December 24, 2013

    Magna Color 3D Magic with an Underwater Adventure

    My kids love to draw & color. Unfortunately they also love to peel all the paper off of the crayons, break them into pieces & occasionally use the walls & kitchen cupboards as their "canvas" (only the 2 year old is guilty of the latter). So as you can imagine, I try to find other ways for them to "color".

    Magna Color 3D Magic is the perfect solution!

    A magnetic drawing studio serves as the "canvas" & magic dot pens filled with colored magnets serves as the "crayons". It even comes with 2 double sided stencils with an underwater adventure theme, which can be used in an interactive app.

    Filling the pens is easy. At first my daughter thought that we had to somehow put each magnet in the pens by hand. And well, if we did then that was going to be her job (LOL!). When you flip the drawing studio over, you can see what looks like a very intricate process.

    Just insert the colored pens into the appropriate color slot & push down until they click into place. Make sure the sliders are pushed to close the openings, especially since only 4 of the 6 colors are included.

    Flip the drawing studio back over so that the magnetic board is facing you. Empty out the bags of the magnetic dots onto the board (opening those little suckers is the hardest part). Then grab the sweeper tool that sits under the left  hand side, to push them upwards. There's a little slat that you may have to hold open to make sure all of the magnetic dots go through the opening, especially the smaller ones. 

    View this photo on Instagram!

    This is where my fun begins! My daughter thought the amount of fun I had shaking the magnetic dots through the levels was hilarious. But it reminded me of some kind of old school game...that's my excuse & I'm sticking to it.

    Once the magnetic dots have gone through to their appropriate levels, just push the slider for the pens open, turn the drawing studio on its side & shake.

    The pens are super easy to use, you just push down to release.

    If you choose to use a stencil, the bottom of the drawing studio lifts up to easily slide it in. And of course you can download the free Magna Color app to bring your stenciled creations to life. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to try it out yet since my tablet is being repaired. But the app will be a nice surprise to the kids when I do get it back.

    This may be a bit too advanced for my 2 year old (recommended for ages 4 & up), but with some supervision & a little help, she gets to enjoy it like her brother & sister. And I have to say that I really enjoy not having a mess to clean up!

    Keep up with the latest from Magna Color on Facebook & Twitter.

    **Disclaimer: I received these products to try from Magna Color/Tech 4 Kids & am simply sharing my personal opinion which may vary from yours. I was not compensated for this review.

    Tek Recon High Performance Blasters

    These days it seems that kids would much rather play video games than actually go & play. I won't lie, I can see why since video games have come a long way since I was a kid (1st generation Nintendo & Atari girl here!) . Today they're more involving, especially the interactive ones where you can chat with other players online.But did you know that Tek Recon can basically make you feel like you're in a video game while you're actually physically playing?

    Tek Recon & their line of High Performance Blasters (Hammer Head & Havok) have reinvented interactive play. These blasters shoot reusable "NRG rounds" that are coated in powder to prevent sticking (these actually remind me of the rubber bands you put on sheep to make their tails fall off), up to 75 ft! But with a simple free download of the Tek Recon app to a smartphone, it gives you the same online gaming feel.

    I decided to start with the Havok since it looked more intimidating to assemble. It really wasn't after reading the directions, which actually surprised me. 

    First thing I noticed was that the shoulder stock was adjustable. Which is absolutely awesome since all ages can comfortably play with it that way - myself included. 

    I left my helper with the task of inserting the 36 "NRG rounds" that the blaster came with (holds 72 total) into the double ended clip. It took her a bit to get a good rhythm, but once she did she had them loaded in no time.

    There's even a slider which allows you to choose either "distance" or "rapid" fire. I found that my helper & I both favored using the pump-action trigger vs. the actual trigger on "rapid" fore mode.

    A smartphone mount easily attached to the top of the blaster & even comes with different sized spacers to help keep it in place. Just download the app & you're ready to play.

    View this photo on Instagram!

    I tried to register, but it was giving me an issue, which reminds me, I still have to go online & fix that. But I can select the "solo" mode & play without signing in. The app itself allows you to zoom in on your target, go full screen & even use the radio feature to speak with your team by using GPS technology. And all while in either night vision, infra-red, thermal or regular modes.

    We haven't tried out all of the features in depth yet though. We plan on getting a few friends, more blasters (& there has to be a couple extra smartphones around here...somewhere), so that we can have a full on war outside. Although I have thought about painting  all of the "NRG rounds" with glow in the dark paint so i can find them easier (LOL!). Either that or buy massive amounts of refills, which would probably be better.

    See, after setting up the Havok, the Hammer Head could practically be set up with your eyes closed! (The Hammer Head comes with 15 "NRG rounds" & holds up to 25.)

    Keep up with the latest from Tek Recon on Facebook & Twitter.

    **Disclaimer: I received these products to try from Tek Recon/Tech 4 Kids & am simply sharing my personal opinion which may vary from yours. I was not compensated for this review.

    Amazing Grass & a Giveaway!

    By now we all know of my love for superfoods. I mean, who wouldn't love getting a jolt of antioxidants, nutrients, vitamins & minerals with as little calories as possible?! And let's not forget how great it makes you feel! 

    Amazing Grass was kind enough to send me a variety of their superfood products. And by the name alone, you can tell that they're green superfoods (all centered around a blend of wheat grass, kale, barley grass & alfalfa),  but taste far better than going outside & getting a handful of grass to eat.

    Green SuperFood has amazing flavors like Orange Dreamsicle, Pineapple Lemongrass & Berry. You can't even taste any of the greens, especially when you mix them with juice, milk or in a smoothie. The only thing that gets me is the texture, but that's mostly my fault since I'm always in a rush & don't shake it enough (so make sure you do). But that's quite OK, since I love having the extra energy to get me through my mornings without drinking a pot of coffee. 

    Kidz SuperFood is available in Chocolate & Wild Berry Flavors. These are perfect for a picky eater! The fruit & veggie rainbow is covered with ingredients like asparagus, carrots, pineapple, tomatoes, blueberries & beets. of course my pickiest eater wouldn't drink hers right away & it started to settle a bit (she's a texture weirdo like me), which turned her off. But my other two kids didn't seem to notice.

    Amazing Meal is the perfect solution to make sure that you don't skip a meal. I don't know how many times I finally get the chance to eat lunch, only to look at the clock & see that it's almost 2:00. So most of the time I end up skipping, which makes me pig out at dinner, therefore making me uber lazy for the rest of the evening. And I don't have time to be lazy! Since Amazing Meal is a dietary supplement made with the same main green superfood blend plus added protein, fruits & veggies, it's enough to keep you satisfied. Added bonus - with flavors like Cafe Mocha, Vanilla Chai & Pomegranate Mango, it tastes more like dessert!

    Green SuperFood Energy Bars are for those that still prefer to chew their superfood. Made with fruits, veggies & Green SuperFood Powder these bars satisfy your hunger & give you added energy while making you feel like you're indulging yourself. My favorite has to be the Chocolate Chip Coconut, it was like eating an Almond Joy. I almost tried to stop myself, until I looked at the bar, saw the green & reminded myself how healthy it was. Actually if given the chance, I'd choose this bar over an Almond Joy any day!

    This is by far the easiest shaker I've ever used. Just a lid & a cup, no extra strainers or whatever they are. The measurements are fairly easy to read & it doesn't leak when I shake it. But the best part has to be inside the lid - Cheers!

    And if you have an iPhone, you can get the app to take their Two Week Challenge. (You want to feel great & energized right?) Don't have an iPhone to take the challenge, that's OK. You can still sign up for Amazing Grass emails & receive special offers, new product info & more. Who knows, you might even turn into a GrassHead! If you join the GrassHeads (US & Canada residents) you get a 20% discount, auto shipment on products & even free shipping (US only)!

    Check out this photo on Instagram!

    Eager to try some Green SuperFood for yourself?
    One  lucky winner will receive one (100 serving size) container of Green SuperFood in the flavor of their choice!
    The giveaway will conclude on at 12:00 a.m. est on Wednesday 1/1/14. Winners will be announced via rafflecopter & in a separate blog post which will be published no later than 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday 1/1/14. Winners will also be notified via email & announced on the Smith and Blessings facebook page. Winners will have 48 hours to submit shipping information, which will then be passed on to Amazing Grass for distribution of product. If 48 hours has lapsed, a new winner will be picked & then will also have 48 hours to submit their information. *Giveaway open to U.S. & Canada residents only. 

    a Rafflecopter giveaway
    Keep up with the latest from Amazing Grass on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram & YouTube.

    **Disclaimer: I received these products to try from Amazing Grass & am simply sharing my personal opinion which may vary from yours. I was not compensated for this review.