Monday, July 18, 2016

Tasting Rome #cookbook #Italian #recipies

One thing I know about my Italian heritage is that food is so much more than the actual meal. Food is part of the culture and history f the people that is handed down from generation to generation. Food is the bonding of families for Italians. Food is an expression of love. I think it is probably impossible to walk into an Italian's house and not be offered food (and it is an insult not to accept).
(Links in post may be affiliate links)
 I have piles of cookbooks and a drawer (or two) of recipes, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to review Tasting Rome by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill because the book isn't just a cookbook. It is a "love letter from two Americans" living in Rome who showcase the best recipes Rome has to offer. I was not compensated for this post--just my honest opinion.

The book itself is a beautiful, hardboard edition with thick paged paper with beautiful photos--not only of the food, but of Rome itself. It will lie nearly flat when opened which is a plus for any cookbook.

Even if you don't cook but want to learn more about Rome and it's culinary delights, this book is for you. Covering recipes, traditions and cultures, this is an enjoyable book to just sit down and read.

The recipes themselves range from simple to complex. Living in a suburban community that has no culinary taste, it would be challenging for me to find many of the ingredients that recipes call for. However, some of these ingredients would be easily found in larger cities, especially if there was an Italian market. The author do give substitutions for some of the recipes.

If you are a good cook and able to get your hands on these ingredients, this book would be a great choice for authentic Roman recipes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Full of Grace Movie Review plus $5 Off Coupon

I had the opportunity to watch the Full of Grace DVD in exchange for my honest opinions. This award winning movie stars Soam Jenkins, Baha Haifi and Kelsey Chow and follows the story of Mary, mother of Jesus, through her last days on earth.

I really expected this movie to recount the life of Mary, but it did not. The movie takes place 10 years after the resurrection of Christ, during Mary's last earthly days. Viewers see multiple scenes as the apostle Peter, struggles with the responsibility of becoming the leader of the Church.. Mary is awaiting for the arrival of the apostle Peter during this time. When he at last arrives after years of traveling, Mary is the one to help him see the truth and is able to provide the encouragement he needs. In her gentle, mothering way, Mary guides him. She notes just like when Jesus was a boy he left his parent's side, knowing he would be found in his Father's house (the temple). "He has left to be found--we must seek him out." She also poses this question, "Peter, where does he call you?" She supports Peter to follow the Lord's pat and comments that "We will suffer as we walk with the Lord."

I had hoped this movie was something that my girls, ages 9 and 12 would enjoy. However, they really didn't understand the struggles that Peter was facing and lost interest in the movie. My 12 year old understood when explained, but I think it is more appropriate for high school aged children and up. Overall, the cinematography and acting were good, however, I thought the scenes of past were overdone with the blurriness.

Although the movie was not what I expected, it was very interesting and thought provoking as we can all ask ourselves the question, "Where does He call you?"

You can get the Full of Grace DVD at Sign up to be added to the mailing list or text 5-GIFT to 44222 for a $5 off coupon.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Your Kids Won't Lose Things at Camp with This! #spon

Summer is here! That means summertime fun--swimming, cook outs and sleepaway camps.

One of my absolute favorite companies, Mabel's Labels, asked if I would review their camp labels. Um, heck yes--little one is off to her first overnight camp and I would like to see everything come back home with her. So, I happily ordered and received a set of Sleepaway Camp Label Pack.

Ordering the labels is so easy. You do it online by selecting the design, color and what you want on the labels. You have two lines. The camp labels are adorable, with a selection of cute pictures, such as a peace sign, tent, goggles, flipflops, frogs, canoe, etc. You can also select the color of the labels and fonts. The Sleepaway Camp labels are UV resistant, waterproof and designed especially for everything your kids might take to overnight camps. There are labels for clothing, footwear, toiletries, swim gear and more. Seriously--something for everything. The pack includes:

  • 10 Personalized Name Stickers: 70mm x 16mm (2-3/4" x 5/8")
  • 24 Mini Custom Name Stickers: 38mm x 8mm (1-1/2" x 5/16")
  • 50 Tag Mates™ Stick On Clothing Labels: 21mm x 10mm (13/16" x 3/8")
  • 8 Custom Shoe Stickers: 33mm (1.3")
  • 2 Personalized Bag Tags: 57mm x 32mm (2-1/4" x 1-1/4")

They even threw in some cute camp postcards for little ones to send a note home! 

I can't begin to tell you how much I love these labels. I have been using Mabel's Labels for over four years and labels are still on things such as water bottles and lunchboxes. These labels hold up through washing machines and dishwashers. They are rough and tough and withstand kids wear and tear (maybe Mabel's ought to make furniture!).

I love all the different sizes of labels. Little ones for little things or where you don't want a bigger label. The shoe stickers are great--pop them inside the shoes. They lie flat and don't ever come up. I also love the metal bag tags. These are so cute and can be taken on and off bags. After camp, these can go on backpacks and lunch boxes.

T-shirt after being washed--Mabel's Label still going strong!

Through multiple showers--still stuck on strongly!

I am happy to say that all items made it safely home and my baby had a great time! Make sure you look at all Mabel's Labels for all your labeling needs.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Summertime Fun with #Stikbots #spon

Children today love technology. But one thing I hate is when kids are only sitting around playing games on their devices all day. Our children need to think creatively and when they are only playing these games, their creative muscles shrink. So, when I was asked to review StikBot Studio Pro, I was happy to let my kids try it out in exchange for my opinions. StikBots are poseable “bots” with sticky hands and feet that allow you to pose them in many ways to create stop motion animation.

The StikBot Studio Pro takes comes with 1 tripod , 2 stikbots (solid red and solid orange color) , 2in1 stage green and blue screen. The green screen allows you to capture the best photo and video and save time editing and allows you to digitally recreate the background of your scene with your own photos, video or animated backgrounds. It works with the free Zing StikBot Studio app, available on iOS & Android to create your own video. Snap individual photos and compile them together into a video, adding music, sound effect options and even animated backdrops. Kids can then share their videos using the hashtag #Stikbot.

Downloading the free app was simple. It is pretty user friendly and has help buttons. It is easy to set up the stage and position the bots (note, slightly moistening the hands and feet make them stick better). The tripod worked well with my iPhone 5 and is adjustable to other sizes. It is simple to choose your own background photo or video or one on the app. Your device screen will shows where the bot was in the last image, so you can easily position it just slightly different.  You can also add music, voices or other sounds.

I found this to not only be fun, but educational. It sparks children’s creativity while they learn about how green screens work and how stop-motion works. The voice/music is added separately, which poses a problem since you cannot watch the video while recording, as is evidenced in the video my daughter and I made. You just sort of have to guess what is going on in the video when adding the voice. Maybe there is a way to do this so you can watch the video while recording, but I have yet to figure it out. You can tweak the speed of the video to try to make it fit the voices, but that is not exact.

It is easy enough to change the sound in your video, but you cannot change the background.

My daughter and I made this in a matter of minutes, so you can see how easy this is. If you spend any amount of time, you could really come up with something clever! In fact, just search Stikbots on YouTube and you will find a ton of funny videos! This has really inspired my kids to do something fun and creative with technology.

Right now, it is on sale at Amazon for just $16.12! Trust me, this is a fun thing for kids to do over the summer.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Things My Mom Taught Me About #Parenting Tween/Teen Girls

Navigating the tween and teen years as a female can be challenging and stressful for both the daughter and mother. Daughters have a mix of of hormones, drama, mean girls, zits, social media and boys. Whew! And mothers have the sweet child they have loved one minute and the next, some creature that they are quite certain didn't come of their loins! The issues these young ladies have today are quite complex, but yet, good parenting does not change.

When I think back, my mom amazes me with her parenting skills. She was tough, but loving. And she always knew how to handle tween/teen girls--drama and all. Seriously--she had three teen girls and one teen boy all at the same time. In fact, she had five kids between the tween and teen ages at the same time at one point! If she ever sweated about it, I never saw it. 

What I gleaned from her style of parenting was amazing and I want to share these tips with my readers because what she did and did not do helped me navigate my tween/teen years without feeding into the drama. So, here are some tips that I learned from my mom and a few I have learned from working with teens over the years.
  1. Check in daily with your child. Ask about their friends. Ask what the best part of their day was. Ask what was the worst. Doing this opens the lines of communication. Some days, maybe your child won't have much to say, but other days they will open the door to their world. I know there have been days when I talk to my daughter after school and seems like she had a great day. But then we find the quiet time when she is snuggling in bed and she opens up about a friend who said something hurtful.
  2. Their drama is NOT your drama. Stay out of it. By that, I mean listen to what they say. Let your daughter vent. And no matter how upset you may be about what some mean little girl said or did, don't show that you are upset. Don't resort to name calling. Don't tell your child how mean the other person is. Instead, calmly express your concern about the situation. Make helpful statement like, "That wasn't nice of her. Maybe she was having a bad day." Getting upset and angry about how your child was treated will only make matters worse. First, it will just fuel your child's upset feelings. And secondly, your daughter may be upset with someone today, and will be best friends with her tomorrow. If your daughter thinks that you think poorly of her friend now, she may not confide in you.
  3. Model, model, model. I can't stress this enough. Your daughter is trying to figure out her way in this world. If she sees how you confidently handle situations, she is likely to mimic you. If she sees you getting overly upset when your friend does something you don't like, she will do the same with her friends.
  4. One of the greatest issues that young women have is low self-worth. They think they are not good enough. The media constantly is telling them they need to act, be, and look a certain way. They compare themselves with their peers. Helping your daughter to focus on her character, rather than her looks is important. When we put too much focus on our daughters or ourselves looking a certain way, the need to wear certain name brand clothing, etcetera, we are teaching them that if they don't do these things, they are not worthy. Teach your daughters the value of their bodies and how to respect their bodies.
  5. Help your child to come to their own (right) conclusions. When it comes to friends, sometimes our experience tells us that someone our child is hanging out with is not of good character. Coming straight out and telling our daughter this is a surefire way to start a battle. Instead, talk to your daughter about what a good friend looks like.
  6. When your daughter has problems with someone, don't tell her to not talk to the other girl--no matter how mean this girl is. This is wrong on so many levels. First, it is hurtful. The other girl may feel excluded. Secondly, it is just plain disrespectful. Teach your daughter to be kind. As Aesop said, no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. Teach her to rise above. This is a skill she will need for the rest of her life.
  7. Teach her how to fight her own battles. You fighting her battles is such a disservice to your daughter. You are not always going to be around to help your daughter so she needs to learn how to resolve her problems herself. 
  8. Teach her how to be hardworking and independent. Chores are important. So many skills are learned by doing chores--teamwork, responsibility, stick-to-it-ness. When she is out in the real world, being hardworking and independent go a long way. An example in my own life was when I lost a job due to budget cuts. I was single and living out of state. I could have filed for unemployment, but instead, jumped to take a couple part-time jobs where I ended up with full-time offers from both.
  9. Get your own insecurities out of the way. You are the grown up. Act like it. Love the skin you are in. Love yourself for who you are--flaws and all. My favorite expression ever since my daughter was young is that we are all perfectly imperfect (how luck was I to find this on a t-shirt for her last year?).
  10. Don't try to live through your daughter. Don't push your daughter to be the cheerleader or the sports player because it is what you wanted or what you want for your daughter. Let her decide what is right for her. Help her to identify her talents and strengths instead.
  11. When the experience a problem at school with a teacher, don't jump in to fix it. Guess what? Teachers aren't out to get your child. Instead, encourage your child to do something about it. Encourage them to talk to the teacher about their grade. Oh, and by the way, if she doesn't get perfect grades, that's okay. 
  12. Encourage your child to compete with only one person--themselves.
  13. Teach your daughter that she cannot possibly compare herself to anyone else because there is no one else like her. Tell her it is like comparing an apple to an orange. She is different from others. And that's a good thing. Always be ready to point out her strengths.
  14. Teach her to be humble. Help her to admit when she is wrong and do something about it.
  15. Let your daughter fail. The greatest disservice we can do to our children is to not let them fail or to rush in when they do and try to make it better. If you haven't figured it out by now, life sucks sometimes. It's better they learn that lesson now then when they get out in the real world and deal with even bigger disappointments and don't have the experience to handle them.
  16. Teacher her to have manners and that a written thank you goes a long way.
  17. Teach her that true beauty comes from within.
  18. Remind her that you love her, even when you don't see eye to eye.
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Must for Every Wardrobe #Spon

Do you like the look of layers but hate the bulk? It seems sometimes when I wear layers, the under layer tends to ride up and bunch up around the middle, making me uncomfortable and my outfit look sloppy. It happens sometimes even when I wear a tank under things. That's why I love the concept of Halftees. As soon as I heard of them, I knew I wanted to try them. I am so glad they sent me a couple to try out for free in exchange for my honest opinions.

Halftees are one of those things that make you want to wack yourself on the head and say, "Why didn't I think of that?" Concept is so simple--a layering shirt that is basically just the half that shows--neckline and arms.  The story behind Halftees is this:
About eight years ago I had just given birth to our third baby ( we now have 7! ) As I was trying to nurse him and fighting with not one shirt but two ( layers of course!) I asked myself, grumpily "why can't someone come up with a half shirt that still provides all the modest coverage I need in the neckline and sleeve but ditch all the bulky length?" It wasn't until after my fifth child that I realized I was the "someone" and decided I needed to take action and design my own undershirt. Thus Halftee Layering Fashions was born - a layering piece that is "all style-no hassle"
There are a range of styles from tanks to long sleeve, from plain to lace or peeks of lace. They have Halftees for women, plus size, pregnant women and even kids. Halftees come in a variety of colors as well to suit all your wardrobe needs. You would think something so great would be expensive, but they are not. Just like the the concept of Halftees, they are modestly priced at round $9-$24. With summer coming on, I can see the advantage in being able to keep the layered look without adding heat.
I tried the tank Halftee in black. I can't tell you how perfect this is. I have so many wrap dresses that are cut just a bit low. Wearing the Halftee gives me just enough coverage or more coverage (if I reverse it) to allow me to wear my dresses without the need to pin the neckline so I don't show all my goods and also don't have to worry about a tank or cami riding up around my waist as the two inch signature band keeps the Halftee in place. I also like the feel of the fabric. It is so soft--48% Cotton, 48% Modal, 4% Spandex.

The other Halftee they sent me was 3/4 Halftee. This is perfect for wearing under my sport shirts for when I want more sleeve.  Once again, it is also reversable for a higher or lower neckline and made out of the same, soft material. With summer coming on, I can see the advantage in being able to keep the layered look without adding heat.

Here are some pictures so you can see how cute these look in real life.

To learn more about Halftee, visit

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Two Recipes from 150 Best Recipes for Cooking in Foil #recipes

I love to make easy meals with less clean up, so I was happy to review 150 Best Recipes for Cooking in Foil by Marilyn Haugen in exchange for my honest opinions.

As you may already know, I love to go camping. But whether I am home or out camping, I love dinners that don't require a lot of clean up. Cooking in foil is the perfect solution. That being said, I can only eat so much campfire stew, so I am always on the hunt for great recipes that can be prepared in foil.

If you haven't ever cooked in foil, this book is perfect as it includes some important tips such as the difference between flat packets and tent-style packets and how to make each. Also included are great tips for foil packet success. Trust me, little things like making sure you use heavy duty foil can make all the difference.

The first section of the book includes all camping recipes from breakfast to dessert. These recipes include canned ingredients or pantry staples with basic seasonings so you have less to pack. However, if you are like me and do more glamping (camping in a camper rather than a tent) than camping, you can definitely use any recipes in the book as you most likely have some conveniences of a refrigerator.

The next section of the book is dedicated to grilling recipes and includes recipes from starters to main dishes, side dishes and desserts.

The last section cover oven recipes. Perfect for winter or when you don't want to girl. Included are snacks and starters to desserts.

The book includes two sections of glossy color spreads of different recipes as well as an index.

I made the Ginger Soy Salmon with Lemon Caper Butter the other night and it was even better than I imagined. The entire family gobbled it up. I thought I was making enough to have some leftover, but that wasn't the case because we all wanted more. 

I like that the recipes don't require exotic ingredients that I have no idea what they are or where to find. The recipes naturally are fairly simple to put together, simple to cook, and more simple to clean up. Yep, clean up means wadding up the foil and tossing it and wiping the counter. Love it!

Courtesy of 150 Best Recipesfor Cooking in Foil by Marilyn Haugen © 2016 Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes
Roasted sweet potatoes are elevated to a new flavor level with black beans, peppers and onions, creating a hearty vegetarian meal that even meat lovers will enjoy.

Makes 6 servings
 Preheat oven to 400F (200C)
        6 sheets heavy-duty foil, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray
6           sweet potatoes (each about 5 oz/150 g) 6
1 tsp     virgin olive oil                                      5 mL
1           can (14 to 19 oz/398 to 540 mL) black beans, rinsed and drained 1
1           red bell pepper, finely chopped               1
1           small red onion, finely chopped              1
1 tsp     chili powder                                         5 mL
1 tsp     paprika                                                 5 mL
             Kosher salt
12        cup plain Greek yogurt                   125 mL
1 tsp     taco seasoning                                    5 mL
12         cup salsa                                         125 mL
12        cup shredded Mexican cheese blend 125 mL
14        cup chopped green onions               60 mL
1.  Brush skin of sweet potatoes with oil. Place a sweet potato on each prepared foil sheet. Prick tops of sweet potatoes with a fork. Wrap foil tightly around sweet potatoes. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until slightly softened.
2.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine beans, red pepper, onion, chili powder and paprika. Season to taste with salt.
3.  Carefully, to avoid tearing foil, open packets and cut a large slice across the top of each sweet potato. Lightly mash sweet potato flesh with a fork. Pack bean mixture into sweet potatoes, dividing evenly. Fold foil into tent-style packets and seal edges tightly. Place packets on a baking sheet.
4.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are softened to your liking and toppings are heated through.
 5.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine yogurt and taco seasoning.

6.  Serve sweet potatoes topped with seasoned yogurt, salsa, cheese and green onions.

Sweet potato skins can be eaten, if desired. Choose sweet potatoes that do not have a waxy or dyed exterior. Organically grown or farmers market sweet potatoes are your best choice for this.

Mandarin Orange Chicken and Broccoli
This is one of my all-time favorite choices for takeout Chinese food. This version is simple enough to take camping and grill over hot coals.

Makes 6 servings

·        Prepare campfire coals
·        6 sheets heavy-duty foil, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray
112 lbs boneless skinless chicken (dark or light meat), sliced  750 g

3 cups   cooked rice                                      750 mL
1           red bell pepper, sliced                               1
1           green bell pepper, sliced                           1
1           onion, sliced                                              1
3 cups   broccoli florets                               750 mL
2           mandarin orange fruit cups, with juice  2
1 cup     thawed frozen peas                         250 mL
3 tbsp    teriyaki sauce                                    45 mL
1.   Divide chicken evenly among prepared foil sheets. Top with rice, red pepper, green pepper, onion, broccoli, oranges and peas, dividing evenly. Drizzle with teriyaki sauce. Fold foil into tent-style packets and seal edges tightly.
2.   Place packets on hot coals and cook for 30 minutes, turning packets over occasionally, until vegetables are tender and chicken is no longer pink.

Prepare the peppers, onions and broccoli at home and pack them in your cooler. They can all be combined in a plastic food storage bag.
Mandarin orange fruit cups come in 4- or 6-count packages. The remaining cups make a great snack or breakfast side.

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