Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Don't Panic! Get Zoo Panic!

Christmas is almost here!

Can you believe it?

November was here and gone in a flash.  It is now mid-December.  It is time to finish baking, shopping, wrapping, and decorating.  It is time to relax a bit and enjoy the holidays!

One way that my family enjoys spending time together during the holidays is by playing games.  My girls tend to go in streaks with the games they choose.  One of their absolute favorites is Uno.  They started playing it when they were about three years old.  I thought it was a great opportunity for them to practice their number and color recognition skills.  When we first played, we never skipped, or drew cards.  We just matched by color.  Now that the girls are 6 and 7, we play by the real rules.  It has done a great job of teaching them to be a good sport and not get caught up on winning.   I personally think cards are great for that because anyone can win.  While there is some strategy involved, it isn't always the biggest, strongest, fastest, smartest, etc person that wins. 

Knowing how much my kids love games, I jumped at the chance to receive Zoo Panic from Endless Games to play with my girls.  I received the game in mid-November.  It didn't take long before the girls started asking to play. 

A bit about the game:
From Amazon:
The cages in the zoo have been left open, and all the animals are now mixed up. Find the animals and help them back to their own cages. The player who helps the most animals wins. No reading required. Recommended for ages 4 and up for two or more players. Educational skill builder matching game. Player who helps the most animals get back to their cages wins. Fun for kids of all ages. 

What I Loved:
  • The game was easy to set up.  It only took about five minutes from the time I opened the box until we were involved in the game.  The girls popped out the pieces while I read the directions.  
  • If you can count, you can play!  From my young niece to myself, anyone can play this game and have fun.  It is a game that involves a little bit of strategy, but mostly luck.  You can be competitive, but one person isn't going to dominate the entire game.  It seems that no matter how you play the game, the difference between the winner and losers will be about one trophy. 
  • It takes a good length of time.  Some kids' games go too quickly.  After only five minutes you're done and cleaning up, or having to restart.  Other games can last for days.  Personally, I don't have the patience to continue to play a game for several days in a row.  I need resolution more quickly than that.  For us, this game took about 1/2 hour from start to finish.
What I didn't love:

The rules weren't that specific . . . or maybe I didn't read them well enough.  Either way, it resulted in a bit of a disagreement, based on interpretation, between me and Doc.  Even now,  I'm not sure if you have to roll exactly the right number to get into the cage or if you just have to roll a number that is high enough.  We played exact rolls just to make it a bit more challenging, but if you were playing with younger kids you might not want to do that. 

Would I recommend it?

Absolutely!  It is an enjoyable game that we have played several times since receiving it.  If you are looking for a fun filler item for your young kids for Christmas, I personally think that you will like Zoo Panic.  It is easy enough for anyone to play, but interesting enough that even adults can enjoy it.   While I don't know that I'd pay $24 for it (I tend to be pretty cheap!), I think it is a great purchase if you are able to find it on sale. 

*Disclaimer:  Endless Games send me a copy of Zoo Panic to facilitate this review.  No other compensation was received.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Carmex Skin Care - Winner

Congratulations go out to Doodle741 for being a facebook fan and winning the Carmex Skin Care package!  Enjoy Doodle741!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Carmex Skin Care - Review & Giveaway


Last October, Carmex contacted me for the first time about reviewing their new line of Skin Care Lotions and Creams.  At that time I had nothing but great things to say about their product.  I loved the smell, the non-greasy feel, and the moisturizing qualities.  It was a product that I liked using in the fall and even into the winter.  Whether it was just the Carmex or the severity of the winter, I can't be sure, but I can say that I did NOT experience the cracking on my hands that I normally experience during the winter months.  

Flash forward to this October.  Carmex again contacted me and sent me their Healing Lotion and Cream to try and review.  I was thrilled.  I loved it last winter, and was looking forward to using it again this winter.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the weather has been pretty mild so far this fall.  The heat hasn't been on much at all and my skin hasn't experienced any significant dryness.   Because of that, I haven't used the products too extensively yet.   However, the experiences I have had with the lotion have all been positive.

Pumpkin, my youngest daughter, has been using the Carmex Healing Lotion after her showers.  She tends to have very dry and somewhat sensitive skin.  So far, this product seems to be enough to stop her from itching her irritated skin.  While she hasn't said anything about the smell of the product, I still love it!  The other night after her bath, we were cuddling together while we said our prayers and I noticed the scent.  It isn't overpowering, but it is definitely a "warm" scent.  I love that it isn't a floral or fruity scent.  While those are great for the summer months, I prefer something warmer for the winter months.  The smell of Carmex lotion reminds me of cuddling in front of a fire while cookies bake in the kitchen.   It is a familiar smell, a nostalgia smell, and a smell that says "comfort" to me.

Do you have dry skin?  Have you tried Carmex Healing Lotion and Cream?  Would you like to?  I'm curious to see if you will have the same success I have had with it.  I know that some people really don't like the smell/taste of Carmex Lip Balms.  I wonder what you will think of the smell of the Carmex Skin Care products.  If you would like to try these products, then this might just be your lucky day.  One reader will win the same kit that I received to facilitate this review.  It includes a full size lotion, a full size cream, a small size lotion, and a small size cream.  The full size products retail for around $5.99 and should be available at Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart.  

Here's what you have to do to enter:

Mandatory Entry:  What is your favorite Carmex product?  If you don't have a favorite, tell me what you are most excited to try.  Leave me a comment.  Be sure to include your email address if it is not visible in your profile.

Optional Extra Entries: 
  1. Like me on facebook.  Post your initials in the comments.
  2. Follow me on Twitter.  Post your username in the comments.
  3. Tweet about this giveaway using @rmgm and #carmex  Post a link to your tweet here.  This can be done once daily.  
  4. Follow me publicly via Google Friend Connect and post a comment with your username.
Details:

  • Only open to US residents
  • Winner will be chosen using random.org
  • Giveaway ends 11:59pm ET on December 5, 2011
  • Include your email address in your comment if it is not available on your profile page.  If an email address in not in the comment or on your profile page another winner will be chosen.  
  • Winner will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.
  • Prizes will be sent directly from the sponsor.  I am not responsible for prizes that are lost or damaged during shipment.  If you win a prize and do not receive it, please let me know
*Disclaimer:  Carmex sent me the kit pictured above in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions are my own.  Others may have different experiences.

Crafty Kiddos - Fall Fun

This fall we have been busy, busy, busy. So busy, in fact, that I haven't had the time or energy to post much. Since I had a couple of reviews I wanted to get up, I thought I'd also take a minute to update you on some of the fun crafts the girls and I have been doing this fall.


Here are our adorable Fabric Pumpkins!   Made with toilet paper, half a toilet paper tube, fabric, yarn, ribbon, a stick, foam stars, and a leaf, they were fun to make and easy too.  In fact, we made these with Peanut's entire class at school.   The end result was so cute that I didn't want to take it down when it came time to put up our Christmas decorations.  You can make them in any size or color, and they are easy to modify and make your own by adding little "accessories".



Glass Pumpkin Candle Holders.  How cute is this glowing family of pumpkins?!  With any glass container, acrylic paint and a candle you can make these adorable decorations.  I think I had as much fun as the kiddos with this project!  We originally put tape on the jars for the faces, so that those parts wouldn't get painted.  While they looked great not glowing, we found that when illuminated, you couldn't see the features.  By adding black paint to the face, we created pumpkins that looked gorgeous in the light of day or dark of night!  :o)


Check out the ghost in the middle of our pumpkin family.  Made with cheesecloth, starch, and little black foam stickers, these happy little ghosts found homes all over the house.  We even sprayed these ghosts with glow in the dark paint so that they could be seen at night.  These were a little more frustrating to make than expected because the starch didn't dry as hard as I'd hoped.  I think perhaps we made a few too tall and my starch solution wasn't as stiff as I would have hoped.   I think that next year, with a little tweaking, they'll turn out even better!


Nothing says "Welcome" like the hand prints of my two favorite turkeys!  Using a carpet sample from the local carpet retailer, acrylic paint, sponge letters and the girls' hands, we made this adorable mat.  Actually, we made four of them.  Three were given away as gifts.  The girls did a great job sponging the letters onto the mats (though I did the letters on the one pictured here) and loved when I painted their hands so they could press them down to make the turkeys.  We also got some puffy paint so they could draw the legs, beaks, eyes, and the red thing that hangs from the neck area (I don't know why I can never remember what that is called).

Did you do any new or fun crafts this fall?  Are you getting ready to try some winter crafts with your kids?  Do you have an old standby that you know always turns out great?  I'd love to hear about them!  I'm always looking for new activities to try with my girls.  

Disclaimer:  I cannot take creative credit for any of the crafts pictured above.  All craft ideas came from magazines, previous school projects, and items I've seen online and/or in person.  Most have been modified to fit supplies I have on hand or ideas I have in my head.  I wish I could give credit to the original people that created these ideas, but since I don't know who they are, I cannot. If you know the originator of one of these crafts, please let me know and I will happily give credit.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon When You Take the North "Poll"

Melissa & Doug want you to tell them which of their educational toys you think is the best! Just click on the image below to place your vote in the North "Poll!" You'll Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon** to use at MelissaAndDoug.com just for voting!



Disclaimer: I will be receiving a coupon in exchange for this post.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Two Lucky Pink Winners

Earlier today I used random.org to select my winners for both of my giveaways. Winners will be contacted via email momentarily. Here are the results -




There were 27 entries for the Sam's Club Gift Card. Random.org selected lucky number 21. Congratulations to Kim C!


I had 26 entries for the Freschetta giveaway. Random.org selected lucky number 17. Congratulations to Tabathia!

Thanks so much to everyone that entered! Also, be sure to check back soon for a review and giveaway from Carmex. :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Freschetta is Proud to Support Pink

Pizza?  Did someone say pizza?

In our family, we just love pizza.  In fact, we eat it way too often.  I actually think that you could probably feed Doc and the girls pizza every day for a year and they still wouldn't get tired of it.   They love it that much!   When Freschetta contacted me to share some information with my readers, they didn't have to ask twice.  In addition to sharing information about pizza, I am also able to share some information with you about what Freschetta is doing to support Breast Cancer Awareness this month.

For Breast Cancer Awareness month this October, Freschetta is presenting the Proud to Support Pink Program.  From September 25 to October 31, you can help Freschetta reach their goal of a $50,000 donation to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center by purchasing specially marked packages of Freschetta pizzas.   To do your part, you have to enter the code found inside the package at ProudToSupportPink.com.  Each code entered is equal to a $1 donation.   In addition to the financial donation, Freschetta is also donating 50 pink iPod Shuffle players each week to four cancer centers around America to be enjoyed by breast cancer patients during treatments.

Sounds good, right?  Well, Freschetta wants your help spreading the word about their donation goal, so they are making it even better.  Throughout the month, they are giving away 200 additional iPod Shuffles to people who enter codes and share information about the Proud To Support Pink Program on Twitter and Facebook.  So, please go to http://www.proudtosupportpink.com/ and register.  It only takes a minute or two.  Then share with your family on friends on facebook and twitter.   Even if you don't buy a pizza to enter a code, Freschetta has shared this message on twitter:
! Go to & enter in the exclusive FRESCHETTA fan code FRESCH11. $1 will be donated to breast cancer...
You can help them to donate a dollar to breast cancer research by simply registering and entering the code FRESCH11.  When you think that a minute of your time could help researchers to possibly find a cure, how can you not?




Would you like to win a coupon for Freschetta pizza and two pairs of pink earphones like the ones Freschetta sent to me?  Here's what you have to do:


Mandatory Entry:  What kind of pizza will you try with your coupon if you win?  Tell me in the comments below.

Optional Extra Entries:
  1. Like me on facebook.  Post your initials in the comments.
  2. Follow me on Twitter.  Post your username in the comments.
  3. Tweet about this giveaway using @FreschettaPizza @rmgm and #supportpink  Post a link to your tweet here.  This can be done once daily.  
  4. Follow me publicly on my new blog, LovingLakeLiving, via Google Friend Connect and post a comment with your username.  (Yes, I realize I haven't posted much there yet, but I don't want you to miss it when I finally do!)
  5. Register on proudtosupportpink.com and enter the free code that Freschetta shared on twitter.  Then come back and tell me that you did.  This isn't an entry that I can verify,so I'm relying on the honor system for this one.
Details:
  • Only open to US residents
  • Winner will be chosen using random.org
  • Giveaway ends 11:59pm ET on October 28, 2011
  • Include your email address in your comment if it is not available on your profile page.  If an email address in not in the comment or on your profile page another winner will be chosen.  
  • Winner will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.
  • Prizes will be sent directly from the sponsor.  I am not responsible for prizes that are lost or damaged during shipment.  If you win a prize and do not receive it, please let me know
*Disclaimer - The makers of Freschetta Pizza contacted me and provided information and products for me to review in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions. 

Sam's Club & General Mills Support Breast Cancer Education and Research

As you all probably know by now (this post is a little late in coming), October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.   While we should all support breast cancer education and research throughout the year, it is also nice to give special attention to such an important topic.  There are very few people that I know that haven't been affected by breast cancer either directly or indirectly through the fight of a friend or family member.  Personally, I just love seeing all the pink in the stores this month.

One store where you will find some of the familiar pink packaging to support breast cancer awareness is Sam's Club.   Purchasing some of your favorite General Mills products such as Cheerios and Fiber One will even allow you to help determine how their donation money is spent by voting at PinkTogether.com until April 14, 2012.   To learn more about Pink Together, you should check out their facebook page here - http://bit.ly/samsclubpink.

Do you want to win a $25 Sam's Club gift card that you can spend on some of your favorite products that are packaged in pink for breast cancer awareness?  Here's your chance!  

Mandatory Entry:  Which pink products will you buy with your Sam's Club gift card if you win?  Tell me in the comments below.

Optional Extra Entries:
  1. Like me on facebook.  Post your initials in the comments.
  2. Follow me on Twitter.  Post your username in the comments.
  3. Tweet about this giveaway using @rmgm, @SamsClub and #myblogspark  Post a link to your tweet here.  This can be done once daily.  
  4. Follow me publicly on my new blog, LovingLakeLiving, via Google Friend Connect and post a comment with your username.  (Yes, I realize I haven't posted much there yet, but I don't want you to miss it when I finally do!)
Details:
  • Only open to US residents
  • Winner will be chosen using random.org
  • Giveaway ends 11:59pm ET on October 28, 2011
  • Include your email address in your comment if it is not available on your profile page.  If an email address in not in the comment or on your profile page another winner will be chosen.  
  • Winner will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.
  • Prizes will be sent directly from the sponsor.  I am not responsible for prizes that are lost or damaged during shipment.  If you win a prize and do not receive it, please let me know
*Disclaimer - The information and gift card(s) have been provided by Sam’s Club and General Mills through MyBlogSpark.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I'm late! I'm late! I'm late!

Like the somewhat frantic White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed.  With blog posts (giveaways) coming due and lots of other crafty things I want to share with you all, you are going to see a huge influx of posts for the next several days.    I apologize for the inundation after a pretty significant lull in posting, but "when it rains, it pours" or so they say.  :o)  Keep your eyes open, you don't want to miss something great!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Crafty Kiddos - Pumpkin Puff






Another day, another craft . . .

Recently, my girls made this adorable pumpkin puffs.   If you want to make one, all you need is

  • An Extra Large Clover Pom Pom Maker
  • Orange Yarn (Though I think it would look cute with an orange blend too.)
  • A green pipe cleaner (You could also use brown or black)
  • Scissors
Didn't it turn out cute?  The girls keep them in their rooms and love to toss them around.  They are so soft and fluffy that I don't even mind.

I wanted to glue on some googly eyes or felt faces, but they didn't.  If you try them with your kids and do the faces, please let me know how they turn out!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

From Booking to Boarding to Boat Ups and Downs . . . Our Disney Cruise Adventure

Since our last trip away without the kiddos, Doc and I have been planning a list of vacations we want to take with our girls before they graduate from high school.  With the oldest in second grade, we figure that gives us about 10 years.  While I think Disney can be fun for kids of nearly any age, the magic of princesses is fairly short lived.   That is why we decided that Disney should be first on our list. 

I think that most parents think about taking their kids to Disney, and many of them actually do.  Having never made the trip before, I decided that perhaps I could help other Disney newbies along the way by blogging about the process.  Over the next several months you'll see posts sharing the trials, tribulations and joys of our first Disney adventure as a family.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cold and Flu Season 2011 - Ready to Fight

I am a four seasons girl. I love playing in puddles, watching flowers bloom, and planting my garden in the spring. I love to swim, eat fresh veggies, and catch fireflies in the summer. Fall brings the crunching of leaves, watching football, and the comfort of my favorite sweater. Winter means ice skating and sledding followed by hot cocoa next to a warm fire. The one season I could definitely do without, is cold and flu season.

As soon as the girls head back to school in the fall, I know that cold and flu season is right around the corner. It starts with a tiny sniffle or a scratchy throat . . . and works its way around everyone in the school (and my house!) We do what we can to avoid the sniffles and coughs, though a few seem almost unavoidable. We have been able to avoid the flu so far though. (Where's some wood? . . . knock, knock, knock).

Here's what we have done, and will continue to do (until it stops working for us):
  • Wash our hands - I am pretty diligent about requiring the girls to wash their hands before eating, after sneezing, or whenever we come in from being out and about around other people.  While I prefer a good hand washing to hand sanitizer, I also keep that on hand whenever we do leave the house.  The girls are great at reminding me to sanitize when we're out running errands. 
  • Cough and Sneeze into our elbows - It is as simple as it sounds. By not catching sneezes and coughs with our hands we are less likely to spread them to others.
  • Keep your hands off your face - Your face has too many mucous membranes. We try to avoid giving the germs on our hands direct access to the rest of our bodies.  This one is easier said than done.  The girls always seem to be touching their faces.  I find that pulling their hair back seems to help with that too.  It may seem odd, but when their hair isn't bothering them they seem less likely to touch their face. 
  • Eat right and exercise - By making healthy choices and keeping our bodies in the best possible condition we like to think that we are at an advantage to fight off the germs that find their way in.
  • Get plenty of sleep -  Like eating right and exercising, getting enough sleep is also vital to keep your body in the best condition for fighting off bad germs.  My girls sleep about 11-12 hours per night if I let them.  By keeping their bed times early enough, I can allow them to sleep well and wake up on their own.
  • Sanitize dishes - My dishwasher has a sanitize setting.  It gets the water temperature high enough to kill most of the germs on my dishes.  During cold and flu season, or whenever someone in the house has a sniffle, I'm sure to use that setting.  I've been surprised that it really does seem to help prevent the spread of illness from one family member to another in our house.
I am not a scientist and have not studied cold and flu prevention.  Some of the methods that seem to work for us might actual just be coincidental.  No matter what you do to stay healthy during this cold and flu season, I hope it works for you and your family. If you have any remedies or tips that you swear by, I'd love to hear them. I'm always ready to research or try a new idea that might keep my own family healthier as well.

Disclaimer:  I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Lysol blogging program, for a gift card worth $40. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Crafty Kiddos - Flower Pot





My girls love to do crafts.  Whether making flower clips, crayon hearts or just painting, they enjoy exploring their artistic sides.  Unfortunately, my artistic side is pretty small, so I have a hard time coming up with new activities for them to do.    Our most recent project was extra ambitious.  The girls had friends over, so instead of two girls, I was working with five.  Each girl ended up taking home a flower pot that looked a bit like these.  Each pot contains flower pens and a buggy pencil.  I think they turned out pretty cute. 

Do you have any fun and easy crafts that you like to do with your kiddos?  I'm always looking for ideas, so if you have one to share I'd love to hear it. 


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Worldwide Day of Play

Who knew that there was a Worldwide Day of Play? 

Apparently September 24, 2011 is Worldwide Day of Play.  On this day, everyone is encouraged to turn off the TV and go outside to play.  While I personally find it a little odd that people have to have a specific day and be told to do this, anything that helps to get kids a bit more active is okay in my book. 

On September 24, our family just happens to be participating in a local 5K.  This is the third year that we've participated.  When the girls were 3 and 5, we just did the 1 mile family fun run.  However, last year and this year the girls are running the full race.  (I have to admit I use the word "running" loosely.  Last year we ran, walked, jogged, skipped, galloped, shuffled and stomped our way to the finish line.  What can you expect from a 4 and 6 year old though?  They get bored easily.)

This year, we've been "training" (Again, I use the word loosely.) for the 5K for much of the summer.  We started by walking around our island which just happens to be about 3 miles.  As the training progressed, we began to run more and more of our walk.  We also have been biking and scootering to mix it up a bit.  The girls just love it!  It gives them a chance to be outside and get out some of their extra energy.  They also like that they have my undivided attention.  While we're walking I don't have a computer, phone, laundry, food to prepare, etc. to distract me.  We can just walk and talk about their day, their hopes, their dreams, their friends, their worries.  It is a great opportunity to actually listen to my girls uninterrupted. 

Do you enjoy outdoor play with your kids?  What types of activities do you most like to participate in?  Personally, my girls love to play soccer, softball, bike, scooter, hula hoop, jump rope, hopscotch, and stop/go.  (Stop/Go is our version of red light green light where you pick a different way to move rather than just run.  We do crab walk, backwards, skip, bunny hop, etc.)  I'd love to hear your favorite activities too.  We're always looking for new fun ways to play.

If you already do play outside with your kiddos, then now would be a great time to possibly get rewarded for that gift you give to them.  You can go to http://clorox2play2day.com to pledge to play outside.  If you don't play outside with your kiddos yet, then you should also consider pledging.  You might just find that you enjoy it as much as they do.  

*Disclaimer:  I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Clorox2® blogging program, for a gift card worth $40. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Carmex Winner


My quickie giveaway is over, and the lucky winner is commenter #6.  Thanks My3Sons33 for participating and liking me on facebook.  I hope you enjoy your Carmex prize pack as much as I did.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Music for My Mood - Mat Kearney

I'm seventeen again . . . driving in my car, an old sea monster green Oldsmobile Omega . . . on my way home from work . . . without a care in the world . . . singing along to my favorite cassette - Counting Crows August and Everything After.  I'm relaxed.  I'm happy.  Life is good!

Every time I listen to Mat Kearney's Young Love, I'm taken back to that time, that feeling.  While the music isn't the same, it elicits the same emotions.  It is an album that I could listen to over and over.  In fact, I've listened to it as background music several times each day since I received the download from One2One.  The music is easy to listen to.  It isn't too loud, too peppy, too slow, too depressing.  It is a good, relaxed, soundtrack of life.  Each song tells a story.  They are the stories of love, loss, and struggle.  They feel like experiences we've all had or will have in life.  The entire album feels very relatable. 

Are you curious what my favorite song is?  Cue up Hey Mama.  With a little bounce in my step I vacuum, put away the dishes, fold laundry, cook dinner and dance around the house.  Work seems to get done a bit more quickly when I hear that song.  It is perky, happy, and really lightens my mood.



I definitely recommend that you take a moment to listen to the music of Mat Kearney and see if it is a good fit for you.  Too often, I find a song or artist I like, but when I listen to the music I find that it is inappropriate for my children to listen to.  With Mat Kearney, that isn't the case.  I don't have to skip through songs or words because I don't want my children to hear it.   I can simply click "play all" and go on about the business of life.

*Disclaimer:  I was provided with a download of the album from One2One in exchange for my honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.  Others may have different experiences.







Pucker Up with Carmex - Review and Giveaway

Since we live on the lake, we spend much of our time outside enjoying the beauty around us.  This summer, we probably spent at least half of our waking hours outside.  Whether we were boating, tubing, swimming, walking, jumping rope, hula hooping, reading, biking, scootering (is that a word?), or grilling, we were out in the sun.   With a history of melanoma in our family, I always do my best to protect my girls from the sun.  We use sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and lip balm.  Personally, my favorite lip balm is Carmex.  I feel like it goes on smooth, stays on longer, and does a great job of moisturizing our lips.   The only issue I have had with Carmex in the past is that my girls don't really like the taste of the original jar (which is my personal favorite product).

This summer, Carmex was kind enough to send me a fun pack of products to try with my family.  My package included Carmex Lime Twist and Carmex Vanilla click sticks in exchange for my honest review.  The first thing I  have to say about these products is "YUM"!  My girls and I especially loved the Lime Twist.  To me, it tasted a bit like Key Lime Pie.   The girls didn't even mind that it still had the slight underlying taste of the original Carmex.  I think that hint of original flavor also helped to keep the girls from trying to lick it off (which they have been known to do with other brands of fruity lip balms).  Both products have SPF15 and several moisturizing ingredients to keep your lips safe and hydrated. 

The sunshine of summer will soon be replaced by the cool breezes of fall.  When that happens, I still always have Carmex on hand.  Between the wind and the heat from the furnace, my skin dries out, and I haven't had any product that works better for my lips than Carmex.

Do you want to win some products of your own?  The good people at Carmex have agreed to send one of my readers the the same kit that I received. 


Here's how you can win:

Mandatory Entry:  Which Carmex product is your favorite?  If you don't have a favorite, tell me what you are most excited to try.  Leave me a comment.  Be sure to include your email address if it is not visible in your profile.

Optional Extra Entries:
  1. Like me on facebook.  Post your initials in the comments.
  2. Follow me on Twitter.  Post your username in the comments.
  3. Tweet about this giveaway using @rmgm and #carmex  Post a link to your tweet here.  This can be done once daily.  
  4. Follow me publicly on my new blog, LovingLakeLiving, via Google Friend Connect and post a comment with your username.
  5. Send a new friend to my blog.  Have a friend enter my giveaway..  Tell them to leave your name (user, twitter, whatever) in their original mandatory comment.  Then, come back and tell me who you sent in another comment.  (Unlimited.  One comment for each new friend)
Details:
  • Only open to US residents
  • Winner will be chosen using random.org
  • Giveaway ends 11:59pm ET on September 2, 2011
  • Include your email address in your comment if it is not available on your profile page.  If an email address in not in the comment or on your profile page another winner will be chosen.  
  • Winner will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.
  • Prizes will be sent directly from the sponsor.  I am not responsible for prizes that are lost or damaged during shipment.  If you win a prize and do not receive it, please let me know
*Disclaimer:  Carmex sent me the kit pictured above in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions are my own.  Others may have different experiences.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Winner, Winner, Sam's Club for Dinner

With 93 amazing entries (I love my readers!), random.org selected lucky #49 as the winner.  Congrats Mari!  I'll be sending an email shortly so that you can claim your prize.

For those of you that didn't win . . .

Don't fret!  Another giveaway will be posted today.  It will be a quickie though, so don't wait too long to come back and get your entries in.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Back to School with Box Tops and Sam's Club

It is officially back to school time.  With less than two weeks until my monkeys start school, I am on a mission.  I want to get the things they love, need, want, and will use with minimal stress for everyone in the family.  For us, minimal stress means that I will be able to find what we're looking for easily, that the kids won't fight while we're shopping, and that Doc won't freak out about the cost of it all.   :o)  Sounds easy enough, right?  Wrong!  I know that it won't be easy.  First of all, Pumpkin doesn't like to leave the house for any reason.  I sometimes worry that she is going to be agoraphobic as she gets older.  If given the option, she would stay home and play all day, every day.   The second issue is the list.  I don't know about your school supply list, but every year there is at least one item on ours that I assume either isn't made anymore, or perhaps never existed in the first place.   Finally, since Doc doesn't do much of the shopping in our family, he doesn't really know how much things cost.  He is always surprised (not in a good way) at the receipts I bring home.

While most of the shopping won't be easy (I always hope for the best, but expect the worst.  It keeps me from being disappointed.).  There is one place that I know I can go and indulge in a little stress free back to school shopping.  You might be surprised to hear that the one place is Sam's Club.   Before walking in, I tell the girls that if they are good then we can get an ICEE before we leave.  At only $1.15 at our club, I might even let them each have their own.  (Yes, I sometimes bribe my kids.  Does that make me a bad mom?  Even if it does, I'll probably keep doing it.)  For some reason, the girls enjoy Sam's Club shopping (more than other shopping).  Maybe it is the occasional free samples located throughout the stores.  Maybe it is the hope that someday we'll buy them the ginormous stuffed animals or the huge swing set on display in the middle of the store.  Maybe it is just that they get to pick out their own snacks for their school lunches.  Whatever the reason, I'll take it.

With both girls in school full time this year (sniff), I will need lots of snacks.   They'll be eating daily snacks, plus the snack foods in their lunches, and we can't forget the sports snacks for after school activities.  All of those snacks means that bulk is the way to buy.  Right now at Sam's Club, you can buy some of your favorite snacks from General Mills and get bonus box tops - 6 Box Tops on a Pack, in fact.   I don't know about you, but our school loves Box Tops for Education, so I know they'll appreciate the extra tops.  I know that we'll be grabbing some Nature Valley Granola Bars and Chex Mix.

What will you be shopping for at your local Sam's Club for Back-To-School?  Tell me and you could win a $25 Sam's Club gift card to help with the endless expenses of BTS.  Here's how:


Mandatory Entry:  Which General Mills Box Tops item will you purchase during the Sam's Club Back-to-School event?  Leave me a comment.  Be sure to include your email address if it is not visible in your profile.

Optional Extra Entries:
  1. Like me on facebook.  Post your initials in the comments.
  2. Follow me on Twitter.  Post your username in the comments.
  3. Tweet about this giveaway using @rmgm and #myblogspark  Post a link to your tweet here.  This can be done once daily.  
  4. Follow me publicly on my new blog, LovingLakeLiving, via Google Friend Connect and post a comment with your username.
  5. Like Sam's Club on facebook and leave me a comment with your initials telling me you did.
  6. Follow Sam's Club on twitter and post your username in the comments.
Details:
  • Only open to US residents
  • Winner will be chosen using random.org
  • Giveaway ends 11:59pm ET on August 29, 2011
  • Include your email address in your comment if it is not available on your profile page.  If an email address in not in the comment or on your profile page another winner will be chosen.  
  • Winner will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.
  • Prizes will be sent directly from the sponsor.  I am not responsible for prizes that are lost or damaged during shipment.  If you win a prize and do not receive it, please let me know
*Disclaimer:  Through MyBlogSpark, General Mills and Sam's Club have generously provided me with a $25 gift card, and some of the information provided above.  They will also be sending my winner their Sam's Club gift card.  All opinions are my own.  Others may have different experiences.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Who Wants Pizza?

I don't know about you, but I have a weak spot for pizza. Homemade pizza, frozen pizza, chain pizza, local pizza shop pizza . . . they all have a special place in my heart depending on my mood. The problem with my pizza penchant (other than the obvious issues) is that sometimes I don't want a whole pizza. I just want a slice (or two). Knowing that, you won't be at all shocked to hear how happy I was to hear about the Freschetta By The Slice pizza event taking place on August 4th (TOMORROW!). Freschetta will be giving away free pizza while supplies last from 11am-3pm CST (Hmmm . . . being on Eastern time, I think that would be noon my time, right?) The problem I have is that I'll have company over tomorrow. Hopefully I'll be able to sneak away to grab a slice. If not, I hope at least my readers get their fair share. To sign up to get a reminder go to http://www.freefreschetta.com/ Good luck!

Event Details:
Date - August 4th, 2011
What - FREE* FRESCHETTA® By The Slice pizza event
Where - From the comfort of your own home
Details - Visit the message board at www.FreschettaFreshConnection.com

FRESCHETTA® will be giving away thousands of slices of our delicious By The Slice pizza in a special live online event. The FRESCHETTA® By The Slice pizza will be given away in 5,000 increments every half hour. There will also be fun, interactive contests where you can win additional coupons. You can find all the delicious details surrounding this event on the message board in www.FreschettaFreshConnection.com.

*Disclaimer - As a Freschetta Fresh Connection blogger, I have the opportunity to win prizes for sharing this information with you.  Because I like my readers, I would have shared anyway.  :o)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Living a Charmed Life

On the 4th of July, as we sat on a blanket on our front lawn and watched the fireworks explode directly overhead I looked at my two girls and thought about how lucky they are.  They are living a charmed life - a life of experiences and privileges that I can't imagine having enjoyed at their young age.    I always loved to see the fireworks, but we either had to go downtown long before the sky began to darken or accept a more distant view that still filled me with awe.    I remember one year when we did experience the explosion of lights directly overhead.  I was thrilled, amazed, and more than a little afraid, sure that the sparks would fall before the fire was out.  My girls have no such fear since that is what they're used to.

Just this past weekend Doc and I took the girls to the local amusement park.  A short boat or car ride away, that was our fourth visit this summer.   With season passes (that Doc's parents get us each year for Christmas), we are able to go whenever the mood strikes.  Whether it is hot, cold, or just right.  Whether we have a few hours or all day.  Whether the sky is cloudy, rainy or sunny.  No matter the reason, if we want to go, we can.   As a child I remember taking two trips to this same amusement park.  Not two trips each year, but two trips over the course of 18 years (though we lived much further away).  Each trip was special, fun, and has its own unique memories.  I don't know if my girls will have the same types of memories from their trips.

Each week during the summer the girls and I meet a friend and her daughter to travel to a nearby island.  We take a ferry over, eat lunch, and attend a mini nature camp program.  The girls are able to dissect fish, hold snakes, feed frogs, see and learn about bald eagles, owls, bats, plants and more.   How lucky are they to be able to learn about our local flora and fauna in such a hands-on setting?   Do they have any idea that there are some people that have never seen a bald eagle at all, much less from 5 feet away?  

While I LOVE that my children are able to experience all these wonderful activities, I also worry.  Am I setting them up for disappointment in the future?   Or is each generation just different?  I don't feel as if I was deprived of anything as a child even though my experiences were so different than those of my children.  I grew up in a city.  We had theaters, malls, roller rinks, bowling alleys, sidewalks where we could ride our bikes, and the opportunity to take any type of lesson we might want.  My children are growing up in a "vacation community" with unique shops, beaches, amusement parks, water parks, lakes, boats, and open space.  When my girls grow up and have their own children will they live in the city?  Will they worry that they are spoiling their children by taking them to the museum, theater, concerts, performances, and five star restaurants? 

Though Peanut and Pumpkin might not realize exactly how good their lives are, I think they are appreciative.  They always thank us for taking them to the amusement park.  They told us how much they loved the fireworks.  They get excited each week for our island trip.   Whether you're living a city life, a country life, a vacation life, or something else, the important thing is that you appreciate what you do have.  No matter how much you have or where you are, I think everyone has the potential to live a charmed life.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Beside Still Waters by Tricia Goyer

When I think of summer, I think of reading.   Apparently I'm not the only one.  From summer reading programs to lists of great beach reads, everywhere you look you'll find encouragement and motivation to read during these sunny months.   As I've mentioned before, while I love to read,  I won't finish a book if I don't enjoy it.   Life is just too short.  Luckily, so far this summer, I've been pretty fortunate with my book selections.  My most recent read, Beside Still Waters by Tricia Goyer, was a quick, easy read that left me wondering what will happen in book #2.
From the back cover:
On the night Marianna Sommers was born, a freak accident shattered her family.  Even as she came into the world, her two sisters left it for  heaven.  She's spent her life making up for that loss., being to her family and their Indiana Amish community all that her sisters would have been.  Her only dream:  a simple life married to Aaron Zook, the one she's loved since childhood.  Then her father says they are moving--to Montana, of all places!  Of course it's to keep her younger siblings far from their oldest brother Levi, who left the Amish way of life, but the move will destroy Marianna's dream.  She pleads to stay, to no avail.  As Marianna leaves her home--and Aaron--she's sure her heart will never heal.

But Montana holds surprises.


The mountains, trees and still waters open Marianna's heart of God as never before.  Still it troubles her that the small Amish community is so interwoven with their Englisch neighbors.  especially woodworker, Ben Stone.  If only Ben didn't do everything right!  He's there in times of need, and his love for God is so clear.  But giving in to the feelings he stirs in her would carry a terrible cost...


Everything she believes in and loves.
Generally not a Christian fiction reader, this book really took me by surprise.   I found myself relating to the characters and the message of acceptance that is shown throughout this book in a way that I hadn't expected.  As an individual rather unfamiliar with the Amish belief system and way of life, I found the story very interesting.  I don't know how accurate the descriptions were, but I felt as if they gave me a good basis of understanding where each of the characters came from.

Marianna is a young woman in a state of transition.  Not quite ready to live on her own, but no longer a child, she must find her own way.  Not wanting to disappoint her family, she lives her life "by the book".  She is fairly certain that she knows what is right and wants to follow the path that has been set before her.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), life gets in the way of her plans and she is forced to re-evaluate all that she has learned and believes to be true.   She meets and interacts with several important people during this time of self-evaluation, not the least of which is Ben Stone - a young man that defies the stereotypes she has spent her life believing.

Throughout our lives, I think most of us will encounter someone or something unexpected.  Whether positive or negative,  these experiences force us to take a moment to reflect on what we believe.  Sometimes we choose to file the experience away as an anomaly that needs no further contemplation.  Other times, the experience will alter our entire structure and belief system.   This book leads you through that entire process for one character, Marianna.  I think that anyone that has experienced a moment of questioning any aspect of your belief system will appreciate this book.  The author does a good job of allowing the reader to feel the dichotomy of what Marianna has been told and what she is seeing and feeling for herself.   For me, a good read is one that allows me to feel personally invested in the outcome.  Tricia Goyer definitely did that in this book, Beside Still Waters.

*Disclaimer:  I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of the Beside Still Waters Campaign and received a copy of the book and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gifts for Dads & Grads - PlasticJungle.Com

June already?!

How is it possible that it is already June?  You do know what it means when June arrives, right?  Father's Day is just around the corner, and the graduation parties have already started.   The problem with all of these celebrations is that they require gifts.  It isn't that I don't like getting gifts for people.  I do.  I enjoy finding the perfect gift for the perfect someone to make them smile.  Unfortunately, when it comes to grads and dads, that can be hard to do.   You never know what a new graduate needs, and dads (or at least the ones I buy for) already have everything.  So, what do you buy the guy that has everything? . . . A GIFT CARD!

I don't know about you, but I just LOVE getting gift cards.  They are like getting money, but better.  When I get cash, I'm likely to spend it on bills or nickle and dime it away on Doc and the kids until it is gone and I don't have anything to show for it.  With gift cards, I'm obligated to buy something tangible (hopefully for myself).  It will be something that I want, need or will enjoy.  Also, anyone that knows me knows that I'm am a smart shopper.  In fact, I have also been called cheap, frugal, stingy, savvy, economical, thrifty, tight, scrimping, and even penny-pinching.   I happily accept those names, because my frugality means that a $50 gift card can get me $100-$200 worth of products.

One pitfall of my cheapness is that it is hard for me to pay full retail for a gift card.  I don't pay full retail for ANYTHING.  Unfortunately, it is rare that you see a gift card go on sale.  That is why I just LOVE plasticjungle.com.  You can buy discounted gift cards up to 35% off with FREE shipping.  While most of the gift cards aren't sold at 35% off, they are all sold for a discount.  For example, you can get a $25 itunes gift card for $23.25, a 7% savings.    It looks like I might be able to cross Doc off my list now.  He is always looking for new songs to buy from itunes.   Perhaps my father in law would like a gift card from Sports Authority.  With cards being sold at 13% off, I'm sure he can find some great boating and fishing equipment.  My dad's favorite place to shop is Sears.  He loves the tools, and likes that he can pick up a new pair of shoes while he's there too.  Unfortunately, right now they are sold out of Sears gift cards, but you can set up an alert to let you know when more are in stock.  What a great feature for buying gift cards to some of your favorite places that you shop all the time!

Another great feature of plasticjungle.com is that you can sell your unwanted gift cards there too.  So, if you receive a gift card that you can't use, you can sell it to plasticjungle.com for up to 92% of the balance.   Hmmmm...I do have some Bath & Body Works gift cards that I haven't found a use for yet.  :o)

*Disclaimer - I received a gift card in exchange for my honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What happened to the time?

I can't believe it is May 31!   The sun is shining.  Summer residents have returned to our small vacation community.  School is almost over.

What happened to spring?  I had been hoping for a nice long spring this year.  I wanted to get Pumpkin off her training wheels and on a regular two-wheeled bike.   Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate very well in that endeavor.  Now, the island is bustling with cars, bikes, scooters, dogs, and golf carts, which makes it difficult to get a long clear stretch of road where my Pumpkin can find her rhythm and the confidence to pedal without me running beside her.  Perhaps a random week day will be quiet enough to allow us to try though.  If not, I'll be hoping for a nice long fall. 

My garden isn't yet planted.  :o(  I have tomatoes and peppers that are sitting in their little plastic containers hoping to find a place to stretch their roots.  I have flowers that may be out of their blooming season by the time I get them in their respective pots.

As behind as I might be in my spring work, I am just as far behind in my blog postings.  I have several posts started and several in mind.   So, expect to be seeing quite a few posts over the next several days as well as throughout the month of June.  The girls and I will be getting into a routine shortly after school lets out that will allow me brief interludes of blog time (probably during their daily "rest" time).   Every mom needs a short sanity break, right?

I hope your spring was happy, busy and full of smiles.  May your summer be even better!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Peanut!

Happy Birthday Peanut! 

I can't believe that you are actually SEVEN!  How did you get so old so fast? 

I remember bringing you home from the hospital on that warm May day.  I was experiencing a huge mix of emotions.  Happiness that you were finally here to hold.  Fear that I would do something wrong or that I wouldn't know how to take care of you.  Exhaustion from a long labor and lack of sleep.  Most of all, I was experiencing LOVE.  From the time I held you in my arms and looked into your eyes I was smitten.  Your gorgeous eye-lashes, your chubby cheeks, the way that you curled up against my chest and seemed to fit just right in my arms as you slept.  You were my baby then, and you always will be.  I love you with all my heart!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cheerios and Reading - Winner

Congratulations to Shellyrm!  Random.org selected her as the winner of the Cheerios and Reading Winner.  You will be contacted via email shortly.  I hope you enjoy your Cheerios and Book Kit!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I just got FLASHED . . .

and it made my day!

No, silly!  Not that kind of flash.

An oncoming driver briefly turned his headlights on and off indicating that a police officer was ahead trying to catch someone speeding.  Even though I wasn't speeding at the time (I did look down at my speedometer and check just to be sure), I did think it was a nice gesture.   There are occasions, as a driver, where I may or may not have found myself to be driving faster than I had intended.  I definitely think that a friendly headlight flashing reminder is much nicer to receive than the red and blue flashing reminder that you might otherwise get. 

So, to that flasher, and all others, THANK YOU!  (Be careful though.  Did you know that it is illegal to do that in some states?  Fortunately, my state doesn't appear to be one of them.  Make sure you check out your local laws.  I don't want to be accused of encouraging illegal activity.  As a mom -aka example for two young girls- and the daughter of a police officer, I'm all for being a law-abiding citizen.)

Thoughts for Thursday - Kids Grading Papers

Do you think that kids should be allowed to grade their classmates' work? 

Personally, I don't.  As a former teacher, I didn't let my students grade their friends papers.  I always worried that it would make students that were struggling feel more self-conscious.  Students might be more harsh on friends they didn't like or more lenient on friends that they did like.  I'm all for peer reviews when writing essays, proper scientific lab reports, or preparing for a speech.  However, in my opinion, those are left for older students.  They don't affect a grade.  They are helpful in learning when to accept and when to ignore constructive criticism.

Today, my oldest daughter, Peanut (1st grade), came home with the following paper.


When I saw it, I was confused.  What were all the marks for?  The spelling words all looked okay to me.  So, I asked her about it.  Her response was,

"Joe (name has been changed) graded my paper today in school.  He said that he didn't think it was fair that I always got the answers right, so he marked some wrong instead."

What?!  Who does that?

I have to say that I really like Peanut's teacher.  I doubt that she gave her a bad grade for the paper.  In fact, I'm guessing that it was just a practice sheet that probably didn't count at all.  However, Peanut was very upset by it.  She is a bit of a perfectionist, and it bothered her that she had so many marks on her paper. 

This is just a guess, but I think she was probably also upset that someone would want her to not do well on an assignment.  Her generous heart just doesn't understand that perspective.  In fact, we were eating dinner with her Auntie Em tonight who had an interview for a new job.  Auntie Em said that the person who interviewed before her looked nervous, like maybe she hadn't done very well.   Here's how the conversation went:
Peanut: Do you hope she did well?
Auntie Em:  No, I hope she didn't do that well?
Peanut:  Why would you want her to do bad?
Auntie Em:  Because she was interviewing for the job that I wanted.
Peanut:  Can't you both just do well?  How many jobs are there?
Auntie Em:  Only one.
Peanut: Oh.  Well I hope she did well, but you did better.

My Peanut is very driven.  She wants to be the best at everything she does.  However, she also wants others to do well.  She has one of the kindest hearts of anyone I've ever met.  While I'm sure that some of that will change as she gets older, I don't want it to change now.  I want her to remain as innocent as she is.  I don't want her to feel like the only way to succeed is to make others fail.  I don't want her to be self-conscious of mistakes that she does make.  (We all make them and just need to accept them and learn from them.)

What do you think?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cheerios and Reading - Two of my Kids' Favorite Things (Giveaway)

As a mom, I always want what is best for my kids.   I think that companies know this and bombard parents with ads that are full of information, opinions, thoughts, and beliefs that may or may not be true or provide full disclosure.  When I feel overwhelmed by the mass quantity of information, I tend to go back to the basics.  To me, the basics are things that I'm comfortable with.  Things that aren't necessarily glamorous or glitzy, but at least give me confidence that they won't do us any harm.  Some of our favorite basics are fresh fruits, Cheerios and books.   While educational videos for kids may or may not be beneficial and artificial sweeteners may or may not cause cancer, I've never heard anything bad about Cheerios or books (yet).  So, when MyBlogSpark contacted me to see if I was interested in sharing this information with my readers, I couldn't say no.
Through its annual New Author Contest, which kicked off March 22, Cheerios® cereal will make this dream a reality for one aspiring children’s book author. One Grand Prize Winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize and a possible publishing deal with Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, in addition to having his or her book featured inside Cheerios cereal boxes nationwide.

Founded on the belief that reading is a key building block for learning and life, the Cheerios New Author Contest encourages ambitious authors to write and submit an original story, in either English or Spanish, suitable for children ages three to eight. The contest, which is an extension of the Spoonfuls of Stories program, is part of the brand’s ongoing commitment to nurturing the whole child and connecting families by fostering a shared love of reading.

Laurie Isop, of Renton, Wash., won the literary lottery when she was named Grand Prize Winner of the 2009 Cheerios New Author Contest. Laurie, a small business owner, mother of two boys, and aspiring author since the age of 12, can now add “published author” to her resume. This spring, Laurie’s book How Do You Hug a Porcupine? will be featured in more than three million specially-marked boxes of Cheerios and will also be available in bookstores nationwide beginning this July.

Those who want to follow in Laurie’s footsteps and think they have the “write” stuff can visit www.spoonfulsofstoriescontest.com from March 22 through July 15, 2011 to find out more.
I don't know if they had this contest when I was still teaching, but if they did, then I wish I would have known about it.  My high school students wrote some of the most amazing children's books about the science topics we discussed in class.   The books were colorful, bright, attractive, educational, and just plain fun.  I'd love to have seen how they would have done.   However, since I can't go back in time, I'd also love to see how some of my readers do!  So get your thinking caps on and come up with something great.  Perhaps it is something you've been thinking about for years.  Maybe it is something you just thought about today.  If you are creative and want to be an author, now is your chance!  Good luck!

How would you like to win a box of Cheerios and a "Create-your-own" book kit for your kids (or yourself)? It might be just what you need to motivate you to write a book and perhaps win this year's contest.

Here's what you have to do for your chance to win.

Mandatory Entry: 
  • Tell me what you think makes a children's book AMAZING.  Is it a catchy rhyme, a funny theme, a topic that makes you want to cuddle or something else?
Optional Extra Entries
  • Follow me via GFC and leave your user name in the comments (sidebar)
  • Follow me via twitter and tweet this giveaway using #myblogspark and @rmgm (Leave a link to your tweet in the comments)
  • Like me on Facebook and leave your initials in the comments
    Details:
    • Only open to US residents
    • Winner will be chosen using random.org
    • Giveaway ends 11:59 pm ET on May 1, 2011
    • Include your email address in your comment if it is not available on your profile page.
    • Winner will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.
    • Prize will be sent directly from MyBlogSpark. I am not responsible for lost or damaged products.
    *Disclaimer - I received the same prize pack that my winner will be receiving.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Classic Family Recipe Inspired by Coke

    Summer is almost upon us (though the weather wants us to believe otherwise). I can tell by the chirping of birds when I wake up in the morning. I can tell by the sun shining in my window while I'm still in bed. I can tell by the constant rushing for softball, T-ball, ballet, play dates, etc. When summer time arrives, the whole world seems to wake up. Our tiny little town begins to bustle with activity. All of the summer residents and people with vacation homes start preparing their cottages for the onslaught of visitors that will appear between Memorial and Labor days. Stores that I've missed throughout the winter months will reopen their doors. The ones that remained open despite the bitter cold and decreased revenue will extend their hours. Summer means sunshine, laughter and fun. It is our favorite time of the year!

    Whenever the littlest signs of summer appear, I am always ready to start making my signature summer dishes. (If you were to ask me why I don't make them year-round, I wouldn't be able to answer you. Some foods are just meant to be made in the summer.) Some of my favorite summer dishes are salads. I just love an easy Taco Salad on those days when it is too hot to want to eat anything warm. Nothing says picnic like my grandma's amazing potato salad. With mustard, pickles, celery and just enough mayonnaise and Miracle Whip to make it barely creamy, it is a summer staple. Whenever I smell someone else grilling, my eyes turn a bit green and I feel the need to drag out my grill and whatever meat I have on hand. Whether it is a hamburger, hot dog, steak, or chicken, it all tastes better on the grill.

    One of my absolute favorite summer meals though, is a barbecued pork/chicken/beef dish that I make in a crock pot. Perfect for those days when you're going to be out on the boat most of the day only to arrive home to guests to feed, this meal is easy delicious and always well received.

    Place a large roast in a crock pot
    Add other seasonings to taste (I usually add some garlic powder, seasoning salt, and pepper)
    Cook on low heat.
    Once the meat is tender and easy to shred, shred it (remove excess fat/bones)
    (Sometimes I will do the first part overnight so that I can shred it in the morning and it will be ready to eat for lunch)
    Pour approx 1/2-1 bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce over the shredded meat
    Pour approx 1 can of Coke over the shredded meat
    Allow it to cook for 1-2 hours for the meat to absorb the flavors (though you can let it cook for much longer on the low setting)
    Serve on buns

    What are some of your favorite summer time meals?  I'm always looking for new recipes to add to my repertoire.  Please feel free to share


    *Disclaimer - Recipe came from a modified recipe that I obtained from an online recipe site.  I don't remember now which one it was, but if you know, I'd be happy to give credit to the original "chef".  I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Coca-Cola® blogging program. If I am one of the first 100 blogs received by SocialsMoms, I will receive a $25 gift card. For more information on the program, click here.

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Little Switches that can make a Big Difference

    Sometimes life feels like it gets a little monotonous. Perhaps you might even call it boring. What do you do when you feel yourself getting in a rut? Have you ever made a little switch that seemed to make a huge difference? Over the years I've made some little switches. Some have helped more than others, but it is always worth a try.

    Switch 1 – My girls are always a great source of inspiration for my switches. In fact, just now I was talking to my first grade daughter about what she learned at school. She was telling me that they talked about energy in science class – what energy is, how to save energy, and different forms of energy. Shortly after this conversation, a friend called to ask is she could come over to play. When I said that I could bring her right over, Peanut suggested that we walk, bike or scooter ride. So, I walked, Peanut rode her scooter, and Pumpkin rode her bike. It took us about ten minutes to get her friends house instead of two, but we saved gas and got a little exercise in the process. I already feel better! I don’t know if this switch will stick, but with the encouragement of the girls, I sure hope so!

    Switch 2 – Sometimes I tend to focus on the negative. There are mornings that I wake up dreading the day ahead of me. I pull the covers over my head and try to avoid getting up for as long as possible. I think about all the things I have to do that I know I won’t enjoy. It isn’t that I try to be a negative person. In fact, I’d much prefer to be positive. I think that by starting and ending the day with a positive thought, I might be able to perk up my attitude. If you wake up just appreciating that you are alive and looking forward to at least one activity that will take place, then I think it makes it easier to get through the rest. At the end of the day, look back. Find one thing that surprised you, made you laugh, or that you unexpectedly enjoyed. Go to sleep focusing on that positive experience and hopefully you’ll wake up feeling more refreshed and ready for a new day.

    Switch 3 – When I was teaching, I had students that were difficult. (I won’t say much more than that since teachers are getting in trouble for blogging about their students lately.) A wise older teacher told me to find three positive things to say to that student every day for three weeks. I’m not sure what the “magic” of the number three is, but it really works. After three weeks those students and I seemed to have fewer issues. Whether the positive comments made them feel better about themselves and behave more appropriately or whether the positive comments made me see them in a better light, I do not know. Regardless of whether the student had changed or I had, it made all the difference in the world in my classroom. When I get stressed out by any of my family members, I try to do the same – focus on their good qualities instead of harping on the bad. I think everyone appreciates feeling appreciated.  It makes us want to do more for those that appreciate us.

    I'd love to hear about your little switches that made a big difference. I'm always anxious to try new things that might make my life even better.

    *Disclaimer - I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Cottonelle blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

    Where I've been . . .





    While I know I don't have a plethora of loyal readers that have been pining away for me in my recent blog absence, I did want to let you know where I've been.   Doc and I were on a wonderful week away.  We were enjoying sun, fun, and a fabulous time together.   While I have plenty that I could blog about from the trip . . . from the joys of airport check-ins to the picketers outside our hotel or even the interesting places and people we encountered . . . I haven't yet decided if I will.  I am sharing this photo from our trip though.  These are the gorgeous flowers I received on my birthday sitting on the deck of our hotel room.   Just looking at the picture, I can almost feel the sun.   :o)

    Winner Winner Chicken Dinner - Winner

    Congratulations to #15,  Doodle741 that said... I follow you and Barber on facebook.  Random.org has selected you as the winner of the Chicken Selects from Barber Foods and the $25 Gift Card.  I will be contacting you shortly for your information.

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner - Review & Giveaway

    Kids - "Mom?"
    Me - Yes?
    Kids - "I'm hungry.  What's for dinner?"

    Now, you might ask me why I say, "yes?" when I know what they are going to ask.  It is the same question every night.  Most nights I'm prepared.  I know what I'm going to cook and I have all that I need.  Depending on my mood (and what I know their response will be), I'll either tell them specifically what we're eating or I give the standard answer, "Food."  (I always hated when my mom said that, but at least now I understand why.  I like to limit the amount of time I have to listen to them complain.  If they don't know what they're eating until they see it, then I don't have to hear about it while I'm cooking as well.)

    Every once in a while I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to feed my family.  Does that make me a bad mom?  On days when Doc won't be coming home for dinner I can be pretty lax.  We'll have cereal, toast, pizza bagels or anything else that requires only food products that I always have on hand.   Perhaps I should change that to almost always have on hand.   There have been the occasional times when I'm counting on cereal only to discover that we are out of milk.  Oops!   I can't be the only person this has happened to, right?

    Now, thanks to Barber Foods, I now have a new go-to that I will always keep on hand.   I was sent a sample of Seasoned Selects Broccoli & Cheese and Chicken Cordon Bleu to try with my family.   First, let me share a bit of information about Seasoned Selects:
    Seasoned Selects are a new line of stuffed chicken breast entrees. They’re made with juicy, white meat chicken stuffed with savory combinations of meat, cheese and vegetables. Unlike the traditional Barber Stuffed Breast, however, this new line is not breaded, but is seasoned with a blend of herbs and spices, and is lower in calories, fat, and carbs. Seasoned Selects are a great dinner option for those nights when you need drama-free dinner prep. Just throw these entrees in the oven and get going on a quick salad or side dish. Barber Foods Seasoned Selects are a quick and unexpected dinner option that everyone in the family will love.
    Surprisingly, they were a hit with everyone in the family.  Both Doc and the girls enjoyed the Chicken Cordon Bleu, and I just love the Broccoli & Cheese.  All you need is about 40 minutes and you can have a quality meal that definitely beats the cold cereal or toast we sometimes have.   Along with the chicken, I just heated up some noodles and a salad and it looked like a meal I might have spent all day preparing.   I'll definitely be keeping a supply of these in the freezer for those unplanned dinner days or even for an unexpected guest.  If a guest were to stop by though, I might go all out and prepare one of these new side dishes that can be found on Barber Foods website.   (I've been eying that Simple & Delicious Angel Hair Pasta since they sent me the link.)



    How many of my faithful readers would like to try these Seasoned Selects for yourself?

    Here's your chance!  The generous folks at Barber Foods have agreed to send one of my readers a FREE product coupon as well as a $25 grocery gift card!  Here's what you have to do to win.

    Mandatory Entry (3 parts): 

    1-Tell me your go to food when you need a quick dinner.  2-Visit Barber Foods website and tell me which variety of Seasoned Selects chicken you'd most like to try if you win.  3-Visit Barber Foods Side Dish Recipes and tell me which side dish (other than the Angel Hair Pasta) you would most like to make to complete your meal.  All three questions must be answered in ONE comment to be eligible to win.

    Optional Additional Entries:

    1. Follow me and Barber Foods on twitter.  Post your username here.
    2. Tweet about this giveaway.  Use the hashtag #dinnerdrama @barberfoods and @rmgm.  Post a link to your tweet here (Can be done 1x daily)
    3. Like me and Barber Foods on facebook.  Post your initials here.
    4. Follow me on GFC.  Post your username here.
    Details:

    *Only open to US residents
    *Winner will be chosen using random.org
    *Giveaway ends 11:59 pm ET on April 2, 2011
    *Include your email address in your comment if it is not available on your profile page.
    *Winner will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.
    *Prize will be sent directly from my contact at Barber Foods.  I am not responsible for lost or damaged   products.

    But wait . . . there's more . . . if this giveaway gets AT LEAST 100 entries by the time it ends then I will double the gift card from $25 to $50!   So, get your entries in and be sure to spread the word!

    *Disclaimer:  I received a sample of the product to facilitate my review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.  I received information about the product from Barber Foods.

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Nutella - You've heard of it, but have you tried it?

    I've seen Nutella around for quite a while now.  It sits on the shelves near the traditional peanut butter.  However, I never felt like trying it.  It was just a little too brown.  It just didn't look right.  Now, my question is . . . Why didn't anyone tell me that it was brown because of the COCOA?!   Yep, you heard me right.  Nutella is a hazelnut spread made with skim milk and cocoa.   Now, I'm going to be completely honest.  Nutella has a very unique flavor.  It is actually very difficult for me to describe.   Personally, I really enjoyed the taste.  My oldest daughter, Peanut (who ironically doesn't really like peanut butter), loves it.  The other day when Doc wasn't coming home for dinner, we decided that toast and fruit would make an acceptable meal.  Peanut asked for Nutella on her toast.  Pumpkin, on the other hand, loves peanut butter, and really doesn't care for Nutella.

    After trying Nutella for the first time, I was so excited to be able to share my new discovery with all of my family and friends thanks to MommyParties and BSMmedia.  I was really surprised at the number of people that hadn't tried it.  (Though I did have some that had tried it before.)  One mom said that she might just open up her sample and eat it with her fingers on the way home, she loves it so much.  Another mom texted me the following night to tell me that her daughter was eating Nutella on crackers as her evening snack.  A third mom had intended to give her sample to her daughters, but ended up grabbing it and a slice of bread on her way to work.  She had been running late and wouldn't have gotten breakfast otherwise.   It seems to be a big hit for both moms and kids!

    Overall, Nutella went over really well with my family and friends.  So I definitely recommend that you give it a try. If you do want to try it, be sure to go to the RedPlum website to print your $1.00 off coupon.   After you try it, if you find out that you really love it, then be sure to go to the Nutella website and enter to win a case.  I know I did!

    *Disclaimer - All thoughts and opinions are my own.  I received a party kit from MommyParties, BSMmedia and Nutella which includes samples to give to family and friends.  I did not receive any compensation in exchange for this post or the party.

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    Once Upon a Time . . .

    Once upon a time there was a little girl named Mel.
    I’ll share with you the story, as it is mine to tell.

    Mel was always busy. She loved to run and jump and play.
    Winter, summer, spring or fall – She liked to go out every day.

    In the winter she would ice skate, shovel, build and even sled.
    Fall was great for football, raking leaves or even standing on her head.

    Spring was made for gardening, jumping rope and riding bikes.
    Summer meant it was time to swim! (One of Mel’s most favorite “likes”.)

    Because she was so busy, Mel never put on weight.
    She stayed tall and slender, no matter what or how much she ate.

    This continued through her teen years since she was involved in many sports.
    It wasn’t until college that she got all out of sorts.

    Exercise became more scarce. Food choices were less healthy.
    She would often tell herself, “I’ll do better when I’m wealthy.”

    (Why is it that the healthy foods always cost you so much more?
    It makes it hard to make a smarter choice while shopping in the store!)

    Fast forward ten years later . . . now I have a different life.
    I’m a sedentary woman, stay at home mom, and a wife.

    I haven’t dropped my baby weight (though my baby just turned five!)
    While I am living my dream life, sometimes I don’t really feel alive.

    I want to be more active, healthy, strong, and an example for my girls.
    I want to show them beauty is more than makeup, diamonds and pearls.

    Finally feeling ready, I made a commitment to myself.
    I am getting into shape, taking excuses off the shelf.

    I’m ordering a salad – without dressing, croutons or even cheese.
    Would you like a glass of water? Yes, I would! Yes, Please!

    Protein, whole grains, fruits and veggies – I’ve stocked the fridge from front to back.
    (Though I keep a dark chocolate kiss on hand when I get a sweet craving attack.)

    Smaller portion sizes . . . by eating on smaller kiddie plates.
    I order smart and immediately box half when I go out on a date.

    I’ve started with some videos – Tony, Jillian and Jackie.
    I even play on my Wii (though Just Dance makes me look so wacky!)

    I tend to get bored easily, so I’ve got lots of choices
    No excuse for getting tired of their faces, moves or voices.

    I like to run outside, around our little neighborhood.
    Unfortunately in Ohio, the weather’s not so good.

    From snow to sleet to freezing rain . . . then the weather gets too hot.
    Okay, let’s be honest, an easy to please outside runner – I am not.

    I’d love to own a treadmill so I could run in rain or shine.
    Morning, noon or night, it would be mine . . . all mine! ;o)

    Actually to be honest I’d share with hubby, family and friends.
    Because support from all of them will help me reach the end.

    Making better choices together. Living longer for each other.
    Becoming a better sister, friend, wife, daughter and mother!

    *Disclaimer - I wrote this blog post while participating in the Bookieboo and Hayneedle Treadmill blogging program, making me eligible to win a treadmill. For more information on how you can participate, click here.