Food & Drink

Food & Drink
Food & Drink

SHOP MY FAVES

SHOP MY FAVES
SHOP MY FAVES

STYLE

STYLE
STYLE

Meatless Monday: Lemon Basil Spaghetti

This is a quick and delicious pasta dish that you can very easily throw together after a busy day. It can easily be converted to gluten-free by substituting gluten-free pasta for traditional pasta.


LEMON BASIL SPAGHETTI (Serves 4 to 6)

Ingredients
1 lb. box of spaghetti
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
kosher salt and ground black pepper

Preparation
1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

2. While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese.

3. Drain the pasta. Add the lemon juice mixture to the pasta. Add the basil leaves and toss well to combine.

4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
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Wine.com: All Things Wine at Your Fingertips

You know how I much I enjoy wine. There are so many great wines out there, but not all are available at my local wine stores. When I can't find what I am in search of, I turn to Wine.com, a trusted online wine resource. Wine.com caters to every wine need from individual wine purchases to gift baskets. They offer a great selection, low prices, convenient delivery, and all the information you need to make informed choices about wine.

Wine.com makes learning about wine fun and informative. They've posted this fun graphic detailing the history of Champagne. Who doesn't love a glass of bubbly??!!

wine.com infographic
Brought To By Wine.com, Purveyors of Fine Wine and Champagne

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions expressed herein are mine.
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Kiddie Academy: Case Study ~ Sparta, New Jersey

I love a great local success story! I especially love one where people have pursued a passion. Here is an inspiring story of Kiddie Academy franchise owners who followed their dream.

Jill and George Malanga opened their first franchised Kiddie Academy in July 1996 at 233 Sparta Avenue in Sparta, New Jersey, at ages 50 and 59, respectively.
Fueled by their overwhelming success, they opened their second location at 179 Cahill Cross Road in West Milford, New Jersey, in September 2004. Unlike owners of other child care concepts in the area, the Malangas treat each parent and child as they would a member of their own family, regularly going above and beyond to provide the best service possible.

Background: Jill was a franchisee for NutriSystem, but shortly after the birth of her first child she wanted to shift her attention to her son. When it came time to select a child care facility for him, the options in the area were not up to her standards. As a result, she decided to open a Kiddie Academy franchise, not only for her son but for other parents in the community looking for a better option. George, a former high school teacher and 30-year veteran of the music industry, saw the success of his wife’s venture and decided to follow in her footsteps with a second location shortly after his retirement in 2003. Each time they see a satisfied parent or hear a student’s laugh, the Malangas know that their decision to become Kiddie Academy franchisees was the right one.

Goals: For George and Jill, giving parents peace of mind is their top priority. They regularly consult with parents to provide the best possible service to their children, including waiving the tuition for any student with a parent deployed overseas. With enrollment at both academies nearing capacity, the Malangas are also considering opening a third location in the area.

Challenges: Maintaining the company’s cozy, nurturing atmosphere is always one of Jill’s top concerns, since she operates one of the largest Kiddie Academy facilities in the United States. Kiddie Academy’s innovative curriculum and hands-on approach to educationally-based child care keeps the academies inviting and personal. Jill and George want each parent and child to maintain the special feeling of being part of their Kiddie Academy community.

Results: Jill’s constant drive to make her academy the best it can be has paid off over the years. Events such as date nights and shopping days, as well as pancake breakfasts and end-of-the-year recitals, continuously receive rave reviews from parents and children alike. Not only has she received several awards from both her franchisor and the local community, she has also made quite a difference in the lives of the children who attend her academy – an achievement that cannot be measured by a certificate or plaque, but instead by the smile on a child’s face.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. However, any opinions stated are my own. Factual information was provided by Kiddie Academy.
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A Sweet Giveaway: Balance Bars in a "Balance-tine" Tin

I am a HUGE fan of Balance Bars. I eat at least one a day. They are perfect before or after the gym or as a snack to hold you over until your next full meal.

Every single flavor is a grand slam. Many protein bars are known for tasting like a piece of cardboard. Not Balance Bars. With flavors like Cookie Dough, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Caramel Nut Blast, you'll satisfy your craving for something sweet and your need for protein every time.

I had mentioned in a previous post that Balance recently introduced the nimble bar, a protein bar specifically formulated for women. The nimble bar is a beauty and nutrition bar that boasts a mere 120 calories. It is the first protein bar of its type to be made using Truvia, a natural sweetener with zero calories. It is the first bar to contain vitamins and minerals that are essential for the health of your body and your skin. Isn't that what every woman wants? The nimble bar is available in 2 flavors: peanut butter and yogurt orange swirl. If you love the taste of a Creamsicle ice cream bar, you will love the yogurt orange swirl.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, I am giving away the Balance-tine Tin, an adorable heart-shaped tin filled with various flavors of Balance Bar.

The tin contains one bar in each of the following flavors/varieties:
  • chocolate craze
  • cookie dough
  • mocha chip
  • double chocolate brownie
  • triple chocolate chaos
  • chocolate mint cookie crunch
  • chocolate peanut butter
  • s'mores
  • yogurt orange swirl (nimble bar)
  • peanut butter (nimble bar)
Balance Bars are a great alternative to a large breakfast. They make a perfect mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack when you feel a slump coming on, or a treat when you are craving a sweet.

TO ENTER:
Leave only ONE comment telling me what your favorite Balance Bar flavor is if you've tried them before. If you've never enjoyed a Balance Bar, leave a comment telling me which flavor you would most like to try.

All entries MUST be submitted by 11:59 pm EST Monday, February 6. One winner will be selected via random.org and will be notified via email. The selected winner will have 24 hours to respond to claim the prize and to provide a shipping address. If selected winner fails to claim the prize within 24 hours, a new winner will randomly be chosen. This contest is open to residents of the United States only.


For more information and to stay in touch with Balance Bar:
Visit the Web site
"Like" Balance Bar on Facebook
"Like" nimble bar on Facebook
Follow Balance Bar on Twitter

Disclosure: Balance Bar has kindly provided one Balance-tine tin to Pieces of a Mom to giveaway to a reader. I was also given a complimentary box of nimble bars to sample.
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My Afternoon Tea

I'm not a coffee drinker...unless you include a Frappaccino or a cappuccino in there. But I love my afternoon tea. Must have it every day, especially during the cold weather months.

I had to share my favorite brand and flavor because it's just that good.

Good Earth® Decaffeinated Vanilla Chai Tea hits the spot each and every afternoon. (available in regular also).
I like to add a dash of fat-free milk to mine. It definitely adds a velvety creaminess to the tea. The black tea has hints of  vanilla, star anise, cloves, cardamon, ginger root, nutmeg, black pepper, and chicory root.

It's the perfect afternoon or evening pick-me-up.

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Saying Goodbye to Google Friend Connect

On March 1, 2012 Google will discontinue Google Friend Connect (GFC) for blogs that are not using the Blogger platform. However, the absence of GFC will affect all bloggers.

Via Google Friend Connect, your blog's RSS feed shows up in Google Reader. It is currently unclear if Google will remove this functionality on March 1. What is clear is that the GFC widgets that are currently displayed on countless blogs will be inoperable and the option to join a blog via GFC will no longer exist on March 1. You will need another option to stay connected to your favorite blogs.

What to do? What to do?

For starters, one of the first things you need to do is remove the GFC widget from your blog. There's no use in anyone joining for 6 weeks.

Encourage your GFC subcribers to connect with your blog in a number of different ways:

1. Subscribe via RSS feed
Most blogs will have an icon or a subscription box displayed somewhere on the blog to allow you to do this. For a more comprehensive explanation on why you, as a blogger, need to set up a RSS feed, read the Feedburner tutorial written by my pal Gigi, from Kludgy Mom. She highlights the whys of Feedburner. An RSS feed is incredibly easy to create with Feedburner.

To stay in touch with Pieces of a Mom, subscribe to my RSS feed.

2. Connect on Facebook
Most blogs have fan pages on Facebook. You can either perform a search in Facebook for the blog you are looking for or you can go to the blog to see if there is a Facebook widget or icon where you can easily "Like" the page.

To stay in touch with Pieces of a Mom on Facebook, click to "Like" my page. I update my Facebook page with all of my posts and some other relevant and helpful articles.

3. Follow on Twitter
Most bloggers are on Twitter and are very active there. I love the conversation on Twitter much more than on Facebook. It's more lively and more frequent. Again, you can perform a search on Twitter for your favorite blogs or check the blog for a Twitter icon.

To stay in touch with Pieces of a Mom on Twitter, click here to follow me. I am very active on Twitter and can usually be found tweeting about my favorite TV shows.

4. Send a newsletter
You can also send a newsletter to your current GFC subscribers to let them know how they can connect with you once GFC has been discontinued. I'm hoping that the blogs to which I subscribe do this. It really is the simplest way for your subscribers. They merely click a link in a message to make the new connection with you.

For more information, check out this informative post at momcomm.
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Using IdentityHawk to Prevent Identity Theft

When we were robbed a little over 2 years ago, after the initial shock wore off, I immediately thought of identity theft. The thief more or less ransacked many of our personal items. At first glance it was difficult to determine exactly which items may have contained social security numbers and other important personal information that could lead to identity theft. We had 2 laptops stolen. I wracked my brain trying to remember what information was stored on the hard drives of those laptops.

We were lucky...that time. We got away without being victims of identity theft. I was grateful being that I already felt completely violated.

You can never be too careful. You never know when identity thieves are targeting your personal information. More than 11 million consumers have been victims of identity theft. Don't let it happen to you.

IdentityHawk leads the industry in identity fraud detection and protection. Created to safeguard the assets, properties, and the good names of consumers, IdentityHawk takes a proactive approach to identity theft protection by using leading-edge technology to detect, deter, and prevent identity theft before it strikes. IdentityHawk customers are protected by round-the-clock Internet scanning to uncover any potential risks. Members are contacted via email when a risk is detected so that immediate action can be taken.

IdentityHawk combs through various online sources including public databases and hidden chat rooms in search of suspicious activity. Despite ramped up efforts on the part of the government and an increased awareness among consumers, identity theft protection is still in high demand.

Take action today! Protect yourself and your identity.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. However, all opinions expressed herein are my own.
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Meatless Monday: Spicy Vegetarian Chili

With the Superbowl a mere 2 weeks ago, many are in a panic over menu planning for the big game. One of the most popular dishes for game day is chili. The wonderful thing about chili is that you can prepare it a hundred different ways using different ingredients.

For yesterday's NY Giants game, I prepared a veggie chili. The Hubs suggested the recipe, and I was pleasantly surprised. He's the guy who usually requires that animal protein be part of every meal. I, on the other hand, wouldn't mind a vegetarian diet. In most cases, our dinners are a compromise. I happily prepared it, and the Hubs happily ate it.

The real bonus is that this recipe has half the fat of traditional chili where ground beef is used. And flavor is not sacrificed. Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. This is a much healthier alternative to using a store bought flavor packet for chili.


SPICY VEGETARIAN CHILI (Serves 6 to 8)

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large bell peppers (1 red, 1 green), chopped
3 medium carrots, finely chopped
Kosher salt

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 to 1 chipotle chili pepper in adobo sauce, chopped (This ingredient controls the spiciness. Use as little or as much as you prefer). I used a little less than half since I was preparing it with children in mind.
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 corn tortilla, cut into pieces

1/2 cup brewed coffee
1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans (you could also use kidney or black beans or any combination)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Garnishes
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
Sliced scallions
Fresh or pickled sliced jalapeno peppers
Plain low-fat, Greek yogurt as a healthier alternative to sour cream)

PREPARATION
1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Saute, stirring frequently, for about 8 minutes or until the carrots soften. Add the chopped garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

2. Add the seasonings: chili powder, cumin, coriander, and oregano. Stir to combine. Add the chipotle pepper, tomato paste, and tortilla pieces. Continue to cook over medium heat. Stir until the mixture turns brick red in color, about 4 minutes. Add a splash of water if the mixture begins to stick to the saucepan.

3.  Add the coffee and simmer until almost completely reduced, about 30 seconds to a minute.

4. Stir in the tomatoes, cocoa powder, beans, and 2-1/2 cups of water. Stir and bring to a simmer of low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the chili thickens slightly, about an hour.

5. Remove from the heat. Stir in the chopped cilantro, if using and season with salt, if necessary.

6. Garnish as desired. As you can see, I like a lot of garnishes on my chili. :)
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Conquering My Fears: The Eyelash Curler

I've deemed 2012 the year that I will conquer my fears (well, most of them). Look for a post called 12 in 2012 where I map out the fears I hope to accomplish this year.

Ever since I've been wearing makeup, I have been scared to death of eyelash curlers. I'm not kidding. They even look like little monsters. This one looks as if it's ready to attack.
And when someone else is doing my makeup, I silently panic when I see the eyelash curler. I try to hide my fear of that contraption taking out one of my eyes. Makeup artists must think I'm a total freak.

On Sunday, I decided, on a whim while browsing cosmetics at Target, that I will be scared no more. I will buy an eyelash curler. And I will use it, dammit.

I won't lie. I was almost trembling the first time I used it. But today, after using it for 5 days, it's a piece of cake. I love the way my lashes look.

As is the case with most fears we conquer, I am left wondering, "What took me so long?"
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Packing on the Pounds with Daily Beverages

Sometimes we forget that beverages have calories...and carbs. I'm a drinker of Diet Coke and water, so I am accustomed to drinks that have 0 calories and 0 carbs.

So imagine the gasp I let out when I stepped on the scale the other day, and to my horror, I had gained 6 pounds since the beginning of December. Ahhhhhh! Yeah, scary.

Yes, I had a Christmas cookie here and a glass of Prosecco there. I had cheese and crackers and wine. I did my fair share of indulging over the holidays, but 5 lbs. worth? I don't know about that.

So I sat down and thought hard about what I've been eating. Other than the aforementioned holiday treats, I couldn't think of anything out of the ordinary. And then it hit me. What about the beverages I've been consuming?

Yep, that grande white chocolate mocha from Starbucks? A staggering 460 calories...and that's with skim milk. The venti unsweetened black iced tea from Starbucks? Not too bad at 120 calories. However, it's unsweetened so why so many calories? Lastly, and my recent favorite, the medium hot chocolate from Dunkin Donuts? A whopping 320 calories.

There were days when I'd hit Starbucks in the morning and order both drinks and then later in the afternoon I'd make my way to Dunkin Donuts for a steaming hot chocolate. That's 900 calories in beverages alone!!!!

CUH-RAZY!!

The gravy train has stopped, people. Those drinks as a special treat are fine, but daily? No way. I need to get those calories from real food.

What have I changed? Well, for starters, no more Dunk and Starbucks. I am sticking to water and unsweetened hot tea. I occasionally allow myself a Diet Coke when I am craving something sweet. And the treadmill at the gym and I have become fast friends once again.
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A First: Daisy Meeting

Harper was so excited to join Girl Scouts this year. But her excitement was quickly diminished when she learned that she hadn't immediately been placed into a Daisy troop due to the overwhelming demand. We waited patiently, and by the end of November, we had learned that Harper was in a troop!!

She attended a holiday event with her fellow Daisies, but due to every one's busy holiday schedules, there hadn't been a meeting since she became a troop member...until Saturday.

The girls designed their folders.


They practiced their pledge and sign. They learned new songs. They had a snack and chatted with new friends. And, they received all the information for the Girl Scout cookie sale! Harper is so excited to hit the pavement and start selling!

The best part? When we got in the car to leave the meeting, she didn't want to go. :( She loves Daisies and can't wait for the next meeting!
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Foursquare Users Miss the (Check) Mark

I've been using Foursquare for about 18 months. I run hot and cold with Foursquare. Read all about my love-hate relationship. It's often feast or famine with me. Right now, it's a feast. Ever since some family members recently joined and have been active users, I've been checking in more frequently.

If you aren't familiar with Foursquare, it's a location-based, social media app "that helps you keep up with friends, discover what’s nearby, save money and unlock deals." Basically, you "checkin" to a venue to let your friends know where you are. You can add a tip if you find something worthwhile to report, something like "great burgers", "great pizza", "great wine selection", "always crowded but worth the wait". You get the idea.

By checking in, you earn badges which you proudly display on your profile. These badges give your friends an idea of the places you've been and the things you like to do. All very cool, right?

I loved the concept from the start. I wanted to see where my friends were going, where they were eating, where they were playing, what movies they were seeing, etc. I wanted to be in the know, and Foursquare promised to help me get there.

But I can't help but feel that there are users who are not "getting it". They are completely missing the purpose of Foursquare; to share helpful and useful information with other users.

Somehow, a percentage of users, for some reason, think that the intended purpose of Foursquare is to let everyone know where you are every second of every day. I don't care that you are sitting in your living room watching Jersey Shore. I don't care that you are enjoying a glass of wine in your kitchen or making dinner there. I do care, however, when you checkin at a real-world venue where there might be a fab sale, or great food being served, or an awesome band playing that night.

Foursquare has a lot of great features such as Tips and the recently added Explore feature. Explore allows users to find venues in a number of categories (nightlife, coffee, food, specials) that are popular among users. But users who create venues for individual gain such as a badge or just for fun will be its downfall.

Do you use Foursquare? What do you love? Dislike?
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The Best Web Hosting Sites at your Fingertips

This year, I'll be migrating my blog from Blogger to WordPress. That migration means I'll need to find a web host, an independent site to host my domain. What seemed like a daunting task was made so much easier with the help of Web Hosting Fan, an independent hosting review and ranking website. If you are looking for a web hosting provider, look no further than Web Hosting Fan.

Webhostingfan.com has compiled a list of the top 10 most trusted and reliable web hosting providers. It would take hours, maybe days to do this type of research on my own. In addition to the link of providers, there are also reviews for each of the top 10 and a comprehensive list of FAQs.

What I love about http://www.webhostingfan.com/ is that the list of the top 10 providers is compiled in a spreadsheet-like format which includes columns for price, rating, year founded, and how long the user has to use the site before he/she requests a refund. All of this information is extremely helpful to those looking for a host, and presenting it in such a way makes the search even easier and more pleasant than it might otherwise be.

Don't spend hours poring over web sites looking for the best host for your site.Let your search begin and end with Web Hosting Fan.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions expressed herein are solely mine.
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What I'm Crushing on This Week: For the Gym

It's been 2 weeks since I've been regularly getting back into a workout routine at the gym. I am loving how I feel, and as I've said before, when you are regularly working out, you feel better, sleep better, and look better.

I have a few essentials for the gym...the things that must make into my gym bag.

1. A sports bra
A regular bra will not cut it at the gym. Look for a sports bra that is functional and comfortable. There is no need to spend a fortune on a sports bra. This week at Target, you can find them for $9-$14, available in several styles and many colors.

2. A good pair of sneakers
Here is where you'll want to splurge. Right now, Zappos has many brands and styles on sales. You can find a pair of sneakers that normally retails for $120 for $80. A good pair of sneakers will go a long way to achieving optimal results from your workout.

3. Facial cleansing wipes
A quick post-workout facial cleansing is a must. I love the Say Yes to Blueberries wipes. They work wonders, and they smell delicious. $8 for a 30 count package. Available at Target and WalMart.


4. Workout pants
Leave the baggy sweatpants at home. Just as in the business world, dressing for success at the gym is crucial. If you want to get fit, dress the part. Think "workout chic". I'm not saying get all gussied up, but at least look somewhat presentable. That being said, my yoga classes are more like fashion shows than fitness classes. And please, wear the size you currently are not the size you want to be.

I like these for yoga.  From Victoria's Secret $30.

I like these for running. From lululemon athletica $60.
And I like these for general workouts. From athleta $69.

You can find any of the above types of pants at mass retailers such as Target and WalMart for a fraction of the cost. I also love the active wear selection at Marshalls and TJ Maxx.

5. Protein bars
There are always a few at the bottom of my gym bag. If I plan a vigorous workout, I'll eat a protein bar about 40 minutes prior to my workout. If the workout isn't going to be too physically demanding, I save the protein bar for afterwards.

My favorite protein bars are Balance Bars. Balance Bar recently introduced a new bar, the nimble bar. The nimble bar is specially formulated for women. It contains the nutrients women want most (Protein, Fiber, Calcium, Iron, Vitamins D and B6) along with rich anti-oxidants C&E, Beta-Carotene and Lutein for healthy skin – nimble helps you look and feel your best all for 120 calories. Plus, it is the first protein bar to be made with Truvia, an all-natural artificial sweetener. Although all the flavors are good, I love the peanut butter.




OK, so no more excuses to not hit the gym. Grab your bags. Stock them with the above items, and get moving!
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Kiddie Academy Franchising Opportunities

I can remember when our search for a preschool began. We had a list of reasonable requirements, but we were willing to make compromises. We toured many facilities and labored over a decision. Finally, we made a choice and enrolled our daughter, who is now 9.

Looking back on her first year of preschool, I can now say that I was never totally satisfied with our choice of preschools that year. There were several reasons for my regret. It was a combination of my high expectations and not being able to find exactly what we were searching for.

If I could have only created my own preschool and daycare center...It would have been perfect!

Today that's possible thanks to Kiddie Academy Child Care Learning Centers. Kiddie Academy has been providing educationally focused daycare for over 30 years. Currently, Kiddie Academy is expanding throughout New Jersey and is looking for passionate individuals and/or couples to open franchises in the Garden State.

Looking to grow professionally while still being able to have personal time to enjoy your favorite activities? Do you want to set your own schedule? If so, becoming a Kiddie Academy franchisee is perfect for you.

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit with a desire to run your own business, Kiddie Academy is looking for you to become a franchisee.

Kiddie Academy is committed to the success of each individual franchise and will support each franchisee to meet their strategic growth goals and to ensure success.

Pieces of a Mom will be featuring Kiddie Academy franchise success stories through the end of March. In the meantime, for more information on this wonderful opportunity, visit the Kiddie Academy Franchise Website.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.
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Healthy Drinking with VBlast! Water

One of my goals for 2012 is to drink more water and less Diet Coke. For those of you who know me well, you know that this is a HUGE challenge for me. I looooove my Diet Coke. I need it first thing in the morning. It's like my "coffee", except I drink caffeine-free DC. Yeah, I don't even drink it for the caffeine. I just love the taste and carbonation.

Since I've returned to the gym regularly, drinking water has become a habit. I feel better. My skin looks better. The only problem is water can be boring. I like some flavor every so often, but flavored water contains too much sugar. Ick! Add some vitamins too, and you've got me hooked!

I thought I had tried every type of flavored and vitamin-enhanced water out there. Until I was introduced to VBlast!, a sugar-free, spring water that contains natural flavors and vitamins.

VBlast! is a unique water in a sea of bottled waters that pale in comparison.

VBlast! contains:
  • NO sugar
  • ZERO calories
  • NO carbs
  • NO caffeine
The most unique feature of VBlast! is the cap. Yes, the cap! The vitamins are stored in the cap in a concentrate NOT diluted in the water where they can lose potency over time. You decide when to release fresh, liquid vitamins into pure spring water. When you decide to drink VBlast!, you twist the cap to activate the benefits of 100% potent vitamins.

VBlast! is available in 8 flavors and can be found at delis, convenience stores, and grocery stores or can be ordered directly from the Web site here:
  • Strawberry-Kiwi
  • Green Tea
  • Wild Berry
  • Acai & Berry
  • Peach Tea
  • Pomegranate-Cherry
  • Grape
  • Orange
My favorite flavor is the Green Tea. It's a perfect substitute for iced tea but a much healthier version, of course. Peach Tea was a close second. Whenever I am not drinking Diet Coke, I am usually drinking iced tea, which is why I preferred the tea flavors.

In addition to great taste, I also love that I control the amount of vitamins that I get from the water. After my workouts, I tend to go heavy on twisting the cap of VBlast. But there are other times when I don't want or need as many vitamins. There are days when I get most of my vitamins from my diet or from supplements. Having that kind of control is important to me.

I also love that keeping the water and the vitamins separate from one another maintains the potency and the freshness of the drink.

I take a bottle to the gym with me. I keep a bottle in my car. I keep a bottle on my desk as I work.

For more information on VBlast! and other products by New York Springs USA, visit the Web site, "Like" the Facebook page, and follow on Twitter.
Disclosure: I received several bottles of VBlast! to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own.
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Crazy Couponing at CVS This Week

Let me begin by saying that I am going to need to buy a wire shelving unit if I keep couponing like this!

CVS has some great deals this week, and if you combine them with coupons, even better!

This was my stash this week.

Some good stuff, and all of it necessities.

Suave Deodorant - $1 each. I had 2 coupons for $0.75. I paid $0.25 for each. Wow!

Garnier Moisturizer - On sale for $5. I had a $2 coupon. I paid $3 for a 1.7 oz. jar of Moisture Rescue.

Listerine Mouthwash - 500 ml Advanced or Total Care was on sale for $3.99 (Receive $2 ExtraBucks). I had 2-$1 coupons. Final cost was $2.99 each + $4 ExtraBucks.

Pantene & Herbal Essences - 3/$9.99. I had a coupon for $3 off 2 Pantene products and another coupon for $1 off any Herbal Essences product. I paid $5.99 for 3 products.

Kleenex - $0.88 per box. Just can't beat that! I think I'll go back for more.

Finish Dishwasher Detergent - On sale for 2/$7. I had a coupon for $2.15 off any box. I paid $4.85 for 2 boxes. Before sale, each box retails for $6.79. Wow!

NatureMade vitamins - Buy one, get one free. I had 2-$2 coupons, but they were good only on NatureMade fish oil. I was going to return the vitamins, but decided otherwise since they are still a good deal at BOGO.

I am going to return tomorrow to use my ExtraBucks on Colgate toothpaste ($4.99). It's buy one, get one free this week. Plus, I have a $0.35 coupon. I'll get 2 tubes of toothpaste for $0.64 after applying my coupon and ExtraBucks. Wow! Wow! Wow! I may pick up another deodorant and Garnier moisturizer too since I have more coupons for those items.

Crazy, I know!


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The New Trend at Baby Showers: Gender Cupcakes

Move over fancy baby shower cake. There's a new kid in town: the gender specific cupcake!

I love this idea. I wish my hostess had thought of it 10 years ago when I was pregnant. Oh, God, was it really ten years ago? Anyway...

Rather than a cake, you serve these adorable and inventive gender-specific cupcakes to surprise your guests with the baby's gender (if you care to reveal it, of course). I COULD NOT keep a secret when I was pregnant. I wanted to tell everyone that it was a girl...both times! I wish I had done it by way of a cupcake. How stinkin' cute are these?

On the outside they look like any other cupcake.

The inside, however, is a completely different story. A creamy pink or blue filling is added to the center to reveal the gender of the baby!! Love it! Love it! Love it!

Did you have a fun and creative way of revealing your baby's gender to family and friends?
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A Bad Omen?

Two years ago our house was robbed. In the middle of the day, a bright, sunny, summer's day, someone broke into our house through an open window and took some of our prized possessions.

Laptops, camcorders, cameras...can all be replaced. It was the jewelry that got to me. A charm bracelet given to me by my grandmother. Countless pieces from the Hubs and pieces made by my children were stolen. Very high in sentimental value to me, but the thief didn't care about that. The thief cared about the monetary value. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I suppose.

Last night, a hit and run driver plowed into our picket fence and sped from the scene. We weren't home at the time. I received a visit from a police officer about an hour after the incident occurred. He informed me what happened and told me that there was an eyewitness who was able to get the license plate number of the driver. The police eventually caught up with the driver and issued him a number of summons.

What is wrong with people? Have morals gone to the wayside? Accidents happen. Thank goodness that an eyewitness had the sense to do some good.

I'm thinking it's time to move.
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Getting Healthy with Krill Oil

If you're like the most people, you've started your year with a goal of better health in mind. We've added fitness to our routines and made changes to our diets. But there is another component to health that we often overlook; vitamins and supplements.

We are well aware of the importance of including Omega 3 fatty acids in our diet. However, many times it's not easy or convenient to fit the foods (salmon, shrimp, scallops, tuna, tofu, walnuts, and flax seeds) that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids into our daily diet. That's where supplements play a key part in meeting our nutritional needs.

Everest Nutrition's krilloil.com is such a supplement. Krilloil.com is an Omega 3 supplement that, in laboratory studies, has been shown to be 54 times more powerful in antioxidant activity than fish oil. Krilloil.com has the ability to:
  • protect against heart disease
  • lower cholesterol
  • fight aging
  • combat symptoms of PMS
  • boost overall health of well-being
How is Krilloil.com different from fish oil?
1. Krilloil.com will not leave you with a foul fish after taste.
2. Because Krilloil.com is linked in phospholipid form rather than triglyceride form, absorption is better and faster.
3. Krilloil.com is harvested in the Antarctic. Therefore, it is free of pesticides, mercury, and other toxins that are often found in traditional fish oil.
4. Krilloil.com is a more effective antioxidant than fish oil. In addition to a high concentration of Omega 3 fatty acids, Krilloil.com also contains vitamins A, E, and D.
5. The Krilloil.com pill is significantly smaller than a fish oil pill, which can be quite large and difficult to swallow.
If you are looking to improve the state of your heart, your mind, and your overall well-being, Krilloil.com is your solution. Get your new year off to a healthy start by incorporating Krilloil.com supplements into your daily vitamin regime.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions expressed herein are solely mine. All factual information was provided by the sponsor.
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Mixed Greens and Beans Salad

I love the whole connection between exercising and eating. Since I've returned to the gym, I've wanted nothing more than to kick junk food to the curb. I've ditched the potato chips in favor of a fridge filled with fruits and veggies.

When I come home from the gym, I am STARVING! I don't have the patience to make something for lunch when I get home. It would take too long. It would be easy to stop and pick something up for lunch, but there are few healthful options there.

So, I've been getting creative with salad. Today's lunch was this yummy salad of mixed greens, beans, and tomatoes. So easy. So good. I mix it up before I leave for the gym so it's ready when I get home.

Ingredients:
Spring mix (or any lettuce of your choice; romaine, Boston Bibb, spinach, arugula, etc.)
1/2 cup of cannellini beans (or any beans of your choice; black, red kidney, garbanzo, etc.)
Diced veggies (such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, etc.) I used tomatoes
1/4 cup of croutons
Dressing of your choice (I used olive oil with a sprinkling of freshly squeezed lemon juice)
Freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste

Preparation:
Toss all ingredients until combined.
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Justin Bieber Spreads Cheer to Needy Children

I hardly ever watch "Ellen". I have to be in the right place at the right time to catch the show. Yesterday, I happened to have it on in the background. When she announced that Justin Bieber was going to be on the show, the girls' ears perked up. I thought it was just another interview/performance.

Was I ever wrong! Say what you will about the Biebs, but this kid has got a huge heart. It's refreshing to see a celebrity doing something good with his wealth.

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Theraderm Skin Renewal System - Product Review

I never worried about my skin as a teenager or in my 20's. I didn't suffer from acne. I didn't have oily, dry, or sensitive skin. Until...

Until I became pregnant in my early 30's. You know that glowing skin that everyone talks about? Yep, I didn't have it. I wasn't even close. My skin became red, blotchy, and dull. I thought that maybe it was a first trimester thing. But well into my second trimester, my skin was still red, blotchy, and dull. I chalked it up to pregnancy and hormones.

Once my beautiful daughter was born, I waited patiently for my pristine skin to return. A year after her birth, my skin showed no signs of improvement. In fact, it was worse; more red and more blotchy than during my pregnancy. Plus, I was experiencing strange flare ups from foods that I would eat. I decided to seek the advice of a dermatologist.

On my daughter's first birthday, I was diagnosed with rosacea, a treatable but incurable facial skin disorder. I was prescribed an oral anti-inflammatory and a topical cream, both of which were indicated to treat the redness, bumps, and blemishes that are a result of rosacea. When that combination was unsuccessful, I was prescribed a cleanser which contained sulfur, an ingredient shown to reduce redness in rosacea sufferers. After years of using the above 3 prescriptions with little success, I decided to discontinue using all of them and try alternative treatments and products.

Finally, a few months ago, I learned of Therapon, a skin-care company that is dedicated to providing simple solutions to complex problems by creating products that effectively restore youthful-looking skin.

Therapon stands behind each and every one of its products and promises that each product will outperform any other product in its class. In addition to standing behind the products, Therapon does not test on animals.


After hearing testimonials from several bloggers as well as reading those online, I eagerly contacted Therapon. Based on my skin history, I was sent Therapon's Theraderm Skin Renewal System, a simple, daily regimen consisting of four products that work harmoniously to restore a healthy, radiant appearance no matter your age. I like to call it the uncomplicated skincare regime for complicated skin.


The Theraderm Skin Renewal System includes the following components:
  • Cleansing Wash
  • Fruit Acid Exfoliant
  • OPC Reparative Gel
  • Choice of: Enriched Facial Moisturizer,Gentle Facial Moisturizer, or Peptide Hydrator (I used the Peptide Hydrator)
  • Gentle Action Application Pads (for use with the Fruit Acid Exfoliant)
The cost of the Skin Renewal System is around $140. I challenge you to find comparable products anywhere. I've used many, many products over the years. Trust me, there is nothing like the Skin Renewal System on the market.

*If you are a woman on the go, the Skin Renewal System is available in a convenient travel size.

Initially, I was worried that the number of products would be overwhelming for me. But quite honestly, every morning and evening, I cleanse and moisturize. So adding 2 more steps was really no big deal. The products and steps were clearly explained.
Here is a "before' picture of me. You can see the redness around the middle of my face, especially my nose. cheeks, and chin. This picture was taken after my evening cleansing and moisturizing on the evening before I began using the Theraderm Skin Renewal System.
After a week of using the system twice a day, I saw measurable results. The redness had faded slightly, and the texture of my skin was smoother.

After a month of using the system, I was able to forgo concealer and foundation on most occasions. There were still days when external triggers (spicy foods, sun, wind) forced me to wear makeup. You have no idea how pleased with the results I was. It had been 8 years since I had skin that wasn't bright red. I tried every makeup imaginable to cover up the redness, and after an hour or so, it was as if I had never applied makeup. The redness appeared and with a vengeance.

At the beginning of November, I met my sister in New York City for the day. She hadn't seen me since I began using the Theraderm Skin Renewal System. She immediately noticed and commented on my skin. The redness was diminished. My skin tone was more even. There were no longer bumps and blemishes on my chin and cheeks.

Look at the results after using the system for 3 months! No concealer! No foundation!
I am so happy with my skin. What a difference the Theraderm Skin Renewal System has made in my appearance.

Not only are the rosacea symptoms under control, but the Theraderm Skin Renewal System has also helped to diminish the fine lines around my eyes. It's no secret that our skin undergoes major changes as we age. I love that the Skin Renewal System is recommended for all ages. As I am now in my early 40's, I need products that I don't need to change out each year. I want products that I know work and that I can consistently use over the years.

I am so happy that I am no longer hiding behind makeup. My skin now has that glow that I've wanted ever since my first pregnancy.

The Skin Renewal System requires diligence. You must be committed to following through with the daily and evening routine in order to see quality results. This system will not work if you don't follow the directions for use. It cannot be used every other day. It must be performed twice a day. After a few applications, the system quickly and easily became part of my daily routine. And in the end, every second of effort was worth the remarkable results!

I am astounded by the difference.

Be sure to check out Therapon on the Web, on Facebook, and on Twitter

Disclosure: I received a complimentary Theraderm Skin Renewal System to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed herein are solely mine and are based on my use of the featured product and were in no way influenced by Therapon.
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Purex Triple Action Liquid Detergent - Product Review

If you've got kids, you've got clothing stains. There's no way around it. Little ones make big messes, and those messes usually end up on their clothes.

Purex has introduced a new liquid detergent that combats those pesky stains, New & Improved Triple Action Purex. It is formulated to leave your clothes bright, white, and clean, and Purex delivers the same effective detergent at an unbeatable price.

We eat a side salad with dinner just about every night. Each evening as I am about to take my seat at the table, I let out a gasp. I see the salad dressing on the table and know that one or both of my daughters will inevitably spill some on their clothes. When there is a spill, I always need to pre-treat the stain and follow it up with washing the clothes.
When I used Triple Action Purex for the first time, rather than pre-treating the stains, I skipped pre-treating and put the clothes directly into the washing machine with the Triple Action Purex. Guess what? No more stains when the clothes were finished. I was impressed. Usually stubborn stains such as olive or vegetable oil based stains require pre-treating, but not when I used Triple Action Purex. I also loved how the colors didn't fade. I washed a brand new striped shirt and expected the black stripes to come out of the dryer looking a bit faded. I'm happy to report that the stripes were just as vibrant as when I purchased the shirt.

Triple Action Purex is available in 5 scents and also in Free & Clear, offering a scent and variety to accommodate any family's preferences.

In addition to it's super stain fighting powers, I love Triple Action Purex for its price. It's nice to know that there is an effective laundry detergent on the market that doesn't cost a fortune. Plus, if you keep an eye out, you can frequently find coupons in your Sunday paper.

You can find Triple Action Purex at your local retailer. You can also find more information by liking Purex on Facebook, following Purex on Twitter, and visiting the Web site.

Disclosure: I was provided with a free sample of Purex's Triple Action detergent to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed herein are solely mine.
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Final Day of Christmas Vacation

Wow! How fast did that go?

I am soooo not ready to wake up to an alarm tomorrow. It's been a wonderfully relaxing vacation, but I suppose all good things must come to an end.

To celebrate the last day of vacation, I took the girls to Build-A-Bear Workshop. They had a few gift cards that they received for Christmas, and of course, they were itching to use them. They love making these bears. I don't know what it is about the whole process, but they love it. I don't get it. It's not like they are doing anything overly creative. They choose the bear. An employee stuffs it and hands the finished product over.

Tomorrow it's back to school for the girls and back to work and the gym for me.
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Online Shopping at become.com

We start the year off with hopes of improvement. It's usually in the form of self-improvement, professional-improvement, or home-improvement. I, for one, have big plans to make some changes around the house this year. Everything from sprucing up my home decor to getting and staying organized are on my to-do list.

I have found the perfect Web site to help me accomplish my home improvement goals: www.become.com. Become.com is an online shopping mecca, similar to a large discount department store at your fingertips. Offering merchandise in the following categories: Electronics, Automotive, Home & Garden, Clothing, Health & Beauty, and Jewelry, http://www.become.com/ has something to help you kick off your year and accomplish your goals for 2012.

I was looking for a quick and inexpensive way to add some pizazz to the girls' bedrooms. I love these pink throw pillows. They are the perfect complement to their comforters.
If you purchased a new TV for the holidays, you can find the perfect TV wall cabinet or plasma TV wall cabinet at become.com.
If organizing is your goal this year, a plastic pegboard is the perfect way to store items in a garage or craft room. Pegboards are perfect for keeping small items organized on a wall surface.

With a great selection from all your favorite brands, become.com is your one-stop shop for necessities and your splurges. Take one look today, and you'll discover for yourself what all the buzz is about.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All opinions expressed herein are mine and are based on my personal experience with become.com.
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A New Year's Walk on the Beach

Yep. You read that correctly. I took a walk on the beach today, and it was glorious. Although windy, it was exhilarating...a perfect way to kick off the new year.

I grabbed a Starbucks before I made my way to the beach.

The beach is such a different place in the winter than in summer.

No beach chairs, umbrellas, lifeguard's whistles, or squealing children.

Boarded up rather than bustling businesses.

Without beach goers around to feed them french fries, seagulls are left to eat the remains of a washed up crab.

If it weren't for the whipping wind, I would've spent the entire day taking pictures. Peaceful and soothing.

How did you kick off the new year?
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A New Year & Making Changes

A new year often brings change. For  many people it means reinventing themselves. While I am not going so far as to reinvent myself, I will be making some changes. I am disclosing everything here with the hope that having it in words for everyone to read will make me more accountable for my actions (or lack thereof).

1. Exercise, exercise, exercise
I am such a yo-yo exerciser. I am gung-ho for months, and then I lose all motivation. The Hubs and I joined a great gym at the end of August, and I was on a roll until we left for vacation mid-November. We returned. Kids were sick. I became sick. And the rest is history. I haven't been to the gym since November 8th. Gasp!

This year I am VOWING to be a regular fixture at the gym, but not to be fanatical. If I overdue it, I lose all interest. I am going to try some classes and mix up my routine in hopes of not becoming bored.

2. Work, create, produce
In 2011, I started to monetize my blog. I've earned some money...a few bits and pieces here and there. My goal for 2012 is to reach new heights in my blog monetization. I want to grow my readership, create new business alliances via my blog, and produce great content.

3. Live, love, laugh
As with my business goals, my personal goals are just as important to me. I want to knock a few items off my "bucket list" this year. One of the biggies is sky diving. Ahhhh! Yes! I am finally going to take the plunge...literally. On Christmas day, my niece Lindsay and I committed to doing this in 2012. I want to pour myself into my family and enjoy every moment with friends.

4. Everyday importances
And then there are the every day goals. Keep my home organized and clean, follow a weekly meal plan, cut household costs, eat a healthier diet, drink more water and less diet soda (ugh!), savor the little things. They are the small things but no less important than the big ticket goals.

I am now officially accountable!

How about you? What are you hoping to accomplish in 2012?

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