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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cookies Across America ~ Taste of Home & Allrecipes.com!


Taste of Home magazine is one of my favorites because they have great recipes, a wonderful website and an online community of other cooks who love to share their recipes! Their cooking school is awesome too! I'm proud to be one of Taste of Home's Field Editors and a participant in Cookies Across America!! Have you heard about it? No? Well, here is the scoop!

Cookie lovers unite! Whether it's baking and sharing cookies with the needy or donating cookie ingredients to a food bank, you can make a difference in your community this Christmas.   On December 10, 2011, join Taste of Home, Allrecipes, and Nestlé®, and bakers across America as we all help to spread a little Christmas cookie cheer!  Here are a few ways to get involved:

Host a cookie exchange!  Invite a few friends over, and have a decorating party! Then share those fabulous cookies with each other, but don't forget to wrap some up to donate to a local family, your police or fire station, a family shelter or children's hospital, etc. (Just call to make sure they accept homemade items, first) A plate of homemade cookies is sure to brighten their day!

Organize a food drive:  When most of us donate items to food banks, we usually share staples for meals.  Baking ingredients aren't often at the top of our list of items to donate.  This time of year, those ingredients are a welcome addition to food pantries.  Baking is something many families like to do together, but some just don't have the money to buy the necessary ingredients, like flour, sugar, shortening, vanilla, etc.  You can collect these items from friends and family, then donate to a local church's food pantry, a family shelter, Ronald McDonald house, Retirement home, or other community agency or shelter.

Here is a link to the printable recipe for Nestle Toll House Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies that Katie made for us today.   They are crazy-delicious.  This is a great recipe to make, share/donate! Need more inspiration?  There are tons of other yummy cookie recipes to be found on Taste of Home's website!

Are you going to join us for Cookies Across America? I hope so!! It's such a wonderful way to share the holiday spirit!  PRETTY PLEASE, leave a comment below if you plan to be a part of this and tell me which you wan to do - a cookie exchange or a food drive - in your community.  I'm doing a food drive for my local church's food pantry, or a local homeless shelter - whichever has a greater need.  I want to know how many of my friends here will answer the call to be a part of this wonderful event to spread cookies and happiness across our country!!

One of my favorite sayings is "When you put good into the world, so much more good comes from it" and this is a fun and easy way to put some good out there!! 

xoxo,


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Giveaway ~ ReCharge® Dark Chocolate Snack Mixes!!!


My family of four has very different tastes - we definitely don't all like the same things!  It is hard to find a snack option that every one likes, and even harder to find one that fits that bill AND is healthy.  That means I often buy several different snack items to pack in lunches or to offer after school, work, etc.   I'm always on the lookout for new healthy but tasty snacks for my family.  When I was offered the chance to try the new ReCharge® Naturally Enhanced Dark Chocolate Snack Mixes from Tropical Foods, I was cautiously optimistic!

My husband loves to eat things I consider a bit strange, but he considers healthy.  Foods like Kimchee, Kefir, Kombucha, Chia seeds and more! He encourages us to try them, but I've not really cared for the ones I tried.  But seeing the information on these ReCharge® snack mixes got me intrigued!  These are made with natural foods.  Real foods, not empty calories and unpronounceable ingredients! One of the ReCharge® snack mixes had chia stix in it.  They all contain probiotics.   That is something we already keep in our fridge to take when someone's tummy is not feeling well, and I love the idea of a snack mix enhanced with probiotics!  They are also enhanced with Omega-3's, and pomegranate seed oil. And we all know dark chocolate is good for you! I was happy to find these natural snacks that are healthy too - now if they will just pass the taste test!!

I gave the Super-Charged Cranberry Blend to Katie and her boyfriend to try. I thought it would be a great snack to munch while they watched a movie.  Katie (typical teenager!) made a face at first when she saw the description on the package, but her boyfriend tried it, so she did too.  When I checked back later, they both told me how good it was! They especially loved the dark chocolate cranberries and yogurt dipped peanuts! (There's a complete description of each snack mix with all ingredients below).  They left a few of the pomegranate-infused cranberries in the bottom of the container, but Mr. Picky Pants David finished those off in short order! He loved them.

I gave my husband the package of Chia ReCharge® Stix Mix because it had the Chia stix!  I tried it  too - the stix reminded me of those yummy sesame sticks you can buy in the bulk bins at stores like Whole Foods, etc.  Pretty tasty!  He really liked this snack mix, which also included dark chocolate chunks, almonds, and pineapple.

Finally, David and I got busy with the last snack mix, called Dark Chocolate Energy Boost.  Oh. my. goodness!!  This is my new favorite indulgence!  Dark chocolate cranberries,  dark chocolate covered coffee beans, pineapple, almonds - yum, yum, yum!   David and I both really enjoyed the flavors and textures of the ingredients in this snack mix.  Truly delicious!

I don't usually shop at Ingles, but I found out they offer these snack mixes locally.  So, yeah, you know I'm gonna be making a run there soon! We really liked all of these snack mixes;  they have so many good things going for them.  These are snacks I will actually feel good about giving to my family! Better yet, they are snacks my family is asking me to buy. These will be great to munch on during the hectic holidays!

Here is some more information about these yummy ReCharge®  snacks:

ReCharge® is a new line of naturally enhanced snack mixes from Tropical Foods, based in Charlotte, NC.

ReCharge® ingredients are enhanced with probiotics, Omega-3, pomegranate seed oil and Chia seeds. They contain antioxidants and much of the recommended daily value of vitamin B6.

They're also low-sodium snacks and contain zero grams of trans fat and cholesterol.

ReCharge® comes in three varieties:


Chia ReCharge® Stix Mix features Chia Sticks mixed with cranberries, almonds, dark chocolate chunks, yogurt-covered raisins, pineapple and white chocolate drops.

Super Charged Cranberry Blend includes Omega-3 fortified cranberries, pomegranate infused cranberries, and probiotic dark chocolate cranberries, plus almonds, dark chocolate chunks and yogurt-dipped peanuts.

Dark Chocolate Energy Boost includes an invigorating mix of coffee beans, probiotic cranberries, and raisins – all coated with dark chocolate – plus almonds, pineapple and dark chocolate chunks.

All three varieties are available in 10 pound bulk and will be available soon in 5oz re-sealable bags.
ReCharge® is available in bulk bins at Ingles and Healthy Home Market locations.  

The wonderful folks at Tropical Foods are giving one of you the same three-pack of snack mixes that I received!  Enter below - there are two mandatory entries, and several optional entries, too!  Good luck, y'all!

Friday, November 25, 2011

FREE magazines from Plum District - Black Friday only!

Y'all, I just found THE BEST deal on magazines today!! I love magazines, but I do not like using any money from my grocery budget to pay for them at the grocery store.  So this deal caught my attention, and I grabbed it fast! 

Have you joined Plum District?  I did a while back, and today I heard about this deal:  go to Plum District,  look for the Magazine deal - it's for $10 certificates on many magazines, including Every Day with Rachael Ray,  Reader's Digest, Taste of Home, MORE, Rolling Stone, Car & Driver, Whole Living, Dog Fancy, Cat Fancy, Men's Journal and many others!  

Snag this deal (will say buy for $10).  Go to checkout, and enter this Black Friday-only code:  enjoy10 and then complete your checkout!! You will get a voucher that you can use on the magazine subscription website to choose your magazine.

I chose Every Day with Rachael Ray - love it but it is much too pricey usually!! But FREE, that I can handle!! 

Maybe you don't need another magazine subscription, but how about choosing one for a gift? One for your best girlfriend, a family member, or perhaps for your favorite doctor's office or a local retirement home....it's FREE, y'all!!  Now hurry up and get shopping! ;0)

If you decide to get this freebie, please leave me a comment below and tell me which magazine you chose - maybe you can help me find another new favorite magazine!!

Happy Black Friday Shopping, y'all!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Exclusive Black Friday Shaklee Sale!!

Hope y'all have had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We had a great one - best I can ever remember, actually! I'll have a recipe or two to share soon!

Do you shop those Black Friday sales?  Well, here is a great one!  Shaklee is having a super sale tomorrow only - and if you remember this post, you will remember how much I love their cleaning products!! Organic, non-toxic - what's not to love?!  Anyhooo....tomorrow only, if you order $100 or more, you'll get free shipping!!  You can find great gift items on their site - nutritional products, health and beauty products and more - so you can stock up for Christmas and pay no shipping fees! Another great perk:  if you join Shaklee as a member, you'll get 15% off your order, too! Shopping from home on this busiest shopping day of the year is a no-brainer to me! 

Oh, while you are here, make sure you enter the Torani giveaway a few posts below - it ends in 24 hours, but only two of you have entered!! Since there are two winners, c'mon and give them a little competition! It's a rafflecopter giveaway so it's quick and easy to enter!!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

~*~Stone Mountain Christmas 2011 ~*~

Wonderful photographers will take your family's picture as you enter Crossroads!


I love living in Atlanta since we are fortunate to live near some incredible attractions! My favorite place to visit during the Holiday season is always Stone Mountain Park. They do Christmas right!

Last weekend we spent the afternoon and evening at Stone Mountain Park. We arrived early so that David would have time to play in the Great Barn. My boy LOVES that barn!! There are over 65 interactive games, four levels, trampoline floors, slides and play areas - it's an absolute blast! (Can you believe I didn't take a single pic in (or of) the Great Barn?!)

At 6 pm there was a Parade that started up near the barn and continued down into the Crossroad area. It included some really adorable floats, dancers & singers, plus the Snow Angel & Santa & Mrs. Claus!


We followed the parade down through Crossroads and enjoyed a delicious meal of traditional Southern cooking - turkey, dressing, sweet potato souffle, rolls & pecan pie - yum! Miss Katie's has some of the best Southern food you will put in your mouth!


Our Miss Katie Loves Stone Mountain's Miss Katie's! : )



Next, we walked through the Wonderland Walkway! So beautiful! It took us up to Memorial Hall, where we found the Snow Angel Palace. You can also decorate cookies, get hot chocolate, visit the snow Angel and her Toy Soldiers and also take time to enjoy the Holly Jolly Cabaret!  Cookie decorating was my kiddos favorite thing there.  Check out the wonderful gift shop too.  I didn't get a picture of the Snow Angel Palace, as we met her down in the Crossroads area - but it is adorable!!






Next up was Toyrific!, the newest show at Stone Mountain Christmas.  It's a really fun show for kids and adults! It's the sweetest tale of a group of misfit toys who band together to save Christmas!  Our whole family loved this sweet, 20 minute show.   David especially liked Robbie the Robot!



Then we walked over to see Simply Christmas Musical Revue, a family-friendly show with dancing and holiday tunes.  We enjoyed this show quite a bit, too!  Lots of clapping and toe-tapping in there!

Other can't miss attractions at Stone Mountain Christmas ~ Visit with Santa Claus, then head over to listen to Mistletales told by Mrs. Claus at an adorable gingerbread house!  Take a fun sing-along train ride around Stone Mountain  complete with Christmas songs, lights, and a live performance of "The Gift", a heartwarming show featuring the story of the very first Christmas.  And don't forget the Polar Express 4-D Experience!! It's a family favorite!  Make sure you check out the gift shops, too - there is such a variety of glassware,  toys, clothing, jewelry and much more.  Each shop has different items available.  Bet you won't leave without buying something beautiful!

Look up at the top of the mountain after dark and enjoy the beautiful mountain-top Christmas tree, too!



After all the shows, delicious food and shopping, we planned to watch the Snow Angels Snowfall and Fireworks Finale at 9:45, but my kiddos were tired and getting grumpy, so we ended up leaving at about 9.   I'm disappointed we didn't get to see that, but we had such a wonderful afternoon & evening visiting everything else there! It's simply a must-visit Christmas tradition!  I really hope that if you live in or near Atlanta, you will spend a day at Stone Mountain Christmas making wonderful Christmas memories! (Please leave me a comment if you go, or have already been; I'd love to hear what you think of it too!)

And finally....guess what else we saw there?  A sneak peek of something Frosty & Fun!!!







See that snow-making machine? That HUGE wall of snow?  Soon, it will be part of Snow Mountain!! The kids & I will visiting in a few weeks to tell you all about it - and they are SO excited!! After all, we live in Atlanta, where our usual snowfall is a couple of inches - they have never gotten to really sled or tube in our snowfalls!! This is a huge treat for Georgia kids!!  So check back soon and I'll share my review of Snow Mountain!

For more information on Stone Mountain Christmas:

Website: http://festivals.stonemountainpark.com/mini-section/default.aspx?id=42   and  http://stonemountainpark.com/default.aspx

For information on Snow Mountain:  http://festivals.stonemountainpark.com/mini-section/default.aspx?season=christmas&id=113

Check out the calendar for operating dates/times:   http://stonemountainpark.com/dates-hours/OperatingCalendar.aspx

Contact information: http://www.stonemountainpark.com/contact/


Disclaimer:  I was provided a family pass for the afternoon, plus meals and activity passes for my family in order to review the shows and attractions at Stone Mountain Christmas.  I was not compensated in any other way. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Torani Syrups Giveaway ~ 2 winners!!


SheSpeaksbutton

Time for another giveaway y'all!!  This one is super-fun!  Do you love coffee-house drinks, but not the amount of money you have to spend to get them?  I know I do - I love Peppermint Mochas and Salted Caramel Hot Chocolates at Starbucks, but my budget does not always allow for such a splurge. Enter Torani Syrups!! 

SheSpeaks allowed me to participate in their Torani Authentic Coffeehouse Flavors program, and they sent me two full-size bottles of syrup to sample and experiment with.  I was so happy - my box contained Peppermint Syrup and Salted Caramel Syrup!  How did I get so lucky? : )   Here's a little information about Torani:

Since 1925, family-owned Torani has been crafting great tasting flavored syrups that coffeehouses use to make their flavored drinks taste so delicious. With over 120 flavors in regular and sugar free varieties, Torani flavored syrups are perfect for flavored lattes, mochas, coffees, cocoas, Italian sodas, teas, lemonades, cocktails and smoothies. Coffeehouse professionals choose Torani flavors because they are expertly crafted and made with the highest quality ingredients, like natural flavors and pure cane sugar. The sugar free flavors have no calories and are sweetened with Splenda. Now, Torani Flavored Syrups are widely available at retail so you can easily create authentic coffeehouse quality drinks at home.

I haven't had much time to experiment with these syrups yet, but here are some things I have tried:

Hot Cocoa with Peppermint syrup is amazing - it's refreshing but not overpowering.  I also made my own version of a Peppermint Mocha using coffee, hot cocoa mix and the syrup.  YUM!  The mint is just right, with a touch of sweetness!  I know it will work in frosting and cakes, plus my creme de menth brownie recipe will be getting a Peppermint boost this year! 

The Salted Caramel syrup is delicious in hot cocoa, and tastes great in coffee too - just like at Starbucks.  And try it in buttercream frosting on top of cupcakes - delicious!  I'm also thinking it will taste great in some whipped cream on top of pumpkin pie come Thanksgiving. 

That's it so far, but I still have lots of ideas to try out for both of these syrups!

Torani Syrups are available at CostPlus World Market, Walmart, Amazon.com and Torani.com!  With over 120 flavors available you are bound to find some you love!  Seriously - they even have a bacon flavored syrup, plus favorites like Cherry Lime, Pumpkin Pie, Irish Creme, Caramel and so many others!  Click on the button at the top of this post to see Torani's recipes, then get 10% off your online order, too - just use the special coupon code "shespeaks"! 

And while you are here, enter to win a coupon for a free bottle of Torani Syrup!  I'll have two winners! : )  Just click the "read more" link to enter!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Christmas Rag Garland ~ Easy Holiday Craft!!


Last night I felt the need to get crafty.  My inspiration for these Rag Garlands came from a $29.99 garland in the Country Door catalog.   I knew I had the supplies to make these for free!


I have a huge bin of holiday fabrics, so I found three Christmas fabrics I liked, plus some twine my husband had, and got to work!! I tore strips from the fabrics, then cut them into appx 5" strips.  I alternated the fabrics along the twine, tying them once and scooting them to the left.  I left a small loop on each end to hang it from.  I am THRILLED with my new Christmas garland and I've made a few more to sell at a Christmas festival in two weeks!  It takes about three hours to tie all of these strips on, and I had to tear/cut additional strips three times!  It's about five feet long, so I would need a few of these to wrap around the tree. 
 
Here are some pics/instructions if you would like to make a few of these yourselves!



Start out with a piece of twine a little longer than 5 feet - so you can make two loops and knot each end.
Here are some of the strips I already tore from my fabric, too....



Here's what I did to start my torn strips....just pick three or more fabrics that you like, and cut notches at the bottom.  I fold my fabric over so I get two strips per tear! Next, tear straight up the fabric - it will give you a long strip!!  After you tear them, measure to your liking and cut into smaller strips.  I folded my torn fabric strips into thirds and cut.  They were about 5"  long after I cut them.



Then start at one end and begin tying the strips on.  I do a single "knot" in the middle.  You will want to tear off any strings that appear after you cut your strips, too - just pull them off.  Some pieces may get a frayed look, and that's ok - it adds to the country charm of these garlands.  Just push pieces to the side after you tie them on, and keep them tightly together.    I have no idea how many strips I cut and tied, but it takes a good three hours (with tv watching to keep me going, lol!) to do one entire garland. 



And here is the first garland I made!  I used a couple different fabrics with this one.  I love them both, and have a couple more that are in progress! : )  Besides being fun to decorate your home, these would make great Christmas gifts, too! I am hoping I can sell a few of them at the Christmas festival - I'm going to ask $20 per garland I think!


 


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Coupon Alert for Atlanta readers!!

In today's (Sunday) AJC, check page B9 for a coupon good for a FREE bag of Community Coffee - it's up to a $7.99 value, and doesn't expire til January 31, 2012!


Friday, November 4, 2011

Giveaway ~ Renuzit Fresh Accents Holiday Air Freshener (3 winners!)

Several weeks ago, there was a package dropped off at my door that I wasn't expecting. Imagine my surprise to open it and find some beautiful (and fabulously scented!) holiday air fresheners!

The package was from Purex!  I'm a Purex Insider, so I get wonderful packages from them throughout the year with products to review and give away. What I didn't know is that Renuzit is one of Purex's sister brands.  Those who know me well know that I am a candle & air freshener FREAK! I love to have wonderful fragrances in each room of my home.  So, I was really excited to dive into this package!



Renuzit has a brand new air freshener product this holiday season! It's an attractive air freshener that features a stylish two sided-holiday design. It comes in two amazing holiday fragrances: Winter Berry and Festive Snow.  Each lasts for 30 days, and there are no plugs, batteries or flames needed!  My package contained one of each to try out.




I put one of these air fresheners in the family room, and one in the master bedroom. It's been 3 weeks, and the fragrance is still going strong in both of these.  I prefer sweeter scents so Winter Berry is definitely my favorite fragrance of the two. 

These will freshen up your home and add a little touch of holiday whimsy too.  I will be picking up a couple more of these;  they will smell great in my home this holiday season!  (They won't be around for long, so stock up on these while you can!)

And my favorite part of this post is the giveaway!! Renuzit was kind enough to send me three coupons for a FREE Fresh Accents Holiday Air Freshener, so there will be three winners this time, each receiving one coupon!

As always, I'm using a Rafflecopter entry form to make entries quick and easy.  Click the "read more" link to enter!