Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Paper Chef Review

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PaperChef is a line of culinary parchment products including baking cups, cooking bags, pre-sheet parchment sheets, etc. Culinary Parchment products are not only 100% biodegradable, but they are also FSC and Kosher certified – making them environmentally and family friendly. The Art of cooking with parchment has never been more convenient – or more delicious. This epicurean brand has an extensive array of fall-themed recipes that can be made with their products including Butternut Squash Souffle in Acorn Bowls, Butterscotch bread pudding, Apple Cinnamon Papillote with Cognac & Red Currants, and Maple Cranberry bread pudding cups.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to try a variety of their great products. I have used their Culinary Parchment Paper a number of times and it quickly became a favorite of mine! I was using wax paper before using the Paper Chef product and I truly will never use it again. The quality was so much greater and it stayed in place nicely and kept my cookies and other baked goods from burning and kept my pans perfectly clean.

I decided to challenge myself with a couple of the amazing looking recipes on the Paper Chef website so that I could try out their Culinary Lotus Cups and Culinary Parchment Cooking Bags. I made the Bluebird's Maple Crumb Cake with the Lotus Cups. These muffins were absolutely outstanding (though the recipe was about double what you actually need to fill the 12 cups it calls for). My kids absolutely loved them and my son commented that, "it is like Heaven in a muffin"! I guess you can't get much better than that! I had not baked with parchment cups before and they were so much better than a standard baking cup! They held their form, were extremely easy to peel, were non-stick, and allowed for a larger sized muffin. Plus, it gave the baked good such a classy look!

I had never used Parchment Cooking Bags before and I honestly had no idea what they were for before receiving these to review! So, I again relied on the great recipes offered through Paper Chef and tried the Cardamom Baked Apples. Sure, I could have tried an actual meal but I opted to stick with what I know - desserts!

Recipe: Cardamom Baked Apples
(from Paper Chef)


4 apples, such as Macintosh
1/4 cup (50 mL) brown sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cardamom or nutmeg

Preparation Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Peel and cut apples into quarters; remove cores. Place in bowl.
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom. Sprinkle over apples and toss gently. Spoon into Culinary Parchment Cooking Bag on rimmed baking sheet.
Fold over open edge twice and crimp well. Bake 20-25 minutes. Open bag and let stand a few minutes Serve warm. Serves 4 to 6.


These were outstanding! It was like having autumn on a plate. The warm apples were soft and perfectly cooked and thanks to the bag, cleanup was a breeze. The bag really helped hold all the flavor in during the baking so the flavor was out of this world. My son poured his over ice cream and it was so good. I will definitely be making these again!

Buy it here: You can purchase Paper Chefs from a variety of locations and from Amazon.

*I was provided with the above mentioned products for the purpose of facilitating this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

Halloween Party Ideas

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Halloween Party Ideas

My kids and I really love scary movies.  My son was absolutely thrilled to have his birthday fall on Friday the 13th a couple of years ago. So, I threw him a super-fun, horror-filled birthday party and it was TONS of fun!! Although the theme was Friday the 13th, you can certainly use these for Halloween! 

Invitations: To save a little bit of money, I mailed out post-cards rather than enveloped invitations.

Friday the 13th Party Invitations

Costumes: Check out some of these great costumes we and the guests wore:

Bella and Jackson in costume
Jack was Jason and Bella was a victim. (Bella's acting classes were paying off as you can see!)
My mother-in-law was a victim and father-in-law Freddy

Carrie costume
I dressed as Stephen King's Carrie

Couple more victims!
My brother-in-law was "Dr. Death"

Apparently, my brother-in-law was dressed like a real victim from the 1st Friday the 13th. I could not stop laughing every time I saw him!!

Wow, our neighbors probably thought we lost our minds!

Does this call "Christmas card"?

Cake: Jack is fascinated by the show Cupcake Wars so he requested a tower of cupcakes (yeah!).  The cupcakes with the Jason Voorhes masks were black forest with cherry pie filling. 

To make the Jason masks, I molded gumpaste into circles and then curved them over markers to create a 3-d mask look. I then used edible markers to put on the details. The "bloody" cupcakes were white cupcakes with ch0colate filling and raspberry sauce made the "blood" look.  

Friday the 13th cupcakes

I spray painted the cupcake stand (from Green Party Goods) unevenly with black paint and then added ribbons to the side and covered the back with spider webbing. I added a glowing skull to the top and loved the outcome!

Friday the 13th Cupcakes

I also made some white chocolate peanut butter balls and decorated them to look like eyeballs.

Eyeball peanut butter balls

Decorations: I pulled out and borrowed some scary Halloween decorations and went crazy with them! The more the better!

I was able to find some Jason Voorhes decorations online so my son was thrilled. 

Available on Amazon

Finding Halloween tablecloths this time of year was impossible but my sister-in-law had this great idea. We took white fabric and sprayed fake blood and made bloody handprints  all over them. 

Activities: Kids were given plastic masks to decorate. Since not every child is a horror-movie fan, this gave them a chance to make some pretty masks.

My brother-in-law is really talented and made this photo board so the guests could pose for pics!

It was definitely one of the most unique and fun parties we have thrown! 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sparkling ICE Review & Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness month so I will be featuring some great products that focus on this very important cause.

Sparkling ICE is a bold flavor zero calorie sparkling mountain spring water. They are joining
in the spirit of breast cancer awareness by offering Sparkling ICE Pink Grapefruit, Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Awareness Donation program. As part of the Sparkling ICE mission to “Imagine a World Without Breast Cancer,” a Pink Ribbon is proudly displayed all year long on the Pink Grapefruit flavor bottles of the bold, sparkling mountain spring water.

Each year, Sparkling ICE donates a minimum of $25,000 to research facilities nationwide to help find a cure, in addition to aiding local affiliates and communities with more than $100,000 in donations annually. Isn't that really awesome!

I was given the opportunity to try some great flavors from Sparkling ICE. In addition to the Pink Grapefruit, I was also able to sample their Raspberry Lemonade, Mango Lemonade, and Lemonade with Tea. I was expecting the Pink Grapefruit to be too sour for my tastes, but there was actually the perfect amount of sweetness to compliment the sour taste that this became the household favorite! The other varieties were delicious as well. The Mango Lemonade was also a favorite of mine. Again, it was perfectly sweetened and bursting with flavor making it a really refreshing drink. My kids really enjoyed these as well and they have been begging me to get more! Since they are naturally flavored and 0 calorie, I would have no trouble buying it for them!

Buy it here: You can find a local retail location using the Sparking ICE locator tool.

*I was provided with the above mentioned product for the purpose of facilitating this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Next 5K in 5 Days!

I really appreciate the support that you all gave me as I went from couch potato to runner this past year.  If you have been following my blog, then you probably saw that I did the Color Run, my very first 5K, this summer. This weekend, I will be running my very first timed 5K and I must say that I am kind of nervous!  I tend to get competitive and I am a pretty slow runner. I am certainly not expecting to place anywhere noteworthy and keep telling myself that this is simply my baseline run and then I can compete with my own time after that.  

If any of you are runners, I would love to know your tips for a timed run! 

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life Review and Giveaway (3 Winners)

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When your electronics are not working correctly, chances are you know (or are told) to reboot it as the first step to fixing the problems. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life: 101 Stories about Finding a New Path to Happiness encourages you to remember to reboot yourself in order to find true happiness in your life! The stories in the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul edition encourage you to follow your dreams, go with your gut feelings, and take better care of yourself. They are meant to help you overcome adversity, use positive thinking, find your purpose, and even start over.

Like other editions, the inspiration stories are written by normal, every day people.  The stories are organized into the following chapters:
  • Do It Now
  • Follow Your Heart
  • Take a Chance
  • Find a Purpose
  • Start Over
  • Mind Your Health
  • Overcome Adversity
  • Listen to your Friends
  • Take Time for You
  • Adjust Your Attitude
Review: This is really a great self-help book.  Traditional self-help books tend to drag on and on but the organization of this one into short stories by theme made it much easier to read and had a great flow. I especially liked that this book has a theme, but it is still broad enough that it can apply to so many life situations and desires for self development.  Like other editions that I have read, I found that certain chapters spoke more to me than others because of where I am in my life and the story format made it easy for me to skip sections that were of less interest than others. Since I am a very busy person, it is easy to dedicate myself to a story here and there rather than an entire book or novel so I always appreciate these books! This is definitely a great inspiration and would also make a great gift for anyone who is having a difficult time in their life.

Buy it here: You can find Chicken Soup for the Soul books at bookstores and this one is also available at a discounted rate through  Amazon.

Win it here:
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

*I was provided with the above mentioned book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own. Affiliate links included. 

Last Chance: Chalkboard Labels Giveaway Ends Today!

Today is the last day you can enter to win these functional and adorable chalkboard labels! You can read my full review and enter to win here.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Easy to Make Halloween Treat Pumpkins

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My daughter and I made these cute little pumpkins full of candy corn for her Halloween school treat last year.  I took baby food jars and painted pumpkin faces on them. She the painted the lids orange and put stickers on tops. I love crafts that we can do together and she was really proud of these when we were done.

Vermont Nut Chocolates Review

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Vermont Nut Free Chocolate Company was founded by the mother of a little boy with a peanut allergy. The company is dedicated to ensuring that their entire selection is completely safe for those with any tree nut or peanut allergy but can also be enjoyed by anyone who loves fine chocolates. Their gourmet chocolate truffles, fruit creams, mint creams, caramels, raisin clusters, chocolate bars and novelty items are made in small batches the old fashioned way from the finest nut free ingredients.  All of their centers are hand made from scratch in their nut free facility and then individually dipped into premium chocolate before being hand packed and shipped fresh to you. 

Chances are, one of the first things you think of when you hear the word "Halloween" is candy and Vermont Nut Free Chocolate has a fabulous assortment of Fall 2014 products from which to choose. They offer dark, milk, and white chocolates as well as a variety of other festive treats. My family and I were lucky enough to sample some amazing products!

Crispy Jack-O-Lantern: This adorable pumpkin is the perfect combination of crisp rice and milk chocolate. There was just the right amount of crisp rice to add some extra flavor without distracting from the rich and smooth flavor of the milk chocolate. 
Mini Pumpkins: This 10-count bag of bite-sized solid milk chocolate mini pumpkins are individually wrapped in festive orange foils. My kids and I absolutely LOVED these candies. They were rich and delicious and melted right in my mouth. The shapes were adorable as well. Ideally, we would have had one a day for a few days as a special treat, but they were so delicious we found ourselves eating the entire bag in one indulgent sitting.

Halloween Pop:  I am not a big fan of dark chocolate, but we were able to sample a dark chocolate pop and I was amazed at how much I really liked it. Vermont Nut Chocolate has mastered the art of making the bitter chocolate still have a rich and creamy quality. The Halloween Pops are available in milk and dark chocolate options and in the following fun options: witch, ghost, jack-o-lantern, bat, mummy, and cat.

Halloween Chocolate Drops: Perfect for gift-giving, these shiny orange, black, and silver foil wrapped chocolates are so delicious.  I really could not get enough of their high-quality and smooth milk chocolate!

 Buy it here: You can purchase Vermont Nut Free Chocolates from their website.

* I was provided with the above mentioned product for the purpose of facilitating this review. No other compensation was received and the views expressed here are my own.

Naturalico Cellulite Cream Review

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I have lost 35 pounds this past year and my body looks better now than it did before I had kids...every part except my stomach. Although I have lost my gut, cellulite and stretch marks still plague my midsection.  Naturalico Cellulite Cream with Retinol & Caffeine was formulated to get rid of and reduce the appearance of cellulite. It soothes the skin so that the overall appearance of skin is improved, toned, and restored.  Plus, it is made in the USA!  

How it works:

  • Retinol enhances collagen production, encourages skin renewal and helps tighten and firm the skin. 
  • L-Carnitine helps the body metabolize fat 
  • Green Tea stimulates the release of stored fat 
  • Glaucine is responsible for decreasing fat deposits 
  • Coenzyme-A breaks down fat and helps restore connective tissue
  • Active Ingredient Glaucine and Caffeine which contains Theophylline helps successfully treat cellulite and decrease cellulite fat deposits and stretch marks
Review: I have been using this cream 1-2 times a day for the past couple of weeks and I have started seeing some results. The cellulite has been a problem for over 11 years so I was not expecting overnight miracles, but I am pleased with what I have seen so far. The skin in my stomach area is beginning to tighten, making the cellulite lighten in appearance.  There is a very light scent to the cream and it on the thinner side making it very easy to run into your skin. I appreciate that it is in a jar which also makes it really easy to use. Overall, I am very happy with this product and look forward to continuing to see this cellulite fade more and more!

Buy it here: You can purchase Naturalico Cellulite Cream from Amazon.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.