Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wish-4-Snow 77kids campaign and 77kids gift card giveaway

A couple of months ago, I posted about the new store at Carousel Center (in Syracuse, NY), 77kids. One thing that had greatly impressed me about my experience at the store was their attention to detail. As part of the grand opening campaign, 77kids helped the mom blogger team that I was part of to Do Good in the community. At the time, I figured it was a one time thing for them, but I recently received an invitation to help them kick off their Wish 4 Snow, Children's Hospital Giving Program. The hospitals that will benefit from this fundraising campaign include:
- Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital in Syracuse
- Children's Health and Wellness Center at Danbury Hospital
- Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
- Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
- Childrens Regional Hospital at Cooper
- University Hospital in Cherry Hill/Philadelphia
- WakeMed Children's Hospital in Raliegh
- Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford
- Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago

As a customer, there are several ways you can help 77kids raise money for these great hospitals. For those of you near a physical store, you can donate 77 cents (or more) to benefit your local children's hospital. When you donate, you will receive a snowflake to write your name or wish on and then add it to the "blizzard wall" in the store for all to see. You will also receive a special bumper sticker that says "you done good" and encourages you and others to visit their interactive Wish-4-Snow website. If you are near a physical store, be sure to stop in and see all the great details put into the holiday decorating for the store. Starting with the interactive store front, where you and your child can race birds down a ski slope. They even put special holiday lights in for the little ones to chase.

For those of you who are not near a physical store, you can still help. Visit the Wish-4-Snow website and design your own snowflake for free. Once 100,000 snowflakes have been made, 77kids will donate an additional $25,000 on top of the amounts raised in the stores. You can make as many snowflakes as you want so it should be easy for them to reach their goal. Also, when you create a snowflake, you are eligible to win a $77 gift card from 77kids (one given away each day) and the ultimate grand prize: a block party for you and 77 friends.

The fundraising continues until December 14th so be sure to get in there before then.

I also have a special giveaway just for my readers: a $50 gift card to 77kids!

*Mandatory entry (must be done for other entries to count)*
Visit the Wish-4-Snow website and create a snowflake. Come back here and tell me the name of your snowflake and your wish.

Extra ways to enter (leave a comment for each one you do):
- subscribe to my blog
- follow my blog
- share this giveaway via your blog or other social networking site.
- Follow me on Twitter

The winner will be chosen on November 30th and they will have 48 hours to get back to me or a new winner will be chosen. I will choose the winner at some point in the evening of the 30th and entries will be accepted up until the drawing.

I received a stipend and a gift card to 77kids for participating in this campaign. As always, my opinion is my own and was not influenced in any way.

Giveaway: $50 gift certificate to Cards Direct

I was recently offered the opportunity to host a giveaway for a $50 gift certificate to CardsDirect. With the holidays approaching, and the need to buy cards, I thought it would be a great opportunity for one of my readers to get their cards for free. Here is a little about the company:

CardsDirect offers the very best in personalized greeting cards for business or personal use. Over 2,000 card designs are available in categories that include Christmas Cards, Holiday Cards, Birthday Invitations, Photo Cards (my favorite), Baby Announcements, and many more! With free personalization and custom imprinted verse, CardsDirect offers an easy online ordering process and top quality cards with the best selection, customer service and pricing found anywhere.

Unlike most of my giveaways, this one will run for only 5 days (instead of a full week). The winner will be chosen on November 30th and they will have 48 hours to get back to me or a new winner will be chosen. I will choose the winner at some point in the evening of the 30th and entries will be accepted up until the drawing. Here's how to enter:

*Mandatory Entry (must be done before extra entries will be counted)*
- Visit CardsDirect and tell me your favorite design.

Extra ways to enter (leave a comment for each one you do):
- subscribe to my blog
- follow my blog
- share this giveaway via your blog or other social networking site.
- Follow me on Twitter

Good luck!

I received 2 $50 gift codes to CardsDirect, one for the giveaway and one for myself in exchange for sharing this information with you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Book Review: Nightingale (Blog Tour) and giveaway info

I have been enjoying the opportunities I have had to read and review some wonderful books, thanks to my relationship with litfuse publicity. The most recent book tour I have had the privilege of participating in is Nightingale
by Susan May Warren. Here is a synopsis of the book and a bit about the author:

About Nightingale: Esther Lange doesn’t love her fiancĂ©—she’s trapped in an engagement after a mistaken night of passion.

Still, she grieves him when he’s lost in battle, the letters sent to her by the medic at his side giving her a strange comfort, so much that she strikes up a correspondence with Peter Hess, an Iowa farmboy. Or is he? Peter Hess is not who he seems. Indeed, he’s hiding a secret, something that could cost them both their lives, especially when the past comes back to life. A bittersweet love song of the home front war between duty and the heart...a battle where only one will survive.

Don’t miss book 1 in this stand-alone collection, Sons of Thunder

About Susan May Warren :

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of twenty-four novels with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill. A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year.

Susan's larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder of, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota , where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!) A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at:

The book is available for sale here

What I thought of the book: There is a lot of historical information dealing with World War II, but unlike so many historical fiction books dealing with this era, this dealt quite a bit with German POWs in the US. I had some trouble connecting with the characters in this book, but I did find it difficult to put the book down each night. I enjoyed reading along as Esther grew and evolved through the book. She struggles with choosing between what she believes is right and what she truly wants. As she faces her struggles, she also begins to grow in her faith in Christ. While the book is not preachy, it is definitely a Christian faith-based book. The first part of the book is told exclusively from Esther's perspective, but in the second part of the book, it switches back and forth between Esther and Peter as the narrator. Personally, I did not care for this style, but it is almost necessary to properly tell the whole story.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to any one who enjoys historical fiction, Christian love stories, and/or anyone who has ever had to make the difficult decision of choosing between what you want and what you believe is right.

Susan May Walker is also holding a giveaway:

Enter the Contest: Nightingale
is about letters, the power of written correspondence to convey thoughts and emotions to those far away. And sometimes near. Letters are forever, they are something we savor and pull out to read again and again. They are often cherished and kept in a special place.Nightingale, Susan would like you to write a letter. One grand prize winner will receive a Flip HD Camcorder. 5 runner's up winners will win a signed copy of Nightingale. There are two ways to enter the contest by writing letters.

1. Write a letter to a soldier. At the end of the contest we’ll print out and mail your letter for you.

2. Write a letter to a friend, loved one, family member, enemy. Tell them something you wished you’d told them before. Tell them you love them, or maybe how they touched your life. Perhaps an apology is in order or a thank you. Or perhaps you'd like to relate a funny tale or just share life. Whatever it is, submit it here along with your email address and we’ll send it for you.

Enter at the SHARE page on the Brothers in Arms website. Or simply click on the button to the right.

I received a free copy of this book from litfuse publicity in exchange for my review.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fuzzoodle Fiesta

I had the opportunity to host a Fuzzoodle Fiesta this weekend, to introduce my friends and family to Fuzzoodles. If you have not seen the commercials and have no idea what a Fuzzoodle is, let me explain it the best I can. Fuzzoodles are like giant, soft, fluffy pipe cleaners and plastic accessories like feet, eyes, noses, etc to add to them. They can be bent and shaped into many different shapes and if you want to change it, it is super easy to do. You can make creatures to look at or play with, or you can make finger puppets, or wrap your your pens to personalize them. The colors are fun and bright and the accessories allow you to make a wide variety of creatures. At our party, we stuffed a homemade pinata full of Fuzzoodle pieces and then let the kids grab whatever they could when the pinata was broken. As fun as the pinata was, they ended up just gathering all the pieces up and combining them together any way.

The party was geared toward kids aged 5-7 years old, but my 2 1/2 year did okay with some help and my 3 year old did great by herself. On the other end of the age spectrum, the adults had just as much fun playing. My 13 year old cousin had so much fun with them that she asked her mom if she could have a Fuzzoodle birthday party for her friends.

Having seen the reaction to the Fuzzoodles, I would definitely consider doing a Fuzzoodle party for my kids next party. It is an activity that can take up quite a bit of time and is a lot of fun. It was also super easy to clean up afterward and the cost for the Fuzzoodles would be less than having a party at a commercial business. I also love the creative outlet that Fuzzoodles provided and that they are pretty safe for kids to play with, even if they decide to use the Fuzzoodles as swords ;)

I received a stipend and Fuzzoodle product in exchange for hosting the Fuzzoodle Fiesta.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Baked Potato Soup

Today I am sharing a recipe for one of my favorite fall soups: Baked Potato Soup. Like most recipes that I use, this is easily adaptable to whatever you have on hand. I personally prefer to use fat-free or reduced-fat versions of dairy products, but they do not always work in all recipes. Fortunately, in this one they do :)

5 cups mashed potatoes
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup flour
6 cups fat-free milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 chopped onion
9 slices turkey bacon, crisp-fried and crumbled
1 1/4 cups shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
1 cup fat-free sour cream
2 green onions, chopped

Over low heat, melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Add chopped onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually, add the milk, stirring as you do. Cook over medium heat until thickened and boiling, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper.

Add potatoes, 1/2 cup of the bacon, and 1 cup of the cheese. Cook till heated through. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream. Sprinkle each serving with reserved bacon and cheese and chopped green onions.

Helpful Tips:

- To save time, make mashed potatoes for dinner 1-2 nights before making the soup and make a few extra. You can also substitute instant potatoes or scoop out the pulp from 4-5 baked potatoes.

- Chop the bacon before cooking it and then just fry it in a skillet. To reduce fat, drain well and pat with paper towels to remove excess grease.

- The last time I made this, I did not cook the bacon until crisp. It was cooked well, but was still a little chewy. I also had cut the pieces a little bigger than they would have been if I had crumbled them. The family really liked the bacon this way and I will probably do it this way in the future, but either way works.