Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book Review: The Clouds Rollaway (book tour) and information on a Kindle giveaway

I am participating in another Litfuse blog tour for another great book, The Clouds Roll Away
by Sibella Giorello. This book is the third installment in Giorello's Raleigh Harmon series, and while it is not a stand-alone book, I had no trouble reading it without having read the first two installments. I also believe that I will still be able to go back and read the first two books, The Stones Cry Out and The Rivers Run Dry, without knowing too much.

From the author's website:

Forensic geologist Raleigh Harmon returns to her hometown of Richmond, Virginia and discovers nothing is quite what it seems in this former Capital of the Confederacy...

Although her exemplary service in Seattle lifted her disciplinary transfer, Raleigh lands a hometown civil rights case riddled with problems that could get her sent away again. When she helps out a fellow cop, her life goes on the line, forcing her undercover in a sting operation. As Raleigh realizes the lines are crossing and double-crossing, her domestic life starts to unravel. Her mother's mental health cracks like ice, her closest friend grows cold, and her old boyfriend DeMott comes a-calling, hoping for more than chestnuts by an open fire.

While the city glows with Christmas lights and carols, Raleigh is forced to rely on her sharpest skills to stay alive, hoping for that one clear moment when everything makes sense and the clouds roll away.

My review:

While I consider myself to be a Christian, I tend to avoid Christian novels due to many of them being overly preachy. I was pleasantly surprised to find The Clouds Roll Away, was not down-your-throat preachy at all. Raleigh Harmon is an everyday Christian who is trying to live her life while maintaining her morals and following her beliefs. In the book, you see this through mentions of God and prayers that she offers. However, the novel still offers plenty of grit that one would expect to find in a crime/detective novel as well, just without being gruesome, no foul language, and no sex, though there is a bit of romance.

I received this book during a tremendously busy period in my life. My husband was finishing up finals at school, the holidays were quickly approaching, and the 4 year old daughter of a friend was in her final stages of life. Yet with all that was going on, I found this book to be a good distraction. The descriptive words used by the author allowed to be truly feel like I was in Richmond, riding along beside Raleigh. The story line was captivating and kept me turning pages just to see where the clues would lead me. As busy as I was, I could not stop reading the book once I picked it up.

I recommend this book to those who like crime novels, yet desire a good, clean one to read. It is extremely well written and will keep you wanting more. I know that I am going to go back now and read the first two books in this series, The Stones Cry Out and The Rivers Run Dry, as well as anxiously await the release of book #4, The Mountains Bow Down.

About the author:

Sibella Giorello grew up in Alaska and majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College. After riding a motorcycle across the country, she worked as a features sibella-in-bluewriter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Her stories have won state and national awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. She now lives in Washington state with her husband and sons. Find out more about Sibella and her other books at her website.

Sibella’s celebrating the release of The Clouds Roll Away by giving away a KINDLE prize pack worth over $150.00!


One Grand Prize winner will receive:

  • Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi

  • $25 gift certificate to

To enter simply click on one of the icons below! Then tell your friends! Winner will be announced January 3, 2011 on Sibella's blog:

I received a free copy of the book The Clouds Roll Away for participating in the Litfuse blog tour. My opinion is my own and was not influenced by any outside source.

In memory of Julianne

On Valentine's Day of 2010, a family in my church received the devastating news that their almost 4 year old daughter, Julianne, had an inoperable brain tumor. I instantly felt a stronger connection to the family, not because I had experienced anything like that, but because I have a daughter very close in age to theirs, and I had always thought our girls sort of resembled each other. As the months passed, Julianne changed physically as a result of the treatments she was receiving, but inside, she was the same spirited little girl she had always been. A few months ago, we rejoiced at the news that one of her treatments had worked in shrinking the tumor, and while we were cautiously optimistic, we felt a real hope. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, the news came that the tumor was growing once again and soon after, Julianne took a dramatic turn for the worse. Her family "moved" Christmas Eve up by 10 days, to ensure that she would be able to still enjoy it. It was a wonderful thing that they did and has allowed their family to have some good Christmas memories of 2010. On Christmas Eve morning, around 11:30, sweet Julianne passed away in the loving arms of her parents.

Today, we attended a "Celebration of Life" service for Julianne, a joyous event, marked with a terrible sadness. As I sat there with my girls, I empathized with Julianne's mother, yet realized I could not truly understand what she is feeling. I always have known that it is possible to lose one of my children, but this journey that Julianne has taken, made that possibility feel much more real. I already find myself hugging my children longer and more often, and making sure that I do not forget to say "I love you" several times a day. I am planning many more activities to draw our family closer together on a daily basis, regardless of what else is going on in our individual worlds.

To my readers, I ask that you keep this family in your thoughts and prayers as they enter the difficult grieving process. I also ask that you take the time to truly treasure the beautiful gifts you have been given in your children. Express your love and your gratitude for them often. Take time to turn off the electronics, put down the cleaning rags, and worry less about the mess, at least once in a while. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

In memory of Julianne, February 26, 2006-December 24, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gain Dish Soap Review

We have lived in several places during our 11 year marriage. Some of them had a dishwasher, but many did not. I was very happy when we bought our house in April 2009 and were able to buy a dishwasher as well. With 4 kids, it makes life much easier. However, I also own nice cookware and good knives that I do not wash in the dishwasher. As an avid cook, I use these dishes on a daily basis, so in addition to running the dishwasher daily, I also hand wash my "delicate" dishes daily as well. Maybe it is due to only having to hand wash a few items at a time, but there is something that I also find comforting when hand washing. I think it is the feeling of immersing my hands in the warm, sudsy water and watching the dishes come clean as I wash them. Anyway, I recently had the opportunity to try Gain's new dish soap which now adds a new element to my hand washing, scent. I tried the original version, but it also comes in Lavender, Citrus Splash, and Apple Mango Tango. I found the scent to be pleasant and while it lingered in the air for a little bit, it rinsed off the dishes completely and pretty easily. The soap itself did a decent job of washing the dishes and I would purchase it again. There was one area I found that the soap did not do better than my normal brand. When I get grease or oil on my hands, I always reach for dish soap as I find it generally gets it off better than hand soap. Gain still worked better than hand soap, but it did not match up to the brand I usually use.

You can purchase Gain Dish Soap at Wal-Mart and other retailers. You can also follow Gain on Facebook and on Twitter.

I received this information and a bottle of this product to review from P&G through MyBlogSpark, as well as 3 $5 Wal-Mart gift cards and 3 t-shirts to share. The gift cards and t-shirts were given to families in my area that had a need for them.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Giveaway Winners: 77kids and cardsDirect

First up is the $50 gift card to 77kids:

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2010-12-02 18:16:55 UTC

#14 was:
Danielle said...

Subscribed to your blog!

Congratulations Danielle! I will be sending a message to get your shipping information. Please get back to me within 48 hours so that I do not need to choose an alternate winner.

Now onto the cardsDirect winner:

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2010-12-02 18:22:31 UTC

#8 was:

Anonymous said...

C5306 - Sparkling Snowflake Greetings
I love the foil cards for Christmas!

Congratulations Cara! I will be sending you a message with your gift card code in it, so you do not need to reply.

Congratulations to both winners! Thank you to all who entered!

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.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy 140th, Vaseline!

Did you know that Vaseline has been around since 1870? That's right, they are celebrating their 140th anniversary as America's most trusted healthy skin expert and more than 30 years as a leading hand and body lotion. During these past 140 years, consumers have discovered many, many uses for Vaseline. Today, I am going to share 10 of my favorite uses for Vaseline and encourage you to leave your favorite uses of Vaseline in a comment below.

1- Use it to keep shampoo out of a little one's eyes. Just wipe a bit over the child's eyebrows and the soapy water will divert around the child's eyes.

2- Use it for costume wounds. Place a glob of Vaseline on the skin where you want the wound to be. Then use a toothpick to "etch" the cut into the Vaseline and use fake blood in the cut. The Vaseline makes the wound look wet and gross. I do not have a lot of use for this, but with Halloween in a few days, I thought it would be appropriate to share this tip.

3- Rub Vaseline on the terminals of your car battery to prevent erosion. I also know of some people who take big glops of Vaseline and put it in rust-prone areas of the vehicles right before the snow starts. It helps keep the salt from the roads from sticking to the vehicle and causing it to rust. This is particularly effective around the door jambs.

4- Make your own lip gloss. When you get down to the bottom of your lip stick and all that is left is the little nub that is stuck in the tube, dig it out and mix it with some Vaseline for customized lip gloss. You can even blend several different colors of lip stick to create your own "new" color.

5- Keep your feet soft. I tend to neglect my feet in the winter, but it easy to help keep them soft if you lather them up with Vaseline and then cover them with a pair of cotton socks. Do this before bed a few times a week and your feet will be sandal ready come summer.

6- Control your eye brows. I like to wrap my hair in a towel when I get out of the shower and remove it when I am ready to do my hair for the day. With 4 kids, sometimes it will be a little while before I get to it. If any of my eye brows got caught when I was wrapping my hair, they tend to stick out in a funny way afterwards and it can be difficult to get them back in line. A light swipe of Vaseline, gets the wayward hairs back where they belong with little effort.

7- Use it in the bedroom...with caution. I will start with the PG use in the bedroom. Vaseline can be used during a massage to reduce friction and soften the skin. As things heat up, it can then be used as an intimate lubricant. However, if you are using condoms, DO NOT use Vaseline with them, as it can deteriorate the latex.

8- Smother a tick. If you find a tick on your pet or on a person, and the tick is embedded itself in the skin, cover it with Vaseline. This will make it so the tick cannot breathe and it will back itself out of the skin, allowing you to then brush it off. Before sure to keep an eye on the wound though for signs of infection or Lyme Disease.

9- Speaking of bugs, Vaseline can also kill lice. When all else has failed, smear a thick layer of Vaseline all over the scalp to smother and kill lice.

10- One more for Halloween: rub Vaseline on the cut portions of your Jack O'Lantern to keep them from drying out or rotting.

So there you have 10 of my favorite uses for Vaseline. It can be used in so many ways, but do take note that there are times NOT to use Vaseline. As I stated above, do not use Vaseline as a lubricant with latex condoms because it can weaken the latex and cause the condom to break. Also, do not put Vaseline on a fresh burn as it can trap the heat and cause a more severe injury. Now, I have shared how I use Vaseline and a few ways not to use Vaseline, how do you use Vaseline?

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Vaseline blogging program, making me eligible to get a $25 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Low-Fat Alfredo Sauce

I made this for supper tonight and decided that I wanted to post it here. This is a recipe that easily allows for substitutions, especially if you do not have the fat-free products. I serve it over cooked whole-wheat pasta and steamed broccoli for a quick, easy dinner.

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt (I was out, so I used salt and garlic powder)
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk (or 2 cups evaporated skim milk)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley (or sub 1 T dried parsley)
1/3 cup grated reduced-fat Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Over medium heat, melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and garlic salt until smooth. Slowly, whisk the milk into the sauce until completely incorporated. Add the garlic, parsley, and Parmesan cheese, whisking continually. Bring the sauce to a simmer; cook, stirring regularly, until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes.

A double winner!!! Sorry it was so late.

Here are the winners that were supposed to be posted last week:

Brilliant Lenses only had 1 entrant, so congratulations go to Mudderof5.

For the Libman Freedom Mop Giveaway:

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2010-10-27 23:09:56 UTC

Mudderof5 said...

I follow your blog too

Which was also Mudderof5!! Double Congratulations are in order :) Please get back to me within 48 hours so that I do not need to choose an alternate winner.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Check me out on Bargain Briana, plus winners TBA

I realized that I missed posting my winners last week and I will do so in the next few days. I have family in from out of state and have been a bit busy. However, be sure to check out my guest post on Bargain Briana today about homeschooling on a budget.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Book Review: The Waiting (Blog Tour) and Kindle giveaway information

I really enjoyed the book Amish Proverbs from Suzanne Woods Fisher and was excited to participate in the litfuse blog tour for her newest book, The Waiting. The Waiting is the second book in the Lancaster Secrets series, following The Choice. When I initially heard this was the second book in a series, I was not sure if there were going to be things I missed out on by not reading the first book. However, I was pleased to learn that although they are in the same series, they are stand alone stories, in that you do not need to have read one to understand the other.

From the back of the book:
"Jorie King's life is on hold. She has been waiting for Ben Zook to return to Lancaster County. Waiting for him to settle down and join the church. Waiting to marry him.

But when news arrives that Ben has been killed, Jorie is devastated. She finds unlikely comfort in the friendship of his brother Caleb. Friendship ripens into love, and two broken hearts plan for a life filled with the promise of a fresh beginning--until their worlds are turned upside down.

With her realistic characters whose weaknesses develop into strengthes, Suzanne Woods Fisher offers a reading experience that rises above the others. You will love growing in spirit with these complex people living the simple life as The Waiting transports you into a world where things aren't as simple as they seem."

What this does not tell you is that this story is set during the Vietnam War, an era that many do not relate with the Amish communities. For those who are unfamiliar with Amish beliefs, they avoid war and are granted conscientious objector status during drafts. This story tells the fictional tale of what happens when this particular community is faced with the realities of the Vietnam War.

What I thought-

I really enjoyed this book and had a hard time putting it down. It was easy to grow along with the characters and to really feel like you knew them. The author's use of descriptions allows the reader to feel as though they are right there along side each one of them. I could easily relate with the struggles and triumphs that Jorie King faced and I was able to see her as not just a member of the Amish community, but as a woman, not unlike myself. If you enjoy Amish fiction, historical fiction, or just a good, clean read, you will undoubtedly enjoy reading this book.

About the author-

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the CBA bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting, Amish Peace, and Amish Proverbs. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Benedict eventually became publisher of Christianity Today magazine. Suzanne is the host of a radio show called Amish Wisdom and her work has appeared in many magazines. She lives in California . Find out more about Suzanne at

I also want to share this information about a Kindle giveaway hosted by the author, Suzanne Woods Fisher:

Suzanne Woods Fisher is thrilled to announce the release of The Waiting, book two in The Lancaster Secrets Collection. In The Waiting Jorie finds herself caught between two loves and two lives in this compelling page turner about complex people living the simple life.

The Waiting is the next stand alone story in The Lancaster Secrets Collection and follows in the footsteps of the best-selling, The Choice. The Waiting is in stores now and to celebrate Suzanne is hosting The Waiting KINDLE Giveaway.

One Grand Prize winner will receive a Kindle preloaded with Suzanne Woods Fisher titles and a gift certificate! The Prize Pack (valued at over $185.00) includes:

* A brand new KINDLE, Free 3G, 6", Latest Generation

* The Choice by Suzanne Woods Fisher

* The Waiting by Suzanne Woods Fisher

* A $15 dollar Gift Certificate

To enter, simply click on the icons below to fill out the entry form, then tell 5 or more friends about the contest. Oh, and enter soon! Winner will be announced on October 28th at Suzanne's Lancaster Secrets Book Club Party.

Join Suzanne for the Lancaster Secrets Book Club Party on October 28th! She’ll be announcing the winner of the The Waiting KINDLE Giveaway, hosting a book club discussion of The Waiting and The Choice, and giving away copies of both books and HEAPs of readerly prizes! Be sure to join us on Thursday, October 28th at 5:00 PM PST (6:00 MST, 7:00 CST & 8 EST) at Suzanne’s Author Page.

10 ways to make everyday activities fun

As a homeschooling mother of 4, there is often lots to do around my house and lots of errands to run. If I tried to do all of it on my own, I would be one overstressed lady, and likely have miserable children and a rather grumpy husband. Instead, I have learned to involve my kids in every day chores. This helps me to get those things done that I need to do and keeps the kids from immediately undoing every thing I am doing. However, I sometimes struggled with the guilt of having them work with me. It is important for children to learn how to do things in life and it does help teach responsibility, but these tasks are not always fun. I set about to find ways that got the jobs done and allowed my kids to have fun. Here are 10 ways we make it work:

1) Make up songs- Whether we are traveling or simply doing chores, my kids and I enjoy changing the lyrics to songs we know to fit whatever we are doing at that time. We often sing, Dora's Map Song when traveling, using pit stops and places along the way for the first part and our final destination for the end. "First we will visit Mt. Rushmore, then we will see Salt Lake City, and then we will reach Grandma's House!"

2) Have a race- Kids are competitive. We hold the "Amazing Kid Race" at our house on a regular basis, but especially on days when there is a lot of chores to get done. Each child is given a challenge to complete, such as fold 10 pieces of laundry and put them away or match up 3 pairs of socks and put them away. When they complete that challenge, they receive another one, maybe empty one garbage can. The challenges continue until the chores are finished. An alternative to this, and one that is especially good when there is only 1 child to race, is to have them try and finish doing something before you finish doing something. Your chore can be the same or something different. I used this a lot when they were really young, especially when trying to get out the door. I would say, "I bet you cannot get your shoes and coat on before I find my purse and get my coat on."

3) Have a scavenger chore hunt- This is another activity I like when we have a lot to get to done. I divide the chores up into several different parts and assign each child one part of each chore. The first child to complete their list wins. A typical list might include the same challenges as listed above, as well as: put away 7 toys, hang up 1 jacket, straighten 1 shelf of books, and so on.

4) Make it special- This is great if you have more than one child and need to get some one on one time with them. I typically have one night a week I can go shopping. Each time, I bring one child with me and get them something special on our shopping trip. Sometimes we share a doughnut, sometimes they get something from the gum ball machine, it always changes. They enjoy the time and they are there to help me get one of my chores done as well.

5) Play music- Whatever task you are doing, music makes it fun. We crank it up in the van when we are driving around town and we sing as loud as we can, the goofier the music, the better. We also like to listen to music as we do chores and dance as we move about the house.

6) Have a toy bath- When it is time to clean the (non-electronic) toys, I throw them into the tub with a kid or two and let them give the toys a bath. Even the youngest children can do this and they love pretending to be big.

7) Rewards for drudgery- For every un-fun activity, include something fun afterward. When I have to drag the kids along for little errands, such as the post office or bank, I reward them afterward, either with a trip to the park or game time at home. They know that if they have listened, the reward will last longer and usually be more fun.

8) Involve them- When there is an activity that is more difficult for a child to get through, such as waiting in a long line at the bank or post office, find a small task that the child can complete for you. Maybe, they can apply the stamps to your letters while you wait or count the coins in your change purse or find a stick of gum that you have hidden in your purse.

9) I Spy- Most of us have played I Spy at some point in our lives. This is a great game for almost any activity and works just about anywhere. It makes travel time fly by as well as the time spent waiting in lines.

10) Let them lead- The best way to incorporate fun into a child's life is for the parents to relax a little and just let them lead the way. Kids have wonderful imagination and a knack for having fun. Let them tell you what they want to do and how they would like to do it and then, assuming it is safe, do it their way. One time I asked my girls how they wished their room could get clean. They decided it would be fun to build a robot that would help them clean. I let them pretend to turn me into a robot and they could tell me what they wanted me to put away. The catch was the robot could only work if it had energy and it gained energy every time they put something away.

Childhood is fleeting and kids deserve to be kids while they can. However, childhood is also a time for learning how to live in this great big, and sometimes, crazy world. Let's show them that it is ok to have fun in life, even when performing some of our least favorite chores.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and The Hub blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Product Review and Giveaway: Libman Freedom Spray Mop

For both economic and environmental reasons, I have been slowly eliminating disposable products in our home. We have switched to cloth napkins in place of paper ones and rags in place of paper towels. My desire to avoid disposable products is one reason I have avoided getting a new mop. The mops I have owned in the past either did not perform well or required me to lug around a big bucket of water, that needed frequent changing. Some of the "newer" style mops perform well, but require disposable pads in lieu of a mop head and made it impossible to use ones own cleaner, in that only their cleaner bottle would work and/or they were made in a way that they could not be effectively refilled. When I was given the opportunity to review the Libman Freedom Spray Mop, I hesitated at first, but as I read the details of the mop, I was thrilled to be able to try it.

Up until now, whenever we needed to mop the floor, we pulled out our carpet shampooer and used that, or we got down on our hands and knees with some cloth diapers and used a whole lotta elbow grease. Both are effective, but both also have their drawbacks. The Libman Freedom Spray Mop truly lives up to it's name, bringing more freedom to the mopping world. For me personally, it brings me freedom from an electrical cord, and not at the expense of batteries either. The spray trigger is operated manually with four fingers, so your pointer finger is not doing all the work by itself. Speaking of the trigger for the spray, that in itself brings freedom of carrying around that heavy bucket of water. There is a small bottle that attaches you can fill with whatever cleaner you choose, or even with just water if you choose. The bottle easily attaches to the mop and allows you to spray the floor directly in front of the mop. The reusable bottle and the washable, reusable microfiber mop pads, allow you to save time and money, while being environmentally responsible as well. The pads are safe on any type of flooring and can be washed up to 50 times. I also enjoy being free of having to get down on my hands and knees to get to the places where other mops have failed to reach. This mop has a swivel head that easily reached behind and around my toilet and in other tight areas. The mop pads allow you to mop right up to the edges of the floor, again eliminating the need to use something to clean along the baseboards.

The Libman Freedom Spray Mop is sold fully assembled at retailers nationwide for the suggested price of $19.99-$24.99. These mops are quality manufactured in the USA, Arcola, IL to be exact, by a 4th generation, family owned company.

Is it worth it?- I absolutely love this mop and that says a lot. I plan to keep this mop for as long as possible and will be happy to replace with the same one when necessary. The only drawback I found is that in areas that needed extra scrubbing, such as behind the toilet and along the front of the kitchen cabinets, I needed to get down on the floor with a scrub brush. This is more my fault as they needed a deep cleaning anyway and this mop is designed more for everyday use. However, the microfiber pads also have 3 green scrubbing stripes in them that help with grabbing spills off the floor. The price is comparable to other mops I have seen and considering that you do not have to replace the pads and are free to use whatever cleaner you choose, this is truly a good value.

Be sure to visit Libman on facebook

I have a Libman Freedom Spray Mop to give away to one of my readers.
Mandatory entry: Tell me what you dislike most about mopping and which feature of the Libman Freedom Spray Mop will help you the most.

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
- "Like" Libman on facebook
- Enter my Brilliant Lenses giveaway

The winner will be chosen on October 18th 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 18th and entries will be accepted up until the drawing. Good luck!

As a reviewer for Mom Bloggers Club, I received a free Libman Freedom Spray Mop from Libman for this review. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions are my own and were not influenced by any outside source.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review and Giveaway: Brilliant Lenses

Sponsored by
Although I wear contacts most of the time, I often give my eyes a rest and wear glasses. With 4 little ones, lenses on my glasses are often being touched by greasy or dirty little fingers. In a pinch, I will breath on my glasses and wipe them off with my t-shirt or, if I am home, I will wash them in the bathroom sink with hot water and a drop of hand soap. Neither way is not the best way to clean them and not always convenient either, especially if I am not wearing a soft t-shirt or not near a sink. Another problem I tend to have with little ones, is getting scratches on my lenses and short of waiting for my insurance to cover a new pair of glasses, there is not much I can do when they get scratched. Due to these issues, I was more than happy to review Brilliant Lenses eye glass cleaner, made by Black Diamond Stoneworks.

I received a package with 2 small(7ML) bottles of lens cleaner, a soft cloth, and a small pouch to put it all in. The spray bottle is the perfect size to fit in my purse so I will always have it with me, and no more trying to find a soft cloth either. Another benefit that I love, is that the spray contains SR-8 which is a protective coating that makes the lenses 50x more resistant to scratches. You can buy 1 bottle and a cloth for $4.99, or upgrade to the 2 pack with the small pouch for just $7.99 at

Is it worth it? I love the convenience of having the spray and cloth all together in a small pouch in my purse. I did not have to scrub the lenses very hard to remove smudges either, which is definitely a plus. I cannot really comment on how well the lenses were protected against scratches because I have not really worn my glasses that many times since I received it and they already had some scratches to begin with, but I can say, there have been no NEW scratches since I started using it. I do not think any of you would be disappointed in this product, though I do wish they sold just a refill bottle of cleaner so I could be a bit more environmentally friendly.

Would you like to win your own package of Brilliant Lenses? I have one to give away. Here's how to enter:
*Mandatory entry (you must do one of these to earn extra entries, do both for 2 entries)*
- "Like" Brilliant Lenses on facebook
- Follow Brilliant Lenses on Twitter

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 October 18th 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 18th and entries will be accepted up until the drawing. Good luck!

I was given the package described above of Brilliant Lenses in exchange for a review from through Tomoson

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Winner: Pink Digital Photo Key Chain

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2010-10-07 03:31:06 UTC

Congratulations to Emily:

"Emily said...

I also had to re-subscribe. :-( Wonder what happened.

Hopefully now I will get my regular subscription to "The Happy Wife."

I'm a subscriber!"

A new winner will be chosen if I do not hear back from the winner within 48 hours.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review and Giveaway: Digital Photo Keychain

Sponsored by

I am not big on carrying photos in my wallet and since we did away with our cell phones last year, I seldom have any pictures with me when I run into someone I haven't seen in a while. Of course, they want to see the kids and I am left feeling like a bad mom since I have nothing to show them. That is why I was thrilled to be able to review this digital photo keychain, and the one I received is PINK...which most people know is my absolute favorite color. For those of you who do not share my love of pink, do not fear, it is also available in silver, black, red, and a bunch more colors as well.

The technical info: This has a 1.5" 128x128 LCD display; a 4.8MB internal memory (stores about 72 pictures); accepts pictures in JPEG,BMP,PNG, or GIF files; pictures are automatically sized by the software (enclosed in product); built-in rechargeable battery; time display including date, hours, minutes, and seconds; Dimesions: 5.5x4.1x2.1cm; Weight: 85 grams. The USB cable is included in the package as well. The digital photo keychain sells for $9.99.

My thoughts: I really like the digital photo keychain. It is compact enough that it does not bother me to carry it around and I will no longer have an excuse for not having pictures of my kids with me. I was a bit skeptical about how the pictures would look once they were shrunk down, but the quality is really good. I also have to say that I was concerned about the plastic casing (the pink part) as it felt a little flimsy to me, but I have been carrying it around for a while now and it has held up very well.

Would you like to win your own pink digital photo keychain? I have one to give away. Here's how to enter (leave a separate comment for each entry):
- The giveaway keychain is pink, but if you could pick any color, what color would you choose?
- subscribing to my blog
- following my blog
- sharing this giveaway via your blog or other social networking site.
- Follow me on Twitter

The winner will be chosen on October 6th 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 6th and entries will be accepted up until the drawing. Good luck!

I was given a pink digital photo keychain in exchange for a review from through Tomoson

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Winner of $25 Sam's Club gift card

I was late drawing the winner for this prize, but here it is:

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2010-09-09 00:05:21 UTC

"I follow your blog - janetfaye"

I will be sending an e-mail to the winner and she will have 48 hours to get back to me. If for any reason, she fails to respond in the 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

77 Kids by American Eagle

A few weeks ago, I told you about Do Good Day that we participated in to help kick off the grand opening of 77 Kids by American Eagle. I was holding off on posting this follow up post, because I wanted to share the great pictures we took while we were there. However, we are having issues with our camera and rather than postpone it any longer, I have decided to go ahead with the post any way.

77 Kids is the children's line of American Eagle. They have been an online only store for about 1 year, but recently began opening brick and mortar stores in malls around the country. My family and I were able to attend a special grand opening breakfast of the 77 Kids store at Carousel Center in Syracuse, NY. The store is a child's personal playground, with fun activities all through the store for them. The activities help keep the little ones entertained while the parents shop and are designed to help through every step of the shopping process.

One of the first activities the children can participate in is the photo booth/dj station/virtual dressing room. There is a boy's station and a girl's station, but really they can be interchanged if one is busy. My kids favorite part is taking their picture and then drawing on it with virtual spray paint. They can then have the photos printed to pick up at the cash wrap. When you pick up the pictures, two copies are given. You can decide to keep them both or keep one and post one on the wall of the store. While at the photo booth, your child can also use the virtual dressing room where they can choose from several different outfits on the screen and then stand in front of the camera to see how the outfit will look on them. After that, they can look at the dj station to see what songs will be playing on the overhead radio and to rate them. The store will keep the most popular songs and phase out the less popular ones. The sound for the dj station comes through on small speakers behind your child's head so that only those in the very immediate area can hear them. While here, they can also scan their special card to see what treat they will receive that day. The cards are like frequent shopper cards, but the kids just use them to get treats. They can sign up at the cash register.

Then we move on to the dressing rooms. While just like your typical dressing room in function, these are so much more fun for the kids. There are portholes on the door or the wall so the child can call out to their parents for another size or to come see the outfit, without having to open the door, especially nice if they have not gotten completely dressed or if they need help zipping or buttoning up. There is also a doorbell in the dressing room that lights up a bird to alert sales personnel that assistance is needed. The employees also have headsets that tell them when the doorbell has been pressed. Outside the dressing rooms, there is a bean bag toss for siblings to play with as they wait. There are also these lights that project a picture on the floor for little ones to try to step on. The pictures change location every so often (they may be shadow activated, but I am not certain of that) and the little ones loved trying to step on the picture before it moved.

In the toddler section, there is a small easel and crayons for the little ones to draw on and at the cash register, is a large chalkboard and chalk to keep the little ones entertained while mom and dad are cashing out. There is also a candy cart that each child can choose a treat from, during our visits it was full of a variety of candies, but that may change in the future.

The store is set up for boys on side and girls on the other, with the denims in the middle, kind of a meet up place for both genders. School age kids clothing is in the front of the store, toddlers and preschoolers are back near the cash wrap and infants is behind the cash register. There is a women's restroom and a family restroom, both with changing tables.

The quality of the clothes is great and they are guaranteed to last for 77 washes or they will be replaced. Also, if the child wears out of the clothes before they grow out of them, they will also be replaced. This includes not just the stitching, but also any pictures or writing on the clothing. I also liked that the jeans that had the worn through look (holes in the denim), have fabric on the inside so you child will not accidentally put their toe through it and really tear the denim.

I highly recommend that any one who gets the opportunity to visit a 77 Kids do so at least once. Even if you do not actually make a purchase, it is sure to be a fun experience. They put a lot of effort into the details of both their clothing and the store design and it truly makes this a unique and memorable shopping experience.

This was part of a paid project that I participated in. On top of monetary payment, I also received a gift card to the store. Regardless of payment received, my opinions are my own and my post was not influenced by outside sources.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mega Swag Bucks Friday

I have written before about the benefits of Swagbucks, but wanted to let you know about Mega Swag Bucks Friday. Every Friday is Mega Swag Bucks Day (MSBD), which means better odds of winning BIG Swag Bucks denominations - up to 10,000 in one search! It's completely Free and Swag bucks can be traded in for rewards such as gift cards, electronics, apparel, household goods and much more! I use it as my default search engine and am earning enough Swagbucks each month to redeem them for a $5 gift card, that's $60 a year in free money, just for doing what I do any ways. Registration is easy and you do not have to download anything if you do not want to. I highly recommend this website.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

10 tips for a cleaner, greener home

I am not sure that any of us like the idea of exposing ourselves and our families to chemicals, but it often seems that it can be difficult and expensive to live a greener life, especially when it comes to cleaning.

1) Stick to the basics for cleaning- lemon, vinegar, and baking soda can be used, either separately or together, to clean just about anything. I keep a spray bottle full of vinegar for cleaning in the kitchen, but I also have a bottle of diluted vinegar for other rooms of the house. Baking soda is a great "green" abrasive and lemon, not only helps clean and whiten, but it also helps the house smell nice.

2) Turn the water off- When using water to clean with, be sure to get a small bowl for rinsing your cloth and a spray bottle to re-wet your cloth or area you are cleaning. If you leave the water running, you are just wasting water and money.

3) Save the water you usually waste- I also put a small basin in the shower to catch the water that comes out of the shower head while I wait for it to heat up. I then use the water through the day for cleaning tasks and/or watering the yard, plants, and garden. Also, water that has been used to steam or boil veggies is often full of nutrients that plants like so rather than toss it down the drain, use it for your plants.

4) Get rid of paper- use old clothes as rags in place of paper towels, not only do you keep the clothes out of the landfill, but you also keep the paper towels out as well. If you do not like the idea of using clothes as rags, invest in microfiber cloths which work well for cleaning with just water. You can also replace paper napkins with cloth to further reduce the paper garbage.

5) Reduce what you bring into the house- the less you bring in, the less you have to throw out. This goes for everything, from product packaging to clothes and knick knacks. As for packaging, forgo the plastic bags in the produce department when possible and use reusable shopping bags to prevent all those extra bags from cluttering up your house.

6) Reuse what is brought in- if you have to bring it in the house, use as much as possible. Those mesh bags that onions and some fruits come in, make great scrubbers in the bathroom. Glass and plastic containers can be used to send home leftovers with dinner guests or even to send lunch in for work/school (plastic only for school). I also let my kids use cardboard boxes for coloring on before recycling.

7) Set up a recycling center- Make recycling as easy as possible by having a set place for all your recyclables to go. Depending on where you live and how you recycle, set up the appropriate number of boxes or containers and label them. Make it as easy as possible to recycle and your family is more likely to remember to do it.

8) Give it away- the less you have the less you have to clean. Go through the items in your house and purge those items that you do not use. Clean out the closets and dressers and get rid of the clothes that no longer fit. If possible, get rid of a dresser altogether by hanging all your clothes and using baskets on the closet shelf for those items you cannot hang. Be sure that anything you get rid of goes to good use though. Do not just throw it away. Donate them or post them for free on a site like Craigslist or through a Freecycle-type group.

9) Let the sun shine- the sun is a natural bleaching agent and a natural source of light. This is a 2-fold tip. First, hang whites out in the sun to naturally bleach them. Second, keep your windows clean to get the maximum amount of light in the house. Keep curtains open during the day and let the light in so that you can keep the electric lights off.

10) Compost- another 2 part tip in that composting helps reduce the amount of garbage you throw out and creates a great soil for the garden. You can put fruit and veggie peels and scraps, egg shells, yard waste, and shredded paper (a great way to get rid of those sensitive documents) into the compost pile and as it breaks down, it creates a rich soil. We purchased a compost bin from Home Depot, but there are tons of ways to make your own with directions online. Throughout the day, I collect the kitchen waste in a gallon jug that I cut the top off of. At the end of the day, or as it gets full, we run it out to the bin and dump it in.

Living green results in a simpler, healthier life. It is not one of those things that is easy to just suddenly do. I hope that these tips will help you begin to implement greener changes into your cleaning and help you feel better about living greener. Implement them 1-2 at a time as you and your family can tolerate. I promise you and will family will feel better about it all in the long run.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Mrs. Meyer’s blogging program, making me eligible to get a $30 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

How to make your favorite foods healthier

When it comes to losing weight, one of the hardest things most of us face is having to give up foods that we love. Typically, it is a binge on one (or more) of those foods we gave up that knock us off our "diet" and send us back to square one. So what can we do to avoid having that happen?

Seven years ago, I lost 80 pounds over the course of 1 year. I kept that weight off until I got pregnant again a few years later and I am now preparing to go back to my earlier eating habits. I will share with you 10 tips to making favorite foods healthier, but before I do, I also want to share 2 tips for losing weight successfully. First, make sure you are medically okay. If you have an undiagnosed/untreated disorder that affects your blood sugar or your metabolism, you will have a heck of a time losing weight regardless of how healthy you are eating. When I lost my weight, I had been eating healthy for quite a while with no change in my weight. I finally talked to my doctor and was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which affects the way the body handles blood sugar. When I was started on Metformin (Glucophage), the weight immediately began coming off. Please note though, that it is the combination of diet, medication and exercise that helped me to lose weight. None of these worked by themselves. Second, do not forbid yourself from having small bits of things you love OCCASIONALLY. This requires you to exercise self control and realize that can be difficult, but by allowing yourself an occasional treat, you avoid the desire to binge later. If you are at a party and you want cake, have a small piece and do not have seconds. Put a few chips on a plate, walk away from the food table and do not go back. I used to keep a bag of Hershey Kisses in the house for when I had chocolate cravings and then would allow myself 3 kisses at a time. I also allowed myself to splurge on higher quality treats since that forced me to eat less if I wanted it to last. Anyway, now on to my 10 tips to making your favorite foods healthier:

1) Substitute healthier ingredients- did you know you could use fat-free mayo in place of oil in a cake mix and it doesn't alter the taste? Another good substitute is evaporated skim milk in place of heavy cream. Fruit purees also make a good substitute for oil. If you do not like the taste or texture when substituting, try only substituting half.

2) Reduce the amount of high fat/high calorie ingredients- if the recipe calls for 2 cups of cheese, reduce that by a 1/2 cup. If you like the recipe still, try reducing the cheese even more next time.

3) Use higher quality ingredients- although they may cost a bit more, you generally get a better, stronger flavor from high quality products, allowing you to use less of the product. This is especially true with cheeses and chocolate.

4) Add extra vegetables- throw a cup of chopped broccoli into your favorite mac and cheese recipe or add spinach to your lasagna or put some shredded carrots into your pasta sauce. Vegetables increase the nutritional value and add fiber. In fact, when I was losing the weight, I had just started learning how to really cook as well. The first several months consisted of me altering boxes of convenience foods (like the Helper line and noodles in a pouch) by adding vegetables to them.

5) Switch to whole grains- this is much easier to do in a recipe where there are lots of other flavors, such as Spanish rice. Whole grains are more nutritious and much higher in fiber than traditional products made with white flour. It may take some time to completely switch over, but do it gradually. When baking, you can substitute part of the white flour for whole wheat flour with little noticeable difference.

6) Use stronger flavors- sharp cheddar packs a lot more flavor than mild, allowing you to get similar results with less cheese.

7) Do not be afraid of low-fat and no-fat varieties- these have come a long way in flavor and texture from a few years ago. Some still have a ways to go, but they tend to be okay for using in recipes. I always buy fat-free and full fat sour cream. The full fat is for my baked potato and the fat free is for recipes. The same with mayo. I use full fat on my sandwiches, but use fat-free in recipes.

8) Use herbs and seasonings- they add flavor without adding fat. If you use single seasonings as opposed to mixed ones (lemon pepper, steak seasoning, etc), you will also reduce sodium intake.
Fresh herbs always taste better, but dried is still good.

9) Cook from scratch- the best way to improve what you are eating is to know exactly what you are eating. The easier way to do that is to prepare your food from scratch. If time is short, try to cook your meals ahead of time and freeze them or use your crock pot. If you have never cooked from scratch before, use convenience products and use the above tips to make them healthier.

10) Use better-for-you substitutes- like egg substitute, sea salt (tastes saltier so you can use less), and sugar substitutes. Again, start by just subbing part of it and gradually increase the amount you substitute.

I will not promise you will lose a ton of weight by following these tips, but I can tell you that they worked for me. I know it is not easy to make changes in our diets, but I also know we can do it. If you are worried about some of the changes, implement them gradually. Start substituting the healthier ingredient a little at a time and gradually increase the amount you substitute. Every little bit helps! I can also tell you that over time, your cravings will decrease and, yes, eventually stop. I was at a point that I did not want more than a little taste of less healthy foods, and sometimes, I didn't even want that. I am looking forward to reaching that point again.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and WeightWatchers SmartOnes blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here

Winners of the $15 WalMart giftcard and Amish Proverbs book

Febreze $15 WalMart gift card:

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2010-09-02 12:09:11 UTC

Mami2jcn said... I'd like to try the cranberry pear flameless luminary.

Amish Proverbs book:

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2010-09-02 11:59:48 UTC

CarolNWong said... "Treat unkind people with kindness". I
love this one because it actually works! Many times if you are considerate and polite to someone who is acting mean, their manner will turn around.

*******Congratulations to both winners!*******

Please remember to respond to my e-mail within 48 hours so that I will not have to choose another winner.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Last Day for Extra Box Tops at Sam's Club and a giveaway

Those of you who know me personally, may also know that my mom is the school nurse at one of the poorest schools in our city. She personally heads up the Box Top for education collection program to help bring programs to these kids that they likely would not have otherwise. We love helping her in her effort by donating the box tops we collect and also by helping her to count them out every few months. Of course, you do not need to have a child in a poor school district in order for their school to benefit from the program. Box Tops for education are for all schools that like "free" money for projects and programs and in today's economy, almost every school needs this extra help. If you do not have a child in school, I am sure you could just drop the labels off at any participating local school and they would be glad to have them. If you are really having trouble finding a school that needs them, let me know and I would be happy to accept them for my mom or give you the school address so you could send them to her directly.

So where do you find these box tops? Right now, Sam's Club even has General Mills packages that have 6 box tops on them, but you have to hurry as that ends tonight. Other products, including General Mills, will still carry the regular, typically one, Box Tops on their products.

I was given an upgrade to a Sam's Club Plus membership and a $25 gift card to assist in writing this post. I also have an additional $25 gift card to Sam's Club for one of my readers. If you do not have a Sam's Club near you and/or do not have/need/want a membership, the gift card makes a great gift and/or it is also accepted at WalMart. To enter (mandatory entry): tell me what items you like to buy at Sam's Club. For us, we love to buy the Go-Gurt yogurt...and they come with Box Tops.
You can earn bonus entries (one entry for each that you do) by:
- subscribing to my blog
- following my blog
- sharing this giveaway via your blog or other social networking site.

Please leave an extra comment for each bonus entry. The winner will be chosen on September 8th 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 8th and entries will be accepted up until the drawing. Good luck!

Sam's Club and General Mills provided me with a Sam's Club membership Plus upgrade, a $25 Sam's Club gift card and the information for this post, as well as the $25 Sam's Club gift card for the giveaway, through My Blog Spark. As always, my opinion remains my own and no monetary compensation was received.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Win a free weekend stay from Hampton Hotels

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Hampton Hotels. All opinions are 100% mine.

Hampton Inn is giving away a free weekend stay at one of their hotels every day. Visit Hampton Chain of Friends Sweepstakes to enter.

I love traveling with my family and would love to win this to use for one of our mini-vacations, maybe to New York City this Thanksgiving. I always enjoy exploring new places with my husband and seeing my children experience new things and we have all always wanted to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade live. Or, maybe I would go with a few friends for a girls weekend. I love Chicago and would love to go back there. Are any of my friends interested in coming along if I win? Sometimes it is easy to forget that moms need a little away time to rejuvenate and remember who they are outside of their role as a parent figure. This would be a great way for us to not only reconnect with one another but also with ourselves. I know we would have a great time.

Where would you go if you won? Which Hampton Hotel would you stay at? Who would you take with you? Family? Friends? Me? ;) Ok, I am just kidding about bringing me, unless you really want to, but seriously, I would love to know how you would use this fun prize if you won?

Click Here
Visit my sponsor: Win a free Weekend Stay