Polaroid Zip Zink® Instant Printer Review

When welcoming a new baby into the family on the earliest days at the hospital, family members and close friends often come to meet the little one and share in the joy. This is a special time to capture these early moments in a format that can be treasured forever. The Polaroid Zip Zink® Instant Printer offers a quick and easy way to share hard copies of photos immediately with your visitors, printing out digital images sent via Bluetooth on a smartphone to the printer itself. Continue reading Polaroid Zip Zink® Instant Printer Review

My Unofficial Version of the Pink Leaf Cookie from Italian Bakeries

pink cookie sandwich baking partyFor as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the pink leaf cookies with the chocolate sandwich middles that you get at Italian bakeries and sometimes in the gourmet cookie assortments at the grocery store if you are lucky. These cookies come in pink and green sandwiches in the exact same leaf shape, and they have a layer of chocolate holding them together. I believe the pink cookie is a strawberry flavor and the green cookie is supposed to be pistachio, I THINK. For almost as long as I’ve loved these cookies, I’ve been desperate to learn how to make them. I’ve scoured the Web and asked chefs and others I know who love to bake. Always coming up empty handed, I thought about reverse engineering the cookie with a basic Italian butter cookie recipe. I found a pretty good amount of success with this method.

WARNING: STOP reading here if you might be disappointed in learning of a possibly different origin for these scrumptious cookies other than the quaint Italian bakeries of your childhood or the pleasant Italian women you’ve pictured baking these from scratch —

Okay, you’ve been warned… I also, through my research, came up with a new theory that the pink and green leaf sandwich cookies might be a product of a company that mass produces them for sale at bakeries and so forth. Sort of like a Nabisco or Keebler, but more upscale and more “white label.”

kitchenaid-mixer

Again, just my suspicion, but it would certainly explain why a recipe is so hard to come by! And also why, no matter what brand, store, or model, I cannot find quite the right leaf shape cookie cutter or cookie gun with leaf shaped disks.

From a previous blog post I wrote, I’ve received a few requests for my version of the pink leaf bakery cookie recipe, so here goes nothing! If you try it, please let me know in the comments what you thought and if you have any improvements or modifications that may be useful to other people.

Unofficial Italian Bakery Pink Leaf Cookies Recipe:

pink-leaf-cookie-dough

Ingredients:
1/2 pound butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
pink-leaf-cookie-cutter1 egg
1 tsp strawberry extract, or to taste
2 & 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
Red food coloring

(Yields 40 cookies, depending on size. I usually double the recipe. When you need two cookies per sandwich, the recipe doesn’t stretch very far…)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using an electric mixer (my favorite), cream the butter and sugar until super fluffy (around 3 minutes or so).
  3. Add eggs and strawberry extract and mix until blended completely.
  4. On the lowest speed, add in the flour, baking powder, and pinch of salt.
  5. Mix the dough just until it’s blended. Avoid overmixing.
  6. Add in a few drops of red food coloring and mix with spoon until blended. Adjust to your desired shade of pink.
  7. pink-leaf-cookie-pressFill your cookie gun (cookie press) or roll out a handful of dough for use with cookie cutters.
  8. Attempt to make equal numbers of the same shape of cookies – for example, I have used the Wilton Cookie Pro Ultra II Cookie Press as well as the Wilton Leaves and Acorns Cookie Cutter Set, although you can find other cookie cutter options as well. You will need pairs of cookies to make the little sandwiches. Space them apart by about two inches on your cookie sheets.pink-leaf-cookie-tray
  9. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges begin to turn golden brown.
  10. Cool on cooling rack.
  11. Heat about 1/3 of a bag of semisweet chocolate chips in a glass measuring cup. Be careful not to overheat – I put mine in for 60 seconds followed by another 10 seconds, mixing in between.
  12. chocolate-leaf-sandwich-cookieUsing a spoon or other utensil, spread the melted chocolate on the bottom of one cookie and press the other half together so they stick.
  13. Place on a sheet of wax paper inside a plastic container.
  14. Repeat for all cookies until done.
  15. Place container inside refrigerator for about 10 to 20 minutes to “set” the chocolate. This way the chocolate won’t melt and smear as much as it otherwise might.
  16. Enjoy and share your cookies and this pink leaf cookie recipe with family and friends!

pink-leaves-on-tray

Please let me know what you think of this recipe if you decide to try it! I would be glad to use your comments to further improve the recipe for our readers, myself, my family, and friends. Also, if you’ve attempted the green leaf cookies, please share as well. Thanks, and happy baking!

pink-leaf-sandwich-cookie

How to Make the Most of your Small Space

Whether you’re living in a dorm room, studio, or really small apartment, you probably don’t have a great lot of room. It can be even more complicated when you are sharing a space with someone else. I’ve got some tips that can help make your place seem more of your own while giving everything you need a home.

Never Underestimate the Power of a Dollar Store
My local store has oodles of plastic containers of all shapes and sizes. This not only saves me an incredible amount of time usually spent scouring every corner for a certain cardi or the jewelry pièce de résistance, but also saves me money that could have been spent on extravagant storage pieces claiming to save x amount of space. Because it’s so inexpensive, it’s not a heartbreak or a dent in your savings to get rid of when you need to move.

Vanity

Use every inch you’ve got.
There’s no reason a cabinet should have empty space. Find creative ways to stack items. I’ve used locker shelves waaay past high school. (They might be my best investment.) I’ve used them to stack my shoes in my closet, doubling my shoe space. They’re currently in use as extra shelving in my kitchen and giving me more space on my makeshift vanity.

Find ways to hide what you need, but don’t want to see.
Because I travel a lot, I have a lot of luggage. I use it as storage for clothes that don’t fit the season, or simply to hold all of my other travel bags. Although maybe not the most “grown-up” thing, the bed risers I have give me plenty of space to store these things and put them out of the way. For other “unsightlies,” I’ve found that the spaces between tv stands or bookshelves and the wall are perfect places to store items. For large shelves, bigger books can hide items placed behind them.

Shelves

Think vertically.
If you’re in a dorm, loft the bed. It provides excellent space for desks, dressers, couches. Back in the day, I’ve used the best posts to dry laundry or store a sweatshirt or two. Opt for tall skinny shelves rather than stubby wide tables or shelves. Place items you use most frequently at eye level. Items you use once in a blue moon belong on the tippy top. Make sure you have something stable to stand on if you need a boost to get to the top of your shelving unit.

If you live in a rented space that isn’t brand spanking new, there’s sure to be a fair share of holes in the wall. Try to avoid creating new holes by using the same ones that are already placed there. I tried to use as many of the leftover nails and photo hooks left in the wall as I could without relocating them. For my place, metallic flower accents were placed in the old tack holes. For multiple or bigger marks on a wall, large pieces of artwork or tapestries can cover spots while adding color to the room.

Studio Space

Do you have any tips for saving space for your home or apartment? Comment below and let us know!

Things To Do On A Rainy Day

what to do on a rainy daySitting on your favorite chair and watching as the heavy rain pours outside your window can be fun and relaxing for a while, but you can’t keep with that activity forever. Since you’re already stuck at home until the bad weather passes, why not make the best of it and do something fun indoors? We’ve written before about lots of fun and interesting things to do on a rainy day and today we’re presenting you with more fun things to do inside to spend those boring hours waiting for the skies to clear up and let you play outside or take that walk you’ve been wanting.

Staying inside on a rainy day doesn’t have to be boring. Your home can be your personal playground!

Spend some quality time with your family

If you’re living with your family, significant other, or roommates, the best way you can have fun is to do something together. If you have some board games that are collecting dust, such as Monopoly or Risk, get everyone together at the kitchen table, grab some dice, and start playing. Playing card games such as Go Fish or Uno can also be a great way to lose time with friends and family. Maybe you can use your imagination and make up a new game all together. When all else fails, you can always watch a movie or an episode or two of your favorite show. You all know you’ve seen Toy Story more times that you can count, but why not watch it one more time? It’s just that good. Maybe you can make a contest – whoever can remember the most lines from the movie wins!

Rainy days are perfect for the creative

If you live alone or just want some time to yourself, try to think of something to do that is fun and creative. Maybe you can finally try that recipe that you read online at Pinterest last week. As you’re waiting for the meal to be finished, grab that book you’ve been meaning to read but didn’t have the time. If you have an affinity for writing, grab your laptop and start working on your next story or bestseller novel. Musicians can take the rain as an inspiration for a new tune while artists can try to capture the rainy outside world on paper using their preferred art materials or tools. You always wanted to learn origami – what better time to start than now?

Don’t let the rain keep you from your workout!

You really wanted to take that morning jog, but the look outside your window says everything. Why let that stop you from your daily exercise? Find a spacious part of your home, slip into your workout outfit, and start working on those leg and ab muscles. Sit-ups, squats, push-ups, rope jumps – these are all things that can be done at home. If you have a treadmill or a stationary bike – even better. If the weather lets up by evening, maybe you can take a late night jog instead of your morning routine.

things to do on a rainy dayIf you use your imagination and open your mind to new ideas, staying indoors can be just as fun and exciting as going out. When the rain finally stops doing its dance, you’ll be able to do whatever you had planned, but next time the bad weather decides to ruin your plans and forces you to to stay at home, you’ll already be well prepared.

When Being Prepared Counts: Advice from an EMT – Tips and Kits for Home and Away

Snow Covered Street The leaves are falling and the birds have flown south; natures’ subtle way of letting us know that another harsh winter is quickly approaching. Being prepared for the challenges of an unpredictable winter will help keep your family safe, secure, and warm. Making sure your home is safe and ready is a good place to begin winter preparations. Having adequate insulation in the attic of your home is essential; keeping the house warmer helps to not over work the heating system. A home heating system of any type can become dangerous when it is repeatedly overworked and especially as it becomes outdated. An average of 50,100 heating fires occur in homes in the United States each year, resulting in an average of approximately 150 deaths, 575 injuries, and $326 million in property loss. Being prepared can help keep your family safe; don’t become a statistic.

Fireplaces are especially dangerous if they haven’t been properly maintained. Proper service is essential and inexpensive. It is very important to allow sufficient air exchange when heating the house, especially if gas or fireplace heat is used. When gas/wood is burned, it creates many dangerous byproducts. Carbon Monoxide is an odorless gas byproduct that, if not vented properly, can be deadly to your family. CO poisoning is a serious medical emergency. If left undetected and untreated, it can cause coma and death. Protecting your family with a smoke detector is essential. There should be one outside each bedroom as well as inside each bedroom. If your heating system operates on open flame, it is essential to have at least one carbon monoxide detector on each level of the house.

The electrical power can go out at any time and leave you and your family in the cold and dark. Staying warm and safe can become a difficult task to accomplish during winter. It is a good idea to keep plenty of prepackaged emergency blankets and a survival kit specifically designed for winter. An emergency heat source can be essential; you can find LP/Propane portable heaters of several types and manufacturers.

A severe winter storm, as we all know, can be devastating, leaving your family stranded at home or even worse, stuck, scared, and alone in your car. Survival can depend on whatever preparations you have made to protect you and your family. Always be prepared, especially when the conditions outside are inhospitable to human survival. Keep enough food and water, dry clothes, and personal essentials on hand to be able to stay put for an extended period of time, perhaps a week. Keeping fresh food in your car or home when the power is out isn’t practical or safe. Protein bars, granola, freeze-dried survival food packages can be perfect alternatives. Keep one to two gallons of water for each person, survival emergency blankets, road flares, flashlights, and at least one dry change of clothes for everyone in the car.

You never know when an injury is going to take place, so keep a first aid kit close at hand. To help you find the right first aid kits, FreeFirstAid.com offers great deals from a wide variety of first aid suppliers, depending on your specific needs. It pays to be ready, and doesn’t your family deserve it? Preparation is the common sense approach that can make the difference in an emergency!

 

Article provided by A. Lawson, CCTRP- Emergency Services Paramedic

Gift Ideas

Need some new ideas for presents this year? It’s not that you don’t know the person well, it just might be that you’ve already given them all the obvious presents already. Sometimes we need a little help in that department. Take a break and relax and read this post about a few different gift ideas to get the wheels turning.

For the Wine and Cocktail Lover

For a classic (and most often appreciated) gift, give a bottle of wine. No need to wrap, simply put a bow or wrap a ribbon on top of the bottle. Some companies have bottle gift bags or find or create your own bottle cover to add some decoration to the gift. The Company Store offers very classy attire for your bottles in form of a hat and tie, a tux, and a fancy red dress complete with fur shawl and pearl necklace.

If you’re looking for something a bit more personalized, consider giving a festive glass by Designs by Lolita to your friends and loved ones this year. I received a Christmas wine glass decked all out in red and green, but many other designs are available for birthdays, girls’ night, weddings, and more! Designs by Lolita offers a variety of glasses to fit the season as well as the recipient’s personality. These handpainted glasses add flair to cocktails at home.

In addition to their creative styles, each piece by Designs by Lolita has a drink recipe on the bottom of the glass. These unique stemware items offer a way to creatively celebrate every life event and all the special people you have in your life! I found these in my local Hallmark store, along with some other cute cocktail accessories- grab a few and some booze and head on over to the holiday parties!

For the Music Lover

You might think that your music aficionado friend has all the headphones, earbuds, and music accessories that he or she could ever want. Personally I don’t think that’s the case- I don’t think I could ever have too many earbuds.

Earbuds are quite a necessity to have at my side at any given time. I probably spend about 75% of my waking hours either listening to my favorite jams or humming along to whatever earworm I’ve got stuck in my head. I’ve started keeping a spare pair in my go-to bag so that I always have one on hand.

House of Marley offers premium quality headphones made from recycled and reclaimed materials. These earth friendly products probably already make you feel good about your investment and the environment, but the company gives five percent of annual profits towards 1Love.org, which benefits youth, planet, and peace.

Misplaced or tangled earbuds are the worst! Give a cute earbud case to lengthen the life of earbuds by keeping them safe from the terrors of being lost in a purse or backpack! For your fashionista/musician girlfriends, Vera Bradley offers trendy patterned organizers and cases for your MP3 player and your earbuds.

For friends or family members who may not need a case, but just something to prevent tangles, Mochi Things offers a range of simple to very kawaii organizers.

For the Makeup Guru

Everyone knows a girl or two who always looks her best no matter the occasion. She perfects every new beauty trend, while you’re still trying to master eyeliner. Help her continue looking great with a few of these ideas.

Tiny make-up samplers are perfect stocking stuffers for gals. They’re tiny, chic, and perfect for girls who like to keep their makeup on them at all times. Items from Avon’s Merry Mini GLIMMERSTICKS Eyeliner SetParty Polish Mini Set, and Be Jeweled Mini Lipgloss Set can fit snuggly in a pocket of a purse or backpack; making sure that looks can be created or touched up at any time.

These kits let someone sample a variety of an item, without committing to a full size product. Get sparkling lips with the five lipglosses, bold eyes with the four self-sharpening eyeliners, or a quick polished metallic set of nails. All priced under $10.

Mally Beauty offers a variety of makeup kits for purchase if you just can’t decide on which one item to get (I know, it’s a hard decision!). If you need some help, a shadow kit like the Citychick smokey eye kit offers a base and three shadows plus an eyeliner providing every gal with what she needs to create this look.

Q-Tips Precision Tips may seem just like a cheap last minute gift, but these guys are very useful! They are ideal for cleaning up after a manicure. Use them for precise makeup application to apply concealer or clean up eyeliner. The 100% cotton tips are always clean and ready for any part of your beauty routine.

If you fear this girl has every beauty item known to mankind and more, find a cute cosmetic bag or two. Bags are great to store and help tote makeup products around. They prevent these precious items from getting lost in bags, purses, or carry ons.

For the Makeup Guru– On the Run

Girls on the run need products to keep up with their pace. Twenty-four hour formulas offer long-lasting wear with no need to take time out of a busy schedule to reapply or keep products in purses.

Urban Decay’s 24/7 Glide-On eye pencils are available in many color shades. They’ll withstand the elements with a waterproof formula that goes on creamy, but dries to be resilient to smudges. Users also can enjoy the moisturizing benefits these pencils have to offer. This liner provides a very bold look for eyes that no one can miss.

Mally Beauty is another great brand with long lasting wear that needs no touching up. Mally’s Evercolor Ultimate and Evercolor Starlight eyeliners are the perfect size to fit in stockings or small gift bags. These liners are both waterproof and are available in a variety of colors. Gift one, a trio, or a set of ten liners!

For the Beauty Queen

The Rapunzels of the world don’t get their precious locks by doing nothing about it all day; they need products just as much as (or maybe more than) any other girl!

No matter what type of hair this girl has, Wella Velvet Amplifier will help her with all her hair needs. This item will aid in styling any look while making it manageable for any which way it is being treated. Style primers like these are the first step in creating the perfect coif.

TIGI is a renowned hair care brand that offers a wide selection of nearly every hair product one could ever wish to own. If you know of someone looking for a specific item, I highly suggest checking this brand out and gifting her with some fun and high quality products.

Disclaimer: Many of these items I received for review, however any opinions mentioned above are genuine.

 

Top 3 Gifts Ideas for the Church During Christmas

Gifts for ChurchChristmas is above all the time to be charitable and give to others in need, or better yet join your local church in their rally to give gifts to struggling families in need. Even though most of your budget may already be geared towards gifts for your own family and Christmas food shopping, you can really help to make a difference in someone else’s life through your local church’s outreach program in the community.

1. The most common types of gifts to the church during this season are monetary endowments. They don’t have to be overly large either, as any amount will be received with gratitude. Giving money will also allow the church to allocate the money as and where necessary. If you don’t have enough to donate on your own and have a large family, then a good idea might be to get every working member of your family to pitch in with a small amount each.

Gift ideas for Church2. If you feel as though money is too impersonal, then it may be helpful to ask your church what it is they need to collect for their Christmas outreach program. For example, some churches hand out shopping lists during services, where you can buy up a few items to fill up a large or a small Christmas gift hamper like one from interflora. That way, you will only buy the essentials that families need to get through Christmas.

3. You will undoubtedly have a few items or clothing that you want or need to get rid of. There is no reason to wait all the way until summer to have that garage sale you have been dreaming of, when you can easily set up a small sale during the weekend. The best part of it all is that if people know that you are trying to raise money for a good cause, they will more likely buy something whether they need it or not, because they get to participate in a good cause in some way, shape or form.

Alternatively, if some of the families within the outreach program need some essential housewares, blankets, or clothing and you have some that are in good care, then you could always give that too.

Giving doesn’t take a lot – you just have to find a need and then fill it. It is ultimately the thought that counts.

Do you have any more gift ideas for charity or the church? Share them in our comments below.

 

Easy Meals for Moms, in 10 Minutes or Less

Cuisinart Sandwich PressAs a new parent, I can totally relate to anyone who’s ever had a tough time fitting a meal into their busy day of caring for a baby. Sometimes I turn around and it’s pushing three or four o’clock and I still haven’t had lunch! I am trying to make a better habit of eating during normal meal times and ensuring I get a fairly healthy, balanced diet, at least the best diet I can with a little baby in the house. With busy moms (and dads) in mind, here is a list of my favorite simple meals for moms in 10 minutes or less.

Many of these meals can be made using ingredients you already have in the house. Sometimes it helps to buy a few groceries to enhance or vary your menu from time to time. Let’s get started!

Sandwiches and Melts

Keeping bread, lunchmeat, and cheese in the house almost seems too simple. If you have five minutes, you probably have enough time to make yourself a sandwich, even if you only get to enjoy it in a few ginormous bites. Here are some other ideas and ingredients for super snappy sandwiches you can enjoy with a little one in tow:

-Grilled Cheese – or grilled cheese with tomato, bacon, ham, turkey, etc. (You can make a pretty wicked grilled sandwich using a sandwich press!)

-Regular sandwiches – ham and cheese, turkey and cheese, or even PB&J…

-Croissant-wich – choose a croissant instead of bread and top with your favorite meat and cheese. Pop in the oven at 350 for 7 minutes or so.

-Pretzel Melt – same concept as croissant melt, but with pretzel rolls instead – yum!

-Tuna Melt – I like to make mine on an English muffin, but I have also made them on the top or bottom of a round roll when desperate. All you need is a can of tuna fish, a slice or two of provolone or your preferred cheese, and a roll, bagel, or English muffin. Bake at about 350 for 7 minutes or so, until warm all the way through.

-Roast Beef Au Jus – Great for a family dinner – buy sliced roast beef lunch meat, provolone cheese, and club rolls, as well as a packet of au jus gravy mix. Prepare as directed and enjoy with salad or fries (these will take more than 10 minutes).

Santa Fe Quesadilla MakerQuesadillas, Wraps, and Soft Tacos

Tortillas make for super simple meal ideas in no time. Make soft tacos by frying up some ground meat – ground beef or turkey – and add your favorite shredded cheese, lettuce, and other toppings. You can also make wraps using lettuce, tomato, and your favorite lunchmeats and cheeses – Italian wrap, turkey wrap, the works.

A quesadilla maker pays for itself in the number of amazing lunches and dinners (or snacks and party food) that you are able to make in just a few short weeks or months. Make chicken, bacon, and cheese quesadillas, or simple cheese quesadillas, or more advanced steak and cheese or salmon and cheese quesadillas. So yummy and it only takes a few minutes to make!

Pizza Spinoffs

Frozen pizzas can be simple food options, but they might not be that healthy for you, and they definitely don’t help you use up leftovers. Consider making your own pizzas in just minutes.

-Pizza bagels – top plain bagels or mini bagels with red sauce, shredded mozzarella, and any toppings you like. Bake in the oven until warm and cheese is melty.

-French bread pizza – same concept as above, but use French bread or a similar long roll. You can also make your own version using leftover hotdog rolls or other breads / rolls.

-White pizza bagels – instead of red sauce, use ricotta cheese and a little bit of garlic. Top with mozzarella and any other toppings you like. (This choice is great for moms wanting pizza but not able to have red sauce due to a sensitivity in their breastfeeding babies.)

Casseroles and Stir Fry Dishes

You can make some pretty awesome stir fry meals and casseroles using leftovers. Try these ideas in 10 minutes or less:

-Macaroni and cheese + frozen corn + canned white meat chicken or leftover chicken breast pieces, cubed

-Baked beans, kidney beans, and ham or hotdog slices baked in a casserole dish

-Hamburger Helper or Tuna Helper

Soup and Stew

Soups and stew, unless purchased in a can, do not take only 10 minutes to make, but once you have them at the ready, you can enjoy soup super fast by just popping it in the microwave. Same with stew. You can enjoy a wide variety of flavors simply by making soup and saving your leftovers. Of course, those Progresso soups aren’t half bad, either!

Leftovers

In almost all cases, it is a little easier to make a little extra dinner the night before so you can simply zap it in the microwave for a really easy and delicious lunch the next day. Meatloaf, lasagna, chicken parm, stir fry, and so many other dishes hold up wonderfully as leftovers.

In some cases, you can also make two of something and freeze one, like a meatloaf. Simply prepare the ingredients but don’t bake the second one – just wrap it tightly, label it, and stick it in the freezer for a very easy meal that requires very little prep work.

And, if you still don’t like any of these ideas, there’s always takeout. If you have any other suggestions for super easy  meals to make at home in 10 minutes or less, please share them below in our comments.

 

Benefits of Using Coupons to Save Money While Shopping Online

Coupon Chief DealsConvenience, cost savings, and time savings – these are three benefits you can enjoy when shopping online. Doing some of your shopping online allows you to compare products and prices across the entire country, and even other countries if you so desire. You can save yourself the time it would take to drive to one or more stores by simply shopping online for (almost) anything you need. Shopping online is also convenient, since you can do it in your pajamas if you like, during the day or even in the middle of the night when most brick-and-mortar stores are closed.

Yet another benefit of shopping online is the availability of online coupon codes, which help you to save money on your purchases or possibly even to score free shipping and other freebies. A savings site like CouponChief.com offers a wide array of online discounts and coupons to use when shopping online everywhere from Apple iTunes and Best Buy to Yves Saint Laurent Beauty and Zales, and everything in between. You can save money on special purchases as well as everyday items you need to buy anyway.

CouponChief.com organizes deals, discounts, and coupon codes by store and by category tags (such as Halloween, Christmas, or jewelry, for example) so shoppers can easily find the deals and promotions that will best benefit their current needs. The tags for the holidays, such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day, offer excellent deals for times of year when you are probably going to be spending money anyway. Be sure to save yourself some cash by always looking for coupon codes before you make your purchases online.

The site’s visitors are also rewarded for sharing deals they find, making CouponChief.com an even more extensive money-saving resource. Shoppers who share deals earn money whenever someone uses the deals they submitted.

Coupon Chief DealsCoupons on the Web and in local stores can save a boatload of money for families and individuals alike. You can almost always find some kind of deal or discount on your purchases, whether you are looking for fashion, beauty, electronics, gift ideas, pet products, toys, or something else entirely. What are your favorite money-saving tips, or the places you look for coupons and deals? Please share your tips and experiences in our comments below.

 

Gourmet Meals Made Simple with McCormick Gourmet Recipe Mixes

McCormick Gourmet Recipe Mixes Review and GiveawayI’ve always loved to cook, from homemade Stromboli and hand-rolled meatballs to lasagna, stirfry, and more. Now that I have a newborn, my cooking time is drastically diminished. If I can get 30 minutes to myself to throw something together, it’s like hitting the jackpot. Seriously, it is a wonder we haven’t had cereal for dinner yet. I can wholeheartedly thank McCormick for at least four of my recent meals, and two more to come, which took only minutes to prepare and gave us that gourmet dinner experience without the fuss.

First, let me say I am a longtime fan and patron of McCormick products. I make all my stirfry dinners with McCormick’s Italian spice grinder. I make roast beef au jus with the au jus packet, and I make pulled pork with McCormick’s pulled pork packet. I use their cream of tartar, vanilla, almond extract, food coloring, and other ingredients for my cookies and desserts. I would be deceiving you if I pretended to be surprised by the deliciousness of this new offering from this rock star spice and seasoning company, when I am already well aware of how their ingredients knock my meals and baked goods out of the park every time.

McCormick Gourmet Recipe Mixes Review and Giveaway

With that being said, I AM pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to mix up dinners in only minutes with a newborn at home, often requiring only fresh meat and the secondary ingredients that I already keep in the house. Furthermore, I am in love with one of these seasoning packets in particular, which my husband and I both enjoyed the most out of all that we tried. Even washing the dishes later that night, our home smelled just like an Italian restaurant. I mean, I know I am a good cook and all, but that was quite unexpected for a meal that probably took all of about 15 minutes to throw together. Even my mom, who tried the Sweet Basil & Oregano Bruschetta Chicken as leftovers the next day, loved it, and she now wants her own seasoning packets to use at her house.

McCormick Gourmet Recipe Mixes Review and GiveawaySo far, I have prepared four meals with the McCormick Gourmet seasoning packets – Sweet Basil & Oregano Bruschetta Chicken (our favorite, husband even had seconds), Smoked Sausage & Pepper Creole Jambalaya (I used chicken sausage instead of turkey sausage), Bourbon Spiced Pork (my mom and I LOVED this for lunch one day while she was babysitting my daughter so I could work), and Herbes de Provence Roasted Chicken & Potatoes (it was good, but we preferred the bruschetta chicken).

I love how easy it is to elevate your everyday meals with these great seasonings and meal ideas from McCormick. In most cases, it would take just as long to make macaroni and cheese and hotdogs as it would to whip up one of these bad boys, so adding these spice packets into your routine should be a no-brainer. You

McCormick Gourmet Recipe Mixes Review and Giveaway

can enjoy a more exquisite meal, and no one has to know it only took you 15 or 20 minutes to prepare (plus cooking time in some cases).

I received six packets of McCormick seasonings along with a wonderful McCormick Elevating Everyday Meals prize pack that included a fancy apron to protect my clothes while cooking, a dinner conversation game to make mealtime more fun, a Red Box certificate so we can enjoy dinner and a movie at home, and of course, wine glasses to celebrate my hard work (a-hem) in the kitchen. All items were for the purpose of this review and promotion of a giveaway that we are hosting on Life Love Beauty.

McCormick Gourmet Recipe Mixes Review and GiveawayOne winner will receive an incredible prize pack from McCormick, too. Simply post a comment on this page or on our Facebook page with your favorite meal idea that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. If you are leaving a comment on this page, be sure to double-check your email address so we have a means of contacting you. We can’t wait to hear about your easy meals in under 30 minutes. To be eligible for the giveaway, please enter your comments by Thursday, September 27 at 11:59 p.m. EST. Good luck, everyone, and happy cooking!

Things To Keep You Busy During The Summer

After a few days off from school (whether you teach or attend), days can mass into a blur of nothingness due to lack of routine and daily assignments. Friends and family may be off on their own vacations or adventures. Even working a part time job can leave you with more free time than you can handle. Let the following list of ideas inspire you to make your own summer adventures.

Camping in the MountainsThings To Do With A Car (And A Bit Of Money)

If you have a vehicle or access to public transportation (and aren’t totally broke) the following things can fill up your calendar in no time!

Find an outdoor adventure. Take a car ride to the nearest area that lets you experience the great outdoors. Float a river. Take a hike or nature walk. Go camping. If you aren’t super keen on surviving in the wild on your own, consider staying at a campground that offers activities with guides.

Go to an amusement park, zoo, or museum. Find a friend or family to go to local attractions. Look online or in local newspapers and magazines for discount coupons.

Visit a friend. Take some time off work to visit a friend. Make a day trip if the friend is local or just a few hours away. If you have the time and money, visit a friend who’s moved further away in another state or country.

Go to a concert. Many bands and solo artists take the summer to tour. There should be a plethora of gigs you could attend. Remember to drink lots of water if it’s outside!

 

Things To Do Without A Car

Even if you are unable to drive or access public transportation, there are many things available to keep you busy, especially walking or riding a bike to get there!

Take a walk Whether you live in a place with sidewalks or not, a walk can be a nice way to wind the day down or relax. It’s a simple way to keep active without the need of any special workout equipment or clothes.Colorful Tubes of Paint

Take a walk with a friend. Spend some quality time or make an adventure out of a walk. Even if you don’t have a person to physically walk with, call one up on your cell phone.

Lay out in the sun. Whether you are working on your tan or not, take some time (and some SPF) to soak up the sun and Vitamin D. Enjoy the warm weather before it’s gone!

Crafts. Even if you don’t have a wealth of art supplies, you can find something to craft in some way. Make a collage from magazines or remake an over-sized tee. If you don’t have paint, use sharpies to redecorate planters or plastic bins. (If you are a kid, you might want to ask a parent before you take a marker to anything!)

Reorganize your closet/room/house/apartment. Not all things to keep you busy have to be fun. Although this might not be your top choice. Imagine how easy it will be to find your favorite sweater or pair of boots in the fall! Organize by colors, seasons, or style. If you find items you simply don’t need any more find a shop where you can sell them or donate them to a clothing drive.

Learn a new recipe. The website supercook.com allows you to enter each ingredient that you have available in your kitchen or a combination of items you enjoy cooking with. Unless you have a super stocked kitchen, you may need to occasionally purchase something new. Although you may have tried a recipe before, this is an easy way to find recipes that you are interested in.


Things to Stay Active

An excess of free time leaves you with no excuse for not taking advantage of the the time or the summer weather for getting in shape or shedding a few pounds!

Boy with Swim GogglesTake a swim. If you have a swimming pool, this one’s a no brainer, but if you don’t this might be more difficult to figure out how. Find a public pool to use or make your own. Even a kiddie pool is nice to sit in for a cool down. If you have your own pool, find new ways to make it fun. Reinvent your favorite game on the ground by playing it in the pool. In the past, I’ve played volleyball, baseball, and rugby. Even if there’s just two of you, there’s a way you can get around it. My younger brother and I used ‘ghost players’ on the bases so we could bat and run each inning.

Train for the Olympics. So I might just be caught up in all the excitement of the games, but I think that this is a great way to inspire anyone to get in better shape and have a regular workout routine. I’m definitely jealous of all the fit Olympians. If they can take hours of their days and years of their lives to train for their event, I can at the very least take some time out of my week for an intensive workout.

Run outside. Beat the heat and wake up early to get a run in before the sun is at its hottest. Enjoy the scenery around you. Use ends of blocks or other landmarks as markers to sprint towards. Other runners can also serve as a boost for you to keep running past instead of taking your walking break when you really want it.

Organize pickup games. If you have a great yard or live close enough to a school or park that’ll let you play, invite a few friends or past teammates for a pickup game of your choice. With any luck, by the end of the summer you’ll have enough players for a proper game of the sport of your choice!

 

Things To Do When Away from Home

Although you may be adding an amazing experience to your resume, it’s difficult to make friends in a new place and for just a few months. It’s difficult to keep in touch with friends when you are in different places and cannot hang out in the flesh.

Organize an unofficial book club. There are always some summer reading hits. Pick an individual book or a series to read at the same time as a friend. Either videochat to discuss your thoughts or send e-mails back and forth for each chapter.

Send postcards. Try to find hilarious postcards in your city, town, or the surrounding areas. Take time to find (or make up) a funny story to send to your friends and family.

Call or video chat home. Your family and friends would love to hear from you and see your smiling face! Reconnect with them and describe the place where you are staying if they are unfamiliar with the area.

Discover a new TV series. You might find yourself with a lot of free time in which tv watching can certainly kill. Find a tv show to catch up on or discover a new one. Borrow, buy, or rent a DVD set of a series you find interesting. Even better get one that a friend has always been raving about so you finally get the reason why.

 

Muffinmeal: Innovative Meals and Desserts

What will you create with your set?As a product that is certainly the next big thing, Muffinmeal is going to wow you. As the next big Zing 2011 winner in the home category, Muffinmeal is recognized as a revolutionary bakeware accessory that will change how you bake from now on. This product creates endless opportunities for you to be innovative with your cooking and baking.

Muffinmeal allows you to bake cup-like holes into your muffins or cupcakes. This gives you the chance to fill your baked good with any filling you find desirable. Other products may scoop out bits of your dough, creating crumbs and a lot of food scraps. Only Muffinmeal creates a mess-free hole without wasting any mix.

Muffinmeal is a wonderful idea for any meal or dessert! Fill muffins or biscuits with scrambled eggs for breakfast. Try cornbread with chili for lunch or dinner. For dessert, make cupcakes and add fruit or ice cream. To get a look at some tasty recipes head to the website www.cupcaqe.com. While you’re there check out the videos about the product and find out how to order yourself your own set.The basic Muffinmeal set

Design your treat with easy to follow directions with the Muffinmeal. This product works with any size or brand of cupcake pan and are adjustable to a variety of heights. Muffinmeal locks into place, so there is no need to worry about any sliding issues during baking or any differences between individual cupcakes in your batch. The product is FDA approved and can be placed in the dishwasher.

For the best and most delicious results, get acquainted with the cup and base before using Muffinmeal. This will help you to flawlessly disassemble the piece in order to keep your cupcake or muffin from crumbling. Wait for your baked food to cool before gently removing the Muffinmeal pieces.

I received a set of six cups for the purpose of this review. I was really excited to get a product to kick things up a notch in my kitchen. I always end up in a rut creating the same dinners and desserts and seek out something new by eating out. Meals with this product is no more expensive than cooking in my own home. This product is a simple way to switch things up and make not only eating more exciting, but also the process that gets it to the table!